Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chocolate for Breakfast!

That got your attention, didn't it? The Easter Bunny brought Madeline chocolate candy and glitter nail polish- what else could a girl want? So we had chocolate for breakfasst. Steve and I ate ours straight out of the wrapper, while Madeline chose add little bits of chocolate to her pancake batter.

Easter Morning Chocolate Chunk Pancakes

Our favorite method of decorating eggs is so easy! This simple, yet elegant, display of five Easter eggs took less than five minutes to assemble. (OK, we cheated a little. The eggs were already boiled.) 

Hope you had a great holiday with your family (and chocolate for breakfast), too!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One Year Ago Today...

... Confessions of a Home Ec Dropout was born!

I had been planning procrastinating), auditioning names and checking their availability, worrying that I wouldn't be able to master the mechanics of blogging, wondering if I was capable of generating interesting content, thinking I'd be lucky if I got a single reader outside of my own family (and I have small family)... you name it and I was fretting about it.

I had been complaining for months (maybe years) that I didn't feel fulfilled, felt the need to create some body of work that I could call my own, and regretted leaving marketing and writing in pursuit of more money many years ago.

On this day a year ago (a particularly difficult day), Madeline, being the wise 12 year old she was at the time, asked me why I hadn't yet started my blog. "It seems like that it would make you happy - you've been talking about it for so long," she said. I offered excuses, the "best" ones being that I hadn't thought of a good name yet and that I still had no idea how to begin. (Insert the Mommy's Being Mommy Again look here.)

She'd rolled her eyes at every name I'd suggested. But I threw one more out there. "How about Confessions of a Home Ec Dropout?," I asked. "It's not as stupid (maybe she said lame, I can't remember now...) as most of the other names you've come up with so far," she replied. That's it then, I decided. I'm not sure why I could make that choice on that day, and not on any other, but I did.

"Now all I have to do is figure out how to create a blog," I mumbled, turning my attention to some dishes that needed handwashing in the sink while Madeline continued fiddling with the laptop. No more than 15 minutes later, she says "Here you go, Mom. See how easy it was?" She had made her own blog in that short time just to prove her point that "it can't be that hard." I said that I didn't know she wanted to be a blogger. She said, "I don't. But you do. Now let's make yours."

So we did. Right then and right there. And here we are- one year and 145 posts later.

I never dreamed that something that takes this much time and pays next to nothing would be so rewarding! Thanks to Madeline for helping making me do it, and thanks to you for reading.

In case you missed it (only two people didn't!), here's a link to my very first post, which explains why it's called Confessions of a Home Ec Dropout.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Disposable Paperbacks (Tuesday Tips: Travel Edition)

We're in the midst of planning a family trip to Europe this summer, complete with a vow renewal ceremony to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. So I've been thinking a lot about how to squeeze a lot of travel into a little suitcase (or at least one that will be easy to carry on a train, store in a ship's stateroom, stuff in the trunk of a taxi, haul up stairs, cram into elevators...).

I really look forward to lots of light (no pun intended) reading on my vacations. The Queen Mary 2 has a huge, beautiful lilbrary, so I'll have plenty of books to choose from while crossing the Atlantic. But what about hotels and trains (and train stations)? Last year I had a brainstorm. Why not take along a few paperbacks from the thrift shop (50 cents apiece)? Once you're done with one, just leave it for someone else to enjoy! So I left one on the train, two in the hotel in NYC, and another on the train back to Virginia.

Library on Queen Mary 2
The shelves all have locking fronts in case they need to "batten down the
 hatches" to keep the books from falling out in rough seas!

The room curves with the shape of the ship's bow.

This year, I think I can top that. In the free bin at the YMCA Thrift Shop, I found three newer novels by popular authors! They didn't have front covers, but who cares? (I know they're not supposed to sell those, since credit for them has probably been claimed from the publisher by the retailer who couldn't sell them for some reason, but as far as I know they are allowed to give them away). So my suitcase will just keep getting lighter and more spacious, and it costs me absolutely nothing to read the entire time!

If the thrift shop or second-hand store doesn't work for you, try asking a friend to save you some as they finish with them. All it takes is a little planning ahead! Or, if it's your style, you could just buy them and still leave behind, but I never buy new paperbacks myself.

Any travel tips you'd like to share?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Liz's Flannel Sheets

Reader Question (my very first one!)

My quilting friend, Liz, posted on Facebook this week:

"The disappointing thing today is that when I washed my flannel sheets, the bottom sheet came out of the dryer with a big hole where the sheet was shredded. I only had them ten years. But, back to Land's End, and I managed to get an order placed. I hope my bottom sheet will hold together until it comes. Maybe Karen can tell me in her Blog "diary of a home economics drop out" how to make flannel sheets last more than 10 years."

Thanks, Liz, for thinking of me. The thing is, I don't really know how to make a set of sheets last more than 10 years. I think mine do, but we rotate two sets per bed. And I'm sure that you've forgotten more about washing sheets and making beds than I ever knew!

Lands' End's Satisfaction Guarantee

What I do know, though, is that Lands' End (yes, that apostrophe is in the wrong place, but that's where they put it) has an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. Even if you've had the sheets 10 years, you ask? Well, there was only one way to find out. 

Highlights of my Web Chat with Lands' End

Home Ec Dropout: My friend has a set of flannel sheets that she feels should have lasted more than 10 years. How does your satisfaction guarantee apply to her?

Lands' End: Our policy is Guaranteed. Period. If your friend feels that our sheets have not performed as expected, she may return them. With no record of the original purchase after that many years, she would receive the lowest price charged for that or the nearest equivalent item.

HED: I'm sure she'll be pleased. Does she just send them to you with a note? Will she receive a replacement or a credit, or will that be determined once you have received and inspected them?

LE: All will be determined in our returns department. Our address for returns is listed on our site for you (here). A note will have to be included with her name, address, and a daytime phone number. She will most likely receive a credit as a gift card.

So there you go, Liz. You may not be able to make them last longer, but you can send them back for a credit! If you could dig up the receipt, I believe you'd get back the full amount you paid. Thanks so much for (indirectly) asking me a question. Good luck!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pumpkin Gingerbread

I've posted two sweet bread recipes previously (Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread and Banana Gingerbread), which I would've sworn (and probably did swear) were the best ever! Well, they were good, but this amazing loaf is even better. I'd love to cite the original recipe source, but it's been languishing in my file too long to say where it came from! 

Pumpkin Gingerbread

2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350  degrees and grease a 9x5x3" loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.
3. Add pumpkin, molasses, eggs, butter, milk and ginger. Blend well.
4.Add remaining flour and beat well to combine.
5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. For topping, mix walnuts and sugar together and sprinkle over batter. 
6. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.
7. Cool on wire rack. Wrap in plastic wrap for storage. Though I didn't try it yet, this bread should freeze well, too.

My family is so-o-o-o glad I finally tried this one. It's their new favorite- and mine, too! Try it and let me know what you think.