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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pinterest Try-It - Lemon Brownies

Here's a great recipe from "Gonna Want Seconds" that I found on Pinterest.  (If you are the one person left that is NOT on Pinterest, run, don't walk and get an account.  It's a life changer.)

It's that time of year when I'm trying to get rid of the last lemons on my tree and this recipe is SOO easy and yummy, you have no excuse not to try it.  These are not the same as Lemon Squares, which have a more gooey consistency. The consistency of these is really more like soft chewy brownies. In fact, if you prefer your brownies slightly more cake-like, add a 1/4 tsp of baking powder to this recipe.  I like mine chewy!

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 Tbl. lemon zest
2 Tbl. lemon juice

1 c. powdered sugar
3 Tbl. lemon juice
2-3 Tbl. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8" baking dish with aluminum foil.  Use 2 pieces, so there is overlap on all sides.  Spray a non-stick spray on the aluminum foil.  This is an important step that I was so thankful for when I read the original recipe.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter and beat until combined.  I softened my butter in the microwave first so the combination would be smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Use a fine grater for the zest and don't grate beyond the white rind on the lemons.  That way your zest is just yellow and not bitter.

Pour the egg mixture into the flour/sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the mixture into the lined pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  (You can do a toothpick test to check if they are done.)  Cool the brownies COMPLETELY before you glaze them.

Once the brownies are cool, combine the powdered sugar with half of the lemon juice (1.5 Tbl), stirring as you do.  Add the remaining lemon juice.  You want a thick, but pourable consistency with the glaze.  Apply the glaze to the brownies.  Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the top. 

I agree with the original recipe that your best bet is to refrigerate the glazed brownies overnight BEFORE cutting them or even removing them from the pan.  These are awesome cold.

That's it!  Super yummy, but be prepared to make several batches of these because they will go fast!


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Being the Perfect Air B&B Guest

When my family travels, we like to stay in houses instead of hotels, especially when we are going to be in a location for more than a day or two.  We've had great experiences with Air B&B and VRBO in locations from Hollywood, California to Bismarck, North Dakota. Some places are better than others, but I always try to keep in mind that this is someone's home, whether they are currently living in it or not. I also keep in mind that I am being rated as a guest and those ratings will be seen by property owners considering my request to rent their property.

So how can you be the perfect Air B&B guest? I have two basic principles - leave no trace, or if you do leave a trace, leave a good feeling. Think like a teenager after an illicit house party - make it look like you were never there. And, if you're so inclined, leave a little something behind to thank the owner. Here's how:

1. Take pictures of every room as soon as you get there.  We always check out the entire place when we get there.  It's easy enough to snap pictures while you take that initial tour. It will be a lot easier to get those little things like pillows, throw blankets and dishes in the right cabinets if you have pictures of the way you found it.

2. Carefully read and follow the owner's instructions about what to do before you leave. Each owner is different, but everyone likes to know you can follow directions. If you are staying for more than 24 hours, be sure to call the owner if you find any problems or have any questions.  Owners hate to hear complaints after you've gone, especially if they could have fixed them.

3. If you use up a supply of something, replace it. Most properties have some food staples, toilet paper, paper towels or cleaning supplies. You don't have to replace everything you use, but it's just a nice thing to do if you replenish one or more of the staples. Pay it forward for the owner and the next guest.

4. Don't leave stains or smells.  If you stain something and it is washable, take care of it. Likewise, if you stain something that can't be washed, don't try to hide it. If it's something small like a pillow, leave a little money or if it's big, like furniture or carpet, call the owner BEFORE you leave. Smells are tough too. I bring Scentsy with me when I can, but I can't carry multiple warmers in luggage. Airing out the house and some aerosol sprays can help, but be careful not to leave too much scent either.

5. Clean up. Some might disagree with me, but a home is not a hotel. You don't have to thoroughly clean the house, but at least gather up all the garbage. Clean the dishes and put them away. Make sure everything gets back where it was when you arrived. Strip the beds that were used and include the used towels. Wipe out the sinks and showers so you aren't leaving hair. Turn everything off and adjust the heat/cool settings where they were when you arrived. Again, be sure to follow the owner's directions.

6. Leave something behind. This can be as simple as a thank you note, a little candy, or a gift. Something for the house like dishtowels or cooking implements is a nice touch. If the owner has a guestbook, be sure to leave a nice note with some hints for the next guests about things to do.

I'm happy to have the option to stay in someone's house when I travel, so for me doing these little things is my way of expressing my appreciation and renewing confidence in good manners and kindness.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Valentine Heart Pillow

I found a pin on Pinterest that tried to replicate an Anthropologie pillow and this is my take on the same idea.  It's the basic Envelope Pillow Pattern in a neutral cotton fabric, with ragged edge hearts on the front panel. It's so easy to make and looks so fancy!

First, you MUST wash the base cotton fabric BEFORE cutting it or sewing the hearts on it.  You will also wash it after you sew the hearts on in order to create the ragged effect, but you don't want to find out after the pillow is complete that the cotton shrinks and your pillow form doesn't fit. Only after you wash the fabric proceed to cut it for the size pillow you want.  You can see the various sizes on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Mark the front panel of the pillow with pins so you know where to place the hearts. (The Envelope Pillow pattern uses a single piece of fabric for the pillow, so you need to figure out exactly where the front of the pillow is.)  You can do that in the third picture on the tutorial when you fold the fabric to make a square.  After finding the front panel portion, be careful as you sew the hearts not to sew on the "back" of the pillow.  

Now for the fun part - cutting each heart individually.  I did this without a pattern, but unless you are looking for uniform size hearts, you can't really make a mistake.  Cut a small square of your fabric, fold it in half, wrong sides facing with the raw edges to the left.

Starting at the bottom left corner (with the raw edges), cut diagonally up and to the right.

As you get to the right folded edge, curve back on the top to the left, turning the fabric in your hand.  Finish the curve with another diagonal (which will be the top center of the heart.

Open the fabric to see the finished heart. Easy!

Again, it doesn't matter what size hearts you cut.  Some of mine were thin (steeper diagonals) and some were fat hearts.  No matter how many hearts you decide to place on the pillow, be sure to take the time to arrange them and pin them on so you can see how they fit.

Now you're ready to sew. I used a contrasting brown thread so I could get the primitive look.  You are sewing these onto the right side of the pillow fabric, with the heart fabrics also right side up.  Leave a bit of a seam allowance so you have some fabric to "rag".  And take your time making those curves with the sewing machine, turning the fabric frequently.

This is what it looked like about halfway through sewing the hearts.

Once the hearts are sewn on, make some small perpendicular cuts around the hearts in the seam allowances, being very careful not to cut the seam.  This will help start the fraying process.  Wash the pillow and run your fingers over the raw edges of the hearts to help fray the fabric.  Don't worry if it doesn't immediately fray - it will over time and washes.

Finish the back of the pillow following the directions on the Envelope Pillow Pattern.  Insert your pillow form and enjoy your perfect handmade one-of-a-kind Valentine's pillow!