DIY

Recipe: cinnamon raisin bread

Today I’ve got a recipe for cinnamon raisin bread! When I was a kid my mom baked all of our bread from scratch. I was totally spoiled in the carb department. This is the recipe she passed down to me and not only is it super-easy to make, it only requires five ingredients to make the basic bread–no special bread flour, etc.–so it’s super-cheap, too. If you want to make plain bread for sandwiches or garlic toast, just go through the steps to make the bread without adding any cinnamon and raisins.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes two loaves):

  • 3 cups warm (not hot) water
  • 1 tbsp. (or one packet) yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 8 cups flour
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Raisins to taste (I use about three cups for two loaves! Don’t judge!)

Put the water, yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl and allow to “work” for 10-15 minutes. Make sure your water is only warm and not boiling hot, or it can kill the yeast. Add the oil and flour and mix well; dump out onto floured countertop, knead lightly, and return to mixing bowl to rise. Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm corner of the kitchen (away from any drafts) to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Flour the counter again and put a little shortening (vegan substitute) on your hands so you won’t stick to the dough, then punch down the risen dough and dump it out on the counter to knead lightly. Add the raisins and cinnamon and work into the dough as you are kneading. Cut the dough into two sections, form into loaves, and place in greased bread pans; cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Bake the loaves for 40-45 minutes. Pop them out of the pans to cool on a cooling rack so the bottoms don’t get soggy; once they’ve cooled a bit, slice up and enjoy!

Once the loaves are completely cool, you can wrap up the second one for the freezer or give it to a friend…if it lasts that long (it never does in our house!). This bread makes great toast, too!

DIY: Lavender-coconut moisturizing sugar scrub

Hey lovelies! Remember last week when I highlighted Elle’s recipe for a coconut lime scrub? Well, I loved that combo so much I decided I wanted to find a recipe for a lavender scrub to use before bed. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so after reading a bunch of different scrub recipes online and in my new DIY beauty book (find it here on Amazon) I just kind of winged it with this one and made up the recipe as I went! I chose to use a higher ratio of oil to sugar for a more moisturizing scrub, but you can just use less for a drier scrub.

What you’ll need:

–1 cup of sugar
–3 heaping tbsp. coconut oil
–3 tbsp. almond oil
–1 tbsp. lavender essential oil

In a large bowl combine the lavender essential oil and the almond oil. Add the coconut oil and blend well. Add the sugar and mix well with a fork. If the mixture still seems too dry, you can add a bit more coconut oil. Spoon into a glass jar (I use pint canning jars) and attach a label or tag for gift-giving.

Remember that when you make something with all-natural ingredients, it’s best to use it up quickly–I would use this up within the month. And be careful when using this, as the extra coconut oil can make the shower or tub very slippery. On the upside, it leaves skin silky smooth, so much so that you almost don’t even need to use body moisturizer afterward!

This scrub is not only easy to make–it’s vegan, all-natural, and if you do the math on the ingredients, it winds up being waaaay cheaper to make versus buying a conventional scrub at the store. Plus, if you package it up in cute jars with little tags and twine, it can make a great gift for your friends! I’ll definitely be making jars of scrub come Christmas time to give to my girlfriends.

Inspiration Saturdays: a little home improvement

So I told you guys earlier this week that I had done a DIY makeover on my deck, and now I have the pictures for you! I have seen so many other bloggers getting started on outdoor yard and/or garden projects that it really got me itching to do something about our neglected deck area.

Here’s what my deck looked like before and after. The carpet was dirty and all I had up there for planters was a line of $5 grey plastic totes whose plants had long since died. I did go to the Home Depot two years ago and buy pipes and fixtures to create a raised run on the porch to hold the planters but that was all the work I had put into this area.

I wanted to give this area a makeover for about $100, so let’s see how I did.

I started by cleaning up the carpet, then taking apart all of the piping and refitting it in an “L” shape in the corner. Then I used cans of brown and “stone” look spray paint to give the tubs a facelift. I used two cans of brown spray paint specifically meant for use on plastics as a primer/opaque base, then two cans of the textured paint over the top; this was enough to cover all five tubs. Total cost to revamp the tubs: about $20.

The tubs get lots of sun, so I found some sun-loving perennials including columbine and a bleeding heart. The solar lights were picked up on clearance at Walmart a few years ago. I also have some chives from a friend, plus Cosmos seeds from my mom that I threw in the tubs and a mixed flower seed packet that should yield hollyhocks, echinacea, daisies, some ornamental grass, and one other type of flower (sorry, I can’t remember!).

It’s true that it’s cheaper to just plant seeds than to buy live plants, but I didn’t want the deck to be totally barren, so I went ahead and splurged on a few plants just to get started. Total cost of plants and seeds: $20.

Here’s the biggest part of my project: the privacy screen. There is nothing to block the line of sight from my neighbor’s deck to mine, and the lack of privacy really bugs me. I like to be able to enjoy dinner or a book on the deck without feeling like someone can see everything I’m doing!

Building the screen was simple in theory, less so in practice. I needed to go to Lowe’s for lumber and lattice. Unfortunately, while they did cut the strips of lumber to size, I was informed that they would not cut the lattice, which left me with two options: walk away empty-handed, or tie the eight-foot long sheet of lattice to the roof of my car and pray I made it home.

Did I mention how flexible and floppy these lattice sheets are? There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than driving home with a stack of lattice sheets slapping merrily against the rear window of the car with every tap of the brakes. I don’t blame the many drivers who sped up to pass me!

Once I got home I just had to cut the lattice down to the correct length with a hand saw, spray-paint the lumber strips, nail them into a frame, and attach the lattice to the back with 3/4″ screws. Then I added hinges to create a pair of two-panel screens. Total cost: about $65.

I wanted a rug for the porch but since I’d maxed out my budget at this point, I just grabbed an older throw rug from the kitchen. The table and chairs were a housewarming gift from my mom when we first moved into this house two years ago, and they haven’t seen nearly enough use up until now because the deck just wasn’t an enjoyable place to hang out. Not any more! Now we can enjoy an evening dinner on our lovely deck.

Check out this awesome clutch I found at T.J. Maxx for $2! (Yes, $2!)

Okay, I don’t want to brag…but I scored the mother of all deals on this cute clutch yesterday at T.J. Maxx.

This striped box clutch from T.J. Maxx had a $32 price tag on it, but was sitting on the clearance rack for $2:

Why? Someone had caught the chain strap in the clasp, forcing one of the links open so that the strap was only attached at one end. It was a problem that took just a moment with the pliers to fix, and now the chain is reattached.

It just goes to show that you never know what you’ll find on the clearance rack. I also once found a dress that was on the clearance rack because it was missing a decorative button on the front; I removed the remaining two buttons and sewed on three new ones. Easy-peasy.

Even if you’re not crafty there are lots of great items that wind up in the clearance section of your favorite stores, sometimes simply because they’re the last item in stock and the store wants to make room for new merchandise–so don’t overlook the clearance rack while you’re out shopping! Who know what you’ll find?