Geraniums, Pop Bottle Garden Update and Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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Geraniums

This time of year I am so happy that I dug up my geraniums and brought them in for the winter. A few posts ago I talked about these beauties and now they are in full bloom! What an encouraging lift they are for me every day. I hope to be using these plants as accents this weekend when we host our Church’s Easter Sunrise Service at our home. Stay tuned.

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Pop Bottle Garden Update

My pop bottle experiment has gone fabulously! I have replanted all 24 tiny basil seedlings into their own individual space using two biodegradable cardboard egg cartons. Free and easy container space which of course I love.

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The other seeds I tried in the pop bottle soon overtook their spaces blowing off the tops of the bottles within a few weeks. A single tomato plant and zucchini squash were my next experiments. I might have to plant them into another pot instead of waiting until May to set them out. What do you think?

I will definitely be using this method next year for starting my seeds. It worked flawlessly.

Food Waste in the Bakery Department

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As you can imagine grocery stores have a lot of food waste every day. To the left is an example of what I pulled off the bakery shelves on a typical Friday morning. Luckily not all of what is pictured in the cart is thrown out. Not yet anyway. We reduce our out of date items and give our customers a chance to purchase them at a lower cost. After that, if items are not sold on the reduced rack then yes, they will end up in the trash. Sad huh?

On a good note though, our store does donate many items that are coming close to their expiration dates to local food pantries and other organizations that will gladly take them.

The bakery and deli departments have another unique way we use items that are damaged or otherwise considered unsellable to the general public. We make stuff with them. What kind of stuff? Yummy stuff!

Every morning the produce man comes around to the bakery and deli departments to see if we can use any of their day’s freshly pulled damaged or undesirable items. Deli usually grabs the tomatoes and peppers and lettuce and re-purposes them using them in salads and the hot foods case for lunch.

Bakery on the other hand can use just about any of the produce. Carrots get ground and used in cakes and muffins, Cranberries get made into coffee cakes, peppers, squash, and asparagus get made into quiche, and of course apples get made into pies. How glorious! This week we got berries. Lots and lots and LOTS of berries. Over ten cases of strawberries in fact. “What the heck do I do with all of these cases of strawberries?” I said to my store manager.

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I made lots of things with these strawberries. Scones, fruit breakfast bars, filling for cakes, and finally freezer jam. Yep when you are drowning in berries make jam. I made freezer jam because it was easy and quick. Nine, 16 oz. jars. Yippee! I use the jam in my thumbprint cookies which I bake a lot of. I still have a 5 gallon pail of frozen cut-up strawberries in the freezer to use in the future.

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So you might ask why produce had so many bad berries? Many times they arrive that way on the truck. They come in too ripe or too damaged to sell. We get credit from the warehouse on anything that is damaged or not up to par. Instead of throwing them in the dumpster we try to use them. I love turning items that would normally wind up in the trash into something wonderful. What can I say I am a sucker for a freebie! -MM

2015 Goals Update Week 10

I have been working diligently on most of my goals for the year but I need to get back on track for others. Here’s how I am doing so far.

1. Renovate our only bathroom and replace the window in our son’s bedroom.

After having two different contractors come in and look at our bathroom we decided that we were going to have to work on some of it ourselves. One of the contractors gave us a quote on re-glazing the tub and putting in a new surround and fixtures. His quote came in at over $4500 and the tub re-glazing was only guaranteed for five years. The other contractor took a look and didn’t like the window we had in our shower. I didn’t have much confidence in getting a bid from him after that, thinking it was going to come in way higher than the other one.

I decided that I would re-caulk the tub myself, which was one of the biggest things bothering me about our bathroom. I had already done it twice before and it hadn’t worked, so I decided to try once more. I got a better silicone caulk this time and went at it on my day off.

Here are the before and after pics.

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Pretty yuck right? After spending a couple of hours scraping off the old caulk, cleaning and drying the tub and surround perfectly, I re-caulked the whole thing as carefully as I could. Taking care not to leave any air bubbles or gaps.  The instructions said that we could use the shower fully after eight hours but I left it for about 36 hours before we took our first shower. So far, so good. Nothing has started to pull away from the walls or bubbled.

Replace our son’s bedroom window. Done!

2. Catch-up on and read my favorite daily blog – “Feed Your Family for $100 a Month” by Mavis Butterfield. Also catch-up on and read a really great e-magazine “From Scratch”.

I still am not caught up on “How to Feed your Family for $100 a Month.” I read through about 30 blog posts but I am still behind by about 60. Sigh…

From Scratch is a bi-monthly e-magazine. I did read one of the issues but after reading it I was so frustrated with the poor editing that I have put it on the back burner. I love the information in this magazine and the photos are beautiful, however, if you can’t edit your spelling I tend to not to want to take you seriously. I even wrote an email to the editor but as you can imagine I didn’t get a response.

3. Journal Daily

I have kept up on my journal writing but sometimes I am a week or so behind and by the time I get a moment to write I have forgotten the details of those days. I have resorted to using my Facebook posts and texts to fill in the blanks. My goal is to write daily so I won’t forget anything. I am happy that I have written something for each day no matter how small the post may be.

4. Pay off one of our two credit cards

Here is my major focus this year. I have to say I am completely and utterly frustrated and stressed out about these two credit cards. Almost two years ago all of our credit cards were paid off and I was very proud of that fact. But life happens and yet again we are back in the vicious credit card cycle. When I had my bakery we had to put everything on hold including house repairs and waiting to buy new furniture and many other necessities. After I got my full time job as a bakery manager with a steady paycheck we faced the task of catching up on four years of back repairs and aging vehicles and household items. We needed so many things. Our couch was falling apart, my car died after ten years of faithful service, my husband got into an accident and the deductible was $1000. All of that went on a credit card because I knew now that I had a job along with my husband’s full time job we could afford payments.

Now we have the huge task of yet again paying these things off. I think about them almost every day. We will do it. I don’t know how. But we will. Stay tuned.

5. Organize our attic

Still nothing yet

6. Exercise three times a week

I haven’t done very well with this. I did work out twice two weeks ago. Does that count?

7. Read one book a month

I finally finished Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett. It only took me nine weeks to listen to it. I did also read and finish Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich. I use Evanovich books as a kind of palate cleanser in between heavy novels like Follett’s, Giants. How can you not laugh at Lula and Grandma Mazur?

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8. Send out birthday and anniversary cards each month

All set with March’s birthdays!

9. Make copies of my Granny’s recipes and give a copy to each of our family members.

Nope. Not a thing yet.

10. Digitize my Dad’s family’s photos and make photo books and give CD copies to each of our family members

So far I have about 100 photos scanned and put on disc. It really is fun.

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11. Blog at least once a week

So far, so good!

12. Read the Bible from cover to cover with my husband

I have to admit we are behind in reading our Bible daily. We may not finish it in a year but my husband and I are still reading and growing in the Lord’s Word.

I feel good about my progress on my 2015 goals. Do you have goals? What are they and how are you doing on them? – MMR

Basic Cake Decorating Class

On Monday night I taught a class at a local high school on basic cake decorating. I love doing these classes because I get to meet new people and everyone has a smile on their face by the end of the class. Learning something new is always exciting!

In my basic class I give each new student a goody bag with a writing tip, a border tip, a coupler and a few disposable pastry bags. There is a misconception that cakes have to be fancy to be beautiful. With just these two pastry tips you can do a lot to make your cakes look professional without having to learn advanced skills.

I had 10 students, all women, ranging in age from early college to mid 60s. I started them off with the border tip and we practiced how to hold the bag. What I recommend to everyone is that they practice their piping skills on their kitchen counters or tables so that they can wipe the surface clean and keep practicing over and over. In fact if I have a new design that I am working on I practice piping it first on the counter. It’s a lot easier to scrape off my attempt on my counter than it is to have to scrape it off the cake and potentially ruin it.

After we practiced borders we then switched the border tip out for the writing tip using the same pastry bag. The writing tip is really the most versatile of all pastry tips in my opinion. Not only are you using it to write names on a cake but it truly can be like a pencil in your hand. Below is an example of an Iron Man cake I did with just the writing tip and the border tip.

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As you can see in the first photo, I outlined Iron Man’s head first then filled it in. Then in the second photo the details of his face pop after I outline them with the black. Now some people might want to smooth the lines to even out the texture but I liked the texture so I left it alone.

The idea of using the counter to practice my writing skills was given to me by my first and only cake decorating boss. She stressed how important it was to practice first before having a go at the real thing.

The class lasted about 2 hours and everyone had a blast. Lots of questions were asked and lots of answers were given. Some of the ladies had experience in cake decorating but enjoyed the advice they were given and some of the ladies were completely inexperienced and loved learning something new.

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I think they did a darn fine job! What do you think?

I also like to print this example of some of the most popular decorating tips and what they are used for. I give it to all of my students to keep as a reference.

I also want to mention that this would be a very creative and fun way to spend some time with your kiddos on a weekend afternoon. Give them some disposable pastry bags and a few tips and let them loose on your kitchen counters. I promise they will love it! -MM

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DIY Project Finished

I finally finished my DIY project that I was working on a couple of weeks ago. My kitchen shelves.

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Before

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After

All are painted now and dried thoroughly. I put down my favorite shelf liner which is non-sticky and plastic so it wipes clean.

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I also brought down from my attic a box with beautiful crystal and milk glass pieces that have been stored up there for about a decade. They were my Granny’s and she had them on the very same shelves. They were packed away after she died and I decided to bring them out and showcase them again.

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Aren’t they beautiful? I am very please with how everything turned out. Now to make a curtain to hide the containers on the top shelf. Or maybe I could get new containers. Hmmm…  -MM