June 27, 2022

VEGAN RECIPE REVIEW: Shortbread Cookies

I had a recipe prepared to post about last week but when I started to type it out today, I realized I'd forgotten to take pictures! I took a picture of the ingredients (of which there were MANY) and the final product, but nothing else. Not super important, but for a recipe review, it makes sense to show the process.

Since I've been having a rough time this week mentally, I wanted to choose something super easy that I could knock out in an afternoon so that I could write the post before evening. And that's when I came across 'Gluten-Free Almond Flour Shortbread Cookies with only 3 Ingredients' (there are more words in the recipe name than are in the cookies!). You can find the recipe at The Conscious Plant Kitchen. (I'll link to it again at the end of the post.)

Something to keep in mind when people say that there are X number of ingredients in a recipe, they aren't counting the things that are everyday ingredients like salt, pepper, etc. This is one of those recipes. The very simple ingredients are: almond flour; maple syrup; coconut oil; salt; vanilla extract; and almond extract. It states that the salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract are optional. I can't imagine making these without those flavors! So I chose to use all three of them.

I had all of these things--always a bonus!--so I got started working on them right away. As far as the ingredients, the coconut oil, it specified to use refined coconut oil (so it's flavorless) and that you must use coconut oil or the cookies will be way too soft. Regardless, the recipe does say that the cookies are "slightly softer than regular shortbread cookies. They are vegan, gluten-free cookies made with wholesome ingredients, crispy on the outside and chewier in the center."

I *love* shortbread cookies, but I enjoy the dry, crumbly texture of them, so I was curious how these would compare.

This recipe couldn't be more simple...

Just measure the ingredients into a bowl:

Stir it up until it forms a ball:

Roll into balls about the size of a tablespoon:

Flatten each just a touch with a fork:

Bake and cool.

The verdict: Like all shortbread cookies, they aren't overly sweet or rich. They're light enough to eat the whole batch (and believe me, I was tempted). They were so good! I couldn't believe how good just a few ingredients can turn out to be.

I love almond extract and I could definitely taste that (or maybe it was the almond flour). I just think it tastes like maraschino cherries--yum! But anyway, the dominant flavor was almonds, which is just what you'd expect.

As far as the texture... I didn't even miss the crumbly texture of traditional shortbread cookies. I flattened some of them more than others to see if I could get them to crisp up (the recipe suggests that for crispier cookies, flatten them more). They all seemed to be the same in texture. 

The texture is similar to a chocolate chip cookie--a sort of crispy "skin" on the outside and then a chewier/fluffier center. Regardless, they were so good that they didn't last 10 minutes in our house. The boys housed them! Well, I saved a couple for my parents. As soon as we tasted them, all of our eyes got big and we immediately wanted more ;)  (FYI, I got 14 out of the batch.)

I brought one to each of my parents and they both really liked them, too! Remember when my dad told me the blondies I made tasted like meatloaf? Hahaha! Well, he liked this cookie enough to eat the whole thing and he didn't have a single complaint about it. 

This recipe was ABSOLUTELY a winner! I think you could serve these at a dinner party or potluck or something and nobody would ever question that they might be vegan. The recipe makes the perfect amount for a family of four--three rather smallish cookies each. I'm for sure going to make them again and maybe experiment with adding some coconut or dried cranberries.

Now go make some of these... you won't regret it! (Unless you eat the whole batch, then please don't blame me.)

The whole recipe can be found here: Vegan Shortbread Cookies at The Conscious Kitchen.

June 26, 2022

Noah's Bedroom Makeover Reveal!

Well, I accidentally published this early! But since yesterday's post was kind of a downer non-post, I'll just leave this up until tomorrow night.

Finally! I've been wanting to post these pictures all week, but I knew it was going to take awhile (prepping pictures is a slow-going process). When I gave our entire house a makeover a few years ago (it was in 2018, can you believe it?), I gave each of the kids' rooms a makeover as well.

I removed the textured ceiling, drywalled the gap where the crown molding had been, sanded sanded sanded, painted the walls, installed new casings for the doors and windows, and got new bedding. I also remodeled the closets a bit, which I'll explain below. (You can get all the details and pics of their bedroom makeover on this post). 

It looked great! But the kids didn't love the color after a year or so. Eli wanted khaki-colored walls and olive green bedding. Noah wanted more Japanese-esque decor. He wanted to get rid of his bed and put a Japanese-style mattress on the floor (it's surprisingly very comfortable!). He wanted a table that was very low to the floor with cushions for seating. For his birthday last year, we went to Menard's and picked out the materials to build the table. Then he helped me make it and stain it.

He also wanted a very minimal desk (no drawers--just a corner table for his computer monitors). I made his desk as well. And that's the extent of it. No dresser or nightstand (by his own request); just the Japanese-style mattress, the table (that he put in his closet when not using it for homework), and his desk. 

Here are some "before" photos:

This is a panoramic pic, so it looks a little warped

This is from after pulling everything out of his closet. I put his mattress in my closet so it wouldn't be in the way and the cats wouldn't be all over it.

The next step was putting everything back into the closet (if that's where it should belong). It looked a million times better! (My only regret was that I didn't have time to paint his closet doors. I'd like to paint them black.)

Once I got all of that stuff off the floor, I moved his desk to the middle of the room and covered it with a sheet to protect the computer. (The great thing about his having scarce furniture is that it's easy to prepare the room to paint!) I added a coat of Kilz 2 primer. Love that stuff!

Of course, the county inspector was there to make sure everything was up to code:

I absolutely LOVED the color once it dried. I can't really describe it--kind of like a very light tan/gray.

The biggest part of this project for me was to make shelves. I had no idea what sort of shelves to make and each time I started, I ended up scrapping them because they just didn't look right. I was looking online for inspiration and I came across this photo:

I really liked it and it seemed very simple to make. Since I had only 24 hours until Noah was going to be home, I decided to go for it. I actually cut down 2x4's for the ends:

I had a large piece of sanded pine that I used for the shelves themselves. I rounded the edges of all of the pieces just the tiniest bit with the router and then I sanded all the pieces well.

I couldn't decide how I wanted to piece them together. Glue wouldn't be strong enough for the butt joints. I didn't want pocket holes because they would be easy to spot. I didn't have time to use things like dowels (I still need to build a dowel jig anyway), so I just simply screwed in the ends and filled in the holes when I was done. Not perfect, but since I was painting and not staining, it worked. I spray painted the end pieces black:

I painted the shelves gray. I normally would have used oil-based paint for his shelves, but since there wasn't time to let it dry, I just used the paint I used when I painted the garage. It has enamel in it, so it was a little more durable than regular latex.

That dried super quickly. I was SO excited to put the shelves together! I spent way too long in Noah's room leveling and measuring to get them just to my liking.

(The little whimsical stuff that Noah has are sentimental things from friends.) Here are both shelves together:

I absolutely love how they turned out.

While the shelves were in the works, I temporarily brought in a piece of furniture that I'd been wanting to paint for a long time. I had it in my bedroom, but it wasn't crucial or anything. I figured once the shelves were done, I could take it back out. But when Noah saw it, he LOVED it. He wanted to keep it in there.

From that point, it was just adding a few decorations. I bought a few things that I thought were kind of "zen" and put those around. I also got a duvet cover with Japanese cherry blossoms (the duvet cover is actually a cream color and not pink, how it looks; but regardless, Noah loves cherry blossoms and he was very happy with the duvet cover). 

I got a little rock fountain, some tiny fake potted plants, a cherry blossom tree night light, a neon ramen sign (love this!), and a cherry blossom incense holder (he likes incense). The area looked kind of peaceful and calm when I was done. Especially when we turned the lights off and it was dark except for the few lights from the ramen sign, the fountain, and the cherry blossom tree night light.

Then came the posters/canvases. He has several of them! (Actually, there are still two more that we haven't hung up yet.)  Only a couple of the posters/canvases had a way to hang them or frame them or something. Taking a cue from the Japanese Star Wars poster, which has strips of wood with magnets to place on the top and bottom, holding the poster in place (rather than taping it to the wall).

I didn't use magnets, but I did cut a bunch of very thin strips of wood and stained them the color of the table we made last year. Then I used double stick tape and wood glue to glue them together with the edge of the poster sandwiched in between. I tied a knot on each end of a long piece of jewelry cord and stapled it to the back of the top piece. Hard to explain--maybe the pictures will help:

And here you can see them hung up:

You can see here that I put his round table and the cushions by his desk; before, he just crammed them into the closet.

Here are some final before and afters:

The final product:

I can't even describe how excited Noah was when he saw it! He hugged me about 12 times and said "I love you! Thanks for doing this!"

Totally worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears ;) 

If anyone is curious about the products, here are the links on Amazon (these are affiliate links, meaning I may get a small commission if you use them). But I bought everything with my own money:

This was a labor of love for Noah's 18th birthday. I wanted to do something special for him that wasn't just about money. While it wasn't super cheap, it was probably less than $300 (including the Sherwin Williams paint)--very cheap for a makeover like this. My favorite parts are the shelves and the ramen sign! I'm just so glad he loves it :)

June 25, 2022

Near Panic Attack

Well, today was another bad day. I spent the whole morning trying to think of someplace I could go that wouldn't cost me a fortune. Flights are SO expensive right now that I can't fly anywhere. And gas is so expensive that driving very far would cost just as much as a flight!

I debated using a buddy pass to fly to my friend Sarah's in Arizona, but the problem is that a lot of flights are being canceled lately. Even if I got there via stand-by, there isn't a guarantee that I would get home on time. And Sarah is coming here to visit on Thursday anyway!

There's been quite a bit of drama around here (not with Jerry or me) and I just needed to get away. My sister said I could drive up to her property, and ultimately, that's what I decided to do. I packed my things and was ready to go 10 minutes later. It's a 10 hour drive, so I wasn't looking forward to that.

For days now, my anxiety has been really bad. And immediately, when I started driving, I couldn't let go of that feeling. I even had to turn off the radio and my podcast so it was silent in the car (that makes for a long 10 hours!). I started feeling a panic attack coming on and I really needed to take a break and calm down, so I stopped at a rest area.

I saw on my GPS that my arrival time to Jeanie's would be after 1:30 AM. Not only do I hate driving in unfamiliar places--places in the middle of nowhere--but driving in the dark makes it so much worse.

After agonizing over it (and texting a few people) I decided to turn around and come back home. I'd only made it about two hours before turning around, but what a waste of time and gas!

Okay, I promise to do my best to post normal stuff tomorrow. I haven't felt this much anxiety and (mild) depression in such a long time! Have a great night :)

I had hoped and planned to post pictures of Noah's bedroom today, but right now is just not the time. Tomorrow, I'll work on it in the morning so that it's ready to go. I'm going to cut this short right now because I want to just take my anxiety meds and hopefully fall asleep. I haven't eaten dinner yet either (it's after 8:00, which is late for me to eat) so I'm starving.

Sorry for the downer of a post! I really hope the cost of flights comes down soon. 

June 24, 2022

Friday Night Photos

I have been in a bad funk for the last week or so and I'm having a hard time fighting it. I feel like I really need to get away for a few days, but have you checked out the price of airline tickets? I nearly had a heart attack!

I was thinking of going to the pacific northwest, but it was $1400 for the cheapest ticket to PDX (the others were $1700). I used to pay under $400! The cost of gas is insane, too, so I don't really want to drive anywhere. I'm not sure what I am going to end up doing. I just need a break. Jerry's been on several trips over the past couple of years and I'm jealous ;)

Anyway, here are my Friday Night Photos... surprisingly, I don't have as many as you'd think, considering I didn't do a Friday Night Photos post last week. Most of the photos I have I've either already posted or they are for a upcoming posts (Noah's bedroom reveal and my vegan recipe review). But here are the photos I have...

I think this pic is adorable! My dad and Riley are good buddies (Riley is his only granddaughter) and they were eating breakfast outside while watching the ducks swim. You can see in the bottom of the picture just how big they are getting. (My dad just has resting bitch face; he usually smiles for pictures! haha)

The sweetest cat in the entire world. My little Duckling. (Maybe I can't go somewhere--I'd miss Duck too much!)

Speaking of cats, we got a new shower curtain. It suits us more than the boring gray and yellow one :)  I hoped the wrinkles would come out with the steamy water, but no such luck. I refuse to iron a shower curtain, though. There are so many other things I'd rather do with my time ;)

Jerry was petting Phoebe and she LOVES when he scratches her back up by her tail. She sticks her butt up in the air and her eyes roll back into her head when she gets really into it!

Well, I tried the vegan "mozzarella" I experimented with last weekend even though it looked disgusting--I just plopped a little here and there. I made a homemade whole wheat pizza crust and used leftover homemade marinara (so good!), plopped some "cheese" on there, and then I caramelized an onion and put that on top of it all. It was actually really delicious! Even the vegan "cheese".

The cats are used to getting wet food first thing in the morning, but I had a jar of chicken baby food (gag) leftover from when I was trying to get Phoebe to eat, so I gave each of the cats a big spoonful of it. I thought it was so funny that they all lined up nicely together and ate their baby food. (Left to right: Phoebe, Duck, Chick, and Estelle). Phoebe has a hard time eating off of the plastic plates, which is why hers is different.

I may have posted this already, but this is the morning that Noah, Eli, and their girlfriends drove up north to my sister's property for a long weekend.

When I was cleaning out Noah's bedroom before painting it, I happened to find this note that I wrote him. I have no recollection of it or what it was about, but it kind of warmed my heart <3 

These are Noah's anatomy and biology books--seriously. For one semester! And after I took this picture, I found two more. Some of the books are so thick now that they don't even get bound; they have a hole punched at the top of each page with a metal ring through it. I am stunned that he managed to get an A in his (college) classes!

Jerry got this shirt and it's PERFECT for him! He's obsessed with Ghostbusters now (almost as much as Star Wars). And obviously, the old English D is the Tigers logo. So this shirt was right up his alley.

WTF happened to this can of primer?!!! I bought it from Sherwin Williams not too long ago, and I'm always so careful when I close up paint cans. It took both Jerry and me a few minutes to get the lid pried off and it is clearly destroyed (thankfully we're up to date on tetanus shots!). I don't even store the paint in the garage because of the temperature changes. There is still a lot of good primer in there, so I need to buy an empty paint can or something ASAP.

These are the pieces for Noah's shelves that I finally finished! I'll reveal them tomorrow. (I'm making this sound way more exciting than it is--but I happen to love the change in his room, so it's exciting to me.)

And.... it's fish fly season. Ugh! They haven't lasted very long, so hopefully there isn't a "second hatch" where we get more of them. If you're not familiar, these are gross bugs that show up once a year and they get on everything! They don't bite or sting or anything like that--they are literally just bird food, basically. But they make a popping sound when you step on them and when they die, they smell like rotten fish--which is why they are called fish flies. They last a couple of weeks.

When I was looking for shelf ideas for Noah, I thought these were so cool! They are shaped like the Tetris pieces from Nintendo. I'm really tempted to make some, but I"m not sure what I'd do with them ;)

Jerry always leaves me cute little notes, but this one was just weird. I was making baby potatoes a couple of days ago and one of them looked like this. I couldn't bear the thought of cutting it, so I just kept it on the counter. The next day, I found it like this.

The kittens are so predictable and it cracks me up. In the mid-morning, I use a spray called Meowijuana (basically just catnip infused spray) on their toys. They go crazy for it! As soon as the kittens smell catnip, they start wrestling, which turns into rabbit-kicking each other in the face.

And finally... Eli got his driver's license! He's been 16 since January, but he hadn't gotten enough practice with his permit in order to get his license. During the pandemic/lockdown, we didn't go anywhere, so he never drove. For the record, this car is not his ;)  It's my car, but he was excited to take it to the rec center and lift weights. And I was happy that I didn't have to drive him! 

And that's all I have. Have a great weekend! xo

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