Go make it: Vanilla Extract

Back in the very very beginning of my time of writing posts here, I made vanilla extract.  It was a wonderful experience.  No, I’m not weird for thinking that.  The reason it was so wonderful was because it was SO easy.  I love replacing things that I buy at the store with homemade versions, but even more than that, I love it when they are EASY projects.  I do have to warn you that you will probably never buy it again if you make it.  That’s probably exciting for some of you, but there are others of you who will be doubtful of it.  If you were a vanilla snob already and are used to forking over $19 for the big Nielsen-Massey vanilla bottle (although my mom has given some to me in the past that she found cheap somewhere…thanks, mom).  If that is you, this will definitely save you some big bucks.  If you typically buy the grocery store brand of vanilla that is “imitation” and usually doesn’t contain alcohol, this will not save you money.  You should still make it, though, since that imitation stuff is pretty yucky.

The only ingredients are:

Vanilla Beans (2 for every 1/4 c. vodka) & vodka

I followed this site again in their recommended ratio of beans to vodka.

I got these perfect size little bottles at The Container Store last year and they would be perfect if you can find them.  I went this year (during the annual awesome wrapping paper extravaganza) and they didn’t have any.  UGH!!  I search all over online and nobody ships this size.  The will ship one that is 10X as big, but not this teeny tiny one.  So weird.  This year I decided to try the cheaper beans from Trader Joe’s which are $4 for 2.  Trust me, that’s a deal compared to $14 from McCormick’s at the grocery store or $8.50 for the Nielsen-Massey.

Before you start, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 8 minutes.  Erica is doing an awesome job showcasing this :).

 1. First scrape the beans.  If you slice the bean down the middle without going through the bottom layer, you can peel it open and get a good, clean scrape.

2. After a the seeds (called caviar…love that!) are removed, cut the beans in about 1 inch pieces.  They will not float to the top if they are smaller pieces.

3. Measure your liquid space in the jar by using water first.  Once you know how much liquid you need, you will know how many beans to use.  For example, I used a cup of vodka in my jars, so I placed 8 beans inside.

4. At first the bottles will just look murky, but as you shake them every day, the fluid will get darker.  For the first few days, shake them a few times a day.  After that, shake them once a day for 2 weeks.  Then, you can shake them only when you think of it.

After 6 months, you can strain the extract.  I’ve kept mine in for a year, but I’ve heard the beans go bad after a while.  You can also put new beans back in the bottles if you like.

I am aching to make something I tried today at WhiskandLadle.  We went to the Scripps La Jolla Aquarium and then over to WhiskandLadle for brunch.  To start, I had a piece of butterscotch banana bread with dulce de leche.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds and was a perfect comfort food since I wasn’t feeling really great.  I really want to make it and this vanilla extract will be perfect in both the banana bread and the dulce de leche.

Now, for some vanilla extract labels…

My sweet Girl

Back before Christmas, I was privileged to be able to take family pictures for some sweet friends.  It was their baby girl’s 1st birthday coming up, hence the cupcakes you will see.  We meandered down to a local lake here called Otay Lakes (Holla, San Diego!).  I brought a basket with some yellow balloons attached, one of my old vintage chairs, an old plaid blanket, and MY sweet baby girl.  Since it’s not every day that you bring that combination of things to a nearby lake, I thought it would be amazing to catch a few shots of my girl as well.  I am so thankful for her curiosity, her strength, precious humming in bed  at 10pm, her love for Jesus, her desire to constantly try new things, and even her stubbornness.  Yes, even that.  With stubbornness there often comes great strength and common sense.  I comfort myself (amongst the difficulties with this ambitious child) that these difficulties, if set on the right course, will make for an awesome person one day.  At least that’s what I tell myself for now.

Enjoy and soak up some of that love! :)





The sweet girl who turned 1.  She has a little of her Mama’s homemade cupcakes on her lips…no biggie. :)

It’s my Blogiversary! Woot! Woot!


Craziness!  It’s already been a year! 

The official time I started my blog was actually back in August of 2010, but I wanted to get things just right on the design end before posting.  It’s kind-of a joke when I think of it now because it was FAR from nice and my posts were pretty sad-looking.  I knew they were not awesome, but you have to start somewhere, right?  I did like my first real banner above, though.  I kind-of miss it.

Speaking of design, how do you like my new comfy space?  I wanted to go back to my roots with a wood background (my very first wordpress website had a dark wood background) and just step it up a bit.  I think it’s pretty cozy.  Special thanks to Jay Woolwine for installing the parts I couldn’t and to Erik Weston Homestead for listening to my blubbering about colors, banners, and whether there should be lines separating other lines and other very important details.

1. Be sure to check out the categories to our right which will link you to pages with visual links to all my posts. —————>>>>

It’s SO much easier to use.  Yes, it took me a LOOOONG time.  If you like it, please let me know.  If you don’t like it, keep it to yourself :).

2. <<<<————–I also have a cute new scrabble social bar which you can use to share my page after you read this :).

3. ^^^^Above is my new banner which is hopefully reflecting my handmade style. ^^^^

It’s been a great year for this little space.  I started my first month of viewers with just a few of my closest buddies and some obliging family members.  Now, I am astonished at grateful at having over 15,000 people visiting in just a single month!!  Wow, people!  There must be something just a teeny tiny bit likeable goin’ on here.


My second year will hopefully bring even better things.  A few cool things to come are some useful printables in the name of Valentine’s Day, some embroidery hoop projects and a hoop swap, cool thrifted products remade, some exciting kid’s room redecorating with help from here, a revamped garden with new techniques, things I’ve never canned before are going in those cans, working on a dress for myself, and I’m dragging my friends here to do some of this stuff with me!  Sound good?

In honor of this special day, I am sharing a cupcake with you all.  Yeah, I kinda thought you would like it too.  My sister actually made these back in April for my Miss F’s birthday I just totally forgot to post them.  I guess it was meant to be.  I saw them on Pinterest and asked my sister to make them and since she’s awesome, she said yes.


I used my neighbor’s freshly cut olive wood firewood for their little perching area.

Thanks for your support and for hanging out with me in this little space.

The community here means a LOT to me.

Thank You, friends!


I was putting some pictures together from my phone and I realized a food trend.  I know I cook 95% of our meals at home, but I seriously take a LOT of pictures of food.  I don’t always show people, but I’ve been taking pictures of food since before it was cool.   Cooking is imperative to me as the one taking care of my family every single day.  It can get exhausting being the ONLY one to plan, shop for (with kids), unpack, prepare, cook, and clean-up the meals every day.  No respite.  However, I wouldn’t trade any job or position for what I am able to do every day in this home for my love, my kids, and anyone else who pulls up a chair to our table.  This week I have been so encouraged by friends in regards to food and ways you can change meals up for your families.  There are SO many easy/new/different/cool recipes out there for us to try…it will never get boring.  If my positive energy isn’t working, try my “Ridiculously Yummy” board on Pinterest.  There are tons of amazing recipes out there!

My pictures are just a tiny snapshot of my week.  This one was a busy one.  We are on our last week of the foster care process and just have our final inspection tomorrow (fri).  Above you will see some calm in the midst of business.

(from left to right, top to bottom)

1. Miss F and I made clay bread for her dollhouse.  So fun.

2. We had delicious meatballs Monday night from my rarely used Everyday Food cookbook.

3. Had a play-date with some home-school moms at a new park. They loved it.

4. Had some friends over Sunday for Jamie Oliver’s mushroom risotto

5. Had a foster care interview Tuesday and then ate at Claim Jumper.  The Mother-load disappointed.  Did it always taste that bad or has my tongue become that snobby. I’m thinking they’ve changed the ingredients…one more place to check off our list.

6. Finishing some foster paperwork and doing a little web design with Leonard by my side.  He can be so encouraging.

7. Celebrated a beloved friend’s 40th.  She’s amazing…one of those truly generous people who I love to be around.

8. Made cheese dip from here for an evening at home.

9. Enjoyed some Pocky and reminisced about Japan.

10. Made some vanilla extract with a friend.  Tutorial to follow.

11. Made Guinness Lamb Stew for a party tomorrow at the same time as calzones for our dinner tonight

12. My little buddy finished his first preschool book.  Woo!  He loves school way to much.

13. My little bean about to enjoy family movie night.  We finally watched Dolphin Tale which was truly one of the best family films I have seen.  Truly.

14. If you are busy like me, try Shepherd’s Pie for dinner.  Start with Alton Brown’s recipe but substitute a hearty stout or porter for the broth.  It makes an amazing yet easy twist!  I even make this when it’s just the kids and I.  My recipe to follow.

15.  Ed and I took CPR online Monday night and had our test/ evaluation on Wednesday night.  Thanks to my Mom for hanging with the kids for a bit Wednesday night :).  I was a little saddened by the NEW  Heimlich for larger children…oh how I wish we could be a healthier nation and not need this update.

16. Got to learn a few new plant-based recipes from my friend Leah on Saturday. She’s an inspiration to us all of good health and could definitely help the guy in picture 15.

Make anything good this week?

An easy pancake recipe for a Saturday morning

What every kid wants on a Saturday morning.

Kids always want pancakes.  My kids get RIDICULOUSLY excited about these puppies, but that might be because I don’t make them regularly.  About one pancake in (if they make it that far) they are over it, but for that 15 minutes that I am prepping and the 3-5 minutes they are eating them, they are super excited.

THAT makes it totally worth it.

I’ve tried so many recipes and I never really found “the one” until very recently.  Yes, we fell in love and are quite happy together.  No other pancake can come between us…but a waffle could possibly.  I read similar sentiments in a post from The Brown Eyed Baker about the recipe she had found so I knew I had to try it.  Anyone who loves a fluffy pancake with a buttery delicious crispy outside will devour this recipe.  No cake-y pancakes here.

I added this food to my Junk Food Remade series because of the following:

That’s quite a few more ingredients and other…stuff.  Now, I really love to use butter on my pancakes and that’s not the best choice in some ways, but at least I know what’s in my butter.  I think mine still cuts it WAY under 220 calories for 3 pancakes.  The cool thing is you can keep your dry ingredients in a jar or container and then add the wet on the day you make it.  That’s pretty close to shake and pour, right?  As long as you are making them at home you might as well make them right!

You can see the melted butter goodness and the textbook pancake bubbles.

Best Pancakes Ever

2 cups flour

2 T granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

  2 cups milk (plus 1 tsp vinegar)*

2 eggs

¼ cup sour cream

3 T butter, melted and cooled a bit

butter or oil for the pan

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk/vinegar combo, eggs, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined…it’s ok if there are a few lumps (resist the stirring!). Let it sit while your pan heats up.  Hot pans make the best pancakes :)  I prefer butter for my pancakes because I think it tastes Awesome  the best   perfect  irresistible pretty good, but oil is totally cool too.  Just grease your pan either way and cook until the bubbles start to pop .  Flip and cook 1 minute or so more.

Remember to grease your pan in between batches.

*Normally buttermilk is a great ingredient in pancakes, but who really has buttermilk when you need it for a spontaneous Saturday morning pancake session?  The old trick is to use 1 tsp of vinegar for every 1 cup of milk.  The milk “turns”  a bit from the vinegar and ends up pretty darn close to buttermilk.

To top it off…

…grab some preserves (like these that I made this summer) or jelly instead of maple syrup.  If  your kids (or you) prefer the pouring motion, try to use REAL maple syrup from the tree (I know it’s more $ but it’s totally worth it), honey, or heat the jelly up so you can pour it on.

Here is what’s in your old pal Auntie Jemima’s syrup:


She’s not watchin’ out for you anymore :/ Do you ever notice that we try to call it maple syrup but the closest thing to maple syrup it will ever be is sitting next to maple syrup on the shelf.  Just a few things we can ALL think about.  Know what you’re eating!

That’s why you are gonna make some pancakes from scratch right?

I thought so :)

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