Most Eggcellently Hard Boiled

So this summer I joined the electric pressure cooker craze. I promised my husband I would ditch my crock pot if I bought the pressure cooker. I did give up my extra large crock pot without looking back, but I did keep my smaller ones and so far I haven’t needed them. I’ve used the pressure cooker for all kinds of things and have been absolutely loving it! It still boggles my mind that a pot of beans that used to take hours in the crockpot can be done, (and very tender) in less than an hour. It almost feels like I’m cheating! As if I didn’t need one more reason to love this thing, I started hearing about people  steaming their eggs in them and getting perfect, easy to peel eggs every time. I had to give this one a go, and sure enough they were not only cooked perfectly, but the yolk was nice and creamy, and not at all dried out like sometimes happens when hard boiling them. With a quick rise under cold water, the egg shells slid off in large pieces like a dream. 

My pressure cooker is not the popular Instapot. Mine is the Power Cooker so the settings will be slightly different. Also, I don’t have a bottom steam rack. Mine sits toward the top and it fits 18 eggs perfectly. I was a little worried that the lid wouldn’t close or would smash the eggs, but it is a perfect fit. I found that 4 minutes cooks the eggs perfectly so I use the vegetable setting (of 3 minutes) and then add a minute on. It takes longer to build up pressure than it does steaming the eggs but it is SO worth it. What I always have to remember though, is that once the cycle is done the pressure cooker automatically switches to the hold/warm setting and will not begin to release pressure until you hit cancel. This means they continue cooking in there and may overcook if you forget about them. I have forgotten for a few minutes and not had any problems but I would hate to leave it on more than that. Now that I have discovered this I have been on a deviled eggs kick and I’m thinking egg salad sounds pretty good too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Mason Jars

Mason jars are as old as the hills but they never seem to lose their popularity as a household item. They are not only great for canning and drinking from, but they are great for decor in every season and for almost any event. At our house, they are used for all of the above! Honestly, I’m a fan of jars of all types, but mason jars just have that appealing country home look. 

This week I chalk painted these jars and gave them a little festive Christmas look. If you would like an easy diy chalk paint recipe, you can find it here. Before applying the chalk paint I spray painted the outsides of the jars with a nice Christmas red color so that I could distress them later and bring out the red on the lettering. The spray paint I used also doubles as a primer, which not only helps the chalk paint stay on, but it gives it a warmer undertone. Since I already had the red paint out, I decided to go paint happy and paint the little bells deep red to match. A few more little wood pieces and some twine embellished these jars just right with one single wreath accent piece sitting on top. It was a cheap and easy little project for making in bulk. I made nine of them for our church coffee shop tables.

His & Hers Accessory Tray Project

I hate unorganized countertop clutter, but I understand the need to keep certain items out for easy use. I thought these fun little accessory trays were a great solution for the small odds and ends that end up on the bathroom counter. The best part is that it only cost me a few dollars at the dollar store and a few minutes to make my designs using my Silhouette Cameo 3 cutter. If you use a Silhouette machine and would like to make your own set you can download my design files below.

The items you will need are obviously, the two trays. I chose to use two different styles just for fun but it would also look cute to use matching trays of either style. You will also need the drawer liners. This is the foam type of liner and again, I thought it would be cute to use a feminine style for hers, and a more masculine looking one for his. The hardest part of this project was cutting the liners into the right size and shape (which was not that hard). I did this by flipping over the trays, laying the liner over them and following the indent lines with my scissors. You will probably have to trim and even out your shape, unless you are better at cutting than I am! The last thing you will need is to cut out the designs on some adhesive vinyl. You can grab the free download files below, or create your own.

His Design File Download

Hers Design File Download

Enjoy!!

American Flag Wood Wall Art

Wood Art Displayed on My Hutch

With Independence Day coming up I decided to make a wall art project to display some patriotic song lyrics that are not commonly known but are very powerful. The lyrics I chose came from the third verse of America the Beautiful. The picture I posted makes the art piece look a little smaller than it actually is so the words may be difficult to read. Here are the words:

“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife. Who more than self, their country loved and mercy more than life. America, America may God thy gold refine. ‘Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.” 

What I really love about this stanza is that the value of character is placed ahead of the value of acquiring wealth or success. Personal sacrifice is honored above personal gain or comfort. This is how our country began and the sacrifice made for the greater good of others is honored so well in this verse.

The project itself was so simple that I made most of it within an afternoon using very inexpensive items simply because I was feeling lazy and I didn’t want to have to go drive anywhere to buy anything. I used my Silhouette Cameo 3 to type out the words and cut it out onto sticky vinyl. If you don’t have a cutting tool but you have a steady hand you could do this with paint, a permanent pen, or paint markers.

The wood I used to make this project was just a package of shims I had in my craft room. If you aren’t familiar with shims, they are slats of wood used for all kinds of home projects. They are about 1/4 ” thick on one side and they taper down to probably a millimeter. I took two pieces going opposite directions and used Elmer’s glue to turn the two pieces of wood into one even piece. I would have used the Elmer’s Wood glue, but it was dried out at the top, and well, laziness continues. Since I knew I had nine lines to the stanza I would be featuring, I did this process nine times. Then I stacked all of the glued slats into two piles and tied the ends with zip ties to keep the glued slats pressed together while drying. I had to move quickly and even reapply glue on a few of them because as the glue was drying, the pieces wanted to start warping in the opposite direction. *This probably wouldn’t have been a problem had I used the wood glue 🙂 The zip ties did a great job of keeping the pieces pressed together and all of my slats dried evenly overnight.

The next day I took the zip ties off and divided the slats unevenly (since I had 9 pieces) to be painted red or white. I had some old bottles of acrylic paint in my craft room with the perfect dull, rustic shade of barn red I was after. Unfortunately, my white acrylic paint was dried out so I found some off-white spray paint in a satin finish that I had from a previous project. I high-fived myself for still not having to go to the store for supplies. Yes! Laziness prevails. I wondered if the white pieces would have more sheen than the red pieces and decided it would actually be kind of a cool effect if it did. It didn’t end up having more sheen. Not noticeably anyway. While the paint dried I went swimming, played with my dog and watered my garden. About an hour or more later I came back to my Arizona sun-dried slat pieces and they were ready to assemble. I had a wood art wall hanging that I had previously picked up from the thrift store. It was the size and shape of a painting canvas and the previous art was just glued on paper so I peeled it off and glued my painted slats on in a striped pattern with gorilla glue. As the pieces were drying I also began transferring the vinyl cut words. Yes, I’m impatient AND lazy but I was so close to finished and I just wanted to see it all completed. I’m pretty happy with my project so I plan to make some other cool wood signs the same way.

 

Repurpose a Pickle Jar For Dog Treats

My family kind of has a thing for pickles so we go through tons of jars of them. The jars are all great sizes so I never want to throw them away when the pickles are gone. I have an extra large one in my laundry room holding all of the socks that are missing a mate, we have jars with coins or hardware in them and I have used others to store sauces or other food products. The only problem is I still have an abundant collection of empty pickle jars sitting on top of my refrigerator just waiting to be repurposed in a project. After a while I get sick of the clutter so I tell myself I need to decide to do something with them, or just break down and throw them away. Since I already took the time to wash the jars and peel the labels off, today I decided to decorate one and use it for a dog treat jar.

To decorate my jar, I first took one of the clean jars and sprayed the outside with a primer. (Some people paint the insides of jars for decorative projects so the outside keeps it’s shiny appearance, but since I am putting food in this jar, this has to be painted on the outside. Primers come in several different colors so I like to choose a color that will look good coming through the paint when the jar wears and scratches. I like the worn look so on some of the jars I intentionally sand and scratch them to bring out the primer color underneath. This effect especially looks good on mason jars that have raised print on them. Since we are using pickle jars today we won’t go into that.

I love the look of chalk paint so I have neutral colors of homemade chalk paint stored in containers just for projects like this. If you are interested in the chalk paint recipe, you can click here.  I paint on two thin coats, letting the first layer dry before painting the second layer. You can put on as many layers as you like. Just make sure the layers are thin and dry in between each coat.

Next I used Mod Podge to glue some fabric around the lid. The easiest way I found to do this was to paint the glue onto the top of the lid, then lay the lid directly onto the piece of fabric. Then I cut around it giving just enough room to fold into the inside of the jar. I painted the sides and just barely over the edges, folded the fabric over and then screwed the lid on while it dried with the fabric pressed up against it. I created the graphic with my Silhouette Cameo 3 and used a stick on vinyl but if you don’t have a cutting machine to create with you could decorate your jar with scrapbooking stickers for fun. When you are finished, be sure to use a clear coat finishing spray to seal your paint in and protect it. Those come in different sheens so if you like the chalky look you can choose a flat or eggshell sheen on it. If you like a glossier look there are semi-gloss and full gloss sheens as well.

If your dogs are anything like mine, they want to be anywhere you are. This certainly includes my craft room and when I spend a significant amount of time in there they just find a spot to nap. Because of this I have a big dog pillow bed on the floor and a bench seat so they can nap while I work on projects. Now I also have an adorable treat jar for them in my craft room as well so you could say they have officially moved in!

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Keeping Your Furbabies Summer-Safe

Hot dog! It’s summer time! Summer plans, bar-b-ques, good times and baseball are all in full swing, and for most of us, the regular routine activities of life must continue as well. Despite the heat, healthy living enthusiasts can be found walking, running and biking as faithfully committed as they do throughout the rest of the year, but with a little added precaution. Living in the Arizona desert, heat safety education is constantly being promoted to protect people from emergencies like heat stroke and dehydration. These situations can escalate very quickly and can become fatal to even the most fit and healthy. We understand the importance of water intake, and we pay attention to which hours of the day are safer for exercise, play and laborious physical activity. We even adhere to heat advisory warnings for temperatures that are considered unsafe without the proper precautions. But what is considered safe for our furbabies?

What do I need to know to protect my furbabies in the summer heat?

Most of the conversations we hear about pet safety in the heat have to do with concern for the pads of their feet burning on hot surfaces, or the dangers of leaving them in a hot car. While this is incredibly dangerous- especially here in the desert, many people are unaware of other heat dangers. There seems to be a misconception that our furbabies have a similar tolerance for heat as we do, but so many loving pet owners don’t realize the risk (and the misery) they are unintentionally putting their four legged companions through.

How does my dog regulate his body temperature?

Humans sweat to cool off and because of this, we are able to tolerate not only being in the heat, but we can also tolerate a fair amount of physical activity in the heat, as long as we stay hydrated. Dogs, however do not sweat. They pant in order to cool down by circulating air through their snout, but even among dogs, not all breeds are as effective at cooling down as others. Dogs with shorter snouts are unable to cool down as well as those with longer snouts. So while exercise and playtime is vitally important to the health of our dogs, it can be dangerous for them in warm weather, and even more risky if they are a breed with a shorter snout and are unable to cool down.

How can I keep physical activity safe for my dog in the heat?

You may be able to run your dog for miles in cool weather, and you yourself may be able to tolerate running in weather upwards of 100 degrees, but for dogs, temperatures as mild as 85 degrees can be a problem if they aren’t able to cool down, or if they don’t have access to a source of water to drink and get their bodies wet. Young puppies, older dogs and overweight dogs are considered at risk and need to be watched for signs of heat exhaustion. Humidity level is also a very important contributing factor so even if the outside temp is in the low 80s, a high humidity level can make the temperature feel like it’s in the upper 90s. In these situations it’s very important to pay attention to the behavior of your furbaby and err on the side of safety. When it’s hotter than 85 degrees, try to choose water activities to exercise your dog. If you still feel the need to walk them, don’t go very far so that you can return home quickly if they get too hot. Carry a spray bottle to help cool them (and yourself) down and always make sure your dog has water to drink even if you are just sitting in the heat.

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How does my cat regulate his body temperature?

While you don’t typically see anyone walking a cat, (I know there are always exceptions) it’s important to note that they can also be at risk if they are left in the heat and are unable to cool down. Just like dogs, cats don’t sweat either, but their cooling process is actually very similar to the process that sweating works to cool down humans. Cats cool down by licking their fur and the evaporation process of their wet coat cools them down. Cats don’t pant to cool down like dogs do, but a cat will pant if they are in heat distress. Unfortunately, once they reach this point they are already in danger and likely require immediate medical attention.

Summer is a great time for outdoor sports, fun and family time. There are lots of fun things to do to beat the heat and many people enjoy bringing their pets along to enjoy the fun. Just make sure that everyone in the family stays safe in the heat!

 

Five Steps to a Summer Garden in the Desert

I live in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona where summers get so hot that we boast of our ability to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Not that anyone would really want to eat an egg off the sidewalk, but we can do it! People have also been known to bake pans of cake batter or cookie dough in their hot cars to show that the sun truly bakes more than your skin. Needless to say, the summer desert is a tough place to survive but it is completely possible to grow a productive garden and enjoy watching it thrive and produce lots of home grown vegetables all summer long. Here are 5 basics for those of you have always wanted to try growing a garden, but didn’t know where to start.

1. Timing is Everything

While other parts of the country (and the world) are still freezing their tails off in February and March, us desert dwellers are beginning to see signs of spring approaching. We start enjoying weather in the 70s while some of our friends and family are being rained out and shoveling snow. This is also the time of year that we enjoy bragging that we are wearing shorts and grilling outdoors. Ha ha suckers! It is also precisely the time to get your soil ready for a summer garden.

2. Preparing the Soil 

Because we live in the desert, the ground is hard and the dirt is like clay. Nothing will grow in our clay dirt without some work. Before doing anything, the ground has to be tilled up and mixed with some vegetable garden soil. We used to have a dedicated garden tiller, but my husband had to work on it every year just to get it running so we bought a tiller attachment for our Ryobi weed eater. The first year we started the garden my husband tilled up the hard dirt first and then gradually added bags of vegetable garden soil until there was a nice mixture of both soil and native dirt.   He also built a basic bottomless frame out of 2x4s to contain the garden. This is helpful for watering as it keeps most of the water contained inside the garden area. That is if I don’t accidentally flood the garden. #gardenhack :if you don’t stay out in the garden while you’re watering, write yourself a quick reminder note or set a phone alarm so you don’t forget you are watering! Ask me how I know this 😉

3. Planting

As soon as the garden soil is prepared you are ready to plant. As long as you start early enough in the season you can plant some things from seed. I plant some items from seed and others from starter plants. Seeds are usually sold in one location with a mixture of seasonal relevance. Pay close attention to the charts on the back of the seeds to make sure you are planting things in the appropriate season. If you are buying starter plants, find out which ones are ending their season and which are beginning as sometimes there is a crossover in the availability of plants sold in nurseries as the season changes. Things like spinach, lettuce and celery are winter vegetables and will not do well in the warmer weather. Some summer plants include tomatoes, strawberries, melons, corn, peppers, eggplant and onions. Before you put anything in the ground it’s a good idea to plan and map out your layout. I usually just set the starter plants in the spots I want them and move things around as I work out my plan. Read the instructions on the back of the seeds or on the information stick that comes with the plant to make sure you allow plenty of room for growth. Most of these plants start out really small but they spread out and grow very large. Some things are best planted in rows like corn and carrots. You will also want to pay attention to which plants like direct sun and for how many hours per day. Those that don’t like as much sun can be planted in a shadier area or strategically planted under the overgrowth of something much larger. You will also want to pay attention to which plants will be climbing vines or grow in long strands that you will want to keep off the ground. Cucumbers grow in a long strand so I use a shepherd’s hook to allow the plant to wrap around and climb up to protect the leaves and fruit from laying in the dirt. I have also seen some pretty nifty hinged wood pieces on Pinterest that allow the cucumbers to grow up and over and something else to be planted underneath the shelter. Melons and grapes are climbing vines so it’s a good idea to put them against a fence or on a trellis. Another clever idea that my husband came up with is planting a row of corn along the edge closest to the house in order to protect the garden from the heat of the summer sun reflecting off of the house. The same idea could apply for block walls as well.

4. Watering

It’s very important to keep the garden moist (sorry to those of you who aren’t fond of that word) without over-watering. In the early part of spring you will only need to water a few times a week to keep the ground from drying out. Once the weather is hotter the ground will dry out more quickly and you will need to water more often. I have found that if I water each area more slowly it allows for a better soak into the ground and it takes a little longer for the ground to dry up. A garden hose bubbler attachment like the one pictured here allows the water to flow evenly without eroding a hole in the soil around it. I’ve attached a quick link from Amazon below because sometimes they are hard to find in the store.

The best times to water are early morning before the heat becomes intense and evening when the sun is going down. It’s also very important to mention that you don’t want to spray the leaves or get them wet. Especially in the daylight hours as the sun will fry the wet leaves.

 


5. Patience

The hardest part is when you have some healthy plants growing and you can see little flower blooms all over but not any fruit quite yet. As you water them and examine for fruit and growth you will need to reinforce some of the branches with stakes and if you have tomato plants you will need tomato cages to support your growing plants.

Do not skip this step in the early stages as you will not be able to easily put a tomato cage around your plants without damaging them. This year we ended up with some monstrous tomato plants that are well over my head. Of course, I am only 5’3″ but that is still a pretty large tomato plant!

Once production begins it is usually pretty steady. Be careful harvesting your veggies as some of the plants are prickly and irritating to your skin. Enjoy and check back soon for some summer recipes for preparing your homegrown food.  

 

 

 

 

 


 

Photo Frame Upgrade

 

Give a frame mat a little color or texture by using contact paper or even wall paper. In this photo, the mat I had was an off-white color and it looked horribly boring in contrast to the photo I was framing. I layed out a piece of corkboard, took a piece of wallpaper and placed the photo mat on top. I used an exacto knife to cut the inside portion out. Once out, I mixed some Elmer’s school glue and mixed it with a little bit of water to form a thin paste. I then painted the paste all over the matte, pressed the wallpaper down on top and trimmed the outer edges. Just like that my frame had a nice splash of color and texture to better compliment my photo. Continue reading →

What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird

As summer approaches, the sound of birds can be heard more than usual and during this season you can also hear the tiny peeps of baby birds. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year that baby birds are often found in vulnerable places because they either fell or (as sad as it is) were kicked out of their nests.  We adopted and raised one such baby bird several years ago when my son found him featherless and hungry laying on a hot sidewalk. He grew up to become a full grown dove and bonded with us so well that he became part of the family. He was also very independent and able to fly away for adventures and come back whenever he wanted. Since then, we have also had parakeets who have had numerous clutches of babies so I quickly became known as the bird lady. Though I am certainly not an avian expert by any means, each year at about this time I get tons of texts, calls and PMs from friends who have found baby birds and are asking what to do.

I found a baby bird all by himself and he can’t fly.

This is probably the most common thing people contact me about. I usually answer this with a few follow up questions. It’s very important before you even consider moving the baby that you first know for sure whether or not the bird actually needs to be rescued. Behaviors that are a very important part of their learning and growing process often look like abandonment and struggle to us as humans. As tempting as it is to try to rescue them, interrupting this process can be detrimental to the development of their survival skills.

Does he have feathers?

Baby birds are hatched with no feathers. They may have see-through skin and look very similar to ET, or they may be covered in fuzz. It doesn’t take long for their feathers to grow in and they grow in size at an incredibly fast rate.

If he doesn’t have feathers:

 

The photo on the left is a wild baby bird just days old. The photo on the right is a baby parakeet just starting to grow feathers.

  1. He probably fell out of a nest or was booted out. Mama birds sometimes kick out a baby if she detects something wrong with him. It’s sad, but it’s nature. Look for a nest nearby and if at all possible return the baby to the nest. The common belief that the mother bird won’t care for her young if they are handled by human hands in not true so don’t be afraid to do this. Be aware that the mother will be extremely protective of the nest and the other babies if she is there when you return the baby. She will probably get mad at you so just be ready for that. If you are iffy about birds you might ask someone else to do it so you don’t drop the baby when mama gets mad. Of course, most people that are iffy about birds would probably never pick up a baby in the first place! Featherless babies are not very attractive.
  2. If you absolutely can’t find a nest or the nest is way too high up in a tree that you can’t reach it you can contact a wildlife facility near you to take the baby in. This is a last resort since the baby is best cared for by his own mother. It is possible to hand feed the baby but this is not recommended unless you really know what you’re doing. Babies this young are fed by the mother eating and regurgitating into the baby’s mouth. There are replacement formulas that can be fed to them but it is very easy to accidentally  drown a baby bird while feeding them.

If he does have feathers:

This photo is of our baby dove at fledgling age. He is perching but doesn’t quite hold up his own weight. He flaps his wings but doesn’t quite fly yet .

  1. If he does have feathers there is a pretty good chance you have found a fledgling. A fledgling is a baby bird at the “learning to fly” stage. At the beginning stages they mostly hop around on the ground while they try to figure it out. Although he looks like he’s abandoned, mama bird is usually very close by watching him. She keeps her distance but flies around squawking at him for encouragement, and occasionally drops in to feed him. It’s best if at all possible that he be left exactly where he is. Eventually he will return to his mama. If there are dogs or cats nearby that might get to him you can put him up out of reach but you really don’t want to move him for than 100 feet from where you found him.

He looks injured. He’s just hopping around but he can’t fly.

This photo is of our baby dove at the fledgling stage. He looks full grown but can’t quite fly yet.

As I mentioned before, a fledgling hops around on the ground while he figures out how to fly. Sometimes this process can look like he is injured and he may be on the ground a few days. Rest assured that his mother knows where he is and will make sure he is fed and hydrated. If he is truly injured and appears to be fully feathered, it’s ok to house him in a cage for a few days with water and birdseed while he heals so that nothing can get to him. Make sure you don’t house him too long and be sure to give him the opportunity to try to fly away when he is ready. Independence is always the goal since these birds are wild and need to be able to survive on their own.

I hope you found this information to be helpful. Please feel free to share it with other animal lovers out there and if you have any questions you can email me at info@bitingmythyme.com or just leave a comment below.

 

Hope

Hope is a poweful thing. It allows us to suffer long and endure when life gets tough. It gives us the strength to inch forward another day when circumstances don’t otherwise look good. Hope fuels our will to do what is necessary and what is right when our current situation doesn’t show any signs of improvement. We have an amazing tenacity for suffering as long as we have just a glimmer of hope and our pain has a purpose. Because of this, we have to be very careful with whom or what we put our hope in. If we put our hope in people, situations, dreams or even our own ability to accomplish things, we set ourselves up for heartache and disappointment because although we can work hard and do our best to make the right choices, we truly have no control over life circumstances, and though some of us may try, we certainly have no control over other people. When things don’t happen the way we had imagined, or when people don’t cooperate with the dream we had envisioned, this is when our heart becomes disillusioned and our hope faulters. Often times this becomes a root of depression which can lead to all kinds of other things including suicide, self-harm overeating and substance abuse because we are mourning a loss of control in our lives and these things put us back in the driver’s seat…so it seems. Until once again, we lose control and are given over to be controlled by our impulses and cravings.
If we put our hope in God, we can trust that He is not caught by surprise by anything we encounter. When we choose to put our lives completely in his hands, he promises to never leave us or forsake us. This does not mean we are guaranteed a smooth, flawless road, but it means we have the comfort and the direction of the only one who not only knows what lies ahead, but has our best interest in mind even though we can’t see the whole picture. God is very intetested in our goals and dreams, but in order for us to be successful, he is interested in making sure we have the chatacter, strength and integrity we will need when we finally reach that goal. This is why it’s so important not only to ask God for direction, but to actually ask him what it is that he has planned for us. It is so much easier to put our hope in God when we are following HIS plan for our lives and not trying to manipulate God into following ours. When God is truly in charge it takes the burden of responsibility off of us to fix what goes disastrously wrong. We can simply surrender it to God and ask him what the next step is in his plan. Often times we will have to step out into the unknown before we will know if we are even heading the right direction. It can feel terrifying and exhilarating all at once but the whole point is that God wants us to follow him, seek after him and hope in him for every step. It is our nature to want to know a secure plan up front, five moves ahead so we can feel secure and in control. God doesn’t work that way. If you read about how he led his people through the wilderness to get to the promised land he was teaching them to trust him, obey him and honor him. Your hope process can be as painful or as fulfilling as you choose for it to be. Lean in and put your hope in God. Make him your everything. Just try to remember that your goals are not a final destination. They are just tiny stops on a long journey so learn to enjoy the journey!

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” Hebrews 6:19

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