Peach Blueberry cake! {easy and yummy!}

This cake is SO delicious!! I could just eat the whole thing with a jug of coffee!  You will want to add more peaches than the photo shows because I was legitimately sad that I didn't have peach in every bite.  This cake will be a summer favorite for sure and you won't find an easier cake to make. 

Fresh Peach and Blueberry Cake

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (one of the individual cups)
2 peaches
large handful of blueberries
1 TBL sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease the sides and the bottom of a springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. 

Combine flour, soda and powder, set aside.  With a mixer beat butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy 2-3 minutes.  Add in vanilla and yogurt and beat for another minute or so.  Slowly add in flour mixture until combined. 

Pour into pan and spread evenly.  Add sliced peaches covering the entire top of the cake, even more so than the photo shows because you will want peaches in every bite.  Sprinkle on blueberries.  Sprinkle sugar on top. 

Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on your oven.  You will want the cake to be a deep golden brown and for a toothpick inserted into the center to come out clean.  

That's it! Make it the day of serving or at the very least the day before.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 


no fail pizza dough

Our latest adventure in cooking is pizza.  Though, admittedly, it's not that much of an adventure.  It's just that I've only recently been able to make anything with yeast successfully.  My new trick that never fails me?  When tempering the water/liquid for the yeast think about a baby bottle.  Is it too hot to feed to a baby?  Or too cold for a baby to eat?  Choose a temp that you would make the perfect baby bottle at and it will work every time!  With that in mind, we made pizza this weekend.  I gave the boys each a ball of dough and they made their own versions as well.  I also make my own sauce {1 can of tomato sauce, 2 scant tsp of onion powder, 2 tsp of garlic powder and 2 tsp of oregano}.

Doug, a NJ native and pizza snob, approved of this dough.  It was pretty tasty and relatively simple.  I made the dough before church and put it in the fridge (covered with a damp cloth) before we left for the day). 

I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did! :)

No Fail Pizza Dough {from Bobby Flay}
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope of instant dry yeast
2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water {think baby bottle temp.  Would you give it to a baby to be warm enough and not too hot?}
Olive oil

Combine dry ingredients in a mixer.  Slowly add water and oil until dough ball forms.  Add flour 1tbls at a time if dough is sticky.  Turn out into an olive oil greased bowl and allow to rise and double in size.

To make pizza.  Preheat oven to 500.  Divide dough into two equal parts.  I greased the pizza pan/stone with olive oil and sprinkled with corn meal.  Make two pizza crusts, brush with olive oil.  I also sprinkled mine with garlic salt.  Bake until it begins to brown watching closely (maybe ten minutes or so).  Removed from oven, top with sauce and your favorite toppings and bake until cheese begins to brown.

Deep fried pickles {and other fried goodness}

I mentioned in my last post about how we are becoming food snobs and about how we are no longer eating out as part of our lifestyle.  With that, however, brings some foods we may miss a bit.

I'm willing and ready to learn how to make new things {fried chicken for example is my favorite food of all time but I've never made it} but it will be slow road.  This weekend we decided to try to recreate our favorite fried pickles and the results were AMAZING!  I am so glad we tried because they are so easy and SO good!

Now, we don't haul out the deep fryer very often.  Usually it's only to make my husband wings once in a blue moon.  Deep frying on a regular basis would surely kill us quickly but since we had it out, we decided to play "can you deep fry it?".   

The foods we tried are pictured above.  Some items we used pancake batter and some we used the batter recipe below in addition to an egg wash. 

The deep fried oreos were much better than I expected, dipped in pancake batter, they tasted like oreo flavored funnel cake.  The pancake batter drenched bacon {that was already cooked} tasted like an all on one breakfast food, not too bad.  The pickles - AMAZING, recipe below.  Deep fried bananas - a fail, the banana melted away.  And then mozzarella sticks. The recipe below plus some salt and an egg wash made a pretty tasty stick.
But like I said, the pickles were my favorite.  So here's how you make those.  I ate them with some homemade ranch dip that I added Old Bay to and that was pretty perfect, too!

Deep Fried Pickles
1/3 cup of cornmeal
2/3 cup of flour
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
Pickle slices {kosher dill}

Canola oil for frying.

Combine all ingredients but pickles.  Coat pickles in cornmeal mixture, deep fry until golden brown.  Now I have a "fry daddy" so I deep fried them that way but you could do them in a frying pan and flip them as needed. 

Serve hot with dip and that is it! :) Amazing and easy and definitely a treat!

Enjoy making some!


On becoming food snobs.

I mentioned on Instagram a bit ago that we {Doug and I} were well on our way to becoming food snobs.  I think there might have been some assumption that we had jumped onto some dieting bandwagon like Whole 30 or something like that but no, I meant something else entirely.

First of all, I don't believe in any diet that requires me to read a book or look up foods to see if I am "allowed" to eat them.  The appeal for me just isn't there.  I waited my whole childhood to eat whatever I wanted and by golly, that's what I am going to do

Secondly, restrictive diets are not generally successful because of the above reason.  I start to feel punished in some way, like I've done something wrong and have been sentenced to a life of gruel and unappetizing foods.  I have no desire to live my life long term like that.  

No, we don't do either of those things.  Our food snobbery has been years in the making.  It's more of a lifestyle than anything else and the results are that we remain trim and still get to eat foods that feed our emotions, both important things.

Like I said, it started years ago.  I thought I would share some of our guidelines for food snobbery.

1.  We mostly shop the perimeter of the store.  This is an easy one.  All the fresh foods are on the outside and the processed junk is on the interior.  I will visit the canned goods on rare occasion, the baking aisle often and the cereal aisle as well.  Other than that, we buy almost no processed foods on a regular basis.  Mac and cheese is an exception, but we will buy Annie's {see rule 3 below}. 

2.  We don't eat fast foods.  This is an easy one for me, fast food has zero appeal.  It's terrible for you {even the "healthy" options} and leaves you feeling like garbage anyway.  Part of our snobbery is recognizing how foods make us feel...and if they make us feel terrible, we don't eat them.  Easy.  Now, I will occasionally eat waffle fries and sweet tea from ChickFilA but my kids have never had a happy meal, they call McDonald's "the clown restaurant" and they never ask for fast food.
3.  If we are going to eat something, it needs to be the very best version of that something we can get.  Take donuts for example, I LOVE donuts but ONLY from my favorite local place.  They are the best and I know that, Krispy Kreme does not hold a candle so I won't compromise and eat one, I wait for the best option and it makes it all the better.  We try to do this with all of our foods.  We are not even kind of strictly organic BUT if it's close in price we will buy the organic variety, we just don't go out of our way to do so.

4.  We will not eat at any restaurant with the word "buffet" in it.  This is an obvious rule no?  No good things come from food sitting around all day that dozens of other people have the option to touch or who knows what.

Now the above rules we have had in place for as long as I can remember.  But recently, we've expanded on our snobbery with something that many may find drastic...

We don't eat out {as a general rule}.  And if we do eat out, we won't do so at a big chain restaurant.  A couple of months ago we got to a place where we were just TIRED of going out to eat, being served meh food and then paying too much for something that I could cook ten times better at home!  So we stopped.  And we decided that if and when we ate out, we would take advantage of locally owned restaurants that served good food.  The only exception to this rule is if we are invited by friends for a celebration or one of the boys makes a request for their birthday {they usually choose Red Robin}.  

Instead, I am cooking at home.  And the results have been pretty awesome.  Being committed to this "rule" means I have to be prepared to cook every meal at home but it has been well worth the effort. We have more time together, we eat better food and we are no longer bleeding money for terrible foods that are terrible for us. 

The best part of our snobbery, is that we are all happy with our food choices, we get treats and goodies and there are no "never" foods.  We don't feel punished or deprived in any way because we get to eat the things we want.  And because this has been such a slow process that is constantly evolving, we don't need a book to tell us what we are allowed to have. :) 
While you are here, I have three different ways for you to win $100!  Someone has to win, might as well be you!  Read about Spring and gardening a leave a comment to enter HERE.  Read about Goldfish and why we love them and leave a comment to enter HERE.  AND finally, find the good in Mother's and Father's day and leave a comment HERE to enter! :) 

I was Josh Duggar's Victim. {a different perspective}.

Not literally his victim but for all intents and purposes, yes, we are the same person.  I was molested by both a teen peer and a family member.  More on that in a moment.   

I opted out of watching the news years ago.  The agony of witnessing a broken world was too much for me to handle on a regular basis.  So, news takes many layers to get to me and I avoid regular contact with the heartbreak of living in a fallen world (at least as far as the news is concerned).  Even with my self made barrier, I cannot get away from the Duggar tragedy.  It is everywhere.  Being waved as a flag of proof and pride of Christians and non-Christians alike.  The level of which people are taking joy in showing off how good they are in comparison to those Christians is sickening and sorrow inducing.  

This is not a Christian issue.  It is not a Conservative or Republican or Democrat issue.  This is not an issue that should be used as an "AH HA!!" moment.  It should not be used as a way to prove that Christians are messed up.  We are.  Ok?  Every Christian I have ever known is messed up on some level or another.  Each of us is knee deep in our own muck and mess and mire.  In fact, ALL people are messed up.  Not a single one of us can stand on our own virtue.  For what it's worth, I don't line up with much of what the Duggars believe is necessary to love Jesus well but different strokes and all.    

Any Christian worth their salt will be quick to tell you that we all suck as people.  The best Christian in all the land is still a pretty terrible human being.  That's the point of Jesus. 

My disclaimer goes here: I am not in anyway saying that what Josh did was OK or should not have been dealt with appropriately.  I do not wish to excuse it or sweep it under the rug.  It was wrong.  Period.

I do feel that those who are thirsty for the blood of Christians or eager to put themselves above another Christian are failing to remember something.  This was not a perpetrator.  This was a 14 year old boy.  A sheltered, 14 year old boy at that.  Not a grown man. 

Since this story broke I've thought often about every 14 year old boy that I know and whether they would understand the consequences of such actions.   How many would understand the full ripple effect?  None that I can think of, and I know some pretty great young men.  Knowing right from wrong is different than understanding WHY it is right and wrong.  You need life experience to teach you the why.

I've also thought about how heartbreaking it is that the victims of such a tragedy are being violated all over again.  Do people not realize that if the victims wanted to drag him through the mud, they could have years ago?  Being molested IS a shame inducing act.  I'm not saying it should be, but it IS.  It's something that is not eagerly discussed and many of us victims would rather not have it dragged through the papers and online and put in the face of everyone who can read, against our will.  The media has taken away their ability to be anonymous for the goal of shaming someone who has by all appearances gone forward and tried to do better.  We as a society BEG for rehabilitation but offer NO GRACE on the other side of those who have tried to do just that.  

I am sure these victims are feeling some form of mortification.  I am voluntarily sharing my story and fighting off the urge to delete all of this and go back into hiding with it IN SHAME

I've also thought a lot of my experience as a victim of teen boy.  Before I moved out of my parents house, I was molested on several occasions.  By several people.  The elements of my childhood made me a perfect victim {aloof parents focused on their own tragedies the main element that made me eligible). 

And this may come as a shocker.  I wish my "perpetrator" (for lack of a better word) in this incident, no ill will.  If I could identify him and if there were no statute of limitations and I could prove what he did and know he would be punished, I would be the first on my knees in front of the judge begging for his mercy.   Especially if his adult self had made amends, had counseling, turned his life around and lived a repenting life.  I think it says a lot that Josh sat down with a girl he hoped to marry and her parents and confessed to his prior sins.  How much did you confess in this way?  I'm not saying I want to be his best friend or even see him, but he can go on about his life with no obligation of downtrodden-ness from me.   

Why do I not wish my victimizer punished?  Because as an adult woman I understand that he was a stupid young teenager doing something that he had no idea would perpetuate the issues that it did.  Did he know right from wrong? Yes.  Did he understand the consequences of his actions? I'm guessing no.  For many reasons.  He was young.  So young.  An undeveloped brain and surging hormones are not the path to steady, sound decision making.  He was not a bad kid as I recall.  A normal boy in a normal neighborhood.  Not a monster or a pervert.  Just a kid exceptionally stupid at the time.  

We've all experienced the effects of out of control hormones.

Doug and I have been together for over ten years.  One of the ONLY fights I can recall occurred when I was pregnant.  I KNEW my hormones were in control of mouth and actions.  I knew it but I could not stop it.  We fought over him taking too long in the shower and my hair drying in the process.  As I yelled at him my inner voice yelled at me "WHAT ARE YOU DOING STUPID!?!" to which my crazy self yelled back "SHUT UP" and wrapped that sensible girl in duct tape.  My point being, hormones (and the environment they are in at times) CAN make us much stupider than we tend to be on a normal day.

I do NOT think these kinds of actions should go unpunished but having been a social worker I have learned a lot about a few things.  One of which is that our system is not set up to help boys in these positions get back on track.  They are labeled and housed and become self-fulfilling prophesies.  (not always but often).  Like I said earlier, as a society we beg for lawmakers to offer solutions like rehabilitation but then go on to treat people no differently if they take that route.  The system is not set up to help people succeed.  The system is set up to punish and confine.  That does not solve this particular problem.   

Another thing I've learned, this could be your son.  There is no set formula for avoiding this in your own family.  You can't pick out in a class photo who will do something like this.  It's not always the animal abusing, snaggle toothed kid that smells like ketchup.  Sometimes it's the polite boy who loves Jesus.  We all need to move forward in a way that considers how much grace and love and support we would need to get through something like this the best we can because the reality IS that it could be your son.  We need to be part of creating an environment that HELPS the victims heal and the victimizers understand AND do better.   

I do think that these kinds of incidents should be addressed in such away as to help these boys become aware and understand fully what they have done, how to move forward appropriately and make amends for what they have done.  Positive, helpful, reformative actions need to occur for the sake of all involved. 

I guess I just don't get the point of shaming him to the detriment of his victims.  What would be a just punishment?  Death?  No further blessing or comfort in life.  Are you also prepared to pay for what your stupid youthful self did forever and always no matter how you've changed or grown or made amends?

I know that personally, I am thankful that I am NOT even kind of the same person I was before 20 AND that I escaped the life defining consequences of all the stupid things I did as a teenager.  I am a grateful mess for the grace extended to me, which makes me all the more eager to extend it to others.  Finger wagging and shaming and self-righteousness does nothing to help the problem, Christians or not.  Admittance of sin and failure can start us on the right path to unity but there is a severe need to get over ourselves and the delusion that we are any better first.

Hello, my name is Crystal, I suck as a human and fail as a follower of Jesus every minute of my life.  I'm thankful for forgiveness and grace to fill in the gaps where I am too stupid to help myself.  I'm here to tell you that all Christians suck at life.

That's the point of Jesus. 

While you are here, I have three different ways for you to win $100!  Someone has to win, might as well be you!  Read about Spring and gardening a leave a comment to enter HERE.  Read about Goldfish and why we love them and leave a comment to enter HERE.  AND finally, find the good in Mother's and Father's day and leave a comment HERE to enter! :) 

How to make a backyard putting green! {DIY putting green}

This holiday weekend we made a little backyard dream come true.  It was easy enough, just a lot of manual labor required. :)  The results though, were even better than we had hoped for and I thought I would do a quick "how to" in case you wanted to pull this off for Father's Day! The total cost was around $100.

Here are some things you need (all supplies from Lowe's):
astro turf (we used a 19 by 6ft piece)
weed mat pins (shaped like a U found where you would get the weed stop paper)
two bags of pea gravel
two bags of fine sand 
eight bags or so of top soil
three 4in pvc pipes (we found them in the odds and ends section of the pvc)
a bag of mulch
plants/greenery as desired
 First we designed our shape with a hose then spray painted an outline using that as a guide.
 Cat assistance optional.
 Then we dug a little trench around the whole thing so we would have a good lip to tuck the turf into.  Then we tried to slice off the top layer of grass without disturbing the dirt too much.  We wanted the grass to be gone, but the dirt to not be "un compacted".  I didn't get a photo of that, but image what it would look like if you shaved the grass.  

Then we added top soil, more where it was needed to be level and less where it was already good.  I used a dirt rake to make it as smooth as possible, removing any large clumps, rocks, etc.  Then (you could rent a "tamper" here and do it that way but we didn't want to spend that money) we used large pieces of scrap plywood to compact the dirt.  We would lay the board down and stomp/jump/step on it.  Acting like a human tamper.  We did that several passes over the whole thing.  Then we wet it down with a hose and did it again.  Our goal was to make it smooth and not necessarily level.  We kept up this process until we could walk across it without making dips in the dirt. 

Now, I didn't get a photo of this either but before we laid the carpet we dug out holes for our cups.  I let Doug decide the best place for those, we made sure our cups fit and then took them out to lay the carpet.
 Then we rolled out our carpet and trimmed to shape, leaving a hang over the edge.  Then we started at one end with out staples, went to the other end to pull it tight and then went around the whole thing, pulling it tight as we stapled it down.   
 Then we added landscaping as appropriate and done!
 Doug was really pleased with the results and now he will be able to get some practice in in our own back yard. 

We used this tutorial as a guide when we needed it.  Hope that helps! :) Have fun making your own!

While you are here, I have three different ways for you to win $100!  Someone has to win, might as well be you!  Read about Spring and gardening a leave a comment to enter HERE.  Read about Goldfish and why we love them and leave a comment to enter HERE.  AND finally, find the good in Mother's and Father's day and leave a comment HERE to enter! :)
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