Archive for February, 2013

Pizza Made Simple

Posted on February 28, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple | Tags: , , , , |

Today let’s talk pizza dough.  I’m amazed that stores sell fresh dough in plastic bags!  Yuck!  I can’t imagine how people get that goo out of there!  They must lose half of it stuck to the bag.  And pizza dough is about the simplest thing you can make.  Here you go.

1 package yeast (2.25 t. if you bought in bulk and you don’t have to be super precise, just estimate that .25!)

1 cup warm water (I do 1/2 cup boiling from the teakettle and 1/2 cold from the tap.  It should be just barely warm otherwise add more cold.)

1.25 cups white flour, preferrably unbleached organic

2 tablespoons olive oil, preferrably organic

.5 teaspoons salt

1 cup whole wheat flour, preferrably organic ( I often change this to a mixture of other interesting non-wheat flours like corn flour, buckwheat, ground quinoa, chickpea flour – you can play a bit here!)

Combine yeast, water, white flour.  Mix right there in the bowl of your mixer.   Add oil, salt, whole wheat flour (and you can add herbs/spices now if you want like powdered garlic or oregano) until dough sticks together.  Knead with dough hook or paddle for a bit.  Roll dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover loosely, set in warm place to rise for about an hour.  Ready to use after this.  Makes 2 balls to make thin 12 inch pizzas or 1 thicker crust pizza.

           Food - Pizza Dough 1          Food - Pizza Dough 2

You can see it begins rather wet, but within a minute it becomes a dough mass like you see on the right.

Food - Pizza Dough 3            Food - Pizza Dough 4

Put about a teaspoon of olive oil in the clean bowl and smooth it around with your fingertips, then just rub into your hands, wonderful moisturizer!  Scoop the dough out of the mixing bowl and plop into the oiled bowl, then just turn it once so it has a light coating of oil all over it.  Cover, but not tightly and put in a warm place.  My warm place is a heating pad set on low.

Food - Pizza Dough 5

In an hour or so it has doubled in size and it is ready to either refrigerate for later or put out flat on to pizza stones or pans.  Flatten with moistened fingertips and top with anything you like.  My favorite is a thin layer of tomato paste, chopped onions, mushrooms and peppers, garlic slices, thin slices of Hungarian summer sausage from House of Homemade Sausage, my local source (, and fresh mozzarella on top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Slice and enjoy!

You will not believe how good this is made fresh.  Don’t bother with frozen pizza or raw dough in bags at the supermarket.  This is sooooo much better!  And please, dump those goo-making microwave ovens, invest in a good toaster oven to reheat leftovers – magically good!

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Tapioca Pudding Made Simple

Posted on February 27, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple | Tags: , , , |

Food manufacturers really miss the mark when they put complicated directions on packages.  Tapioca is a great example of this.  If you buy a package in the pudding section of the typical American supermarket you will find all kinds of complicated and time-consuming steps like soaking the tapioca and whipping egg whites, blah, blah, blah.  I don’t want to have to plan for making pudding a week in advance!!  A little experimentation has produced this great formula.  Feel free to do it!


1/2 cup tapioca (small or large pearls), 2 1/2 cups milk, sweetener (I’m putting in 3 cones of raw sugar from the hispanic section in my store, but you could put in maple syrup, honey, regular sugar, whatever!  Experiment with the amount, start with less, you can add more later if it needs it.)  Throw this all into a small crockpot, set to low and let it go for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.  You can even open it and stir it now and then which is actually a good idea to keep the pearls from sticking to the bottom, but if not, don’t worry, just stir it up really well at the end.  Add a little vanilla at the end.  Customize with Cinnamon or Chinese 5 Spice Powder, or cocoa powder to make it chocolate.  The sky is the limit, but the basic recipe is very simple.

That’s it.  The hard part is not eating the whole batch at once!  I divide it up into 4 cups with lids and it goes into the refrigerator.  I can never decide whether I like it warm and a little runny or cold and gelled better.

I hope you give it a try!

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Artist’s Journal

Posted on February 26, 2013. Filed under: Art | Tags: , , , , , , |

I love the library!  Not only do I have a great local library, but they have set up lending agreements with 43 other libraries in the region which will let me order anything they have and then pick it up at my library!  I’m really astounded at the brilliance of this.  Talk about using technology for life-improvement and what great value for taxpayer-dollars.

Anyway, my library has a NEW section which is fun to just walk along and see what jumps out at me.  This book, “Artist’s Journal Workshop” by Cathy Johnson grabbed me and I’m completely absorbed in it.  I’m reading it extremely slowly, though, so I have ordered my own copy from Amazon.  The best thing about this book is the author tells you about different artist’s tools and how to use them.  I had no idea there was something called a waterbrush which has a handle that is a tube of water.  With a squeeze the water comes down into the brush.  I love this!

My husband signed up for a drawing class and we needed to go to the art store to get him outfitted anyway, so guess what I asked for?  I came home with a waterbrush and a new waterproof marker-brush!  Here’s my first attempt at playing with these toys.  These are 2 calves in France we happened upon while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc last September.


This took 2 days and it’s only 6 x 8″!  I have a new drive to play around with this artist’s journal idea.  For those hours I worked on this little piece I was completely absorbed.  This is not a bad thing.  During that time I was calm, happy, and really enjoying myself.  Over the years I have been great at collecting art materials and bad at using them.  The watercolor pencils I used for color in this drawing were already in my stash.

A really great way to enjoy your life for less is to actually use the great stuff you already have!  Lots of us have access to a free public lending library.  I run across adults all the time who don’t even have a library card!  Many of us have lots of stuff in our houses.  How much of it brings you any pleasure?   Instead of gathering more, I’m going to make a concerted effort to use what I have.

Today I’m going to finish the next little picture I am working on.  It’s my dachshund, Charlie.  Do you want to see it when it is finished?

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Terrarium Add-Ins

Posted on February 25, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , , , |

After getting a container, choosing plants that will like the container, setting up the layers of drainage material in the bottom, appropriate soil for the plants and possibly some top dressing like stone or sand, it’s fun to consider decorative add-ins.  These can be an accent to the plants or they can tell a story in which the plants play a supporting role.  The people at are brilliant at creating little scenes with tiny people doing different things, check it out!

So far I have preferred to just accent my plants with decorative items, but I think this is mostly due to the fact that I haven’t come across a great resource for tiny people!  Here are some things I’ve recently collected.

016          Terrariums - Aliens

Some of these items are larger, like the owl with the intense glass eyes the marble mushroom, and the real animal skull I found in the woods.  They will need a larger terrarium.  Some are smaller like the little aliens ($0.10 for all at a rummage sale!)  I had to glue them on corks because they wouldn’t stand.  I’ll just sink the corks into the ground and no one will know I had to do that.  I’ve also got shells and a stack of small beach stones.  The jar has deer moss in it.  This is natural moss that has been preserved so it is technically dead, but so full of bright green color you’d never know.  Tucking a little piece of this in really jazzes it up.

When I visit one of my usual haunts (Goodwill, St. Vinnie’s or rummage sales) I’m always on the lookout for certain categories of things.  Tiny terrarium add-ins are one of those.  Have you found anything really interesting to put into your terrariums?

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Desert Terrariums

Posted on February 24, 2013. Filed under: Plants |

When you’re putting a terrarium together you have to consider the plants you’re using.  It is not wise to put moisture-lovers together with the arid-advocates.  That is, moss and cacti do not make good friends.  Also consider the container.  Something with a lid should be used for moisture-lovers because it will naturally retain moisture.  Containers with no lids are better for plants that like it drier because there will be plenty of air circulation which prevents moisture accumulation.

terrarium - desert                                  terrarium - desert 2

With desert terrariums I recommend stones or broken pottery in the very bottom as usual, then cactus potting soil which is specially formulated not to hold moisture as much as regular soil, and then maybe a nice layer of sand or gravel on top around the plants to finish it off.    The plants can be unpotted and put right into the soil before adding the top layer or if the pots are small enough you can plunge the whole thing down into the soil and cover the very top with the gravel so it disappears.  These require very little upkeep, maybe a little bit of water right at each plant once a month or so.

Desert terrariums usually cost more to make because the plants almost always need to be purchased.  I got the living stones and cacti above for $2.49 each and I really splurged on the “Black Widow” Agave which is the centerpiece of the one on the left for $8.99.  The container on the left was also a splurge at $16.99 at the garden center.  I just really loved the way it opens on the side giving it a cool retro feel.  The container on the right is from one of the resale shops again for $1.99.  Notice how both containers have thicker glass with a nice ground edge on the opening.  I like using a more substantial container which seems to make for a nicer finished product.  This is my preference, though, you can certainly use thinner glass and I do at times, too.

Next up, add-ins.  The aliens are coming!

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Terrarium Containers

Posted on February 23, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , |

Today I’m revealing the idea of where to get great containers for terrariums for low, low cost.  Check out the resale shops in your area and make quick stops at rummage sales during the summer.  That’s it. I have planted and tucked a few in my office which is great because I don’t have to worry about them drying out as much as regular plants.  Also, I’m getting ready for my plant sale in May and this year, in addition to many perennials in my offerings, I’d like to try selling some terrariums.  People aren’t going to want to pay a lot of money for them, so the containers, which are the most expensive part, have to be cheap for me.  Here is what I’ve collected in just the last few trips to Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul.

Plants - Containers

There is quite a variety from large to small, tall to squat, covered and open, you name it!  The prices are all between $0.49 – $2.99 with most at the $0.99 price point.  I’m going to get them planted over the next few months so everything can be well-established by the time of the sale and then offer them from $5 to maybe $12 and see what happens.  If no one buys them I’ll just give them away.  They were so cheap and fun to play with I’m willing to risk such a little amount of cash.

Here is my very convenient planting box in the basement.  I bring home bags of potting soil and dump them in here.  It keeps it neat and easy to mix things in like charcoal.  The next photo shows this really unusual thing I found.  It’s an iron stand with a glass vase insert.  I’ve got about an inch of gravel in the bottom, and about 2  inches of soil above that.  You’ll notice a tall iced tea spoon in there and a paintbrush lying on the table.  These are nice tools to pick up at the resale shops too.  Spoons at Goodwill are $0.10!  The brush can take care of bits of soil that get on the glass or plant leaves.  I made a little hole with the spoon and inserted 2 marigold seeds of the variety which grows 4-6 inches.  It’s an experiment, let’s see how they do.  To keep the moisture in I put a flat stone on the top for now.  I’ll post update photos when it gets growing.

Plants - Dirt          Plants - Planting Terrarium

This is my third post and I’ve gotten a few readers in the last few days!  I thank you very much dear reader, and I promise to post daily if at all possible.  Just so you know, we have started off here with plant information which is near and dear to my heart so we will have lots of plant information throughout, but the plan is to also include topics in the realms of cooking/eating, art, health, and travel.  It’s probably too much for one little blog, but let’s see how it goes!

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Free Plants

Posted on February 22, 2013. Filed under: Plants |

How can you make a terrarium for a song?  Well, this post is going to touch on a two topics because they overlap;  my plant sale, and making new plants.  Interesting duo, huh?

This time of year I get itchy to do gardening even though it is still a frozen winterland outside.  I start thinking about the plant sale my dad and I hold every May.  I divide my perennials outside, pot them up, and get them over to my dad’s house where he sells his tomatoes and peppers.  More about that later.  For right now I’m limited to what I can do indoors so I concentrate on my houseplants and seedlings.  Interestingly, houseplants always sell so well at the sale that I sell out pretty early so I’ve made a mental note to make and bring more this year.  Looking around at the houseplants I saw a jade plant so overgrown you couldn’t see the beautiful pot it was in anymore and rose geraniums overwintering inside that are too unkempt for their pot and also a different type of jade with tubular leaves that was droopy because the branches were so full of leaves.  A sharp little knife reserved for plants makes fast work of slicing up these guys!

Jade plant after its severe trim!                      plants - rose geranium

On the left there is my jade after its severe cutting and now you can see the beautiful blue pot and by summer when it goes outside it will be all budded with new green leaves.  And the geranium there on the right doesn’t look too good but it is already growing new leaves where I took the cuttings so I will be able to make more.  The plan is to chop it and stick them in to the ground right there to make a more compact plant.

After taking the cuttings I dipped them in rooting hormone powder from the garden store.  It’s a little pricey, but one container lasts a long time because you just need a little dusting on the tips that are going into the ground.  Now look at all the new plants I made!

005 006 Plants - Jade Cuttings

At $1.50 per pot I’m going to make a little tidy sum for my efforts!  Also, I have some new plants for free if I want them for my terrariums.

Plants - Jade in Terrarium

The pots for the cuttings were free – picked up along my dog walk route on garbage collection day in early summer when all my neighbors are planting new things from the garden center.  I collect them whenever I see them and I have quite a good range of sizes and shapes in the garage from which to choose.  A little observation and planning goes a long way!  I use a little potting soil and rooting hormone, but the cost is really negligible compared to the benefits.  I have plants for my own use and I will sell most of them.  The price for a similar-sized jade plant at the garden center is $4.99 so my customers are happy to pay my low price.  By May the cuttings will be well-rooted and growing new leaves, rightful little plants all on their own.

Tomorrow I will share more secrets for creating wonderful terrarium worlds under glass!

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Posted on February 21, 2013. Filed under: Plants |

Welcome to Lavish Living, my new blog about interesting ways to enrich your life without breaking the bank.  I hope you get some good ideas!  Let’s get started.  I have been playing with terrariums lately.  Living in Wisconsin can be pretty dismal in winter.  The snow piles up and turns to unmoveable ice.  The sky is often the same gray color as everything else, soaking in to color my mood blah.  Terrariums are a great way to introduce a little green into the world!  There is something so inspiring about a little world under glass.  Take a look at my fern world.

terrarium - ferns                                               terrarium - ferns, inside

This apothecary jar is from T.J. Maxx for $12.99.  I used some broken pottery in a layer in the bottom, then a layer of horticultural charcoal, then potting soil with a little of that charcoal mixed in.  The 2 ferns are from the garden center for $2.49 each and the moss is out of my garden.

Moss out of your garden, you say?  Yes, back in November before the snow flew I did take a big old garden knife and slice underneath a hunk of moss growing right next to my driveway to pick it up like a rug.  Then I put it in a plastic lettuce container that was going into recycling.  This worked well because I put the lid on and kept it moist.  I have found that moss will die if it dries out and this will happen quickly in a heated home.  Keeping it in the plastic container really did keep it happy.  So when I had this terrarium started it was easy to pull off a hunk and put it down in there.  Now just a word here about moss.  It is slow growing and kind of fragile in the wild.  Don’t ever take any from a public place like a garden, park, or national forest.  If you don’t have any on your own or a friend’s property order it online.  A lot of vendors grow it for sale.

The rocks were a special gift from a person who knows I love rocks.  She brought them back for me from a trip to Bhutan.  They are so special I was glad to have this place to put them where they would shine.

The lid stays on and collects moisture which rains down on the plants.  The whole thing is a little ecosystem of its own.  I will keep an eye on it to make sure it is not too wet, but the glass lid does not seal so some air and moisture escapes which is good, I think.  The charcoal keeps the possibility of mold down which is generally destructive in a forced environment like this, killing the plants.  I do open it occasionally, though, to breathe in the O2-rich air.  It’s a little bit of spring right here in the dead of winter!

All in all I think I have about $20 into this terrarium.  I’ve see similarly-sized terrariums for sale in stores and online for $60-100 so I think I did well, but it is more than I want to spend for other terrariums.  Next I will show you how to make terrariums for a song!

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