Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (or walnuts)

Heat oven to 350° F.  You will need a greased cookie sheet OR parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Cream shortening & sugar together.  Add pumpkin, egg & vanilla; beat well.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Add to the creamed mixture & blend well.  Stir in nuts & raisins.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350° F for 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Want to try a little variety?  Instead of the raisins, stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips, or butterscotch chips!  

Gluten-Free? Just substitute Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour instead of the regular flour! 

High altitude? Cookies generally do well at high altitudes, however if you find you are having trouble, try the hints found here.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Easy DIY Home Improvements - Part 2

Or, how I spent my summer (and fall) vacation

Time sure flies when your DIYing!  I really had good intentions to write this post a while ago, but have been caught up with projects and traveling.

In my last post, I showed you how we easily revealed beautiful hardwood floors that were hidden under carpeting in the dining room of my daughter and son-in-love's home.  During that visit, I also lent a hand in painting the paneling in the basement!  Just look at the dramatic before and after photos:

The dark paneling, old wagon wheel chandeliers, and old floor.

A portion of the family room with the old wood burning insert.

The dark paneling made the large room seem gloomy, and almost dungeon-like.  Once the Valspar Bistro White was applied (2 coats), it felt like a completely different room!  The old, unusable wood-burning insert was removed, and the fireplace is much more charming now.

The other project happening in their home at that time was a new stair handrail and newel posts. This DIY project was "easy" for me, because I just watched my very talented son-in-love create this project from scratch! That's right, it all came from his own hands, from his own design. His newel posts are gorgeous, aren't they?

Before: Metal handrails with wide spaces between the balusters
The stairwell light has since been replaced, and there will be a new floor put in tomorrow!
Precious babies can stick their heads (or entire bodies) between these wide balusters -- not safe!

New stairwell walls (SAFE) and beautiful new newel posts!

Entry way -- Painting in progress!

Family room level -- painting in progress!
Right now, I'm back with my daughter and her children while her Soldier is away at school.  They have an upcoming move, due to a re-assignment, so all of these home improvements will help them to sell their house.  With a 2 year old and a 3 month old in the home, it's tough for her to do spruce-up projects alone, so the Hubs sent me back up here to help out wherever I can.

One of the first projects was putting in new flooring in the upstairs bathroom:
First, we removed a built-in carpeted step next to the bathtub.

After removing the step next to the bathtub, we discovered only the sub-floor underneath.
(Please ignore the toddler's galoshes and the foil from a recent hair coloring. This is real life, folks!)
The floor has a layer of sheet vinyl, then it had a layer of peel-n-stick vinyl.  We peeled off the top layer, and replaced it with beautiful 18"X 18" Stainmaster White Travertine vinyl peel-n-stick tiles.
To even-up the floor next to the bathtub, (to the same level of the original sheet vinyl floor),
we used odd leftovers we found in the garage, as "filler".
We also found pieces of baseboard in the garage to fill-in where there old step had been. 
Laying the last piece of the new vinyl!

After replacing the baseboards.
We later installed a piece of quarter-round molding in front of the bathtub to give it a finished look.
We also patched and painted the walls where the old step had been,
Some people think that peel-n-stick vinyl tiles might not be the best choice, however for a DIYer on a tight budget (and as long as it's installed correctly), it can definitely make a big impact for less money.  Look at the difference that it made!  Hint: Larger tiles = fewer seams and faster installation.  We are using the same tiles for the front entry floor, because it's such a quality product.
We took a chandelier and spray painted it from brassy to oil-rubbed bronze.  An inexpensive update for little $$.
It's a nice option for homeowners that are keeping within a budget!
My daughter and I have been busy cleaning, shampooing carpets, patching cracks, painting, hauling, etc. in addition to the daily care of kiddos, pets, and the normal routines of the household.
Last week, we held a "Help fix-up our house" party, and several people came over and helped spruce up the yards, repair the deck, and paint the entry doors. The front of the house was power-washed by a kind neighbor, plus he replaced torn & missing "critter screens" under the eves.  It's amazing how much good friends will do for you in return for pizza and beverages!

There are a few things that they've hired a handyman to do, such as repairing some tiles in the downstairs shower, correcting some very minor plumbing issues, installing a dimmer switch, and fixing a pocket door.  Other than that, all of it has been "sweat-equity, do-it-yourself" projects.

Sometimes, DIY is fun, sometimes, it's a necessity, and mostly it will save you money. It's almost always educational, and I've learned to get outside of my comfort zone to tackle things that give a sense of accomplishment in the end!

We are praying that when the house goes on the market, all of the updates, refreshes, and repairs will catch the eye of the right buyer!

If you are thinking of selling your home, I have a post about 5 Tips to Getting It SOLD from when we sold our house in Idaho in just 3 short weeks!