The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

When the day is not going your way – bake, bake I say!!

And I did.

Chocolate chip cookies, to be exact. In fact, The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was a good girl and actually made the recipe (almost) exactly as stated. The only variance was using a 1/4 cup of dough for each cookie pair instead of 1/2 cup. I used dark chocolate chips, too, since that was all I had. But I followed the measurements like a champ. Not easy for me. My mind flitted to adding some chopped nuts… a dash of oatmeal. But no, instead I used restraint.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chewy, sweet, super-dee-duper simple. Can’t ask for much more. I’m not sure it is the recipe that is unique or the simplicity or what, but it is a hit. I did learn that by rolling it in a larger ball, separating the two and leaving the craggy top face up, you end up with a nicely textured cookietop. Very pleasing.

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted & cooled until warm
1 c brown sugar, packed (I make my own brown sugar)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

-Heat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside. Mix butter & sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients & mix until just combined. Stir in chips. Roll scant 1/2 cup dough into ball (I used 1/4 cup); pull into 2 equal halves. With jagged surfaces facing up, place dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball. Bake until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden (about 15 min. for me). Cool on cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks. Makes about 4 dozen.
A yummy treat for my family, made from scratch that I was able to shop my pantry to make. Perfect.

Automatic Car Wash

When it’s winter in Wisconsin, cars get dirty. Sometimes, they get egged, like ours did this weekend. Even though our lower-gas-mileage car is a $1000 junker,  whose speakers vibrate, pools water in the backseat floor, doors stick, air doesn’t work, dents all over… it is good to get it washed every now and then.

The first car wash I stopped at had two lines. I went to the line in the second bay, waiting for ten minutes to reach the front of the line. Eager to take my turn, I put the money in the machine and 1 dollar short of my depositing the total, a man asks if I put money in it already.

“Yes, I did.”

“It doesn’t work,” He tells me, walking away to find change for a refund.

Irritated at the lag in communication, instead of going to the first line at the car wash, I left the place entirely.

I went to a PDQ not far away. Paid $7 for the wash. Pulled my tire into the conveyer belt and put it in netural (I’ve never been to a conveyer belt car wash before).

The wash was no longer than a minute, including the drying time. Spray, flob-blob beating the windows, colored streams of silly-string lookalike, blob-flob, dry, done.

Huh? Egg, still intact on window, hood of car still wet (I HATED that I couldn’t roll out slowly by the jumbo dryers, getting the car nice and dry so I’m not driving an iciclemobile). $7 and sixty seconds later, I’m having buyer’s remorse.

Chocolate Pudding

My mom frequently made pudding for desert when we were kids. She would spoon it into the Buffalo China bowls, or glass dessert dishes. The combination of the dishes and the pudding are imprinted in my memory.

Glass dishes.

Wanting a simple desert I could make from scratch, and also to create the same memory for my own children, I decided to give homemade pudding-making a try. There are all kinds of recipes for chocolate pudding on the internet. Liking to keep things very simple, I chose the chocolate pudding recipe from Hillbilly Housewife. It uses simple ingredients to achieve a delicious desert.

Buffalo China bowl filled with pudding.

The kids absolutely love the pudding. I haven’t used another recipe yet, since this one has been a hit. I double the batch so we can have it for dessert more than once.

The pudding cooks up pretty quickly, and is edible as fast as it cools. One of the interesting aspects of making pudding is that it is reminiscent of soapmaking. The pudding, when ready, resembles the step in soapmaking when the soap comes to a trace. Yum.

Pudding “trace.”

Charlie’s Soap Review

Groovy Mom Review I have in my possession something I’ve been wanting to try for a very, very long time. Charlie’s Soap.

1 – Laundry Powder
1 – Laundry Liquid
1 – All-purpose cleaner

My main interest in Charlie’s Soap is the powder since HE “friendly” laundry powder is not the easiest to come by. Though I had the products in my hot chubby hands a couple months ago, it took me a bit to get around to thoroughly testing the powder. For one, I needed to get my soft water in order. I tried it with hard water and was not too keen on it. Though I’ve heard the Charlie’s Soap people are ready and willing to help troubleshoot for those with hard water, I decided to wait. I wanted to give it a fair shot in my “normal” laundering conditions, and that included soft water. I will note that, for me, Charlie’s Soap in hard water with the addition of Borax powder seemed to do an OK job. I have no idea if that is the protocol for hard water people. But, in my moment of compulsive laundering techniques, I thought I’d give it a try. However – on one load of laundry (gym clothing), there was still odor after washing. That was when I stopped testing with hard water.

Soft water status attained, I cleaned my washer, as instructed to do before using the soap. Again.

A double dose of either of our Laundry products, along with some old towels or shop rags, will be more than enough to loosen these deposits from your tub. After this first load, remove the towels and your machine should be properly prepped for use. – Charlie’s Soap FAQ

I did this before with the hard water situation, but decided it couldn’t hurt to do it again. For the past week, now, I’ve used Charlie’s Soap (1 T.) in my top-loading HE washer, in every load. No detergent has touched my washer during this time. At first I used the soap without any softener, but the static cling was insane. So I use about 1/2 cup of white vinegar (YES it works splendidly with any laundering soap/detergent and NO it does not smell in the finished product) per wash and that has helped tremendously.

As of my 1-week trial I am happy and satisfied. My clothes… smell clean. They look clean. I’m a bit surprised, as I am quite accustomed to heavily-scented, stark blue liquids and the implication that being stark blue and perfumed it will clean better. I’m also accustomed to liquid, but very much enjoy the powder. Less mess and flat out easier. The little 80-use bag takes up way less room than a jug of detergent. I was 1/3 way through it, though, before I realized it came with its own little green measuring scoop. It was tucked down inside.

I’ll admit I’ve used a dryer sheet a few times (when I’ve forgotten vinegar). Though I like scented things, I also like the smell of simply clean fabrics and knowing that I’m not wearing a chemical factory on my body. So really, I don’t mind that much that the laundry smells just less like a cuddly teddy bear and more like… clean laundry. It is somewhat reminiscent of line-dried clothing. “Just clean clothes,” as they say.

I will continue to use the soap until it is gone and report back if I have anything more to add. But so far, all is well. Even on my four boys dirty wrestling and soccer gear. Being that it is winter around here, I haven’t been able to put Charlie’s Soap to the test of muddy soccer, football and baseball gear. That might be another update. But from what I’ve seen it has handled all of the food stains that we have managed to put through the wash.

I’m not sure yet about the laundry powder “bringing out the stains of past” but it is dealing with the present ones just fine. I am very happy with it.

Also good to note – nobody in our family has developed a rash or skin irritation from the product.

Bottom line: Simple, safe, economical. Really liking it. So far my rating for the laundry detergent is:

So far my rating for the all-purpose cleaner is:

I will quickly say that the cleaner works well on counters, on my dirty fridge, bathroom… (again, will report back again when the bottle is empty). I give it two stars rather than three at the moment because I’m still evaluating and deciding.

Arby’s – Bring Back the Martha’s Vineyard Salad!!

I just wasted $15. It is my own fault, and my own choice to spend the money.

After work, I decided to swing by Arby’s to pick up a couple salads for myself and my daughter. The drive-thru was roped with cars; I was about fifth in line. As I pulled up to the speaker, another car pulled behind me. I eyed the menu, looking for old familiar: Arby’s Martha’s Vineyard Salad. I saw three salads. But none of them were my Martha’s Vineyard.

“Don’t you have Martha’s Vineyard?” I asked, when questioned on my order choices.

The answer was NO.

No? My favorite salad in the entire world of fast food?! Gone? The almonds, chicken, lettuce, cranberries and cheese salad sold by a chain restaurant directly on the path I take home from work? The salad that I add walnuts to and eat with oil and vinegar when I get home? The MAIN reason Arby’s even gets money from my pocketbook?


I ordered a consolation turkey-something salad and a crispy-ick salad instead. And some of the new eggrolls that they had, just because I was already down in the dumps, so why not? And a Diet Pepsi since I’d at least KNOW what that would taste like. My van sulked all the way to the “first window.” I could, should have just waited for an opening and burned out of there, spitting dirty snow in the face of The Man. Drove off. But I was lazy and hungry and trapped by the drive-thru.

Neither salad was worth $5, not even on a day when there’s no time and I’m lazy and hungry. Nu-uh. Nope. Sorry. I guess I have to pursue other means of fast-food salad happiness.

Keeping Organized

In doing some websurfing, I came across Homemaker’s Cottage and a blog post about procrastination, which inspired me to post a bit on my organizational plans. I say “plans” instead of “practices” because I need to improve on what I have.

Every year I buy a calendar/organizer to carry with me in my purse. But not every year do I utilize it to its full potential mostly out of laziness/procrastination. The past couple years I purchased a Tiempo Mio organizer from Borders.

It is one that has monthly and weekly calendars. I use the monthly one more than I use the weekly one. My aim is to take advantage of the note-taking space available to me by using the weekly section for lists, notes and goals. The only thing I don’t like about the Tiempo Mio organizers is that they don’t come with a pocket folder. So I’ve had to make my own.

I took some heavier stock and pasted it to the back of one of the 2008 pages. Then I took a piece of scrap-booking paper and with a few sheets of 2008 pages held together with the stock (cut to size), put the scrap-booking paper on top (cut to size), glued it to the top page and stuck it all together with some packaging tape. I cut a piece of of the stock to about half-size, taped it on the front and voila. A pocket. It isn’t pretty, but it is functional. I get a LOT of use out of my taped-and-glued pocket.