Viv’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies |

One of may all time favorite memories from my childhood is making chocolate chip cookies with my Dad.  Every Christmas my sisters and I would “help” Dad make cookies for the neighbors.  I remember being so excited to lick the beaters and help add the chocolate chips.  I guess some things never change.

There are probably a million different chocolate chip cookie recipes out there.  So why should you try this one?  Because it really is the BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie. Not only are these cookies lite, they stay soft.  I am so tired of cookies that go hard and crumbly as soon as they cool.

I have been making chocolate chip cookies since I was in grade school.  I have made a ton of different recipes that say they are soft but this recipes really does stay soft.  I got this recipe from my Sister Brenda.  She got it from her Grandmother in-law.  It has been around for generations because it is that good.

What are some of your favorite memories around Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Chocolate Chip Cookie
Cuisine: Chocolate Chip Cookie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 dozen
  • 2 cups shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 4½ cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1½ package chocolate chips
  1. Cream shortening and sugars. Mix in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add baking soda, salt and 1 cup of flour at a time. Once well combined. Add chocolate chips. bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 min. Leave on cookie sheet until cool to touch then transfer to wire rack.


Check out some of our other cookie recipes:

Andrew’s Chewy Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookie

Red Velvet Oreo’s

Cherry Chocolate Macaroons 

Chocolate Chip Cookies |

Halloween- Free Printables

Looking for some fun Free printables for Halloween?  Here are a few.  They can be cut out with a 2 inch circle cutter for a cupcake tag or use as an applique for a little can or treat bag.  Let me know what fun things you have used them for. If you have any questions I am always happy to help.  Thanks for stopping buy and have a scary fun Halloween.

  • Halloween Cupcake Tag
    Halloween Cupcake Tag
  • Cupcake Tag
    Cupcake Tag
  • Boo Cupcake Tag- free printable
    Boo Cupcake Tag
  • Jack O' lantern tag.
    Jack o’ lantern tag
  • Jack O' Lantern tag 2
    Jack O’ Lantern tag 2

Furniture Polish

Delicious first year honey!

Delicious first year honey!

Since this is our first real year with bees, we are learning all kinds of things.  Such as how to do hive inspections and what problems to lookout for.  This journey has been a  seriously fun; despite the occasional bee sting.  A side benefit of having a couple of beehives, besides the honey, is harvesting some of the wax produced along with the honey.

Melting bee's wax in crock pot.

Melting beeswax in crock pot.

There are all kinds of uses for beeswax.  One of which is furniture polish.  It was surprisingly easy.

One of the great things about furniture polish is that the ratio of wax to oil is not exact; if you want your polish to be solid, reduce the amount of oil slightly. If you want it to be more of a paste, increase the amount of mineral oil.   Store your polish in any container with a lid.  I used a small plastic freezer container from the dollar store.

First, process your wax.  If you are using wax fresh from the hive like I did, then it will need to be cleaned first.  This is accomplished by melting the honeycomb after the honey is removed, then straining it to remove any remaining junk.  I melted my wax in an electric crock pot. I used a colander with a couple of paper towels to strain my wax.

Just add mineral oil to the melted wax.  I used a ratio of 1 part oil to 3 parts wax.  Stir it together and put into whatever container you are going to use.

Bee's Wax Polish


One thing to remember; if you are as clumsy as I am, mix this up outside.  Spilled wax is a pain to clean up especially if it is spilled on carpet.  My beeswax polish looked a lovely honey red as you can see in the above pic.  After about an hour it will solidify into a creamy tan block.  To use, rub some onto a clean rag or paper towel and rub into the wood surface.  This is a great finish to put on wooden ware or cutting boards.  I use it on many of the woodturnings that I make.

I know that some of you may be saying to yourself, “where am I supposed to get beeswax?  I don’t have a beehive or know anyone with a hive.”  Just do a search for beeswax online.  I found a number of suppliers with very reasonable rates.

This entry was posted in DIY, Home.

Caramel Apple Tart


Caramel Apple Tart |

It is still hot outside but there is just a hint of fall in the air.  Nothing says fall to me like apple crisp, pumpkin everything and just baking in general.  I was having a hankering for something with apples so I came up with this little Caramel Apple Tart.  I love using puff pastry, I am sure I could make my own but lets face it.  I don’t have too, lol.  If you want to make your own, check out this awesome recipe. Manali has an recipe with photos for each step.

Caramel Apple Tart

I love Caramel and apples and tarts so this is perfect.  Easy and yummy.

Caramel Apple Tart 7

Start by pressing a sheet of puff pastry into a 9 x 13 pan, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush some egg wash over the edges.  I find it easier to do this now.

Caramel Apple Tart 2


Core apples and slice to about 1/4 inch thick. Try to keep the thickness consistent.

Caramel Apple Tart 3

Add cinnamon, allspice,  nutmeg, flour, sugar and lemon juice.

Caramel Apple Tart 4

Mix together and set aside. while you make the crumble


Caramel Apple Tart 5

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar together.  With a pasty blender cut in the cold butter until the butter is the size of a pea.


Caramel Apple Tart 6Caramel Apple Tart 8

Dump apples on to puff pastry.  Sprinkle crumble mixture and pecans(not pictured) over apples and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 min.  Pour caramel sauce over tart and serve with ice cream.

Caramel Apple Tart 9Caramel Apple Tart 10


Check out some of the other apple recipes we have made.

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Crockpot Apple Sause

Candy Apple Jelly

Caramel Apple Tart
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • Crumble
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup oats (not instant)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoon cold butter
  • ½ cup pecan pieces
  1. Core and slice apples, Mix lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, flour and brown sugar with apples. Set aside while you make crumble.
  2. mix all ingredients together and cut in butter with a pastry blender.
  3. Dump apples on puff pastry and sprinkle crumble mix over apples. Bake at 400 for 25-30 min. Remove from oven and pour caramel sauce over tart.
  4. Serve warm. Easily reheats

Orange Honey Butter

Orange Honey Butter

This Orange Honey Butter is a simple spread that tastes great on everything; pancakes, rolls, scones your old shoe (just saying it is good stuff). Dave and I have been raising  Bees for 2 years now.  Bee’s are amazing creatures.   We have enjoyed watching them and learning all about them.  Our garden has benefited from having Bees so close too.  We just completed the honey harvest for the year. We both got stung even though we were in full protective gear.  I guess that just means we are official bee keepers now.

Save the Honey Bee

It is kind of scary that the Honey Bee is in trouble.  Help the little critters out by planting bee friendly plants.  Also if you do use some kind of herbicide make sure you spray it on the weeds is the evenings when the bees are back in their hives.



Orange Honey Butter
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
This is a simple and delicious spread. Use it on scones, pancakes, rolls and whatever you want to put it on.
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup butter
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice concentrate
  • zest of 1 orange
  1. For easy mixing make sure all ingredients are room temperature. Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whip until smooth and creamy.

Kefir Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Kefier Strawberry Banana Smoothie | Our Life Inspired

Any one else have kids that say “ow grouse” when you try to feed them something healthy?  Over the years I have had to come up with some cleaver ways to get them to eat things and even like them.  One such way is to mix Kefir into a smoothie.  Kefir is an amazing yogurt type drink.  It is full of beneficial probiotics that help create a health gut.  Huffington post published an article listing 12 benefits of adding Kefir to your diet.  Check it out here.

One of the main reasons I wanted to add this to the families diet is because of the “tummy aches” the kids were always complaining about.  Kefir by itself is a little bitter so it was hard to convince the kids to drink it.  Once I added it to a smoothie with a bunch of fruit the kids  starting requesting it.  Dave and I have tried making our own kefir, see here.  It was fun at first then it got overwhelming.  Kefir grains are like a pet.  They need to be cared for everyday.  I know homemade Kefir has more beneficial probiotics than store bought but sometimes it comes down to time and energy. When we first started drinking Kefir it was hard to find in stores.  Now it seems to be everywhere.  I love the Lifeway brand, it is creamy and smooth.

How to make your own Kefir

If you are interested in making your own Kefir check out Culturedfoodlife. Donna Schwenk has been making Kefir for 14+years.  She has a lot of yummy recipes and inspiration.  I purchased my Kefir grains from her.  They came healthy and ready to use.

Another fun way to add probiotics to your diet is to use kefir when you make ranch dressing.  See our Kefir Ranch Dressing post here.


Kefir Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Recipe type: Beverage
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
Simple smoothie full of Probiotics and
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup Kefir
  • 4-5 frozen strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla pudding mix or 1 tablespoon protein powder
  1. Pour Kefir into a blender, add banana and frozen strawberries. Blend until smooth. Add vanilla pudding mix or protein powder. Blend again until powder is mixed in. Serve immediately.

Cement Table DIY


Cement table DIY 2

We had an old apricot tree that died a few years ago that I finally got around to cutting down.  I left the stump about 3 feet tall because I knew that I wanted to make some kind of table or chair from it.  The tree was not quite as old as our home, so a bit less than a hundred years but huge for an apricot in this area.  The stump was about four feet in circumference where I cut it off.  The tree ended up being mostly hollow, but it was not a total loss.  I flattened off the top as best I could with the chainsaw and then used my small electric planer to flatten a couple of high spots.

As I researched different types of tabletops, I quickly focused on concrete.  It is very durable, a good thing since this table will be outside all of the time.  Concrete can also be colored thru the use of tints and dyes added to the concrete when it is mixed.  It can also be colored by using acid washes after the concrete is removed from the forms.

There are tons of websites and videos on Youtube that can help you find a design that you like.  It was during this research that i found DIY Pete.  This is a great web site and a Youtube channel with tons of information that was instrumental in helping me end up with a beautiful creation.

This really is an easy project to do over a weekend.  You will only need a few basic tools.

  • Skill Saw
  • Drill with bit to pre-drill holes
  • Measuring Tape
  • Level
  • Paper Towels
  • Gloves
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Paint Brush

You will need the following materials:

  • Melamine – 4 x 8 sheet
  • Silicone
  • Concrete – one or two bags
  • Concrete reinforcement wire
  • Screws
  • Acid Stain

All of the materials can be purchased at your local big box or local hardware store.  The sheet of melamine was plenty for me to make the forms for the table and for the two stools.  You will also need something to cut the reinforcing wire to the correct shape.  I used my angle grinder with a cutoff disc.  A hacksaw would also work, but is slow.

The first step is to cut the melamine to the size for your tabletop.  In the pictures below I will be showing the steps I used for the chair seats.  I found the chairs I wanted to use at a yard sale.  The tops were ok for use inside, but I wanted them for the metal frame.  I removed the chair seats and used them to get my measurements to cut the melamine.

I made the decision to make the seats thicker than the originals, partly for the added stability and to have a bit more material for the wire to reinforce.  Whatever thickness you use, don’t forget to add 3/4″ for the thickness of the melamine form.

Secure the sides of the form to the bottom of the seat form by first pre-drilling all of the holes.  The melamine can sometimes split when you screw directly into it.  Attach the sides, making sure to keep everything as flat as possible.

Use the paper towels to clean out the form.  Apply the silicone caulk around the inside corners.  You can use a caulk tool to smooth out any uneven spots or just use your finger.  Be careful to clean up any spills in the form.  Let the caulk set up while you mix up your concrete.

Follow the directions for your concrete.  Add the water first to your 5 gallon bucket.  This will help ensure that all of the concrete is fully mixed.  Slowly add the concrete, mixing it until you have about 1/2 of a bucket.  The concrete may seem a bit dry, but don’t add any water.

Pour about half of this mix into your form.  If you haven’t done so already, put your gloves on.  Press the wet concrete evenly around the form.

1541315 (1)Cut your reinforcement wire to size.  It should be an inch or two smaller on all sides when placed into the form.  Press it lightly into the concrete.  Pour the rest of your mixed concrete on top of the wire.  Spread it around evenly.  Use a scrap piece of wood to level your concrete in the form.  When doing this, it is critical that your form is sitting level otherwise your concrete will flow to one side.  Once everything is level, shake the form to vibrate any bubbles out of the wet concrete.  If you used a drill to mix your concrete, you will be surprised how much air will rise out of it.9641792 (2)

That is all for now.  Let your form sit at least a day before you try to remove it.

It is always surprising to me how fast the concrete will begin to set up.  After you have let it cure for a day or two, flip it carefully over.  Start taking out the screws.  Carefully pry the sides away.  At this point the concrete will still be quite soft.  If there are any blemishes or rough edges, use a sanding block to smooth things out.

I opted to stain the concrete with an acid stain instead of the dyes mixed into the concrete directly.  For staining the concrete, you will definitely want to be outside and wear some old clothes, gloves and safety glasses.  Wet the concrete with a cup or two of water.  Apply the stain according to the directions supplied.  For the stain that I used, I put it in a spray bottle to apply it.  Pouring the stain into a smaller container and using a cheap paint brush also works fine.  I used a couple of 2″ chip brushes from Harbor Freight to apply heavier coats in spots.  Also, remember that this is an acid.  Use the appropriate safety gear at all times.5909390

When you first apply the stain, it will foam and fizz.  The colors will not look at all like what you are expecting.  Don’t worry, the final color will not appear until nearly the end.  I found with this stain that I got a darker final color if I added a couple of additional coats of stain.

To rinse off the concrete I mixed a bucket of water and a small amount of ammonia to neutralize any remaining acid.  I lightly brushed this mixture onto the surface.  Follow the directions for whatever stain you end up using.

To seal the concrete I used a concrete sealer that I picked up at the local big box hardware store.  Just brush on a couple of coats and let dry between applications.

For the table I did everything the same as for the seats.  Although, for the umbrella hole, I sealed a small piece of pvc pipe in the center of the form.  I hope you agree that the final result ended up quite nice.  The table has been a great addition to our backyard.

Cement Table DIY

Silverware Drawer Organizer DIY

A magical thing happens the longer you are married.  The same may happen to those of you who are single, though I have not experienced that situation for many years.  Anyway, every time I open our silverware drawer everything in there seems to have multiplied.  There are more spoons and more forks and more stuff!  Though I can never seem to find what I need when I need it.

We have had a small drawer organizer, like the ones you can get from Walmart or the local dollar store.  It is functional only if there is not a lot of items to organize.  Unfortunately, we passed that point quite some time ago.  Since each storage section is overflowing, Viv thinks it is ok to just dump the silverware from the dishwasher directly into the drawer.  Hey, it’s in the drawer.  Uggh!  It’s enough to make one pull their hair out in frustration.  Since I have no hair to spare, another option is called for.


Before:  What a mess!

I figured that I could improve on the organizer and maybe even get Viv to put things in the correct spot.

I found a couple pieces of particle board that would work just fine.  After measuring the drawer and getting some suggestions from Viv, it was off to the garage to cut up the wood.Drawer Organizer - cut 1

After cutting everything to size, it was time for a trial fit in the drawer.

The test fit was a success!  She liked it.

Test fit and glue cut pieces in drawer.

Test fit and glue cut pieces in drawer.

Next I glued and stapled the pieces together.  I had to be careful at this point.  I did not want to put in too much glue or the squeeze out would have glued the dividers to the drawer walls.  Viv wanted to be able to remove the dividers periodically to allow for cleaning.


After:  Much better!  (and easier to put together than I thought it would be)


This entry was posted in DIY, Home.

Cheesecake Lemon and Raspberry Flower Pastry

Hello Friends,  It has been a busy summer here at the Smith’s.  We are loving this weather, Summer vacations, slumber parties and trips to the water park.  I was inspired by a video I saw on Facebook that showed how to create these flower pastries. I decided to fill them with lemon and raspberry cheesecake.  YUMMMMM!!  This is super simple and a real WOW.  Great for Sunday Brunch, my favorite kind of project.

Cheese Cake Flower PastryCheesecake Filling
2- 8oz package of cream cheese
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Take softened cream cheese and whip in the sugar and vanilla and egg with a mixer until creamy.

Raspberry jam
lemon curd

1 box -Puff PastryCheesecake flower pastry 1

Unfold and roll out puff pastry dough

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 2

Cut into 6 equal squares

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 3

With a small knife, cut the corners about 1/2 inch in.

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 4

Add a spoonful of cheese cake mixture.

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 5

Add a spoonful of raspberry jam or lemon curd.

Cheesecake Flower 6

Take two opposite corners and pinch together.

Cheesecake flower pastry 7

Take the other two corners and pinch them together. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush with an egg wash to get perfect golden brown.

Cheesecake flower #9

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 min or until golden brown.  The cheese cake will be soft when you first take the pastries out of the oven. Once they cool off they will set.

Spicy Cornbread Waffles

Ever had one of those days when you have worked all day and you feet are sore and all you want to do is sit down and not have to think about anything.  This is a simple recipe you can make as fancy as you want or just plain and simple.  I love a cornbread that is loaded with green chilis, corn and cheese, so if you make it a waffle iron and smother it with chili and cheese I am in heaven.

Spicy Corn Bread Waffles.

1 box Jiffy Cornbread mix
1/2 cup milk
1 can diced green chilis
1 can cream of corn
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
Mix just until combined.  Spray waffle iron with cooking spray so the waffles don’t stick and cook according to you waffle makers directions.  Mine is pretty old so I have to just keep an eye on it.*****Time saver tip-  Use your favorite canned chili and have dinner on the table in less than 20 min.Chili:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Onion- chopped
1 Tablespoon Garlic- minced
1/4 Cup Green Pepper- chopped
1/4 Cup Serrano Pepper- chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper- Chopped
1 lb Ground Turkey
28 oz Crushed  Tomatoes
16 oz can Kidney Beans- drained
16 oz can Navy Beans- drained
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Chipotle powder
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning

Add olive oil and onion and ground turkey to large pot.  Saute until onion is translucent and meat is browned.  Add peppers and garlic, saute an additional 5 min.  Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour.


How to build a Wood Fired Oven

Backyard Oven


So I had been baking bread for a number of years and collecting many recipe books on the craft of artisan bread.  Many of these authors discussed the different options for baking bread.  The topic of wood fired ovens kept popping up.  I was intrigued.  I had never thought about baking bread outdoors.  I guess it could be done in a dutch oven over a fire or with charcoal, but what was this oven that they kept talking about.

That stayed in the back of my mind for a while until one day at work (I worked in a book store at the time) I read an article in Mother Earth News that discussed how simple it is to build your own oven.  I thought that there is no way that it could be so easy.  After more research and finding that a “typical” masonry oven could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, there was no way I could afford to build something like that (remember – bookstore).

If you follow the link above, you will see some great pictures and get some great instruction on building a very simple “mud oven”.  This may sound odd, trust me, I thought it was really weird at first.  I kept reading, then discovered that the author of that article, Kiko Denzer, had also written a book on the topic.  Build Your Own Earth Oven, has a wealth of information on how achievable it is for anyone to have their own oven.


Pizza Party at the Smith’s

Everyone NEEDS one of these is their backyard!

This oven has been one of the most rewarding projects we have ever done.  It was really fun to build as you can see here.   We have enjoyed countless Pizza Parties with Friends and Family over the years.  This oven will cook a Pizza in about 1-2 min.  Dave has perfected his pizza dough and marinara sauce recipes.  Dave tells me his marinara recipe is coming soon!

Dave starts his dough the night before and divides them into 200 gram dough balls.  That way it is easy to grab one and roll it out just as you need it.

Step 1: Roll out dough and place on a pizza peel with a little corn meal underneath.  Other wise you will not get it off the peel and into the oven.

Step 2: With a pastry brush, brush olive oil around the dough edge.
Step 3: Add marinara sauce. Leave about an inch border.

Step 4: Add a little cheese
Step 5: Add your yummy toppings.  The secret to this style of pizza is less is more.  Only use a few toppings.  I like to be able to savor the flavor of everything.  If you add too much or too many toppings the crust will not cook evenly.  Burnt edges and doughy center kills the pizza excitement quickly.
Add a little more cheese
Put pizza in oven and watch as it turns golden brown.  1-2 min
Make sure you keep an eye on it while it is baking.  You want to remove the pizza just as it starts to char slightly around the edges.  With a little practice you will be making the best pizzas of your life!
Slice it up and watch it disapear

If you are interested in building one of these, we would love to answer any questions.