Monthly Archives: August 2012

How to Make the Best Homemade Pizza

The World's Best Homemade Pizza

I am a creature of habit.  I am also frugal.  And this recipe has been a weekly staple for us for a few years now because it is SOOOO easy and SOOOO cheap to make.  Many are scared away when they think of making their own dough from scratch, but with these tips I have learned through trial and error along with my step-by-step (very visual) guide, you will be a pizza queen/king in no time…

Use Dough Cycle on Bread Machine

First, I use my bread machine (but you don’t have to- use your kitchen aid mixer or your hands!)  I know- not everyone has a bread machine– but I actually have two of them. One I was given as a gift in 1998, and one I bought used on Ebay for $18 last year.  Since I don’t bake in mine (I use the dough cycle only), it would be hard to find one that isn’t fancy enough.

My Homemade Pizza Dough Ingredients

Here are all the ingredients you will need for the dough of 2 large pizzas:

1- 1/2 C warm water

1 T sugar

2 T olive oil

4 C flour (I use 3 all purpose, 1 whole wheat)

1- 1/2 tsp salt

2- 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (does not have to be bread machine yeast)

italian seasoning to taste

cornmeal for sprinkling

Buying Yeast in Bulk Saves So Much Money over Jars or Packets!

This is to show you how I save so much money when buying yeast.  I buy yeast in bulk (package on the left) from Amazon and buy 4-5 lbs at a time.  I store them in the freezer and refill my yeast jar I keep in the refrigerator as needed.  The savings is UNREAL.  Stop buying those expensive packets!

My Favorite Homemade Bread Recipes are Tattered and Worn

As you can see, I make a lot of breads.  The cinnamon roll recipe is on the back.  And I keep it in a beautiful, organized binder- typed and protected.  (NOT!  I keep them under a magnet on my kitchen calendar board…because I use it 4 times a week at least!)

Add Warm Water to Bread Machine Pan First

Pour warm water (just tap water) in bread machine pan first.  Then add ingredients in order they are listed above.  Stop when you get to the Italian seasoning/cornmeal.

Add up to one cup of Whole Wheat Flour to Pizza Dough

My secret ingredient is to sneak in one cup of whole wheat flour, but it tastes great with only all-purpose flour as well.

Stir Salt into Flour Before Adding Yeast

Gently stir the salt into the flour to keep it from killing the yeast.  Yeast does not like salt.

Best Way to Store and Measure Sea Salt

This is how I store fine sea salt.  It makes it so much easier to measure this way instead of pouring into a measuring spoon.  Add your yeast last, and directly on top of the other ingredients.

Homemade Pizza Dough Ingredients in Bread Machine Pan

Insert your bread machine pan into your bread machine and set it to the dough cycle.  It should read a time of around 1-1/2 hours.  Press start.

Add Dry Italian Seasoning to Homemade Pizza Dough

Most machines beep after a few minutes to tell you that you can add in ingredients (like nuts or raisins, for example).  This is when I add dry Italian seasoning.  I just add enough to make me happy.  No measuring.  Now, close the lid.

Homemade Pizza Dough Rises to Top of Bread Machine Pan

When the dough cycle is done (mixes about 25 minutes, rises about an hour), this is what your dough will look like.

Keep Pizza Stone and Oven Thermometer in Oven

This is my very used, very old oven.  I refuse to buy a new one until it quits.  And it just stubbornly refuses!  Anyway, I keep a cheap pizza stone in my oven at all times. I never take it out. (I keep meaning to buy unglazed ceramic tiles and use those instead, but I haven’t gotten around to it.)  I also always use an oven thermometer- because my oven is not true to temperature.  Preheat your oven to very hot.  That means about 450 degrees.

My Favorite Homemade Pizza Making Tools

These are my favorite homemade-pizza-making tools.  A dough roller, a dough docker, and parchment paper.  I bought some of the reusable parchment paper, but I confess, I haven’t used it yet.  Did I mention I am a creature of habit?

Divide Homemade Pizza Dough with Bench Scraper or Knife

Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into two roughly equal portions.

Sprinkle Parchment Paper Lightly with Cornmeal

Sprinkle cornmeal on a rectangle of parchment paper.  Make it big enough to cover your pizza stone.

Separate Pizza Dough Into Two Portions for Two Medium/Large Pizzas

Form each portion into a ball with floured hands.  You want the dough to be pretty sticky.  This makes a lighter crust.  If you add too much flour in, you will have a tough crust that isn’t very tasty.

Form Pizza Dough into a Ball with Floured Hands

Just plop it on the cornmeal.

Roll Homemade Pizza Dough to Size of Pizza Stone

And start to roll it out with your dough roller.  You can use the traditional long one if you like.  Or a can if you don’t have one.  Or your fingers or whatever.

Trim Excess Parchment Paper Around Homemade Pizza Dough

Trim the excess parchment paper from around the dough after you have rolled it into a rustic round/oval shape that is roughly the size of your pizza stone (which should be preheated nicely in your oven by now, remember).

Prick Homemade Pizza Dough Surface with Dough Docker or Fork

Prick the surface of your dough with a fork, or use a pizza docker if you have one.  This eliminates air bubbles in the surface of your crust.

Slide Homemade Pizza Dough into Oven Using Flat Cookie Sheet

Slide a flat cookie sheet under the parchment paper (or a pizza peel, but I don’t have one yet).  Then, shimmy-shake the parchment paper and dough off the cookie sheet and onto the hot pizza stone in your oven.

Slide Pizza Dough from Cookie Sheet With Parchment Paper

Parbake the crust for around 6 minutes or until it just begins to change color on top.  This really helps keep your crust from getting soggy!  Then, reach in and pull the parchment paper edge onto your cookie sheet again (It really isn’t hot!)

Slice Favorite Vegetables for Homemade Pizza Toppings

Slice your favorite pizza vegetables.  We usually use mushrooms, onions, and pepperoni on one, and only pepperoni on the other.  Although, we also love chicken/olive/pesto and ham and pineapple combinations.  And usually banana peppers sneak in there somewhere, too.

Saute Onions and Mushrooms in Olive Oil

Saute your vegetables in a little olive oil with salt and pepper until they are tender but not mushy.

Mozzarella, Pepperoni, and Sauce from Aldi

We grocery shop at Aldi because we can get twice as much food there as at WalMart for the same price, three times as much food as our local grocery store (although we buy fresh meat at our local grocery store, and bread and milk in between trips). These are our standard toppings above.

I know- I should make my own pizza sauce. I always make my own spaghetti sauce from scratch, but I buy spaghetti sauce and use it as my pizza sauce.  Silly.  One jar of spaghetti sauce covers four large pizzas, so I keep it in the fridge and use it two weeks in a row.  It is much cheaper than buying traditional pre-made pizza sauce.

Spread Pizza Sauce or Spaghetti Sauce on Parbaked Pizza Crust

Spread the sauce on the first parbaked crust while your second crust is parbaking.  And add your toppings.  Vegetables first, then cheese, then meats and olives on top.

Add Homemade Pizza Toppings to Parbaked Pizza Crust

Remove the second parbaked crust from the oven and shimmy-shake it onto the table.  Slip the cookie sheet under your pizza with the toppings and transfer it back to the oven.  Bake for about 9 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and it begins to brown a little.  While it bakes, top your second parbaked crust.

Slide Homemade Pizza From Oven by Parchment Paper

Remove pizza from oven again with your cookie sheet and place it on another pan for cutting.  (Or, do what I do- slide it onto the table, use the cookie sheet to put the second pizza in the oven, and then slide the cookie sheet back under the finished pizza so you can slice it on the cookie sheet.)

Remove Homemade Pizza from Oven on Flat Cookie Sheet

It’s making my mouth water just looking at the picture again.

Cowboy Slices Homemade Pizza

TrueHeart had a friend over last Friday and as I baked the pizzas, I overheard her tell her guest, “My Mama makes the BEST pizzas in the world.  They are WAY better than the kind you eat at a pizza place!”  Obviously, my heart swelled a little with that.

Son enjoys my homemade pizza

TenderHeart also thinks my pizza is yummy.  I had to make him sit down at the table because he was threatening to steal a piece before the family was seated to give thanks to the One who provides every crumb.

P.S. Sometimes, I make sourdough pizzas.  Other times, I make one thin crust and one deep dish.  I will make a tutorial on those in the future.  Until then, give this recipe a try and please come back and leave a comment.  I will do my best to answer any questions you have as well.

P.P.S. I have made many more than two pizzas at a time and for a large crowd, but it requires planning.  Simply mix up one recipe (through the kneading cycle) and before it starts to rise, scoop it into a gallon size plastic bag with a little olive oil in it.  Seal the bag and put it in the refrigerator. Repeat until you have enough dough to make all the pizzas you need for your crowd.  The dough will slowly rise in the refrigerator (and the flavors will deepen!) for up to 24 hours.  Take the dough out at least an hour before you are ready to start rolling it out so it can come to room temperature.  Then, simply start your routine of parbaking, topping, and baking!  My 11-year-old TrueHeart requested a huge pizza party for her 11th birthday- and this method worked very well.

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in homemaking, Recipes


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My Funeral

Amazing Grace… Psalm 23… The a cappella melody bouncing off the cathedral ceiling and the minister’s comfort to the family as he stood beside the casket are the memories of my yesterday. Yet, I found my thoughts drifting during the funeral and graveside service to the inevitable end of my own journey and what I do and do not want it to be…

 1) I want my children to miss me. Not the idea of me. This means I must give them opportunity to really know me, and I need to spend focused time every single day influencing them with the truths of life, spiritual and earthly. My children are the only “possessions” I leave this world when I am gone that are of any lasting value, and I want them to fulfill their God-given “hope and future.”

2) I don’t want anyone to feel relieved that I am finally out of the picture. I know that, should I grow old and feeble, there will be a certain amount of burden I will place unintentionally and unavoidably on my family just in terms of caregiving. However, I want to be so full of joy, kindness, generosity, grace, and humility that my family and friends feel the loss of a brilliant light in the darkness… instead of the closing of a black hole that finally stopped sucking the light out of everyone around her.

3) I want the ones I love to know they were loved by me. I want them to have more memories than they can recall of being told and shown love, respect, honor, and appreciation for who they really are. I want the temporary grieving to quickly turn to cherishing and reminiscing, and for my life to be lived in a way those who come behind can be proud to emulate and pass on to the generations to come.

4) I want the choir to sing Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s version of I’m Amazed.  Should Cowboy be left behind, someone will also need to sing Amazing Grace, The Anchor Holds, and Beulah Land… because they are his favorites and bring him great comfort. And I don’t want a long service where lots of people speak and feel the need to make up things about me. I want someone to honestly be able to say… “She made mistakes, she hurt people sometimes, but she showed so much more love and grace and forgiveness and mercy because of the Lord’s work in her heart and life that those other things will not be remembered. Her life preached her sermon. There is nothing else to say.”

You see, I have faced death. I will never forget what it felt like to be told I may only have a couple of months to live, even if I were to receive a lung transplant. Even so, I wouldn’t trade the experience of those days of waiting as I spent them memorizing every feature of Cowboy’s face, savoring every hug and kiss from my children. I looked at them differently– with overwhelming gratitude– and I shut out the distractions of life to treasure every interaction, every blessing of each tiny moment in their presence.

Yes, there was great clinging, and tears, and prayers sobbed in anguish on tired knees… but the bond formed when the man you love more than life lays his hands on you and begs God for a miracle cannot be broken. It is a time in my life I cannot even revisit in memory without hot tears flowing unheeded down my cheeks… because God’s plan granted me more days.  And I don’t want to waste EVEN. ONE. OF. THEM.


Posted by on August 27, 2012 in home eternal


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I Ran Away From Home (and Why You Should, Too!)

Getaway to the Smokies

At 24 weeks pregnant with our 4th baby, and knowing I will not be able to get away alone with my man again until baby Jack stops nursing exclusively and is eating solids, my Cowboy and I decided to take a few days and run away together.

Because we have wonderful family who would take amazing care of our children with only a couple weeks notice, we began searching earnestly for the perfect place for our romantic getaway. We only had a few requirements:

 1. NOT touristy.

2. Quiet.

3. Beautiful view.

4. Outside, private jacuzzi.

5. Reasonably priced.

6. Clean.

7. Less than a 4 hour drive.

8. I am in a very high-risk pregnancy and needed to also be within 30 minutes of a state-of-the-art hospital. And flying was not an option for the same reason.

9. Availability with only two weeks notice.

Easy, right? Umm. No. We looked at hundreds of possibilities, and most were excluded for not meeting one of the above requirements. We found a couple of properties on that looked promising and received a quick response from both property owners.

However, Carl Johnson’s “Bear’s Den” from The Cottages of Dark Corner stood out as the only property which matched all of our needs and wants. They are located in Saluda, NC which meant we barely had to cross our state line from SC into NC (about a 3 hour drive).

Historical Saluda, NC

Yes, it was a three bedroom which we didn’t really need, but it was priced so reasonably ($124 a night, plus tax) and was fully furnished! It was also only a 30 minute drive to Asheville (where we did not go, because we enjoyed Saluda and Columbus, NC so much and preferred the quaintness to the big city). Best of all, it was located on an old, remote farm full of family history (owned by third generation) and had the most beautiful and secluded view of the Smoky Mountains from the back deck. Carl even had the jacuzzi heated and waiting for us when we arrived! (Yes, we lowered the temperature to 80 degrees because I am pregnant, for all you worried mamas out there!)

Jacuzzi with Smoky Mountain view!

I spoke with Carl a few times on the phone, but we didn’t even meet him while we were there. This isn’t because he wasn’t available. All of his contact numbers were listed and his homestead was a short drive away. However, he had a lockbox on the door which held the key to the cottage. He e-mailed us the code to unlock the box and we only had to put the keys back as we left! He and his wife obviously understand the privacy and peace a couple seeks when they come to his cottage! (Have you ever stayed at a bed and breakfast where the owners wanted to visit with you the entire time? Or at a crowded hotel where you couldn’t get away from the noisy neighbors or the traffic outside your window? Ugh.)

We felt as if we had stepped into another world, and it belonged only to us. What a gift! I highly recommend the Bear’s Den (click here for link) and please tell them if you go that you heard about them from my blog. (No discounts for me. I just want the Johnsons to know how blessed we were by their place!)

Local Pottery from Saluda, NC

The memories I made there with my cowboy will forever be treasured in my heart.  And I have a handthrown beautiful pottery mug from a local artist to remember it all, with chickens on it, even.  Could life be more joyful?!

Read why YOU should run away from home here:  Why You Should Run Away


Posted by on August 24, 2012 in home business, homemaking


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A Homeschool Moment: The Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto“I will tell you,” he said, “what all philosophers know. To search for the truth is always an adventure– and there is always beauty in the truth itself.

To have knowledge and understanding, to know the truth about things, that can be as exciting and beautiful as this blue cavern, this blue grotto.”

–Herre Nordstrom in Red Sails to Capri, by Ann Weil

Today, I finished reading Red Sails to Capri to my 9-year-old son.  With our homeschool curriculum (see post about that here), he has plenty to read on his own, but we have a “read-aloud” selection assigned every day as well.  I enjoy the snuggles and the reading almost equally.  My favorite thing about reading a great book together with my oldest son in a comfy chair in the homeschool setting, though?

The lack of hindrance.

We are free!  We take as long as we need to talk about the book, to stop and reflect on the words and the meaning. And we do it together.  Just my sweet boy and I.  All the while, he rubs my arm and places his cheek against my shoulder, his legs thrown across mine. Halfway through our reading for today, he stops me and says,

“Mom, you’re so warm.  I love you.”

If I ever wondered why I homeschool, there was certainly not a single doubt in my mind in that moment.

And then, because we wanted to and not because it was a required assignment, we researched the REAL Blue Grotto of Capri together- looked at pictures and oohed and aahed at the glowing blue waters off the coast of Italy.  We brought the learning to life, from historical fiction to nonfiction, and we took the journey together… my boy and I.

Herre Nordstrom would be so very proud.

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in homeschooling


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Save Money on Christmas Presents This Year!



Does Christmas sneak up on you every year? Do you end up resorting to credit card purchases and paying for your presents for the next 12 months (or longer)? There is a much better way!  Actually, there are several, but I will cover one easy way to earn and save on Christmas that I have been using for the past few years.

There is an online program called Swagbucks that allows you to earn “bucks” for simply surfing the web using their search engine.  It does not cost anything to join and these bucks (or points) are earned every few searches randomly and in different amounts each time (sometimes 8 bucks, sometimes 17- you never know!)

There are also faster ways to earn by clicking on the “earn” tab and completing any of the offers or tasks, such as watching a two minute video and answering a simple question about the content.

Yes, it really is that simple!  And, no, there aren’t any catches!

Once you save up enough Swagbucks, you can use them in the Swagstore to purchase items or… my personal favorite… gift cards!  I save up all my Swagbucks for an entire year and cash them in for Amazon gift cards at the end of the year.  During the year, I keep several wishlists on Amazon in the names of each of my children, and I use the gift cards in October or November to complete my Christmas shopping for the year!  It is foolproof and so much fun.

Are there any dangers?  Well, if you are someone who can’t resist good deals, or if you are the type who is super-competitive and will buy things you don’t need just to earn Swagbucks… then there could be some danger for you.  Of course, I love the great deals I get through the offers I complete, and NONE of the offers are required.

If you practice careful planning and use the Swagbucks search engine every time you would normally do a google search, and if you download the toolbar to your smartphone to do the same, you will earn Swagbucks quickly and effortlessly.  You WILL NOT receive junk mail or spam as a result of signing up.  You can control all account settings and preferences simply by logging in and making any desired changes.

There really is nothing to lose in using this valuable service!  You can learn more and sign up by clicking here:  Swagbucks Sign-up 

In the interest of disclosure and integrity:  I will not earn swagbucks simply by your signing up!  I will, however, earn matching swagbucks with you until you reach 1000 swagbucks. 

P.S. If you want to know how I earn money all year long working from my home in just minutes a day (which doesn’t involve Swagbucks), learn more about my story here:  If you want to take the leap, but aren’t in a place to invest anything right now, take a small step with me here and get in on the pre-launch:

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Our Homeschool Curriculum

Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum

I get asked often which homeschool curriculum we have chosen as a family, and why we chose it.  It is such a personal decision that I sometimes don’t know exactly how to respond.  I don’t feel that the curriculum we chose is for everyone but I do know that it is the very best choice for US.

Having given this disclaimer, I will share with you today our curriculum choice and the reasons we chose it for The Pleasant Farm Academy (the name of our little homeschool).  We use Sonlight and have used it for the past few years.  It is, most importantly to us, a Christ honoring curriculum with a missions focus.  It is literature based, meaning history and science and literature are taught with great, well-written books on the subjects instead of “textbooks.”

I have always been an avid reader, and I read to my children even while they were in the womb.  They do enjoy reading now (the almost 12 year old and 9 year old, that is), but they have never been as excited about reading as I am.  Even so, the books from Sonlight have captured their minds and hearts and have truly made learning fun for them.  For us, this isn’t something you can place a price tag on, and isn’t an area we are willing to compromise in.

Daughter homeschooling with Sonlight

As a planner and teacher, the instructor’s guides that come with their curriculum have been invaluable and have saved me hours of endless lesson planning!  Everything comes together in one box when you order a core, with all the lesson plans and all the books needed for the year.  Are there cheaper ways to do this?  Yes.  But, they are also much more labor intensive.

Sometimes, the library will have some of the books, but they may or may not be checked in when you need them.  Sometimes, you can buy used cores on ebay or at swaps, but if you have more than one child who will use the curriculum over the next several years- buying it new and knowing you have everything you need is worth the investment (for us).  Sonlight also allows monthly interest-free payments (3, 6, or 9 month plans depending on when you order for the year).

Son and Baby Girl Homeschooling with Sonlight

These are the biggest reasons we love Sonlight, but I would have to give you personal and detailed examples of what my children have learned and how they discuss regularly their desire to learn and “do school” for you to fully understand what this curriculum has done for us as a family.  One recent example: We started school this year on August 1st, three whole weeks before the public schools in our area will begin.  Even so, for weeks before we started, my kids were BEGGING for us to start early!  Have you ever even heard of such a thing?

You can learn more about Sonlight and read their articles on reasons to use and not to use their curriculum by clicking here:  Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum

P.S. As a disclaimer, I will tell you that by clicking on the link, it will put my referral code into the link so that I will receive points if you place an order.  Also, it will give you $5 off your $50 purchase!  However, if you don’t want to give me points, I don’t mind.  Just type into your browser instead and order it that way.  I am not writing this to get the points- but because I want you to have the chance to discover a truly excellent curriculum and investigate further if it may or may not be the right choice for your homeschool!  We will continue to use Sonlight with or without any referral points 🙂  Happy homeschooling!

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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in homeschooling


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