Cheerful Home

Archive for July 2009

One of the things I’m trying to do in 2009 is to learn to cook more from scratch, both because it is generally healthier and more cost-effective than eating out or eating pre-packaged convenience foods.  Plus, it is nice to be able to make up a meal from your pantry rather than not being able to make say, pancakes, if you’re out of the box mix.  And, total revelation for me– meals actually come from ingredients, not boxes and packages with instructions on them.  Woah!

So, I’m challenging myself to make 100 different things from scratch by the end of the year, and using my blog as a way to track my progress.  Feel free to jump in with suggestions for what to make, or your own from scratch recipes.  This whole cooking thing is new to me, so I’d be glad for the help.

Our munchkin is a finicky eater, and sometimes finding a meal he will eat is a feat not easily accomplished.  When he’s in one of those moods, one of my go-to staples is pancakes.  He’ll eat pancakes almost every time.  Which is why it really sucks to be out of Bisquick with a hungry two-year-old.

Never fear, surely there has to be a recipe for Bisquick.  Google points me to this link at Hillbilly Housewife for a made-from-scratch Bisquick mix.  Now, I know I said one of the good things about making from scratch is that you don’t have to run to the store, but this recipe calls for powdered buttermilk.  I mean really, who has that on hand?  Certainly not me, so I ran to the store and found the powdered buttermilk not far down the shelf from the actual Bisquick brand mix.  I left with the powdered buttermilk, not the Bisquick, on principle. 😉

So here’s what it takes to make your own Bisquick:

flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar (in canister), salt, buttermilk powder, shortening

flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar (in canister), salt, buttermilk powder, shortening

You measure it out, put it in a bowl and mix it with a mixer “until particles are small and uniform in size.”  I made a half-batch, since I wanted to be sure this was something we would eat before I used 10 and a half cups of flour on it!

One thing to watch out for: the Hillbilly Housewife tells you to use a large bowl, but she doesn’t specify that it needs to be a large, DEEP bowl, for those of us who aren’t sophisticated enough to have stand mixer.  Using a shallow bowl results in a fine dusting of flour all over your coutners, arms, shirt, etc.

shallow bowl = big mess

shallow bowl = big mess

As directed, I mixed until particles were small and even in size.

Well, small and mostly even in size.

Next, I heated up the griddle and used this recipe from the Bisquick box (found here) to make the “supreme” pancakes: 

2 c made from scratch baking mix

1 c milk

2 eggs

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

Heated up the griddle, and got to flippin flapjacks, and MMMMMM were these good!  Fluffy, sweet, and golden, just like a pancake should be!  Should’ve taken a picture of the pancakes, but was too busy wolfing them down!  I actually liked these pancakes, with the made from scratch mix, better than the ones I’ve made using Bisquick brand mix.  They were softer, or something.  Not as grainy as the name-brand-mix ones. Yum, ate way too many of them!  And they defenitely passed the munchkin’s taste test.  I had a few extras, so threw those in a ziplock in the fridge for munchkin’s breakfasts this week.

Put the rest of the homemade mix into a gallon ziplock bag, and used a permanent marker to write the pancake recipe on the bag.  Stored in cabinet.  Hillbilly Housewife says this will keep for 3 months.  We had enough leftover for 2 more batches of pancakes, but like I said, I halved the HBHW recipe.

So, the challenge has started.  1 down, 99 to go, but the first one is defenitely a keeper!  My days of buying boxed pancake mix are long gone.  Just have to remember to keep powdered buttermilk on hand 😉



A trip to Lowe’s for the paint and an 8′ slide, and the treehouse is functional, albeit not safe for a 2 year old yet!

We left off last time with the basic frame done.  Hubby did the floor panels next, cutting two large rectangles first, since our dimensions were too wide for a single plywood sheet.  We used 1″ thick plywood that we had in the garage leftover from other projects.  Once he had sheets the rough sizes of what we needed, he cut out notches for the posts. 

Finally, he did the angled cut for the corner where the slide will go.  Then he attached the floor panels to the beams using long drywall screws (I think he said inch and 3/4, but not sure, whatever he had on his workbench).


After the floor was in, I painted the beams, inside and out, and the bottom of the floor/ceiling of the first level.  I didn’t paint the top of the deck/floor panels because I’m going to cover those with carpet and a mat.  I didn’t paint the posts because I found a “glove” for them on clearance at Home Depot– it is basically a lightly padded vinyl wrap that has velcro attached.  While I was painting, I went ahead and painted the climbing wall panel brown too, since it was a bright yellow. 

  I used Valspar paint, less than a quart, in “Shutter Brown 2007-9A” satin finish.  Really wish I would’ve been patient enough to paint all of the pieces before we started building so I wouldn’t have had to paint upside down, but que sera sera, I’ve never really been a patient type, and hey, brown paint on my forehead looks good, right? 

Next step was attaching the stabelizer/support pieces on the ground level across the back/corner two sides.  Did this with carriage bolts.  Didn’t do the front sides or angled corner.

Because the monkey was trying to “slide” on the new slide while it was on the basement floor flat, his sweet daddy went ahead and attached the slide to the angled corner using more carriage bolts.  We forgot to count these in our original count of carriage bolts, so add in an impromptu trip to the store here.  This is an 8 foot long slide from Lowe’s.  It was $81.  Probably could’ve saved some cash by watching for and buying a similar slide on Craig’s List, but at the time we did this project, there was only one listed, it was dirty yellow, 2 hours away, and the seller wanted $50 bucks for it.  Since ours is an indoor treehouse, I splurged on the new, clean slide.  Did have a $10 off $50 purchase coupon though, so slide really cost us about $75, including tax.

The climbing wall panel is actually a piece of an old climbing wall I bought from a gymnastics gym going out of business.  You could easily make your own– it is just a piece of 1″ thick plywood, with holes drilled in a random pattern to attach the rocks.  The size of the holes should be the size indicated on the package for your climbing rocks.  (Both Lowe’s an Home Depot sell packages of climbing rocks, as do many playground supply websites.)  On the back side of the panel, pound a t-nut the size of the hole into each hole.  The you just screw (really it takes an allen wrench, but I think you still screw it in– maybe “attach” would be a better word) each rock in to a hole using the bolt that came with it. 

We decided to make the climbing wall angled instead of straight up and down, since our moneky is only 2.  When he is older, we can always cut it shorter and make it straight up and down to save floor space.  To make it attach, hubby used 2×4’s, and attached them to the inside of the posts on that side of the structure.  He cut the ends of the 2×4’s that would attach to the wall panel at a 55 degree angle, and attached using long drywall screws.


I painted the panel brown, but it was yellow underneath, and in the process of attaching rocks got all scratched up and now yellow is showing thru.  Already needs a touch up!  Maybe I should’ve sealed it first?  Oh well, I’m going to give it a few weeks, since I’ll bet it will get more scratches soon.

Last thing we did on this day was to use a bolt cutter to cut off the ends of the bolts sticking out of the structure so the moneky won’t bang into them.

The treehouse is a hit with the monkey, who immediately started climbing and sliding– whee!  Next steps are to cover the posts with the “gloves”, attach the plexi-glass panel to the other side where there is currently nothing except a great place to fall out of the treehouse, and to put the mat and carpet on the top level.  Then we can move in the toys and figure out where we are going to put in lights and canopies for the top of the “tree.”  I’m really pleased with this project so far– such a fun place to play!

Our particular treehouse / reading loft / fort is going in a corner of the basement, and being made from scrap wood that’s in our garage.  It will be a 5 feet by 5 feet square, except the front corner will be angled off, and hopefully have a slide there some day soon!  It’s part loft bed, part playground, totally fun!

Here’s the after-I-cleaned-out-the-toys but before we actually started building the loft picture:


playroom corner before loft

playroom corner before loft


Here’s how we built the basic structre:
We need 5 vertical “posts”– one for each corner, and two for the angled corner.  A website with plans for building a loft bed (  recommends using 4×4 posts, but since we don’t have those and are using up scrap wood from the garage, we just fastened two 2×4’s together with long drywall screws.
For the “beams” we used 2×6’s.  We cut two 5 foot pieces, and two 3 foot and 1/2 inch pieces.  We left the fifth piece until the others were attached and measured it exactly (this was the angled corner piece).  For the two 3 foot pieces and the angled piece, we cut mitred corners so they’d fit together and not leave rough edges sticking out.
We attached the beams to the posts using 6″ long 3/8ths carriage bolts, nuts, and washers.  Each carriage bolt/nut/washer set was about $2.50ish at Home Depot, and we are planning to use 14 of them.
carriage bolts

carriage bolts

  The bottom of the beams are 45.5″ from the floor (this made the hole we pre-drilled in the post right at 48″).  Since all of the posts will be attached to two beams, for each corner we did one bolt centered in the beam and post, and the other bolt was off-set of center.
bolting beam to post

bolting beam to post

This is how we did the first beam to each post– centered on the post, centered on the beam, pre-drilled a hole 48″ high on the post, and 1.75″ from the end of the beam vertically, 1.5″ in from the beam width-wise.

This is a mitred corner beam end, it will attach to the angled piece. 22 degree mitre cut.

Building the frame:

building basic frame



Basic top level frame:

basic top-level frame completed

basic top-level frame completed

I also took a wood file and filed down the mitred/angled corners so there wouldn’t be a rough edge sticking out.

Finally, because we couldn’t use a single sheet of plywood for the floor (due to our 5×5 dimesions), and to add extra support, we added a 2×4 as a cross beam.

adding a cross beam

adding a cross beam



We need to add the bottom-frame to make it more sturdy and the floor/deck to get the basic structure complete.  Then we can get on to the fun part of adding the climbing wall, plexi-glass panels, canopy, lights, guard rail, etc.  I can’t wait– this is going to be such a cool place for the monkey and his stuff!


In an effort to turn our finished basement into usable family space instead of a pit of brightly colored plastic toys, we’ve decided to turn one corner into a playroom for the munchkin. The challenge is for the space to be not only a great adventure spot for kiddos, but for it to also “organize” (aka hide!) a bunch of toys and make the basement someplace we can hang out as a family.

It started out pretty innocently– I was looking at kid’s furniture catalogs and websites for toy boxes, cubbies, table and chairs, the normal stuff you might put in a playroom. I ran across some school supply catalogs that had these neat “reading lofts” — basically elevated platform type things that double the space and provide a neat hide-a-way for little ones. Or, in my case, provide a nice “toy closet” for all the plastic junk on the bottom and a cool hangout on the top! perfect-o! too bad the price tag on one of these suckers is over $3,000 and this is supposed to be a budget re-do of the basement.

So, being blessed with a hubby who likes projects and building stuff, and a garage full of miscellaneous wood from other projctes–I measured the space, sketched out a frame on the back of an envelope, and headed to Home Depot.

Our “treehouse” as the munchkin is calling it, is going to be a 5 foot by 5 foot space to fit into a basement corner. We’re trying to use up scrap wood that’s in our garage, including some pieces of a climbing wall I bought years ago from a gymnastics gym that was closing. So, at the Home Depot, we bought 6″ long 3/8 carriage bolts, washers, nuts and two boxes of playground timber “gloves”– basically a cover that wraps around playground beams to keep kdis from getting splinters. (You can find the “gloves” near the DIY swingset kits. Defenitely not a neccessity for this project, but since they were on clearance for $5 per box, and each box has 2, I figure they’ll add to my tree theme and cover up the fact that we used 2×4’s screwed together instead of 4×4 posts).

Next up– how to build an indoor treehouse for a little monkey and just a little money! I’ll include pictures throughout the process so you can do it too!

Welcome to Cheerful Home!  This blog is just my way of keeping up with what’s going on in our house and sharing our fun with family and friends. 

There’s always a project (or two or three!) going on in our house, and I hope that by chronicling them here, we’ll be more likely to finish the projects and maybe inspire others to tackle their own project monsters. 

I’m also trying to be more green around the house, learn to cook, and find ways to build up our savings in these uncertain economic times.   Add a toddler to the mix, and I now understand why being a stay-at-home-mom is a full time job!

Please join in our fun!  Feel free to comment and make suggestions on our projects– what we did wrong, what could be better, what you liked, and what we should tackle next.

Hello world,

Cheerful Mama