Sunday, August 14, 2022

Hamilton Beach Artisan Breadmaker Review + Bread Machine Tips and Tricks


Well hello there friends!

Happy Sunday!

How is your August thus far?

Today is a post long over-due. 

We're going to chat about my bread machine.


I know, right?

I originally had planned on making a full review article, but scrapped that idea in favor of a conversational chat.

Back in January, I was sitting on the couch with my husband debating on a Target order. I wanted to get a four-slice toaster and we were browsing through the options. Side note, they had a cute, retro toaster I loved, but $100 for a toaster? 


My husband mentioned getting a bread maker, which is something we had wanted for a while. We started looking at those and quickly switched tracks. Suddenly, the toaster was put on the back burner. We found this Hamilton Beach Bread Machine on sale, with decent reviews. Before we made the purchase, I did a little research on what all I would need to go with it. Turns out, not that much honestly. Boxed bread mixes are a thing and yeast is not as intimidating as it may seem. Also, you can use pretty much whatever flour you want, depending on the recipe. 

So a few hours later, I was impatiently waiting for my order to arrive.

When it finally showed up, I couldn't wait to open it up and get baking! But of course, I first had to clean all the parts, run an empty bake cycle for 10 minutes, let the machine cool, and then clean all the parts again.

Once that was done, it was time to bake!

I started easy. Krusteaz makes Sourdough Bread mix and Hawaiian Bread mix. I purchased both and we chose the sourdough first. 

Oh was it delicious!

Everything we needed, aside from water, came in the box. I just needed to put the ingredients in and let the machine do its thing. 

The loaf was gone within the day and I set my sights on the Hawaiian bread.

Let me tell you, it was better than King's Hawaiian... and that's saying something!

After that, it was time to branch out on my own. I needed to test this machine out; put it through its paces. 

And I did.

2 lb. loaf French bread

1.5 lb. cinnamon raisin bread

2 lb. Brioche bread

But let me back up and chat about the bread machine.

This is the Hamilton Beach Artisan Breadmaker. It comes with the machine, the bread pan, the kneading paddle, a measuring cup, a measuring spoon, and a paddle hook. 

I can tell you, I've never used the paddle hook, but I have forgotten to put the kneading paddle in the machine. More on that in a bit. 

This machine has 14 cycles, including a quick cycle, gluten-free, whole grain, jam, and two express cycles.

There is an option for 1 lb., 1.5 lb., or 2 lb. loaf as well as three crust options. It has a delay timer and the door offers a window to see the bread as it's being mixed and baked.

One of my goals with this purchase was to never have to buy bread again. I can pretty much make any type of bread we might need.

I've made all sorts of breads with this machine, but I use the dough setting the most. It saves me so much time and effort. 

I've made bread, of course, but also breadsticks, hot dog buns, hoagie buns, biscuits, and I attempted to make donuts

Friends, don't make donut dough in the bread machine. It's a bad idea. 

About buying bread... here's the issue. We didn't buy bread for months, but recently we needed to. In order to make camp pies on the campfire, we need sliced bread that will fit in the iron. The bread I make in the bread machine is large, shaped like the pan. It just wasn't going to work. We also purchased hot dog buns, not because mine weren't good. They were delicious! The problem was they were too bready. 

So, unfortunately my dream of never having to buy bread again wasn't reality. There will be times we need to, but I can tell you it has saved us money -- we aren't buying loaves of bread every time we grocery shop like before; It's on occasion and I can live with that.

So, remember when I told you I forgot to put the kneading paddle in the pan? Yeah...

I've done it twice.

The first time, I had the pan in the machine and looked through the window of the door. I realized it wasn't mixing.

That was a mess.

I had to take the pan out of the machine and try to scoop the ingredients out as best as possible. I wiped the pan down, put the paddle in, and poured my ingredients back in, hoping for the best. The bread turned out just fine, no issues. 

I vowed to never forget again.

I forgot again.

But the second time, I was only halfway through putting the ingredients in, so it wasn't as bad.

Friends, don't forget to put the kneading paddle in. haha!

Okay, so you might be wondering...

What ingredients do I need to buy and have on hand for my bread machine?

You're in the right place. I'm going to list it all out for you.

Here's what I recommend keeping on hand:

  • Bread flour - this will be used for most recipes.
  • All-purpose flour - this can be used for some breads and biscuits. Plus, it's nice to have for anything else you want to whip up. Remember, the dough setting is your bff.
  • Sugar - you're going to need this for almost every bread recipe you come across.
  • Salt - again, you'll be using this a lot!
  • Yeast

Alright, I want to discuss yeast. When I was first researching, I came across this post from Denisa at Bread Newbie. It was incredibly helpful and I took her recommendations. 

I purchased SAF Instant Yeast and Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast. This was in January, and I'm still working my way through the SAF. I've only used the instant yeast for my recipes, following the instructions or figuring it out on my own with no issues. 

So what's the difference? 

Instant yeast doesn't need to be dissolved in water while active dry yeast does. However, when using active dry yeast in the bread machine, you don't need to dissolve it first. You just need to adjust your measurements. 

Bread Machine Diva gives these conversions:

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast = 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 teaspoon of instant yeast = 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Bread machine yeast is a type of instant yeast, so you don't need to buy "bread machine yeast" specifically. SAF is a favorite among bakers because of its strength, price point, and it works well for a variety of baked goods.

I agree, I love the SAF. 

Ingredients to always have on hand.

Other Features Worth Noting:

  • When mixing, the machine will beep 12 times, indicating it's time to add any extras you might want. (raisins, nuts, etc..)
  • The machine will beep 10 times when bread is finished baking. If bread is not removed, the machine will switch to a warm setting for 1 hour. The machine will beep again when the hour is up.

Extra Tips:

  • Always put the kneading paddle in the pan first. *It's worth repeating a third time. Trust me.*
  • Get in the habit of separating your salt and yeast when pouring ingredients in the pan. This is a good habit overall, but important if you ever decide to use the time delay feature.
  • Pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions on ingredient order and always follow it.
  • If your bread sticks to the pan and is hard to get out, use a rubber spatula to gently ease it out of the pan.
  • Keep unused yeast in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Label with the date and store in the fridge.

Other Baking Tools To Consider:

  • A French rolling pin. I love mine and it's easy to clean!
  • A dough cutter. This will come in handy as you branch out into making other culinary treats.
  • Extra measuring spoons and cups. We recently purchased these larger scoops and I'm in the market for another set of measuring spoons.

Tools to have on hand.

I may be a tad bit biased, but I think everyone should have a bread machine. It saves money, makes life easier, and there's nothing better than freshly baked bread, especially if you made it yourself.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

3 Easy Tips For Back To School Success


Happy August friends!

Well, it's that time of year again. 

Back to school.

Saying goodbye to carefree summer days and hello to more structured, busy days.

It's always busy around here, no matter the season. Is it like that at your house too? haha! But, over a decade of both online college classes and online school for my son have taught me a few tricks to make the seamless transition and ensure a successful year. 

Yep, I took a good chunk of my college courses online, and that was way back in the stone age my friends. haha! I remember telling one of my professors that I thought more classes should be available online and she was not having it. 

Just look at the plethora of online courses available now... many at the college I attended. How about that?

I have to say, I know online school isn't for everyone, but oh my the convenience just can't be beat! 

One of the reasons my husband and I felt comfortable and confident about our son attending an online school was the fact that I had experience in the area. 

He started in Kindergarten with Ohio Connections Academy and absolutely thrived. He's now entering his freshman year in high school with OCA. 

The years go by far too quickly.

If you want to know more about Connections Academy, I have several pieces written on the topic including:

An in-depth review

Things you should know before enrolling

Tips and tricks to succeed with online schooling

Today, however, is for everyone. These are my tried and true methods for easing back in to that school year routine. Let's grab a cup of coffee and get started!

1. A Solid Routine

Routines are one of the secrets to success, in my opinion; and this is true for all areas of life. Having that school time routine is of the utmost importance, especially if you value education. 

We are fortunate. Our household runs on my husband's work schedule, and the flexibility of Connections has allowed us to do that. My son is up early to start his school day. He gets going anywhere between 6 and 7 am, finishing no later than 1 or 2 pm, depending on his live lesson schedule. (Live lessons are simply meetings where his teacher and classmates gather for instruction. Think of it like going into a classroom for a specific course, just online instead of in person.) 

In order to get up early, we have a set bedtime. This includes myself. We are all in bed by 9 pm on school nights. The secret to this working, I think, is that I carry it into the summer. Unless we're on vacation, if it's a "school night," we're in bed promptly at 9 pm. 

I value my sleep people. haha!

But in all seriousness, I think this routine has prevented a lot of problems. Ensuring we all get enough sleep allows us to get up in time to start the day. Work and school come first. It's always been our rule that school work needs to be done, and done well not half-assed, before any fun privileges. 

Now, I'm well aware that this won't work for everyone. Many people aren't trying to turn in early over the summer. haha! About a week or two before school starts, get that bedtime routine down. Think about what time your kids need to be up and out the door and set your time accordingly. 

When the kids get home, think about the routine. If there are no extracurricular activities to worry about, maybe a snack and homework right away. If that doesn't work, maybe homework time after dinner. Figure out what works best for your family and arrange a routine that makes sense.

Equally important is the morning routine. I'll talk about planning ahead in a moment, but for this think about how much time everyone needs to get ready and get out the door. Starting your morning feeling rushed is a great way to have a shitty day. Make sure everyone is up in time to have breakfast, get cleaned up and presentable, and can walk out the door with everything they need to have the best day possible.

2. Plan Ahead

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

From a young age, I learned the art of setting myself up for success. I had chores to complete immediately after getting home, and then it was homework time. Each evening, I was responsible for packing my lunch for school and setting out the outfit I was planning to wear the following day. Anyone else have to get approval? haha! 

I've carried this with me into my adult life and let me tell you, it makes the morning so much smoother. My coffee is hot and patiently waiting for me when I wake up, so I can hop on my mat for an early yoga session. I pack my husband's lunch and get his lemonade ready the night before as well. All he has to do is grab his stuff before heading out the door. I even get my workout outfit out and ready before I head to bed. (It also helps when we have trips to take. I know everything is ready to go and I only have to focus on getting myself ready the morning of the trip.) As for my son, there isn't a ton for him to do. He makes sure his school area is cleaned up at the end of the day and sets his alarm for the morning. As a teenage boy, he lives in Hollister T's and shorts. If he's cold, he throws on a sweatshirt and gets started right away.

You can do the same to make your mornings more pleasant:

  • Have your kids prep their lunches or get their money put in their backpacks.
  • Make sure all homework is completed and in the backpack.
  • Have a designated area where ready-to-go backpacks are placed so they are easy to grab in the morning before leaving. 
  • Have your kids pick out their outfit for the following day.
Additionally, it's important to stay up-to-date on school events or classroom parties. Before school starts for the year, I go through the academic calendar and transfer dates to our home calendar. 
Over the years, I've taught my son the importance of looking ahead at his own school calendar and class syllabi - taking note of upcoming projects and knowing when quizzes and tests are scheduled. He's old enough now to take care of that on his own, but I still like to review it too. 

Try to stay as up to date as possible with projects and extra curriculars, taking note when anything additional is needed. 

3. A Quiet, Dedicated Space

If possible, store any supplies your kids will need for schoolwork or homework in one spot. Additionally, have a quiet spot where they can focus without distractions. 

Our den is our official school area. My son has a large desk that holds his laptop. He also has a smaller one to store his books, although as he gets older, there are less books. At this point, everything is online. He loves it. We also have two three-drawer organizers where he stores extra supplies. A large whiteboard covers one wall and is helpful for math problems, weekly goals, and reminders. Two smaller whiteboards sit under the window with notes, schedules, and other important memos. Having a dedicated space allows him to get in the mindset for school and focus on his work. 

This may be an option if your kids attend an online school. Some like having a designated school room, others may be more inclined to work in a comfortable spot, like their bedroom. It honestly just depends on what works best for your children and your family. 

These tips are also true for those who attend a brick and mortar school. Have a spot where your children can get their homework done. Back in the day, I loved putting my headphones on with my favorite CD, and I would lay on my bed to get my homework done. Sometimes I would sit at my desk, but I really enjoyed having the music and being comfortable. I got all A's, So, I'd say it worked out just fine. 

I hope you found that helpful. Is there something you do to prep for back to school time? Share it with us in a comment!

Have an amazing week!


Sunday, July 31, 2022

Coffee With Crimsn: Coffee Chat #20 - Achievement Unlocked


Hello hello!

Happy Sunday friends!

The final day of July is here. 

Back to school time is just around the corner.


I probably sound like a broken record, but where does the time go?

What a wild and sweaty month, huh?

I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger last time... The doctor's scale, my old nemesis.


The doctor's scale isn't my nemesis, that title belongs to the fan in my den, but that's a story for another day.

So, last month I was chomping at the bit to get to the doctor, especially after the devasting news from the Supreme Court... but we don't need to get into all that here. 

Suffice it to say, the doctor visit went very well. I'm so grateful to have a doctor who is on the same page as me when it comes to reproductive health. 

But what about the damn scale?

Well, I'll have you know that the doctor's scale was nice to me. In fact, it read out the same number as my Bwell Health scale. I know right? Amazing!

I have another appointment coming up in two weeks, and I'm determined to be 5 pounds lighter. That's what I've been working on this month.

Mid-month, we took a little staycation. Just slept in, watched This Old House and Ask This Old House, and hung out with my favorite family members. I didn't count my calories, didn't stress about the food I ate, and didn't care too much about my workouts. I worked out here and there, but nothing like normal. I also read a bunch of books and finished some projects. 

I didn't gain any weight and only lost .7 pounds. Nothing impressive, but I'm not upset about it. It was nice to sleep, that's basically all I want to do any time we take a vacation or have days off. haha! 

I'm close to my goal and I have no doubt that in two weeks, I'll make myself proud.

What about you? How was your July?

Leave a comment and let's chat.

Have a lovely week friends!


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

July Favorites - 2022 Edition


Happy Wednesday friends!

Grab a large mug of coffee, I have quite the list for you this month. 

Let's dive right in!

In The Season Of The Sun - Kerry Newcomb


It isn't often a book makes me cry, but this one tore at my heart. This summer has been a season of reading for me. I think I'm learning how to relax. haha! Anyway, while I was waiting my turn for other books, this one came to my attention. A western? Hmm... It's definitely not my normal reading material, but it isn't a typical western either. It is historical fiction, in a sense, which makes this choice not so unusual. It's set during the time of westward expansion in the US and it highlights a side that may have lived in the shadows for most of us Americans. 

In 1829, four families left Virginia for St. Louis and a voyage up the Platte River to an open land of big sky. Guided by a half-breed frontiersman named Coyote Kilhenny, the pioneers did not know that they had reached the end of their journey in an ocean of swaying grass. In an act of horrific betrayal, Kilhenny sprang an ambush on the people who had trusted him most. When the carnage was over, two boys survived. Two brothers, swept apart in the orgy of violence. One would go with Kilhenny. The other would become the adopted son of a shaman of the Blackfeet tribe. And in lives lived on the wild frontier, they both know pleasure, pain, loss, and loyalty. And they would come to know each other once again-as warriors, as enemies, as brothers with a last chance for revenge...

Sweet and Deadly - Charlaine Harris


Remember when I didn't think I'd be able to read anything else from Charlaine after Sookie? Well, let me tell you... I wish I could come up with these amazing stories like Charlaine. They're just so good! Of course, I was waiting for the second book in the Gunnie Rose series when I found this one. It's a mystery, full of twists and turns, and you'll never guess who the killer is. 

Now best known for her New York Times-bestselling Sookie Stackhouse novels, Charlaine Harris garnered an unusual degree of acclaim with her first novel -- the story of a murder that embroils a small-town reporter in a mystery that hits close to home.

Catherine Linton came home to Lowfield, Mississippi convinced that the untimely deaths of her parents in a car accident was no accident -- but nobody believed her. So she stayed, taking a job at the local paper, to try to both convince the sheriff that she was right-and maybe convince herself she was wrong. After all, her father had been the town doctor, loved (she always thought) by all. To think he was killed was to think that one of her friends or neighbors has harbored some deep resentment toward him. Then she finds the dead body of the women who had been her father's nurse for many years. Obviously murdered. Now Catherine knows that she was not wrong about her parent's death. Someone in Lowfield has a terrible secret, a secret worth killing for. Not once, not twice, but -- when another body is found -- three times. And the killer won't hesitate to add more victims to the list, as Catherine gets closer and closer to the truth.

The Abbot's Tale - Conn Iggulden


It's rare that you read a book so well-written and intriguing that you find yourself asking, is this fiction or real? That's exactly what happened to me with this one. It was so convincing, I had to double check. This novel tells the story of Archbishop Dunstan (Saint Dunstan) from his childhood to his rise in the church. It was fascinating and I didn't want to put it down. Just like Steve Berry, Conn included a fact section at the end, which I greatly appreciated. 

In the year 937, the new king of England, a grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to go to war in the north. His dream of a united kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field—on the passage of a single day.

At his side is the priest Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit (perhaps enough to damn his soul). His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome—from exile to exaltation. Through Dunstan's vision, by his guiding hand, England will either come together as one great country or fall back into anarchy and misrule . . .

From one of our finest historical writers, The Abbott’s Tale is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings—the man who can change the fate of England.

Nine Lives - Peter Swanson


The final book on my list this month. I actually just finished this last week. It was a quick read that kept me on the edge of my seat! 

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke - until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list. First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor.

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next....

Salted Caramel Fudge

It only took nearly a decade, but we finally found a farmer's market close to us. I have to say, it's nice to not have to return to a place you despise to find fresh produce. Even better? The market we found has a little bit of everything... enter this fudge. Honestly, it was like stepping into Amish Country without the 2 1/2 hour drive. We absolutely loved it and we plan on going back! We got fresh corn on the cob, zucchini, the best jalapeno peppers, coffee (see below), a freshly-baked sugar cookie, a massive bag of popcorn kernels, my favorite lemon drops, and this incredibly delicious fudge. It was so good.. my husband only got one bite out of the whole thing and I had it gone within two days. 

Scottish Grogg Coffee

I'm the coffee person in my marriage, no contest, but my husband likes a cup of coffee once in a while. He tried a Scottish Grog several months ago at work and raved about it. He's been wanting me to try it ever since. Well, at the aforementioned farmer's market we found a bag. It's everything he said it would be and more. I love it! It reminds me of the Fire Department Coffee Rum Infused, but not so overdone with rum. It's really good! If you love coffee, give this a try!

That does it for me friends.

What were your favorite things this month? Leave a comment and let me know.

Have a wonderful week! I'll see you Sunday for our monthly Coffee Chat.



Sunday, July 24, 2022

100 (More) Reasons To Workout


Happy Sunday friends!

And just like that, the final week of July appears. Where has summer gone? August is almost here, which means scrambling to enjoy those last moments of carefree sunny days before the kids head back to school. 

To round out our month of fitness, I wanted to share the ultimate motivation -- oh yes! Excuses be damned because I have 100 solid reasons you should workout. 

This is your proverbial kick in the pants for those days when you need it most. 

No one is motivated 100% of the time. Motivation is for casuals haha! 

All jokes aside, what separates the champions from the rest of the crowd is their discipline. 

As I said two years ago:

If you are solely reliant on motivation when it comes to fitness, you'll never reach your goals. It all comes down to prioritization and cultivating healthy habits. (and by now, we all know this. I'm very good at reminding you of it at least once a month. ha!)

But we all need a little kick in the pants once in a while, even the most die hard fitness fanatic. And today, in addition to starting my sentences incorrectly, I am going to give you, not five, not ten, not fifteen, but 100 reasons to workout. No fluff, no extras. Just solid, fantastic reasons to remind you that yes, you do in fact, need to get up and get your workout in today.

And you can quote me on that. 😉

*Be sure to save this post to return to on those days you need it most.*

So, get your coffee and let's dive in!

100. To honor the commitment you made with yourself.

99. Because these goals aren't going to achieve themselves.

98. Because you're THAT person.

97. So you can carry all your groceries into the house in one trip.

96. So you can outrun the zombies.

95. For spite.

94. To prove all the naysayers wrong.

93. To feel more confident in your clothes.

92. To feel more confident in your skin.

91. Endorphins. Need I say more?


90. To clear your mind.

89. To center yourself.

88. Because it's one of the few areas of life you can actually control.

87. Because it's fun to exercise!

86. To sweat out the toxins.

85. To boost your immune system.

84. To combat stress.

83. For a little me-time.

82. Seriously, it's called self-care.

81. So you can keep up with your kids, grandkids, pets.

80. Because consistency is key.

79. To inspire and motivate your family.

78. To inspire and motivate your friends.

77. Why not?

76. To prove to yourself that you can, in fact, do hard things.

75. To improve your strength.

74. To improve your flexibility.

73. To show your heart a little love.

72. To get the blood flowing.

71. To wake up for your day.

70. To beat the afternoon slump.

69. To wind down for the day.

68. Because self-discipline is sexy.

67. Because you know you'll feel better when you're done.

66. Because of the weather, whatever it's like today.

65. To boost your mood.

64. So you can feel badass.

63. To live longer.

62. To have more energy.

61. To improve your sleep quality.

60. To get your steps in.

59. To strengthen your willpower.

58. To strengthen your mindset.

57. To express gratitude for another day.

56. Because excuses are useless.

55. To reward yourself.

54. For the compliments. 

53. Because you are stronger than you think.

52. To lead by example.

51. For the gainz.

50. So you can take a sweaty selfie.

49. To improve your complexion.

48. To make yourself proud.

47. To show your body respect.

46. To make people stare.

45. To turn heads.

44. To earn your shower.

43. To stay sane.

42. So you can kick ass.

41. To be the best version of yourself.

40. To finally be able to wear that pile of clothes sitting in the back of your closet.

39. To make your dream a reality.

38. Just in case you run into an enemy or an ex.

37. To increase your stamina.

36. To strengthen your endurance.

35. So you can climb flights of stairs like a boss.

34. To strengthen your bones.

33. To spark your creativity.

32. For better posture.

31. To boost your metabolism.

30. To improve/increase your sex drive.

29. To lower your risk of all the diseases and illnesses you'd rather not have.

28. To improve digestion.

27. Because exercising is exciting!

26. To give yourself an attitude adjustment.

25. To keep your mind sharp.

24. To increase agility.

23. Because you are not lazy.

22. Because you won't regret it.

21. Because you have nothing better to do.

20. So you can be a better mom, dad, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, cousin, co-worker etc.

19. To tell gravity to pound sand.

18. To help eliminate cellulite.

17. To burn calories.

16. So you can listen to your favorite songs.

15. So you can listen to that new podcast or audiobook.

14. Because you're not a quitter.

13. Because.

12. For your future self.

11. To feel satisfyingly sore.

10. To get it done.

9. To change your perspective.

8. To create a good habit.

7. To own the day.

6. To be better than you were yesterday.

5. So you can open your own jars.

4. So you can lift heavy things.

3. Because it's part of your aesthetic.

2. So you never have to see day 1 again.


1. Because you can. 

Life is short. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but you are alive today. Get out there and crush it my friends!