Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To the Mountains We Go!

"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."  John Muir

I love this quote by John Muir, because isn't that exactly what it feels like when you go to the mountains?  Washing your spirit clean?  Purging your life, if only temporarily, of all the hullabaloo of everyday life?  

We just spent 10 days in the glorious and majestic Rocky Mountains.  For the record, I would like to mention that camping for 9 nights with a teething baby isn't necessarily the best idea we've ever had, but it was a much needed vacation nonetheless.  10 days without internet and cell phone signal (except for the few minutes we spent in Estes Park each day).  10 days without depressing news feeds and hectic work emails.  10 days where the only thing we worried about was keeping the kids safe from bears, cooking and washing the dishes, drinking in the beautiful views, and sleeping under the stars every night.

We happened to see lots of wildlife.  Our campsite had a bear that was practically a resident.  We didn't have any run-ins with the bear, although one day while we were gone we left our clean dishes out to dry and apparently he paid us a visit.

We saw lots and lots of elk.  I don't know if that's normal or if it's because it's getting close to their mating season.

We also saw several bighorn sheep grazing above treeline on the mountainside.

One day we drove up to the top of Mount Evans and on the way we saw some mountain goats.  They looked friendly and cute.  I guess in my mind I thought of them as sweet stuffed animals, but the truth is that they are wild animals.  But really, they are so cute.

My oldest ceases to amaze me.  For a 4-year old that hates bugs and dirty feet, he sure does love to go camping!  In fact as we were packing up the tent to leave he asked, "So when are we going camping again?"

I also wouldn't describe my son as being fearless.  He's quite the opposite.  He's terrified of beetles.  Terrified of being left behind.  When we go to birthday parties he likes to cling to my side.  But even the mountains had the ability to draw out the fearless adventurer in my son.

The entire time we were there he took the title of "King of the Boulder."  Every big rock we saw he stopped to ask, "Daddy, can I climb this one?"

We had several days of really lovely weather and were able to go hiking.  We hiked around Sprague Lake and Bear Lake, checked out some waterfalls and had a really beautiful picnic next to a rushing stream one day.  Had we known the very windy, cold, blustery weather that would strike the last 3 days we were there, we probably would have taken greater advantage of the nice days.

And sadly it turned very blustery the last few days.  I spent one day practically hiding out in the tent, which worked in my favor because my husband hid out in the hammock with the boys and I got to take an extended nap - which always improves moods.

The second day of cold, windy weather we ventured out.  While the mountains are beautiful in the summer, there's a special thing that happens when they're covered in rain and clouds.  Maybe it's the crocheter/wannabe knitter inside of me, but seeing the mountains covered in clouds made me want to build a log cabin on the spot and sit in front of a fire with a rocking chair and some wool.  It was almost like a fairytale; the clouds were so close you could reach out and touch them.  

As with all good things, vacation had to come to an end.  I was ready for the comfort of my bed and home.  14 hours in the car with two children later, we made it.  Back to 100 degree weather and sweltering heat.  Back to emails, phone calls, business ventures, and laundry piles.  Back to life.

I think we're ready to go back to the mountains.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toasted Coconut and Strawberry Chicken Salad

Salad, like spaghetti, is awesome for several reasons: 1.) It tastes good.  2.) You can make it different each time and it still tastes great.  3.)  It's easy to customize to your own personal tastes.  4.) Quick and easy meal.

This is one of our favorite meals to eat when it's hot outside.  It's so good that my kiddo will gobble it right up and ask for seconds, and my meat-eating man doesn't complain that it's and salad-like.

This is also one of the easiest meals ever.  You can prep ahead of time so that all you have left to do is cook the chicken and make your salad.

Step 1: Toast some almonds.
I used a 4 oz bag of sliced almonds.  Spread them on a cookie sheet.  Set the oven to broil and place the sheet of almonds on the rack in the middle of the oven.  Don't walk away because your almonds can go from toasted to burnt in a matter of seconds.  You may also want a long wooden spoon you can use to stir the almonds to help them toast more evenly.

Pull your almonds out at your desired toastiness.  I think for my oven this only took about 4 minutes.

Step Two: Toast some coconut flake.
I used a 7 oz bag for this and did it the exact same way as the almonds.  You will definitely want to stir the coconut because it will burn fast and toast really unevenly if you don't.

Pull your coconut out of the oven when you're ready.  Do be aware that this toasts up much quicker than the almonds.  If you can help it, don't leave the kitchen.  And stir, stir, stir.  If some bits do get more toasty than you would like, just pick them out.

Step Three: Slice some strawberries.
To feed 4 people, I usually slice up 1 quart.  But if you really love strawberries like we do, feel free to slice up even more.  

Step Four: Cut up your lettuce.
Unless you bought bagged, which is totally OK if you do.  My favorite to use is organic baby spinach, but this week I bought romaine to save a little money.  If you do have to cut your own lettuce, give it a really good wash and let it drain well before serving.  When I don't use the organic baby spinach, I try to cut up 1-2 heads of romaine.

Step Five: Cook some chicken.
However much you want.  Whichever method you prefer.  For 4 people, I would cook at least 3 breasts.  My favorite method is to grill the chicken, but if I'm out of charcoal or energy, then I might slice it up thin and give it a quick pan saute with some herbs or just salt and pepper.

Step Six:  Throw it together and enjoy!
You can toss it all together ahead of time or let each person make their own individual salad.  

Now, if you're wondering about the dressing...this is the dressing of choice.  In fact, this dressing is the reason that I made this salad.  I mean, don't get me wrong, the salad is delicious...but, it's still kind of an excuse to use this dressing.

I haven't played around with trying to imitate this dressing and honestly I don't plan to.  It's $3.12 at Wal-Mart.  And it's so good and perfect that I'm happy with buying it.

So that's it.  This makes a perfect weeknight meal or maybe a Sunday afternoon meal when you don't feel like putting forth too much effort.  It tastes as delicious as it sounds and as wonderful as it looks.  Play around with it, customize it however, and make it your own.  

I don't usually cook by recipes, so measurements here are just approximations.

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rugs #8 and #9 Complete!

I'm on a rug making spree this past week, mostly because I need to get several made up to put in a store to sell.  I just finished rugs #8 and #9 and feeling awfully proud of myself.   I seem to have the hardest time getting a rug project started - I think because it can be so time consuming.

Before you can even pick up your jumbo hook you have to find sheets that will work for your project.  100% cotton is the best, but a lot of sheets have a cotton/polyester blend which I find to be too thin and stringy.  And then once you've found a set of sheets that will work, you have to tediously rip it into "yarn" and then wind it up into a ball.  That part alone can easily take 1-2 hours.

But once I get started and make it past the first few rounds I am always pleasantly surprised.  It's a very easy project worked with a jumbo hook.  You crochet in the round using single crochet only and you just increase as needed.  Usually each rug will follow a slightly different pattern.

I like to put a crab stitch as the border, as you can see in the photo above, but sometimes I run out before I can do that.

Overall each rug can take anywhere from 5 hours and up.  Not too bad, I guess.   I have 4 in my house that are getting used and after a year they've held up thus far.  

I really love seeing the way that different patterns will translate into a finished rug.  I really enjoy the look on people's faces when they pick one up to take a look at it, and perhaps purchase it to put into their home.  That's really the most satisfying part of all - the end result.

Video Review: Coconut Milk Soap Scented with Coconut & Lemongrass Fragrance

I've been wanting to make some videos for a while now, but I don't have any video recording equipment whatsoever.  Except for my cell phone - yay technology!  So here's the first one in all of its humble glory.

I don't have this one listed for sale yet.  It has another week on the curing rack - but it's coming soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Am My Beloved's & He Is Mine

A few things about me, if you do not know me.  I crochet a lot - not as much as I would like to, because it's so time consuming.  I make soap and other bath and body products.  I like to dabble with making jewelry.  And I love photography.

Here's a photo that I took the day of my wedding - these were my bridesmaids bouquets.  My wedding was pretty much all DIY, down to the invitations, and these bouquets were done by a lady from my church.  They're extremely simple and romantic, just some baby's breath tied together with a big pink satin ribbon.  I took a photo of them while they were resting on top of a piano.  It may not be the most glorious photo, as it certainly is not, but I still like it.  I decided to throw one of my favorite romantic Bible verses on there to add something special to it.

Song of Solomon 6:3

This photo is available as an instant download.  It is for personal use only, but could be used for..well, whatever you would like it to be really.  Have it printed at a lab and framed.  Turn it into a note card, a thank you card.  Open it up in Photoshop and add some text and turn it into a wedding announcement or whatever.