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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My 30 Day "No Soda" Challenge - Part 2

OK, it's only been 4 days.  Surprisingly, these first 4 days have been pretty easy.  I've only had a few moments where I thought, "Oh man, I could really go for a cold soda right now."  Somehow I managed to stay in line and not give in.  Whew, narrow escape.

So in 4 short days I've noticed  2 pretty big changes:
1.) I'm sweating more.
2.) My face is shinier.

In regards to sweating, you might be thinking, "Well duh, it's July.  Everyone sweats."  Well actually, yes, but at the same time, not so much.  While drinking soda, my body was more than likely so dehydrated that I hardly ever sweated.  Seriously.  Yes, I would get a little sticky while working in the garden, but my body never worked up a really good sweat like you would expect.

I noticed this evening, just while working in the kitchen and cooking dinner, that I was sweating pretty good.  You might think it's gross, but I felt like it was a small victory.  If so inclined, you can Google why sweating is good for your skin.  Some say it flushes toxins from your body.  Some say your pores open up and dirt is released from your body.  Some say it helps increase your metabolism.  I'm not going to go into all of that and cite sources - feel free to look it up for yourself.

On to number face is shinier!  Already!  And also a lot softer, which might go back to sweating a lot more.  And who doesn't want a healthy, shiny face?  I hate wearing make-up, because I hate putting it on and then having to take it all back off.  So when I have healthy, glowing skin that looks good enough to not need make-up, well, that's a self-esteem booster right there.  I can actually say that I feel prettier today.

That's all for now.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Frozen Meets Grumpy Cat

For the record, I love the movie Frozen.  I equally, if not a little more, love Grumpy Cat.  Naturally, I had to put the two together.  Even as much as I love that movie, I have kind of reached my limit with "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"  It's everywhere!  Facebook.  Twitter.  Pinterest.  My son's mouth.  My head.  My mouth.  I fall asleep singing it at night and wake up humming it in the morning.

I think every time I hear even the tiniest sliver of this song, my face automatically goes into Grumpy Cat mode.  Even if people don't see it on the outside, I can feel it on the inside.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

My 30 Day "No Soda" Challenge - Part 1

I'm addicted to Pepsi.  I don't know what it is, or why, but you know how coffee drinkers need their morning cup of coffee?  I need my daily ice cold Pepsi.  I wish I were a coffee drinker, because then perhaps I would be addicted to coffee and not soda and surely coffee is a slightly better alternative.

I've actually given up soda several times in the past, but there seems to always be a stressful situation hat triggers me falling right back into the old trap.  I've never documented my challenge, though, and it's hard to remember what life was like soda-free when you're in the midst of a glorious, delicious, carbonated gulp.

Please spare me all the articles, comments, and details about how bad soda pop is for you.  I already know.  And yes, even with knowing, it hasn't prompted me to change.

So why the change now?  Honestly, there are several reasons.  One, I am about 40 lbs. heavier than when I got pregnant with my first son.  And when I think about diets, workout regimens, and all the healthier choices I need to make, I get overwhelmed and just want to crash and burn that baby before it even gets started.  So I have to do this in bite-size pieces and naturally, the first step (and probably easiest for me) is to give up soda.  I can manage this one change.  Baby steps, I tell myself.

Second, I've just been feeling like crap lately.  I've been on a soda binge big time and my skin is icky, I keep breaking out with acne, I can't sleep at night and then when I do get a full night of rest I still feel exhausted and lethargic in the morning.  I'm grumpy, cranky, and irritated.  I feel awful about my self-image and my self-esteem is in the dumps.  Need I go on?

Last, my soda habit is costing me a lot more money than I realize.  I tried to not keep Pepsi in the house, because then I drink it too much, so I would easily spend $1 a day to run somewhere and get a $1 Pepsi.  When we went out to eat and I ordered a soda, that was at least $2 right there.  Add up those bills here and there and I'm like, "Well crap, I could have bought that spinning wheel by now."  Or that new laptop.  Or whatever expensive thing I have my mind set on at the time.

So thank you internet and blogger for the ability to document my challenge.  I told myself I would stick with it for 30 days and post updates on how I feel, or how I think my body has changed, and then after 30 days I could make the decision to stick with it or go back to my old stinky ways.

I'm hoping that by 30 days I will have lost a little bit of weight and it will motivate me to keep going.

I won't post daily updates, but just as I notice changes or something of significance.  All right...bottoms up, you dear glass of water.  We are going to be really good friends for the next 30 days.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gone A Pickin': 8 Blueberry Recipes to Try

Here's a confession I'm a little embarrassed to make after today's ventures: I have never eaten fresh blueberries right off the bush, until today.  I quickly became addicted, so much so that I went picking twice in one day.

Here in southwest Missouri we have several little gems that are called U-Pick farms.  Some places might have strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries, but the majority of them are blueberries.  Basically, a land owner has several - a couple hundred - blueberry bushes and they charge a flat rate per pound for you to come and pick your own berries.  In my area it ranges from $2.75 to $2.95 per pound.  I'm not sure how that compares to grocery store prices, but the blueberries from the grocery stores are so nasty and uninspiring that I am willing to pay more per pound.  Some of the farms will even "buy" the berries from you, so you could essentially pick blueberries for free if you picked enough, or if you're not that interested in blueberries you could make a little extra pocket cash.

In about 1 hour I am able to pick about 7-8 lbs, depending on how heavy the bushes are and depending on how big the berries are and the variety.  The first farm I visited had very tall bushes with very fat blueberries.  I think I could have easily picked 10 lbs in an hour.  However, the second farm had a smaller, more compact variety and the berries were about half the size.  It took a lot longer to fill my bucket with the small berries.

Anyways, I only spent about an hour at each farm today and brought home well over 10 lbs of fresh blueberries.  I would have had more but I had my boys with me and it's kind of hard to pick quickly when your 4-year old is whining and freaking out about harmless beetles.  Sigh.

So what the heck am I going to do with 10 lbs of fresh berries?  Well, I already ate several handfuls.  That was pretty easy.  And delightful.  And now I'm going to freeze the rest of the 28 cups or so to save for cooking and baking, and save some to turn into Christmas presents when the time comes.

I went in search of some blueberry recipes and found 8 that I am going to try.  I found all of these on, which happens to be my go-to site for recipes.  All of the photos are taken from the All Recipes sight.  None of these are mine.

Blueberry Pie
Todd's Famous Blueberry Pancakes
Blueberry Lemon Loaf
Blueberry Sauce
Actually, now that I look at all these recipes, I am beginning to think that I don't have ENOUGH blueberries in my freezer.  Welp, I guess I know what I'm doing next week!  

If you want to find out if there's any U-Pick farms near you, just go HERE.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Cutest Bag on the Block: Vintage Linens Turned Market Tote

This was a random stumble while I was browsing through Etsy one day.  I am so in love with this idea, this shop, and her bags!  I absolutely cannot wait to order one!  Not only is a great idea for upcycling vintage linens, but she has great taste in which linens she chooses and how she pairs them together.  A bonus is that each one is fully lined and reversible, not to mention her shop (fairly new) has great reviews.

I love the special touch of the tags - she has the original linen tag combined with her branding tag.  Cute, huh?  And cool to see where your linens came from.

I mean, I am a little jealous.  It's such a cute, eco-friendly, brilliant idea.  Why didn't I think of that first?  OK, so I can't even sew and I'm not going to try and learn now.  I will just enjoy buying this bag and carrying it everywhere I go.

Kudos to Made For You By Me on Etsy.  Brilliant.  Beautiful.  Eco-friendly.  Bold.  Fashionable.  Simple. WONDERFUL.

Check out these favorites of mine:


Guess what else?  She has more than just totes in her shop!  Check out these cuties:

Vintage Linen Hoop Art
Vintage Linen Bunting
All photos property of MFYBM (Made For You By Me) on Etsy.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I Be Thrift Shoppin': Pretty Little Haviland Teacup and Saucer

I saw this on the shelf and it was instant love.  I don't own a fine china set, but it's on my list of something to get when...well, when the timing is right, I guess.  I would love to have a set to pass down to my children.

I love china.  I love the patterns you can find.  I love the colors and the quaint details, like the delicate curvature of the handle, the pleating and ribbing on a plate or cup, and the fine detail work of the design.

Haviland is a pretty popular name in the world of fine china.  If you'd like to read up on the history of Haviland, you can check this out.  

I am not expert appraiser when it comes to pottery, glass, or porcelain pieces.  I have no idea if this is authentic or a knock off.  I cannot find anything online that is similar to this pattern, except for a candy dish on Etsy for $20.00.  That listing didn't have any information on the history of this pattern, either.  I have no idea if it's a newer pattern or an older one.

It has a lovely floral motif done with blue branches, mint green leaves, bright yellow, orange, and red flowers.  Both the plate and the cup each have 1 single butterfly.  There is "gold" on the rim each of the saucer and the teacup, and the handle on the teacup also has some "gold."  

Both the teacup and saucer are pretty symmetrical, from what I can tell.  And the design is very pretty and neat, not sloppy at all.  

Here's a look at the backmarks.  I found several examples of antique backmarks online, but didn't find this one exactly which makes me think it is either a very modern pattern (2001 or newer) or a knock-off.

This is one of my favorite details about this set - look at that dainty ribbing!  The saucer has the exact same ribbing to match.

In the picture above you can see the butterfly.  This will certainly be a display only piece.  It does have 1 little chip around the rim of the teacup, but that's OK.  I'm not a diehard collector.   I just like it for its pretties.  

I got this set for $4.

Dining Room Decorating Total to Date: $7

Sunday, June 1, 2014

From Ugly Ugly to Shabby Chic Pretty: White Paint Is Awesome

Anytime I use or hear the word "awesome," it is in the Legos theme song.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, just Google it.  You're welcome and I'm sorry.

Moving on...

White paint is awesome.  I have kids, so it is my least favorite color.  I see people decorating in a sort of monochromatic, all white scheme and I admire it to heaven and back.  No siree, not in my house.  Maybe when the kids are grown, but for now...oh lawdy...I think my 4-year old would take a stark white wall and turn it into a Crayola masterpiece.  Too bad decorating in all black would be creepy and dark.  Can I just chalkboard paint everything?  That sounds kid friendly.

I cannot do all white, at least not everywhere.  What is it about all white, anyways?  It's so simple.  It looks clean, crisp, and refreshing.  It seems to have the ability to draw out certain details and make them the star of the show.

My ugly "bless our home" sign is the perfect example.  I just posted about this a few days ago.  It was a $2  thrift store find.  The second I saw it I thought, "Wow, that is hideous."  But then right after that thought, an even better one came in to mind: "That would look perfect with a coat of solid white paint!"

So I took home that ugly $2 sign and bought a $4 can of Krylon Fusion white satin spray paint.  No sanding or priming needed.  Thank you, Krylon.

Several rounds of thin coats and 30 minutes later, I do believe I like how it turned out.

Is this the most awesomely, amazing, brilliant upcycling you have ever seen?  Pfft.  Hardly.  

However, as simple as it is, I do hope it will inspire you to start looking at old, ugly items with new eyes.  Paint that ugly duckling and turn it into a swan.

By the way, this will be going in my dining room.  I plan to paint the walls in Glidden's Almost Aqua.  The stark white of the sign will really pop against the beautiful blue color.

Oh, and for the record, that $4 can of paint still has plenty left in it.  I think enough to do a mirror I found at a garage sale recently.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Be Thrift Shoppin': Cute Little Sugar Dish

I'm a sucker for cutesy little things like sugar dishes.  I miss the days where ladies had guests over for afternoon tea.  Can we bring that back?  I don't know if it would be nearly as much fun without all the fancy dresses, carriages, petite snack cakes, and all that general romance of days gone by.

I picked this up for the color and the design.  It's nothing fancy - no markings on the bottom of this piece.  I have no idea what country this was made in, or if it was made yesterday or 30 years ago.  It's a lovely sort of mustard yellow and stands about 4" tall by 3.5" wide.

I think the lid is my favorite part.  It's decorated all around with that pretty little pointed tip.  I also love the handles.

I found this cute little sugar dish at the DAV on one of their 50% off sales.  Originally $3, marked down to $2, so I got it for $1.  Even if this never gets used as a sugar dish, I would say it's well worth $1.

Dining Room Decorating Total To Date: $3