Thursday, December 29, 2011

Curly Girl

I've had curly hair forever.  My dad's hair was naturally curly, but all my life he's been bald.  When I was little the women at church would look at my curls and say, "Oh you have your father's hair!"  I would look at my daddy and think I literally had his hair, since my daddy was bald.

Growing up, I hated my hair.  My sister has this beautiful head of thick STRAIGHT hair!  She can get that cute little bob haircut that I always wanted.  I used to drag a brush through my hair to try and make it look straight.  Of course, that just made me look like I was wearing a brown cotton ball on my head.  My mother's favorite school picture is the one where I was too sick to fight her about my hair.  I had missed the first picture day because I had strep throat.  On make-up picture day...I had strep throat again. (a year ago I had my tonsils removed)  My mom made arrangements to take me to school through a side entrance just for my picture.  I didn't feel well, so she got to do my hair and make it look natural.  It was the one and only elementary school picture where I didn't have a forced part on the side of my head because I had brushed and brushed and brushed.

My hair has often been the bane of my existence.  I've had trouble finding hairdressers because although it may be 6 inches long when you cut it, my hair will sproing to a 2 inch tight spiral as soon as it's dry.  A hairdresser has to be able to anticipate that.  It's also incredibly dry.  I've used tons of special shampoos and even bought really expensive shampoo, conditioner, and styling products before the boys were born.  But even with special potions, my hair was still hard to manage, dry, and humidity killed it!

Then I found curly girl.  I actually learned how to take care of my hair from a group on www.Ravelry.com.  Ravelry is a knitting and crochet community.  My girlfriend told me that there is a group on Ravelry just for those with curly hair.  That's where I found curly girl.  As you can see from the picture above, I still have my curls, but I don't have the frizz any more!

I learned the details of caring for curly hair from this blog post.  But here's the summary:

  • I "wash" my hair with suave coconut conditioner.  I scrub my scalp and hair and then rinse the conditioner completely.
  • I put in Garnier Nutrisse triple-conditioner for dry/damaged hair and leave it in while I finish showering.
  • I only partially rinse out this conditioner.
  • When I get out of the shower, I don't use a towel to dry my hair, and my hair stays pretty wet.
  • I add lots of suave Max #8 gel to my hair and scrunch it into my wet hair.
  • I let my hair dry naturally and I don't touch it.
  • Once my hair is completely dry, I scrunch out the gel.


Using this method, the humidity doesn't turn my head into a frizzy mess.  I get thicker curls with this method too.  Long story longer...I actually like my hair!  I haven't really liked my hair for most of my life.  It only took 40-something years, right?  So, I wonder, do you all like your hair?  Let's weight in on this.  Am I the only one?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trying to eat with a Penguin...

Penguin is our very spoiled, less than one-year-old puppy.  He loves to wrap himself around your shoulders like a cat would.  One night, the Big Dog was trying to eat a snack and our Penguin wanted to know what he was eating.  The video above are the results.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Traditional After Christmas Soup

Tonight we had the soup I usually make shortly after Christmas.  You see, our traditional Christmas dinner includes a Cornish game hen for each of us.  When the meal is over, I take all the bones, fat, and skin from the hens and pile it into the crock pot.  I add the tops of some celery, an onion (with the skin) sliced in half, a couple carrots snapped in half, two garlic cloves, and a small palm-full of peppercorns.  Then I pour cold water over all of it to fill the crock pot and turn it on low for 20 hours.  After cooking, I strain off all those solids and I'm left with a beautiful rich broth.  That goes into the refrigerator so the fat can solidify on the top.  I remove that fat and I have an almost fat-free beautiful rich broth.  That is the basis for our traditional after Christmas chicken noodle soup.  I'm not a traditional chicken noodle soup fan, so I thought I would share this with you because it's really good, if I must say so myself.
Remember that fat that I spooned off the top of the cooled broth?  I start with a couple tablespoons of that and melt it over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Then I add two carrots, two stalks of celery, and an onion roughly chopped. I sautee this in the chicken fat for at least 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the veggies are soft.  Then I add two minced garlic cloves just for a few seconds before I pour in the chicken broth and the leftover chicken (maybe about 2 cups).  THEN I add two regular-sized cans of cream of chicken soup.  Tonight I used the 97% fat free variety.  As the broth gets warm, the cream of chicken soup melts into it and thickens it slightly.  Oh, I also add a large pinch of salt and several twists of the pepper grinder.

Once this is all boiling, keeping it at medium heat, I add an entire bag of noodles.  Tonight I had rotini noodles that were various veggie colors (green, orange, red, and regular pasta colored).  Usually I use a bag of egg noodles, but I didn't have any tonight.  Spaghetti noodles broken in half or in thirds would be great too.

After about 5 minutes the pasta is cooked enough and SO flavorful and your soup is ready to serve.  Both of our boys had four servings.  No that is not a typo.  The boys had four servings tonight.  Give it a try!  It's such great flavor.  What are some of your traditional holiday meals?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Good News Bad news


We had a bit of bad news last week. The fireplace insert we have been using for many years is not able to be repaired. We have supplemented our expensive oil heat by burning wood in a fireplace insert that blows the hot air through our small home keeping it quite comfortable. Well, by the end of the week, the insert had been removed and we had an empty fireplace. So what did we do? We made lemonade!



You've heard that saying, right? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade? We got a few large jars from the cafeteria at my husband's work; washed them; and placed a small pillar candle in the bottom of each jar. Here's the non-romantic pic:


Ah yes, but HERE's the money shot:





For a few dollars in thrift-store pillar candles and five free gallon-jars from the cafeteria, we have a very lovely look for our now-empty fireplace. I think I like it! What do you think?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Take Pictures of Christmas Lights with an Inexpensive Digital Camera.





Each year we kick off our Christmas season with a trip to see the "Sweet Lights" in Hershey. Since my dad works as an EMT for Hershey Entertainment, he gets to be part of an employee preview a week before Thanksgiving. He graciously takes the Big Dog, the boys and I to see the sweet lights during that employee night.

We have an inexpensive digital camera that is a few years old. And I LOVE the light displays at Christmas time. SO I needed to figure out how to take quality pictures of the lights. If you want to know how I did it, I'll tell you:



Our camera has a scene setting. It is marked as SCN on a dial at the top of the camera. When the camera is set to scene, there is a sub-menu that you can scroll through on the screen. If you would like to take pictures of the lights at Christmas, choose "fireworks" from that sub-menu.


Now, when you take a picture on this setting, you will have to be REALLY patient. You click the button to take the picture and then the shutter stays open for a really long time to capture the picture. DON'T MOVE! Hold your camera as steady as you can until the picture is taken. You may think that something has gone wrong with your camera. It hasn't. Hold your arms still and keep them pointing at your object. After several long seconds, you will hear the camera take the picture and see the image on your screen.



The seconds it takes to take the picture seem like an eternity, but do not despair. Keep your arms as steady as you can and your camera pointed at the picture you want and you will be rewarded. This is the best way I have found to take pictures of especially low-light situations. And, as you can see, I get pretty good results with light displays. Give it a try!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Love Notes

I was finishing a load of laundry after everyone had gone to bed. I was tired and just wanted to have this chore finished. And then I stopped all I was doing. There was a message for me on our basement floor. Yeah doing the laundry isn't so bad after all.

Reduce, Reuse, Re-recipe

I was sitting at the table while Big Mac was finishing up his math. I had a few recipes on the table and a new magazine. Of course, when you flip through a new magazine, you end up with a bunch of those little subscription cards all over the table.



One ongoing project for me is to take all of the recipes I have and put them onto cards that will fit into my wooden recipe box. It's a slow process and I'm not great at getting through my hundreds of recipes. But tonight, those little subscription cards gave me total inspiration! I could use these perfectly-sized cards for my recipes.



A few minutes later, after cutting the recipes and pictures and pasting them onto the cards, I had a pretty attractive recipe card and I didn't have to use a notecard, or throw away a perfectly good piece of cardstock!



So, reduce, reuse, re-recipe and put those sub-cards to good use today! Here's my ending result:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Supper tonight





This was tonight's supper. Stuffed pepper soup in the crockpot and my Weight-Watcher's-ified Rachel Cresent Sandwiches. The original recipe is here. But my version used fat free thousand-island, reduced fat shredded cheddar, and reduced fat crescent rolls. Oh, I also used leftover turkey from the roast turkey I made last week instead of the lunchmeat. It came it at 7 WW points for 1 serving if you cut the 9x13 casserole into 8 pieces.




The stuffed pepper soup came from a recipe from my dear friend Robin. Add all of this to your crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours:


1 bottle v8 juice


1 box beef stock


4 large peppers, chopped (when chopped they use up about 1/3 of a 12-cup crock pot)


1 large onion, chopped


salt & pepper


2 pound ground venison (you can use ground turkey, or beef)




A one-cup serving is only 3 weight watcher's points!




And the double-bonus is that I got to use my new plates again! This time, for soup and sandwich night.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thrift Store...uh...Sunday?





I did get to go to my favorite thrift store on Thursday. The Big Dog was home with me and we dropped the boys off at youth group and had a date! It was lovely. I got a bunch of candles, another pair of dressy earrings, and these luncheon plates with cups:




I just really liked them and thought they were sweet. The mug sits in a special spot that has been marked out just for it. I had visions of putting muffins and tea on them for an afternoon tea-time; or maybe a sandwich and small cup of soup in that sweet little glass mug.


Fast-forward from Thursday to last night, Saturday. I had been away with my knitty friends for the afternoon. I put supper for the Big Dog and the boys in the crock pot and they ate a late lunch. So by the time I got home a little after 6 PM, everyone was hungry. I brought chips and salsa home and was planning to just put out a stack of paper plates and the snacks. Then, Big Mac said, "We sould use our new plates!" And THIS was his idea:




Salsa in the mug and chips on the plate. These little luncheon plates are PERFECT for this snack.


I have seen these plate sets at the thrift store in the past. Maybe you can find a set for you and your family to use for snacks, sandwiches OR chips and salsa!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michael Vey



I received a copy of the book "Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25" by Richard Paul Evans to read to the boys and review here. This book had us riveted from the very first chapter. It is definitely an adventure fit for our boys, but any student loving a good adventure where good triumphs over evil will love Michael Vey. This book has clearly defined good and evil characters, which I love. I'm disheartened to see where popular media has taken beloved heroes like Spider Man and shown them flawed, selfish, or whiny. So anytime we can read a book where you know clearly who the good guys are and they accept their tasks with bravery and courage, I'm a fan.

I am a fan of Michael Vey. Richard Paul Evans has written a nail-biter. This is a book that you will want to flip to the last chapter just to make sure it all works out ok, but don't do it! The plot unfolds at just the perfect rate and you will be pleased with the ending. But the ending leaves you anxious to read the next book. And there will be a next book.

If you're a homeschooling parent, or older student, there is a great homeschool packet (57-page PDF) at http://michaelvey.com/ But this book totally stands alone as a good read and is not a homeschool-based book. This is just a neat supplement that can allow you to use the novel as a learning experience.

So, if you know me at all, you know I'm a quote collector from everything I read. I collected four from Michael Vey, but I'm going to share two with you now:

page 260: "You don't really nave to be smart to get good grades. Just good at what they tell you to do."

page 279, my favorite quote: "I was filled with gratitude for my unseen friends and I learned that harboring an emotion as powerful as gratitude has power of its own."

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25 is available at all major booksellers. Get a copy and read it with your pre-teens or teens. It will get you talking. It will get you reading. It will get you together. There's nothing better than that.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of "Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25" in order to review it here on my website. I did not have to give a positive review. This is my true opinion. We all loved this book.

FFH's Christmas Albumn

Aroung our house, I'm not allowed to listen to Christmas music until AFTER Thanksgiving! So, when I received a copy of FFH's new Christmas Albumn to review, I had to sneak a listen before Thanksgiving. I'm so glad I did. This has been my go to Christmas albumn ever since I received it.

Filled with a combination of secular and Christian Christmas music, "One Silent Night" is enjoyable, entertaining, and also uplifting. There are a couple songs that I would love to use as part of a Christmas worship set. There are some of my secular favorites like "Baby It's Cold Outside" mixed with songs about Jesus' birth that will become your new favorite's for the season.

FFH has a facebook and a twitter presence. So if you are a fan of their beautiful blends (of which there are MANY on this new Christmas albumn) then you should find them and friend them. I have been a fan for years and 'One Silent Night' is just another reason to be an FFH follower.



















"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Fun!

I received a downloadable copy of Brittany Hargest's new albumn 'Love All the Way' to review. All I can say is SO FUN! I loved this CD. The music is uplifting and inspiring, but also very danceable and entertaining. If you know someone who is into pop music, they would love this albumn. But 'Love All the Way' is also inspiring, so giving it to a music-loving friend would also give them encouragement in the Lord.



This is a great albumn that I thoroughly enjoyed. It will be on my ipod for a long time to come. It's really great walking music because most of the albumn is so upbeat. If you want a sneak preview, check her out on Youtube.



There is also a

Facebook Page and Twitter Account for you to get to know Brittany better. She was formerly with Jump 5 and this albumn has a bit of that fun feel to it, but it is definitely more mature.


Finally, get your copy of this CD on iTunes You'll be glad you did!










"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegetable Tart



I saw this recipe in an email from our grocery store and I had ALL the ingredients for it, so I gave it a try. It was so good! This is a little bit of a variation from the original, so mine didn't look EXACTLY like the version above, but I assure you, it was delicious.


Autumn Vegetable Tart

6 cups of assorted fresh vegetables. (I used 2 C. broccoli florets, 1 sliced onion (about 1 C.) 1/2 a sliced red pepper (about 1 C.) and baby carrots cut into quarters (about 2 C.))

3 T. Extra virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 large cloves of minced garlic

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 refrigerated pie crust

15-oz fat free ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/4 grated parmesan cheese, plus 1 Tbs.

dried rosemary


Toss veggies with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, tossing once. While the veggies are roasting, roll out the dough to an almost 12-inch diameter. I rolled it right on my big round stone baking pan. Mix ricotta, parmesan and one egg really well. Spread that mixture onto the pie crust leaving a 1 inch ring around the outside of the pie crust. When the veggies are done, spread them evenly on top of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the 1 Tbs. of parmesan cheese. Fold the outer ring of pie crust up to make a crimped edge around the outside of the tart. Put back into the 425 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven the last time, drizzle 1 Tbs of the olive oil over all. Cut into wedges and serve.


This was even good cold for lunch the next day!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"New" Curtains in the Kitchen




Disclaimer: This is not an original idea! I know I saw this idea somewhere in the blogosphere, but I can't remember where.



I recently changed the valances in our kitchen. I found several vintage aprons on a recent thrift store trip to add to my collection. I love aprons and wear them on particularly busy-efficient-gotta-get-stuff-done days. I have a collection of them that I work my way through during the week. But when I saw the idea to use aprons as curtains or valances I had to give it a try.



So a few weekends ago I took down the old valances I had made from tea-towels, wiped down the windows and sills, ironed my aprons and pinned them to the curtain rods. I used wooden clothes pins to attach the aprons to the rods. The pictures below don't do them justice. They're really cute! (if Ihave to say so myself) Check 'em out!





Here are two of them over our kitchen sink. This window looks out over the "screaming porch." Most normal families would call it a screened-in-porch.


This is our kitchen door. It's the door we use the most, and leads out into the mud room and then into the driveway.






And finally, this is the window near the kitchen table. All of these aprons I bought for a few dollars total at thrift stores. I spent a little time deciding which aprons go together the best and ironing them. So for a few bucks and even few hours I have a new look in my kitchen. And I love it! What do you think?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday at the Thrift Store



It's Thursday. I love Thursday. On Thursday afternoon's the boys go to "Edge" which is a youth group/gym time. They spend two hours playing games and being active, as well has having devotions and, sometimes, worship. I spend two hours visiting my favorite thrift store, having a latte and squeezing in an errand or two. Want to see what I got today?


All the cute novelty buttons you see here were $.75. I just love them. There are some cute strawberry themed buttons, a set of fall buttons with leaves, birds and bird nests. A complete package of flowers with two flower pot buttons. And another set called "wedding" that have a sage green color running through them. They are very beautiful. Oh, and there was one Beatrix Potter "Peter Rabbit" button that I just couldn't pass-up. It was too sweet!




Next, I got the "Roll-o-Ruler." This is the coolest ruler! It has a rolling bar on it. So say you want to draw two lines that are two inches apart. You draw the first line and then you roll the ruler backward or forward and watch the measurments tick-off on the rolling bar until you get to two inches. Then you draw another line. And voila! You have two lines two inches apart.


THEN I got the movie Sleepless in Seattle. I'm a sucker with any romantic comedy especially if it has Meg Ryan in it. I watch You've got Mail about six times a year, at least. So this was a good addition to my movie collection. I also got four votive candles and two brand-new pillar candles. Now that the days are shorter, it cheers us all to light candles all around the living area of the house. Getting candles inexpensively at the thrift store allows us to burn even more!


I got these three plates. I just LOVE the pattern. I wish they had four, but they didn't so I took what they had. And they were only $.25 each! These are little saucers, but I'll use them to serve muffins for tea or maybe a few cookies.


So far, so good right? I got a bath mat for $4. I forgot to take a picture of it, but it's a cotton bath mat with light blue, dark blue, white and yellow stripes. It's kind of beachy. It's one of those that doesn't have the rubber backing on it so you can wash it to your heart's content without having it fall apart! Yay! I was just telling the Big Dog that I wanted a new mat that didn't have the rubber on it. We priced them at Wal Mart and they were at least $15.


Finally, just for me, and just for fun....these earrings. I LOVE them! They make me smile. They're surprisingly light in my ears and they DO make a statement, don't they?
So have you snagged any good bargains lately? Have you wished for something and had God provide it for you on the shelves of a thrift store? Share! Share!