Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Aleph" by Paulo Coelho

I always pick up books by Paulo Coelho, my favorite author.  So of course, I had to pick up Aleph.  I didn't think that I would like it.  It's one of his more mystical, spiritual books about his personal journey.  I don't feel like I can relate much to his other books along those lines.

Surprisingly, I really liked Aleph.  Although a lot of the book seemed a little spiritually foreign to me, it did have a lot of good quotes.

"In India, they use the word 'karma,' for lack of any better term.  But it's a concept that's rarely given a proper explanation.  It isn't what you did in the past that will affect the present.  It's what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future."

"We will always ask ourselves the same questions.  We will always need to be humble enough to accept that our hearts know why we are here.  Yes, it's difficult to talk to your heart, and perhaps it isn't even necessary.  We simply have to trust and follow the signs and live our Personal Legend; sooner or later, we will realize that we are all part of something, even if we can't understand rationally what that something is.  They say that in the second before our death, each of us understands the real reason for our existence, and out of that moment, Heaven or Hell.

Hell is when we look back during that fraction of a second and know that we wasted an opportunity to dignify the miracle of life.  Paradise is being able to say at that moment:  'I made some mistakes, but I wasn't a coward.  I lived my life and did what I had to do.'"

"Seek out people who aren't afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes.  Because of that, their work often isn't recognized, but they are precisely the kind of people who change the world and, after many mistakes, do something that will transform their own community completely."


Overview from Barnes and Noble:
In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in his much-beloved The Alchemist, Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again—to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.
Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before—and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, Alephinvites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Greensboro Greek Festival: September 20th, 21st, and 22nd

Don't Forget!!!

Greek Festival, Greensboro, NC
September 20, 21, & 22nd, 2013

COME ENJOY LIVE GREEK MUSIC & DANCING, AUTHENTIC GREEK CUISINE WITH INDOOR/OUTDOOR DINING, GREEK PASTRIES, AND GREEK MARKET & GIFTS.




FESTIVAL TIMES

Friday, September 20th - 11am to 10 pm
Saturday, September 21st - 11am to 10pm
Sunday, September 22nd - 12pm to 6pm


FESTIVAL LOCATION

Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church
800 Westridge Road
Greensboro, NC 27410
(Corner of Friendly Ave & Westridge Rd.)

For More Information Call (336) 292-8013


ADMISSION:

$1 at the door, Children under 12 Free
Keep your admission ticket for periodic drawings (Only during hours band is playing).

PARKING:

Parking is available at the Friendly Avenue Baptist Church (across Westridge from the Greek Orthodox Church).

All information above from http://www.gsogreekfest.com/

"Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc." by David Sedaris

I have always loved any work by David Sedaris.  His books are always humorous and thought-provoking.  And I love this he writes locally about North Carolina sometimes.  Of course when I saw "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc." in the best-seller's section at Barnes and Noble, I had to purchase it.

 David did not disappoint.  I couldn't put the book down.  And the chapters are fairly short, so it's easy to pull that "Well let me just read this one last chapter before I go to bed card" and stay up way too late.  I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, loves to read about NC, or loves David Sedaris.


Synopsis from Barnes and Noble website:
A guy walks into a bar car and...
From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.
Sedaris remembers his father's dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy.
With Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris shows once again why his work has been called "hilarious, elegant, and surprisingly moving" (Washington Post).

"Raising My Rainbow" by Lori Duron

Last weekend, Pete and I went out for our normal post-date night Barnes & Noble trip.  While I was browsing, I picked up "Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son" by Lori Duron.  I've never seen a book of it's kind before and thought it would be so interesting to see how parents learn to accept and handle raising a gender non-confirming child.

I thought that Duron wrote a great book.  I can't imagine all of the struggles that she goes through, but it seems like her family has adjusted well and are a beacon of acceptance and unconditional love in their family and community.  It brought my awareness to her blog and I've been periodically checking it out.

I'd recommend this book to anyone raising a kid.  If your child is not gender non-conforming, it gives you an opening into the world of parents who are dealing with it.  It allows you to see that these parents are loving their child and supporting him in the best way that they can.  And I would like to think that most parents would do the same, but that's not always true.  I believe parents should read this and teach their kids not to hate, not to ridicule, and to stand up against those that do.


Synopsis from the Barnes & Noble website:

Raising My Rainbow is Lori Duron’s frank, heartfelt, and brutally funny account of her and her family's adventures of distress and happiness raising a gender-creative son. Whereas her older son, Chase, is a Lego-loving, sports-playing boy's boy, her younger son, C.J., would much rather twirl around in a pink sparkly tutu, with a Disney Princess in each hand while singing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi."
   C.J. is gender variant or gender nonconforming, whichever you prefer. Whatever the term, Lori has a boy who likes girl stuff—really likes girl stuff. He floats on the gender-variation spectrum from super-macho-masculine on the left all the way to super-girly-feminine on the right. He's not all pink and not all blue. He's a muddled mess or a rainbow creation. Lori and her family choose to see the rainbow.
   Written in Lori's uniquely witty and warm voice and launched by her incredibly popular blog of the same name,Raising My Rainbow is the unforgettable story of her wonderful family as they navigate the often challenging but never dull privilege of raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

"And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Barnes & Noble and saw "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini in the Best Sellers section.  I've read two of his other books, "The Kite Runner" and "A Thousand Splendid Suns."  I loved those books, so I knew I had to pick up this book.


Synopsis from Barnes & Noble's website:

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

This was a great book that I would recommend everyone picking up.  The beginning of the book is about an event that happens that shapes the entire rest of the book and all the characters in it.  Each chapter is told by a different character and you can see how the event in the beginning shaped their lives.  It's interesting to see which characters Hosseini chooses to write about also.  You start off each chapter wondering who is going to be telling you about his/her experiences next.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dirty Dogs Self Service Dog Wash Review

On a cold March Saturday, we decided that Grits needed a bath.  It was way to cold to wash him outdoors and we hate cleaning up the mess when we give him a bath in the house.  Wiping up wet dog hair out of the tub and vacuuming up tons of dog hair after we dry him off is not our idea of a good time.  We had passed by Dirty Dogs Self Service Dog Wash in Greensboro several times and Pete had been dying to try it out.  Now seemed like a good time.


For $20, we could take Grits to a self-service dog wash and have someone else clean up the mess.  We have to pay for our city water (which isn't cheap), so I'm sure we would have spent at least $10 in water usage at our house alone, still had to pay for the cleaning items, and would have had to clean up the mess ourselves.

The place was very cute when they walked in.  They have a very clean and welcoming entrance.  They have dog beds, leashes, and the biggest assortment of adorable dog treats that I have seen in Greensboro so far.  The staff welcomed us as soon as we came in the door.  They took us through each step of the process, told us what order to use the products, and were willing to help us if needed.  Prepared with that knowledge and the protective aprons they gave us to wear, we were ready to go.


First, the staff helped us put ear cleaning foam in Grits's ears. We've cleaned his ears out before, but never with foam, so the staff help was appreciated since we don't want to do anything to damage his ears.


Pete's favorite part was that he didn't have to lean over our bathtub to wash Grits.  It ends up killing his back with the constant leaning over at home.  The tubs were very spacious and can accommodate large dogs.  They even have risers to put in the tubs for the smaller dogs so that you don't have to lean over and hurt your back to wash them.


"HELP ME!!!"


You can use as much of the products as you need to clean your dog. After shampoo and conditioner, it was time to finish cleaning out his ears with the specialty ear cleaning wipes.  The foam helps loosen up any "yuck" that may be in your dog's ears.


Next up was time to clean his teeth.  This time the staff came in and helped us clean his teeth because he had recently had his teeth cleaned and dental surgery, so we didn't want to injure him.  The toothbrush was pre-loaded with toothpaste in the plastic wrap, so once it was wet, it activated the toothpaste.


After towel drying Grits, it was time for the drying station.  Once again, they have all of the products you need in each station, already cleaned and ready for use.  While we were drying him, dog hair was flying everywhere.  This is where the $20 is really worth it.  If we had done this at home, we would have been the ones cleaning up black dog hair off of every surface.  The staff made sure to constantly vacuum around the stations while people were drying their dogs.  They said that this keeps down the dog hair that could fly everywhere.  Completely worth the $20 just for that alone.


The picture above was mid-drying.  When Grits was all dry, he looked so fluffy.  He normally doesn't look fluffy because he's a lean greyhound.  So this was pretty neat to see him looking kind of plump.  Unfortunately, I didn't take an after picture.  Next time I will.

We also got to spray him down with one of the scents that they have.  I really LOVED this scent and it didn't make him smell too frou-frou.  It was a nice "masculine" scent for a dog.  I might need to buy some of this just to keep at home for a "freshener" between baths for him.


And Grits's favorite part about the trip?  Once he was nice and clean and glad that the process was over, it was time for a treat.  They have a variety of treats for sale.  I really wanted a doggie cannoli for him, but we ended up being a little more economical and buying him a bag of homemade all natural peanut butter dog treats they were selling.  But I really couldn't get over how cute the treats were.



Overall, we loved this place.  We felt so welcome there by the staff and appreciated their help when needed.  You can tell that they really do care for dogs and enjoy seeing them.  The only suggestion Pete had was for a longer "bathtub" leash for Grits since he is so tall.  Grits was having to bend his neck down a little during the bath which looked a little uncomfortable.  I'm sure if we asked for one, the staff may have been able to provide us with a leash extension.  We'll have to check with them next time when we go in.  We will definitely go back here for all of his baths from now on.  It's so easy and not having to clean up the mess was the biggest benefit for us.  I've already heard that several friends are planning on taking their dogs there as well, so I can't wait to hear how their visits went as well.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Delicious Bakery Review: Pete's Birthday Cake

From our wedding cakes to birthday cakes, we always had Ganache Bakery in Greensboro make our cakes.  Our favorite was their "Black Cow" cake: layers of chocolate cake with cream cheese icing covered in ganache.  When we found out they closed, we were devastated.  So, we resorted to Harris Teeter decorated sheet cakes for a while.  Here's a not-so-healthy fact about me: I love what I call the "lard icing."  Don't give me that whippy stuff.  I love that thick, make-your-teeth-fall-out buttercream icing.  But you can only do so much with a Harris Teeter or Food Lion sheet cake.  My husband is the greatest and he deserves a spectacular cake.


I saw one of their cakes on Facebook (to be exact, it was THE cutest sleepover birthday cake, ever!!!).  If they could do something that elaborate, surely they could add a little something special for Pete's birthday cake.

I went into the store on Wednesday to check out their cakes.  I am not a fan of dry cakes at all and if the cake part tastes nasty, no amount of icing in the world can make it taste good.  The piece of cake I tried at Delicious was moist and tasted great with the vanilla buttercream icing that was on it.  I was sold.  To counter my not-so-healthy fact about me, here's a healthy fact about Pete: he loves sushi.  Not just loves, but LOOOVVEEESSSSSS sushi.  I asked them if they could put maybe three little pieces of fondant sushi on the cake.  I wasn't expecting anything too big or elaborate.  Just a little extra something.

Fast-forward to this afternoon.  When I went to pick up the cake, my jaw almost hit the floor.  I was not expecting what the cake looked like.  Chopsticks?!?!?! Wasabi?!?!?! Is that ginger?!?!?!  Little rice sprinkles?!?!?!  The cake took my breath away.


Delicious Bakery went above and beyond what I had envisioned the cake to look like.  The chopsticks and the wasabi are what threw me over the top.  Their attention to detail is amazing.  Several people thought that the chopsticks were real.



Ok, so it looked cute. That doesn't mean anything if it doesn't taste good.  In order to try to replicate our "Black Cow" cake from Ganache, I ordered the cake with chocolate layers, cream cheese icing, and covered in Ganache.  It tasted wonderful.  The cake was very moist and I didn't see any leftovers on anyone's plates.

I wish that I had taken a picture of Pete when he saw it.  He had such a big grin on his face.  Heck, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when I picked it up this afternoon.

Everyone raved about the cake, and I will definitely order from Delicious Bakery in the future.  I'm already thinking up random excuses to throw a party and random cake ideas. Finished kitchen remodel party, anyone????

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Made By Girl Giveaway

So Much To Smile About is featuring a Made By Girl giveaway on her blog through March 1...one of the famous LOVE prints.  I am dying to have two of these for our master bedroom.  Enter to win over at the blog.


Good luck!  And of course, let me know if you win.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Hardcore" Guitar Pick Holder

I love Bath & Body Works candles and the glass jars with lids that they come in.  However, I don't like throwing them out and wasting them.  I'm always looking for new ways to reuse glass items.  I've had this projects on the books for a while, but didn't have time to do it until this past week.

I started out with a used candle jar from Bath & Body Works.  This is one of the smaller sized jars.  By the way, if you haven't tried the Peach Bellini scent yet, it smells soooo good.  And I don't even like peach smelling things.


To get the candle wax out, we just pop the jars in the freezer and let the wax harden.  The candle wax generally comes out very easily after that.  The stickers peel off easily and then we just give the jars a good scrubbing to get the remaining wax reside out.

I told Pete that we needed to go to Michael's so that I could get some items to make something for his room.  I was told that I could only make it if it was hardcore.  Hardcore it is....

I picked up a sheet of silver scrapbook paper, some scrapbook letters, and some scrapbook skull stickers.


I cut measured the paper and cut it to fit inside the jar.


Next, I added my embellishments to the scrapbook strip.


Once I put the strip down in the jar, I secured each end of the paper to each other with tape.  I also had to trim the top off a little because the jar has a plastic seal on it that wasn't fitting properly with all of the paper at the top.

And here's the finished product:



 Yet another way to reduce, reuse, and recycle your used candle jars.

"The Men On My Couch" by Dr. Brandy Engler

I went to Barnes & Noble about about two weeks ago because I had a gift card burning a whole in my purse.  B&N gift cards don't last very long with me.  While I was walking around, I picked up The Men on My Couch:  True Stories of Sex, Love, and Psychotherapy by Dr. Brandy Engler.  It looked pretty interesting.  She interspersed different clients (each one a chapter) with tales of her own love issues.  I will admit, I wasn't that crazy about this book.  It was a very quick read, but not as fascinating as I thought it would be.  If you want to read it, it's definitely one of those "pick up at the library" books rather than a "must buy" book.


Here is the overview from Barnes & Noble's website:

WHAT MEN WANT. WHAT MEN FEEL. WHAT WOMEN NEED TO KNOW.
When Dr. Brandy Engler opened her sex therapy practice for women in Manhattan, she got a big surprise. Most of the calls were from men. They wanted to talk about womanizing, porn addiction, impotence, prostitutes—and most of all, love.
Her patients were everyday guys from all walks of life. Among them were David, the Wall Street hotshot and compulsive womanizer; Charles, an introvert who kept pushing away the fiancĂ©e he thought was too beautiful for him; Paul, the self-made man who visited massage parlors despite his sexy wife; and the men’s group whose stark revelations about male anger and their search for the right woman will open your eyes. In The Men on My Couch, Dr. Engler allows readers inside those private sessions to witness her exciting and evocative encounters with what men desire and fear.
Dr. Engler tells her own story, too. At first her patients’ revelations are painful and disconcerting, especially against the backdrop of her own difficult love affair. Yet Dr. Engler lets readers experience how she evolves both professionally and personally, from chagrin to compassion, and reconciles her idealized notions of love and sex with the unexpected and raw truths she hears in the office.
The Men on My Couch is unlike books you’ve read before. There are no tired facile conclusions or pejorative generalizations. Here are fresh insights into modern sexual maladies, gleaned from real people having real struggles and experiencing real epiphanies—in the real world.
This book will change how both women and men think about love, sex, and desire.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kale, Pineapple, and Almond Milk Smoothie

First and foremost, I found out yesterday that one of my favorite magazines, Whole Living, will no longer be published.  I received a check in the mail from Martha Stewart Omnimedia that said it was for a cancellation of my Whole Living subscription.  When I called them to find out why I had received the check, they said that the January/February issue was their last issue.  Then I got a message on my Kindle stating that they are going to try to incorporate certain aspects of Whole Living into other Martha Stewart Omnimedia magazines.  So sad :(

One of my favorite things about Whole Living has been their healthy recipes.  I am planning on doing their Whole Living Challenge from previous years later this month.  In the meantime, I thought I'd check out some of their smoothie recipes.

I had most of the ingredients on hand to make the Kale, Pineapple, and Almond Milk Smoothie from Whole Living.



Kale, Pineapple, and Almond Milk Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup packed chopped kale
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup diced pineapple (I used frozen pineapple because I really wanted that nice frozen texture)
1 banana

Puree ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Only 3 Weight Watchers points!!!


Here are the ingredients in the blender before I mixed them:


Here is how it looks after mixing it:


Review:
The smoothie was surprisingly good.  I was worried about mixing the almond milk and the pineapple juice together.  In retrospect, I would have probably blended the pineapple juice and kale together first before adding the other ingredients.  If you are trying to get a good consistency and keep blending (which is what I normally do), the almond milk gets a little too frothy when over-blended   Also, I would leave out the banana.  I like bananas plain, but not added in smoothies.  It overpowered the pineapple, in my opinion.  When I make this again, I will most likely add more pineapple in place of the banana.

I would probably also slightly freeze my almond milk and pineapple juice.  I really like a cold frozen smoothie texture.  It makes me feel like I'm eating dessert instead of veggies and fruit.

It also said that it makes two servings.  I filled a standard glass up and still had about 1/4 cup left over.  This would probably make a great size adult meal serving instead of two servings.  If you are only drinking it as a snack, it is definitely enough for two people.

I supplemented my smoothie with some Lacinato kale chips.  I had some extra kale left over from my smoothie and didn't want it to go bad.


I liked using the Lacinato kale instead of the curly kale this time.  Although I do love the fun texture of the curly kale, this kale cooked more evenly since it was flat.  I lightly brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled it with sea salt.  I baked it for about 10-15 minutes in a 325 degree oven.  Here's a picture of my finished product (please excuse the crappy cell phone pic):


If you try this recipe out, please let me know what you think of it and any modifications you plan on making to it in the future.  I always love to hear other opinions.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kale Fruit Smoothie

When I weighed myself on Tuesday morning and logged my weight into my Weight Watchers app, I ended up losing 2 points per day.  While that's great because it means I'm losing weight, it's not so great in terms of watching what I eat.  I'm going to have to cut those 2 points out of my daily diet.  Smoothies and juices are a quick, delicious, fun way to get some fruit/veggies in while keeping those Weight Watchers points low.  And tonight, on my busy Wednesday nights, I was DYING for some Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets (also another quick, delicious, fun way to eat something, but not as healthy).  Damn you, chicken nuggets!!!  I didn't have the points allowance left for the day to get what I wanted at Chick-fil-A (hey, that kind of rhymed), so I headed home for a date with the blender.

Pete bought a juicer after watching "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead" a little over a year ago.  He was juicing religiously and feeling great.  However, I couldn't find a combination of fruits/veggies that I was satisfied with that didn't taste like I was drinking grass.  Alas, our juicer kicked the bucket within two weeks and got returned to the store.  We took a juicing class, got to try out different types of juicers, and are trying to bring ourselves to drop the money on the juicer we want (more on that another day).  But in the meantime, I have a perfectly functioning blender that I can use to whip up healthy smoothies.  I've been making them for over a year, pretty much with the same ingredients.  I usually include only fruit, but have been trying to reintroduce some of those veggies that we used while juicing.

I try to keep frozen fruit in the freezer that I can use to quickly whip up a healthy dessert smoothie if I want instead of reaching for ice cream when I want something cold.  So, the only thing I had to purchase this week was some kale.  Here is what I used below:

Kale Fruit Smoothie
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 1/2 cup (estimate) frozen strawberries
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped kale (I used Lacinato kale)


Don't hate on my closeup of my crappy chopping skills.  Pete doesn't know I was in the kitchen after "Disposal-Gate 2013."***  Fortunately, I don't think he reads this blog.

Because the strawberries are frozen and need to a little more time than the other fruits/veggies to get chopped up, I put those in first with the orange juice.


Once those were well blended, I added the frozen pineapple and the kale.


All done!  It looks like confetti in the glass.



It blended very easily.  I could have left out some of the orange juice (maybe only use 3/4 cup next time), because it made it a little runnier than I would have liked.  I like mine so thick that you have to eat it with a spoon.  However, if you are on the go and drinking this out of a straw, this was the perfect consistency.  I pre-chopped the kale prior to putting it into the blender and the blender chopped it up into such fine pieces, that the texture was undetectable.  I could barely taste the kale.  As I go along, I am going to add more veggies to my smoothies and take more of the fruit out to find a perfect balance that I can enjoy without it tasting like grass.

For an easy 3 Weight Watchers points for the whole glass, this filled me up, made me feel healthy, and allowed me to have a light dinner before going to bed.  And after sacrificing those two points because of my weight loss, I still had two points left over after this smoothie that I didn't use.

If you have a favorite smoothie recipe, please share it! I'd love to try out new recipes.

***No disposals were hurt in the making of this smoothie.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Christmas Card Reuse

In our home, we do everything we possibly can to reduce waste, reuse items, and recycle.  We're trying to do our best to keep the trash down in landfills and reuse as much as we can without items having to go through the recycle center which will lead to extra money spent on these items to have them recycled, extra water used, and extra electricity used.

I keep all of our photo cards which ends up being most of our Christmas cards.  I was left with a few decorative Christmas cards. And some of them were so cute, I wanted to find a good use for them instead of putting them in the recycle bin.

The easiest thing I could think of was to make Christmas gift tags out of the cards.  We reuse gift bags as long as possible (keep out of the landfill), but we end up with gift bags with used tags.  When I pull the tag off, I need something new to put on the bag without putting something on that would stick and leave residue.  I pulled out a few of the cards that I thought would be easiest to make tags out of.


I then cut out the pieces that I thought would make great gift tags.



To put on the bag, I just punched a hole in the gift tag, and cut a tiny slit that I could use to slide onto the handle.


This was a very quick, under 5-minute project that helps out the environment.  Next year when January rolls around and you're ready to toss those cards, think of ways that you can reuse them instead.  Do your part to help the environment and leave this planet in the best shape we can for our children.



Friday, January 11, 2013

Homemade Kale Chips

I've made homemade kale chips before and they are such a quick, healthy, satisfying snack.  They give me the crunch and the salt that I feel like I am missing from a potato chip.  Here is how I make kale chips:

Ingredients:
1 Bunch of Kale
Olive Oil (I use Whole Foods brand because it's a good olive oil and cheap at only $5.99 for a big bottle)
Sea Salt
Himalayan Seat Salt (purchased from Target)


Wash and prepare your kale for cutting.


To cut, I like the flip the pieces over face (or curly side) down.  It allows me to get to the stem better and cut on both sides of the stem to maximize the amount of kale I am getting off each piece.


Once ready, place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with approximately 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Do not put too much oil on the kale or it will make your chips a little soft instead of the crispy crunchy chips that I like.  I add a little bit of Himalayan sea salt which gives them a slightly different taste than regular sea salt.  Mix well with your hands until all pieces are coated.


Once coated, spread the kale onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet (I use parchment paper under everything for easy clean up) and sprinkle with a little bit of regular sea salt.  I like to bake my chips at 300 degrees.  If you bake them at a higher temperature, the edges of the chips will cook and burn faster than the inner portion of the chips.  I try to cook them as evenly as I can.  Put them in for 10 minutes and then just keep an eye on them after that.  I try to make sure that all pieces are nice and crispy before I take them out.

Once I take them out of the oven, I like to eat them hot.  I don't generally let them cool too long before I put them in a bowl and start snacking.


They're a great healthy snack that is easy to make and low points (the only thing that counts is your olive oil) on the Weight Watchers plan.

If you've made homemade kale chips before and would like to share your recipe or tips, post them in the comments below.  I'd love to hear what kind of spices you might add to yours or any tricks that you use for getting them crispy and not burnt all the way through.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

From Southern Charm to DIY School Marm

I will admit that my home decor has come a long way in the past few years and my dining room is no exception. What I envisioned as something I coined "Southern Italian" (I'm from the south, Pete's family is Italian) turned into a HUGE failure of a red dining room that I had problems matching accessories to along with a hodge podge of hand-me-down furniture from family.  And part of the "Southern" portion of the dining room was a huge picture of magnolia flowers.  While it reminded me of my grandmother's house and her beautiful magnolia tree, I do have to admit that it was a little cheesy piece of wall art that I picked up from Kirkland's.

After years of trying my best to work with the red color scheme, I'm ready for a change.  I realize that I'm not one of those people who can paint color on the walls and still be okay with it five to ten years down the road.  I like neutrals.  I like to throw in a pop of color here and there and then take it down four months later when I am sick of that color and want a change.  The dining room that we so painstakingly painted in 2004 is getting a face lift this year.  Along with it, home accessories are being re-purposed into fresh new pieces for our home.  One of those items is the magnolia print.  This picture was taken in 2004 not too long after we remodeled the room.  You can see the magnolia print on the wall.

I decided that I wanted a chalkboard and that the frame was perfect for what I was looking for.  The back of the picture was covered in plain brown paper and we carefully cut that off.  Pete pulled out the staples that held the picture tight in the frame and the magnolia print was now loose.  The back of the print was a perfect flat plain surface in which to paint.  I had some leftover chalkboard paint from another DIY project.  I covered the flat back of the magnolia print in four coats of the chalkboard paint.  Each coat dried pretty quickly.  I did leave the chalkboard in the kitchen to dry for 2-3 days just to make sure everything was good and set.  I put the print back in the frame with the chalkboard side now facing out. The magnolia print was still safe on the other side if I ever decided I wanted to display it again (which would probably be never).

And it sat.

And sat.

And sat.

In the bay window of the kitchen where ALL of our sun comes into the house each day from morning to late afternoon.  The magnolia print on the back quickly faded from the sun's heat and rays.  I planned on hanging it in the kitchen and writing our dinner menu on it.  The key word was planned.

So it sat some more.  Until I used it for a newborn photo shoot.

And then it sat some more.

And then one day I decided that I wanted to spruce up the hallway that leads from our entry, beside the stairs, and into the kitchen.  It also houses our laundry area under the stairs.  And I found the perfect space to put the chalkboard.

Please excuse my dark grainy instagram picture

And so it lived there on my wall.

Blank.

For several months.

That was until I saw a DIY Dollar Store Tray Chalkboard on Tonya of Love of Family & Home's blog (while you're there, check out her beautiful home!).  She was even kind enough to include the graphic for readers to replicate her tray.  My chalkboard is much bigger than a tray and without an overhead projector, I had to freehand it (pardon my lack of snowflake drawing skill).  But thanks to her inspiration and lovely fonts, I finally got to use my chalkboard as decoration for our home.


It still looked a little bare for me.  I went outside and cut a few pieces of greenery off of our Leland Cypress trees and tucked them behind the frame.


It could probably have used a little more greenery, but I was happy with the quick 20 minute transformation.


It's something that I can keep up for a few more weeks and then easily change for different holidays.  It's so much prettier and more versatile than the magnolia print.  I'm already thinking of ways that I can decorate it for Valentine's Day.