Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Selfies

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Okay, so I admit it. I'm a selfie taker. I like taking pictures and then editing them with different photo effects. This is one I did last night that I really like. I think I'm channeling Marilyn Monroe with the pose? I don't know what I was doing here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why buy Handmade?

Today on Etsy, someone posted a question that drew a hoard of responses - all equally correct, and beautiful. Why buy handmade?

Well, let me first tell you my reasons.

When you buy something handmade, you're buying a story, a part of a persons life, a joy, and sometimes a memory. When you support the handmade market, you're not lining the wallets of wall street, or the big corporations. You're helping enrich the lives of people who want to create beauty in the world - and to share that beauty with others. Handmade is so much more than someone "making" a craft item - it's love, and passion, and the desire to do something more with our lives than just be a statistic for a company that doesn't see it's employees as people - rather as numbers. That is what handmade means to me.

Another fellow artist from HotOffHerHook.etsy.com said, "To support small and/or local businesses; Handmade is so very often 'bettermade' than machine made, in its look, texture, and feel; Materials chosen to be used in handmade are often of superior quality than those used for machine made." She is right. Handmade items are made with love and care. Artists don't source the cheapest material to make the most profit. Most artists LOSE MONEY when selling their hand made items. Making an item means more than profit. It's taking pride in what one makes with their own two hands.

Annette from RescueMyRacks.etsy.com said, "My goal is to upcycle/recycle items that were bound for a landfill and give them new life. Instead of buying new wood, use what is already out there." Upcycling and repurposing in the handmade world is a big deal. We're not wasteful people. We save scraps because some day, we might be able to incorporate it into another project. We see beauty where others may see trash. Repurposing old furniture, old clothes, hell, even old toys is all part of what encompasses the term "handmade". Keeping things beautiful while preventing unnecessary waste is key. Leave a mark on the world, but leave a better planet for the next generation.

If I drive to a big box store right now, I'm not going to have that same euphoric feeling I do when I buy something made by someone elses hands. I don't get that happy feeling I would knowing my money is going to a mom working for extra money to buy her kids a gift, a dance lesson, or even something special for herself. I won't have that personal experience that I've grown to love on Etsy dealing directly with the maker of a special treasure. There is a unique one on one feeling you get when you deal with an artist. They CARE about making you happy. They WANT you to love their hand made items.

There is history in creativity. Paula from www.etsy.com/shop/PTurnbullandBishop said, "Traditions, making things the way it was done so many years ago. Keeping the craft tradition alive and passing it on to others. Native American style beadwork like ours where every stitch must be kept inside the leather because bags didn't have linings sewn in them. Items that other sellers make isn't just a craft but it was a way of life years ago. The Blacksmith, the Rug maker, the cobbler or the Furniture maker. These days with such a throw away attitude it is great to have such a wide variety of quality handmade items in one place."

So, this is why you should support hand made. Care where your money goes. Care about the people behind the product. Care that you're going to be receiving something that can be treasured and loved for generations. Handmade is made with love.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pretty things

I'm back! Well, sort of. I seem to have spurts here, don't I? Well, I reread my last post here and wow, there was some ddddrrrraaaammmmmaaaaa going on. I'm still at my same job. There were many, many, many changes that happened in the past 6-9 months. All good changes. I'm feeling much less stressed, and much more trusting of "the system" these days. Of course, nothing is ever "perfect" - but I'll leave perfection up to God, and the Universe, and for dreaming. I will say that I'm happy. Happy is a good place to be.

There comes a point, when it's not that you don't care anymore, you just can't. I think that's where I am. People have said this to me, and I think it rings true, that I care too much about things. I take things very personally, and I become very invested and emotional about situations, people, circumstances, etc. Much of my stress and anxiety is linked to this. So, to save myself and my health - as Elsa would said - I have to Let It Go.

You can't please everyone, all of the time. Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to agree with your opinions, or suggestions, or even your choice of shoes. And you know what? That's ok. It's not your business what others think of you, or how they feel about you. I know that sounds harsh, but honestly, think about it. Why do you care what everyone else thinks about your choices? If you care about that, then you're living for them, not yourself. Let It Go.

Now, we'll see how much I "let it go" when it gets crazy busy around here again. Time will tell. :)

But lets talk about something I love. Food. There is a blog that I follow - That Winsome Girl - she has awesome photography skills, and I would love to make every single thing she posts about. Infact, this chili recipe is going to be made this weekend in my house. http://thatwinsomegirl.blogspot.com/2015/01/paleo-chunky-sweet-potato-chili.html

BJ and I made a version of meatloaf last night that was absolutely delicious. We've made this only a handful of times in the past few years, but last nights version turned out so perfectly. We make "Ham Loaf". It's a combination of that smokey salty spiral ham with ground pork. This is what you do:

In a food processor, grind up enough ham slices to equal about 1 lb of ground spiral ham. Combine this with 1 lb of ground pork in a very large mixing bowl. To that you will add 1 cup panko crumbs, 2 tbspn spicy brown mustard, 2 large eggs, 2-3 tbspn milk (yes, milk. Go with me here.) 2-3 tbspn maple syrup, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flake, and dill. You will need one small can of crushed pineapple. Strain this as well as you can to get as much juice out as possible. Reserve the juice in a medium heavy bottom pot. Once strained, dump the crushed pineapple into the mixture. Now, get your hands dirty. Smash all these ingredients together with your hands until completely combined. Transfer meat mixture into a loaf pan, or free form it on a lined greased cookie sheet. With the remaining pineapple juice, add to it a squeeze of spicy brown mustard, and 1 tbspn or so of brown sugar. Mix thoroughly, and boil on stove until syrup is thick and creates a glaze. Pour this over the meat loaf, then place meatloaf in 350 degree oven for AT LEAST 1 hour, or until the temperature reads 165 degrees. If you want this to be a bit sweeter, add in store bough pineapple cherry ham glaze to both the meat mixture, and to the juice reduction. This gives it a beautiful flabor as well.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Changes, like seasons

So, work has been keeping me pretty busy. Busy, not in a good way. There have been so many changes recently, honestly, I'm still reeling from them. Right now I'm in the midst of making one of the hardest choices in my life. Do I stay, or do I go? My husband and I both agree that, eventually, this place is going to kill me. Heart attack is probably the biggest fear right now. Last winter my doctor ordered a heart monitor for me. Between being over weight, and having a very high stress job - those things combined are a very deadly cocktail. Over the course of 5 years, I've had to be put on anti anxiety medication, anti depressants, I've begun drinking more than I normally did before working here, I've gained a ton of weight, I've stopped doing the things I enjoy doing because I'm exhausted **all. the. time.** - Fall used to be my favorite season - now, I dread it. Fall means people in the building industry lose their minds and are cramming in all their projects "right now, Right Now, RIGHT NOW!!!" before the snow flies, which adds to an already stressful job. I stepped down as inside sales manager because of stress. But, the stress just trickled back down into my old position. But... the other side of this is, I live 10 minutes from my job. I make a decent salary, and I like (most) of my co-workers. It's a casual dress environment, and lets face it, I'm not a glamor girl by any means. It's hard to walk away from any job - for any reason - but especially when you're life goals and dreams are on the line. We've been saving my pay check for several months - living only on my husband's salary - to save up for a down payment on a house. That's the dream. The goal was to do this for 1-2 years to have a good chunk of change to put down. If I walk away from this - that won't happen. But if I stay - what good is a house if you're dead - or if not dead, too sick and miserable to enjoy it?
I hate decisions. They make me nervous and uncomfortable.
So, of course - what do I do when I'm uncomfortable? You betcha. I cook. I bake. I go straight to comfort food. Hence... the weight gain.
We're still trying to remain as gluten free as possible. We avoid grains whenever we can, however we can. But, we have pizza from time to time - and we have pasta from time to time. Those nights, it sure does taste great going in - but later in the night... whoa.... buddy.
I think one of the things that has been saving my sanity as of late, is my garden. I get to tinker around outside, and be with nature. I've found that the bees that visit my garden are not bothered by me at all, and I am not bothered by them. Infact, I can get right up close and personal with them and they don't pay me any attention. They LOVE my lavender bush. There are two bees in particular (I think they are the same two bees) that visit every single day. They are bumble bees. One is very small, the other is plump and very fuzzy. I've named them Theo and Chloe.
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This area is my next project... I have two little flowering bushes here, and this area is where my bunnies that have passed on lay to rest. I want to build this out and create an area where flowers grow every year. Once this area is done, I'm hoping we can find someone to rip up all the existing grass, and put in nice thick grass all around the top area of the property. The grass in this area now is so full of weeds, it's not nice to walk on or look at.
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Other than gardening, we've been trying new recipes out. Last night we made greek lamb burgers and oh my, were they delicious. We used the Schlar Gluten Free rolls for the bun.
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The recipe: 1.5 lbs ground organic grass fed lamb 1/2 cup black olives, chopped 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped 2-3 TBSPN finely chopped red onion 2 tsp dill seasoning 2 tsp parsley handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese, I prefer goat cheese) Salt & pepper Hand mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into patties. Lay on a greased baking sheet and bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The sauce: 1/2 cup greek yogurt 1 tbsp. lemon zest 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 1 tsp dill seasoning 1 tbsp. minced garlic Salt & pepper 1/2 peeled cucumber, seeds removed, and chopped into small pieces. Place all but the cucumber in a magic bullet cup (or small food processor), and process until all ingredients combine. The buns: I used Schlar gluten free buns, that I put in the oven and toasted for a few minutes. Once you assemble your burger, top with the tzatziki sauce, and then crumble more feta (or goat cheese) on top. Voila!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh how the time has flown by...

My poor blog has been dreadfully neglected. For over a year! So much to catch up on.

Where to begin? I suppose we'll do pictures and stories, yes?

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Truman and Dusty are doing swimmingly well. Truman is 10 years young this year, and Dusty is 5 years young. My fur babies continue to give me endless entertainment and love in my life. Though, I have lost all but 1 of my bunnies.

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Heart of my heart, Peanut, passed away a couple months ago. Lion head dwarf rabbits live, on average, about 7 years. He was 6 years old and battle with health problems his entire life. I woke up to find him laying on his side, and I knew something was wrong. He let out a very loud rabbit scream, and I wrapped him up and held him. I called the Vet to try to bring him in. He passed away before they opened. I know you're not supposed to play favorites... but I have to admit (out loud) that Peanut was truly the beat of my heart. As a baby, I didn't think he would survive. I made sure his mother gave him regular feeds and checked him constantly to make sure he was getting enough food and was healthy. I suppose I babied him his entire life. Losing a pet is never easy. They become part of you - part of your family. To me, these are not just pets - they are my children. I love them as if they were my own children. To watch any animal suffer, or pass away, is heart breaking. With that said, about a week ago, I lost Peanut's mother, Honey Bear. She was 7 years old. I came home to find her already passed on.

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So, now I am left with one. Mischief - Peanuts twin. Poor thing has had to bare the brunt of kisses and cuddles. Mischief keeps to himself, mostly, only venturing out into the living room when it's peacefully quiet and no guests are here. I think he misses his mother and his siblings.

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BJ and I have been wishy-washy with our Paleo / GF life style. We feel off the wagon for a bit but have been slowly reintroducing ourselves back into the life style. Lets face it - we're not very good at this. We try - but we've never been able to actually maintain for long periods of time. A lot of it is self defeat. But if there is anything that my last year of health issues has taught me, it's that you need to listen to what your body is telling you. My body has been screaming at me for the longest time - and I've been neglecting and ignoring it. I certainly don't wake up every morning thanking God that I'm over weight and unhealthy. It is true that when a person is ready to make changes - they will.

We've been working pretty steadily on paying down debt. I think we've come quite a ways over the last few years. We will hopefully in the next year or two be where we need to be to buy a home somewhere in PA - with lots of property. I would love to have acreage to build on - to plant gardens, to raise chickens... to homestead. I want to nest. Not necessarily with children in tow - but I want to nest with my husband, and our little farm of animals. Someday...

BJ has been perfecting his chainmaille skills - he's come a long way. I'm very proud of him. His work is beautiful. I wish we were able to get into the local Ren Faire here in PA - I think he would do well there. He's been working on a series of wallet chains in chainmaille that seem to have generated a large interest on Etsy. I'm happy for him. I've been waning in and out of a creative rut for a few months. I haven't produced much of anything.

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Well, I suppose that is all for now. :) Recipes later on!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

C'est moi et Paleo chicken nuggets

I have found a new obsession. No, not just Pinterest - though that has captivated most of my time these days (you know, wanting to reorganize my home, pinning things to reorganize my home, being too busy pinning things to actually reorganize my home, etc). I have become OBSESSED with make up tutorials on youtube.com. I've discovered a young lady in the UK named Tanya Burr that has me completely in awe of her make up application abilities. Watching her video's has inspired me to test my own make up application abilities. This is not my first attempt as I've been applying different colors and techniques for the past week, however, did not take any pictures until this weekend. This is my blue hippie look:

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Since I've been wearing ALOT of make up lately - I've had to find something that not only takes off the make up, but also isn't full of chemicals that will damage my skin. I'm completely in love with a face scrub I've been making with honey. It's so luxurious, and makes my skin feel like satin when I'm out of the shower.

Honey has natural anti microbial and anti fungal properties that also help in rejuvenating your skin cells. Hell, if it worked for Cleopatra with her honey bathes to stay young - why not apply it to today's natural remedies for skin repair and anti aging?

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You can make this to your desired texture/consistency - but this is how I like to make mine. Just put all the listed ingredients in a bowl, and mix until completely incorporated. I store mine in little mason jars, and make several jars at one time.

Aside from feeling fabulous in my own skin - I've also gotten back into the Paleo / Gluten free saddle completely. Over the Holiday we slipped off the saddle a little bit. I feel so much better when I'm not treating my body like a garbage disposal. And honestly, stress at work is what really triggered falling off the saddle more than the Holidays. It's normal to try to compensate for stress with eating - it's a basic human reaction - the trick is finding balance when dealing with those types of stress that make you want to stuff your face with whatever you can get your hands on. While I still may have stress in my life from work, family, etc - I should not be taking that out on my body. Stress does enough damage, no need to add a bad diet to the mix!

My husband has been making these divine paleo chicken nuggets for us for dinner and snacks.

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2 chicken breasts trimmed of fat & cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup butter w/ 2 tbspn garlic, melted in a bowl
2 cups almond meal w/ desired spices. We used a basic Italian mix with red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic salt, and black pepper. Mix into the almond meal.
Dip chicken bites into the garlic butter, then toss into the almond meal mixture. Place chicken bites on a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
We served ours over zucchini pasta with peppers and onions. So delicious!
I hope you try out this recipe and enjoy as much as we do!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Have you ever had green bread?

I will not eat green bread with ham, I will not eat it, Sam I am!

Well, I apparently WILL eat green "bread" because hey, it's festive - it's fun - and I like to freak people out. "OMG, WHAT ARE YOU EATING!" Why, it's my sunbutter paleo bread, of course! This little gem happened by complete accident, and personally, I think it will be fantastic for St. Patty's Day.

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We have been pretty obsessed with a blog called Against All Grain: http://www.againstallgrain.com They have this wonderful grainfree bread that is made with cashew butter. We've made this recipe numerous times - however, the night in question of the green bread - I was out of cashew butter. I did have Sunbutter, however, and the blogger said that sunbutter would be an acceptable substitute. Ehem. However... they failed to mention that the interaction between sunbutter and the vinegar in the recipe would transform my normally beautiful brown bread into a bright flourescent green! It tasted exactly as it should, so no harm, no foul.

One of the major parts of living gluten free / paleo is researching new ways of eating. We've found Fast Paleo, Against all Grain, Joy the Baker, and many other gluten free / paleo friendly blogs that help us to stay focused. Though, I will admit - over the Holiday - I did fall off the wagon a bit. *Hangs head in shame*

But, today is a new day, right? With so many paleo and gluten free options, there really is no excuse to not jump back on the wagon. During the week my breakfasts consist mainly of eggs - usually with some kind of sauteed veg mixed in. The weekends we like to splurge a bit and make something more fun and exciting. BJ found this recipe for grainfree waffles. We have a waffle iron and let me tell you - GREAT investment. We love making home made waffles. Wwhen we started on paleo - I thought I'd never see a waffle again. Recipe that follows is also from Against All Grain.

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What you'll need: 3 eggs 1 cup raw cashews 1/3 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk) 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted ¼ teaspoon salt ¾ teaspoons baking soda 3 tablespoons coconut flour

1.Preheat your waffle iron. 2.Combine the eggs, cashews, milk, honey, and melted coconut oil in a blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy. You may need to stop the blender and push the mixture down the sides a few times to get it all to blend really well. 3.Add the salt, baking soda, and coconut flour, then blend again for about a minute until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet. 4.If you’re iron requires oil, spread a little coconut oil on both sides. Pour the batter into the waffle iron so it just covers the bottom portion of the iron, being careful not to overfill it as these do rise quite a bit and will spill over. 5.Cook the waffles for about a minute, more or less depending on the heat of your waffle iron. If they release easily with a fork when you open the lid, they are probably done. 6.Repeat until the batter has been used up.

You have no idea how delicious these waffle are. Boarder line addicting, and so worth the effort to make. Add a little whipped cream sweetened with honey on top? OMG. Out of this world.

Another thing that is out of this world is roasted pumpkin & butternut squash soup. Growing up I was not a huge fan of pumpkin anything. Now that I'm older and have a more refined palate, I find I enjoy pumpkin when it's done properly. I still, however, detest pumpkin pie.

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Simply roast 2 cups each peeled & chopped pumpkin & butternut squash, until golden and caramlized. I like to toss the cubes in a bit of olive oil and maple sugar prior to playing on a roasting pan, it adds a nice sweetness. Once the veg is nicely roasted, process in small batches in a food processor or high speed blender with heavy cream & veg broth - to your desired consistency. I like my soup a little thick. If you like your soup thin, add more cream/veg broth. Add salt, pepper, and maple sugar or syrup to taste. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with maple. So delicious and hearty. Great for this cold weather!

ENJOY!