Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pinterest Successes

Originally I found Pinterest fun to pin cool fashion finds, dream home pictures and whimsical quotes.  Lately my pins have moved in a much more practical direction.  I've been obsessed with all of the do-it yourself ideas.  I recently tried out two that I am thrilled with.

I love all natural spray cleaners but they can be really expensive at almost $4 a bottle.  I love cleaning with vinegar so when I saw a pin that made a citrus vinegar all purpose spray I was willing to give it a shot.  I added a bunch of clementine and lemon peels in a jar and filled the jar nearly to the top with vinegar   This was during a week when I was eating a ton a clementines and I always have fresh lemons on hand so this not only let me try a new cleanser but it helped me reuse some peels that were otherwise headed for the trash.

Here is the jar:

I let it sit for 10 days.  Every couple of days I gave it a quick shake.  The result was a very concentrated, dark colored,  citrusy smelling solution.   I poured the diluted liquid into a spray bottle about 1/4 to 1/3 full and then topped the bottle off with water. I wish I had a prettier spray bottle but this one certainly is functional.

Then came the real test: I tried it on my kitchen counter.  It worked like a charm.  It didn't leave any sticky residue, it had just a slight fragrance of citrus and no scent of vinegar.  I seldom have really big, messy spills so I think this one is a keeper!  I kept the original jar, added a few new peels, added more vinegar and I have a new batch brewing.

My other big project was trying out homemade powdered laundry soap.  I know, I know -you are thinking that it's all very crunchy or overly pioneer woman.  Well, again this is about trying to use fewer, simpler products that are less expensive and work just as well.  There are a ton of sites out there that will guide you through the "recipes" for making your own so I will spare you that but here are my assembled supplies all ready to go:

The hardest and most time consuming part of this project was hand grating the soap in the same manner you would grate cheese.  I had to do three bars so it took a while but here is the "cheesy" result:

I was then ready to mix everything together. I used a large bucket and began layering the ingredients a little bit at a time mixing well as I went. Here's everything in the bucket mixed together:

I was able to then portion it into smaller containers.  The one I will use for carrying back and forth to do laundry with is an old orange juice container.  The top is great because it has a small cutout that holds exactly one tablespoon.  That makes for very easy measuring.  You are supposed to use 2 tablespoons for a regular load of laundry.

The container is a little bit emptied since I immediately had to try the stuff out.  I knew a good test for me would be to wash my bed linens.  It's important to have soft, fresh clean sheets and comforter.  I am not someone who needs or wants a ton of fragrance left on my laundry.  I know many people do and you should be aware that this laundry soap has very, very little fragrance.  I added some of the purex crystals for softness and fragrance but I used only about 1/4 a jar in this entire batch.  That probably isn't enough for most people but I loved the results.  The linens smelled fresh and clean but they didn't smell perfumey.  Everything was soft and this is coming from the relic of a washer and dryer in my basement which doesn't do a great job.  I can't wait to try this stuff at my usual laundry mat.  Another pinterest success story!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Weekend

This has been the most amazing 4 1/2 day holiday weekend ever!  Here are a few highlights.  I'm tired but very happy!

  • Started the weekend with a very rainy trip to Local 188 where this was the reward:
Photo: Rainy Friday drinks!

  • Playing elf for my sister in Colorado who had ordered my parents a new 47" HDTV
  • Ken telling the Best Buy delivery guys that they must be wrong-he wasn't expecting a delivery!
  • Best Buy set everything up, no cables to fiddle with, no old TV to discard, no box to recycle, worry free!
  • New Blu Ray player with Amazon and Pandora set up and ready for watching/listening entertainment.
  • Upgraded a decades old cable package to include all the new HD channels and Showtime for less money than they started with.
Here's the old TV on it's way out:

And here's the new setup.  The picture is deceiving since it's before we got the HD channels so there is a wide black bar around the picture.  And you really can't see the Blu Ray since it's black and small:

  • Amazing lobster stew! (my only cheat meal in the past two months!)  I inhaled the first bowl and had to go for a second.
  • Yummy homemade bread just perfect for dipping in the lobster broth AND whoopie pie for dessert.
  • Spending time with my niece who is amazed by the little things "A snowflake!  I can't believe she painted a snowflake on my toe!"
  • Seeing mom get a well deserved pedicure and a gel manicure.
  • I love my toe color Midnight In Moscow!  It's charcoal dark with a hint of maroon shimmer.
  • Girl's lunch at On The Border following the spa treatments.

  • Setting a beautiful, festive holiday table.
  • Making a comforting, yummy vegan Christmas Eve meal.
  • Screeching in delight at my gift from my cat-he has such great taste :)
  • Festive champagne toast.
  • Christmas Day snow giving me the perfect excuse to relax and read all day!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Books 2012

I decided this year to keep track of the books I read.  I really had no idea how much or how little I read.  I still don't know how my number compares to the average reader but I must say I was surprised at the volumes of books that I managed to make my way through.  Earlier this year I posted books I had read through August 2012.  That list is here: Previous list of book read as of August 2012.

I did not include a handful of books that I began but was unable to finish.  I also didn't include any non-fiction reference type books.  That includes cook books, travel reference, finance how to etc.  

My final total is 42 for the year. Here is the list from the rest of August through December:

Don't Look Back
Where Is The Baby
Sh*t My Dad Says
The Lifeboat
The Hour I First Believed
Call Me Princess
The Hypnotist's Love Story
Best Friends, Occasional Enemies
By Their Father's Hand
Letters From Alcatraz
Think Twice
Tales From The Stage
The Light Between Oceans
To All My Fans With Love From Sylvie
Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim

Here are my highlights from this list:

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0)

Wild:  Yes, This book got a lot of press because Oprah loved it and started up her book club again with it but it really is a worthwhile read. It's a book about a flawed individual who begins a journey that is both literal (on the Pacific Crest Trail) and internal.  She starts out damaged and becomes physically battered before beginning to heal a little bit. This was a memoir but she also has a book of fiction out that I would like to try.

The Hour I First Believed LP: A Novel

The Hour I First Believed: I had forgotten how much I love Wally Lamb.  The book is timely as it incorporates the school shootings at Littleton, Colorado but it is mostly about a couple who have had troubles and how this tragedy continues to challenge them and impact their lives.  

Unsaid: A Novel

Unsaid: This book is about (and I'm not giving anything away by saying this) a woman who is a veterinarian and she dies leaving her animals and a husband behind.  It was a very touching book that has a final couple of pages that left me weeping.  In fact I'm teary just thinking about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friends Help Friends Help Friends :)

This past week I got an "I need help!!" email from my co-worker friend. She attends a weekly gathering of woman and this week was her turn to cook the main dish. But the trouble was that one of the ladies had very recently announced that she can no longer eat soy or dairy. The friend said "oh it's fine. I'll just bring my own dish". My friend wanted very much to make something that everyone could enjoy. I have been in the same position of offering to bring my own meal and being perfectly happy to do so. But when a friend goes out of their way to include you I know how humbled and thankful you feel. I told her that we would come up with the perfect recipe.

I gave her a couple of cookbooks and re-grouped with her a couple of days later. I asked if anything jumped out at her. She said it hadn't and I could tell she felt a bit overwhelmed. I asked if she would like me to pick a recipe for her. She said yes but her face said "oh please don't let it be too weird and freakish". So, I paused, thought and then asked what she would have made for this mid-week event if there were no restrictions. She responded "Shepard's pie". And with that I knew we had a meal she could be comfortable with and would please her entire group of friends.

She was initially hesitant that we could make a great tasting Shepard's pie with no butter or milk in the potatoes. She mentioned how she always uses cream style corn and was worried about a work around for that. But as we talked I could see her getting excited. When I came back from the store with soy free, dairy free almond milk and Earth Balance "butter" she immediately ran to the kitchen to toast a bagel and try out the butter. It was so good she licked the knife!  That night she made a trial run of mashed potatoes and told me how perfectly they fluffed up. It was so great to see her go from completely paralyzed at the notion of trying this to excited, on board and experimenting.

We had learned from her friend that a lot of canned goods have preservatives that contain soy. We didn't feel comfortable with a couple of unrecognizable ingredients on the back of the can of creamed corn and once again I could see her begin to deflate a bit. Thirty seconds and one Google search later we had a quick, easy recipe for homemade cream style corn that would incorporate her already purchased Earth Balance and almond milk. And just like that she was back in the game. The night of the get together I got a text declaring "best cream style corn everrrrr!!"

This is what I love. I helped a friend make a friend feel completely included and loved. I helped my friend learn that eliminating some dairy (aka cow's puss) wasn't scary or weird   The best part is that I learned a ton. Soybeans are a plant product so they are on the list of things I eat. I had no idea of the places that soy lurks... gravy mixes, canned foods, almond milk, spice mixes etc.

I was so inspired I had to try out that creamed corn. Here is the link Homemade Vegan Cream Style Corn to the recipe and here is the final beautiful product!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Books I Bought

I love having a stack of books that I'm excited about just ready and waiting to be read. It's very rare that I actually buy books.  I love getting them from the library.  But every now and then there are books worth buying.

In the Pleasure Groove by John Taylor.  I can't wait to read about the misadventures of John, Nick, Simon and Andy.  Plus there are a lot of great pictures throughout.  And yes, you can borrow it if you like :)

I've said before how much I love Kris Carr.  She just came out with a new book and that was a definite must have:

I don't know why but I had recently been thinking about this book that I loved when I was a kid. I definitely didn't remember the author or title. Yet somehow through the power of Google I managed to search "book girl foster home runs away" and I actually found it.  It is a used copy that someone was selling on Amazon and it is exactly like the one I had back in 1983!


I also heard about this book since I have "liked" on Face Book a couple of artists featured in the book.  Ron Keel was actually offering a pretty big discount to get people to check out the book and when it arrived the author had personally signed it!  It's a quick fun read and once again fulfills my fascination with rock stars.