01/27/10
Amy
tags:  

(Healthy Living) Deodorant


deodorantIn an ideal world, I would use an all natural deodorant with no antiperspirant. I’m all too aware of the less-than-ideal ingredients in mainstream deodorants. But I will admit to you that I like to be dry and I like the extra-strength protection more. So it is one ideal that I have decided to let slide.

There is one simple thing you can do, though, to help reduce the amount of deodorant your body absorbs: wait for 10-15 minutes after you shower before applying your deodorant. The moisture and steam from the shower causes your pores to open, allowing them to easily absorb anything you apply to your skin. In contrast, pores close more tightly when your skin is dry and cool. So if natural deodorant isn’t your cup of tea, try making a simple adjustment to when you apply your deodorant. Maybe you don’t have to completely write off your ideal either.

01/25/10
Amy
tags:  

(Cooking) Chocolate Cream-Filled Cupcakes


I have tried a lot of chocolate cupcakes in my day, but this one hands-down, takes the cake. They are amazing. The assembly for any filled treat requires a bit of time and patience, but trust me when I say this recipe is worth it.

Chocolate Cream-Filled Cupcakes

jan20Cupcakes
1 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/3 c cocoa powder
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c oil
1/2 c boiling water
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Filling
3 T water
3/4 t unflavored gelatin
4 T butter, softened
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t salt
1 1/4 c marshmallow cream

Glaze
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
3 T butter

1. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt.

2. Whisk (boiling) water, cocoa, and chocolate chips in a separate bowl until smooth and the chocolate chips are melted. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla to chocolate mixture and blend.

3. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate and egg mixture. Stir until moistened.

4. Pour batter into 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly and then remove from muffin cups. Cool completely.

5. Filling: Mix water and gelatin and let it stand for 5 minutes. Microwave for about 30 seconds or until the gelatin dissolves. Add butter, vanilla and salt. Cool for about 5 minutes before mixing in the marshmallow cream. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. Set aside 1/3 c. Put the rest of the filling into a pastry bag (or us a ziploc bag with a corner clipped off).

6. Once the cupcakes have cooled, cut a cone shape out of the top of the cupcake, about 2 inches deep. Remove cone and cut off the tip (to create space for the filling). Fill the cupcake with about one tablespoon of the filling and then replace the circular top.

7. Glaze: Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl (30-60 seconds) and stir until smooth. Let the glaze cool (10-15 minutes) and then top each cupcake with about one tablespoon of the glaze. Let sit for 15 minutes and then use the remaining filling to pipe decorative curlicues across the top of the cupcakes.

01/23/10
Amy
tags:  

(Crafts) Dying Play Silks with Kool-Aid


I must have drooled over the idea of play silks for several years. I love the concept and the endless creative play possibilities that they offer. But the standard size silks (35″x35″) sell for $10-12/each, making a small set cost a small fortune. That didn’t even account for my dream of a bigger play silk collection that included multiple sizes.

I began to toy with the idea of dying my own silks after learning that a friend successfully did it, but she used real dye and I was intimidated by that. I like to keep my creative ventures simple….and clean. And then I discovered that you can dye silks with Kool-Aid! Not only was it cheaper, but it sounded fun! I mean, how many people can say that they have hand-dyed toys with Kool-Aid!? So, I ordered my silks and made some for Kaelynn’s Christmas present. It took a little bit of work (it took time more than anything) and mine have some imperfections, but my kids love them and I’m really pleased with the finished product. Here’s how I did it:

1. Order play silks in the sizes you want. I chose a half dozen 35″x35″ silks this time, but I have plans to expand our collection someday with various sizes. I bought mine from Dharma Trading Company for $3.75/each.

2. Bring a pot of water to boiling. Add a cup of vinegar and remove from heat. Soak all the silks for about an hour before dying.

3. Put on a pair of plastic gloves. Mix 3 cups of hot water, 1/2 c vinegar, and 2-3 packets of Kool-Aid (see the note at the bottom of post for a Kool-Aid color guide). Immerse a silk in the colored water and stir slightly until fully immersed. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes. Remove and stir again. Cover and microwave for 3 more minutes. Repeat the cycle a third time.

(Note: If you increased the amount of water and vinegar and did the dying on a stove top instead of the microwave, stirring continually, you would probably end up with more solidly colored silks. Mine are slightly blotchy, but I kind of like them that way.)

4. Remove silk from the bowl and rinse with soap and water until the water runs clear.

Keep dyed, wet silks separate until they are dry. They can bleed onto each other (voice of experience speaking).

5. Dry on low in the dryer. Iron.

dec21

Kool-Aid Flavor/Color Guide:

Red – Strawberry, Cherry, or Black Cherry (Note: I wanted more of a salmon/dark pink color, so I just used two packages of Strawberry. A combination of Cherry and Black Cherry will get you the truest red.
Orange - Orange
Yellow - Lemonade (Note: I used two packets of Lemonade plus a few drops of yellow food coloring to achieve a slightly darker yellow.)
Green – Lemon-Lime
Blue – Blue Raspberry
Purple – Grape (Note – I only used two packets.)
Pink – Pink Lemonade (not pictured)

01/22/10
Amy
tags:  

(Home Management) The Laundry Rut


laundryI am famous for my laundry ruts. I do several loads of laundry one day and never complete the process. The clothes are cleaned, but they remain in laundry baskets for several days until I need the baskets to run new loads of laundry. The clean laundry then gets carelessly dumped on the bedroom floor. At some point that day, knowing that more loads of laundry are on the way, I might finally work on putting away the clean clothes from several days ago. Consequently, I become sick of folding laundry long before the new loads are dry. The vicious cycle repeats.

In response to my frustration over this major household management weakness, I recently imposed a new rule upon myself. Imagine my surprise when it truly worked!! But would it stand test time of time? Weeks later, there are still no piles of laundry on my bedroom floor.That, my friends, is a victory.

The rule is simple: Do not start a second load of laundry until the first load is washed and put away.

It sounds almost too simplistic to be revolutionary, but it works. I can complete one load of laundry. I might procrastinate on two loads, but one load can be completed quickly. It is manageable! We tend to work on chores and projects that we know we can successfully complete and having that small victory is both motivating and energizing. You will find that you actually accomplish more.

So the next time you find yourself in a laundry rut, try the One Load Rule and kiss those piles of wrinkled laundry goodbye.

01/21/10
Amy
tags:  

(Money Saving Tip) Grocery Sale Cycles


When it comes to food, there are sale prices and then there are sale prices. If the item you are buying is less than 10% off, then it is probably a phantom sale and not worth stocking-up on. But when an item really goes on sale, how much should you buy? You don’t want to break your pantry shelves, but you also don’t want to run out before the next good sale. It is hard to make that call when you don’t know when it will be on sale again…or do you?

img_1227As it turns out, stores generally run on 12 week sale cycles and coupons follow a similar pattern. Your best deals are going to be found when you save your coupons to match those great, rock-bottom sale prices. But even if you aren’t a coupon clipper, just watch the sales and transition to making the bulk of your purchases based on the 12 week cycle. You will save a ton of money and can make a calculated decision on quantity based on the 12-week rule-of-thumb.

Note – There are always exceptions to rule. Start observing the sales at your store and you will soon see patterns emerge.

01/20/10
Amy
tags:  

(Deep Cleaning) Medicine Cabinet


Taking vitamins and supplements on a routine basis is a challenge to keep up with, especially when you are orchestrating it for the entire family. The key is to keep the process as intuitive as possible. Simple decluttering and organization is the first step. Spend a few minutes this week cleaning out your medicine cabinet. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Get rid of expired medications and supplements.

2. Discard items that you no longer use.

3. Separate medications from nutritional supplements.

4. Further divide into adults’ and children’s groups.

5. Store your regularly used supplements at the front of the cabinet where they can be easily accessed.

medcab

01/18/10
Amy
tags:  

(Classic Play) Play Silks


A super hero’s cape. A play tent. A doll sling/doll carrier. A picnic blanket for a tea party. A wedding veil. A sling for a (pretend) broken arm.

What do all of these things have in common? They can be created out of a play silk: a lightweight and silky soft square of fabric dyed in vibrant colors of the rainbow. If you have not yet discovered this classic childhood toy with infinite imaginative possibilities, a quick Google search will open a new world to you.

Truly timeless, classic toys are toys that do not have a predetermined identity; the child has to create the identity. Legos, blocks and Play-doh are all great examples of classic toys that allow a child to develop a concept or vision in their mind and then watch it come to life by their own hand. This is an invaluable lesson for them to learn.

dec21

Play silks are a classic toy that hold endless possibilities for a child’s active mind. Who will they be? What adventures will they embark on? What will they create? Possibility is a beautiful thing.

Note: I will be posting later this week about a simple way to dye your own play silks…with Kool-Aid!

01/16/10
Amy
tags:  

(Parenting) Alternate Form of Affection


Brothers and sisters can sometimes be overzealous in their demonstration of affection toward their siblings. It can provide the parent with a difficult dilemma when they watch their child protest their sibling’s well-intended hug or the playful tackle. We know that it does no good to tell the recipient to just deal and it is important for the kids to learn to look for and respect the other child’s boundaries. However, when there is a positive attempt towards affection from one of the siblings, it can also be damaging to shut the giver down. Relationships grow through giving and receiving and interacting and that must be encouraged.

Alternative solutions are sometimes more obvious than others, but when you witness one of these interactions between your kids, do your best to rechannel the affection. Suggest an activity that they can participate in together, give them a common cause, or simply suggest another way that physical affection might be demonstrated. If the recipient is old enough, they could also be a part of the conversation.

Another important key in these tricky parenting situations is to keep your parenting positive. You correcting them with frustration or irritation in your voice or by using punishment will only succeed in growing resentment between the kids. Not only will their attempt at affection or interaction have been rejected by the desired recipient (their sibling), but they will have been punished by you for even attempting it. Affirm them for their desire to interact with their sibling and help them to learn how to interact in ways that they will both enjoy.

01/15/10
Amy

(Living Love) Winter Warmth


coffee1Warm up your spouse inside and out by surprising him with a steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Drop it off to him at work or pick up a cup for him on your way home from the store.

Large tokens of affection make for lifelong memories, but those little tokens of affection breathe life into our relationships during the day-to-day.

01/14/10
Amy

(Cooking) Enchiladas


This is one of my family’s favorite enchilada recipes. It is quick, easy, and packed with rich Mexican flavors without being too spicy. I have made it with ground meats and also with chicken before – both are delicious!

Enchiladasenchiladas

1 lb ground beef, ground turkey, or shredded chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 t minced garlic
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 t paprika
2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
3 c shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 10oz can enchilada sauce
Tortillas, flour or corn (if making gluten free) (quantity will vary between 6-12 depending on tortilla size)

1. Cook onion in a little bit of oil until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cooked meat, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Pour 1/3 of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.

3. Fill each tortilla with a scoop of the meat mixture (amount depends on size of the tortilla) and cheese. Roll up tortilla and place it into the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with all tortillas. Top enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling.

Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.