Monday, March 10, 2014

Check out my first product review blog post!

Hey folks! Many of you know that I am a writer at Reviews, Chews and How-tos. I've contributed a few of my recipes to the page. Well, I'm excited to share with you my first product review! Please click on that link and check it out! Feel free to comment, share, pin, tweet what have you. Also, don't forget to enter the AMAZING giveaways we have going on over there as well!!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Monday after Daylight Savings time. I know I hit my snooze button a few too many times this morning, but I'm looking forward to being able to take evening walks with more light!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lifestyle Changes are Tough!

Hi everyone! Its me again, your seldom posting, random blogger! I know, I know, its been a while! BUT there has been SO much going on!! We are getting ready to move in a few weeks so I'm super stressed out and busy with that. I've been writing reviews and recipes for Reviews, Chews and How tos and I've started selling It Works! Global products from home.

I've been struggling with my weight and body image for a long time now. Especially in these years of post pregnancy. Last year, I had almost achieved my goal weight through diet and exercise, but come Fall and Winter, I slipped into those old habits again. My weigh skyrocketed up to almost where I was at full term with my daughter! I carry most of my weight in my waist. I am an apple in terms of body shape. I really hate it. Don't get me wrong. There are things I love about myself, for instance: I love my green eyes. I love the fact that at 34, my skin still looks 25. But I hate feeling so fat round the middle. Boo hoo, poor me right!? LOL.

I am not one for New Years Resolutions, but this year I really felt like I needed the new year as an excuse to get motivated to make a life change. My best friend and I have been doing these 30 day challenges and I did great with the 30 day in January then completely bombed it in February. But early on in February is when I bought my It Works! kit. It came with 4 wraps and I also bought some additional products. I was skeptical that the wraps would work on me. I have loose skin and stretch marks from my pregnancy, but I'm also very full round the middle, like I said. I really didn't think that the wraps could do much for me. What I was really excited for were the supplements. I knew that I needed to get some vitamins in my life. I eat relatively healthy, but sometimes I just forget. One of the products that It Works! has is called Greens. It alkalizes your body and provides 8 servings of fruits and vegetables in a drink mix that is all natural, non-GMO and gluten free. All those buzz words must be good for something! Lol. I really love the Greens.

I don't want to turn this into a big commercial for all the It Works! products, but I really think its important to share with the world just how amazing I feel and how I feel I look after giving these a shot. So, here is what I've been doing and then I'll share my pic! In the morning, I drink my Greens and take 2 Confianza supplements. At lunch time, I take the Its Vital Complete Nutrition pak. Mid-day I mix up a smoothie with some more Greens. If I lose my will power and splurge on a big meal, I'll take 2 Fat Fighters. At night, I take Regular. To date I've done 3 wraps, 72 hours between each one. Are you ready to see this?

Three wraps to date.
Now, I know I'm not a skinny girl but look at that! I won't tell you what my pant size is, but I will tell you its one size down from where I was before I started wrapping. The funny thing is, I'm not losing weight yet. So I guess its redistributing? Aside from adding the It Works! products, I haven't made many major changes to my habits. I am trying to fill my diet with more fresh fruits and veggies, but I still love me some bread and cookies (stay tuned for a new Biscotti Recipe). I've been walking at least 3-4 days a week. I know that I need to add some more cardio if I want to keep these results but I'm just thrilled with how this looks so far. Oh, and did I mention that this has only taken THREE WEEKS!? Not everyone experiences results like this, but 9 out of 10 people see noticeable changes after one wrap. I think the important thing is not to have unreal expectations and to realize that "If you change nothing, nothing will change!" just like the picture says. If I go off and eat nothing but junk and stop putting good nutrition in my body, can I expect to keep these results? NO!! Is it hard to take vitamins and drink water and eat a healthy diet? NO!! So why is it so hard to make a lifestyle change? Because we don't focus enough on how important it is to take care of ourselves! As Mom's and Dad's, as career driven adults, as focused artists and creators, we tend to lose sight of how important it is to also focus on "ME". I don't know if this is what everyone in the world needs to do to get that change, but I do know this: It Works! for me! I feel fantastic! I have more energy, focus, concentration and clarity. I feel good from the inside out! Oh, and as a side note. . . I get to do this as my job now! I get to help other people feel this way too! That is incredible!

Got you thinking about that now, didn't I? If you want to see the full product catalog with prices, ingredients lists and descriptions click here. Are you thinking about becoming a distributor? Join my team!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chore Chart: Perserverance pays off!

Good day my beautiful friends! I am so excited to be blogging about my daughters chore chart! So, many of you know that I have an high spirited, 4.5 year old, only child. She is the light of my life! I am learning that if I want something to work I really have to give her free reign to get to know the idea and really see the ins and outs before it will stick. Such was most certainly the case with the Chore Chart!

Lets see. . . I think it was about a year and a half ago that I jumped online looking for preschooler friendly household chores. I found a wealth of resources and ultimately decided to combine many of them to make my own program. I created the Chore Chart and explained the process to Bugaboo. She was interested at first and excited to help Mommy around the house. But as with all pre-k attention spans, it waned and fell by the way-side. We kept revisiting the chart at various times but she would just lose interest. Don't get me wrong, she was still helping out around the house. But it would only be when I hounded her about it. The idea of the Chart was to get her to self motivate.

Cookie sheet+Spray Paint=Instant Magnet Board!
Well, the chart has been hanging out on the fridge now for over a year with me consistently reminding her of its benefits. Lo and behold, the idea seems to have finally sunk in! She is now actively participating in the system and even reminding me when new chores need to be added! I'm so excited that its finally a working system because now I feel like I can share it with you!

So, here is how the system works: There are about 25 different household chores that Bug can do. I have a cartoon picture of each chore with the words printed below them. Each card is laminated so it can be re-used. We chose four or five chores and place them on our magnet board. Each chore has a colorful ticket attached to the back. When she completes the chore, she moves the card from "To Do" down to "Done" and places the ticket in an envelope. After she earns five tickets, she gets to "spend" her tickets in our toy bucket. A few times a year, I'll go to the dollar store or the bargain bins at Target and load up on little toys, crafts and goodies to put in the buckets. Each item costs five tickets. When she chooses and item from the bucket, she hands her tickets into me and I keep them in a jar on the fridge!

The "Toy Store" includes books, crafts, puzzles, little toys and candy.

Chores that we have include: Clean up, wipe the table, tidy school room, make bed, set the table, empty the dishwasher, dust, feed the dog, clean your room, wash the mirrors etc. . I was able to find images for all of these by searching on Pinterest. I printed them from my computer, cut them out and laminated them all so they will last. I purchased this home laminator from Amazon and it gets a lot of use in our house.

We also use a Gold Star Rewards system. Gold Stars are awarded when we have a really good day. For example, the other day Bugaboo decided to clean out her closet where all of her dress up's are located. She did this on her own with no prompting from either parent and she did an awesome job! She gets a gold star for that! When she has accrued 9 gold stars, she gets a special treat like a lunch date with Mommy or a movie theater date.

Gold stars and tickets can also be taken away if we are having a particularly rough day of not listening. Not listening is probably the biggest issue we have with Bugaboo and she really hates it when she loses a ticket or a star. All I have to do is grab the ticket envelope and sit down with her and say, "Here are your tickets, are you ready lose them over this choice you are making?" Usually the answer is no, but sometimes she is just so stubborn she will lose tickets. She gets the chance to earn them back though, so it's been a really good system for us.

It takes patience and a lot of explaining, but I think the benefits are awesome. Chore Charts teach personal responsibility, self confidence and the value of a job well done. Bugaboo is learning that you need to earn the things you want by working for them. Everything isn't just a given. She is learning that everyone in the house needs to do their part to keep things in order. Its important for us all to work together.

It also helps to take pictures of how you would like things to look when they are "cleaned up". Kids are very visual learners and knowing exactly what you expect can make their "job" easier. That was a whole lot of quotes! LOL!

I hope you all enjoyed my Chore Chart Tutorial. Please feel free to share, comment and ask questions! I'd love to hear your feedback!

p.s. Here are links to some of the places where I found chore graphics.

Confessions of a Homeschooler
Homeschool Creations

p.p.s. If you loved this and would like to see other totally awesome tutorials, reviews and recipes check out this: Reviews, Chews and How-tos
I am a contributing writer over there and it's such an amazing blog! Please give it some love!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Biscotti gets around!

My Biscotti has a first name, It's E.A.R.L. Gray!
Good day everyone! I've been away again, but this time its because I've been working as a contributing writer on another blog. Reviews, Chews and How-tos is a product review company that features first hand reviews, tutorials and recipes. A few weeks ago, I cooked up these wonderful little Earl Gray Tea and Vanilla Bean Biscotti and I wrote up a little how-to for the recipe. RCH featured it on their blog and lo and behold, it was picked up by another blog! Makes me feel kinda famous!! I'd like to invite you all to check out both blogs. They each feature wonderful and useful information!
Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Reviews, Chews and How-tos

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Still here?

Hello, is anyone left? I know its been way too long since I've posted anything. Life tends to get away from me sometimes.
Its been a busy Fall/Winter for me! After Halloween there was a cascade of projects and general life craziness and I kind of forgot to blog about it. The Holidays are almost over though and life is about to settle down again, or is it? The next few months will be a roller coaster for my family as my Husband is preparing to go to school for a new career in the Army. That will be an interesting time. But we look forward to the challenge.
So, what have I been up to? Well, Christmas was fun. The Bug and I made some cinnamon dough ornaments and I made some cornstarch ornaments to give as gifts. As per my usual forgetful self, I didn't get most of them mailed out in time so they may end up being gifts for next year. Here are the links for the recipes I used:
Scandinavian Christmas Ornaments
Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments
And here are a few pics of what we made.
 We also sliced some oranges and dried them in my food dehydrator. They turned into lovely ornaments that looked a little like stained glass.

I wanted to make a cranberry orange garland, but it was too heavy for the tree. The birds have enjoyed it though!

Lets see, what else. . .OH My amazing husband got me the best present ever! I am now the proud owner of a Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer! Its a lovely orange/bronze color and matches my Halloween Kitchen perfectly! I've been baking up a storm and I LOVE IT! Be prepared to see lots of baked goods coming through the blog (if I get my $h!t together).

I hope you've all had a wonderful Holiday Season! Happy New Year!

Friday, October 18, 2013

What the heck is a Pirate Princess anyway?

So, my daughter decided that she wants to be a pirate princess for Halloween this year. She informed me that she would like her costume to be purple as well. I didn't have much to go on, seeing as how I have no idea what a pirate princess is, so I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. I found several ready-made pirate costumes for little girls that were frankly rather slutty looking. I don't know when Halloween became Skankoween, but I do not approve. So I started looking for DIY costumes and found a TON of adorable inspiration. I sat down and put together a sketch, combining things that I'd seen and loved and came up with this:
For the life of me, I can't get this damn photo to rotate the right way.
The back side of the blouse
Please don't mock my lame ass drawing skills. It's been ages since I've sketched anything.

So, I've been working on this costume piece by piece over the last few weeks in between another huge project of costume making. I made the blouse first. To make the blouse, I used a shirt that fit my daughter fairly well and fashioned my pattern off of that. From then on, I was pretty much winging it. Sometimes, my best work comes from that. I am really happy with how it turned out. Its tailored in the front and buttons down in the rear and looks freaking adorable on her.

Then I put together a tiered skirt made from stretch velvet and tulle. I had to redo the bottom tier twice and I'm still not thrilled with how it turned out, but I have to keep reminding myself that its for a costume and I need to not be such a perfectionist.

I wasn't able to find the prints I wanted to make the handkerchief skirt but I did find some cute fat quarter fabric that worked perfectly. I cut the fat quarters into perfect squares and hemmed the raw edges, then I followed this tutorial to make the final product: Snips & Spice: Handkerchief Skirt
I also made a pair of bloomers to go under the skirts. You won't be able to see the bloomers in the final costume, but I felt they were necessary, plus I just really wanted to make them. Here is the tutorial I used for the bloomers: Sew Easy Being Green: Rectangle Bloomers

I was able to find the perfect Pirate boots on for about $14.00 and they will be great fall/winter boots for The Bug in the months to come. They turned out to be exactly what I had drawn. I was pretty stoked about that!

Finally, I made the pirate hat. I took at pattern that I had for a reversible bucket hat and made the brim 6 inches wide instead of the the original 3.5inches. I made the hat from heavy duty craft felt. I lined the bucket portion with the same fabric I used for the bloomers. You won't be able to see this, but it adds a little stiffness to the top and also makes for a softer feel inside. The Bug has tactile stress and would end up ripping the hat off if it was too itchy. I took some dark purple bias tape and ran it around the edge of the brim for a spark of color. I then placed the hat on my mannequin head and shaped it into the Tricorne shape. I hand stitched the sides to the top to keep them in place and then added a little pirate skull applique for flair. I still need to get a giant purple feather to go on it, but I'm running out of time for that one. Here is the finished hat:
Tricorne Pirate hat from a Bucket Hat Pattern
There are a few more touches I'd like to add to finish the project. My hubby wants to make a bandoleer and a sash to go with it. She has a little foam sword to carry and definitely needs the sash so she has somewhere to store the sword. All in all, I am thrilled with the outcome of the costume. I am pretty grateful that we live in an area where it will be warm for Trick or Treat, otherwise I'd probably have to make a grand, double breasted, privateers coat. . . on second thought that might be fun! I better get on that.

Here is a pic of the almost finished product:
The Bug in her Pirate Princess Costume (not quite complete)
I'll post more photos when we are fully dressed and ready to go! Thanks for taking the time to read! And feel free to pin and share!
Much love!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Mentor, My Hero, My Grandmother

My Grandmother was an amazing woman. She was a fabulous cook, a wonderful seamstress, a caring mother and grandmother, a woman full of spunk and moxy. She was generous with her time and her heart. She was the glue that held our family together. 

Norma Jean Lancaster was born March 9, 1930 in a small Utah town called Crescent. Crescent doesn't even exist anymore, that's how small it was.  I knew that she had attended the University of Utah. I remember my Mom telling me that in those days, progressive Utah women went to college to meet their husbands. What I didn't know until just recently is that she was also there studying Fashion Design. My Mom told me stories about how when she was a little girl, she found sketch books where my Grandma had drawn pictures of models with beautiful clothes on them. I wish I could have seen those.

Anyway, It was there in college that she met my Grandfather, Clarence Kay Robison. They were married on September 7th, 1950. Two years later, my Mother was born. Then came two more children. My Grandmother was the textbook woman of the 50's and 60's. She cooked all the meals, kept the house, planned the holiday parties, socialized with her girlfriends. I wish I could have seen those days. I imagine her in a fabulous party dress with a martini and a cigarette, lipstick on, hair done, gossiping with the ladies. I've always had a fond place in my heart for that era.

I've said that Grandma was the glue that held our family together and no statement could be truer. Every holiday, we would all gather together to share meals and memories at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Thanksgiving was always a huge, traditional spread. Christmas would be a buffet style party. There would always be a plate of spiced apple rings. I knew they were supposed to be for everyone, but mostly, they were for me. My mother, brother and I would spend the night at their home on Christmas eve and wake up Christmas morning to a mountain of gifts under their artificial, yet super classy, white Christmas tree. Grandma would always tuck little hidden surprises into our gifts, like money hiding in a pocket of a new coat or the drawer of a new jewelry box. We'd throw our wrapping paper into the basement stairwell and Grandpa would start a fire to burn it all up. I loved climbing down the stairs through that huge pile of paper and bows.

When I was 5 or 6 years old, Grandma started making clothes for my baby dolls. At Christmas time, I would get a huge box full of all these wonderful outfits she'd made. Matching skirts, jackets, tops, dresses, bloomers,  you name it. When I was a little older she started to make Barbie clothes. Imagine how difficult it would be to produce a tiny ball gown for a doll like Barbie on your sewing machine. When I was a teenager, Grandma started making clothes for porcelain dolls. I know it was something she loved to do. I imagine she was probably sad when I grew out of the doll phase.  To this day, I still have all of those clothes. My own daughter plays with them. That is how well they were made. I look at those clothes now, and learn so much about tailoring and attention to detail.

Grandma also made clothes for me. At the time, I hated that. I hated being the only kid in school who couldn't wear name brands. It took me a long time to realize the amount of time and love it took for her to make those clothes for me. She tried so hard to make them trendy too. I remember in third grade, I had a pair of black parachute pants that she'd made. We also called them M.C. Hammer pants. I remember playing outside on a windy day and nearly flying off like a kite in those pants. I did finally have the wisdom to realize that those clothes were one of her ways of caring for me. I asked her to make a special dress for me, for a school dance. It was the only time that I went with her to pick out fabric. I picked out a dusty rose colored, moire fabric. I believe that was my first time in a fabric store. I got into trouble for wearing that dress to the dance. One of the teachers scolded me for wearing a dress that fancy to a simple school dance. But I didn't care. I loved that dress.
Time flew by and when I was 19 years old I'd made some bad decisions in life. I'd moved in with my Grandparents to get away from a bad relationship. I lived in the basement for about 6 months. I remember waking up one morning and going up stairs for breakfast to find Grandma eating a piece of cake. I thought that was the craziest thing at the time. I asked her why she was eating cake for breakfast and she said, "Because I am almost 70 and I do what I want." That was her! She was "YOLO'ing" before it was cool.

I moved away shortly after that and met the man who would become my husband. He was involved in an historical re-creation society and I wanted to impress him by making myself a French Cotehardie. I bought a pattern for the dress that was to be made with ELEVEN yards of fabric and cut on the bias. Until that time, I had only sewn small projects and never anything from a pattern. I didn't even know how to read a pattern. As I sat on the floor, nearly buried under all that fabric, trying to sort out the pattern, almost in tears I decided to call my Grandma for help. I told her what I was doing and her response was shocked silence. I informed her that I didn't even know what a selvage was and she burst into laughter. Somehow, even though we were hundreds of miles apart, she helped me through that project.

DH(who was still DBF at the time) and I flew down to Utah on September 10th, 2001 so that I could introduce him to my family. We stayed in my old basement room. We woke up on the morning of the 11th to find the country in the midst of that horrible disaster. I was grateful to be with my family during that terrifying time. I remember Grandpa saying, "Well, we're at war." and Grandma's response was, "Yep. What would you like for breakfast." They'd lived through some terrible times already. It wasn't that they didn't care, it was that they were seasoned to it, in a way.

 A few months later my Grandmother had a stroke. She spent some time in the hospital and some time in a care facility, but ultimately my Grandfather took her home to care for her. She was paralyzed on one side and had a difficult time with speech. I was devastated when she got sick. I wanted to do something for her, but I was living far away. I decided to make her a doll. I made a small doll with red hair and even made a little outfit for her. When she got it, she named it Rebecca. She told my mom that the doll looked like the gal who was helping my Grandpa care for her.

DH and I got married on September 13, 2003. We flew to Las Vegas for our Honeymoon and on the way there we had a 2 hour layover in Salt Lake City, where my Grandparents lived. I remember wishing that we could have left the airport to go and visit them. I hadn't seen Grandma since she'd gotten sick. On October 2, 2003 I received a call from my Aunt that Grandma had passed. I hung up the phone and wailed for an hour. I felt so guilty that I hadn't been able to say goodbye. My husband has a very different way of dealing with death. He told me I shouldn't be sad. She was in a better place. He said, "Don't worry. She'll come back as a dragonfly." There was no reason for him to say that and it was very unlike him to say such a thing, but somehow it was very comforting.

My Mom and I drove down to SLC to help Grandpa with the house and the funeral arrangements. A lot of our family had gathered together for the funeral so it was like a big reunion. Even though she was gone, Grandma was still bringing us all together. Mormon families traditionally have a funeral and a big feast called a wake so that everyone can get a chance to pay their respects. It was a long process of grieving and remembering. I met so many cousins and friends of the family. It was amazing to see so many people brought together in her memory. When we finally laid her to rest in the cemetery, I felt like I didn't have anymore tears to cry. I sang a botched up job of Amazing Grace as they lowered her casket. I sat down next to my mom and the next thing we knew there was this HUGE beautiful dragonfly, flying around her grave. There was no water anywhere nearby so it was unusual to have a dragonfly there at the cemetery. I had told my mom what DH had said about the dragonfly and we both burst into tears of joy. Every time we see an out of place dragonfly now we say, "Hi Grandma."

Since my Grandmothers passing, I have tried to take on Grandma's role. Family dinners sort of became my thing. Bringing everyone together for the holidays, cooking a big meal, I always feel like I am channeling Grandma. I have had to self teach pretty much everything I've learned about sewing, cooking, crafting, parenting. But every time I have a success I feel like Grandma is watching over me, guiding my hand and laughing at my mistakes. This time of year is exceptionally difficult because the anniversary of her death is close by. Its been ten years since the world lost a great woman and our family lost the glue that bound us together. I am using her lessons daily to create that bonded feeling for my own little family.

Every time I help my daughter dress her dollies up in one of the items Grandma made, I get a little bit sad that I was never able to tell her how much I appreciated all of her hard work. I hope that when I am making new doll clothes for my daughter and for other little girls that Grandma is getting the message that I truly loved all of those personal touches and I've learned so much from her.

I can tell that my emotions are making it very difficult for me to finish this blog post. So I'll end it now by putting this out there. I love you Grandma! My little Bug would have loved you so much! I am so grateful for all of the lessons you've taught me. I hope I've made you proud by following in your footsteps. Now, I'm going to go eat a piece of cake in your honor.