Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another try...

So I made another batch of cookies today (from the same cookbook as the chocolate crinkles from this weekend)... and yet again, I got only 24 out of the recipe!  It says it makes 35.  Short of getting out a ruler, I'm pretty sure they weren't much bigger than 1" in diameter.  I will take pictures this time!  If they look good... I'm trying the recipe for Crunchy Sesame Balls.  If all goes well, I'll post pictures AND the recipe :)

You might be wondering what happened to my diet change... well, I'm doing pretty well so far, but homemade cookies are still a weakness of mine.  I'm drinking a shake for breakfast, and having a well rounded lunch, and portioning dinner, so I figure a cookie or two (or all) now and then won't hurt too much... right?

Time flies when you're being lazy...

Somehow yesterday went by without a single thought towards my blog.  Perhaps it was the "Biggest Loser" marathon I watched... because I'm productive like that.  So today I will attend to the things I neglected Monday.  Not all, but some.  One of those things is sharing a great shop called Swan Mountain Soaps.  What's funny is yesterday I spent a good hour plus going through this shop and making a list of things I want.  How I forgot to write about it and share that, I don't quite know... it's all a blur.

Swan Mountain Soaps is a family show; Christina is the head swan, and is assisted by her husband/cheerleader/guinea pig Mike.  They also have five little gardeners, who help gather the wild Alaskan ingredients used in their fabulous products.  Inspired by Alaska's beauty, Swan Mountain Soaps is dedicated to making quality, handmade bath and body (and a few edible!) products from natural ingredients.  These materials include dandelions, birch sap, chickweed, chamomile, and cocoa and shea butters.  

One of the first things that made my birthday wish list:

Citrus and Kumquat soap/shampoo bar... with birch sap!  Despite being wary of rubbing tree sap in my hair, this sounds awesome.  I've always wanted to try a shampoo bar.  And the scent couldn't be more perfect for summer.  It was a close tie between this one and the Creamy Coconut soap/shampoo bar!

I'm such a sucker for lip balm... and Chai Tea (yum yum).  I considered buying this right off the bat, but I'm not sure if eating sticks of lip balm is healthy for you.  The lip balms can also be requested as vegan, so this is a great gift for every single person you know.  Even the geek who lives next door... yes, there is even a geek collection!

Genius!  Geek soap, lotion, lip balm... "Normally our Geek Lip Balm comes unscented, but upon request we can offer it in Apple Pie, Mountain Dew or Mike & Ike."  Hahahahaha.  I love it!  For those of us slightly more refined... bath fizzies in Lemon Verbena:

So besides the delightful lotions, body butter, body and lip balms, perfumes, bath fizzies, handmade soaps, and scrubs, I mentioned earlier that Swan Mountain Soaps also has "edible" items.  Also, featured on my wish list, are:  Birch Beer Mustard (wow) and Birch Beer Jelly!

These sound so incredible!  So you understand: "We use wonderful extra stout beer, sap from our own birch trees here on our property near Wasilla, Alaska, organic fair-trade sugar, organic lemon juice and pectin. And that's it. No hidden chemicals, food coloring or preservatives."  I'm sold!

So in addition to all the amazing things Swan Mountain Soaps offers on Etsy, they also have a great little blog, where Christina shares other great artists she's found and talks about the wonderful resources she uses (there's a great section on how they harvest their birch sap!), as well as life in rugged Alaska.

Fabulous store!  Thanks for letting me share your story!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chocolate Crinkles!

So yesterday I made some very delicious cookies.  And I had fully intended to take a nice picture of them, not only because they were pretty, but because my posts need more pictures.  But the cookies... they are kind of, well, gone now.  So all you get is the recipe.  No picture, but just imagine a plate full of deliciously chocolatey, sugary, crinkled cookies.  Got that image in your head?  Good.  Now make this recipe and voila!  Dream into reality.

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks from my childhood; an oldie, but goodie.  My dough was a little dry, and therefore several of the cookies actually split into pieces along their "crinkles."  See how your dough is before you roll it into balls, and add a bit more milk if need be.  To "crinkle" they need to be a bit dry, so it's a delicate balance.  Supposedly makes 36 cookies... I made about 24.5 (the .5 represents the dough I ate).

Adapted from Mable and Gar Hoffman's Cookies in Minutes!

1/2 C vegetable oil
1C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1/4C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C powdered sugar

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together oil, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla extract, milk, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and flour.
-Form dough into 1 1/4 inch balls.  Roll in powdered sugar and place approx. 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
-Bake for 10-12 minutes or until firm on edges.  Cool on racks.

Feel free to post pictures if you make these!  I love to mess with recipes a bit, so I've also tried these with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, peanut butter... the options are endless.  Let me know how yours turn out!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Slept in 'til 1:20pm.  Oops.  And now I've wasted all hours since then watching Biggest Loser reruns.  I need an intervention!  Also, I need to go to the bank, the fabric store, to pay some taxes.... what a wasted day!  I have been grooming my Etsy shop... that counts as productive, right?  I'm such a slacker.  Maybe I'll at least wash some dishes...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Temptation Monday!

So today is full of temptations for me.  And so far, I've given in.  I had a soda (which I haven't had in over 2 weeks).  I had a handful of Hot Tamales (they know and call my name).  And then there's the Etsy artist that I am reviewing (can I have her shop delivered to me?).  Lotus MiraGe Ephemera has some of the most unique, quirky, and amazing jewelry I've seen in awhile.  Aside from the fact that she has a great special going on right now, where you get a bracelet and a matching pendant for $52.76 (!), she absolutely has something for everyone.  I mean it.  Is your best friend a vintage stamp collector?  How about this vintage Haitian stamp pendant

Remember how your great aunt has always loved antique Chinese vases?  How about sending her these beautiful broken China beaded earrings?

Maybe you've always had a dark side, or want it to feel like Halloween all year long.  Why not decorate your haunted walls with a Lovecraftian horror collage?

I almost didn't want to share that one because I love it so.  Temptations!!  Lotus MiraGe Ephemera has a fantastic selection of soldered glass bracelets and pendants.  Here's one more to entice you and distract you from the day that is today: Monday :(

We all know a Wizard of Oz fan (me):

What a fun Dorothy bracelet!  And it's double-sided, too.  This just keeps getting better!  This fabulous lady also has pendants with origami paper, images from Alice in Wonderland, black cats, Edgar Allen Poe photos... you name it, she's got it.  And they're very well made!  Double-sided images between glass, with fully soldered edges, so you know it will last.  She also takes great care in shipping and packaging your pretty piece so it arrives to you (or the really lucky person you've sent it to) in one piece.

Lotus MiraGe Ephemera, who can be found on EtsyFacebook, and Twitter, also has a great blog where she discuss her art, other artists, and a delicious looking recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies, among other miscellaneous things.  I will leave you with my favorite of her pieces... I'm not sure what it says about me, but this vintage poison label pendant has me smitten!! 

Thank you Lotus MiraGe Ephemera for letting me ogle your goodies!  Hehe.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New BEST feature!

This week I have the privilege of featuring a lovely little shop called UniqueDesignsbyMsP.  Ms. P, or Paula, has been creating things since she was a young girl, making clothes for her Barbie dolls.  Now she makes fun, one of a kind crocheted fingerless gloves:

She also has great bracelets, like this Mother's Bracelet (I love the blue crystals and pearls!):

And this pretty topaz bracelet:

Paula also enjoys custom work, with different colors or sizes to fit your needs.  She also will be adding some more jewelry, as well as handbags and fashion accessories, in the coming months, so there's lots to look forward to!

UniqueDesignsbyMsP also has a blog!  She'd love to hear from you! 

A great start!

So Sunday was the last day of our cleanse.  Whew!  Made it.  And with minimal cheating (only on the last day, and it was by having a real dinner)  :)  Sorry this will be a long post!

This whole process has been really eye-opening.  I lost 6 lbs, which is pretty exciting, considering it was only due to a change in diet.  My husband lost 12 lbs!  Awesome.  I feel like I look better, and I know I feel better.  Today we actually got up at 5:30 (!!!) and went for a 40 min run/walk!  This is an absolute turnaround for us.  For me, at least.  I have always had an extreme love/hate relationship with running (also with getting up early, but that's another story).  I hate running.  I love thinking about liking running.  It made me get D's in high school gym class, and has always been something I dread.  So for whatever reason, this week, it popped (I almost wrote "pooped," which would be equally appropriate) into my head that I wanted to run a marathon.  Crazy.  And so this morning, my husband and I got up, ate a quick and small breakfast (healthy peanut butter on multigrain toast and some fat free cottage cheese, yum!), and took off.  We are following the beginner's training program from RunnersWorld.  Basically, you warm up by walking briskly for 5min, then run for 2min, walk for 4min, etc., alternating for 40min.  I won't lie, it was tough.  My knees still ache (they are awful anyway), and my lungs were burning.  But we did it, and I only stopped for a second, then my husband reminded me that I can indeed do it, and I did.

The most interesting thing I think I've learned about from this cleanse is not portion sizing, or better food choices, but the reactions and attitudes of those around me.  I thought everyone would be really supportive, and say "way to go!," or "that's awesome," or something along those lines.  What we got instead were lots of doubters, and people who couldn't (and still can't) wrap their heads around what we were doing.  "So you're not eating?" was a question we got a lot.  "Aren't you hungry?"  "Don't you want a burger?"  "Why can't you just have a beer?"  I would explain that we were cleansing, and we were getting all the nutrients and vitamins we needed, and truly, the majority of the time we were actually not hungry because we were getting what our bodies had been deprived of for years with poor food.  Sure things were tempting, but paying attention to actual hunger vs. boredom or temptation was a big part of it also.  People gave me a really hard time about my choices; some even laughed or made snide remarks, like they knew I was going to fail, and there I was, silly me, thinking I could accomplish something and have control over my own health!  Yes, I really do like fresh veggies, and I won't apologize!  Sure cookies sound good, but I feel like I've reset my body a bit, and those old cravings are gone now that I've flushed out the feeling of fatty, sugary junk food.  We treated ourselves to a dinner of sushi last night.  And sure we ate a bit more than we should have, but we enjoyed it, and we've made a great grocery shopping list of healthy foods.  We're going to start making our own bread, cheese, maybe even yogurt.  I firmly that believe taking part in the creation of your food leads to a deeper appreciation of it, and if you take time to enjoy it, you stop yourself from going overboard.  My obsession with the magazine Cooking Light has been really helpful in reminding us that a diet change is not about deprivation, but portion control and paying attention to what our bodies are telling us. 

So for those of you interested in using the same program we used, it's called IsaGenix (I wish I was paid to endorse, but I'm not).  You probably have to buy it from a consultant; our chiropractor ordered it for us.  Overall, it was great.  For the future, I don't think I want the same shakes and snacks, but I'm a little better equipped now with what I'm looking for in my food choices.

And for all the haters and doubters... mind your own fat!  Please don't try to put me down because I'm doing something for my own health and future!  Join me or don't, but please be supportive!  

Monday, May 3, 2010

The BEST review of the week! Literally.

I thought I would start this little post out with a picture.  Because everyone loves pictures, especially pretty ones.  And this picture is gorgeous.  This is JujuBee's Mint Ice Cream Princess Length Pearls Necklace.  I personally have a thing for pearls.  And green.  And mint ice cream.  Now that I've drooled a little bit, let me start by introducing the talented woman, the "Queen Bee" who just made my day.  JujuBee Jewelry Designs, also known as Julessabjewelry, has amazing designs created with a tasteful approach.  Based out of Charlotte, this craftswoman (she sews, crochets, scrapbooks...in addition to a full-time job and making her fabulous jewelry!) likes to unwind by creating covet-able pieces with crystals and pearls.  Her pearl collection is fantastic!

This is JujuBee's Cocoa Queen Opera Length Pearl Necklace.  Stunning!  Her collections of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and sets are not only beautiful, but reasonably priced.  One of the fun jewelry sets:

This is JujuBee's Crystal Quartz Fire and Ice Trio... simple and elegant!  She's also created a fun way to take your earrings from casual day to dressy night:  the Day to Night Collection is a brilliant idea!     

So basically, you take your earrings, like this pretty Amethyst and Burgundy Swarovski set.  See those little hooks on the top?  They just snap in and out of the earring wire.  And there you go!  Interchangeable styles and looks, for all occasions!  I think this is a such a great idea!  You are getting two sets of earrings for the price of one!  Love it.

JujuBee also has a great blog, where she has great reviews, updates, and giveaways, and is on both Twitter and Facebook.  Anything from this artist would make a lovely Mother's Day gift... or any-day-of-the-year gift, really.  Now that it's spring, I know how tempting a new wardrobe is.  And jewelry is the quickest way (and most fun, because trying on clothes is never really a fun experience) to update that wardrobe!  Treat yourself to something well-made, handmade, and beautiful!   JujuBee also loves making custom orders, so really there is no excuse to not indulge a little.  You'll love yourself for it :)   

Changes Day 2, 3, and 4

I'll make my summary of the past couple days short (sort of)... they flew by so quickly, that I don't remember most of what happened anyway!  Friday was the second day of Operation Change, and it went by without a hitch.  I made the yummiest lunch of chicken and broccoli I have ever had... and it was just chicken and broccoli.  No salt, so seasonings, just fresh food, and it was delicious.  Maybe I'm resetting my tastebuds a little?  I would like to think that.  Saturday and Sunday were both Cleanse days, meaning, we had only water and the juice-like cleanse drink.  Plus few almonds and the provided "snacks," little tablets that remind me of gerbil pellets.  Probably don't taste much better, either.  Saturday was exhausting for me; not only was my body working hard to adjust and flush, but my job had a huge event -- Free Comic Book Day!  It's our busiest day of the year, and somehow I scheduled my roughest day of the cleanse on it.  When I arrived, there were donuts, cookies, and for lunch, Taste of Philly cheesesteaks.  I could have cried.  The sandwich really tempted me, it smelled heavenly.  But thinking about it, I shouldn't have had any of those things anyway, and without a doubt would have.  So perhaps I timed it perfectly.  So now I think I'm better geared towards appreciating my food, which maybe I overlooked before.  It's so important.  Especially when I am never for want of it.

I was about ready to collapse when I got home, and was still exhausted Sunday morning.  Sunday was better, though.  I had managed to yet again schedule something strenuous... I helped my sister move out of her apartment.  SO needless to say, this weekend was exhausting, and also fulfilling.  I like feeling that my body is tired from being active, and I can say that I definitely feel better now than I did before we started the program.  Today is back to shake, lunch, shake, so I can enjoy chicken, a hard-boiled egg, and some steamed broccoli and mushrooms.  Soo much better than gerbil pellets! 

Oh, and I've lost 3 lbs and several inches so far!  Can't complain there :)  And we're (my husband and I) starting to really look at foods, what's in them, where they come from, and portion sizes.  Duh, you're saying.  I know.  But thinking about how we can adjust favorites, like sloppy joes or pizza, to be healthful and reasonable is exciting, and I think we're closer because of it.  Happier, because we're doing it together and having fun with it... and I'm sure our bodies are happier because of our changes.  We still have until this coming Sunday on the program, so wish us luck that we continue our success!