Sunday, July 8, 2012

And now for something completely different...

Because I don't have enough to occupy my time (haha), I've recently taken up a new hobby. My sweet, long-suffering mother has agreed to give me lessons on the sewing machine. I've done hems and buttons and repairs by hand, so I'm not totally incapable of these things. But getting used to a machine is a different experience, and I hope doesn't take years to perfect since I can be a little impatient. It's something I'm trying to work on. :)

Anyway, here's my very first seam...marginally straighter than I expected it to be.

After a couple more days of sewing seams, I practiced sewing a small piece onto a larger piece. I ran out of thread on the triangle, but they don't look too shabby for early attempts.

This weekend, I let impatience win. Rather than practice more seams without actually making anything, I decided to create cloth napkins. I have to say...sewing a straight seam must take far more practice than I anticipated or else I just stink. On the other hand, unless you're actually looking for straight seams, you'd probably never notice, so I guess it evens out. Mom and I went shopping for materials earlier in the week, and I picked out a fun striped pattern that matches my dishes. Unfortunately, they only had one yard left, but I found the exact same colors in a different pattern. Pushing aside my natural tendency toward symmetry and order, I decided to be wild and have napkins in two different patterns. Chaos!! :)

I cut the striped cloth into 20 x 20" squares, which gave me four napkins with plenty of room for hems. I started with this pattern mistakenly believing the stripes would help me maintain straight lines. That is not how it worked out. It did make cutting near-perfect squares easier, but the stripes reveal exactly how uneven my seams are. Live and learn, right? Then I ironed the hems...1/2" which is wider than I wanted, but I found it impossible to iron anything less than that...another something to practice. Then I sewed the edges, which of course aren't perfect, but I made my own napkins! 

The moral of the story is that I need much more practice, but I feel better when I'm creating something, even if it doesn't look perfect. One of these days when I'm able to produce straight seams, I'll bore you guys with more photos! :) 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Something Fun

Sometimes I worry that I spend too much time passing along negative articles about food and other products, so today I'm taking time to do the exact opposite: give you guys some links to books that have fantastic recipes or positive messages for those on the road to healthier living.

First up is Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well) by Peter Kaminsky, a food writer who was forced to change his eating habits after coming too close to obesity and diabetes. He has managed to lose 45 pounds and keep them off, while eating foods that are rarely in diet cookbooks (think prosciutto and olives and cheese). In his opinion, maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle is not only about making healthy choices but also about not sacrificing flavor, which too many diet cookbooks promote. This book is definitely worth a read for all food lovers who aren't crazy about the typical diet foods!

The second is one that I've mentioned before, but its merits are worth repeating. The Happiness Diet by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey is what began my own quest for healthier cooking--easy to do when you realize how many currently stigmatized foods are actually good for you!

Next is the secret to all my bread-making. I hate to give this one up because now people won't need me to make bread for them any more, but it's too good not to share. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois is a must-have for all bread lovers. They have tricks and tips for creating homemade bread that doesn't take hours and hours of work. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can. I also highly recommend their follow-up cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients, which offers healthier options than the original volume.

That should be enough to get you started, but I plan to post more helpful links in the future. Gotta share the love!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Exciting News

Wow, I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted. Sorry about the delay, but I've had quite a bit going on lately. I'm also about to be working out of town for three weeks, so additional delays are probable until June but I hope you'll bear with me and be patient.

In the meantime, I have some very exciting news to share. I am now officially a suki representative through alex+von!! As you may know, a+v hosts several independent brands, and suki is one of my favorites. They specialize in clinically-proven skin care, which is excellent for those who may need a little extra help. This includes me, as my skin tends to be very dry most of the year no matter how healthy I eat or how much water I drink. I've been using the suki nourishing line for three months now, and it has made a HUGE difference. I will be up front and let you know the products are quite a bit more expensive than 100% Pure, but they're concentrated and last a long time. Depending on your skin's needs, a set of products will run $75-150 initially, but if you use them as directed (only a tiny amount at a time is needed) they will last six months or more. I upgraded to full size bottles two months ago, which I use once a day, and only a fraction of the product is gone so far. The suki balancing line has also been a tremendous help for J's acne-prone teenage skin, despite the fact that he only remembers to use it about three days a week. If you'd like to try this brand out and want more information, feel free to email or call me!

Alex+von has also introduced two new brands, which are available now. Original Moxie is a line of hair care products for all hair types, including shampoos, conditioners, and styling aids. Episencial is specifically designed for baby's sensitive skin and includes everything from bubble bath to shampoo to sunscreen. As with all a+v brands, these products are all-natural and chemical-free. I plan to focus more on these brands later, so I don't want to give away too much here, but I did want everyone to know that a+v is growing fast and adding new products and brands all the time. If you haven't checked out the website lately, take time to do so today!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another gross meat article

It seems I just can't get away from learning gross information about how meat is produced in this country. If it weren't for the fact that I adore a thick, juicy steak and now have organic meat options, I would be on the road to vegetarianism. And that's saying something, because I can't claim to be a fan of many vegetables, though I'm working on expanding my horizons. Consider the latest information, which was published in the New York Times op-ed section online today: "a pair of new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic."

Now, the author does note that the studies examined feather meal and not the meat itself, so there isn't conclusive evidence at this time that the chemicals in question make it into the meat and then into the human body. However, I don't need additional evidence to reaffirm our family's choice to go organic. According to these studies, chickens are often fed coffee grounds and tea leaves, presumably to keep them awake so they can eat more. And poultry magazines recommend Benadryl to calm chickens, who are probably suffering from a tremendous caffeine buzz. Even more disturbing is that a class of banned antibiotics was found in many of the feather meal samples...these particular antibiotics are banned in poultry farming "because they can breed antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs' that harm humans."

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the author's comment that poultry farmers often don't know what they're feeding the animals because they're required to use proprietary food blends if they sell to large food corporations. Our government is so busy fighting among themselves and passing laws to control every facet of our lives that they have no time, energy, or desire to ferret out the truth. And why should they? These are the same companies who donate money to both parties to ensure their silence.

Here's a link to the article, if you'd like to read it in full: Arsenic in Our Chicken?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Old habits are hard to break

For the last three weeks, I've been working 10-12 hours a day and that isn't going to let up any time soon. The result is that I'm eating poorly again. The first week we ate a lot of pizza and burgers, and the stress means I'm craving sugary and fatty things...sodas, chips, cookies. I've tried to indulge a little bit, but some days it takes all my willpower to keep from pigging out completely. And the worst part is, I don't feel well when I eat like this. I feel bloated and gross and tired, but I'm having a lot of trouble controlling myself.

At the beginning of last week, I tried to offset this problem by incorporating crockpot meals into my weekday routine. This isn't ideal for my goals, since I'd much prefer to be lightly cooking/steaming fresh veggies each night rather than letting the nutrition cook out of them all day long. But I haven't had much choice in the matter, and at least this way we're getting organic meat and veggies in a more-or-less home-cooked form. We also make burgers pretty often with the grass-fed beef because they TASTE SO DARN GOOD! Seriously, I will crave these burgers if it's been more than a week or two since I've had one. In this area, at least, fast food is no substitute. I might still have french fry cravings, but I no longer want burgers from the normal places.

I can't wait for things to settle down a little more, so I can get back to living healthy and weaning us off even more store-bought goods. For example, a friend last weekend told me that she'd just recently learning that most pickles have dyes in them. Sure enough, next time I went to Kroger, I checked every single brand (including Claussen), and all of them contained at least one dye. Why is that necessary?!? So now my weekend plans include trying out homemade pickles along with planting a few herbs and veggies. I'll let you know how they turn out. ;)

Friday, March 9, 2012

I don't know if anyone else has the same experience, but often I'll start writing a blog with the intention of discussing one topic and instead something completely different comes out. I just kind of go with it, because then I already have another blog waiting in the wings for those weeks when I may have a little writer's block. Of course, I've discovered that the subject of healthy living is easy to talk about, especially now that friends regularly send me links to articles or products related to healthy living (for which I am very grateful...keep them coming!!). All in all, I may end up posting more often than once a week simply because there is so much information.

In my last post, for example, I intended to share a recipe with you guys, but something completely unrelated took over and the recipe wouldn't have fit. So now I can tell you what happened a few weeks ago. We had an appointment right after church one Sunday morning, and I knew we'd be starving by the time we got home. To make lunch easier and quicker, I cubed a grass-fed beef roast and tossed it in the crockpot with carrots, onions, a few spices, and a little water with the intention of returning to a simmering, delicious beef stew. Unfortunately, the lean beef soaked up all the water, leaving tender, perfectly cooked meat and veggies but no broth. How can you have stew without broth? You can't, obviously.

I started to panic because the whole point of this exercise was to have lunch ready to go. Then I had a brilliant idea. I put three cups of organic, reduced sodium beef broth in a saucepot and turned the heat up to high. As the broth heated, I tossed in some spices...a little salt and pepper, but primarily Penzeys English Prime Rib Rub, which may be the most glorious blend of spices ever...and stirred it regularly so nothing burned. I also took a little unbleached flour and water and whisked the two together to form a gravy base. Once the broth was boiling, I poured the flour mixture into the pan a little at a time, whisking constantly between additions to make sure it dissolved thoroughly before adding more. Once the broth was a good consistency (a little thinner than my normal gravy), I turned the heat down and scooped the beef and veggies into the pot. I let it simmer for 10-15 minutes to give the flavors time to mingle and get to know one another. The result was even better than I hoped...even J gobbled it up and he's not a huge beef stew fan. He said it tasted even better than the Campbell's chunky beef soup...high praise indeed. ;)

Then I had an even more brilliant idea...what a perfect way to use leftovers when we have a beef pot roast! If your family is anything like mine, they don't always appreciate leftovers the next day. I do my best to turn them into something exciting, but my creativity is somewhat limited in this regard so I'm very excited to have a new weapon in my arsenal. I hope it helps some of you as well!


I've spent most of the last week sick with something not fun...bad cold, severe allergies, I'm not sure what exactly it was. I think I may finally be over it, though, and I'm trying to catch up on my blog and Facebook pages. Yay!

I have some exciting alex+von news first: I just ordered the starter kit and training materials for the suki line of products. I've been using the nourishing line of products for a couple of weeks now, and they are really helping with my extremely dry winter skin. Once I have time to review the training materials, I can take a test and add suki to my list of specialized boutiques!

It's funny...when I began this whole process, I really just wanted to make a little extra money in addition to my normal full-time job. The more I use these products, though, the more I really want to share them with other people, and I've spent far more time than I planned in promoting them to my friends and family. I'm still trying to break into general online sales, but I have many things in the works (web site, etc.). It's a just a matter of finding the time and money to do them! In the meantime, keep ordering from alex+von, using me as your consultant, and I'll keep sharing the latest specials with you. In fact, right now 100% Pure is giving away a free 6 oz. body scrub (plus free shipping) when you order at least $70 worth of their products. If you've never used a body scrub before, you're missing out. I normally use mine right after shaving, and my skin feels so incredibly soft...ridiculously soft, really.

Here's a link to the body scrub, if you'd like to read the ingredients or browse the site to place an order. As always, I'm happy to answer any questions you might have and don't forget to feed the fish before you leave!