Sunday, July 31, 2011

~Good Things for July~

Ideas that restore beauty, simplicity and order to our everyday living!

I enjoy the Good Things section in MSL and I hope that you get inspired to try a few of these life simplifying and beautifying ideas.  Month after month I know that this section of Living contains easy and simple ideas that will enhance our everyday living.  What I love most about this section is how easy and fast a project can be completed. When time is being budgeted for, these mini-projects are fun to try.

Blue Notes July 2011
Blueberry-infused Gin

Combine 1 cup gin with 1/2 cup blueberries in an airtight container and let stand at room temperature for 3 days.  Strain, and refrigerate (up to three weeks).  Top a jigger with tonic or sparkling lemonade and garnish with frozen berries.

Fruit Butters July /August 1996

Blackberries are emerging everywhere with their droopy black orbs shining in the sun.  When I see them suspended by their stems looking perfect and juicy I can't help but get excited.  Around Paradise Basin we have many blackberry vines that are ripe with fruit for our taking.  This recipe is a perfect way to make a simple and fast fruit butter for the kids.  We go through a lot of jelly/fruit butter for PB&J sandwiches so this is going to become a new favorite recipe!

3 1/2 pounds of fruit (peaches, pears, plums,etc)
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups of sugar (adjust to your preference)

Mix together and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes, until the fruit is very thick and spreadable about 2 1/2 hours.  Cover tightly , these will keep for a month if refrigerated or for a few months if frozen. 

Freshly picked blackberries

Next, I put the berries into these recycled berry containers.  Wow, I was surprised at how much I had!

I went to the pear orchard and gathered a few pears too.
Here is the fruit butter after it simmered.
The Blackberry-Pear Butter...just that easy!


Okay, this idea is really cool!  Most of us are trying to reduce our carbon footprints while saving money, right?  Well, check this out.  You can light a garden pathway with seashells, for free.  Unfortunately, the moon is in the early stages of the waxing crescent phase and so it's not very bright.  However, you can still get the general idea (I used a head lamp light to give me a little extra help). The seashells really do provide a well-lit and attractive pathway.  

~Good Things for July~

~Get Fashionably Fit with Sketchers Shape-Ups~

Sketchers Shape-Ups

I find it rather interesting that there are so many different kinds of shoes that promise the same exact result-a shaped-up body.  Check out a few shoes that I found online. 

FitFlops available at Macy's, Bath and Body Works and Victoria's secret for $49.99 (2008)
 (Nope, I wouldn't wear these)

                                            $100 at all major shoe retailers (2009)  (Kinda cute)

Shape-Ups by Sketchers 'XF' Toning Boot $140  Nordstrom (Are you kidding me?)

$344 MBT 'Tenga' Gor-Tex Boot  Nordstrom  ( I feel insulted as a consumer! Ummm...has the designer ever watched the Adams Family before?)

Kim Kardashian fit, Marilyn Monroe beautiful, svelte like Sarah Jessica Parker- quite a few Americans are receiving mixed-messages about how to stay healthy and fit in a nation that celebrates reality cooking shows and food magazines. We we watch cooking shows more than ever and idolize Martha Stewart cakes while at the same time telling ourselves that these foods are "BAD".  We torture ourselves instead of embracing the very thing that we must do each and every day which is to eat food.  The quote from Michael Pollan comes to mind, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants".  Well said, Michael. This is my kind of "diet"!

To speed the skinny minny lifestyle up a bit (because we don't like to wait too long, ya know) we invent shoes that will shape our bodies without us even having to take charge of our own physical fitness.  Imagine that.  You can look good without even trying? Sign me up! 

These observations made even more sense to me after I spotted a recent picture of Kim Kardashian while standing in line at the store.  Wait? In my Martha Stewart magazine she looks like Barbie (Shape-Ups ad) but this tabloid cover picture paints a different story.  I thought wearing Shape-Ups was the answer to staying skinny?

Obviously not.  You see, shortly before I started this blog I had an epiphany.  I was thinking about staying in shape all wrong.  Ass backwards as they say. FYI wanting to be in shape and happy with yourself does not make you self-obsessed (I know a few people out there that think this!). 

Here is what this American girl thinks about how to stay healthy:

1) Do not eat foods laden with pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers

2) Keep GMOs far away from my kitchen

3) DO not look at losing weight in terms of pounds

4) Do not only look at weight in terms of beauty

5)  And most importantly look at losing weight as a health matter because that's exactly what it is.  Ask yourself, "  Will this make me feel good if I eat this?" I have lost over 140 pounds by doing this.  I gained 80 pounds with Gabriel and then lost 20 before becoming pregnant with Sarah six months later and then I gained 60 pounds with her!  That was before I thought about food the way I do now. 

I've been interested in food and health for awhile now (those that follow my blog now this) and so I decided to choose Sketcher Shape-Ups as my July product test from Martha Stewart Living.  Hey, I wouldn't mind a little extra help while I'm running around with the kids. The bottom line was that I was looking for a comfortable shoe that could help me feel less tired at the end of a long day. Could the added bonus be a shapely butt and legs too? 

For two weeks I've been parading around in what I've dubbed my "Sporty Girl Stilettos"

My Conclusion:  

I haven't noticed a change in my body as a result of the shoe itself, but I have noticed an increased feeling of sportiness while wearing them.  Whether I'm baking, working out, or running, I feel like I'm standing on thick foam!  I like the way they make me feel.  Plus they add height while providing comfort!  Not the usual combo in some women's shoes. 

Sweep your kitchen in both comfort and style!

I recommend these shoes to women that want to wear something comfortable and slightly stylish.  However, I have not found that the shoe itself is going to shape me up.  That part is up to me.  My conclusion is that it's the person, not the shoe that make a person fit.  Buy for inspiration and comfort and do the working out yourself.  Taking charge of your own life and actions is always a good thing. Enjoy!
~The Sporty Girls' Stiletto~

Friday, July 29, 2011

~A Bathroom Escape~

What's Playing?  Desert Rose by Sting

We all need it, mom or not.  You know, a place to sit and think quietly. A place for solitude, peace, reflection, relaxation and regeneration.  It is necessary and is not self-indulgent to create such a place for yourself.  We all need it-especially those of us that care for other people.  Intuitively I knew this, but I failed to set aside the time to create such a place. It may sound funny that a bathroom could be a place for all of the above to occur, but the door has a lock and it has running water that can magically transform itself into a lovely candle lit day spa in a matter of minutes.

Our bathroom is one of the most important rooms in our house-besides the kitchen of course.  It is our library, spa, bathroom, hair salon, recording studio (for the shower singers),nail shop and doctor's office too.  With this in mind, I decided to give this popular room the change that it deserves.  Maybe some of these ideas will get your creativity flowing so that you can make an area of your home a restorative oasis for your soul?  We must nourish our souls well and often in order to have enough love and energy to shower onto those that we love-and for those projects and people that just won't go away (darn it!). 

Most of the items that I used were found around the property, were purchased from a yard sale or were from other rooms in the house.  Decorating frugally made redecorating our bathroom affordable and fun.

Paper-Cup Flowers from (used as "wall art" in our bathroom)

picture from

Tools and Materials
Two paper cups
Fast-drying craft glue
Small gold brad
Paper Cup Flowers How-To
1. Snip two paper cups in half, as shown. Turn halves inside out.

2. Pleat each half, as shown. Secure pleats with a dab of fast-drying craft glue.

3. Join four pleats at their points with fast-drying craft glue.

4. Affix flower inside a third inside-out paper liner if desired. To finish, pierce the flower with a small gold brad. To make a more ornate flower, you can place a bit of embossed gold trim at the center before adding the brad, or glue cutout leaves beneath the flower.

Photo Gallery

Here is what the bathroom looked like before I started giving it a little TLC.  I was ready for a change!
Bathroom before picture.
It all starts with the paint.
I made this sun catcher from things around the house and from random items in the garage.  I used a wheel from an old baby carriage in order to act as the base for a series of antique (seriously antique) spoons.  In the center of the wheel I placed an old bottle that was decoupaged with a vintage picture of a bird.  Since we are talking antiques, I decided to wear my 1962 black velvet chignon holder with black netting for some added inspiration.  How did people wear these things?  It was really hard to see and annoying to have something in my face.  Cute, but this hat is only good for sitting still.  Anyway, I've started an vintage hat collection and I'm having fun with it!
Exercise care when using a ladder-trust me.
The sun catcher is now hung in place.
A closer look....the flowers around the edge are from my garden.  These are Strawflowers- one of my favorite flowers.
I found a package of adhesive letters in my scrapbooking bin.  I used this to spell the word thrive on the bathroom wall.  I also painted paper-cup flowers (instructions are posted above) with the extra paint that was left over.   
For $1 I scored an old bread pan that held four bread pans together.  It was obviously too rusted to use in the kitchen so I made it into a flower pot for some pretty succulents.
 I used one of our old wooden crates as a cubby for wash cloths and towels.  The plant next to the towels was purchased for a $1 as well at a yard sale. 
I had two old planters that were not being used.  So, I decided to bring them inside.  I planted them with various indoor plants from The Home Depot.  I bought the metal cage from a yard sale for, you guessed it, $1. 
The other planter went to the right of the sink and held a few more indoor plants.

I thought that the right corner of the mirror needed something.  I decided to take some newspaper and shape it into a few flowers.  I then took some left over paint and highlighted the edges of the flowers.
I added some old bottles around the room that I had purchased from an antique store.
I made another paper flower from newspaper and painted it to match the wall.  The doll was purchased from a junk shop for $1,lol. 
I love interesting plants like the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula).  I purchased three of these plants and then grouped them together in this Terra-cotta pot.
The old watering can is now our garbage can. 
The view from the shower.  The black stuff in the right corner is a string of black silk flowers.
A different angle
Hanging near the window is a Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea) .  Native to the tropics of Brazil, this plant is considered to be a medicinal herb that will numb the mouth and alleviate a toothache.  It can also be used as a remedy for a number of other health concerns.
We added an oak branch that spanned from one wall to the next.  On top of the branch we added several clusters of Tillandsia cyanea on grapewood (from The Home Depot). 
This is a Nepenthes plant.  These are tropical plants that have been referred to as Monkey Flower because monkeys have been seen drinking water from the "pitchers".  These are great plants to keep indoors as they trap insects inside of the cups.  
I decided to relocate this fairy to the bathroom.  One of the flowers fell off my Nepenthes plant so I gave it to her for good luck.

Now I'm ready for a bubble bath.  See you next time!

~For marriage to be a success, every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. The end.
Catherine Zeta-Jones ~

Thursday, July 28, 2011

~What's for Dinner? Shrimp! ~

This shrimp dinner had me preparing simple vegetables in an unusual manner (unusual to me anyway).  Who has ever charred romaine lettuce?  Or grilled lemons?  Most home cooks like myself are shrugging our shoulders in bewilderment. Gabriel and Sarah couldn't get enough of the shrimp!  So much so that none was left for daddy when he made it home :/  If you have shrimp lovers around then I suggest doubling the shrimp recipe. 

You know, I just can't help but think about Bubba Gump and his love of shrimp.  Here is what Bubba says about how to prepare shrimp.  Go Bubba!

"Anyway, like I was saying, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, broil it, saute it, bake it, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried, there's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, cave shrimp, shrimp stew, shrimp salad,shrimp and potatoes shrimp burger,cave shrimp.That's about it."  Bubba Gump

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

This sign is from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.  This place has really good food!
When I used to live in LA this was one of my favorite places to eat.
Bubba and Forrest

Okay, back to the food.

Grilled Shrimp and Bacon with Lemons

We omitted the bacon since we are semi-vegetarians (we still eat seafood).

 Martha Stewart Living July 2011

picture from

  • Prep Time 15 minutes

  • Total Time 55 minutes

  • Yield Serves 4

  • Ingredients

    • 16 large shrimp (about 1 1/2 pounds), shells split but not removed, deveined
    • 2 lemons
    • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 ounces)


    1. Toss shrimp in a large nonreactive baking dish with zest and juice of 1 lemon, the Old Bay seasoning, and oil. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
    2. Heat grill to medium-high. Slice remaining lemon into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Grill lemon slices, shrimp, and bacon directly on grates until lemon slices are caramelized (2 to 3 minutes per side), shrimp are cooked through (about 3 minutes per side), and bacon is lightly charred and crisp (4 to 5 minutes per side). Transfer lemons and shrimp to a bowl, and the bacon to a plate. Let cool slightly.
    3. Tear bacon into 2-inch pieces, and add to bowl with lemons and shrimp. Toss until well combined.
    Fresh,clean,pre-cooked shrimp.  I had to keep this away from the kids because their little hands kept grabbing tails out of the bowl.
    I decided to try some of the seasoning plain.  Wow, it's spicy!  However, this seasoning is very good on the shrimp.
     Grilling the shrimp
    Gabriel is a shrimp lover.  He calls them "shirps" and he told me to make this again. 
    Miss Sarah Elizabeth liked the dinner too but kept it to herself.

    Charred-Romaine Salad

    Martha Stewart Living, July 2011
    picture from
    • Prep Time 15 minutes
    • Total Time 20 minutes
    • Yield Serves 4


    • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and quartered
    • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
    • 1 large head romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for brushing


    1. Place radishes and shallot in a small bowl. Bring water, 1/2 cup vinegar, the sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over radishes and shallot. Refrigerate.
    2. Meanwhile, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while grilling romaine.
    3. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush romaine halves with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning, until charred but still crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Cut each in half lengthwise. Drizzle dressing over romaine. Drain radish-shallot mixture. Scatter over romaine. Serve immediately.

    The charred-romaine lettuce
    This is the vinegar, sugar and water mixture that was used to flavor the radishes.

    Crisp Red Potatoes with Garlic-Herb Oil

    picture from

    Martha Stewart Living, July 2011
    • Prep Time 10 minutes
    • Total Time 25 minutes
    • Yield Serves 4


    • 1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes
    • Large-flake sea salt
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated


    1. Heat grill to medium-high. Place potatoes in a large pot, and fill with cold water. Season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 12 to 13 minutes. Drain, and let cool slightly. Halve potatoes, and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.
    2. Meanwhile, whisk together parsley, garlic, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl.
    3. Grill potatoes directly on grates, flipping, until slightly charred and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Toss with garlic-herb oil. Season with salt. 

     The potatoes are grilling. 
     The crisp red potatoes with garlic-herb oil

    Pound Cake with Peaches and Cream

    picture from

    Martha Stewart Living, July 2011
    • Prep Time 10 minutes
    • Total Time 55 minutes
    • Yield Makes one 5-by-9-inch cake; Serves 4 to 8


    • 3 peaches, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
    • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
    • 1 cup cold heavy cream
    • 1 store-bought pound cake, sliced horizontally into 3 even pieces


    1. Toss peaches with 1 tablespoon sugar. Whisk cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
    2. Line a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides. Lay bottom slice of pound cake in pan. Arrange half the peaches on top in a single layer. Spread half the whipped cream over peaches, and top with middle slice of pound cake. Repeat with remaining peaches, whipped cream, and slice of pound cake.
    3. Wrap cake gently with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 45 minutes.
    4. Remove cake from pan by using plastic overhangs to lift. Slice cake into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve immediately.

    Fresh peaches
    The pound cake and some whipped cream make two little toddlers very happy!
     Pound cake with peaches and cream

    ~Dinner Was Served~

    Run Forrest!  Run!
    I just had to include this ;)

    There was an error in this gadget