Monday, April 29, 2013

Decorating a Niche with Family Pictures

Whenever people come to my house they always stop in my foyer to stare at my family wall. They often comment on pictures, ask questions about family members and talk about how good of an idea it is to use the old pictures in that way.

When I decorated my foyer I knew that I only wanted to use old black and white picture. I wanted to use pictures that meant something to me and pictures that had a story. I wanted it to be a statement with emotion that showed the importance of family and where you came from.

I had a really hard time trying to figure out what to do with this space, but I'm so happy that I decided to give the entire niche to black and white family pictures.

I added the basket (from Pier 1) with some flowers I got at the craft store and the rustic stool from Pottery Barn. I also added the little candles on the wall and they are also from Pottery Barn and I've seen the on sale quite a bit, plus they are always free shipping! I love free shipping.

I still want to paint the back of the picture wall either two shades darker than the color it is now or I want to stencil something in the same color, but in gloss. I really am at a loss about this which is why nothing has been done-- if anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear it!

I love the top picture! It's my great-grandmother (dad's side) and her friend. She's the skinny little thing in a hate. Now Ms. Ona Lee Garrison was a bit of a crazy thing and she always pushed the boundaries. I never met her, but what I've been told is that she lived her life to the extreme and didn't much care about what anyone thought about it. That's saying something for a lady who lived at the turn of a the century!

The bottom picture is my mom's mom, my Granny-- Ester. She is the cute little thing on your right hand side. My Granny is also an independent woman, but she has class. Don't get me wrong-- she also has a lot of sass! There really was no hope for me! The other lady is her sister, Nancy. They were both just teenagers when this picture was taken.

I love how these picture are near each other because they show the difference in the two sides of my families. My dad's side is a little bit crazy and my mom's side is more traditional and normal (still a little bit crazy).

This is my Grandpa's Army picture. He is in the first row third from the left. I have a lot of military pride and I like to display these old military pictures.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Easy, Moist Turkey Meatloaf

Now that I'm not working I keep telling the man that we have to eat "poor man's food". Earlier in the week we had chicken and dumplings, last night it was goulash, and today we had meatloaf.  Not just any meatloaf though-- turkey meatloaf. I know that turkey meatloaf has a history of being dry, but not this recipe! It's always turned out moist and yummy. Trust me, I've made it quite a few times!

If you are thinking about skipping out on the sauce-- don't! Make extra! It's yummy! It's also part of how the turkey meatloaf stays so moist so make sure you dump a good amount on top of the meatloaf before you back it. Save some extra for when you serve it. Yum!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DIY Patriotic Flag Wreath

This is one of the cutest wreaths I've made! It's really easy to make, but just a little time consuming to wrap the yarn. I finished mine in a little over half an hour.
DIY patriotic wreath

What You Need
  • Red, White and Blue Yarn
  • A Straw Wreath in Plastic Wrap (do NOT take it out of the wrap! It'll be much harder!)
  • A star punch if you are like me and not very good at cutting stars by free hand. 
  • Water proof paper material
Make a flag wreath
You need to decide how big you want each red and white section to be and how much should be blue. You could do this logically using a mathematical formula OR you can do it the ghetto way: using an object to space out distance. My sections are about inches in length each.

This was my first time making a yarn wreath and I wasn't quite so sure how to make it. Do I glue it? Do I tie the piece together? Do I tuck it in under itself? Oh, the questions! Of course, I could have found out if I read about it some more, but where is the ADVENTURE!!

So I tied each new color section to the old color section to keep the tension so the yarn was nice and tight. I'd then cut off the extra "hanging" pieces to make it look a little cleaner.

To make each section I kept the yarn on the roll and just tucked it up and over each time. I won't lie... by the end of it my arm ached a bit from all the repetitive motion.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pesticides in my produce? No thank you!

EWG released the ninth annual version of "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce". This yearly analysis uses more than 28,000 samples which are tested by the FDA and the Department of Agriculture and ranks them based on testable pesticides.

The "Dirty Dozen" are foods which you should probably shovel out the extra money and buy the organic version, where as the "Clean Fifteen" may allow you to save out and get the regular versions if you are on a budget.

It's also mentionable to note that the WORST produce for pesticide is the Apple, followed by strawberries, grapes and celery. If you really don't have many options, then they recommend you avoid these products unless they are organic.

The Dirty Dozen: 

Hot Peppers
Sweet Bell Peppers

*Collards, Kale, Zucchini and Summer Squash have some very specific pesticides and although they do not make the dirty dozen list, EWG felt they were worth mentioning.

Clean Fifteen:

Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Sweet Potatoes

Monday, April 15, 2013

"JR Liggett" Shampoo Bar Review

Overthrow Martha Shampoo Bar ReviewI started using J.R. Liggett's Shampoo Bar in November of 2012. I won't lie-- if I didn't' learn about what was going to happen I would have stopped after that first attempt!

Once I applied it to my hair it seemed impossible to run my fingers through it because it felt really waxy. I learned that this was because my hair had been so stripped by the chemicals in regular shampoos and conditioners that I had no natural oils left to lubricate my hair! Yikes!

However, it did get better each time I used it and within a week or two my hair looked better than ever! This shampoo allows your hair to start to produce your own natural oils again and that is the secret to beautiful hair!

After the first couple of shampoos, the difficulty getting my fingers through my hair stopped. I noticed that my fine hair felt a little thicker, and that it was easier to manage. It can even hold a curl now! My hair didn't even need to be washed as frequently. I can go two to three days and it won't even look like it needs to be washed.

After the transition was over I thought I was in the clear. Guess again!

A few months later, I started feeling little lumps of what felt like dried skin or a pimple. If I scratched them then this white stuff would come out. I was initially afraid I had a reaction, but then I learned that my scalp was purging itself of the chemicals from the old products! How gross!! They say that it's very important to lather the shampoo bar into your hair and massage it into your scalp to help loosen up clogged pores, release the old chemicals and to let your natural oils release.

That stopped after a month or two of using the product (thank god!) and now I swear I'll never go back to using regular shampoo and conditioner!!

I used a vinegar rinse now to finish this product off. It's really useful for balancing the pH of your hair and removing the old chemicals, but honestly, after the transition you don't always need the vinegar rinse. 

I've used the shampoo bar by itself and had really good results. It can be a bit drying after prolonged use if you have long hair, so you may want to use a hair mask or put a little oil on the tips if you feel as if your hair is starting to become dry.

This little bar lasts forever too! I'll use one bar for over 5 months before I needed to get a second bar and it's less around $5 for one. Talk about savings! I used to by the expensive Aveda Shampoo which was around $40 for a 2 months supply. Ha! Definite win.

Yearly Savings:  $230 from switching from fancy $40 "natural" shampoo.
Yearly Savings:  $50 from switching from traditional brand, assuming cost is $5 per bottle. 

Um, yes, please! 
Hair after using shampoo bar
Air Dried. No products.
And as for ingredients: 100% Natural oils and Lye. It's all natural, food grade ingredients with no detergents. Any scents are made with oils, but they do have unscented options, such as the ultra balance bar. They use a combination of natural oils such as olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, and coconut oil depending on which type you buy. It's 100% vegan with no animal testing either. The packaging is even biodegradable so you make less of an environmental impact! 

Where to buy it? I usually use Amazon or the JR Liggett store, but you can sometimes find it at health food stores, too. I recommend starting with the Ultra Balanced Bar 3.5 oz or Old-Fashioned Shampoo bar, as I have had good results with both.

The JR Liggett website has quite a bit of information about each bar and why you should convert over to a natural shampoo: JR Liggett

I don't use conditioner and I use a hair rinse that I make myself. Lavender Hair Rinse

Initially, I used a leave in conditioner by Dr. Bonner which was all natural. It seemed to help a bit with tangles: Dr. Bronner - Lavender and Coconut Hair Conditioner but I rarely use it anymore.

I found a website where you can look at how safe your shampoo and conditioners are:  Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

UPDATE: If you want more info on shampoo bars, I posted another article about natural shampoo and reviewed a bar from Beauty and the Bees.

If you'd prefer something different but all natural try my DIY Herbal Hair Poo or this DIY Hair Gel Recipe

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or compensated in any way for this review. This is my opinion of the product. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

GMO Foods- Does It Matter?

Genetically modified foods (GMO) are plants and animals created through an experimental technology which merges DNA from different species. Often this is done to help grow bigger animals faster or grow stronger crops especially on an off season. Initially, this was began because the world population  was rapidly growing and there was a need to find a way to produce more food quickly. In fact, it is so big that if we simply try to sustain ourselves on traditional methods of growing food, then there is a chance that we may run out of food to feed the predicted 10 billion people in the world. 

In 1970, Norman Bourlag created the first genetically modified food, won the nobel peace prize and is said to have saved a billion lives. Sounds promising right? Well, maybe.

Recently, researchers in France fed rats two sets of food: one was GMO corn and the other was regular corn. The rats who ate the GMO corn died earlier, and in greater numbers. They also developed an increase rate of cancers. There are critics of this study who say there weren't enough rats, but it is the first study that actually looks at how GMO affects a life over their lifespan and it shows unfavorable results. Shouldn't that be enough to make us more cautious?

GMO was developed in the 1970's which means that my generation and my parents generation will be the first to see the full effects of food alterations. Our children will simply watch and know what their future holds. Remember, adverse reactions can begin as a child grows, but may not be seen until later in life. The sooner we begin to feed our children healthy foods, the better off they will be.

The older generations, in my opinion, seemed to be healthier and I believe this has a lot to do with how they ate as children and young adults. Many people of my family have lived well into their 80's and 90's with minimal health problems. My grandfather died early, but I believe that was due to lifestyle choices--- fast food, cigars, overweight, not exercising while my other grandfather died due to exposure to asbestos (lung cancer). In fact, my Granny developed diabetes shortly after processed foods became very popular. Coincidence? I think not.

My father has already lost a sister who was in her late 50's. My cousin died at 20 of an enlarged heart. Many of my parent's friends have passed away in their 50's and 60's. My father already developed cancer and, thankfully, beat it. It seems like their generation is sicker than the older generation!

Even my generation is seeing a decline in health. Granted, it is hard to say if it is the GMO products or the obesity epidemic... perhaps both? My brother is active, slightly overweight, and 42 years old. He has hypertension and the heart disease. My sister is a mess-- she is 40, overweight and she looks twenty years older than she is. In my mid-twenties, I was diagnosed with a heart condition and I am now having neurological changes.

The truth is that we don't know how bad GMO actually is. There has never been a long term study completed on humans because we are the study! We don't know what affects they will have on us, our parents, or our children. We have no idea how reversible the damage done is when we begin to eat healthy foods. We don't know how many of us will get cancer or heart disease because of the chemicals we eat and alterations to our foods. We simply just don't know what we are facing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Flowers (dwarf fruit trees, gardenias, honeysuckle, roses...)

The Dwarf Orange Tree (Valencia) is blooming and there are a few fruits ripening!
 I can't wait to try it! 

The blueberry bush is completely covered in berries!

Mmmm.. love the smell of lavender. 
Thankfully the Winter Green Boxwoods haven't started to smell yet.

Gardenias. It is possible that this is the most heavenly smell.

 The Coral Honeysuckle is blooming and I've even seen some hummingbirds buzzing around my yard!

The Knockout roses are blooming

Thyme is starting to spread. I can't wait for it to topple out of the mouth of the frog planter!

The banana shrub has small little flowers that smell like fruity bananas

The blue sky vine is growing like crazy and has these beautiful light blue flowers. 

The dwarf lemon tree is also blooming and I have quite a bit of fruit growing on it.

The Princess Bush is growing like crazy and has flower buds all over it. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter Bunny Triple Chocolate Cake

This is NOT healthy, but it's fun so I like it. After all, it is a holiday. 

DIY Chalkboard Signs

Before I started the blog I made my own chalkboard signs. It was sooooo easy!

All you need is:

  • Wood cut to the size you want
  • Chalkboard paint in the color you want ($8 for the can, but you only need a little bit)
  • A frame from a craft store (the ones I bought were around $15 each)

I sanded down the boards and after I cleaned them, I used a high quality foam roller to apply the chalkboard paint. It went on really smoothly, but I definitely need a to reapply.

The worst thing about the chalkboard paint is how long that it has to sit before you use it. Make sure you read the back of your can because it can take 5-7 days before you can use the chalkboard.

When you first use it you have to take the chalk and run it all over the board, coating the entire thing in chalk. Then you can remove it using a damn cloth and then write whatever you want on it.

There is a difference in the feel of writing on this than on a real chalkboard, but I don't mind. It's so much cheaper and they've held up-- one is even outside by my front door!

Here are some of the chalkboard signs that I've put up. The first ones are the ones outside by the front door and the last couple are the ones by the bar.

Halloween Sign

Everyday sign

Big Butts Sign

Yolo is dumb sign

The Truth Sign
Soliciting sucks sign

Landscape: Front Yard

I have been battling with my front yard since we moved in. First, I had to get rid of all the ugly things  the previous owners planted before (they had an FSU themed garden and I am a UF Gator! Ahh!).

But even after that it's been a struggle to keep things looking pretty. At first I thought it was because of the pH or the lack of minerals in the soil. But then the truth emerged: Too much water.

So we amended the soil and rerouted the irrigation system. We are hoping that will fix it!

This is the side of the front yard:

 What do you think? Geraniums on each corner, except where the blue daze is and then the blush breathless euphobia in between the red flowers. The lime tree is blooming like crazy too, but you can't see it in this picture.

Here is a picture of the side yard. I can't wait for the crape myrtle to bloom!

The Front Yard when from this....

To this...


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