Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Ever!

After discovering Cosmetic Database a few years ago I never purchase anything without consulting the rating there first.  Everything I purchase has a rating of 3 or below.... my last hold out was shampoo.  I had been using TIGI Bedhead for 10 years and LOVED it.  Unfortunately I didn't like the rating.  I knew the time would come where I would have to switch it out for a better product.  So finally I gave it up.  I tried just about every natural shampoo under the sun.  Literally a new one every few weeks.  Either they made my hair flat, or I had to use an entire bottle to get my hair clean.  Then I tried using a baking soda/water mixture that I REALLY hoped would work, but after trying for 3 weeks it just wasn't happening.  Either my hair was too dry or too greasy.  So I tried natural shampoos again.  I have discovered the BEST chemical free shampoo out there!  Nittany Valley Organics Peppermint Stick.  Love.  Love.  Love this shampoo!  It works just as well as my chemical-laden Bed Head worked.  It smells GREAT, and I don't have to worry about it giving me cancer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Current Obsessions

You have GOT to try these cookies.  They are to die for (not literally as they are fair trade so enjoy them knowing some poor boy was not kidnapped to harvest your cocoa beans)

YUM.  You can get it online here

I vow to own these in the near future...

I dream in pink

... ballet pink that is.  I danced through my teens and early 20's, then life got in the way.  College and 'the real world' were all consuming and I just didn't have time to dance.  I am now 28 and the 'real world' doesn't seem so daunting anymore.  I have a career, a family, a life- but I still long for movement, grace, and beauty.  So I have started ballet classes once more.  I LOVE feeling my body express music again.  One day a week for an hour and a half is a much different experience than 5 days a week for 3 hours a day- but, I still love it.  Once a dancer, always a dancer.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Peace, Relaxation, Adventure, and Spontaneity

I am sitting in my kitchen on this sunny fall afternoon drinking espresso and dreaming of a vacation.  There is just something romantic and dreamy about a vacation.  Maybe because it is due to the change of pace a vacation brings, or maybe it is just a change in attitude.  Whatever it is, I want one.  That got me thinking.  Where would I go if I could pack my little family up right this second and travel?  What would we do?  I have no idea!  Well, I mean I can think of at least 2 or 3 places, but I am a planner.  I need a list.  I need options.  So, for my future travels I am making a list.  Here are the top 5 places I want to see in my lifetime (not in any particular order.  each is equally lusted after) :
1- Venice  *sigh* romance, architecture, water, ITALY.  

2-  Belize  - Jungle, Mayan ruins, beach, what more could a girl ask for?

3-  Greece  - History, BEAUTY, and beaches.  A Mediterranean cruise would be w.o.n.d.e.r.f.u.l.  


4- Iceland - I have always been impressed with their environmental and sustainability innovation; combine that with their country's beauty and you have an educational AND breathtaking vacation.  

5- Fiji -  Need I say more?  Wow.  This place has clear blue water, solitude, and palm trees.  
There we have it.  Now I have 5 options should someone call me to give me airplane tickets and offer to pay for our stay somewhere far, far away.... hey; I can dream, right?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chocolate Deliciousness

She promised it would rock my world... and it has done just that!  You have GOT to try this amazing concoction for yourself!
The 'raw' Brownie
adapted from
2 cups whole walnuts
2 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and sliced (these are surprisingly easy to find; I found mine at Fred Meyer in the organic produce section; but buy them whole or they will be dried out)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
*Place walnuts in food processor and blend until they are finely ground
*Add the cocoa; pulse to combine
*Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the processor while it is still running; you end up with a mixture resembling a pie crust dough
*In a 9x9 Pyrex dish combine the date mixture with the chopped almonds.  Press down until mixture is firmly in place
*Store in the fridge in an air tight container

These brownies are DELICIOUS.  Seriously.  How much healthier can a 'dessert' get??  Just a BITE satisfies my chocolate cravings.  If you have nut allergies, I recommend substituting the walnuts for quinoa and the almonds for sliced strawberries (but less than the recipe calls for).  YUM.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Project: Steamer Trunk

We found this beauty about a year ago:

My husband decided he wanted to tackle this project, so I let him make all executive decisions (I desperately wanted to restore the canvas, but he had other ideas).  After LOTS of sanding, extensive buffing of the metal, and coats of pure uncut tung oil mixed with mineral spirits in a 1:1 ratio with a VERY small amount of solvent based stain (he used golden oak); here is the finished result:

I LOVE it!
The finish he used coats the ENTIRE trunk (leather, metal, wood, everything).

linking to Miss Mustardseed; one of my all time fav eye candy blogs ;)


Treat yourself withOUT having to make a trip to the store in this blustery fall weather!  Here is how to make your very own Sugar Scrub!  I LOVE how simple this is to make and how WONDERFUL it makes your skin feel.

- 2 cups white sugar
- 8.5 oz grapeseed oil (I had never heard of this stuff... but found it at Walmart for $3 something a bottle!
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons orange zest

combine in a bowl, stir, place into jars/packaging of your choosing, and you are DONE!  How simple is that??  You can store it in a cool, dark place for 5 months.  What a fun gift idea!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes

adapted from Whole Living Magazine (the BEST magazine ever...)

12 oz brussels sprouts cut in half (about 4 cups)
12 oz grapes (about 2 cups)
2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil

if desired:
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350, on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper toss brussels sprouts, grapes, and butter.  Roast until caramelized and tender, about 30-40 minutes.  Drizzle with vinegar (if desired), olive oil, and toss in walnuts (if desired).

This is an AMAZING, simple side dish.  It is even great heated up the next day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Avoiding going crazy this winter....

It is only week 1 of cold weather; the boys and I have been outside ALL summer and are having a rough time adjusting.  Okay, honestly it is just me.  They are content with legos and cars... however I am SO bored!  Here are some indoor activities I came up do with them when I wish I was outside...  I am going to print these out, put them in a jar and whenever we get bored this winter we will choose an activity!

-Go 'fish' with a pole, magnet, and catch some cute fish w/ magnets attached
-Dance in the kitchen
-Play candyland/memory/chutes and ladders/bingo
-Play kickball or ride bikes in the garage
-Mall day (shopping, chocolates, kid rides, you name it!)
-Make and decorate gingerbread men
-Play marbles
-Teach them to play 'pick up sticks'
-Pool Party!  We fill the kiddie pool up in the living room (with tarps and towels under it to protect the floors), make summer type foods/drinks, and blow bubbles
-Make blanket forts
-Tea party w/ scones (I buy kid friendly tea and they LOVE it; but you could also use juice)
-Puppet show (make sock/paper bag puppets first!)
-Family Movie time (popcorn, etc)
-Coffee shop!  The boys and I LOVE to eat pastries and get out of the house for a little while  
-Cleaning day (exciting, I know lol BUT it is something to do, and wonderfully enough my boys love to help clean)
-Pictures (dress them up and have them do funny poses then make a collage)
-New puzzles
-"Preschool time" 
-Story time
-Hide and Seek
-Make apple cider 
-Craft time

Hopefully this helps some other Mamas out there!  Please feel free to comment with any additional ideas!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

ala Starbucks.  My boys LOVE these scones.  They could literally survive on scones, and only scones for the rest of their lives.  I have to bake a double batch of these to make them last longer than a week.... here is the recipe:

8 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 vanilla beans
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8tbs) unsalted butter (cold)
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups of heavy cream
4 tablespoons applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 360* and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In food processor, combine flour, sugar, scrape the seeds from 2 vanilla beans (by slicing the length of the bean pod then scraping them out), baking powder, salt, and butter (sliced into tablespoon increments to make it easier for your food processor).  Process until just combined (mixture should be crumbly).
In mixing bowl, beat together eggs, heavy cream, applesauce, and vanilla extract.
Combine two mixtures, using your hands to evenly distribute liquid but not over mix.
Pat down on flat surface until dough is about 3/4 in thick. Using a knife, cut into triangles.  Bake at 360 until slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool, then frosten.

Start by mixing 4 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk, and seeds of 1 vanilla bean.  Thicken to desired consistency; I prefer VERY thick and layer it on with a knife instead of drizzling.  I find if it isn't thick enough it makes the scones a big soggy.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I am so so SO excited for the holidays.  I know, it is only October.  But hey, a girl needs TIME to prepare to make Christmas WONDERFUL for her family.  Here are some things I am loving:

Thursday, September 22, 2011


There is nothing that tastes better on bread than homemade jam.  I had no idea how fulfilling it would feel to put my own jam on a loaf of homemade bread until I was introduced to this obsession art 3 years ago.  I haven't purchased a single jar of jelly since.

If you have never made jam before, there is no time like the PRESENT.  It is a very easy process.  There are two types: freezer jam and cooked jam.  I prefer to do strawberry jam in the freezer (so I get the fresh flavor of the strawberries) and raspberry jam cooked so it can stay in the pantry.  Both are VERY simple.  All you need are canning jars, CERTO or SureJell, sugar, and fruit.  To make cooked jam you need a canner, but they are very inexpensive and can be found just about anywhere (grocery stores, drug stores, etc).

The entire process takes less than an hour... and the results last a whole year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This is living

After music and movement class today the boys and I walked around the river.  We brought a picnic lunch and sat on a blanket.  It was a beautiful day- not too hot and not too cold.  They LOVED all of the activity.  We saw buses, birds, and lots of people.  I just LOVE the enthusiasm they have for all of the little things.  It makes ME enjoy life so much more.  My oldest took off his shoes and went hunting for sticks and rocks in the river.  He had so much fun that his brother and I had to join!  We had so much fun splashing around that we decided it will be our weekly activity until it gets too cold outside.  Love looking at the world through a 3 year old's perspective  <3 .

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Love Affair

Dear Fall:
I miss you dearly when you are gone.  I love the feel of change that is in the air when you are around.  You paint my world with beautiful colors, and bring me fond memories of years past.  I love to watch the squirrels play in your falling leaves and rake mounds of them up so my boys can leap into them and watch them fly.  I love the sound of laughter that is carried on your wind and the feel of a warm mug of apple cider or hot chocolate on cold fingers.  I love snuggling up with my babies and a blanket above a heater to warm up, and dressing in layers that include scarves and mittens.  I love the look of rosy cheeks and seeing a puff of air when I breathe out.  I love waking up to the patterns Jack Frost paints on my window.  I love sweaters and wool blankets, pumpkin bread and hot mochas.  I love lazy Saturdays spent watching football and eating chips.  I love nights cuddled up under blankets watching the stars.  Welcome back!
Love:  Me

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dancing in the kitchen

One of my favorite things to do is dance in the kitchen with my boys.  They love spinning and dancing to the music, and it INSTANTLY cheers me up!  <3

Here's a song to get you started:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Project: Playroom

My boys are 3 and 2... it's about time they had a more 'put together' playroom!  My budget was $65, and I stayed under it!  I have worked on it for the past month, and here are my results:

Found this dresser for FREE on Craigslist... after paint and supplies I ended up spending $50 refinishing it-

 This was my first painting project (my husband usually does it for me ;) )  I am proud of it!
I LOVE how unlike the shelves and baskets I have tried previously, this does not look cluttered... and every type of toy has it's own drawer!

 I used the 'road' part of their old train table to make their chalkboard.  Just added chalkboard paint and WA-LA (my youngest was too excited to draw to let me take a picture....):
 I got the bookshelves for free off of Craigslist as well (LOVE Craigslist!)  Just spray painted them black and they were as good as new!
 I 'decorated' using their current toys to save $$ but also so I didn't have MORE 'stuff' in the room.

It is still a work in progress, but it is coming along nicely!

Monday, September 12, 2011

To.Die.For.Apple Crisp

No.  Joke.  I HATE apple crisp.  A dessert should NOT have the name of a fruit in the title.  A dessert should be rich, indulgent, and include chocolate.  My husband professes not to like dessert (although, mysteriously 1/2 of the cookies I bake disappear when my back is turned....).  He DOES however admit that he has a weakness for 2 desserts.  TWO.  Seriously?  I couldn't even pick my top TEN.  Anyway, those two desserts are Tiramisu (EW.  seriously: who eats coffee drenched cake?)  and apple crisp.  In the 5 years I have known him, I break down and make tiramisu and apple crisp at least 4 or 5 times a year for him.  After 5 years, I have FINALLY come up with the prefect apple crisp.  Yes, we both LOVE it.  I may even make it MORE than 5 times this year ;)  .

Without further ado:
To.Die.For.Apple Crisp

Toss together in a dish:
5-6 apples, peeled and sliced (I used fuji)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
2/3 cup brown sugar

In a separate dish, combine:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup softened butter
crumble together then pour over apple mixture.

Bake at 350 for 45 min.  Then drizzle with caramel sauce.  Serve with ice cream.  YUM.

A lazy summer afternoon

It doesn't get much better than this!  Sitting on the back porch in warm- but not hot- weather.  Listening to a lawnmower, children playing, and a barking dog in the distance.  Content just to sit after a productive day spent playing at the park with the boys, cleaning and doing laundry, and work meetings/ reports.  Bliss.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A lovely weekend morning

Last weekend my boys and I got to see this up close:

It is an annual event and we look forward to it every year!  Maybe one of these years we will have to try to talk someone into taking us on a hot air balloon ride :)


We have been looking at houses.  There is SO much to buying a house!  I had no idea!  This is my first home purchase (the house we are currently living in my husband purchased before we met) so it is a bit overwhelming to me.  FIRST you have to find a house you like (um... not really having this problem lol).  THEN you have to find the lowest rate, best bank, least fees, etc.  That is the part I am on right now.  It is so frustrating!  I HATE salesman-y people and refuse to do business with someone who isn't 'real' with me.  Dear US Bank: this means you.  I am currently working on getting rates from local credit unions and banks... wish me luck!  Hopefully everything goes smoother after the loan part gets crossed off our list!

Monday, August 29, 2011


This dress!

Next on my list of sewing projects:  I love how elegant and graceful it looks!  Ahhhh.... <3 

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 goals for the rest of 2011

Fall is coming... school is starting, the morning air is chilly, the autumn winds of change are in the air.  My husband is currently in college so with his courses, part time job, and my part time job; we spend very little time together during the school year.  That makes me feel bored and alone.  I have decided that rather than sitting on the couch watching tv (you know... the girly shows; bachelorette, grey's anat, private practice, etc) eating chocolate and drinking wine at night after the kiddos go to bed, I will DO something.
Here is my to-do list for the rest of 2011:
- Keep a clean house (this will be hard.... as my only 'free' hours are between 8:30 and 10:00 pm this may take some serious energy)
- EXERCISE daily (walk the boys to the park, do some sit-ups... just get MOVING)
- Sew (this should be interesting... it looks fun, but the thought of threading a sewing machine SCARES me to death)
- Weekly girl time (hey, a girl needs friends.  whether this takes place in the form of nights out or playdates, I am up for either.  the important thing is to talk to another adult)
- Eat less dairy (ugh.  this one will be hard)
- FOCUS on my boys while I am with them.  No computer or phone, just US.
- Complete at least 3 garage projects (i.e. refinish that piano that has been sitting in my garage for the past month....)
- Start to learn a new language (I want my boys to be fluent in at least 3 languages.  I am thinking 30 minutes of study time before they go to bed each night)
- Weekly BALLET classes (dear ballet: I have missed you)
- Last, but not least; DATE nights weekly with my husband.  I NEED that alone time with him.... that means I will have to put aside my paranoid Mama fear of babysitters and FIND one.

Wish me luck.  I will keep you updated ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Key to Paradise

It is not a place... it is spending uninterrupted time with the ones you love.  Vacations are my favorite times because I get to spend time away from work, away from grocery shopping, and away from my computer to just BE with my family.  Love them.