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Friday, March 15, 2013

Best 2 minutes of my day!

This post is in no way sponsored by anyone.  I took a break from blogging and now my stats are not legit enough to warrant sponsorship.  ;)  I am not being paid to tell you the following things, I am only telling you so that your life may be enhanced.

I'm going to tell you about two of my favorite things. One I have loved for a long time, one I just found. Do you know what stumbleupon is? That's not a typo, it's a website. Stumbleupon is magical because it's sort of like Pandora for websites. You thumbs-up or -down sites as the generator "stumbles" you through them. You can spend as much time as you want on any site. You can find all the ones you've "liked" later. The more you thumbs-up and -down, the more the site gets to know your likes and dislikes and before you know it, almost every single site you stumble upon is AMAZING! It's like having the entire internet at your fingertips. You find pages you didn't even know you were looking for. I have enjoyed myself a good stumble for years, now.  In fact, you can find a stumble button at the top of this page and feel free to click it and recommend my site so others on the internet might stumble upon it.  Do yourself a favor, check it out.

I just experienced my first 2 minute guided relaxation. If you've never done any sort of guided relaxation or meditation before, let me just tell you that you are missing out.  I started doing them in a high school wellness class, and have since downloaded several, but they're all 30+ minutes long.  Who has that kind of time in the day to just sit and listen to a soothing voice?  Okay, probably me, but it seems like an awful big commitment.  Long story short: I just found this site and it has changed my existence!  (Or at least my day!)  When you visit, you are greeted by a beautiful scene with soothing sounds.  You then select whether you would like a 2, 10, or 20 minute guided relaxation.  I just did a 2 minute relaxation and I can't even describe how refreshed I feel!  I guarantee you that we each have 2 minutes of our day that could be dedicated to making ourselves happier, healthier, and more productive.  I remember from that high school health class that brief periods of true meditation or relaxation can do just that.  Please join me in being less frantic, crabby, and anxious.  THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE, MY FRIENDS!

I hope you have two minutes available right now and can jump on over to and try it out.  I also saw that they even have an app.  I may have to look into that.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

100% Real Fruit Roll-Ups

I confess, I have an addiction.  I have eliminated ingredients I can't pronounce from my diet as much as I can on a very tight budget.  I don't claim have the perfect diet, but I do what I can.  My addiction:  fruit roll-ups.  I'm not kidding you, I could sit down and eat a whole box at any given moment.  Do you know what are in fruit roll-ups?  ME NEITHER!  I am also trying to get more fruit and vegetables into my daily diet.  My one stone for these two birds?  100% real fruit roll-ups.

Are you excited?  You should be!  Here's the tutorial:

Step 1:  Start with fruit.  You can use any kind of fruit you want.  Berries, grapes, bananas, apples, seriously, go nuts.  I used blackberries and bananas, with a little grape juice squeezed in.  I should tell you, my measurements are not precise... I am a cooking snacker.  It's true.  So here's what I did, but keep in mind, it is almost impossible to mess this up.  So I used about 1 1/2 mason jars of blackberries and about 1 1/2 large bananas that were very ripe.  I used 1 1/2 because I ate the other half while I was peeling them!  Hahaha, I am really enjoying this post so far.  (Are my perfectionist readers angry yet?)  Put your fruit in a mediumish saucepan on the stove, low heat.  I also squeezed a handful of grapes' juice over the fruit.

Step 2:  Mash and mix.  As the fruit warms, get out your favorite masher and mash!

 Once you have everything thoroughly mashed together it will look something like this.  I am sure if you are more dedicated to hand-mashing than I am, you could mash to a smooth puree by hand.  I do not have that many hours in the day, so once I got it to a rough mash,  I whipped out the ol' hand mixer.  Keep in mind, the hand mixer is going to be messy.  VERY, EXTREMELY MESSY!  I don't know if I'm just terrible at being clean, but I had berry goo all over my hand, shirt, mixer, and stove top.  I am a messy cooker, but this was nuts.  sheesh!  I started at the lowest speed, went to medium for a while, then whipped it up to high for just a few seconds.  Again, these things are not an exact science, I was just winging it until my puree looked like this:

(Since I used Blackberries, mine are quite seedy.  I don't mind the seeds.  If you do, choose a less seedy berry, like blueberries, or other fruit.) 

Step 3:  Slap it on a pan!  Lay some parchment paper over a cookie sheet and spray it with non-stick spray. Do not skip this step.  Trust me.  It lifts off so easy when sprayed.  Use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread the mix evenly.  My pot of fruit made about 2 cups of puree, which was the perfect amount for my large cookie sheet.  Spread evenly, so as to avoid thin spots which will become crunchy rather than chewy and roll-up-y.

Step 4:  Pop it in the oven.  Set your oven to the lowest temperature.  I have the oldest, ugliest, crappiest electric oven on the PLANET.  My lowest temp setting is 200*, but there's also this ambiguous "warm" temp... I went somewhere between 200 and warm.  Between 150* and 175* is ideal.  Leave your oven open just a little.  Again, my oven is the worst, so it will only hold itself closed, halfway open, or completely open... ARGGGG! anyway, I stuck a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open just a crack.  You have to let some of the moisture out.  The cooking process will take about 5 hours... It can take more or less than that depending on what fruit you use.  You have to keep an eye on it starting at around 4 hours.  When you're done, the roll-ups will be a nice, dark color.  Poke it as you go.  It should feel slightly squishy but not sticky when it's done.  
If it stops feeling squishy, and is crunchy, you've gone too far or spread too thin.  I'm not 100* sure, but I bet if you squeezed some fresh juice over it (think grape or apple) and let it set (covered) for a while, you could probably moisten it back up some.

I am not perfect, so I always have a few crunchy spots.  I tear them apart from the nice chewy bits and put them in a baggy to crumble over oatmeal or yogurt later.

When your roll-ups are finished cooking, pull the parchment paper to a cutting mat and use a pizza roller to slice into rolls.  All that's left is to roll 'em up and enjoy!  I would love to hear about the fruit combos you choose to try!

So, what do you think?  The pictures were a little better, huh?  In other news, I GOT ENGAGED THIS WEEKEND!!!!  I'm so happy, and since my wedding will (obviously) be almost completely hand-made DIY projects, you can expect plenty of pretty new projects coming your way.  I am one happy gal!

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Thursday, March 7, 2013


Can I tell you about the scariest moment in my life?  This is coming from the girl who has brought you the need of ER frequent flier miles, who moved across the country alone, and who has lived in the woods with bears, cougars, who-knows-whats, and NO ELECTRICITY for the last 20 summers... The scariest moment of my life was looking at an empty "My Pictures" file on my computer.  The phrase "This folder contains no files" will be permanently imprinted upon my brain.  My chest got tight and my eyes filled to the brim.  I accidentally texted my boss that I was freaking out about it.  That was supposed to go to Mainah, but in my panic moment, I sent it to the woman who has left her child alone with me... cute.  She, however, is apparently a problem-solver, because while I was apologizing that I sent that to the wrong person, she was suggesting that there had to be a way to recover the files.  It turns out, she's right.  It was a little tricky figuring out how to do it, so I made a step-by-step tutorial video.  Pin it or bookmark it, do whatever it takes to have it somewhere easy to find when you have that moment of "WHAT DID I JUST DO?!" and you need to get those files back.  My pictures are back in the folder (though I did lose some of the folder reorganization I had been working on this afternoon).

Anyway, here is the step-by-step tutorial video:

P.S.  By the time Mainah did respond, I had finished filming the tutorial and was in upload mode... His response: "It's okay babe.  Are they in your recycle bin?"  I love a man that can keep a cool head, but OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE NOT IN THE RECYCLE BIN OR I WOULDN'T HAVE TEXTED YOU IN A FRENZY!  I thank God daily for that fella.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Don't call it a comeback ... or do.

Well, well, well... What do we have here?  A mighty neglected blog, I would say.  You've been weighing on my heart recently, blogfans, and I am here to officially announce that I'm back in action.  It has been over a year since my last post, and I just can't believe it.  I've got some big announcements coming up and plenty of blog ideas / projects that I've piled up while I didn't have time to actually sit and write the posts.

Disclaimer:  This next chunk of yada yada yada is going to be aaaaaall about my life for the last year.  For the shoe tutorial, scroll down a little bit.

Last winter, things got a little overwhelming trying to balance work, blogging, and being a full-time biology major.  There was no time for blogging at the end of Spring term, because it was off to camp I went.  I spent my 20th summer at camp as an admin at a super amazing Girl Scouts camp, and I'm going to another one this summer!  Yay! After camp last summer, I moved to southern Oregon with the fella (we'll call him "Mainah", since he is indeed from Maine and sometimes gets a really cute New England accent... especially when he says "wicked" instead of "really"). We live in the smallest apartment outside of Manhattan.  Okay, it's not that small, but it requires imaginative, functional decorating.  People say to us all the time, "There are only two of you!  How much room do you really need?"  That question does not earn a response from me.  I have a craft closet of sorts that is overrun with camping equipment.  I finally found my desk/worktable surface under the avalanche of who-knows-what that was piled on it for far too long.  We are fairly settled right now, and since I'm headed back to camp in 3 months, there's no better time to get this show on the road.  I have missed blogging almost every single day since my last post.  I am not going to promise daily posts, but I will make some commitments to myself and my blog:

  1. I will post at LEAST once a week, by Saturday night.  Rain or shine, there's going to be some magic.
  2. I will practice my "blogtography" skills. I am by no means a photog and it shows... I'll try to make my pics as pain-free to look at as possible.  
  3. I will remember that this blog is a creative outlet and journal of sorts.  Not pressure, no stress, just fun.
On to the good stuff...  I would love to share with you some of my favorite projects from the past year! 

Dip-dyed Shoes
I should start by telling you that as a "camp person"  I have worn an unreasonable amount of tie-dye in my life.  Do you remember that weird period in the late 90's when tie-dye wasn't cool and it made you look like a throwback 70's weirdo?  Yeah... I was that kid.  Flash forward to the 2000's and it came back!  It's starting to fade a bit in popularity again (to my dismay), but there is a sweet newish trend --Ombre-- that everyone is loving right now.  I think these shoes make a great transition for people who love the hand-crafted effect, but have less of a HEY-LOOK-AT-ME-I-JUST-CAME-HOME-FROM-SUMMER-CAMP look.

I will say that the Ombre effect of the black pair is somewhat lost in this photo, but that's what I get for using my old cell phone.  Since these pics are about a year old, I can't exactly re-take the photos, but trust me when I say this was a fun and easy craft, and possibly the most useful thing I've ever crafted.  I flat wore these out!

To start, all you need is a couple of pairs of canvas sneakers (I picked mine up at Goodwill for $1/pair), some dye (I like the liquid Rit dye because it's so easy to manipulate the "strength" of the color, and because it comes in real colors people wear, not just lime green and hot pink).  You may also choose to use a "dipping container" rather than just filling a sink or bucket.  It allows you to waste a LOT less of the dye.  I used empty bottles out of the recycle bin.

 Step 1:  Remove laces and anything else you don't want colored.  I left the insoles in, but you could snatch those out if you don't want them to have the ombre effect.  I will say that I wore dark socks for about the first week I wore them just in case, but I never noticed any dye bleeding.
Step 2: Fill your dip stations.  I kept a little of the undiluted purple aside to do my laces dark.  It was just the look I was going for.  I left the other pair white.  Since the rubber and eyelets don't change from white, you may want to leave the laces white.  It's up to you!

Step 3: Dip!  There are many different techniques, and since my hands were full, I don't have pictures.  Don't freak out about dye getting in the wrong places because either it won't show, like on the insides/bottoms of the shoe, or it won't matter, like on the rubber and eyelets, where it won't stick. There is a lot of individual style and technique involved (just like in tie-dye), but I'll share some of my faves:
  • Ombre: submerge your shoe completely under the dye and sing your favorite nursery rhyme, then pull it out a couple of inches and repeat the process until your entire shoe is dyed.  Depending on the strength of your dye and the material of your shoe, you may want to time about two minutes between raises.  Go shorter times rather than longer, because if you pull a shoe out and it's not the desired shade/darkness, you can just dip it in and repeat the process.  It will get a bit darker each time.
  • Alternative: Try doing this technique but start with it only dipped half-way up the shoe.  Flip the shoe over an repeat for the same amount of time.  Your outcome would be a dark-light-dark effect... very cool!
  • Dip-dye: I did the "ombre technique: with purple dye, then briefly dipped the toe and heel in the black for a multi-color look.  
  • Alternative: For a brighter, more colorful look, you could dip one end 2/3 down with yellow and from the other end, 2/3 with blue and you would get a yellow-green-blue shoe!
Step 4: Let it dry overnight.  I put mine out in the garage, but at the time I was living in Eugene, OR, where it's rainy and cool and things DO NOT dry overnight.  If you live somewhere balmy, throw them out back on a sunny afternoon.  Once they're dry (or have been wet for at least 12 hours)  toss 'em in your washing machine and follow the directions on your dye packet for rinsing/washing.  That's it!

This (and the pic at the top) is as close as I have to a good "after" shot.  I promise I will get better at taking pics, and I can't apologize enough for the quality.  Please give it a shot because these pics don't do it justice. I would love to see some of your creations (and photography skills)!

Thanks for sticking with me through this post, I'm a little rusty, but it's great to be back.  I would love to hear what you think.  I'm going to be posting crafty, foodie, and who-knows-what-else in the near future, so stop back by.  Feel free to "follow" so you can keep up with all my adventures.  If you enjoyed the tutorial, please share!

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