Thursday, September 30, 2010

jack-o-lantern jars

i've really been into etching lately. its super easy, yet almost always looks professional. almost ;) it also makes whatever you're etching look pretty classy ("jim! enough with the classy, okay?" - ds).

i've also decided to come around on the fall decorating finally. i live in houston, so it's kinda hard to build motivation to decorate for fall when it is still 100 degrees in september. this past week has been awesome, though! upper eighties! woohoo! fyi - that was not sarcasm. this is fall weather for houstonians. :) anyway, i put etching and halloween together, and this is what i came up with! enjoy.

supplies you will need (in order of use): 
vinyl adhesive
writing utensil
exacto knife
cutting board or cutting matt
jar(s) of any size
etching cream

1. draw shape on back of vinyl (or if you have a cricut or equivalent, use a design of theirs).
2. cut out shape with exacto knife, on cutting board (unless you have a cricut, of course).
3. position vinyl adhesive on jar and press down firmly, making sure all the air bubbles are out, taking particular notice of edges.
4. with gloves on (the etching cream can be harmful to skin; it is an acid), use paintbrush to dab the etching cream on liberally. make sure all glass surface of the shape is covered.
5. wait 5-7 minutes for the etching cream to take effect (it will remove the topmost layer of glass). after 5-7 min, scrape off etching cream and put back in bottle (it is re-usable). wash off remaining cream with warm water.
6. peel off vinyl and you have your jack-o-lantern!

use jars in multiple ways:
- store things in them
- put homemade goodies in them to give away as gifts (or keep yourself...hehe)
- use as a vase
- use as a candle holder
- use as festive drinking glasses
- etc!
 here's how i'm using mine:

happy fall!

Friday, September 24, 2010


a couple of days ago, my friend sarah and i went on an adventure to winkelmann, tx. it's an old "ghost town" that's not even a real ghost town, apparently. it's completely deserted and filled with tons of goodies to photograph! the land had maybe 20 (more or less) old colorful buildings that were used as stores, shops, and (i guess) places for people to live. they were surrounded by fields of tall grass and weeds.

even though we knew it had never been a real town--only an attempt at a tourist attraction--it was still spooky. the weather said it was going to rain, so we prepared ourselves with our rainboots and umbrellas, and (even though it didn't rain) we were so happy we brought the boots! there were spiders/spiderwebs and weird stuff (including smells) everywhere! it made halloween really feel right around the corner. sarah is a professional photog, so it was fun to see her scope out the place for possible future shoots. here are some of my photos from the day:

we're pretty sure someone was still living in this one below. sarah was brave enough to venture up to an open window in the back, and the room we could see was completely clean, had dressers, a clean bathroom, and a completely MADE bed. pretty creepy. plus, hooked to the house on the outside was a satellite dish that wasn't rusty or anything. here it is:

and here are some of sarah. see the boots? a blessing. AND i got one of her in action! oh, and she was so much braver than i was! i was afraid to go up to the doors or even touch anything, but not sarah. (p.s. there were "no trespassing" signs everywhere. i told sarah that if a cop came up, we were going to start signing to each other. i know i know, that doesn't make sense because deaf people can still read, but that's the only "foreign" language i know. it would at least confuse the cop. but that didn't happen, so we were spared.) anyway, pics of sarah:

that's about it! it was mucho fun. afterwards, we went to brenham to eat at this cute little sandwich shop downtown, and then we had blue bell ice cream. of course.

the day was such a great creative outlet for me...really healthy for the mind, body, and soul! i encourage you to find something to do this coming up weekend/week that gets your creative juices flowing. and do it with a friend! so much fun AND you learn from each other!

[All photos were taken in September 2010.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010


mark began a new food regimen this week in order to directly prohibit his ulcerative colitis flare-ups. in our household, we believe in natural healing through proper maintenance of the body. for us, this includes chiropractic care, eating right (mostly a "paleo" diet, with a few additions like oats), working out, avoiding over-processed foods, and eliminating anything from entering our body that wasn't at one point in time a living thing (this includes any and all meds, synthetic vitamins, etc). many people argue with us over this way of living, but since we have started living this way, we have seen nothing but progress. mark once took meds for his colitis for about a year (which cost him and his insurance at the time wayyyy too much money), and the meds didn't fix a thing. he still had his colitis flare-ups plus other side-effects that came up because of the medicine. while i could go on and on about this, i'll just hasten to get to the point.

so anyway, this week mark started a new regimen that consists of tons of veggies and fruit, definitely no dairy, no beans, lotsa raw nuts, and good protein (cage free, grass fed, wild caught, blah, etc). BUT he can't have fruit when he has a flare-up. which is right now. yeah. no fruit. that's because of all the sugar fruit naturally has in it. but to sweeten stuff up (like smoothies), he's allowed a little bit of honey.

mark usually eats fruits for snacks at work all day long. but now, he's eating nuts. he couldn't handle only eating raw nuts and seeds, the whole day, so he was trying to find some granola to sweeten things up a bit. but even the "good for you" and "organic" granola has things in it that mark can't have, like wheat, sugar, canola oil, etc. so i decided to make my own granola.

i researched granola recipes and, just like the granola in grocery stores, most recipes have all sorts of junk in it. so i decided to go in my own direction. here's the recipe! its SO good, y'all. its good AND super healthy! no refined sugar, no dairy, no processed oils, etc. this is also a solid base for granola. you can add almost anything to granola, from seeds and nuts to fruit. so add your own stuff!

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup honey (use agave nectar for vegan)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup grapeseed or safflower oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp sea salt

1. preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2. combine dry ingredients (except salt!) in large bowl.
3. combine wet ingredients in separate bowl.
4. pour (or scoop) wet ingredients in bowl with oat mixture, mix well, making sure everything is coated evenly.
5. line baking sheet with foil, spread mixture evenly on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt.
6. cook for 40-60 minutes or until granola turns golden brown, stirring every 15-20 minutes.
7. take out, let cool completely, and break up any large chunks.

- when time is up, granola may still seem soft, but it will harden when cooling.
- keeps up to two weeks in airtight container, up to 6 weeks in fridge.
- if you want to add fruit, fresh or dry, add to granola AFTER it has been cooked.
- add any of the following (before cooking): whole grains, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, ground ginger, etc.

isn't it beautiful?!

how do you eat your granola? here are many ways:
- by itself. such goodness.
- in a bowl with milk, soy milk, almond milk, etc.
- with yogurt (mark's fave now. he eats it with his coconut milk yogurt). parfait anyone?
- use it in trail mix.
- on top of ice cream.
- as a topping for muffins or breads baking in the oven.
- on salads.
- on pancakes, waffles, etc.
- mix with fruit salad.

i'm sure you can think of more.

happy eating!

Monday, September 20, 2010


once upon a time, we went out to eat a lot. this became super cost-inefficient, of course, and not the best for attaining optimal health. when it came to my health and my pocket, i knew i needed to cook more. so i began slowly building up my recipe repertoire, which proved to be less demanding on my wallet and my stomach. but it really stressed me out at first. i found myself going to the grocery store almost every day, and also stressing about what to cook every day. then when i did decide, i'd go to the kitchen to find that i was missing an ingredient or two. halfway into the week we'd find ourselves in a restaurant again, because i'd get burned out of the stressful cooking manners i had formed.

until, at last, i found meal planning! i really don't remember when i started or how i became aware, but i do remember what a blessing and relief it was. instead of taking 30 minutes out of every day to come up with or research a recipe, i now sit down every sunday for about 30 minutes to come up with a meal plan and list of ingredients i need to buy for the week. meal plan=time saver (and less stress)! yay.

then there's the wallet. now, say you go out 5 times a week with someone for dinner only, and the bill is $20, including tip (this is being conservative). add all that up and you're paying $400 a month for two people to eat ONE meal, 5 days a week. once again, that's $400, not including breakfast, lunch, snacks, or weekend dinners. so you're also spending money at the grocery store for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and two dinners a week. that could add up to $550 or $600. whew. that's a lot of money. but with cooking at home (for two), the average grocery bill is about $350 a month. for ALL meals. and that bill can be lower, folks. we eat on about $300 a month, sometimes less. meal plan=saving money!

it can really go unsaid that cooking is healthier. i will not go into that right now. too broad of a subject. (let me tell you though, i'm not dogging all restaurants here. i love me some good healthy food that i don't have to cook myself from time to time. and when i hear of or discover a good healthy restaurant, i just have to try it. if you must eat at a restaurant every once in a while, put it in your meal plan and budget accordingly!) anyway, meal plan=healthier!

meal planning helped me up my recipe repertoire, and also helped me gain confidence in my cooking. i learned so many new things about cooking, and formed recipes that are staples in our house now. its even gotten to where i love my cooking WAY more than the restaurants i once favored. meal plan=better food!

also, meals at home are just good for the soul. cooking together, either with friends or family, can be so much fun and a great bonding experience. meal plan=fun!

okay, got all that? heh. i'll leave you with some awesomely cute meal plan templates for you. to use these you can either print them out and write on, frame and write in dry-erase on glass, or get them laminated! they are cute, so having one on the fridge or on display somewhere in the kitchen is great for the decor.

above templates available for download @ the project girl

available for download @ petit elefant

available for download @ executive homemaker

be well!

Friday, September 3, 2010


i wanted tortilla soup the other day, without having to buy all the ingredients. i searched websites for particular recipes, read up on the ones i liked, merged some together, took some ingredients out, put some ingredients in, altered amounts, and came up with this masterpiece! seriously, folks. its super good. and its really healthy!! this recipe is without the little tortilla strips, though, because i didn't feel like frying anything. so here's the recipe, and if you want the strips, i'm sure there are websites with a recipe you can follow.

tortilla soup     

1 onion, diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped with seeds, stem, and veins removed
1 green bell pepper, chopped with seeds, stem, and veins removed
4-5 cups veggie or chicken broth (depending on how much broth you like; i used 5 cups)
1 10-oz can of Rotel (mild)
1 14.5-16-oz can of diced tomatoes (i used muir glen's fire roasted diced tomatoes)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1-1 1/2 cup cooked chicken (leave out for vegetarian/vegan)
1/2 cup fresh spinach     

1. heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat, add in onions and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often.
2. add garlic and both peppers, cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often.
3. stir in broth, cans of tomatoes, and spices, and heat to a boil.
4. when soup begins to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. stir in chicken and spinach and simmer for 1 more minute.
6. garnish with monterey jack cheese, cilantro, lime wedge, chips, sour cream, avocado, or anything of the sort!     

- of course, the spinach and chicken is optional, but you're missin out if you don't use them! :)
- if you can't find a poblano pepper, any other mild pepper is good. ancho and anaheim are good subs. jalapeno is not!
- going off that, if you like more heat, add in no more than half a jalapeno. but remember to remove the seeds and veins!