“Hey, you smell nice.”

I like to smell good. I take great care to use lotions and potions, drips and dabs of things to keep me as fragrance neutral and non-offensive as possible. Because of that, I’m PICKY when it comes to perfume. I don’t like floral, I don’t like musky, I don’t like warm scents, or things that smell like food. Warm vanilla sugar? The bane of my entire middle school career. I was a juniper breeze girl, thankyouverymuch. I prefer clean, crisp scents. Herbal, green, citrus. Those are my go-To scents. The weird thing? I REALLY like Eternity Now by Calvin Klein. It’s warm, floral, and a bit powdery. I shouldn’t like it, but I do. I got a small vial from Influenster to try (free stuff! yay!) and it reacts well with my body chemistry. It just makes me smell nice. It’s not overpowering, it’s not too heavy. I will definitely be adding this to my perfume repertoire, which says something!  Continue reading

review:Bella Vox Box

Okay, I’ve been neglecting this blog. No one reads it, so I suppose there no love lost. I’ll pick it back up now that it’s warm and summery again! I started quilting, thanks to my new Baby Lock sewing machine. It’s kind of my favorite thing ever. Speaking of favorite things, I was lucky enough to receive a Bella VoxBox from Influenster. There’s nothing better than getting my packages in the mail and this was a pretty great one!  

 
So much fun stuff!!! I’m a sucker for makeup, no matter how organic and green I get. The Rommel Scandaleyes by Kate is my new favorite. The brush is a weird wavy shape and I was a little skeptical of how it would work but WOAH. Serious lengthening. My lashes hit my eyebrows with just a coat of this. The Rimmel Kate lipstick is a great shade, cal though a bit brown for me. The coverage is excellent and it’s very smooth going on. I didn’t feel the need to immediately use Lip gloss like I do with other brands. My favorite eyeliner is from Rimmel but I hadn’t branched out much into their other products. I will now! I also got a mattifying powder brush from EcoTools. I didn’t realize that a brush could help shine. I never occurred to me. But yep, it does and yep, this brush is awesome. 

Dove also sent some chocolate covered blueberries, which were delicious according to my husband and daughter (who snuck nearly the whole package). I couldn’t eat them, since they were manufactured in a facility with a wheat. But they were enjoyed! 

I got some Airbrush Legs from Sally Hansen too. The shade is much darker than I would have chosen, but I was surprised at how well it blended in. I’m pale, VERY pale. I used to tan a bit when I was younger, but not any more. Sunscreen is my friend. That being said, I do think summer whites look better on tanned skin. This stuff makes me tan without any of the skin cancer risk! It’s a win-win. 

The last thing I got in the box was a tube of Not Your Mother’s Deja Vu Do style extender. I don’t style my hair often, but when I do, I’ll definitely use this to keep my style and refresh my hair. Smells super good!
And that’s what I got. It’s awesome. 

Kombucha, American Style

I am not Lindsay Lohan. I am not, in any sense of the word, “trendy.” Therefore, I’ve always had this negative image of kombucha. I’ve seen it in the store and heard the hype. As soon as I heard it as “kind of vinegary” I was immediately disgusted. WHO WANTS TO DRINK VINEGAR?! Gross. I hate the smell of vinegar. Blech. So drinking it was not high on my list of things to do.  I have Celiacs and my doctor, after reviewing my endoscopy results, told me “you need to heal your intestines. Seriously.” Yay.) So I started researching ways to heal my gut. I kept coming back to fermented foods. Kimchi. Sauerkraut. Kefir. Kombucha. None of it sounded appetizing, at least not in the quantity/frequency I would need. I happened to be listening to the radio on the way to the store and heard an add for soda pop flavored kombucha. Raw, organic, no artificial sweeteners and under 60 calories. Oh really? They just happened to be carried by the store I was headed to. I found them and picked up two of the four available flavors;” Pure Doctor (a Dr. Pepper reference)” and “root beer.” They were $5 for both, so quite reasonable in my book. I took them home and put them in my fridge. 

I was scared to try these on my own, so I enlisted the help of my friends during our 4th of July party. We all cautiously sniffed them, poured them into cups, and took a swig. Reactions? WOAH. They tasted like what they said they did! No vinegar taste at all. Sweet, but definitely not as sweet as regular soda pop. There wasn’t any “probiotic” after-taste either, which is nice. It had a good level of fizziness, but it wasn’t as highly carbonated as regular soda pop. It’s a tasty beverage that happens to be chocked full of good bacteria and yeast. I could feel my gut getting healthier immediately! Well, maybe not, but my tastebuds were pretty happy. 

I have since tried two other flavors: cola and limon, which is Sprite/7Up/Sierra Mist-ish. Both are good. The cola wasn’t my favorite, but I’ve never been a big fan of cola in the first place. The Limon needed a bit of sour lemon-lime flavor; it tasted a bit too sweet for my liking. It wasn’t bad at all though. In fact, one of my favorite things is to mix it with tart lemonade for a fizzy summer drink. 

They also have orange soda and ginger ale flavors, but I wasn’t able to find them. I NEED to get my hands on some of that ginger ale though. I’m a big ginger fan. 

These are made right here in Texas so I’m giving my business to a local company, which makes it even better. Check out their website for availability in your area. Also, this is a totally un-compensated post. I don’t get paid, nor was I given free kombucha to write this up. Although I totally should be. Free kombucha would be awesome. Pioneer woman gets Kitchenaid mixers and La Crueset dutch ovens. Why can’t I get cool stuff like that? I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that she has a billion readers and as of right now, I have 11 blog hits… 
4b5be38af4a14a3f9c245a381b4be598-808da8a4f8e9e7abbf06f4a4c93cd776Live Kombucha

Backyard Herb Garden

My husband had to work all day (and night!) a few days ago, so my daughter and I decided to make ourselves useful. We needed a quick, relatively inexpensive project that would help our household in some way.I thought about planting some flowers, but decided instead to to a Pinterest-inspired project I’ve seen floating around. This NEEDED to be in my yard. danmade-planterfall-step11-

 

I love the succulents they planted, but I wanted something I could use. I decided to plant herbs instead. I was hoping for mint, basil, parsley, and oregano, but it’s a bit late in the season so I knew I couldn’t be choosey.

   Home Depot: The Final Frontier. I was *hoping* to get everything I needed here. My shopping list:

  • 1 14″ terra cotta pot (and matching saucer)
  • 1 12” terra cotta pot
  • 1 10″ terra cotta pot
  • 3 8″ terra cotta pots
  • 1 6″ terra cotta pot
  • 1 48″ long, 1/2 inch wooden dowel
  • 1 1.5 cubic feet bag of soil
  • 1 bag of pebbles
  • Plants

Home Depot was pretty tapped out of herbs, so I managed to get basil and not much else. They were also out of a 10” pot. I ran to two other stores and found the 10 pot and more herbs. Back to the house we went and laid everything out. 

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     I managed to find thai basil, regular sweet basil, Mexican oregano, thyme, sage, curly leaf parsley and flat leaf parsley. All good herbs that I use regularly. I struck out on mint though. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for some and will plant in a separate pot if I find some. 

     Assembly is fairly easy. You’re going to put the largest pot and matching saucer on the ground. Put one of the 8” pots upside down in the middle of it. Place the 12” pot right side up, and another 8” pot upside down in the middle of that. (You can see that in the above picture.) The 10″ pot goes next, with the 6″ pot upside down. The final 8″ pot goes right side up. The wooden dowel goes down through it all to keep it stable. You will probably need to cut a foot or so off the dowel, but don’t do that until it’s all assembled. If you cut too much, the top pot won’t be secure and you need these pots to be secured! 

It should look like this when it’s done. I put rocks all the way around the bottom of the pots, to increase drainage and decrease the amount of soil you need. 

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Yes, it looks a bit wonky. My pots didn’t sit down perfectly. Once you get the dirt and everything in, you can adjust if need be. Or leave it. It’s up to you. 

Next, add dirt. And in my case, take out some rocks. Because I used too many. Then add dirt. 

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Then, guess what? PLANT! I used the largest plant (Thai basil) at the top because it was pretty and will fill in most of that pot as it grows.  The oregano and thyme were next. They are trailing and cascading, which I like the look of. I don’t think they are meant to do that though… I’m hoping they’ll perk up with water and time. I alternated the parsley next, using flat/curly/flat/curly plants around the next-to-biggest pot. The bottom is basil and sage. The basil, I know from experience, will grow and grow BIG. It can take over the pot pretty quickly. I used a lot of basil in my cooking, so that’s okay with me. Here’s the final shot:

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It looks…meh. I mean, I love it, but then again, I created it. The plants need some TLC. I Miracle Gro-ed them and have been watering often. My hope is that they will perk up and flourish. If not, I’ll just harvest what I can and replant. It’s a win/win really. 

The Fruitfly Massacre of 2014

I live in Texas. This state has it fair share of bugs. I’ve never lived in a place with so many! They leave us alone for the most part, except for one exception: fruitflies. These little gnats like to take up residence in my kitchen and oddly, upstairs bathroom. No matter what I do, they continue to invade, hell bent on making me fully annoyed. They are harmless, but a nuisance for sure. They have to go. But how can you take care of them 1. quickly, 2. cheaply, and 3. effectively? The answer is simple: water, soap, and vinegar. Just take a small, shallow dish and put a decent amount of apple cider vinegar in it. (Note: Other vinegars don’t work. Has to be ACV.)

 acv

A few drops of soap go in, followed by enough water to make the soap foamy.

soapbubbles

Set it in an area with fruit flies and wait. The next day, you’ll notice the soap bubbles have gone away but the jar is filled with the remains of more fruit flies than you ever thought possible. It’s disgusting and yet quite satisfying.

photo 1

Clean the jars out, refill, and set back out. This method works well and should keep the fruit flies at bay. It’s also totally safe around kids, pets, and clumsy bloggers!

Product Review: Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Shampoo

In my quest for a more natural life, I’ve been trying out some new hair products. I bought a really great smelling Kiss My Face shampoo, then quickly realized it had wheat protein in it. Though most Celiac’s are able to use products containing wheat topically, I am not one of them. I have an eczema-like reaction which isn’t pretty! So I ditched the KMF (which is sad because I really liked the smell!) and bought this-

p132236bI tend to have issues with dandruff (sexy, no?) and flaky scalp, so this naturally calming shampoo appealed to me. It seems to be doing a nice job of keeping my scalp clean but not dry. I’ve been using this product for about a month now, so I feel I can give a good review.

PROS AND CONS

Pro-

  – Smell is pleasant and not medicinal, as some dandruff shampoos can be

  – Rinses clean. I can’t tell you how important this is to me. My hair gets weighed down very easily, so I need a shampoo that rinses easily. It is a thicker shampoo though, so rinsing does take a few more seconds than normal.

  – Reasonably priced. I bought it on sale for under $7. I’d pay that again without issue.

  -Does the job! My scalp is flake-free and not itchy. Usually by this time after switching from my old “tried and true” shampoo, I’d notice flakes. None so far though!

  – Nice lather. I know lathering agents can be bad for the hair, but I NEED LATHER.

Cons- 

  – The shampoo is THICK. It’s a bit like spreading marshmallow fluff in your hair. I find that it works best if I rub the shampoo in just a bit, then dip my head back under the shower spray quickly before finishing the lather.

I recently bought the matching conditioner to try out. I’ll post a review once I get a good feel for it.

The Best Sound In the Canning World

The first time I canned anything, I made strawberry jam. Full quarts of strawberry jam. Not the smartest idea, I admit, but I had no idea how much jam that actually was. I pulled them out of the canner and let them cool overnight. The next morning when I checked on them, I found that they had all sealed. I had read about the “ting,” the “pop,” and the “thwack” of the jars sealing, but I hadn’t heard it. My next canning adventure was pickled jalapenos. I put them in much smaller jars, since I had learned my lesson from the jam. This time, I pulled the jars out of the canner and almost immediately heard them seal. It really is the best sound! Every jar that popped gave me such a sense of accomplishment, like “I MADE that and it did what it was supposed to!” My husband thought it rather odd, but now if I take a batch out of the canner and walk away, he’ll yell “THEY’RE POPPING AND YOU’RE MISSING IT!” The smaller the jars, the quicker the sealing, so stay close to your jars! You may just capture it on your phone and listen to it every now and again, because you are a dork like me.

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Spaghetti Sauce.

One of last week’s Bountiful Basket add-on packs was 25 lbs of Roma tomatoes. Who could pass that up? Not this gal. I ordered them, along with an Italian pack on top of my regular basket. I think I under-estimated how many tomatoes that really was.

tomatoesThat’s a lot of tomatoes. What does one do with so many red jewels? Well I don’t know about the rest of the world, but this Italian girl makes sauce! I found a tried and true recipe on Pinterest. Unless you are a canning expert, never home-can your own recipes. The pH balance has to be *just* right or you can become seriously ill. Botulism is nasty and you don’t want to mess with it. So, as a rule- always use a recipe specifically made for canning. Now onto the saucy goodness!

First step in sauce making? Peel the tomatoes. You could do this with a vegetable peeler, but the easiest way is to blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them into ice water. The skin will slip right off. It’s like peeling the worlds grossest sunburn. Slimy yet satisfying! Sometimes, you get a thick-skinned tomato that requires a bit of coercing, but for the most part they won’t give you much trouble. This is how they look after they’ve been skinned.

skinned tomatoesNext, I needed to prep! I cut the stem end off and sliced the tomatoes into quarters. They went into a BIG pot. Actually, there were too many tomatoes for my biggest stockpot, so I had to split the batch up a bit.

tomatoespot

After those were in, I put in garlic, onions, bell pepper, tomato paste,  a ton of fresh herbs, some spices, and a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

herbsnspicesThat’s the second pot. It’s downright festive, with the red tomatoes and green herbs. Once the tomatoes cooked down a bit, I combined the pots. The heat got low, the timer was set, I lit some candles, poured a glass of wine… Ahem. The house smelled amazing at this point and I kind of wanted to make love to this pot of simmering heaven. But I didn’t. I let it simmer for most of the day and then took my immersion (stick) blender to it, just to break up the remaining big chunks. I tasted it. It was a bit too acidic-tasting to me, so I added a bit of sugar and let it reduce further. Two hours later and the flavor was spot on. Time to can!

puree1After properly prepping the jars, I ladled this gorgeous stuff into quart jars. I put them in the canner, set the timer for 30 minutes, and let it boil away. I had to do it in two batches, since I have a small canner. This recipe made a little under nine quarts. I didn’t have enough to fill the last jar fully, so I fed it to my family and put the rest in the fridge. The rest of the jars got a nice, long sit on the counter. They all sealed properly, so the rings were removed and they were put up in my canning stash.

cansVerdict? VERY time consuming, but worth it. For Under $30 (including jars), I made 9 quarts of homemade spaghetti sauce. Considering I spend upwards of $5 for a jar at the store, this is a decent savings. Now that I have a good collection of jars, the cost of the batch will go down quite a bit. Also, I think I’ll split the tomatoes and use half Roma, half beefsteak next time. I think that will help improve the taste and cut the acid a bit. This is definitely something Ill make again before the tomato season is over. I need something to help me through the cold, bland winter!

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There’s Never A Good Title For A First Post.

Hello and welcome! Quick intro- I’m Samantha: mother, Army wife, Celiac, vegetarian. I’ve been living the vegetarian lifestyle (with a few vegan years thrown in) for seven years now. Vegetarian living isn’t for everyone, but my family and I enjoy it. Around this time last year, I started having some annoying, then nagging, then painful medical issues. A few moderately invasive tests later and I got the “Celiac” label. It’s been a difficult transition to a gluten-free life, but I’m feeling worlds better than I was. I’ll post about the symptoms, diagnosis, and transition in a future post.

I’ve always loved being in the kitchen. While some people hate the meal planning, the shopping, the prep, the cooking, and the CLEANING (always so much!), I don’t. I like having an idea in my head or a recipe in mind and have it come to fruition in a short period of time. It’s near instant gratification. If a recipe doesn’t turn out, I learn, I tweak, and I try again; unless it’s just awful, like the roasted red pepper vegan alfredo. There was no helping that. Blech. Now that I’m gluten-free, I’m spending more and more time in the kitchen now and really opening myself up to more interesting ways to eat. I can’t just go out to eat or have a pizza delivered and that makes life BORING. So, I spend more time in the kitchen and come up with things that save money, taste good, and are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Now, I am in no way affiliated with Bountiful Baskets, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention them. I get most of my produce from them. There are many sites scattered over 23 states. It’s an all-volunteer food co-op and I’ve not been disappointed by anything thus far. For $15 dollars ($25 for an all organic basket), you’ll get roughly 6 fruits and 6 vegetables per basket. What you get depends on what they can get fresh at the time. Now, you’ll get ten fruits and veg, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ONLY get ten fruits and veg. For instance, my first basket had eight granny smith apples in it, and that counted as one fruit. Make sense? Good. Here’s a picture of my very first basket.

My First Bountiful Basket

Isn’t it beautiful? So much fresh produce! I also got an “add-on” pack. They run 5-10 add-on packs each week. That week, we ordered eight quarts of strawberries, which I was going to freeze for smoothies and ice cream. I did end up freezing two quarts, but the majority went into some strawberry jam. I’d never canned anything before, but the jars were just so cute! I remember making jam with my mom and grandma when I was younger and there was nothing in the world better tasting than that jam. So I made some. It really wasn’t difficult at all. I ended up with four quarts of jam. And yes, that is a quart jar. Because I decided that quart jars weren’t *that* big. Oh yes, they are. Strawberry Jam

Pretty, no? Tasty too! I gave some to the neighbors and kept the rest for a cold winter day when a bit of summer is just what you need. I had about a pint leftover, so I put that in the fridge. It’s almost gone. There’s a brightness in homemade jam that you just can’t get from a jar in the store. It’s about as close to heaven as I’ve come in a while.

I’ve got more pictures and plans to post, but dinner isn’t going to make itself. Until next time!

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