Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's a No Heat Competition with Fabulous Guest Blogger, Molly Clark

After hearing that my sweet friend, Molly Clark, hasn't put her heat on yet (and lives in Michigan, whaaaat?), I had to ask why. When she told me that it was a competition she and one of her besties had going, I begged her to guest blog. So please, enjoy, and perhaps find a little motivation to save on oil/gas/electric, and turn those burners down. If only for nothing more than the challenge. xoxTiffany

When big storms rolled through the midwest on Sunday night, hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power, including my own.  Most of the folks without electricity were in for a rude awakening when their furnaces stopped pumping out the warm air -- but not me, I've been training for this day.  My good friend Gwynneth and I are in our second winter season of a "No Heat Competition" and we're still going strong, with or without electricity to run our furnaces. 

No heat competition?  What's that, you ask?  Just like what it sounds, the two of us compete all winter long to see who can go the longest before caving in and turning on the heat.  We both live in Michigan, which is fondly referred to as "the mitten state" because of the shape of this fine peninsula, and also an all-but-required winter accessory, especially if you're planning to visit either myself or Gwynneth between the months of November and April.

These stylish mittens might be worth picking up before visiting Molly. Check them out on etsy by clicking here. xoxT

The no heat competition began last year, at first as a way to save on the heating bill, and continued on out of pure competitive drive.  The rules are pretty simple:  the first person to turn on her heat loses.  But because temperatures here in metro Detroit can fall well below freezing, we've added a safety precaution to ensure our money-saving strategy doesn't end up costing us more in the end.  On nights when it looks like the temperature will be below about 28 degrees for an extended period of time, we generally send one another a text message to agree upon "truce heat" which we claim is merely for the pipes, but in reality, it's probably for our own safety as much as the plumbing. 

We also set up a few loop holes that allow us to turn on the heat for visitors, specifically "Little Effers" (listeners of Cosmo's Wake Up With Taylor -- tune in week days 7 a.m.-10 a.m. East on Sirius XM Stars Channel 106) and this year we added a small children exception, allowing the heat to go on if either of us have visitors over under the age of 10.  We decided that once your age hits double digits, we can expect you to bundle up.  And bundle up we do!  When I get home from the gym in the evening, you'll find me in more layers than I'd put on to go play in the snow with my almost-4-year-old nephew.  I generally wear wool socks, warm slippers, a pair of leggings, at least 1 pair of sweatpants, 2 long sleeve t-shirts, a hoodie, and a giant fluffy bathrobe... all topped off with gloves, a scarf and a black and purple hat with spikes that looks like it belongs on a joker. 

I realize all of this sounds a little crazy, and I'm sure I look like an absolute fool to anyone who drives by when my curtains are open, but the energy conserved seems like a pretty good pay off to me.  Even more than the dollars saved, at this point to be honest, I'd really hate to lose two years in a row.  That's right, Gwynneth won last year.  I was forced to turn on my heat the week before Christmas because I was having a dinner party (with no Little Effers on the guest list) and I decided it would be really rude to make them freeze, or ask everyone to show up in 17 layers of clothing.  We'll see if I learned my lesson and can make it through this holiday season without doing any entertaining -- until then, I'm slipping my gloves back on and curling up under a few blankets with a nice warm cup of tea! 

Molly Clark is a 31-year-old unclaimed treasure (sounds better than old maid, right?) who lives by herself in suburban metro Detroit, doing what she can to pinch pennies and save whenever possible to keep affording her champagne taste on a keg beer budget.  You can follow Molly on Twitter and Instagram @clarkm0lly (with a zero as the "o") and look for her wherever winter hats or warm beverages are sold. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Woman Crush Wednesday, Pam Saldutti

I'm kind of obsessed with smelling good. Having been raised by a perfumer, scent has always been a big thing for me. For me, a good scent has to be based in essential oils, strong but smooth, and cannot overwhelm.

When I first got to try a soap from P.S. I Love Soap Co., owned by soap maker Pam Saldutti (thus the P.S.), I really, really liked it. Enough to try another one, and I was super loyal to another soap company, so this was a big deal for me. I loved that soap, too. Then I got one that had a loofah built in. Incredible! It was hogged by others and, eventually, snapped up, so I had to buy more.

It's been over a year since I found her soaps, and now this is the only soap I use (my family is obsessed with her soaps). In fact, I was gifted some store bought-factory made soap, and not only did I not use it, but I didn't want to regift it either. It just doesn't feel right to give someone mass produced soap when I know how good handmade soap is.

Saldutti, a resident of Boonton, makes her soaps right in her home. They are artisanal. She also makes body scrubs (I am addicted to her Love Scrub -- I use it every single day and my skin is so soft now). She just began making liquid soaps, which I am excited to try (but haven't yet).

Recently, I bought Pumpkin Crunch and just about fell over. I messaged Pam to reserve her remaining stock. My plan was to share them with family for Thanksgiving but since she only had a few bars left, I am hoarding them all.

This Pumpkin Crunch is the best soap I've ever smelled.
I have a list of soaps that I want, including one that is wrapped in boiled wool so it's essentially soap and a wash cloth in one.  I also ordered some Christmas gifts (can't share what they are for fear that a recipient will read this and the surprise will be spoiled).

These soaps are so fabulous; do yourself a favor and try at least one. Check Pam out on her facebook page for upcoming events, sales, and more. She sells on etsy, but you can also pick through a huge selection of photos on her facebook page. Plus, her status updates are a pile of fun!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The One Pot Wonder

Kayla DiGirolamo
It's Mommy Monday here at the Domestic Goddess Files. Enjoy this recipe by Kayla DiGirolamo. I recently found her on Instagram, where she posted Pancake Dippers (cooked bacon placed into a strip of pancake batter - yum). What beats that? 


Hello moms, wives, and amateur chefs! My name is Kayla DiGirolamo, and I own an Instagram page called mommyknowseverything, where I post recipes, homemaking advice, parenting advice, DIY crafts, beauty & fitness help, and info for our kids. One of my favorite things to share are quick, easy, but always hearty meal ideas for busy (and exhausted) moms. 
One of my favorite recipes is called "The One Pot Wonder", which I came across on Pinterest. This is a house favorite for my family and I love making it. This recipe can be altered however you wish, adding different ingredients and/or sauces. Whatever suits your family!

The One Pot Wonder 
Prep time: under 10 minutes
Cook time: 8-12 minutes

1. Bring pot of salted water to a boil 
2. Prepare vegetables & herbs. Chop fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, cilantro, basil... Whatever you choose! 
3. Once water is boiling, toss in your ingredients including pasta noodles. 
4. With medium heat, let the ingredients cook while occasionally stirring for 8-12 minutes. 
5. Strain, season with salt and pepper and add any sauce (or no sauce!) My family loves a couple table spoons of olive oil & butter, or a half cup of Alfredo sauce. Enjoy! 
Xo Kayla 
Follow me on Instagram @mommyknowseverything

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sweet Tooth Saturday with Gabrielle

My name is Gabrielle, more commonly known as "Gabi", and I am an office manager for a physical therapy office in Arizona.  When I first graduated high school I worked in hair and makeup, and while I really enjoyed the creative freedom I had with that career, I didn't enjoy working with so many competitive women. (Imagine the movie "Mean Girls", except with adults- scary!)  Even though my job is administrative, I still enjoy doing hair and makeup on weekends, and I spend most of my free time researching and trying out all types of beauty products.  I love to know what is current and what is the best.  Tiffany and I met on Facebook through a mutual friend, Hilary Thayer Hamann, and bonded over a book she wrote ("Anthropology of An American Girl"). Though I've never met Tiffany in real life, I always love hearing what she has to say and I always love seeing her face on my Instagram feed.  A couple weeks ago, I posted some photos to my Instagram of some holiday cookies I was making, and Tiffany contacted me and asked if I would be willing to share the recipes with her blog readers.  Though I am a writer, this intimidated me a little bit.  Despite the fact that I know about a lot of things and love talking with people, I have never guest blogged before.  So forgive me if I am a bit shaky... it's only because I am terrified! 

Gabrielle's Sugar Cookies (recipe is my own, have been making these cookies since I was a child)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
Begin by creaming softened butter and sugar in mixing bowl.  Add eggs, mix until smooth, then add vanilla. Add salt and soda and flour, one cup at a time.  I find that sometimes when rolling out dough to make shapes, I need to add more flour to avoid sticking, although it isn't necessary.  The best thing to do is to let the dough chill for roughly two hours to make the rolling out process easier.  I make all my cookies in the shape of a circle for frosting purposes, and then I decorate them with different colored frosting and sprinkles to make them individual. When rolling out the dough, make sure it is even all the way across. If you cut shapes out of the thinner edges of the dough, your cookies will be different sizes which may result in some coming out of the oven "crispy". I personally like to make my cookies a bit on the thicker side, so I roll dough out to be about 1/4 of an inch thick. Bake these in a 370 degree oven, anywhere from 8-12 minutes, depending on thickness.  I usually do roughly 11 minutes, but I always start out setting the timer for 8 just in case, to avoid burning. Ideally we want the edges to be a light golden color.  If we have a bit of a hard edge it makes our frosting process much easier.  If the cookie is too soft all the way around, it will snap in half when we frost :(
 Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe is my own)
  • 1 package of softened cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 of a stick of butter, softened not melted
  • 1 package powdered sugar
  • whipping cream
Start by mixing the cream cheese and butter, then add in vanilla.  Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time.  I keep the mixer going full speed while mixing. This ensures that we will get a fluffy frosting, which is essential for cookie decoration.  After I have added in about half of the bag of powdered sugar, I pour about 1/4 cup of whipping cream into the mixture.  I then mix that on high until it is well blended.  I add the second half of the powdered sugar a bit at a time, and once that is all added, I put a bit more whipping cream in and mix until smooth.  The frosting is not to be glaze consistency, that makes it too runny and it will slide off the sides of your cookies. 

I let the cookies cool for about 20 minutes before frosting them.  I use a spoon to put a big blob of frosting onto the cookie, and then I manipulate it with a knife. I let the frosting go over the edge of the cookies a bit, and then clean it off with the blade of the knife, so I get a clean, sharp edge for the frosting (this is just me being obsessive compulsive :) ) If you are going to add toppings such as sprinkles, candy corns, or red hots, the time to do it is immediately after you frost the cookie.  The frosting dries relatively quickly and if you try to decorate even ten minutes after you've frosted, the toppings will simply roll off the cookie.

Gabrielle's Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (my Aunt Marilyn's recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (I've only ever used butter)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (12 oz) package of chocolate chips
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Cream pumpkin, butter, egg, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients slowly (I do about 6 spoonfuls at a time), and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon onto cookie sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350.

I find that the size of cookies I do (a hefty spoonful) require more like 12-14 minutes, but again just keep an eye on them and make sure they don't burn.  You want them to be soft in the middle but not "soggy".  Try to make all of your spoonfuls on the cookie sheet equal or else you'll have some come out too soft in the middle, or burned.  I always set my timer for the lowest time and check on them every minute after that so they don't get too crispy (I do the same thing with my sugar cookies).

You can frost these with cream cheese frosting as well, although I don't like to because the cookie is amazing enough as is. I think the cream cheese frosting taste takes away from the pumpkin taste.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies

Gabrielle is a writer and makeup artist who lives in Arizona, though she desperately wishes she lived in Disneyland.  She looks like an adult, but still sleeps with the TV on.  She's known in her social circle for her selfie skills, sugar cookies, and knowledge of beauty products and useless pop culture trivia, like what Pinkberry topping Suri Cruise likes best (Fruity Pebbles, obviously).  She blogs (almost) daily here, tweets too often here, and takes pictures of stuff here.
For those who missed the clicks:
blog: thepaintingelephant.tumblr.com
twitter: @whatgabisaid
instagram: @whatgabisees
facebook: gabigivesnames

Friday, November 8, 2013

Don't Settle

I've been writing for years. Throughout my life, I've always openly written about what was going on, and those of you who've followed me know the ups and downs of the past few years. For the first time ever, I have no desire to go public. So I won't.

But what I will do is share very important lesson I learned. Don't settle.

After my divorce, I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I was living alone with my preschooler, and that the marriage and kids I'd dreamed of was being rerouted. My dream had always been the picket fence dream. Four kids, a dog, a loving husband. I wasn't sure how to put that to bed. I was single for a while before my first relationship. It was short lived and rocky, so six months later when I met someone who sort of fit the bill, I decided to commit to making it work. The things that I didn't like, that didn't make sense to me, that made me feel bad or unsettled, even the things that outsiders saw and pointed out to me, I overlooked. For years.

One night, while watching Married to Jonas (initially because they live a few miles away and I liked seeing local spots), I saw the way that Kevin Jonas showed love to his wife, and it hit me: I want that. More and more, I wanted it, and the things that weren't right just kept getting more wrong. Finally, the wrongness overtook the relationship and I physically couldn't do it anymore.

I left. I took five months off to find myself, and went about the act of dating once again. No one was right. Nothing fit. I thought I was being picky, or didn't deserve the kind of love I was searching for, and I really tried to settle but just couldn't. And then came DC.

DC is like no other. Immediately, we understood each other. Everything made sense. Everything felt right. Everything I'd ever wanted was there, in him. And has been ever since.

It sounds cliche, but it's true: love will come to you all on it's own, and when it comes, you'll know. No questions.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Woman Crush Wednesday, Amy DiPalma

Just a sampling of Amy DiPalma's exquisite work.

If you've never met Amy DiPalma of Forage, you should. She is an artist who makes all sorts of items, freehand burns art into wood to make home goods, jewelry, pendants, banners, ornaments, and more. When I first saw her work, I knew I wanted something personalized. And after I received it and saw how darn fabulous it was, I wanted something more, and then more, and more.

I am obsessed with these wood carvings. I've bought four in the past month!

Her customer service is amazing, too. She paid attention when I made custom requests, asked questions about things I may not have thought of, and packaged everything so nicely.

I bought this Forage banner that has been hand burned with the word  "Harvest".
I hung it over the fireplace. So cozy.
We bought a bunch of her Christmas tree sachets, and some awesome cedar ones, too. With all this talent, how can I not crush on her?

These are so great, and they smell AH-mazing! I got some for the house
and one to hang off my rear view mirror for the holiday season.

DiPalma does shows and sells at a variety of places, so be sure and check out her facebook page for details. Through the holidays, much of her work will be available for sale at the Boonton Holiday Boutique located at 618A Main Street in Historic Boonton.

Forage is the creation of Amy DiPalma. She is a Boonton based artist specializing in creating products from natural and repurposed materials. All of the pyrography (wood burning) is done freehand, so every piece is a one of a kind.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Back (and take a nap)

You know that extra hour of sleep you need just to catch up? Well, you are about to get it. Today (yup, it's Sunday) at 3 a.m., we fell back an hour. If you are reading this at 8 a.m., it might only be 7 a.m. (Did you forget to change your clocks?) If you are reading this between the hours of midnight and whenever your bedtime might be, go ahead and set your clocks back now.

Ironically, in our house, there are no clocks to set back. Everything is digital and changes automatically. Our cable boxes, computers, even our phones (that serve, additionally, as our morning alarms). I do wear a watch, so I will need to turn back the hand on that, but otherwise, I'll just wake up, realize it's earlier than I think, and fall back to sleep. I say that, forgetting completely that at least one of the four children sleeping right now will wake up according to the cycle of their body, want breakfast, a dog to play with, or just a little company. Or one of our two dogs will want to go out to pee, chase squirrels, or sniff odor tracks left by bears. So really, clocks falling back in no way afford me any more sleep.

Still, the payoff of having a houseful of people and animals to love far exceeds to benefit of a little more sleep. Or lack thereof.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pow(erful)Wow Women!

Today I had the good fortune of getting together with a group of smart, positive women who all own and operate independent businesses. I've been selling on etsy for years now, and that format is very familiar to me. Selling on OpenSky is new and exciting, but I've found that, for me, there is a definite learning curve. Seasoned OpenSky seller, Pam Gillie of YasuJutaro, offered to help me learn the ropes. Our good friends, Pamela Schuckman and Denise Goodbar of Oak Lane Designs are also new to this selling community, so together we discussed, learned, questioned, and made ourselves a little unofficial local chapter of sellers.

I wanted to take the time to introduce these fabulous women to you, and let you peek inside their companies. 

Us, today.

YasuJutaro Artisan Jewelry, Pam Gillie

The essence of YasuJutaro is simple elegance with a minimalist edge. Each piece is carefully handcrafted in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, using only the finest quality materials - sterling silver, natural brass, gemstones, freshwater pearls and Italian, Roman, and Czech glass. 
YasuJutaro limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces are crafted with the most critical eye for design and composition. When you wear YasuJutaro you are sure to receive many compliments and inquiries about your unique jewelry.  

You can visit their OpenSky shop at http://www.opensky.com/yasujutaro or "like" their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/yasujutaro.

oak lane designs, Pamela Schuckman & Denise Goodbar

oak lane designs owners Denise Goodbar and Pamela Schuckman create one-of-a-kind handmade accessories for girls, women and the home using vintage jewelry, repurposed fabric and findings.

oak lane designs aims to make what is old new again and believes that accessories are a great way to express who you are! They love to give an outfit or a room a new look by adding a unique accessory like a headband, hat, cuff, brooch, bag, necklace or frame.

Custom orders are welcome and can help make a wedding or any special occasion unique (think flower girl baskets, bridal or bridesmaids head pieces, brooches, etc.) See oak lane design’s  facebook page by clicking HERE: oak lane designs for wedding and other custom examples. 

You can visit their website at www.oaklanedesigns.com or their shop on OpenSky,  https://www.opensky.com/oaklanedesigns.

Domestic Goddess Ltd., Tiffany Palisi

So, as the writer of this blog, I hope you are okay with my conversational tone (it seems odd writing about myself in a formal manner, after having started casually). Since October 2011, I have been creating hand-poured candles in my home state of New Jersey. I did it because I wanted to have a fulfilling career, while still being able to be home to care for my family. Having been raised on scents -- my father is a perfumer --  it was a natural step for me to make candles.

Our small team makes our own scents and labels, and each candle is hand-poured by me! I sell online, in stores, and do special orders (fundraisers, wedding/shower/birthday/bar and bat mitzvah favors). You can check out my facebook page (be sure to LIKE it) by clicking HERE: Domestic Goddess Ltd., shop my etsy store, and visit my OpenSky shop at: https://www.opensky.com/domestic-goddess-ltd

Here's a little product tease...

oak lane designs
Domestic Goddess Ltd.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Repurposing (and a great reason to drink vodka and lemonade)

Bottled water is expensive and, more often than not, no better for you than tap water. The plastic from the bottles can leach into what you are drinking, and the water, sometimes, isn't even purified. While there are companies that offer pristine spring water, again, the bottles sort of contaminate what's inside.

However, the convenience factor is valid. It's much easier to drink from a bottle of water while running (though a SIGG filled with tap water is equally effective), and transporting a big bottle to a football game makes more sense that running back and forth to a water fountain.

Years ago, I starting buying
Effervé, which is a sparkling French lemonade. It's sold in an embossed glass bottle, with a swing top cap that has a rubber stop and a metal flip. They are beautiful bottles, and great to reuse for other beverages. I started buying Effervé for the bottles, drank the contents, washed them out, and began putting tap water into the bottles. I'd keep them in the refrigerator so that the water would stay cold. 

Next, I picked up a vintage milk bottle carrier and started storing a handful of empty vintage bottles in it, a ball jar to hold napkins, and left a few slots open for our glass bottles of tap water. When I'd bring water to the dinner table, I didn't have to worry about filling a pitcher, or filling (and getting up to refill) each glass individually from the kitchen. Instead, I'd bring a few refillable glass bottles.

Vintage milk bottle carriers go for about $60. I got mine at a barn sale for $7.

Eventually, I had so many bottles that I had no place to store them. I gave most of them away. And of course, the minute I parted with them, I found I needed more. Tired of drinking lemonade but desperate for more swing top glass bottles, I was happy to discover that 360 vodka had a similar bottle. The only difference, really was that the embossing said 360 instead of whatever it was that the lemonade glass said. 

360 vodka makes a nice looking bottle, and practical to boot. Now, to get that label off!
Being a vodka drinker, I thought I'd give it a shot (pun intended). As soon as I finished the first bottle, I was thrilled to see that the bottle was both functional and attractive. The label has been a bit tougher to remove, but the drinking of the 360 was far more interesting that the lemonade had been. Not a bad trade off.

Tiffany Palisi is the owner of Domestic Goddess Ltd., a company that specializes in hand poured, scented candles. In addition, she refinishes furniture and sells vintage items through her online shop, Second Chance Vintage. She resides in New Jersey with her family. She can be reached at domesticgoddessltd@aol.com.

Monday, September 9, 2013

To Everything (turn, turn, turn), There Is A Season

You'd think that living with a meteorologist, I'd be more weather aware. Instead, I rely on getting a personal forecast at a moment's notice and, because of that, I don't really think about the weather. He tells me if it's going to rain, or be unseasonably chilly, allowing me to be lazy and not pay attention. But the weather we've had these past few days has demanded my attention.

Autumn or Summer?

It's been so chilly, with temps dropping into the 50s, that I'm physically shocked at how cold it's gotten. My dogs have also taken notice and have new found energy, since the oppressive heat has lifted. The autumnal chill has gotten me deep into thoughts of apple picking, fires in the fireplace (in addition to the fire pit), and (dare I say) pumpkin picking. I've been melting wax to make warm scents like butter pecan, pumpkin bread, and s'mores scented candles.

And while I sit freezing in our home, snuggled in my writing chair in a cozy Jetty sweatshirt and contemplating kicking on the heat, I try and wrap my head around the fact that a warm front is about to push through and bring us temps in the low to middle 90s in just two days. That's a 40* difference.

I'm wondering what I prefer; the revisiting weather of summer, or the introduction into fall. The thought of summer weather again will be lovely, but I am just starting to adjust to thoughts of fall. Add to that the fact that it's getting darker earlier, and the kids are in school... it just doesn't feel like summer to me. How about you? What's your preference?

Tiffany Palisi is the owner of Domestic Goddess Ltd., a company that specializes in hand poured, scented candles. In addition, she refinishes furniture and sells vintage items through her online shop, Second Chance Vintage. She resides in New Jersey with her family. She can be reached at domesticgoddessltd@aol.com.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Creative with Furniture

As my budget is tight, I've tried to find ways to get creative with homemaking. Making big batches of tomato sauce and storing them in the freezer, buying ten boxes of pasta when they are on sale (ten for $10) things like that. So when I needed some furniture for one of my home's bedrooms, I thought about how I could get things done on the cheap.

I truly cannot stand most of the furniture on the market. It's cheaply made with particle board and looks like every other piece of furniture. The nicer stuff often costs and arm and a leg. I tend to buy repurposed furniture, or well-crafted pieces from places like Restoration Hardware (where we got our beautiful new bed).

I used to visit an amazing shop called Savannah Hope Vintage (that now sells at the Brooklyn Flea) whose owner finds amazing old furniture -- high quality, well made wood pieces -- and repaints them to make them fabulous. I had her refinish my grandparents old bedroom set, and also bought six other pieces that she did.

Though there are many pieces that I've wanted to buy from her, my budget didn't allow for more than $20 - $40 for this room. I decided to try and copy something that I saw at Savannah Hope Vintage. It was an ombré effect in shades of grey. Yesterday, I went out and found a dresser from the 1970's, something similar to what I had as a child, and went about getting colors to paint the dresser.

The dresser. Before.
I bought sample sizes of four shades of green, beginning with one that was almost white. Then I lightly sanded the wood, removed the handles, and set up to paint.

Paint shades and sanding sponge.
The process was cathartic. I loved the process (except, maybe, sanding). Seeing the colors come together, drawer after drawer, excited me. I couldn't stop until I was done. I wanted to see the finished product. After a few hours of sanding and painting, here is the final piece (drawers open to allow for optimum drying). I am so excited about it that I think I'm going to do more. Baby, we're gonna need a bigger home.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Creamiest Macaroni & Cheese

Rainy nights like tonight are made for comfort. I've lit a fire and cozied up on the couch, but only after making the creamiest macaroni and cheese.

I made it on the stove top for my son, and will be baking the casserole portion of it tomorrow afternoon, for my boyfriend. The recipe is surprisingly easy, no roux required, and it tastes too good to be true.

Here's the recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

Take a 1 lb. box of your favorite noodles (I used rigatoni) and boil. While the noodles are cooking, brown 1 cup panko bread crumbs in a pan with melted butter (about 2 T worth of butter). Once it turns golden, remove from heat, salt to taste, and add a little bit of paprika for color.

Take small casserole dish and coat the bottom of the dish with melted butter. Pour the panko over the top to form the bottom crust of the mac and cheese.

Butter fried panko coats the bottom of casserole

Once pasta is cooked, drain water and return to stove top. Add about 2 cups of freshly shredded sharp cheddar, and 6 slices of deli sliced yellow American cheese (the American cheese binds the cheddar and makes it creamy). Stir until creamy. You can add a little milk, salt, and pepper. I add about 1/4 cup milk, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Cheesy rigatoni

Spoon cheesy pasta into the casserole dish, being careful not to disturb the panko crust. Pack it tightly to the top, then put remaining butter fried panko over the top. Take a small square of wax paper, put it over the top, and press to flatten. Discard after using.

Ready for the oven

Bake in the oven at 350* for 10 minutes. Serve warm and fresh.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dirty Girls

Recently, I started running. I began to run because my dog, Rocco, has endless amounts of energy and running with him was the only way that I could tire him out. And then, of course, my boyfriend runs, my friends run, and the weight I've been wanting to lose will come off faster if running is involved.

So today, when my friend Lina, posted a question (something to the effect of Dirty Girl or Spartan?), I knew I had to run the Dirty Girl race. It's a mud run that is only for women, but men are invited to watch and offer moral support.

Moral support and kisses.

Aside from the fact that the name is just fabulous, Dirty Girl is a 5K for people of all levels and abilities. They have named the water section H2OMG, and another one PMS, pretty muddy stuff. If you want to avoid an obstacle, you can (no burpees as payment). You can run in a tutu, a bikini, whatever you'd like. It's all girls. Pink is the main race color.

This Dirty Girl goal forces me to get my act together and get back in shape (it is also just two weeks before my beach vacation, so it cracks the whip just in time). I'm so excited about this race that I've started a team, hoping to run with lots of fun women. To join my team, Dirty Domestic Goddess Girls, register using Team Code: VHLVW. Everyone who runs with us gets a specially made Dirty Girl candle. Just for our team!

A huge thank you to the beautiful, fit and motivating Lina Catanzaro, for putting it out there and getting the wheels in motion. Run, girl. Run.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Privacy, Please

I've always been an open book. I'd tell anyone who asked what was going on in my life, even the personal stuff, if they cared to know. I always thought that it was just being honest, authentic. Why not spill stuff about my childhood, my finances, my romantic interludes?

As I've gotten older, I've found myself having deeper feelings that I like to keep to myself. Some of the sweetest moments in my life are the ones that I want to keep for myself. Why share the beauty of private, intimate moments that were really only intended for me?

I've started lifting the drawbridge and keeping the important stuff on my side of the moat.

Some of the things I choose to keep private are feelings, others are emotions. And then there are observations, thoughts, actions that grow bigger and more special when they are kept protected. Truth be told, it's hard to hush up about moments that are so amazing I'd like to share them with the world. It's hard to be bubbling with excitement and keep that to myself. Doing so, however, elevates those special, joyful moments to a new level, and keeps them protected.

Clearly, there is something to be said for keeping things private. I've learned this firsthand, and while sometimes people have a hard time accepting this change in me, it's a good one and I'm glad I've implemented it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Create Your Life

It's this time of year that I reevaluate my life.  I think about what is working, what isn't, and how I want my life to look. It's not as simple as thoughts like health, success, or happiness. It's far more detailed.

What does it mean to be healthy? Happy? Successful? What do I want to see when I look in the mirror? How do I want my parenting model to look? What do I want my intimate relationship to be like?

I sit with catalogs and see what resonates with me, what feels most like the type of person I am. I think about qualities that I'd like to have in my mate (found, fulfilled), and what kind of partner I'd like to be to him. Envisioning a moment is usually enough to show me what I'm looking for, whether I have it, and what, if anything, I'd like to change.

The act of deciding what you want for your life is important. We only (technically) get one shot at this, so why do it blindly? Be pointed in what you want for your life, and make sure you follow through by striving towards it until it is attained.

I've recently done this, and I am happy to say that everything in my life is good. All of the people in my life match what I've always wanted. Friends, family, and the man in my life... all amazing. I'm at a very happy place.

But I've got to straighten some things out with myself. Having spent years dressing for others, behaving a certain way, even worrying about how I appear, it's time that I do what works for me. I've started, but still, there's more. Thankfully, I have support. I have a strong, loving acceptance present in my life that gives me the freedom to rediscover who I am and what I want for myself. With that, all things are possible.

I'm ready to bloom.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lose Yourself

“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.” 

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Sorting out one's life is never easy. As a child, my plan was to marry Bobby O'Neil, have a bucket full of kids, a white picket fence, and all the happiness that goes with it (rather, that is supposed to go with it). But you know what they say about the best laid plans. And happiness? Well, it's not something uniform. Happiness doesn't necessarily hang with us, even when we've dotted our i's and crossed our t's.

But that doesn't mean it's not attainable.

Sometimes the only way to have what we want in life is to get lost for a while. Getting lost is rarely intentional, yet the results are usually beneficial. We learn lessons. We don't have a GPS to navigate through life, so we search for clues of what's familiar, following tracks made by others, walking on cleared trails.

Alas, settling into the footsteps of others or walking a path matted by somebody else's boots serves no purpose. Yet we believe that if we successfully do what someone else does, our results will be the same. While that may be true for cookie cutter tasks, like hammering a nail into a wall, it doesn't serve us in the search for that which makes us whole. We need to sit, breathe, and have faith. 

I haven't been able to do it. I've been running in circles, doing what I think is right for me, only to discover that I keep getting lost. Alone, I am never lost. But the moment that I try to connect with someone else, boom. I'm down the rabbit hole.

Moving forward, I am going to try and do my own navigating. I am going move in the direction of what feels like happiness. Keep posted.