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.