Monday, April 23, 2012

Need Soap in Palm Coast?

My newest wholesaler is located in the Gift Shop of Washington Oaks Garden State Park in Palm Coast, Florida.  Their hours are 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. from Friday through Sunday.  Kim and the volunteers at the shop will have a limited assortment--hopefully your favorites--to purchase.  And all profits go to the good works of the Friends of Washington Oaks projects. 

It is a wonderful place to pick up those special gifts for any event. There are great books for all ages and superb merchandise. Our plant people have created a plant boutique that rivals all. Stop in soon.  Don't forget your soap!

6400 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Palm Coast, Florida 32137
(386) 446-6780

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's a Dessert Smorgasbord!

First off, yes I am still on my diet.  Second off, hubby bought another package of those crappy sugar-free cookies--which means he needs something sweet, preferably chocolate.  Finally, I am starting to feel guilty about leaving to go on my summer roadtrip without him.  Which all leads to heating up the oven and taking advantage of an hour and a half of time before I had to start dinner. 

The above recipe is out of the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook (which I recommend).  Here's a link to the recipe on the Prevention website for the Oatmeal Cookie Bars.  I made them with whole wheat flour (not whole wheat pastry flour), I used EVOO instead of Canola as it was out and it only called for 2T and instead of melting the semi-sweet chocolate adding milk and more oil, I just used dark chocolate chips mixed into the batter.  Two thumbs up from us!!!  I baked them in a glass pie dish instead of an 8" x 8" pan and they took 14 minutes to brown up nicely.

The next recipe was from Jillian Michaels' "Losing It".  The recipe can be found here Fudge Brownies at the Catz in the Kitchen blog (check out her recipe index...YUM!).  I didn't substitute much--used regular whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat flour and regular baking soda.  But again, both Rod and I liked it as a substitute for my regular full strength sugar, white flour and butter brownies.  They took a little longer to bake than the 25 minutes called for--but as you can see I don't own an 8" x 8" baking I used one a bit smaller and less rectangular! 

The last dessert I made was a batch of Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies  again from the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook and detailed on the My Favorite Everything blog.  On this recipe I substituted dark brown sugar for the light...and I thought the recipe must be wrong.  It has no flour.  I did refrigerate the batter for about 15-30 minutes while waiting for the oven to free up so that may have helped them firm up enough to roll into a ball.  I baked the first tray for 11 minutes, but, I only did the minimum 10 minutes on the next batch and was happier with them.  I can tell you these were good and they made Rod happy even without the chocolate! 

So after all that I made ANOTHER recipe from the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook--this one Spaghetti with White Clam Sauce which is on the Rodale recipe site.  I made a ton of changes to the original recipe including:  whole wheat pasta instead of multigrain, half clam juice with the rest made up with water and 1T oyster sauce, dried basil instead of fresh at the end, half the garlic and half the olive oil.  It wasn't very saucy, but, I probably lost track of how long I reduced it with all the work going on in the oven.  But, the dish was very flavorful and Rod like it! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tissue Paper Holder

Thanks to an idea from Pinterest and a couple baby bed rails donated by my friend Annie I now have a new holder for my reams of tissue paper.  I use the tissue papaer primarily to wrap my soaps and the four reams take up a lot of room.  My Soap Room is really our little teeny iny third bedroom, so, a floor rack such as Rod suggested just wasn't gonna happen.  BUT, I do have a bit of wall room left!

The bed rails that Annie had laying around needed a bit of sanding and a quick spray paint job.  Of course it took me a couple weeks to figure out a plan and then another week to get all my supplies--trips to Walmart and Home Depot were necessary.  When the sanding and painting were done, the rails looked like this:

I had to find some hangers for my plaster walls that would hold a lot of weight.  I never weighed the rails, but, when you add on up to 1000 sheets of tissue--it can get heavy.  So I found some plaster hangers good for 80 pounds and a couple hinges.  I would have liked to get a heavier hinge, but, the rail didn't have enough width to use bigger ones.  Down the road if the small ones don't hold up, I will find some strap hinges to switch out for the small ones. 

First Rod helped me hold up the back rail--the one that would hold all the weight to the wall--and get it leveled so I could get the wall anchors in.  I had hinged the two pieces when they were laying flat out on the porch.  To hang it though, the pieces had to be unhinged. 

Then while I held it and took a picture, Rod screwed in the hinges at the bottom of the wall mounted rail.  I plan on running a rope from the top of the outer rail which will then be able to swing down to about a 45 degree angle so I can add or remove tissue and then just pull it back up to its storage position. 

The rack full and mounted is shown below.   I just need to get some screw hooks and eyes to finish rigging the rope system.  But, I already LOVE it!  Score #1 finished project thanks to my pins on Pinterest!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Award Winning Folk Artist...ME!

I have been doing Fiesta in the Park for over 13 years which means I have done the Spring and Fall shows there at Lake Eola over 20 times since I started making soap.   This year was special because I won an award!  I entered in the Folk Art category and was lucky to actually see the judges and spend some time with them showing them my production pictures, letting them feel my big log of Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soap and even giving them my little sample chunks to try.  It worked!

Sunday afternoon a detail of the show's staff showed up at my booth with the second place ribbon above, a nice cash prize and took pictures!  Betty Lou, the show's new director, even ordered 10 bars to be delivered at the end of the show for her volunteers.   She was going to thank them for doing a dirty job! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cholestrol Checkup and Emily Update

I had my bloodwork rechecked last week and yesterday was the appointment to see how I did since starting on my "lifestyle" change in January.  I was gonna say diet, but, honestly I don't really think I am dieting.  I eat most everything I want--I just don't want to eat a lot of the stuff I once did.  Other than chocolate, pizza, Chinese food--oh crap I guess I still have lots of cravings. 

The doctor's scale showed the same as my Wii--I was down 13 pounds.  I actually have yo-yo'd a bit on the weight, but all in all I am pretty happy with those results.  My total cholestrol fell 20 points so it is in good shape along with my triglicerides which are great.  But the good and the bad cholestrol are another story.  The good just keeps getting worse and the bad is getting worse too! 

So, the doctor still wants to put me on medication which I totally don't understand.  Well, I do understand it based on my family history.  I would probably have more problems with the side affects than with the benefits from lowering a couple components of my overall cholestrol.  We talked and decided that while I did make great progress on the eating end of things, I still have LOTS of room to improve my commitment to exercise.  

So, the next three months I plan to be a workout fool.  I think that will really work when I leave for Illinois in a couple weeks--my sister has a much better attitude toward working out and maybe it will rub off on me!  Plus, exercise has been shown to have a great impact on upping good cholestrol. 

SO, I am off to walk with Bonnie Dog.  And dust off the Wii for the later...

OH, and part of our Wii Weigh-in--Emily is up to almost 7 pounds.  She is still loving her Science Diet YD food--both the wet and the dry.  And unfortunately Bonnie steals it whenever we forget to put it up which means she is still gaining weight.  So, little Bonnie and I both really do need that walk!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day--My Quarterly Tax Mid Year Resolution

The check is in the really...our annual check went out this morning along with the quarterly tax payment to make the April 17th mailing deadline.  I much prefer getting a refund...however small.  But this was not to be one of those years. 

We generally withhold extra through Rod's paycheck.  The last few years, with the economy taking a dump and all the Obama era tax incentives we haven't had to worry too much about extra quarterly payments for my business.  Rod has basically been paying my tax bill...poor guy.  Think of all the cameras and lens he could have bought!

This year I didn't do a very good job withholding quarterly, thus the tax bill due today.  So, this year I am going to pay more attention in June, September and next January on how business is going so I can get a jump start on April 2013.  My sister has already promised to help remind me.  It really is painless--other than writing out the check.  I already have the business numbers tallied--so no excuses!!

Hope your tax day is going smoothly!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Best Friend

In the marriage lottery, I got EXTREMELY lucky.  But I was still kind of surprised when I read about a study reported in Real Simple Magazine that was conducted by the journal "Social Psychological and Personality Science".  They found that of couples married over 10 years, 84% would say they are "very in love", "intensely in love" or "very intensely in love". 

So often we hear the downside of relationships that go awry--from divorce, to spousal abuse all the way to seemingly innocuous benign neglect.  Who knew there were so many happily married people running around? 

In the same issue of Real Simple, the February issue, they also examined what were the most important traits in a spouse.  I must say that Rod possesses most of them.  It's not all a bed of roses, mind you.  It's just that the good so far outweighs the bad.   If you had to make a list of traits you would like your spouse, your friends, or say someone you had to be stranded on an island with, you might consider this a pretty good shopping list.  (In no particular order...)

1.     Mutual Respect
2.     Gratitude
3.     Helpfulness
4.     Positive Outlook
5.     Kindness
6.     Putting Family First
7.     Loyalty
8.     Adaptability
9.     Drive
10.  Thoughtful Communication
11.  Sense of Humor

This is something we should teach our kids--it should be the basis for a Health Ed class.  Every single young person should have this list in mind as they think about dating and forming friendships. If the potential date is lacking wholly in one of these traits, keep looking.  Another great person is out there and has all of these traits and more too numerous to recount! 

I hope my nephews and nieces are paying attention...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spa Salts 100% Natural

Bath Salts with Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Spearmint and Rosemary
Essential Oils for soaking and muscle and joint pain, 15 ounces, $8.00

I was playing around with some new jars for my "Bath Sand" Bath Salts this week and this is the final product.  Well, this is the version I will have with me at The Fiesta in the Park at Lake Eola in Orlando this weekend.  I was thinking the blue and the sand color would go nice together, but, now that I see the ribbon with it--I am gonna go white instead of sand next time.  Still, they are cute, aren't they???

My Spa Blend Salts are so popular with people looking to soak away the day's aches and pains.  The blend of essential oils all help to ease muscle and joint pains and help you relax. 

These Salts contain epsom salts, sea salt, baking sode, cream of tarter, Essential Oils, Vitamin E and mica for color.   Note:  if you plan to soak in the tub but you need moisture try by Bath Fizzies instead. 

Just add some music, a glass of wine and SOAK!!!

TimeBanks--Anybody In?

I was reading an article in the AARP Magazine last month and came across an interesting idea ( full article at  TimeBanks run on a simple premise--for each hour of service that members give, they earn an hour's worth of "time dollars" which can be traded for services from other members.  Everyone's time is valued the same--so the CPA's time equals the dogwalkers which equals the house  painters which equals the hours contributed by the caterer.  Cool, huh?!

The national organization ( has established the following core values. 

1.  We are all assets--We all have something to give.

2.  Some work is beyond price--Work has to be redefined to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, make the planet sustainable. That kind of work needs to be honored, recorded and rewarded.

3.  Helping works better as a two-way street--The question: “How can I help you?” needs to change so we ask: “How can we help each other build the world we both will live in?”

4. We need each other--Networks are stronger than individuals. People helping each other reweave communities of support, strength & trust. Community is built upon sinking roots, building trust, creating networks. Special relationships are built on commitment.

5. Every human being matters--Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.

I was so excited to get involved that I checked out the membership listing, but, alas no timebanks in my immediate area.  Want to see if there is one near you?  Go to and see if you can join. 

I love the idea of fostering real community ties.  In Orlando we have such a transient population.  It seems as if everyone is from somewhere else.  Many of us don't have family support systems available.  The idea that together we are better than alone is a huge plus to me. 

Imagine being able to bank hours for things like:   driving members to doctor's appointments or to grocery shop, giving haircuts or dance lessons, providing health care, home weatherization, mending clothes,  electrical or plumbing services, yard work, house cleaning--the possibilities are endless.   You of course would still have to pay for materials used (like paint if you had your house painted), but, the labor savings could be huge.  AND, you have gotten to know your neighbors and built lasting relationships. 

I wish the idea would take off in every neighborhood or community. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pinterest--the best way to browse the web or the greatest time drain ever?

Several weeks ago at a soap class a gal named Ellen was telling me about this website.  I was intrigued, but, it took me a while to actually use the invite she sent me to look around the Pinterest site and see what it had to offer. 

Imagine that each wall in your home was a memory board--a visual reminder of every thing that caught your eye on the web.  Let's say one wall was all the recipes you found that you wanted to try one day.  Maybe another wall is full of fun craft projects you want to do with the kids.  Another wall is full of pictures of plants you want in your garden.  How about a wall of the best vacation sites for that dream vacation? Or cute shoes, dresses--even wedding dresses that you hope to buy, make or just look at every day.  

Pinterest allows you to set up these virtual "walls" filled with all the memory boards (or pin boards) you can imagine.  The possibilities are endless and I have been spending endless hours trying to browse through all the sites that my fellow pinners are finding every day.   The official reason for the site:   "Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.  People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes."  Below is a screenshot of some of my boards.

So far I have boards like the basics I described above.  I also found several cute pigs that were just begging for their own memo board, which I of course titled, "When Pigs Fly!"  There is my board for projects inside the house, projects for the yard (like the potters bench I am going to make--a screen shot is below) and one for the books and movies I love.  Of course, I no longer have time to read or go to the movies because I am never going to leave the Pinterest site.  If your soap order is late, now you know why!

Which of course leads me to my real problem with Pinterest and all cool websites out there.  I no longer really have time to surf the web as I am trying to keep hubby and the pets happy and fed, running a business from home and trying to get showered before I eat lunch.  Just finding all these projects, pictures and websites are fine.  But, to truly make it all fit into my lifestyle I actually need the time to make these projects happen.  Eventually that means getting up from the desk, writing down your plan and then going to the lumber yard to get everything you need--which takes more TIME. 

I like projects.  I LOVE being able to finish projects.  I fear that many of the things I see people pinning are just being added to an unending list that will never have anything crossed off.  That seems like a waste of time.  It also makes me feel like I am writing down Paris Hilton's shopping list--filled with things I obviously will never be able to afford. 

So, I hope I can find a way to balance the time to find my next great project with the time it takes to make it a reality.  Wish me luck.  And remember, if you don't get a return call, I am probably stuck on Pinterest looking for potters benches!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Candle that Really Works

I have been selling my soap at art and craft shows for nearly 13 years now.  I had the good fortune to meet up with several great friends in my early days.  Eve, my nautical painting/photography friend who does great light switch covers; Lynn the SpiceLady and my candle guy, Russ. 

Russ and I were at St Augustine's Seafood Festival together and talking about ways we can increase our business.  He is a great marketeer already, but, let's face it--in this economy we can use all the help we can get.  He is the one that started me out on Fundraisers and he is the first one of our group to get a website, so he is always pushing the technology envelope.  He is the one to seriously get me looking at smart phones. 

Anyway, his Clean Air Candle is awesome.  I have one with me ALWAYS.  I have one in the house in the kitchen.  One near the kitty litter box.  AND, my favorite idea--one in a beer cozy with a pack of matches in my travel bag so when I plop into bed in a cheap hotel room I can get rid of whatever stinky smell that hits my nose!

Oh, and he has good smelling regular candles too...check him out at:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soap

The little soap samples I hand out at craft shows are very popular.  Yes, people like getting free things.  They LOVE getting something unexpected that actually helps their skin.  Especially when it is a great little Hunk-o-Love that I call, "Everything but the Kitchen Sink".   As you can see from the picture above, I take about one month of soap shavings (the beveled edges off each soap I wrap) and  endpieces (the lumpy pieces at the top of the mold) and rebatch them into soap.   What's rebatching? 

For me, it is turning those unusable, unsellable pieces of perfectly good soap into a bar of soap that is even greater than it's parts.  I add a little bit of distilled water, all the soap shreds and bits and mix it all up in a small stock pot.  I put a cover on it and then heat it up in a slow oven (about 225 degrees) for several hours.   It doesn't exactly melt, but, it does get soft enough that it can be stirred and then glopped back into the mold.  It sits there for another day and then I cut it into bars and let it cure as normal. 

So, the next time you see me at a craft show, stop and get your own little Hunk-o-Love!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Kingdom for a Reese's Cup

One of the things we have tried to do is cut back on sugar and sweetner use to reduce both cravings and calories.  I have about stopped all diet sodas, using sweetner in my green tea and I am trying to get Rod 
to give up those sugar free cookies at the grocery store.  He doesn't have a blood sugar problem and he is able to limit himself--so I wanted to give him healthier sweet options. 

So, I make his favorite chocolate chip cookies, but, I use applesauce in place of the butter, dark chocolate chips and cut back a bit on the sugar.  He is happy and I am happy as long as I stay out of the cookie dough.  I could probably make these every single week and he would be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY.  But, as I was looking through a new cookbook, Alicia Silverstone's, "The Kind Diet" Cookbook I found a copycat vegan recipe for one of my favorites--Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!!!

Not having all the ingredients or the desire to be 100% vegan, I substituted as below for my version.  They got a thumbs up from everybody that tried them over at the beach.  If you guys have any ideas for other easy to make goodies, leave a comment!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
2T Butter or Margarine
3/4 c Peanut Butter
3/4 c Graham or Saltine Cracker Crumbs
1/4 c Sugar or substitute
1 c Dark Chocolate Chips
1/4 c Milk of your choice
1/4 c chopped pecans
36 little muffin liners

In saucepan melt butter.  Add peanut butter and graham crumbs, sugar and mix well.  Remove from heat and spoon about 2 teaspoons into each liner. 

Combine chocolate and milk and melt in microwave in short bursts, stirring frequently.  Spoon over peanut butter mixture, dividing it up evenly as possible.  Top with chopped nuts.  Refrigerate 2 hours to harden.  Keep chilled.

The reason I really love this recipe is that it is a makeover of one of my family favorite Christmas cookies--those BuckEyes or Peanut Butter Balls that are made with so much butter and powdered sugar.  This is a nice change of pace.  But remember, it is still a treat...not something you whould eat every day.  Unless you are like my hubby and can control yourself. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Things happening around here...

My FREE workforce was cut in half when Mom had her bike accident.  Since she was in a brace to immobilize her index and middle fingers, Dad and I were the soap wrappers this winter.  Here we are working on the Sea Salt soap.  All those little beveled edges get saved to be used in my Everything but the Kitchen Sink they are precious little soap curls!

Not much happens around here that doesn't involve work (his and hers), following our sports teams and playing around on the when we hear a little commotion out by the pool we take notice.  This time it didn't involve snakes...but some cute little ducks visiting us from with Lake Kane or Lake Marsha.  They hesitated getting in at first...I am sure they were thinking to themselves, "I wish these people would weed their patio blocks!" 

But then one little hop and they were in.  They paddled back and forth several times, while I hoped Bonnie would not wake up from her nap and get into the act.  They didn't seem to pay any attention to me.  The water temp was somewhere in the 70's so I was happy to let them take a dip.

Finally they had enough of me snapping pictures.   Once they reached the pool's midpoint, they flapped their wings and were airborn in a matter of seconds.  They headed off to the east in the direction of Lake Kane and maybe their next stop.  Hopefully no jetskis would interrupt their afternoon!

This puzzle was a challenge.  It was big--1000 pieces, but, as usual Mom and I couldn't stop until it was done.  Beautiful colors and cute doggies--and enough sameness to make it fun!

Weigh In Week ???

Somewhere between my jumprope breaking into pieces, my Mom and Dad going and coming back from the beach and  Mom falling off the bike, I lost my will to blog weekly about my weight.  But, I have been here more or less faithfully trying to stay on the right track.  We won't count the pint of Ben and Jerry's, that little encounter with the chocolate chip cookie dough or my inability to commit to a morning walk...but all in all I am still down over 12 pounds from January 1st. 

My biggest success is finding some new healthy meals to put into the weekly rotation.  My current favorite is the Tofu and Kale Lasagna I have adapted from the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook.  This is one all of us have enjoyed several times over the last few months.  I have also been faithful to my new Cooking Light magazine trying several recipes a week.  I will try to put some of our other favorites on here, so, you can try them too! 

I think the biggest change is that I have cut out most convenience type ingredients, opting for the whole food instead.  It's an easy change, but, it does require knowing what you are going to make and then having the right stuff in the frig.  I can't rely on the same old shopping list to restock my pantry for meals I have made umpteen million times.  Occassionally my Walmart doesn't stock something I need--why don't they have bean sprouts?  But I am lucky that I have both Whole Foods and Fresh Market within a mile of the house, thus no ready excuse for not making a healthy meal. 

I had to do my bloodwork this morning and I am worried that all the cough and cold medicine I have been taking for the last few days may skew the results.  Probably not, but, is it still a fasting measurement if I took 2 teaspoons of cough syrup in the middle of the night???  Hopefully everything will come out ok in the wash and my doctor will be pleased with my progress over the last few months.  Hopefully.

Now my only worry is that with three sick people in the house, will my hubby be able to stay healthy?  Mom and Dad are on antibiotics, and I am toughing it out--no fever--just cold symptoms.  Rod, let me feel your forehead...