Friday, March 22, 2013

Giving Up Sugar... What Am I? Crazy?

As I sit here and think about what to write tonight I am tormented by a TREMENDOUS headache. Who knew sugar was so addicting that you can quite literally go through withdrawals. I am dreaming of Bop's frozen custard and sinfully delicious blueberry muffins (ooo I need to share that recipe!). By now I thought I would have completely given in and destroyed an M&M McFlurry but somehow I have stuck with it. I have been so much more resolved than any other time I have tried to get healthy and I think I know why. For the first time in my life I actually own a functioning scale. I wish that were a joke but it is not.

When I was younger, the only chance I had to check my weight was during the occasional visit to my aunt's house. Growing up I picked up the penny pinching habits of my dad and refused to spend more than $10 on a scale, one that never really worked. Now that I am a little older and a little wiser I know that sometimes you have to spend a little more to get your money's worth so now I have a high quality scale (that I bought on sale).

So how has this scale helped me stick to this commitment? Well, every other time I attempted such a huge change I felt horrible and could see no results. Believe me I know these things take time but it's hard to remember that when you are detoxing from sugar. This time is different. This time I can see the change. In less than one week I have shed 4 pounds! Now that is motivation. I never want to see that scale go back up again so I will stick through the headaches and crazy lady mode (I'm pretty sure my husband is thinking about having me committed).

I didn't just stop the sugar, I cut the carbs too by starting the Paleo diet. I compiled a weeks worth of recipes, bought the ingredients I needed on Sunday, and began the diet Sunday night. The great thing about this weeks worth of meals is it included leftover nights which gave me a break from cooking. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is not as expensive as I thought. I bought all the ingredients I needed (I already had some) for less than $100! The meals were actually really tasty too. I'll admit I wasn't too sure about the mashed cauliflower but it turned out to be amazing.

So that is it. I have quit the sugar and I am done for good. No soda, candy, cake, etc for me! And I couldn't feel better about it :)

Week One Paleo Meals:

Sunday: Paleo Tacos
Monday: Chicken Caccitorie
Tuesday: Honey Garlic Chicken Wings and Mashed Cauliflower
Wednesday: Italian Fritatta
Thursday: Tilapia, Asparagus, and Squash
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Leftovers

Coming Soon! A new page just for the recipes I try and how the family reacts to them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Ultimate Experiment in Patience and Anticipation

The pitch drop experiment. What the heck is that? Maybe it should it be called the dripping pitch experiment. Pitch dripping? Isn't pitch a solid? Actually it's not. It is a viscoelastic polymer derived from tar or petroleum. It's so viscous that you can hit it with a hammer and it will shatter (sounds like a solid right?).  But looks can be deceiving. It is called a viscoelastic polymer because although it may appear to be solid it is actually a liquid. The crazy world we live in, right...

As a student, the idea that a solid is actually a liquid can be hard to grasp. It goes against everything you were taught in grade school. An object is either a solid, a liquid, or a gas; there is no in between. Well now that we are all grown ups (yeah what's that?) we know that the world is not just black and white, there's lots of grey in between and one professor set out to demonstrate one such thing.

Professor Thomas Parnell was the first professor of Physics at the University of Queensland. In 1927 he set out to demonstrate that in this amazing and crazy world we live in some things are not quite what they seem. He wanted to show his students that although pitch appeared solid it actually has liquid properties at room temperature. So how did he go about doing this? Well, Professor Parnell heated a sample of pitch and poured it into a sealed funnel. He allowed the pitch to set for 3 years then cut the sealed stem on the funnel allowing the pitch to flow from the funnel (you know, since it is a liquid and all). Ever since then the pitch has dripped, very slowly, from the funnel. The very first drop fell in 1938. After 83 years, it is only on the 9th drop! Holy viscoelastic polymer, Batman! The ultimate experiment in patience, taking so long to complete that even after 83 years there is still no end in sight.

I haven't even gotten to the best part yet! After 83 years there is still no recording of the pitch actually dropping. In fact, no one has ever seen it drop in the entire 83 years that the experiment has been going on!  They almost caught the eight drop using video surveillance but as luck would have it the video feed failed at the time of the drop. So maybe you will be the lucky one that gets to watch the 9th drop fall and hold the title (and all its glory) of one of the few people in the world that witnessed something that has eluded so many people for over 80 years. Who knows, you may be watching at the perfect time. The link to the live video feed is below and may the odds be ever in your favor!

The Pitch Drop Experiment Live Feed (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the live video feed)

Oodles of Snikerdoodles

For the past few weeks the hubby and the 3 year old man have been begging for cookies. I put it off for as long as I can manage because I don't like to keep sweets around the house. They don't agree well with my waistline. Unlike my husband and child, I can't just eat whatever I fancy. Alas, eventually I must give in before they drive me mad (the hubby has this puppy dog face I just can't turn down).

I don't have a lot of family recipes to draw from so I use the internet as my recipe book. This time I found an amazing Snickerdoodle recipe called "Mr. Sigg's Snickerdoodles" and they are by far the best snickerdoodles I have ever had. The great thing about this recipe was that I had everything I needed already in the pantry! So I set out to make them. Here is the recipe (or you can click the link above):

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    Cinnamon Sugar Coating
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs and vanilla. 
  3.  Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. 
  4. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
  5. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. 
  6. Roll balls of dough in mixture. 
  7. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. 
  9. Remove immediately from baking sheets.
If you don't have any cream of tartar you can substitute the baking soda and cream of tartar with baking powder (1 teaspoon of baking powder for every 1/3 teaspoon baking soda and 2/3 cream of tartar).

These really are the best snickerdoodles I have ever had. If you try this recipe out let me know what you think of it in the comments below.  

It makes about 2x this many cookies... but little hands got to the other plate before I could take a pic :)


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Octonauts Party Ideas - How I Threw an Octonauts Party on a Budget

My oldest son is a HUGE fan of Disney's Octonauts (this is actually a UK show that is shown in the US on Disney channel). A little more than a month before his big day I decided to throw him the best Octonauts party I could manage on a limited budget and no access to Octonauts themed party supplies (the shipping from the UK is much more than I care to spend). So i set forth with nothing more than a computer, a printer, and google at my disposal. The first obstacle to tackle was finding inexpensive decor that had the look of the Octonauts. After some searching I found the Oriental Trading website. They had exactly what I needed: table cloths, favors, a cupcake holder all for the low price of $23 ( I managed to order on one of their free shipping days!). This is what I ordered:

Blue Polka Dot Baby Shower Table Cover
This matched the blue of the octonaut's uniforms very well :)

Orange Reversible Table Runner
 And this matches Kwazii (my son's favorite character)

Extending Telescopes

Since Kwazii is a pirate, we placed these on the table with....

Pirate Treasure Maps
In honor of Kwazii the Pirate :)

Pirate Ship Cupcake Holder
sticking with the Kwazii pirate theme I ordered this awesome cupcake holder

These were all great items and really added to the party's Octonauts atmosphere but it is just not a real Octonauts party without the Octonauts. This is where my creativity became useful. Using design software I put together some printables:

Letter Cake Toppers
I cut out my son's name, attached each letter to toothpicks, and added them to the top of his cake.

Kwazii Pirate Favor Boxes
 I could not find favor boxes that matched so I created my own!

Kwazii Birthday Shirt
I downloaded this coloring page image from the Disney website and added the color and number using my computer. I wanted to create my son's birthday shirt using this image so I flipped the image and printed it on iron-on transfer paper. 
Tunip's Fish Biscuits Sign
Tunip is a vegimal (half vegetable, half animal) and the cook on board the Octopod. He makes a lot of fish biscuits so I made this sign and attached it to a bowl of goldfish crackers.

For the cake I found a blog with a printable you could use to create your own cake bunting. This blog is amazing and saved me some much needed party planning time by providing such a great free printable. I downloaded the bright alphabet pages and used the blue and orange sheets. I attached the letters to string (spelling out Happy Third Birthday) then tied them to two wooden dowels which I stuck into the cake. I also needed fondant to create Captain Barnacles, Peso, and Kwazii. To make it by hand I used a video I found on YouTube. Trouble is I can not find it now so I will just tell you what I did:
  1. First, create a  pile of powdered confectioner's sugar on top of parchment paper (make a crater in the pile to help keep the marshmallow from running off of the paper or the table). 
  2. Then, melt one bag of mini marshmallows (add coloring when they are almost completely melted if you want the fondant to be all one color). 
  3. Once the marshmallows are melted pour the marshmallow on top of the powdered sugar. 
  4. Coat your hands in Crisco to keep the marshmallow from sticking to your hands.
  5. Fold the powdered sugar over the marshmallow (which will still be hot) continuously until it becomes thick and can be kneaded (you may need to add more Crisco to your hands at this point). 
  6. Knead the fondant until the marshmallow and sugar are completely mixed together. 
  7. Lightly grease a piece of saran wrap and use it to cover the fondant.
  8. Place the fondant in a Ziploc bag and set aside in a cool dry place (not the fridge) for 24 hours. 
I know a video would be more useful but I can not find the one I used. There are more videos on how to create fondant though. Just a simple Google search for 'how to make fondant" will give you what you need :)

I also found a gummy fish and jello fish bowl idea on pinterest which I thought would be fun for the kids. All you do is add gummy fish to blue jello (in a fish bowl) before the jello has completely set. I used a large bowl for the center of the table and placed small bowls on either side. 

To top it all off, I downloaded some fun printables from the Disney Junior Octonauts Page including creature cards (which I laminated) and coloring cards for the kids. This is also where I found the coloring page for my son's birthday shirt.

Well here are all the decorations and cake in action:

All the printables I created can be found on my weebly site. I included Kwazii birthday shirts for ages 1-6. They are free for PERSONAL USE but are not to be used for profit. 

So there you have it! One month in planning and it was all worth it. My son would not stop telling me "thank you" and "I love you" for the next week. Hearing him say that and seeing how happy it made him is more than I could ask for. This is one happy momma :)

The 8-Hour Diet Update

Okay so I know it hasn't been one month since I started the diet but I had to share this awesome news! Only 2 weeks in and I have already lost 7 pounds! How awesome is that! I did hit a few bumps along the way but even with that I have lost a good bit of weight. So with that I will let you get back to whatever you were doing. I will give a more in depth review and update at the one month mark. Like I said, I just had to share the great news :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trying Out Kitsy Lane

I stumbled upon something interesting today.  It is a work at home venture known as Kitsy Lane. My first thought was here is another do-it-yourself sales business that requires you to dish out hundreds of dollars to get started with no guarantee your hard earned money will ever be returned (of course that is up to the seller). Just once it would be nice to try a "do-it-yourself" sales business with no cost. Well to my surprise, that is exactly what Kitsy Lane is. There is no start up cost and you do not have to buy any products or do any parties or shows. It is done completely online by spreading your shop around through various social sites. So I thought if this is free why not give it a try? So I am! Just like with any business venture though this will take some time and I will never give up on my own jewelry business. The way I see it, whatever money I make through my Kitsy Lane boutique can be put towards my jewelry business. If you want to check it out or create your own boutique, here is the link:

Check Out Kitsy Lane!

And if you want to check out my handmade jewelry here are the links:

My Etsy Shop
My Facebook Jewelry Page

Baby Carrots Rumor a Big Phony

I'm sure by now we have all heard the rumor about baby carrots being created by evil people that want to poison us and destroy our lives. I will admit I too believed the rumor... for a moment. Then I remembered that I never take information from the first source I see as truth. I do lots and lots of online research. Before I tell you what I found, here is the rumor (via Facebook of course and unedited):

The "cute" cocktail carrots that you buy in grocery stores come from deformed crooked big carrots. They are put through a machine to become small cocktail carrots. This part everyone knows.

After they are cut to size they are soaked in large vats of water mixed with chlorine to preserve them. The same chlorine you use for your swimming pools and laundry. The reason for this is because they don't have the protection of the skin so they use a good amount of chlorine.

Notice that after you have stored them in the fridge for a while, a white film forms on them... it's the chlorine coming to the surface.

At what cost do we risk our health to have esthetically presentable VEGGIES? Well Folks... I think after reading this we will all strart making our own carrot sticks out of fresh carrots and keep them in the fridge (a few at a time), right? 

It's not strange that a processing plant soaks the carrots in chlorine because it is not to preserve the color (in fact I can not find any information that says chlorine will preserve color). They do this to preserve the carrot not make them "presentable" as is stated in the third paragraph. If you were to avoid these carrots because they are soaked in chlorine that is not strange either. Now if the statement, "it's the chlorine coming to the surface" seems a little off to you, well that's because it is.  If you were to take a carrot you grew in your own garden, cut it open, and place it in the refrigerator, it too would form a white film on the surface of the exposed carrot. It happens because of dehydration and abrasion. So there you have it. Nothing sinister going on here. Although I would say going organic could be the better choice because they avoid using any synthetic herbicides, insecticides,or  chemical fertilizer as well as antibiotics, growth hormones, or medications for animals.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Walrus Does the Worm

This is by far the best Harlem Shake I have ever seen. It makes my marine biologist heart smile :)

Dinosaur Rivalry Explained

Ever wonder why T-Rex and Spinosaurus hate each other? Here is your answer :)

Awesome 12 Book First Encyclopedia Deal

For all the mothers out there with little ones that like to read: Check out this awesome deal from Groupon! A set of 12 First Encyclopedias for only 26.99 + tax (retail stated as $155.88). I could not find any other information on them but for $27 you really can't lose! It's full of great images and I can't wait to see the looks on my little man's face when he gets these books. I know he will wear the Dinosaur one out :) Here's the link:

12 Book First Encyclopedia Set

If you notice they have sold out please leave a comment below.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Remove That Pesky Frosting Dye From Your Hands

I had planned to post pictures of my son's 3rd birthday party and share Octonauts party ideas with you all but that will have to wait for another day since I can not seem to find my memory card adapter. So today I wanted to share another happy accident that resulted from the party planning.

Anyone that has ever made their own themed cake knows that you can't always find the right color frosting. It just never matches what you envisioned. This is where frosting dye/coloring comes in handy. It is also useful for coloring fondant to make edible sculptures for your cake.

My oldest son has been in love with the Octonauts since he first laid eyes on them. When it came time to plan his birthday party I knew it had to be Octonauts. To make the perfect cake I would need to dye the frosting myself and create the characters for the cake. What a mess that was! My hands were covered in just about every color of the rainbow. There may be a way to avoid this but I was not aware of it at the time. I had to wash my hands several times during the cake decorating process but no amount of washing would remove that last (slightly dull) layer of dye. With my hands nearly dry from over-washing, I decided to throw in the towel and get a shower in before I hit the hay.

I recently switched shampoos to Head & Shoulders because I noticed my scalp began to itch (it hasn't since I made the switch). After I finished washing my hair I noticed that my hands were completely clear of any dye. I was delighted! Another happy accident!

I tested this a few times and found it works best if you mimic washing your hair when removing the dye. By this I mean using warm water and a rag along with the Head & Shoulders shampoo to remove the dye. Somehow the warm water and friction created by the rag helps the Head & Shoulders shampoo remove the dye much faster than just washing your hands with the shampoo.

Below are the before and after pictures of one of the test runs:

I love these happy accidents and can not wait to have more of them to share with you all :)