Friday, July 23, 2010

Soap Obsession

I have a new obsession......homemade soap. When I bought a small bar at the Farmer's Market several weeks ago, I didn't realize the can of worms that I was opening. I bought a Rosemary Mint bar to go with my new favorite shampoo and conditioner purchased on a separate shopping adventure. Well, since then, I have decided to try making my own homemade soap.

In the last week, I have been researching, reading and asking tons of questions about soap making. I have become a bit obsessed with it. I am constantly thinking of questions and making mental notes about what to look for on the Internet. After much consideration, I decided to try my hand at Melt and Pour process soap making. There is a Cold Process soap making but it involves making soap from pure Lye, which is a hazardous material and must be handled with extreme caution. Being that the kids are likely to be present whilst my soap making commences, I figured this is probably not the best process for me, right now.

After more research, I found a company, Brambleberry, that sells wholesale soap bases, essential oils and all soap making supplies. Talk about being a kid in a candy store! I couldn't believe the vast array of oils and soap bases. After looking, for what felt like hours, I decided on a mixed soap base started kit that includes 1 lb each of their top 7 selling soap bases. It includes hemp, goat's milk, clear glycerin, white glycerin, honey, aloe and shea. Talk about variety!

The essential oils were amazing to look at and read about all the healing properties of each. I decided on about 7 different oils that I can mix and match together.

My order should be here early next week and I can't wait! I have been watching YouTube videos for different ideas about soap making. I have also been clipping herbs from my garden to include in the soaps, to serve as an exfoliant. I have clipped and dehydrated about a pound of herbs so far. My mom also clipped some lavender from her garden for me.

After my order gets here, I will post my first attempts at homemade soap making. We'll see how it turns out!

Wildlife Prairie Park

We have a hidden little jewel in Central IL: Wildlife Prairie Park. Let me be the first to say that this is the best thing that Central IL has to offer in my opinion. I have always taken the kids to the park in the spring and summer but this year, since they are both getting older and a little easier to do fun stuff with, I decided to buy a year long pass.

When I looked into it in early April, I found out it was very reasonable. I bought a pass which allows me to bring up to three guests with me at a time. I opted for this package rather than just the family pass because I knew there would be occasions that I would want to take my mom or cousin Amanda with us. Since Luci is only 2 she is free anyways, so this package seemed to make the most sense. The best part? It was only $75 for a whole year.

We will probably go to the park at least 10 times from the spring to fall, so this ended up saving tons of money. We usually pack a lunch and go in the late morning and stay until 1 or 2 pm. There is so much to see and the kids love it. Last week, since the weather was semi-cooperative, we went to see the bears, cougars and whatnots.

Ivan walking the trails and being an adventurer.

Luci with a treasure that she found on the ground.

Big bears galore at WPSP.

Busy Week

I know it's been about a week since my last post, but odd as it seems, I've been busy. Not busy as in I-have-been-working-60-hours-a-week, but busy none the less. Some things we've been up to:

1) We went camping a few weekends ago and I decided to embark on a camper DIY renovation. We have a really tacky, broke down ass camper out at my step-dad's lake. Don't get me wrong, we love it! It serves it's purpose, keeps us dry and provides great storage for easy camping. But, it is very old, circa 1962 and very out of date. So I decided to jazz it up a bit and add some retro decorating. The ceiling had formerly been covered by some type of wall paper/ plastic coating of some sort that has been removed. It looked kind of tacky.

So I did this.

I decided the camper needed a little color so what better than to cover the ceiling in a patch-work of retro paper??
The kids were excited about it!
It turned out pretty good, but I didn't get it all done. I only worked on it while Luci was napping, so I will have to finish it later in the summer/fall. We plan on keeping our free camper for a while, so why not dress it up!?

2) While camping I got to read some fun magazines. Food Network magazine was one of them and has quickly become my new favorite magazine. I saw this recipe for Taco Burgers on the front cover and had to make it.

It turned out really good and I will definately make them again.

3)I have a new favorite kitchen tool. I got it as a gift for Christmas but I am just now realizing the vast potential for this awesome invention! It's from Pampered Chef, which I have heard a lot about but never been to a party. Love this cutter though! I always tell Jake that crinkle cut cheese tastes so much better anyways! Thirty seconds later......

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Day in the Life....

So, today was one of those days that started out terrible and ended up being a highly productive day. Here's how it all began....
I went to bed last night at 10:30 and fell asleep like I was in a coma.
2:00am- Jake wakes me up and says he needs to turn the light on. Turns out, the puppy peed on the bed. So we got up and started peeling blankets and sheets off the bed. Then we had to clean up the actual pee and spray the magic enzymes on the wet spot.

2:30am- Jake takes his position on the couch and I went upstairs to share the bed with Ivan.

3:00am- Still awake--listening to Luci sleep restlessly, rolling around.

3:34am- Awake still.

4:09am- I hear thunder! SHIT!

4:10am- I ran downstairs to get Phoebe (the older dog) who is deathly afraid of thunder. Too late, because she already peed on the kitchen rug. Oh well, easier to clean than a mattress! I herded Phoebe into her kennel, cleaned up the pee mess and went back to bed.

4:30am- Probably fell asleep, coma style again.

7:16am- Ivan and Luci are awake and they go downstairs.

7:45am- Jake yells upstairs and says that Luci's diaper has leaked and there is pee everywhere. God! Enough of the pee already!

7:48am- Luci gets her 1st change of clothes for the day, along with an impromptu bird bath.

8:15am- While watching cartoons with the kids, Luci gags and pukes up milk on me. Yay! Oh well, I have a shit ton of blankets and sheets to wash today anyways.

8:16am- Luci gets her 2nd change of clothes for the day.

8:30am- I made breakfast. Nothing fancy, egg and cheese sandwiches, since my day has not exactly started out stellar.

8:46am- I started the laundry triathlon.

8:50am- Dishes have begun to pile up so I started loading the dishwasher.

9:30am- Changed out the first load of laundry and continued dishes.

10:10am- Changed another load of laundry. Not bad! 3 loads by 10am! It's leading to a super productive day!

10:15am- I noticed the 5 gallon bucket of green beans still sitting in the kitchen and thought I should start the process for processing and freezing them. After all the picking in the garden, I certainly didn't want them to go to waste.

11:08am- Whilst in the midst of blanching green beans and preparing them for freezing, Jake calls and requests that I go to the garage and unplug a charger. I agree and quickly get off the phone before I mess up the beans.

11:20am- Green beans are all done and some are vacuum sealed for freezing. The others will be served in green bean casserole tonight for dinner.:) Yummy and well worth the hassle.

11:24am- Luci needs a drink so I make her some juice. While making juice I decide today is a good day to make sun tea since it's like 1000 degrees outside.

11:45am- I go to the garage to unplug the said charger that Jake requested. While out of doors, I got the mail and took a 5 minute break on the deck while reading the mail. I got a baby shower invitation from a cousin who is due in Oct. After the day I've had, I want to tell her to run, turn the other way, hide, whatever! Just don't do it! Instead, I'll probably buy her some butt cream and burp towels or something.

11:50am- Realized that since I was making ice tea, I should probably make ice since I used all our to blanch the green beans.

11:53am- Did the rest of the dishes from the green bean process.

12:10pm- Lunch production begins. Mac and cheese, since that's what Ivan wanted.

12:45pm- While putting away lunch ingredients, I notice a bunch of expired and nasty left overs that were hangin out in the fridge. So, I cleaned out the fridge and threw away half the fridge contents.

1:02pm- Changed laundry again. Ooops, I think I changed it another time before this but I can't remember.

1:09pm- Luci is a beast and needs a nap, so I laid her down.

This was as far as my log went because after I laid Luci down, I crashed on the couch and slept until about 4pm when Jake came home from work.

It was a productive day but I am glad that it's over. This is just a sampling of a day in the life of a stay at home mom. People think that it's easy to stay home and take care of kids, but let me tell you, there are days that I would much rather work at Kohl's, Target or something. No, I don't just sit on the couch and eat bon bons all day while watching my programs. It was a great reflection to keep a log like this today because, many days, I feel like, crap where did the time go today?!

Jake and I made an awesome dinner tonight. Jake made killer BBQ pork chops on the grill and cheesy au gratin potatoes in the oven. I made some awesome green bean casserole with the fresh green beans that I processed today. Everything turned out excellent!

So, now I sit here blogging about my day while sippin on a homemade Bartontucky milkshake and watching all the drama on Real Housewives of Jersey. I see all their drama and think to day wasn't all that bad!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Too much TV

Some recent observations and rants:

1) The humidity can be gauged by Luci's curls. The more humid it is, the tighter the curls in her hair get. The girl has crazy hair as it is and the humidity makes it 10x's worse.

2) Oh Hardees-This new marketing campaign for your hand-battered chicken strips. Do we really need the greasy, pimple-faced teenager to touch my food any more than he already does? Is it really necessary that instead of grabbing frozen chicken strips with tongs, now he has to handle my raw chicken and hand-batter it? As if I really will eat at Hardees anyways. Never again. Not since the button I found in my cheeseburger. Gross!

3) Law and Order marathons are not conducive to being a productive individual. It is so easy to get sucked into one episode after another. I have found that the only way to escape the cycle is this: when I see DICK WOLF's name, I have to turn it or turn it off because if see the even the first minute of the next episode, I'm screwed. They should have to provide a disclosure about the addictive nature of that show.

4) The ASPCA commercials get me every time. They have to play the most heart breaking music and show the most sad little furry faces. I saw one yesterday that had two dogs that look just like mine. It tore me to pieces, but yet, I couldn't change the channel. I felt like, if I turn the channel, I'm turning my back on those poor animals. Damn advertising ploys.

5) I saw a commercial yesterday for an awesome new show: Cupcake Wars. I have to watch this! I'm going to have to find it and set the DVR because I never remember when things are on.

As you can probably tell, I have been watching too much TV in the last few days. It's been too stinkin hot to be outside so we have been veggin out inside. I need to find other things to do though because my brain feels a bit extra mushy from all the Law and Order and bad commercials.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Riverfront Relaxin'

Today we went to the Riverfront Farmer's Market again. This time I took the kids with me and we had a great time. I was so excited to find a new handmade soap.....and bonus that is it Rosemary Mint. I just bought Rosemary Mint shampoo and conditioner this week that I am in love with, so you can imagine how elated I was to find matching soap! It smells so good that I could easily take a bite of it, although I don't think that you are supposed to ingest sodium hydroxide, whatever that is. I was just very impressed to find such a good quality soap handmade right here in Central IL. The packaging says that the lady that makes it lives on a farm in Hanna City, which is a small town about 15 minutes from our house, population around 200.
Ivan and Luci had a good time laying in the grass.
My kids are extremely laid back....literally.

Ivan likes watching the sea gulls fight over food.

And Lu was on a mission to climb anything she could find.
After the relaxing morning on the riverfront, I agreed to take them to Chuck E. Cheese, which was ok because I really just wanted to wear them out so Luci would take a good nap before the fireworks tonight!
While at CEC I ran into one of my students with his family. This was my first experience of running into a student outside of the school walls. He was cute though and gave me a big hug and asked what I was doing there. Of course, he's only 8 so he doesn't yet realize that his teacher doesn't sleep/live at school! Ivan still thinks it's funny that my students call me Mrs. T. I must admit that I do too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wonders of Childhood

On a recent trip to Wildlife Prairie Park, I watched my children play and was absolutely amazed to see their excitement, discovery and adventure of it all. A simple sand box and iron animal statues where more enthralling than the park itself!

Ivan found a frog statue to climb on and it became an adventure.
Luci enjoyed drawing in the sand.
It's an awesome thing to see your kids playing and enjoying the Earth's wonder. It's hard to imagine life through their eyes.

Adventures in Pork Roast

Two days ago, I set out to create a fabulous dinner. The bargain shopper that I am, I found a 2.5lb pork roast in the "meat clearance" section, as I call it. It was only $4, so I thought I could make an easy dinner on the cheap.

I took it out the day before to thaw because I froze it right away, but that's the down side to buying food from the "meat clearance" section, it is very close to expiration if not eaten or frozen. So, I let it thaw in the fridge for a day and that evening Jake seasoned it with our new favorite seasoning. Butt Rub. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it's awesome. We picked up a small shaker at a Gourmet food store in St. Charles, MO and fell in love. It's great on pork, chicken and beef. Jake just recently found a store that sells it locally and bought a bulk container of it. I'm off track.....

Anyways, Jake seasoned the roast and we let it marinate over night. In the morning, I put the pork in the crockpot and added a can of beer, 1/2 cup water, salt, and pepper. I set it on low for 8 hours and went to see Eclipse.

When I came home later in the day, it smelled awesome! I couldn't wait to check it. It was already pretty tender and flakey. Jake decided we should put it on the grill for a few mintues to give it a nice charred edge. While he played with the kids, I prepared some homemade steak fries. I took 4 potatoes, quartered them into steak fry shape and put them in a bowl. I added about 1/2 cup EVOO, I just eyeballed it. I also added some Italian seasoning from a shaker and some Butt Rub. (I'm addicted to the stuff.) I tossed it around to cover the potatoes and we were good to grill.

Jake heated the grill and away we went. He seared the pork for about 10 mintues on each side while cooking the steak fries. We have a gridle for our grill so he heated that and threw the potatoes on it. Since they were covered in the EVOO, they had a great sizzle and fried very nicely. Within 20 mintues or so, we were ready to eat. I'm sorry I forgot to take pictures, but I was so excited to eat, I lost all judgement. Next time, I promise. The meat turned out very sweet, tender and crispy in part that were grilled. Ivan and I shredded ours and ate it on a bun with some BBQ sauce. Luci, Jake and Amanda ate there's just by itself.

Here's my recipe:

Pork Roast

2-2.5lb Pork Roast
1 can Beer
1/2 cup water
Salt & Pepper
Butt Rub seasoning

Thaw roast ahead of time and marinate with covering of Butt Rub seasoning overnight.

Add roast to crockpot with 1 can beer and 1/2 cup water.

Add salt and pepper.

Cook on low setting for 8-9 hrs.

After cooking all day, remove roast and sear on grill for about 10 mintues on each side.

Steak Fries

4 Potatoes
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp Butt Rub

Quarter potatoes in steak fry fashion.

Add 1/2 cup EVOO, italian season and Butt Rub seasoning, and potatoes in bowl.

Toss until potatoes are completely covered in mixture.

Fry on the grill or in pan. Turning as sides become crisp.

Extrordinary Finds

Super excited because I went shopping the other day and made a few awesome purchases!

1) I bought a great smelling, yummy new shampoo and conditioner. Rosemary Mint. Tell me that doesn't sound awesome. It smells so good, I think it could be used as a glaze or marinade for chicken.

2) I bought a new eco-friendly, phosphate free dishwasher soap. I am a total bargain hunter and it was just as cheap as the off brand. It is by Palmolive and I can't wait to try it. It's Apple Citrus Splash. It just sounds clean, doesn't it?

3) Ivan got a Nerf gun for his birthday that he already had, so we agreed that I would exchange it and buy him a new pair of shoes. As luck would have it, they had one last pair of Toy Story 3 shoes, in his size! And they light up! Victory is mine! I can't wait for him to come back from his 3 day camping/fishing/four wheeling trip to see them.