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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway :: Ends November 15, 2012

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and the holidays are coming up quickly! That means it's time to start CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! There was a year that I was done, totally finished, with my Christmas shopping by Halloween! Can you imagine?! That's definitely not happening this year, and I have a long list of shopping to do...

Just in time, Melissa & Doug's Terrific Twenty List is here to give us some gift ideas for some awesome toys! The list compiles the *best of the best* holiday gifts for the 2012 holiday season, and is a great way to find a special something for every kiddo on your Christmas list! 

Lily would LOVE one of these awesome Trunki portable (and ride-able!) toy suitcases!
Isn't that just the CUTEST?! What an awesome way to hold all of the goodies she'll be getting for Christmas!

To celebrate the holiday spirit, Melissa and Doug is hosting a “20 Days of Terrific Twenty” Giveaway on their Facebook page! Every day they will be giving away one item from their "Terrific Twenty" list to at least one lucky Facebook fan! Head over and enter to win NOW!
Melissa and Doug is hosting a giveaway right here on Wildflower Sunshine as well! Enter via Rafflecopter below.

And if you're interested in even MORE giveaways, head over to SIMPLE starting on Sunday - we have over 40 giveaways launching over the next 2 weeks during our 12+ Days of Christmas Event!
connect with Melissa and Doug :: 
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One lucky Wildflower Sunshine reader will win a Trunki Kids' Travel Trunk valued at $39.99 from Melissa and Doug! Here's how to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I will be compensated with product as a thank you for running this promotion. All opinions expressed are my own*

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankful Heart Thursday {3} :: Laughter and Ladybugs #tht

Thankful Heart Thursday is upon us again, and today I have been thinking a lot about my daughter. I worked all day, and then had a meeting this evening, so I only had an hour to play with her today. Therefore she was on my mind much more than normal (is that even possible?).

I'm so thankful to have a healthy and happy child. She laughs and sings and dances and tippy-toes. She loves her animals, hugs trees (literally), and kisses her family. She plays in dirt and water (sometimes at the same time), and climbs on everything, and picks tomatoes from the vine, and spanks me cause she sees me spank daddy playfully and thinks it's hilarious (oops!). Her sense of humor is mind boggling - she laughs at things that are funny, and she's not even two! This may be normal, but it absolutely floors me that she is so intuitive at this age.

I am thankful that my child is intelligent and curious. She can count to ten (but she usually skips 4 and repeats 8 and 9 twice), she knows her colors (red through purple, plus pink), she has a huge vocabulary, and she understands everything we ask of her (even if half the time her terrible two answer is NO!). I just feel so blessed to have an intelligent child who is interested in reading and playing make believe (what an imagination she has!) and is so interactive. She held her first ladybug today (she was wary of them until this morning).

Speaking of that ladybug, I am thankful that we found a beautiful bell pepper with 5 ladybugs in their little "cocoons" (pupae) at the Farmer's Market last weekend, and we were able to watch them hatch in our home this week. One hatched yesterday morning, the others this morning. Lily was fascinated, and wanted one on her hand. It was fantastic. I'm so happy that she is so brave.

What are you thankful for today?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thankful Heart Thursday {2} :: Autumn #tht

Thankful Heart Thursday with @WildflowerShine

Time to slow down and take a few minutes to count my blessings. Today has been a whirlwind, so it's nice to have this weekly "deadline" of recording the things that make me thankful...

My office decided yesterday that they wanted to order pizza for lunch today (I love when they plan ahead). That meant I didn't have to pack myself a lunch this morning and had a few extra minutes to tickle Lily. It's the little things.

Fall/Autumn is in the air! As much as I love Summer, I'm totally ready for harvest festivals, cool days and sweaters, bike rides on cool afternoons, falling leaves and pumpkin spice everything - lattes, bagels, bread, cupcakes, oh my! Bring it! I have several harvest events on my calendar, and I hope to go to every one because I want Lily to really feel as connected as I do to the feeling of seasons and what makes them special. For me, harvest time is about working hard to prepare for winter and celebrating the bounty of the harvest and the last moments of mild weather, then tucking in and winding down for the long cold season full of indoor crafting and hot cocoa {and AWESOME seasonal beers!} and holidays. Fall is exciting and exhilarating, and I just love it.

I have a lunch date scheduled with a very dear friend tomorrow. This crazy life we lead keeps us from hooking up for girl time as much as we'd like, but I'm thankful for the times I do get to meet up with her because we are brain-twins and it's just so easy and effortless to be with her. We totally think on the same wavelength.  Our hubbies joke that we share a brain (and we don't argue!).

On that note, I am VERY thankful to have so many friendships that are solid regardless of how long it has been between phone calls or visits - when we eventually see each other, it's like no time has passed at all. Those are the friendships worth keeping, and I cherish them with all of my heart.


*linking to Thankful Heart Thursday on The SIMPLE Moms*


Monday, September 17, 2012

Just Write {3} :: Sometimes Real Life isn't as Romantic as Daydreams

Remember how excited I was to take a bike ride on the river bike trail this past weekend?  I imagined riding past lush river greenery, spotting some geese and maybe some quail, waving at other cyclists and families as they rode past, watching the rays of sunlight as they filtered through the trees and illuminated flecks of dust in the air as we rode along the sun-dotted shady path... what a romantic and picturesque day I had planned in my head...


First of all, it was 95 degrees in the middle of September when most of the foliage and grasses have dried to a papery straw color, so there was not a lot of greenery to absorb the heat so we absolutely baked in the sun.  Plus, there is much less shade than I remembered - the areas that did have a canopy of trees overhead were few and far between, but quite welcome when they appeared.  Because it was so hot, the river animals were hiding deep in the underbrush.  We did see one grey squirrel who just barely avoided my front tire when he darted out in front of me (OK, it wasn't THAT close, but he did startle me).  By the time we got home, I was torridly shaky and parched and had to go directly into a cold shower to cool off. I gulped water from the shower spray to ward off the heat stroke that was coming over me and could feel the heat pouring off me as the cold water was warmed by my body heat by the time it hit my feet.

And while we did see several cyclists and a few families along the trail, we also saw several groups of homeless people and druggies (doing drugs out in the open, so I'm not just labeling them randomly) and the skinny dogs that accompanied many of them.  Across the river we could see homeless camps set up under an overpass.  In a few places, the few green plants and bushes had been trampled flat by river people as they wore a path from the bike trail to the water's edge.  It was both sobering and saddening to see so many destitute and hopeless people along one 6 mile stretch of road.

Ultimately, we had a fantastic time at the brew fest - I truly enjoyed having some "adult" time with my hubby and we tasted some great craft beers, saw some good friends, enjoyed awesome cheeseburgers from one of the local gourmet food trucks, and had some good laughs.

But that 12 mile ride along the trail will stick with me for some time.  It made me thankful that I have a good job, a supportive family, and healthy living habits.  It reminded me not to take my way of life for granted, and to count my blessings every day.

*linking to just write*


Friday, September 14, 2012

Just Write {2} :: Of Brew Fests and Bicycles

Ah, it's FRIDAY!  TGIF is an understatement.

Tomorrow the hubs and I are going to the California Brewer's Festival and I CAN'T WAIT! Nana is watching Lily, and Jim and I will ride our bikes down the beautiful river bike trail to the brew fest.

I have two main reasons that I am excited.

1. Craft Beer
I am a craft beer nerd, and I haven't been to a brew fest yet this year so I'm totally ready to geek out! We used to work or attend several (like 10 or more) brew fests and beer tasting events each year and I had my finger on the pulse of the beer market, but this is the first one of the year for me, so I'm chomping at the bit to see what new beers (and SEASONAL beers) are out there. This particular brew fest is my favorite because it's in a beautiful park and it is a token event instead of a drinking free-for-all. You are probably thinking I'm crazy, but the free-for-all events turn into a drunken mess of binge drinkers and that's not my style. I prefer to hang with the more discerning beer tasters who are there to actually savor their samples, not just to get hammered. I'm also looking forward to running into friends we've not seen in a while, which always seems to happen at this event.

2. Bike Ride
I am really looking forward to going on a bike-date with my husband. Don't get me wrong, I love taking family bike rides, but we all know how important it is to take time out to have dates with our significant others. Plus, after the crazy hills we rode during the bike trek last weekend, I'm looking forward to riding my road bike on level ground! The bike trail is lovely - it's right along the river, so the flora and fauna of nature are abundant.  Riding this trail exhilarates me and makes my flower child heart happy.

In conclusion, Beer + Bikes = Awesome. Period. End of story.

CHEERS!!! Have a great weekend!

* linking to just write*


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thankful Heart Thursday {1} #tht

I write for a blog called SIMPLE, and today is the inaugural day of a new project called Thankful Heart Thursday.  I like the idea of taking a few moments to really focus on what I am thankful for each week, so I am looking forward to taking on the challenge of remembering to do this every week!

I am thankful that Lily didn't break her nose when she hit her face on the couch arm last night - she sure does have a bruise though.  That child is a little daredevil, and my hubby has taken to calling her The Honey Badger because she's so tough!  She takes falls, bumps and bruises in stride and doesn't let them stop her!

This morning I am VERY thankful for coffee.  I don't think that my writing would be coherent without caffeine today.

I am thankful that we had such a great summer, and I'm looking forward to fall!

I am thankful for my health and the health of my family.  I have a dear friend whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently, and her father died of pancreatic cancer when we were in high school... I have been talking with her a lot about it, and I just pray for her sanity and serenity every day.

I am thankful that I have grapes in my lunch today.  Red ones.  I love red grapes.  Especially when they come in a bottle.  But not at work, obviously.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Write {1} :: The Inspiration

Today one of my fellow bloggers at SIMPLE wrote a post that she linked to another post called Just Write. Those two words immediately impacted me with their simplicity and directness...



Don't overthink. Don't plan. Don't worry about what people will think or if it will be interesting or if it will be controversial. Just write! As someone who both enjoys and loathes writing, this is some of the most inspirational advice I've gotten in a while. My blog frequently comes to a standstill because of writer's block, or because I don't have "time" to plan a blog post. I need to stop trying to come up with topics and ideas and JUST WRITE!

So here goes...

Today I am working on a July 2012 photo book for my little one - I've been documenting her life in photo book form since she was born, and I am completely smitten with the idea.  They are a bit pricey and take time to put together, and sometimes I get behind by a few months, but they are fun to create and personalize and save me from having to bust out the tubs and buckets of scrapbooking supplies that I've tucked away in my office. {note to self: sell that crap already!}  I start each one with a little paragraph that serves as a snapshot of her development and our family time together.  I am glad to have these since my memory isn't the greatest anymore.

I'm very tired from the bike trek last weekend, but I'm recovering.  I need to just write about that experience.

When I get home, I plan to enjoy a Crispin cider.  Maybe tomorrow I'll just write about it...

So many things to just write about all of a sudden!


*linking to just write*


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Ultimate Oxymoron :: Summer Cold

The very last thing a momma wants on the first day of summer is for her kiddo to come down with a cold. And that's exactly what Lily did yesterday. My poor girl is snotty and coughing, which has put a huge dent into our plan to go to the zoo's Twilight Thursday tonight with Lily's little friend, as well as our weekend plans - and if this cold lasts as long as the previous one, our plans for the next 2-3 weeks are shot.

There should be a cosmic law against summer colds. It's just not right to be stuck feeling like crap with the weather is so beautiful.

But the bright side is that instead of being cooped up indoors with gloomy weather while she feels sicky, she can play outside and enjoy the sunshine, and even go swimming since our pool is at least 80 degrees and feels like a giant bath. That should make feeling sick a little less sucky. I guess. That's what I'm telling myself anyway.

Now, off to find the snot sucker... wish me luck!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ballet Flats :: how did I NOT buy a pair of these before now?

Apparently I missed the bus with the ballet flat phenomenon. In my defense, I rarely change up my shoe style because my forays into unknown footwear territory usually end with band-aids on my Achilles, blisters on my soles or with not-so-cute-after-all/fugly shoes collecting dust at the bottom of my closet. So I essentially ignored the ballet flats because I didn't want to add yet another uncomfortable or not-my-style pair of shoes to my shoe graveyard. I'll keep on truckin' with my flip flops, wedges and tennies, thank-you-very-much.

But I have to thank my friends Sarah and Blanca for opening my eyes to how AMAZING ballet flats really are. Sarah recently reviewed a pair of handmade leather ballet flats, and when she mentioned the words "comfortable," "feminine" and "chasing a toddler" I immediately wanted these magically versatile shoes! Yes please! But because I have about 2 brain cells that work these days and rarely have time to go shoe shopping anymore, I forgot to look for a pair to call my own. 

But then my friend Blanca came to work wearing these fabulous ballet flats in a lovely blush color that is no longer available on the site - good thing too cause I didn't want to be tempted to drop $90 on them! She let me try them on and I immediately fell in love - cute, comfortable, and work-appropriate to boot! My inner shoe fiend took over those 2 brain cells and ballet flats have been all I have thought about since. 

I started shopping online and found that ballet flats come in all kinds of colors and materials (leather, fabric, etc.)... shopping online is like shoe heaven! But I didn't want to wait for shoes to be shipped to me a week from now, I wanted immediate shopping gratification dammit! So I made up a quick grocery list of stuff that's "cheaper at Target" to give myself a reason to go shopping somewhere other than Safeway. I crossed my fingers in hopes that I would find something that was even close to a style that I'd actually wear, and made a beeline for the shoe section... and *angels singing* they had the perfect ballet flats in my size (my PRE-pregnancy size actually!!) for just $20! If you shop the Target shoe section with any frequency you know how amazing it is to find your size in the shoes you fall in love with! Check them out:

I'm so excited! I can wear these to work, to the store, to a party, in the backyard while chasing Lily around... they are brilliant! They are cute and style-neutral, and can be worn with anything from jeans to dresses! And the best part - they are COMFORTABLE! I've been wearing them all day and haven't had one hint of pain on my Achilles. Talk about the most functional shoe on the planet! 

Moral of the story: if you are a busy mom who needs comfortable and versatile footwear and you do not have ballet flats, please run out and get a pair RIGHT NOW! You won't regret it. You're welcome.

And stop laughing at me because you've been wearing ballet flats for years already. :)


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Awesome Recipes Made with BEER! {Father's Day Eats}

My local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, published a list of AWESOME BEER RECIPES for Father's Day! My hubby and I are both SO excited about these recipes! To make it easier to get to the recipes without going through the Bee's slideshow, here are the direct links and the photos that accompany them.

1. Guinness Marinated Flank Steak Sandwiches with Grilled Onions and Boursin Cheese

2. Cheddar Mustard Beer Bread

3. Boston Lager Cupcakes with Boston Lager Buttercream Frosting

4. Brooklyn Beer Chili Burgers with Smoky BBQ Sauce

5. Beer, Bacon and Cheese Cupcakes

6. Beer Bread

7. Beer Braised Rabbit with Pasta and Baby Carrots

8. Smoked Beer and Cheddar Soup

9. Smoked Beer BBQ Sauce

Don't those photos and recipe titles just make your mouth water?! I absolutely can't wait to try these recipes! Enjoy, and cheers!

*All photo credits go to the originating recipe site and are not original photos by me.  And thanks to PicMonkey for allowing me to make the awesome collage.*


Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Breastfeeding Controversy {WTF?!}

Breastfeeding has been all over the news lately, and I've been annoyed, to say the least, at most of the general public's views toward breastfeeding - that it should be done covertly, that it's shameful, that it's weird to do in public.  That's all wrong, and just makes me so frustrated!

And then I read the article today about military moms nursing in uniform and the outcry against them, and my patience snapped like a dead twig.  I've absolutely had it with all of this anti-breastfeeding in public nonsense. I applaud these awesome military mommas for being so radiant and proud of nursing their children (not to mention for serving our country while managing to raise said children) especially for making time during their on duty hours for their children!  And I applaud them for standing up for their photo shoot as well!

And F*CK all of the breastfeeding haters!  Pardon my French, but seriously!  Breasts are first and foremost about nourishing our children, not about sexuality. GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD: breasts do not equal sex.  Our society has oversexualized breasts to the point that the most basic of human functions (nursing a child, which ALL mammals do) has become something shameful.  This infuriates me (and I'm a pretty chill kind of gal).  I nurse in public all the time because Lily refuses to be covered up, so I've long since given up on trying to be "modest" (which is a complete oxymoron for me in the first place).  I even nursed her at the zoo once while we watched the giraffes, and the giraffes didn't mind one bit.  I'm sure they were actually pleased to see that someone else breastfed in public like they do.

Now go out and bare those milk-laden breasts with pride, ladies, and don't let the public outcries get you down!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

I Love Dogs {but not mean ones}

Today one of my friends over at SIMPLE shared a USPS article about dog bite awareness and the statistics of Postal Workers who have been bitten by dogs.
"The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report that small children, the elderly, and Postal Service carriers — in that order — are the most frequent victims of dog bites."  
In their informational PDF on page 5, Sacramento (where I live) ranked #8 in the number of dog attacks on a letter carrier!  That's not something to brag about.

I am a serious animal lover, and I am not prejudiced against certain dog breeds.  However, I am mindful of the fact that all dogs are animals, and even those that are raised in a good home can snap and bite.  One day when we were on a walk with our dog Phineas, a large yellow lab came bolting out of the front door of a house and started fighting with my dog!! I grabbed Phineas by his harness and scooped him into my arms (thank you, adrenaline, for letting me pick up my 35 pound dog like he was a piece of paper) while Jim grabbed the other dog's collar and dragged him back to his house.  Thankfully this was before Lily was born otherwise it could have been her who got attacked!

And then there are the dogs who are just downright mean.  Over Easter weekend last month, a family with a pit bull moved into the rental property next to our home.  My first dog was half lab/half pit and I know plenty of sweet, good-natured pits, so I am not automatically scared of pit bulls.  However, this pit bull snarled and bit at the fence, causing damage to the fence in just the first 2 days of living there. Granted, the fence is not in the best shape because of its age, but still, that dog literally took a chunk out of one of the fence boards, and made one come loose.  My hubby has reinforced those spots.

Thinking maybe the dog just needed to adjust to his new surroundings so he was on edge, I asked one of the family members if the dog was friendly; her reply: "No, and he has an attitude."  Awesome.  Oh, and he isn't neutered either, which makes male dogs more aggressive according to the USPS document:

"Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) statistics reflect that dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are up to three times more likely to be involved in a biting incident than neutered or spayed dogs."

Our letter to the property manager asking them to reinforce the fence has gone unanswered.

And today I got the dog bite article from my SIMPLE mom friend, and now I'm all paranoid that the dog is going to come through the fence and bite my baby or my dog.  Fantastic.

I guess we'll be going to Home Depot for some more 2x4s this weekend.

Ultimately, I'm not afraid of dogs.  We go on walks and ride our bikes frequently, and when I see a dog, my first instinct is not fear.  But I need to remind myself to be wary, because it's more important to keep my daughter (and myself) safe than anything else.

Have you had bad experiences with dogs?  Share them in the comments section below.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Case for Beer :: Why You Should Enjoy It & Enjoy It Right {an infograph courtesy of The Frugal Dad}

Infographics are all the rage lately, and it's about time someone came up with a really awesome one about BEER! Read and learn:  

  Beer Infographic

Now let's all go out and get a nice craft beer and drink it at the correct tempreature paired with the appropriate food. I'm craving a nice Belgian Trippel with some nice spicy jambalaya... mmm... 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Outdoor Spring & Summer Craft Idea :: Coffee Can Planters

I have a chain link fence surrounding my pool.  While it is a great safety feature, it's horrifyingly ugly! Chain link is so industrial looking, and very un-appealing to the eye (in my opinion).  So what's a lady supposed to do?  Adorn it with flowers of course!

Armed with 6 coffee cans that I got from a lovely woman on Freecycle, some fine grit sandpaper from the garage, a can of spray primer (about $5), a can of beautiful blue spray paint (about $5), a drill and 12 S-hooks ($3), here's what I came up with!  

Beautiful, durable planters for under $15!  Plus, I have plenty of primer and paint left over for another project. You could get away with doing this project for free if you happen to have the supplies on hand, or are able to glean them from Freecycle like I did.  If I had thought about it, I probably could have scored the primer and paint on Freecycle too, maybe even the S-hooks.  

First I removed the labels from the coffee cans, and chipped off the remaining glue on the can.  Then I rubbed down the outside of each can with sandpaper to give the paint a little something to hold onto.  I then washed and dried each can thoroughly.  Using newspaper as a drop cloth, I sprayed each can with one coat of gray primer, then two coats of blue paint, letting them dry according to the directions on the can between coats.  I drilled a couple drainage holes on the bottom and 2 holes on the back rim of each can, attached the S-hooks, then hung them on the fence!  Add a little dirt and some annuals, and voila!  Instant chain link fence beautification is complete!

I actually did this project last year, and totally forgot to blog about it (shame on me), so these photos are from last year.  Because the cans are made of metal and are positioned in full sun all day, it was essential to water them frequently, but they lasted from Spring well into Fall.  I finally took them down when the last of the annuals had expired. 

I'm super excited to pull these out this weekend and replant them!  I am considering purchasing some eco-friendly spray paint to coat the inside of the cans this year to prevent rust from ruining them.  But regardless, this was such a cheap project that I could just recycle the cans and start over from scratch, and maybe even choose a different paint color!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Love Mother Earth {Earth Day 2012}


In celebration of this beautiful planet that we call home, I've organized an amazing Earth Day Event on SIMPLE! The event is full of awesome product reviews and some giveaways to boot! Click here to read my Earth Day Event Announcement, and stay tuned on SIMPLE for all of the awesome giveaways!  A giant THANK YOU to all of the sponsors who have generously partnered with me to make this event a success:
:: click to connect with these sponsors ::
Biokleen :: Charlie Banana :: Kissed by the Moon :: Lucky Hanks :: Recess Music :: Thirsties

On Saturday, to celebrate Mother Nature and Mother Earth, I am participating in the Great Cloth Diaper Change, which is an event that is aiming to break the 2011 Guinness World Record for the most cloth diapers changed simultaneously all across the globe - 5,026 participants at 127 locations in 5 countries. It's going to be awesome!

We plan to spend Saturday afternoon following the event at a local park that we love, where there is an awesome pond filled with ducks, geese and even turtles! The park is also home to some of the bravest squirrels I've ever seen - they will chase you for food and take it right from your hand! We'll also stroll through the lovely rose garden, and play on the epic wooden play structure. I can't wait.

On Sunday we'll head to the Farmers' Market to indulge in local, sustainable foods, then head to the Sacramento Earth Day Festival! This is going to be a fantastic weekend!

My inner flower child is beaming.




Thursday, March 29, 2012

Awesome Photo App {Vignette}

My overall favorite photo app is Vignette by Neil and Theresa. They offer a free demo, but after playing with it for a short time, I downloaded the paid version.  It. Is. Awesome.

The Vignette camera is slower than the standard camera because it takes time to apply the effect to the image.  I personally prefer to take photos with the standard camera on my HTC Inspire, then import them into Vignette so I can apply the various effects and filters.  That's what I suggest as standard practice when using Vignette.

Ok, on to the show!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Free Photo Apps Are Addicting {PhotoFunia and PicsArt}

There are so many free photo apps in the Android market that it can feel overwhelming to find good ones. And even in ones that seem to be boring or lame at first glance, you can find that one really cool effect buried in their options. I rarely have time to go in search of a really sweet photo app, let alone search through several apps to find the really great filters.  Lucky for me, I have friends who share their finds!  Today I want to pay it forward.  Here are my recent favorites.

"Flares" Lab

Pop Art


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Mama Cloth Test {the full story}

Mama Cloth.

Have you heard this term? Mama cloth = reusable cloth menstrual pads that are eco-friendly alternatives to disposable pads. This may sound gross to some, but to others it will sound intriguing. If you're a tampon-all-the-way type of girl because you can't stand to use pads, this is not for you. But if you use pads already, this is a very awesome option that I highly recommend.

Let me interrupt this story by telling you (in case you didn't know already) that I use cloth diapers for my daughter - I am not easily icked out by poop and pee, plus I consider myself a tree hugger/hippie at heart, so I am always interested in ways that I can contribute to saving our environment.

Tampons make me more crampy than usual and that makes me cranky, so I only use them when completely necessary (like when I'm swimming). Consequently, I'm a pad girl most of the time when I'm on my period.  But disposable pads are SUPER irritating to me - chafing in a very sensitive place makes an unpleasant time of month even more unpleasant.  I knew there had to be a solution...

As I shopped around for cloth diapers, I saw "Mama Cloth" listed on the side bar of a couple of sites.  One day I finally clicked on it and my answer was found!  I was totally intrigued, but wary. I liked the idea of cloth against my skin instead of disposable pads (which is one of the reasons I chose cloth diapers vs. disposables), but I wasn't sure about the "cleanliness" of the whole thing. But since cloth diapers have worked out so well, I figured I'd give it a try.

When I received my pads in the mail, I tossed them in with a load of diapers to pre-wash them. Ultimately, that wasn't enough to properly prepare the pads, so I had issues.  My first test failed - my pad leaked while I was at work, and then when I washed it, it didn't come clean completely (I will spare you the stinky details).

You MUST pre-wash them in HOT water (I'd suggest 2-3 times to be completely honest) or boil them once for about 15-20 minutes.  This process will remove the temporary basting spray (sewing adhesive) that is used in manufacturing and will help to achieve maximum absorbency from the materials.  Boiling worked better for me, so that's my ultimate suggestion.  My single hot wash didn't work... at all.

Round two, after I had boiled the pads to strip them, was a total success. I was SO much more comfortable than disposable pads, and I didn't encounter any leaks! I honestly almost forgot that I was on my period!  This is SERIOUSLY NOT GROSS like I thought it might be, and I'd tell you if it was.  I swear, it's just as easy as dealing with disposable maxi pads, ESPECIALLY if you cloth diaper because you can wash them all together.  After the pad is used, just fold the ends in toward the center and snap the wings around it to keep the mess on the inside.  Then throw it in the hamper or diaper pail.  Washing is a breeze - I throw my pads in with my cloth diapers, but you can wash them with your regular laundry too - trust me, it won't sully your other laundry!

My cloth diaper/mama cloth washing method: cold soak with Bac-Out overnight in the washer, then add about 1/4 of the amount of detergent you'd normally use in a load of laundry and let that cycle run. Then run a second cycle with the same amount of detergent, but using HOT water. Then tumble dry  with wool dryer balls (no dryer sheets please) or line dry. That's it! If any stains linger, set the pads in the sun and the stain will fade out. Down the road, if you have any absorbency or smell issues, detergent build up is likely the culprit. Just boil your pads again for 15-20 minutes to "strip" them of the build up. Problem solved!

The initial investment into mama cloth will set you back at least $100 - I suggest changing pads at least every 4 hours, meaning you need a minimum of 6 per day, with a backup set of 6 for when the first set is in the wash, for a total of 12 pads.  You can also invest in cloth panty liners, or just keep using the regular pads until you're in the clear.  I think the comfort plus the eco-friendly nature of mama cloth makes up for the cost.  I'm sold!

Look for my review of Blossom Pads mama cloth on SIMPLE Reviews on Leap Day ~ February 29, 2012.



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Dutch Oven {is AWESOME} :: How to Use in Cooking and Care Instructions

Today it crossed my mind that I had written something awesome that I never published on my blog! This is an old article that I wrote in April 2011 as my writing sample when I applied to be a writer for SIMPLE Reviews - it got me the job, so I figured I should share it!




There’s a new star in my cupboard: my Dutch Oven.

Everything I have cooked in it has turned out juicy, fork-tender and cooked to perfection. Whether chicken or beef (carnitas is next on the menu!), a knife was not required for meals cooked in my Dutch Oven.

Plus, I *heart* one pot meals! What’s not to love here?

Pot Roast (hubby’s favorite) was first on the menu. I have made pot roast many times (did I mention, it’s hubby’s fave?), both in a roasting pan and in the crock pot… but the dutch oven took the gold by a landslide! With the Dutch Oven, all cooking is done in the pot. With oven or crock pot, you have to use a pan to brown the meat first, then transfer to a roasting pan or the crock pot. Too many dishes! In the crock pot, the meat turns out pretty tender if you let it cook long enough, but then the carrots always come out mushy. In the roasting pan both the meat and carrots are drained of moisture and get rubbery instead of tender. In the Dutch Oven, the meat was soft like butter and fell apart just by looking at it and the carrots were tender and roasted to golden perfection.

When most people think of a Dutch Oven (also called a French Oven or cast iron casserole), they imagine the expensive “leading brand” (you know which one…) and automatically think they can’t afford to own one. Au contraire, mon ami! You can get a quality piece of cookware without breaking the bank!

I purchased a JC Penney in-house Cooks brand 7 quart oval cast iron casserole, which goes on sale for $90, regularly $160. For comparison, the “leading brand” 7 quart round French Oven can be found on sale for around $275, regularly $340!!That’s a difference of $185 when both are on sale!! Whew!

I couldn’t be happier with my Cooks Dutch Oven, and I spent approximately 1/3 of the cost of the “leading brand.”Cooks is good quality, it is aesthetically beautiful (gradient blue – way prettier than the “leading brand” in my opinion), and it has produced remarkably well-cookedfood. I truly believe that a $90 investment is worth this fantastic piece of cookware.

Cast iron distributes heat evenly when used both on the stovetop and in the oven. Many Dutch Oven recipes begin cooking on the stovetop, then finish in the oven. I dig this feature! A huge bonus of Dutch Ovens: you can cook and serve a meal in the same beautiful dish, which means less after-dinner dishes to wash!

Plus, the enameled interior coating is stick-resistant and releases food for easy cleaning. I’m not a fan of doing dishes (let’s be honest, who is a fan, really?), so this is a huge bonus in my book.

Here’s my Dutch Oven in action (making Belgian-Style Pot Roast). Look at how beautifully that roast seared up!

Use and Care
When using and caring for your Dutch Oven, be sure not to use metal utensils or steel wool. You will leave marks on the enamel coating. My mom found out the hard way when she used an SOS pad on my dish (ACK!). I am happy to report that I was able to get most of the marks off using baking soda, a regular dishwashing brush and lots of elbow grease. Yay!

Use mild dishwashing soap and warm water to clean your Dutch Oven. Unlike bare cast iron cookware, enameled cookware doesn’t require “seasoning,” and therefore can be cleaned using soap.

Wash and dry immediately to avoid rust on the exposed cast iron edge. The exposed edge is the only difference I can see between Cooks and the “leading brand.”

The downside of Dutch Ovens is their weight. Alone, they are heavy. Full of yummy food, they are even heavier. But just do a few bicep curls with it and you can consider cooking as part of your workout routine! Score!

Thank you for reading!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Wear a Beret when you have Crazy Curly Hair

I have curly hair.  Frizzy, unruly, has-a-mind-of-its-own curly hair.  On the day I took these photos, I was  having a pretty decent hair day, and I had just received a gorgeous beret from my new Etsy friend Julie Mack of Rotten Cupcakes.  But what I didn't realize was that I had NO idea how to put a beret on my head!!  So I experimented...

 Pigtails? I think not. I look like a little kid.

Over the forehead? At first I thought not {as you can tell by my expression}, however it's kinda growing on me... what do you think? Does it just look like a tiny condom instead of a beret?

To the side, Parisian-style! Beret, Je t'aime!
{excuse the kissy face - it was supposed to reflect the City of Love look, but instead I look like a dork}

Ok, now this is the style I think I can rock on a regular basis.  I have that curly hair problem where my hair is all volume at the tips, but totally flat on top - the beret hides it!!  Woo hoo!

Now head over to SIMPLE and read my review of this awesome beret!



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hi, my name is Jessica and I have Curly Hair...

Let me start by saying that contrary to the beliefs of some straight-haired maidens, curly hair doesn't automatically dry into that beachy  tousled wave that every girl wants - that takes more time and effort than most of us want to spend on a regular basis.

I always inwardly laugh and sigh when someone with straight hair says, "Oh, I just WISH I had curly hair like you! Mine is just so straight, I can't do ANYTHING with it!" #1 be careful what you wish for, because curly hair is an absolute bitch joy to deal with; #2 there are SO many ways to curl straight hair! Just go to my Pinterest board dedicated to Hair Hair Hair! and look at all of the gorgeous things you can do with straight hair. Most of those awesome tutorials just won't work with curly hair... unless it's straightened first, which means major heat damage to my already sensitive and flyaway locks. Sigh.

Though I totally understand that straight hair has its own downsides (especially the stick straight variety that won't hold a curl if sharp scissors were held to its head). But I swear, even that variety of hair has a tutorial that will transform it into beachy carefree beauty (check out The Paper Mama, who has seriously straight hair and whose tutorials I adore and wish I could use on my curly hair).

So what is a girl to do with curly hair that frizzes at the slightest hint of moisture? I'm still trying to figure that out, but I can give you a couple of pointers.

There are literally thousands of products on the market for curly hair, and I have yet to truly find that go-to brand or style that is magical for my hair. The closest I've come is a combination of products and techniques:

1. First, straight out of the shower, I lightly towel dry my hair - which means flipping my head upside down and wrapping it lightly in a towel turban to squeeze the water out.  DO NOT TOUSLE CURLY HAIR!  For the love of God, never dry your hair the way your mom used to when you were a kid.  Unless you want a serious frizzball afro style, in which case, tousle away.

2. I use spray style leave-in conditioner - I currently use Aussie Hair Insurance because it's cheap, available at Target, smells awesome, and it works pretty well. Generously spray all over, without tousling your curls! It's so important to apply product evenly but gently to be sure you don't separate your curls too much. Separating curls = big frizz.

3. Then I use a defining cream (like Bumble and Bumble) or a cream leave in conditioner. The cream is a heavy product, so don't overdo it! Be gentle and concentrate most of your effort on the ends, because frizzy flyaway ends are obnoxious.

4. Then I apply Palmer's coconut oil. Be careful not to use too much! You will look like an oily mess. Less is more. Start with literally a few drops, rub in your palms, and smooth over your hair - you can always add more. Gently!

5. Air dry... or diffuse! A diffuser is a curly girl's best friend. Some curly girls shrink at the sight of a blow dryer - and for good reason! Those suckers induce static and ultra frizz in a heartbeat! But stick a diffuser on the end of that puppy, and now you've got a curly hair friendly instrument. I just got one for Christmas, and I LOVE IT!  I don't know how I lived my curly girl life thus far without a diffuser.  I use it to dry my roots because the roots always get so flat from the weight of the curls as they dry.  I flip my hair upside down and gently pile sections of curls onto the diffuser, but I really focus on drying the first 4 or 5 inches of my hair starting at the root.  I don't worry about drying my curls completely because the bottom will create its own body as it dries.

6. Depending on how the diffusing or air drying went, you may have a few flyaway hairs - simply use a drop or 2 of coconut oil to smooth them out.

This is not a foolproof way to deal with curls. Some days, no matter what you do, they just want to do their own thing. That's what hair ties and messy buns are for!

Have you ever tried taking a photo of the back of your own head?  It's fricking hard!!

Good luck, curly girls!



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 days?! Really?!?!

I am SO behind on blogging!  It's 10 whole days into the new year, and I have at least 5 posts in draft form.  Blogger fail!

I promise, I will hop to and get some posts finished, pronto!

SNEAK PEEK :: I have a review of Track 7 Brewing, plus several tasting notes to finish typing up.  Be prepared for the onslaught over the weekend!