• November 9, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Resort and Luau

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    Did ya’ll remember to vote yesterday?  Did you cling to your tv/radio/social media to follow every second of the tally?  Well I did and I’ve got to say, I am ready for a break from the politics and drama and fear and sadness… I’m ready to go back to Hawaii.  Since that isn’t really possible, though, let me take you on a little trip down my memory lane and you can live a little vicariously through my adventure for a while!

    mermaid

    My friend and I went to Maui and stayed at the Grand Wailea resort.  She was there for a work conference and I was just lucky to get to tag along.  The resort was the fanciest, most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed.  We had a ground floor room with a view of the ocean and it was perfection!

    patio

    celebration

    The first night we were there we went to a luau.   I felt a little strange asking native people to put their culture on display in such a commercial setting, but I did enjoy the dancing and the stories that were told.  It’s amazing to watch!

    hula

    ribbon-dancer

    The second day we had to do some conference things and I didn’t get too many pictures.  It was pretty laid back and I got to touch the ocean for the first time in my life!  It’s so weird to me that some people grow up playing in the vastness of the ocean without a second thought.  I felt sure it would swallow me up if I stayed too long.

    fresh-fruit

    There is a small path at the resort that is lined with trees and plants that are all fruit producing which are maintained organically.  Because of this, you can literally just pick what you like and eat it right off the tree!  So, we had a little harvest party on our walk and a very kind man helped us reach the too tall star fruit.  It was glorious!

    gf-fried-food

    Another day we were there, I dragged my friend to a dedicated gluten free restaurant where I ate way too much.  I haven’t had fried food in 10 years… so this was amazing and horrible all at the same time!

    hula-statue

    I hope you’re enjoying my pictures and stories.  Check back next week for more of my trip!

  • September 21, 2016

    Photo Fun

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    It’s fall, ya’ll!  If you know me, or if you’ve been reading this blog, then you know that I LOVE Fall!  In honor of the first day of fall being tomorrow, I decided to deck out my house with fall things and candles.  We also spent some quality time with the pup playing with the ball and walking the neighborhood to enjoy the beautiful, cooler weather!  I hope you enjoy my little start of fall photo diary!  *grin*

     

    dining-room

     

    pretty

    aaaand some close ups!

     

    owl

     

    pantry

     

    pumpkin-muffin-mix

    These muffins are really yummy!

     

    pumpkin-muffin

    mmm… look how yummy!

     

    roses

     

    fireplace

     

    jack

     

    ball

    Happy boy!

     

    walkies-for-ollie

     

  • September 14, 2016

    Tabbouleh Inspired Quinoa Salad

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    Now that summer is winding down and fall is nearly upon us, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with this simple, hearty meal.  Using tons of veggies right out of the garden with a little quiona and feta… this has to be one of the best things I’ve come up with so far!  And the great thing is, you can use this alone for a lunch or light dinner or you can serve it alongside a nice steak or pork chop!  It’s easy, versatile, and super healthy… what more could you want?  *grin*  I hope you love it as much as I do!

    Tabbouleh Inspired Quinoa Salad Recipe

    By Erin Published: September 14, 2016

      Now that summer is winding down and fall is nearly upon us, I've gotten a little obsessed with this simple, hearty meal.  Using tons …

      Ingredients

      Instructions

      1. suppliesGather Ingredients.
      2. Cook the quinoa (Rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, then put in pot with 2 cups water (or 2 cups broth if you prefer) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat at let stand 5 minutes.)
      3. Cook the edamame according to the packaging and cut the other veggies.
      4. When the quinoa is done, add the edamame, chickpeas, tomatoes, green onion, parsley, mint and feta to the pot. Toss to combine.
      5. 4. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and toss until combined. Season with additional salt to taste if desired.
        yum
    • August 24, 2016

      Top 5 Bath & Beauty Products

      Life seems to be getting away from me lately.  Between summer activities, house projects, washer/dryer threatening to go out on me, and some really tough cases at work… I haven’t had much time for self care, let alone any writing or picture taking!  It’s been so sad for me too, because I’ve really been wanting to share this one with you!  *grin*

      Here are my top 5 favorite bath and beauty products:

      Natures Gate Shampoo/Conditioner

      Natures-Gate

      I really love the way the herbal ones smell!  Ugh, it’s SO good!  And it leaves my hair shiny and healthy without the use of gluten, animal product, parabens, GMOs, Soy, etc!  They are cruelty free and eco-friendly too!  It’s amazing to have a product that is ethical, safe, and works really well too!

      Physician’s Formula Mascara

       

      Physicians-Formula

      I have always struggled with mascara – it usually makes my eyes teary and crusty and yucky if I wear it too long.  Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that there might be gluten in the one I was using – who would have thought?!  Turns out, it’s really common and it’s actually really hard to find on that is gluten free!  No wonder I had issues before!  This Physician’s Formula mascara is easy to apply and doesn’t hurt my eyes even if I wear it every day!  Not all of their mascara’s are gluten free, but they label them very clearly on the packaging so it’s easy to find safe ones.  This particular one is not waterproof and I have found it smudges if you aren’t careful, but it’s a trade-off I am willing to make!

      The Body Shop Hand Creams

      The-Body-Shop

      A work friend gave me the strawberry hand cream for Christmas last year and I fell in love!  It is so smooth and absorbs very quickly which is a must for me in a hand cream.  They come in great little travel size tubes so I always have one in my bag and use it constantly!  The price may seem a little bit much for a tiny tube, but you really don’t need much when you apply it so it lasts a long time.  Also, The Body Shop has pretty frequent sales, so if you watch the website and buy a bunch when they are on sale, you can get a really great deal!  I think the last time I bought these, they were 3 for $10 (and when one tube usually costs $8… that’s pretty amazing!).

      Lush Bath Bomb

      Lush

      A beauty love list wouldn’t be complete without Lush Bath Bombs!  I don’t do baths too often, but when I really want to spoil myself, I love these products!  My favorite so far is Butterball.  The natural and safe ingredients leave my skin so soft and lightly scented.  It’s truly relaxing and peaceful while also being really good for my skin and they are ethically sourced too!  Ahhhhh-mazing!

      Lancome Juicy Shaker

      Lancome

      And for my grand finale, and truly indulgent beauty product: Lancome’s Juicy Shaker!  I struggle with lip colors and never feel like they last or look right and they always leave me feeling sticky and icky, but not so with this!  It is a little bit sticky at first, but leaves lips soft and comfortable after a bit.  The color is so nice too – I got the red colored vanilla pop and was a little afraid of it being too dark on my pale Irish skin, but it’s totally not!  Plus, it smells so good!  *grin*  The only downside (and why I only have one) is that they cost a whopping $21!  Ouch!  But, it’s good to spoil yourself once in a while, right?

      I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey into my bath and beauty loves!  I’d love if you would share with me in the comments what products you love and what makes them so wonderful!

    • July 6, 2016

      Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

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      I’m an emotional eater.  I always like desserts, but I especially crave sugars when I’m sad or stressed.  I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream lately, partly because it’s been rough going for a while and partly because my recipe is delicious.  I’m experimenting with new and different flavors, but if you want the tried and true, all-American vanilla, here is my favorite recipe:

      Supplies

      1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream

      1 pint Half and Half

      1 cup Sugar

      1 Tablespoon Vanilla

      Toss it all in your ice cream maker, following the instructions for your device, and wait.  My ice cream maker requires that I combine the ingredients and chill in the freezer before starting.  Once it’s chilled, I can transfer it to the ice cream maker bowl and turn it on.  After it’s done, I pour the ice cream into a new storage container and then freeze it for a while to set.  Yours may be different, but it’s pretty easy-peasy!

      Pour

      If you want to add pieces of fruit or chocolate chips or whatever, you can do that when you transfer it into the storage container – just make sure to stir it up well enough that you don’t end up with everything on top or bottom.  I think you can also add it while the machine is stirring, but double check what your machine requires.

      Yummy

    • May 4, 2016

      Infused Water Recipes

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      If you are anything like me, you struggle to drink enough water every day.  And if you are like me, this next piece of information is going to blow. your. mind.: the old idea of 8, 8oz glasses of water every day is bunk.  It doesn’t take into account your height, weight, activity level, or anything!  A 100lb woman who works out for an hour every day won’t need the same amount of water as a 300lb woman who never works out, or a 300lb woman who does work out every day.  Makes, sense, right?

      So, how much water do you actually need to drink?  To find out, take your weight and multiply it by 67% (or .67) and the total is the number of ounces you should drink if you are not working out or spending the day in the sun.  So, if you weigh 130lb… 130x.67=87… 87oz of water every damn day!

      For reals.  And that’s just the base level – you should drink another 12oz for every 30 minutes you work out!

      When I learned this, I about died.  I mean, I don’t drink that much of anything in a day, let alone just water!  It felt so insurmountable at first that I almost gave up before I even tried.

      But then I didn’t.  I didn’t give up.  I tried really, really hard for longer than I care to admit and finally reached my goal water consumption!  I defiantly don’t hit it every day, but I’ve changed some habits and made water a priority, so it’s way better than it used to be.  To help me reach that goal, I tried lots of different things, one of which was flavoring my water like they do in fancy spas.  Mmm… fancy water.  Here are my two favorite water flavor combinations:

      Strawberry Cucumber Basil Water

      Strawberries

      • 1/2 sliced cucumber
      • fresh basil leaves
      • 5 strawberries, sliced

      Strawberry-Water

       

      Ginger Pear Water

      Pear-and-Ginger

      • 1 sliced pear
      • fresh ginger

      Pear-and-Ginger-Water

      Let ingredients mingle for a few hours and enjoy!  Hopefully having fancy spa water will help inspire you to drink more water and actually enjoy it!

    • March 16, 2016

      Easter Eggs

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      Dying eggs is my most favorite Easter tradition and reminds me of quality time I had with my mom and a good friend of ours while I was growing up.  I don’t remember how my mom’s friend got involved, probably because her boys had outgrown the tradition, but she became an integral part of our celebration.  It has now been years since I last dyed an Easter Egg, but it’s such a beautiful tradition, so I decided to learn a little more about the history behind it all and try my had at naturally coloring some eggs!

      My research has shown me that, like Christmas, many Easter traditions were borrowed from pagan celebrations and repurposed into something new.  Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth, so early Christians adopted them as a symbol for Christ’s resurrection.

      Understanding the coloring part of the tradition is a little less obvious as there are many different theories as to how it all got started.  Some believe eggs were decorated simply to beautify them in celebration of Lent coming to an end – eggs were not allowed during Lent.  Other’s believe Mary had eggs at the crucifixion and Jesus’ blood dripped on them – coloring them red – and so we color eggs red in remembrance of his sacrifice.  Other legends claim that Mary had the eggs with her and they miraculously turned red when she saw the risen Christ or, alternatively, when she told someone he had risen and he replied that Christ had no more risen than her eggs were red, so they turned red.

      Whatever the historical reason, I enjoy the tradition because it reminds me of home, of simple joys, and of familial closeness.

      Now, on the “show” part of this little show and tell!  *grin*  Because we try to eat cleanly and don’t buy dyes or foods containing dyes, we were determined to try and color some eggs naturally this year!  I didn’t have the time or desire to test lots of different recipes – frankly, I don’t even really like hard boiled eggs all that much – so we’re going to try good old Martha Stewarts recipes out and see what happens!  *grin*

      We decided to try to achieve pale yellow, light blue and chartreuse for our eggs.  There are a lot of other colors that require different ingredients and techniques listed on the website, so I would encourage you to check it out!

      Following the instructions given, we simplified them a bit and came up with the following:

      Pale Yellow: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons turmeric to a boil.  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

      Turmeric

       

      Light Blue: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 4 cups chopped cabbage to a boil (add more water and vinegar in their correct proportions if needed to cover the cabbage).  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

      Cabbage

       

      Chartreuse: Use the dyes already used for pale yellow and light blue.  Soak eggs in the turmeric dye for 30 minutes and remove.  Then, place in the cabbage dye briefly – about 5 minutes.

      Coloring-Eggs

       

      Eggs

      Pro Tip: When removing the eggs from the color, pat them dry with a paper towel – don’t rub!  If you rub too much, the color will come off!

      Expect a bit of variation with your eggs.  I don’t know what makes the color stick or not stick, but some defiantly turned out better than others and they were all done the same.

      Cabbage, turmeric, eggs, and vinegar all stink, so try to plan your egg dying time for when you can have an open window!  Otherwise your house will stink and everyone will wonder what kind of mess you’re making for dinner!

      I hope ya’ll give this little project a try!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the colors and how easy it all actually was.  Way more interesting and fun (as an adult at least… though, you could totally turn this into a mini science lesson for your kids) than the little kits you can buy!

      Easter-Eggs

    • March 9, 2016

      Greek Salad with Lamb

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      Sometimes you just need an easy meal that is healthy and quick, you know?  That’s not an easy combination to come up with, so I end up making my go-to easy meals kind of a lot.  I’m ok with that, especially with this Greek salad recipe!  The lamb makes it hearty enough for dinner, but the veggies keep it fresh and crisp.  I especially love this meal after a good work out at the gym.

      Greek Salad with Lamb Recipe

      By Erin Published: March 9, 2016

        Sometimes you just need an easy meal that is healthy and quick, you know?  That's not an easy combination to come up with, so I end …

        Ingredients

        Instructions

        1. ComponentsGather Ingredients.
        2. Cook-it-upCook ground lamb and season with oregano and dill.
        3. Greek-SaladFill bowls or plates with lettuce, top with cooked lamb, feta, olives, tomatoes to taste. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!

        Pro Tip: If you can’t find lamb or it’s too expensive, you can substitute ground turkey.  Or, for a more traditional and vegetarian option, leave the meat out altogether!  Just toss the oregano and dill with the lettuce and you’re golden!

        Pair with a yummy glass of pinot grigio or merlot and you’ve got yourself a classy meal that you can really impress your friends with!

      • February 10, 2016

        Romantic Fondue for Two

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        Ready for something really fun?  And easy?  And romantic?

        *grin*

        I really love fondue and am so excited to share my favorite cheese recipe with you!  This is a pretty basic one which is nice because you can totally add different seasonings, spices, and dipping ingredients depending on what you feel like doing and what you have on hand.

        You’ll need a fondue pot – we use an electric one similar to this and it’s been great!  I like that we don’t have to have an open flame at the table and that we can raise and lower the temperature easily as we cook and eat.

        I hope you have a romantic evening soon where you can enjoy this delicious meal.  If not, though, you can totally make this for a group of girlfriends too!  I mean, it’s mostly cheese and who doesn’t like cheese?  ha!

        Romantic Fondue for Two Recipe

        By Erin Published: February 10, 2016

          Ready for something really fun?  And easy?  And romantic? *grin* I really love fondue and am so excited to share my favorite …

          Ingredients

          Instructions

          1. IngredientsGather ingredients.
          2. Cheese-and-Corn-StarchCombine cheeses and cornstarch together
          3. Wine-and-SpicesPour wine and spices into fondue pot and heat over medium heat until bubbling
          4. CheeseStir in cheese - stir continually until melted to a smooth consistency; Lower heat to as needed to prevent burning while still keeping the fondue warm
          5. Dip desired foods into the cheese mixture and enjoy!
            Fondue
           

          Pro Tip: My favorite fondue dippers with this cheese are: granny smith apples, grapes, broccoli, and artichokes. 

          Keep an eye on the cheese so it doesn’t over heat and burn to the pan.

          Since you only use 1 cup of the wine, be sure to get one you really like so you can break out the fancy glasses and drink the rest!  This is a romantic meal, after all!  ;)

        • January 27, 2016

          Setting up a Gluten Free Kitchen

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          When we moved into our new home, my hubby and I discussed what to do in the kitchen to keep it safe for me to eat.  Previously, we had shared everything for both gluten and gluten free foods but, given the opportunity to start fresh with a brand new, squeaky clean workspace, well, we couldn’t pass it up!

          kitchen1

          Now we have taken the following steps to clean up our act and run a completely gluten free household:

          Step 1: Get rid of gluten containing food products from your pantry and fridge.  Sort through everything and either throw out or give away any foods you can’t eat.  This is a great opportunity to check expiration dates and get rid of old food at the same time.

          Step 2: Sweep away any crumbs or flour that may have collected in the pantry and fridge as well as the floor.  If you are using the same appliances (fridge, microwave, oven, etc.), deep clean everything the best you can.

          Step 3: Replace old, glutened up cookware and utensils.  When sorting through items to keep or be rid of, consider the following questions as it applies to each item:

          1. Is it made of porous material (wood, plastic, cast iron, stone, etc)?
          2. Are there chips or scratches in the surfaces where gluten can hide?
          3. Is it possible to clean every nook, cranny, and hole to rid it of gluten?

          Some common gluten catchers that you’ll definitely want to replace include:

          • Wooden and plastic utensils
          • Toaster, Bread Maker, etc.
          • Pots and Pans – especially non-stick and cast iron (replace with stainless)
          • Colander
          • Pizza stone
          • Cutting Boards, Rolling Pins
          • Cookie sheets
          • Cleaning supplies – sponges and brushes

          It is ok to keep glass, ceramic, and stainless steel cookware as long as you carefully clean it out with hot, soapy water.  We kept our pyrex storage containers, but got rid of the plastic ones and bought new lids for the pyrex.  We also replaced all of our cooking spoons, pots and pans, colander, cutting boards, and toaster.  Our bread maker was already only used for gluten free breads, so that got to stay!  :)

          kitchen3

          Step 4: Once you have your new gluten free kitchen set up, keep up on it!  Keep gluten foods out of your space as much as possible and don’t allow your new supplies to be used for those kinds of foods.  Clean your kitchen and appliances completely and frequently.

          kitchen2

          Now that  you have everything set up, you can look forward to feeling better and being healthier than ever!  Keeping gluten out of your home won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort to maintain your health!