Friday, December 31, 2010

Giveaway Reminder (Moona Lisa, Lush, Sugarcandie and Grahtoe!)

Just a reminder- I'll be drawing the winner of the giveaway tomorrow. Make sure you leave one comment for each entry.

Just for fun, here's a 'do that I have no idea how I did. I think it's similar to JJJ's Pretzel bun, but since I can't remember how I did it, I'm not entirely sure. At least I got a picture!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Great Giveaway

I'm giving away a nice little box of goodies.

Ways To Enter:
"Follow" me on Twitter.
Retweet about this giveaway.
Check out Grahtoe's storefront on Etsy and leave a comment saying which item you'd like and why.
"Follow" Grahtoe on Twitter.
Leave a comment saying what you like (or don't like) about my blog.

You're not limited to one entry. For example, you can follow me on twitter, then tweet about this giveaway; that's two entries. Then you can check out Grahtoe's store and then follow them on Twitter. That's two more entries. Then you leave a comment saying something about this blog for a total of five entries.

Make sure you leave a comment saying how you entered. For example, if you Follow me on Twitter, leave a comment saying "Follow you on Twitter."

On New Year's Day, I'll use a randomizer to pick a number at random and the coordinating comment will be the winner. I will contact the winner and arrange for shipping (which I will take care of.)

Now, for the fun part- the booty. Up for grabs is:

Moona Lisa Neptune's Cove Bar Soap
Chunk of Lush's Angel's Delight Bar Soap
Sugarcandie Scrub: Two layer scrub with Sinful Chocolate Cake Craving with a top layer of Marshmallow Rockstar Frosting
Sugarcandie Cream Soap in Holiday Sugar Rush
Sugarcandie Scrub: Sugared Snow Angel Noel (a Bestseller!)
Sugarcandie Scrub: Two layer scrub in Fancy Frosted Wedding Cake with a top layer of Marshmallow Rockstar Frosting
**Newly Added** Grahtoe Studios is contributing a surprise hair item to the giveaway!

That's two bars of premium soap, three scrubs and one whipped bath soap, and a free one of a kind hair item from Grahtoe!

Good luck!

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Arrivals: Timberstone Turnings Hair Stick

About a month ago, I ordered a custom hair stick from Timberstone Turnings. Their sticks can be a bit on the pricey side, but once you hold them in your hand, you'll understand.

Today, that hair stick arrived in the mail. It's African Blackwood with a mother-of-pearl inlay.

The mother-of-pearl sparkles in the sunlight. It's so smooth and sleek and just gorgeous.

This particular design of stick is called the "Chloe." It's a bit wider than hair sticks I usually use, but that doesn't bother me a bit, which surprised me.

Timberstone Turnings offers a variety of woods from African Blackwood to Tulipwood to Bloodwood (or Cardinal Wood- my favorite!) Gemstones for inlay are numerous, including pearls, amber, citrine and amethyst. You can even have vines, mermaids, dragons, roses or fairies inlaid into the stick!

To order, head over to Timberstone Turnings on Etsy and convo the shop with your idea for a design. You'll be put on a wait-list for your custom stick. I did not expect my hair stick for at least two months, so I was pleasantly surprised by the turn around time.

To see examples of what they can do, check out their website here. They do not take orders from their website, so make sure to contact them through Etsy if you want to purchase.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Herringbone Braid

I finally managed to have enough patience to Herringbone braid my hair. It's not hard, but with so much hair it takes a long time.

Here it is bunned, which I think looks really cool:

I've seen some beautiful pictures of Chinese buns done with herringbone braids and I think I'm going to give it a try (when I have the patience for TWO herringbone braids.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Solstice!

Tonight was such a lovely evening. I sat the kids down and explained that today is Yule, or the Winter Solstice. Today is the shortest day of the year. We lit the Yule Log and I explained to them that we were lighting it in honor of the sun, which will now start lengthening the day. The light scares away the dark of winter.

They were really excited about lighting the Yule Log and I must say, it looks lovely on our mantle with our stockings and collection of Nutcrackers.

My husband (a staunch atheist,) took the opportunity to explain to the kids why today was the shortest day of the year, so the kids got an impromptu science lesson.

I finally took a huge step and registered for classes at my local community college. It's been a dream of mine to study paralegal studies. I'll be taking a 3/4 schedule. I'm a little scared to be quite honest. For so long, I've put every thing else ahead of my own dreams and this is the first real thing I'm doing for myself (aside from taking care of my hair and indulging in fancy bath products.) I'm feeling really motivated and excited and really hope I can keep up at least a 3/4 schedule.

Finally, I'll share some photos of a lace braid I did last week. I was quite pleased with how it turned out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sale Alert: Grahtoe Birthday Sale

For today only, Grahtoe Studios is having a sale in honor of Stacy's (the man who makes the forks) birthday! What an awesome birthday present to us!

From their blog:
"Hey Grah-Toe Friends!! Today is Stacy's birthday, and he wants to GIFT to you a 24% discount on your order!! That was what he asked me for, so I am doing it for him, and for you too! There is still time to get gifts to people, or to yourself and this is a great opportunity and a huge discount for today only!!! take advantage by using the coupon code  24hour  at check out and it will take the discount off your order before you check out! !"

They never have sales this awesome! Snag 'em while you can!

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Arrivals: Sugarcandie Scrubs

When I was living in Hawaii, I'd see commercials bemoaning "dry Winter skin." It didn't make a lot of sense to me. Why would Winter cause dry skin? Now I get it. The cold, icy winds blasting you in the face chap your skin terribly. I've never had such dry skin in my life!

I've been using assorted lotions and creams and even Haus of Gloi's sugar scrubs, which work very nicely.

I'm a firm believer that every one deserves pampering, at least every once in a while. For me, I used to get pedicures in Hawaii. Living here on the East Coast, I wear boots most of the time and a pedicure kind of seems like a waste of time.

I found Sugarcandie Beauty Bar through a forum I frequent. The prices seemed very reasonable (plus, they were having a special which got me free scrubs!) and the scrubs themselves looked so decadent and luxurious that I had to try it out.

I love candy canes. They're one of my favorite things about Christmastime. I start looking out for that terrible Candy Cane ice cream as soon as Thanksgiving hits. I saw that Sugarcandie had Candy Cane cupcake scrub and whipped bath soap and I was done for.

In real life, the scrub isn't overflowing the jar, of course, and instead of peppermint candies, they just have a mini candy cane. Either way, the stuff smells awesome. It's called "Candy Cane Cupcakes" and smells so pepperminty, but with a lovely cake note that tones the mint down.

They ran a special, having sugar scrub/whipped bath soap splits available. That's scrub on the bottom, cream soap on the top. I've been using my splits the last few days and it is a wonderful experience at the end of a tough day.

The whipped bath cream has the texture of soft ice cream. It's awesome alone, but add the scrub in and it's just perfect. It's just a decadent thing to scoop soft creamy soap out of the jar and lather up with it.

The scrub is less oily than some, like Haus of Gloi, but foams up nicely and leaves me moisturized. (Disclaimer: I love Haus of Gloi's scrubs and I like that they are oily, but sometimes less oil is a nice thing.) I don't find that I have to put lotion on after getting out of the shower. The one thing that is kind of a bummer is that the scents don't last on me. That's okay, though, because I also got body spray in Peppermint Bon Bons.

The stand outs of what I bought are:
Night Before Christmas (Sugary sweet cookies, candied fruits, vanilla cupcakes, spiced muffins and pies and fresh cut spruce.) It smells like cookies with Christmas tree. I actually like this smell, although it may be off-putting to some.

Ho, Ho, Ho! Santa's Hot Cocoa So chocolaty. It really does smell like hot cocoa. I didn't think I'd like this because I'm not a big fan of chocolate in bath products, but I really did love this.

Candy Cane Cupcake

Merry Mint Chocolate Cookies This one was my second favorite. It smells *just* like that green mint ice cream. It has the same color and texture, too. This one surprised me.

The one thing I got that I will not use at all is "Cozy By the Fire." It smells just like a chimney. I got it for free as part of a promotion, though, so I don't feel bad tossing it out.

I do have a few minor issues. The labels on the jars are not waterproof, so they end up falling off in the shower. Not a major problem, but a minor annoyance. The descriptions on the website could use a good editing. They can be hard to read with all the pauses and periods. 

The website is easier to navigate than many etailers, in my opinion, and I didn't feel overwhelmed by options.  
The creams and scrubs are so decadent and fun that I want to use them every day. Sugarcandie's customer service has been top-notch. I peppered them with seemingly endless questions, and they were patient and friendly each and every time. They even combined two orders for me.

I would recommend Sugarcandie if you're looking for a fun, decadent way to pamper yourself.  They often have sales and have a regular BOGO special on Tuesdays. 
You can find their website here. I'm planning a Sugarcandie give-away towards the New Year, so stay tuned for how to enter!

(Disclaimer: I was not paid nor provided free items for this review. These are my opinions based on my personal experience.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lignum Vitae

I'm so excited to be doing a post in tandem with Kimi of Grahtoe Studio. We're doing posts on Lignum Vitae wood.

Lignum Vitae is an awesome wood. In The Once and Future King, Merlin's staff was made of Lignum Vitae. I'm sure T.H. White picked that wood for good reason.

Lignum Vitae is latin for "tree/wood of life." I discussed this with my friend, who is a former Carmelite nun (really!). I've seen it translated in other places as "long life", but this is incorrect.

In the garden of Eden, after eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve were cast out to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life, which would enable them to live forever.

In Norse mythology, there is a Tree of Life. This Tree of Life is very special, having the heavens and earth balancing precariously. This Tree of Life is called Yggdrasil.

Lignum Vitae is known for having protective and healing properties and is a popular wood for wands.

Kimi has done a wonderful post about the medicinal and healing values of the Lignum Vitae. Swing on by her blog here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Skeleton Cameo Fork and Sneak Peak

I finally got my act together and took a picture of my skeleton cameo fork and thought I'd share it with you.

Here's a sneak peak of an upcoming post- stay tuned!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies and Baked Potato Soup

I am so not a baker. I'm just not very good at it. I've been invited to a cookie swap, though, and I needed to make cookies. (Actually, my neighbor told me there was a neighborhood cookie swap and somehow, expressing interest was interpreted as an R.S.V.P....sigh...)

I found a very interesting Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I love the smell of gingerbread, but can't stomach full-on gingerbread. This cookie recipe sounded perfect!

I attempted it yesterday and they turned out wonderfully. The gingerbread taste was there, but the chocolate chips balanced it out perfectly.

Found here.

Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 dozen
  • 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I couldn't find fresh ginger, so I just chucked some ground ginger into the butter. I also had an issue with chopping up the chocolate chunks, so I put them into my food processor and it ground the chocolate down into almost shavings. I tossed it in, anyway, and just added some chocolate chips to give the cookies some texture. Also, I didn't have any parchment paper, so I just greased the cookie sheet with butter.

The best part is, my kids love them! I figured the gingerbread flavor would turn them off, but they've been clamoring for more.

For dinner, I made my Mom's Baked Potato Soup recipe. While I don't have pictures, I figured I'd put the recipe here for posterity.

Baked Potato Soup

2/3 cup butter (or margarine)
2/3 flour
shredded bacon (to taste)
2 beef bouillon cubes
6 cups milk
scallions (to taste)
sour cream (to taste)
shredded cheddar cheese (you guessed it; to taste.)
7-8 large baked potatoes

Melt 2/3 cup butter in large soup pot. Add flour, stirring constantly. This should make a thick paste. 

Slowly add three cups of milk, one cup at a time, making sure to heat the mixture thoroughly before adding the next cup. You'll need to stir constantly, so you may want an extra pair of hands.
After the third cup, add shredded bacon and bouillon to mixture. Stir until thoroughly heated and bouillon is distributed.

Slowly add remaining three cups of milk, again making sure to heat soup thoroughly between cups.

Scoop out insides of potatoes and add to soup. Stir with whisk, breaking up large pieces of potato as you stir.

Add sour cream. Allow sour cream to melt and evenly distribute throughout soup.

Add cheese and scallions (you can also set these aside and let people add their own. This is helpful for people who don't like/can't eat cheese and onion.)

Serve with a side of crusty bread.

I like to bake the potatoes and cook the bacon earlier in the day so it's cool enough to handle when I'm making the soup.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Totally Awesome Yule Log by Grahtoe

For the past few years, I've been looking for something very specific for Christmas decor. I wanted a Yule Log, but instead of burning it in the fireplace (which I didn't even have,) I wanted candles to light. A few times, I found things that were similar to what I wanted, but wasn't quite right.

I figured, hey, I know someone who does woodwork and could probably make exactly what I'm looking for; Grahtoe! I shot Kimi an email, not really expecting much because, after all, that's not really what they do. To my pleasure, Kim and Stacy took on my special task.

What I expected was a simple piece of wood with holes drilled in it. What I got was way better!

It's absolutely stunning and the kids love it. The only downside is that I can't leave it in our decorative fire place because the baby will go after it.  For now, we're using it on our dining room table, but when Winnie gets old enough to leave the candles alone, it'll go into our "fire place."

Friday, December 3, 2010

E-Z Pass Mistake= Costly Roadtrip

Okay, here's the post I've been promising about the E-Z Pass.

E-Z Pass seems like a great idea. You whiz past the toll booths up and down the East Coast and money is deducted from your account instead of having to stop and fork over your cash.

To obtain an E-Z Pass transponder (which is attached to the upper part of your windshield, ) you stop in your local office and register your vehicle and deposit money into your account.

We've had issues with being able to figure out what our toll is on toll roads. Some toll roads give you a ticket that has a handy chart on it. Look up where you entered/exited the toll road and it tells you how much to pay. It never seems to be the same amount on the same stretch of road.

On our trip back from New England on one particular toll road, we dutifully pulled up and collected our ticket. A few hours later, we approached the toll booth. My husband frantically read the ticket trying to figure out what we owed. He noticed that the ticket was marked "Class B3."

"What does that mean?" he asked as he searched the chart on the back of the ticket. We pulled up to the toll booth and "$9.05" popped up on the display.  Grumbling, but with no recourse, we paid our toll.

As we drove down the road, my husband used his Android phone to look up "Class B3" and discovered it meant "Bus." While our 2006 Honda Pilot is admittedly a bigger vehicle, it is certainly not a bus. Without a receipt, we couldn't prove what we'd paid.

We'd paid a total of $15 on the way up to New England and at least twice as much on the way back.

Sadly, it appears this is not a single occurrence.  A cursory Google search pulled up numerous complaints here, so of which are similar to mine.

I think we may sign up for the E-Z Pass just so that we can more easily track what we use and what we were charged for.