Monday, May 30, 2011

EAT: Iced Coffee

As the weather heats up, I find myself longing for iced coffee in the morning.  Unfortunately, treating myself to a coffee beverage on a regular basis is not in our budget.  

I have brewed a pot of coffee and put it in the refrigerator to make my own homemade iced coffee.  However, it never tastes as if it's been brewed by a barista.  

I recently stumbled across this recipe to make iced coffee at home.  It is delicious and doesn't have that bitter taste my regular pot of coffee over ice has possessed.  And it was so very simple and inexpensive!

  • Start with 1/4 cup of coarse ground coffee, and add 1 cup of cold water. Let it hang out in the refrigerator overnight.

  • The next morning add 1 more cup of water.

  • Strain (I poured it through a coffee filter) and pour into a chilled glass over ice (makes two glasses).

  • I enjoyed it over ice with a generous amount of milk, a bit of sugar and half and half.  

  • Delicious, easy and inexpensive!  Hooray!

    EAT: Simple.

    There are many staples that reside in my refrigerator.

    One such staple is any variation of a bean salad.

    Beans are so delicious, so filling, so cheap, so good for you and so easy to work with.

    You can vary this bean salad in hundreds of ways.  Here is the basic recipe I work with:

    - 2 cans of beans, drained (my favorites are garbanzo beans or black beans, but any will do!)
    - 2 cans of corn, drained
    - a handful of chopped grape tomatoes
    - a diced pepper (any color you prefer)
    - the juice of half of a lemon or lime
    - spices to taste.  I like to use salt, pepper, cumin and red pepper.
    - a bit of olive oil

    Mix it all together and chill in the refrigerator.

    You can vary it in so many ways.  
    Some additional add ins I love include:
    - diced cucumber
    - diced celery
    - chopped carrots
    - diced green onions
    - chopped broccoli
    - feta cheese

    And you can vary the seasoning in many ways as well.
    It is delicious with:
    - olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper whisked together
    - olive oil, red wine vinegar, a dash of tabasco sauce,  lemon juice, a few tablespoons of sugar and salt and pepper whisked together.
    - italian dressing and salt and pepper
    - salsa and salt and pepper
    - a packet of taco seasoning
    - or any other combinations you would like!

    And I love eating this salad on it's own, topped on spinach, over pasta, in burritos, or even with chips.

    It is a great part of a go-to meal and I hope you enjoy it!

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    PLAY: You'll need your tennies for this party.

    Summer has more scents that immediately transport me to my childhood than any other time of year. Honeysuckle, watermelon, and lilac to name a few. When I smell even one, I can feel the grass under my feet and the sunlight breaking through the leaves overhead. I can see my siblings and I running through the sprinkler in the backyard and my mom digging in the flowerbeds. Summer is being foot-loose and fancy-free; leaving your schedule and inhibitions behind.

    In honor of summer, let's act like kids again. Now is the time to have a "games from your childhood" party. I'm not thinking board games. I'm thinking flashlight tag, sardines, or capture the flag. Of course, you'd need to be intentional about your guest list. Don't invite the friend who silently sits by while everyone else plays Balderdash. Do invite your fun-loving, active friends who aren't afraid of a little silliness. Plan the party at dusk. Freeze a batch of watermelon-jalapeno popsicles in these fun star-shaped molds. Mix up some sangria for the grown-ups. In fact, maybe this should be an adult-only party. Lay out chips and salsa; even order a pizza (it's don't want to waste time in the kitchen). Pick a game and make sure everyone knows the rules. And, let the evening unfold.

    If you are worried that you don't have space to host a party like this, do not fear! Move the party to a local park. Sure, there will be other people around, but maybe they'll want to join in. You could even play sharks and minnows at your apartment complex or neighborhood pool. Just remind your revelers to bring their suits.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    PRAY: Praise.

    Sometimes I forget how much I love praise and worship music.

    Some of it can seem a bit cheesy or occasionally the music all seems too similar.

    But there are so many great bands and artists who play incredibly powerful music.

    During our time in the NICU, my husband and I have found ourselves needing to rely on the Lord more than ever before.  And I have been amazed by how much music has comforted me and lifted me up.  And at times it has allowed me to cry the tears I have been holding back so hard.

    This is one of my favorite songs.  Our brother, Duke, sang it soon after my first child was born and it has held a special place in my heart ever since.  And during the last few months, it has given me much comfort every time I have listened to it.

    I hope you enjoy it and I hope it draws you closer to the Lord.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    MAKE: 3 Products That Save Your Skin and Your Wallet

    Aveda, Burt's Bees, Kiss My Face and California Baby may have all lined your shower shelf as you've made an effort to use more natural products. But, taking a walk down the beauty aisle can leave you with sticker shock. If you have been seeking out products that have fewer chemicals and are gentler on your skin, perhaps now is the time to make your own. Search "homemade lotion" and you'll find a flood of information, some of which is completely contradictory. I'll share what I found, so you won't need to wade through the swamp of information.

    My son and I have extremely sensitive skin and we live in arid Colorado. That has led me on a quest to find the most sensitive, moisturizing and natural products I can. Recently, however, I have been discouraged by the cost of our skincare. After spending hours trying to Google the easiest and safest body cream I could make, I turned to Amazon. Sometimes a book is simply better than dozens of websites. I read countless reviews and descriptions and decided to purchase Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox. I practically camped out by my front door in anticipation of the book's arrival. Within an hour of receiving the book, I had sticky-noted about twenty beauty recipes that I wanted to try.

    Natural Beauty at Home: More Than 250 Easy-to-Use Recipes for Body, Bath, and Hair

    I started by making cocoa body butter, eye makeup remover, and honey soap. Please note that any products that you make out of your pantry or fridge will eventually expire due to the fact that they do not contain preservatives. I learned this the hard way when I just about dipped my fingers into my homemade soap that had been growing a lovely layer of mold. The other two items that I made seem to have a longer shelf-life, so I recommend those for certain. I found all of the ingredients that I needed at our local natural grocer.

    1. Body Butter: Perfect for dry hands and feet (or your whole body if you have extremely dry skin).
    I'm not sure about the shelf-life because this super-moisturizing cream was gone before I knew it. To make this product, you simply melt the ingredients together. I combined them in a pyrex measuring cup in a pot of water on the stove over a medium-low heat.
    1/4 cup grated cocoa butter
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon avocado oil
    1 tablespoon grated beeswax

    2. Eye Make-up Remover: A gentle blend of oils that won't burn your eyes.
    I have been using this combination of castor, olive and canola oils with great results. The makeup comes off with greater ease and my skin feels softer. A clean washcloth or a cotton square can be dipped into the oils. A gentle swipe across your eyelids and you're set.
    Equal parts olive oil, castor oil, and canola oil

    3. Shampoo: As I searched online, I found many mentions of using baking soda combined with water instead of shampoo. To be honest, I haven't tried this. It's next on my list, as some bloggers have claimed that straight hair becomes more voluminous over time.

    A few things to keep in mind:
    Just as we strive to purchase organic produce to put into our bodies, organic products would also be safer on our bodies.
    Allergies can occur to natural products.
    Your creations should be examined and smelled to ensure quality over time.
    All jars and containers should be thoroughly washed prior to use.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    EAT: Chickpea Summer Salad

    Last weekend, I went to St. Simons island, where I was expecting a fabulous beach weekend. While the weekend was fabulous, there was very little beach involved, as it rained the entire time we were there. 

    When I got back Sunday, after a weekend of less than healthy eating, and less than summery weather, I was craving something light and fresh for the week. 

    I made a very tasty garbanzo bean salad, which was Courtney's recipe. I've taken it for lunch every day this week and it has hit the spot - healthy, full of flavor, full of veggies and summer in my mouth. 

    Use the vegetables you bought at the farmer's market last week to throw together your own batch. 

    Garbanzo beans
    Red pepper
    Balsamic Vinegar

    Throw all of the vegetables in a large bowl, with proportions to your own liking. I prefer a lot of corn because it's my favorite base. I have also found that the crunch from the pepper adds a lot of zest - so I tend to go heavy on that as well. 

    Add feta and spices to taste. I like to add Pepperman and Cayenne in addition, so feel free to spice things up as you see fit. 

    Finally, add Balsamic Vinegar. If you're planning to eat it throughout the week, add more Balsamic than you think you need - the veggies and cheese soak it up, and when I opened my Rubbermaid container Monday, I found it to be much dryer than I expected. I had to add more to the rest of the batch. 

    I also like to add some avocado the day of, as I like having one more texture and am a cado addict. It's definitely not required, but I highly recommend it.

    Happy vegetable eating!

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    PLAY: Going to the Market.

    We have a wonderful farmer's market in our city that I absolutely adore.

    It seems so simple, but on a Saturday morning, going to the market is one of my favorite weekend activities.

    We don't always buy things, but I just love being in the atmosphere of the market.
    Everyone is always so cheerful.
    The farmers are so happy to share their vast knowledge and are generous with offering samples of their goods.
    The shoppers tend not to be rushed or grouchy.
    The creativity flourishes and it always makes me want to go home and try to create something new.
    And the food is just so very good.

    Food just picked from the earth has such a wonderful taste.

    And you feel good supporting local, small farms.

    If you have never been to your local farmer's market, consider going this week.  For me, it is much more than a shopping trip.  It is something so enjoyable and holds so many teachable moments for our children.

    And I just love it so much!

    Here is a link to farmer's markets across the US.  Happy shopping!

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    NEST: Jars.

    Last week Whitney wrote about increasing the amount of water you drink in a day with some fun suggestions. Mountain Knitter left a comment that ties in to today's post:

    Mountain Knitter said...

    I love those add-in ideas! Thanks!! I drink my water out of a wide-mouth quart canning jar ;)

    There's something about glass jars that inspires me. They look fresh and clean. When filled, they beautifully showcase what's inside. And, I have so many in my house. Just open your refrigerator and you will see what I mean. You can certainly dump those used jars into the recycling bin, but an even greener alternative is to reuse them. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that I have reused them all over my house. You may have jars that were once filled with spaghetti sauce, salsa, baby food, peanut butter, or applesauce. No matter what, you can find a new use for them! Here are a few of my favorites:

    How do you reuse in your home?

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    PRAY: bible study

    Last night I officially started a new bible study.

    I'm really excited for the new adventure and I will be sure to report back with details. I was in a wonderful small group throughout middle school and high school, and now that I've settled in Atlanta, I'm eager to find the same type of fellowship here.

    We're starting by reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. Has anyone else read it? I've been told it's very uplifting and enjoyable to read. I will be sure to let you know what I think!

    image via

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    MAKE: Frameable.

    When I was about Lily's age, I drew a picture for my aunt of a handful of multi-colored hearts.

    She was so sweet as to frame that picture and hang it in her house.
    And when I got older, she gave me that precious picture back in the frame to hang in my room.
    It has been a treasured item of mine for years.

    It meant so much to me that she would have framed it when I was little.  And that she held onto it for so many years.  And that she saw the beauty in a 4 year old's art.

    Lily recently drew a picture for Crosby of our family.  It proudly hangs in his crib.  She was hoping to remind him of his family waiting at home who loves him dearly.  I almost cried when she showed me the picture.  It is beautiful and simple and brings such warmth to my heart.  She drew it in all black because she knew his eyes can best see black and white right now.  And I cannot wait to frame this simple picture.

    Sometimes I forget that art need not be professionally done or complicated.  Sometimes it is the most simple thing that can stir your heart the most.  Consider framing something special and memorable to you.  Whether it be a collection of ticket stubs or photos from a trip or coasters from special dates or a card you've received or just a child's art.  It may become your most treasured piece of art.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    EAT: Let's Grill!

    'Tis the season to break out the grill. So, let's talk about grilling some meat! Probably once a month, my husband tells me how thankful he is that I am not a vegetarian. While he loves many of Courtney's vegetarian recipes, he is (without a doubt) a meat eater. When you are craving a juicy burger, you can make some choices that will make less of an environmental impact.

    Livestock emissions are among the highest contributors to greenhouse gases, so eating meat less frequently is better for our planet. I'm still working on convincing Jose of this. Eat smaller portions or combine the meat with veggies, and I'm betting that you won't notice much of a difference.

    Choose meat that is local. Most cities have farmers' markets up and running, so start there. Talk to the farmers or vendors. Simply buying your beef, chicken or turkey locally decreases the amount of gas required and pollution created.

    Ask the vendors how their beef or chicken is raised. Often, farmers will use organic methods for raising meat or vegetables without being certified organic due to costs. Free-range, grass-fed is best. Even when eggs or chicken are labeled as "cage-free" the animals may never step foot outside. They simply have an access point to the outdoors. Worry less about labels and more about conditions. Not only is this better for the animals and environment, but it's better for you.

    Make better choices while grilling. Use lump charcoal instead of briquets and a charcoal chimney instead of lighter fluid. Your charcoal grill will then be closer to carbon neutral. If you're going to use a gas grill, try to purchase one that is energy efficient.

    Don't give in to the quick clean-up temptation. Even if you're eating outside, use your regular dishes and cloth napkins. The plastic plates and paper napkins may seem like part of the season, but they don't need to be.

    Get outside and enjoy!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    PLAY: water

    As the sun is getting hotter and the days are getting longer, I just can't stay indoors. From long runs to reading on my patio, I'm itching to be in the fresh air. 

    With this change, I've also found myself dying of thirst at night. Although I consider myself to be a very avid water drinker, it's amazing how much more I need when it's warm. As I aim to transition to summer-worthy consumption levels, I've decided to get a little more creative with my H20.

    Courtney has recommended that I add a little seltzer and fruit (or a tiny splash of fruit juice) to my water, which definitely helps around 3 pm, when I am yearning for something sweet (like iced coffee). My favorite combinations are either grapefruit juice, or citrus fruits, best when shaken, not stirred, in my water bottle.

    I've also heard that freezing fruit into ice cubes really jazzes things up. This is less portable and not an option for me during the workday, but I think trying it on the weekend might make for a lovely activity.
    Another option, which is great for those who are prone to stomachaches is to add ginger, cucumber, lemon and spearmint, which will soothe your tum and feel like a poolside cocktail sans calories.
    If you can't quite bear the thought of adding things to blissfully simple water, try switching up your routine. Throw in a straw, buy a fun new glass, or switch to a water bottle.
    With bonuses like boosting your metabolism, clearing up your skin and keeping you regular, I'd say it's definitely worth it to make yourself a little hydration station.

    images via fitbie

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    NEST: Fresh.

    This truly has to be one of my favorite times of year.

    Everything is so fresh and alive and vibrant.

    I adore spring and with the promise of summer on the horizon, it is just an amazing season.

    And it is the perfect time of year to plant something in your own backyard!

    I absolutely do not have a green thumb, but there is something so very fulfilling about harvesting something out of your own yard.

    My husband and I have had a garden in flower boxes on our deck, in pots in our kitchen, in the dirt on the side of our home and in a raised bed in our backyard.  

    Each garden we have planted has had varying degrees of success, but it has always been a lot of fun and so satisfying to put something on your plate that you grew and nurtured yourself.

    If you live in an apartment and don't have a yard, consider planting herbs or flowers in pots on your deck or even near a window inside.  

    Many herbs are very hearty and even I have a hard time killing them!  

    Some of the easier plants to grow include:
    - beans
    - lettuces
    - tomatillos
    - basil
    - green peppers
    - tomatoes
    - garlic
    - sunflowers

    You can buy packets of seeds or for an even easier option, you can buy them as seedlings.
    Many gardening stores even sell the seedlings in pots that biodegrade in the soil so you don't even have to take the plant out of the pot!  It couldn't be much easier!

    Of course, you want to read the instructions that come with your plants and be sure to plant them at the correct depth and space, in the correct sunlight and give them the right amount of water.

    Whatever your success or level of gardening experience, I hope you find your gardening enjoying and fulfilling!

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