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Showing posts from 2009

Elven Idea Factory #4 - From Around the House

Posting this one earlier than Weds for all you procrastinators :) DIY Gifts, Kits , and Baskets you can make with stuff from around your house in less than an hour if you receive from a stranger, forgot to shop for a last minute party, or procrastinate without savings! After a visit to the dollar store in late November, I've usually stocked up on little dishware sets, colored glass bottles and jars, candles, and other inexpensive items that can be used as last minute gifts for the holidays, hostesses at parties, and housewarmings. Then when I'm in a pinch, I'm able to throw together some stuff that's always around the house. While you may not have pre-planned like this, some of these things will be around your house, too, I bet! Kits: Putt herbs and garlic in a small bottle, filling with olive oil and pairing with four olive dishes. Fill small cello bags with herbs from the garden like peppermint, chamomile, and sage and pairing with a small tea set or just one

Elven Idea Factory #3 - Bath n Body

Chocolate Lavender Bathtub Cookies This year one of my new gifts is a chocolate bath cookie that my dear friend Heather at Aroma Pharmica posted last year, and was reposted on one of my BlogHer peers, Mom Most Traveled . Talk about making the bathtub a heaven on earth, this cookies are almost good enough to eat! Chocolate Lavender Bathtub Cookies 2 oz. Cocoa Butter 2 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 cup Oatmeal, Fine 1/4 cup Whole Milk Powder 1/4 cup Hot Chocolate Mix 3/4 cup Epsom Salt 1 cup Cornstarch 1 cup Baking Soda 1/2 cup Citric Acid 1 tsp. Lavender Essential Oil Directions Warm the cocoa butter and olive oil in a hot water bath until completely melted. Remove the Cocoa Butter and Oil from the heat, allowing it to cool slightly, but not to harden. Next, line a small baking sheet with waxed paper and set it to the side. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the Oatmeal, Whole Milk Powder, Hot Chocolate Mix, Cornstarch, and Epsom Salt. Stir the ingredients well, makin

Elven Idea Factory #2 - Kitchen

3 favorite DIY recipes that make Great Holiday Presents 1. Irish Cream Liqueur (Bailey's) - This makes #1 because it takes the longest to make but is worth the wait. Like a tincture (herbs distilling in alcohol over 3-4 weeks), this creamy and chocolaty gift makes your friends lick their lips at the thought of it. This is an old recipe I've been making since I was in my twenties, and no matter what age group I make it for, it's a hit. The sweet-toothed elves like this one best as well. Makes about, keeps at least 1 month, and takes 3 weeks to mak e. 750 ml Irish Whiskey 12 oz milk chocolate 28 oz condensed milk 24 oz evaporated milk 2.5 cups heavy cream 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules Pour 1 oz whiskey and condensed milk into small double broiler, add chocolate and melt, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in coffee granules and let heat for one minute, then add evaporated milk, stirring constantly, and remove from heat. Stir in cream and the rest of the

Elven Idea Factory # 1 - the 2009 plan

The Elves have joined us at the Idea Factory the month of December, and I'm seriously excited to share their ideas with you! There are a few holiday points that they want me to make before we proceed with this month's first of four installments; they say these two points are very important things to remember this holiday season and beyond! 1. WATCH joyous things like ELF or your favorite holiday movie that makes you think of laughter, singing, giving, and acting like a 10 year old. The elves want to make clear that the more joyous you are in your daily routine, the more light your being in both luminosity and weight, and the easier you can uplift all those around you! 2. DON'T WATCH negative things like the news, crime shows about murder, and depressing talk shows about crumbling relationships or other nerve-striking topics. The less you conflict and inflict your joy with pain, the easier it is to maintain. (Sorry, the elves like to rhyme, it's been very hard kee

Pamelas Pasts the Holiday Test

Early this week while planning the holiday meal for Thanksgiving, I went into the local health food store to pick up a bag of bread mix for myself, and found a little gem called Pamela's. Knowledgeable staff turned me on to it I must admit; I was bee-lining it for the best of the recent test but couldn't find the right aisle. What the clerk told me was that this one has recipes for pizza and pie crusts and bagels, too! So I decided to buy two bags to try this new brand to make myself some bread, and then test out Pamela's on mom's pumpkin pie recipe for the holiday - the hardest test of all! First, as a sandwich bread, Pamela's passes the parameters - it's firm enough to cut in slices that don't fall apart for a sandwich, panini, or egg-in-the-middle; and most important, it tastes like regular white-flour bread. It was also a better bread than the other three, the taste and texture were most real and the crust is also generally firmer and better tastin

Social Media 101

Most of my peers have this subject nailed down.... but occasionally I run across someone who I think has it all figured out, all this social media hoopla, and yet they are missing one key element about the system (yes it is a system!) that would make their life online so much simpler. So today's Idea Factory is about all the social media tools I use on a daily or weekly basis. This list will likely change in 6 months, so it will likely require a followup. I know 6 months ago I wasn't using half these tools yet... technology is already light-years ahead of us! I also knew this would be a good post today when I counted my sites up and realized I regularly post to, gasp, over 30 different profiles. No wonder I need automation technology to keep myself from going crazy, AND to be able to do some work in a day! Daily I post to: (# of profiles) Facebook (3), Twitter (3), LinkedIn (1), Flickr (1) Weekly I post to: Blogger (4), You Tube (1), Ning (6), The Wheel Life (1), Aweber

Comparing Gluten Free Bread Mixes

For those of you who know me well, I don't usually like to make anything that comes out of a box, tube, or packet... but I've been gluten free only since June and am experimenting with recipes so often, that I've found it nice to try the bread mixes from a box. I've tried three so far, and am happy to report my findings... so far all of these are available at Whole Foods and in multi-packs on Amazon. YUM! 1) Gluten Free Pantry's favorite sandwich bread was just that- so far the best slicing and firm- texture (ie. best hold for a sandwhich). The flavor was the staple white-bread flavor- something I ironically haven't had in my house in years. We switched to nutty wheat breads ages ago for the health factor, and I'm actually quite glad to go back to white bread for PB&J's. Yum. My first notice on this one was that the top sunk about 1/4". Perhaps high altitude, perhaps I just need to try again- either way, it still worked great for sammies,

Using Twitter with your phone - The Official Twitter Commands

This direct from Twitter's help desk, some of these mobile commands are new to me... tip of the week from the Idea Factory- you've heard it before- "Sometimes it just pays to read the instructions!" Did you know: you can perform certain actions, like following or marking a friend's update as a favorite, by using the designated Twitter commands? Use the commands listed below from your phone, the web update box, or your favorite third party application. Turning Twitter off and on: device notifications ON: turns ALL phone notifications on. OFF, STOP, QUIT, End, Cancel, Arret or Unsubscribe : turns ALL phone notifications off. ON username : turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, ON alissa. OFF username : turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, OFF blaine. FOLLOW username: this command allows you to start following a specific user, as well as receive SMS notifications. Example:

Point and Shoot 101: Contrast and Lighting

This weekend in Nashville I gave my mother a 101 lesson on her point-and-shoot, and decided much of this information could be useful to others... as I've said in my other two P&S101 posts (1) (2) , most people don't have time to read their entire camera manual, especially when the device works just fine with Power, Autoflash, and the Automatic setting. But the auto setting isn't going to let you learn, in fact sometimes it will just frustrate you into thinking your camera isn't as good as your friend's camera because her pictures come out way better. Perhaps, or perhaps you just aren't using your camera to its fullest capacity. Here are the points we went over this weekend together, and what mom learned... 1)The basic settings: Use the dial and alternate settings (under "menu" or "function") as your primary tools: a) the face is for portraits (usually focusing on just the image in front of you, blurring out the background)

Purple Gluten Free Gnocchi - YUM!

I'm a proud Italian, so one of the things I've missed the most since going gluten free is pasta. I know there is "rice pasta" out there, but I've yet to try it; my regular store doesn't carry it, and I just haven't gone out of my way yet to find it. I will; but I also own my own pasta maker so I plan to try that, and in the meantime I have always loved making- and eating!- gnocchi the best. Having a potato base and not many other ingredients, gnocchi is a pretty easy recipe to alter for gluten-free. So today I ventured into the kitchen to try out a recipe I found on the Celiac home site (from Paula Santos), but as usual, I've decided to alter it, and am happy with the results. This recipe also doesn't call for milk, with margarine instead. My bible Italiana - the Silver Spoon - has eight gnocchi recipes in it, and the Gnocchi Alla Bava is without milk, also using butter. So I gave this recipe the ok- the rest call for a LOT of milk, and I&

Addicted, and yet so removed

Ashamedly, I haven't written a post in over a month. Now, I write three other blogs as well as for Examiner on a regular (or sometimes no-so regular) basis, but that doesn't mean my Ideas have diminished, so where have I been? Especially when I have recently learned that I am, indeed addicted to the internet , sad but true. Read that article, and tell me if you are too... but this point dawned on me when we were just recently in NYC for a few days and our (gasp!) phones went out. Both of them. With no way to Tweet my awesome experiences, I felt detached from the world, my friends, and my online family. Yet I've only been a member of Twitter for about a year- so what did we do before these online social networks? My only answer is, Who cares? I was actually turned on to the above Addicted article through reading an article on America-the No Vacation Nation , where I realized a sad but very real point, that we are working our country to death. I already think we watch to

Photographing Interiors

I recently began photographing interiors and stumbled across this excellent explanation (blog below) of light, marketing, portfolios, and more for those who want to branch out in their photography.  I learned many things while working my first gig with KBCabinets in Denver: 1. Always bring a tripod, and extra lighting if you have it, but tripod is essential if you don't. 2. Set the ISO to 800, interiors grain out at 1600 but interior light requires faster "film" speed than 400. 3. Take several shots of each setup, using the light meter to brighten the exposure, and using both trungsten and cloudy white balance settings to see what shots are better for that particular room- for me it seemed to change based on cabinet colors. 4. Get a polarized filter to reduce glare. 5. And take your time.... But for more... keep reading! Photography: Barbara White Photographers understandably put a huge amount of time and effort into their portfolios. They might not always do i

Harvesting the Bounty: Our CSA Recipes Part 2, Joy of Cooking's Gazpacho with Colorado Yellow Tomatoes

Last week I shared last year's salsa recipe, but we're still getting tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and you can't just make salsa! Last year was our first year in the CSA, and every time we got a new bounty, I went online and searched recipes by ingredients. But we had extra single ingredients too... and made pickles out of the extra long italian cukes, parboiled and froze okra, green beans, and diced potatoes, and made pesto out of all that arugula. But next to salsa, our second favorite recipe that uses everything is the Gazpacho. It brings me back to summers in Chicago growing up. I can't take claim for the recipe (although as always, a little altered!), but the fresh CSA vegetables, uncooked and melded in flavor, speak for themselves! So much so that a local chef tasted our first batch with yellow tomatoes and said it was the best he'd ever had. Palisaide Colorado, Grown With Love, baby! Thanks Cameron Place! Joy of Cooking's Gazpacho with Colora

Harvesting the Bounty: Our CSA Recipes Part 1, Chinacat Salsa

It's that time of year.... The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) club we're in has peaked! Last week we brought home a truckload of tomatoes and peppers peppers peppers! and so it's SALSA time again! Last year was my first canning/jarring experience. It was grand. Despite learning a valuable lesson about shielding my eyes, nose, and nails from those spicy peppers, and burning myself once or twice on that steam from the boiling jars, I had a very successful yield of about twenty jars of salsa that became our family Christmas presents! I sampled several recipes in order to use all our vegetables, and chopped my heart out.... this is what we came up with: Chinacat Salsa ** 12 cups* cored, chopped tomatoes [ i use some yellow tomatoes to sweeten it up ] *(or about 14-15 medium toms) 2 12 ounce cans organic tomato paste 3 cups (or 4medium) chopped onions 2 cups lemon juice (or 8medium lemons squeezed) 8-10 jalepenos, seeded, finely chopped 4-6 long green or red chiles,

DIY After-Sun lotion

One thing I love about summer is the after-sun lotion we make ourselves. It's very refreshing, super easy to make, and it works like a charm. If I do burn (but since I've been using Avalon Organics sunblock I haven't) and I use our after-sun lotion, the redness is gone by midnight. The key ingredient is Lavender . So splurge. Buy a big bottle from a distributor if you can afford it, because you'll use most of the standard 5-8 ml bottle on this recipe alone, and it's so good for so many other things! But first and foremost Lavender is a proven cure-all for burns; 1st through 3rd degree burns improve and clear up within hours, cutting overall healing time in fractions. Second on importance is a clean base. I use Desert Organics Lavender lotion because it's free of parabens, sulfates, and other fragrances, but you can use a plain lotion too so long as it's clean and all-natural. Third, aloe. My father always used aloe when we were in Florida during my

Point-and-Shoot 101: Focus

Many weeks ago I posted a blog on Point-and-Shoot cameras describing some simple uses and settings that often go un -utilized. Today I'd like to take that a step further and show you some additional tips on focusing and depth-of-field. I've always been a fan of a blurred-out-background (or foreground) when shooting in macro, this setting is usually a flower symbol on your camera, but knowing how this actually happens within your camera will help you remember how to make it happen in the photo while using the camera's innate tools. A camera is like the pupil on your eye; to let in more light, it grows; to let in less light on a bright day, it shrinks. There are two tools on the camera that make this happen: the F-Stop and the Aperture. The F-stop is the hole size of that "pupil", or shutter opening, however it seems backwards: the larger the number, the smaller the hole... eg : f5.6 will let in a TON of light and raise your aperture (the time length of shut

Gluten Free for Psoriasis

Recently I've been putting my researching brain cells to work on studying the Gluten Free way of life. Since the age of 14 I have had psoriasis, and recently it's been showing signs of progression to psoriatic arthritis, a progression that occurs in about 20-40% of the cases (studies are still incomplete, although the reverse is 80% of PA patients have had psoriasis, so the two are definitely linked). I've been tested for allergies in the 1980s (none), and I'm a pretty natural consumer as well, so I don't use body products with harmful ingredients like parabens or sulfates. Herbal and homeopathic remedies and dead sea salts have all helped reduce my inflammations, but have never eliminated the disorder completely. I was vegetarian for 7 years in the 1990s, and that never cleared up my psoriasis either. Because of its progression I've started researching the diet and how it relates to the disorder, and stumbled upon several articles and studies that now lin

DIY Tomatoes, Topsy Turvy, Part 1

This summer we're trying that "as seen on TV" Topsy Turvy Tomato grower because our growing season is ridiculously short and we needed to be able to bring them back inside in September easily. Right now ours isn't very heavy, and we only put in 1/3 of the dirt to keep it light as well. We'll see how heavy it gets in late August! But it brought me to wonder, can't you build one of these on your own? It's essentially a plastic container with a hole. The topsy turvy is a round cylinder, hole at the bottom, wires at the top holding it up. It drains a lot of water so it needs to be over a towel or outside. In thinking of what plastic containers have holes and handles, you could easily build one of your own with a milk jug (best for its handle maybe), 2-liter bottle, or a wide cardboard tube lined with a garbage bag. The TT came with a styrofoam bumper for the hole so water and dirt wouldn't drain out- so cutting one of those is a good idea too, althou

5 Tips for Outdoor Events

Summer is always filled with outdoor fun, whether it be music festivals, chili cookoffs, Shakespeare in the park, or the kids' soccer tournament, if you're outside all day, you need to prepare. This month we'll be at the Mile High Music Fest, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and Saratoga Performing Arts Center in addition to some of our local outdoor fun. Here are some of our priorities for outdoor events. 1. Ice water . For events that allow you to bring in water, icing it down overnight in the freezer is key. It melts all day and provides a great cooling drink for a hot day outside. Most of you who live in the south do this anyway for yourself, but make sure to hop online and check the rules at your chosen festival, all of them are different. Most allow you to bring in unopened bottles, and you can insist they crack the seal to prove it if the labels are falling off from moisture. 2. Bug spray. I'm not a big fan of DEET. It's poisonous, in an aerosol can, and it sm

Five Great Kitchen Ideas

It's summer, you're cooking up all the home-grown goodies, and your kitchen isn't functioning to it's highest organizational capacity? Take the time to clean things out, get organized, and set little projects for yourself while you have the energy, daylight, and motivation!! Here are just a few of our ideas around the kitchen that have made our life a little easier and our budget a lot smaller. 1. Spice drawer. Spices take up room, it's as simple as that. And we didn't' have a lot of drawer space, but we had a low shelf and packed all the spices in a large, short-walled box when we moved into this house. I hate to say it, but they're still in that box. Ideally, I'll build a drawer for that cabinet, but for now, the box slides in and out nicely and all our spices fit in neatly, standing up. However, standing up, I couldn't' see what spices we had, nor did we have a system of where they were. In some cases I thought we'd been out of,

Summer Solstice Ideas

Summer Solstice (6/21, Sunday) is the longest day of the year, when the Earth's axis is most inclined towards the Sun, and marks the first day of the Summer season, and the day the Sun goes into the sign of Cancer. Solstice celebrations date back to ancient times, from the Druid's Alban Heruin's crop-ripening rituals to Native American's celebrations of the sun. Start your day by getting up before the sun rise and watch the colors ripen, visualizing your world to do the same as you manifest abundance, success, and security from this day forw ard. This Solstice day is also a new moon... a good day for new beginnings, planting new seeds, and starting new projects. Transplant your starters if you haven't already, and give your garden some general love by wedding, tilling, mulching, or spreading compost out for your plants on this day. For those of you with long hair, the new moon is also a great day to cut your hair because when the moon ebbs, roots turn inward, a

Home Renovation Ideas

Our recent home renovations have reminded me of some wonderful ideas we've had around the house, not only for our every day living, but a couple even made the renovations go easier! We're doing quite the interior job-floors, paint, doors, molding, and blinds- but don't have an exterior space like a garage or storage shed to get furniture and belongings out of the way while we work. So we're working several rooms at a time, and using one main one for storage. When we finished the living room hardwood and started bringing out the chairs, table, and TV stand, we immediately put "sliders" on the bottom and WOW, what a difference... for BOTH of us. 1. Sliders: Sliders are little felt tabs with sticky backs that you adhere to the feet of your furniture so they don't scratch the hardwood. But what we found was not only were they protecting our floors, they were a form of accessibility! Now sliding the furniture around (even the 150 lb tv stand) were a breeze

Travel ideas and more...

Today we're on our way to Miami for the No Barriers Festival and it reminded me to share the many travel ideas we've gathered along the way! Our travels take us far and wide, and some of these ideas make us feel like we're not that far from home. 1. Lists. If you're an organizer, think about making "packing lists" based on the type of trip (we have business, vacation, and camping lists). We were forever scribbling on Post-Its before our trips and forgetting something every time, when I finally realized I could write a master list that we could add to any time and save sheet after sheet of yellow sticky paper. To take it one green step further, print out the lists and laminate them, then cross off what you've packed with a grease pencil and clean it off when you're done! Make one for every family member so they're in charge of their own belongings and forgotten items! 2. Drier Sheets. My favorite trick for the suitcase and keeping clothes fresh