Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dirty Yourself Clean

Ah, the mud masque. There's no better way to deep clean your face. I reviewed my favorite masque over at Chic Critique today. Check it out and while you're there read all the other great reviews.

If you're visiting Tara Thinks from Chic Critique then please look around. To read other beauty product reviews check out my side bar and choose either "beauty" or "reviews" as the topic.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Martha Stewart Living

I have always loved Martha Stewart Living, the magazine, even though I'm not enamored with the woman herself. I though the February issue this year was marvelous! I want to try the Valentine's dinner menu when I get a better handle on handling three little boys and find a little more time to cook. I want to visit, if not live in this house in Maine, which was featured in an article about a lovely winter brunch, including recipes. I tried to find the images online, but it looks like the website only features the current issue and I waited too long. So I used my trusty camera to share a few things with you. I love the front door and wreath. The interior was gorgeous, but my favorite shot was of these dining room moldings!

I was also inspired by the article, Treasured Chests. There are beautiful photos and instructions for many variations of for your vanity or dresser. I love the sweet jewelry boxes below. They would look so much better than the old cardboard ones I use now. Even if they do have to remain hidden in the drawer to avoid little boy curiosity. I think I'll try my hand at a few of the projects to give as Christmas presents this year. That's thinking ahead a lot, but I probably won't have time until October or November anyway.

If you don't subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, it would be worth getting your hands on a copy of this issue, there's loads of great stuff! Sorry I posted this so late but I know you can order back issues. Or check out your local library.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Book Review: The Last Camel Died at Noon, plus a plug for Goodreads.com

This is a great series starring Amelia Peabody Emerson. I loved the first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank, but since then they have gotten a little formulaic. This book was a refreshing departure from the norm. We find the Emersons discovering a modern-day (to them) civilization populated by the descendants of the ancient peoples this archaelogical family lives to study. And you can imagine the chaos that ensues with the introduction of the Father of Curses and the Sitt Hakim to this hidden city. Soon things are a mess of intrigue, assasination plots, and hostile takeovers.

I love the narrative voice of Amelia and her confidence in her own and Emerson's abilities and talents. I love their stoic calm and their enthusiasm for the "marriage perquisities." I love little Ramses and would really enjoy reading about their adventures from his point of view.

The Last Camel Died at Noon renewed my appetite for this series by Elizabeth Peters and I will be checking out the next book very soon!

Also, check out this website, Goodreads. I was invited by a couple of
friends, thanks Janee & Michele, and finally joined up. It looks like
a great way to keep track of the books I read, and get recommendations from
friends, and even friends of friends. If you join, let me know so I can
add you to my list. Also check out the new Goodreads widget I added at the bottom on my blog. I know there's only one book there now, but I have to start somewhere.

Fighting the Home Frump

Fighting the Frump with Fussy again today and I've been thinking about something new. Now that I have de-frumped myself and I look absolutely fabulous all the time (can you sense the bit of sarcasm here) - how can I live in a house that I'm embarassed for others to see? I've read posts about people getting all dolled up for the UPS man or whoever randomly stops by during the day - but what about our homes? Now, before my husband goes into an apoplectic fit thinking I want to remodel and spend tons of money, let me tell you that I love my home! We've worked hard to make it a comfortable & fun place to raise our family. Not that there aren't mountains of unwashed dishes and laundry from time to time (or maybe more frequently); let's talk about that first.

I think the FlyLady has the best system around for making and keeping your house a peaceful place to live. If you haven't heard of her, climb out from under your rock, check out her site and sign up for the e-mails. She's written several books too. Especially if you feel overwhelmed or you know you have too much stuff, this system is for you. And it's free. I continue to flutter along slowly, but theoretically I can see that this system can work miracles. And as soon as I get over my laziness, I'll FLY more consistently. In the meantime I still appreciate the motivation and the things I do get done.

Now let's pretend you have a sparkling clean house and that you've stopped by to finish up mine too. Look around your home and take it all in. What do you love? What do you just tolerate?What do you hate? And what can you change for a minimum of money and a maximum effect?
I usually have a little room in my budget for an embellishment here and there. But right now we're choking on the costs of the sprinkler system we're installing, of which we grossly underestimated the cost and scope of work. Big sigh.

So I'm looking around wondering what I can do for free. Wow, those curtains look really frumpy! They could sure use washing and pressing. Hey, that's free. I've been wanting to replace them, and in a few months I can probably afford it. But in the meantime, why should my house look frumpy when I can update this one thing with a minimum of work? Boy, my windows could sure use a scrubbing too, you can hardly see out the sliding door for the kiddo handprints. Hey, that's free too. It is spring afterall, and while I'm not advocating a serious spring cleaning binge - some strategically placed elbow grease can make a big difference to de-frumping your home.

If you do have a little cash to spend, I've seen tons of good ideas at The Nester. And they look fairly inexpensive and easy. Or check out Blisfully Domestic for decorating ideas and more.

I'm heading out to the garage to find those purple silk flowers that will make my walls look like Spring has arrived.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blogging, Mom Style

Check out this post by Holly at June Cleaver Nirvana. It's called Just a Typical 25 Minutes, Animated... I absolutely loved it and feel like I could have written it myself, if I was as quick with the markers as Holly. I made Aaron read it right then, but he didn't think it was as funny as I did. Because he still seems to believe that I spend six hours a day at the computer. I wish! Just kidding, my children are a delight and I live to serve them. And let them climb on me like a jungle gym for five hours a day. I think this animated story is the perfect example of blogging, Mom style.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Books to Read

I spent a lovely hour this week browsing at the bookstore with only my sleeping infant. I always take a paper and pencil to make note of the books I want to check out at my local library. Here's what's on my list right now.

What does that say?

At the bookstore the other day there was a display of gift ideas for Mother's Day. I looked quickly through the books and did a doubletake at the following title: Porn For New Mothers. It was a small book and I couldn't help but pick it up. And laugh as I thumbed through it. It's a collection of pictures with cute captions. No real porn could get your pulse racing faster than these scenarios.

After some careful research online (I searched Amazon rather than google the title), I found this is the second book by the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative. The first is Porn For Women. I think this would be a fun gift idea for a baby shower. Here are a few samples I found at this blog, which seems to be written by the authors.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fight the Frump with Bling

Time again for Fight the Frump with Fussy. This week I'm talking about bling. Actually I'm not sure I'm the kind of person who uses the word "bling." Basically I'm talking about jewelry. I'm reminded of the movie, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Kate's character calls her bling frosting. I like the sweets reference.

Anyway, one easy way to fight the frump - once you've established the habit of showering, wearing cute clothes that fit, and fixing your hair and make-up - is to accessorize. If you're like me you have a jewelry box full of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings that haven't seen the light of day (or night) in many moons. Pull those babies out! I've been trying to remind myself to grab a few things before I head out the door. Especially my wedding rings. It only takes a few seconds and can make a big difference. I think earrings, because they are next to your face, can make the biggest impact, but hey - if you want to draw attention to your chest with a fab necklace, do it with style! I like plainer pieces, favoring gold, silver, diamonds and pearls - even if they're fake. But it seems beaded jewelry is very popular now too. Fussy just posted some beautiful items. Find a few pieces that you truly love, hopefully that you already own, and remember to put on one or two of them on the next time you leave your house.

I've been coveting this Tiffany pendant for 4 years now. But it's $400.

I love the jewelry at Sundance.com. These silver studs are classic.

For more fabulous Fight the Frump tips, visit Fussy's blog.

Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake

This is Aaron's favorite dessert. He's not usually as big of a chocolate lover as me - but this cake is loved by one and all. It's very easy to make and I usually have everything on hand. And it's so rich and moist it doesn't need any frosting. This was one of the first recipes we ever made from allrecipes.com. Here's the link to the cake.

Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake

· 1 (18.25 ounce) package dark chocolate cake mix
· 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
· 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
· 3 eggs
· 1/3 cup vegetable oil
· 1/2 cup coffee flavored liqueur
· 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil and coffee liqueur. Beat until ingredients are well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly tapped. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out and cool completely on wire rack.
You can substitute ½ c. Hershey’s syrup for the coffee flavored liqueur.

For more yummy dessert recipes check out this recipe swap at The Natural Mommy.


Monday, April 7, 2008

MMSM: Keeping Up Appearances

Check out my friend Shannon's blog carnival. This week she chose a movie quote from Some Kind of Wonderful to inspire us.

Keith: You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Watts: No, but you can tell how much it's gonna cost.
Keith: Wow, I never knew you were so deep.
Watts: You want shallow, call Amanda Jones.
If you remember, Amanda Jones was part of the rich, popular crowd, but really came from the same part of town as Keith and Watts. She was willing to beg, borrow, or steal (or sleep with someone) to stay part of this crowd. Sometimes I wonder what we are willing to do to keep up appearances.

Last week for MMSM I wrote about perspective and comparing yourself to others. Another reason not to compare your life to another's is because appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes I read all these blogs about wonderful women with wonderful families and wonderful lives. And then I realize that while all I read could be true, it could just as easily be false, or at least not representative of the whole story. If I compare myself to some bloggers out there I will always come out on the losing end. But I don't really know those people, and they could have many challenges that they choose not to write about. And IRL (in real life) you don't always know people as well as you think either. Those perfect families you see at church aren't always perfect. And even in a friend or couple that you know well - what are they hiding to keep up the appearance of everything being okay?

Some people and families are very honest and unpretentious (see Shannon's post) and wouldn't dream of putting forth an appearance that is misleading. But for most people, the natural man leads us to care about what others think of us (more than what God thinks of us). And we are willing to beg, steal, borrow, or lie to create or maintain that image we want. Some live beyond their means, racking up debt in order to live and portray a certain lifestle. Some ignore problems in their marriages or with their children to avoid judgement from others. At the very least, almost all of us are willing to keep quiet about certain unflattering personality traits. Not everyone needs to know that my laziness keeps my house in a perpetually dirty state.

Keeping up appearances isn't always bad. I'm happy to see a friend looking her best by keeping up her highlights, eyebrow plucking, shaving, and self-tanning. But I need to make sure people know the real me enough to love me for who I am. That's where Amanda Jones went wrong, she changed herself too much to be accepted for who she was (except by Keith). And she allowed herself to be blinded by the appearance of the popular crowd - she couldn't see them for the shallow, manipulative people they really were.

See, good lessons can be found in all manner of movies. What are you willing to do to keep up appearances and maintain your image?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fight the Frump, A Testimonial

Just a quick testimonial this week, a reminder to myself (and hopefully you) why I need to keep Fighting the Frump. For lots of great tips, check out all the links at Fussy's blog.

I hauled my three young boys to Sam's Club this week for a marathon trip that I'm hoping will negate any need to go for a couple months. While I was there, I ran into some old family friends. This couple still spends time with my parents and I see them occasionally, but haven't seen their kids for years. These are the kind of people who always look great, in fact, I'm quite intimidated by the girls in this family, who are all close to my age. Three of them have a hair salon - the kind that charges hundreds of dollars and only takes appointments a month in advance. Needless to say, they don't even know what frumpy means, despite having children of their own.
I had run out the door to Sam's without fighting the frump that day. I didn't look completely awful, but definitely frumpy. These old friends of mine are not the kind to judge, thank goodness. They spent ten minutes catching up with me and oohing over my kids, who looked fabulous. We all left with smiles. But... I know I would have felt so much better if I was looking great. Some make-up and a cute top probably would have left them saying, "Oh, Tara looked good, and her baby is only two months old." Rather than thinking I looked like my same old frumpy self.

In contrast - we had an emergency trip to the doctor last week (just an ear infection). Somehow I had managed to get myself ready first thing that morning, including make-up and cute hair. And the boys were all dressed to the shoes. So when the doctors office asked if we could come right in, I could say yes with confidence.

In conclusion - although I am not always successful at fighting the frump, I will keep trying. Sometimes my need for sleep wins out over getting up early to shower and stuff. But soon my baby and the other boys will be on a more regular schedule, hopefully - and I can work in a daily dose of fighting the frump. Because I want to. And I sure need it!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Recipe Box Swap: 40 Cloves and a Chicken

Man, seems like I can't find the time to post these days unless I really make the effort for a blog carnival. But I've even missed the Works for Me Wednesdays for the last two weeks. I didn't want to skip this carnival though, The Recipe Box Swap, hosted by I Have To Say. Too bad she only has it every few weeks, but that's apparently all I can handle anyway.

This recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown, who is a favorite of Aaron's (okay, me too). Although when we watch I always feel stupid because Alton breaks out all the chemistry explanations and Aaron always understands better than me - even though I'm the one with a chemistry degree. Turns out Aaron has way more practical sense than me, who's suprised?

We love making this chicken when we're having people over, because it's so tasty and a little bit impressive. And key words - super easy. I will post the actual recipe here, but we often just used chicken quarters. Just use something with skin on, you'll get tons more flavor. Don't forget to cover the dish - I forgot once and it was kind of dry.

40 Cloves and a Chicken

1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
40 peeled cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.