It’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus

I love Halloween! The pumpkins, ghosts, things that glow in the dark, oooh!  I have always loved having a spooky themed dinner party and dressing up. About 10 years ago I dressed up as a fairy from the Nickelodeon show Fairy Godparents and my Mom was gum stuck to the bottom of a sneaker shoe (you see where I get my creativity from 🙂 ) . When I was younger I dressed up as the Marvin Martian from the Looney Tunes cartoon…complete with a metal colander on my head!  Last year I decorated our foyer in a Harry Potter theme – complete with “floating” candles, sorting hat, magic wands and glowing potions. I was going to dress up as Professor Umbridge but it was 100 million degrees that day and I ended up just wearing a glow in the dark shirt.

One of my all time favorite movies is, of course, Hocus Pocus.  So much so that I saved it to the DVR last year and have periodically watched it all year long .  For some reason I have never dressed up as one of the Sanderson sisters, but this year I decided to be Winifred!  I started pulling everything together in July.

Turns out there are a lot of other Hocus Pocus fans out there and Pinterest has been a solid resource for the DIY costume:   the red wig is the same one as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, the under dress is a purple renaissance costume, easy to find green and black striped socks and a green velvet cape.

For the spell book, I found a cardboard version which I painted goldish-auburnish, a cool pendant with an eye in it, and some shape-able rubber snakes that I painted silver.

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My husband found a lacy over-dress and collared tunic and chunky beaded necklace at good will. I used glitter glue to make the symbols down the front of the dark green lace over dress, and thin gold rope along the edges of the collard tunic and as a finishing detail, used floral wire to insert in the corners of the collar to make them curl under.  I crafted the belt “buckles” with the gold rope  and the glitter glue and took apart an old costume necklace for the center stones.

Here’s the final result, my most epic costume yet!  And lucky for me, Thackery Binx stopped by dressed as a black pug 🙂

winnieandbinx

 

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A bug in the craftroom

One of my BFF’s loves ladybugs and I when I saw this on Pinterest I knew I had to attempt it – an applique ladybug table center piece.  Thanks to pre-selected fat quarter sets picking out the fabrics was easy, the back is a pre-quilted pre-batted black and white paisley print.  I happened upon a ladybug party invitation which was the perfect template for the ladybug. After a trial run I discovered the black fabric I picked out was too flimsy for the head and antenna so I found a thicker fabric and that made it much sturdier.

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Two parts of this project were  a challenge for me  – getting the corner blocks sewn in properly (my seam ripper got a workout after I realized my first mistake) and the ladybug applique.  Thank goodness for YouTube videos on appliqueing! I did a practice run which was helpful to say the least.  I wanted to prevent the sides of the ladybug from lifting and because I didn’t quilt the whole piece it needed something to hold the middle down. So I experimented with some stitches on my sewing machine and found this scalloped one –

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I was really happy with the effect! I learned when using one of these automatic stitches you need to let the machine do the work and not hurry it along, you can see a few scallop stitches that are not as dense as the others where I pulled the fabric too quickly (patience ladybug!!).  I will definitely experiment more with the stitches on the machine now that I have some confidence.

My next project is my Halloween costume which I am SUPER excited about and will be posting about soon!

 

And the verdict is…

All negative! No celiac, no gastritis, no Barrett’s esophagus. While I’m grateful there’s nothing medically wrong with me I’m frustrated because this most likely means IBS and/or it’s my food sensitivities (wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy). <sigh>

So after way too much googling and learning a lot, I decided to start with giving up my coffee. It wasn’t a several pots a day habit, just 3 coffee mugs a day – about 14oz per mug though – and the first morning cup always on an empty stomach which I’ve learned provokes all kinds of undesirable reactions. Tough at first, I definitely went through caffeine withdrawal, but it’s been effective in relieving 90% of my symptoms.  I should say 95% giving up because I have experimented with just one cup of brewed ground coffee (based on some things I learned on the internet) a few days a week with only a slight reaction.  On several celiac blogs I found a recommendation to try chai tea to “mimic” the coffee, which really works! Admittedly I use 3 tea bags in one mug with just a little non-dairy creamer, but so far so good.  I am in love with Tazo brands flavored chai – Vanilla Caramel, Chocolate, and Pumpkin Spice.  (psa: they were on sale last week at Target for $3/box!)

I’ve been lenient on the dairy and wheat intake, but am still 90% better than I was a month ago.  So now to focus on better clean eating and seeing if I can narrow it down to what irks my GI tract – which probably means I should truly eliminate the sensitive foods for at least 2 months. One idea I thought of to get more of a range of veggies/fruits is to have a different color for each day – like Monday would be orange: oranges, cantaloupe, orange pepper, butternut squash – etc.  This strikes me as easier than trying to eat several different ones each day!  And provides me with a neat list of blog posts to make 🙂

In addition to my what-to-not-eat obsession, Fall season and Halloween dabbles abound, I’m SUPER excited about my Halloween costume for this year…stay tuned!

Winter is coming!

And not soon enough if you ask me (or Jon Snow).  Thoroughly disappointed in my garden this year – after all my hard work with the cover crop, using hay as a mulch/cover, fighting off the slugs, etc, just ugh. All for a handful of tomatoes, one spaghetti squash and well, enough cucumbers for 2 half batches of pickles so that’s a positive.  I’m currently babying my 8 or so corn stalks to possibly bear me one, JUST ONE, ear of corn.  Couldn’t resist having the DH grab the last brussel sprout and baby broccoli plants at the local home store, those are going to have to go in a container though I think.

As un-fruitful as the garden has been, it is apparently very hospitable to my “Charlottes” (aka sewing machine spiders or Argiope).  For the past few years we have had one or two pop up in mid August around the pool and in the garden and they are so cool to watch!  And huge, holy moly I’ve never seen a spider that big.  We named them both Charlotte – Pool Charlotte and Garden Charlotte – and they do their thing and then disappear, and an offspring appears again the following summer.  Well, THIS summer we have had EIGHT Charlottes!!  As of this morning I counted 7 though so someone moved out, but the rest are all hanging out in large webs strung between the shrubs, or the cucumber trellis or between the fence and the asparagus.   Strangely only two of them are really big right now, the rest are sort of medium size so will be interesting to see how big they all get and if there are any egg sacs leftbehind for the winter.  These are the two biggest(about 3″ top to bottom) they are outside the garden area:

frontsideyard_charlottes

This sneaky one made this web overnight from the fence to the asparagus ferns, I almost walked right into going to water the corn (it’s only about 3 feet off the ground):

garden_charlotte

Okay so back to my disappointment garden –  my brain started turning and hatched the garden re-do project, woo! I’ve decided to tear out the existing boxes (4 years old), take down the fence and create a whole new garden with smaller and deeper boxes.  Of course new soil too which (already crossing my fingers) will be beneficial for next years plants.  Only dilemma is moving my asparagus – next spring will be year 4, I hate to dig them up as I keep reading they don’t do as well when transplanted but they can’t stay where they are!  My strawberry plants were going into their 3rd year, I haven’t researched how well they do with transplanting so may just start over with those in a dedicated box (or one of the neato strawberry planters that I see all over Pinterest).  Off to the drawing table!

Sometimes you just need a little sparkle

I used to have my nails done in acrylics for years and years, sometimes french tipped other times a daring dark or blinding bright color.  I had the same nail tech for all those years who I loved, and second in sadness only to leaving my longtime hairstylist behind was leaving my nail tech behind when I moved South.  And while I finally found a new hair stylist to love I just never found a new nail tech.  And so I’d grown out of that phase a little and embraced my natural nails (after taking 6 months to heal from the years of acrylics 😮 )

Every once in awhile I get the urge to have my girly acrylics though, especially the french tips.  I tried the drugstore diy kits…and those were a pretty big fail for me. My right hand never looked anything close to acceptable (I’m right handed) and I could never get that ridge between fake tip and natural nail to be smooth.  I’d always end up peeling them off after maybe 2 days because I couldn’t stand the imperfections.

Recently I tried an at-home gel system, bought the LED lamp and all.  I was super impressed with the Sally Hansen 3 step gel – easy to apply and with the lamp it’s totally dry within minutes, bonus! (as you can read about here I’m not known to sit patiently for long).    I picked out “Purple Prisms” -which on the box looks like a lavender base with sparkles – in reality it’s a clear polish with sparkles. I actually put a coat of Sinful Colors “Tempest” (a pretty lavender and a gift from my Mom) on first, then the prisms, then the top coat. Came out really pretty and it stayed on for days and days, almost a whole week. (side note, the Sinful Colors line is really durable – my “Tempest” pedicure lasted 3 weeks!)

Earlier this week I got an inkling to have some french tipped nails and I  happened to have some french tips in my manicure bag from the earlier failed diy attempts…so I get the bright idea to try the gel over the tips since it’s self-leveling.  Not super crazy about the sparkles over french tips (I AM in my late 40’s afterall)

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but my bright idea worked! No ridge, yay!

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I managed to snap 2 of the tips off within 24 hours – my natural nails aren’t very long right now, would work better with more natural nail to glue the tip to – but I know now I can pull this off for special occasion fancy manicures.  Or when my week just needs that bit of sparkle.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post…

In the midst of all my gardening, cooking and crafting dabbles going on I’m now taking on the challenge of going wheat-free :/  long story short, I’ve been dealing with some issues that just weren’t going away no matter what I ate or didn’t eat so my dr ran some allergy tests and boom, there it was – high allergy to wheat, low allergy to corn, eggs, dairy and soy. The dairy I pretty much suspected so that’s not so difficult to not eat/drink. But 2 eggs on top of wheat toast with a slice of cheese is my all time favorite breakfast…not to mention pasta and corn chips and taco shells and crackers and and and – talk about a shift in my universe!

I know there is hope and I have been quite sucked into the abyss that is google and pinterest lately, all my other dabbles are feeling neglected (like the pile of fabric that is to be a ladybug table mat)  I have dabbled in eating the Paleo way so I’m not feeling completely lost I just need to be more strict with following the guidelines.  I did almost fall off my chair this morning though when I read that coffee is on the “no” list. But after a few articles I found that eliminating it for 2 weeks and then adding it back in allows you to see if it’s a trigger. This might have to wait as a last resort since I’m having to give up my normal breakfast…

More dr appointments coming up to determine if it’s celiac disease, in the meantime I’m experimenting with gluten/egg/dairy free baking – so far my main problem seems to be under-cooking which is so weird because my oven runs hot so I typically bake things 10-15 minutes less than a recipe will indicate.  And with the wicked hot weather we’re having here I could probably start baking food outside!

TGIF 🙂

One Potato, Two Potato

Going to combine two topics in one post today – garden and coffee roundup. Coffee first, as always!   Happy to report we have used up two of the nine bags of coffee – the Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast and Gevalia Dark Gold Roast.  This week I’m aiming to get two more down – Green Mountain Coffee Co Vermont Country Blend and New England Coffee Co Hazelnut Creme (which I’ll probably have in the afternoons as hubs isn’t a huge fan of the flavored stuff).

Now to the garden – my experiment with growing potatoes in trash cans was a success!

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I likely harvested them a little early as the plants were wilted but still green, I was worried any potatoes that might be in the cans would rot as every week we are getting inches of rain.  I expected to find potatoes growing at all levels of the buried stalks…but all of these were at the bottom which was a relief to find out.  33 total potatoes, “All Blue” and “German Butterball” I’m excited to taste them tomorrow 🙂  I will definitely grow these again, they were pretty easy to take care of.  I may take a few of these, let them sprout eyes and re-plant them for fall harvesting.  Now that I am thinking ahead though, I might utilize one of the trash cans and plant pumpkin seeds…

The rest of my garden is doing great, I really think the whole cover-crop and rototilling made a huge difference. Plus the hay mulch is really keeping the soil from drying out on our 90+ degree days.  I have one spaghetti squash happily growing in size and starting to turn yellow, cucumbers are vining up my trellis and have picked 4,  jalapeno’s are showing up and the tomato plants all have at least one green tomato.  The container summer squash is doing ok, have two squash now but noticed one of the vines rotting (did I mention it has been raining inches here every week?) so pretty bummed out about that; the zucchini plant in the garden is also doing ok but certainly not where I expected it to be by now, I had to pull up the radishes as they were monstrous and going to seed but I have yet  <knock on wood>  to see the dreaded squash vine borers.  I planted a few more zucchini seeds and some corn last week, fingers crossed!

Every year I’ve lived here we have had a sewing machine spider in the yard somewhere, they are biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild!  Last year we had TWO! We called them  Garden Charlotte and Pool Charlotte. I don’t expect a Pool Charlotte this year as we moved the huge grass by the pool pump that she was making a home in last summer, and wasn’t sure I’d have a Garden Charlotte as I dug up the rosemary bush that she was using for her home.  Normally we don’t notice them until they are really big and obvious, but yesterday I saw TWO baby ones in my garden, yay! Of course this one in the picture was on the potato plants so I carefully cut the plant branch and placed it in the garden, the other is on the spaghetti squash vine.

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Looking forward to watching them grow along with everything else in the garden 🙂

The Coffee Roundup

A few weeks ago I did an experiment with eating sort of “prepper” style with using mostly what we had in the pantry already and buying very few fresh ingredients.  We used up some of what we had on hand and this gave me the idea to do the same thing with our coffee “stash”.  We enjoy coffee possibly more than the average person…such that we have NINE bags of ground coffee in varying amounts hanging out in the cabinet and freezer.  I’m not even going to count the k-cups (let’s just say if the zombie apocalypse happens, I will be well caffeinated!) So this week I am going to try to refrain from using the Keurig (it’s sooooo fast though) and use the drip coffee maker instead.

For Monday we have Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast that we bought in Jamaica on our vacation last year.  It’s all measured out and ready to go, just have to hit brew in the morning 🙂 Happy July 4th!

The not-so-cute-anymore bunny

After the recent “slug-fest” I was relaxing a little, preparing to do battle with the evil squash vine borers (SVB) in a few weeks. BUT. I walked out last Friday morning to find my 6″ pea plants devoured 😦 they were just starting to curl around my trellis netting and so green and vibrant! And apparently delicious. I neglected to think that the baby bunny that was born in our front yard would squeeze through the gap in the fence and get to the raised boxes. I suspect he/she also snacked on my corn shoots <sigh> thank goodness I still have time to start them over.

The potato plants have stopped flowering, so will watch for them to start wilting/yellowing as a sign to harvest those.  I am blown away by my yellow summer squash I’m growing in a container! I probably should have culled this to just one plant but they are both growing so fast how to choose?  And one teeny baby squash has started on each vine, woo!

summersquash1  summersquash

In contrast my zucchini plant which was started at the same time in the garden, is barely 4 inches tall. I am babying the one in the container though – moving it out of the sun when it gets too hot, keeping track of the soil moisture, etc.

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Those are sacrificial radishes growing around the zucchini, supposed to help in keeping the SVBs away (we’ll see!).

 

Prepping week, Thursday

This experiment has actually been so fun I decided we are doing this again next week! Of course how bad is it that I have enough freezer/cabinet food that this is possible :/ but I did look at some of the expiration dates on the food and we are cutting it close so that makes it a good thing, yay! Plus I can replenish my stock now, bring on the couponing (I sense another blog post…)

Tuesday menu was tacos but I ended up not using much from the pantry as I had some yard work to do after work and since the chicken was in the crockpot all there was to do was heat up taco shells.
Tuesday dinner: crockpot chicken tacos
Used up: frozen chicken breasts, envelope of taco seasoning, remaining 1/2 bag of shredded cheese, 1/2 box of taco shells, husband used up a bottle of hot sauce.
Bought Fresh: 1 tomato
Review: tacos are one of my favorite foods, is there anything else to say?!

Wednesday dinner: we ate out.

Thursday dinner: at home Chinese dinner
Used up: frozen PF Changs frozen Mongolian Beef dinner, 1/2 box Kahiki Thai Basil Chicken stix, 1/2 box Kahiki Korean Style BBQ Pork stix, 1 cup brown rice.
Bought Fresh: nothing for this meal!
Review: Meh. The Korean Style BBQ Pork stix were really good, don’t know if I’d buy the PF Changs frozen dinner again.
ThursdayChinese

We usually eat out on Friday nights so this concludes my experiment for this week!  Next week I’m also thinking of getting out the trusty drip coffee maker and using up some of the ground coffee in the cabinet and freezer – since we got a Keurig,  I have opened bags of coffee galore (we are big coffee drinkers!).