The Snow Queen – Animated children’s movie

Snow Queen on IMDB

Snow Queen

We just watched the Snow Queen on Netflix and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. It was just the right level of action and scariness for a frequently scared toddler. The animation was BEAUTIFUL and the story was really lovely. Apparently its based off of a Hans Christian Andersen story which I vaguely remember reading as a child.

Milan really enjoyed it and I’m sure this will be one of our regular movies we watch.

Posted in Reviews

Pirate Birthday Party

This is a long, long time coming. As my son will be 5 this year and the pirate party was for his 3rd birthday, I’m a bit behind on the posts about birthday parties.  But better late than never, right?

As is now our tradition, we held Milan’s Pirate birthday party at a park. In the end, it probably takes just as much effort as having it at home except you’re forced to clean up when you leave and you get to come home to a clean home (provided that’s the state you leave your house in). For 3 year olds, I find it to be the best because they get to run around and make as much noise as possible within lots of space without driving you nuts! Besides, we live in an apt so my max is pretty much 4 other kids in our tiny place (seriously, just my 2 drive me nuts).

Milan had been talking about having a pirate party for months and he was the one that really wanted it at a park, too. To make it obvious where the party was (its a big park), I bought a big balloon with the number 3 on it and hung up a big pirate flag.

Pirate Party Costumes

I do think the key to make a theme park party successful is the details and in particular providing some form of costume for the kids and parents. Even though there will be some that don’t want to wear the costumes, it really makes a big difference and it allows the kids that don’t know many people to feel automatically included.

20120721-Canon EOS 7D-IMG_4346Of course we started out by buying a pirate costume for Milan although it comes with a hat now but we bought him a separate pirate hat for his costume. It has gotten lots and lots of use and he’s worn it to other pirate themed parties.

The big hit was the bandanas. I went to Jo Ann fabrics and bout 2 yards of cheap red cotton material, 1 yard of pirate material and 1 yard of girl pirate material costing me a whopping $7.  I cut about 8-10 triangles from each of the yards of pirate material and also from one yard of the red material. Then for the remaining yard of red material, I cut a bunch of strips in varying sizes. Some were long enough to be belts for adults, some were small enough to be head bands or belts for kids (with the majority being small since it is a kids party).

We bought some eye patches from Amazon, they looked awesome because they were made from hard plastic and they definitely have lasted through many play dates but to be honest they weren’t very comfortable and really just ended up being decorations on the table.

I also had a bunch of pirate tattoos spread out on the table with a bowl of water and a couple of wash cloths handy.

Pirate party game – Treasure Hunt

Since this was a 3 year old party we really only had one game other than the pinata. To be honest, 3 year olds just don’t have the same attention span as even 4 year olds and since we were at a park they ran around pretending to be pirates for a very long time.

Before the party, I had put together a bunch of plan paper bags filled with a ring light, a ring pop, a couple of candies and a beaded necklace. While the kids were playing, we (some of the other parents and I) hid the bags in an area of the sand box. Then we gathered all the kids together and had them go on a treasure hunt and dig in the sand to find a bag. I was happy to see the big kids helped the little ones find bags of their own. I made several extra so if some couldn’t be found in the sand everyone would have a bag. We used the bags for the pinata right after the treasure hunt.

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Pirate Pinata

I really had wanted to get this pirate treasure chest but alas, when it came time to order it they were out and we wouldn’t have gotten it in time for the party. Luckily, Target had a pirate pinata and was able to get one there. I filled it with the rest of the beaded necklaces, some Rolos since they look like little pieces of gold, Hershey’s kisses since they are silver, some more pirate tattoos, and some other candies. I really don’t like having tons of candy around so it ended up being about 4 or 5 pieces per kid (with the little kids getting less and the bigger kids getting more as is the nature of pinatas).

We had forgotten a bat but luckily someone had come dressed for the pirate party and had brought a pirate sword that was quite hefty and we were able to use that.

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Pirate Ship birthday cake

Other than being in a pirate costume this was an absolute must for Milan. He kept asking over and over again if he could have a pirate ship cake. I kept trying to talk him into cupcakes with pirate flags or pretty much anything else. He was dead set on a pirate ship. I found some awesome pictures of the Evolution of a Pirate Ship Cake on Flickr that I was planning on doing completely. But as time got closer, I didn’t have the time to bake a cake, in fact I didn’t even have an cake pans even if I wanted to. So a couple of hours before the party, I ran out to Vons (its the closest grocery store to us) and picked up a round German chocolate cake, some cupcakes and everything I’d need to make frosting. Then I transformed the store bought cake and cupcakes into a pirate ship and water. Making your own frosting really makes the cake taste homemade. It turned out great! I know I could’ve added many more details but in the end it really didn’t matter. The pictures (although good) really don’t do it justice. It looked much better in person and Milan was so, so, so happy to have a pirate ship birthday cake!

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Summary

We had an absolute blast and I learned something that I hope to remind myself of in the future, in the end, the kids (especially at this age) really only care about playing with each other, getting something little to go home with and cake!

Posted in Parties

Homemade acne mask

homemade-acne-maskSo I do realize that the title says homemade acne mask, but the truth is this mask is good for all kinds of skin types. I call it an acne mask because my primary purpose in using it is to get rid of and keep acne away. I have dry skin that becomes an oil slick when its irritated and thus becomes a mine field of acne. By using this mask when I take a shower which I’ve got to admit, is not every day (1. my skin is on the dry side and showering every day wreaks havoc on my skin and 2. I’m a mom of small children and sometimes sleep beats out being clean), I’m able to keep my acne at bay.

I used to use a honey and turmeric mask on my face but I felt it was always a bit messy and I didn’t like the way it was if I prepared it ahead of time. I also used just oatmeal flour to wash my face for a couple of years (back when I lived in a place that had really good water) and it was wonderful. But since moving to our place with hard water, it just wasn’t cutting it.

After a lot of trial and error, I FINALLY came up with the perfect combination of ingredients for a gentle, safe to use every day homemade mask that works wonderfully on my skin.

Ingredients:

Directions:

You may need start by melting the coconut oil if its cold. If its warm, it will already be liquid. Mix the first 4 ingredients together really well. Add water to it until it is a nice smooth paste. I find that I usually only need 3 1/2 tbsp while the coconut oil is warm and in liquid state. But after you put it in the fridge, you’ll probably need to add another 1/2 tbsp to get the mixture into a smooth paste again.

Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

NOTES: I HIGHLY recommend using a spoon and not your fingers to get the mask out of your container as the bacteria on your hands will breed in this.

Secondly, it starts to smell a little funky after awhile. Since you’re not ingesting it, it shouldn’t cause any problems. I’ve used it  after its already been over 2 weeks old and didn’t have any issues. BUT every face is different.

Posted in Beauty

Christmas Eve around the World – Japan

We have started a new tradition this year, each year on Christmas Eve we will be celebrating it with the traditions of another country. This year: Japan!

How are we celebrating? Well, Christmas is not very popular in Japan. However, the Japanese are obsessed with KFC on Christmas so we’re heading over to KFC for lunch!

We just started this tradition but we really plan on doing something bigger and better next Christmas Eve. I wonder what country we’ll do next year.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Getting rid of acne

Struggling with acne

Struggling with acne

Acne and I have had a love/hate relationship: Acne loves me, I hate Acne. Its taken a long time for me to get rid of acne. You’d think by the time I hit my 30’s that I wouldn’t have to struggle with acne. No luck! In fact, I had struggled on and off with my acne all the way until now. However, I did have really nice skin for several years … I really believe it was the water.

When we moved to our current location, I struggled and struggled with keeping my acne under control. It took me a couple of years to figure out what was going on. I was pregnant in the middle and of course had beautiful, glowing skin – why can’t they bottle that!? Anyways, this is what did and did not work for me:

What causes acne:

  • Jojoba oil – Its purported as non-comedogenic and is readily found in lots of natural products. Some people have had amazing results using Jojoba oil in helping to clear up their acne. But for me, it just doesn’t work… I break out…. bad!
  • Hard water – Hard water is a nightmare for my face. The pH level of hard water is alkaline and our skin/faces are actually acidic. Makes sense if you think about the products that help: salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, etc.
  • Damaged acid mantle – If you have acne (or any other skin rash) then you have an imbalance in your acid mantle.
  • Large pores & dry skin – My face is actually on the dry side and I have large pores. SO if my face gets dry and flaky, I end up with acne. If you’re not sure how acne is caused, it is caused from dirt & in my case skin flakes getting caught in the oil in your pores.

What got rid of acne:

  • Figure out if any ingredients were causing acne – By trial and error, I figured out it was the jojoba oil. For you, it might be something else that is causing it. Different skin reacts differently with different things. The way I figured it out was by:
    1. I started using just baking soda for my shampoo so that there wouldn’t be any other ingredients getting on my face.
    2. I used the oil cleansing method to wash my face and then used the same oil to moisturize my skin and condition my hair.  I started with olive oil (too greasy) and used it for 2 weeks. Then to coconut oil (second favorite, light but actually too light for my skin but decent for my hair) used it for about a month but started to notice a few minor breakouts. Then I tried Jojoba oil and WHAM – tons of acne. Stopped that immediately. Tried almond oil (lovely, but felt my skin didn’t get as clean although felt very moisturized and definitely too greasy for my hair). Then used Argan (Moroccan) oil – my absolute favorite. Will get more into that on a different post.
  • Eliminated jojoba oil – Obviously once I discovered it was Jojoba oil that had been causing my breakouts got rid of all products with it in it. Turns out it was in a lot of my natural products like my kids’ shampoo that I would use occasionally  (California Baby), my sunscreen that I used on my face. Which by the way, both of those products I had started using AFTER we moved!
  • Address the hard water – We got a shower water filter  and that worked pretty well for awhile, except it was expensive to replace and our budget really is tight. SO figured out that if I protect my face from the water until the very end then it greatly reduced the acne. How do I do this? I put a homemade mask on my face before I get in the shower and the last thing I do is wash it off. It is gentle enough to use every day (like I really take a shower every day – I have kids!) but thick enough to keep my face from getting damaged from our hard water while I take a shower.
  • Repair the acid mantle – When I told my best friend what I was doing, she thought I was nuts… that is until my face cleared up. Every time I got out of the shower, I would take a thin slice of a lemon (you can keep using the same lemon for over a week) and rub it on my face. When I first started, my face stung light crazy. I started to worry that it wasn’t the right thing to do but then I realized that lemon juice doesn’t hurt my hand or elbows when I put it on, so it clearly is because the pH is off on my face. So I would combine the lemon juice with some water to dilute it. After a week, I started using it directly again. Within 2 weeks, my acne had all but disappeared! Now I only use it when I get a break out from hormonal reasons – still haven’t been able to stop those. But they’re very small now and only once a month. P.S. The monthly breakouts definitely are worse if I eat too much sugar.
  • Moisturize – This step is so incredibly important. I found the best solution for me was oil, in particular Argan Oil from Josie Maran. It is the perfect balance of moisturizing, nourishing without being greasy. They have a small size for $14 to try out. I HIGHLY recommend it (If you’re going to try it, you should sign up with eBates first and get some cash back)! For so many years, I’d strip the oil from my face and never put enough moisture back so then my pores would be on hyperdrive and produce even more oil. Oh how I wish I knew what I know now when I was a teenager!

If you’re struggling with acne, I really hope that you find out how to get rid of acne, too! Hopefully my journey and my tips will help you to have clear skin, too!

 

Posted in Beauty

Pumpkin Bread Pudding in the crock pot

20131213_115909Came across a recipe during Thanksgiving that I was really wanting to try. Last night was the night. My friend had given us a loaf of a very grainy bread. It was delicious, but realistically we wouldn’t use it for our sandwiches so instead of going to waste, decided to try out the recipe. However, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up at 2 am so I had to get it ready. I ended up combining a couple of recipes (as I usually do) and throwing in my own substitutions. However, I used the exact recipe for the sauce from Simon’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  In the end, this was what I ended up with recipe for breakfast pumpkin bread pudding…

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 (15 oz) can organic pureed pumpkin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup palm sugar
  • 8 slices bread

Instructions:

Combine coconut oil and butter and grease crock pot.  Whisk all remaining ingredients other than the bread.

Pour 1/3 of batter on bottom. Layer 4 slices of bread. Pour 1/3 of batter over bread slices. Layer 4 slices of bread. Pour remaining batter.

Cook on high for 3-4 hours, low 6-7

 

Pudding Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

Melt butter in pan. Whisk in flour until smooth. Add sugar (it will be very grainy at this point). Then add in water stirring until sugar dissolves. Add in vanilla.

Bring to a boil. Cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes.

Pour sauce over bread pudding & serve.

 

Enjoy!

Posted in Recipes

Homemade deodorant

This recipe for homemade deodorant is actually a very easy and surprisingly very effective. Both my husband and I use it and as you may or may not know, my husband works for a construction company and let’s face it, men can smell! This quick and simple formula works.

Ingredients:

  • Melted virgin coconut oil
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Tea tree oil

Directions:

You might be wondering why I didn’t put the amounts, that’s because it depends on whether you keep your deodorant in a cold or warm bathroom. Ours is very cold during the winter and very hot during the summer (we have an old window with slats that don’t actually close all the way). Therefore, the amounts vary a little bit.

Melt the coconut oil (if its summer, its probably already melted) I start with ¼ cup. Add about 4-10 drops of tea tree oil (or any other essential oil you prefer). Then stir in 3 tbsp baking soda and 3 tbsp cornstarch. If its winter time, you’ll want the concoction to be runny but not liquidy as it will harden once it gets cool. For summer time, you want it the same consistency as what you’ll use.

Take an empty deodorant container and pour it in if its winter or pack it in if its summer.

Then enjoy!

Posted in Beauty, Being Green, Health, Thriftiness

Super easy crispy fried onions

I have a really easy way of doing crispy fried onions. My father in law (who is a chef) watched in horror as I made them. All you need is an onion, some oil & a stove. Well, technically you also need a knife, something to get the onions out of the hot oil and some paper towels. When they were done he said he had his doubts and was surprised at how good they come out.  Have your doubts? Give them a try.

Ingredients:

  • onion, sliced
  • Frying oil

Directions:

Slice up your onion with your knife. Put enough frying oil (we really like sunflower in this house) in a pan so that your onions will be submerged.  Turn the stove on. When the oil is hot put your onions in. They will go from white to translucent to golden yellow to burnt so keep a close eye on them. It only takes about 2 minutes.

When ALL of the onions are a nice golden color, take them out using something appropriate like a stainless steel scooper and scoop them out onto a plate with paper towels. After a couple of moments, the onions will start to get nice and crispy.

Enjoy!

Posted in Personal, Recipes

Dairy Free Chocolate Coconut Haystacks Recipe

I love coconut. I love chocolate. What could be better than a dairy free chocolate coconut haystacks recipe? How about a no-bake recipe that only requires a microwave or hot plate? Yep, that’s right, this recipe is perfect for a dorm room.

I’ve done the chocolate and coconut and while its good, it always seems to be missing something. I’ve also tried some with condensed milk, but alas, I am lactose intolerant and those recipes just don’t make sense for me. And call me lazy, but I don’t feel the need to make my own chocolate when so many other companies do it sooooo well! Thus the recipes calling for 8+ ingredients of which 6 of them are to make the chocolate seem a bit overkill. So a yummy dairy free version was in order. Luckily, after a quick Google search I came across a really good recipe at http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/coconut-haystacks-10000001661177/

Taking some of the comments into consideration, this is what I did and these are the best chocolate coconut haystacks I’ve ever made:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz – semi sweet morsels
  • 3 graham crackers (whole, not half)
  • 1 packed cup of shredded coconut

Instructions:

Using my Mortar and Pestle, I ground up the three graham crackers into fine crumbs.

In 30 second increments, I melted the chocolate in the microwave, stirring in between. It took a total of 2 minutes in microwave.

I added the graham crackers & shredded coconut to the melted chocolate and mixed it up. Then plopped some haystacks on a tray and put them in the freezer to cool (couldn’t wait for the fridge). Took about 20 minutes for them to be ready.

 

Note: If you need to make this gluten free, just substitute a gluten free version or any sweet gluten free cookie. Or if you really wanted to get adventurous, you could make your own: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-graham-crackers/

Posted in Recipes

Raddish – Cooking with Kids

I was privileged to be part of a test group for a new product that will be coming out called Raddish. It was developed by Samantha Barnes of Kitchen Kids and her team.

Its along the lines of Kiwi Crate where you get a fun filled package every month. But Raddish focuses on the dinner table and eating healthy. It comes with really well designed recipe cards that show the ingredients and pictures of the steps. The package was designed by teachers so there is an education element to each package, too! Definitely a great thing if you’re an at home educator.

Sample monthly package

Check it out. They’re in the beginning phase right now and are raising money for their official launch. If you join now, you can get a discounted price through their Kickstarter campaign. They have a good informational video if you want to learn about it.

 

 

Posted in Miscellaneous