A Wonder Indeed

This past weekend we took a day trip to the Grand Canyon.  It is a great time of year to visit – weather was beautiful, low crowds and free entry into the park over President’s Day weekend (find out here when the fee free days are scheduled this year).  It was D’s first trip and certainly won’t be the last.  She, too, can appreciate the beauty of this world wonder.

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Filed under Outdoors, Travels

Handmade Valentine’s Soap

_DSC3629I had no idea how easy it is to make homemade soap until I read a great post over at Gluesticks. I decided to give it a go and make heart shaped soaps for my daughter’s pre-K class Valentine’s party.  The most difficult part for me was choosing the fragrance because it had to work for the young noses of both boys and girls.  After all, I was going against the lollipop grain and having her give out hand soap…yep, I’m that mom.

After some serious sniff-testing, my daughter and I went with the orange and jasmine fragrances.  One of my favorite smells here in Arizona is the orange blossom tree in the spring time – clean, sweet and pure heaven – so that was our inspiration for this project.

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The first batch we made included the two fragrances, poppy seeds for an exfoliant and orange rind for an extra natural scent.  However, I thought it was a little much for 4-year-olds so we wrapped them up and gave those to her teachers and took it down a notch for the kiddos.  The girls received the orange jasmine soap with pink soap colorant swirled on one side with a tooth pick and the boys received the same but with green colorant.  The soaps were packaged in Valentine’s bags with a tag that says (idea came from here):

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Hands
kind hand
helping hands
CLEAN HANDS
caring hands
working hands
sharing hands
giving hands

As a reference, we made 23 bars of soaps total.  Here’s what you need for that quantity:

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Soap Base

You can find 2 lb. blocks of melt and pour soap base at craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. There are several types to choose from. For this project I used 4 lbs. of goat’s milk glycerine soap base.
Scents
Jasmine and Orange essential oils. I purchased the Jasmine oil at Sprouts and the Orange oil at Michael’s.
Coloring
As stated above, I used pink and green soap colorant and swirled it into the soap immediately after it was poured into the mold (note: soap begins to harden quickly once poured).
Add-Ins
The zest of 1 orange and 1 Tbsp poppy seeds for the teacher soaps (made 5 soaps total)

Supplies
Soap mold
I purchased my silicon mold on Amazon for $6.50, but you can find them at craft stores as well. Silicon molds are the easiest to use as the soaps just pop right out without any non-stick spray.
Glass measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Small spatula or large popsicle sticks
Baking Sheet

Cut your soap base into small cubes. I worked with 1 lb. at the time (half the block). Fill a glass measuring cup and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until completely melted.  As a reference, 1 lb. of base filled 6 heart cups about 1/2-3/4 way full.
Add your scent a few drops at a time until your reach the desired potency.
Add your coloring and any add-ins.
Place soap mold on a baking sheet for easy transporting.
Pour soap into molds. Once you’ve poured your soap there may be some air bubbles – lightly spray with rubbing alcohol to remove them.
Let stand for 1 hour until completely set.   Carefully pop out of the mold.
Happy hand washing!

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Filed under Creations

A Stand Up Revolution

I work a 40 hour work week that consists mostly of sitting at a desk.  When I start on certain projects that require focus, I can sit for hours without even realizing my bottom and legs – not to mention my back – have been crying out for a little break.  It’s usually not until I hit a stopping point that I feel the stiff soreness throughout my body.

I’ve read many articles on the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle – you can find a whole host of great articles here – and while I’m far from sedentary at home, I knew I also needed to change the way I work.  Thankfully, I have a boss who values health and well-being, so I presented to her a simple, inexpensive solution to get me up off my chair – the Varidesk! After two weeks of continuous use, I am in LOVE with this desk.  There are days I sit only for 40 mins tops (in an 8 hour work day) and there are days I sit longer (darn boots!), but now I can sit and *mostly* stand at my leisure.

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These desks require absolutely no assembly – you just pull it out of the box, set it on your existing desk and, voila, you’re in business.  I have the Single model now and could use a little extra space on the side for paperwork, so I’m giving mine to another co-worker and upgrading to the Pro Plus.

Here are the results have I recorded over the past two weeks of using this desk:

  • More energy. After standing throughout the day, I still have plenty of energy to go for a walk after work.
  • Weight loss. They say you burn more calories standing – duh – I’ve lost 2.5 lbs in two weeks.
  • Shoulder and back stiffness is gone.  My legs got a little stiff at the beginning, but I use my standing time to also do minor stretches, calf raises and squats – one less thing to do when I get home.

I joke that I should be paid commission from Varidesk now because in the two weeks I’ve had mine, I’ve ordered 10 more for fellow co-workers in various departments.  It’s great to see people standing up for their health (pun intended) and making a change.  Join us!

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Filed under Favorite Things

The Gift of Juicing

For my birthday a few months ago, my husband bought me the juicer I’ve had my eye on for a while. My interest in juicing started when one of the chefs at my work brought in some “green” juices for all of us to try.  They were delicious – carrying  the distinct earthly flavor of kale, spinach and celery, combined with the sweetness of apple, the fresh taste of cucumber, the bite of lemon and finally topped with the spice of ginger.  It was a healthy afternoon “snack” that left me seeing more regular juicing in my future.  Of course, in my mind’s eye I saw a fridge full of healthy greens and fruits and mornings slurping down healthy concoctions instead of my regular caffeinated beverages.  In reality, I’m getting there…slowly.  In reality, it takes A LOT of fruits and veggies to make a 16 oz juice.  In reality, sometimes I just prefer a warm, caffeinated cup of chai tea to welcome a cold winter morning.  But, in reality, I love my juicer and I love experimenting with different flavors I would have never thought to combine otherwise.

To accompany my new appliance, I bought The Juicing Bible which contains everything from juicing recipes, to herbal and tea remedies.  It’s not only a great recipe book, it’s a great introduction to nutrition and overall well-being.  Two of my favorite recipes so far are the Green Drink (as noted above) and the Orange Zinger:

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GREEN DRINK (earthy in flavor)

5-6 full leaves of kale (stems completely removed as this juicer does not do well with tough stems)
Handful of spinach
2 apples (I like gala or fuji)
2 celery stalks
1 cucumber
1 lemon (rind removed)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (unpeeled)

ORANGE ZINER (sweet in flavor)

2 oranges (rind removed)
3 large carrots (unpeeled)
1 apple
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (unpeeled)

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Filed under Recipes

Simply Dance

As a full-time working mother, my life already has a general complexity to it.  Being a ‘good’ mother, i.e. present and involved, adds to that complexity.  No, I’m not complaining, but rather getting to the point that my personal mission (hence the blog) is to keep the simplicity in my life as much as possible.  I’ve embraced the word ‘no’ when it comes to over-scheduling our already short family time.  I figure the days of running off with friends and extracurricular activities are ahead of us, but for now, I just want to enjoy our family dinners, after work walks and general togetherness.  The words “time has gone too fast” are bound to come out of my mouth at some point, but they won’t be without a valid effort to make the most of that time.

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Leaving for her second class, donning Gigi’s handmade tutu

One way I like to keep things simple is by involving D in only one activity at a time. She loves to dance, so we recently signed her up for a ballet/tap combo class.  It’s one hour every week where she gets to dress up, learn new skills and do what she enjoys.  She takes the class and the instruction very seriously and I love that, apart from preschool, it’s her only focus.  It keeps her life simple and leaves room for the spontaneous fun this family so requires.

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First class – barre work

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First class – barre work

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Freestyling at home

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How do you bring simplicity to your family life?

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Filed under Family, Weekending

Desert Snow

Snow is almost an oxymoron here in the desert, but on those rare days when the temperatures and precipitation align just right to do that wonderful snow dance, it’s absolutely beautiful.  To wake up to our surrounding mountains and prickly cacti dusted in snow on New Year’s Day, it certainly required a little exploration with the camera.  I’d also add the snow here is the perfect mix of fluffy, compact, dry and, dare I say, edible??  Snow cone machines have nothing on this natural mixture.

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Spur Cross Ranch

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Spur Cross Ranch

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Spur Cross Ranch

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Desert Mountain – The Ranch

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Desert Mountain – Chiricahua Golf Course

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Filed under Weekending

A Fairy Garden

I’ve been excited to share with you the latest project T has been working on, and just recently finished, for a little 4 year old and her creative imagination.  The project was inspired by my mother-in-law who created the first oasis in her back garden to attract not only the mystical creatures, but the imaginations of her two granddaughters.

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It was hit with both girls and an opportunity for T to put his inherited creativity to work.  And so the concepting and multiple visits to Lowe’s and Home Depot ensued.  Using existing materials such as terra cotta pots and PVC pipes, T fashioned a beautiful garden with a fancy water feature.

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My mother-in-law is convinced we are conspiring to relocate some of the fairies, but in truth, it wouldn’t be the awesome garden it is without her handcrafted fairy furniture, stones, mirrors, plants, “pixie dust” and overall amazing idea.

D goes out every morning to see if the fairies visited overnight – the only evidence being pixie dust and rearranged furniture.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s fun for everyone in this house to see what the morning will bring.

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Filed under Creations, Home