Monday, September 30, 2013

Spinach Smoothies or How I Lost 5 Pounds without Trying

I saw my cousin a few months ago, and she looked fantastic!  Her skin was glowing, and she looked lean and fit.  When we talked about exercise routines and diet, she revealed her secret-Every morning she drinks a spinach smoothie.  I had my doubts and was worried that because there was no protein in the meal, I'd be hungry.  She assured me that the chia seeds would keep me full.

I gave it a try and lost five pounds in the last month without any other changes!  Now it's part of my routine, and I miss my smoothie when I can't have one.  Here's how you make them.

the ingredients

The ice, spinach and almond milk

Push the spinach to the bottom of the blender

Add the banana

After pouring into the glass, add the chia seed and stir

Spinach Smoothie

3 oz. spinach
1/2 C. unsweetened almond milk (coconut milk or coconut water can be used)
3 ice cubes
1/2 banana
1 Tbsp. chia seeds

Place the ice cubes in a blender, and top with spinach.  Add almond milk and blend.  You may have to stop the blender, wait for the blade to stop rotating, push the spinach down into the bottom of the blender with the stick of a wooden spoon, cover and repeat a few times.  When the mixture is almost blended, add the banana and blend.  When smooth, pour into a glass.  Add the chia seeds, then stir.

Other fruits and vegetable can be substituted in place of the banana and spinach

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Ender's Game

  Ender's Game
  Orson Scott Card

When I saw a preview for Ender’s Game, starring Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley, I knew I had to read the book before seeing the movie.  Also, my son read it a few years ago and spoke highly of it; I had been meaning to read it for quite a while.  Because Ender’s Game has won both the Hugo and the Nebula science fiction awards, I had pretty high expectations.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Seventy years after the last alien attack, children are being bred to be the general of the human armed forces.  Andrew “Ender” Wiggin has a sadistic older brother and kindhearted older sister who didn’t qualify for special military training.  At the age of 5, Ender appears to have the right mix of his siblings’ qualities and is removed from his family to attend military boarding school.  Isolated from the other children by his teachers, Ender is a gifted soldier and strategist who soon becomes a leader in the zero gravity mock battles.  Will Ender survive military school and if he does, will he retain his humanity?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Front Door Threshold

Because our front door threshold gets the afternoon sun, it was faded and old looking.  Here's how I made it pretty again:


Before (close up)


The materials: Sandpaper, painter's tape, stain, polyurethane
and two paint brushes

After sanding the threshold to break the finish, wipe the threshold
with a damp rag and then a dry one

Place painter's tape on both sides of the threshold, then apply stain
using a paint brush. 

Use a rag or paper towel to remove the excess stain (follow the instructions
on the stain can).  I applied and wiped off one coat, allowed it to dry and
wasn't thrilled with the color (I wanted it to be darker), so I applied and
wiped off another coat.

After the stain dried overnight, I applied a coat of polyurethane
using the second paintbrush and let it completely dry.

Looking new again!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Star Finds: L'Occitane Masque Éclat

When I started coloring my hair, I wasn’t happy with its texture-it just wasn’t as smooth and seemed to absorb more water than usual.  Since I’m not ready to go au naturel, I had to find a solution.  This mask by L’Occitane fixed the problem-I apply it about once a week after shampooing, leave it on for 5-10 minutes, and rinse it off.  It softens my hair and makes it smell so-o-o good.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Style at Any Price

Old Navy sweater, AG Stevie ankle jeans, Vince Nina flats
Ray Ban aviatorsRebecca Minkoff clutch

I've always said that great style can be found at all price points.  This owl sweater is from Old Navy, and it retails for $32.94.  When I bought it, it was 30% off, so I paid around $20 for it (At this writing, it's on sale for $24.00).  It's also made out of cotton, so it breathes and launders well.  The animal print is cute and on trend - How can you go wrong?

Love this Vince d'Orsay flats!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Movie Review: Short Term 12

Short Term 12
Rated R

Grace (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) work together at a facility for at-risk teens and are happily cruising through life.  Two unexpected events, along with a troubled, yet artistically talented teen (Kaitlyn Dever from Last Man Standing) throw Grace’s life into a tailspin.

The best word to describe Short Term 12 is INTENSE.  Though I thought it was well done and liked it a lot, I was worn out by the time the movie ended.  See this movie to find out if Grace will overcome the demons of her past or will sink farther into the abyss.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Mom's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I've eaten this coffee cake pretty much my entire life.  It was one of my dad's favorites, so it was my mom's "go-to" dessert.  My mom adds walnuts to the cinnamon, brown sugar and sugar topping, which is odd since she doesn't like walnuts.  I didn't like them until a few years ago, so I've never added them to my coffee cake.  Now that I do like walnuts, I still don't add them since this is the coffee cake I'm used to eating.  

the ingredients
Prepare the topping
Sift together the dry ingredients

Add the sour cream, eggs and vanilla to the creamed butter and sugar

Ready for the oven


Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1 C. butter
1-1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Prepare the topping by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla.  Add dry mixture.  Pour half of batter into a tube pan or 12” x 8” pan.  Sprinkle with half of topping mixture.  Pour remaining batter into pan and sprinkle with the rest of the topping.  Bake for 1 hour in an ungreased tube pan or 45 minutes in a 12” x 8” pan.

2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 C. walnuts, chopped (optional)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: The Tao of Martha

The Tao of Martha
Jen Lancaster

In The Tao of Martha, memoirist Jen Lancaster documents her year of living a Martha Stewart-inspired life.  A self described Martha fan, Lancaster emulated the life-style guru by throwing elaborate themed parties, planting a rose garden, caring for her many pets and organizing her Drawer of Shame.   Lancaster’s sarcastic, dry sense of humor is evident as she describes her adventures.  But will her year of modeling Martha bring her happiness?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Issa London for Banana Republic

This year, Banana Republic featured collaborations with designer labels Milly and Issa London - both collections are brilliant!  Issa London surfaced on most Americans' radar screens when the Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) wore an Issa London dress for her engagement announcement.  A lower priced replica was issued for the Banana Republic Issa Collection.

I've already gotten a lot of use from this zebra print kimono dress - it's flattering and versatile.  It can be worn with closed toed pumps for work, high heeled sandals for a night out and flats (love these suede D'Orsay flats) for daytime.

Banana Republic Issa Collection dress, Ray Ban sunglasses,
Majorca Pearl necklace, Prada handbag, Vince Nina flats

Monday, September 9, 2013

Four Star Finds: Make a Polar Fleece Blanket

One of my son's birthday gifts was this homemade polar fleece blanket.  A few years ago, I made him a navy blanket, but when I saw this polar fleece fabric with his university's logo, I knew it was time to make him a new blanket.  He loves it!

Because Sean likes big blankets, I bought 3 yards of each fabric, but for most
blankets, 2 yards each is sufficient.  Aside from the polar fleece, all you need
is a sharp pair of scissors and/or an x-acto knife and metal ruler.
Line up the blankets on top of each other (right sides facing outward) and
trim the edges using an x-acto knife and ruler or a pair of sharp scissors
After cutting 3-inch squares out of all four corners (both layers of fabric),
cut 3-inch slits about 1-inch apart along all four sides of the blanket.

Tie square knots using each set of flaps.
The finished product!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Movie Reviews: "Austenland" and "Blue Jasmine"

Rated PG-13

Jane (Keri Russell) is a die-hard Jane Austen fan who spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, an English resort where guests live out their Jane Austen-related fantasies.  The guests dress in period clothing and participate in activities appropriate to the time while searching for romantic love.  Will Jane become disillusioned and return to the real world or find her own Mr. Darcy?

Blue Jasmine
Rated PG-13

Cate Blanchett gives a brilliant performance as Jasmine, a New York socialite who moves in with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after her privileged life collapses.  Told in real time and in a series of flashbacks, the movie showcases Jasmine's mental health descent.  Is she an unwitting victim or responsible for her own fall from grace?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ceiling Fan Refresh

For years, Sean had a beach-themed bedroom.  Earlier this year, we bought him "grown up" furniture and painted the walls and ceiling grey.  This change made his bedroom look like a "man cave" rather than a kid's bedroom.  It took me a while to refresh the ceiling fan, which had surfboard inspired blades and looked completely out-of-place.  We're very happy with the result, and now I wonder why I procrastinated on this project since it only took a few hours to vastly improve Sean's bedroom.



After removing the blades from the ceiling fan, lightly sand them to
"break the finish."  Wipe the blades with a damp paper towel to
  remove all sawdust and dry thoroughly.
In this picture, the top blade has been sanded.

Spray the blades with light coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry
thoroughly before applying the next coat.  For this project, I used three
coats of paint.  Reinstall the blades when completely dry.