Thursday, June 30, 2011

Skin Care Giveaway from The Farmstead Apothecary!

Time for my first giveaway here at Domestic Reformation!  I really can't wait for you to try these products--they are simply the best skin care products I have used.  Jennifer at The Farmstead Apothecary is giving away a Lavender and Organic Evening Primrose Oil Moisturizer (my favorite!) and a Natural Lip Balm (your choice of scent).  Here's the description of her moisturizer:
Moisturize, hydrate and pamper your dry skin with this lovely face cream, one of our best sellers! 

Lavender is soothing for all skin types and has a wonderful, old fashioned, flowery-herbal aroma. The cold pressed, organic evening primrose oil adds a skin rejuvenating, anti-aging, healing quality to this amazing cream with it's high amounts of fatty acids. But, the best part is, of course, our goat's milk, full of skin softening lipids and exfoliating lactic acid.

This is a wonderful, light-weight moisturizer.  I've never been a big moisturizer fan because my skin tends to be oily and everything always felt so heavy on my face, but this cream is great.  Plus, it smells lovely!  My skin care routine now includes just washing my face with one of her goats' milk soaps and applying the moisturizer.  So simple, and it works.  I can't say enough good things about her products--I have loved everything I have tried.  I  routinely use her shampoo, bar soap, body lotion, and am about to try her Sun Drench Body Butter. Check out her shop on etsy for all her wonderful products!

Now for the giveaway's how to enter.  Please leave a comment to this post for each entry so I can keep track of how many entries you have!  The winner will be randomly selected on Tuesday, August 16.

1.  Mandatory entry: follow my blog and leave a comment telling me you're following.
2.  Become a fan of The Farmstead Apothecary on facebook: The Farmstead Apothecary
3.  Share this giveaway on facebook.
4.  Share this giveaway on your own blog (worth 2 entries!)
5.  Follow Jennifer's blog at
6.  Make a purchase from The Farmstead Apothecary on etsy (4 entries!)

Don't forget to leave a comment for each separate entry.  Otherwise it's going to be really hard to track how many entries you have!

*Disclaimer: I am not getting paid in any way for this review or giveaway, and the opinions expressed are completely my own.  I think for some kind of legal reason I have to tell you that.  Also, sorry mom, but the giveaway is not open to my immediate family.  But I'll gladly share my moisturizer with you if you ever want some:)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moving In...

It's finally here...move-in date is set for Saturday!  I probably won't be blogging much this week, but I really thought I should at least get some pics up of the house before (and in the midst of) the moving-in chaos.  Everything has been turning out really nice--very pleased!

My thrifty kitchen: purchased stove, fridge, washer and dryer on craigslist for $600 for the set!  And see that lovely, HUGE sink?  I found that at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $ excited about that one!  Plywood makes cheap, natural-looking countertops.  Just kidding!  These are just temporary until we embark on our concrete countertop project.

Before the chaos.

Mild chaos.  That's my kitchen right there in those crates and boxes.

My bedroom.

My spiffy, shiny bathroom, thanks to the help of my Mom and Aunt who cleaned it up for us last week!  Still looking for the perfect mirror.

Boys' empty bedroom...

The car bed!  Boy #3 has been SO excited to sleep in this again!  And our beautiful bunk bed Dan built that probably won't fit in the bedroom. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

30 Day Weight Loss Challenge

I've had enough.  Enough of looking in the mirror and saying, "That's not my body".  Enough squeezing into jeans that barely fit because I refuse to buy new bigger ones.  And most importantly, enough filling my stomach with empty calories (at best) and harmful junk "food" at worst.  After boy #4 was born, I did pretty well losing the baby weight at first.  I managed to get down to somewhere around 147 lbs. just with the help of nursing, and I was good with that.  Keeping a few extra pounds on while nursing is a good thing.  Then he started weaning himself sooner than I expected, and by the time boy #4 was 11 months he was pretty much done nursing altogether.  And guess what...from about March until now, my weight steadily climbed up to 155 with no sign of slowing, putting me into the "overweight" category for my height.  It's time to do something.  My goal is to drop 10 pounds in the next 30 days.

In general, I believe in moderation.  A bowl of ice cream now and then isn't going to kill me.  Snacking on chips and salsa isn't all that bad.  But when it's a BIG bowl every night plus a whole bunch of chips and salsa right before bed...that's just getting out of control.  And one thing I've discovered since having kids is that, for whatever reason, I no longer have much self control when it comes to food.  I can't do moderation.  To really see any change I have to do something drastic.

Now, don't go and get nervous for me.  I'm not going to starve myself or anything (I'll show you what I ate for breakfast in a minute!)  My "diet" goes something like this:

1.  Aim for 1500-1600 calories a day
2.  Cut out pretty much all refined/added sugar
3.  Avoid excess carbs.  I know from experience that I have more lasting energy and feel much better when I get most of my calories from proteins and "good" fats, with a hearty dose of veggies to fill me up.
4.  Record what I eat in an online food diary, at least until things are a little more under control.  Having to write down every last thing makes me think twice!

I also plan on exercising daily.  I've been using The Biggest Loser: The Workout - Boot Camp (already on level 2!), plus doing pilates and fitness ball exercises for my abs and core.

I'll also be keeping you up to date once a week on my "stats".  I'm just as excited to see how these numbers change as my weight!  Here's my starting point:
Weight: 155
Waist: 31"
Hips: 42"
Thigh: 25"
Upper Arm: 12"

Anyone care to join me?  My total weight loss goal is 20 pounds, but I'm going to focus on tackling the first 10 right now.  If you want to make a similar decision, please leave me a comment and tell me your goals!  I'd love to have some extra help and support!  Also, here are a couple links you may find useful:

Online food diary/calorie counter
Free Nutrition Type Quiz --very informative, and was really accurate for me.

And, as promised, here's what I ate for breakfast!  I can't really take credit for the idea...I saw it on Food Network a few days ago.  And, by my calculations, it's only about 250 calories a serving!

"Deconstructed" Sweet Potato Hash
Serves 2

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1 T. butter
2 eggs

Melt 1/2 T. butter n a small frying pan, then arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer. Cover with water and bring to a simmer.  Cook gently until water has all evaporated and test doneness (about 20-30 minutes).  Near the end of the cooking time, sprinkle with tarragon.  If necessary, add a little extra water if they need a little more time. Remove to serving plates.

Meanwhile in a separate pan, heat remaining 1/2 T. butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook slowly over medium heat while sweet potatoes cook.  Put on plate at the same time as potatoes.

Fry two eggs using whatever method you like and add one to each plate.  Season it all to taste and enjoy!

I like my eggs over medium.  Yum!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Permaculture Strawberry Rescue!

Well, sort of.  You remember when I said I was so excited about planting all my little strawberry plants a while back?  I must have been crazy.  I just went and tilled up (ok, husband tilled up...) two long rows in the field north of our house and stuck them in the ground.  Now, since we haven't even been living there yet to tend to them, the beds look like this:

Do you seen any strawberries in there?  No?  They're there...somewhere.  Seriously, you think I would learn. Every spring I get planting fever, start tossing things in the ground and reap serious consequences later!  

I've been picking up lots of interesting tidbits from a book I'm reading right now called Earth User's Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow.  I was particularly interested in the concept of sheet mulching to start a new bed.  Oh, how I wish I had read this two months ago!  The basic concept is like this: 1.  Mow grass.  2.  Cover with cardboard.  3.  Layer mulch, composted manure, etc.  Since it was too late for me to do the whole process with my strawberry beds, I did my best with what I had to improve the situation!  First, I pulled out the weeds between the strawberry plants.  Then I cut cardboard squares basically to fit the shape between plants (and we have LOTS of cardboard to work with from the boxes all our new kitchen cabinets came in!)  Then I covered the spaces between the strawberry plants with a mixture of hay, pine needles, leaves and grass clippings that I had sitting next to the patch.  It wasn't completely composted yet, but it'll have to do for now.  Then I soaked the whole thing down with water.  Later when I get my hands on some manure (not literally...) I'll top it off with that too. So now, the portion of the bed I worked on looks like this:
not perfect, but a huge improvement!  This is only about 1/4 of the whole thing.  I'll keep plugging away at the rest!
 I don't agree with the entire philosophy behind permaculture.  The whole thing takes a pretty alarmist view of the depletion of the earth's resources, especially water and fuel.  To be honest I think we've been fed a pretty big line from left-wing environmentalist groups (perhaps more on that another time...) and I certainly don't agree with the "redistribution" of "resources" recommended in this particular book.  This ultimately leads to the end of our rights to personal property.  But...there are some really great ideas in this book!  I love the concept of only using what you have on your property for your projects, and aiming at producing no waste.  I love the feeling of freedom from having to run to Home Depot or a garden store every time I want to start a garden project.  Chances are, I have everything I need already!  It just might take some creativity.  And maybe a little extra elbow grease:)  

And since we're all about making our homes and lives beautiful...why not look cute while digging in the dirt?  This cargo skirt is the best thing ever.  In my pockets I had my phone, keys, box cutter, and sunglasses with room to spare.  And who says you can't wear an awesome necklace in the garden?  I bought this in December to wear to my husband's company Christmas party and decided to pull it out again today.  Happy digging, everyone.
Photo courtesy of boy #2.  Not too bad, huh?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Books and Music!

Sorry (once again!) for my absence from blogging this week!  I had a good excuse this time--our power was out for almost 2 days.  As much of a hassle it is to be without power, it does have its little perks.  Like it's really quiet!  You don't realize how much noise all those appliances make until they're not on.  And without the TV, computer, movies, etc, I was forced to get to some books I've been working on!

We seem to have caught Paul Revere Fever around here.  Usually in the summer I gravitate toward reading patriotic books to the kids.  Memorial Day and Independence Day just seem to put us in the mood, so a few weeks ago I picked out Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson.  It's a fun, fast-paced (albeit largely fictitious) retelling of the events leading up to Revere's famous ride, told from the perspective of his loyal horse, Sherry.  And there are few authors that can move the reader to action through the words of a horse, but Lawson can pull it off:
"Mr. Revere was quite right when he said that my riding days were over.  Never since that day has he sat a horse.  He did, however, procure a beautiful little light trap which, on a fine day, he occasionally drives me in to Boston.  Despite my slight limp and the two scars which faintly mar my coat I think I can safely say that there are few turnouts in the city equal to ours in dash and elegance.
Sometimes on these occasions I am amused to think of the old hard days when we galloped over those very cobbles at breakneck speed, in rain, snow, sleet, biting cold or blazing heat.  They were hard, rough days, and nights, but never, either then or now, have I once regretted that day when I declared my independence and cast in my lot with the champions of Liberty and Freedom."
I highly recommend any of Lawson's books for children!  We have read Mr. Revere and I, Ben and Me, Rabbit Hill, and They Were Strong and Good.

Of course, I couldn't just quit with a book for the kids, so I checked out Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes.  I am just getting started with it, but the first few pages were hard to put down!  Here's the first paragraph:
"There had been week upon week of the cold grey fury of the North Atlantic, for it was midwinter when the little refugee, Apollos Riviore, made its crossing.  At such a season only the hardiest of passengers ventured much above deck.  Bunks were dank, bread wormy, beef tainted, and the many of these small sailing ships never made port, but at least the Atlantic was crossed in great company.  God brooded upon the face of these waters.  His hand parted the mountainous waves.  He upheld the ship.  Even if one drowned, it was by the Providence of God.  Apollos did not drown.  He entered Massachusetts Bay either late in 1715 or early in 1716."
Finally...I'm at this very moment giving my first listen to Caedmon's Call's latest album, Raising the Dead.  I started listening to them almost 15 years ago and they have "been with me" through so many major life decisions: high school graduation, college, wedding, births of naturally I eagerly look forward to every new album they release.  So far I'm really liking what I'm hearing on this one.  I plan on doing a full review of the album after I let is soak in and simmer for a little while!

Here's an excerpt from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, "Paul Revere's Ride", just to wrap it all up!

"So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fun (Cheap!) Custom Wall Art Tutorial

Somewhere in between painting a whole house and trying to finish up the school year, I got this idea for some fun wall art for our new house.  And when the inspiration strikes, sometimes you just gotta go with it.  So after a couple runs to Joann's, Walmart, and several late nights, I've managed to complete the project!  The basic idea was for some kind of large-ish wall art display to go behind our couch in the new living room.  I wanted it to be something displaying the kids, but not come off looking like the "shrine of boys".  I love the retro look of silhouette portraits, but wanted something a little more casual and fun, so I came up with the idea of using a picture of the "whole" kid (not just head and shoulders) and mix-and-matching some colorful papers.  Here is the super cute end result:
notice my big toe...proof that I have indeed been painting!
The best thing about this project is that it hardly costs anything more than the cost of the frames, especially if you're into scrapbooking or papercrafting and already have some cardstock on hand.  It's really simple's how!

1.  Take a picture of your child standing more or less directly facing you.  Take a bunch of shots of them doing different poses, jumping, etc.  It's sort of nice actually taking their picture without having to make sure they're smiling nice or their clothes aren't dirty!  All you're looking for is a good profile.  Make sure you can see both arms and don't want them looking like an amputee in the silhouette:)

2.  Load your pics on your computer and choose your favorite pose.  Copy and paste it into a Word document and adjust the size until the figure (not the whole picture) is about 5"x7".  Then I adjusted the contrast of the photo just a little higher so it would be easier to see a nice crisp edge to cut along.  Print the photo (black and white is fine) onto cardstock.

3.  Carefully cut out the figure, making sure not to cut off any cute little details like a little bit of hair sticking up (see below).  I used regular scissors for this, but an exacto knife sure would have been a brilliant idea.

4.  Select your coordinating cardstocks.  Try to choose patterns that aren't too busy, so the silhouettes stand out clearly against the background.  I used several designs from the "Tahiti Beach" Stack from Joann's.  Originally I was going to use more "traditional" patterns, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find papers that aren't totally feminine!  I loved lots of them, but just didn't feel right mounting my tough little guys on pick florals.  And deep down I think I'm part beach bum at heart.  After all, when I was 4 I said I wanted to be a surfer when I grew up.  Try as I might to stick with timeless, traditional home decor, I just can't do it.  I always seem to gravitate back to more modern, colorful stuff...

5.  Put a few pieces of scotch tape on the back of your printed picture and tape it onto the back of the cardstock.  Carefully trace around it--I found a mechanical pencil worked great here!  Remove your printed image and carefully cut out your figure (once again, a "real" crafter would have used an exacto knife...)

6.  Trim your background sheet of cardstock to 8"x10" with a large paper cutter.

7.  Stick double-sided foam tape on the trunk and appendages of your figure.  I opted for foam tape to give it a little pop from the background.  

8.  Stick your silhouette on your background and toss it in the frame of your choice and...voila!  Artsy fun for your living room, kids' rooms, or wherever!  These frames are 11"x14" with an 8"x10" matted opening, for $13.96 at WalMart.

Please let me know if you try this or some variation of it...I'd love to see pictures of your ideas!  And once we move in I'll show you how they look on the wall, too!

And a little's some music suggestions to accompany this particular crafting project:)

Have fun!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Where Have I Been?

Not blogging much, obviously!  These last two weeks have been pretty crazy...mostly in a good way.  A lot has happened, so let me just bring things up to speed.  In the last two weeks I:

1.Sprained my ankle.
2. Attended the INCH (homeschool) Convention.
3. Bought most of our curriculum for next year.
4. Learned about Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Augustus Caesar.
5. Made strawberry rhubarb crisp.
6. Did not weed the strawberry patch as intended.
7. Chose paint colors for the whole house.
8. Learned to conjugate the verb to love in Latin (amo, amas, amat...)
9. Sewed 10 fitted cloth diapers for my best childhood friend...oops, my friend's baby, I mean!  haha...
10. Primed and painted the kitchen with my dad.
11. Gave a tour of our property as a potential movie filming location.
12. Dropped the ball on the healthy diet.  see below
13. Celebrated my birthday.  (the big ol' 31, as the kids would say!)


Here's a little sneak peak at our kitchen...almost done!  This is the paint color:

Watch for more coming soon...the house is really starting to come together!  Also hopefully in the near future...a tutorial for personal handmade wall art (I've got some ideas brewing that require a trip to Joann's) and some fast-paced house progress.  Thanks for reading!