Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tasty Tuesday -- Guest Post, Melaine from Chitownstarconnections

This addition of Tasty Tuesday is being presented to you from another blog friend of mine, Melanie. She is doing a twist on my normal Tasty Tuesday post, but I think you will like the change of pace. Please welcome Melanie!

Hi! This is Melanie Christy of Chitownstarconnections. I am honored to submit to Cindy’s blog this week. I pondered what I would submit. Food?  But looking through my stuff, I found the perfect submission. Recently I had been sent a book that follows what Cindy’s blog represents.  It was humorous, yet also touching. If you are one of the millions who are disciples of the lifestyle gurus, this is your book.
Jen Lancaster is a local author who has made good. Her style reminds me a lot of the late Erma Bombeck , but with a touch of style for the milennium.  Previously, she has told of her life in Chicago and her move to the burbs. I am given a lot of books to read, some really touch me and others just seem they are no more than hard luck testimonies.  These authors just feel the need to tell their sob stories.   The Tao of Martha is a witty tale of a suburban woman who pledges a year of her life to the high deity- Martha Stewart.  But just as everything didn’t go well for Ms Stewart , the same goes for Jen. 
Readers will laugh hysterically at her holiday disasters. Not since Mary Richards parties on the MTM show, has a hostess failed this much. Halloweeners who wont come to the door and a Fourth of July party where both hosts get soused.  Just because some people try to follow directions , doesn’t necessarily mean that the project will turn out like the picture in the book.   This is the way that a kitchen works and this is the way that life works. 
But don’t be fooled that Jen’s book is all fun and games.  There is some serious stuff going on here too.  As a middle aged woman, Jen confronts her discovery of a lump in her breast.  She discusses her thoughts about cancer with wit and contempt.  My favorite part of the book is the love story between Jen and her best friends.  It will tear your heart out when she finally has to deal with the death of her dog , Maisy.  Animal lovers will find this part of the book touching as well. 
Whether she is crying over the death of her beloved Maisy, trying to understand her husband, or singing the praises of the glories of zucchini, Jen brings a little humor to your summer.  She is today’s every woman.  She laughs at things that others may not. 
A bit about me: Melanie Ferguson Christy moved to Chicago six years ago. Although she has appeared in several feature films and television series, she is now more known as the CEO and Editor of ChitownstarConnections.  Her blog covers the high profile events of the Windy City and features fun celebrity interviews. 

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Guest Post -- Part 2 DIY Wall Art

In part one of this DIY wall art mini-series, we learned how to find great photos (FOR FREE) on flickr and download them onto our computers. Need a refresher? Click here!

On to part two of this schnazzy little tutorial: Printing & Framing


1. If you are going for a standard size, say 8x10, you can order your print from any of the standard choices (Shutterfly, CVS, etc.). If you want to get a little fancy, go for a matte finish for a slightly different, more artsy look. 

2. I decided to get all complicated and downloaded square photos so I needed square prints. If your photo is not a square but you would like it to be, order an 8x10 and trim it down to an 8x8. If your photo IS in fact a square you have a few different options. 

  • Shutterfly Scrapbook Page- It sounds super fancy but really it is just a square print. Click on this link and choose "Print Your Digital Scrapbook." Basically it gives you a blank "scrapbook page." Just plug your photo in and you are in biz. This will run you $3.49. (They also have a 12x12 option which is $6.99). This is where I ordered my prints from and I was very pleased with the quality. Highly recommend!
  • RitzPix- I have not ordered from them so I can not attest to their quality but they do offer 5x5 square prints as well as a larger variety of scrapbook page sizes.
  • You can order 4x4 photos from your phone using a slick little app called PostalPix (app love!). 4x4 prints start around 30 cents.

3. NOTE: Before ordering, make sure you have your frames picked out! Frames for square prints are getting more popular but can still be a little tricky to find. 

Which brings us to a couple of tips on...


1. Download the Michaels app or grab a coupon from your craft store's flyer if you are not a super-appy person. Because we have a Michaels nearby I have been known to make a trip to Michaels to buy one frame (if I am going that way anyway) and make another trip another day with another coupon. Sometimes those coupons are so good they are worth it! This is where I found the frames you saw in the first part of this mini-series.

2. I have found classic plain black frames at the DOLLAR STORE. Yup! The quality wasn't fabulous but for $1 they will do. Great for the kiddos' rooms or a play room.

Once your prints arrive, slap those babies in their frames and get them up on the wall and TADA... you just DIY'd yourself some wall art. They make FABulous gifts, too! Enjoy! XO

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tasty Tuesday! Guest Post- Busy Mom's Helper

Hey, ya'all! I'm Danielle from over at Busy Mom's Helper, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be here with you today!!! I want to share with you one of my favorite pasta recipes. Now, funny back-story: growing up, I never tried Margherita anything (pizza, pasta, etc.) because I assumed it had alcohol in it. Ya, I know, pretty naive. Anywho, the first time I tried Margherita pizza, I was hooked. So delicious! Of course I had to try it with other foods, too, thus leading to this delicious Mama's Margherita Pasta.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is Just. So. Easy. Seriously! Most of the ingredients are things I keep stocked up on, and when I have a busy night (well, busier), I can just quickly pull this together and we have a nice, filling, delicious home-cooked meal instead of ordering pizza. Again. For like the third time that month. Ya, I have the pizza delivery on speed dial.
1 box (about 13 oz) Penne Pasta noodles
1/4 cup Butter
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup Basil
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Romano Cheese, shredded
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain then return to saucepan and keep warm.
In a medium-large skillet, melt the Butter. Add the Garlic and cook about 30 seconds, or until soft and beginning to brown.
Add the Tomatoes and Basil and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Add the Pasta and Cheeses. Stir until all combined and serve while still warm.
Thank you so much for allowing me to guest post. Hope you have a wonderful summer!

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post: ellie from Creative Geekery! DIY Wall Art

I've got a treat for you today! My blogger friend ellie is here to share a great way to find fabulous pictures and make them into Wall Art. Please welcome ellie from Creative Geekery!

I have several funky photos (that I did not take!) framed around my house. Recently a friend asked me where I got them from and I explained that they were totally DIY. I usually get a little nervous anytime someone says those three little letters (DIY) so trust me, if I can pull this off, you can, too! Today I will introduce you to a website called flickr! There you can spend hours perusing beautiful photos that users upload for your enjoyment. In this post, we will focus on finding the art. In the second part of this mini-series, we will talk about getting it printed and framed for the least amount of money possible!

a few of my "creations"

So here we go!

PART ONE: Finding the art.

1. Go to www.flickr.com. One thing I love about this site is that there is no need to create an account unless you want to upload your own photos. Keep this post open in one window and have flickr in another so you can follow the instructions.

2. Click in the little SEARCH box in the upper right hand corner and type in what you are looking for. In this example, I searched for a merry go round. Click the little magnifying glass in the SEARCH box.

3. Once the results come up, click on the ADVANCED SEARCH link to the right of the SEARCH button. Do not skip this step or you will end up possibly falling in love with a photo that will not work for this project (i.e. it will look great on your screen but not in print).

4. Check the box next to "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content." This will ensure that you will only be choosing from photos that you will be able to download and print. Many photos are totally copyrighted and even though this project is for personal use, the photographer may have disabled downloading to protect his or her work.

5. Now comes the fun part: your search results! Flickr lets you sort your results three different ways. Two of the three come in super handy: relevant and interesting. Try clicking on each to see what type of photos come up. I have had great results with both depending on what I am looking for.

6. Once you find the photo that you like, click on it and then click on VIEW ALL SIZES (up and to the right of the photo).

7. Click on the largest size option that is available. "Original" is the best if it is an option! 

8. Right-click (or control-click if you don't have a right mouse button) and download that puppy! Now it is saved on your computer and you are ready for STEP TWO. Printing and framing. Woot woot! 

Bonus Tip: I really wanted a photo of Grand Central Station in our home because we LOOOVE our trips to the city so much. I found one that I LOVED and then decided to see what else that flickr user had posted. I ended up with super cool pictures of completely different things (flowers and a bumblebee, a ferris wheel, and the coast line) that work well together because they are all the same photographic style and feel. To view all of the photos from one artist/user click on the user's name (below the photo you will see "from Joe Schmoe"... click on Joe Schmoe).

Have fun! XO, ellie

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tasty Tuesday --{Simple} Balsamic Vinaigrette

Happy Tuesday friends! I'm heading on my Summer Vacation today with the family! We are beyond excited! We will be traveling to England for the next two weeks! During that time, I will be having some of my blogger friends stop in and share their goodies with you. I know you will welcome them with open arms and hopefully find a few new blogs to follow, too!
So, one of my favorite dressings to top an everyday salad is this Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette. I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry to make it and it comes together quickly. The best part is that you can really customize it to your taste! And, control the sodium content, too! My mom shared this recipe with me too!
Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbls. Red Wine Vinegar
1/3 c. Rice Wine Vinegar (such as Nakano)
2-3 tsp. sugar (or to taste, I use Stevia)
1/3 c. + 2 Tbls. Olive Oil
sprinkle of garlic powder, italian seasioning, salt and pepper (all according to taste)

Mix together in a salad dressing bottle. Shake and pour. A little goes a long way with this dressing! Store in the cupboard, shake before use. Should keep for 3-4 weeks, if it lasts that long.

For a printable version of this recipe, please click HERE.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Healthy Living - Part 1

I am going to begin a new series here on Crazylou, I hope you join me and invite your friends. Recently I was asked to attend a gathering at a neighbor's house. She was going to show us how simple it is to make our own natural products at home. Boy, am I glad I went! I didn't realize how easy and inexpensive it was to make your own products. And the benefits of it being natural is enough in itself!

So the first natural product I am going to share with you is the laundry soap. I couldn't believe how easily it came together. One thing is for certain though, if you use the powder version (the one I'm sharing today), you should probably invest in a inexpensive small food processor that you will use only for these natural products. (well, at least I am!)

Next, check your local grocery store, most often the larger stores will have a natural food area or natural product aisle where you can purchase most of these. Otherwise, I will include links to other inexpensive online stores you can order from. My neighbor also suggested checking out local Natural Food stores, too. We happen to have 2 in our immediate area. The prices listed below are what I found at our local store. Your area may be higher or lower. I've noticed that the online stores are a bit higher, too, but maybe more convenient!

Homemade Laundry Soap

Homemade Natural Laundry Soap (powder)
from Krista Brinkmeyer

1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz)
1 Container Oxyclean (3 lbs)
1 box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz)
1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
3 bars of Dr. Bronners or Kirks Castile Soap

Shred all four bars of soap in food processor. (Krista notes: it is soap, which is clean, so you can just put it in the dishwasher, no need to purchase a new one)
Open all the containers and dump into a 5 gallon bucket that has a lid. (You can purchase one at your local hardware store, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.)
Once your soap is shredded, dump it into the bucket. Secure lid and mix it up well.

To use: Add 1 Tbls to a large load of laundry  plus 1/4 c of white vinegar for fabric softener.

This is approximately 300 loads or 6 months worth of laundry soap!

Cost breakdown (at my local store):
Borax = $3.59
Oxyclean = $6.99
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda = $2.99
Fels Naptha Soap = $1.09
Dr. Bronners ($3.49/bar) or Kirks Castile Soap ($1.29/bar) = $10.47 or $3.87
Bucket = $5
Total = $30.13 (using Dr. Bronners) or $.10/load!
          = $23.53 (using Kirks) or  $.08/load!

GET OUT OF TOWN!!--isn't that so cheap??? Plus, using white vinegar for your fabric softener really works! No more nasty chemical filled dryer sheets needed!

For a printable recipe of this laundry soap, click HERE.

She showed us how to make many other homemade goodies. I'll share them with you soon. Here's a picture of all the samples I took home with me!

So, what do you think? Are you going to try this? Or do you already?

Here are the links to purchase these online through Amazon.com:
Borax Laundry Booster, 76 oz Box
Church & Dwight Co 03020 Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
Fels Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover, 5.5 Ounce
Oxiclean Versatile Stain Remover Free, 3 Pounds
Castile Soap Original (3pk) 4 Ounces
Bar Soap Organic-Lavender 5 Ounces
Encore 250003 70-Mil Regrind Pail/Bucket, Black, 5-Gallon


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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tasty Tuesday - S'more Popcorn

Summertime is the perfect time to enjoy a campfire and s'mores! But, if you want to enjoy the taste of s'mores without the campfire--this treat I'm sharing with you is worth making. S'mores are one of my favorite treats and if you've followed me for long, you know popcorn is the top snack of choice! Here is my recipe of THE BEST POPCORN EVER. Seriously, it is!
This recipe starts with caramel corn. Now, if I was THE BEST BLOGGER EVER, I would have taken pictures of just my caramel corn. But I didn't. So that blog post will come later. I know I should do this in order, but as a working mom, I'm not sure when I'll get around to making the caramel corn again and well, I needed to share this recipe with you! So, start with your favorite caramel corn recipe or grap some at the store. Mix in the other ingredients, drizzle with chocolate and BAM--you've got an addicting snack!
Smores Popcorn

S'mores Popcorn
adapted from Your Homebased Mom

One batch of Caramel Corn (recipe coming soon!)
2-3 c. mini marshmallows
2-3 c. Golden Grahams
1/2 pkg. Milk Chocolate Chips

In a large bowl, combine the already prepared Caramel Corn, marshmallows and Golden Grahams. Sprinkle in about 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips. Spread onto waxed paper on your counter. Melt the rest of the chocolate chips and drizzle over the mix. Let chocolate set. Store in an airtight container if you need to, but I'm certain this will be gone in a snap!

For a printable recipe, please click here.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday MOM and AMERICA!

Today is a great day! It happens to be my Mom's birthday as well as America's birthday! How lucky is she, that every year, she gets a nice fireworks display on her birthday?
This was taken a few years ago when we visited my parents down at their Florida home. Not sure where my son and dad are, but this is the rest of the crew!

Here is a recent picture of my mom! I love her so much! She is very supportive and caring. I remember in college, she used to send me care packages, but not just for me--they were for the entire dorm wing. Everyone was always so excited when I got a big brown box delievered. She also molded me into the cook that I am. She is a fantastic cook and I have mastered a few of her "famous" dishes! She is a loving "Nanny" to my children. She will do anything for them. I know we didn't always have the best relationship growing up (sorry mom,!), but I would be lost without her--her loving support and unconditional love! Thanks for being a great example and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Hope you have a safe and Happy 4th of July!

4th of July

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tasty Tuesday -- Juicy Burgers with a Secret Ingedient

America's birthday (and my mom's, too) is in two days! What better way to celebrate the holiday than with a big juicy cheeseburger! Yum. This recipe was passed down to me by my mom, not sure where she got it, but I've never met anyone else that prepares them this way! Measurements aren't exact, I just pour the stuff in, mix it up and decide if I need to add more.

Juicy Burgers

Juicy Burgers

1.5 lb hamburger
1/3 c. Catalina Dressing (secret ingredient)
2 Tbls. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbls. Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tsp. Lawry's Seasoning Salt
2 Tbls. Dried Chopped Onion (or 1/2 finely chopped raw onion)

Mix all ingredients together, careful not to over mix. Form into 4 patties. Put thumb print into center of patty (this helps keep the burger from "puffing up", preventing you from flattening with your spatula while grilling!). Sprinkle with additional Montreal Steak Seasoning if desired. Grill to desired temperature. Top with cheese (we love sliced co-jack cheese) and your favorite toppings. Mouth-watering goodness.

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE.

Juicy Burgers

What are your favorite burger toppings?

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Monday, July 1, 2013

No More Excuses--Simple Ways to Fit in Exercise

Let's face it, we are all busy. I get it. I am too. You should see may never-ending to-do list, but then I've got a full-time job, my fun part-time gig, two active kids in sports, this blog and not to mention a husband. But, I still manage to fit in exercise at the minimum of 5 days per week. Once you make this the "norm", your day doesn't seem complete without it. Here are 10 ways you can "squeeze" fitness into your every day, busy life!

Ten Tips to Fit in Exercise for Busy Moms

1. Make a Date with Yourself. Write it on the calendar. Can’t do it all at one time? That’s okay–15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, still add up to more than what you were doing before!

2. Pre-plan your workouts. I like to look at the calendar on Sunday nights and plan out my week. I do this for my weekly menu as well as my workouts. If you pre-plan, you are less likely to make excuses!

3. Play with your kids! This is an obvious one, but many of us use the kids playing time to catch up on other duties! Why not join them? Take a walk around the neighborhood, go for bike rides or play kick ball. You’ll get much more out of it than exercise!

4. Use your kids! Speaking of kids, why not use them for resistance! This is great for those moms with little ones!

5. Find a Friend. The buddy system is key if you know you won’t make yourself accountable to those fitness appointments! Plus, it’s always more fun with a friend. I've been using the FREE app and online tool MyFitnessPal. This is a great way to stay accountable!

6. Exercise while watching T.V. Instead of sitting during the commercials (or if you are watching your DVR–skipping those commercials), do simple exercises. For one commercial, do a plank; the next, crunches; the next leg lifts, etc. Before you know it, your show is back on and you just burned some calories!

7. Exercise while getting ready. Multitasking is a busy mom's gift. Use it! Don’t just brush your teeth–do squats (or wall squats)! Do you curl your hair? Try outer-leg lifts. I also do calve raises while blow drying my hair. It might feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it!

8. Find a gym with a daycare. I have a membership at our local YMCA. They offer free daycare to their members during certain hours. For those days where I can’t hit the gym in the morning, I try to go after work and bring the kids. Again, no excuses!

9. Videos & Magazines. I love videos and YouTube is a great source for free fitness videos. Some of my favorites are Jessica Smith TV, ToneItUp and Jeanette Jenkins. I also have email subscriptions for daily/weekly newsletters from Fitness Magazine, Women’s Health Magazine and Shape Magazine. They send you workouts right to your email box! I print out my favorites and store them in a fitness binder. I use this to help me plan out my weekly workouts.

10. Mobile Apps. I'm not that techie of a person, but I do have a few fitness apps on my phone that I use. NikeTraining Club is a great tool! There are different fitness goals such as: Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, Get Focused (I have all of those goals!), with a coordinating workout for each--plus, different levels--beginner, intermediate or advanced. This app shows you what to do for each exercise, too. I also use the HIIT Interval App, too. This makes doing HIIT much easier! BodyRock TV App is great too. Talk about some serious motivation!

Most importantly, have fun! When you enjoy what you are doing, you are going to stick with it longer and it won’t feel like exercise. For instance, if you like to dance, try a Zumba class. Lately, I’ve been doing “fun runs”–these are themed 5k’s. Last year I completed the Dirty Girl Mud Run with some college friends and this year we are did the Color Vibe.

One of my favorite training tools is my heart rate monitor. It really makes me push myself to stay "in the zone." Here is the one I have:

We all are given 24 hours a day, it’s just a matter of how efficient you are with your time and how you choose to spend it. You must believe that you are worth it.

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