Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Piano Player

So . . . my daughter started playing hand bells in the junior choir at All Saints' Episcopal Church last year and wanted to branch out to the piano this year for Christmas.  I suspect it may have had something to do with her best friend Kayla playing the piano, but I didn't mind.  I grew up with a piano in my home but never learned how to play it.  I'm glad Katie was motivated, and at age eleven, I felt she was ready.

We went to a Raleigh Ringers concert in Atlanta earlier this year.
Katie is trying to lift one of the aluminum bells after the concert -- it's heavier than we thought at 18 pounds!

Here's a quick video of three songs and her recital piece -- it's under two minutes.  She positively LOVED The Lion King when she was younger and didn't hesitate to pick "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" as her first recital piece.  :)  Notice during this last piece that she isn't reading the music at all -- pretty cool!!

So, Katie's learning how to play the piano, and I'm learning how to make iMovies now.  We're taking small steps together!  LOL

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Odds and Ends Pictures: What to Do with Them

Pictures.   Pictures.   Pictures.

We all have them -- too many of them, in fact, especially in today's world of digital photography and the convenience of cameras in our cell phones.  Anyway, if you're like me, you have some pictures that might not make the cut into a photo album or scrapbook.  You still like them but have no idea where to put them or what to do with them.  

Take me, for instance.  A friend of mine, Worth (cool name, eh?), posted on Facebook that he was enjoying going through tons of old pictures recently while organizing them, so I decided to take my own trip down memory lane.  I happened to notice while browsing among my bazillion pics in iPhoto that I had three separate pictures where the person in the photo was looking downward when the camera snapped.  I really like all three and came up with an idea to group them together.

All three pictures (see below) are of different events/vacations.  The first one is of my daughter trying on a hand-me-down sweater from an older cousin and is truly one of my current favorite pictures of her, the second one is of me at a beach in northern Oregon, and the third one is of my son in the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island, Georgia.  What ties them all together is how we're all looking down in our respective poses.  

I came across a unique photo frame my brother had given me one year for Christmas that has a 3D effect and allows the pictures to slide around.  It had been hiding out in my junk room for years.  I printed out all three pictures and cut them to size for the frame.

I now have a cool way to showcase these commonly themed pictures that I like 
but didn't quite make it into any photo albums.  :)

Other Items:
  • Table from IKEA (Lack table for $9.99)
  • Pot and plant from IKEA (probably $10.00 total)
  • Amber-colored dish is really an ashtray from like 30 years ago that I think I won at Six Flags???
  • Candle is from Bed, Bath, and Beyond from years ago
  • Table runner is actually a gorgeous placemat from Pier 1 Import (sort of recent purchase)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries

I admit it.  I didn't like Brussels sprouts since early childhood based on the fact that most of my friends didn't like them.  This deep dislike of Brussels sprouts lasted for about 39 years until I finally decided to try one at lunch one day when a coworker brought steamed Brussels sprouts to work one day.

I.    Liked.    Them.

So . . . enter Rachael Ray and her book Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats .

I happened across this recipe for Brussels sprouts with bacon and dried cranberries.  I tried it and fell in love with it!  I mean, bacon makes ANYthing taste great, right?  

The recipe link above has all the ingredients listed for the entire 30-minute meal, so I've sifted through all of that for you so that you can enjoy this scrumptious side dish.  


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (twice around the pan), plus some for shallow frying
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 10-ounce boxes frozen Brussels sprouts, defrosted
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a few handfuls), chopped
  • Directions:

  • Start the bacon–cranberry Brussels sprouts by preheating a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes.

  • Add the defrosted Brussels sprouts to the bacon and onions, toss, and stir to combine. Add the dried cranberries and the chicken stock to the pan and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are heated through and the cranberries have plumped. Finish the sprouts with the chopped parsley.
I'll be honest, I don't always use the thyme or parsley leaves if I don't have them on hand, and this dish still ROCKS!  
Enjoy!  :)

Necklace Holder -- too cute!

I was browsing around Target yesterday looking for something to hold all of my makeup now that I'm rediscovering it -- you know with my Makeup Renaissance and all.  :)  Anyway, I happened up on the most adorable necklace holders.  I wouldn't pay the price for them (I want to say they were $20.00 -- I can't tell exactly from the picture), but they were too cute not to take a picture of them.

I'll have to keep checking back every couple of weeks to see if they go on sale!  :D

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Running to Stand Still

Responsibilities.  We all have them, some more than others.  

In the past sixteen months, I have experienced helping my stepmother with her massive stroke to which she has never fully recovered and still can’t use her right arm, starting a graduate program, worrying about my chemical/environmental engineer, Georgia Tech-educated brother who was out of a job for almost two years (the company he worked for folded in the economic downturn) and moving him out to Dallas, Texas when he did get a job with the EPA, taking care of my father through aortic valve replacement redo and gall stone surgeries, having my own biopsy of a lump, and working with my doctor to solve the mystery of why I am suffering from amenorrhea for the past nine months. 

Talk about the phrase "when it rains, it pours!"

As a side note, my doctor says I'm quite the enigma!  LOL  Seriously, though, we're trying to find out if it's stress-related, menopause, or something else entirely.  Believe me, I don't want Door #3 in my life.

In addition to all of these experiences, I continued in my roles as wife, parent of two active, honor roll children who are involved in soccer, choir, and music lessons, and educator of high school alternative students.  Indeed, spare time was quite the luxury.  Forget the metaphorical plate holding all of my responsibilities, I had to upgrade to an industrial-sized platter!  However, I still felt the need to challenge myself by enrolling in the specialist graduate program through Piedmont College.  One thing is for certain, the support I've been given by my husband and my developing spirituality have been nothing short of AmAzInG in helping me survive during these stressful months.

My makeshift "study nook" in our bonus room was my home base
for getting my grad work done these past 16 months.
See my blog post on Stash to Study for more on decorating this space.
Well, as we know, time stops for no one, and I have just three more classes remaining of  my last course to attend of my graduate program and will finish on April 24 and graduate on May 5.  I'm so excited!!  Hopefully, things will start to calm down after that!  It's totally been about taking small steps daily these last sixteen months!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Garnier BB Cream -- UPDATED Review -- LOVE it!!

I'm going through a bit of a Makeup Renaissance, if you will, and am like a kid in a candy store rediscovering makeup.  Seriously.  

Anyway, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about BB creams (I've heard that can stand for both "beauty" and "blemish" balm) hitting the U. S. and wanted to give it a try.  My spending-conscious self won't allow me to purchase anything too expensive like Smashbox, etc., so I was very excited about Garnier coming out with their own  BB cream.  It's advertised as a "hybrid" and  is supposed to be several products in one: primer, moisturizer, foundation, and sunscreen.  

I have to say that:

  1. It has a strong scent -- not unpleasant but still strong.  After about four hours, the scent faded.  
  2. It has a definite cream-like texture. However, unlike liquid foundation where you dab it on a little at a time, I was able to slather it all over my face like I do with a regular moisturizer.
  3. I definitely noticed a minimization of pores and a more polished, even, and brighter look.  The packaging says that your skin will appear "airbrushed," and they weren't far off with making that claim.
  4. I definitely needed to use a powder to set it though as I have oily skin.
  5. It has pretty fair coverage, too -- more than I was expecting it to have.
  6. One thing I need to get used to if I'm going to repurchase it is the sorta heavy feeling on my face. For instance, I "feel" its presence on my cheeks. Maybe it's just because it's new and I'm hyper-focusing on it.  Still, this BB cream feels like how a facial sunscreen feels.  UPDATED REVIEW:  I may possibly have applied too much product on my skin considering that I applied it the way I do a moisturizer instead of the way I would apply a liquid foundation.  I'm going to experiment with using a tad less tomorrow.
  7. Based on the description in #6, I'm very interested to see how it holds up in our VERY hot and humid summers.

I definitely think Garnier's BB Cream is a bit heavier than I would like. I bet ya anything that the next time I look in the mirror, I'm going to see that I need to reapply powder. I just feel like my face is oily again. 

Hmmm, let me go check. BRB!  
<pitter, patter, pitter, patter>

Okay, actually, my face wasn't too oily.  I was pleasantly surprised that the BB cream didn't come off too much when I blotted it to reapply powder.   

Overall Impression:  I like the idea behind this product and being able to use it on days when I'm in a hurry.  Using just this one product instead of a moisturizer, primer, and foundation was much quicker.  UPDATED REVIEW:  I wore this product for 11 hours and only had to reapply powder twice.  That's terrific considering that I have oily skin.  My skin maintained a brightened, "airbrushed" quality, and my pores appeared to stay minimized the whole time.  I'm totally sold on this product after seeing those results.

Dressing up Dresser Tops

Although I do not consider myself a natural at decorating like some lucky friends I know, I do still like to try my hand at it.  I used to be an HGTV junkie back when they showed actual decorating shows instead of all the House Hunter-type shows like they do nowadays.  If you're familiar with Decorating Cents, Design on a Dime, or Design Remix, it will give you a feel for the type of low-cost, high impact decorating style I have (or, rather, try to have).

Anyway, when I was cleaning the glass tops of my bedroom dressers one day,  I thought it would be so neat if they had some type of umphh factor underneath the glass.

Enter some old wrapping paper I think my parents had given me.  Somehow I remembered I had it and pulled it out of the deep recesses of our closet.  Even though it was some type of nautical print, the colors matched the decor in our bedroom.  I spread it out on the floor (print side down), carefully lifted the glass top off the dresser, and laid it down on top of the wrapping paper.  Once I traced out the glass, I pushed it off the paper and cut out the pattern.

I thought it looked pretty good and decided to keep it like that.  I finished putting my accessories back in place and called it a day.  :)

One of these days I'm going to spray paint these white frames black and distress them afterward.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Beating the Pollen Season with Local Honey

Ahhhh, springtime.  I love the milder temps (although we had a mild winter to begin with here in Atlanta), the chirping birds building nests, and the budding flowers.  However, the pollen was outrageous this spring with counts as high as 9000 on some days.  Yes, that's right -- 9000 pollen count!  I'm not adding extra zeroes for the fun of it, believe me.  :) Any pollen count over 1500 is considered to be in the "extremely high" category, and we went waaaaay above that.  We are truly in the midst of Pollen-apocalypse here in the deep South!

 azalea blooms

Well, the 9K pollen count wore me down.  You name the symptom, and I had it.  Watery, itchy eyes. Sneezing.  Stuffy nose.  Runny nose.  Sore throat.  Headache.  Blech!  I needed help.  I started out with an OTC medication, but a friend of mine suggested local honey.  I know this blog is about taking "small steps daily," but I was looking for a huge step in getting relief from the evil pollen invading Atlanta.

Local honey from Moye's Pharmacy and Earl Grey tea from Teavana

The idea behind eating local honey is like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens in your area, a process called immunotherapy.  In other words, it's like getting allergy shots but a LOT more pleasant.  :) I did some cursory research (which is to say I briefly googled the topic) and found that a lot of people feel immunotherapy works for them.

So . . . off my husband went to purchase local honey at Moye's, a local pharmacy chain.  I must say that we both were suffering and we both feel better now.  I don't know if it's due to the meds I briefly took or the local honey, but I do feel better.  At any rate, I enjoyed sipping hot tea each night with a tablespoon of honey added to it.  Ahhhhh!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beautique Lip Crayon

Anybody that's read a couple of my blogs recently will know that I'm in the middle of a Makeup Renaissance.  I was in pretty much an eleven-year makeup rut that consisted of a five-minute routine where I quickly slapped on powder, mascara, and lipstick before running out the door.  I've been changing that the past month and have been enjoying plenty of compliments for my efforts.

Well, I was in Sally Beauty Supply yesterday and decided to buy one of those "impulse" items at the cash register.  It was a lip crayon by a no-name company called Beautique.  I figured for a $1.79 ($1.99 without a membership card) I couldn't go wrong.

I chose Iced Pink because I'm into lighter colors as I'm getting older and thought it would be a nude color, and it is but with a hint of pink.  The color stays on quite a while, and it has a moisturizing feel to it.  Looking at the picture below, you can see it has shimmer to it.  Pop a bit of gloss on top and it really shines!

Bottom Line:  I must say that I LOVE this lip crayon and will be scooting over to Sally Beauty Supply to pick up a few more such as Mocha Frost!

Talk about a small step at a low price!