“You should do this for a living”…

Anyone ever tell you that when they see that you’re really good at something? It’s a compliment for sure, but it always gets me thinking.
“You should plan parties for a living.”
“You should do this professionally!”
Although flattered, several things come to mind when people say these things. I think about how much work it is and how I enjoy it and I know that if I did it professionally, for people I don’t know or love, was taken away from my family every weekend to throw parties for strangers, just to get a check at the end of it, I know I wouldn’t love doing it anymore. But the thing I think of first and foremost?
“I just want to be a mom for a living.”
Parties, for instance, are a favorite thing of mine to plan. The bridal tea last week was for my best friend’s little sister who I really don’t know that well but since my best friend is like a sister to me that makes her little sister my little sister too. I wanted to do it for her because I love her, I probably won’t be throwing her a baby shower in this century, and she’s already got so much on her plate. She fought me in the beginning and didn’t want it to be too much on me, just like she fights me when I throw them an anniversary party. So I told her to be quiet, and I let her in on a little secret.
“I plan parties because I can’t have a baby.”
Maybe it sounds silly or hard to understand, but it’s the truth. There’s something about decorating a room, planning a menu, cooking, making things so pretty that people gasp in surprise when they walk in the room, and doing something for someone I love that just brings me so much joy. And in a very tiny but meaningful way, it fills the void of decorating a nursery, buying sailor suits or hair barrettes, and presenting a little cooing trophy wherever we go.
Of course there are other things that fill my time as well, most importantly my faith and my ministry, and of course my wonderful husband and family.
And I cannot even express the love in my heart for the sweet, adorable ball of fur {albeit shedding all over my house} that is our puppy Raven. She has given us someone to lay in bed and cuddle with at night, someone to take pictures of to show off to people, someone to fuss over and worry about when she gets sick, and someone to call our baby.
After many failed attempts via many different avenues, the butcher and I made a decision this week to officially “close up shop”. {drop dead gorgeous movie quote…can you tell I use humor to diffuse an uncomfortable situation?} The decision was not made lightly, and it has come with great pain and disappointment. But because of the associated and inevitable risks, there also comes some relief. Relief of no longer wondering every single month, “Could I be?” or “Can we handle losing another one?”
I know that someday every desire will be satisfied and I eagerly await that day. But until then, I’ll keep throwing parties, just for fun.

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Dry skin brushing…trust me

20140729-020724-7644051.jpg Monday I posted a recipe for a diy leg exfoliatior and afterwards I got a question from one of my readers, Lolajoy12, about exfoliating before shaving. So rather than responding to the comment I decided to dedicate a whole post to answer your question Emily!

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So Emily, {and everyone else too, obviously} a loofah is of course better than nothing at all and I’m sure will do some exfoliating. Depending on the soap you’re using though, it can actually add to the dry skin problem. But what I like to do before showering? DRY SKIN BRUSHING. This one I got from the butcher’s mother. Now I admit, some of the things my health crazed mother in law says I just listen, nod, and give an internal “eye roll” to {love you ma!} but she is a successful licensed aesthetician {if you don’t know what that is then you really need this post, probably a dictionary and definitely a facial!} and so when it comes to skin, I listen. Years ago she turned me onto dry skin brushing and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Scan almost any spa menu, and you’ll likely find an offering that mentions dry brushing. The practice—which involves scrubbing down your dry skin with a scratchy brush—sounds far from pampering, if not a bit austere…{you proud, Dad?} But spa pros swear by it and sing its praises for supposedly doing everything from exfoliating to, {gasp!} reducing cellulite!
How does it work? Gentle dry brushing sloughs off dead, dry skin, improving its appearance and allowing it to hydrate more efficiently when moisturizer is applied afterward.
As for detoxifying, dry brushing is similar to massage. The light pressure against your skin and the direction in which you brush helps move fluid into the lymph nodes so this waste can be eliminated. Your body naturally does this, but dry brushing speeds up the process and at the same time boosts circulation, delivering oxygenated blood to the skin and other organs, which helps them do their jobs better. I’m telling you, you can actually feel your blood moving and circulating under the skin, like you just gave it an energy drink or something, it’s kind of invigorating.
So how do you dry brush?
First you need a proper brush. Look for firm bristles and a long handle. Here’s an affordable one from Target or a higher end brush from Dermstore.com
Because dry brushing energizes and stimulates the body, most pros suggest doing it in the morning before you shower, but you can do it any time of day you prefer. Using long, upward strokes, start brushing your skin at your feet and work up your legs one at a time. Then move up your mid-section (front and back) and across your chest. Finish by brushing up your arms toward your armpits {even though it may tickle a little here I promise it will make a world of difference in 1) whipping those stubborn underarm hairs into shape for a smoother shave and 2) getting all the deodorant residue that regular soap just can’t get} I like to do my whole body but if I’m in a hurry I at least do my legs, especially if I know I’m going to shave. If I’m really in a hurry and don’t dot it at all but end up shaving, my legs end up dry, bumpy, and much less smooth.

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Now it’s shower time and since you’ve just opened up your pores, any body treatments you apply in the shower {like my aforementioned diy sugar lemon coconut scrub} and afterward will penetrate the skin better and you’ll get the cleanest closest shave you’ve ever had! For more information on the health benefits, check out this article by Dr. Joseph Mercola and his 7 Key Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing.

Chalkboard cookies, say what?!

That’s right, the chalkboard craze that has swept the nation is now edible! {Don’t worry no eating of actual chalk or chalkboard of any kind is involved} I hosted a bridal tea last weekend that was a floral/chalkboard theme and I knew I would make my teacup cookies so I decided what better way to incorporate chalkboard then try to make some cookies that look like chalkboards as well! You can do it too! Here’s how…
Start with Martha’s fail safe sugar cookie recipe and follow the directions. I used my teapot and teacup cookie cutters and for the chalkboard cookies just a regular round cookie cutter. For half the rounds I cut out a little divot with a paring knife so that they would fit on the cups and double as a placecard. {I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that one}

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Once cookies are cut out and placed on the cookie sheets, listen to this next step carefully because this is very important, put the pans in the fridge!!! This will help them keep their shape and make for crisp laser cut cookie edges instead of them looking like teacup shaped blobs. Once they’ve chilled for at least 15 minutes, bake them according to recipe directions.

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While baking start making the icing using Martha’s royal icing recipe. Once the icing is made, divide it into smaller bowls depending on how many colors you’ll need. For the chalkboard cookies I added black Americolor (much better than Wilton and available at Hobby Lobby) food coloring until I got the right shade.

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Pour icing into a piping bag fitted with a small tip {or in a pinch you can use a Ziploc bag and cut a tiny snippet off the corner and that will work as well. That sentence sounded super British didn’t it?! Maybe I’m still in the tea party mood}. Outline the edges of each cookie and let dry.

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Once the outline is completely dry, take the remaining icing and add a few tablespoons of water to thin it for “flooding” consistency. Spoon a little bit of icing onto each cookie and tilt cookie around until icing is evenly spread out. If it needs a little extra help, a toothpick works.

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Let cookies dry overnight to make sure they are completely dry. Now it’s time to decorate! Using more Americolor gel {bright white for the “chalk” and whatever colors you’d like for the teacups} add a small amount on a plate and mix with a few drops of vodka {alcohol dries faster than water so it’s better for using on top of sugar icing} and it’s just like painting with water colors when you were a kid! {For extra precision try these Wilton food writer markers} Using a very thin paintbrush decorate each cookie with letters, designs, flowers, etc.

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And that’s pretty much it! I know it seems a little daunting, and I’m not going to lie, it is time consuming but I assure you. It’s well worth it especially when made for someone you love.

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Stay tuned tomorrow for more pictures and DIY ideas from the tea party!

Super Smooth Summer Legs

I have gotten so many comments and testimonies from my “Mascara Saver” post that I decided to do another beauty secret. In the summertime, whether we like it or not, we have to have freshly shaved legs at all times between shorts, capris, and the inevitable swimsuit. One thing that helps me bare my legs with confidence is making sure they’re tan using my favorite trusty self tanner (which I shall feature on the blog very soon). But self tanner can be tricky if your legs aren’t exfoliated properly, it will cling to every spot of dry skin or unshaven bit. In fact, shaving itself is better with exfoliated skin. When you shave without exfoliating, you’re simply shaving off a layer of dead skin rather than getting actual hair (this also causes ingrowns.) But if you exfoliate first and then shave, you get straight to the matter at hand, the hair, and the result is a super silky smooth “like a baby’s behind” leg. But this easy DIY scrub takes to it a completely new level and is made with ingredients you have around the house.

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Simply take 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup coconut oil, and the juice of one lemon and mix them together in a bowl. Scrub onto to your legs, shave, and rinse. Repeat once more and your legs will be so slippery smooth you won’t even be able to cross them!

super fruity

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I made this simple fruit tart for a bridal tea yesterday and it was a huge hit, everybody loved it and was asking for the recipe. So here it is!

Beauty & The Butcher Fruit Tart

Ingredients
Crust:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temp.
Filling:
1 package cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon good vanilla
Topping:
Fresh strawberries, kiwi slices, & blueberries (really you could use any fruit you like, raspberries, peaches, star fruit, etc.)
Glaze:
1 can frozen limeade concentrate
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup sugar

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust: In a food processor or blender (I used my trusty Blendtec) combine the powdered sugar, flour, and butter, and mix until the mixture forms a ball. With your fingers, press the dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, making sure it’s evenly spread and pushed into the indentations along the side. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned. Set aside.

For the filling and topping: Beat or stir the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Spread over the crust once it’s cooled. Cut the strawberries into 1/4-inch slices and arrange around the edge of the crust. Fill spaces in between with blueberries. For the next circle, use kiwi slices. Repeat these steps and try to make a pretty design in the middle. Pretty easy huh?!

For the glaze: Combine the limeade, cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small pan and cook over medium heat until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart and save the remaining glaze for another dessert!

Keep the tart in the fridge and remove about 15 minutes before serving. You might want to make two because this will go so quickly, trust me. It’s also a great thing to bring to someone’s house because you can make it ahead of time, it’s cheap and simple but would be at least $30 in a bakery, and this beautifully shiny fruity masterpiece will impress everyone at the party! 20140726-122614-44774354.jpg

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National nude day?

So apparently somebody out there decided today was national nude day? I don’t really want to know who decided that or who is celebrating today, hopefully no one I encounter! But it immediately made me think of the scene I usually find upon entering my bathroom after Geneva or Jaela has been here because they always demand to take a bubble bath and leave a trail of naked Barbie dolls behind. My Barbies always seemed to be naked when I was a kid too, what happens to their clothes?! Unfortunately a drenched Barbie doll can lead to mold and mildew and who wants that?! Check out this link on how to clean your dolls! 20140724-133237-48757578.jpg

Panna Cotta…not Anaconda

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My panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is an Italian pudding like dessert (and gluten free-bonus!) and pretty popular in our family, especially in the summertime. It’s a sweet, light, refreshing “pudding” best served with fresh summer berries and mint. My niece was so excited Sunday when she saw that I made it she exclaimed “ooh yum, you made anaconda!” Close enough, right? No matter what you call it, it’s delicious. And best of all? SUPER easy but yet so deceivingly fancy, everyone will be impressed when you make it. Here’s the recipe.
Ingredients

1/4 cup cold water
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from 2 packages)
3 cups whipping cream (I prefer mine a little lighter so I use 2 cups half and half and 1 cup milk but either way is good)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons good vanilla
A couple baskets of assorted fresh berries (I like doing a strawberry blueberry combo myself)
1/3 cup sweet white wine (such as Moscato)

Preparation

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into small custard cup. Sprinkle gelatin over and stir a little bit. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes. Bring 1 inch of water in small pot to boil. Place cup with gelatin in water. Stir until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine cream and sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and gelatin. Divide pudding mixture among 8 wineglasses. (Or 4 depending on the size of your wine glasses…for a large group like 12 or more I usually double this recipe and if it’s 20 people in triple it.) Cover and chill until set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

In a bowl combine berries with a little sugar and a few splashes of sweet wine, like moscato. Let sit an hour or two so the juices really start to form and then spoon on top of panna cotta with a sprig of mint before serving.

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