have no fear, freckles.

First of all, I know, I know, I said I wasn’t blogging this week while I’m on vacation but it’s just so beautiful and calming here that I’m feeling inspired. Plus, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want to. So here goes…
 
This is my niece Mahal. Isn’t she beautiful? Look at all her adorable freckles. Yesterday I looked at her sun kissed nose and exclaimed, “Hey! You got two new freckles!”  

“I did? How can you tell?!”, she asked. It tickles me beyond belief, because of what she’s been through in her short life and the speed in which she has had to mature, that she still has enough innocence to think I am actually able to keep an accurate record of her freckles.

“Because I count them”, I said. “That’s just how much I love you.”

As she contemplated this I continued, “You know, the bible says that God has every single star numbered and named? Jesus said that even the hairs of our head are numbered by our Heavenly Father, so there’s nothing to fear because he knows our needs, struggles, and worries. That means there is not one single detail about us that He doesn’t care about, understand, and love. Think about how much I love you and multiply it by a million and then some, that’s how much He loves you.” 

When I was little, my dad took every possible opportunity to teach us something. Even if we weren’t in a “learning mood” he did it anyway, knowing that we’d thank him someday. So here it is, thanks dad. Thanks for forcing us to learn, talking to us like adults, and never underestimating our intelligence or capacity for gaining knowledge. And thanks for, as much as I despised you at the time, forcing us to get the giant dictionary off the shelf every time we encountered a word we didn’t know. 

I hope that every time Mahal looks at her freckles in the mirror she thinks of me and that someday, when she looks back on her forced learning experiences, she feels about me the way I feel about my dad. 

“Schochler Tea”

beauty & the butcher

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Living in Pa nobody knows what REAL iced tea is. They think it either comes powdered from a can or is basically lemonade mixed with a little bit of tea. But coming from Oklahoma, my mom knows how to make real iced tea, or sweet tea, as they call it here in Florida. It’s brewed fresh, sweetened, and cooled. (Except in East Texan like at my beautiful Aunt Marilyn’s, they keep it out on the counter) So growing up all my friends loved our “Schochler Tea” (my maiden name) and insisted on there always being a full pitcher of it at all times. I like to keep the tradition alive and even have a special “tea pot”, my vintage Cathrineholm pot, that I only use for tea brewing. I can just picture my kids one day saying, “I want mom’s tea pot when I get married!” (Those are the kinds…

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curly girl

 If you have curly hair then you have most likely, like me, tried just about every product ever made for curly hair. Literally. 

I finally found one that I think I’m going to be sticking with for a while. It’s called Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls. I get mine here. It’s a bit pricey but a little goes a long way so it lasts a long time. The name says it all, this styling lotion that borrows fabric care technology and marries it to haircare. It is perfect for achieving static-free, big, soft, curly hair that we all dream about. If you don’t want ramen noodle definition and instead want a larger, expanded, fluffy curl then this is the product is for you! It’s the first “fabric softener” type styling lotion that will leave your curls light & fluffy soft. 

But why is curly hair so difficult? A large part of the problem people have with their curls is their requirement for a lot of moisture. Not all styling products help with this and some containing alcohol or sulfates actually dry out the hair even more. 

Naturally curly hair is prone to dryness because of the structure of the hair. The natural oils produced by the scalp of those with curly hair are not able to travel all the way down the hair shaft because of the twists and turns of the curls. Other problems can also exacerbate this dry state of affairs. Listed below are some common causes and solutions.

Possible Causes of Dry Hair

  • Shampooing toooften 
  • Use of shampoos with harsh sulfates 
  • Use of products with alcohol which can also be drying
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Sleeping on a cotton pillowcase or using a cotton scarf, which rob hair of moisture
  • Not using water based hair moisturizers
  • Not sealing moisture in with an oil or butter
  • Excessive use of heavy products w/out proper cleansing (build-up)
  • Chemical Damage such as relaxers or other chemical straighteners
  • Color treated hair (notorious for dryness)
  • Using too much direct heat (blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron, etc. on a consistent basis)
  • Shower water too hot
  • Too much chlorine (from swimming pools or tap water)
  • Salt (from ocean water)

Solutions

  • Increase water in-take
  • Use an oil that can penetrate the hair shaft like coconut oil or jojoba 
  • Don’t use shampoo! Almost all shampoos contain sulfates and other harsh drying chemicals that are detrimental to curls. Instead use a cleansing conditioner and use your fingers to massage your scalp to get your blood circulating and break up dirt and product buildup. If you must cleanse with something else then use a natural soap like the ones described here
  • Use a water based leave-in conditioner after your wash and conditioning routine, and seal it in with a butter or oil while damp or wet
  • Instead of using a rough towel to dry your hair, try an old t-shirt. The material is softer which will reduce frizz and breakage. Gently wrap the end of your hair in the shirt and squeeze out the excess water.
  • Use deep conditioners weekly. Some may need to apply indirect heat through a shower cap, steamer, hair therapy wrap, etc., while deep conditioning
  • Evaluate if your water is hard or soft and if it needs to be treated.
  • Protect your hair, when going swimming, with conditioner and a swim cap or use of a product specifically designed for sun/chlorine/salt, such as Ouidad Sun Shield. I always have a travel bottle of conditioner in my beach bag to act as a barrier between my hair and the chlorine or salt water! 
  • Avoid hear styling. If possible, allow hair to air dry most of the way then finish by diffusing your curls with a blow dryer on a low setting. If you must style it with a flat iron, curling iron, etc., always use a heat protectant when styling with heat.
  • Sleep with a satin pillow case and/or satin scarf
  • Be patient and gentle when handling your hair. Don’t touch your hair when it’s wet. Just don’t!!!

So ladies, (or gentleman for that matter) be gentle with your curls and embrace the hair God gave you, it’s beautiful!!!

pho sho…

Last night we enjoyed some delicious pho with some of our best friends. It was delightful. But you might be asking yourself, what IS pho?  


Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, herbs, and traditionally beef or chicken although vegetarian options are just as delicious. The hearty soup originated in Northern Vietnam during the 20th century. Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who amazingly shouldered mobile kitchens on poles across their backs. From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Boy does that sound heavy! Thankfully now it’s much more widely available and no poles are necessary, you can go to your local pho eatery and order a bowl. (Our favorite spot is Pho 88 on Mills Avenue in Orlando for you local folks)


 
       

But what if you don’t have a pho eatery near you, or you want to try making it at home? Now you can! You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, clear broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha or Hoisin sauce (or “the brown stuff” as the butcher calls it)…I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth – 1) parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole (preferably organic) chicken (4-5lbs)

1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled

{Broth spices}

2 tbl whole coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

2 tbl raw sugar 

2 tbl fish sauce…be sure to choose a fish sauce light in color, it should look like brewed tea….anything darker than that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality.

small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine

1 lb dried rice noodles 

{Table Accompaniements}

2 cups bean sprouts 

cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems

1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Sriracha hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

sliced chili or jalapeño (for the brave people out there)

DIRECTIONS:

Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices. I know this may seem tedious but trust me it’s worth it for the rich flavor it produces!

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water and boil. With a sharp knife, carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. Or just marry a butcher. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth (translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and “stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water. (If making vegetarian pho, this step can be skipped and just use vegetable broth or make your own veggie stock) 

Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of the broth spices in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and or sugar.
Strain the broth, discarding solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have all the table accompaniements at table for each person to add to their bowl based on individual taste. Even though your broth may not be as clear, you can also make this recipe in your crock pot and come home to the delicious aromas of Vietnam!  
 It was PHO yummy! Photastic! Can I have pho mo?! I could do this all day…

We also had some DELICIOUS spring rolls with a to die for peanut sauce but that’s another recipe for another day! 

meet & make 

  So there’s this adorable local blogger from Orlando named Sarah Khandjian, or as she goes by in the Instagram/blogosphere world, Sarah Hearts. She came up with the genius idea of getting women together to make a craft, have some cocktails, and meet some new friends. Then she got even smarter and decided to sell tickets for said get-together! Man I wish I’d thought of that! 

I’d been insta-stalking her for months and every time she hosted one of her “meet & make” events, I was either unable to go or the tickets sold out before I could get my hands on one! But that all changed last night! I finally got to go along with some friends and it was so.much.fun. I even got to meet Sarah herself! 

When we walked in to the large warehouse space, we were greeted by a few friendly ladies who checked our names off of the guest list and gave us a pink pizza box emblazoned with the words “meet & make” and a pair of, what seemed to be the theme of the evening, scissors. Also handed to us and adorned with scissors was a sweet little canvas tote bag filled with all sorts of goodies from local artists & business owners.  

       

We walked past festive confetti filled balloons towards the tables and secured a spot as the space was quickly filling up with excited women ready to craft! The workstations were covered in brown butcher paper stamped with a mini scissor design and covered in confetti. There were Popsicle sticks scattered on the paper as well as little cups filled with water for cleaning our brushes with “meet & make” on the side. This girl knows how to brand herself!  

    

Before getting started there was some mingling and chit chat as well as a cocktail station provided by Smirnoff and some treats from local bakeries. The citrus cookie sandwhiches from The Sweet Shop were my favorite…tangy, bite size, and delicious!   

      

    

After enjoying our refreshments, Sarah quieted everybody down, welcomed us, made a few announcements and instructions and then it was time to open our pink pizza boxes! 

 We were going to be painting geometric wall art panels. When I purchased my ticket I was even given the option of the type of wood stain I wanted for my panel. The idea was to use the provided washi tape to create different geometric shapes like this… 

and these… 

  

 But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t decide what shape I wanted and the perfectionist in me was afraid that the paint would bleed under the tape and ruin my design. I was in a creative mood anyway, so I decided to freehand it. Did you notice the tiny little stamp that was in our gift bag? I think it subconsciously inspired me,  because this is what I ended up with.  

An ice cream cone!

 (Side note for my fellow Gwynnie Girls, I am wearing the BB Dakota Jaeger Crepon Full Skirt Dress and I loved it. It was super light, comfy, and silky soft. It was a little big so I belted it and added a cardigan but I still got lots of compliments and can’t wait to get the smaller size that I closeted.) 

Back to the meet & make! After we finished our projects we headed, art in hand, to the gif photo booth where we created this little gem… http://www.mvbth.com/meet-make/4273 and these… 

Sarah even jumped in on the fun and then I got to chat with her a bit (she also said she had seen my blog before which was pretty cool!) and we took this… 

All in all, it was a fabulous event. I had so much fun and can’t wait to do it again!  

  

so corny 

  “Um…can I have a little more corn salsa please?” That’s me every time we go to Chipotle. I’m a sucker for a good sweet/savory combo and their corn salsa takes the cake. The crunchy sweetness of the corn mixed with a spicy jalapeño and lime flavor is just divine. But alas, the nearest Chipotle is a 40 minute drive, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own. What says summertime more than fresh delicious salsa?! It’s pretty yummy if I do say so myself. Here’s the recipe;

Large package of frozen corn, thawed
1 jalapeño, finely diced

about 1/2 C. red onion, finely diced

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

juice of one lime (roll it on the counter first, this helps release the juices)

a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp kosher salt (taste it, you may need more)

a lil’ black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit in the fridge until ready to use. Doesn’t get much easier than that! This would also be great on top of grilled chicken!