Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cinnamon Salt Dough Hearts

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and while I'm not a fan of the commercialized holiday, I am a fan of making people feel loved.  So I'm all ablaze with arts and crafts time over here... like a little red elf in the studio making surprises for a few of my favorite people.  This happens to be just one of my recent projects.

Cinnamon Salt Dough Hearts!

You've heard of Salt Dough Ornaments around Christmastime (I think they might have made my 2010 365 Challenge)... this is a sweet twist on that old standby.  The biggest plus is they smell AH-MAZING when baking.  The entire kitchen smells so yummy that I had people walking in asking when they cookies would be ready. :)

Check out the below link for the DIY steps later this week.  Such a fun project for the kids!
~ Christina

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vegan Jambalaya

I hate to admit this... but I've never made a Jambalaya from scratch.  I know... my PawPaw would shake his head if heard that.  Especially if he knew all my past jambalayas were from basically the Zatarains box.  The shame!  

But now that I'm vegan.... boxes and processed mixes are no longer 1.) available and/or 2.) health choices I make (even if they were available).  
It's Mardi Gras season here in Louisiana and that means it's time for Jambalaya.... so I've scoured the internet for the best vegan versions (why re-create the wheel?!) and made my own take on this popular dish.

Once complete, it was super yummy (though slightly on the salty side).  Next time I'll reduce the amount of seasoning simply because the faux sausage had enough sodium in it to add flavor.  But overall I was pleased with it.  Slowly but surely I'm veganizing my cajun favorites! :)
~ Christina

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Metro Life Church

It's been over two months and finding a local church has been weighing heavy on my heart.  My grandmother is Catholic, and while I never mind attending mass with her out of support, I just don't get anything from the pomp and circumstance that the church has become.  

I want to find a small enough nondenominational church where I feel its intimacy but am not overwhelmed by it. I want to be able to connect, make friends, learn, grow and contribute.  
I want a place to "fit."

After doing some research, I found Metro Life Church.  It happens to be on my daily route to the gym, so I have passed it a dozen plus times without realizing it.  Last week I made a point to spot it.  To see where it was located so I could return this weekend.

And of course I was running late.  Which is actually not like me at all.  If I'm on time, I feel ten minutes late.  Today I WAS ten minutes late. I almost didn't go.  That's how anal I am about being on time.  I'd rather just not show up somewhere than walk in ten minutes late.  But something forced me to turn in.  To walk in.  To join in the service.

I liked it.  Different than what I'm used to (which of course is two very large non-denominational churches in Orlando, FL).  Very intimate and small.  I have a feeling EVERYONE knows everyone.  The majority of the attendees where young.  Everyone was friendly.  The message was good, though parts made me frown.  No where is perfect, I know that.  Maybe I'll check out a few more options before deciding.  But at least I checked it out.  At least I took that first step! :) ~ Christina

The Bible

Should you read the Bible? You probably haven't. A century ago, most well-educated Americans knew the Bible deeply. Today, biblical illiteracy is practically universal among nonreligious people. A couple of years ago, I questioned family, friends and co-workers,  quickly learning that most had not done much more than skim Genesis and Exodus. Even my small group at church weighed in 80/20.  80% had never read the Bible in it’s entirety; 20% had. So even among the faithful, Bible reading is erratic. The Catholic Church, for example, includes only a teeny fraction of the Old Testament in its official readings. Jews study the first five books of the Bible pretty well but shortchange the rest of it. Of the major Jewish and Christian groups, only evangelical Protestants read the whole Bible obsessively. 

When I did my original 365 Challenge, I read the book of John for the first time from start to finish.  I studied it. I read then journaled.  Then I went on to Mark, then Matthew.  I wanted to read the entire Bible.  God's Word is alive! The more you expose yourself to it, the more it will expose itself to you.  I believe that.  I also believe that to know God better you must spend time hearing what He has to say. The Bible is His message to you. If you want Him to listen to what you have to say, you should also listen to what He has to say.  And I did listen. 
Each day.  A little at a time I read and studied and wrote.  And almost three years later, I did it.  I’ve finished reading/studying the entire Bible.  Of course this just means I now want to spend more time re-reading… re-studying parts of it.  Continuing to commit key verses to memory.  Continuing in my spiritual journey.  ~ Christina

Kumquat -The WHOLE Thing

I only tried this for the sake of "trying something new," as it would otherwise interest me very little. My grandmother was telling me about how she learned that you can eat an entire kumquat, peeling and all!

"It's not too bad," she said, "plus it beats trying to peel the tiny things."

Ok, why not?

I'm sure there is a benefit of fiber in the peeling, but I'd rather stick with peeled oranges or tangerines. Not a fan of the bitter taste. No bueno. - Christina

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Adult Sized Fun

While technically this isn't a first, I'm counting it for the sake of this blog. An old friend called inviting me to a little bonfire. It's what we used to do in high school and college.... Stay up drinking under the star in front of bonfire. What fun to do it again 20 years later at the same spot (minus hundreds of loud underaged kids. We all had a fabulous evening. Below is a snapshot of some of our fun.

Lake Martin

It's such a beautiful day that on our drive back, Denver and I decided to experience something new outdoors. So we took little detour to Lake Martin. What a beautiful oasis of nature. Apparently it's THE spot to see gators. The wildlife out there is incredible plus I saw kayaks for rent!! Score! Looks like I will be back! - Christina

Friday, January 25, 2013

Carnival Cruise: Elation

While I HAVE cruised with Carnival before, I have never been on their ship the Elation.  Each ship is uniquely different, though they do have many many things the same.  We had a wonderful time on our cruise! I also had a "first" by going to Progresso (Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico).  Here's a shot of Emily and I about to reboard the ship in Progresso.  Only downside is Carnival is NOT vegan or veg-friend (unless you are a vegetarian that eats dairy and eggs).  But it wasn't about the food... it was about the company and that was fabulous! ~ Christina

Lemon Face Mask

Natural lemon juice contains many properties which play a vital role in the battle against acne. Most notable of these properties are the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) which are so effective against acne that they can be found in any acne treatment cream worth mentioning. These acids actively kill the bacteria which cause acne breakouts. Killing this bacteria not only treats existing spots, but regular application of the juice containing them acts to prevent more breakouts from occurring.

In addition to this, lemon juice contains vitamin C and potassium which are both essential for a good immune system and healthy skin. 

My face doesn't really break out, but after being on a cruise and eating a diet that consisted of watered down salads, french friends, chips and salsa (and booze)... I needed to do a little makeover.  I could see my diet all over my face and it wasn't pretty.  Since I'm much more comfortable with the holistic approach, I decided to give lemons a try on my skin.  Applying lemon juice directly to the skin is an excellent way to cleanse the skin of existing bacteria, reducing the effects of the acne. The citric acid present in the juice kill the bacteria and cleans the pores preventing clogs which will cause more acne breakouts.

The topical treatment I did: 
▪   Cleanse the skin thoroughly and allow to dry naturally
▪   Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a container
▪   Soak some cotton wool in the juice
▪   Apply all over the face
▪   Leave overnight
▪   Cleanse the face as normal in the morning
▪   Moisturize with a non-oil based moisturizer 
Results?  After one day I my face looked different.  Smoother, softer.  I was a little surprised. After a few days, it was perfect.  I was definitely a little lighter that my cruise tan, but lemons will do that to you.  And who cares anyway?!  A natural treatment for acne or any imperfections on my face... I will take it! :) ~ Christina

Lake Mead State Park

Dad and I drove through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area last fall during our trip to Nevada.  I'm much delayed in posting this and the photos... but none-the-less.  Here they are! I half expected to see Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner out there. :) ~ Christina
Lake Mead (formed after Hoover Dam)

Pretty much the view from anywhere in the park
My dad would take these turns doing 60 mph... I was grasping the "oh shit" handles hard!

SuperBowl XLVII Team Mate Rally

What an incredible afternoon! The NFL held the first ever "Team Mate Rally" for all of the volunteers scheduled to work the upcoming SuperBowl here in New Orleans. The afternoon was filled with hospitality training (by none other than the Disney institute), city updates from the mayor, one-on-one interviews with several past and current Saints players, encouragement from the Bensons (owners I the Saints team) and lots of entertainment! I'm excited to be a part of this national event in a couple of weeks! - Christina

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Another state crossed off the geographical list.... Been there done that! :). - Christina

Squirrel Monkey!

I mean... Have you ever seen anything so cute?! 
This little guy was so tiny and soft. Loved getting to know him just a bit while in Mexico. - Christina

Snuggling with a Black Jaguar

At first glance, we thought this little guy was a black puppy. But nooooo... He's a little black jaguar! He wasn't as soft as he looked (or I expected) but as log as you were helping him hold that tiny bottle, he was happy in your arms. Sooooo sweet!!! - Christina

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Straight No Chaser

A little over a year ago I had my first taste of the group "Straight No Chaser. With acapella takes on everything from The Twelve Days of Christmas to Gangnam Style, This group of 10 college friends puts the fun back into old school Acapella. As a Christmas Present to ourselves, the hubby and I decided to partake in their concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Less than a week after the Newtown, CT Elementary School school, the group made an outstanding tribute to the lost and put on an excellent show to boost the spirits of those in attendance. With an audience ranging from kindergartners to the Golden Oldies, SNC was entertainment for all and we loved the show!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dishing It Up

I've painted a lot of things in my day... but never dishes. :) At least not something I didn't throw on a pottery wheel myself.  So this was a little new for me... and fun! I used the Martha Stewart line of glass & ceramic paints on two pieces I picked up at the local Dollar Tree store.  For around $5.00 my niece will turn three in style with her very own birthday dishes.  She loves orange... and tigers... can you tell?!

I highly recommend this project... it's super fun and simple.  The paints take a little time to dry (and it's not the easiest to paint onto to finished ceramic), but then you bake then in the oven for 30 minutes on 350 (and let cool down as the oven cools down).  Tada! They are now even dishwasher safe.  Hope she likes them... they are being shipped out today. :) ~ Christina

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lemon Salt Body Scrub

T-minus three days until the cruise so I found myself wanting a really good exfoliation this week. Winter temps certainly don't provide for pretty skin do they?! So to bring the sparkle back I whipped up this super simple recipe. Fabulous! Only challenge with this one is I'd you have ANY cuts (thanks paper cut!) it will buuurrnnnnn. Lemon and salt and open wound = ouch. But aside from that, it's heavenly! - Christina

Countrified Fun

Driving SUVs, vans or even trucks make me nervous.  I like my little four-door car.  It's close to the ground and manageable.  At least I FEEL like I have control on it (most days).

So when my cousin asked if I wanted to learn to drive the tractor, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.  When in Rome, right?!

I must say.... it was FUN!  So much fun.  I didn't really do much other than drive straight, back and forth (and turn around), but that was enough.  That thing was awesome.

And I am in awe of my cousin (who is younger than me) who drives that thing every day.  It really is a skill. So much fun... that's all I can say!

~ Christina

That's a Wrap! (Err... Scarf I Mean)

Over the past decade, knitting has quickly grown as a "microtrend" without discrimination.  If you haven't, be sure to check out the knitting section at Michael's (arts & crafts store).  There's a huge line of products geared directly to men!  

I attempted traditional knitting several years ago and failed miserably.  I kept messing up and couldn't seem to keep my stitches consistent or even.  So in one of my many purges, I opted to come to terms with the fact I just wasn't that cool.

And then the Christmas of 2012 happened.  After burning out within a 1 1/2 month period (hand painting 400+ ornaments), I wanted something creative but simple.  Something soothing.  And there it was.  The knitting loom.  Oh how fun! This crafty little tool helps ensure that my final product comes out like it's supposed to look... and with my handy 50% off coupon, it was only $5 (plus the yarn).  So off I went with supplies in hand with dreams of soft scarves floating overhead.

And so I began.  And continued.  And enjoyed it.  So much so that I began making plans for scarf #2 and #3 before #1 was even finished.  There is a meditative quality about the repetition.  And knowing that I am making something I will wear... it just made me feel good.

So today I completed it.  My very first, handmade, scarf.  You know me... I even through in a little bling.  Those are Swarovski crystals you see in the fringe.  

I wouldn't plan on selling these anytime soon... it's far form perfect.  But who cares?!  I love the large messy, chunky, soft scarves.  And this one is all mine.  Made by me FOR me.  Next up... a special little niece will be getting a handmade gift very soon. <3 ~ Christina

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Natural Nail Strengthener

I love anything natural... especially if it's inexpensive and promises fast results!  This fits all of those requirements.  Clear nail polish and garlic.  Yes.  Stay with me... I promise you will want to try this.

Take a bottle of clear nail polish (don't go cheap - the quality of the polish should still be decent), and add in freshly chopped garlic (don't use the stuff in the jar though that still works, just not as well).  Let it stew for 7-10 days (the longer the better), then paint it directly onto your nails.  You will be amazed... your nails will be stronger than had you painted them with acrylic polish (which of course is all the rage right now and quite pricey).  The beauty is the polish comes off like normal (no buffing or having to go back to the salon) with polish remover.

The only downside (small) is your nails will smell like garlic for about a day... but that fades fast.  Try it and lemme know what you think. :) ~ Christina

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Etsy Shop

What is Etsy? Basically, Etsy is an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies. I've joined before.  I've heard about it. But I've never sold anything through the site.

So during my transition, and the holidays just around the corner, I decided to give it a try.


That's all I can say.  Over 350 hand-painted ornaments were sold through this site alone within a 45 day period. 

WOW.  I was BUSY.  But that's not the best part... I really like the way Etsy allows you to keep track of everything in one neat dashboard.  Plus their iPhone app ROCKS. Every new sale would make my phone "cha-ching!" (which I just loved).

Definitely plan to continuing with this nifty little site. ~ Christina

Natural Olive Oil Foot Scrub

The best natural foot scrub is taking a walk on the beach. However, if you can't get to the beach, then this recipe will make your feet feel just as soft and relaxed. Foot care is something that most of us don't think about in the winter (summer sandals anyone?!) Our feet carry us through our life experiences in all types of shoes and should be treated with love. Olive oil is great for heart health and for skin care too because of its high content of vitamins A and E.

This nourishing scrub only takes about 15 minutes once a week and your feet will love you for it.
You will need the following:

  • Two tablespoons of salt.
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is my favorite)
  • Towel.

What you need to do:

  • In a small dish or bowl, mix salt, oil, and essential oils.
  • Put a towel under your feet. Use 1/2 of the mixture and gently massage it into one foot, spending more time on rough areas like heels. Massage for at least 5 minutes.
  • Repeat this process on the other foot. When you're finished with both feet, rinse off the salt and oil with warm water and blot your feet dry with a towel.

This foot scrub can be made ahead of time and stored in wide-mouthed glass jar for easier use.

For an EXTRA special treat, or if you really need to soften your skin, heat a small bowl of olive oil in the microwave until it's warm.  Let your feet soak in it for a few minutes, then slowly scrub the sea salt all over.  Rinse and towel off.  You just may never go back for that overpriced pedicure again.  It's AH-MAZING! ~ Christina

P.E.T.A Member (Card Carrying)

Since becoming vegan, I've make the commitment to educate myself on not just the health benefits but also everything else that goes with my choice.  There is so much that is impacted by choosing to go vegan (or adopting a plant-based diet).  One of which is learning how animals are treated, not only as a food source, but for clothing (fur, leather, etc.), animal testing, entertainment, etc.  It's like opening Pandora's box... the more you learn, the more you want to know.  And the more it changes you.  At least me.  With the end of 2012, I made the decision to become a member of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  

You hear PETA and immediately envision someone throwing red paint on a celebrity wearing fur or protests outside of the Ringling Bros. Circus.  At least that used to be my first images when I heard the name.  But it really is an amazing organization.  Yes... there are some extremists out there. And sure... I still have a lot to learn and I doubt I'll be yielding a protest sign anytime soon (though you never know)... but their core beliefs align with mine.  I believe animals are sentient beings and deserve to experience the life God gave them.  Not have their feathers plucked off in order to make a comfy down blanket... or have their eyes poisoned as new mascaras are tested on them for side effects.... or have their baby taken away as soon as they are born, with it immediately being placed in a too-small crate in order to keep it small and weak for someone's tasty veal dish.  

Ugh... my stomach just hurts thinking about all that.  So... I'm officially a member of PETA.  And while I know that is completely opposite of who I was only 15 years ago, what can I say?  I've evolved.  I've changed.  For the better I think.  You might not agree... but that's ok. That's what keeps life interesting.  ~ Christina

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Avocado + Egg Yolk Hair Mask

I love trying new holistic and natural ways to do things.  Part of my Christmas present to myself was purchasing a couple of books that share beauty secrets from around the world using natural (and often times local) items in place of fancy chemical-ridden products.

Last night I tried an avocado and egg yolk hair mask.  The moisture rich properties in both are supposed to be amazing for your locks... and the avocado is supposed to help the frizzies we tend to get this time of year as the temps drop and heater use increases.

First - I struggled with using egg yolks since I'm vegan and don't believe in eating animals or animal products/by-products.  But I thought... what the hell.  My MawMaw had already purchased a dozen eggs so using one wouldn't hurt anything.  Moving forward, I'm not sure if I'd advocate doing it again for that simple reason.

Second - this makes a MESS!  I used one avocado and one egg yolk.  You want to really mash them up until its a creamy texture (the photo above is too chunky - lesson learned).  As I was applying it to my hair (thank goodness it's short now!), I made such a mess that Denver decided to steer clear of me until I was done.  After it was applied, I put on a thermal shower cap that helps to heat the hair using your own body heat.  It mostly keeps the mess at bay which is much appreciated.  

You sit for thirty minutes with this mask on your hair, and then rinse it out.  That was the fun part.  The smell of avocados in your shower is interesting enough, but seeing the water turn puke green for a good five minutes was a little gross.  

After I was showered, I found my hair still smelled like avocados which wasn't terrible but certainly wasn't the most pleasant of smells at bedtime. 

But alas... this morning... I could see a difference.   It was a rainy, cold day and my hair would normally have those little "baby hair" frizzies all over the place.  None.  It was smooth and glossy and just looked nice.

Have to say... I'll try this one again.  Maybe experiment with something other than egg yolk... but the avocado is a keeper.  ~ Christina

Spa Mizan = New 'Do

I've been thinking about it for a while... and what the hell?!  I needed something new, especially after all the "new" changes lately.  :)  So I chopped it all off.  12+ inches of hair snipped away within a two hour visit to Spa Mizan.  The pic below really doesn't show the cut... but it's the only one I have.  I LOVE. I also really liked Spa Mizan... and the adorable girl who cut my hair.  I'll be back for sure... next time possibly adding a massage to the visit.  ~ Christina

Coyote Close-Up

Growing up in Louisiana, especially with lots of "country" cousins, I've heard all about coyotes.  Hell, I used to watch the roadrunner cartoons as a kid.  But I've never seen one up close.  Until a couple weeks ago.  My cousin and I were heading out to dinner, when I saw what looked like a large, and strange dog, near the side of the road.  Now, mind you, the "road" was pretty desolate and in my humble opinion we were still pretty much in BFE... but anyway... back to my story.  So he points and says "look there - that's a coyote!"  In my city girl excitement, I'm pretty certain I squealed or made some equally obnoxious noise and slammed on the brakes... and proceeded to spin the car around to go back for a closer look.  Oddly, the coyote was much closer to the road than normal (or so I was told) and out earlier than what is standard for them (it was about 8:30pm).  I drive right up near it, and to my adoration, it didn't more too much allowing for me to get a really close look.  They are similar in size to a small German Shepherd, weighing on average 25-40 pounds.  But I must say, I would have described it closer to a small deer weighing closer to 50 pounds... but hey, what do I know?!  It looked like it was part dog, part deer and part fox (that part mainly being its tail).  The eyes are yellow with black, round pupils and it runs with its tail down instead of horizontally like foxes, or up like wolves or dogs.

If my cousin wouldn't have been there, I might have tried to get out of the car to get an even closer look... but apparently that's not such a great idea.  Especially since there was a good chance it was sick or something (due to the unusual proximity it was keeping with us).  Overall it was a pretty cool experience. :) ~ Christina

Frosto - 50's Style Diner

Frosto is a 50's Style Diner tucked away in Crowley, Louisiana.  Considering the HUGE sign out front advertising "Best Bacon Burger", the only reason I checked this joint out was the fact its one of the ONLY restaurants in my current hometown.  Yes... that's right.  I went from living with 30+ restaurants within a walking distance to this (but more on that in a later post).  Frostos features all the "regulars" of this part of Louisiana... burgers, gumbo, poboys, breakfast biscuits, sundaes, malts, shakes and banana Splits.  Of course I eat NONE of that... and this place certainly isn't ideal for a vegan.  But they did have a side salad, which wasn't terrible, and their tator tots were fairly decent.  When my bestie was in town a couple weekends back, we joined MawMaw for lunch at this little slice of history.   That part is actually quite interesting...

Frosto Drive-In, commonly referred to as "Frosto" is located in Crowley, Louisiana. Located at the corner of East 3rd Street and North Avenue G, Frosto is well known in SouthLouisiana for its homemade, "old fashioned" hamburger. Frosto is included on local tours of Acadia Parish and Crowley, Louisiana.

Originally opened by Ralph Roseland in 1950 as part of the national chain Zesto, the business served hotdogs, ice cream and soft drinks. After a few years as Zesto, the business encountered financial hardship. Roseland became delinquent on rental payments to the Lawrence family, descendants of Crowley's founding Duson family.

In 1955, Roseland suggested to the Lawrences that Zesto's manager, Helen Larive Lafosse, take over Zesto and assume the debt for the one year of backdue rent. Lafosse was an 8th grade educated seamstress who had worked her way to manager at Zesto. Knowing that Roseland was unable to pay rent, Lafosse negotiated a reduced rent with the Lawrences. The deal was made on a handshake. She severed ties with the Zesto chain to save the franchise fees. In renaming the business, Lafosse tried to save as much of the neon sign as possible to save costs. She kept the S T O and renamed the business Frosto.

Soon thereafter, the menu expanded to include hamburgers. In the early years, the Lawrences placed a sign on the property that said, "Will Build to Suit"; an obvious lack of confidence in the future of Frosto. In the 1960s, Lafosse's daughter, Lola Lafosse Trahan, became a partner in Frosto. Trahan worked in the business from the time she was 10 years old. Frosto became popular as a reward for winners of local youth league baseball games. Each team had a local sponsor that treated the team to malts and burgers after each winning game. After a game, winning teams piled into cars and trucks and headed to Frosto. This trend continued through the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1960s, Trahan came up with the idea to put bacon on a hamburger. The baconburger was born and Frosto became "The Home of the Baconburger."

During the 1970s, Frosto's popularity continued as national fast-food chains entered the local market. Fast food restaurants began to pop up in North Crowley, Louisiana near Interstate 10. Frosto's appeal remained because the burgers were homemade and Frosto was located downtown. Influenced by the national chains, in the 1980s, Frosto added a drive-thru. Around that time, Trahan expanded the menu to include homecooked plate lunches.

By 1996, the remaining heirs of the Lawrence family no longer lived in Crowley, Louisiana. After 41 years of doing business on a handshake, Trahan purchased the land and building where her mother began Frosto in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Trahan did a major renovation of the 46-year-old building, including a minor expansion. The sign atop Frosto was restored to the beautiful neon that was the early years.

At the dawn of the new millennium, the local power company, CLECO, began a marketing campaign aimed at showing that they had long been a part of the local community. The television and print ads featured both Frosto and owner, Lola Lafosse Trahan. Recently, Trahan relinquished day to day operations of Frosto to her son and daughter-in-law.
In early 2011 The Trahan's decided to expand Frosto and add on a dining room. The dining room opened on April 13, 2011 with a 50's feel to it. The food and service remains the same, but the atmosphere is much more comfortable.

On every third Saturday of every month from 6-8 Frosto has a Classic Car Show, or a Cruise In. You can go and see classic cars from any year, enjoy a burger and malt and have a great time!  I might just have to do that this month... ~ Christina