Remember when I wasn’t Martha Stewart?

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’ll be giving you a follow-up to my post last year when I told you how I was no Martha Stewart and I shared some photos with you of previous years’ Thanksgiving name cards that I made for my guests.  I couldn’t share the ones I made in 2014, because my guests hadn’t seen them yet.

I was actually just going through my point and shoot camera the other day, and realized I still had the photos on there to show you later.  (Being as I typically use my studio camera, I tend to forget that I even have a point and shoot sometimes.)

Anyway, this is the little turkey that saved my seat at Thanksgiving.  This was the first time I ever used a pre-fab kit to make the place cards rather than making them from scratch, but I found myself running out of time as the big day approached.

Immediately following Thanksgiving dinner, Jeremy’s turkey fell to the ground, and out cat, Dakota, got ahold of it.  By the time we rescued it, it looked almost as bad as a real Thanksgiving turkey!

Let’s chat:  How early do you start planning for your holiday meals and guests?  Other than Thanksgiving and Christmas, what other large meals do you plan in advance?  Do you photograph funny things that your pets do to things around your house?  (That last question applies to everyone except my good buddy Mark Bialczak… I already know that he makes a very cool photographic anthology of his sweet dog, Ellie B’s collections of things she shouldn’t have.)

It’s that time again…

Believe it or not, I’m not really into prairie living, but because I have so many allergies and intolerances, I have to do a lot of cooking at home.  Another thing I make at home is laundry soap as well as body and hand soap.  Usually when I make either of these, I like to make enough to last for several months so that I only have to do it a couple of times a year.  This weekend, I made the first batch of body and hand soap.

Step One: Gather your oils and ingredients.

If you’re not familiar with the soap-making process, basically, you mix various oils with lye and heat it.  It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and everything has to be measured precisely by weight on a digital scale.  There has to be a certain percentage of each type of oil to get the desired results, such as how hard you want the soap to be, how sudsy it will get, how moisturizing it will be, etc.  I like to add cocoa butter and shea butter as well as goat’s milk because these all add extra moisture.  Castor oil and coconut oil add for extra cleansing, and olive oil and almond oil add extra creaminess.

Step Two: Mix the lye water with the heated oils.

After the oil-lye mixture has cooked for the appropriate amount of time (around four hours), I add essential oil to make it smell pretty, and then pour it in a mold.  Because I use hot process (meaning I cook it), I can unmold it the next day and use it soon thereafter.  If I used the cold process method, it would be more “liquidy” and I could pour it in pretty shaped molds.  But then it would take weeks to “saponify” meaning for the lye to have a chemical reaction with the oil and not be caustic any longer.

Step Three: Cook it for a really long time.

This time, I made gardenia soap.  Later this week, I’ll be making a batch of lavender, to which I’ll add some dried lavender buds to make it pretty, as well as some honey-oat-almond, which will smell like almond, and have honey as well as ground oats in it for extra exfoliation.  I actually prefer to use this oat soap in the kitchen because it smells so much like food!

Step Four: Pour it into a mold and let it harden overnight, then slice.

You can buy homemade soaps all over the place these days, as they are increasingly popular.  I did that for a few years, but they used fragrance oil rather than essential oil to keep their costs down, and I became allergic to the perfume in the fragrance.

Step Five: Enjoy!

If you’ve never used homemade soap before, let me tell you that once you do, you’ll never want to use store bought soap again.  The first time you use homemade, it feels like you just washed ten years of yuck off your skin! You’ll also realize after that, that store bought soap actually feels slimy in comparison.  Your skin will be softer, your shave will be closer, and you’ll feel the cleanest you’ve ever felt.   Time to talk:  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have any allergies?  Would you use soap with ground oats or lavender buds inside?

First week of spring, my butt!

I can’t believe it was only last Friday that spring arrived.  Here where I live, today it was 86°F at 5:00 PM!  Yesterday, at 5:45, it was 89°F!  Of course, with the humidity, it feels a good 10°F hotter than that.  I can only imagine how miserable it’s going to be once summer gets here.

Let’s talk:  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?   Do you prefer extremely hot weather or extremely cold weather and why?  Is it humid where you are?

My House Caught on Fire!

Last week, my sister, Michelle, and I had to go somewhere and we were out late.  My son, Jeremy, accidentally locked himself outside when he got home from work, and he had no way to get in, so he sat on the front porch to wait for us.

When Michelle and I got home, the three of us walked inside together, and we immediately noticed a bad smell.  We were afraid because all of us were gone all day, that one of the cats may have launched a mutiny and used the bathroom somewhere other than their litter boxes.  But the more we smelled, the more we all decided it didn’t smell like that kind of foul smell.

It was late, so after we cleaned the litter boxes and changed our clothes, we made dinner and watched a little television before bed.  An hour or so later, as Michelle was in her bedroom getting ready for bed, I heard her scream.  When I went in to see what happened, she told me that something black caught her eye, and she was afraid that out black cat, Zsa zsa, had lost a large tuft of fur in a fight.  (The other cats tend to pick on poor Zsa zsa when we’re not around.)  When she bent over to pick it up, however, she noticed that her surge protector was stuck to the carpet on top of the “black fur.”  She then pulled on it and realized that it was not cat fur at all, but that her surge protector had apparently caught on fire!  (By the way, only her computer and monitor were plugged in.  Thankfully, they both still work.)

I have no idea why our smoke detector didn’t go off, and I know it works because it went off just the week before when I had some candles lit.  Luckily, the fire must have put itself out, or heat and smoke was as far as it got.  And thankfully all our belongings and more importantly our cats were not caught in a blazing home!  We still have no idea how or why this happened, but we do intend to write to the manufacturer of the surge protector company and see what they have to say.  How scary is this?


Time to talk:  Have you ever personally known someone this has happened to?  What do you think made this happen?  Have you even known someone whose house caught fire?

No Room in the Doghouse

Poor Snoopy!  At least the Brown family’s house has a large closet where he can house his rejection letters.  I wonder if Charles Schulz would have lived (and not retired), if he would have had Snoopy transition to writing on a computer and sending in his queries by email?  Have an amazing weekend, friends!

The Recurring Chair

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the true story of The Recurring Chair.  As you know, besides being a writer, I am also a professional photographer, which means I am always on the lookout for interesting props.  About two years ago, my sister, Michelle, and I were driving along an out-of-the-way road, when we saw what appeared to be the most perfect red chair in someone’s garbage.

One of our favorite spots to take a posh chair is out to the woods near our house for some “elegant grunge” style portraits such as this:

Now, please keep in mind that we were both extremely embarrassed to garbage pick in broad daylight, but a find like the red chair was too good to wait for dark.  We just knew that is we came back later, that chair would be gone.

Anyway, the red chair seemed perfect… until we got it home.  Once we got it home, we noticed it had a certain funk to it, and one of the legs was wobbly.  We considered repairing it, but in the end, decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

In our neighborhood, if you garbage doesn’t fit in your can, you have to call the sanitation department and make arrangements for them to do a non-scheduled pick-up.  Furthermore, these are only free twice a year.  So it’s not uncommon for us to save our big garbage until we have amassed enough big stuff to make the call worthwhile.  When you schedule a pick-up, they have three days to actually come get the garbage from in front of your house.

About a month later, we had a few other pieces of furniture and some large boxes to toss, so we scheduled a pick-up, and the red chair made its way to the curb.  After we took everything down to the road, we left to run an errand.  When we returned, we noticed that the red chair was gone!

We chuckled that someone else had garbage picked it as we had, and by the next morning when the rest of the garbage was picked up, we forgot all about it.

Fast forward a year later.  Last year, we had a friend who had stored a bunch of his stuff in our garage for nearly eleven months, and we had another friend who had kept a few of her things in our garage for almost two months.  Additionally, my son, Jeremy, did a month-long (quite messy!) project in the garage where he made soundproof panels for his recording studio.  Furthermore, we had amassed some more large, bulky furniture that we wanted to throw away.

The point is, our garage had reached capacity, and it was so gross, we hated even setting foot in it!  It was time to reclaim our garage.

So over the three-day weekend for Memorial Day 2014, Michelle and I literally spent morning, noon, and night clearing crap out of our garage.  We pre-arranged a pick-up for after the weekend, and Friday evening, we started hauling stuff down to the curb.  Besides things that were just plain garbage such as a ton of cardboard boxes, we tossed several items of furniture, games, electronics, gardening tools, photography props, over-sized picture frames, and other stuff we no-longer needed.  Among the items we discarded was a large, heavy, outdated entertainment center.

We were amused and the inordinate number of people who were just ballsy enough to stop their cars and actually garbage pick our stuff right in front of us as we worked.  One man who took our terra cotta flower pots actually walked into the garage where we were working and asked if we had any more!  It seemed as soon as we took something to the curb, someone stopped to pick it up.

That Saturday night, while we had only just made a large dent in the work to be done, our rabbit died, and we had to leave to go bury him.  When we got home, the only two items left by our curb were the entertainment center… and the red chair we had thrown away the year before!  We both laughed hysterically, and were happy for the levity to our sad situation with our pet.

By Sunday morning, the red chair was gone again, but by Monday afternoon, it was returned!

Monday afternoon was also when we were finally done cleaning the garage, and it is still just as clean today without any items that belong to anyone else who doesn’t live here.

The garbage truck came Tuesday morning, and by then, the only things left for them to take other than broken down cardboard boxes were the entertainment center… and the recurring red chair!

Time to talk:  How clean is your garage?  Have you ever garbage picked anything?  If so, what?  Would you ever have the nerve to garbage pick something, then several months later put it back?