Love Actually and DIY Sugar Scrubs

Tonight, I had a date with two vital elements of life, Love Actually and a DIY Christmas craft, as I haven’t given up on my “homemade Christmas.” Unfortunately, I can never seem to work our seven different TV remotes when Nicholas is out of town, and so I settled for the Love Actually soundtrack on my iPad instead.

I wanted to make sugar scrubs, but didn’t want to have to run back out to the store, so I used a hodge-podge of household goods: sugar, salt, rosemary from the sidewalk, essential oils, limes, mandarins, olive oil and baby oil. The recipe is simple, and in the absence of one scent or ingredient, I just substituted what I had. (This way, I can convince myself that I made these for “free”).

Recipe: these are all approximations…you really can’t mess it up. 🙂
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
10-ish drops of Essential oil
Rosemary, lime zest, or something for color/texture.

Mix the ingredients together, and it’s enough for two jelly jars.

Substitutions:
-I used olive oil until we got dangerously low and wanted to save some for Sunday gravy; then I subbed in baby oil. When I ran out of baby oil, I used mineral oil (we usually use it for hydrating our cutting boards, but ironically, it was the best sub. It keeps your mixture pure white, and doesn’t have the strong smell of olive oil or baby oil, and thus requires less essential oil. In the future, I’ll just buy and use regular mineral oil.)
-I wanted a citrus scent, but didn’t have lemons, so I used limes for zest and juiced it into the mixture. When I ran out of limes, I used clementines. (Good thing I stopped there…I think pineapple, the only other fruit in the house, would have been really funky.)

In spite of my jumbled ingredients, I ended up with an awesome product that was super easy, cheap, and as an added bonus, my hands are soft and smell all rosemary and citrusy, just from cleaning the excess off the jars.

I’m sure the folks on my Christmas list are hoping for fancy gift cards, but I’m giving a little “scrub-scrub” instead. 🙂

Happy holidays, y’all.

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An Ode To My Mason Jars

(Well, It’s not really an ode…just a blog.)

This past spring I made a few road trips from Atlanta to central Illinois, where my parents were cleaning out and preparing to sell the family farm. Regardless of whether it was just nostalgia, or a general need for certain items, I hauled full loads in my CX7 back to our townhouse, in hopes of preserving pieces of the farm in the city.

One of the many items I rescued was a serious stash of Mason/Kerr jars that were in my parents’ cellar or in the chicken house. Much to my dismay, my mom actually admitted that she had thrown a load away already, and terrified at the thought, I took as many as I could box up.

My sheer delight regarding my farm things hasn’t exactly been shared by my husband, who is under the delusion that I have inherited too many jars. Too many?? That’s impossible! The options are endless, but he doesn’t quite appreciate that, as he only sees the precarious stack of them on a garage shelf. I say I’m hoarding them because I use them for my homemade detergent, but the reality is, I have a hard time parting with them, even for a sale.

In perusing Pinterest the other day, I determined it was time to begin my fall decorating, and as I began changing the seasonal goods around our house, the ideas for my sacred jars began: candle holders, toothbrush holders, make-up organizers, vases, weight loss marble visual aids, and the list goes on.

I love to find a purpose for them, but I don’t mind just having a serious stash of them for the intended use—next summer when I have a neighborhood garden plot, I’ll can up any kind of fruit or veggie I can harvest from our red-clay soil. Until then, I love having them sprinkled throughout the house, and don’t mind that there’s still an un-used stash in the garage. I feel a bit of the simple, country life every time I dust one off and use it, and the older I get, the more inclined I am to cling to a few things from the past.

Disclaimer: I know this is a lot of pictures–that’s the point. 🙂

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Gatsby? My Gatsby.

I didn’t teach The Great Gatsby this year– for the first time in 11 years of teaching. I have a somewhat bizarre obsession that began long before Leo and Jay-Z made it cool again.

I first taught the Gatsby the fall after I turned 22, when my one of my only serious relationships finally came to its last end. in a lot of ways, I still chased my own past while I struggled to teach a novel that I didn’t even enjoy in high school. I found its lessons on love, letting go, and reserving judgement profound, long before I became enamored by the glitz, glamour, pearls, and lace of all things flappers and Daisy Buchanan.

My first go at the Gatsby probably left my students with few memorable classroom lessons, as I think I was the one who learned most. In many ways, I grew up this last decade with Gatsby by my side– a trusty friend and teacher who reminded me that that a long summer ahead holds all kinds of promises and life will inevitably start over again in the fall. As a teacher, this has absolutely held true, every year for the last decade, as summer always provided renewed hope and fall meant another chance to be a better person, a wiser teacher, and correct the mistakes from the prior year.

Over the years, I’ve honed the lessons of Gatsby into ways to reach students and have learned how to make a classic applicable and even modern to teenagers. The last few years my classroom has turned into a full fledged 20s throwback, complete with a movie project and a full costume Gatsby luncheon on the last days of school in May.

Last May, I wrapped up my last full year of teaching in a style of which I’m sure Fitzgerald would have been proud. I began the day in white as Daisy Buchanan, and most of my students dressed up; the guys wore snazzy suits and the girls went all out with flapper dresses, pearls, floppy hats and feathered hair pieces. We drank school appropriate versions of Mint Juleps, ate finger sandwiches and watched the student remakes of Gatsby scenes. It was a fantastic final day of glitz, jazz, pearls and Gatsby charm. As the new movie released, we took our party to the theater in partial costume to witness the modern interpretation.

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Daisy Buchanan at our luncheon last May.

In the absence of a classroom to decorate this spring, I redecorated our guest bathroom in Fitzgerald’s honor. My two copies of the text with 10 years of annotations and insights made up the wall paper and I hung the 70s movie posters from my classroom. A few bits of homemade lace and old pearls helped to soften the space, and while I have yet to figure out how to hook up motion censored audio, I’m pretty content with my Fitzgerald tribute.

In spite of the fact that the past constantly does reshape my future, I also know that summer does stretch out ahead with new promises and life most certainly does start over each year; the lessons of Gatsby are inevitably accurate, even this year as the school year ends without me in it.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Garage Sale Inspiration

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Yesterday was the community garage sale in our neighborhood, Glenwood Park,which is nestled between East Atlanta Village and Grant Park. Instead of signing up to participate by selling my house-hold seconds, I thought I’d try my hand at selling all things “homegrownjewlz.” I recently decided my business logo should be a dragonfly (explanation to follow in another blog), made business cards and a banner to match, and then spent the last week making as much strawberry jam and pomegranate detergent as I had time to create.

It was a wet, overcast day and yet the community still came out in packs to
dig for bargains. I spooned jam into every mouth that would accept, and
particularly enjoyed the sticky-fingered kids who asked for more. I sold a
lot of jam yesterday, and all but 2 jars of my pomegranate detergent, but
more importantly, it was a great day for networking and meeting people who appreciate homemade things and/or have a similar sensibility and creative spirit.

Local residents, now acquaintances, and soon to be friends gave me a variety of ideas and were excited and supportive about my little garage business (soon to become my studio after remodel). As a result of yesterday, I submitted my application to sell detergents at a local co-op called Bee Hive in the Edgewood Shopping Center and talked to the owner of our community coffee shop about selling my jam on his shelves. Fingers crossed on both accounts.

I love the possibilities and hope that I feel today, and am ready to get back into my garage studio to tackle my next project–Aprons out of vintage sheets and doilies are up next.

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Peanut Butter and Banana Go-gurt

I don’t know when go-gurt emerged and improved the world of yogurt eating, but I discovered it in college and used to keep my freezer stocked. I saw a homemade version of this frozen goodness on the Food Network the other day, so instead of drinking my protein shake this morning, I made an attempt at an oldie but goodie.

The verdict? Delicious. I’m a texture person, and I’d much rather eat these frozen yogurt puddles than drink a protein shake, and while the ingredients are the same, the flavor is richer. Double bonus.

Ingredients: (this is for two servings)
2 T peanut butter
1 C vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
3 small bananas
1 packet Splenda
(Use skim milk if you want it thinner)

Directions:
Blend ingredients, pour into ziploc bag, trim the corner, and use like a pastry bag to squeeze “puddles” in whatever size you wish onto parchment paper. Freeze for about 15 minutes before eating.

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Dough by D’Amico

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(This is an older picture of our food board when we did a trial run with friends)

My “pizza man” and I are starting a supper club this spring: bruschetta, napoletana pizza, home-brew and gelato. We’ve been scheming this for a good minute, but on a recent road trip to the mountains we brainstormed names and determined that “Dough by D’Amico” was the way to go.

We’re taking the month of April to plan our menus, design some decor, and of course, practice our 900 degree pizza method in order to smooth the system and avoid some oven mayhem that we’ve recently incurred.

If things go well, as the optimist in me declares will certainly be the case, we’ll turn the supper club into a pizza business in the empty shop across the street from our house; that’s the beauty of an adventure– we never know where it might lead and how it may change our life.

Side note: it was on this same road trip that we realized that a decision to live life sans-kids means the end of the D’Amico name…gasp! Who would run our pizza enterprise and make home brew in glasses sporting our fantastic Italian name? Oh, the pressure good pizza and home brew has created. 🙂

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Christmas Cookies in January

This past Christmas, one of my favorite students brought me these ridiculous holiday cookies–I remember tasting them, and after one bite, I threw caution to the wind and ate all three without even stopping to breathe.  (I know you’re not supposed to play favorites with students, but cookies always help.) I asked him for his mom’s recipe, and finally made them tonight. I’m infamous for not having certain ingredients and improvising, and tonight was no exception—the recipe calls for crushed peppermints and white chocolate morsels; I didn’t have either, but I had crushed Andes white peppermint baking chips, so I used those.  Delicious.  Here’s the deal:

Peppermint Melt Away Cookies
Active Time: 30 minutes.  Total time: 1 Hour

Ingredients:

Pam cooking spray
1 8oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter 9 (1 stick)
Large zip-top bag
1 cup starlight mints (or candy canes) finely crushed
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box white cake mix
1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Coat baking sheets with spray.
  3. Cut cream cheese and butter into small pieces, place into large bowl to soften and crush mints in zip-top bag.
  4. Add egg, vanilla, and half the cake mix to the cream cheese and butter.  Mix with electric mixer for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in remaining half of cake mix, white chocolate chips and ½ cup of the mints.  Place remaining ½ cup of mints in  shallow bowl.
  5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and press tops of dough into mints.  Place on baking sheets, mint side up and 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden and center is barely set.  Let stand 3-4 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Making these cookies tonight connected me with an awesome moment at the end of the semester, and I’m thankful to feel this sense of connection to a world that already feels like a distant memory.  And, as an added bonus, I love that my whole house smells like Christmas now, and I have the perfect midnight snack.

 

meltaway cookies