Monday, June 17, 2013

Homemade Cough & Allergy Syrup

I stumbled upon this recipe for a homemade cough rsuppresant/allergy relief/expectorant on Pinterest (http://nancyvienneau.com/blog/articles/home-remedy/).  Its pretty reddish-orange color caught my eye.

Homemade Cough & Allergy Syrup

In a small saucepan add 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon water, 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar, and 1Tablespoon honey.  (Local honey is preferred, as its properties will match up with your allergies.). Stir until the honey has melted.  Don't worry if everything doesn't incorporate completely.  Most likely it will appear a bit grainy like in the above photo.   Allow to cool.  Take 1 teaspoon as needed for cough and allergy relief.  

This is a very small batch, so you only need a small container with lid.  It should keep in your refrigerator for quite some time. 

I tried this tonight and it tasted really good.  It appears to be effective, as well.  It cleared my stuffiness and soothed my throat.

WORD OF WARNING:  Do NOT give this syrup to children under 1year of age!  Their systems cannot properly process the honey, and they can develop infant botulism, which can be fatal!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Never Buy Body Scrub Again!

This is super easy and very inexpensive for the amount of product you have when you're finished.  

Homemade Body Scrub

4-pound sack of sugar 
1-pound box of Kosher salt
1 bottle of Dawn Hand Renewal liquid dish soap (your choice of color/scent - I used Pomegranate)

In a large bowl, pour small amounts of each ingredient and stir together using a large spoon.  Gradually add more of each ingredient and stir thoroughly.  Continue to add ingredients until you have used all of the sugar and salt, and the texture is similar to wet sand.  


Divide into smaller containers with tight-fitting lids.  Try to keep water out of the mixture when using, as it will make the product soupy.  


This should last a long time, as a little goes a long way.  It also makes a great gift when packaged in a pretty container.





Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bathtub Blues...

I used to store cleaning supplies underneath each bathroom sink. This served two purposes: 1. The supplies were right where I needed them, and 2. I always had back-up if I ran out in one room. Then one day when I was buying double cleaning supplies, I found this caddy at the grocery store. I decided to buy it and reduce the amount of supplies I kept on hand. This also freed up space under the counter in one bathroom, which was sorely needed.

If you are like me, you have tried an assortment of cleaning products to clean the bathtub. I have tried them all - Mr. Clean, Pine-Sol, KaBoom, Barkeeper's Friend, even WD-40! Yes, at one time people swore by the petroleum-based product as a grease and grime fighting agent. Finally, I settled on the combination of Mr. Clean and his Magic Eraser. I tried the Magic Eraser with other cleaners, but nothing else worked as well. 


I had Mr. Clean on my grocery list when a friend and co-worker suggested a homemade substitute - white vinegar mixed with Dawn Dish soap. She swore by it; it could be made with ingredients i already had on hand; and it was inexpensive - especially compared to buying the pre-made cleaning liquids from the store. I vowed to try her simple recipe, but forgot about it before my next trip to the grocery store. However, a couple of weeks ago I ran out of Mr. Clean and remembered my friend's recipe. I grabbed the Dawn from under the sink and a bottle of white vinegar from the cabinet and headed to the bathroom. I turned the drain stopper, squirted some dish soap in the tub, and splashed some vinegar on top. Using the Magic Eraser, I went to work cleaning the weekly build-up of dirt and grime. I was amazed at how quickly I had a sparkling clean bathtub. The mixture cut my cleaning time in half and gave me the cleanest tub I have had in years.






When I returned to work the following Monday, I asked my friend what ratio she used and if she mixed the two products together before using. She said she mixed hers into a recycled squeeze bottle using a 3:1 ratio, vinegar to dish soap. I have since made my own mixture in a recycled bottle. You might want to do the same.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Duck and Cover"

Today's post is completely off topic of baking, but is on topic of life in general. I completely understand if you want to run screaming now, but hope you will stay and read. I promise a cupcake post soon.




I have read and heard numerous remarks about the mass shooting at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. Most justly blame the shooter, an obviously disturbed young man. Others blame the guns, the weapons manufacturers, the NRA, etc. Since I don't want this to devolve into an essay on the rights of gun owners vs. gun control, I will just say that argument has no place here. What I want to address is my concern over the statements being made that blame the parents of the victims. Many have publicly decried the parents by asking, "What kind of parent takes their kids to midnight movies?", or "What were children doing at an R-rated movie?" This seems to be people's way of justifying to themselves that it would never have happened to their kids, because they would not have allowed them to have been present at a midnight movie or an R-rated movie. Never mind that children sometimes sneak out of the house to do things their parents don't allow. Never mind that children sometimes lie about where they are going. For these people, there is solace in the deniability that their children would ever be victims of such random acts of madness. (For the record, I don't know if any of the victims in the Aurora tragedy sneaked out of their parents' homes to attend or were present without parental permission.) 

However, life is messier - and much sadder - than that, and casting aspersions or blame on those parents is beyond cruel. We can't surround our children in bubble-wrap and tissue paper. Children died at the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City because it was 9:02 a.m., and they were in the daycare or with their parents and grandparents, who were conducting business in the building. Could have happened to anyone. Children died at Columbine (or any other number of school shootings) because they were there to get an education. Could have happened to anyone. Children died on 09/11/2001, because they were flying with their families. Could have happened to anyone. Children die every day at the hands of others, and it cannot be successfully predicted where, how, when, or especially - why.

Helicopter Parents whose only coping concept may be to isolate their child - no movies, home schooling, don't talk to strangers, etc., have it all wrong. You cannot prevent tragedy from striking. You can minimize risks, but until two days ago the biggest risk associated with going to the movies - even at midnight - was a theater fire. More likely, it was that your kid would spend a fortune on overpriced junk food and come home with a stomachache.

Even the boy in the plastic bubble longed to escape, although he knew the outside world could - and would - eventually kill him. The best we can do as parents is to teach our children that the world, while a scary place, is still amazing and beautiful. We need to teach them what to do when danger strikes, while balancing it so as not to strike fear into their everyday lives. It is a delicate balance, and I think more often than not, we all fall more heavily on one side or the other.

In the 1950s in the midst of the Cold War, school children were taught "Duck and Cover". Many made a game of it, although it was a a deadly serious game to the adults. Perhaps parents should devise a revised form of "Duck and Cover", maybe combined with "Stop, Drop, and Roll" (which you use if you are on fire), to teach their children what to do in case of an active shooter. After all, if we have fire drills to teach children how to escape buildings safely, why would we not teach our children how to protect themselves from other dangers? How much trouble would it be to begin teaching our children to be cognizant of their surroundings, know where the exits are in each room they are in, and what to do in any emergency?

The answer to each and every emergency is not "pull out your cell phone and call home" or "run for the exit". Sometimes running or pulling out that cell phone and talking could put your child in even greater danger. You wouldn't want them to alert a shooter to their presence and location. Instead, teach your child how to remain calm and not panic. if they took out their phone and dialed 911, even if your child remained quiet, it would alert the police to the problem. Your child should never stop to do that before they have ducked and secured adequate cover, though.

Based on my years of training when I was in law enforcement, I would propose teaching children something along the lines of this modified "Duck and Cover" as a learning tool: 1. DUCK - if there is a present danger, drop to the ground as quickly as possible, from here, quickly assess the situation - what is the danger, where is the closest and best cover, etc.; 2. COVER - Roll or crawl or scoot or whatever it takes to stay low, and move to find adequate cover to protect yourself. Only then should anyone reach for their cell phone to call 911. After those steps have been taken, then you can reassess the danger, whether you should stay put or try to escape, etc.

Remember, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." ~Proverbs 22:6.  Lessons learned in childhood are often lessons for a lifetime. If such lessons can help save the lives of our children, should we not teach them?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Snow White & the Seven Dwarves Cakelets


Williams-Sonoma add showing fully-decorated cakelets

This Snow White and the Seven Dwarves cakelet pan is by Nordic Ware and is sold through Williams-Sonoma.  It is $36 at this time.  When I saw it last November, I decided to buy it.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the very first movie I ever saw.  I was about 3 years old, and my oldest sister, Terri, and some of her friends took my older sister, Denise, and me to The Canadian Theater in Purcell, Oklahoma to see the movie.  Going to a movie was a big deal back then and the trip made the local newspaper, much to the embarrassment of my oldest sister and her friends! 

(Artist's rendition of The Canadian Theater, Purcell, OK)
I wanted to try a new recipe with these cakelets and made a Red Pepper Spice Cake with a Red Jalapeno Buttercream.  The red jalapeno peppers gave the cakelets a little shimmer.  It was pretty tasty, but a bit too spicy for most people.  Since these cakelets were at least four inches across, that was a lot of spice!  I previously made this recipe in the form of miniature cupcakes and just about everyone raved over them.  I think they were definitely better in smaller doses.

Snow White
Sneezy
Bashful

Grumpy
Happy
Dopey
Doc
Sleepy
As you can see, these cakelets hold their shape well. They are still quite adorable, even without being fully-iced. Who has time to do that, anyway?

One for the Murphys (book review via www.GoodReads.com)





***SPOILER ALERT***  If you have not read the book and don't want to know what happens, you should not read this review. 

Okay, I am very conflicted about this book - just as conflicted as Carley Connors is about being a foster child.  I highly recommend this book, especially to foster parents or people who are considering becoming foster parents or people who have regular contact with foster children.  However, from this review, you might not think so.  What I dislike about the book appears to outweigh what I like about it.  It really doesn't, though.  Since I am a social worker (by default, through a long and winding road of state employment that covered law enforcement, corrections, etc.), I am very concerned with what I did not see in the book.  But I still love the book.  I do.  My very favorite line is, "'We're almost there,' Mrs. MacAvoy says, taking a corner faster than I think any social worker is supposed to."  Cracks me up every time, probably because some of my kiddos think exactly the same thing when they ride with me.  That said, here is my review:

What I LOVED about this book:  Carley Connors is REAL - every nuance, every knot in her stomach, every emotional conflict, every minimalization of past events, every smart aleck response to change the subject, etc.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HER!!  She embodies the turmoil felt by every foster child over the age of three, regardless of placement and regardless of length of time in the system.  Carley perfectly expressed the anger she felt at her mother, but the love she still felt for her and how confusing that was.  A few times I caught myself thinking Carley's voice was too old for a 12- or 13-year-old. Then I stopped and remembered a couple of my former kiddos who were that age and were just as savvy, just as witty, just as street-wise, and way more jaded about life.  Watching Carley's evolution in foster care felt real - and it was watching, more than reading.  I felt like a fly on the wall.  I have seen kids come into a new home with their guard up, keeping an aloof distance from everyone because they were afraid to get too close.  In Oklahoma, we try to keep them in the same schools for consistency, but that is often not possible, so there is more anxiety and more concerns about being an outsider at the new school.  After a while, though, those walls the foster kids put up start to crumble a little at a time.  Some days they seem to be gone completely, but one little thing can build them right back up in an instant.  Foster kids are sponges - they watch and absorb everything for processing later.  They do most of this on their own, just like Carley. The feelings of not belonging are constant, even when they are with other family members.  It takes patience and time and near-constant reassurance that they are safe, they are loved, they belong, they are good, they are smart, they are winners...  Carley was spot-on.

I loved the interaction between Carley and the boys.  It also rang pretty true.  I liked the conversations between Carley and Mr. Murphy, but I was sad that these didn't really seem to occur often until Toni broke the ice with Mr. Murphy through their baseball rivalry of the Yankees and Red Sox.  Mrs. Murphy was good and honest and kind and caring.  She genuinely loved Carley and tried to do the right thing by her.  I figured out she had been a foster child way before she admitted it to Carley.  I liked that the family was able to show their emotions with each other, and to demonstrate that families can disagree and argue, but forgive and still love each other. 

I enjoyed Carley's friendship with Toni, and her antagonistic relationship with Rainer.  Although, I wish Rainer's character had been a little more explained.  It would have been nice to have seen them call a more definite truce on their own, without interference from Toni.

What I HATED about this book:  When Carley asked if she could call Mrs. Murphy "Mom", she is rebuffed - gently, but still rebuffed and still heartbroken.  There is no discussion about using a nickname.  (Mrs. Mom, which Carley joked about with Toni earlier, would have been a PERFECT nickname.)  Mrs. Murphy's excuse is, "I just don't think it would be a healthy thing for you", even after Carley says she knows it's just pretend.  Mrs. Murphy was a foster child, so she should have known how important this was to give Carley a sense of belonging and fitting in - even if it was pretend and there was no intention to make Carley a permanent part of the family.  Wanting to call the foster parents "mom" and "dad" is completely normal, especially when there are other children in the home who do so. 

Mrs. Murphy should have known how the court system worked, yet she spoke as if she had no understanding of the legal system with regard to foster care.  Mrs. MacAvoy, the social worker, was basically non-existent.  Once she placed Carley in the home, she did not bother to come visit and check on her until Carley called her several weeks later.  I don't work in Connecticut (where the book is set), but I find it very hard to believe that once they place a child, social workers don't have to go back out unless they get a phone call.  The social worker should have had an on-going and hopefully, close relationship with Carley.  Mrs. MacAvoy should have kept the foster parents and Carley in the loop as to what was going on in the court case.  Instead, Mrs. MacAvoy is a peripheral figure who is crazy busy all the time and even talks to Carley like she is a bother sometimes.  That's not okay.  (While social workers are mostly crazy busy, our kids deserve our full attention and respect, even when they are not acting their best.)  Carley should also have had an attorney who represented her only, and who would also have kept her informed on the case.  Carley should have been asked what she wanted to happen in the case - whether or not she wanted to go back to her mother or if she felt safe with her. 

Carley had no professional to express her feelings to - not the social worker, not an attorney, not a counselor, no one.  No foster child who had been through what she went through would have been without a therapist.  Foster Parents are not trained as counselors.  Victims of abuse and neglect need the insight of professionals to ensure they are getting the proper treatment to move forward in their lives and to ensure they do not blame themselves for what happened to them.  Instead, none of the core issues or feelings are ever resolved for Carley.  This is very bothersome.

Mrs. Connors' character was not fleshed out at all.  She was stereotypically a neglectful, abusive mother.  There was talk of charging her criminally for her part in the abuse, but this is magically dropped because Carley's stepfather admits she did not help (even though we know that she did).  I found that implausible, but was willing to overlook that, thinking that she would be held accountable in the juvenile court system.  But, she was not.  She woke up from her coma, went through rehab to learn to walk again, was released from the hospital, and got Carley back. She was not required to go to court, complete a treatment plan, nothing.  In reality, she would most likely have been required to complete counseling for domestic violence victims, complete parenting classes, prove that she had adequate income and a safe, stable home for Carley, participate in family counseling with Carley, etc.  She was allowed to see Carley unsupervised, and to say mean and hateful things to her - even telling her she didn't want her anymore.  [That is not a reality of the foster care system that I know.  Visits with parents are supervised until we know that the child will be safe to visit alone.  They would never have been allowed to visit alone the first few times, even if Mrs. Connors was considered a non-offending parent.] 

Telling Carley - or any foster child - that they cannot have any contact with the former foster family they have possibly grown to love is just asking for those kids to develop Reactive Attachment Disorder.  It is rarely better for the child to undergo the additional trauma of removal from a foster home and also have to suffer a complete disconnect from the persons in the home, especially if they have gotten attached to the family.

Carley would not have been returned to Mrs. Connors' care by the Court unless she could have been returned SAFELY.  No one seemed to care that there were huge red flags as to the potential for future neglect.  No one asked Carley about her concerns for the future if she went back to her mom.  Everyone just talked about how much her mother "really loved her" and had "put her life on the line" for Carley.  Sorry, that's not good enough.  By not ensuring that Carley would be safe when returned home, all of the adults were complicit in allowing Carley to minimize her mother's participation in her abuse.  Mrs. Connors learned NOTHING from Carley going into foster care! She stated that they would move back to Las Vegas (where Carley does NOT want to be) and everything would be "just like it was", which was horrible.

NO ONE - and I mean NO ONE - was advocating for Carley.  And that broke by heart...



View'>http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/578251-shelley">View all my reviews

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update on Antiques Roadshow

I have been away too long.  I am not sure how the time slipped by, but I apologize to anyone who may have actually missed me.

The Antiques Roadshow came to Tulsa a couple of years ago.  I never got around to posting my update, so here it is. 

Well, the items I took to the Antiques Roadshow in Tulsa were, shall we say, met with less than eager enthusiasm by the appraiser.  It was the end of the day; we were in the last group to gain entrance into the event; the appraisers appeared to be tired; etc.  I have to say that my sister and I were quite surprised to find many appraisers consulting books and using computers to look up items.  That was a reality check.  Could it be the appraisers weren't the all-knowing experts that we had supposed?  No offense, Antiques Roadshow, but we weren't the only ones that were not feeling the love from some of the appraisers.  One poor lady in front of us had an unusual and lovely, round silver butter server.  She came away from the table with a look of disgust on her face.  I said, "That's really beautiful.  I hope it was worth a lot!"  She replied, "$35!  I don't think that's right.  I paid a lot more than that for it!"
(Her butter server looked a lot like this, which is currently available for $95 online.  Maybe the appraiser was wrong!)

Now, don't get me wrong.  There were several that appeared to know their stuff like the back of their hand.  The man in "Textiles" who examined my sister's quilt explained how it was possibly the most beautiful example of a Cathedral Window quilt that he had ever seen.  He carefully told her how to care for it and launder it.  (Newsflash!  You aren't supposed to put them in the washing machine, even if it is the extra-large capacity kind on the gentle cycle and you are using Woolite.  It will destroy the fibers and pull out the stitching that your grandmother, great-aunt, second-cousin's mother's sister's best friend lovingly hand-sewed all those years ago.  And for heaven's sake, stop putting them in the dryer.  They should be carefully spread out over a lush, green lawn and air-dryed, allowing the sun to bleach out any unsightly stains.  Note to self:  Stop washing Grandmother's and Grandma's quilts and shoving them in the dryer for the maximum drying cycle...)  My sister's beautiful quilt, that truly was lovingly made by her husband's grandma as a gift for him, was worth approximately $600 in the retail market.     

(This isn't the actual quilt.  I don't have a photo of that one.  This is a photo I stole procured from eBay.  I just wanted you to see what the pattern looked like.  Each of those white lines is actually a square that has been folded and pressed around the colored fabric in the middle.  Talk about time consuming!!)

On to the "Silver" table, where my sister displayed her late-mother-in-law's silverware set.  It was gorgeous!  A full 77-piece set of real sterling silver forks, knives, spoons, serving spoons, butter knives, pickle forks, lemon forks, aspic servers, salt spoons, food pushers, asparagus servers, bone forks, bird forks, marrow scoops, etc.!  Did you know there are 29 different spoons alone and that's not even counting the scoops and servers.  It's enough to make your head spin!  (I don't know about you, but my Home Economics teacher only taught us the main pieces.  She was probably convinced that none of us from our little town in the sticks would ever even see a marrow scoop, let alone have to know how to use one.  ...And come to think of it, she was probably right about that particular piece of silverware and most of the others.)  Of course, all of those obscure pieces weren't really a part of the set left to my sister.  Still, there were some odd pieces that make you wonder exactly what went on at the dinner parties of old and how long did one of those parties last?     
Regular Teaspoon, 4" - 6"

5 o'clock Teaspoon, 4 1/2" - 5 1/2"

Marrow Scoop

Ice Cream Fork

Sherbet Fork


Seriously?  There is 1/2" difference in those spoons!  And may I just say, "Ew," to that marrow scoop?  Gross.  Lastly, who the heck eats ice cream or sherbet with a fork??  The spaces between the tines defeat the purpose by letting all that melty goodness drip back into the bowl (or on the shirt, if you are me)!
Anyway... the appraiser looked at the silverware and proclaimed it to be sterling, which we already knew from the marks on the pieces.  He did comment on the pattern and noted that the pieces probably were just silver-plated originally, but had been "refaced" with sterling at some point.  He also noted that the silver was very old, dating back to the 1920's or 1940's, I believe.  (I have to admit that I was not listening as closely as I should have been.  I was one of those looky-loos gawking at what everyone else brought and second-guessing the items I chose to bring.  In hindsight, I wish I had brought my great-grandmother's carved ivory pin that says, "Mother".)  The appraiser looked up some things in a book on sterling silver dinnerware and proclaimed the entire set to have a wholesale value of approximately $2,500 - $3,500.  My sister had just looked online at the price for a complete 77-piece set and it was priced around $12,500.  So there you go.

Now on to the "Collectibles" line for me... and it was a loooooong one.  Fortunately, both of my items fell into that category, so I didn't have to move to another line later.  

This is a genuine Griswold cast iron Santa Claus "Hello Kiddies!!" cake mold.  It is two-pieces and was produced in the 1940s-1950s.  An original sells for upward of $400, so there are reproductions out there.  Buyer beware!  

You can identify an original by the following:

1. Originals show Santa's tongue in his open mouth.  Reproductions do not show the tongue. 

2. Many originals (though not all) were made from a mold with a casting flaw on the side of Santa's toy bag.

3. Marks on reproductions have lettering that looks uneven and unprofessional. The lettering on the original is small and even. 

4. Original side loop numbering shows the 9 underlined to prevent it being accidentally read as a 6, as in '868' instead of '898.' Copies do not have an underline.

5. Like most modern reproduction cast iron items, new copies have a rough surface.  The originals have a slick surface inside and out.  New cast iron pieces also frequently have excess metal flash inside details or at edges and may show the grinding marks from cheap, hasty manufacture.

Santa measures approximately 12 inches tall, 7 inches long, and with the 2 pieces joined it is about 4 1/2 inches deep.  

The appraiser knew nothing about the piece, but valued it around $150.  My sister gave it to me as a gift several years ago, and she found it in a thrift store.  She only paid $7.50, so no matter how you look at it, Santa was a great buy!

This complete Blondie & Dagwood set (with Alexander, Cookie, Daisy, & Daisy's five puppies) is just one of the cookie cutter sets I took with me.   A similar set recently sold for $350 in an online auction.  I also had some vintage metal and plastic Mickey & Minnie Mouse cutters, among others.   Let's just say the appraisers and cookie cutter collectors vary widely in their estimation of what these early cutters are worth.  (The appraiser knew nothing about cookie cutters, either.  She estimated the small bundle I brought at $50.  Collectors would value them around $500.)

I also took some vintage Beatles albums.  I didn't have the Butcher cover, but I had some original albums from the early 1960s.  The appraiser didn't take much of a look and, I think, way undervalued the really early pieces. 

After careful consideration, my sister and I decided that for the most part, we would stick with the collectors' opinions (the quilt being a very pleasant exception).  The appraisers may not have thought much of our treasures, but we love them, and really, isn't that what matters in the end?  

Still, we had fun, and if you watched the show, you may have caught a glimpse of us in the background.  We were there behind a horrid painting and again beside another item being gushed over for the cameras.  Not our best angle, but proof we were there!