Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sprucing up the House Plant

A few years ago I went to an Eco-friendly convention in downtown Akron and learned about the many decorative uses of water absorbent polymer.  I would describe these little gems as solid water.  They are great for plants because they help keep the soil hydrated.
If you have a plant that needs some sprucing up this is a neat look.  You will need a clear vase jar if you want to enjoy the beauty of the polymer.  A variety of shapes or sizes of glass vases can be used based of the size of the plant.   I had a plant that was already potted in a cylindrical glass vase with sand at the bottom.  Next, I took out the plant, which was in desperate need of some fresh soil and disposed of the sand.  I used some soil we had left in a pot that a tomato plant was grown in last year.  Some leaves and other materials had composted nicely over the months as we left it outside.  The plant loves this composted soil.  


What you will need along with your plant:  clear glass vase, water absorbent polymer such as Aqua Gems, glass stones or stones (glass beads are pretty because they reflect light), soil 


You can use any color in the aqua gems.  They do not stain!  Fill them at the bottom of your vase.  Make sure you leave room for the soil and room for the roots to grow.  You can place the beads through out the polymer.  I used different shades of green and gold glass stones to match my decor.  I put a few in between the soil and polymer for some stability.


This plant has been very healthy living in this condition and since I have a hard time remembering to water it as much as I should, the water polymer helps to keep in moisture.  I'm hoping to get a new camera this summer as the iPhone 3 does not capture enough detail!!

Further more, I have seen this done online without soil.  Here is the link:  water crystals




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Monday, March 26, 2012

Nature's Highlights Gluten Free Pizza Creation


 Gluten Free Pizza 


When you are not only sensitive to wheat, but corn, soy and nuts it is very difficult finding a ready made crust.  I have been using Nature's Highlights brown rice pizza crust for a few years now.  It only contains two ingredients (brown rice and potato).







This is a healthy option, but it of course does not taste exactly like a doughy gluten pizza many are used to.  The brown rice gives the crust a chewy texture with a mild nutty flavor.
















The crust does need to be put in the oven for a few minutes before topping.  The texture will be much better if you follow the directions on the box for heating before adding toppings.  Next, for the sauce I used Dave's Gourmet butternut squash pasta sauce, which is gluten free.  It is absolutely delicious with the crust.  The sauce has red bell pepper pureed in to give it a nice kick.  I used a garlic herb yogurt cheese for a bit of extra flavor and sprinkled some parmeasean on top.  You could really top with a variety of different items, but I used yellow and red bell peppers, red onion and torn basil.


                                                                      Ingredients

Nature's Highlights Brown Rice Pizza Crust
Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
Parmesean Cheese
Herb or Garlic Yogurt Cheese Shredded
Red and Yellow Bell Pepper
Red Onion
Torn Basil
Drizzle of Olive Oil



The final tasty product. 



Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Teal Mason Jar Craze

The teal or aqua colored mason jars have peaked in popularity.  If you are looking to make a few bucks and own these beauties, you may be able to sell them on Ebay for a profit. An older relative may have a few of these relics tucked away in storage.  My parents gave me a few of my grandmother's old mason jars.  At one time they were using the quart sized teal jar to hold change.  I also inherited a cool "atlas"  pint sized jar.  The jars look rustic and simple, yet can make a stunning centerpiece.  Many brides to be are planning to use these for their rustic wedding themes.  I like the aqua tinted jars for spring decor.  I'm sure the mason jar craze will end and people will soon find something new for decor that they will endlessly pin on Pinterest, but I plan on keeping my jars until I can pass them down.

Here is how I used my mason jars in my dining room.  I wanted an Easter themed centerpiece.  I found a cute little rabbit I received in an Easter basket a few years ago that I have been waiting to use.  He has found his place this year a top an old mason jar lid!




Put some fresh cut flowers in one of the jars to add a pop of color.  I like the contrast of the pink with the teal.  I used some fuchsia carnations with some light pink lilies.  I recently just switched out the wilting carnations for beautiful deep pink fresh cut tulips from our yard.  We have had unusually warm weather for March so the flowers are blooming!













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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Epiphany


The epiphany seemed to come to me quickly, but the depression, anxiety and emptiness that built up for years seemed to continually drone.  I had tried to figure out why I could no longer find pleasure for quite some time.  First I thought if I went back to school, spending onwards of $25,000 maybe I could switch careers.  Possibly a more fulfilling career with a higher income would work (to pay of the horrible student loans that would follow).  I then realized I had no idea what I wanted to go into so I just settled on something, special education, where there would be job openings.  I concluded I may get tired of teaching health and would need a backup.  Once you are a teacher it is hard to leave the profession, with the time off and good benefits even if you are unhappy almost each day you enter through the doors of the school building.  I even read, “What Color is Your Parachute”, to find out that I am an introvert who prefers to work alone for the most part.  So that weeds out many professions with which I have experience.  When searching for a masters program, I came across speech language pathology and thought hey this is it!  Then I realized that to get a Master’s you need to take post baccalaureate classes, than pay to pass the GRE.  Plus, you cannot work when classes are only offered during the day!  It made no sense to quit working, plus I couldn’t afford it with a mortgage.  I spent the summer moping and depressed.  I laid around many of the days not finding the energy to do things I enjoy.  At this point my view on work and money was affecting me mentally, physically and socially.  I had put on 15 pounds since getting my new position as a split day health teacher at a middle school and high school.  I would come home from work mentally exhausted.  I would spend money just to fill whatever emptiness I was feeling.  Instead of cooking a nourishing meal that would be allergy free I opted to buy packaged foods or eat out.  I was slowly loosing myself as my debt increased.  At this point I realized I was not enjoying life, just going through the motions. 

I knew I needed to make a change now, no waiting around any more.  Starting with small tasks I could track and control seemed reasonable.  No credit cards would be used and a budget would be kept on finances.  This helped me to see where my money was leaking.  The credit card debt is huge because I owe money to corporations who are now charging me finance fees.  It felt difficult at first and overwhelming, but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I have connected my consumption of material objects to my decreased happiness.  The more I work, the more money I make, the more I buy and the less I experience real life.  If I can get my debts paid off I will not need as much money to buy material objects.  You can’t take them to the grave.

Next, I needed to let go of the idea that work was going to get better.  I decided that I would do what I could and if something didn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world.  If a student is going to be impossible and not do what they are supposed to, too bad.  I can’t save everyone and I refuse to be a martyr.  I didn’t go to 5 years of college to martyr myself daily at work. 

I have some goals in life.  First, to pay off my debt.  Next, I really want to get married and start having kids in about 2 years.  Ideally I would like to work part time and raise my kids. I want to become more self-sufficient and lead a happier life doing what I enjoy.  I know this can be done!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gluten Free in North East Ohio - Living with food allergies

I found out I had food allergies during college.  During this time I was a typical 22 year old college kid and ate a lot of pizza.  Oh, and I started drinking beer!  Living with roommates led me to trying different foods like pistachios and whole wheat products.  Now I have always had issues with my skin, but after I started drinking beer and eating more whole wheat the skin on my face became so inflamed that at one point a doctor wanted to take a biopsy and test me for lupus.  At first I thought I was allergic to alcohol so I decided before I get a biopsy an allergy test was important for a second opinion.  The test results revealed I was not allergic to alcohol, but allergic to wheat, corn, soy and nuts.  The beer and whole wheat bread I was consuming had been wreaking havoc on my poor skin and body!

Finding out you have food allergies or intolerance can be difficult.  You realize you can no longer eat the same things everyone else enjoys.  There is a period of mourning for the foods you once ate, but as you change dietary habits and start to feel so much healthier the cravings decrease.  There may be periods of relapse down this road of becoming allergy free, but the benefits of avoiding the foods that make you sick is well worth the tiny hassle of eating different then others.  The good news is that over the years more and more individuals have been embracing not only more natural food products, but gluten free foods therefore making it easier to find substitutes.  I hope to share more about my allergy free adventures on this blog in the future!

For those who are gluten free in North East Ohio I have compiled a small list of some locally owned restaurants and establishments that cater to us wheat free/gluten free individuals!  I find that it is easier for local restaurants to cater to my specific needs as opposed to big chains.  Many of these are in the Summit/Stark/Portage County areas.

Dining

The Bistro of Green

The Bistro is a locally owned restaurant in Green, Ohio that has a gluten free menu.  They use rice pastas and rice flours instead of wheat.  This is upscale yet casual dining and I love ordering off the gluten free menu.  There is a large variety of options and it tastes great!

Mustard Seed Market and Cafe

Mustard Seed has a gluten free menu available, just ask!  I enjoy the salmon wrap and they do have a gluten free flat bread pizza.  There are many organic and healthy, yet delicious options.  They have two locations, one in Fairlawn and one in Solon.

Samantha's

Samantha's is a little joint located close to the beldon village strip mall in North Canton.  They do have gluten free options.  For those of you craving carbs for breakfast....they serve gluten free pancakes!

Ms. Julie's Kitchen

I have not yet been able to visit, but there are gluten free, vegan and allergy free options.  The  hours look limited, but if you are looking for healthy and fresh options this would be a great place to try.

Bricco - Akron

Bricco is a fun restaurant in downtown akron.  They now offer gluten free pasta on their menu!

Tomato Grille

The tomato grille in Bath has the option for gluten free pasta with meals.  Last time I was there they used a corn pasta.


Bakery


Mrs. P's Gluten Free Bakery

You can place orders for products online.  Ingredients for her creations are listed online under a description and picture of the product.  The cupcakes are amazing.

Pizza

Altieri's Pizza in Stow

Altieri's has a variety of options to choose and they are very friendly.  The pizza tastes great!  One gluten free pizza will provide four slices.  They also serve gluten free pasta every day.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can get gluten free fried chicken, jo jos and buffalo wings.

*Zeppe's and Fox's pizza now serve gluten free pizzas too.  I find them rather expensive for the taste and often would rather make my pizza from scratch, but if you are in a hurry and need something in your area this is always an option!



Many local restaurants who cook to order may be able to meet your allergy needs.  It never hurts to call and ask!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cutting the Cable Chord

It has barely been a month since we cancelled our cable service, but life has vastly improved.  I remember one weekend last month I just decided that enough was enough.  This particular weekend day was like many others where I was overwhelmingly tired from the week's worth of work and just wanted to disconnect.  Like many other days I was in a trance on my couch staring at the glow of our plasma screen.  Most of the days I veg out in front of the t.v. I don't even remember what I watch.  I remember seeing the same commercials repeatedly.  Often the commercials tell us we are overweight, wrinkly or need to buy the newest product on the market to be popular.  I then thought of all the other things I could be doing at that moment that involved something more tangible and meaningful.  It was mentally nauseating to contemplate all the time I was wasting as well as all the money!   

Not only does turning off t.v. lessen the compulsion to be a mindless consumer and force you to see what's around you, but it puts a big chunk of money back in your bank account each month.  We are saving about $80 a month! 

It has now been almost a month since we cut the cable chord, but I haven't missed it one bit.  My fiance and I make music together now instead of watching television and most importantly we have meaningful conversations that involve things other then a show we are watching.  I feel mentally detoxed and have come out feeling refreshed. 

turnoffyourtv.com

About Me

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Current stay at home mama and former teacher.  I'm interested in healthy allergy free eating.  I love music and trying new products.  I am working to reduce my consumption of the unhealthy elements in the world and increase my happiness.