Easter Candy Nest

I’m certainly not one to turn away from a lovely Easter basket, but this year I wanted to make something a little different, and was inspired by a nest I saw in a tree outside my terrace.  With visions of chocolate eggs and chicks gathered cozily in a nest dancing in my head, I was off to Jo-Ann’s  for supplies. This is a small nest (the wreath is only 6″) so I made a couple of them to decorate the Easter dinner table. Remember, the bigger the wreath, the bigger the nest and the more candy it can hold!

To make this super easy little nest (it’s so easy you don’t need to read this, just look at the pictures!), you’ll need (clockwise): a paper plate, moss, a decorative butterfly, a grapevine wreath, and excelsior or raffia:

 

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 You’ll also need a glue gun (and don’t forget the candy!)

First cut out a circle from the paper plate and glue to one side of the wreath to make the bottom of your nest.  Wad up the excelsior or raffia to and glue it to the paper plate to start lining the nest; then, glue the moss on top of that. 

 

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Glue the butterfly onto your nest, add candy and you’re done!

 

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Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

 

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Spring DIY: Lavender Salt Scrub

Lavender salt scrub

Now that spring has finally sprung and chased away this brutal winter, this is the perfect time to buff away that dry, winter-worn skin and reveal the glow underneath.  Reading about the benefits of coconut oil inspired me to try my hand at making a lavender-scented salt scrub incorporating this useful oil.

Here’s my easy DIY salt scrub that will leave your skin soft, smooth and ready for spring:

Ingredients:
Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt (lavender-scented)
Pink Himalayan salt
Virgin coconut oil

I took a really casual approach to making this scrub, so none of these measurements have to be exact; I just played around with it until it reached a consistency I liked. The container I used happened to hold about 1 cup of Epsom salts; then I melted about 2 tbsp of coconut oil in the microwave in 20 second bursts until it liquefied and mixed it well in to the Epsom salt; you can add more or less if you like but just make sure that it’s well incorporated into the salt.  I added about 1 tbsp of coarse Pink Himalayan salt for color (again, add more or less to suit your liking) and stirred with a plastic spoon until well mixed.

The coconut oil tends to harden after a while; just stir it again with a plastic spoon before you use it.  I like this scrub because it has a firmer consistency, and it’s not goopy like some scrubs where half of it slips through your fingers and ends up on the tub floor before you’ve had a chance to use it!  The heat from your hands liquefies the scrub nicely and it’s easy to apply to the body – I love using it on my hands, it’s makes them super soft and it smells heavenly!

before and after

From these before and after photos it’s obvious that someone needs a manicure – what better way to jump into the season than with a vibrant nail color – any suggestions? What beauty routines do you indulge in to spruce up your winter skin?  Let me know in the comments!

lavender

Curly Hair – It’s All In The Family

Like many women, I’d spent decades beating my naturally curly hair into straight submission – creams, gels, blow drying, flat irons – whatever products were available in a salon, beauty supply store or infomercial to transform my curly locks into straight, shiny, flowing tresses, I tried it.  And don’t get me started about Jennifer Aniston’s ‘Rachel’ cut in the 90′s; maintaining that cut was my ‘lost decade’ – I had a regular seat at the Riccardo Maggiore salon in Manhattan, getting my hair relaxed every 8 weeks and a salon blow out every other week, not to mention the deep conditioning treatments to counteract all the damage I was subjecting my hair to – all in pursuit of the holy grail that is straight hair!

Then one year, on a jam-packed sightseeing trip to Italy, everything changed.  We were on the go from 7 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m. at night, and nobody at the Colosseum seemed to care that my hair wasn’t straight.  I wasn’t stopped at the gates of Vatican City by the Swiss Guard because my head was covered in a halo of ringlets.  I had to choose – spend an hour every morning blow drying and flat-ironing my hair, or go au natural and get an early start exploring the ruins of Pompeii. It was a no-brainer, and I know it might sound melodramatic, but it was an epiphany that changed my life.  I haven’t straightened my hair in three years, and embracing my curls has been easier than I thought it would be, and so much healthier for my hair.

Enter my nearly-teenage son (no more tween in a few days!) who has inherited his mom’s curly hair and is clueless as to what to do with it, leaving him looking like he has a permanent case of bed head. Living with curly hair starts with a proper cut – when I decided to finally embrace the curly lifestyle, I went to Devachan Salon, where they specialize in cutting curly hair, and teaching one how to care for it (spoiler alert: shampoo is not your friend).  At Devachan, the hair is cut dry, curl by curl, and then cleansed and conditioned with their deeply hydrating products.  I figured this was a good time to indoctrinate him in the Devachan way, sparing him years of cursing his genetic lot in life.

salon

He selected Nolan Gould from Modern Family as his curly hair role model, and armed with a photo we set out to Devachan for his hair cut.

nolan gould

Sporting a full head of curly hair, we arrived at Devachan, where Lois quickly got to work cutting and shaping his overgrown locks:

simon haircut

After the shearing cutting, it was time to cleanse and condition, and add a dollop of DevaCurl One Condition to style and arrange the curls with fingers.  He sat under the dryer for about 10 minutes, but wouldn’t let me take a picture of that :-( . At home he’ll let his hair air dry or use the blow dryer with the DevaFuser attachment to dry his hair more quickly.

wash and style

We were both thrilled with the results and Lois did a great job in keeping his curly hair role model in mind:

simon:nolan compared

If you’re thinking of leaving the madness of hair-straightening behind and unleashing your inner curly girl (or boy), definitely look into a salon that specializes in cutting curly hair, and check out the DevaCurl line of products – they are rich, moisturizing products that will transform your hair and make your transition to the curly life so much easier.

curly heads rule

Are you a curly hair enthusiast? A great resource for tips on how to care for curly hair is NaturallyCurly.com.  Also check out my Pinterest board for more curly hairstyles for both men and women. How do you maintain your curly locks or are you thinking about making the transition? Let me know in the comments!

Check out my profile on CurlyNikki.com, ‘Rebecca Is Naturally Glam‘.  CurlyNikki.com provides a wealth of information on how to embrace your curls, hair care tips, and product reviews!

How Do You Handle Your Kid’s Middle School Crush?

broken heartWith Old Man Winter forcing yet another snow day today, my 7th grader will miss out on all the middle school drama surrounding Valentine’s Day.  He’s been able to stay on the periphery of most of the angst, managing to move on from his own recent crush unscathed. Others have not been so lucky, like his friend who recently asked the girl he’s been pining over for months out on a ‘date’; she turned him down and he’s devastated, explaining his friend’s inability to finish that week’s Spanish homework!

While I’m happy my son feels comfortable enough to share his crushes and news of the latest adolescent happenings, I feel that 7th grade is too young for traditional ‘dating’, although I hear through multiple sources that this does happen.  I’m fine with him heading out in a boy/girl group to the pizza shop after school for an hour – it’s a way for the kids to socialize in a fairly controlled setting with a defined start and end time – but one-on-one dating or boy/girl groups at someone’s home unsupervised after school is off the table at this age.

Crushes are just fine for now – it’s a way to explore feelings and learn how to deal with them, both the happiness and the disappointment.  Learning to deal with rejection can be a fact of life at this age just as much as a growth spurt or a deepening voice.  How do you deal with your kid’s middle school crush? Through the fog and haze of middle age, I’ve been trying to remember how I felt during middle school; here are some do’s and don’ts I’ve been employing to deal with this sensitive subject:

Do:

Keep the channels of communication open.  Teach your child to be respectful of his/her own body, and let them know that even though it’s natural to be curious, feeling pressure to do something (especially if it makes them feel uncomfortable) doesn’t mean they have to act on it.  If a crush isn’t mutual, let them know it’s okay to politely refuse the other person’s unwanted attention.  And conversely, to graciously accept the fact if they are on the unrequited end of the crush.  It’s a painful lesson, but can save a whole lot of heartache if it’s learned early on.  Keep an eye (and ear) out for any behavior changes arising from a crush – learning how to keep a crush in perspective and not let it affect school work, friendships and family life is also important.

Don’t:

Don’t belittle or trivialize your child’s feelings – even though as adults we already know that this too shall pass, remember that they certainly don’t feel that way!  And nothing will close down those channels of communication faster than your child feeling that Mom or Dad can’t possibly understand what they’re going through.  Don’t ever, ever, mention a crush’s name outside the ‘circle of trust’ (mainly, that’s me) you’ve developed with your child. Discussing the identity of a crush with other parents is a tremendous no-no.  I’ve been on the receiving end of such information from parents with their kid standing right there – it’s embarrassing for me, so I can just imagine how the poor kid must feel.  You might think it’s cute, but I can guarantee you your kid does not – keep it zipped.  I know if my son doesn’t feel safe telling me about the little things, he won’t come to me with the big things – and right now, everything is a big thing!

Well, that’s it – it may not be much, but that’s all I’ve got so far. Please feel free to share any suggestions or tips you have in the comments, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Valentine Heart Crayons

I saw this little nugget of truth the other day on Pinterest; who else can relate to this?

broken crayons

My 7th grader, who no longer has any use for crayons having graduated to Faber-Castell manga pens and markers, has a crayon collection dating back to nursery school.  Heaven forbid I should throw them away, because, you know, if the Crayola factory blew up and there was a worldwide crayon shortage, he’d be the man.  Crayon apocalypse not withstanding, I decided I needed them for this post.  This is a quick and easy craft that melts down old crayons to make new ones, in this case heart-shaped ones for Valentine’s Day.  A couple of these in a treat bag are a cute alternative to candy for the class Valentine’s Day party.  My son intends to give these to his younger cousins (but I think he might keep one for himself).

I used a silicone baking pan as a mold.  Get the crayons ready by removing the paper and breaking them up into small pieces.  Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

instamag3Fill the mold as shown and place in preheated oven for approximately 22 – 25 minutes, checking to see when they’ve melted all the way through; I used a toothpick to swirl the colors.

melted befoe and after

Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then put them in the freezer for another 5 to 10 minutes. When the crayons have cooled, carefully peel them out of the mold.

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The crayons are easy for little hands to hold, and the swirled colors look great on paper!

v heart crayons

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day craft?  Let me know in the comments!

heart crayon final

All crayon photos courtesy of mommeetsblog.com

This craft was featured on inspirationdiy.com!  Check out this site for more great craft ideas or submit your own favorite craft here.

Empanadas Step by Step

One of my favorite dishes to make for special occasions are empanadas, or meat pies.  They are a traditional food in my family during the Christmas season and are always a big hit at parties and pot luck dinners.  When my son was in elementary school his Spanish class looked forward to them every year.  These tasty little meat pies are easy to make and you can tweak all the seasonings to your own taste.  The best part is you can do all the prep work the night before and fry them when everyone’s ready to eat.

Here I’ll take you through the process step by step:

empanadas step by step

Step 1:  The first step is to make the sofrito – this is the seasoning in which you will cook the meat filling.  You can use these measurements as a guide, there are no strict rules when making sofrito – at least not for me!  If you like a little more red bell pepper than green or more cilantro than flat leaf parsley, go for it!

2 red bell peppers

2 green bell peppers

1 Spanish onion

3 Roma tomatoes

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup  cilantro

Sea salt

Pepper

Ground coriander seed

Ground cumin

Packet of Sazon

I use the food processor to dice the veggies and then add the spices to taste.  I like to make a big batch of this and freeze it in small quantities (about 4-5 tablespoons) for use in soups, stews, beef and chicken dishes – I added 4 tablespoons to a pot of arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) I made for Christmas Eve dinner and it was delicious.

Step 2:  Now for the meat filling.  Start with 1lb. of ground sirloin or meatloaf mix, seasoned with salt and pepper or adobo.   Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan; when it’s sizzling add about 4 tablespoons of sofrito.  Stir that for about a minute and then add your meat, breaking it up and stirring until cooked through.

Step 3:  I use Goya Dough Discs for Empanadas to make the pies.  They’re readily available in most major supermarkets and should be easy to find.

Steps 4 & 5:  Place a disc on waxed paper on a cutting board to keep it from sticking.  Place about a spoonful of meat in the middle of the disc as shown.

Step 6:  Fold over the disc into a crescent shape, pressing down on the edges of the disc with your fingers to seal.

Step 7:  Press the sealed edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork to secure the seal.

Step 8:  Here’s what your empanadas should look like. I usually make them ahead up to this point and put them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook them, and make between 12 – 20 empanadas at a time.

Step 9:  When you’re ready to fry them, add enough canola oil to a heavy frying pan to cover the empanadas; heat the oil to sizzling and carefully place the empanadas in the oil; fry until each side is golden brown as shown.

Empanadas also make great appetizers:  cut the dough disc in half, fill and fold into little triangles as shown below.  They are easy to tailor to any taste level from mild to spicy and are always a welcome addition to any table – maybe add them to your Super Bowl menu this year!

empanadas final

Texts From The Edge Of Tweendom

With 2013 drawing to a close, my son is taking great delight in declaring 2014 ‘his year’.  It’s the year that the label of tween gets retired and he launches into full-blown teenager status.  I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen when he turns 13 – it’s not like he can start dating (not yet!!!!) or go to a bar or vote.

And he definitely can’t drive a car, as evidenced by the majority of texts exchanged between us.  Like I’d ever NOT pick him up, but it’s always nice to be asked. . . .

polite text editedAnd in a few short years when he gets his driver’s license this too will end, and I wonder what he’ll be asking me for then – but I hope I still get an occasional one of these. . . .

i love you text

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2014!