Meet me in Chinatown

With Chinese New Year fast approaching, I am reminded of my Chinatown stay while traveling in Singapore. There were lanterns, streamers, fireworks, sparklers, music, food, drink, sweets, with red and gold everywhere. It was absolutely intoxicating and the festive spirit was infectious! Everyone was so friendly, whether feasting on dumplings, enjoying an ice cold TsingTao, or dancing in the street, it was pure magic!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 kicks off the Chinese New Year and the 12th zodiac, the Pig. Those born under the Pig sign are characterized as diligent, compassionate, and generous souls. They are quite entertaining and enjoy life, and as a result, many people love to hang out with them. They are extremely honest and expect the same in return. Pigs are very giving and are the happiest when they are helping others. Guess who is a newly discovered Pig?!!? ME!!! This was quite a surprise because I always thought I was a dog … now THAT makes total sense …. and I had to check multiple times, multiple sources, but alas, it seems Pig is accurate. As I sit here stress munching on (irresistible) premium caramel corn from the Boy Scouts, I guess I should consider changing my motto to “Oink Oink” LOL.

Switching gears, because I have remorsefully eaten ALL the caramel corn, let’s focus on the health benefits of the traditional Chinese diet. The Chinese diet, as well as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), believe it is essential to find balance and symmetry in every aspect of life. I just balanced my caramel corn in the palm of my hand as I snarfed it down, does that count?!?! They also believe that a plant based diet is good for the body, mind, and environment and treat vegetables as the main dish in their meal. An easy way to find balance in meals is to take the yin and yang approach discussed in an article by Sophie Morris titled “Use Your Noodle.” Yin are wet, moist foods (usually carbs) while Yang are dry, crunchy foods (usually proteins). The Yin ingredients cool your body down, while the Yang heats it up. Keeping these in balance maximizes energy and minimizes weight gain. Meals emphasize vegetables (Yin) with protein/meat (Yang) is added as an accent. One of the most enlightening things I discovered about the Chinese diet was listening to a recent NPR interview by Travels with Rick Steves with Zak Dychtwald, founder of the Young China Global Group and author of “Young China.” I mean, I read this in several of the articles, but this Millennial author really drove the point home. He said something to the effect that food is to the young Chinese as sex is to the Western World; they live for it, crave it, go crazy for it. How does that fit in to what we are talking about? The Chinese believe that another important aspect of eating is the experience itself. The combination of foods, the taste/texture/ingredients, as well as, the experience of the meal is all wrapped up into a dynamic dining experience. The take away here is to not get so wrapped up in getting our ingredients, recipes, and meals “perfect,” but to take time to enjoy all the components of the meal itself, including sitting down with family and friends! That being said, keep reading for some fun and tasty recipes to incorporate into your own celebration!

Let’s talk about the celebration! The theory behind the party is pretty similar to our New Year. Scare off the evil and attract goodness. OMGosh, it is more yin and yang. The colors associated are primarily red and gold and they are everywhere! Red (fire) symbolizes good fortune, celebration, vitality, luck, joy, happiness, prosperity, fertility, and it wards off evil. Yellow/Gold (earth) is considered the most beautiful color and is believed to generate yin and yang, it also symbolizes power, wealth, completeness, neutrality, nobility, and freedom from worldly cares. Try to include a little red/gold in your kitchen, near the stove, as in the practice of Feng Shui the stove is the center of the home, all chi comes there, and it should be kept spotless so it can attract all things good, especially money. Here is my current stove feng shui ….. it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Did I mention that this celebration is 15 DAYS long? It begins with New Year festivities tomorrow and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 20th. There are traditions for each day of this celebration and while I am not going to discuss all of them, I will get you started with the first few days. Day 1 is the New Year celebration. Day 2 is a day spent with family and friends. Day 3 is stay at home day, as it is bad luck to socialize on this day. I found a great website/article from Wes at the Chinese American Family and he does a great job talking you through Chinese New Year … make sure to check it out!

http://www.chineseamericanfamily.com/decoding-the-15-days-of-chinese-new-year/

Let’s Eat!

Here are some of the traditional “must haves” for Chinese New Year celebrations.

#1 Dumplings are mandatory! Shaped like gold and silver bars of the ancient Chinese the wrapping of the dumpling is considered to bring you a wealthy and prosperous life. Look at this great recipe from SavoryExperiments.com. Substitute meat for tofu or other protein if desired.

#2 Spring Rolls look like bars of gold and are a symbolic wish for prosperity and wealth. This is the easiest and most comprehensive recipe I found. Love the tips!! Thank you Dinnerthendessert.com

#3 Long noodles are symbolic of longevity, so don’t cut your noodles, just slurp! This delicious recipes is from Chew Out Loud. Use the longest noodles you can …. even zoodles work!! Enjoy🏮

Enjoy your Chinese New Year! These are some of my favorite recipes and I hope you love them as much as I do.

See you Soon!

~Auntie D

Bring on the Bacon!

Just a few more days to go and we need some protein added to our menu! Remember the discussion I had with my “monsters”? Well, the next thing they yelled out after “lobster” was “MAPLE SYRUP.” New England is very well known for their maple syrup, I agree, but how on earth can we incorporate that into our menu?? It took some time and tons of Pinterest searches, but I finally found the perfect solution from The Kitchen Whisperer …. she calls it “man candy.” I was cracking up!! We are leaving out the bourbon, because, ya know … kiddos, but my oldest nephew is super excited about this recipe and wants to help! YAY! He wants to make these as skewers so we will adapt her instructions a bit to suit his idea.

INGREDIENTS:

1lb Bacon

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup light brown sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

🥓 Soak skewers in water for 30-60 minutes.

🥓 Preheat oven to 400 degreesF

🥓 Combine brown sugar and maple syrup in saucepan over medium/low heat. Cook until reduced to a thick glaze. Stir frequently and watch closely!

🥓 Fold bacon strips accordian style

🥓Insert skewers through 2 pieces of bacon and unfold on skewers. Should look like ribbon.

🥓 Place bacon skewers on foil lined pan.

🥓Coat top side of bacon with sugar/syrup reduction.

🥓Cook for 13 minutes.

🥓Remove from oven. Flip skewers over. Coat top side with sugar/syrup reduction.

🥓 Cook for 13 minutes.

🥓 Let cool and enjoy!

Stayed tuned for the next item on our Super Bowl Sunday menu!

~Auntie D

Chowder Time

The “monsters” have spoken! I asked the kiddos what New England food theme they wanted for our Super Bowl party on Sunday (Go Pats!) and was met with a resounding “LOBSTER” from several of them. Uuummm, I am not feeding everyone lobster, omg. Besides, it won’t taste the same as it does back home in Massachusetts. Ooopsie, did I forget to mention we are born and raised Pats fans?!?  After a lengthy discussion of all the things we love about New England, we did finally compromise on a chowder for the party. What kind of chowder? Oh boy, what a gaggle of picky eaters I have! Anyway, I made a potatoe soup several years ago … a TRIPLE batch … and it was gone before I knew it. Thank goodness I had put a small cup aside for myself or I wouldn’t have gotten any! The entire group raved about how delicious it was. ALL the kids ate it … when does that ever happen? So here it is ….  the amazing potatoe soup, now converted to a corn chowder. Don’t forget to save some for yourself!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups cubed potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)

1 cup riced/shredded potatoes (you can use fresh potatoes or frozen hashbrowns)

1 cup water or veggie/chicken broth

1 can of corn WITH the juice

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup sliced carrots

1/4 cup finely diced onions (I use a yellow onion because my family HATES onions and I                                                        have to be sneaky LOL)

1 tsp dried parsley flakes or 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp salt (I use pink Himalayan salt)

1/2 tsp of Old Bay seasoning … or to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper … or to taste

1 cup milk

1/2 cup cream (half and half or heavy whipping)

2 TBSP flour

1/4 LB Velveeta cheese, cubed or sliced

8 oz cream cheese

 

Instructions:

🍴 In a large stock pot, combine first 11 ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

🍴 In 5qt pot, add flour to milk/cream mixture. Add flour slowly, while whisking quickly to avoid clump formation. Turn heat to medium. When milk mixture is warm, add cream cheese and allow to melt. Begin adding velveeta cubes/slices and allow to melt completely. Do not boil. Allow cheesy mixture to melt slowly. Stir frequently. Remove from heat when mixture is smooth and creamy.

🍴 SLOWLY add cheesy mixture to large stock pot with veggies and broth. Stir frequently to combine. Cover. Allow to continue simmering until veggies are desired consistency. Stir occasionally to prevent chowder from sticking to bottom of the stock pot. Add more broth as needed.

🍜 Serve hot with parsley garnish. Make sure YOU get some because this disappears FAST!

❤ Enjoy!

 

** You may add up to 8oz total cream cheese or velveeta if cheesier chowder base is desired.

** Add seafood, chicken, and/or bacon for your meat protein option

** Add quinoa (instead of the riced potatoes) or black beans (rinsed well) for a vegetarian protein option

🕔 Make this several days in advance … reheat and serve.

 

 

 

 

Getting Dirty!

If you are a green olive (and extra dirty martini) fanatic like I am, then you will appreciate this (non-alcoholic) quick, easy, and DELICIOUS recipe. It is a favorite at my house and an absolute for Super Bowl Sunday next weekend! Be forewarned, this dip is dangerous … I ate the entire batch myself the first time I made it so proceed with caution. (aka only make a single batch)😂

Ingredients;

1 jar (7-10 oz) of stuffed green olives (I usually use garlic stuffed green olives)

8oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup of sour cream

Reserve olive juice from above olives.

Smoked paprika (or Doc Meyers hot pepper mix) for garnish, if desired.

Here we go…

Remove olives from the jar with a fork. Reserve the juice. Chop olives into the size you prefer either by hand or with food processor. If using food processor make sure to chop, not process into a paste. Combine softened cream cheese and sour cream. Add reserved olive juice to taste and mix well. Be careful not to get mixture too runny. After olives are chopped to desired size, fold into cream cheese and sour cream mixture using a spatula.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with spices, if desired. I love the spiciness that Doc Meyers adds to this dip … 🌶spicy, but not “burn your face off.”  Serve with crackers, pitas, veggies, or just grab a spoon and eat it like I did.

** This is great to make ahead of time as it keeps well for DAYS. The only problem is not eating it all before the event! 😊

 

 

(not)Going Viral

Influenza virus, Rhinovirus, Norovirus, Human Metapneumovirus, Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV), Rotvirus, etc, give a whole new meaning to “going viral.” For week 5 we are going to put a little spin on “Me Time” and talk about keeping you healthy in this viral environment. We are seeing quite an influx of viruses right now, so I thought we would discuss common viral misconceptions and then some preventative measures to hopefully keep you and your “luvies” as healthy as possible. How many of you got a flu shot this Fall? Wait, wait, wait, before you roll your eyes and stop reading, hear me out. I will keep it as fun and simple as I can. Prior to the healthcare industry mandating that hospital employees receive an annual flu shot, I wouldn’t take one. My excuses ranged from “they don’t work” to “they give you the flu” to “my immune system is my superpower.” Once the mandate was issued, I tried everything to avoid the flu shot and was successful for a few years figuring this was just a phase. But the healthcare industry was serious and started removing people from the schedule if they didn’t take their flu shot. Wait, what? I can’t work if I don’t take a flu shot?? Uh oh …. and so I took my first flu shot. Holy Moly was I ever miserable for the next 48 hours!! I was in bed with weakness, fatigue, body aches, and chills despite my consumption of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, water, vitamin C, zinc, etc., etc., etc. When the 50th hour arrived and I was feeling like I might live to see another day, I became angry. That darn flu shot GAVE me the flu!!! This is EXACTLY why I have always refused to take them!!! I stomped my little butt into the Employee Health office a few days later, met with the evil flu shot nurse and told her exactly what I thought about that horrible shot and I was NEVER NEVER doing that again. She was patient and kind, listened to my sassy, disgruntled rhetoric and then schooled me. You know that look your fur baby gives you, head cocked to the side, eyebrows raised, ears up? Well, that is how I looked in her office. Is what she told me really true or just things “they” have been taught to say to justify their “evil, flu shot for everyone” plan? IF everything she told me is true, then why in the world don’t we know this information? I mean, we are in healthcare and have limited understanding about these things, what about the general public? And so began my capstone project.

Let’s start with a very general explanation regarding the two most frequent statements about the flu shot.

#1 The flu shot gives you the flu.

So you have these cells in your body called White Blood Cells (WBC) who act as your “army” to fight off any “invaders” that can cause illness/ infection, like viruses. The flu shot introduces a small amount of the (killed/inactivated) virus into your body to expose your fighter army cells to the “bad guy.” If this virus returns they are able to quickly detect the invader, recognize him as a “bad guy,” attack, and kill it. Unfortunately you must exhibit some of the symptoms of the virus (fever, chills, body aches, etc) to let your army cells know the virus is present, hence the reason you may feel poorly after receiving the vaccine. This is what we call mounting an immune response and this is exactly what the flu shot is supposed to do.

#2 The flu shot doesn’t work.

Actually, the flu shot works quite well. We need to understand HOW it works because most of us have it wrong. Did you see all the commercials several years ago about “I got the flu vaccine for him,” (little baby boy) or “I got my flu shot for Grandma”? The point behind those commercial stories is that we want to protect the everyone, but especially those with immature, weakened, and/or compromised immune systems, from influenza exposure as it can lead to severe illness, disability, and even death. As we pass the virus around, it mutates ever so slightly with each person it inhabits because no two people are alike. Our biggest worry is that mutation will transform into a novel virus, something we have not seen before and, therefore, have limited or no resources to treat (think flu pandemic in 2009). Receiving the flu shot can minimize the potential for novel (new) virus mutations, offer protection from, and if contracted, minimize symptoms for, the influenza strain circulating in our community. Yep, that is a mouthful! Here is the simple version, please get your flu shot (today, now, soon) 🤞

You know what they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” #truth

🤲WASH YOUR HANDS!!! The #1 way to prevent the spread of disease is hand washing. Use soap and water, bring to foam, and scrub all surfaces of your hands, palms, under fingernails, in between fingers, tops of hands, and wrists for at least 20 seconds! Dry. If possible, follow with hand sanitizer. Rub it in until it dries completely. Remember, the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to wash with soap (any soap) and water …. hand sanitizer does not kill some viruses, but soap and water will.

🤧 Sneeze and cough into fabric…. like your shirt sleeve. Yeah, I know Mom said your shirt isn’t a napkin, but these days we sure want it to be your handkerchief. Turn your face into your shoulder or elbow so that the fabric catches your “germs.” This helps to minimize airborne transmission of illnesses and keep your hands free of those germs, as well. PSA. Friends don’t “spray” friends with germs or rub germs all over hard surfaces (dirty hands). The people around you thank you.

👀 Keep a 3 foot “bubble.” While we certainly recommend that people who are ill stay home, sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. In these cases, try to keep at least 3 feet between yourself and the ill person. This can dramatically limit your exposure to the largest particles of a cough or sneeze. However, the “germ cloud” full of the smaller particles from coughs and sneezes can travel 15-25 feet, hover in the air for up to 10 minutes, and travel at speeds of 50-200mph. Impressive, aye? Now we may be quick on our feet, but we are not THAT quick!! Remember that distance is a barrier, so stay home and/or stay away from others when you are ill.

🍊 Consider Vitamin C. Recently, I was listening to NPR and heard about a doctor treating septic patients with Vitamin C successfully. Excuse me? I’ve never been a huge advocate for Vitamin C, but this was extremely interesting to me. An ICU doctor used a common, inexpensive vitamin to treat a deadly condition and it helped improve their condition? Tell me more! Sepsis is very serious inflammatory response to an infection in your body … it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime…. and almost half of the people that develop this condition die from it. Anyway, if vitamin C works for the critically ill, then there must be some benefits to those of us that are just sick, right?! There are many forms of vitamin C available to us, talk to your health care provider to see which one is right for you, and make sure you have some on hand in case you get ill. This can be as simple as eating citrus fruits and guess what?? They are IN SEASON right now! Since we are in peak flu season (October – March) I take a dose every day, just to give myself an extra layer of support. I also just got some delicious red grapefruit. YUM!

Here is a link to the article I was talking about https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/23/521096488/doctor-turns-up-possible-treatment-for-deadly-sepsis

👃 Nasal Washing. Working in the health care field, I swear by this!! Where does influenza live? Our sinuses! How do we evict it? Flush it out! Ok, if you have ever been tested for influenza, you completely get this. A really long cotton swab is inserted gently (shoved, lol), up your nostril so deep that you worry they are going to poke your brain, right?!?! Well, influenza lives in your sinuses and we have to get the swab to your sinus to get a sample to confirm your diagnosis. As unpleasant as the swab and nasal washing sounds, it is better than having the flu, trust me! Nasal washing isn’t sexy (at all), but it flushes your sinuses and changes the pH of the sinus cavuty. Win! Win! We evict the flu bug (flushing) AND change it to an inhospitable environment (powder packet) for the virus. I don’t know about you, but I tend to not stay in places that I am uncomfortable for very long. The best method is to use a squeeze bottle type system so you can actually put a little pressure behind the washing. Note, LITTLE pressure. I do this in the shower because, as I said, it is not sexy at all. It took some time to get used to the whole process and yes, I gagged myself on more than one occasion (eat breakfast AFTER nasal washing). Even the salt water up the nose sensation got better, eventually. I started by using a half powder packet in full bottle of water and increased to a full packet as I got used to it. This has been one of the best recommendations my doctor gave me and I use it year round because it even helps with my seasonal allergies! Anyway, give it some thought and do what works best for you.

💦 Fluids. Oh yeah, I’m back to telling you to drink plenty of. water, again. Remember from week 1, hydrating our army cells keeps them functioning at their highest level. If you happen to contract the flu, you want these guys at superhero, ninja, military grade strength! The other part of this hydration thing is that your organs will need to be as equally high performing as your army cells, so once the fighters kick the viruses’ tail, the organs flush ’em right outta there. It makes the perfect Bye Bye Bug team! That is all 😁.

💤 Sleeeeeep, my pretties! For those of us that “run with our hair on fire,” this is the hardest part of our self care routine. I will spare you more boring research and statistics by saying this, we regenerate (heal) and build up immunity (protection) the best and fastest while we sleep. Simple as that. So grab a book, fuzzy pjs, a snuggle partner, or whatever sends you to LaLaLand the fastest, and get some ZzzZZzz’s.

My secret weapon!

I love, love, love this essential oil and use it frequently. There are many versions of it so find the one that is best for you and go for it. 1-Diffuse it. At home use whatever diffuser you choose, mix oil with distilled water (to help machine last longer). Diffuse it in your vehicle with a power port diffuser, diffuser discs, or create this … hot glue a pom pom to a clothes pin, place a few drops of oil on pom pom, clip clothes pin to car vent, refresh oil as needed. You know I used a glitter pom pom lol. 2- Salve it. Now this version is super scientific, so pay close attention. Mix drops of essential oil with carrier oil/lotion of your choice and apply. Whew, glad we got through that lol! If I had to guess on my measurements I would say I use 3-5 drops in 1oz of organic coconut oil. I love to rub this mixture on the soles of my feet, put socks on, and go to bed! I have also applied it to my chest (like your Mom used to rub that vapor salve on when you were sick) and I do apply it to the inside of my nostrils before I go to highly infectious environments (people gatherings, work, and travel lol). 3- Bath it. Make bombs, fizzies, and soaks for your bathing/showering pleasure. Add it to whatever bath recipe you enjoy! I grab a mason jar, fill half way with Epsom salt, add splash of organic coconut oil, add drops of essential oil, cover (this is super important), shake, adjust recipe to suit your needs.

Alright, this should get you started on ways to keep you from “going viral.” Stay tuned for weekly practical inspirations, creations, and tips to savor life. If you just can’t get enough of my eclectic energy you can follow me at fb.me/thediyauntie for more frequent “SQUIRREL” posts! HaHa!

Keep it healthy and happy. See you soon!

~Auntie D

The Hygee Hang-up

☃️As I sit here surrounded by several feet of snow, completely finished with winter, but hearing more snow in our forecast, I reflect on vacations to sandy, warm, sunny, fresh food, and cocktail filled localities.🌴 Which one was my favorite, you ask? All of them! But the bigger question is what makes vacations so special, so cherished? I pondered this for quite some time, I will have you know, and it finally came to me … presence. We are present in every moment, not wanting to miss a thing. We want to experience it all. We forget about phones, emails, texts, web surfing, social media, and all the other ways we stay constantly “plugged in” to our worlds. We live for the adventure! We are happy, joyful, relaxed, curious, exploratory, youthful, and content. Why do we only do this on vacation and how can we bring this enchantment into our daily lives? 🤷‍♀️ If you read my “Who is Auntie D” you might remember my plan to remove the parts of my world that I don’t enjoy and remodel/replace them with things that bring me joy. I started working on ways to do this, to be present in my daily life, to enjoy experiences as they happen, and to create an environment that supports my aspirations.

I began by looking at my family and closest friends to see if and how they exemplified this lifestyle. Who better to learn from than those you love, right? 💕 While all of my friends have components of this in their worlds, there is one couple that lives this lifestyle. They have a beautifully simple home and way of living that I adore and absolutely love spending time there. As it turns out, she comes into my life by marriage to one of my BFFs and she is Danish. She has completely transformed their home, their world, their relationship, with hygge. Don’t know what this is? Where have you been? This is only one of the most popular lifestyle trends right now. While I am rarely trendy, this is one social infatuation I support wholeheartedly! Pronounced hue-guh, it is defined by dictionary.com as “a Danish cultural concept and value of warm, happy coziness and togetherness, which people make time for in everyday life.” When I arrive at their home I am greeted with hugs, kisses, and laughter, handed a glass of wine, fed a beautiful meal, and then more wine with awesome conversation by the fire. It is not only the things in their home that make you feel so happy and relaxed, but also the way they make you feel …. like you are the most important person in the world, the most loved person in the room, and they are completely engaged with you and the time spent together. It is an amazing experience and I hope to re-create this in my own world, as well as, give you tips so that you may incorporate them into your life.

Let’s start with the environment. Their home exudes warmth. Candles are everywhere. Lights are dimmed and come from various sources. Furniture is arranged in small, intimate groupings. Houseplants are strategically placed throughout the home. The palette is neutral, whites and light woods, with bursts of color and texture that grab your attention. In addition, they are usually dressed very comfortably for winter in soft textiles, thick sweaters, with fuzzy socks and slippers, perfect for curling up, drinking wine, and catching up. The food they serve is delicious and simple with the focus of the meal being on time shared with loved ones.

The most impressive thing that happens in their home is engagement. The TV is off, laptops put away, and cell phones forgotten. On occasion there is very soft music playing in the background, but it is rare. We get absolutely lost in conversation, laughter, and togetherness. Time seems to stand still until someone suddenly realizes it is waaaaaay past our bedtimes! The night eventually ends with more hugs, kisses, and laughter as we make promises to do it again soon, very soon. And we do.

As I reflect on all the wonderful things my friends and family have to offer the hygee revolution, here are my Nine Necessities for creating Hygge. Remember, small changes add up to bigger things, so don’t feel like you have to do this all at once.

1- Soft lighting from low watt bulbs/candles/fairy lights/string lights scattered throughout your home this is the only absolute I have seen on every list of hygee essentials. You may use mirrors to reflect the light around the room. Don’t forget to add unscented tapers to the dinner table. Use one or two for a minimalist feel or create an entire centerpiece using mix and match candle holders you have collected. You can also use these light sources to accentuate things you love. There are battery operated fairy lights with clips to hold pictures/artwork/souvenirs or you may surround candles with favorite photos transferred onto vellum or in photo frames to create a photo candles.

all photos from Pinterest

2- Plants. I am a “the more, the merrier” type of girl where plants are concerned. Mix and match foliage shape, height, color, flower, fragrance, etc to create your own sanctuary. Don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry there is a perfect plant out there for you. Try succulents, either live or faux, to create a gorgeous table-scape, wreath, or interesting display. As their popularity has soared recently, there are many gorgeous textures and colors out there … have fun with it!

all photos from Pinterest

3- Temperature appropriate textures. Fuzzy socks/slippers/sweaters, pretty much anything that is knitted, for cold weather. Silk, cotton, linen textiles for warm weather. Arm knit a chunky yarn blanket. Stitch cotton squares together for a unique and lightweight cover during warmer weather. Have seasonal pillow covers. Make winter pillow covers from sweaters you purchase at a second-hand shop or summer pillow covers from scarves or other lightweight material. Create a “nook” where you snuggle up with your blankets and pillows to enjoy all things hygee. This can be something as simple as an overstuffed chair or as elaborate as a built in window seat. Use your imagination and do what feels “hue -gell-ey.”

all photos from Pinterest

4- Easy meals. Remember the focus is not on the food, but the time together around the table with family and friends. Simplify your menus so that everyone can eat together at the same time. Use wholesome ingredients, seasonal ingredients, and slow cook everything so that your home smells full of yummy. After the meal, linger around the table for a while to keep the conversation going, finish that glass of wine, put your feet up. Don’t hop up to start clearing and cleaning. There will be time for that later.

all photos from Pinterest

5- Paper. Whether you are reading books, writing letters/cards, journaling, coloring, creating your dream board or playing a game, find the time to reconnect with paper. Studies are showing that reading comprehension is vastly different between paper book readers vs. screen readers with the paper book readers having a higher comprehension level, among other things, of the material they are reading.

all photos from Pinterest

6- Warm drinks. Take your favorite hot beverage to a new level. Here are some great additions to your warm beverages. Marshmallows. Whipped cream. Heavy cream. Bee pollen. Spices that compliment the drink, tumeric is super popular right now. Peppermint. Chocolate. Need I continue?

all photos from Pinterest

7- Enjoy nature. Go for a walk WITHOUT using your phone (unless you have an emergency). Take time to stop, look, and listen. Engage all of your senses while out in nature. Watch a sunrise/sunset and enjoy the color palette of Mother Nature. Collect treasures during your outdoor time and find ways to use them in craft projects or home decor. Lay back for some stargazing on a clear night. Pack a picnic. How ever you choose to spend your outdoor time, the most important thing is to be present in that time.

guess where these photos came from…

8- Unplug. Have a screen-free times. Play board games with family and friends or curl up on the couch with a great book or craft project. Treat your personal time as if you were on vacation… be present, be engaged. Feeling courageous? Work to create screen-free bedrooms for you and your children. The physical and mental health benefits are well worth the battle.

9- Give. The best thing you can ever give is yourself. Giving time together with those you love is priceless. Giving to family, friends, and community is a wonderful way to help others AND yourself. I know, we are never supposed to “give” with the expectation of “receiving” and that is certainly not what I am suggesting here. But many sources say that giving makes you happier, more grateful, live longer, and all kinds of other wonderful benefits. Let’s give it a try!

I hope these ideas get you started or help further develop your hygee. This is such a wonderful cultural gift and I don’t know about you, but I can take all the help I can get these days. There are tons of books out regarding hygee, so if you want more reading on the subject any local bookshop should be able to help.

See you soon!

~Auntie D

Got Sparkle?

It is time to shine! I was feeling like my sparkle had fizzled out quite a bit. The holidays took their exhausting toll, work is at its peak, and this crazy weather with grey skies and #snowmageddon absolutely pushed me to my limit! I knew it was time to recharge my sparkle and what better way to do that than to get my creativity flowing! Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and these Pom Pom Hearts at cleverbloom.com really caught my eye. Now I did not get these right on my first attempt, or my second, or my third, but on my fourth attempt the magic happened and it was a beautiful thing!! So don’t give up … keep going … worst case scenario you have some great pom poms to go with your pom pom hearts. See what I did with them at the end of this tutorial … soooo cute!!

Each heart takes 3 pom poms to create. Vary your yarns for unique creations.

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So, the new puppy decided to go take a nap on my bed and I decided that was the PERFECT time to make these Pom Pom Hearts. He was being his normal puppy self and attacking my yarn spools earlier in the day, so I had given up. When he trotted over to the bed, I gave him a boost up, he settled in and I was like, “Game on, it’s Pom Pom Time!” I knew I had to be quick, so I pulled my supplies out, got set up and guess who decided lap napping was better … puppy. He must have been really sleepy because he climbed up and zonked right out. Sweet!! Sshhhh, not too loud … let’s do this.

Measure a length of yarn the length of your forearm, cut, and set aside.

Take the end of your yarn spool and thread between your pinky and middle finger to create a “tail.”

Begin wrapping yarn around 3 or 4 fingers (I used 4 fingers bc my hands are small).

Keep yarn as straight as you can. This makes it easier to slide off your hand and makes for a more uniform pom pom.

Wrap 60 times each for 2 of the pom poms. For the third pom pom you will wrap 75 times. TeeHee, the puppy is snoring …. adorable zzzzz’s.

After you have the appropriate “wraps” cut the yarn, leaving another “tail.” Lay your hand so that the first piece of yarn you cut and set aside is centered on the wrapped yarn.

Bring the ends up, keeping the yarn centered, so that you can tie a knot to secure.

You will be tying a TIGHT double knot. Did I mention TIGHT?!? Get a second set of hands to help if you need it. As you can see, my puppy was asleep … no help at all!! LOL

Slide it all very gently off your hands and then work on securing that double knot.

TaDa! Once your knot is tightly secured you should have a little disc of yarn. Cut your two “tails” to the length of your pom fibers.

Put your scissors inside the loops and begin cutting. I pull up with the bottom blade to try to center the cut as best I can. This keeps your pom pom fibers close to equal lengths. This will make more sense in a bit.

Cut one half of the yarn disc….

…and then cut the other half. Again, pulling up slightly with the scissors to center your cut.

And you have a very fuzzy, wild haired pompom. Good Job!

Now it is time for the haircut. This is MESSY, so I cut these over one of those Amazon cardboard boxes I saved. (See, there IS a reason to keep them!) It keeps the cut pieces contained and much easier to get into the trash when you are done.

You will cut the 75 strand pom pom into a cone shape, as this will be the bottom of your heart.

Don’t cut it perfectly at this point, but get the general shape completed.

You will then take the 60 strand pom poms and cut into half circle shapes.

Try to cut them into equal sizes as best you can.

And here is a pom pom bikini LOL!! But seriously, this is how you will tie these 3 pom poms together. The 2 half circle poms with go on top of the cone pom to form the heart shape.

Tie one on at a time. It is SUPER important to tie these together AS TIGHT AS POSSIBLE! It took me a few times to get this right. If you get them too loose, the top pieces just flop around and make no heart shape. Trust me, here!

Tie a TIGHT double knot.

Now that you have the first pom secured, it is time to add the second pom. You can cut away one set of strings at this point, usually the strings from the 60 strand pom. I cut them to the length of the existing pom pom fibers so they just blend in. It really makes it easier to attach the next pom, so you won’t be fighting so many strings.

Attach the second pom. Again, tie this together TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT! Get some helpful extra hands to get this accomplished. FYI, puppies are NOT helpful!

Cut the next set of strings away, leaving just the 2 strings from the 75 strand pom pom. Again, cut them to the same length as the pom pom fibers so they just blend in.

You should have 2 long strings left to hang the pom pom heart with at this point. And you should have 3 pom poms tied tightly together to form somewhat of a heart shape. Don’t get frustrated or discouraged at this point…keep going … it gets better!

Now we do the REAL haircut! Remember how messy this is and cut over your box. I began by shaping the bottom into a “V” shape.

Once I was satisfied with the bottom, I moved to the top “V” in between the 2 smaller poms on top. (I am holding the long strings for hanging in my hand, so I don’t accidentally cut them too)

HOLD YOUR LONG STRINGS OUT OF THE WAY and be careful you don’t snip them! I cut each side of the center “V” shape at an angle.

..and then cut out the center of the “V.” Make small cuts … you can always take more off. Round the tops a bit and you are all finished.

Make them all the same or very different, whatever catches your eye and imagination. You can do so many things with these …. cut the strings off and scatter them as little pillows … hang them individually …. give them as sweet gifts … your imagination is the limit!

I decided to make a banner with these 3 pom pom hearts, so I cut a length of yarn to suit.

That looked a little plain to me, so I decided to fluff it up a bit. I made up some more 60 strand pom poms to thread my banner yarn through (using a doll maker or embroidery needle). And BOOM! a fluffy garland for the mantle!

He didn’t even notice all the pom poms I piled on him! Look how fast that was … you have a completed project in the time it takes a puppy to nap. Wonder how long it will be before I can get up and hang it on the mantle …. let sleeping puppies lie!

Have a great time completing this project with your kids, your family, your BFFs, or just by yourself! Don’t forget to post some pics of your completed projects on fb.me/thediyauntie so I can see what amazing things you created!

See you soon!

~Auntie D

Cheers! Prost! Salute!

How ever you choose to say it, it all means the same thing … DRINK UP! While I do enjoy my adult beverages, for the Week 2 blog I am talking about WATER! Thankfully, I do also enjoy drinking water and am rarely without, but I have many friends and family that do not. Here are some tricks, tips, and informative “droplets.” 💦

💧Why do I need water?

Our bodies are composed of 50-60% water. On the most basic level, our cells need water to be able to function and since our cells control our bodies, WE need water to function. Water also does cool stuff like cushion our organs, filter toxins, remove waste, lubricate our joints, lubricate our respiratory tract, thin secretions, circulate oxygen, regulate body temperature, improve our complexion, and much more!

💧How much water do I really need?

In researching this frequently asked question, I have learned that it varies person to person; however, I found an actual formula provided by http://www.mindbodygreen.com that gives a basic guideline of dividing your weight in pounds by 2 to give you the number of ounces of water you should drink daily. Divide this number by 8 to get the number of 8oz glasses you need to consume. For example, 135#/2 = 67.5oz daily/8oz = 8.4 glasses of water daily or 67.5oz/32oz cup = 2 daily … in short, divide your oz. daily by the size of your container.

💧Can I drink too much water?

While it IS possible to drink too much water, it is very rare. This condition is called water intoxication and can cause a dangerously low level of sodium in your blood. This condition can be fatal. Again, it is extremely rare, but be careful not to over do it. Also, please feel free to talk with your health care provider prior to starting any new health regimens, diet changes, etc. to make sure they will not cause any complications.

⏰The best times to drink water.

#1 When you wake up – get your cells (and body) ready for the day. Drink 8oz of fresh water when you first wake up. Room temperature water absorbs into our system faster, while cold/ice water is claimed to increase our metabolism (yes,please!). Your choice.

#2 Before meals/snacks or when you feel hungry. Not only will this help to fill you up and keep your calorie count in check, water lubricates the stomach and dilutes stomach acid to help ease digestion and maximize absorption of nutrients. It may also be true that your “hunger pangs” are actually requests for water, so drink some before you grab that snack and see if it alleviates the “pangs.”

#3 When you feel sleepy (or cranky). Dehydration can manifest itself with sleepiness and/or irritability. So, if you feel it or your companions mention it, try a glass of water before you grab that afternoon coffee or energy drink.

#4 Before and After a workout. It seems the most standard consensus is that you need 4oz of water for every 15minutes of working out. Keep in mind this does not account for temperature and humidity levels where you are being active.

#5 Before you go to bed. There are conflicting reports on this topic, so do your research and what works best for you. Drinking a small glass of water before bed can help to “preload” your hydration status for the water loss through respiratory evaporation while you sleep. It also “preloads” your kidneys and may make you have to get up to pee during the night. The nay-sayers say it is more important to get uninterrupted sleep and that you should drink your water from the time you wake until 3 hours before you do to sleep. Again, do what works best for your situation.

#6 To ward off or recover from illness. Bacteria and viruses don’t typically last long in a well hydrated body. Our cells are functioning at optimal levels so our little army cells show up rather quickly to defend us against these invaders and our organs, which are also functioning at optimal levels, flush those invaders right out of our systems! Bye, Bye, Bugs!

💧Tips

Get Spicy! Add different natural flavors to your water such as fruits and herbs. Here are some awesome combos to get you started.

Design and/or Use a Bottle “Timer.”
There are gobs of pre-made bottles out there to help keep your hydration on track. Buy one, make one, or buy the vinyl to put on your own bottle …. what ever you want, just make sure to drink!!  Here are some great examples for you to peruse.

Download a hydration app on your cell phone. There are many free ones out there for every phone. Check the place you find your apps and use the one that best suits your needs. If you want to start simple or don’t want an app, you can always set alarms on your phone to “ding you” for a drink!

Eat your water – Good news! Good news! Watermelon, spinach, cucumbers, citrus fruits, strawberries, and lettuce contain quite a bit of water. Research shows that we may actually get about 20% of our fluid intake from things we eat, especially this time of year when soups and stews frequent our tables, so don’t forget to include this in your daily intake totals. Ha! Is anyone actually writing totals down or are we all just looking at our skin and urine for hydration status?

(photo from skinnyms.)

For good measure, you may certainly want to write down or input on the app your water intake as you get started on your hydration adventure. Start slow, don’t go chugging water all at once, but increase your intake every day until you reach your target daily ounces. Once you get going, though, you will be able to tell from your skin and/or urine if you are hydrated. Our urine should be light yellow to clear with no odor, unless you eat asparagus LOL. Our skin should be bright, supple, and glowing. Any deviation needs to be investigated, but make sure to consider hydration early in the process. Remember it only takes 21 days to build a habit. The health benefits are overwhelming and you are the only you we have!💦

Have a hydrating week! See you soon.
~Auntie D

In this new, fifty two week series, I will address one of four categories of wellness every week. “Me time” will focus primarily on self care. “Healthy Habits” will focus on diet, exercise, and health trends. “Uplugged” will find ways/ideas to spend time away from electronics, screens, and discover the world around us. And “Sparkle” will bring all the positive vibes we can muster into your world and help you shine wherever you are. I hope you will join me every Friday for tips, recipes, ideas, crafts, life hacks, and all the fun things I can find to share with you!

So let’s get started with “Me Time.” This is going to be the most difficult for most of us, I imagine, as we are used to taking care of everyone except ourselves. This is one of my personal challenges for the year, so I hope you will join me for the journey. It only takes 21 days to build or break a habit, right? We can do this!

This week celebrates new beginnings with one of the most anticipated nights of the year … New Year’s Eve. Whether you stay home, join friends and family, or go “all out” for this night, there is one thing that we all want (and probably NEED right now) and that is soft, beautiful, glowing skin. My skin deserves a little pampering after all the “neglect” it suffered over the Christmas season, but who wants to go back to a store right now… not me!!! So let’s wander to the kitchen and see what we can whip up. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients, use what you have, and add/improvise as you wish. Use the highest quality ingredients that you can and support your local shops, artists, and farms as much as possible.

I stumbled upon a recipe for “Cleopatra’s Bath” which sent me down a serious rabbit hole …. LOL. In summary, Cleopatra was known for her gorgeous skin and supposedly milk baths were a frequent ritual. Milk contains lactic acid which helps to gently remove dead skin cells. This was a real “ah-ha” moment for me. The other ingredients in the recipe help remove toxins from the body, soften and brighten the skin, with scents to relax and rejuvenate your soul. Looks like she might have had this milk bath thing perfected, aye?

Another really great recipe I discovered, which will appeal to all my vegetarians out there, is Honey Coconut Milk bath from Home in High Heels. Combine a full can/13.5oz of coconut milk with 1 cup/8oz of (local) honey. It is recommended to drizzle the honey into the milk while mixing. (optional addition of your favorite scents or use it just as it is, because it does smell pretty wonderful) Add it to your bath water. 🛁Luxuriate🛁Store any unused milk bath in the refrigerator, but don’t wait too long to use it up.

For those who wish to start pampering on a smaller scale, use these bath recipes for a hand or foot soak. I have to admit I was initially unwilling to jump in a tub full of milk, so I started with a foot soak. My feet looked and felt amazing afterwards …. could hardly believe it. In fact, it has worked so well that I stopped going to salons for pedicures. My feet used to have quite a few calluses and cracked, dried skin on the heels, but the milk bath recipe has pretty much put an end to that. Now, this isn’t some miracle cure … it didn’t do it all on the first soak, but it did offer noticeable improvement. I soaked once a week for several weeks in a row and now try to remember to soak once a month (or when I feel dry skin on my heels) to maintain. I’m embarrassed to admit it has been several months since my last soak, but thrilled to share that my feet still look great, even without applying lotion or going to the salon. Enough about my feet! Let’s move on ….

An even smaller and simpler idea for pampering is a lip scrub. Mix a small amount of honey and granulated sugar together to form a “gloppy” paste, not too firm, not too runny. I made a “trial” portion using about 1 teaspoon of honey and added 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, maybe a smidge more, blend well, apply to lips, rub very gently to exfoliate, and rinse with lukewarm water. Honey is super moisturizing and this little scrub is wonderful! Use caution not to scrub too hard, you don’t want to have peeling lips for that midnight kiss!!💋

Now that we have pampered our bodies, let’s pamper our minds, shall we? Resolutions seem to have become a thing of the past, sort of. Trends seem to be shifting towards list making, journal writing, and self challenges. The internet is FULL of ideas, templates, pre-made notepads/books, etc., so find something that you like and try to stick with it. I have found it best to start simple and grow. I recently had to do some soul-searching and make decisions for professional growth. I made pro-con lists, 5 year goals, 10 year goals, education goals, personal aspirations, etc etc. I got completely overwhelmed and felt miserable. I was sharing this with one of my co-workers when she stopped me in my tracks and gave me the BEST piece of advice. She told me to make one more list. She told me to make a list of all the wonderful things about me, all the positive attributes I have and bring to the profession. She said often times in our list making, we forget to list the good things, the things we are best at, the things we have all ready accomplished, our successes. She told me to go home, make that list, and, from now on, start with this list. What awesome wisdom from an amazing woman! I share this with you so that as you begin this next year, you remember to start with all your amazing attributes, accomplishments, successes, and build/grow from there.

Goodness, looks like I had more to say than I thought I would! Hope you enjoyed this and will come back next Friday for “Healthy Habits.”

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy 2019!

New series for 2019 – Week One

Patriotic, Quick, and Easy Eats

So, I’ve waited until the last minute …. again! Fourth of July “snuck up” on me and I need some quick, easy, delicious, patriotic themed foods to prepare for our celebration.  Here are a few recipes for you in case you got “snuck up” on too!

20180706_095735  KABOBS/SKEWERS

Use any combination of ingredients below and place on skewers/picks:

  • Watermelon – Feta – Blueberries – Mint leaves
  • Strawberries – Bananas – Blueberries (add Nutella for WOW factor)
  • Strawberries – Marshmallows – Blueberries
  • Cherry tomatoes – Mozzerella – Basil leaves (may drizzle balsamic vinegar for added flavor)
  • Brownie bites – Strawberries – Marshmallows

BLUEBERRY CAPRESE SALAD

Combine 1 CUP of halved/quartered cherry tomatoes, 3/4 CUP of whole blueberries, with 1 CUP of mozzerella balls (halved, cut to bite size). Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 CUP of fresh basil leaves (tear or chiffonade). Toss well. Refrigerate until served. May make 24 hours ahead. Serves 4.

MONTECRISTO SLIDERS  20180706_102449

Slice package of Hawaiian rolls in half horizontally – remove top layer and set aside.

Spread dijon mustard (I use homemade Blackberry Mustard) over cut side of rolls, cover the top and bottom layer. Lay bottom layer of rolls in a foil lined casserole pan.

Add 4 slices of swiss cheese to bottom layer of rolls.

Add 6 slices of ham on top of swiss cheese …. followed by 6 slices of turkey …. followed by 4 more slices of swiss cheese.

Place top layer of rolls on top of meat and cheeses.

Mix 1/4CUP of melted butter with 1 raw egg to make an “egg wash.”

Brush “egg wash” onto the tops of the Hawaiian rolls liberally.

Cover the casserole dish LOOSELY with foil – do not allow foil to touch rolls – use toothpicks to elevate foil if needed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Remove foil from casserole dish and return pan to 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until the tops of the rolls are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Cut rolls into individual sliders using a sharp knife, but do not remove from pan.

Dust tops of rolls with powdered sugar.

Provide side dish of blackberry preserves for dipping.

Watch these sliders disappear right before your eyes… grab one before they are gone!

SPRINKLED (ICE CREAM) SANDWICHES

Purchase ice cream sandwiches of your choice.

Let ice cream soften slightly, just enough that sprinkles adhere well.

Add popcicle stick/cupcake liner or tear off 2/3 of wrapper (to mitigate mess, if desired).

Dip edges of sandwich in Patriotic sprinkles.

Freeze until ready to serve.

ENJOY!

20180706_101832CHEESECAKE STRAWBERRIES

Slice strawberries in half lengthwise OR make an “x” in the tip of the berry, leave green tops in place.

Spoon pre-made cheesecake filling into sandwich size ziploc bag.

Cut corner off ziploc bag to use for piping cheesecake filling onto/into berries.

Pipe cheesecake filling onto/into cut strawberries – if using as filling, the berries will expand as you fill it.

Add a few blueberries to top of cheesecake filling and any other garnish you choose.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Pictures and LIVE video instruction for these recipes will be on my Facebook page, so come see me there at fb.me/thediyauntie . While you are there please make sure to “like” and “follow” my page. Hope to see you soon. Have a Happy and Safe 4th!!