Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fab Fall Roundup: What's Rocking My World

Hi ya'll, sorry it's taken me sooo long to post. Been so busy, we moved into our first home (yay!) and that combined with work combined with Short Stack's school life has kept me busier than I would like. We just bought a 1950's ranch-style home, in an older neighborhood with beautiful oak trees and more renovations than we can afford. But it's ours! Got a great yard, nice old (I do mean OLD ) neighbors, and the same school our kiddo was attending before. Its all good in our hood ya'll. Got a swingset to pick up next week, and we had a big Halloween bash, so we are settling in just great.

Now, as promised, I want to share with you some things that are catching my eye, rocking my world, and helping me recharge and enjoy this time of year. Some random items, some good tunes, you name it, I got something for ya!

I am known for being a music snob. It's true, and I am OK with it. I tend to veer away from the pop stuff, in favor of indie rock, alternative, singer-songwriters, and UK fabulousness. If it's not on the radio, I tend to enjoy, not sure why! Anyway, here are some albums I think you might like, they are a bit off the beaten path, but they are sooo good:

Florence and the Machine- Ceremonials
Let me just say, Florence Welch has a voice like no other. It is haunting, lifting, and her songwriting takes me to a whole different plane. No drugs necessary, she is just that good. Her lead single includes the song "Shake it Out", which, if you don't get the album, get that single. Play it loudly. In your car. On repeat. All day. Rinse, repeat, be moved.

The Civil Wars-Barton Hollow
A little duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White, their title track "Barton Hollow" is a throwback to older country type roots music, with a great guitar backing and vocals that are fantastic. I love their music, and they write their own stuff, which just ups their awesome quotient.

Amos Lee-Mission Bell
For those not in the know, this guy is opening for Adele. For those who love Adele, that should sell you. For everyone else, Amos has been around for quite some time, with some great albums before Mission Bell. He is folksy, rock, ballad, you name it. His stuff comes from a great place, and his voice is so fantastic. I love his song "Windows are Rolled Down" and "Flower". Really hoping he will headline his own tour down to Louisiana this year. He's on my top "50 Artists to See Before I Croak" list (yes, there is such a list, and Florence and the Machine is on it too).

I work in retail. Enough said. Seriously, I am such a fan of gorgeous clothing, and though I love designer duds, I am a budget shopper to the end. To that end, here are few pieces I think are must haves for plus size gals. I also have some kids winter must haves that will last the whole season:

If you have a bit of height, have a long torso, or have some gorgeous tall boots, you must have a tunic for this season. I have all of the above, and love long sleeved colorful tunics to dress up jean leggings or dress trousers with heels for an evening out. Two of my favorites: Johnny Was Silk Tunic Joe Browns All Occasion Tunic.

Gotta have some great boots for kicking it up in this great weather. My favorites: Samantha Riding Boot and Sidney Lace Back Boot

Kids Wear
I love shopping for winter coats. I love classic fashionable coats that make it through cold Louisiana days but still keep their shape and feel cozy. My favorite coat for the last few seasons is from Land's End. It's a pea coat made from fleece, not wool, so no scratchy feeling for the kids! It may not be warm enough for northern winters, but I can layer underneath to take the coldest day here in southern Louisiana. Short Stack loves it! Just be sure to wash it on cold gentle cycle and low dryer to avoid pilling. Fleece Pea Coat

New Nail Technology
As you may know, I am a DIY lady when it comes to nail care. I hate paying for salon services if I can do it at home, and the Gelish incident in a previous post has put me on the hunt for a gel manicure system I can afford to use at home. I was flipping through In Style Magazine, and I found a company called Red Carpet Manicure that offers a kit, complete with LED light, that allows you do get the same look as the salon at a fraction of the price! I have not purchased the kit yet, perhaps Spud will read this post and surprise me (yeah, shameless plug for gifts here!) but I will be buying the kit to "get my nails done" before an upcoming trip to San Antonio for my sister's graduation next month. As always, will return and report with results. Red Carpet Manicure Gel Starter Kit

I have been made over into a scheduling diva, thanks to a simple item I found at Wal-Mart. It is a peel and apply calendar, placed on my fridge, that uses dry erase markers to fill in the days of the week. Although my desk is still a mess, although I still don't update my check register like a normal human, although my purse is usually full of receipts, kids snacks, and Legos, none of it matters. Cause "I know what we're gonna do today" (name that Disney cartoon guys!). I got my calendar, which uses different colored markers for each member of the family, to block off school holidays, our work schedules, doctors appointments, date nights, etc. I can't find the one I bought online (was around 5 bucks), but here is another that just might do the trick for your family: Room Mates Dry Erase Peel and Stick Calendar

So that's my Fab Fall Roundup! Please let me know if there is something that is rocking your world, keeping your days sane, or is a just can't live without item. I need all the help and joy I can get!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

1 Chicken, 4 Meals, Here's How You Do It

Ok folks, so here's the deal. I am broke, er, I mean, I am financially strapped at this time. We are buying our first home (Yay! Post about that soon to follow.) and I am being challenged at finding ways to make great dinners at a low cost and that are somewhat healthy. So, I put my skills to use, and in one day, I had four separate meals prepared from one single whole chicken. Since I was so proud of my skill in saving time and money, I just knew that this was the place to share my knowledge and pay it forward to the rest of us in tough economic times.

1 3-5 lb. whole rotisserie style chicken (remove gizzards and yucky innards should they be included)
1 large slow cooker
Seasoning of your choice (Cajun seasoning here, but you already knew that)

Sprinkle bottom of slow cooker liberally with seasoning, place in chicken, skin on, breast side down. Sprinkle more seasoning on top of chicken. DO NOT ADD WATER! (You can also use a frozen chicken, but it will take an hour or so longer to cook). Cook on low for 6-8 hours, till chicken fat is boiling and leg essentially pulls away from body, or falls right off the bone.
I usually put chicken on before bed on a day I will be off, and when I wake up, it's ready to go. Remove from slow cooker and debone, removing skin, as it is not crispy like a rotisserie oven style chicken . Divide into four portions. You are now ready to prepare your meals!

Chicken salad for lunch for the week
BBQ chicken pizza
Easy chicken veggie pilaf
Baked chicken penne with spinach

And that's it! I made all of these meals in one day, ate the pizza for dinner that night, had the pilaf the next day, followed by the baked pasta. It was easy, inexpensive (the chicken itself cost 5.53) and fed the entire crew all week! I am working on more meal plans in this way, and will be sure to post the individual recipes from this week's 1 Chicken 4 Meals plan soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Artisan Crafts Web Roundup: My Latest Favs

So, I have been browsing the web lately, checking out websites of folks doing the handcrafting thing. That is, making beautiful items and selling them to the public, with little marketing and no mass manufacturing. I thought I would share a few artisans that are piquing my interest.

1. Sweet Baby Cakes
To be fair, this is my website. I have been making diaper cakes for family, and after seeing the local businesses that sell them, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring. I don't use rubber bands, and always place full-sized baby products inside my cakes. Prices are reasonable, and I ship all over the U.S!

2. Yarny Things 
Ok, so for those who think crocheting is for old ladies in a nursing home, making doilies, you are so wrong! Crocheted and knitted accessories are the best, especially in the winter, and I have just stumbled on what I think may be my favorite baby hats ever! This is the Etsy (not Regretsy, lol, sorry I couldn't resist) shop of Susan Sibley. Her scarves are gorgeous (love the ash gray and pink one, going to pick it up before fall for myself) and seriously, the baby hats are too cute! Love the prices and photography is pretty great too.

3. CW Fashion Cameo Jewelry

This is the site of a true artisan jewelry maker, specializing in cameo rings, bracelets and pendants. I received a ring for my birthday, the one to the left (Three Muses) and was wowed by the quality for such a reasonable price. She makes these rings by hand, no major tools or mass production, and offers cameos made from agate, and other materials. All products are available in genuine silver or gold, and in any size you need, at no extra charge! I about lost it when I read that, cause all of my rings are usually special order, which means expensive. Not so with CW. Check them out if you love elegant and unique jewelry made with extra attention to detail.

4. Heather Elizabeth Designs

If you love New Orleans, if you love the south, if you love gorgeous jewelry and funky home accents, then this is the place for you. Heather creates custom jewelry using local logos of companies long since closed, photos of our famous architecture (such as St. Louis Cathedral) and street signs, to name a few. I am buying some of her night lights as gifts for Christmas this year, I love them so much (this is after I buy some things for myself of course). She isn't super expensive, but her prices aren't too unreasonable, as the quality looks superb.

If you are crafty, and make things that are beautiful, start selling them on the Web! In fact, I decided to do just that! Got my own site up and running, and darn proud of it too. If you make fantastic stuff, let me know, and I will be happy to share with others!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's for Dinner: Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Stew and Cornbread

I gotta get to work today, and yep, it's another slow cooker kinda day. I have some leftover chicken in the fridge and this is my favorite way to use it up. You can add any veggies or meat to this you like, and the wow factor is that the cornbread cooks in the slow cooker on top of the stew! Yes, I know, amazing!

1 pound or so of cooked leftover chicken (rotisserie, baked, whatever you got in the fridge)
1 15-18 oz. bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's Honey)
1 cup frozen corn
1 onion, diced
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix (or your favorite mix)

In bottom of small slow cooker, mix together all ingredients except corn muffin mix. In separate bowl, prepare mix as directed on box, and pour over stew mix and spread evenly. Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or high for 5. Serve with some shredded cheddar on top and a nice salad.

The Verdict:
This is really good! It is great to put a whole meal together in one pot, and the flavors are awesome! This is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers, as you can add potatoes, peppers, etc. to it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gelish Manicure: Update

Ok folks, so it has been awhile since I had my Gelish manicure, and I thought I would let you know how it stood up to my hardcore lifestyle. First, the polish lasted 15 days, and on the 16th day, it started to chip. And chip, and peel, and essentially fell off on its own for the most part. After a few minutes of finishing the peel that started, my nails were bare of polish. And my nails looked like crap.

If you have ever had an acrylic full set done, imagine how your nails look after they are removed. Yep, like that. My beds were cracked, peeling, and thin. I immediately began to soak them in cuticle oil, and filed the nails down and applied some clear polish to protect them. I am uncertain if this happened due to overzealous filing prior to application, or because the manicurist did not use enough Gelish foundation base, or if the product just does that.

I opted not to post a pic, as it was really awful and I also ahem, forgot to capture that image. In any case, I am handling my own manicures for a month or so to let my nail beds heal, and I may attempt to have another gel manicure at another salon, just to see if the results are the same. Stay tuned....

Monday, April 25, 2011

Special Education Resources for Parents

Though I am not a paid advocate, I am certainly a pretty vocal one when it comes to my daughter's education, and other parents often ask me where I get my information. To be honest, there is so much more to special education law than the little parent's rights guidebook handed to you during an IEP meeting. To that end, I want to share with you the many different resources I have found since my journey into the world of special education. Some of these resources are specific to Louisiana's special education process, and others are national, but please be sure to explore them all, as there are many issues that overlap, regardless of where you may live.

A fantastic site run by Pete Wright, a special education attorney. Current case law, Q&A on specific issues to families, and many articles on the IEP process. Pete has also written some of the most comprehensive books on special education law, and hosts conferences to teach parents how to navigate the system. I attended one of his conferences, and it was a life-changing event for me.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
A central source of information on disabilities in infants and children. Focused on both IDEA and early intervention programs as well. Spanish information available.

Louisiana Parent Training and Information Center
A statewide resource that offers training to parents seeking to better advocate for their child's education. Advocates from the center may also attend an IEP meeting with a parent to assist in the process. Offered are self-guided trainings, online pajama trainings, and on site trainings available, with a quarterly newsletter and other resources. One of the best places to visit for info, in both English and Spanish.
***Every state receives federal funding to support similar centers. For a listing of centers nationwide, please visit:

Louisiana Partners in Policymaking
Partners in Policymaking is a national leadership training program for people with developmental disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities. It provides the most current knowledge about disability issues and develops the competencies necessary for effective advocacy to influence public policy at all levels of government. As a graduate of this program, I can tell you I have never learned more, embraced the concept of equality, and felt more empowered to make a difference in the world than I did during my time in Partners. You must apply and be accepted to the program, but believe me, it will change your life.
***The national Partners in Policymaking website:

These are just some of the many resources that have been invaluable to me as I navigate the world of special education and disability advocacy. Please remember, every state has a Department of Education, and usually a website. Don't be afraid to actually check them out. If you have a question and your local Dept. of Sp. Ed. is not helping, call the state. You have a right to as much knowledge as your child's school team in creating the best outcomes for your student. Good luck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's for Dinner: Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Cabbage, Apples, and Prunes

This is my slow cooker version of a recipe by Clotilde Dusoulier, a blogger whose website, Chocolate and Zucchini, totally changed my world. She cooks with fresh seasonal ingredients, humor, and a lot of heart. For a Parisian, that's huge (just kidding Clotilde, I promise I don't call them Freedom Fries). The original recipe can be found at here at her blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, a fantastic foodie wonderland. In addition to this recipe, her Nutella ice cream is fantastic and her yogurt cake is my base for all cakes I bake now. Check her out. Seriously.

1 pork tenderloin, or pork roast of your choice (boneless)
1 small head of red cabbage, sliced finely
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 prunes, cut into fourths
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced, with skin on
1/4 cup red wine (I use Syrah)

Place roast into bottom of large slow cooker. Mix together cabbage, apples, and prunes, and arrange around the roast. Sprinkle on seasonings on both cabbage mixture and and roast, and pour wine over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for around 5. Stir cabbage mixture to combine seasoning and wine before serving. Serve with a spicy brown mustard like Zatarain's Creole Mustard, which you can find here, and a fresh salad and bread.

The Results:
This is a unique dish, both sweet and savory, and is really interesting if you have never combined the ingredients before. The mustard is a must, and I really enjoy this dish a great deal. Spud likes it too! It is an autumn staple in my home, but I do enjoy it any time of year.