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I thought it would be fun to learn a bit more about me by touring my home so that you can see methods I have found to help me organize my ...

Friday, March 30, 2018

Easy Peesy French Bread

We are a low-carb family, but I make a loaf of this bread once or twice a month because sometimes you just gotta have fresh-made bread! Even if you work full-time, you can have a yummy loaf of bread ready with your dinner within an hour of walking in the door! Try it soon - I don't think you will be disappointed!

The basic recipe is from My Mundane and Miraculous Lifebut I have tweaked it over time to make the most perfect loaf of bread for our family!

Here is her recipe with my tweaks in red.

1-1/2 cups warm water (use a thermometer and make sure it is 110°F)
1 Tbl honey
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl active dry yeast (or 2 of those small packets)
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 cups flour

1. Combine the water, honey, salt and yeast in a glass bowl. Let sit for 5-10 mins. until there’s some bubbling, foam stuff on the top. (I combine the water, honey and salt first. Then I add the the yeast on top and make sure the yeast is wet. I let mine sit for the full 10 minutes).

2. Next, add a bunch of flour. I used just regular white organic flour. You want your dough to be sticking to itself, not your fingers. So, keep adding flour and keep kneading until that happens. (I start off with the 3-1/2 cups of flour. You want as little flour as possible in order to make sure it isn't too dense once baked. I have left it a bit sticky on my fingers and all has turned out well. ).

3. Form the dough into a loaf shape. Cover with a towel and let sit on the counter for 20 mins. This is the time to set the oven to 400 degrees. (I put my dough in the oven on the Warm setting instead of letting it sit on the counter. I seem to get a bigger loaf this way.) You can shape this into a typical French Loaf oblong shape if you prefer. I am going to try to cook this in a loaf pan next time!

4. After 20 mins., cut slits in the top and bake for 16-20 mins. (I do not cut the slits in the top and I do check the loaf with a quick knife stuck in the center to make sure it comes out clean. I cook mine for 18 minutes turning the oven to 400°F while letting the bread cook while the oven comes up to temperature).

Julie's Notes: "I’ve started adding garlic powder to the dough and sprinkling the top with oregano and some small pieces of butter to melt all over during the baking. Oh. My. Word."

I love being creative!

I really enjoy not working so that I have lots of time for my creative outlets. I love crochet, but I also enjoy cross-stitch and papercrafting. This year, I have a plan to learn embroidery and how to work with felt. I have to say that I have not been crafting to the seasons or working on my study of hygge as planned, but there are still nine months left in the year, so no worries!

I have worked on 3 baby blankets this year. I have only finished one and gifted it already. I made this for one of my husband's co-workers who is expecting her first grandbaby in a few months. It is the 6-Day Kid Blanket made of Lion Brand Mandala yarns.

I still need to add a border to this one and will be working on that within the week. It is a simple V-Stitch blanket made with some Mandala yarn as well. I love having this blanket on hand because it doesn't have to be a baby blanket ... I could gift it to anyone!

I have made this baby blanket for a past co-worker of mine expecting a girl. I love the way it looks when combining two yarns together at the same time!

I have to admit that I have a TON of yarn ... it's like a mini yarn store! I've been wanting to make a sort of scrap blanket, so got out a bunch of coordinating Papatya cakes from Hobfy.com and a few Lion Brand mandala cakes to work on a simple stitch pattern. I am loving the result! I know who I want to gift this to, so will finish it in April as well.

I also have plans to make at least 3 more blankets this year - one for my son, finish one I started for my husband last fall and a blanket to coordinate with a quilt my mom made me last year and that will be used in my son's room (soon-to-be guest room) once he graduates college and moves out on his own. I've been working with this square called Painted Roses for the guest room blanket.

I do believe that I will have time to finish a few more crochet projects by year's end as well.

I also spent a little time this month making some cute Shrinky Dink stitch and hook markers for some online crochet friends. They came out great! I had so much fun repeating a craft that I enjoyed so much as a child.

An embroiderer I follow posted about two weeks ago that she is starting a Stitch-A-Long for The 12 Days of Christmas. I have been absolutely drooling over these patterns (order here on Etsy) since I stumbled upon them last year. They are gor-ge-ous!!!

So, I have purchased almost all of the supplies to make these beauties and will start on them next week. Look at the stunning stack of felt fabric that I ordered. Of course, I had to order more sets of colors than is needed for this project because it is soooooo pretty! (Order the felt needed for this project here.)

This may be an adventurous start for a new embroiderer, but I'm up to the task! To help me, the creator of the patterns has put up a very helpful webpage with lots of tips! After reading this page, I am sure I can do this even though it is my first embroidery/felt project.

The hard part about having a creative streak is that there are definitely more projects I want to complete than time available to do so! Almost daily I add crochet projects to my Ravelry favorites or I admire a beautiful item in an Instagram post. I probably just need to quit visiting these sites and spend more time creating!

The best part about being a crocheter is when new "squishy" mail arrives. Some new beautiful yarn arrived at my home this week! These are King Cole Curiosity (first 3 pics), James C Brett Northern Lights and then all 15 colors of the beautiful Scheepjes Our Tribe yarn. I have ideas for all of them ... just gotta find the time to work on some new projects!



So, it looks like I have a pretty busy spring & summer planned when it comes to my crafting. I sure hope I end up making a lot of pretty things this year! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Taking Care of My Skin - HydraFacial, SkinPen and MyChelle Dermaceuticals

I'm sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I took a bit of a break, but I have a lot to share so will be playing a bit of catch up for the next few weeks!

One of my goals for 2018 is to make sure that my skin is being well taken care of. I must admit that I haven't maintained the best skincare routine over the past few years. I started off the year with a HydraFacial. It felt great and really made my skin feel different. My skin felt softer, looked brighter and the texture was better. My aesthetician and I had discussed last year what I wanted to do for my skin this year, so the next step was treatment with the SkinPen. I set up my three appointments with the first one to be in March.

I had two months between the facial and first SkinPen treatment, so I returned to using the skincare line by MyChelle Dermaceuticals that I had started using three years ago, but had been neglecting. Because I know that skin is our largest organ, I also know that it is important to use the best products on it because we don't want to add toxins to our body! From the website, "All MyChelle Dermaceutical products are Vegetarian, Cruelty-free, and Free of Phthalates, Parabens, Sulfates, Ureas, Artificial Fragrances and Colors, Petroleum, GMOs, and Gluten." You can read what they recommend for beauty regimens on their website.

I use their exfoliator (twice weekly), eye creams, several serums, Vitamin C Peel (once weekly), moisturizers and SPF lotions - I use most of their products for anti-aging. The difference in my skin from using the MyChelle products in the past two months is absolutely AMAZING! MyChelle is always running a sale on their products and they offer free shipping on purchases and returns if you aren't satisfied. You cannot go wrong trying them out. They have special prices on bundled items as well. I will continue using their products as long as I'm seeing results. MyChelle is also available at Whole Foods.

Then it was time for my first SkinPen treatment "Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy, is a minimally invasive skin rejuvenation procedure that helps minimize the signs of aging, improve the appearance of acne scars and rejuvenate aging skin." My main purpose in having the SkinPen procedures done on my face and neck is to induce collagen production. Numbing gel was applied and allowed to dry, but honestly I don't think it helped much. The procedure did hurt, I won't lie. I looked like I had a really bad sunburn afterwards.

My face felt so warm! I drove with the AC vents pointed towards my face to keep it cool. I was given some HA5 moisturizer to put on whenever my skin felt like it needed it, which was often! It didn't sting and relieved the tightness. I was also given a peptide mask to use the first night and it really helped my skin feel better before turning in to bed. I was still very red the next day and kept applying the HA5. The redness was gone on day 2 post procedure, but I had started peeling around my mouth. This peeling would eventually extend to most of my face. You can see the beginning peeling above my mouth below.

You can also see the condition/texture of my skin in the above photo. It is kinda bumpy/not smooth. This is one thing I am hoping to see improvement in once the SkinPen treatment is completed.

I waited until the 4th day post procedure to return to my skincare regimen and begin wearing makeup again. I am now one week post-procedure and most of the peeling has stopped. I have one area that was still peeling this morning. However, my skin is sooooo soft and smooth, especially my neck which had a lot of  "chicken skin" texture to it before.

It takes at least 14 days for the induction of collagen production. I am having three treatments one month apart. Once that is completed, I will assess the end result and decide what to do next. SkinPen is not permanent and maintenance treatments of every 4-12 months are recommended depending upon what the patient desires.

In doing my research on how to take care of aging skin, I have read the recommended list of items to use regularly to continue a collagen stimulation program at home.

- SkinPen is recommended at least every 12 months.
- Growth factor serum: My plastic surgeon recommends TNS Essential Serum. It is expensive, so
  I buy mine new from eBay. I have just started using this, but will report back my opinions once I
  am through the first bottle.
- Retinoid: I used the retinal products from MyChelle - Remarkable Retinal Serum, Night Cream and     eye cream
- Anti-oxidant serum: I use the Vitamin C products from MyChelle - right now, I am using the
   Perfect C 12% Lotion. I will move up to the Perfect C 17% serum next and then the Perfect C Pro       25% serum.
- Hyaluronic Acid moisturizer - I will continue to use the HA5 moisturizer and will also buy it at a        discount online.
- SPF of at least 30 - I use MyChelle's Sun Shield Liquid SPF 50 Tinted

Currently, I use an Estee Lauder foundation that I have used for many years because I like a matte finish. I am not sure if I will continue to use it once it is gone so will be on the lookout for a matte foundation that doesn't contain toxic ingredients. I use Bare Minerals makeup, except for my mascara. I will pop into Ulta and get a sample of the Bare Minerals foundation to try when it is time.

I still am not happy with the condition of the skin under my chin and on my neck. Here are two pictures showing that area.

The CoolSculpting got rid of a lot of fat, but I still have a double chin and I hate it. So, I am looking into a neck lift and will have two consults done this summer to determine if I am a candidate. I know I sound vain, but I don't want to live the second half of my life hating my neck. It just isn't worth it to me. I am waiting to see if the SkinPen has any effect on the appearance of my chin/neck before I make a final decision. If I have a neck lift done, I will share it here just as I did my tummy tuck.

So, that is an update on what I am doing to take care of my skin! If you have any questions about the procedures/treatments I have had done, I'm happy to answer any questions ... just leave a comment!

Monday, February 19, 2018

CoolSculpting of my Chin - a Review!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for my procedure, nor for writing this article. I just wanted to share my experience!

Beginning in 2017, I made a decision that I was going to be "fit and fab by 50!" I now have just over 11 months to get there. Now, I know we are supposed to just accept our imperfections, but I have always hated my double chin. It makes no difference how thin I am. I have a double chin in my wedding pictures and I was 118 lbs! Now, 30 lbs. later and happy with my weight for the most part, I still had more chin than I wanted. My husband encouraged me to seek out some help for this and I ended up at a local plastic surgeon's office, Dr. David Reath in Knoxville, Tennessee. His tech, Natasha, evaluated my chin and said I was a perfect candidate for the mini-CoolSculpting procedure which is, according to their website, "... a noninvasive method for addressing troublesome fat cells by chilling them until they crystalize."

We had saved up money for a kitchen update, but my husband knew that getting my chin done was going to make me happy. His motto is "Happy wife, happy life" so he wasted no time in telling me to go for it! I booked my appointment about a week after my consult and it was the longest week ever! I couldn't wait to have it done. I thought I knew what to expect from all that I had read, but I soon learned that Natasha knew her stuff and how to adapt the procedure to each patient to get the best results. She performed both sessions the same day and positioned the applicator on both sides of my chin, overlapping in the middle as shown in the pictures below. The last picture is the "stick of butter" that the technician wants to see when she removes the applicator. The harder the lump, the better the result because it means the machine sucked in a huge fat pocket to freeze off! Natasha massaged that lump down in just a matter of minutes. I had absolutely NO pain during the procedure, but a little sensitivity massaging the lump.

It takes 3-4 weeks before the fat cells start to die off, so results are not immediate. For those few weeks, my chin was numb and a bit sensitive in the area where she overlapped the machine. Other than that, things were normal. My follow up appointment was in two months, but I took these photos one month post-procedure.



To say I was excited is an understatement! I emailed the photos to Natasha and she was so excited to see the change so quickly. I had another month before my "after" pictures were to be taken in the office. By this time, the numbness and sensitivity in my chin was gone. Here are the pictures taken by Natasha.

Natasha said that I had some of the best results she had seen and they even featured me in the Table of Contents of their Beauty Magazine that will be available from them for all of 2018 ... I'm famous! LOL! You can get a FREE copy of their magazine if you live locally and are interested in their services. If you are not local, but interested in what Dr. Reath charges for all of his services, they are published on his website. I love that about this office - they are upfront about all of their costs. I paid $1475 for this and they have rounded it up to $1500 in 2018 so that patients can earn $200 in "Reath Rewards" credit at their office. This can be applied towards a future treatment or products sold in their online store.

So, there you have it! My experience with mini-CoolSculpting. I still have some loose skin in that area and Dr. Reath says that I would have to have a neck lift to get rid of it totally, so I have actually scheduled an appointment with a facial plastic surgeon in March to see if he can give me the final result that I am looking for. If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I will answer them!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Saving Money on Pet Care

This week has not turned out at all like I thought it would! I have spent many hours in the car getting two of my dogs taken care of by multiple vets in our area. Having four dogs to take care of is not cheap and I have learned a lot this week about the varying prices that vets will charge for the same service! Here are several ways that I have learned to save money while still providing excellent care for our pets.

VACCINATIONS AND MEDICATIONS - First off, let's start in October which is when we have to update the dogs with their shots. If I go to my local vet, it's around $200/dog which is insane. So, about 4 years ago, we started using the local weekend shot clinics offered at our PetSense in town. The cost is only $79 per dog which saves us a ton of money each year! Cody (see right) is a biter so I was hesitant to let him get his shots at the clinic, but he did just fine once the vet tech let him know that HE was in charge. LOL! My local vet will price match online prices for heartworm meds (I usually use Allivet.com) and this saves me almost $100 every 3 months compared to what I would pay if I bought it from them without the price match ($150 vs $56). So, ask your vet if he will match the online prices or give you a subscription so you can buy your meds online. It is a LOT cheaper that way!

A PET SPECIALIST USUALLY MEANS HIGHER PRICES - Jump to November. My shih-tzu, Gizzy, had an ulcer on his left eye when we adopted him 4 years ago (you can see it in this photo). Late summer, the eye started to bulge a little more and he had a lot of red in the whites of his eyes. My local vet (vet #1) said it was caused by a cyst that had formed on his eyelid. I had it removed ($200), but it didn't solve the problem. So, in December, I took him to the pet opthalomologist (vet #2) in Knoxville, TN and found out he had glaucoma in that eye! It needed to be removed to lessen any discomfort he was having due to the increased pressure in his eye. That vet gave me a quote of $1500. Yikes! I called my local vet when I got home and he gave me a quote of $800 for the same surgery. Well, that was a lot better, right? So we had the surgery early January. Gizzy had also had a dental done in December and required 5 extractions - total was $300. Remember these prices - they come into play later when I learned I could have saved HUNDREDS more on both of these services!

BE WILLING TO CALL AROUND TO GET BEST PRICE - Fast forward to February 1st. My husband got home early from work and decides to throw the ball with one of the dogs. Xena, our dachshund mix, ran out quickly when he opened the door and went down the long flight of stairs to the yard. Now, I had not been letting her go down the stairs since she started limping a few months back, but she is quick sometimes! When she came back up the stairs, she would not put any pressure on her back right leg. I thought it was her back again and, on February 2nd, called vet #3 in Rogersville, TN that I have used before because they have laser therapy. (I tell you, there is not a vet with ALL of the services I need in my town!) Vet #3 is almost an hour drive one way. I get there on February 5th and she is diagnosed with a tear in two parts of her knee structure. During her exam, I remarked about Gizzy's eye surgery and they said they would have done it for $250 (not $1500 or even the $800 I spent - argh!) However, vet #3 cannot do the knee surgery because they don't have the equipment, so refer me to vet #4 in Jonesborough, TN. I call them and get a quote of $650-850 for the knee surgery which is WAAAAAAYYYYY better than the $3200 quote I got from a vet in Knoxville that was also recommended. Major yikes! I actually called another 4 or 5 area vets to see if they even did the needed surgery. None of them did. So, I traveled to Jonesborough on February 13th to confirm the diagnosis and Xena is now scheduled for surgery next week in Jonesborough. This vet was so nice and our exam was complementary as well!

BE WILLING TO TRAVEL FOR A BETTER PRICE - In the meantime,  I had Shadow scheduled for a dental this week which he needed BADLY. The base price at vet #1, my local vet, is $200 plus extractions and pain meds, so I estimated it was going to be another $300 because I was pretty sure some teeth were rotted. However, looking at the possible $800+ bill for Xena, I knew I couldn't afford it. So, after scheduling Xena's surgery, I called and cancelled Shadow's dental thinking it would just have to wait until March or April. Then I decided to call vet#3 because they are known for their quality service and affordable prices and they told me their base price is $65 plus extractions and meds. They actually had an opening yesterday and I grabbed it and my final bill was $93 ... I saved about $200! They are definitely going to be my go-to for doggy dentals! Now, this was not a fun day as it is a very small town and so lacking in things to do and places to visit or shop. So, my day was like this - one hour drive there, drop off dog, one hour drive home, wait 2-1/2 hours, drive one hour back, pick up dog, drive a final hour back home. I was exhausted!

SHOP ONLINE FOR FOOD - A final recommendation is to check out Chewy.com or any other online dog food supplier for cheaper prices and more variety than what you can find in the stores. Cody must eat grain-free and it is less expensive to buy our chosen dog food online. We pay no sales tax and shipping is free if you set up an auto-ship. (I am not affiliated with Chewy.com; I just love their service!)

In conclusion, it has been an expensive and busy few months. I am very grateful that we have had the money in our emergency fund to take care of all of these expenses which have totalled about $3000 (there were exam costs associated with the surgeries, a couple of groomings and Cody had 2 ear infections during this time as well.) I actually set aside about $300/month to be sure we have the money needed to take care of the dogs. If I hadn't been doing that, it would have been so stressful to be dealing with these surprise surgery expenses.

On a final note, I am grateful for my local vet and that is where I take my dogs for their groomings. My biter, Cody, is settled there now and I honestly think it is best for him to get most of his treatments there because of his comfort level with the staff. So, please know that I believe it is best to have a good relationship with a nearby vet, which I do. However, there are times when it is easier on the budget to seek services elsewhere and I have no problem doing that as long as my dogs are still receiving excellent care.

If you have ways that you share on pet care costs, please share them with me in the comments because I need all the help I can get!