16 November, 2011

Why I Don't "Do" Black Friday

There are 2 holiday traditions that I absolutely dislike: Black Friday and the Day After Christmas Sales. Why? You might ask. Well, let me tell you.

We need to take a little ride in my time machine, back to Black Friday 2004. I was working at a well known craft store and while the Day After Thanksgiving Sales there didn't involve the crushing mobs that you have in stores like Walmart and Toys R Us, it was definitely a stressful 2 days. Sometime during the first day, a co-worker (who had been named for an actress in a rather popular 1980's sitcom, and who's stories tended to be the highlight of my day) came marching up to me with a slightly amused and rather irritated expression, "Three people have run into me with their carts so far today! The next person who does it is gonna get that cart shoved back at them!" I seem to remember laughing, saying something along the lines of "Welcome to Black Friday!" (it was her first holiday season working there) and silently praying that no one else would hit her with their cart because she was the type of little spitfire who might have made good on that threat!

Those two days after Thanksgiving (as well as the first few after Christmas) are insanely busy! Everyone wants what they want to be on sale (for at least half price!) and they want it NOW! And you had better not be in their way because if you are? Well ...... that's how employees get hit with shopping carts. Niceties go out the window, no one has any patience, and what is supposed to be "the most wonderful time on the year" turns into a contest to see who can be the rudest and most inconsiderate while trying to buy their loved ones presents so that it can be the bestest Christmas ever! (I hope you read those last few words in a really obnoxious voice, because that's how I wanted it to sound)

No, I'm not a Scrooge. I love Christmas! Really, I do. It's the insanity leading up to it that I could live without. 

In that store, Christmas came in March. Or, at least, the trees did. The ornaments arrived shortly after, and they all had to be on display by the end of June. Which means that we were putting up trees and connecting lights while wearing tank tops and sandals. There's just something wrong with that. We had 4th of July, Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decor all out at the same time. I understand that because this was a craft store, at least some of this was necessary, but that didn't make it any less irritating, even some customers made comments about it being to early. The Christmas songs started to be randomly inserted in the playlist on November 1 and starting the Day After Thanksgiving it was all Christmas all the time. That wouldn't have been so bad, except that the Christmas music playlist was only about a 9 song loop! Do you have any idea how many times you will hear the same song during a 7 hour shift? I'll give you a hint: TOO MANY! By the end of day 2, I was ready to take a sledge hammer to the sound system. 

By December 1st, I was ready for Christmas to be over. It's just another money making holiday, no one remembers what it's supposed to be about anyway. The true meaning got lost in all the hustle and bustle and busyness to make everything absolutely perfect. After three years of being on the retail side of Black Friday, I refuse to be another body adding to the chaos and frustration. I will be warm and cozy in my bed while others stand outside in the freezing cold and the blowing snow (unless you happen to live somewhere warm, in which case, scratch that sentence). I want the gifts I give to have meaning (or at least be something I know the person will really like) rather than just something that was on sale. 

I quit the job at the craft store more than 5 yeas ago, and it took until just a few years ago before the joy and the wonder; the true meaning of Christmas started coming back to me. I will not put up Christmas decorations before December 1st. I will not. November is Thanksgiving, December is Christmas. I want Christmas to have meaning, not just be another money making/spending holiday. I want it to be "the most wonderful time of the year," because it is! It's the wonder of a King born in a barn. 

If you want to go shopping next Friday, be my guest! You won't have me in your way in any aisle in any store! But please, treat people (and retail associates, they're people too ya know?) with the kindness, patience and respect that the King who is the Reason for the Season would. After all, it's His birthday celebration we're preparing for. And please for the love of all things Christmas: 

04 November, 2011

The Charmed Life of Alta (Chapter 1)

(Please read this in your best fairy tale voice)

Once upon a time, out in the country, there lived a dog named Alta. When Alta was first brought home from the shelter, as a puppy, his owners brought him inside where it was nice and warm. When he was a little older and bigger, Alta was meant to be a farm dog who lived outside and kept watch over his owners kitties. But, Alta was a very smart little puppy, and he knew that if he wandered out into the road that his owners would yell, "You get back in this house this instant!" and then he would be inside again where it was warm. And so, Alta lived a very cozy life in the house.

In the summer, Alta liked to lay on the kitchen floor in front of the air vent. Since Alta was 1/4 husky, he had lots of fur and it made him hot, so that was a nice cool place to be. Before Alta's owners adopted him, they were told that he was 3/4 lab and only 1/4 husky, and so they assumed that he probably wouldn't have very long fur and wouldn't shed very much. But, oh! Were they ever wrong! Alta's fur grew longer and longer, and, even though it lay flat against his body, it was thick! Alta had such a thick undercoat of fur, that it was nearly impossible to find his skin! And he left his extra fur all over the house. Alta's owners didn't think that was very good. They had a comb that they used for the cats, but that only got off some of Alta's fur. So one day, when the lady of the house came home from shopping in the city, she brought along some new tools. She called them a de-shedding tool and a slicker brush. Alta wasn't sure about this idea, but she insisted, so he sat still like the good little dog he was while she went to work on his fur. 

Soon Alta realized that he liked the new grooming tools. It felt like being scratched all over, and that was nice. The owner worked for at least 20 minutes on Alta's fur, and when she was done, the pile of fur looked like this:

Alta was happy and his owner was pleased that all of this fur would not be coming off in the house. Now Alta gets brushed about once a week and the pile of fur stays about the same size. Alta's owners are glad that more of his fur stays outside now, and not in.

The End.

28 October, 2011

The Strangest Thing That Ever Worked

Hello, and welcome to my re-purposed blog! After re-reading my post from last week, I realized it sounded a little whiny. Sorry about that! I don't mean to be a complainer, I was just frustrated. When I first created the account for this blog (around 2 YEARS ago! lol) my original plan was to post about the things I use that I love and why I love them, but when I actually started this blog, back in May of this year, I altered that idea and decided to show you what it's like to live on a farm from the point of view of a girl who never thought she'd be living on a farm. Somehow it turned into a recipe blog. No idea how that happened. Yes, I love food and I love to try new recipes, but my recipes are by no means original. Most of my recipes come straight out of a book or magazine or are a slightly altered version of something from a book or magazine (or blog or website.... you get the idea). I was frustrated because I clearly wasn't getting my point across, so, I've decided to go back to my original plan: the everyday (or week since I'll only be posting once a week) life of an accidental farm girl and all the random things that I like (or have no choice but to do) that occupy my time.

I've decided to start by telling you about the product that is by far the strangest thing that has ever worked for me: The Oil Cleansing Method. If you've never heard of this concept, click on the blue words above and then come back to me. Done? OK, in case you didn't want to read all of that, here's the basic concept: good oil removes bad oil. I stumbled upon this website by accident. I was using a store bought oil cleansing product that was great at removing make-up but it was a little pricey and I needed to use another cleanser to actually control blemishes, plus blemish control spot treatment, ect. ect.). Also, as someone who had recently become aware of the MANY chemicals in my products, I was trying to find a less-chemical-filled version of the oil product I was using, so, of course, I looked online. Commercially made chemical free versions of cleansing oil are few and far between (not to mention more pricey than what I was using), but I found the website listed above and realized that making my own could be the way to go. So I ordered the 2 types of oil the site suggests (btw: I got my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs, I'm sure there are other places you can buy them as well)

To say that I was skeptical about this concept working (without any other form of cleanser afterwards) would be an understatement! See, I've had blemishes since I was ...... uhhhhh ...... maybe 12 or 13. I've tried EVERYTHING! Drugstore brands, department store brands, brands that come in pink bottles (you know what I mean) and the one from the famous info-mercial that "works for everybody." They never worked. At least not for very long. Six months, maybe a year and then my skin would be worse than when I started with that product, so I'd have to try something stronger. This continued until about a year ago. I was using a product so strong it made my skin burn just to wash my face. I would literally cry while washing my face because it hurt so much, and the product had stopped working. My skin was broke out, red and extremely irritated. I'd tried everything, so I had nowhere left to go but natural. 

When my oils arrived I mixed them together. That evening I used only the oil to cleanse my face. It was so strange! I didn't exactly follow the directions on the website, instead I used the oil as though it were a cleanser (not as a mask like the website suggests) and massaged it into my skin for around 5 or 10 minutes, really working it into my skin. I rinsed the oil off with a wet washcloth and patted in a few drops of oil as a moisturizer. Should I take before pictures? Just in case? Nah. It's never gonna work anyway, no point. So I went to bed. The next morning I poked in my contacts and stared at the mirror. Did my face look less red? Maybe. Hmmmm. I wiped my face with a damp cloth (it still burned from the harsh product from before) and patted in a few more drops of oil. Sometime later I needed to use the bathroom and as I walked past the mirror I nearly forgot where I was going! My skin was sooooo much less red and those huge blemishes were ...... SHRINKING! My skin was clearing up! I made a habit of checking it every few hours and each time my skin was better than before. This continued for the next 2 or 3 days: a visible change almost by the hour. I couldn't believe it, how could it be so simple? By the end of 2 weeks I had skin that was more clear than it had been since I was in Jr. High, and I was wishing I had taken that "before" picture, no one was ever going to believe this. 

More than a year later the oil cleansing method still works great! It removes my makeup (yes, even waterproof mascara) and controls blemishes. I still get breakouts sometimes (mostly because I have this bad habit of going to bed with my makeup on), but not as many and not nearly as severe and they go away much quicker! I now buy my oils in 1 gallon containers. I mix my oils 10 oz. at a time and it takes me between 2 and 3 months to use that up. It's going to take years to finish off those 1 gallon containers. This is by far the most cost efficient cleanser I've ever used and it still amazes me how well it works, my skin is not only clearer, but softer and less oily (yes really) than ever before. 

UPDATE: My friend Michele, posted about her experience with the oil cleansing method, you can read about it by clicking here.

21 October, 2011

Changing Direction

Hello my sweet readers! 
As you may (or may not have noticed) I have not posted anything new for 2 weeks now. There's a reason for that. A majority of my readers get here from Facebook, and with the recent changes in the Facebook "home page" I've been getting fewer and fewer readers for the past several weeks. I really have no idea how to "make" people read my blog if they can't even see the link! It's very discouraging, and I considered giving up this blog all-together. But, I like to write and it's fun to post; so I've decided to change the direction of my blog so that it will still be fun for ME even if no one reads it. My most popular posts are the non-food related ones like "My Laundry's Dirty Little Secret" and "How to Laugh With a Crooked Smile." I think there was a reason for that. My Laundry was a hilarious experiment that I really didn't expect to work and the results were so completely the opposite of what I was anticipating. Crooked Smile was a personal experience of something that happened 11 years ago, and a lot of my current friends weren't even aware of. It was great therapy for me to reflect back and see where I was at this time of the year back in the Fall of 2000. 

So with the exception of a few that I want to share closer to Christmas, I won't be posting anymore recipes. Instead, in the coming weeks, you'll find info on crafts I've made; earrings, necklaces, other projects around the house, maybe an occasional card or two. Possibly my thoughts on a book I recently read, my devotions for the day or even a movie I've seen. 

I hope you enjoy my little change of direction, if so, I would love LOVE LOVE it if you would enter your email in the little box at the right and hit submit, (I only post on Fridays and I won't fill up your inbox, I promise!) that way you won't just be relying on Facebook to see my new posts. 

Thanks for reading! I'll try to be back next Friday.

07 October, 2011

Lavender-Poached Peaches and Blackberries (without the Blackberries)

Does anyone else have this problem? You have this fantastic new recipe you want to try so you get the ingredients from the store only to get home and realize you missed an important one? *crickets chirping* Just me then! Well, I wanted to try this recipe, but when I got home I realized I forgot the blackberries. Grrrr! Fine, I'll make it without blackberries. Then I realized I also forgot the orange juice (must have been one of THOSE days), so I put the peaches in the fridge hoping they'd hang on for a week until I got back to the store. I managed to remember the OJ but I could not find blackberries in my local grocery store. What?! So I had to make this without the blackberries anyway. 

This recipe comes from the magazine Eating Well. If you haven't heard of it, I highly suggest you check it out. My mother-in-law gave me a subscription for my birthday, and this recipe was in my first issue (August 2011). According to the Eating Well website, they prefer that I do not post the entire recipe (sorry about that) you can find the original here the pictures on this blog are my own. They are nice enough to number their steps, so I'm including my own notes to coordinate to those numbers.

2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
6 Tablespoons clover honey
4 4-inch-long sprigs fresh lavender (or 1 teaspoon dried culinary grade lavender, I got my dried lavender here, if anyone needs any I have PLENTY leftover!)
1 3-inch-long piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 just-ripe medium peaches
1 cup fresh blackberries (obviously, as you will see, I didn't use blackberries, edit them out if you want to make this recipe the way I did)

Step 1 - Says to boil the peaches in the liquid "until the skins start to loosen, 1 to 2 minutes." I didn't cook mine quite long enough, the skins did not come off easily, I would go with 2 minutes.

Step 2 - No extra notes needed, just follow their directions.

Step 3 - "Return the peaches to the pan and poach until they are not quite tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 7 minutes" Isn't that a helpful time span? I went with 7 and I'm not sure it was quite long enough but I don't think I had the heat high enough either.

Step 4 - I skipped this step.

Step 5 - Definitely pay attention here, the honey really wanted to settle to the bottom and burn. Also, I refrigerated the peaches and the liquid in the same bowl. I'm not sure if that's what they meant for you to do or not, but it works.

This is soooo yummy! It's also great straight out of the fridge and I'm sure it would be fabulous warm as well. It tastes very much like the insides of peach pie. Did you notice there's no ACTUAL sugar? The sweetness comes from the honey and the peaches. Healthy yummy food! Win!