Cooking and Baking By Me: Tacos

I am always searching for quick and easy recipes for dinner. My kids are picky eaters and in the past few months they are starting to open up their palates for other foods besides chicken nuggets. I was blown away when they both tried my salmon croquettes.

While we were in Target, I noticed packaged veggies for stir fry, tacos, etc. They were under $4 so I decided to give them a try. I purchased the taco package that includes chopped onions and tomatoes, shredded lettuce and cheese. The only thing you need to add is meat of your choice and tortillas. I added sour cream and a Watkins taco seasoning pack for the meat.

After browning the meat and adding the taco seasoning, the meal was ready in less than an hour. It was simple, inexpensive and quick. All the components of a meal for a busy working mom.

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Single Mom Chronicles: Sewing 101, Guess who has a sewing machine?…

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Last year I started following MimiGStyle and totally fell in love with the idea of sewing.   She features her sewing creations on her blog and Facebook page.   I also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram, I know it’s a lot.  Her sense of style is AMAZING!!!!  I love how she features the entire outfit, how to plus accessories and where to purchase.   She truly makes sewing SEXY…. Mimi also features her love of cooking, fitness and provides her readers with tips.   My favorite aspect of following her is the fact she is a mom who is following her passion.   I think as a mom we can all relate to that in a lot of ways.

In March I purchased a sewing machine, I followed Mimi’s suggestion on what type of machine to buy for beginners. I didn’t want to invest a lot for my first machine so lucky for me I found a refurbished machine on Overstock.com.   Joann Fabrics is now a staple for finding my sewing items such as tools, accessories and fabric.  If you sign up via your phone you get coupon sent via text.  The coupons really come in handy for saving on all your purchases.

The one great learning tool for anyone who is a beginner is YOUTUBE.  I purchased the Brother CS6000i which has 60 stitich options and computerized with a built in threader.  The machine comes with tools, pedal and a carrying case and it was less than $150 on Overstock.    My go to site is Sewing Mastery, the videos are absolutely wonderful for learning everything on the machine.   It only took a few hours for me to learn how to wind a bobbin, threading the machine, use the built in threader, replace the foot, learn how to change the needle, how to make different type of stitches, and repairing fabric.    I did invest in a sewing kit and want to get a mat for cutting fabric as well as a work table for my machine.  Sewing Mastery has videos for each lesson which is great when you want to learn step by step.

SewingMastery

My first project is making window treatments, which is fairly easy in terms of a hem at the top and bottom.   I found a number of sources for taking measurements.   The associates at Joann Fabrics are very helpful in terms of assisting with the fabric needed and the tools necessary. The one hard lesson I learned is to use fabric that is stiffer versus a chiffon.    For window treatments you have to create stitches before you begin your hems.   My go to site for this was the great YouTube video. Once these are finished I will post the finished project.

 

 

I also set up a sewing board on Pinterest which is a great place to find other ideas and projects for beginners. My next project is how to make pillows.

My Inspiration: Happy Spring!!!

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photo credit: bing.com/images

I love this time of year, because it feels like a time to RENEW AND REFRESH! There is more sunshine, daylight, less rain and NO MORE SNOW! I want to make the most of all of this and enjoy!!! My favorite flower time for this time of year is a TULIP!!

Single Mom Chronicles: Barre 3 Berwyn

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photo credit: bing.com/images

 

After hearing about this workout,I was tempted but still a little hesitant.  I have so many items on the fitness list, one being to take my first adult swim class and fit in real fitness regime each week.

Finally I found a location not too far and the cool part is they offer childcare on Saturday.   On Friday as I was trying to locate the studio I noticed the owner was closing up.   He was nice enough to go inside and bring me back a card explained the online process for registering for class.   It was really easy to sign up online, set an account and then add your classes.  For a first timer you can purchase individual classes at $20 per class, or a package of 3 classes for $40.   On Saturday, there are 3 classes offer 8, 9:15 and 10:30 which gives a lot of options for a busy mommy schedule on Saturday.

On my fitness wishlist I want to do more than cardio and weight training.   I love to mix up my fitness regime which is probably why I really enjoyed the full body workout from pole fitness.    Pilates is also another favorite and Barre looks like a mix of yoga and Pilates.

As a first-timer, I purchased the package of 3 classes for $40.  Also purchased child-care for $5 for my 8yo.   The studio has a designated space for kids and one of the staff members is in charge while you take your class.   I survived my first class and it was a great hour long workout.  It requires very little in terms of equipment.  We were insructed to grab free weights ( I recommend for the first class, start light 1-2lbs), towel, small ball and a mat.   You do use the ballet bar for some of the exercisess.   It is definitely the meshing of ballet with a yoga and Pilates.   Most of the exercises are core intensive but excellent for posture, toning and building muscle in all the right places.   The exercises target all the key areas core, arms, legs but best of all THE CORE!!!!!!!  A strong core helps to stabilize the body and this is important as you move from one exercise to the next.   I am definitely going to return for my two  classes.  Shout out to the instructor Courtney, she was excellent in guiding the class through the exercises and assisting with FORM!!!

If you are looking for a new workout to try I highly recommend BARRE, here’s the link to the studio.  Next on my list is swimming and

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My Inspiration: Thought of the Week

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credit:bing.com/images

Natural Hair: Two Strand Twists

 

As I Am (Cowash Conditioner)

Coconut Oil Protein Conditioner (every 6 weeks)

Tresemme (Moisturizing Conditioner)

Duafe (Hair and Body Butter) – coarse hair

 

In addition to my hair being natural I have also committed to giving my little one’s hair the proper care.   We co-wash every week, which I may start to move to every 2 weeks.   Yesterday I tried a new product which is the As I Am cowash conditioner, it has a creamy, lightweight consistency.  The point with co-washing is to remove all residue and build up.  It has surfactants to remove the build up and moisturizing ingredients to impart the moisture back in the hair.   The product has a creamy, lightweight consistency and because my DD’s hair is tuppose to  To balance the protein and moisture, I started doing a protein conditioning treatment every 6 weeks.  In some cases protein drys out the hair so I did a moisturizing conditioner and combed through to the ends.

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I dry the excess water with paper towels instead of a cotton towel.    To take stress and tension off the hair I started doing 2 strand twists.   I sectioned the hair in four sections and started from the back of the head to begin the two strand twists.    Yesterday I went to Duafe, a salon in Philadelphia for natual hair to get my hair shaped up.   I decided to try the Duafe hair and body butter and pudding products.   The biggest challenge that I experience with my hair and my DD’s hair is moisture.  We both have type 4 hair and it soaks up everything and is constantly dry.   In the past month I have purchased over 10 products for moisture, conditioning and daily maintenance. I just did two strand twists with the hair and body butter and am now a fan. The twists are not frizzy and the amount of moisture is amazing. I was told by the owner, Syreeta Scott to use the butter on my DD’s hair because her hair is so coarse. I have the hair and body pudding for my hair.

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Health/Fitness: 21 Day Lemon Water

I see so many articles on the benefits of lemon water.   In the past 5 days I committed to drinking lemon water each morning for 21 days. Another interesting point is not having a slice of lemon in your water while dining out.    I wash each of my lemons with fruit and vegetable wash, slice and squeeze the juice in my glass of warm water.  This is how I start my day each morning.   A good use for the lemon slices is to put each slice in  the garbage disposal  to eliminate odors.   I am learning everything has a use, reuse!

The below link is a great article on one of my favorite health sites:

Lemon Water Benefits Detox | BlackDoctor.

My Inspiration: My weekend in Paris

I would love to see more of Europe…Italy is calling me…..

 

 

In September 2011, I had my first international flight.   My company sent me to France for a meeting in Annecy, France(southern France).   I had no idea what to expect on a 6 hour flight.  My first thoughts: what will I do for all those hours? besides sleep.  Typically,  I can’t sleep on a plane but I was thinking based on the distance traveled I would have to rest a little.    A novice international traveler I purchased a blanket and travel pillow(not needed).  US Airways provides a travel pillow and blanket.    I was lucky enough to sit with a lady from the MidWest who was traveling with a girlfriend(sitting in first class) on a girls trip throughout the French countryside.   It was an evening flight so the airline served dinner and there were movies, tv series and other forms of entertainment during the flight.  My seat mate and I covered everything from marriage, divorce, kids, grandkids, careers and travel.  It was her first trip to France so she was pretty excited as well.   When we arrived in Paris, it was early morning so we had a suprisingly delicious pastry.     I have to admit there was a lot of anxiety with traveling such a long distance  but a wonderful opportunity to discover another culture.    In order to experience two cities in France, I elected to fly into Paris and take a train (4 hour train ride) to Annecy.   I figured on my return trip I would be able to spend two nights in Paris which was a great idea.

When I arrived at the train station it was overwhelming with all the people, the languages in the background and felt like I had no clue.    Unfortunately I wasted time looking for a terminal,  which we call a kiosk to print my tickets so I missed the early train.   I was forced to wait a few hours for the next train and hoped my taxi at the Annecy station would still be able to pick me up.    Annecy at last is how I felt, next task was to find someone at the train station who spoke English so I was able to call the taxi driver since I arrived late.  Whew, there was someone after a French passenger helped me find a railway employee who was able to call my driver.

The driver arrived with my company sign and I identified myself.   Wow, was I in shock to learn that a French taxi is an S class Mercedes(my Carrie Bradshaw moment).   I finally exhaled on my way over to my hotel, which was the Palace de Menthon.  When I looked at the pictures online I was in awe with anticipation.   The ride to the hotel took us around Lake Annecy which was the most beautiful body of water I ever witnessed.   The drive up to the entrance of the hotel was like a scene from a movie.   The hotel was amazingly something off the pages of a travel magazine.  I perceded to take everything in with my Ipad.   The only thing I wanted to do was crash however I was advised to stay up to beat the jetlag.    Dinner was scheduled in town so when I arrived it was time to get ready for dinner.

For the first time ever I decided to open my palette to new culinary tastes and adventures.   I tried duck breast and foie gras which is a feat in itself.   The wine was definitely tops on my list.  Best part of my dining experiences were the three course meals, breads and wine.    Each night was a new food experience and I relished in the fact French culture is so centered on enjoying family, food and culture.    My breakfast each morning in the hotel had to include a chocolate filled crossaint with nutella!  Cafe au lait and yogurt.  Fast forward to my favorite dishes and I would have to say it was the Tartiflette, which is an unbelieveable dish of potatoes, reblochon cheese and bacon.   One dish that can forever stay on the menu and someone else’s plate is tartare.      I spent  5 days in Annecy and took the train from Lyon, France to Paris.   Friday and Saturday nights were spent in Paris.

Fast forward to Paris, I found a reasonably priced Holiday Inn Express in R16 of Paris.   On the ride from the train station, the driver pointed out the sights Notre Dame, Seine River, it looked magical.   When you hear about specific landmarks it is just a picture on a page but when you see it in real life you are breathless.    Friday evening was my dinner out and I found a nice restaurant not too far from my hotel.    I kept with my three course meal indulgence plus wine.   On Saturday I mapped out a plan to take the local bus to the Eiffel Tower and I learned really quickly to never exit a Paris bus from the back door!   The Eiffel Tower filled with tourist on my way over I took amazing pictures of the Siene River.   There is no denying the Eiffel Tower is an archetecturial vision and it definitely gets its share of tourist.   You can even go to the top unfortunately I was not brave to do this alone.     After exhausting  my pictures, I proceeded to view my map and start my trek to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs de Ellysses.   I realized I need to sharpen my map reading skills but it allowed me to meet a wonderful vistor from Korea who attempted to put me on a train to the Arc de Triomphe.    It was such a beautiful day I wanted to walk to soak in the weather and all the scenery on my way.   The walk was a few miles but it did not matter because I captured so much on my way.   I was already warned about attempting to cross the busy intersection to the Arc de Triomphe.   There is a pedestrian tunnel to cross to the other side of the street.   Again the architecture left me speechless and then I took a long walk along Champs de Ellysses, the best part 4 story Louis Vutton store with the line outside of anxious customers.    I was so winded from walking I found a quaint and quiet restaurant to have lunch and rest for a while.

I walked back to the Eiffel Tower boarded a bus to the hotel.    In the area around my hotel there were restaurants, patisseries so I did a little bit of shopping for goodies to take back home, chocolates, wine, madelines.    I found a nice cafe with delicious sandwiches, crossaints and cafe au lait.    My last night in Paris was bittersweet I walked within the neighborhood to find a restaurant.  I was not adventureous enough to go to the Latin Quarter alone so that is a must do for an all girls trip to Paris.

Hopefully you enjoy the slideshow and capture the sights with your senses, I will definitely revisit Paris.   My DD wants to go at some point so I suggested we go when she turns 10……

Natural Hair: What I’ve Learned So Far

I decided to cut my hair in 2003 and wore it “natural” until 2008 when I decided to grow it out. I grew it out and permed it and loved the length. The stylist at the time decided to cut all of my new growth because she said it was damaged.  I was beyond pissed.   In 2011 I decided to grow out again and stopped dying and texturizing because it was really damaging my hair.     Now that I was back to work and really had no time in the morning for hair I decided to cut it again.    In 2013 I decided again to grow it out and when I decided to start working out I ran out of ideas for my hair.   The weekly sweating and my hair was an issue.  I decided to cut it again and go back to a short natural cut.

COLOR:

I resorted to coloring my hair using boxed colors to save on the salon cost.   After watching a natural girl YouTube video and she mentioned for great color visit an Aveda salon.   Well I was in luck because I have one right up the road.  After scheduling a consultation, the colorist offered two options.  I could either bleach my natural color and then add the desired color$100 per hour to bleach + addition of color start at $48, yikes sticker shock) or lighten my natural color at each 6 week visit.  Her recommendation is to lighten my color at each visit.  The double process could be very drying to my hair.

Natural hair requires experimenting with a variety of products.   I have lost count.   Last night I discovered another method of applying oil before shampooing and this is call a pre-poo.   Also I am conditioning after shampooing but this time I added a protein conditioner with a cap to seal in moisture.

RESEARCH:

The holiday break gave me time to do a lot of research on natural hair care.  My first step was eliminating box color and actually investing in salon color.  After searching various YouTube videos on natural hair I found one who suggested going to an Aveda salon.  Well lucky for me there is a salon and spa less than a mile away.  Hair color in a box is not the best quality and I think color is all in the application technique.   The colorist sectioned my natural tresses and evenly applied color.  I never did this with box color because I thought sectioning only applied to those with long hair.

I think one of the myth is natural hair requires no maintenance and I was so wrong.  In the past weeks,  I have learned my share of natural hair care daily and weekly regimens.  I realize with a chemical treatment I have to show extra TLC for my natural tresses.  I have an arsenal of supplies as I have learned you must experiment with a few products until you find the right fit for your hair.  Another lesson is learning my hair type, I believe my hair lies between 4a-4c.

My daily regimen was to just wet my hair and apply Tresemme conditioner and EcoStyle gel.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  I also assumed once a week shampooing with sulfate free shampoo and using the Tresemme conditioner as a leave in conditioner was good enough.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.  It took a few weeks and multiple products for me to find products that worked for my hair type.

What I learned:

1) Natural hair needs daily MOISTURE, LOTS AND LOTS OF MOISTURE depending on your hair type.  My hair type needs lots of moisture.

2)Natural hair needs a great balance of MOISTURE AND PROTEIN.

3)Natural hair needs weekly deep conditioning especially when it is color treated.

4)Natural hair does not require shampooing every week or at least this is a personal preference.  Hence the term, cowash-washing with conditioner.

5)Pre-poo defined, preparing the hair for shampooing, either with a sulfate free/clarifying shampoo or a sulfate free, silicone free moisturizing conditioner.

6)Dry hair with paper towels or a microfiber towel rather than a cotton towel

7) Purchase a Denman Brush and a Detangling comb, since I still have a TWA (teeny weeny afro) I purchased these for my daughter.

8)Difference between rinsing with warm vs. cold water

9)Experiment with products, try to buy sample sizes to minimize your out of pocket cost.   My go to site for my products is  Amazon.com . This allows me to make use of my Prime membership with free 2 day shipping on items that qualify for Prime shipping.

Since writing this I now have three favorite websites I consult,  MahoghanyCurls MoKnowsHair and Curlmart

I love Mo’s(of MoKnowsHair) explanations on each of the products reviewed , she also has great YouTube video tutorials.   Also I love the fact that her videos offer different options depending on your hair type.   I realized after my research on CurlMart.com my hair type is 4a.

My new go to products well as my daughter’s hair are Dark & Lovely Au Naturale product line.  I also learned to purchase a detangling comb and denman brush.   I have searched for these products in Walmart (depends on location if products available), Target(depends on location if product is available and how many items are available within the line), Walgreens (found one of the Au Naturale products on sale).  In the mass merchandisers the products range in price from $7.99 to $9.99.     I even searched for the product line at the local beauty supply store and it was overpriced.    My new go to place is Amazon.   As a Prime member, I saved on the items plus I get 2 day free shipping.   My advice before you search in stores, check Amazon.   The 10 in 1 gel was $8.69 yet the beauty supply store priced it at $10.79.   It is only 5.4 oz and yet the 14 oz product is $9.99

The Au Naturale line smells sooooo good and blends well with damp hair.  It is a blend of mango and bamboo milk.
I try to do this every 4 days.  Pre-poo, apply Shea Moisture Shea Butter Hair Growth serum or olive oil, with plastic cap for 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water.  Next cowash.

Cowash with VO5 moisturizing conditioner(inexpensive, no sulfates, no silicones) , Tresemme or Curls Coconut Curlada conditioner (rinse with cold water, closes the cuticle), olive oil, Dark & Lovely Au Naturale Curl Defining Glaze

My daily regimen:

Spritz with water or saturate in shower, olive oil, Dark & Lovely Curl Defining Glaze

Nightly regimen:

Spritz with water, olive oil, Dark & Lovely Curl Defining Glaze and wrap with a silk scarf, every other night.

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Cotton or Wool is not kind to  natural hair.

Mid week:

Cowash with VO5 conditioner, Tresemme or Curls Coconut Curlada conditioner, olive oil, Glaze

Deep conditioner with a moisturizing conditioner with a cap for 30 minutes every other week (rinse conditioner with cold water to close cuticle)

Once a month  protein/deep conditioner(once a month)(30 minutes with cap),  ideally after my color treatment

I now have three products within the Au Naturale line, 10 in 1 gelee, Curl Enhancing Glaze and Hair Butter.   Review shortly on all three products.   Oh, I almost forgot I received my Aphogee Curlirific Leave In Conditioner, I tried for the first time after my weekly cowash.   In addition to my hair treatments I am using this regimen for my 8yo hair as well.  In order to enhance her hair growth I am going to commit to 2 strand twists, which gives a lot of flexibility either for a twist out, pinned up do, or just wearing loose with a head band.

Next, a tapered cut so I have more of a style with my new curly look..I am doing a chronicle of my hair growth so I will share shortly.

Some items to add to my hair tool list is a steamer, a diffusing blow dryer and a heated cap for both of us.   MoKnowsHair has a list of her top items for 2014.  This helps a lot on what to buy and brands to buy.

Keep in mind too, you are what you eat!   I am really trying to either eat or drink my veggies and fruit using my Nutribullet.

Just remember patience is a virtue and it takes a lot of patience to grow out your natural hair….

 

Cooking and Baking by Me: Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

Have you ever wondered what do with chicken thighs? I found skinless and boneless thighs at Wegmans and came across this recipe on MyRecipes.  This is the first time I used cumin in a recipes.   You have to cook the chicken using the broiler setting which means timer, timer and don’t walk away. The chicken cooks really quickly due to the fact it is skinless and boneless.   The chili powder and honey gives the chicken a spicy kick and sweet combination.   I added yellow rice and broccoli for a quick meal.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs $
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

*You can find full recipe at  myrecipes.com