Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let's Make a Deal

Okay ladies and gentleman, I'm about to do something that some of you may not like, but hopefully others of you will see as a great opportunity.

(No, it has nothing to do with Multilevel Marketing, or residual income. :} )

Okay, here is the most popular item that I have sold of my designs over the past 3 years or so.
And by most popular I mean I've sold more than one. And by more than one I mean I've sold two.

Obviously, I just need a lot more help in my marketing department. It's hard to find places to advertise that don't initially cost money in the first place, money which I simply do not have,
(hence, me trying to sell things to make money.)

So, I thought, what the heck, instead of bombarding this blog with self promoting ads like I have my other one, why not see if this time, we can make a deal.

Let's trade. I invite you to post a blog entry, just one blog entry about one of my products, which can be found through one of my many banners on my other blog, mostly near the bottom of the page. You can feature one of my framed art pieces from imagekind, or a clothing item from one of my cafepress shops. Also, there's my Etsy shop where I have pillows and jewelry and other sewn items.

Anyway, once you've done this, please comment here and link me to your post and let me know what you would like me to feature here for you. Then I promise, for each comment I get I will post a blog entry, and I will also feature your item on Kaboodle, since I realize that only having 5 followers here might not be enough exposure, but I have 80 friends on Kaboodle that I can show your product to once I've featured it.

So there we have it! Lets make a deal and help each other out!


Have a great day!

~Julie :}

Alternative Ways to Deal with Sinus Infections

Sinus infections run in my family, and as such I've had a few in my time. I think it's probably the worst ailment I've experienced. Yes, possibly even worse than throwing up.

However, for those of you who know me, you might know how I feel about taking drugs. I personally hate taking drugs, both because of side effects and also I hate the idea that I'm dependent on pills to make me feel normal. Life shouldn't have to be like that.

Anyway, I got a pretty bad sinus infection this past winter and wondered if I should go to a doctor or not, because money was tight and I knew all they'd do was prescribe antibiotics anyway, which I'm not excited about for many reasons. Plus, it just seemed dumb to have to pay a doctor's fee to be told something I already knew,(Yes, you DO have a sinus infection!) and be prescribed a remedy I already knew existed, and then have to turn around and go pay for the stinking remedy!

Anyway, I finally got so desperate that I did some online research (yeah, yeah, I know, how reliable is that always going to be?) And I found this site
Now keep in mind, they are based in Britain and I'm not too fond of how they set up their site, since you have to go through all this redundant stuff before you can even find out what it is they're trying to sell to you, but this guy did make an amazing discovery and so I bought the essential oils that they sell.

The one problem with this method is it's almost impossible to find a facial steamer, which is what this product calls for in order to use it as directed. If you want to pay $60 or more to get one, I think you can find them online, but stores won't carry them due to the wishes of the cosmetic companies.

Anyway, the point is, I didn't even know I needed one until after the oils arrived at my house because it is only then, that they send you the link to their instructional videos. Anyway, I found a way to make it work. My humidifier has what is called a medicine cup. I put the recommended dosage of oils in there and then breathed in the fumes that way, and it really did help and eventually the sinus infection went away, despite the fact that I wasn't as diligent as I could have been. Anyway, I figure it would have worked even better if I'd had the facial steamer, since the oils would have been in direct contact with the hot water. At any rate, it was worth it, and the price of the oils plus shipping was still less than a doctors appointment alone, never mind a perscription's price.

Perhaps in the future when I have money to kill, I'll invest in a facial steamer to save for the next sinus infection.
One cool thing about the oils though, is that they weren't some funky thing you'd never heard of, just pure, high quality cinnamon, clove and thyme extracts. Sweet huh? Though they do try to make them seem exotic here, that is ultimately what they are.

Another great method I've heard of was discovered to me by my cousin, you can read about her netti pot here.
It seems like a great idea, and a bit less complicated than my essential oils method.

Also, as one last remedy that may be of some use to you, I give you Sinus Buster. A natural, cayenne pepper based nasal spray. Fun sounding huh? But it seems like it might work, not unlike the same way the essential oils would work.
Although, I'm not sure if cayenne is a natural antibacterial, like the cinnamon, cloves and thyme, which are supposedly the three strongest natural antibacterial substances in the world.

Anyway, there are a few things you can try if you're finding yourself thinking death would be better than the smell, the pain and the lack of sleep that may be resulting from your sinus infection.

Have a great day!

~Julie :}

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No More Kitty Poo

Some of you who read my other blog might remember my frustration last year when I started my garden and soon thereafter had to deal with the local Cat Mafia, who had decided to move in and claim it as there personal dumping ground.

I'm pretty positive at this point and 90% of the cats I see around my condo are strays. There where some who hung around last year who I haven't seen much lately, (maybe they got taken care of by another mob.) Three in particular are my biggest nuisance right now. There is a big orange one and he's the mob boss. Then there's his body double who looks almost just like him, except smaller, (might be a girl.) She's nearly always with him. Then there's Skinny, a thin white cat with pale peach colorations on the tips of his ears, tail and feet. He's usually tailing along with the other two, though lately I've seen him a lot by himself, trying to observe us through our sliding glass doors. I'm not sure what information they expect him to find, but I think I know why they're hanging around in plain sight again.

I have finally found a way to foible there illegal operations! Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Last year I tried cayenne pepper to keep them away, but it was to no avail. I would have to own barrels of the stuff to have enough to effectively keep cats away, especially because as soon as it rains, you have to reapply it. Gah!

I've considered hanging out by my bedroom window with a Super Soaker waiting for them to venture into my garden, but that is obviously unrealistic for many reasons.

I've fantasized about a security camera automatic water guns, or at least some kind of motion sensor water guns that can aim at the culprit and shoot them with water. Once again, not possible for my budget, or time or anything. A mere fantasy.

Finally after puzzling over the dilemma all winter I finally came up with a solution in March that seemed worth trying. I thought to myself. "If my whole garden was full every inch with those wire frame things that you use to grow tomato vines; there wouldn't be enough room for the kitties to dig anymore! The frames wouldn't effect my plants, although, they might effect the overall appearance of my garden." Despite that one drawback, I went to the store to see how much the frames would cost.

To my dismay they were not only much harder to find than I had expected, but they also cost more than I had to spend at the time. I stood there puzzling over them and looking around the area to see if I had other options. Then my eyes rested on a package of Heavy Duty Trellis Netting. This is a nylon mesh net that you use to grow vines and other vertically growing plants. I looked and it and had an epiphany. I could cover the entire surface of my garden with a netting that would keep the kitties from digging and still let sunlight and water through! Plus, my plants were still low enough to the ground that I could put it over them and they could grow up through it. Tada! Genius! The best part was is that I didn't have to spend any money right then because I already had the same type of netting at home in my sewing stuff because I had been planning to use it to make a cape for my mermaid costume a few Halloween's before.

So I went home and Jake helped me spread it out and tack it down with tent stakes which I had bought previously for another reason. Sadly, my netting wasn't enough to cover the whole length of my garden though. I had originally purchased it at the Army Navy Store where they had been selling it by the yard. I determined to go back and get some more.

Sadly, when I got there, they said they hadn't carried that particular product for over a year although they still had lots of camo material by the yard. I was a bit disappointed, but since Lillian was having fun playing in all the tents they had set up, I didn't leave right away. I kept having a feeling that I should keep looking around, and that if I just kept looking I would find something. Happily, after a few minutes I managed to find a mesh hammock. the same type of nylon netting, only this time green, and I'd have to take the hammock apart. But that seemed a pretty small price to pay. There was just enough of the netting to cover the remaining part of my garden and the whole hammock only cost $9.99 which is actually pretty cheap when it comes to buying specialty materials by the yard. Any of you who sew know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I bought it and went home and not long after, (though I had to buy a few more garden stakes first.) My whole garden was covered with nylon mesh.
I found these cute garden stakes at Walgreens that look like toadstools. I thought they were rather fun.I didn't look particularly nice to have two different colors of netting, but it's better than the look of dug up plants and mounds of smelling kitty poo.
I kinda wish I could have had them both be green, but oh well, the point is, no more plants can be dug up now.

These pictures were all taken during the first week of April.

And here is how my garden looks now. (June)

As you can see, there's still a bare spot right in front of my window where the kitties dug and pooed my columbine to death last year. I was hoping when I first put the netting down that it might still come up, but it hasn't. I couldn't afford any new annuals this year since money is tight, but back in early spring I bought a big tube of mixed seeds at Smiths in the hopes of filling in some of the gaps.
I put a few on the far left and right sides and a few tiny sprouts have since come up that I'm still not sure are weeds or not, so I've left them alone, hoping they will eventually bloom into some flowers. The little green wire trellis you see in the earlier picture used to support a lovely tall garden Phlox, which is a perennial, but it hasn't come back up this year. I'm wishing I could afford a Clematis to fill that space. Like a "Countess of Lovelace." a " Mrs. Cholmondely " a "Royalty" or a "Louise Rowe" *Sigh . . .* Maybe someday.My other flowers have been doing pretty well, they're all blooming and looking well, although my Lilli won't bloom until autumn probably, but at least it looks green and alive still.The whole problem with buying the tube of mixed seeds is I have no idea what to expect so it makes it hard to pull anything up that isn't an obvious weed. These sprouts have just barely begun to peek through. The one with the rounder leaf, I'm not sure about, though there are more like it scattered around where I planted, so I'm pretty sure it's from my seeds. I'm pretty positive the other on is a California poppy.This one, however, is a mystery to me. It was the first to sprout and the round lilly-pad like leaves definitely didn't look like weeds to me, so I've let it grow and have been rewarded by these lovely orange blooms. It looks really familiar, and I'm sure my mom could tell me what it is. I think maybe she had one in her garden once. If anyone else has any ideas of what it is let me know.Speaking of my mom, she's a sweetheart and bought me these seeds because she heard me complaining about the bare spot under my window. She said these can be planted at any time of year and like the heat, which is good 'cause that area get's a lot of sun and heat during the day. I've planted them and I'm hoping to see sprouts soon. I remember these in my mom's garden when I was a little girl, and I thought they were so pretty, and cool. The moss rose, their common name seems appropriate to me 'cause when I was young I thought they looked thorny but was pleased to discover that the spiny parts are actually quite rubbery feeling.

Julie Surprise: Chicken Pumpkin Curry

When I had limited ingredients in my house recently, I was looking through the pantry and saw a big can of pumpkin that I had purchased in bulk back in November, but I'd only ended up using one or two of the cans and still had two left. I thought to myself, "There's got to be a way I can use this for something other than treats." Then it occurred to me that people often make pumpkin squash soup and similar things. So I started looking up recipes and stumbled across one for a pumpkin curry soup. Some of the people who commented mentioned that they'd added chicken to it which that got me thinking . . . Chicken curry is already good, and pumpkin curry soup sounds good. Who's to say that I couldn't combine all three things and just make a chicken pumpkin curry to serve over rice? So combining the soup recipe with my favorite chicken curry recipe, here is what I came up with.

Julie Surprise: Chicken Pumpkin Curry

About half a 19 ounce can of pumpkin*
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
3 tablespoons coconut oil*
1 small onion,* chopped (I actually used dried minced* 'cause that's what I had.)
2-3 cloves garlic*, minced (or a tablespoon of garlic powder.*)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon,* or to taste.
1 teaspoon paprika*
1 bay leaf*
1/2 teaspoon ginger*
1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or other sweetener of choice)
2 cups chicken stock*
3 tablespoons curry powder*
A splash of lemon juice (if desired)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt*
3/4 cup coconut milk* (opt)
1/4 cup shredded coconut* (opt)
Salt* and pepper* to taste

Cook and shred chicken in a skillet; when cooked through, or nearly cooked, add onion and garlic with the coconut oil, saute until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining ingredients to the chicken. Stir and heat until combined and warmed through. Serve over rice or quinoa.
This three year old approves!

She filled her tummy till it was full! Check out this curry filled cutie!

*Julie Surprise is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Julie Surprise: Five Things to Do with a Can of Chili

Since we're all feeling rather poor and stressed lately, I thought I'd share some of the things I've come up with to make for dinner.

Canned foods tend to be less expensive than fresh food, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to use canned items without making you feel like, "Oh, yeah, I'm eating out of a can . . . Yummy."

I try to cook creatively and make things taste more homemade even when I'm often cheating by using pre-prepared foods. So, I will often look in my pantry and say to myself, "Okay, I've got a can of chili, what can I do with it? What else do I have?" Here are some things I've come up with over the past four years.

Hope it's helpful! Enjoy!
~Julie :}

Five things to do with a can of Chili:

Chili Chips and Cheese

You will need:

1 can of Chili

1 bag of tortilla chips

Cheese (either pre-shredded or no)

1 can diced tomatoes (opt)

What you'll do:

  1. Heat the chili on the stove as directed, adding water if needed and diced tomatoes if you so choose. (I like to add extra things like this because it makes it seem more homemade and stretches the chili further.)

  2. Once chili is heated through serve in bowls with tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

Cornbread and Chili Casserole
You will need:

1 can of Chili

1 box of corn bread mix

1 8x8 casserole dish

What you'll do:

  1. Pour the can of chili into the bottom of your dish. (add water to thin or other ingredients first if desired.

  2. Prepare the mix according to package directions and pour over the chili into the dish.

  1. Bake according to packaged directions and enjoy when cool, possibly with a side salad or fresh cut veggies and ranch dip.

Note: If you don't have a cornbread mix you can make it from scratch. See cornbread recipe here.

Taco Salad/Super Nachos

You will need:

1 can of Chili

1 bag of tortilla chips or Fritos

Cheese (either pre-shredded or no)

Tomatoes (diced)

Lettuce (chopped/shredded)

Salsa or taco sauce

Sour cream

Avocado diced (opt)

Black olives, sliced (opt.)

What you'll do:

  1. Heat the chili on the stove as directed, adding water if needed and diced tomatoes if you so choose. (I like to add extra things like this because it makes it seem more homemade and stretches the chili further.)

  2. prepare bowls or plates by covering with a layer of chips.

  3. When chili is ready pour over the chips and then top with your choice of the remaining toppings.

Note: Cheese best follows the chili as it will melt nicely, end with your freshest ingredients and then top all with sour cream.

  • The recipe can vary from being more a salad or nachos depending on how much lettuce and veggies you use versus how many chips you layer on the bottom.

Bean Soup with Toasted Tortillas

You will need:

1 can of Chili

1 bag of flour tortillas (opt)

Cheese (either pre-shredded or no)(opt)

Tomatoes (diced)

1 Can of refried beans


Sour cream(opt)

What you'll do:

  1. Heat the chili on the stove add directed, adding diced tomatoes and refried beans.

  2. Add water as needed to reach a nice thick soupy consistency. Add extra seasonings if desired.

  3. Once soup is done, place tortillas in the oven under the broiler for about one minute, watching carefully so as not to scorch them.

  4. Once the tortillas are slightly browned and crisp remove from the oven and serve with your bean soup. They're great torn up and thrown into the soup like crackers, or if they're a bit soft still, you can use them for sopping.

Notes: You may also top the soup with cheese or sour cream if your so wish.

  • If you don't have tortilla's on hand you can make your own, see tortilla recipe here.

  • This soup is very versatile, you can throw in a can of black beans or anything else you think might add to it well.

Chili Dogs and or Burgers

You will need:

1 can of Chili

1 package hot dogs or 2 frozen beef patties


Burger toppings of choice (opt)

Buns or bread slices(opt)

What you'll do:

  1. Place the hot dogs in a sauce pan or small pot and cover with chili, place on stove and heat as directed.

  2. If you are doing burgers, cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place on the bottom rack of your oven.

  3. Place the frozen beef patties directly onto the top rack of your oven above the cookie sheet. Cook at about 350ยบ F until burgers are thawed.

  4. Once thawed, brush or pour on some Worcestershire sauce and steak seasonings, or your sauce of choice.

  5. Let cook a few minutes longer until the edges have begun to cook; then flip the patties and baste or season the other side.

  6. Continue to cook and turn burgers as needed until they are cooked through to your desired degree.

  7. Serve hot dogs with chili either in a bowl or on a bun with extra chili and cheese on top (if desired)

  8. When burgers are done, place on prepared bun, top with cheese and chili and any other desired toppings and serve.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Secret to Great Cornbread

I love cornbread! But I have a hard time when it's super crumbly. I have a friend from North Carolina, and we once had dinner with him and his mother. I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but she told me that in the south, they make cornbread with Bisquick, or baking mix, because it helps hold it together and not crumble.

I had never thought of this. I've experimented with this idea a lot since then, altering my mom's or other recipes to see how it worked and it's always been successful for me. Unfortunately, I've never bothered to write down any of my alterations. I also like my cornbread sweet and have been known to add a bit more sugar; yes, even when eating it with chili. :}

Anyway, my point is; you can do a lot with a good recipe, and making your own alterations can be really fun.

Here is the only corn bread recipe with baking mix that I could find on Allrecipes.com.
It's really basic, but it says it rises high and is nice and light. It also says it doesn't brown, which I'm not sure I like, but feel free to compare and combine it with other recipes.

I figure it's a perfect recipe to experiment with in case you want to add something extra like minced onion, sour cream, creamed corn, regular corn kernels, or just extra sugar. Whatever it is that sounds good to you. Enjoy!

Country Corn Bread


  • 1-1/2 cups Quick Baking Mix (recipe also in Recipe Finder)
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk


  1. In a bowl, combine the mix, cornmeal, sugar and salt.
  2. Beat egg and milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
  3. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking pan.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (corn bread will not brown.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before cutting.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Favorite Tortilla Recipe

My husband wanted me to make homemade tortillas a while ago just to help save money so we don't have to buy the store bought ones.

I was a bit nervous but I found this recipe and I LOVE it! After having homemade, store bought tortillas taste so gross to me. Plus everyone has these ingredients laying around their house, even if they don't cook. (we all had groceries showers when we got married right?)

I found the recipe on my favorite recipe site-- allrecipes.com

Here's the link: Tortilla's IIJulie Notes:
The recipe calls for shortening, which I never buy ( 'cause I think it's yucky!) I use real butter (cold from the fridge) and it works just fine.

P.s. I didn't take this photo, (although I couldn't help white balancing it) it's actually from one of the users from the site, but this is a lot like how mine turn out when I make them. Yummy!

Update (almost one year later): One problem with making these has always been that it's a bit tough for me to roll them out thin enough for my liking. I don't have a lovely marble rolling pin like my Mom's, after all . . . Just a wooden one. So I would often wait till Jake got home so he could use his brute strength the help me flatten the dough a bit more. But that results in us eating a lot later. So . . . . .

(This will seem like a random tangent, but trust me here . . .)

My friend Kayleen told me about one of her favorite recipes: Black Bean Burgers. She was raving about them and told me I could find the recipe on her blog.

See, I get black beans from WIC because canned beans are something they offer and I usually get black beans because they're my favorite. I would usually just eat them straight, just heated from the can as a simple side dish and we enjoyed them quite a bit. But one can only eat them like that so often before they become 'not a favorite'.
Therefore, I'd been trying to find other ways to use them but usually all I could think of was to throw them into soup or chili or a salad and I just felt like we weren't going through them fast enough for how much we were accumulating. So when Kayleen mentioned this recipe I was very excited to try it.

I must confess, though they were good, they aren't a very favorite. Jake found them to be a bit dry, but the whole experience opened my mind to more possibilities. And then I came up with my genius discovery!

Black Bean Tortillas.

With the addition of some pureed black beans (and additional flour of course) the above recipe becomes so much easier to roll out flat, plus the fiber and protein is increased and honestly, they don't really taste any different to me. Tada! (It's times like these I wonder if I should open my own restaurant.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wishing for Something New to Leaf Through

Though I've not had the means lately to do a lot of extra stuff with my garden (like by new annuals because there are gaps between my perennials this year.) I've still been doing the best I can to make the most of what I already have and plan for the future. I will either have money again someday while living here, or I will move to a new place someday where I will need to start afresh.

At any rate the subject is never far from my thoughts; and whenever I here or read anything new on the subject, I find myself rather attentive.

The other day I was visiting at my in-laws and my sister-in-law, Ruth, was talking about Square Foot Gardening, and how well it was working for her. She was highly recommending the book to my brother-in-law.

I remembered that I had heard or read something on the subject recently, and that has made me think I should put this book on my wish list, hopefully for someone who loves me to purchase at Christmastime.

Her conversation also reminded me that I had been reading a blog of a lady who gardens a few months ago, and she had highly recommended the book Lasagna Gardening, which appeals to me greatly and is already on my wish list.

This second method seems very appealing for a number of reasons, but the number one reason for me is that it makes composting easy.

I've heard a lot about composting lately and wonder if it will ever be practical for me to try it. The lasagna way shows you that you can layer your compost ingredients in a way that will help them to break down naturally underneath your planted garden. I really like that idea.
Both these book are available on Amazon for under $15.00 and they're both eligible for free shipping, so if you bought them together the shipping would be free. I'm not sure how much the Lasagna one is elsewhere, but the square foot one on it's official site is $20 and I'm pretty sure you'd have to pay shipping.
Anyway, just had to share. If any of my readers pick up either of these books, I'd love to hear your opinions on them.


~Julie :}

The Praying Mantis: A Gardener's Best Friend

I recently was reading this bog I follow and was surprised to read that the author had bought Praying Mantis eggs because she had a problem with beetles eating up her plants.

I had never heard of this, but upon researching further, I found that this is a pretty common practice among farmers and gardeners. Anyway, it makes sense to me, and if we ever have money again I'm thinking it would be a good idea since the number one bugs I see around my house and garden are big black beetles. It's ridiculous really. Especially, finding them in the house so frequently, so yes. Buying a nice Garden predator seems like a logical solution.

Here is a shop I found that sells them, and according to this shop not all species of mantis are FDA approved so you have to make sure you aren't buying illegal eggs just because they're cheaper. Anyway, here's that site.

And here's an E-how article that has some useful information on the topic. Be sure to scroll down and read the extra tips and warnings.