Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scandinavian Costume (A Theme for Flowering Vine)

This is one of the last themes I came up with for the Flowering Vine Live Wallpaper App.
I started out wanting to do one with a red and turquoise color scheme which I had seen in some fashion ensembles and was really liking. Once I actually got going with the colors I decided to use the linen looking background because it reminded me of folk embroidery, like you'd see on a vintage sampler or maybe an ethnic blouse.
It took me some time to come with with the name because something like "Traditional Ethnic Embroidered Blouse" not only was way too long, but it didn't flow. Finally after searching around through images on Google, as well as terms in a thesaurus I finally came up with the name 'Scandinavian Costume', which, seems to fit the red blue theme since such styles ultimately seems to have been the inspiration for a lot of the red/blue designs one sees these days. 

Designing Themes for Flowering Vine Live Wallpaper for Android

Today something sparked my memory. I was looking at my phone and realized I hadn't put a seasonal wallpaper on it for a while and as Halloween is upon us I realized I had the perfect live wallpaper for adding a spooky look to my phone. Aww, but which theme to choose?

You see, a year ago about this time my husband's company, Thor Media, was focusing on making Live Wallpapers for Android phones. My brothers-in-law, Bryce and Will who are co-owners in the company were programming and designing these Apps and I was lucky enough to be involved in testing them for bugs and offering ideas and suggestions for designs etc.

Anyway, it was about this time last year that they released a new Live Wallpaper called Flowering Vine and on this particular app they added the feature of some preset themes for people to choose from in addition to the app colors and settings being customizable.

I was one of the lucky few who got to create some of the themes to be saved into the apps presets. This was so much fun! Let me tell you! I went crazy and I think I came up with at least fifteen themes in a couple of hours.

One of the funnest parts for me, as always, was coming up with names for the themes, you can kinda tell which themes are mine because of this. Instead of simply naming it something literal and obvious like "pink and brown" or something, the names I choose were inspired by various ideas, stories or designs.

So, just for fun, I thought I'd post about the ideas behind each theme.

I'm going to post a series of blogs so that each theme can have it's own post. Links for all of them will be updated here.

1. Scandinavian Costume

2. Golden Afternoon

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Edible Decor

Ever since I started buying a Bountiful Basket, drinking Green Smoothies, and just buying more produce in general, one thing that I've enjoyed beyond the obvious benefits of such a life style is the fact that; because my kitchen  theme has always been fruit, with fun, graphic decor in bright colors. This makes is not only logical but very enjoyable and ascetically pleasing to have fresh fruit in the kitchen because I can use it as decor. Plus, having the fruit out in plain site makes it easier to remember to eat it before it goes bad. That is, if you can bring yourself to ruin the lovely display. Lol!
Of course my husband has no problem with the latter issue so it turns out to be a good system for eating our fresh fruit regularly. 

I have a fruit bowl, but often it fills up so quickly that it becomes necessary to use other places for displaying fruit. 

My favorite is the ledge under the window in the kitchen. Here are just a few of the arrangements that have resided there until they were eaten.
Pears . . .
 Golden Delicious Apples

Asian Pears and Apples

Maybe this will inspire some of you to find fun ways to display fruit in your own kitchen, and thereby encourage your family to eat it more often.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What My Diet is Like Right Now

My sister started a FB group recently where like minded Mom's with similar values can share articles and ideas without having to get flamed and bombarded with arguments like they would if they posted the same things on their regular page. It's been a lot of fun to share some of my favorite new ideas and findings with these few women who are all in the same boat, trying to figure out what's best for their families and how to make ends meet without sacrificing their health or values.
Tonight, one of the group members asked about if any of the rest of us feel lost when it comes to grocery shopping; trying to figure out how to afford, good clean healthy fair without it costing an arm an a leg, and even knowing what to make with the food you do get.
I totally understand this feeling!
It's one thing to know what NOT to buy and what NOT to eat. Becoming aware of dangerous additives and ingredients is really eye opening, and it can feel empowering to finally take the plunge and throw out all the junk that's been lurking in the back of your pantry (you know those instant mashed potatoes that have more ingredients than your aunt Edna's secret recipe for frog eye salad?)  Yes, it is a great feeling to say to yourself, "No. I deserve better and my family deserves better and it's not wasteful to throw out garbage."

It's after the cleaning out and rethinking is all done that you might find yourself walking through a grocery store and have no idea what to actually put in your cart. Or, even if you have managed to fill it will all kinds of things you know are great healthy foods, you might find yourself looking at a fridge full of great healthy food but have no idea what to do with it.

I'm sure we've all gone through this, are going through it, or hopefully will go through it because it's all part of the process of the paradigm shift that must occur if we're ever going to leave behind the SAD way that we used to eat.

So, of course, all of the above are the thoughts that went through my mind when I read this question posted to our group's wall. 

So, I started to write a response, and then, as is typical for me, it started to turn into a really long comment and then I had to admit that it was becoming a blog post. So here it is.

I have been figuring things out slowly for the past 2-3 years so I totally know the feeling of getting overwhelmed.
Meat is always tricky too because you want it to be safe but need to be able to afford other food too, and have room for it all. We've been thinking about buying bulk from this site:, 

but we'd have to be able to split it with a few families to be able to afford the best deal AND have the room to freeze it. So yeah, still figuring out the meat. 

As of right now Costco has been my link to sanity.
For a while there we just weren't eating very much meat and my hubby was having a hard time with that. So recently I've been buying their organic ground beef ($16.99 for 4 lbs divided into three pieces). I't doesn't say it's grass fed, but it does say hormone free so I figure it's better than some things. Then I also buy a flat of organic black beans and organic tomato paste and use these ingredients to make a big batch of chili which usually lasts us about a week as an easy lunch for my hubby to take to work, or for me to eat. Oh, I often buy their organic chicken stock to add to the chili too. 

Getting veggies from Bountiful Baskets is a great way to get lots of produce in your diet for very little money, plus it gives you a reason to try new things you might not have thought of buying. I think using this resource was a great step in helping me to transition away from the way we used to eat into thinking more about veggies, and actually using them. It was a big learning curve, but so worth it!
Honestly though, we haven't been relying on BB as much because I've been concerned about the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen thing and it seems like most of the produce you get in the BB is on the dirty dozen list. You can get an organic basket for $10 more but I'm not sure it's worth it for how much food you get because the organic basket is always smaller than the conventional one and then it costs that much more, plus, they might include things in the organic basket that are clean enough that buying organic wasn't necessary for that particular item.

Still, if you already aren't eating a lot of produce it's a really great way to get into doing that. And they say eating conventional produce is always better than no produce at all.
Pinterest is a great resource for recipes, as is the Green Smoothie Girl Blog and the Bountiful Basket's Blog.  Actually, there are a TON of great blogs out there for clean eating, most of which I found through Pinterest. You just have to take baby steps and try things to figure out what works best for you and your family.

Right now, I usually buy most of my produce at Costco, like the things on the clean 15 list, such as oranges, grapefruit, Avocado, broccoli, kiwis, asparagus, artichokes. Things with high nutrient content that I can get in bulk and my family will actually eat.
I also will buy organic spinach there for green smoothies and recently I've discovered their organic baby kale which is much easier to eat than the kind we use to get through Bountiful Baskets. It makes a great salad green.
Anyway, whatever I want from the dirty dozen list that isn't available at Costco organically,  I will supplement those veggies and fruits with produce from Whole Foods. I used to use Smith's Marketplace because they do have some organic produce, but often I find that organic apples at Whole Foods are slightly cheaper than at Smiths. As are their grapes, occasionally, and their bananas. It depends though, so watching sales can still be good.

I also have been buying Coconut sugar at Whole Foods to use instead of other sweeteners. Oh, and their nitrate free bacon because my nutritionist told me when I got pregnant that I MUST eat bacon but that it HAD to be nitrate free. I told him I would love that but had no idea where to get nitrate free bacon and he said Whole Foods is where he gets it. His family buys it from behind the meat counter. I've actually just been buying of of the prepackaged  brands because it's cheaper ($3.99 a pack) and with my small family 3-4 packs will last us a least a couple of weeks.  We gave up lunch meat over a year ago and if we have sandwhiches they are now Peanut Butter and honey(Adam's PB has only one ingredient, Peanuts. We get a big jar from Costco), or grilled cheese, or Canned Wild Caught Salmon (our new tuna; we eat it with a mixture of cream cheese based dressing or simply some mashed avocado, depending on what we have, since mayonnaise is full of soy and other things) We also use Dave's killer bread for sandwiches, though someday I dream of sprouting my own grains . . . 

Oh, and we get organic eggs and butter from Costco.  Someday we hope to have a source for local eggs, perhaps from neighbors with chickens or maybe we'll even get chickens ourselves someday. A lot of our friends who live in a house with a yard have done so. One friend even raises rabbits for food.  So, I guess my point is . . . It's a process. I'm sure I will always be wanting to improve this or that aspect of our lives and health, but you just change/try one thing at a time and as it feels right.

Just to be up front and honest, our grocery budget can be anything from $95-$200 a week, depending on the week, and what things we're low on. Oh, and that feeds two adults and two small kids. Cutting back on certain things has certainly helped of course. We don't buy any convenience foods. No cold cereal, not even the healthy kind. My daughter has trouble with milk so we gave that up almost five years ago and haven't missed it. Breakfast consists of either oatmeal (bought in bulk at Costco again) or pancakes made from scratch, compliments of my hubby, half a grapefruit, or bacon and eggs. Things like that.

As for all the meat you bought, if your chicken has bones, I would advise making some Stock from that and freezing it.

In fact, if it's a lot of meat, you could precook the chicken in in crock pot, then shred and freeze extra meat to use for future recipes, like tacos/burritos, soup, etc.
Then of course, as I just said, boil the carcass for your stock.
I've done this before and I got a ton of really yummy stock out of it. In fact, it was surprising because I used a cornish game hen the first time and they are small, but I actually added more water a couple times after the first batch of stock, let it simmer another night and got more out of the bones and veggies. Not as rich and dark the subsequent times of course, but still really good stock. I just figured I'd keep going until I'd gotten as much goodness as I could out of it. You'll want to make sure you have enough freezer containers if you're going to do it that way.
I learned the hard way that glass doesn't freeze well, so if you're using mason jars or anything put those ones in the fridge for use first, or at least don't fill them too full. Anyway, this is a great way to get the most for your money when you buy expensive poultry I think, because it's got to be way cheaper than buying the organic stock at Costco, and you can add whatever awesome veggies you want to it.  In fact, the first night you could just cook all the veggies and meat in the crockpot and you eat that for dinner and then it's just the scraps that are left over that need to be boiled for the stock.

Anyway, this has been a very long post. Hopefully some of the ideas here were helpful and made sense. Feel free to ask any follow up questions!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Julie Surprise: Oven-less Cherry Pie!

Okay, so normally you would want some kind of oven for this recipe. 
 Mine was ovenless out of necessity because our oven has been broken for the past two months or so.

 Luckily for me, the weather has been such that most people wouldn't want to turn on an oven anyway, so I was able to 'bake' my crust on the dashboard of my minivan for a few hours. It might have even taken less time if I had thought of it sooner since it got to be at least 102° fahrenheit that day. As it was, I put the crust on the dashboard and rolled up all the windows at about 5pm at which point the sun was about to go behind some trees near our parking lot and then a cloud cover came over. I pulled it out after 9pm (after I'd put the girls to bed) thinking that it would simply have to wait till another hot day since the next day I'd be gone to Lagoon all day, but to my delight and relief when I pulled it out it was firm and baked through. Yay!
 The recipe I used was extremely simple. I basically used this shortbread recipe that I found on Pinterest except I didn't have any almond flour so I gleaned inspiration from the photo for this crust recipe and used ground almonds instead. It worked great!
So, since I guess I once again, sort of made my own recipe, I'll be kind enough to type it out below for those who want to try the "Julie" method. :}

 As for the cherry filling, well, that was an interesting adventure in and of itself. A tangent which needs it's own post, actually.

Basically it started out as a bowl of fresh cherries marinated with lemon juice and honey because I didn't have any sugar at the time I received the cherries. It sat in my fridge for almost three weeks. Finally, the evening before the fourth of July I decided to try making the pie despite my lack of oven. So I whipped up the crust as stated above. It was only after bringing the crust in from the van that night that I figured I'd better finish making the pie and began to consider how best to deal with the filling.
I'd added some coconut sugar to the cherries earlier that evening while working on the crust, and it was back in my fridge in a glass casserole dish with a lid. It occurred to me as I came in with the crust that while I could use the stove top (which still works) to cook the filling, it seemed a shame to dirty another dish when it was already in a lovely microwavable dish, and I didn't see any reason why the microwave wouldn't work. So that's what I ended up doing. I cooked the cherry filling in the microwave on the fresh veggies setting until it made the kitchen smell wonderful. Then I stirred in a pack and a half of pectin. Then I scooped the cherries into the crust. There was quite a bit of sauce though so I sort of strained the fruit out of the sauce so the pie wouldn't be too runny. The leftover sauce went into a jar in the fridge were it turned into a sort of cherry jelly, not unlike grape jelly actually, though perhaps a tad more tart.
Once that was done I toasted some sliced almonds with a little butter and coconut sugar on the stove top and added those to the pie as a topping.

Tada! Julie Surprise Cherry Pie!

Now, here's the recipe all written out a bit more tidily.

Almond Lemon Crust:

  • 6 Tablespoons organic butter
  • 2 cups freshly ground almonds (Used my little food processor for this)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (Mine was actually frozen, but it worked fine)
  • Melt the butter in the microwave in the glass pie dish. Add the almond meal, sweetener, and lemon zest, stirring until fully combined.
  • To make a tart or pie crust:
  • No need to pre-chill, just press dough into the pie pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees (F) for 15 mins until firm and golden brown. Or, as in my case, put on the dashboard of a hot vehicle for 2-5 hours or until firm and cooked through. (I put a sheet of tinfoil underneath it, shiny side up, and another to one side to try and reflect the sun to the top of it. Don't know if it made any difference, but there you have it.)

Cherry Filling:

  • 4 cups fresh, pitted cherries
  • Enough honey to coat cherries well
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar) Optional
    1 to 1 & 1/2 packs of pectin (depending on how runny filling is)
  • Stir honey and lemon with cherries and if you wish, refrigerate overnight (or up to three weeks!)
    Add extra sweetener (coconut sugar) if needed before cooking.
  • Cook in the microwave on the fresh vegetable setting until filling become fragrant and looks done. Then stir in pectin and transfer to crust. Add topping and refrigerate pie overnight or until set.
    If you wish to cook the filling on the stove top add the pectin once it comes to a simmer and stir and cook until sauce begins to thicken.
    Then add to crust as stated above.


  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar) Optional
  • 1/3 cup organic butter
  • Add almonds to a small frying pan or skillet and toast on low heat stirring occasionally until fragrant.
    Add sweetener (coconut sugar) and organic butter and stir until sugar melts and coats the almonds evenly.
    Now, you can let the almonds cool and break them up over your pie, or you can do what I did and let them drizzle out of the hot pan over the pie, using a rubber spatula to guide them until the pie is evenly coated. Either way works.

~Julie :}

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Lump of Bread

So our oven has been broken for weeks now.
Yesterday I finally remembered that I have a bread machine that we got for our wedding.
I've never used it because when I planned to a few years back I couldn't find one of the parts.

I have since found it though, so I attempted to make some bread yesterday. I followed the directions precisely and after four hours of waiting it finally heated up, without using any of those previous hours to actually knead the ingredients. They were all sitting in there exactly as I had placed them in. Yet the machine was starting to get hot in order to cook my unmixed ingredients.

Needless to say I was rather perturbed and tried to stop it which had no effect, so I unplugged it and went through the process of re-reading the manual again and trying to find a solution online, all to no avail!

Finally in exasperation (it didn't help my six year old was whining at me that she was so disappointed that we didn't have any bread yet.) I upturned the bread pan onto the counter and kneaded it by hand. No easy task since it had been sitting still for four hours and the sugar and wet ingredients had melted into a sticky mass underneath all of the flour. I attempted to let the now kneaded dough rise on the counter for a few hours but by 9pm I was done with waiting and threw the solid lump of dough back into the machine and plugged it in.

When I had unplugged it previously in an attempt to start over and see if it would knead the dough the second time, it had made no difference and plugging it back in at that point only showed that it had the same amount of time on the timer and was still heating up. I guess it just hadn't been unplugged long enough before because when I replugged it in after working the dough by hand and attempting to let it rise the whole process started over and the timer said it would take another four hours!

I washed my hands of it both literally and otherwise and went to bed, only to be awakened about 4 hours later to the sound of the machine beeping that it was done.  I ignored it for a while, but eventually I dragged myself out of bed, extracted the pan from the machine, unplugged it and went back to bed.

Hours later we awakened to find a solid mass of wheat something in the pan. It looked just like the lump of dough I'd put in the pan the night before, except cooked, I guess.
It was edible when toasted and buttered, but not exactly delectable.
I think it's possible there was also something wrong with my yeast, but considering how long it sat in a bunch of flour before it ever coming in contact with sugar and or water, it's hard to be sure. At any rate, the machine appears to be defective. Sad that it took me over eight years to find out one of my wedding gifts is useless huh? So let this be a lesson to you newly weds out there. If you're keeping it, you'd better use it within the first year. Well, I guess we all make mistakes, eh?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ukrainian Red Borsh Recipe

My husband served a mission in the Ukraine for two years and one of the members there made a bunch of recipe books for the elders to take home, full of some awesome traditional Ukrainian recipes. The only drawback about this for me is that it's all written in Russian/Cyrillic.
So, every time we've wanted to make our favorite Ukrainian Dish, Ukrainian Red Borsh, I've needed my husband right there to translate for me, every ingredient and step of the way.

It's been about 9 years since he left the Ukraine and so this last time that we made it, the translation seemed to take a bit longer for him than usual and in the end he finally decided to write it all down in the margins in English as he went. The soup itself turned out really well, (seriously, even if you think you don't like beets, this soup will change your mind!) so we of course were sharing pictures and accolades all over facebook for a couple of days. Which, of course, inevitably resulted in people asking for the recipe. I've been intending to post it here ever since, and now, over 3 months later, it looks like today is finally the day!

Ukrainian Red Borsh*


1-3 fresh beets shredded or grated. (depending on size. If large, one is usually sufficient, but if small you may even want three. You really can't go overboard with this ingredient as it is. After-all, it is beet soup.)

2 lbs of potatoes cubed or about 4 regular potatoes (about the size of an index card) We chose to use smaller red potatoes this time around so we used  more. Once again amounts can vary without ruining anything.

2 large carrots grated.

2 onions grated very fine. (sweet red onions are our favorite)

1 cabbage cut into long, thin strips, (sort of like noodles. We used red cabbage but green will also work)

1/2 cup of cooking oil, your choice.

3.5 oz tomato paste (That amounts to about half of a small 6 oz can, but I'm thinking we used the whole can.)

1 sweet pepper, sliced. We prefer red bells, though yellow or orange would be yummy too.

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste.

4 liters of meat or veggie stock. The original calls for beef stock or bullion, but we used the organic chicken stock from Costco. You can also make your own stock. 

  1. In your largest pot, bring stock to a boil.
  2. Add half of the grated beet(s) into the boiling stock. (We used the food processor to shred the beets this last time and it was a so much faster than grating it by hand, though not necessarily less messy.)
  3. Once the beets have turned white add the potatoes.
  4. Add half of the carrots and half of the onions after the potatoes have come to a boil.
  5. Once carrots and onions come to a boil, add all of the cabbage to the stock. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. In a large skillet or frying pan, place the remaining beets, carrots and onions in the oil and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Then add to the pan, the sliced pepper, the tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  8. Add everything from the pan into the pot of stock with the bay leaves and boil for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Can be served with sour cream or Greek yogurt as a nice condiment.

    This soup in incredibly tasty and healthful. I've begun to refer to it as prenatal soup because it's so chock full of iron and other important nutrients. Also, it is so much better the next day. This batch turned out really good even for the first day (during which I ended up eating 5 bowls of it.) but during the following days the flavors continue to blend and mature and it just gets better and better!

    Also, this makes a LOT of soup. When I said use your largest pot, I wasn't kidding. We almost couldn't fit everything into the one we have (8 quarts) when it came time to add the skillet veggies to the main soup. Our stove was a huge mess due to the effects of the ruby red soup boiling so happily near the edge of the pot. It was so worth it though! In fact, I believe I will have to enlist the hubs into another Borsh making session soon. If only it weren't so hot outside. Hmm . . . 

*P.s. I would like to note that while Borsh is usually spelled as 'Borscht' in English and your spell checkers will not approve of another spelling, my Russian speaking husband feels that this is completely erroneous and only encourages people to mispronounce a rather simple word.
The Cyrillic spelling which looks like this:
борщ, contains 4 characters, one of which equates to our letter 'b' another to 'o' another to 'r' and the final one to the 'sh' sound. There is no 'ch' or 't' sound in Borsh.
I am simply noting this to explain my spelling of the word in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary comments about it later. Believe me, it is completely intentional and not done in ignorance. Thanks!

For Sale, Ashton Drake Traditional African Porcelain Doll, The Passport to Friendship Collection

I would normally sell this on Etsy, but she is one year too new to qualify for their vintage category.
This is another item I inherited from my Grandmother. Serena is from the Ashton Drake Passport to Friendship collection. She is 16" tall and in like new condition. In original box, with certificate and accessories; which include a basket of fruit, necklace, earrings and a bracelet. She wears a colorful traditonal african top and skirt and her black hair is plaited and tried back with a matching scarf. Made of porcelain. Smoke and pet free home in both homes where she has resided. 

My Grandmother Collected Dolls. I'm keeping one of the dolls I inherited from her, but I don't really have a place for this one, and I think it should probably go to a home were African culture is more appreciated, whether because it's your heritage, or you lived or visited there. This is an Ashton Drake Porcelain doll. She is lovely, still has her box, her certificate and all her accessories. Please let me know if you're interested. It seems a shame to keep her in storage. I really don't know what I'd like for this, just want to know it will end up in a good home, so best offer will get her.

Please E-mail me if interested.