Monthly Archives: July 2012

How to Get Wrinkles out of Clothes Without Ironing

If you’re like me, sometimes you get lazy when it comes to laundry. I have been known to forget about dry clothes for a day or two and when I open the dryer I’m stuck with a full load of wrinkled clothes. I hate when that happens! Well here’s a nifty trick for getting those wrinkles out fast!

Step 1: Run a clean washcloth under water and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Step 2: Toss the wrinkled garment and the wet cloth into the dryer for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Do something more important while your shirt is becoming wrinkle free.

Step 4: Smooth out the shirt and you have a (mostly) wrinkle free garment!

The heat from the dryer and the wet cloth form a sort of steam situation and gets the wrinkles out fast! Hey its not perfect, but if you’re that picky just iron the dang thing! Hope this helps when you’re in a pinch. :)

A Culinary Tour of New Orleans

Of all the places I’ve travelled in the US, somehow New Orleans had never made it on the list. As Adam and I considered where to go for our summer trip, I really wanted to go somewhere new since our last 3 trips have been to Key West. I love key west, but I was starting to think that we are boring travellers. So onward to New Orleans we went, and it was such a cool experience! Since I’m such a total foodie I’ll give you a tour of New Orleans stopping off at all the amazing restaurants we sampled along the way.

Our trip started with lunch at Deanie’s. We had two different locals recommend this place, one old black lady said “Don’t go to Mother’s. It ain’t all dat. You’ll pay too much, and you’ll be pissed off! Go to Deanie’s and get the half platter, that’s all ya need.” So we obeyed.

What we received was a giant mountain of fried seafood and fries. Even the half platter was too much for both of us. I’m not sure if I’m just a snob, but in my opinion you could fry a boot and it would taste good, so I wasn’t all that impressed with the seafood, because all I could taste was fried breading. It was fine I guess. You won’t be missing much if you past it up.

Next we walked down bourbon street. Listen to me… avoid bourbon street at all costs! I was appalled at how debauched and disgusting it was, even in the middle of the afternoon. I’ve never seen a street more filthy and degrading to women than this one. Even the red light districts in Europe don’t compare. The windows are papered with the most explicit pornography right out there in the open, for unassuming passerby’s to see. Poor Adam had to keep his head down while I navigated us away from there! We accidentally ended up crossing over Bourbon Street one night to get to another street and in the two seconds we were there I saw male strippers dancing on poles. Blegh. Not my kinda thing at all! Trust me, there is nothing there worth seeing. Don’t even bother.

For dinner we had reservations at Luke, one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants. I’ve actually met John Besh so I was excited to try this place out. Oh My Goodness! It was seriously awesome. The decor was an awesome combination of trendy, chic, and down-home southern comfort. I loved the cast iron skillets our meals were served in, and the dish towel napkins that looked like they came from Chef Besh’s granny’s house.

The shrimp and grits had some of the most incredible flavour combinations I’ve ever had in my life! Seriously, it was absolutely incredible. I was floored. Adam had a roast chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Can you say comfort food? It was delectable. Everything was perfect.

We saw a sign for free comedy at The house of blues so we headed in and saw a great show! They do this every thursday night so if you’re looking for free entertainment this is a good idea. I used to do stand up comedy so I love supporting local comedians in various cities.

On the advice of Yelp reviewers we headed down to Frenchman street for drinks and jazz. Now this is what I was hoping for when I thought of New Orleans. Cool bars, locals, great drinks, and the best jazz I’ve ever heard.

We ended up at Maison Frenchman where we saw a group of college guys in about a 15 piece interchangeable lineup. It was really cool to see how many local musicians there are. Every one walks around with an instrument in their hands and they just pop in and out of clubs picking up in different bands. It is a very cool part of town.

The next day we had breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. It started pouring rain while we were there so we just sat for awhile enjoying our Cafe Au Laits and Beignets. I really don’t need to speak for Cafe Du Monde because it speaks for itself, but I will just say that it truly lives up to the hype. The only unfortunate part is that it has become very touristy and it is really busy. Its not really a sit and relax sort of cafe. It is very noisy and the tables are packed in like sardines, but it is really fun to pop in for a few minutes and enjoy the best beignet of your life!

You can’t leave N’awlins without a praline so we stopped into Southern Candymakers for a sweet treat. Adam had the chocolate fudge and I had a traditional carmel praline. In Florida we say pray-leen, but here is is PRAH-leen. However you want to pronounce it they were absolutely divine. I ate mine so fast I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it!

We spent the afternoon walking around Decatur and Royal streets. We saw the Natchez on the Mississippi, walked into the beautiful cathedral, strolled through the French Market, popped into Kitchen Witch for a bit and talked about food with Phillipe. This part of town is really what I think of when I think of New Orleans. It was really nice to stop and listen to Jazz on the street, which is what you will find on nearly every corner. Phillipe suggested we stop over at Coop’s for some good low-country food. We really came to like the Abita beer which is a staple at every bar in NOLA. The jumbalaya here was really thick, and had rabbit in it. Not my favourite but it was interesting to try.

This weekend was the Tales of the Cocktail drink festival so we took a cocktail tour of the French Quarter. It was really fun but the Absynthe cocktail did me in and I got really sick. I had to go to bed early. This is a fun tour to learn a little about the history of the town but don’t drink the Absynthe!

On Saturday afternoon we took the streetcar down to St. Charles in the Garden district to see all the lovely architecture. There’s no need to get off, just taking the streetcar is a really nice little tour down through all the neighborhoods and back.

We loved Royal street so much that we decided to head back that way to enjoy some of the scenery and relaxed vibe. We ended up at Cafe Amelie which is a lovely little spot tucked away off the beaten path. While we were there we actually spotted Lenny Kravitz who lives nearby. The food was really good, though the portion were a bit small. The goat cheese and fig jam appetizer does not disappoint. The fig jam is made in house and was delicious.

For dinner we tried Marigny Brasserie since it was on Frenchmen and we wanted to listen to jazz down there anyway. I was very under impressed. The server started out by telling us everything that was NOT on the menu. The only two beers my husband asked about were unavailable so we just settled for water. When the meal came the presentation was poor and the dishes were surprisingly ugly for such a lovely restaurant. The server never came back from the time our food was delivered until we were finished eating, so we didn’t have the chance to ask for extra napkins, sauces, or anything. We had the shrimp and grits appetizer which tasted nice but compared to Luke’s was not as good as I’d hoped. The po’ boy sandwich was dry, so we dipped it in the corn and seafood bisque which actually tasted pretty good. The sweet potato fries that came with the sandwich were soggy and we didn’t even eat them. When we brought it to the attention of the server, he didn’t offer any solution other than to let the kitchen know. I don’t think there was any background music playing either. Which is an odd thing to notice but again, with such a lovely decor you would think it would be a bit more classy.

We hopped into a few more jazz bars on Frenchmen but found ourselves back at Maison, because of the great music. It really became our favourite place in town. Before the night was over we had to go back to Cafe Du Monde for more beignets! They are sooo good.

On our way back to the hotel we decided to walk through Harrah’s casino just for fun. We don’t gamble but it was cool to see the casino anyway. We watched a guy lose about $700 in about 10 minutes at a black jack table. Always a good reminder of exactly why we don’t gamble, lol!

Sunday morning we had breakfast at the Ruby Slipper. There was a really long wait but we were able to find two seats at the bar and sat down right away. I felt kinda bad watching all those people wait outside in 90 degree weather while I enjoyed some really delicious grits. They had some really nice menu options such as crabcake and eggs, and banana’s foster french toast. I just had grits and bacon but the guy next to me had the crabcake breakfast and it looked really good!

We headed down Royal and Chartres for the remainder of the day to look in art galleries and take in our last few hours of the city. Our last stop was at the French Market Restaurant where we had amazing service and made friends with the whole wait staff. We sat up stairs and we were the only ones in the whole restaurant at 2 in the afternoon. We had the alligator bites and they brought us free chargrilled oysters to make a convert out of me. They swore I’d like them and oh my goodness I did! They were so amazing. They chargrill them with romano cheese, butter and chablis, with a metal bowl over them on the grill to pull the smoke down. Good idea!

What a great city. It was a really good time. As long as you know where to go and where not to go you will really enjoy your time here.

I highly recommend taking advantage of the wonderful reviewers on Yelp.com. This website really helped us get the best out of our trip.

Weight Loss Wednesday – Part 3

Well after last wednesday I was more than frustrated with the whole exercise thing, but I tried to stay steady on the diet. I also decided that tan fat is better than pale fat so I signed up for a one month membership for tanning. I don’t normally go tanning, but I’m awfully pale and I figured it might make me feel better. It worked :)

I’ve been enjoying Campbell’s soup which is only 80-100 calories a can, and awesome dishes like this one: 3 cups of collard greens and one strip of bacon. Tons of fiber, vitamin A, C,  K, folic acid and phytonutrients. The best part is that a big ol’ mess of greens is only about 70 calories! The down side is that it gives you terrible gas, don’t ask how I figured that one out.

Good news came Thursday when I weighed myself at publix and realized that the scale at my gym is way off! I had actually lost 4 lbs!

So my silent-treatment with the gym was finally over. I actually made it to the gym on Thursday and managed to do 10 calories a minute on the eliptical! I was really proud of that! I rewarded myself by buying lots of really cute work out shorts to match my new Nike’s.

Adam’s parent’s were in town over the weekend and I splurged a little on meals like this from Bon Appetit in Dunedin. Crusted Red Snapper over lobster hash swimming in a bath of beurre blanc. Oooooooh…. ahhhhh. Dishes like this one could be the end of me. It was amazingly tasty. I went over my calories by almost 600 eep! But it was so worth it.

Saturday we spent the day at Islands of Adventure (its a theme park) and walked off about 500 calories! It was about a million degrees outside and I was sweating like crazy. I googled whether or not walking in the heat burned more calories than inside on a treadmill and apparently it doesn’t. The sweat that comes out when you’re hot is just water, its not actual weight loss. Too bad, cause I would be super skinny living in FL.

I’ve upped my eliptical time to 20 minutes a day now, and I’m burning 200 calories instead of 150! Can you believe it? I can’t!

Today when I weighed myself I’m down another 2 lbs! That’s a total loss of 6 lbs in 2 weeks. I’m just pleased as punch and I have new motivation to see this thing through.

1 comment = 3 situps. Ooooh look at me upping the Ante!

Christmas (Ideas) in July

Things have been very busy with school lately so I haven’t had much time for blogging, but I figured I’d take a moment to look ahead to Christmas time and start preparing for all the wonderful things I’m going to create! I LOVE Christmas! My name IS Noelle afterall. Plus, I love Jesus, and well, it is all about Him that time of year. Living in a small apartment makes it really difficult to decorate for Christmas without tripping over things. So here are some fun ways to enjoy the holidays without cluttering up the house.

Last year my Christmas tree was a really cool table top feather creation made out of styro-foam cones, feathers, and a few ornaments. I had the idea on my own then I quickly started seeing these bad boys turn up ready-made at various craft and novelty stores for $15-30.

I think it cost me about $5-7 to make this. Also I know this is a really bad photo, but I didn’t take it thinking it would ever end up on a blog, but here we are.

This is another really cute styro-foam cone idea.

Just glue buttons on and add an ornament on top.

How easy and cute it that? Just think of all the variations you could have with decorative buttons.

 

 

 

 

Growing up in Florida, oranges are always in abundance but we had about six orange trees in the yard of my childhood home. Orange Pomanders have been a Christmas tradition in my family since I can remember. I loved making these as a girl!

They are as aromatic as they are lovely, and so easy to make. The kids will love helping with this one.

Start by poking small holes in the orange. Then press whole cloves into the skin. You can get really creative with the designs, even spelling out things like JOY, JESUS, or family initials. I always liked doing spirals.

In the interest of saving space I figured a wreath might be a nice idea this year seeing as my door isn’t really doing much. I’ve never really been a wreath person cause it just seems sort of soccer-momish to me. But, I found this really funky idea for a wreath alternative on Pinterest and I am definitely going to try it this year! The ornaments are paper-mache. Click the link for how-to instructions.

I think maybe this year we’ll send out a holiday card. I’ve never done a photo card because its almost like an announcement to all your friends and family saying, “Look how cute our kids and pets are!” And we have neither. But given that I’ve finally found peace and rest in it just being the two of us for now, I think a proper celebration in the form of a “Look at what an awesome couple we are!” sort of photo card would be in order. Here is a cute idea. The other option is to borrow our friend’s Labrador, and my new baby nephew coming in November. That could work.

Now what’s a Christmas post without a nice booze idea? I love making holiday mulled cider and I came up with my own awesome recipe several years ago. When it gets closer I’ll do a whole post with the full recipe but it includes Red Wine, Cider Spices, Apple Cider, Orange Juice and Hornsby’s. I like to float cinnamon sticks and orange slices in the pot. It is quite tasty.

I really love this felted garland idea. Red and Green don’t really match in my apartment, so I love this colorful idea! This would look really cute strung along my bar counter. I can’t wait to try this one.

What are you planning to make this Christmas season? I would love to hear from you about how you are preparing in advance!

5 Products To Start Buying at the Dollar Store

With the economy being the way it’s been, dollar stores have really upped the ante in the last year or so. What I used to think was a really gross way to get a bunch of crap has actually become a reasonable alternative for discerning and shrewd homemakers. I have really become a friend to Dollar General, and since a new one that has just opened within walking distance of my home, I have become a regular shopper. When I first decided to give them a chance, I was shocked that I have literally been throwing away money at Target and Publix for the exact same products available here for only a DOLLAR. Not only can you find lots of fun items for craft projects, but they have tons of other useful household and entertaining items for dirt cheap. I can’t have my readers wasting money, so here are five you should definitely start with. You’re welcome.

Weight Loss Wednesday – Part 2

I’m really taking this weight loss thing seriously. So I got this amazing app called Calorie Counter. Adam and I have been religiously recording our daily calorie intake and I have to say I had no idea how much I was eating! I thought I was a relatively healthy person but I was really overdoing it I think.

I like this calorie limit because even though I’m eating probably about half of what I was used to, I feel perfectly full by the end of the day and I feel like a million bucks! The nice thing is that if I go over on my calories, I can exercise more and the app will account for it. I have so much more control than I thought.

I’ve been eating far less bread and cheese, much to my chagrin, but I’m hoping that once I get to my goal weight I can slowly add it back in if I keep exercising.

All in all I’ve felt so great about all this weight loss business.

Even the exercise hasn’t been that bad. I thought I would hate it, but I’ve really come to enjoy it… until last night.

I weighed myself and it appears I’ve gained a pound. I sat pouting in the gym while Adam lifted weights, and today I’m angry at exercise.

Adam says it is because I’m building muscle, but I doubt I’ve built a whole pound of muscle in a week. Ugh, this is frustrating. I’m really impatient and I was hoping to at least see some results, even a little. Someone tell me this will work!

On the bright side, for being such a good girl, Adam brought me a lovely surprise. One of the wonderful things about my sweet husband is that he buys me clothes and shoes and brings them home to me. He even gets the right size! :)

He came home with a Nordstrom bag, and in that bag was a box, and in that box was a brand new pair of Nike Sneakers! I hope this keeps me hanging on. We’ll see.

Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Soup – Only 150 calories!

Since I’m on a cauliflower kick I thought I’d keep going with the fun new recipes! Last night I was looking for something delicious and healthy with veggies I had on hand.

I’ve been loving the Archer Farms frozen butternut squash lately because it is so much easier to get cubed squash this way! Seriously, have you ever tried cutting into one of those bad boys? I always feel like I’m going to chop my hand off. This is a really easy solution and it makes me much more likely to cook with healthy veggies.

In fact I use a lot of frozen vegetables. Whenever I buy fresh veggies I immediately chop them, transfer them to zip bags, and pop them in the freezer. This way I know there are no preservatives, and my veggies don’t go bad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown away perfectly good produce because we just can’t get to it fast enough.  I especially love doing this with onions and peppers. I love having these chopped and ready to go, to add a bit of flavour to tons of dishes. It really makes dinner time a cinch. This is also great for smoothie fruit. Currently my freezer is stocked with frozen strawberries, mangoes, pineapple, spinach, and blueberries all ready for a delicious smoothie.

So for this recipe I had one head of cauliflower and one bag of frozen butternut squash. This made for a super delicious really low calorie soup that i’m sure you’ll love! I had originally planned on adding some herbs and spices, but once I tasted the soup, the incredible vegetable flavours just spoke for themselves. I love when a recipe with so few ingredients tastes so amazing. You’ll find that it favors the taste and texture of potato soup, but without all the carbs! I think in the future I might try it with more squash, I love the orange color.

Here’s the best part: The whole pot was only 624 calories! This recipe serves 4, so that means only about 150 calories per bowl. I can’t wait for you to try it. It is definitely going to be a new favourite in our home.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 medium (4″-5″) head of cauliflower, greenery  and stalks removed
  • 2 cups of butternut squash cubed
  • 5 cups of chicken stock. (I like the swanson cartons because they are always bogo at publix and I stock up… lol no pun intended. I wish I was fancy enough to make my own but I just don’t have that kind of time.)
  • 2 T butter or spread
  • 1 cup of half and half or milk (low fat milk will make this lower in calories but less creamy)
  • Salt & Pepper

Here’s what to do:

Start by boiling the cauliflower for about 8 minutes, add the butternut squash and boil for another 10 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add the stock and with an emersion blender, blend until everything is smooth. Add the cream, s&p, and butter, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Do not boil.

Seriously, that’s it. This recipe is so easy, delicious and healthy. Go make it!

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Low Carb Low Calorie Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

So as you know I’ve been trying to cut back on the poundage. Its just hard to cut out all my favourite meals when I’m trying to lose weight. So last night when Adam asked for Shepherd’s pie (which is a staple in our home), my wheels started turning about how I could make it lower in calories.

Side note: What most people in America refer to as “Shepherd’s Pie” is actually cottage pie. Technically Shepherd’s Pie is supposed to have ground lamb, cottage pie has ground beef. Silly yanks!

 

Since I use lean beef the calories aren’t too bad there, and obviously I could cut back on the amount of cheese I use on top, but what about those mashed potatoes? I thought maybe I could cut back on the butter and cream, but at 237 calories + 37 carbs per cup I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter mashed cauliflower.

I’ve had it before and it was really good as a side dish, and super low in calories and carbs. Only 24 calories per cup and only 4 carbs. Yes!

So here’s my recipe that I’ve perfected over the years…

1 lb lean ground beef

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 cup chopped red onions

1/2 cup shredded or finely diced carrots

1 can of peas, drained.

1 cup of shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

1/2 cup red wine + 1 cup

1/4 cup worcestershire sauce

1-2 T butter or spread

3 tsp garlic powder

1 T minced garlic

salt and pepper

Here’s what to do:

Cut the green pieces and center stalks off the cauliflower head and discard. Throw the whole chunk of cauliflower into a pot of boiling, salted water.

Start by sautéing the onions, garlic, and carrots until slightly soft. Add your ground beef and cook through. Once everything is all cooked, add the 1/2 cup of wine, and pour the other cup in a glass. Drink. Add the worcestershire, garlic powder, salt and lots of pepper to the pan. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside.

When the cauliflower is soft, drain well and return to the pot. Mash with a potato masher and add the butter (or fat free spread), 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt. Cook over medium heat until all the liquid is cooked out. The cauliflower turns surprisingly watery after it is mashed. You don’t need milk or anything to make it creamy.

Transfer the beef mixture to a pyrex dish. Spread out to make a nice flat bottom layer. Add the mashed cauliflower and smooth out. Pour the peas over top of that layer and press down into the cauliflower. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and heat through. Sometimes I like to broil the top for about 2 minutes at the end to make it nice and crisp.

Enjoy! :)

Decorating on a Dime

Today I thought I’d begin a series of low budget decoration ideas. I’ve decorated my entire apartment for dirt cheap using a variety of resources available to all of you. I don’t think I’ve paid full price for a single decor item in my entire house.

I’m going to show you, piece by piece, how I did it.

Today I’ll start with my living room. Part of it anyway.

The sofa is a leather and microfiber sectional that I got on craig’s list. It took some time to find the exact one I was looking for, but it was worth it! I sold my previous sofa for $300, and haggled the price on the new one down from $700 to $400, making my final cost on a new-to-me-couch only $100. Now that’s thrifty!

The original pillows were brown, neutral beige, and brown zebra stripe. The colors were WAY too neutral for me and I decided to brighten things up. Lucky for me they are exactly 26″x26″ the same size as Euro pillows. There were originally 8, but it was just too bulky so 2 of them are currently doubling as Euro pillows on my bed, and one is an accent pillow on another chair. Because of this standard size I was able to find ready made Euro sham covers at Bed, Bath and Beyond that fit perfectly! The coral is an awesome Amy Butler pattern that was originally $50 each, but I had my 20% off coupons and got three for a nice discount!

The yellow is an awesome fabric I found at Hancock’s which was 50% off. I had originally seen the print on etsy and figured I could totally make them myself.The basic pillow case was easy enough to sew but I didn’t know how to do the piping, so I found a sweet video on youtube and figured it out in no time. Total cost for the two euro shams plus an extra throw pillow- $12. The throw pillows are from the DIY Cloth Napkin Pillow post. 

For the wall art I had this amazing nautical map of Puerto Rico that I got when I worked for Princess Cruises in Los Angeles. This is a real map that was used on a Princess Ship. You can even see the real captain’s handwriting! How cool is that?

The other two map prints were $12 for both on ebay. The frames came from Michael’s marked down 50% off plus another 15% off with a coupon.