This Is Why…

Hello, hello, hellooooo!

As you can probably tell, I am feeling much better. I am finally getting over whatever it was I had, thanks in part to lots of tea and tissues, homemade soup, my wonderful husband and a ridiculous amount of sleep. One more day and I think I will be completely healthy again.

I am excited to bring you new posts, as briefly detailed in my last entry…and more! Again, I apologize for the lack of writing on my part, having been out of work for a few days last week things have been ridiculous.

Anyway… I saw this article yesterday. I think it pretty clearly outlines yet another reason why I try to avoid fast food, processed food or factory produced meats.  In case you missed my post on this the first time around, here is the link.

Basically, McDonald’s said that they would stop using ammonia treated beef (or as my friend BG put it, “Ghostbusters’ slime”)… my question? Why the heck were they using ammonia treated beef in the first place?! The answer: ammonium hydroxide is used as an anti-microbial, making (very) low quality meat okay for consumption.

The chemical is also used in many every day household cleaners and to darken wood. Yum.  The FDA has determined that the use of ammonium hydroxide is safe… regardless, I don’t personally believe that eating cheeseburgers-and other foods-containing a substance used in my window cleaner is very appetizing…or healthy, for that matter.

If you read on in the first article, it also discusses other substances used in everyday processed/pre-made/frozen/fast foods. Nothing wrong with eating shellac or sand, right? Thanks, but no thanks.

In short, I’ll be sticking with my local, grass-fed meat, vegetables from our garden and homemade breads… Buy local!

Sources: 

Yahoo! The Sideshow- http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mcdonald-confirms-no-longer-using-pink-slime-chemicals-171209662.html

Wickipedia: Ammonium Hydroxide– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_hydroxide

FoodInsight.Org: Questions and Answers about Ammonium Hydroxide Used In Food Production- http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Questions_and_Answers_about_Ammonium_Hydroxide_Use_in_Food_Production


Ricotta My Mind!

I made ricotta cheese. Yeah, put that in your spoon and eat it…. seriously, this stuff is delicious! I’m pleading with you to make this ASAP.

I used the Smitten Kitchen Ricotta Recipe. I love Deb because she makes you feel like you can conquer the world with whatever you’re making…granted this was a whole heck of a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, but her advice always helps. Plus, she reads every comment and is quick to answer reader questions and concerns. Super woman? I think so.

I didn’t have a thermometer so I ended up picking one up at the hardware store for about $8.00. It’s a meat thermometer but it works (side note: if you don’t have a thermometer, scroll down and read the comments section on the SK post, Deb gives a good description of what the milk should look like when at temperature).

I went with the 3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream combination and it did not disappoint. For the lemon juice, I just squeezed the juice from one lemon, so I may have had a little more, but it gave the cheese an awesome hint of zest. Heavenly. And none of those weird gums or stabilizers that they add to the store brand!

"The waiting is the hardest part"

This recipe yielded a little over a cup. We are using it for lasagna, but I seriously had to talk myself out of just eating it by itself. It would also be scrumptious with a  nice crusty bread.

The Finished Product

So basically… I will never buy ricotta again. Life changed.


Wednesday’s Realizations

Although it is only Wednesday, I have come to a number of realizations this week. Super important stuff, let me tell you.

1. Don’t wear a sweater to the second job on Trivia Night.  It gets way too hot.

2. Don’t drink coffee while wearing a white scarf.

3. I really need to stop forgetting my hat and gloves.

4. Breakfast makes life so much better.

5. So does homemade bread.

6. Annie’s Mac and Cheese is delicious when substituting Greek Yogurt for milk. New obsession? Probably.

7. I really want to make this Cheeseburger Salad.

8. And these Roasted and Shredded Beef Sandwiches.

9. I must consume this soup sometime soon (veggies and beans). For reals.

10. And these tacos (black beans and sweet potatoes), oh my sweet lord.

11. I think I am addicted to food blogs. Or just food. Maybe both. Help?

12. No matter where my media naranja is in the world, she totally gets me. ChocPBPretzels. Ugh!

13. My husband is at home baking bread right now. I am the luckiest woman on the planet.

Rocking out to Journey is an essential part of the process.

14. As much as I am not a morning person, I love seeing the sunrise everyday on my way to work.

15. Lunges really kick my butt (ha).

That’s all for now!

Until next time….


Bling Blingin’

So, I am writing this post for two reasons. One is to give you all an awesome gift idea, not only for Christmas, but for anytime. And two, I’ve had a ton of people ask me who made the jewelry for my bridesmaids. I figured this would kill two birds with one stone.

My gorgeous sister...wearing that awesome necklace!

Ben and I were very adamant about having a custom wedding. We did our own food, cake, and even had custom wine bottles made (I promise, I will do a post about this soon). I also wanted a fun gift for my bridesmaids. I know jewelry isn’t the most unique gift in the world, but I knew that they would love wearing something that wasn’t mass-produced and having something they could wear more than once.

After many emails, we came up with this necklace. It was exactly what I wanted and it turned out to be a huge hit.

Custom Made Bridesmaid Jewelry

That being said, allow me to introduce my friend Kate:

Kate and I ran track together in high school. After graduation, Kate moved to New Mexico to chase her dreams. She now lives in Oklahoma with her husband. As the ranch keeps her pretty busy, making jewelry is a hobby…a hobby that she is really good at.  I asked Kate to answer a few questions about her creative process, take a look!

Noelle’s Notebook: How did you start making jewelry?

Kate:The way that I actually got into making jewelry was kind of funny- and I should say that I mostly owe it to my husband, Ben.  He and I, along with my mom, were on a trip back to NY to see family and one of my mom’s necklaces broke (not one from us, but another that she had bought elsewhere).  I have to give Ben credit and say that he is a jack of all trades, and she knew that at the time too; so she asked him if he could figure something out to fix it while she was there, seeing that it was the first day- it had broken in her luggage, and she really wanted to wear it while there.

Ben and I studied the piece and said if we went to an arts & crafts store we thought we could figure it out.  Sure enough, we gathered up what we thought were the correct pieces, re-strung her necklace and it’s been fixed ever since.  While we were there though, we saw all of the loose beads and we go the idea to grab a few strands and see what we could do with them.  We started out really simple and with cheaper beads and materials, but now have advanced to more technical and higher quality work.

One of Kate's earring sets

 NN: Where do you draw your inspiration/where do you get your ideas?

Kate: You know, it’s kind of funny because I’m not sure.  I love getting a huge order of beads and just playing.  I might envision something when I place an order, but then when I get it, it doesn’t look good, but something else does.  I pay attention to trends and do a lot of turquoise and western jewelry because we live in OK.  My main focus for this has been jewelry that is made for today’s western women and little cowgirls.  But since this is a glorified hobby for me, I changed that some because my biggest customers are my family and friends- and seeing how they span the U.S., I have changed my style from all western to a little bit of everything, but still with a cowgirl twist.

NN: What kinds of materials do you use?

Kate: As far as beads we use everything you could imagine from glass and plastic to genuine natural gemstones etc.   We use stones like lapis, quartz, and tiger’s eye, and then at other times, howlite and magnesite, turquoise, amethyst and everything in between.  Most of our hardware is silver but we have used some gold and tarnished gold for special orders.

NN: Will this ever turn into a full-time venture? Or is it just for fun?

Kate: Right now I call it a “glorified” hobby.  It has gotten much bigger than I ever imagined.  It started like I said, with just family and now some friends buy it too.  It will always be fun, but I would like for it to get bigger in the future.  As far as full-time, probably not.  Ben and I manage a 1,900 acre ranch, so that has most of my attention.  However, as a side business, I definitely would love to see a future in the jewelry making

NN: Any advice for fellow jewelry-makers?

Kate: My biggest piece of advice would be to have fun with it.  It is such a great thing to see people wearing your jewelry or have them tell you how much they love their pieces.  In having fun with doing it, don’t forget your roots.  Be playful with your creations but if have a common theme in what you make, that will help customers to develop a real grasp on what your  style, attitude, and personality  is all about.
NN: Where is the strangest place you’ve had to send jewelry?

Kate: I have shipped to a lady who lives in Australia, twice.  She is a repeat customer and has become a good friend.  Besides that, nowhere too weird.  Coast to coast though- NY to CA and lots in between.

NN: What is your favorite piece?

Kate: That’s definitely the toughest question you’ve asked.  I always make pieces and say “I think this is my most favorite, EVER!”  And then Ben reminds me how many times I have said that before.  I don’t have just one.  I love a lot of the pieces I make with pendants.

The funny thing is, I only own two pieces of my own jewelry.  We don’t go out and get dressed up enough for me to keep a lot of it, so I would rather see other people have some enjoyment with it.  I always joke and say “The cows and horses don’t care if I have jewelry on or how I look”, because they are majority of what we work with everyday.  If I had a job in town or an office job, that would definitely change though, two would not cut it!

If you’re interested in any of Kate’s pieces, email her at ktirwin12@yahoo.com I can tell you that she is great to work with, has VERY reasonable prices and is very quick to ship. Do it. Now!