Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beat the Heat on RISING Tomorrow!

OMG, it is SO hot outside!  The heat hits you as soon as you open the door - it's hot, your hair gets frizzy and I personally feel icky when it's this hot out.  Tomorrow on Charlotte's WCCB News Rising we're gonna show you quick and easy ways to beat the heat.  It's called the Ice, Ice Baby edition with all things yummy and crafty to help you stay cool (literally and figuratively).  The segment airs around 8:40ish Wednesday morning.  If WCCB isn't part of your channel lineup, you can watch the live streaming broadcast online here.  Stay cool and we'll see you tomorrow!

Ice, Ice Baby on RISING Tomorrow!

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer's Best Lemonade!

Lemonade is one of my favorite summer treats.  I love the touch of sweet combined with that pucker up tart lemon flavor.  Homemade lemonade is also more healthy than soda or other sugary drinks.  The recipe today is inspired by lemonade with fresh herbs served for my wedding shower and it was delicious.  This lemonade is simple to make.  If you have an electric juicer the effort is minimal, if you don't (like me) there is a bit of work involved but it's not hard labor.

Happy Summer!
This recipe will make two gallons of lemonade.  I used 10 very small lemons, 2 cups of sugar, water, and a handful of fresh mint and fresh basil from my plants.  The investment is about $4 - and the lemons were not on sale.  For measuring purposes, count on one cup of sugar per gallon and 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice per gallon.  If you want to add more sugar or more lemons, add them.  I don't like syrupy sweet lemonade so this recipe isn't overly sweet.

Ingredient List
Begin by making a simple syrup with about 4 cups of water and the sugar.  Slowly heat the water and pour the sugar in.  Stir frequently until the sugar dissolves.  Don't let it burn.  Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off the burner and set the pot aside.

Dissolve sugar into a simple syrup
Before juicing the lemons, I added zest from 2-3 of them into the bottom of the lemon juice bowl. It adds more lemon flavor to use the entire lemon.

Zest lemon into the bowl
Juice the lemons.  I made 3 cups of juice for two gallons of lemonade.  It took about 30 minutes to juice 10 by hand.  Be sure you completely juice the lemons so you won't waste any juice.

Juice the lemons
Lemon Juice at Last!  Whew!

Lemon Juice
Make sachets of herbs to float in the lemonade.  I used an onion bag.  Some lemons come in a net bag so use whatever you have.

Prepare the herbs
 Roughly chop the herbs into the net.

Tie the ends of the netting into a knot. Leave room for the liquid to circulate around the herbs and don't pack them in the netting too tightly.

Herbs ready for lemonade
Pour the simple syrup and the lemon juice into your container and stir.  Drop the herb satchel into the lemonade.  Add one gallon of water and stir and then the rest of the water as needed.  Taste the lemonade as you add water so you don't water down the flavor beyond what you like.  Once the water is added, allow the lemonade to refrigerate overnight so the herbs will marinate in the citrus acid and flavor the lemonade.

Almost ready to drink!
Serve with slices of lemon floating in the pitcher for visual effect.  You may also slice left over lemons to for individual servings on glasses with fresh herbs.

Lemonade ready to serve
 Invite your friends over for an afternoon on the front porch and enjoy your summer!


#summer #summertime #lemonade #kids #lemons #recipe #diy
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Simple Summer Popsicles!

It’s SO hot outside!  This summer heat isn’t going away any time soon.  The best way to beat the heat is to cool down with something delicious and fun – popsicles! It is incredibly easy to make your own and tailor the treats with your favorite flavors.  Making popsicles yourself also allows you to have more control over the nutrition and specifically sugar content.  Let’s be honest, those plastic packages with colored water waiting to be frozen in the supermarket are a little scary (have you checked out the ingredient list?).
Beat The Heat Popsicles!

The prep time is minimal and homemade popsicles can freeze overnight for a simple next-day treat.  Popsicles also make a quirky after dinner dessert for a chic party.  Each recipe below is a suggestion – add or substitute any fruits or juices you like.  Popsicle molds may be purchased at any dollar or discount store at a minimal cost.  Get the kids involved and they’ll be excited to gobble up their creations!

Tooty-Fruity Popsicles 

(Makes 6 Popsicles)
  • 1 Cup Red or White Grape Juice (you may also sub orange or another juice)
  • ½ Cup Water
  • ½ Cup Blueberries
  • ½ Cup Sliced Strawberries
  • ½ Cup Sliced Peach or Nectarine
  • 1-2 Kiwis Sliced
Place the fruits into the popsicle molds.  The slices need to be firmly in place in the mold.  Combine the juice with the water (you may use straight juice; I add water to lower the sugar content).  Place the lids on the mold cups or add popsicle sticks into each one.  Freeze overnight.

Southern Peach Popsicles

(Makes 6 Popsicles)
  • 3 Cups Ripe, Peeled Peaches
  • 2 TBS Brown Sugar or Honey
Puree 2 cups peaches in blender or food processor.  Add Sugar/Honey once puree is smooth.  Add remaining cup of peaches and pulse a couple of times for the peaches added to be chopped but not pureed (you want chunks in the mixture).  Pour mixture into popsicle mold and place lids or sticks on top.  Freeze overnight.  This recipe also works well with nectarines, strawberries, watermelon, or berries of your choice.

My Personal Go-To Snack

(Makes 6 Popsicles)
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice or Red Grape Juice
Pour the juice into the popsicle molds and place lids or popsicle sticks on top.  Freeze overnight. This is one of my favorite summer snacks, especially when I’m craving a sweet snack with a low fat content.  Sometimes, I’ll eat two!
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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Easy 4th of July Tips & Last Minute Tricks!

The 4th of July is here!  I'm loving the long weekend and all the festivities that surround the holiday.  I've already seen fireworks and been to outdoor cook-outs and it isn't even the big day.  So if you're a little behind or stumped for your 4th celebration (because it's already been done), check out the video and how-to's below for some new twists on fun food and decor originals.....and all for less time and dollars.  Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July!


Red, White and BOOM: DIY Tips to Turn Your Patio Into a Party

Amp up your S'mores game with a DIY S'mores bar.  I like to add a gourmet element by replacing the graham crackers with thin mint cookies or rice krispie treats.  Using flavored chocolates is really, really delicious too.  Ghirardelli Mini's are great for S'mores because they're sized just right for the marshmallows......and they're filled with yummy things like caramel!  These S'mores may be made over an open fire or pots filled with stone and sterno if the weather is inclement.

Gourmet DIY S'mores Bar
Use yard sticks and Christmas lights to make a "two for" holiday star.  This star may be used for the 4th and also Christmas - and it's easy to assemble!

Holiday Star
The photo below tells the story.  You'll need 5 yard sticks, spray paint (or markers and glitter), small nails, and thumb tacks.  Paint the sticks and nail them together in a star pattern with small nails.  Use thumb tacks or electrical tape to affix the lights to the back and presto - a star for less than $6.

How-to star style
The smaller stars are super simple.  Spray paint stirring sticks (they're free) at any hardware or discount store that sells paint.  Use wood glue to glue them in a star shape.  These are great because kids may decorate them with markers or stickers or glitter and they're a great project to keep the little ones busy.

How-to stars for kids
And to end on a yummy star note......frozen star watermelon pops!  Cut star shapes from slices of watermelon.  I added a lollipop stick and froze them for a good-for-you popsicle!  Frozen watermelon chunks in lieu of ice in cocktails or flavored water is also delicious.  Send the kids outside with a holiday treat that they'll love - plus they're inexpensive and take minutes to make.  So, so good!

Frozen watermelon pops

#julyfourth #4thofjuly

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Effortless 4th of July on WCCB Rising Tomorrow!

It's almost the 4th of July!  The weather is warm and sunny and it's time to get outside and celebrate all things red, white, and blue!  Tune in Wednesday morning to Charlotte's WCCB Rising for all things 4th of July that you (or the kiddos) can do in a hurry and on a budget.  We'll have a party from start to finish with decor and food - and don't forget the fun!  Be sure to check in with the blog this week for how-to's on all the things seen on the show plus bonus tips!

Our shindig starts Wednesday around 8:30ish so don't miss out.  If WCCB isn't part of your channel line up, click here for the live stream.  See you tomorrow and Happy Fourth of July!! 

Effortless Girl Fourth of July!

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Homemade Household Cleaners

It's been a while, I know, I'll explain later.  Anyway, I hate chemicals.  Walking down the cleaning aisle in the supermarket or discount store makes me hold my breath.  Everything smells so strong and frankly gross.  The mix of hundreds of different chemicals down that one tiny aisle is dizzying (literally).  Are these chemicals really necessary to beat household grime?  Isn't it ironic to introduce another chemical into your household just to clean a stain or shine a surface - using something icky to make something less icky?  I'm not a scientist (clearly) but I know that there are easy all natural ways to achieve clean without harsh chemicals.  Household cleaners can be made with all natural products and for less money than you'd spend on a commercial product.  I'll show you.....

Natural Household Cleaners
Check out the video for more info and the detailed how to is below.

DIY House Cleaners With The 'Effortless Girl' Julie Loven - WCCB Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC - Some household cleaning products contain chemicals that could potentially do more harm than good, but fortunately there's an alternative. ' Effortless Girl ' Julie Loven shows you how to make natural cleaners that will have your house spotless in no time. You can get more details here.

First, not all surfaces are made for the cleaners we're talking about.  Porous surfaces like marble or wood will discolor or scratch.  Use common sense and test a small area before you use any of these products or you might ruin your entire surface.  You've been warned so be responsible.

I spent about $8 to make a variety of household cleaners.  I bought white vinegar, lemons, baking soda, alcohol, and borax.  You'll need empty spray bottles.  These may be purchased at a discount store.  The time to make everything is less than 30 minutes so the investment is minimal cost and time wise.

I'll start with the toughest first.  Lemons are good for everything.  They're great for facial exfoliating, cleaning tough stains and grime, and killing disgusting odors.  My bathtub is made from fiberglass and after several oil baths gets sticky and gross.  This is where the power of the lemon comes to my rescue.  Cut a lemon in half and dip it into Borax powder.  (In all honesty, the lemon alone works great too.) 

Lemon and Borax powder
Use the lemon half like a scrubbing sponge.  This is great to use for all types of grime - test the surface first - but I use it for ceramic tile and kitchen sink stains as well.  You don't even have to press that hard and the grime dissolves in no time.

Make a lemon scrubber
Once you've cleaned the surface, cut up the lemon, peel and all, and throw it into the sink disposal.  The lemon will clean the disposal blades and also make the disposal smell fresh and clean.  For extra gross odors in the sink, pour in 1 cup of white vinegar and give the disposal a spin.  Allow the vinegar to sit for about 10 minutes and then throw in the lemon.  Presto, it will be clean and fresh.

Use lemon to freshen disposal
Commercial glass cleaner burns my eyes.  Anything that makes your eyes burn can't be good for you.  Homemade glass cleaner is easy to make and this is not so stinky and doesn't have chemicals you can't pronounce.  Pour 2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle.  Use as your normally would use glass cleaner for a streak free shine.  Some people use newspaper to clean their windows instead, but I'm not totally sold on this.  Feel free to comment on your experience below.

Homemade Glass Cleaner
All purpose cleaner can be made for far less you can purchase it and I think it works the same.  Again, this recipe uses two ingredients and it's not so chemically, if that's a word.  I use 4 tablespoons of baking soda and about 1 quart of warm water.  I mix it each time I'm cleaning because I think warm water works better, maybe that's just me.  Give the bottle a good shake and go to work.  I like this because it works on different stains and household messes and is great for bathroom cleaning as well.

For tough oven stains, sprinkle some baking soda on the stain and spray this on top.  Allow to sit for an hour or so and the oven stains go away quickly with not so much scrubbing.  

All Purpose Cleaner
A good degreaser is a must if you like to cook.  This cleaner is great to use on the stove top and eliminates grease and left over grill residue effectively - again without the harsh chemicals.  Pour 2 cups of water, 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of baking soda into a spray bottle.  This can be made as you need it or a bottle at a time.  Give the bottle a good shake regardless and you'll be good to go.

Homemade Degreaser
And finally the toilet.....Pour 2 cups of white vinegar into a flushed toilet.  Scrub the toilet with a brush and let the vinegar sit for about 20-30 minutes.  Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and also helps keep the bowl white.  It is the best all natural deodorizer I have found so this is a huge plus for bathroom cleaning.  

Vinegar Toilet Cleaner

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Mothers are special people.  I think it takes a special person to be willing to bear the pain of child birth, sometimes numerous times, and then bear the trials and tribulations of raising their children.  In this crazy world we live in with so many horrible influences, it must be a sometimes excruciating task.  Good mothers not only care for their children’s physical needs, but they also teach values, character, and integrity.  Proverbs 31 talks about remarkable mothers writing, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed.”  I was blessed with an extraordinary mom.

My mom, my cheerleader

There were four kids in our family.  My mom made sure we had good manners, if we didn’t have good manners that meant trouble. I think being raised in the Church of God had something to do with that.  We didn’t always have so much money, but being the resourceful gal she is – we never knew it.  She taught us that having good character meant more than having material things.  Mom made games out of the mundane things in life, couponing was a game, housework was a race…I never realized it wasn’t supposed to be fun until I was older.  

Mom made sure we had “culture.”  I hated, hated spending time at music lessons or working so hard on school work.  We didn’t have to be the best, but we had to do our best.  I thought sometimes it was a little dictatorial.  What I didn’t understand at the time was that instilling the value of hard work in her children was something that would be invaluable to us as we got older.  

There are many things you don’t comprehend as you are growing up.  You don’t always appreciate the lessons; sometimes you don’t even know you are learning a lesson.  Now that I’m (mostly) grown, I know how special my mama is.  My mom is my biggest cheerleader and my most loyal supporter.  She is that quiet worker in the background helping to make sure things go just a little easier.  Mom taught us to be independent thinkers and doers.  If you work hard enough you can accomplish almost anything.  I know that because I’ve watched my mom do it year after year.

The greatest gift mama gave me was her example of how a Christian woman should live.  She is an amazing wife, mother, and friend.  At the end of the day, I hope that I may be a portion of the person that mom is.  Thank you mama for being so special and we love you very much. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day Baking - Great for Kids!

To celebrate Earth Day, here is an easy cookie project that comes together very quickly. This baking idea comes to us courtesy of Christina Banner Cakes. Christina is an amazing professional baker and makes exquisite creations of all kinds!  All ages can join in the fun of creating this “Love the Earth” cookie!  Using one roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough and handful of easy to find ingredients, you can create a tray of sweet cookies that celebrate our planet!

Love the Earth Cookie!
To celebrate Earth Day, here is an easy cookie project that comes together very quickly.  All ages can join in the fun of creating this “Love the Earth” cookie!  Using one roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough and handful of easy to find ingredients, you can create a tray of sweet cookies that celebrate our planet!

For approximately 12 cookies:

1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough, approximately 16 oz.
A pinch of cocoa powder
6 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
A drop of yellow liquid food color
¼ teaspoon blue liquid food color
⅛ teaspoon green liquid food color
Approximately ¼ cup of white chocolate chips or white candy disks (Candy Melts)
½ to 1 cup red chocolate candy disks (Candy Melts); the amount needed depends on the size heart you cut out in your cookies (a smaller heart will use less, and larger heart will use more)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the roll of cookie dough.  Divide the dough into three sections: one piece approximately ½ an inch, one piece 7 to 8 inches long, and one piece approximately 4 inches long.  

Cut the Dough

Knead 1 teaspoon of flour and a pinch of cocoa powder into the ½” section of dough.  Once the flour is incorporated, knead in a drop of yellow food color until combined.  Set this dough aside.

Knead Cocoa and Food Coloring

Knead 4 tablespoons of flour into the 7” long section of dough.  When all of the flour is incorporated, knead in ¼ teaspoon of blue food color (disposable gloves strongly recommended).  Set this dough aside.

Knead in Flour

Add Food Coloring

Knead 2 tablespoons of flour into the remaining 4” section of dough.  When all of the flour is incorporated, knead in ⅛ teaspoon green food color.  Set the dough aside.

The "earth" takes begins!
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with one color at a time, roll the dough section into a log shape, and then divide the log into 12 equal pieces.  Repeat with the other two colored dough sections.

Colored Dough

To make a cookie, take one piece of each color in your hand and gently work the colors together to marble them (be careful not to mix the colors too much or you will not see the swirls of the three colors in the finished cookie).

Mix the dough colors
Roll into a ball and flatten it slightly with your palms.  Place the cookies on the parchment lined baking sheets,  placing six cookies on each sheet.

Roll into a cookie ball

Ready To Bake!

Bake the cookies for 9 to 12 minutes, until firm but not yet beginning to brown.  Remove the tray from the oven and set it aside to allow the cookies to cool just a little, about 5 minutes.  While the cookies are still warm, use a metal heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a heart shape in each cookie.  Remove the cut out and allow the cookies to cool completely on the trays.

Cut a Heart

Put the red chocolate in a zip-top freezer bag, seal the top of the bag and place the bag in a bowl of hot tap water.  It will take about 5 minutes to melt completely.

Melt Red Chocolate

Meanwhile, put the white chocolate in a small bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds, until fully melted.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the white chocolate in wispy swirls over each cookie.

Brush White Chocolate 
Remove the bag of melted red chocolate from the bowl of hot water, and dry off the outside of the bag.  Knead the bag a bit to ensure that all of the chocolate is fully melted.  Use scissors to snip a small opening from one corner of the bag.

Carefully fill the cut-out heart on each cookie with the melted red chocolate.  Allow the cookies to sit until the chocolate sets.  Once the chocolate is set, remove the cookies from the tray.
Fill the Heart

Love the Earth Cookie!

Visit Christina on Instagram and Facebook - Thanks Christina!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bar Method - Day 1 of My Fitness Quest!

I'm on a journey to getting in better shape, because right now I'm not so much.  I'm at the point where for my health it has to happen.  I taught aerobics in college, lifted weights, and obsessively practiced yoga so I've been there before - but life happens and work happens and other things slowly took precedence over fitness.  Sigh.  For the sake of my wellness and overcoming my disease, I'm doing this.  

Day one was at Charlotte's Bar Method Studio.  Autumn, the owner, is a really sweet lady that opened the South Park location.   I decided I needed a group fitness setting because I don't know about my solo motivation at this point.  I was scared and sweaty before the class since I really wasn't sure if I could even do it.  My friend Angie went with me for moral support (she's in awesome shape).  I'll just say this - Bar Method is completely amazing. (no joke)

Bar Method
I took ballet lessons as a kid so I had the slightest idea of what a class would be like (without the skin tight leotard of course).  The studio was great from the entrance.  Everyone was warm and welcoming and the facility is beautiful.  There are two rooms for classes, we were in the larger of the two and really plush carpet.  It can't be that hard with carpet, right?

The Bar
The setting immediately puts you at ease.  It has lots of natural light and floor to ceiling windows and all neutral colors.   There is no pulsing music or people in inappropriately tight clothing.  My class had all different fitness levels among the participants so I wasn't freaking out about my first class.

The studio
The Bar Method exercise targets the muscles that play the greatest role in body change, then keeps these muscles working intensely and safely long enough for them to change.  It then intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look and feel more longer and more graceful.  You use a series of weights and mats during the class.

The equipment
As the class began, our instructor gave everyone gentle correction but also loads of praise.  I was grateful for the adjustments so I didn't hurt myself and my form improved during the class.  We began with warm ups and then light weights.  I started to really feel my muscles twitch and I wasn't convinced I would make it through the class.  (I had very bad anxiety as a fitness newbie).

The Bar Method workout is a fast-paced form of interval training that maximizes caloric burn during every class.  This format gives students slimmer, leaner bodies after a few months of regular attendance.  It really is for all sizes and fitness ranges.

The Mats
The class moved quickly so we weren't stuck doing one exercise or move for a long time.  There are modifications for each set of movements - if you're stronger in one area you can up the intensity or cool it with another move.  We moved from the floor to the bar.  I learned quickly that form was more important than trying to over-do a move.  I got really sweaty.  I could do some and couldn't completely do others.  The last half of the class was on the floor on mats.  The ab work is amazing.  It's like crunches that hurt, but they're so gentle on the body you don't know it.....It's hard to explain

I felt great after the class and I'm going back for more.  I think Bar Method tricks you into fitness because the moves aren't so hard that you feel like dying but you are SORE the next day in a good way.
After the class
Okay, so you've got to try this method.  I would definitely recommend it for those especially like me that are returning to the fitness game.  The studio is amazing, the instructors and staff are super encouraging, and to be honest I was so happy when I left.  I left the studio feeling really proud of myself for doing it and it was a major confidence booster for me.  This was an excellent choice for my first class back and you will see me at The Bar Method studio again. 

Thanks to Autumn and staff at South Park for being awesome.  Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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