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Today I learned about an event that sounds like it could be a lot of fun. It’s called Ladies’ Day Off, and its debut will be taking place this Saturday, June 28th at Queen’s Harbour Yacht & Country Club from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. What really caught my attention about this event is that its focus is to provide a retreat for women from their professional and personal responsibilities by giving them an opportunity to network, relax, learn about local services and products, as well as support local charitable organizations.
Saturday’s agenda includes:
- Yoga on the lawn
- Make-up demos
- Mini spa services on-site
- Hors d’oeuvres
- Cocktails & more!
While all of the above sounds amazing, I’m already spoken for this weekend. However, the women behind Ladies’ Day Off have graciously offered to let me send one of my readers in my stead. Pretty neat, huh?
If Ladies Day Off sounds like something you could use (and I imagine that’s most of us), use the entry form below to stake your claim! Because the event takes place this Saturday, you don’t have much time to put yourself in the running – I’ll pull a winner via Rafflecopter tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Looking for an egg-citing way to add a little color to your Easter egg routine? Kick those egg color kits to the curb, make a quick trip to the produce section, and as quick as a twitch from the Easter Bunny’s tail, you’ll be ready to cook up your own homemade, natural Easter egg dye.
While I’ll admit that the pre-packaged kits are pretty convenient, this hands-on art project/science experiment is a surefire way to get your friends or family engaged in the egg-dyeing process. You’ll also be rewarded with unique, earthy tones you just can’t get from a box. Add a spritz of olive oil to your newly dyed eggs, and your little works of art will positively shine!
I’ve collected some of the easiest to assemble ingredients below to help you prep your color batches:
Yellow onion skins (Boiled)
Orange/Lemon Peels (Boiled)
Celery Leaves (Boiled)
Purple Grape Juice
Red cabbage (Boiled)
No two batches of naturally dyed Easter eggs are ever the same, and the colors that you get from the ingredients above will vary based on the amount of each ingredient used and how long you let your eggs steep in the resulting dye.
While you can cook your eggs in with your dye batches to save some time, we recommend creating your dyes first, then steeping your eggs (if you plan on being able to eat them after the hunt is over, that is).
Preparing Your Dye
I’ve noted the items above that need to be boiled in order to prepare your dye.
If you plan on using beets, carrots, orange peels, spinach, or berries, you need to plan to have 2-4 cups of the required ingredient. The more of each ingredient you use, the deeper your resulting colors will be.
- In a saucepan, add your color ingredient (orange peels for example).
- Add enough water to measure at least one inch over the peels.
- Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours (until the water is several shades darker than you’d like your eggs to be).
- Remove the saucepan from heat, and pour into a measuring cup (straining the liquid through a sieve as your pour).
- Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per every cup of dye – this serves as a fixative to help set the color on your eggs. (For ingredients that you did not boil, add one part vinegar for every three parts dye.)
- Pour the color into a bowl deep enough to cover your eggs entirely.
While you’re working on making your dyes, you can also prep your eggs by having them cook by themselves on an additional burner. I’ve included a handy recipe below for making sure you get perfectly hard-boiled eggs.
(from Southern Living Cookbook)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Place desired number of eggs in a single layer in a saucepan.
- Add enough water to measure at least 1 inch above the eggs.
- Cover and quickly bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat.
- Let stand, covered, in hot water for 15 minutes (large eggs)
- Pour off water.
- Immediately run cold water over eggs, or place them in ice water until completely cooled.
Once your dyes have been created and your eggs have boiled (and cooled) – you’re ready to paint the town! Experiment with steep times to get different depths of color. For deep, rich tones, you can also soak your eggs in dye overnight (just keep them in the fridge).
Thanks for tuning into to my Easter egg tutorial. Now hop to it!
I got to spend some quality time with Steph and Katie, two of my best gal pals, this weekend for a much-needed craft day. This month’s mission? A slightly distressed, hand-painted sign with a meaningful quote. (Doesn’t sound too hard, right?) Steph was the ringleader on this particular project. She used her super Pinterest-sleuthing skills and discovered a great step-by-step tutorial from Johnnie Collier over at Saved By Love Creations.
Johnnie’s tutorial features the work of a local talent from her region, Pam, who creates and sells rustic hand-painted signs like the one below. After reading about Pam’s process, I’ll admit I was a little daunted to learn how many steps would be involved in recreating her process, but never one to back down from a challenge, we all went to work on finding a quote and gathering our supplies.
More than anything, choosing a quote actually ended up being the difficult part of this particular craft. I had more than a handful I considered, including some of the following:
- Not all those who wander are lost. – The Riddle of Strider (The Fellowship of the Ring)
- Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.
- Live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry. – Jack Karouac
- Love everyone. Trust few. Paddle your own canoe.
- Confidence through competence. (my personal credo)
- You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. – Nietzsche
For whatever reason, that last quote by Nietzsche really resonated with me, and I sent it over to Steph who laid out the quote using a couple of different layout/font options (it’s nice to have friends who have a background in design).
At some point I’d actually like to take a stab at free-handing something like this, after I’m more familiar with the process. Katie decided to go that route, but I’m still getting comfortable holding a paintbrush instead of pencil/pen. It’s a different feeling and requires a new style of dexterity that I have yet to master. Steph printed a to-scale version (2′ x 2′) of the layout I chose, and ordered some tracing paper online so we could lay down an outline of the letters.
The weather this weekend was beautiful – sunny with a slight breeze – which meant that it was just right for working outside. After a light lunch on Steph’s brand new deck (which was built by her with help from her parents), we brought our blank wooden canvases outside and got to work.
Paco, Steph’s pup, monitored our progress and served as quality control for the project. (Isn’t he a cutie?)
The first step in the process is pretty simple: Put down the base color. For my sign, I chose “Mermaid’s Treasure,” a nice aqua paint and primer duo sample I purchased from Home Depot. It didn’t take much to cover the board – one solid first coat with some light touch up around the edges.
Step two required a little bit more concentration. I lined up my printed guide over my soon-to-be-sign, slipped some tracing paper underneath, taped down the edges, and then painstakingly outlined the letters on the guide to transfer their outline. The time it took was definitely worth it though. When I was finished tracing, I had a perfect map.
I love the quote that Steph chose for her piece: “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.” I think it’s pretty representative of her overall positive, can-do outlook. Even when she’s had a rough week or is tired, she always has a smile and encouraging word for her friends. It’s one of the many things I love about her (in addition to spearheading our craft day efforts, of course).
As I mentioned above, Katie, crafty rockstar that she is, managed to skip the tracing step, free-handing her piece using just an image on her phone as a reference. I hope that with enough practice, I can do the same. Her quote was another that really resonated with me (I told you choosing a quote was the hardest part!), and really reminded me of her. Katie’s got some pretty brilliant ideas and is one of the most driven and passionate people I know. She not only knows what she wants, but she has the courage and persistence to go after those things and make them happen.
Tracing the outline and filling in the letters took a little more time than I thought, especially given the intricate nature of the font I chose (definitely a factor to think about the next time I give this a go). I ended up having to finish my sign at home, which I did while watching the first season of Veronica Mars, my latest TV series addition. (Thanks, Katie!)
If we were to follow through on our original pinspiration, we actually all have some additional steps to finish, but I’ve been at war with whether or not I want to follow them all the way through. The last steps call for sanding over the sign to create the distressed, weathered look, applying a walnut stain, and then framing the board. While I know I’ll probably end up adding a frame to my piece to give it a more finished look, I don’t know if I can go through with the sanding and stain. I like the bright colors and look of my piece the way it is, and will likely hold off. However, if that changes, I’ll be sure to add an update to this post.
(Sparkly flourish courtesy of PicMonkey until I can figure out how to recreate it in real life.) ^_^
How are you celebrating the return of spring? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Christopher got me a 50mm lens for Valentine’s Day this year so I could work on my photography, and I’ve been really eager to try it out. (And what better way to do that than by taking advantage of a beautiful day and hitting the UNF trails to see what it could do?) Because I’m still a padawan when it comes to photography, I’ve never owned a lens that only adjusted manually, so the goal of the day was to practice, practice, practice!
I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather – the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze for the duration of our hike, and the humidity was next to nothing (for Florida anyway). The only hiccup to our perfect hiking weather was the miniature swamps that cropped up along the trail due to the deluge the area received the day before (and let’s be honest…it really did more to set the scene that we were actually on some grandiose adventure).
I’m always happiest when I’m outdoors taking in the natural beauty we Floridians are blessed with. Be it salt marshes, sand dunes, surf, pine forests or cypress swamps – it’s gorgeous in my book, and I want to experience it all. Mother Nature didn’t disappoint on Saturday. While we only technically hiked 3.5 miles, the adventure took us the better part of two hours, because I was stopping CONSTANTLY to take pictures. (I needed the practice after all.)
My favorite shot of the day was near the end of our hike after cutting a path parallel to our submerged trail so that we could make it to a bridge in the middle of the cypress swamp. The sun filtered through the treetops and created a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of highlights and shadows.
While I still have a lot of work to do in learning to master this new lens, I think I made some pretty decent progress during my first day out. I put together a small gallery of my favorites below!
Adventure is Out There
A Little Green Goes a Long Way
Cypress Knees = The Bees’ Knees
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Walk the Plank
This Way for Adventure!
Charlotte’s Cousin Eloise
The Palmetto Perspective
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
All Mimsy Were the Borogoves
The Little Sapling That Could
The Road Goes Ever On and On
Best Seat in the Forest
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
To celebrate my dad’s birthday this year, we loaded up the car and made the 45-minute drive down to Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. Located on Rattlesnake Island on the Matanzas inlet, it’s one of my dad’s favorite local haunts. We got to the park right right as the opened at 9 a.m. and were fortunate enough to catch the first ferry over to the island.
For those of you not familiar with the history of this particular monument, Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1740-1742 to protect St. Augustine from British/French invasions to the south. The area got its name, “Matanzas” (the Spanish word for slaughter) because of the massacre of Ribault and his men that happened earlier in 1565 by Menendez.
I know a lot of general history about the fort from past visits, but the park ranger who led the tour on Sunday really knew his stuff, and I learned a lot. For instance, when the Spanish soldiers built the fort back in 1740, they used 400 pine trees to create pilings to bolster the marshy terrain. And when the Spanish controlled the fort, its coquina walls were plastered and white-washed, the main barracks had a stone floor, and personnel consisted of an officer, four infantrymen, two gunners and a dog.
When the English gained control of Fort Matanzas in 1763, they bumped up the regular roster at the fort to 31 soldiers and nine dogs, replaced the stone floor of the barracks with dirt, and removed the plaster covering the coquina walls, which eventually led to the introduction of mold and mildew into the fort.
I could probably go on at some length about everything we gleaned from this as well as other visits, but instead I’ll finish up the history portion of this post with some other random fun facts gleaned from today’s adventure (I probably should’ve been taking notes):
- The Spanish soldiers of that day and age were very short – usually around the height of a musket (just over 5 feet tall).
- If a soldier wore red, that denoted that he was a gunner.
- The “men” who staffed the fort were actually boys 14-16 years of age.
- In the Catholic church at that time, you could get married as early as 12 years of age with permission of the church, although St. Augustine was a bit more conservative, and required newlyweds to be at least 16.
- Life expectancy at this time was 44-45 years.
My dad’s a huge lover of history and made sure that all of us (Sean, Rhiannon and myself) got healthy doses of the local lore growing up. We spent a lot of time at each of the local forts: the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas, and Fort Caroline, as well as hiking the trails through salt marshes, woods and beaches that make up each national park.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather today as we explored the for: the sun was shining, and there was a great breeze. When we returned from exploring the fort on Rattlesnake Island, we “hiked” the short trail back on the mainland, watched the 8-minute overview and history of the fort and national park, and then combed the beach taking in the sights.
Sean and I especially have some great memories at Fort Matanzas with Dad. He took us fishing at the park one summer, and we caught more than a dozen fish between the two of us. Dad spent so much time helping us take the fish we caught off the line (we were strictly catch-and-release), and baiting and casting our lines, that he didn’t get the chance to fish at all. And one of the best parts of that adventure was the fact that we each caught a fish that was our favorite color: green for Sean, purple for me (just ask my Dad, he’ll vouch for us). ;)
We had a pretty awesome adventure today as well. While walking on the beach, we saw an army of fiddler crabs waving to potential mates, an osprey with a fish struggling in his talons, and a little green snake who’d fallen out of a tree at the edge of the beach. He was bright green, about a foot and half long and skinnier than a pencil. He was also having a difficult time getting traction in the soft sand, and navigating his way back to the brush at the edge of the marsh. My sister and I ended up using a couple of reeds placed in front of him to help get back to his tree.
While I’m by no means an expert on snake identification, I’m pretty sure he’s what’s known as a “rough green snake,” and as such, nonvenomous. I know there are a lot of people out there that feel pretty strongly about snakes, but as far as this little fellow goes, I thought he was beautiful, and watching him stretch his body back up to the tree (no small feat, I wish we’d taken video), was fascinating.
We wrapped up the day’s adventures with lunch at Mango Mango’s . Dad and I both chowed down on the Island Burger (my favorite item on the menu), complemented by a side of yucca fries (which are to DIE for).
As a family, we tend to do a lot of outdoor activities. How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?
[And to see more photos from today's adventure, check out my gallery on Flickr.]
For our anniversary this year, Chris gifted me a subscription to a monthly service called My Olive Box. Despite my daytime dealings as a social media director, I have a deep-rooted love for papercrafts – so the subscription is akin to getting a surprise present each month full of my favorite things. (Isn’t my hubs the BEST?!) The items in the box vary – sometimes you get cards or books, other times it’s artwork or gift wrap – but each one is crafted according to a surprise theme and delivers a delightful mid-month treat.
In May, the box included a book, Snail Mail My Email, which has inspired me to renew my own personal correspondence, hence the purpose of this post. During the month of July, I’ve set a personal goal to send 31 letters in 31 days. Now obviously, given holidays and weekends, my mail-sending won’t line up perfectly with sending one letter per day, but I will be sharing one letter a day on my blog and social channels. (Please forgive the irony.)
The letters will vary from handmade to letterpress and from postcard to packages. Brainstorming all the notes and their recipients has been a blast, and I can’t wait to get to work on my first batch. The fun kicks off next Monday on the blog, so stay tuned!
As I’ve probably mentioned more times than it matters, I’m a pretty avid reader and always on the lookout for new authors and series (otherwise I just end up reading the same hundred books or so). This past Friday morning, I reached out to Scholastic on Twitter and asked if they had any new YA fiction authors or series they’d recommend. Instead of just responding with a couple of quick recommendations, they did me one better by retweeting my question to their followers and asking them to help me out. The response was overwhelming in a good way, and reaffirmed not only my love for Scholastic, but also my love for Twitter.
Because it was such an awesome list, I figured I’d share it with you as well. Stay tuned for my reactions and reviews as I work through the list this Spring!
Crowd-sourced Reading List:
Additional recommended reading included Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Barnholdt, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson (already a favorite)!
If you’re interested in learning more about the authors listed above, I’ve added hyperlinks to their various Twitter accounts, or to make it easy on yourself, you can just follow my YA Author list here. I’m always looking for more authors and series to add to the list, so if you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to add them in the comments below!
Happy Reading, everyone!
I’ve never felt as full of life, energy, and dare I say zen, as I did when Chris and I were running regularly. Training for races like the Minnie Marathon and the Gate River Run was both exhausting and exhilarating – but after several frustrating injuries, I’ve struggled with returning to a regular run regimen.
Thankfully for me, Runner’s World announced this week that they’re kicking off their first ever Summer Run Streak, a friendly challenge to runners everywhere to commit to running at least one mile every day beginning next Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day) and continuing through July 4th – a whopping 38 straight days of runs.
This is great for a couple of reasons:
- I always do better when I have a firm goal in mind. In the past, it was working up to a particular race distance like the Gate River Run or the Outback Distance Classic, but since I’ve been out of the game for awhile, this particular goal of running 38 days in a row gives me a flexible framework, allowing me to run as much or as little as I want so long as I at least strike one mile off the to-do list each day.
- The challenge includes a hashtag (#RWRunStreak). Not only will tracking the conversations surrounding the hashtag help keep me motivated, it will also help keep me accountable. I’m making a public declaration that this run streak is important to me, and I’m going to make it happen.
- Beach season. As Runner’s World mentioned in their blog, the temptations of the summer season (vacations, hot weather, etc.) make it easy to put off running for a day, week or altogether.
- The distance shouldn’t affect other planned workouts. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on building strength in my core in preparation for making a return to running. (Little bit of kismet there, no?) The first week of core training was brutal, and I doubt I would’ve been able to successfully push my aching muscles into more than a sad shuffle if that challenge has been presented any sooner. However, after two weeks of workouts, I’ve already noticed a difference, and while the core workouts are still challenging, my muscles are recovering faster. In short, adding a one mile run (or more) each day should be just the extra push I need to keep things fresh!
If you’d like to join the challenge, it’s easy! Simple commit to running the 38 days, and if you feel like sharing your progress you can either post in the comments below or use the #RWRunStreak hashtag in your tweets!
Good luck, everyone!
Last Sunday, my coworker Tim rescued a tiny mess of a kitten from a gutter on Beach Blvd. After dubbing her “Sandy” due to her bedraggled appearance (and the location where she was found), he brought her into the office for some intensive TLC. She’s been in my care since Tuesday, and in that short time, she’s already made tremendous progress – evolving from that frightened creature cowering in a diaper box to a frisky kitten full of life (and mischief).
My crew still isn’t quite sure what to make of her – her first encounter with Ares left my poor pup terrified (hissing kittens are her kryptonite as we discovered last year when we fostered a litter). Kyo wants nothing more than to be allowed to play with her (she’s still not allowed out of the bedroom unchaperoned), Pixel and TicTac follow her every move, Sushi couldn’t care less and Jackie wants to smother her in kisses and nibbles.
The current game plan is to slowly acclimate them all, get Sandy up to a healthy enough weight to have her fixed, and then help her find her forever home through First Coast No More Homeless Pets. If you know anyone who’s interested in adding an adorable, sassy kitten to their family, be sure to let me know! She should be adoptable in 6-8 weeks.
I’m not quite finished with this project, but I’m SUPER excited about it, so I couldn’t help but post a teaser image of the work I’ve done thus far. It’s going to be a series of paintings, but I’ve got two left to go before I write out my tutorial and explain where my inspiration came from. If all works according to plan, the series should be finished by the end of the weekend. That being said, I would love to know what you think thus far!