Celebrating love and life every day

The Lush's Blush blogI’m a firm believer in celebrating life every single day. One of my favorite quotes about celebrating the mundane comes from author Hester Browne.

“Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is having a bottle of champagne in the fridge!”

We didn’t have champagne, but I did enjoy a margarita tonight in celebration of my six-month wedding anniversary.

Is that even a thing? Well, who cares! Every month since I’ve been married I’ve wanted to celebrate. Though every day is not as exciting as our wedding day or as lovely as our honeymoon, I do find joy in the every day mundane things like enjoying Mexican food at the little restaurant across the street, or snuggling with my husband while we binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix.

Life is full of not-so-fun adulting business like dealing with insurance and taxes and doctor’s appointments, but life, too, is full of mundane magical moments spent with the ones you love!

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Valentine’s and snow day breakfasts

Be my Valentine | The Lush's Blush blog
Valentine’s Dinner at 21 and Main

Over the weekend, my husband treated me to a wonderful gourmet steak dinner for Valentine’s Day. It was delicious. On Sunday morning, he fixed french toast. I really am a lucky gal!

On Monday morning, we got snow so I worked from home and got what I consider to be an even more special treat. I do love a fancy steak dinner, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes something as simple as good ol’ biscuits and gravy just warms the heart.

I always thought my Mamma made the very best biscuits and gravy, but my husband sure makes good gravy, too. Bacon gravy used to be my favorite, but my sweetie also makes pretty good sausage gravy. He serves it up with biscuits and scrambled eggs with cheese. I’ve never been much of an egg-eater, but I love the way my husband makes them.

Valentine's Day french toast | The Lush's Blush blog

A few years ago my husband turned me on to a different kind of gravy that his family in West Virginia makes, tomato gravy. We had been dating about a year or two when Morgan took me up to West Virginia and Pennsylvania to meet some of his family.

Snow day | The Lush's Blush blog
Snow Day

I jokingly asked if his kinfolk in West Virginia were going to make me eat squirrel. He said, of course, they wouldn’t make me eat anything I didn’t want to, but if I wanted to try squirrel, they could probably whip some up. I declined that offer, though Morgan insists if I ever tried squirrel gravy I’d probably like it.

As we were talking about gravy and such, Morgan asked me if I liked tomato gravy. Now, growing up, we often served fresh sliced tomatoes with breakfast and I thought maybe that’s what he meant. It was a favorite thing my Mamma and I liked to do. When tomatoes are fresh from the garden, those big luscious ones, you put a big slice, sprinkled with a little salt, on your plate right next to your bacon gravy. The secret is to get a forkful of biscuit and gravy along with a bite of the fresh tomato. But no, this is not what my husband meant by tomato gravy. What he was referring to is an actual gravy made from home-canned tomatoes, and let me tell you, it is delicious.

Biscuits and bacon gravy | The Lush's Blush blog
Biscuits and gravy

Probably one of the most amazing things I ever saw in my life was watching Morgan’s uncle make the biggest, fluffiest, cat head biscuits you ever saw, and he made them using only one hand. He had had shoulder surgery and one arm was in a sling, but he went right on making biscuits. They served them up with the tomato gravy. One of our wedding gifts from Uncle Jerry was a jar of home-canned tomatoes. Now, that’s a special gift indeed.

We made the tomato gravy a few months ago and it was so yummy. Morgan’s cousin Shelly says you can make tomato gravy using store bought tomatoes, if you don’t have access to home-canned tomatoes.

Tomato Gravy | The Lush's Blush blog
Tomato Gravy

If you like tomatoes, this is definitely a recipe to try. It’s very simple. Pour your tomatoes into a pot over medium heat and begin to warm. Fry up some bacon and remove bacon from pan. Pour the bacon grease into the tomatoes. Then make a slurry using equal parts flour and water. Add the slurry to the tomato mixture and stir well to combine. Keep stirring until it thickens up into the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve it over biscuits or toast.

Do you have a favorite breakfast food? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Dinner | The Lush's Blush blog
Valentine’s Dinner at Kitchen Roselli

We are coming up on one of my very favorite days! Valentine’s Day! I love pink and hearts and glitter and so, of course, I love Valentine’s Day.

My sweetheart and I have shared some super special Valentine’s over the years. One year we went to the beach and it snowed. It was quite magical. The last several years we have celebrated at a local Italian restaurant called Kitchen Roselli, which is always a magical experience. They make the most amazing cream puffs for dessert!

Probably my favorite Valentine’s Day was a few years ago when my love went all out and sent me a dozen roses and a PajamaGram! The UPS guy showed up at my office and handed me all the packages and said, “somebody must like you.” It was great fun!

This year we may not do very much for Valentine’s as we have rehearsal for a play our community theater group is doing. At any rate, just being together with my husband is always a special time.

My good friend Sarah had a most wonderful idea about a special way to celebrate Valentine’s Day that can apply to couples or singles!

“I like to acknowledge the various forms of love in my life on Valentine’s Day. Whether a smile from a stranger, a kindness from a friend, etc. it lifts me up just to notice these acts of love,” Sarah said.

If you’re looking for some special treats and projects to do for Valentine’s, check out my Pinterest board here. My good friend Le’Don also shared these recipes with us. These are some things she likes to make on Valentine’s Day for her husband.

 

Le’Don’s Valentine’s Day Turtles

Ingredients

• 1 pkg of individually wrapped caramel squares

• 1 pound pecan halves

• 2 cups milk chocolate chips

• 1 block paraffin wax

Directions

Grease a cookie sheet, place two pecan halves together. Put a caramel on top. Bake at 200 degrees until caramel is soft to the touch, but not melted (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from oven and immediately put another pecan half onto the caramel and press down. Melt the wax and chips together over low heat, then dip the candied pecan mixture in it. Place on foil to cool.

Le’Don’s Old Fashioned Cookie Recipe

Le’Don said, “This recipe is a cross between a sugar cookie and a butter cookie. It is the perfect consistency for using cookie cutters.”

Ingredients

• 1 cup softened butter

• 2 cups sugar

• 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

• 2 eggs

•1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk

• 2 teaspoons vanilla

• 4 cups all purpose flour

•2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cream butter. Add sugar and eggs beating well. Stir in milk and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, mixing well. Chill. Roll to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with assorted cutters. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Decorate as desired.

Favorite Things: Blue infinity scarf

Blue flannel infinity scarf | The Lush's Blush blog
New Blue Infinity Scarf from Folktale Jess

I’m pretty much obsessed with this new gorgeous blue flannel infinity scarf/wrap from my good friend Jessica’s wonderful Etsy shop.

It is so soft and comfy. You can wrap it all around yourself, even pull it up over your head like a hoodie, which is my favorite way to wear it.

I stay cold a lot in the winter so I tend to keep this on all day at the office and even while back at home snuggled up on the couch.

The fabric is soft, but also thin so it’s not heavy or bulky. She has a beautiful red one listed now in the shop as well as lots of other gorgeous goodies! Check her out!

Folktale Jess on Etsy | The Lush's Blush blog

Folktake Jess on Etsy | The Lush's Blush blog
Folktale Jess

Guest Post: Essential oil safety tips

The Lush's Blush blogI have an increasing interest in essential oils, so I am thrilled to have a guest post this week from Lady Danni Morinich of Glencoe. Be sure to check out her website which features her handmade soaps, an Essential Oil School and more! You can also find her live on Periscope @LadyDanni1.

Lady Danni Morinich is Proprietress of Landed Gentress Essential Oil Soaps and uses essential oils in her bath and body creations. She is a member of the American Herbalist Guild and has just completed her first Aromatherapy Course with Laura Moorhead, CA, LMT.


Top ten tips for using essential oils safely

With the ever increasing costs of health care and insurance copays, and people shunning chemicals and additives for a more natural lifestyle, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the use of essential oils is becoming more popular. From using oils to improve health, create chemical free cleaners for the home or natural beauty products, more medicine shelves worldwide are beginning to house at least one or two essential oils. 

When I was studying for my first level aromatherapy certification, I found loads of articles recommending which oils to use for what, but there wasn’t as much safety information for novice users. So I wanted to fill that gap with some best practice information for those who have wanted to use essential oils but haven’t taken the plunge, as well as a reminder to those who run to quell the first symptoms of a cold or flu with a bottle of Thieves Oil, a few tips to keep you your family stay safe.

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1. Never take essential oils internally. There are those that will tell you, if an oil is pure enough, you can take it internally. While that may be the case on some oils, I’d advise against taking the advice of a MLM sales person as opposed to an aromatherapy practitioner or integrative medicine specialist. While there are some oils that have been used in culinary field for ages like lemon or oregano. If you feel you must take them internally, don’t use an essential oil, source an oil from a gourmet shop as ones approved for human consumption are FDA approved safe.

2. Currently, there is no governing body in the world that certifies the purity or quality of essential oils. While some companies may take it upon themselves to test for purity and provide a quality product, there is no grading system. If you see the term Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®, you’ll notice that phrase is always followed by a registered trademark symbol and that’s because it’s a marketing term used by doTerra. Any other company can use those terms, but not in that exact order. The terminology means nothing, so choose the best quality oil you can afford rather than a name that claims to be superior in a grading system that simply does not exist. If you want to make sure an oil is of a good quality, check to see if the company tests their oil for purity using gas chromatography or mass spectroscopy.

3. Essential Oils should be avoided during the first three months of pregnancy. Although fragrances can be off putting during the first few months of pregnancy and that’s nature’s version of self regulation, it is best that essential oils be avoided during the most formative time of the pregnancy. There are a number essential oils that should be avoided during the entirety of pregnancy, but things like lavender, rose, geranium and chamomile can be used in moderation after the first trimester.

4. Essential Oils should be diluted. There are a few oils that are safe to use straight and they are generally considered to be lavender, tea tree and helichrysum because of their healing and antiseptic properties, however to avoid skin sensitization all other oils should be mixed with a carrier oil.

5. Essential oils should not be used on infants. Essential oils can be used on children but it is usually recommended not to use them on children under the age of two. All oils that are used on children should be mixed to a dilution of 1% meaning 1 drop of oil in one teaspoon of essential oil. It is also recommended that you do a patch test on the leg and waiting 24 hours, assuring the child has no reactions. You should never use any essential oils near the face and mucous membranes.

6. Never use essential oils in the ears. If you are experiencing problems with inflammation or congestion in the ears, use a few drops of oil on the side of the neck behind the ear, but never in the ear canal where inflammation or damage might occur.

7. Never burn essential oils. When oils are heated their chemical composition change. For the safest use of essential oils, either use them in a cold mist diffuser or a plug in ball where the oil is placed on a cotton pad which is gently warmed by the ball, diffusing the oils safely though the home or office.

8. Not all oils can be used by all people. If you have an underlying condition like hemophilia, high blood pressure, epilepsy or are about to undergo surgery, then certain oils should be avoided. Oils that are stimulating and work on the circulatory system like rosemary, peppermint, hyssop, thyme, eucalyptus and sage should be avoided by those with high blood pressure. Those with epilepsy should avoid oils that may have an effect on the neurological system like rosemary, fennel, sage, eucalyptus, hyssop, camphor and spike lavender (not to be confused with lavender or lavendin). If you have hemophilia, are about to undergo surgery or are on prescribed blood thinners, then you should avoid the following: birch, garlic, oregano, tarragon and wintergreen.

9. Essential oils that work on people may be detrimental to animals. Although essential oils can improve your surroundings, they may not work for your pets, and should be avoided unless you have a great deal of education on the interaction and contraindications as size, weight and breed all influence how and if oils should be used. For example, cats lack the liver enzyme glucuronyl tranferase, so substances that are otherwise harmless can build up and cause toxicity in the liver. With birds, even essential oils diffused in the air should be avoided as it can interfere with their bronchial and metabolic systems. Essential oils should never be introduced into the aquatic systems of fish as the oils will not mix with water but may cling to the skin of a fish and cause major problems. Oils should also not be used in tanks with reptiles as in an enclosed space can prove toxic. I don’t suggest the novice employ the use of essential oils without instruction from a vet experienced in homeopathic or naturopathic treatments. The only exception I make is recommending the use of a 1% diffusion of lavender to calm dogs or cats, (1 drop lavender in 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil like grapeseed.) While that can generally be diffused safely, please make sure you provide either outside access for your pet or the ability to escape to a room that is not scented should they find the fragrance disagreeable.

10. Store safely to ensure freshness. Surprisingly the biggest problems with essential oils is people don’t store them correctly and using oils that have degraded can cause skin irritations. Citrus oils are fragile and should be used within about 6 months but most other oils will remain viable for about 18 months (oils like frankinscense, sandalwood and patchouli significantly longer.) Make sure all essential oils are in an amber or cobalt bottles. Store them in a cool dark place, not in an environment that experiences changes in temperatures and humidity, like a kitchen or bathroom medicine cabinet. To keep oils at their freshest, avoid purchasing large quantities as unless you are a practitioner, you’ll probably use only a small number of oils and purchasing those oils in 10 ml bottles will ensure your oils don’t languish in a box or case somewhere but are used regularly and at their freshest, to heal, calm and bestow emotional and spiritual balance to your environment and your life.

Lady Danni Morinich is Proprietress of Landed Gentress Essential Oil Soaps and uses essential oils in her bath and body creations. She is a member of the American Herbalist Guild and has just completed her first Aromatherapy Course with Laura Moorhead, CA, LMT. Learn more at www.landedgentress.com. 

Something old, something new

Blue wedding shoes | The Lush's Blush blog
Photo Courtesy of Elise Brown | Photography by Kunal Mehta of Events by SPL

While weddings are beautiful, magical, wonderful things, they can also cause a bride stress. One of the things I didn’t want to stress too much about was the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

On my wedding day I chose to wear a sapphire ring that belonged to my mother. I counted this as my something blue, something old and something borrowed. My dress was new, of course, so I counted that.

Weddings have a lot of tradition associated with them, but I think, like myself, most brides today are making choices based on what they like.

My good friend Erin agreed. She’s a hair and makeup artist and owner of Glass Door Salon in Winston-Salem, NC, and has worked with hundreds of brides over the years. She said most brides today try to honor the “something old” saying, but also they just go with accessories they like and best fit the style of their wedding.

“Most brides are choosing things they like as opposed to ‘something blue,’ but still incorporating it. Some choose to use a brooch with a blue stone, use a blue garter or sew a patch of their dad or granddad’s blue shirt into the underneath of their dress,” Erin told me.

Memorial heart | The Lush's Blush blog
Photo courtesy of Elise Brown | Photography by Kunal Mehta of Events by SPL

I love what my sorority sister Elise did for her “something old.” She had a special fabric heart made from pieces of her mother’s, aunt’s and grandmother’s wedding gowns that she had with her on her wedding day.

Incorporating a special family piece is still very much a key theme for brides today, a manager at my local bridal boutique told me. Vicki Hendrix is the manager at Southern Bride in Yadkinville, NC.

Vicki said tradition is still a very big part of bridal fashion and especially when it comes to the accessories.

“Brides are using a lot of tradition in their weddings, they’re incorporating a lot of elements that may be from their mother or grandmother in jewelry, most classic is pearls.”

Bridal earrings | The Lush's Blush blog
Photo courtesy of Elise Brown | Photography by Kunal Mehta of Events by SPL

Simple bridal jewelry like a necklace and earrings and possibly a bracelet. Again, a piece of jewelry from a family member is often a popular choice, Vicki said.

What special pieces did you choose (or are you planning to do) for your “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?” I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a note in the comments!

 

 

Bacon is the ultimate Super Bowl food

Bacon, the ultimate Super Bowl food | The Lush's Blush blog
Bacon, the ultimate Super Bowl food

There’s a big football game coming up soon.You may have heard about it. You may care a whole lot about the game, or not at all. But, if you’re like me, you’re at least excited about the opportunity for a party.

A big dinner party with fancy fixins is always fun, but a party with snack and hors d’oeurvres is one of my favorite kinds of parties. The Super Bowl is just perfect for hearty and fun snack foods.

For the past several years, my husband and I have watched the game at a good friend’s house. Our friend typically makes chili and hot wings, both great Super Bowl foods, and we usually bring some additional snacks as well.

I contacted him last week to see if he was planning to have his annual gathering. He said he was and he made a special request for what he wanted me to bring for the party. This item he requested is perhaps the most quintessential football party food, it’s called pig candy.

Pig candy is a most delightful concoction that I learned about from one of my favorite authors, Jill Connor Browne, author of the “Sweet Potato Queens Big Ass Cookbook (And Financial Planner).” I have spoken about the merits of this book before and will continue to do so. In fact, if you don’t own a copy of this book yet, I’d recommend you stop READING THIS RIGHT NOW and get one. Not only is the book hilarious, but it is full of delicious recipes.

So back to the pig candy. Pig candy is simply candied bacon. Since first learning of pig candy in the Big Ass cookbook I have seen multiple recipes for it. The most basic incarnation of pig candy involves coating bacon in brown sugar and baking it in the oven. I also have done it by adding in a little bit of crushed pecans or you can always kick it up a little more with a dash of cayenne pepper.

Pig candy is salty and sweet and chewy and, well, it’s bacon. How much yummier can you get?

So here’s how I make my pig candy.

Start with a pound of your favorite brand of regular bacon then cut it into about one inch pieces. Roll each bacon piece in dark brown sugar until well coated. The Sweet Potato Queen suggests using dark brown sugar and I always follow her advice. I have done it with light brown sugar once when I ran out of dark and it turned out just fine though. Once you’ve coated the bacon piece in the sugar, place it on a cooking rack on a foil-lined pan. Once you’ve got all the bacon coated in brown sugar, bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, depending on how done you like your bacon.

If you want to jazz it up some, try adding finely crushed pecans to the brown sugar before rolling the bacon, or simply sprinkle a little bit of crushed pecans on top of each bacon piece. Or, if you like a little spice, add a pinch of cayenne to the brown sugar and mix it up well before rolling the bacon in the sugar.

If you’re going to (or hosting) a Super Bowl party this weekend and you make this, I promise you will be the hero of the party! You can check out my Pinterest board here with more snacky food ideas. Below are some additional links to other recipes that sound pretty good for a Super Bowl Party! Notice how they all involve bacon or cheese?

Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite Super Bowl party recipe is!

Super Bowl Party Recipes

Cheddar Bay Sausage Balls

http://www.plainchicken.com/2014/09/cheddar-bay-sausage-balls-football.html

Bacon Ranch Beer Cheeseball

bacon-ranch-beer-cheeseball-recipe

Bacon Wrapped Pimento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

bacon-wrapped-pimento-cheese-poppers

Spinach Artichoke Dip

spinach-artichoke-dip-12