Monday, December 31, 2012

Safety on New Year's Eve

One of the most talked about problems with New Year's Eve are all of the people who drink to bring in the New Year. This is one time of year that people who drink frequently and people who hardly drink through the year celebrate with alcohol.

The first, and most obvious help for this problem is to not drink. But, many will not us this as option while out and at parties. So having a designated driver is the second best option-this way you know there is no chance the driver will have had too much to drink or not enough time to metabolize what they did consume.

Another solution is to be very cautious about how much you drink. Try and limit yourself to just one to three drinks during the night, depending on how long you are at the party.  Allow yourself time after your drink before you get behind the wheel of the car as well.

If you are able to, another great option for parties at friends homes or in big cities is to stay where you having the party. If you are at a friends home, make plans to stay if you know you will want to drink. If you are at a big city party, rent a hotel room for the night (just make sure you don't have to drive from the city party to the hotel!).

I have included some alcohol metabolism charts to show just how little alcohol it takes to be over the legal limit. Above is a chart for how many drinks you can consume at different weights and what the blood alcohol level would be. Below shows what counts as one drink:


Please be careful! It is winter and on top of worrying about drivers having too many drinks, the roads can be slippery, icy, and snowy as well.

We hope you go out of 2012 with a great time, and welcome the great possibilities of 2013!



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Keep your pets warm too!



Pets need special care in the cold weather just like people do! Here are some tips to help keep your pets healthy this winter:




  • Feed your pet a little extra when it’s cold. Pets need extra calories to produce energy during cold weather.
  • Plenty of fresh water is essential during cold weather to avoid pet dehydration. Warm up the water and add a little honey or a bouillon cube to encourage your pet to drink. Chicken noodle soup is great and most pets enjoy a bowl every now and then.


  • Groom your dog and cat regularly to remove mats. This helps your pet’s hair coat to properly insulate your pet so that he or she can stay warm during cold weather spells.
  • Some pets don't mind wearing clothes and if they have short fur coats an extra coat can really help!
  • Store antifreeze in tightly closed containers, kept high up out of paw reach in secured cabinets. The sweet smell can attract pets so if you spill some use cat litter or sand to absorb the fluid and will prevent pets from eating it.
  •  De-icing chemicals are also hazardous. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet. If your pet will not tolerate wearing slip-on boots then be sure to wipe their paws with a damp towel every time after coming in from outdoors–even if you don’t see salt on walkways.

  •  Look closely in between your dog’s toes for balls of ice that can form and become quite painful. Warm water will also help dissolve any lingering ice. Take preventive care before heading out in the snow: trim the hair around your dog’s pads and apply a small amount of Vaseline, cooking oil or spray between his toes.
  •  Check your dog’s nails and pads carefully; snow can hide sharp objects that can cause an injury, and pads can become discolored from the cold, appearing red, grey or white with some peeling due to frostbite. Thaw your dog’s pads slowly by applying warm, moist towels until the area becomes flushed.
  • Visit your Vet to be sure your dogs and cats are healthy! Pets, like people, are more susceptible to health issues in cold weather.

  •  Don’t leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing. Dogs need outdoor exercise but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks. Dogs and cats are safer indoors in all sorts of weather. Animals should never be left outdoors unattended as they risk being stolen or otherwise being harmed.


  • Car engines are a favorite for many outdoor cats who enjoy curling up for the evening near warm car engines. Before starting your car this winter, take a quick look under your hood and/or honk your horn, just to be sure no unexpected feline automobile friends decided to spend the night with you.

  •  If you have a dog that lives outdoor year round consider covering the top of the kennel with a water-resistant tarpaulin, or other protective covering, this will protect your dog from the elements. Or, consider placing a doghouse inside of the kennel, so that the dog has safe shelter from rain, snow and driving winds. Additional to this, dog’s bedding should also always be slightly elevated to keep from becoming wet or frozen. Special heaters or heating pads may also be added to the kennel or doghouse to provide additional warmth. If using a heating device, be sure it is designed for use in pet shelters, as regular heaters are never to be used in animal shelters or enclosures.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keeping warm in the cold






Here are some great tips for staying warm this winter!







1. Layer your clothes. This helps keep you warmer than just one thick layer because you trap air inside the different layers and the air warms up. Air is a poor conductor of heat and therefore traps your body heat. The more layers you have the more air you can trap in between them. Paper Blogs has a very stylish post on how to layer for winter.


2. Insulate you home. I did a post about some good tips for this a couple days ago.


3. Build a fire. Not only can a fire heat your living room, it brings a certain amount of cheeriness that just makes you feel warmer! Be sure to check out our post on chimney and fireplace safety though!


4. Eat and drink warm liquids to heat yourself from the inside out. Winter is the time for soups and stews and casseroles and all things hot and tasty. I also love a nice mug of hot cider, cocoa, or tea! They even make cocoa and soups that are self warming for when you want something hot on the go!



5. Keep your extremities warm. Keeping our vital organs warm is our bodies’ main goal when it’s cold outside. As chilly weather lowers our body temperature, our brains make the blood vessels in our extremities constrict, lessening the amount of blood flowing through these regions and increasing blood and heat flow to more essential areas. The process protects what’s most important for our survival, but it also results in chilly fingers and toes.
 
Gloves, hats, and socks help keep you warm, but there are other things you can do as well. Lipglossiping has a wonderful selection of tips for keeping your feet warm. For your hands they make these reusable warmers now.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Make Your Own Christmas Wreath Now for 2013

The whole idea of making a wreath came about as my mother had some ornaments that she no longer wanted for her Christmas tree because of her cats, but liked too much to throw out. She offered them to me if I wanted them, and as soon as I saw them I instantly knew I could make something she could still have out in the house but that the cats wouldn't destroy. I came up with using them to make a wreath!

I bought all of the things for the wreath after Christmas when the items went on sale at a deeper discount. Said and done, the wreath I made in the instructions below cost me less that $25 total...and I still have left over pieces to make another wreath AND it was a lighted wreath!

Step 1: Find a plain wreath that is the size and color you desire. I found this one on sale for $10.20 and it was already lighted. The frame for the wreath was designed double on this (you will see what I mean with the ribbon later).



 Step 2: Gather the materials you plan to use on the wreath. I bought a poinsettia garland, maroon ribbon, small pine cones that had some gold embellishments, and a tube of disco ball style maroon ornaments. These were all purchased to accompany the original items being re-purposed (the non-ball ornaments and the wooden Santa pictured later).


Step 3-5: I always start with the ribbon because I wish that to be the bottom "layer" if items would need to overlap throughout the wreath. I wrapped the ribbon only on the outer ring of the wreath, basically it just doesn't go to the middle edge of the wreath, but only the middle of the wreath to the outside edge. Don't wrap the ribbon too tight, you might need slight room to readjust and you want to be able to see it! Next you will want to position your largest focus piece. For me, it was a large painted Santa. I used a maroon braided cord to tie his waist to one of the main rings of the wreath frame. After this large piece was placed, I placed the next largest items, which were the disco-ball ornaments.

Step 6: Now that the ribbon and ornaments have been placed, it is time to do a little trial and error. The whole reason I started this wreath was to incorporate some clay ornaments and the wooden Santa...so you will need to place them around to see what looks right. After I got the placement of the fancy ornaments set, I randomly poked some of the poinsettia flower I cut off the garland strand into the wreath.

Step 7: Make sure that every piece you put on your wreath is secured to a branch or the wreath frame. The heavier it is the closer to the frame (if not on the frame) you should attach your items. You should also experiment a few times holding the wreath upright to see how the items hang or settle.

Step 8: Plug in your wreath and see what you made! I was absolutely amazed at how great this little vision came together. I went into the craft store not really knowing what I was going to want for the wreath, but because I had seen the Santa and clay ornaments I knew what colors were in them. My advice to others: start with one focus item or a color scheme in mind then just go shopping to see what you can find in those colors. I never ended up using the pine cones with gold embellishments for this wreath because sometimes less is more!



Now you won't be able to wait to use your new wreath until next year! Another idea: purchase a plain wreath while it is marked down now and make a different holiday themed wreath that you can use. If I get lucky enough to still find these wreaths at the store when I go back later tonight I'm going to make a winter themed one and a Valentines themed wreath!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick Facts: Winter insulation tips for the home

There are many cost effective ways to help insulate your home in the winter.


You can insulate windows by using Window Insulation Film. The easiest way to do it is to just buy a window insulation kit which you can buy from a hardware store. The kits usually include plastic shrink film that is applied to the indoor window frame with double-stick tape, then heated with a hair dryer to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles. You can also use heavy fabrics or layered curtains over the windows to keep out drafts, but that will also block out the sunlight.


Another good option is to utilize draft snakes. Draft snakes are fabric tubes placed on a window sill or under a door to prevent cold air from creeping in. You can make one by sewing a tube of fabric to fit the width of your window or door and filling it with dried rice. Or even easier you can also try placing dry, thick towels at the bottom of the window or door in place of a draft snake.

 
 If you have a fireplace and chimney in your house, make sure that the damper is closed when not in use. This will keep warm air from escaping as well as keep cold air drafts from coming in. If your damper is not effective, use a draft-stopper specifically designed for chimneys, which inflates to stop all the air leaks when your fireplace is not in use.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What Human Skin Absorbs

I was very lucky to get to see Jairica in person this week as she came to town to visit family :-) Sara wasn't there because she was still in the hospital after giving birth to her beautiful daughter!

 

As we were talking, we were discussing sickness and skin. It lead to me coming up with a great idea for a post: what the human skin absorbs!

Think for a moment all of the things your skin comes into contact with. On a normal day I come in contact with hand soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, household cleaning products, my pets, food, and probably many other things. But, do you ever think about how much of those chemicals are absorbed to the inside of your body?! Washing your hands gets away the surface dirt, but can't get rid of what gets beyond your skin.



Some people say that up to 60% of what you come into contact with is absorbed into the body. This includes hair dyes and the nail polish remover which are both pretty harsh chemicals, as well as perfume and make-up.

So, with this in mind,  it is pretty scary the kinds of things we are allowing our bodies to come in contact with.

 I found this chart from Natural Healthy Concepts that lists some top things to keep away from our skin.

In addition to chemicals, I remember during a communicable disease course several years ago that if we walk through the grass barefoot there are certain things our body can absorb from nature and from fertilizers that will make us sick as well. I will continue going around barefoot, but will only do so at my home or acceptable areas like a pool or beach.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Stephanie Stepford!!

Today we celebrate a very special birthday....not the one you might be thinking about, but another one that is very important and dear to our hearts here at Stepford Sisters....

Happy birthday Stephanie Stepford!!





In high school, where Sara, Jairica, and Stephanie first became friends, we learned that Stephanie shared her birthday with Christmas. This had pros and cons for Stephanie....I remember her telling us how nice it was to always have school off and that all her family always had work off on her birthday. She was always surrounded by those near and dear to her on her special day. Unfortunately, it also meant there was a slight unfairness with her gift ratio. With no separation between Christmas and birthday, the two biggest gift giving events for children, she sometimes missed out. Her family got her gifts, but friends and teachers and church family only remembered the Christmas part. With the holiday season there were already so many parties that having a party just for her birthday never seemed to happen.

One day in high school we decided to have a girl's night out for Stephanie. She had had a particularly bad week where it seemed like nothing could go right for her, so by the time the weekend rolled around she was in need of some cheering up. We all bought her gifts and planned a special evening of dinner and a movie. Since we all had unreasonably (in our minds anyway) early curfews, we did the movie first and then dinner. We conspired with the hostess at the restaurant we had reservations to keep the gifts we bought her and bring them out after we had been seated, that way she would be surprised and not have to carry them around to the movies and such. The hostess and our waitress brought out our gifts, but they had a surprise of their own! The also brought out a dessert for Stephanie with a candle and they all sang happy birthday to her. We hadn't told them it was her birthday, but seeing all the gifts they just assumed. After that it was a tradition for someone in the group to tell the waitress or hostess that it was Stephanie's birthday whenever we all went out together. Since Stephanie never got to do this on her actual birthday we didn't feel we were abusing the system and we never did it more than once a year.

So Stephanie, be on the look out for singing waitresses the next time we go out :)

Merry Christmas




Since today is a day of family, sometimes friends, and remembering a sacred event, we will be quick and just take a minute to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. We also want to remember the many who have already left us to be with our Lord and Savior.


May your day be filled with wonder and the Christmas spirit!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Organizing your Recipies While Cooking Christmas Dinner

One of the hardest parts about hosting and cooking for your family on a big holiday is organization. Almost every year, whether I'm hosting or traveling to another family member's house, at least one of my dishes has an omitted ingredient-and not on purpose.


I have been pretty lucky that said omitted ingredient was never anything that would have ruined the dish. I am trying to out-do myself this year, and in order to do that, I know I need to be very organized and plan ahead.

So, in my quest for being as near-perfectly in food execution and I will ever be, I have come up with five tips and suggestions that can help you!

Tip #1: Write out a list of every dish "name" that you are going to prepare. I found this pretty example, but color pictures aren't necessary :-)



Tip #2: Write a list of every ingredient you will need for all the recipes you will follow. This will keep your "grocery list" in one place instead of in different places with the recipes you will need. Just don't forget the list...

Tip #3: On separate pieces of paper or note cards, write out every recipe you will be using to cook and bake the foods you are preparing. This will eliminate the need for flipping through one or more cook books and/or using an electronic to pull up recipes online. By writing out each recipe you also will be able to mark off ingredients as you have added and used them so you can double check that you actually put everything in it. *I have used my electronics in the kitchen before and I have been lucky so far, but there are huge risks involved with cooking near your computer!


Tip #4: If you are using fresh fruits or vegetables, try and buy them the day before the big meal, and try to prepare them all for the dish tehy will be used in ahead of time. This will allow you to clean up the mess from washing and cutting far before your company arrives.



Tip #5: Since you are prepared and did some of the dirty prep work already, make sure you stay on top of keeping your kitchen clean. Nothing is more impressive to your dinner guests than a bunch of obviously home made food but no dirty pans, counters or trays. This will also save you time cleaning after the meal so you can spend the time with your family! AND if you are additionally lucky, if the kitchen was clean to begin with, your guests might be much more willing to pitch in to help with the serving bowl and dish clean up because larger bowls and trays hardly ever get put in the dishwasher.




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fast Peanut Butter Fudge

We are just days away from Christmas and sometimes I realize I need a quick small gift or a filler for a treat bag to give that person you think of but forgot to buy for. In combination of people recovering from the world NOT ending yesterday, and procrastinators that like to do things late at night but not go to the grocery store this recipe is for you because you likely have what you need or could stock up on the ingredients and they have a great shelf life!

There are only 3 ingredients you need...and one of them isn't an ingredient.
1. Creamy Peanut Butter
2. White Chocolate Chips
3. Mini Muffin Papers

I went through about 200 mini muffin cups, 5 bags of white chocolate chips, and one large Jif Creamy Peanut Butter from Sam's Club. I don't measure the peanut butter when I make the fudge, but my rule of thumb is that the peanut butter needs to take on the whiter color of the chocolate chips. If there is not enough white chocolate your fudge won't harden and will be a soft mess!

To make the fudge you will need your stove, a double broiler or two pots inside of each other like I used, a spoon and spatula, large pans or trays.

Step 1: Once you have two pots stacked within each other and water warming in the bottom pan, add your white chocolate chips to the top pot. Take care NOT to allow the water below to leak into the top pot or start boiling and spray in. Water and melted chocolate do not mix well and will likely ruin the entire batch.

Step 2: While you are slowly allowing your white chocolate to melt, begin putting your mini cupcake liners on your large trays. These little guys like to stick, so it is the perfect activity to do while patiently waiting for your chocolate to become smooth and melted.

Step 3: As your chocolate chips are melting, go ahead and add the peanut butter to the pan. You can mix them as often as you like. Once the white chocolate is about half melted, mixing the two ingredients together is pretty easy and will help melt the rest of the chocolate chips.

Step 4. Once the white chocolate chips have been completely melted and the peanut butter thoroughly mixed, you can begin to fill your mini muffin papers. I suggest using a small spoon to fill them. It might also be helpful if you keep your melted fudge in the water bath or double boiler so that it stays melted and easy to pour.


Step 5. Since it is very cold out, I put my trays of poured fudge out in my garage and they were set up within an hour. This is so much faster than when you pour a large slab of fudge and wait for it to set because it doesn't hold in heat easily.

Step 6: Enjoy your portioned fudge pieces! This presentation eliminates the need for messy cutting and is easily bundled with other treats.


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