Monday, December 30, 2013

Stepford Sisters Most Viewed Posts of 2013!

Here are our five top viewed posts of this year! If you missed them, you should really go check them out, they are worth the read!


1. Dinner Plate Dahlias by Jairica Stepford


 2. Creative Christmas Party Potluck Ideas by Jairica Stepford


3. Raising a Baby Squirrel Week 5 by Stephanie Stepford


4. What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman by guest blogger Amanda





Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quick Tips for Your Hair

Hair is fragile and requires proper care to keep it healthy. When brushing or combing your hair you should work your way from the bottom to the root. This prevents a tangle from becoming even tighter as it goes through even more hair. If you start at the top you are going to tighten the knots and cause more tension and eventual hair breakage.

Another tip concerns conditioner. If you have a dry scalp problem, do not try and compensate by applying conditioner to your scalp. Too much hydration is going to feed the flakes and cause them to not go away. Conditioner was intended to condition the ends of your hair away from the natural oil your scalp produces.


Split ends are another big issue for hair. The first way to minimize split ends is to not over process your hair whether through coloring, perms, hot hair driers, flat irons, or curling irons. Another way to keep split ends at bay is not to use a hair brush while your hair is wet. A brush grabs and pulls your hair and some strands end up snapping like a rubber band leaving a vulnerable strand of hair behind. Lastly, regular trims will keep a small split end from splitting up toward the top of your hair strand, which continues the damage even further.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How to Roast a Chicken

I love oven roasted chicken, and here is my recipe!

Ingredients
One whole chicken
Butter
(Optional) Veggies of your choice (I use onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes)
1 Lemon
Herbs of your choice (I use rosemary, garlic, pink salt, freshly crushed pepper, and thyme)


Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. If doing veggies, peel and chop your vegetables into wedges and bite-sized pieces. Arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of the pan to make a bed for the chicken. If you don't do the veggies that is fine too!
3. Over the sink, slit the plastic wrapping around your chicken (if it's still wrapped up) and drain out any juices or blood trapped in the plastic. Reach inside the chicken's body cavity and remove the bag of giblets. The giblets can be discarded, saved for stock, or used to make gravy later on.
4. Pat the chicken dry very thoroughly with paper towels or a kitchen rag. Make sure to absorb any liquid behind the wings or legs. Blot inside the body cavity too, getting the chicken as dry as you can, inside and out. Then you can either pin or truss the legs with kitchen twine.


5. Rub the chicken with butter. Rub the butter all over the chicken, paying special attention to the breast, wing tips, and the drumsticks.
6. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken generously with your lemon zest and herbs.
7. Stuff the inside of the chicken with halved lemons.
8. Set the chicken breast-side-up on the bed of vegetables. The chicken should be lifted an inch or two above the pan by the vegetables.
9. Put the chicken in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes uncovered.
10. Cover the chicken with tinfoil and put it back in the oven at a lower temperature of 400°F. Set a timer for 1 hour and go about your business.
11. After an hour, check if the chicken is done by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the meatiest part of its thigh. The internal temperature should be at least 165° for the chicken to be done. If you're under, put it back in to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes and check it again.


12. Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes. During this time, you can prepare a salad or side dish or whisk some flour into the pan juices to make gravy. You can lift the roasted vegetables underneath the chicken out of the chicken fat left behind in the pan, and serve them as a side dish too.
13. Carve the chicken and serve.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Here is wishing you a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays if you prefer - because we are cool like that) from all the Stepford Sisters!


We love you and hope you are enjoying this time with friends and family!

Also a happy birthday to Stephanie Stepford! To read about Stephanie's special Chirstmas birthday check out these posts: Happy Birthday Stephanie Stepford and the Truth about Santa Claus


 




Monday, December 23, 2013

Drying Herbs



Some herbs are easier to dry than others owing to their stronger leaves and oils. However, almost all herbs can be dried in one or another. Trial and experiment is the best way to find out which herbs dry best for you, with the expectation that some herbs will shrivel up and look like a brown mess when dried, while others will retain color and texture well.

The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower. This is when the leaves have the most oil, which is what gives herbs aroma and flavor.

After harvesting them, rinse each branch in cold water and dry with towels or paper towels to remove all visible water. Wet herbs tend to mold which destroys the whole bunch.

I use a dehydrator because it makes things super simple. You just spread the herbs out on the racks, leaving space between them for the air to circulate, and only one leaf thick on each rack. Most Dehydrators have different setting for depending on what you are drying so you simply follow the directions on the dehydrator.

Some herbs such as basil, tarragon, lemon balm and mints have high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly.

If you are drying your herbs in an oven you will want to dry them in a very cool oven (high temperatures will result in tasteless herbs).  Basically, just turn the oven on to "warm" (140 to 200 F) (or 65 degrees C to 93 degrees C, gas mark 1) for 20 minutes, then turn it off and pop in the herbs.




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quick Tip: Natural Peanut Butter Does Not Need to be Refrigerated






I prefer to buy natural peanut butter because it is healthier, but I hate how hard it can be to stir. I always thought you had to refrigerate it after opening because it lacks the preservatives in regular peanut butter. It doesn't help that some jars tell you to refrigerate it while others say nothing. Finally, after years of doing this I got fed up and actually looked up the facts. Apparently, peanut butter of any kind (unless it has some sort of perishable additive mixed in) does not need to be refrigerated and is good for 1-2 years after being opened. For more information on the subject and some cool tips on how to make stirring easier check out the peanutbutterboy.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is the solstice that occurs in winter. It is the time at which the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. It is the shortest day of the year.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Different cultures celebrate the winter solstice in different ways:

Junkanoo 


In The Bahamas, Junkunno or Jonkanoo in Jamaica, is a masquerade, parade and street festival, suspected to be derived from either Dzon'ku 'Nu (tr: Witch-doctor) of the West African Papaws, an Ewe people or Njoku Ji, an Alusi (Igbo: deity) of the Igbo people. It is traditionally performed through the streets towards the end of December, and involves participants dressed in a variety of fanciful costumes, such as the Cow Head, the Hobby Horse, the Wild Indian, and the Devil. The parades are accompanied by bands usually consisting of fifes, drums, and coconut graters used as scrapers, and Jonkanoo songs are also sung. A similar practice was once common in coastal North Carolina, where it was called "John Canoe", "John Koonah", or "John Kooner". John Canoe was likened to the wassailing tradition of medieval Britain. John Canoe was interpreted by many Euro-Americans to bear strong resemblance to the social inversion rituals that marked the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia.

Dongzhi Festival




The Winter Solstice Festival or The Extreme of Winter is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the dongzhi solar term on or around December 21 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest; i.e., on the first day of the dongzhi solar term.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in.

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan  or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. In Korea, similar balls of glutinous rice, is prepared in a traditional porridge made with sweet red bean Patjook which was believed to have a special power and sprayed around houses on winter solstice to repel sinister spirits. This practice was based on a traditional folk tale, in which the ghost of a man that used to hate patjook comes haunting innocent villagers on the winter solstice.

Inti Raymi


or "Festival of the Sun" was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the sun god Inti. It also marked the winter solstice and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. One ceremony performed by the Inca priests was the tying of the sun. In Machu Picchu there is still a large column of stone called an Intihuatana, meaning "hitching post of the sun" or literally for tying the sun. The ceremony to tie the sun to the stone was to prevent the sun from escaping. The Spanish conquest, never finding Machu Picchu, destroyed all the other intihuatana, extinguishing the sun tying practice. The Catholic Church managed to suppress all Inti festivals and ceremonies by 1572. Since 1944 a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuamán (two km from Cusco) on June 24 of each year, attracting thousands of local visitors and tourists. The Monte Alto culture may have also had a similar tradition.


Even Christmas gets its roots from the Winter Solstice!


Christmas or Christ's Mass is one of the most popular Christian celebrations as well as one of the most globally recognized mid-winter celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, called the "son of God," the second person of the Holy Trinity, as well as "savior of the world." The birth is observed on December 25, which was the Roman winter solstice upon establishment of the Julian Calendar. Activities include feasting, midnight masses and singing Christmas carols about the Nativity. Good deeds and gift giving in the tradition of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus is also observed. Many observe the holiday for twelve days leading up to Epiphany.

How do you celebrate the winter solstice?
Stephanie Stepford and I will be attending a Winter Soltice Wedding! Look for it in an upcoming post!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ideas for Planning the Perfect Holiday Party

Hosting a holiday party? Here are some ideas to make it a memorable event!

1. Try having a themed party! You can make it a costume party with a Christmas theme, a PJ party, an ugly sweater party, a white Christmas (everyone wears white), or a Christmas spirits party (like a wine tasting or cocktail hour).


2. Serve your guest themed foods and drinks. For some great Christmas party foods check out our post here!


3. Plan some winter games! Check out our post on Christmas games here! You can also have a white elephant and play "musical gifts". Everyone passes the gifts until the music stops and that is the one you get!


4. Center your party around helping those in need. Guests can bring toys or winter coats to donate to a shelter, you can go caroling at a local nursing home, or host a packing party for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse that sends a shoebox of gifts/personal items to a child in a Third World country for Christmas—which is often the only gift the child will receive.


5. Host a trim my tree Gathering if this is your first Christmas in a new house- Putting up your first Christmas tree as a bona-fide grown-up is a momentous occasion. Why not have a tree-trimming ribbon-cutting, of sorts? Just set up your mini-evergreen (real or fake!) with lights and garland, and have your guests each bring an ornament to hang on your tree. To get extra-hokey, put everyone on the spot and make them tell a story about the ornament they chose. When the last one is hung, you do the honors of adding the tree topper and plugging in the lights!


Monday, December 16, 2013

National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

Today is national chocolate covered anything day! Here are just a few things you can enjoy covered in chocolate!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Mice by Spoonful



















Chocolate Covered Potato Chips by Allison Kramer
















 You can also buy these at target now!
















Chocolate Covered Fondant Raspberry Bites by Sugar Hero













Chocolate Covered Peppers by Jalapeno Madness














Chocolate Covered Honey Comb Candy by Clumsy Crafter



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quick Tip: Cleaning Your Bathroom in Hard to Reach Places

This quick tip was inspired by Jairica's cleaning rampage back in October. Right before my visit she told me she had done a top to bottom cleaning of her bathroom. She then was so proud to tell me that she used a q-tip to get the small nooks and crannies missed with sponges and paper towels.


This was genius to me, because there is always areas around the hardware of the toilet that I can't seem to clean well enough.




So the quick-tip: Clean your bathroom as usual then detail it with Q-tips!

 

Friday, December 13, 2013

10 Christmas Game Ideas

1. Fill the Christmas stocking. Divide into teams and have the participants race to fill their team's hanging stocking with a spoonful of wrapped candy.

2. Frosty's Corn-hole. Use a catapult to try and toss poms into the holes in frosty!

3. Photo booth. Not technically a game, but still a fun activity! Provide silly props and backdrops for guests to use to get silly in front of a photographer (keep in mind it doesn't have to be a professional).

4. Snowman wrapping contest. Wrap a person as a snowman in toilet paper and decorate. First or best one wins.

5. Christmas Would You Rather? Play a fun game of would you rather - Christmas Style! Click here for the free printable!


6. Pin the red nose on Rudolph. The Christmas version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

7. Snowman bowling. To learn how to make this DIY bowling game head on over to Craftaholics Anonymous!

8. Snowball Throwing Contest. See who can throw their snowball the furthest. This can be played outdoors with real snow or indoors with tissue paper snow balls. Careful, this can cause a full blown snowball fight!

9. Secret Snowman. Players try to stick a paper snowman (you can make it out of card stock with a loop of painter's tape to attach it) on a person's back without her noticing. When that person realizes the snowman is on her, she has to stick it on someone else's back. Don't worry about the snowman staying on just one back for hours -- giggling kids are sure to give the person a clue before too long. Try to have the snowman visit everyone's back by the end of the day.

10. Christmas Carol Charades. Get dramatic! You can’t beat this crowd pleaser, as it is sure to bring the laughs.  Have everyone write names of Christmas Carols on index cards or small sheets of paper (only write 1 carol on each strip of paper). You can also write some carols ahead of time that aren’t typical ones that your group probably won’t think of. Don’t worry if you have repeats if you pick a repeat when it’s your turn, just toss it out.  Depending on the size of the group, have at least 40 carols written down...then take turns trying to act them out!





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