Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 28, 2016

Aloe Can Do That?

This post is sponsored by detoxwater™ but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Benefits of Drinking Aloe

From trying to get to bed early to eating a healthier diet, I really focused on my health and well being in 2016.  But I'm only human!  So I definitely backslid a little recently.  I think my willpower - and common sense - both took extended vacations because I found myself saying yes to every slice of cake, every pile of perogies, and every alcoholic beverage placed in front of me. 

Benefits of Drinking Aloe

I don't regret a single bite or sip, but I'm ready to start 2017 feeling great - and I'm not waiting for the clock to strike midnight to make healthy goals, I'm already righting the ship!  It doesn't hurt that I was sent a case of detoxwater  before the holidays, because not only has it helped me re-hydrate my body, it's also helping to give my metabolism and digestive system a little TLC.   

Did you know aloe can do that?

Benefits of Drinking Aloe
Benefits of Drinking Aloe
Benefits of Drinking Aloe

Why Drink Aloe?

I already knew about aloe's amazing burn-soothing properties, but I was oblivious to the benefits of consuming aloe, although I was definitely curious - especially after seeing some weird looking aloe cocktails online (yum).  In turns out that in addition to 20 minerals (which help detoxify the body of metabolic waste) and 19 amino acids (which fight inflammation and bacteria), aloe also has naturally occurring polysaccharides.  These long chains of sugar molecules are clinically proven to promote healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, plus they help support the immune system and stabilize blood sugar levels - which I definitely need right now.  As an added bonus, these polysaccharides also improve skin's elasticity, which helps skin retain its youthful glow. 

By incorporating detoxwater™ into my (once again) healthy diet, I'm feeling really good!  It's fun to drink aloe water - it feels so strange! - and that's helped kick start some other good-for-me habits.  By the time we ring in 2017 I'll be ready to tackle anything. 
 
Learn more about the health benefits of aloe here!  Or check out detoxwater™ on Facebook and Instagram

Benefits of Drinking Aloe
Benefits of Drinking Aloe

Wondering how it tastes?  I was definitely expecting a really green tasting beverage, but it's DELICIOUS! 

It's mild and refreshing, and it comes in three soft and subtle fruity flavors: Lychee & White Grape, Mangaloe, and Pinamint.  It's sweetened with stevia (my favorite) and organic agave nectar, so it's not packed with sugar, which I appreciate.  It's also free of any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives (yay!) - and it's only 15 calories a bottle.  More good news:  it's also USDA organic, OU Kosher, vegan, and gluten-free. 

Get 30% Off!

Curious about detoxwater™?  Now's the chance to try it, because Dans le Lakehouse readers get 30% off by using the code ALOE30!

Benefits of Drinking Aloe
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December 23, 2016

Mini Pom Pom Garland for My Lavender Plant


When I made the cute felted wool ball garland for my mantle - to complement my blue and white, wintry decor - I started dreaming about making a mini version for my sweet tree-shaped lavender plant.  Well, I did it (just under the wire, haha).  And it's every bit adorable as I thought it would be. 


I was at the dollar store when I found a bag of mini pom poms in shades of blue and turquoise - too perfect, right?


I just strung them onto a glittering thread, tied off the ends, and then draped it gently on my lavender plant.   It was an even easier project than my felted wool garland because for those I actually spent the time and hand felted each of the woolen balls. 



I'm still loving my table top case study planter from Modernica, so I'm really rootin' for my lavender plant.  Please live!  It's a finicky little fella, that's for sure.  Hopefully he's not offended by the adornment. 



I hope everyone has a festive and joyous weekend, filled with good food, family and memories to cherish for years to come.  Happy Holidays!
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December 22, 2016

NoCry Products for the DIYer


I recently had the opportunity to test out some NoCry safety products.  NoCry is a direct-to-consumer company, which means you can purchase their high quality safety products for a great price because there's no middle man markup.  I was sent samples of each of their products to test and, although some of these products - like the welding gloves and the thorn-resistant gardening gloves - will have to wait until warmer weather for a more thorough review, Hubby and I did our best to examine these safety products.  We even gave some to my in-laws for a test!

We definitely have some favorites, so here's what Hubby and I thought.

NoCry Welding & BBQ Gloves



We were really excited about these welding gloves because Hubby's welding gear has gotten quite a bit of use in the last 10 years.  He really needs a new set of welding coveralls because he burned a pretty big hole in them recently!  Gloves are the kind of the thing that see a lot of wear too, so these treated leather gloves will be a great addition to our safety gear - especially because I'll be doing some welding this summer!  Our welder is actually mine, but although I've used it a couple of times, I've never developed my skills like Hubby has so I decided that this is the summer I start taking it seriously.  I'm going to have to invest in my own set of safety gear and these gloves are a great start.  They seem to be excellent quality and we'll definitely give them a proper test once it's warm enough again to work in the garage.  They fit comfortably and are sewn really well - plus they're only $11.99!


I really love that they're multi-purpose, too.  You can use them for welding, grilling on the BBQ, gardening or handling sharp objects - that's great value from one set of affordable gloves.

NoCry Puncture Resistant Gardening Gloves



I am OBSESSED with these puncture-resistant gardening gloves!  We have a few rosebushes on our property and it's been such a thrill to have fresh, fragrant rose blooms in the summer.  Actually, there's this massive rosebush in the ditch by an abandoned property on the highway and last summer I  ended up knee-deep in muck by the side of the highway, picking the hugest rose bouquet known to man.  I tried to layer up my ratty old gardening gloves but I was still pricked with thorns and my forearms had no protection.

It was worth it, though, every room has a rose bouquet and the house smelled amazing.  

Picking up a better pair of gardening gloves was on my list, so I was thrilled to get these.  They fit so beautifully - snug and comfortably, plus they protect the arms, too.  I really love that they come in different sizes for a good fit.  I have had leather gardening gloves that chafe but these feel so good - they're thick, but so soft.  I highly recommend these, even though they're a smidge pricier than the other gloves at $22.69.  



NoCry also makes two kinds of cut resistant gloves, which are so perfect for everything from kitchen work to carpentry.  



These gloves are the lighter of the two cut-resistant gloves, but they're my favorite.  They fit SO snugly and perfectly, ensuring that dexterity remains 100%.  I don't feel encumbered at all wearing these, which means gripping a knife or even a slippery object is a breeze.  Plus they're 4x stronger than leather.  I'm not sure I need them in the kitchen, but they're also great for wood carving or handling broken glass. 




The second style of cut-resistant gloves is even tougher and designed more for construction and landscaping than general household/kitchen tasks.  I love the quality and the material is surprisingly thin, making it easy to handle anything wearing these gloves.  I do find, however, that the fingers are a bit long, inhibiting use a tiny bit, but only compared to the previous cut-resistant gloves, which fit like a...well, glove.  The others fit so amazingly well, that in comparison these seem a bit more loose but I still love the quality.  They have superior grip to anything we've ever used, so I'm no longer intimated by DIY projects that involve glass and slippery sharp objects.   


NoCry Safety Glasses with Clear Anti-Fog and Anti-Scratch Lens


We are the worst when it comes to losing and demolishing safety glasses but that's good - at least it means we're wearing them!  Nothing scarier than a DIYer with a brand new set of safety glasses just languishing in a drawer somewhere.  These are anti-scratch, so we hope they'll stand up to our wear and tear.  The fit is super comfortable: they fit snugly (love the wrap-around style), and they're super lightweight while still offering outstanding eye protection.  

They're also designed in Italy, so I feel super fancy wearing them.  Seriously, this gal looks runway-ready (where are the stains and hole in her work shirt???):


NoCry Silicone Oven Mitts

I really needed a new set of oven mitts because my last set is totally toast, so I was pretty pumped for these and ordered a second set to give to my father-in-law and his partner because they're building a new kitchen from scratch (it already has bold red walls and custom, hand-made maple cabinetry), so I thought they might like shiny new mitts that match! 


They earned pretty rave reviews from my in-laws, but I found them to be a bit big.  I have small hands, though, and fitment is often an issue.  That's why I think I favored the NoCry products which came in different sizes - I could order smalls!  I found these to be too large, which hampered my grip a little, but they really do offer great protection.  The material is super grippy, which is handy and makes up for the fit.  They do the job, but I have to admit that I am not as enamored with these as some of the other products (those gardening gloves!).  Frankly, if they were turquoise I'd probably be raving about them, lol. 


If you're an avid DIYer - or are shopping for one - check out NoCry because the quality of these products is outstanding, plus the shipping was super quick!  Over the years, Hubby and I have always been really conscious about showing us working in safety gear on the blog - and being honest about when we should have used it - because people can be seriously injured during even the most straightforward home improvement projects.  Remember how I had to drive our bathroom tiler to emergency after he sliced into his arm with a chop saw?  Home improvement - even the most basic tasks around the house - is serious, so I was happy to partner with NoCry to showcase some stylish, high quality products which are designed with safety as the main objective.

I'll be sure to let you all know how these hold up to wear and tear.


This post was sponsored by NoCry but all thoughts and opinions are my own.  Check out their blog for more handy tips and tricks.   
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December 16, 2016

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

One of my favorite things from the turquoise and orange brunch I shared yesterday is this decadent carrot cake.  Not only is the cake itself super moist and delicious, but I really love how the pretty "wreath" decoration on top turned out:

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

For some reason, I've become really obsessed with beautifully decorated cakes - my Pinterest "Desserts" board is full of them.  I keep waiting for the perfect special occasion to go all out on some artsy homemade cake topped with piles of delicious candy and edible decoration (like this beautifully decorated cake or this one), but I just can't bring myself to do it!  Even though I'm treating myself during the holidays to some sweet treats, cutting back on sugar is always in the back of my mind and topping an already sweet cake with candy seems like a recipe for a stomach ache.  

For this dessert, I decided that I just had to add some holiday flair but, because the carrot cake was rich enough, I turned to the produce aisle in search of some decoration.  After topping my cream cheese icing with generous handfuls of unsweetened, shredded coconut, I used a package of rosemary, orange slices, and blueberries to create this pretty wreath topped cake.

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking
Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

I LOVE how it turned out!

Wondering about the taste?  When it was time to serve the cake I removed the wreath and served the carrot cake plain and there was absolutely NO hint of rosemary flavor, even when the "wreath" sat atop my cake for a good three hours while I fussed with photos.  We even had neighbors over for a slice and they were SO enamored with the moist carrot cake recipe - no one detected even a hint of rosemary.  Unwilling to waste a delicious sprig, I set aside the rosemary for a slow cooker recipe (the coconut prevented any icing from sticking to it).

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

Have I mentioned this cake is moist?  I snapped that photo of the slice yesterday (Thursday) but I baked it on Sunday!  It tastes so fresh, even after all of these days in the fridge.  Here's the recipe for anyone who is interested (and here's a link to my sugar-free carrot cake, which is also pretty darn tasty).

Carrot Cake Recipe:

This recipe makes the deliciously tall, double-decker carrot cake I made.
  • 2 cups sugar (now you know why it's soooo tasty
  • 2 cups grape seed oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tbsp sour cream
  • 4-6 large carrots, grated
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the oil and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla extract. 

In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredient slowly, mixing well.  Stir in the shredded carrots and sour cream.

Pour into two 9" spring form pans and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Cream Cheese Icing Recipe: 
  • 2 blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together until smooth.  I'm no expert at decorating a cake, but I have learned to wait until the cake has cooled completely before icing.  Place the first cake onto a cake stand or platter and apply a thin layer of icing to the top.  Place the second cake on top and press gently.  Then use a spatula to spread the icing onto the top and side of the cake.

Wintry Wreath Cake Decoration:

Sprinkle the top of the carrot cake generously with shredded coconut.  Using kitchen sheers, snip the rosemary into approximately 2" pieces.  Place the small sprigs in a circle shape, angling them ever-so-slightly so some face toward the center and some to the edge, tucking in the ends when possible.  Add orange slices or berries - imagine how pretty cranberries would look!

Store in the refrigerator, covered. 

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking
Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking

This was a delicious way to add a little festive, holiday flare to my cake, without adding more sugar!  For a leafier wreath, I recommend fresh peppermint - which was my second choice, but I loved the classic wintry look of "rosemary," which resembles evergreen wreaths.   This edible ivy is pretty cute too.

Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking
Carrot Cake with Natural Wreath Decoration | Festive Holiday Baking
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December 15, 2016

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Tablescape | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #EmergencCRecipes #CollectiveBias

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

After such a beautiful, unseasonably warm fall, it was such a shock to be plunged into -20 weather!  Overnight our bay of Lake Superior began to freeze and suddenly it felt very wintry.  I don't typically relish these winter months - actually, I dread winter - but this year I'm trying to embrace and enjoy all of the seasons, instead of hibernating and waiting for spring like usual.  I'm trying to look on the bright side: sure, our well might freeze (again) and I'll probably break another dozen shear pins on the snowblower, but at least I don't have to contend with the geese or mosquitoes.  Oh, and no lawn cutting!  And the best part: I'm a sucker for citrus, which is abundant this time of year.

Although I usually consider winter a cordial invitation to stay indoors and keep cozy for six months, this year I'm also vowing to get out there and enjoy the snow more.  I've been thinking about taking up snowshoeing!  I've been really focused on my health this year and getting enough sleep, eating well (but treating myself occasionally), and finding new activities to help me relax and unwind have been high on my list of priorities.  It has felt really amazing to finally make my health a priority; I don't know why it was always something that got put on the back burner in lieu of tackling an endless to-do list.  I have to admit, though, that it was easier to keep the momentum going in the spring, summer and even the fall, when I was naturally more active and wasn't craving so much cozy comfort food!  Sometimes it's a challenge to keep my motivation high when the mercury drops.  To help keep my energy levels up, I've added Emergen-C to my cupboard because it's an easy way to take the vitamins that help me feel refreshed and replenished.  It's chock full of more Vitamin C than 10 oranges, plus antioxidants (like zinc and manganese), Vitamin B (which helps enhance energy naturally*), and electrolytes (to replenish the body after a winter workout).     

Even the cheery packaging is uplifting and it inspired me to put together a casual brunch party, decorated with an abundance of sunny orange, pops of aqua (naturally), plus healthier brunch fare mixed in with decadent treats.  It was such a beautiful, relaxing (and delicious!) way to spend a blustery winter morning.   

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Is it just me, or does putting a little effort into setting the table make food tastier?

For this brunch, I let my vintage teak table shine by skipping my usual tablecloth and opting for a pretty polka dot runner in my favorite shade of turquoise (recognize the fabric remnant?).  Then I added some fresh cedar boughs and nestled in my DIY dyed bottle brush trees, favorite ornaments, and a handful of cute clementines.

The pretty orange napkins, teak candle stick holders, white vase, and brass cutlery were all thrifted finds.  The set of three teak bowls is my most recent find.  I had been wanting one of those for ages and after a day of running errands with my Grandmother, we hit up the thrifts and - lo and behold - this set was waiting for me, 50% off that day!  

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

I stumbled across the prettiest orange roses at Wal-Mart and bought myself a bouquet.  Why don't I buy myself flowers more?  I always vow to, but it gets pushed to the bottom of my budget.  But I really can't look at these beautiful blooms without smiling - they're an instant mood-booster. 

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Because I have a small dining table, I used the foods served as part of my decor too!  A carrot cake (recipe coming soon) was topped with a gorgeous fresh "wreath" and sliced oranges.

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

The matcha madeleines I shared earlier in the week looked really cute - and complemented my bottle brush trees!  I live for little details like this.

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

I also made sugar-free, grain-free muffins (with almond and coconut flours, plus homemade applesauce as the sweetener) and protein-packed, cottage cheese pancakes.  Healthy food can be delicious too - and cute, with the help of polka dot muffin liners and a sprinkling of shredded coconut.   

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

To complete my brunch decor, I dried slices of orange in the oven on low heat for an afternoon and hung them in the window from a tension rod - they looked like stained glass, so pretty!  As an added bonus, the house smelled delicious for days. 

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

With the decor and menu completed, I mixed up an easy drink recipe featuring Emergen-C, to help sneak in some vitamins during the busy holiday season.  Frankly, it is delicious on its own (and I love the effervescence), but I added a few fresh ingredients for fun! 

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Mango Orange Pick-Me-Up Drink (serves four):

4 packets of Emergen-C (Tangerine or Super Orange)*
1 cup fresh mango juice (1 mango, 1/2 cup water, 1 ice cube)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (2 medium sized oranges)
2 cups carbonated water

*1 packet is best when mixed with approximately 4-8 oz. of fluid.  

Pour the Emergen-C packs in a pitcher and add 2 cups of carbonated water - I bought an orange flavored sparkling water for an even more intense flavor.  The Emergen-C already has a delightful fizziness, but adding the carbonated water just intensifies the bubbles.

Make the Fresh Mango Juice 

If you have a juicer, this step will be easy!  If not, wash, peel and cube the mango, then drop the cubes into a blender with an ice cube and 1/2 cup of water, and blend until smooth.  

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

If you prefer, strain the juice through a sieve to remove pulp but it's got a really nice, full body to it as-is so I highly recommend skipping the straining.     

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Make the Fresh Orange Juice

Wash and slice two medium sized oranges in half - then get juicin'.  Fresh squeezed is so much tastier than from a bottle, but I don't often make the time for it.  Somehow laboring over my teeny tiny retro juicer makes fresh orange juice feel like a triumph.  

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Add the juices to the pitcher and mix well.    

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

Serve with ice or a slice of orange - or just a pretty paper straw!  I recently went to a party supply store in town for the first time, and have decided that every drink, from now until summer, needs a turquoise paper straw.  Maybe even a paper umbrella to hold onto those summery vibes - just a little - while I'm busy embracing winter. 

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

What a delicious way to take vitamins!  I found Emergen-C in the Health & Wellness aisle of my local Wal-Mart (you can't miss that cheery packaging) but you can also find it online.  Did I mention it's manufactured in the USA?  I love finding products made in North America.

Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

I had so much fun putting together this brunch fête and we all felt really refreshed and relaxed afterward.  I think I might have to add "brunch more" to my list of health objectives for 2017!
 Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up
Orange + Turquoise Holiday Brunch Decor | Plus a Delicious Emergen-C Mango + Orange Pick-Me-Up

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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