February 28, 2011

Vacation Round Up Sneak Preview

One of the many highlights of our trip was my son getting to see his favorite Detroit Tiger.
Starting tomorrow, I'll have a series of posts talking about our trip. Stay tuned!

February 27, 2011

Go See it Sunday: The Henry Ford

Billed as "America's Largest History Attraction" The Henry Ford lies in Dearborn, Michigan. It's actually several attractions and all are worth a visit.

The Henry Ford Museum is a vast space with 40 foot ceilings. The main floor area houses an amazing collection of cars, trains and technologies old and new. Special exhibits have included a history of chocolate and a display of some of Hollywood's most famous props and costumes. There is also an IMAX theater, a gift shop and a restaurant. Galleries along the outside edge of the museum contain jewelry and other smaller collections.

Next door to the Museum is Greenfield Village (which will reopen for the season in the spring), a living history area full of entertaining and educational sites. You can see Thomas Edison's workshop, the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop, one-room schoolhouses, stores, and numerous homes. You can watch craftspeople at work in the Libery Craftworks area, ride in a Model T, a 1931 Model AA Bus or an Omnibus pulled by a team of horses. Of course, no visit is complete without a ride on the Weiser Railroad. The Village also hosts many special events throughout the year including Civil War reenactments and Historical Baseball games. The Eagle Tavern hosts "Slow Food" evenings several times a year featuring locally produced food-some from the Village's working farm! There are plenty of other food options throughout the Village as well.

The final attraction is the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The Rouge Factory is not only a monument to Henry Ford's innovation of the past, but also to future innovation. One of the most impressive features is the 10.4 acre living roof, which helps manage storm water. The Rouge Plant is a leader in the area of green design.

For hours, rates, schedules and directions for all three attractions visit The Henry Ford's website. You can also purchase tickets and memberships online. Check the schedule for special free admission days.

Consider starting a new family tradition with Hallowe'en Nights and Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village!

February 26, 2011

Simple Pleasure Saturday

What do we do with ourselves since we're trying to spend less time watching TV and using the computer, you ask? Well, one of the main things we do is curl up with our favorite beverage and a book. I just heard some of you say, "My kid will never sit quietly and read". To that I say, give it a try. Yes, it may only last a few minutes the first time, but I think most kids still yearn to use their imaginations and a book is the perfect avenue for fostering that. There's no imagination needed to watch TV or play a video game, but when you read, all the details are up to you. You get to decide what people look like or sound like. You get to decide what the weather is like and where a house is placed. There are so many places to get books inexpensively (the library, PaperbackSwap.com) that you never have to worry about wasting money if you don't enjoy the book you pick.

Give it a try. You might discover that reading is your simple pleasure.

Ann Love's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

February 25, 2011

Featuring Clark Creations- Natural, Vegan Skin Care

I first met Pam, of Clark Creations, at a craft show that we were both vendors. Her commitment to quality products is unparalleled. I've tried the Dream Cream and am currently a tester for her new deodorant.  I asked her a couple questions to find out more about what makes her tick. So without further delay-here she is!

Clark Creations Oatmeal Soap

1) What inspired you to make your own body products?
The inspiration behind making my own bath products began when I had uterine cancer some 18 years ago. After all those chemo and radiation treatments and subsequently the doctors wanted me to go on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), I decided against it - I just never felt right. My skin became my enemy and I was sure it was linked to all the drugs I had taken when going thru cancer treatments for 2 years. I knew there had to be a better way - so I started small, learning all I could about essential oils that I could readily purchase and then more and more research into what I could make myself.

2) How do you decide what to make?
First, I started to make the things I needed for myself and after I began Clark Creations (in March 2008), I started listening to my customers. They have been my best critic and truth be told, I wouldn't keep striving to make new and different products, if my customers never ask, but I've discovered new and exciting bath products just by lots of experimentation and research and I am blessed to have some really great customers who are welcome to be my guinea pigs! LOL

3) How did/do you learn to make your products?
I learned to make my own bath products out of necessity and partially because I wanted to give my skin the chance to heal after what the doctors had done over my lifetime with topical prescriptions and oral medications. I got tired of the expense and the never-ending trips to the doctor just to "cure" one more irritation to my skin.

I have had no formal training. I've learned everything from books, the internet and talking to naturopath and/or homeopathic doctors (who are friends). I wish many of the forms of learning I experience now would have been more attainable when I was diagnosed with cancer 18 years ago, but you can't go back, can you? Anyway...I have enjoyed learning all I can and enjoy teaching others too, which is why I offer workshops in my home on essential oils, fragrance oils, soap, lotions, creams, lip balms...

4) Which products are your favorites? Why?
Clark Creations Dream Cream
 Hmmm....that's a hard one. If you would have asked me 18 years ago, I would have said my bath salt recipe (because I use cornstarch to soften the water and it leaves my skin silky), but now...well its hard to choose just one. The Dream Cream was my invention about 10 years ago, I guess (wow!) and its non-greasy and does an excellent job to soften and heal my rough, cracked hands and feet. And, there is the Oatmeal Fizzies that contain no fragrance, just natural goodness - great for kids, teens and adults who suffer from eczema or dry skin. I suppose my next favorite is the Massage Stick (made with Shea, Cocoa and Mango Butters) that some people would describe as a lotion bar without the mess! LOL. All of my bar soaps I just LOVE, love, love the scents/essential oil combinations and they are glycerin so they won't dry skin. And...currently, by suggestion from a repeating customer, I am testing out a new natural deodorant which I am LOVING the scent and the way it doesn't cause my skin to itch.

5) Which of your products do you recommend for people who are new to natural skin care?
Well, anytime a person is going to try a new product, I always tell them to use it sparingly at first and build up to using it daily, if they wish. Pregnant women should be careful about large amounts of peppermint or ginger (which can cause contractions to start early) and should talk to their doctor about starting any new regimen when essential oils are in the product. I list the ingredients in my products starting with what is the most to the least, so if there are any allergies to the natural ingredients, they are aware of how much is in it.

Example: Blemish Buster bar soap contains peppermint and orange essential oils and the crushed peppermint herb as well as crushed organic orange peel. The bar is made for those who have acne or skin irritations (mild rosaecea, blemishes). I use daily, but for those who have very sensitive skin, I ask them to start using the bar one time a week and slowly work up to every day, if that is the wish of the customer. After several weeks (6) the body or face will become accustomed to the new regimen and breakouts will be few and far between.

6) How do you think the handmade movement benefits you and your local area?
When I began making skin care as a business, I was not sure where I wanted to take it. After being in business almost 3 years (yeah!), I am sure that the niche of using no animal by-products sets me apart from most of the skin care providers in my area (Michigan). There are not too many vegan skin care companies and I also try to stay on the cutting edge of the fragrance/essential oil trends as well. Being a small Michigan based business, I listen to what the customers are asking for; see what my competition has to offer and try hard to keep costs down for new customers and those who are just getting into the natural way of life.

I try to be as open and honest about myself and the products as well as what I can give the customer. I work hard to provide every opportunity for the customer to contact me with any questions - and making (or manufacturing) my own products gives me an "edge" on what other "natural" companies are out there. I've spoken to several "natural" skin care representative from the larger guys and many of the representatives don't have any idea what is in the products. They don't have to list their ingredients - and I WANT to list every ingredient - I WANT my customers to know exactly what they are getting.

I want to thank Pam for answering my questions and for being such a great example to small business owners everywhere. Please visit Clark Creations website or Facebook page for more information and to try her great products!

A Clark Creations Gift Set

February 24, 2011

Introducing the Polymer Clay Smooshers

The Polymer Clay Smooshers is a guild on Artfire that I belong to. The artists are from all over the world and are all dedicated to high-quality, beautiful handmade art. Please check out their work! There are more than I could feature in this collection, so head over to the Smoosher's Blog for a complete list of shops.

February 23, 2011

Michigan Artisan: Dad's Wooden Toys

DadsWoodenToys - ArtFire Artisan Studio

February 22, 2011

Michigan Artist: ColorBlast

ColorBlast - ArtFire Artisan Studio

February 21, 2011

Michigan Artisan: Tilt Creations

tiltcreations - ArtFire Artisan Studio

February 20, 2011

Go See it Sunday: Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan

Situated along the Red Cedar River in Lansing, Michigan, Potter Park is a large park that avoids the lawn-like uniformity of many traditional green spaces. The park itself is full of trees and has several picnic pavillions and play structures. Within the park is Potter Park Zoo. The zoo began in 1915 when J.W. and Sarah Potter donated 58 acres to Lansing. This became Potter Park. In 1917, twenty-seven more acres were added and the first animals, elk, arrived in 1920. The zoo continued to grow throughout the 1950's but that growth slowed in the 60's and some people thought the zoo should be closed. In 1969, Jim Hough formed the Friends of the Zoo. Money raised by the society bought the zoo's first elephant in 1972 and the zoo railroad in 1974. In 1986, the Friends of the Zoo became the Potter Park Zoological Society.

Today, the zoo is open year round and is home to over 400 animals. Camel and pony rides, a petting area, big cats, primates, penguins and otters are just a part of all the things to see and do at the zoo! Members receive free admission to the Potter Park Zoo as well as other perks throughout the year. Members also receive free or discounted admission to over 100 other zoos and aquariums across the country.

Rates for parking and zoo admission vary based on age, membership and Ingham County residency status. Check the zoo's website for a complete listing of fees, hours and events. Use of the park outside the zoo is free except for the parking fee.

The Potter Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

February 19, 2011

Michigan Artisan: Canterbury Vines Studios

CanterburyVinesStudios - ArtFire Artisan Studio

February 18, 2011

Michigan Artisan: Baskets by Rose

Basketsbyrose - ArtFire Artisan Studio

February 17, 2011

Living From Scratch is Hitting the Road!

Tomorrow we will be heading out on that trip to Florida that I wrote about earlier. I can't wait! I love my state, but I'm looking forward to seeing some green and feeling some warmth. I have a week's worth of posts scheduled and ready to go. Some may look a little different than the posts I've done so far. Many of them are going to be collections of products from local artisans. I hope that you'll check out the folks I feature and remember them when you're looking for a gift or a treat for yourself.

Enjoy the beautiful items you see on here this week and I'll be back with a series of posts about our trip beginning March 1st.

Chicken with Lemons and Olives

You were wondering if I was ever going to use those preserved lemons, weren't you? No, it's ok. My husband was wondering, too. Well, here's a recipe that used one of them-only about 8 to go. Good thing they keep just about forever!

I used Tyler Florence's recipe as my starting point. Here are some notes.
1) I didn't have all those whole spices, so I just used the already ground up in a jar kind (that's a technical cooking term). Yes, I know that doing it just like the recipe calls for would probably taste better and more authentic, but I wasn't going to go buy all those spices for one recipe when I already had them sitting in my cupboard in another form.
2) I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because I already had some. Plus, boneless is much easier for my preschooler to deal with. I just adjusted the cooking time accordingly.
3) I didn't use saffron because I didn't have any and I don't care for it that much.
4) I used a mix of green and black olives off the olive bar at my favorite local grocery store.

I was also out of couscous. I don't know how this happened. Instead, I cooked up some rice and added a handful of pine nuts and about a tablespoon of orange marmalade.

I cannot tell you how happy I was with the results. This dinner was delicious! My four year old scarfed up the chicken! Seriously! This dish is definitely going to make it into my rotation and I'll keep preserving lemons even if this is the only thing I ever use them for. Try it, you'll like it!

February 16, 2011

The Road to Financial Independence: Community Education

You may remember that in the money guidelines post, I mentioned achieving financial independence. Now, that term means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, it means being able to maintain our lifestyle without depending on a paycheck from someone else. Basically, I'm hoping that there will come a time that we will have enough income (from various sources) to maintain our standard of living at the level we desire. Once that is achieved, my husband and I can work outside the home as we choose, because we want to, not because we have to in order to survive. The concept as I view it comes from "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I highly recommend that book for anyone who is interested in working less and living more.

One of the ways I have found to bring in income is to teach classes through local community education programs. Every school district has some sort of program whether it's called community education or something else. Find out who runs the programs in your area and give them a call. They are always looking for ideas for new classes since this is a money-making venture for them, too. Currently, I work through Huron Valley Community Education and split the class fees 50-50 with them. I've taught various ceramic classes for about two years and this summer will be adding some science classes as well.

A ceramics class I taught in the fall of 2010.

This is a great option for anybody. If you have a particular skill, offer a class! It can be something in the arts and crafts range, but it certainly doesn't have to be. Are you great with a certain computer program? Do you enjoy genealogy? Maybe you have carpentry or masonry skills you could share. If you love what you do for a living, why not share that with people? If you have a hobby that gives you hours of enjoyment, let people know.

This is perfect for everyone, whether you're looking for financial independence or just a little extra cash to pay off some bills. Give your local coordinator a call today!
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