Stopping to Smell the Flowers…Flower & Garden Show 2018

This past weekend, Chicago’s Navy Pier hosted the Flower & Garden Show. I’ve recently taken an interest in turning my brown thumb green. I  started a vegetable garden last year and have even been attempting to keep house plants alive. Since I still consider myself a novice in this game, I figured I’d head on over to get some inspiration and knowledge from the experts.

The Flower & Garden show had beautiful flower displays as well as a few teaching demos. I didn’t have much time so my focus was on visual inspiration. So I’ll take you all on this journey with me in case you also like to occasionally stop and smell the flowers…

By the way, this is the emptiest I’ve ever seen Navy Pier. Could have had something to do with the 30 degree temperature…

Flower Show 15

This year’s theme was “Every Garden Has a Story to Tell”

Flower Show 16

I was welcomed in to a beautiful flower landscape creating the ambiance of a storybook fairy tale.

Flower Show 11

Flower Show 12

These beautiful floral tablescapes used floral arrangements to create a story book feel.

Flower Show 14Flower Show 10

Although the camera could not pick up the water flowing from the large fountains, this display gave me tropical rain forest vibes.

Flower Show 8

I had to grab a close up of the tropical foliage displayed near the fountain. I love the variety of green foliage accented with pops of pink.

Flower Show 9

This plant is so amazing to me. Who knew Flaming Hot Cheetos grew on trees?? Lol

Flower Show 5

Hmmm….does this mean that Cheetos are organic??

Flower Show 6

I love the idea of creating a diy flower stand. This looks like it could be replicated by using recycled wooden pallets. I could imagine throwing on a nice coat of paint or stain.

Flower Show 7

Definitely going to try to recreate this display this summer. I love the concept of combining small scrubs with pops of color and some hanging foliage.


Another plant stand that will work for an indoor or outdoor display. I think a spray paint of a glistening metallic color will really make it pop.

Flower Show 2

What a way to create height! I’ve been thinking about ways to use a floral display that also adds additional privacy to our backyard space. I also love the use of the stacked pots to add height variance.

Flower Show 3

The hubby built garden/flower box for me last year. I managed to grew quite a bit for a first try. This year, I’m trying to reach this level of goals.

Flower Show 4

I love the texture and beauty of succulents. Unfortunately, I can’t get enough bright sunlight in my house to keep them alive.

Flower Show 13


I hope you all have been inspired as much as I have been. I’m looking forward to some inexpensive diys, creating jaw dropping floral displays, and a garden of lush veggies! I’ll keep you all updated on how I’m doing it.

Do you have any plans for spring/summer gardening?


Don’t Invite Me Out to Eat with You: Becoming Socially Physical

I recently came to a realization that my whole social life revolved around food. It’s your birthday? Let’s go out to eat to celebrate! It’s date night. What restaurant should we go to? Hey Friend, we haven’t seen each other in a while….let’s go out to eat. You get the idea and I don’t think I’m alone in this. People all around the world like to gather to break bread and connect because we all have to eat, right?

Well there are lots of things we “have to” do on a daily basis so why did eating become the go to social activity? Physical (upright) movement is not only necessary but is something that many of us don’t do enough. That’s why I’m declaring to all who I’ve dined with in the past to not invite me to eat with you. I can eat at home. Let’s go out to move! There are so many activities that I would enjoy and I thought I’d share a few just in case you too want to be more socially physical.

“House Music Workout” This class was recently recommended to me as a fun group fitness class. I do zumba at my gym all the time but this takes that to the next level. Loud pumping music orchestrated by a live dj while instructors alternate in leading us in fun high energy movements. This workout was an hour and a half but you have so much fun, that you almost forget you’re exercising! Invite your friends so you can all burn together.

house music workout

“Flirty Girl Fitness” I have not done this one yet but have heard only great things about it. From what I hear, it is the ultimate girls night out where you can burn some serious calories while learning some sexy moves. Classes include chair dancing, twerk body boot camp, and pole-dancing fitness. Don’t let the names fool you, some serious upper and lower body stretch is needed to perfect these moves!

Flirty Girl Fitness

“Live Reggae Band” A while ago, my husband and I visited a club that regularly has a live reggae band performing. Being there, we felt like we were back in Jamaica, warm sun shining on our faces with the rhythm bumping in the air. What did we do though? We sat, ate food and listened. Next time, we will hit the dance floor and dutty wine some calories away! Going to live music venues is the perfect opportunity to get out, enjoy some music and dance like no one is watching!


“Lakefront Bike Riding” One of the benefits of living in a city on one of the great lakes is having an awesome walk/bike path right next to beautiful scenery. I used to do this a lot when I was younger but as life started to happen, I found less time to go out and ride. Not only is it a great family activity but a wonderful way to catch up with friends as we ride, talk and take in some fresh air from the cool breeze flowing off the lake.


“Stair Climb Challenge” Now this one I’m questioning, lol. A friend recommended it as a challenge for herself and invited some friends along to join her. Another advantage (??) of living in a big city is having access to high rise building with lots of stairs. Who ever thought to say “No, I won’t be taking the elevator this time. I’ll take the stairs to the 100th floor instead.” ??? I didn’t think I’d meet that person but apparently she’s been hiding in my own circle of friends! Because I’m on this new journey, I told her I would try. It should be fun as we watch each other cling on to life as we climb crawl higher up.

John Hancock Stair Climb

So that’s how I’m planning to change my social life to my physically active life. Engaging in fun group activities that don’t involve eating is a big step from my norm but I’m excited and ready to move. Is this something you would do? What physical activities will you do with your friends & family?

I’ll keep you updated on how all these go so follow the blog so you don’t miss it!





Crispy Chicken & Savory Collard Greens (No Oil;Gluten Free)

So we’re a little over 1 month in, how are those new year resolutions going so far? What? Don’t bail on them just yet. I’m cooking up some goodies that will make you forget they are “healthy”! As mentioned in a previous post, I went gluten free out of necessity not because it appears to me the “in” thing to do these days. With that being said, I learned to tweak certain recipes so that I could still enjoy some of my favorites.

Today, I’ve cooked up some crispy chicken that I made using not one drop of oil.  To go along with that is a family favorite: savory collard greens. Let me tell you, since I put together this greens recipe, I’ve been the “you bring the greens to the party” person. If it’s possible to make comfort food into health food, then this is it!

First off, let me introduce you to my new best friend. Her name is Bella, she’s an air fryer and she has changed my life forever. You can actually fry chicken completely crispy on all sides with no oil! It works best with parts that have a natural fat content like thighs and wings. For other parts with less fat, all you have to do is spray with an oil spray which still adds no additional calories. Do yourself a favor, buy one. They are usually on sale somewhere, I bought mine on sale at Macy’s for $50. I’ve seen them as low as $20 around black Friday so look around but definitely get one!

Air Fryer.jpg

For the greens, I took the easier route and purchased two bags of pre-cleaned and pre-cut collard greens. It saves time on the preparation and makes it more convenient for a week day meal.

Bag of Greens

I always make my own stock using smoked turkey tails. I like this part of the turkey for its flavor and fat content. It gives greens a rich and savory flavor. Put these in a large pot and cover with about one inch of water. Boil covered on medium high for about an hour until it becomes fork tender.

Smoked Turkey Tails

To the stock pot, add in your “wet seasoning”:
1 green pepper
Half red pepper; half yellow pepper (or use mini peppers like I did)
2 medium onions (or 1 large)
4 cloves fresh garlic

Chop all of the veggies finely or use a food processor until it looks like this:

Chopped Onions Peppers

This is where it gets tricky. I like bold flavors, so my seasoning blend may be more “robust” than others. You really have to tweak it to your preference but this is what I use:

1 tbsp + 1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp paprika ( I really like paprika)
1 tbsp minced onion (I hate onion powder so I use this instead)
1 tbsp salt free garlic & herb seasoning
1 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar

Add the greens, “wet seasoning”, and dry seasonings to the pot with the turkey tails. Cook uncovered for one hour; stir occasionally. The water will dissipate and concentrate flavors so only tweak seasoning at the end of the hour.

Greens in Pot_edited-1

For the chicken, I used chicken thighs and use the same seasonings as above minus the sugar. The amount will vary depending on the number of pieces you prepare. Estimate about 1/8 tsp each per piece. I put all the seasonings in a bowl to make a “seasoning blend”.

Season Mix for Chicken

Half of the blend is added directly onto the chicken. The other half is added to a separate bowl with 1/2 cup of Brown Rice Flour.

Brown Rice Flour

Set the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Preheat for 5 minutes. Place chicken in without overlapping. Cook for 20 minutes, turn over, cook for another 10-15 minutes or until completely done.

Chicken in Fryer

You are now ready to enjoy this crispy and savory delight. I know what you’re saying, “where is the macaroni & cheese and cornbread!” Trust me, this is so good, you won’t even miss it! You can even get seconds while staying true to your resolutions!

Chicken Greens Finished Plate

Oh no, I’m not done yet! I have more yet to come that I’m sure you don’t want to miss. Be sure to follow and tune in next time for a new treat!


Gluten Free & Delicious: Jerk Shrimp Pasta Parmesan

After receiving the very good news from a food allergy test that I am allergic to wheat, nuts, soybeans, and sesame seeds, I realized that I would have to completely change the way I eat. It was sad at first, knowing that I would have to break up with some of my favorite dishes. Eventually, I learned to tweak recipes so that I could build a repertoire of foods that I can eat.

I’m going to share of few of my recent favorites for some of you that may have similar allergies or just looking to try something different. Either way, you will not be disappointed! Up first, is this super spicy, creamy, and decadent jerk shrimp pasta parmesan. If you like spicy foods, you’re gonna love this one. For those that prefer a more tame dish, I’ll share what to use to tone down the heat without compromising the flavor too much.

I’d like to call this a “recipe” but the way I cook is like “a little bit of this and a little bit of that…oh, it might need a little more this…” you get my drift but I’ll try my best to estimate proportion but I believe you should always try to tweak things to your own liking. With that being said, here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Gluten Free Pasta : 1 1/2 cups
(I love this brand pictured found at Aldi)

Parmesan Cheese : 1/2 cup
(freshly grated; not pre-shredded)

Frozen Broccoli Spears : 1 1/2 cups
(or fresh if you’re fancy)

Medium Shrimp: 12 oz


Hot Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (I found this one at Walmart): 2 Tbsp
(Use Old Bay or similar to make a milder version)

Heavy Whipping Cream: 1/3 cup

Garlic & Herb Salt Free Seasoning: sprinkle till satisfied

1 Tbsp Sea Salt

1 tsp Paprika

Add the jerk seasoning to the shrimp; stir until all the shrimp were covered. Spray a nonstick pan with oil and warm the pan on medium high heat. Cook the shrimp for 3-5 minutes until they are opaque. Remove the shrimp into a bowl and set aside.

Jerk Shrimp in Pan

For the pasta and broccoli, bring a pot a water to a bowl then add salt (and a tbsp of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together but that’s optional). Add both pasta and broccoli to boiling water and cook till pasta reaches desired tenderness usually 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Pasta Broccoli in Colinder

I wiped that same nonstick pan clean of all the excess jerk seasoning then added the pasta, broccoli, parmesan cheese, cream, and garlic herb seasoning. Stir and cook until the cheese has completely melted and all are covered with a creamy rich sauce.

Pasta In Pan Seasoned

Last, add the shrimp to the pan and stir together shrimp, pasta, and broccoli. Garnish with some paprika for color and Voila!Now you are ready to enjoy this spicy, creamy delight!


Trust me, with this recipe, you will not feel like you are missing out on anything simply because you have to eat a gluten free diet!

Stay tuned for more because I have transformed many food favorites to gluten, nut, and soybean free. You don’t want to miss what’s next so follow this blog now so you don’t miss out!



Easy Last Minute Christmas Gifts 3…DIY Shower Smoothie!!

We’re continuing on in this series of fabulously frugal d.i.y. gifts. Today, I am finishing up this trifecta of goodies by showing how I make a luscious and rich shower smoothie. Lots of brands have shower gels on the market but this smoothie takes that to the next level. It has the perfect combination of cleansing, moisturizing, and fragrant goodness.

For this smoothie, you will need:

1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/2 cup of pure unscented castile soap  (you can find it here)
1/2 cup of distilled water
Your favorite bar soap ( I always use Olay Ultra Moisture)
A grater
2 large bowls

Shower Smoothie Materials

Additional tools you’ll need are:

A measuring cup
Hand mixer
Containers (Dispensers)

Shower Smoothie Materials2

In a large bowl, grate the bar of soap completely. Add the water to the grated soap and let it sit for a few minutes until it looks like this:

Shower Smoothie Soap

Because I’m all about smooth textures, I use the hand mixer to whip the soap and water mixture to eliminate the chunks and create a more smooth, fluffy texture.

Shower Smoothie Whipped Soap

Separately, I whip the coconut oil to remove any lumps. Since the coconut oil has a different consistency than the soap, whipping them separately will ensure its smoothiness.

Shower Smoothie Whipped Coconut Oil edit

Next, add the whipped coconut oil to the whipped soap mixture. Then add the castile soap. Whip all together until it’s one big batch of whipped fluffy goodness!

Shower Smoothie Whipped Mixture

Now you separate the the whipped shower smoothie in order to add the same soap grade premium fragrances that I used for the body butter and the scented candles. One heaping cap full is enough for each batch. Simply fold it in to the smoothie.

Shower Smoothie Fragrance

I found the perfect container/dispenser at my favorite budget buy location, Dollar Tree. These are actually nail polish remover dispensers found in the nail polish aisle. It dispenses this product perfectly.

Shower Smoothie in Container

It has a flip cap and has a nozzle that you simply push down to dispense.

Shower Smoothie Bottle Dispense

Now you are ready to gift someone one of the most luxurious shower experiences they’ve had all year! Look at all this lathery goodness the shower smoothie gives! It is sure to leave the skin clean, soft and moisturized.

Shower Smoothie Suds

Add this shower smoothie to the body butter and the scented candle and you have a complete gift set! Any one of these alone would make a great gift! Simply add on depending on how much you like the person to whom you are gifting :).

Shower Smoothie Gift Set

And there you have it folks! Simple and affordable gifts that won’t break the bank. Bookmark this page for anytime you need a quick gift idea that is sure to impress.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year!!

Stay tuned for more money saving fashion and d.i.y ideas….



Easy Last Minute Christmas Gifts Part 2….DIY Scented Candles

We’re putting together gift sets on a budget this week just in time for Christmas. Yesterday, I showed you how I make my simple hair & body butter. Today, we’re going to add in a candle that matches the scent of the body butter!

Now there are places where you can purchase wax beads for melting to create your own candles. However, I could not find anywhere near me that sold them that way so what I did was improvise. I was able to pick up a 100 pack of these votive candles for less than $5.00. Using the tip of the sharp knife, I was able to break them up quickly and easily. Conveniently, these little babies come with a metal tab needed to anchor the candle thread so I set a few of those aside for later use.

Broken Candle Pieces_edited-1

I found this waxed thread at Joann Fabrics. It’s just cotton thread coated in wax which is what you need for efficient candle burning. Because this thread is on the thinner side, I double the stands by twisting them together. The thicker the wick, the better it will melt your candle evenly.

Waxed Threads

I found these glasses at Dollar Tree (you should know that’s one of my favorite places) in the candle section. Since these are made for candle burning, they are a little heavier than a regular glass. You can also use a mason jar.

Candle Glasses

Because I am creating a matching scent gift set, I am using the same premium soap grade fragrances that I used in the body butter I showed you yesterday.

Candle Fragrance Bottles

If you want to add a little color to your candle, you can use a crayon which will melt perfectly with your wax. I didn’t have any crayons but I did happen to have some leftover colored candles which I will melt together with my wax.

Colored Candles

To ensure even burning, I am going to go with the two wick approach in this glass. I tied the thread to the metal tab and used a bit of melted wax to anchor the metal tabs on the bottom of the glass.

Candle Glass with Thread

You can use the double boiler method to melt your candle wax. I used this small pot on top of an inverted lid of a pot of boiling water. The heat created by the boiling water underneath was enough to melt the wax. I used a long wooden skewer to mix because it is disposable and won’t melt in the wax. At this point, you can add in your fragrance, I use about 3 cap fulls to get my desired strength of the scent.

Melted Candle Wax

Because I used wax to adhere the metal tabs to the bottom, it will move when you add warm wax to the glass. Simply use a pencil on top of the glass, wrap the excess wick around the pencil to hold the wicks in place.

Candle wick with pencil

Lastly, you let the wax cool, cut the excess string and you are good to go!

To add a little embellishment, (because if we’re not extra then we’re not enough) I added some sugar flowers and a faux flower to the outside of the glass.

Candle Decor

Now, you have another cheap affordable and beautiful gift in your set with matching scents.

finished candles2

But wait; I’m not done yet! Stay tuned for the last item that I’m adding to the set. You don’t want to miss this luxurious treat! 🙂



Easy Last Minute Christmas Gifts…DIY Hair & Body Butter

Since I always seem to be operating on a limited budget for gifts (and everything else), Christmastime is when I try to make a little go a really long way. Just like with every other special occasion, I’m not afraid to whip a little something up to create my own gift sets.

So up first, is this awesome, healthy and affordable hair & body butter.

Body Butter Kit

All you need is a hand mixer, 2 large bowls, a spatula, 16 oz of shea butter and 14 oz of coconut oil. Hopefully, you have some of these materials around the house already. I only had to purchase the shea butter and coconut oil. I was able to get the shea butter from my local beauty supply but if you have trouble finding it in your area, you can get some here. I bought the coconut oil from Aldi; you should be able to find it at any grocer in the cooking oil section.

In addition, you can choose to add some fragrance to your body butter. I usually order a few bottles of premium soap grade fragrance oils from here or here. They arrive quickly just 3-4 days after ordering. They work great for a variety of homemade gifts. You’ll see how I put these to further good use in upcoming blog posts ;).

This time I chose Honeysuckle Rose, Hibiscus Guava Fresca, Coco-Mango, and Magnolia Raspberry. They are a nice variety of fruity and floral and all smell great!

Fragrance Oils

I softened the shea butter using the double boiler method. You don’t want to use the microwave because that kills the very beneficial properties that the shea butter has. Using a microwave also makes it more difficult to control the level of meltiness. You want it to be the consistency of frosting and not liquefied. Coconut oil melts so easily, that all I had to do is stir it with a warm spatula to get the frosting like consistency-no double boiling needed.

It should look like this:

Softened Butters

Then you want to use the hand mixer to whip up the shea butter until it’s nice and fluffy. The mixing incorporates air into the butter and not only makes it appear a lighter color but changes the texture as well.

It should have the consistency of raw cookie dough like this.

Whipped Shea Butter

I whip up the coconut oil separately because it has a much softer consistency than the shea butter. Whipping it separately maximizes its fluffiness and eliminates lumpiness because chunky body butter is just no bueno.

It should have the appearance of whipped vanilla frosting like this:

Whipped Coconut Oil

Then you can combine both in the same bowl and whip it one last time until you get this beautiful fluffy concoction that looks good enough to eat. Don’t eat it by the way….

At this point you, you can separate the body butters in bowls in order to add the fragrance oil. I added about half the amount to each bowl and put two cap fulls of fragrance in each bowl. I simply folded the oil into the butter gently with a spatula careful not to lose any of the luscious fluffiness.

Combined Whipped Oils

I picked up a few 8 oz containers from Dollar Tree which would make this whipped butter the perfect gifting size. These just so happened to have red and green lids….how festive!


I added cute labels with the name of the fragrance on each of the lids and voila!

Completed Body Butter2

There you have it folks! You have a lovely gift that people flock to the malls for this time of year. However, the store bought version will cost more and will have a bunch of added ingredients that no one can pronounce.

Stay tuned to see what other goodies I will be adding to this super easy and affordable gift set!

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