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Friday, June 1, 2018

Memorial Day Visit to the Portland Japanese Garden

Monday we took a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden. What follows are some photos I took of the garden and the International Rose Test Garden across the street.

Lora's Beauty ships free with orders over $30 (in the US.)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Just In Time For Memorial Day Weekend; Pellet Grill!

I'm beginning to think I have a problem. I reread some of my past posts and noticed there's been a lot of kitchen gadgets purchased lately. Not counting my new range, there's been a sorbet maker, a pressure cooker, an ice cream maker, and even a Sprilizer! So, I write today (a little embarrassed) to say, I bought a pellet grill!!

Keep in mind that although there have been a lot of gadgets purchased for food making, they've been used a lot! In fact, we don't eat out near as much as we used to so I believe they haven't just been frivolous purchases (well, maybe the Sprilizer....)

Ok, now that that's off my chest, back to the pellet grill.

It all started with an innocent statement from my son, "you should go to Home Depot, they're demoing Traeger Grills and you can cook pizza on them." Whaaaa!?? Fast forward two days later and I'm at Home Depot talking to the Traeger guy.

Needless to say, at $800 I didn't leave the store with one that day. I did what every normal(?) person would do and stewed on it for a couple days then took to Google and started researching them looking for a good, less expensive one. And I found it! The Davy Crockett Green Mountain Grill!

At $350 this grill is a bargain! It's compact as it's meant to be portable, but it's still large enough for a 15 lb turkey. I gave it a good test last weekend to celebrate my son's birthday. I smoked ribs, grilled chicken, sausages, and corn on the cob. It was delicious! The ribs literally fell off the bone.

Prior to this purchase, I wasn't real big on barbecuing. I hated how messy it was what with the lighter fluid and charcoal and besides that, recent studies have shown that eating food chard over a charcoal grill may not be all that good for you or the environment. Consequently, we seldom barbecued.

The pellet grill is so much easier to use! I add pellets to the hopper, turn it on, and set the temperature! Once the grill gets to cooking temperature (about 15 minutes to reach 350 degrees), I add the meat and set the timer on my phone app (yes, you heard that correctly, there's a phone app where you can control the temperature and turn the grill off and on!) While the grill is getting up to temperature, there is smoke, but once it hits temperature and is cooking there is very little smoke leaving it.

Supposedly you can bake a cake, pie, or even bread in it. I haven't tried that (yet) but yes, we made pizza!

I grilled the pizza on my stonewhich I just laid on the grill grates. At 420 degrees, the pizza was ready to eat in about 15 minutes

The pizza had a nice brown crust and a smokey, wood-fired taste. Grilling the pizza on the pellet stove will definitely be a weekly occurrence around here this summer and may even extend into the fall and winter!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Lora's Beauty ships free with orders over $30 (in the US.)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Life Hacks Discovered

Sometimes I randomly discover something that's a life changer.

Lucky for you, I'm going to share a couple things I've found because they're too good to keep to myself.

This first one Alec, my son actually discovered and, well, yes this one may very well be life changing!

It starts with peanut butter, the kind you have to stir because it's all natural (aka the best kind) and the oil separates from the ground nuts. Here's the trick, store the jar upside down! No more oily peanut butter on top and dry peanut butter on the bottom! Yea, I know! You're welcome.

The second life hack involves coffee. If you feel your coffee is just a little too bitter, before you brew it, put one shake of cardamon in the coffee. Careful not to add more than a shake you just want to cut the bitterness and not over power the coffee flavor.

My mom also swears that one drop of vanilla extract in your cup of coffee will also cut the bitterness.

Last weekend we made a trip to the Hulda Klager Lilac Garden in Woodland, Washington for the Lilac Festival.

Next to the scent of daphne in the winter and gardenia in the summer, lilacs in the spring are my favorite!

After visiting the gardens I promptly went home and cut some of my lilacs for the house. I rounded up this hack on how to prolong the life of your cut lilacs I shared a couple years ago.

Also, don't forget the dryer ball trick I shared a while back!

How about you? Do you have any life hacks to share? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Lora's Beauty ships free with orders over $30 (in the US.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Soap On The Rack

Not to alarm anyone but Mother's Day is May 13th!

Lucky for you, Lora's Beauty is stocking up on all the best goats' milk soap any mother would love.

The Patchouli Cedar Sage bar has just finished curing and is ready to ship.

I added a little french green clay to this bar to give it a soft green color and to provide detoxifying benefits. This is a beautiful bar with a nice patchouli cedar scent that lingers on the skin.

Also in stock is the Mug-o-Beer bar.

Made with beer, this popular bar is a great shampoo. We've been using it for many years now on our hair. It adds extra body and with the shea butter rich head, it moisturizes too!

Of course, every mom likes lavender and plenty of  the Lavender Meringue goats' milk soap is available.

As is the new Orange Poppy Seed goats' milk bar!

Order some for yourself and your mom, or just yourself. Or just your mom. Or... no, order some for yourself too!

The new website is up and running so please check it out and leave a review!

Lora's Beauty ships free with orders over $30 (in the US.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Catching Up

Yep, it's been a little quiet over here the past month. Rest a sure that's not because things aren't happening, they are. It's more that things aren't getting completed.

You see, I've been busy designing my new website! I'm real excited about it, please check it out! There are bigger photos and I added 5-star reviews to it in hopes people will leave reviews to help future customers.

"Are you dissing me?!"
With the launch of the new website, I will be taking more (and better, always better) photos of my soap. I just haven't yet. Part (ok, most) of that's due to the fact that Harlan, the grey parrot, now lives in what was my photo studio.

I've even made a new soap using a new mold! It's Orange Poppy Seed and it's shaped like a cube! It's still curing but it smells delicious and I love the look of the new cube shape so much I think I'll use it for the Activated Charcoal soap next time I make it. Wouldn't that look divine? A big block of black soap?

Anyway, my new website's official launch is waiting on Google. Of course Google doesn't know that, I'm sure they have bigger issues than adding something in their software so the new, redesigned Lora's Beauty website can go live using the same url of www.lorasbeauty.com.

It's all a little convoluted and more that you probably want to know, but the jest of it is, Lora's Beauty websites (old and new) are built using Google Sites technology, a free website building software that's been around for years (10 years? Longer?) Just this past month I noticed that a new version of this software was out, conveniently called New Google Sites. I immediately started playing around with it and loved it so much, I rebuilt my entire website!

Now, here's where the problem comes in. I have purchased the domain name of lorasbeauty.com and have it pointed to my Old Google site via a CName change at my domain name registrar (stick with me here). This means that every time you type www.lorasbeauty.com or even just lorasbeauty.com into a web browser, you are directed to my Old Google site. This is done because the actual url of the site is this: https://sites.google.com/site/lorasbeauty/. This doesn't roll of the tongue quite as well as lorasbeauty.com. For example, take this imaginary conversation:

~imaginary conversation~
Random Person: "Do you have a website where I can reorder this awesome soap?"
Me: "Sure, go to https, colon, forward slash, forward slash, sites dot google dot com, forward slash, site, forward slash, lorasbeauty".
~ end of imaginary conversation

See what I mean?

No problem, you're probably thinking, just change that CName record to point to your New Google site. Well, Google hasn't implemented that yet for people using the free version. Sure, I could pay Google some money every month and then I could do it but, well, free is better and Google says it's coming for the free version.... So I wait.

In the meantime, I have done a redirect so that if you type new.lorasbeauty.com in the url bar, you'll be directed to my new website.

Take a look, let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you've used Lora's Beauty soap before, please leave a review (from any of the product pages)! If you haven't used Lora's Beauty soap before (or if you just want to reorder) you can order all the skin loving and scrumptious smelling soap from the new site while you're checking it out! The old site works also.

"Did someone say PARTY!?"
When all this technical stuff gets worked out and www.lorasbeauty.com points to the NEW website I'll be sure to let you know! We'll have a party! Maybe even a sale????!!!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Salted Chocolate Cookies in the New Range

Happy Friday! Yes, I'm still enamored with my new range and although I'm never one to need an excuse to bake cookies, I still figured there's no better way to test out a new oven then cookie baking!

I know Valentine's Day has passed but every day is a good day for chocolate and buuuuuterrr and these shortbread cookies have plenty of both and a little salt to make them extra decadent!

I got the recipe from the New York Times. It may be behind a pay wall so without further ado here it is.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) salted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (but not too fine, you want chunks, not thin shards of chocolate)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Demerara sugar (for rolling)
Flaky sea salt

Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until super light and fluffy, 3–5 minutes.

Using a spatula, scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour, followed by chocolate chunks, and beat just to blend.

Divide dough in half, then place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over to cover dough and protect your hands from getting all sticky. Using your hands (just like you’re playing with clay), form dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help you smooth it out, but don’t worry about getting it totally perfect. Each half should form logs that are 2–2¼" in diameter. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet (two, if you’ve got 'em) with parchment paper. Brush outside of logs with egg wash. Roll logs in demerara sugar (this is for those really delicious crispy edges).

Slice each log into ½"-thick rounds.
Arrange on prepared baking sheet about 1" apart (they won’t spread much). Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake cookies until edges are just beginning to brown, 12–15 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating them all.

Do Ahead: Cookie dough can be made 1 week ahead. Tightly wrap in plastic and chill, or freeze up to 1 month. Cookies can be baked 5 days ahead. Store in plastic wrap or an airtight container.

Enjoy! We certainly did!

Friday, January 19, 2018

More Than You Want To Know About My New Range

I took the week between Christmas and the New Year off.  It was cold outside, may have even rained a little (or a lot), and I had time on my hands so I listed my range on Craigslist. Yes, the perfectly good range that I just cooked Christmas brunch on. Of course I did. 

It sold in a day to a nice fireman for their firehouse. 

No, I didn't have a replacement. 

I had been eyeing new ranges for a while now (maybe years?). Lately I've been reading a lot about induction cook tops and there are now a lot of ranges available that incorporate them. I know because I Googled it, a lot. 

I even started making a mental list of what I wanted in a new range (in order):

  1. I wanted an induction cook top.
  2. I wanted a white one (to match all my other appliances.)
  3. I wanted a convection oven option.
  4. I wanted it to have knobs not some overly complicating push-buttons.
  5. I wanted it to sit on legs up off the floor.
  6. I wanted it to look beefy but not industrial.

After continuing to research my new range I quickly modified my list of wants by dropping my second want:
  1. I wanted a white one.
Come to find out, almost all induction ranges come in stainless steel unless you want to spend $2000 more, then you can get a colored one. Justifying an additional $2000 for a color wasn't something I could do and besides I was now without a range and colors meant a special order.

Let's pause here to explain what is so special about induction cook tops. Unlike gas and regular electric cook tops which cook food via thermal conduction, induction cook tops cook via magnetic induction. 

Perhaps the best explanation I found for this was from this New York Times article that explained how it works this way: "an electrical current produces a magnetic field that excites iron molecules and heats the pan and its contents." 

The result is you reach zero to boiling in minutes, like one, seriously. For this to happen, you have to use cookware that's magnetic, think cast iron or stainless steel.

Induction cooking is also very efficient, only a small amount of heat is wasted by seeping into the kitchen. I've read articles that say less than 15% of the heat from induction cooking escapes to the kitchen. Compared to gas where 60% of the heat escapes into the air!

Another bonus, induction cooking gives you very precise heat control, similar to gas, and when you turn it off, it's off. 

So, that's why I wanted an induction cook top. What I didn't expect and what caused us to live two weeks without a range (and a lot of pressure cooker meals!), was the electrical end of it.

Apparently ranges (including induction ranges) come with cords sold separately. You can either get a 3-prong cord or a 4-prong cord. I had no idea since the range I just sold was about 15 years old.  3-prong plugs are the older style, which is what my old range had. This shouldn't have caused a problem because remember I just said ranges (including induction ranges) come with cords sold separately.

The problem was trying to buy an induction range from an appliance store in town that would include a 3-prong plug. They wouldn't sell me that. I assumed this was because their ranges were already wired with 4-prong plugs and they didn't employ staff to rewire the ranges. 

So, they insisted I should call an electrician to change my plug in the wall from 3-prong to 4-prong. They insisted on this so much that when I did get an electrician out and he said it was actually going to be a more involved job than just switching out the plug and would cost over $500 and I didn't need to do it anyway because my plug was code, they still wouldn't sell me the range with a 3-prong plug.

So, I went to a different store.

This store pretty much said the same thing however, they offered to deduct the cost of the electrician from the price of the stove in order to sell me the range with a 4-prong plug. OK fine, I did that.

So, to give you the Reader's Digest version of this story, I ended up with this beauty of a range; a Blomberg 30", slide in, induction range.

It was delivered last Tuesday. Not installed, though. We had to do that. Oh, and as the delivery guys were just about to leave, one of them hands us the cord! After all the hassle about the specific cord, we (Jeff) still had to wire the stove! It was not lost on us as we (Jeff) was wiring the range that we (Jeff) could have just as easily wired a 3-prong cord! whateva.

Isn't the new range beautiful!?

I'm still getting used to the induction side of it; learning how hot setting 5 is versus setting 7 and so on.

The oven oddly doesn't have an indicator to show when it's reached cooking temperature so I bought a $4 thermometer off Amazon.

Oh and I did need to replace my saucepans as they were not magnetic. So I bought this adorable enameled Cast Iron Apple Pot

So far I love my new range and am happy with the end result. Would I have changed anything in the process? Perhaps, maybe not selling my old one before I had a new one, but sometimes you've gotta live dangerously!