Shop (and eat!) Small This Holiday Season!

It’s finally fall!Well, for some of you. It’s still as hot as Satan’s asshole here. 

But, you know what that means?

Time for our annual SHOP SMALL HOLIDAY LIST!!!

This is one of my absolute favorite things to do every year! We’ve had wonderful results with it, too!
You may recognize a lot of theses places from last year’s list, but I will be adding to it soon – especially some fabulous food and accommodations my husband and I have experienced (check the very end of the list for some fabulous food recommendations!)!
Should you find an error or broken link, especially in your listing, or you are no longer “in business”, please don’t hesitate to correct us by contacting and/or updating in comments. 
Drum roll, please…
Shop Small This Holiday (and After)! 
Each year, GF likes to encourage others to “shop small”, and support small businesses who are often struggling to stay afloat with so many bigger, often cheaper, options available, during the holidays and throughout the year. We may post photos of some of the businesses we feature and/or their product(s), either from their site(s) or that I’ve taken personally (source will always be noted) and you will typically find these little bits of eye candy on FB and Instagram so you can get an idea of why we found them so truly awesome! Make sure you follow us on ALL our social media! 
FB: 

https://www.facebook.com/GlitterFantasy/ 
Instagram:

 @GlitterFantasy81
Twitter:

@SparkleFantasy
*** Glitter Fantasy NEVER accepts bribes and/or threats to promote a business, product or provide positive feedback/reviews. Please see our PR and review policies on our main blog at:
http://www.glitterfantasy.wordpress.com 
Any information provided about products and services is based on information provided by the company and our personal opinions. ***
WHAT DOES “VON’S PICK” MEAN?

In case you’re new to GF, I’m Von (short for Evonne) and I’m your “hostess with the mostess”! Mermaid by day, bat goddess by night, I’m a little batty and black roses, meets beach babe and glitter! I have a broad spectrum of eclectic tastes and “Von’s Picks” are simply my favorites or personal recommendations, if I have one, which I usually do. As GF is growing, my husband Craig, has become more involved and I value his opinion as well. You’ll see me speak of him often. Sometimes we agree; others we agree to disagree or simply like different things. I find it refreshing to add a male perspective, since despite the name, we do have a considerable male following and it allows a second opinion, so you will also see mention of his thoughts in the “Von’s Picks” sections. 
“Shop Small Saturday,” an annual, nationwide event, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, encourages others to seek out small businesses to support who are also likely trying to provide an amazing holiday, and everyday, experience for their families! We started this tradition to promote small business during the winter holiday season, but it’s been so successful, we’ve decided to continue it year ’round. Not only are you helping contribute to your community (or theirs, as the case may be, since several of our shop small businesses on this list are online only or perhaps out of state from you), but you can find unique treasures for nearly anyone on your list, for any occasion – even the person who “has it all”. 
This list will be re-shared on GF’s Facebook and other social media, throughout the holiday season and periodically throughout the year (watch around major holidays, but great to bookmark and keep in mind for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, promotions and other special events). It will grow, as we stumble upon more fabulous places, worthy of note, and simply because without the support of consumers, local and small artisans, shops, business owners, etc., may not have the support (financial and otherwise) to continue providing amazing, custom and creative visions for the rest of us to enjoy. 
We strongly encourage you to shop small, as much as you can during the holiday season – whether it be on Shop Small Saturday or not (let’s face it – some of us just aren’t quite ready for it to be Christmas, or any other holiday…they tend to sneak up on us all) – and throughout the year! Here’s some of our favorite small businesses, to get you started! Please do share this list, feel free to contact us if you know a small business that deserves to be on the list and we also strongly encourage small businesses to patronize other small businesses, and allow that spirit to cycle! 
Please remember: 

As noted, several times, custom work takes time. If you’re so much as remotely interested in a custom piece from any of these artisans, please contact them directly for more information, including creation time and shipping. Don’t discount a custom piece if it simply can’t be done before your holiday of choice! Wrap a picture/handwritten note/card or accessory and explain the situation. When your custom piece does arrive, it allows the spirit of giving, to continue! And, anticipation is half the fun (unless you’re waiting for ketchup before your fries get cold)! 
Check back as we repost the list, throughout the year, to refresh your memory and see any new additions as we stumble upon them. We attend several events, do reviews periodically and have several opportunities to experience new, exciting and previously undiscovered treasures. 
This was a success our first year doing it, and we heard from several fans and business that they found the perfect gift/designed or shipped orders, as a result of GF’s list! How exciting! However, please remember this is someone’s creativity, time, effort and passion! If something isn’t for you, or anyone in your life, simply move on. Different folks means different strokes – negativity towards an artisan or their craft(s) is not well tolerated here. 
Most of these businesses have FB pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts too! Give them a like to stay updated on new creations, sales, promotions and special events they may be hosting or participating in (many travel as well)!!! They are in no particular order, so make sure to scope the entire list, and often! Updates go at the bottom, with an approximate date and explanation. Please, by all means, let the business know you came across them through us! 
If you happen to be a business we’ve listed, this is simply something we do to help you out. No charge, no obligation. It’s simply some free advertising because you have a product that we’ve decided is worthy of promoting! If you find an error, please don’t hesitate to notify us so we can rectify it! A page like on any or all of our social media is definitely appreciated, as is sharing, and if you find it in your heart to do so, please shoot us a note and let us know if you’ve filled an order due to someone seeing your site through us! It makes us feel great and let’s us know what’s working to help YOU grow and create! 
REMEMBER TO WATCH FOR PHOTOS, SPECIAL REVIEWS, IN-DEPTH FEATURES, EVEN INTERVIEWS, AS WELL AS NEW ADDITIONS TO THE LIST! IT CAN HAPPEN AT ANY TIME! 
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RAINBOW GODDESS DESIGNS

rainbowgoddessdesigns.com. 

Handmade crowns to beautiful, handmade jewelry creations. Flowers, feathers, mermaid, Native American, Dia de los Meurtos, even unicorn horns! She does custom work, too…just beware custom work takes time (since every piece is handmade) and so does shipping. Unique gifts for that person who has everything! Super affordable, too! You can often find Iris at Second Saturdays in downtown Tucson, so you definitely want to follow her on FB!
Von’s Pick – I love the unicorn horns and matching tails because what little girl (or boy) wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?!? The peacock feathers and swords in exotic colors really set them apart. I also love the beautiful mermaid crowns, because y’all know I’m a mermaid by day! 
MY LIP STUFF

Mylipstuff.com

The most AMAZING lip balms you can get your pucker on! 700+ flavors, earth and animal friendly, custom flavors and labels, all made with love and the perfect amount of shine and “glide” to give you a perfect pout. Don’t forget to check out the other products as well, because the Healing Body Butter stick is a miracle in a tube. You will never use Neosporin again. 
Von’s pick – Pink Cake and Nighttime are my favorite balms, but Brea’s Healing Body Butter stick is something I never leave home without! It’s healed everything from minor cuts and scrapes, to deep wounds and even bruises, faster than any product I’ve ever used. 
PERFECTLY POSH

Thepamperedmom.po.sh

Perfectly Posh is a relatively new skin care venture but one I’m glad was made. Vegetarian (some even Vegan) and paraben free, they’ve got you covered from head to toe – literally. Amazing scents and only the finest in essential oils and ingredients, it’s a difference you can see and feel. Best part? Everything in their huge catalog is under $25! Fun fact: the scraps from their “Chunk” body soaps, are “repurposed” and sent to prisons, women’s shelters and more! 
Von’s Pick – Moisturize 911

If you try just one PP product, make it this amazing crème, full of brightening, toning and complexion perfecting ingredients to make your skin truly glow. If you do order, and want to “treat” your hostess with the mostess (I get points) you can use my link here:
https://www.perfectlyposh.com/p/?pref=5181648
PINK ZEBRA

https://www.facebook.com/SprinkleYourBliss/

The most amazing wax warmers and scents to fill your home with your favorite scents or seasonal cheer. Forget those little cubes! Pink Zebra uses what they call “sprinkles”, which make for easy mixing and matching scents and you control how much scent you want! I’ve also not had any problems with this product doing what those little cubes did; melting plastic combs that are designed to withstand 500° temperatures, simply by placing a new cube on top of them and forgetting over night. They will work in any standard/electric wax warmer, but at PZ prices, check out some of the super cute ones they offer. Plus, they offer “soaks”, to make your own car air fresheners, scented toys, etc.! Have a warmer under the tree and a jar of sprinkles in the stocking! Or, make a semi-handmade gift by creating uniquely scented car fresheners for friends and family (subtle hint to the teen who leaves half a pizza in his car until it’s unrecognizable or a sachet for Aunt Mary’s quilt closet). If you ask Kim nicely, she may just send you a handpicked sample, too!
Von’s Pick – Pumpkin Amber is my go-to scent whenever I need a little pick-me-up! Less PSL, a touch more warmth from the amber and a splash of citrus make this scent relaxing and refreshing. Store bought pie? No problem! The Warm Apple Pie scent will have family and friends fooled in no time! They’re always coming out with new scents, too. 
POPPEDIFY

https://www.facebook.com/poddedify/

The. Best. Gourmet popcorn, second to none! Hand popped, in small batches, one bag to 100! And, sooooo many delicious flavors to choose from! Just the perfect amount of light, crispy, crunchy, “candy” coating (like kettle korn), this would be perfect in a Christmas Eve box, as a stocking stuffer or for co-worker gifts, holiday parties or delicious snacking during a party, a big game or movie night. Make sure you order extra because it goes fast and you’re definitely going to want your own! 
Von’s Pick – The Pumpkin Spice is decadent, but I adore mixing the Cherry and Cinnamon together (it’s like Cherry Sours and Cinnamon Bears candy, both which I love). Even not being an eggnog person, their Eggnog popcorn is divine! Some are seasonal, so always double check. 
TWISTED SEAS

https://poshmark.com/closet/twisted

Beautiful and eclectic jewelry and handmade creations. Think classic pieces like cameos, meets Steampunk, Gothic and more. Every piece is handmade with amazing attention to detail and custom orders are accepted. Contact them directly to see if they can help create your ideal piece, as well as for pricing and times to create and ship. 
Von’s Pick – I love the twisted classics, like the gothic cameos (mentioned above). I also like quite a bit of Steampunk fashion, and these aren’t the same Steampunk you can find all over the net. Delicate, feminine and classy; it doesn’t scream “Steampunk”, rather just “unique”.  
THE MITER BOX

http://www.themiterbox.org/

Beautiful wooden creations, by a husband and wife team, many with Celtic knot work or more Renaissance themes. The shop is online only and as mentioned above, custom work takes time. Please contact them directly (not us at GF), to ask how long an order make take. They are an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, if memory serves) household – so if you have any SCA fans/members on your gifting list, I’m sure they’d treasure a gift from one SCA household, to theirs! 
Von’s Pick – Reagan (the wife part of this duo) has been a friend of mine for many years. Some of the beautiful, exotic woods she uses – in naturally rich, gemstone colors – are my favorite to see! She works with a deep plum one called “Purple Heart”, and I’ve been hinting to my husband that I can never have too many jewelry boxes! 
CATA VINOS

http://www.catavinoswines.com/

If you’re in, around or passing through Tucson, Cata Vinos is a wine lovers dream, tucked away off the street and hidden so well, if you blink, you’ll miss it. Most every wine is under $15 a bottle and they do offer tastings with palette cleansers (snacks), as well as wine by the glass or bottle and cater to special events. They often have a food truck onsite for special tastings and offer tapas style, small plates or meats, cheeses and olives for an additional fee, during tasting. Indoor and outdoor seating, a nice way to unwind after a long day of work or shopping, and maybe even find a gift for the wine lover on your list, while you’re there. 
Von’s Pick – Craig and I have never had a bad wine here, however the one we adore (and celebrated with for our local wedding reception when we returned from California), is a sparkling moscato and the name has completely escaped me. Owner, Yvonne, always remembers, so if you tell her Craig and Evonne, the two blondes sent you, that would likely tip her off! 
ELISA’S SOUL KISSES

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Elisasoulkisses

Handmade metaphysical tools, gems, oils, jewelry and more. Some very unusual finds, she also does auctions and flash sales on Facebook. 
Von’s Pick – The Hitman Protection Oil is the best! Infused with stone chips and herbs to help add a layer of protection against negativity and attacks, both psychic and physical, the clean, lightly citrusy scent is relaxing, refreshing and I wear it often for its anti-negativity benefits. Especially when out in public. The scent alone makes it perfect for anyone who likes a light, springy, slightly floral perfume oil. 
VIBES UP

http://shop.vibesup.com/

Products produced with ground crystals and other healing elements; range from bracelets to nail polish to their famous Earth Energy Mats, and are said to do everything from ease back pain to keep drinks colder, longer, based on this technology. They have a ton of products to chose from, so there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list! 
Von’s Pick – Not going to lie. I have quite the wish list here! But, after trying a very small piece of one of their original mats, I’d strongly suggest these! I’ve had a lot of migraines lately and I can place one of these small pieces on my head, where the headache seems to center, and within minutes it’s gone or near gone. Make sure you read about the technology itself and some of the over 100 ways loyal fans suggest using it! 
NEW TO THE LIST (12.01.16 – RECOMMENDED)
JAYMZ KENNEDY PHOTOGRAPHY 

http://jaymzk-photography.redframe.com/page/home/
LILMIZDANGER CLOTHING AND CRAFTS

https://www.facebook.com/Lilmizdanger-Clothing-and-Crafts-435347249915546/
NEW TO THE LIST! (12.10.16 – 4TH AVENUE WINTER STREET FAIR) 
RISK E BUSINESS LOTION IN A BAR

http://www.lotioninabar.com/
Von’s Pick – The Pearberry and Sore Muscle were my favorites! Lightweight, non greasy lotion in a bar that leaves skin soft and comes in a variety of scents, some of which, like Sore Muscle, can multitask so you don’t have to!
MY MARVELOUS MYSTICS

http://www.mymarvelousmystics.com/
Von’s Pick – The dragon decor is gorgeous and prices are amazing! My son adores dragons and with his 22nd birthday fast approaching, we’re definitely keeping this in our “back pocket”. Ask for Jessica if you don’t see what you’re looking for and she may be able to custom order! Mention GF AND the street fair!
CELESTIAL RITES

http://celestialrites4thave.com/
Von’s Pick – Beautiful and reasonably priced Metaphysical items, with a brick-and-mortar store in Tucson on 4th Avenue. My husband got me THE most adorable witches’ cauldron earrings, some gemstone pendants for himself and they have some wonderful Nag Champa and other incenses. 
JEFF PRICE ART GLASS

http://www.jeffpriceartglass.com
Von’s Pick – Breathtaking is the only word to describe his work! Craig gifted me with, well, I’m not sure what exactly to call it, but it’s like the most gorgeous, perfect glass bubble…that can never pop (break, yes. Pop, not so much). His iridescent paperweights and ornaments also stunning, you have to see it to believe how beautiful and affordable his art is. 
CALIFORNIA BALSAMIC 

http://californiabalsamic.com/
Von’s Pick – I will sit and eat good balsamic vinegar all day, by the spoonful. I have Craig hooked too. The Sweet Heat, Chocolate Orange and both the white and standard Strawberry have my mouth watering at the very thought! Also a huge selection of custom blended oils and other edibles. Craig also really liked their Basil oil and Garlic balsamic. 
RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

http://runningwithscissors.com/
Von’s Pick – The punk rock jewelry is an amazingly eclectic bit of everything goth, punk, scene, emo and more! My husband pointed out makeup brush earrings that I fell for, earrings based on state (they only had Arizona on hand, but I’m hinting at a pair of New York ones for my impending birthday) and the bat hair bow was to die for (I just don’t do headbands/hats/bows). Eclectic and unique, look long enough and you’ll find something for you (or the person in your life who is impossible to shop for)! There’s also some unique games that, depending on age, may make a great gift to encourage Family Game Night! 
SPARKLE MONSTER

http://www.sparklemonster.com 
Von’s Pick – My husband pointed out makeup brush earrings that I fell for, earrings based on state (they only had Arizona on hand, but I’m hinting at a pair of New York ones for my impending birthday) and several other gorgeous goodies. I wasn’t sure where to look! Eclectic and unique, look long enough and you’ll find something for you (or the person in your life who is impossible to shop for)! Handmade, laser-cut creations, they sell equipment and supplies as well. 
SAUCY LIPS

http://www.saucylipsfoods.com
Von’s Pick – Handcrafted and gourmet sauces, Peppery Strawberry had Craig and me intrigued. And, it didn’t disappoint! Would make a fabulous dressing for a summer salad. THEN, we saw Jalapeño and Green Apple, which we approached with caution. Not because of the heat, rather the bizarre combination. O. M. G.! Pure genius and a must try! Absolutely amazing (and the company name is just plain fun to say)!
LILY WEIL SPORTS NUTS

likyweil@live.com
Von’s Pick – The walnuts dressed in college and pro sports team gear, “head to nut” are adorable, but I’m highly allergic. Then, I turned around and noticed her duct tape rose pen creations! Talk about talent and patience! A Jets rose pen definitely made it home with us! Email her for any of your sport fanatic needs and I’m sure she’ll help you out! Mention GF and the 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair to let her know who sent ya! 
UNTAMED CONFECTIONS

http://www.untamedconfections.com/
Von’s Pick – Handmade in small batches, fair trade chocolate and caramels, sweetened with Sonoran Desert wildflower honey. With gluten free, soy lecithin and dairy free products as well, Craig and I fell for their Baby Desert Tortoise, using Arizona honey glazed, organic pecans (fun fact – it’s the largest organic pecan grove in the country), topped with their soft, delicious vanilla honey caramel and the pièce de résistance, the luscious, organic, fair trade, honey-sweetened chocolate. Extra fun fact: they have a tasting room in Tubac, Arizona, where like wine, you can go in, belly up to the bar, and indulge in soft, rich honey-sweetened caramels that embrace unique Southwestern flavors like jalapeño, among other confections. I hope they have a fork lift, because they will be lifting or rolling Craig and me out of there! 
SWEET AND SAUCY

 http://www.sweetandsaucy.net/
Von’s Pick – “So good…it’s sinful” is most definitely an appropriate motto for this “Queen of all things chocolate”! Craig and I fell hard for the ooey gooey seasonal Autum Harvest Caramel sauce, but we had to back away from the Chipotle and Cabernet hot fudge chocolate sauces that were like an orgasm in our mouths! Several boozy flavors in the caramels and chocolates, being a mustard girl, and from New York where deli mustard is King, I’m now itching to try the Bloody Mary and Heaven and Hell mustards – and if I know my husband, which I do, Honey Roasted Garlic and Onion and Tequila Lime mustards would be his picks for a more savory sin. 
SEAN PARKER PHOTOGRAPHY 

http://www.sean-parker.com
Von’s Pick – Beautiful, scenic photography. His aurora borealis and lightning shots are particularly spectacular. 
SAN FRANCISCO CHOCOLATE FACTORY

http://www.sanfranciscochocolatefactory.net/
Von’s Pick – Gourmet caramel apples in amazing flavor combinations, so packed with toppings, there’s no way I could get even my big mouth around them without making a mess! Much easier on the wallet than some of the big brands the television shopping networks and magazines like to push. The real hidden gem here, is the homemade fudge that literally melted in our mouths as we walked down the street, taking turns feeding each other so one of us would have a clean hand at all times! I know a certain candy company likes to brag their candy melts in your mouth and not your hand, but licking our fingers clean after devouring this rich, decadent confection was not only romantic, but gave us a few extra seconds to savor this amazing treat. Worth every pound I’m sure went straight to my hips! 
PEPPERMINT JIM

http://peppermintjim.com/
Von’s Pick – While Craig couldn’t be around this due to his scent-sitivities, they offer oils, sprays, balms and candles made from the highest quality peppermint and spearmint, coming from the oldest, independent mint farm left in the United States. A couple drops of pure peppermint oil on my aching back, right where my surgeries were, relieved about 45% of my pain, in minutes, and lasted a good hour. I take STRONG, big pharma painkillers for my chronic back pain, and this worked better, faster. Check out their site for tons of tips on how these amazing mints can benefit you; everything to pain relief and focus, to household uses and stress. Fun fact: they also offer a Soil Rejuvenator, which is a compost produced from the mint plants after the oils have been extracted and is a must have for anyone who gardens or even keeps houseplants. Aids and assists in seed starting, retention of moisture, reduces transplant shock and is micro-nutrient ready. There’s a product we all know and love that boasts growing larger, more abundant fruits and flowers, but I love the idea that NONE of Peppermint Jim’s crop goes to waste! 
ARIZONA RUB

http://www.arizonarub.com/
Von’s Pick – Award winning BBQ sauces, steak sauces and rubs, the Rattlesnake Rub has been a favorite in our household since we discovered it four or five years ago. I’ve used it on everything from steak, to seafood to veggie blends, it’s a kick of flavor that’s more than just heat – a huge peeve of mine. We love spicy, but we also love flavor; many products get so wrapped up in the amount of heat for those “thrill seekers”, it ends there and leaves you with a flaming mouth, clear sinuses and little else. The Chipotle is also fabulous, with that hint of smokey flavor and we both really liked the Chili Lime, which is a tad milder but every bit as tasty. And, no matter if you prefer a mustard based BBQ sauce or a more traditional tomato, they’ve got something for you! Some pretty impressive awards, too! 
ECOSYSTEMS OF HAWAII

https://ecosofhawaii.myshopify.com/
Von’s Pick – These beautiful mini and completely self sustaining ecosystems make traditional aquariums a thing of the past. Absolutely fascinating to watch, they contain “little living souls inside”, which are actually Opae’ula, a miniature red shrimp indigenous to Hawaii, but actually looked more like tiny fish to us. The best part? The only time you have to open the tank is to replace any evaporated brackish salt water, which can be done with mineral-free, distilled or purified drinking water. Perfect for a first pet, an office or even a spa/massage treatment room. 

(I kinda feel like this is a classy, adult version of “Sea Monkeys”.)
LIL SASSY’S SALSA 

http://www.sassysalsa.net
Von’s Pick – With quite a selection of sass in these salsas, Craig and I loved the Ghostly Pepper Salsa. The Ghost Pepper or Bhut Jolokia WAS the world’s hottest pepper, until recently when the Carolina Reaper knocked it from the throne, this definitely has some serious sass but didn’t leave us feeling like we were having our insides ripped out. They have a couple even hotter, also fantastic, and several milder variations for the less sassy salsa connoisseur. 
PATRICK’S FAMOUS PIES

http://www.facebook.com/patricksfamouspies
Von’s Pick – If you love sweet potatoes, which we do, or just want an alternative to pumpkin, this is the place for you! Patrick is famous (and every bit as humble) for his potato perfection, but the southern staple gets a new twist with his sweet potato bread. Forget the rolls. Pass the potatoes (bread), please! 
CEH CREATIONS

 https://cehcreations.myshopify.com/
Von’s Pick – These divine, hand-beaded creations are a tad on the pricey side. But, once you understand the love, passion, patience and time that goes into these wearable works of art, the sticker shock quickly turns to respect for the artist talent involved. I loved the frosted glass bracelets that resembled tiny little grape clusters, still on the vine, ripe and ready to eat. By no means outrageous, Christine was lovely and her spirit really is reflected in her work. If you want to sport a piece and not ever have to worry about the “same dress at a cocktail party” nightmare, this is the page for you! Classy, colorful and chock-full of true artisanal talent, don’t let the opportunity to own (or gift) one of her unique pieces pass you by! 
MUNCH N’ GRUB

http://www.munchngrub.com/
Von’s Pick – Snack food fans, rejoice! They take snack classics and upgrade them to the next level! I’m going to say it – I HATE that popular convenience store snack that’s crunchy kernels of corn, comes in about 15 flavors that all taste the same (like cardboard), are so hard, you’d better pray to the corn Gods you have great teeth and the smell? Ugh. The smell alone will make me nauseous. However, unless I’m allergic or ethically opposed to something, I’ll try just about anything more than once, because like the seasons, people and tastes change. Also, like most things in life, when you’re not sacrificing quality for quantity or cost, most anything is better. I’m so glad the folks at Munch N’ Grub, and my corn snack loving husband, convinced me to give these a go! Gourmet flavors that far surpass ranch (and we’re ranch junkies), these were easy to chew, smelled like corn and whatever flavor as opposed to burning hair and most importantly, were delicious. The bleu cheese flavor was phenomenal and I think I snacked on more of them than Craig did! They also produce a moist, meaty and tender beef jerky. No shoe leather here! Melt in your mouth, in several drool-worthy flavors that gave you full Spicy Teriyaki or American Whiskey flavor (our two favorites) that didn’t overpower the perfectly dehydrated beef. Hot, mild, sweet and combinations of all the above, a great “couch coaching”, sport fanatic snack (college football bowls and the Super Bowl are both coming up), Paleo staple and man (or woman) cave necessity. Skip the cereal snack mix and canned, mixed nuts and serve these instead – just make sure you had a couple bags of both for yourself! 

 
MAGGIE JOYCE JEWELRY 

https://www.facebook.com/maggiejoycerecycling/
Von’s Pick – “Recycling at its Prettiest”, this takes up cycling to a whole new level. By recycling optic lenses (read: glasses), Maggie creates stunning jewelry creations. Every shade of the rainbow shows up in her frosted glass adornments for everywhere BUT your eyes! The only thing your eyes have to do is feast on these beautiful ombré masterpieces, that remind me of well worn sea glass. Again, a little more expensive than some of our finds, I adored the hot pink to black ink earrings and cool cerulean fade through shades of indigo and into rich violet, pendants. Definitely a conversation piece and a gift (to you or anyone else) that will be treasured for years to come – especially if you print out her story/method and include it. Good for the earth, good for the soul. 
XO CONFECTIONS 

http://www.xocolatlconfections.com/
Von’s Pick – Sadly, we weren’t able to taste these but these are a feast for the eyes. Openly admitting they’re, “too pretty to eat, but taste too good not to”, and with exciting flavor combinations like Thai Spice, Blackberry Lavender, Celtic Caramel and Pistachio Rose, these would make a beautiful hostess gift or a way to win over the in-laws. Be prepared though because you’ll definitely take a backseat to these stunning sweets! 
THE WOODSMAN

http://www.thewoodsmantoys.com
Von’s Pick – Old fashioned, handcrafted wooden toys, bright primary colors, baby safe and earth friendly, Doug creates memories. Trains, planes, cars – even hand stamped wooden blocks, prices are super affordable, and the bit of nostalgia provided for those like Craig and me, who became five years old again while in Doug’s booth, as well as the new memories you’ll create with your kids as you get them away from the phone/iPad/TV and interacting with these meticulously crafted toys of yesteryear; priceless! Made with love, care and the skills earned with years of crafting dedication. 
SUNSHINE SPECIALTY FOODS

http://sunshinefoodco.com/
Von’s Pick – Salsas, Relishes (don’t think hot dogs, per se – think sweet and/or savory, coarsely chopped, fruit and vegetable medleys that typically aren’t cooked down), jams and jellies. Craig, who had never had jalapeño jelly popped his pepper with this perfectly balanced spread of sweet and heat, which has him hooked! It’d be delicious on a cheese tray or on baked Brie (even cream cheese or goat cheese and crackers for us frugal ones). Our other favorite was the mild, sweet and tangy relish made with peppers, onions and zucchini! I think it would be fantastic on a Chicago-style dog…or straight from the jar with a spoon! 
WOODN’T IT BE NICE 

Etsy.com (search: Woodn’tBeNice)
Von’s Pick – Custom, handmade bowls, platters, boxes and ornaments made from reclaimed wood native to Arizona, like Mesquite, Acacia, Olive and Sumac. Some even feature turquoise accents, in the Asian tradition of Kintsugi, which repairs and strengthens cracks in items like glass or pottery with gold, silver, bronze, platinum, etc., to accent the flaw and recognize its unique beauty as opposed to covering it up. Much like humans, our flaws are what make us unique and beautiful, this practice dates back 15th century Japan and Bill takes great pride in accenting these surprisingly beautiful woods in the same fashion. 

(Read more about Kintsugi here: 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi )

Craig and I fell in love with the delicate turquoise accents that really highlighted the beautiful, natural variations of these reclaimed and sustainable woods. 
STUFF-IT OLIVES 

http://stuffitolives.com
Von’s Pick – Delicious, huge, high quality olives, stuffed with everything imaginable (with the possible exception of the kitchen sink)! Giant jars of garlic cloves had Craig salivating, too. Both olive fans, although Craig typically doesn’t favor bleu cheese, the mild, yet still tangy chunks were the perfect compliment to the briny olives. They claim to be “Napa’s finest”, and I certainly wouldn’t argue! Dress up a cheese plate, add to salads and dressings and bonus – save all the olive or garlic brine and “pickle” eggs or veggies to make sure you can enjoy every last salty, spicy drop! Or, add a bit to soups, stews, sauces and more for a gourmet kick and extra bang for your buck! 
ADORN BY SAMOUCE

http://www.adornbysamouce.com/
Von’s Pick – “Vintage statement jewelry”, these pieces aren’t for the faint of heart! A touch of Victorian, a splash of Steampunk, a little gothic mermaid and a very heirloom feel. Most pieces are quite large, but classy and tasteful, despite their size. Craig, while not for him, remarked about a neckpiece with a compass embedded into it, while a mermaid’s dream, complete with sea shells and maybe even a dinglehopper or two, had my eye. 
RAINBOW TIE-DYES

http://www.rainbowtiedyes.net 
Von’s Pick – Pretty self explanatory, and even tho it was popular a bit before my time, like bats, glitter and mermaids, I have a definite soft spot for bright colors and all kinds of tie dye! Shirts, tanks, shirts, dresses and more, infant to an amazing adult 6XL. 
CRYSTAL D’LLUSIONS

http://www.crystaldllusions.com
Beautiful custom jewelry in silver inlay and intarsia; a variety of unique settings and stones. 
J.M. Havet Jewelry  

Jeha68@gmail.com – contact for more details. She didn’t seem terribly interested in taking custom orders, but as one half of the creative team, one never knows!
~*~RESTAURANTS~*~

We often forget, shopping small applies to eateries as well! Stop in and treat yourself to some fabulous nomz while you’re shopping this season!
CASEY MOORE’S OYSTER BAR

http://www.caseymoores.com/
O. M. F. G. good! If you love oysters like we do, this is a MUST TRY!!! Craig and I found this gem for our second wedding anniversary in downtown Tempe. While waiting for our hotel room to become available, we stopped in for a snack – a humongous plate of clam strips and a couple Irish ciders. Patrick, the bartender and Danielle, our server for both lunch and dinner were fantastic! Right in the middle of ASU territory, this rustic little bar is easy to miss – so double, triple check your GPS. You DO NOT want to miss this eclectic little shanty, filled with everything from college kids to salty blue collar guys having a beer after work to families with small kids. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, music that changes to reflect the time of day and crowd, it looks a bit run down from the outside. Being a historically marked location explains that. 

And, the oysters! The huge, melt in your mouth, on the half shell and fried oysters are simply to die for! Best seafood I’ve had in Arizona by a long shot – maybe even best oysters I’ve had period! Whatever you do, a squeeze of lemon is all these bad boys need but don’t deny yourself the house made cocktail sauce with a horseradish that will literally knock you on your ass it’s so good! The Irish cider is also amazing – when in an Irish pub, one must drink an Irish cider! Please tell Patrick and Danielle the two blondes from Tucson, celebrating their wedding anniversary sent you…and said, “see ya again, soon!”
MOD PIZZA

https://modpizza.com/
Okay, not exactly as small a business as we usually promote, but a humble beginning and a rapid growth. Hubby and I went to celebrate our eight year anniversary. We will absolutely be back! 

The food is fresh and delicious! Think that sandwich chain that makes your sub right in front of you, but with pizza. All the classic options like pepperoni and mushrooms, along with unique and tasty options like roasted brusel sprouts and artichokes…even garbanzo beans. We could both taste every single ingredient on our create your own minis. I adore there is no additional charge per ingredient. 

The garlic strips are also fantastic. Their nut-free pesto so good it had me fooled! I’m uber picky about pesto and I was shocked to learn it is, in fact, pine nut free. The fig balsamic also delicious! Thick and rich, as a good balsamic should be. 

Wine and beer served on tap which we had the white wine blend from WA. Good but perhaps a bit pricey for the amount. However, the Marion blackberry lemonade and caramelized pear ice tea were amazing! I don’t care for sweet tea, but could drink that all day. The hand blended chocolate shake with salted toffee bits was also phenomenal. 

The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with both indoor and outdoor seating. We saw a bit of everyone in there as well – older couples, families, bikers and more. All were treated with respect and the same friendly attitude from the staff. 

Every staff member we encountered was friendly, upbeat and polite. Our questions were answered in an efficient manner and never seemed to be a bother. 

Many thanks to Lynn, Stephanie, Marlene (I believe) and especially Lexi, who went out of her way to ensure our visit was phenomenal!
MARIA’S RESTAURANT 

https://www.facebook.com/Marias-Restaurant-128871040526612/
My husband and I have a streak of bad luck with Mexican restaurants lately. Either the food is bad (taste and/or it makes us ill from food-born/cross-contaminated/spoiled products), service is awful, or we’ve actually been asked to leave because we’re white and “our kind isn’t welcome”. Seriously. 

We’ve seen a newborn baby (4-6mo) having its diaper changed in the kitchen, had spit in our food as we’re called names in Spanish (which I speak), and been “refused service” because management didn’t want to honor advertised prices. 

Maria’s, in this little tiny town, was a wonderful change! 

Our server, Karina, was awesome! She was attentive without “hovering” and had a sweet smile and disposition towards everyone who walked in the door. 

The food was fresh and hot and delicious! Plus, portions were huge. My husband had a short stack of some of the lightest, fluffiest, best tasting pancakes I’ve had in awhile. I had a cheese omelette, which I asked to add green chilies to, and I don’t know where they’re getting the “three eggs” for the omelette, but it must be an ostrich because it was huge (obviously they’re chicken eggs – just wow!)! No skimping on the cheese or fresh chilies either! They were the best chilies I’ve had outside of Hatch, NM; if they bring them in, they do an amazing job of transporting and preserving the flavor. Hash browns were deliciously crispy on the outside and moist on the “inside”. While I was a bit disappointed to hear they don’t make the tortillas in-house, they make the chips and salsa. The salsa is a bit milder than I like, but so flavorful, the heat wasn’t necessary. We got chips and salsa (and two boxes!) to go. 

Coffee was fresh and actually tasted like coffee, instead of some of the watered down mud we’ve had recently at restaurants. I’m from NY and expect strong, black coffee – I’m also used to “Mom&Pop diner coffee” – I swear some of what I’ve had out here is literally mud scooped out of the dumpsters. My husband doesn’t drink coffee, but sat and waited for me to have four cups since the atmosphere was so pleasant and we could enjoy each other’s company and relax on a Saturday morning before heading to the Gila river. 

It’s nothing fancy – it’s a small-town cafe type place; a bit run-down in the outside and if you blink, you’ll miss it. I’m so glad we stopped though! My husband saw it and suggested it after a restaurant in Catalina, AZ served us cold food and coffee, that was so bad, we both refused to eat it (I’m picky – hubby not really. When *he* complains, it’s BAD). The artwork that lines the walls is beautiful (and for sale!) and everyone who walked in and out was pleasantly friendly. We can’t wait to go back and try them for lunch and dinner!!! Highly recommended and totally worth the scenic drive from Tucson. 

Thank you, Karina! And, your “little helper”, who also came by to check on us! Please also send our regards to your chef on duty, who made us the best breakfast we’ve had since leaving NY in May! You made our morning, which was off to a bad start, the beginning of a lovely day!!!
JUDY’S COOKHOUSE 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judys-Cookhouse/176911922338712
Fantastic food and huge portions, for really decent prices. 

On our first night there, my burger had been severely over-cooked. The blonde, night manager (we didn’t get her name), rectified the situation immediately and left us better as a result. Our server that night was a bit…slow…but it was close to close and the manager certainly made up for it. 

We went back, two days later for breakfast, which was equally as fantastic! We ordered lunch to go and it’s so much food, we still have leftovers, almost five days later! 

The staff treated us well – I’m heavily tattooed and pierced and my husband has long hair – we’re used to being treated like crap in “Ma and Pa” type places, especially in AZ (I’m from NY, where it’s no big deal). Never batted an eye. 

I wish I could give more than 5 stars! Really! The Philly sandwich and biscuits and gravy are phenomenal! I don’t know what other people are doing to give this establishment such low ratings, but it’s not the restaurant’s fault. 

We will return, next time we find ourselves in the area! For sure!!!

Wish they’d ship those phillys overnight to us!!! Best I’ve had, outside PA!!!
JOY SIANG

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joy-Siang-Restaurant/100869429958310
Fantastic food at phenomenal prices! The baby shrimp were huge! Hot and sour soup made to order (I’m allergic to pork), and shrimp egg rolls with whole shrimp had hubby happy! Will definitely eat here again next time we’re in NY!
DENNY’S BEER BARREL 

http://dennysbeerbarrelpub.com/
Hubby and I stopped here on our way to NY – food was fantastic! Service definitely left something to be desired. Our server, Victoria, seemed to be the only one on the floor so we were trying to be very patient with the wait. When she up and left without saying anything and we had to get a bartender to cash us out, that was annoying. 

The hostess? Complete snob! She seemed bothered to be there and would let lines of customers pile up at the door. Then, when someone would tell her she had a line, would roll her eyes and audibly express her dissatisfaction. Daddy or Mommy must be owner/manager, because having worked the food industry, that behavior would never be tolerated otherwise. 

Also disliked that they won’t cook to order and have so many rules about substitutions. Narrowed down the enormous menu fast for us, having food allergies. 

The food itself was fabulous though and the establishment has a unique charm – when you find it! Very difficult to find and tucked back by itself.
BAR AMERICAIN 

http://baramericain.com/nyc/
Hubby took me home to NY for our first wedding anniversary (been together 8 years)/honeymoon/Mother’s Day/his birthday/vacation. We had lunch here on our anniversary and was amazing as always! Great table, stellar service and food that’s just to die for! Our server, Richard, was absolutely amazing! The striped bass with crispy clams and quahog sauce melted in our mouths. Never miss a chance to eat here when I’m at home! If you’re in or going to NYC, don’t deny yourself this luxurious experience! The concept of celebrity chef Bobby Flay, this is hands down my FAVORITE restaurant in the world!
SOUTH BEACH BAR AND GRILLE

Southbeachob.com
Always fantastic! The Wahoo is to die for and the bloody Mary’s fantastic. Always packed, so service is often slow, but polite and efficient. Huge portions, reasonably priced with an amazing view of Ocean Beach! The fried platter is definitely a favorite of hubby and mine!
JIMMY’S FAMOUS AMERICAN TAVERN

j-fat.com
Fantastic food and service! The best calamari; so tender and full of flavor. And, the fish and chips were delicious. When they say “big plates”, they mean big plates! The ahi poke also fabulous ~super fresh and light. 

Great view, fast, friendly service and terrific atmosphere.
THE DEPOT AND JOHNNY RINGO’S
Great bloody Mary! Made to order, with amazing options! Located in historic Tombstone (rather right outside of), if you adore a good Bloody Mary, Caesar, Maria or whatever you call it, THIS is your place! Check out the Birdcage Theater and other local haunts while you’re there! 

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Not All Snacks Are Created Equal 

Face it. We all snack. Especially if there are kids in the house. We’re all guilty of mindlessly chomping away and a bag of Doritos or a couple rows of Oreos later, we’re not even hungry…it just happened, like magic.

We’ve all done it. Easy. Relatively inexpensive. Tasty. There’s probably something staring at you from your pantry or tucked away in your fridge, right now, and like a moth to a flame, you’re now suddenly interested and thinking about a Netflix and binge marathon.

No shame. No judgement. It’s “Julia’s Law” – your desire for food is directly proportional to how badly you probably shouldn’t have it.

Yet, with Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, and I heard Christmas carols playing today while grocery shopping, we all know weight gain this time of year is likely inevitable, but we all want to look our, sveltest, skinniest best for the family and friends we only see once every 12 months or so (see? Julia’s Law).

While we could all probably work on portion control, like knowing a standard serving of potato chips is about 150 calories for 14-15 chips or that a standard size candy bar is roughly 220 calories per serving, and there’s two servings, I’m not here to fat shame or talk you out of wiping your orange fingers on the dog and stepping away from the Cheetos. With the next six weeks being a food lovers dream, I’d just like to share some snacking ideas to help you keep off the pounds and take the guilt out of having that second slice of Aunt Betty’s famous pumpkin pie.


1. The fruit and veggie facts. 

We know fruits and veggies are good for us. Hell, I have a couple pints of blackberries sitting here giving me the eye right now. But, there’s a couple things that can make a healthy, low-cal snack, not so nutritious in no time.

Dips and Sauces

I love broccoli, but you’ll never catch me eating it, especially raw, without something else. Same goes for apples (if you don’t think caramel on an apple is a glorious thing, you’re doing it wrong). But, sauces and dips can be loaded with fat, calories and we tend to “over-dip” because, duh! That’s the best part! The fruit/vegetable is just the vessel so you can avoid the shame of eating your dip with a spoon (again, no judgement. I’ve sat and watched my husband eat an entire jar of marshmallow fluff like a pudding cup). Read the nutrition facts first. Serving sizes are small (measure it out and see how many carrots you get with the standard two tablespoons of ranch, or whatever your flavor, dip). Instead, consider low fat/low calorie options (just because something is labeled “low fat”, does not make it so. Always double check – or, if you must have ranch dip, consider buying Greek yogurt or low calorie sour cream and one of those packages of dip mix and making your own so you control the calories), or healthier options like hummus, nut butters, plain Greek yogurt or even things like mustard, horseradish sauces (including wasabi), fruit butters, hot sauce, vinegar like malt or balsamic, or guacamole. Yeah, theres still some pretty high-cal options on that list, but those are good fat calories, the ones your body can use, and don’t pack quite as much sugar, fillers and preservatives, so you can feel a bit less guilty about double dipping.

Convenience 

If it’s prepackaged, it’s going to be less nutritious. Vitamins and minerals are lost in the packaging and preserving process. But, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. I adore pickled vegetables, and I could pickle my own okra or asparagus or cukes, but I just don’t have the time and resources, so a jar it is, especially if said vegetable is out of season. I love olives, but those olive bars in grocery and specialty shops are expensive! Unless they have some reduced or one hell of a sale, those bad boys are coming from the canned/jarred veggie aisle. And, it’s a special breed of insanity that makes anyone want to skin and core a pineapple; if you’re really bored some day, try hacking a coconut (have 911 on speed dial). But, when you can, buy fresh and prepare it yourself (which, fun fact – baby carrots are not a special breed. They originated with a farmer who was losing tons of his carrot crops due to them being undersized or ugly/misshapen. So he peeled them and cut them into what’s in that bag you probably have in your fridge for school lunches. However, after undergoing peeling, they get bathed in chemicals to prevent browning, retain freshness and extend shelf life. Your call.).

2. Try something new

I love chickpeas/garbanzo beans (whatever you refer to them as). I love hummus and even eat them on pizza. Roasting them though, gives them a light, satisfying crunch and make an excellent snack, chock-full of protein. With the foodie I am, I’d read about them numerous times but hadn’t gotten around to trying them until last weekend at a monthly wine club my husband and I attend. They serve snacks and pallet cleansers and hors d’oeuvres, which these crunchy, roasted, chipotle seasoned chickpeas were amongst. Delicious! A bag came home with us! Supremely satisfying at taking the edge off my salty cravings, too. Maybe sub them for croutons on a salad or crackers in soup. The bag even recommends adding them to party mix, which you know someone will be serving , so maybe you bring the cereal snack we all know and love and add these (let’s face it…the triple pretzel method leaves a lot to be desired). Edamame “chips” (rather the roasted pods and caviar, which is what the “seeds” or “beans” inside  are actually called), a handful of nuts, and toasted veggie chips and crackers (just because they’re vegetable flavored does not mean they have any suitable source of veggies, so watch that) can all be super delicious and curb your salty, crunchy, savory cravings with tons of protein and other nutrients. Just avoid those puffy looking veggie sticks and snacks found in the chip aisle – yanno, the name brand involves a sailor and his treasure (or backside – however you like to think about it). They have no more nutritional value than a bag of potato chips.

3. If sweet is your go to treat…

Next time you’re tempted to grab a pudding cup or bowl of ice cream, grab a Greek yogurt instead. Personally, I prefer Oikos. However, those Chobani flips aren’t bad either. Again, protein. And, tons of it. You can get all your favorite ice cream flavors (even chocolate!), get that same sweet, creamy feel, but much better at nipping hunger pangs and filling you up. Much less guilt, too.

Why are we so damn hung up on protein? 

Protein is the building block of the human body, from muscle to hair. The body processes it easier than carbs, facilitating muscle strength and repair, fills you up without the carb crash and provides steady, consistent energy. I’m not saying you need to go on that famous diet that Sharon Osbourne will try and shove down your throat as her testimony to weight loss and health. In fact, you may occasionally see me discuss my weight loss of 150lbs, most of which I dropped in five months, but every body is different. Which is why your BFF may swear by “X” diet but you gained 10lbs on it. I will say the diet I used was a high protein diet. However, I don’t necessarily advocate it to others, nor will you ever see any diet being recommended on GF. If you’re considering a diet, I recommend you speak with your doctor and perhaps a nutritionist. They know you – I don’t. They are much more qualified to recommend what may work best for you. I will say, I tried (and inevitably failed) several before finding the one that worked for me. I’ve drank the disgusting shakes. Ate the gross bars. Soup, salad, more cardio, more weights. You name it. Protein is amazing though, and while it may or may not help with any weight issues you may or may not have, it’s going to build/repair muscle, strengthen hair and nails and help your skin glow. Plus, help kill cravings. Sounds like a good deal to me!

4. This sounds good, but you can’t live without…

Doritos? BBQ potato chips? Ice cream? Whatever your snacking pleasure is, don’t completely deny yourself! Like a diet, it’s a set up for failure of you completely deny yourself everything you love. Splurge! But, watch your portions, maybe cut back (or cut back/cut out other, lesser favorites) and ask yourself if you’re really hungry before you dive in. Most studies show that if you can occupy yourself for about 10 minutes when the snacking urge strikes, you’ll find it lessens or quits because it’s often boredom, not hunger, that has us crunching and munching. Read something. Take a walk. Pop in a movie. Take some silly FB personality quizzes. If you’re still hungry, go for it (in moderation!). Try getting your mind off it, first though. And, forget paying twice as much for those “calorie packs” – make your own! Stock up on zip seal bags and portion snacks for yourself. This way, you grab a pre-portioned bag and aren’t as tempted to have “just one or two more…”. Works for the kids, too, especially when they’re being a pain to begin with. You grab little Susie or Johnny a pre-portioned bag, they know their “limit” and there’s no meltdown because they can’t have the whole bag. They wanna scarf ’em down or savor them – choice is theirs! So, you’re helping them learn portion control, limits and other healthy eating habits all at the same time. And, don’t be afraid to tell them no to a second bag, either. Trust me. They won’t die. You may want to at first, but you’re doing us all a favor in the long run.

5. Avoid drinking your snack

Studies show drinking calories is much less gratifying than actually chewing them. Pre-made juices, smoothies and shakes are typically more sugar than anything. There’s that crash again, as soon as your body’s processed it. Won’t lie. This is a hard time of year for me, because we have a local grinder and sub chain that produces a fruit slush (what made them famous around here). They have four flavors year ’round and each month have a specialty flavor. Well, October and November are the two months I have to have the FOTM. My husband isn’t a fan of them, but indulges me. They do include actual fruit and probably beat the hell out of a fast food shake. I can’t say I honestly feel full after having one though and I’m sure if I read the nutrition facts and saw the sugar and calorie count, I may have a heart attack. It’s one of my splurges though (re-read #4 if you missed that). Otherwise, consider making your own juice or smoothies to control everything from sugar to calories to flavor. Also, check the alcohol aisle. Seriously. A lot of drink mixers (the ones you just add the booze to) actually have more juice and less sugar than brands you may find in the juice aisle. Seriously! We’re big Bloody Mary folks (as you should know) and we buy Mr&Mrs T or Zing Zang over the tomato juices in the juice aisle. Alcoholic or not. The flavor is better and so is the nutritional value. That famous tomato juice – the one with a letter and number in the name – is typically 5% juice, where the mixers run about 95% juice. Tough call.

6. Read ingredients and nutrition information religiously 

Formulas change. Suppliers switch. New and improved often means cheaper ingredients and a heftier price tag. Know what’s going in your mouth before you buy. Some may surprise you – for better or worse. Also, those values can change depending on flavor (chips for example) or how they’re produced (let’s say baked versus fried). Like those chips that “once you pop, you can’t stop”, and those ones that, “you can’t eat just one”? Check them both and opt for the lesser evil. Trust me. Having food allergies and having lost and kept so much weight off, for so long, I am that person you will see in the middle of the aisle reading everything. I’m used to it. My hubby, not so much. He will attest to what a pain in the ass it is. As silly as it sounds, this alone will make you far more conscious about exactly what you’re eating.

7. Just like dieting…

Avoid mindlessly eating (again, see #4). Avoid snacking away as you’re watching TV, surfing the web, or engrossed in a good book. Stop those activities and move to the dining room table. You’ll eat less because you’re eager to get back to your movie/FBing/reading, be more conscious about what you’re eating and notice when you’re full, faster and easier since you’re concentrating on the task at hand and not distracted, just going through the motions. It takes on average 20 minutes for your brain to send your stomach the memo that you’re full (for meals at least – since snacking is typically meant to tide one over between meals, that time should be a bit less).

8. Don’t shop on an empty stomach 

Everything is libel to look extra delicious when you’re starving! That’s two bags of chips in your cart instead of one. That’s butter pecan ice cream because you haven’t had it in years and now you suddenly must. That’s all those over-processed foods (#1) that you’re buying in a hurry because you want to eat. Keep a healthy treat like a bag of almonds or a granola bar in your purse/car for unexpected shopping trips or snack before you go. A list can help, but not when you’re dying of hunger and there’s a candy bar in the checkout lane that just tempted you. Again, guilty. Craig and I did some of our Thanksgiving shopping today (when name brand butter is under $2.00 a box, you jump!) and while I wasn’t remotely hungry when we left – by the time I smelled bread being baked and ripe apples by the display-full and onions being cooked in the deli area…my list went out the window. I had impulse moments before we were even close to the magazines and chocolate bars. I don’t eat much, but being hungry suddenly led to me grabbing far more carb-a-licious, calorie laden, junk food than I would have grabbed had I not been salivating all over the poor man sampling New York Crunch Rolls (sushi). I was HANGRY at that point. So, now I sit here snacking on soft pretzel bites and over-processed cheese food product, with a side of peppermint and chocolate sandwich cookies, rather than my typical broccoli and hummus and those blackberries I told you about earlier. Could have easily been avoided had a thrown a package of wasabi almonds or some of those chipotle chickpeas in my purse.

Which is what got me on this whole subject to begin with.

Just some simple ideas to help your holidays be happier and take the guilt out of indulging a bit this season. They say it takes three weeks to learn a new habit and if you start now, these ideas can easily help you from making a diet one of your New Year’s resolutions (or a heart attack/diabetes one of your holiday gifts).

From us to you, happy holidays and salut!

Don’t Fall Victim to This Horror Story This Halloween (or ever)!

~~~*WARNING – this story includes graphic photos and images some may find disturbing or a trigger*~~~

Tis the season for scary stories, however, this isn’t the type most people have in mind when they imagine sitting around a bonfire with a flashlight and some s’mores. While it is graphic, it does contain a very important message, that’s often overlooked. 

Yes, this happened to me. Yes, the photos are 100% real and un-retouched. 

If you’ve followed GF for awhile, you may know that I have quite a few chronic health issues. My husband and I also have a great deal of stress in our lives, both as a result of our health problems, as well as other, more personal issues. I do my best to keep GF an upbeat, lighthearted, fun place, full of the beauty this world has to offer, instead of focusing on the negative. Last week though, I had two scares, if you will, that I feel compelled to share since they are both things we (as a society) often take for granted. 

Well, one thing really, but two different incidents. 

The people we trust with our health. Namely, doctors and pharmacists

Craig and I see our PC (Primary Care Physican) monthly, because we both take narcotic class painkillers (oxycodone), which in AZ is a controlled substance and therefore we have to have a new prescription each month as opposed to automatic refills. 

We also use three different pharmacies, between us. Our main pharmacy doesn’t keep enough oxycodone on hand to fill our monthly prescriptions, nor do they keep enough Valium (which I’m on). So, he uses “X” pharmacy for his oxy and I use “Y” pharmacy for my oxy and Valium, due to which takes who’s insurance, and we use “Z” pharmacy for everything else. 

There’s the backstory. 

Now…last week (Monday, the 26), we went in to our PC for our regularly scheduled, monthly prescription refill. Also, I was put on two more medications; one of which I have used in the past and one which I had not. We dropped them off at pharmacy “Z” to be filled, but being backed up, waited until the next day (Tuesday) to pick them up. At that time, my hubby dropped off my other scripts to pharmacy “Y”, to be filled and ready Wednesday. 

I got into a lengthy phone conversation that night with my friend and neighbor, after I had taken this new pill. After about four hours I said, “yanno what? Just come over! My ear’s going numb!”. Craig was doing some work for his son and being exhausted, decided to crash at his house for the night, instead of making the long drive, late at night, when he’s tired and has to be up early. He does this often so it didn’t bother me – besides, I was enjoying a “girl’s night” gossip and giggle fest with my friend (who, coincidentally, shares almost identical medical problems). 

One minute we’re laying back, relaxing…I’m showing her some reflexology points on her feet to help reduce pressure in other areas, when suddenly I look up and it’s not my neighbor anymore. It’s a little, old, Asian man (think George Takei in about 20 years). The room was spinning. Words didn’t make sense. I’m asking her who she is and she even sounded like an older Asian gentleman. My vision is blurry. My heart feels like it’s about to pound through my chest. 

I’ve never done acid or ‘shrooms or any kind of hallucinogenic drugs before, but what I imagine the equivalent of a “bad trip” to be. 

The last thing I remember with any clarity at all, was reaching over and grabbing a knife I keep in the end table for protection and thrusting it into my outer thigh. 

Look to the right-hand side of my thigh, above the knee. This was about an hour after the inital stab and the bleeding had subsided.

Blood was, needless to say, everywhere. My friend, bless her, stayed with me until I “came down” and my husband could get to me, I stopped hallucinating, applied pressure to stop the bleeding, tended the wound and bandaged it. She was covered head-to-toe in my blood (which, I do remember reassuring her I didn’t have any blood-borne pathogens like HIV or Hepatitis), and being a true friend, which is hard to find these days, she didn’t care. She cared about taking care of me. I also remember trying to stand and my itty bitty, 5’4″, 100# wet, neighbor caught my 5’9″, 150# ass. 

First cleaning. Salt and alcohol. Old school. My friend told my husband while she was on the phone with him, waiting for him to get home, “I’m a tough bitch”! No way! She’s the tough one, not bailing and staying cool when most people would have freaked.

I’d love to tell you more – including why on earth I decided to shove and eight inch, serrated butcher knife about 3″ into my leg – but, I can’t. I have no clue what possessed me to do so. 

The knife. As she was on the phone with Craig, she grabbed the medical information pamphlet that came with the new prescription. I was suffering from all six of the top, stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to the ER side effects.

My husband naturally, was upset and furious. He called our PC who said I was “obviously beyond medication and needed to be in a psych ward and he’s not a psychologist”. I might add, he didn’t even have the balls to come to the phone himself, rather had his RNA deliver that information. 

Not satisfied with that answer, he called the pharmacist at pharmacy “Z”, where it was filled. He knows us well and within two seconds found the problem and apologized profusely for not catching it himself, since he filled it. 

The new medication and one I’ve been on for about a year don’t play nice together. Apparently, I was lucky I only suffered what I did, since this combo could have lowered my BP too far, too fast had I chosen to go to sleep (which, I was planning to do until I got into the epic phone marathon with my neighbor) and stopped my heart. This combination is apparently a huge NO, and being my only prescribing physician for the last year and a half, my PC should have caught that. He showed no remorse or responsibility for what could have very realistically left my husband planning a funeral, and showed absolutely no concern for “squeezing me in” to clean, check and stitch the wound that resulted from his fuck up. 

Cleaning and changing the dressing yesterday. Thankfully it was a “clean” wound. The bruising extends 2-3″ around the wound and the pain from groin to ass, knee to hip.

Naturally, having hit nerve and muscle, and being in a great deal of pain, my husband picked up my prescriptions from pharmacy “Y”. They’re notorious for changing the manufacturer on my Valium every couple months, but later that evening as I reached in to grab one before bed, lights off, watching a movie and keeping my leg elevated, I kept gravitating towards a pill that was significantly larger and smoother in texture than the others in the bottle. 

I reach over and turn on the light to see what the fuck is going on, and apparently I must have been the 500th customer at pharmacy “Y” last month, because they threw in a “freebie”…which, ironically was in the same class of drugs as the one that damn near killed me (I looked up the number online to find out exactly what it was). It wasn’t the exact same drug, but like hell if I’m taking any chances! 

One thing in this photo does not look like the others. I’d never even heard of this pill before, nontheless taken it.

Here’s the thing folks – doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists – their job is to help us. Part of why they take what’s called the Hippocratic Oath, which is a vow to do no harm. Yes, mistakes happen. But, they seem to be happening more and more often; not to mention with more severe consequences. 

Why did I share all this with you? Because it never occurred to me to question my doctor about whether or not there may be an interaction with any of my other drugs. I assumed being the only one seeing me for 1.5 years and the only prescribing physician I have as of present, he either knew my scripts well enough or would have at least glanced at my chart to refresh his memory. Doctors are busy. They see tons of patients every day. I get it. 

This nonchalant behavior from the medical community is unacceptable. Our lives are very literally in their hands, and when they chose to ignore that fact, is when they need to look into a new profession. 

I urge you. Please double check with all of those who provide medical assistance to you and your loved ones – especially when changing a medication, adding or stopping a medication or changing doseage of a medication – and/or if you notice any new symptoms/side effects, plan to take OTC (Over The Counter) or herbal/dietary supplements, or your medications don’t seem to be working as effectively anymore – ASK. 

Asking your doctor is probably your best bet (not in my case, but I’m going to consider it extreme), however, pharmacists are also a fountain of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to look up drugs you may be taking or planning to take online and have a list of questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist if necessary and always read the information that comes with your prescriptions. Every time you fill it, in fact, since information often changes and your pharmacist may forget to mention it or be unaware. 

Please feel free to share this story! It could save a life! While I’m currently very, very sore and my entire right quadricep hates me, my husband destroyed the pills in question, according to pharmacy “Z”‘s instructions and seeing as how it does not seem to be improving and pain is waking me every 3-3.5 hours (when my painkillers wear off), I am planning a trip to UC (Urgent Care) in the next day or so to see if they can do anything to at least ease the discomfort (numb it and give it a good scrubbing, maybe a muscle relaxer or anti-inflammatory to coincide with my oxy) because they at least check my medications every time  I go in. I am also in the process of finding a new PC, as I no longer trust or respect the one I currently have and I will keep y’all updated. 

Again! Share! It could save a life! 

SOUPer Sayisfying (and Sexy, Too)! 

Even though we live in hell (also know as Arizona), I crave fall. It’s my favorite season and I adore everything about it. 

Unless we make a trip up the mountain at just the exact right time, we miss any real fall color. It literally happens over night, and being off by a week or even a day or two, can make the difference between seeing those luscious crimsons and fiery oranges, and seeing the same dead, dirt brown that blends with everything else here. 

We have several mulberry trees in our yard that go from green to gold and then dead. Also, an overnight thing. And, honestly? Doesn’t count. Not when you pine for radiant rubies, glorious golds, opulent oranges and vivacious violets, all mixed in a dazzling array, sprinkled with the last bits of Summer’s shades of emerald, kelly and lime; a final farewell. 

The weather cools a bit – this mostly means it will be 100+ during the day and 40- at night. The only freaking state I’ve ever been in I’ve had to blast the AC during the day and the heater at night…in November. 

Sweater weather? Hah! Try, if “death by heatstroke”, is your ideal way to go, then by all means wear a sweater. Layer it over a tank top though, because I guarantee that sweater is coming off by noon. If it doesn’t spontaneously combust first. 

The afternoons are nice though. The sun “softens” and the scent in the air does change a bit. I’ve mentioned before, we live north of the metro and at a higher elevation, so we do get a bit more of the fall feeling here.

 The days are shorter and every so often you get a slight chill in the air that makes you crave something, warm, comforting and satisfying to eat – both to warm your body and soul. 

What’s more warm and satisfying than soup? 

Can you smell it? that warm, soothing scent, filling your home…and belly!

I’ve been craving soup for days now, since a front came through and gave us a few stormy days and nights. Not cold…just rain and thunder and the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a good book or movie, a cup of coffee or cocoa and have a bowl of…soup. 
I’m not typically a soup person. I’m pretty picky about what kinds of soup I’ll eat, when and how. Many have ingredients I can’t or don’t eat, if we’re at a restaurant or buying pre-made. Many just taste watered down and flavorless to me. I do enjoy making my own (as you’ll notice on the list I’m about to share, potato soup did not make it simply because it was shoved down my throat as a child and unless I make, what I call, “mashed potato soup”, which is basically a loaded potato soup made with both mashed potatoes, made from baked potatoes, and small chunks of potatoes I bake to a crisp or fry, I don’t touch it), and it’s a cozy way to warm up a chilly house, on a chilly day and satisfy your hunger (let’s face it…after you’ve smelled it simmering for hours, you’re starving!) with what you probably already have on hand or can easily get. Plus, substitutions and/or omissions/additions (like, I’m allergic to pork, so I just omit it), make soup a hard thing to screw up. 

(While writing this blog, I must say, I had the most hilarious conversation with my sis, because as I was sourcing graphics, I asked her what she thought made soup, “sexy”. Let’s face it…it’s not the most fascinating thing to look at. As a PSA, do not search for “sexy soup” via Google. At the very least, wait until you’ve made some of these beautiful bowls, before you do.)

Here’s my top ten SOUPer soups, that I’ll eat or make, pretty much anytime (well, nine – the last is one of my husband’s favorites and a soup staple for many), in no particular order. These aren’t my recipes – I rarely write recipes down and I’m even less likely to measure what I do and don’t add – and, as previously mentioned, I work a lot with what I have on hand. But, this is a jumping off point to bring family dinners, or cozy company, into fall. 

1. Broccoli Cheddar 

Classic! Who doesn’t love cheese! Even kids get into this if you keep the bits of broccoli small enough! Sneaky way to add veggies! This is a Panera copy-cat recipe of their famous version. If you’re in a hurry and still want a great Broccoli Cheese soup, Bear Creek brands makes a fantastic one (look for a dark green bag in the soup aisle, near where the boxes of chicken noodle packets are). Plus, the dehydrated powder makes it easy (once you get the hang of it), to make a cup, a bowl, or a whole pot, to taste. Also stores well and is “non-perishable”, so all you do is literally add water and heat. Fantastic if you’re traveling, camping or otherwise unable to store perishable items for long periods. 

2.Hot and Sour

Classic! My fave at any Asian restaurant (although, Miso runs a close second). Traditionally considered medicinal, a spicy way to warm up your day! Add mushrooms, onions, bamboo shoots – all found in the “ethnic food” aisle of most major grocery chains, in cans, bottles or jars. If you want protein, but not meat, firm tofu, cut into thin strips or small cubes, is a great way to go. Miso broth, like found at Trader Joe’s in the carton, or paste, makes a great, vegetarian broth substitute for most soups. Add some of the aforementioned veggies or tofu and it’s a delicious, healthy way to warm up as well. Look for brown or red Miso; it has more cancer fighting benefits and flavor. If you’re not familiar, good Miso has a light, refreshing, slightly chive/scallion (table onion) flavor. 

3. New England Clam Chowder

Yes, we can debate all day whether Manhattan or NE is better. It all boils down to whether you want that creamy goodness, or a tomato based, soup version of Clamato. If I’m feeling Manhattan, I treat it the same way I do a Bloody Mary. So, I do make both (and we all know by now how much I adore a good Bloody Mary!), but there is something about NE style that keeps it my fave. Bacon is becoming very popular in NE clam chowder. And, while I use turkey bacon, does add a nice touch. Cook your bacon of choice and then use the drippings to sauté onions, even some of your potatoes. Add all that goodness to your chowder and then add the cooked bacon in before serving or crumble on top as garnish. Cheese and croutons are also fantastic! 


4. Cream of Mushroom

It’s not just for cooking! However, if you have leftovers, let them cool, pour into ice cube trays and freeze (stash the cubes in a freezer safe storage bag once you’ve popped them out of the tray), and add to chicken or rice dinners later in the week. 

5. Squash Soup

As in Butternut. I’m sure pumpkin or other hearty, winter squashes would work as well with this recipe – just make sure you find baking pumpkins, which are smaller, as opposed to Jack-O-Lantern types, which can be very bitter when cooked. If you use pumpkin purée, make sure it’s the 100% pumpkin and not pie filing (which has less nutritional benefits, added sugars and spices you may not want in soup, as well as a “thinner” consistency). Don’t forget the nutmeg (I use Chinese Five Spice), which really does illuminate the flavor of your squash! Even if I’m just baking acorn squash, Five Spice is a must! 

6. Chili

Not a soup, per se, but still warm, hearty and satisfying! Accessorize (yeah, I went there!) with sour cream, cheese and tortilla chips or some people add ketchup and saltines. However you like it, it’s easy to add or swap proteins to work with what you have (I use ground beef and some kind of steak/roast type meat in mine). Swap beef for turkey for a lighter alternative. Or, use chicken and white beans for a white chili. Options here are endless! Five alarm or luke-warm, it’s up to you! I also love adding corn and garbanzo beans to mine. Great way to use canned veggies that may be reaching their shelf life and get kids to eat them! 

7. Gumbo

Traveling through Louisiana last May, on our way back from New York, we so desperately wanted to get some good gumbo! It was hot and humid and just not gumbo weather (not to mention, we were on a bit of a time crunch at that point…and money crunch. Hey, that 2016 Dodge Charger surprised me; averaging 28 MPG, but still). Don’t deny yourself this Creole classic because of okra. The slimy texture adds to the base of the soup, lending to its thicker, more stew-like consistency, as opposed to using a roux (flour/butter/milk/cornstarch/however you roux). And, like chili, add veggies and proteins you have on hand. Just remember, a good gumbo has a “surf and turf” protein ratio. 

8. Smoky Eggplant Soup

Mediterranean  flavors are some of my favorites! Finish this with some pita bread and a sprinkle of good feta cheese? Heaven in a bowl! Personally, I’d add some zucchini and yellow squash as well. Slimy eggplant? Slice and dice the night before, salt and cover in paper towels. Refrigerate. The salt will help pull out the excess moisture and the paper towels soak it up. Works for any eggplant application -grilling, frying, stuffing, Parmesan-ing, etc. 

9. Green Chile Soup

Perfect base to add protein like chicken, and some tortilla strips or crushed Doritos (cheese and chilies?!? Plus, kids and junk food?!?), and have a tortilla type soup. Have it plain one night, soup it up the next. Get the freshest chilies you can – preferably Hatch chilies (from Hatch, NM) – it makes a huge difference in flavor. Watch though – real, Hatch chilies are mild with a deep, green, earthy (almost umami) flavor. If you want spicy, toss in a few jalapeños. For spice with less heat, remove the seeds and ribs of a pepper – this is where the Capcasian, or heat, is predominant. Oh! And, wear gloves when handling spicy peppers. Otherwise, you will inevitably have to scratch your nose, fish something out of your eye and use the restroom almost immediately – and suffer the consequences. 

10. Chicken and Dumplings

One of Craig’s favorites, this classic is easy to add frozen veggies or whatever you have on hand, to, without sacrificing flavor. Don’t have time to make dumplings (which are actually super easy)? Canned biscuit dough works in a pinch! He says mine remind him of the Chicken and Dumplings his mother used to make. No bigger compliment than that! 
Consider adding frozen or fresh tortellini or ravioli to soups. Trader Joe’s has some great lobster ones (refrigerated) and dry with a cheese blend. Dumplings (Asian style) or Crab puffs can also be an easy addition (look for wonton wrappers in your local grocery store; sometimes near produce, sometimes by dairy. They’re refrigerated, so that helps narrow the search. Stuff them with whatever you like – about a TBSP per large wrap. For dumplings, stuff and drop them in – they’ll cook with the soup as it simmers. Crab puffs are an easy mix of cream cheese, spring/table onion or chive and crab or imitation crab, finely diced and blended into the cream cheese. Fry and serve as garnish. Have a bowl of water and pastry brush handy – it makes sealing the edges of the wonton wrappers easier). Pastas,  like macaroni or bow tie can add an extra level of satisfaction (especially if your family is mostly boys/men, who are always starving), as will rice, and both will cook as you simmer the soup. Beans are also filling and fabulous. I love black beans and garbanzos in most everything. Just open the can, drain and rinse, first. 

Veggies that are still good but a bit wilted or not as appetizing looking can be thrown in to cut down on waste. And, garnish, drizzle, dollop or dunk as you see fit. Most soups can be up-cycled (the mushroom, for example), for late week leftovers or protein/veggie leftovers from earlier in the week can be tossed in to use them up! 

For some more SOUPer ideas, as well as ways to minimize food waste, check out Good Housekeeping Magazine‘s October issue. Lots of fabulous ideas (and some suburb pumpkin decorating tips, too – which, if you’re hosting a Halloween bash or just a fun family/friend get together, pumpkins, hollowed and cleaned out {save those seeds! Roast them and snack or add as a garnish to your soup!}, with a small crockpot inside, set to warm, makes a super cool way to serve your SOUPer supper! Great for dips and beverages too!)!

Let us know if you try any of these recipes, or share your own! 

And, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest! 
Photos: BettyCrocker, Pinterest, pesto.co.za, societi.co.za 

Bats in Our Belfry

Bats are my favorite, regardless of what time of year it is. I’ve had a strange fascination with them since grade school, and all those nasty rumours about them getting stuck in your hair were first introduced to me as a scare tactic of sorts.

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Death by Chocolate- 200 chocolate ideas for National Chocolate Day

October 28 is National Chocolate Day.
As if we need an excuse to eat chocolate, right?

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