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I cook with very few guidelines – the few non-negotiables I have are:  *nutrition, *good taste, and *good taste.  There’s no point in making something nutritious or healthy if it tastes terrible. 

A while back, I became convinced that kosher salt was the way to go – Alton Brown (my favourite celebrity chef) talked about the superior flavour and versatility of having a pinch pot (aka “salt cellar”) about the kitchen.  And so, as a dutiful AB-fangirl, I requested a NaCL receptacle for Christmas several years ago.  Quickly, I realize:  I am hooked.

But is there more to my salt cellar than white Morton’s kosher salt?  After some research and taste-testing, I can say (resoundingly), “YES!”  :)

Redmond Real Salt is a sea salt that is … pink?  Yep – it’s pink.  It maintains all of the minerals and nutrients that unbleached salt has, and where it is mined (north of the Great Salt Lake area of Utah), those minerals turn it pink.  I love the kosher grind – it works beautifully with my salt cellar.  Easy to pinch, spoon, or sprinkle – this stuff is SO good!  We have had friends who have suspiciously eyed the salt cellar and its contents at a meal, but after a gentle sprinkle and taste, they are converts.  :)

You don’t need much, as the flavour it imparts is significantly better than regular white salt.  One pound lasts us close to 3 months, and that includes all baking uses, seasoning-uses, and brining of meat.  There is no burning sensation on you tongue, and a sprinkle of this on freshly steamed broccoli will convince you that you don’t need Ranch Dressing or anything else to hide the taste of broccoli again.

Nicknamed in our house “Mormon Salt,” we won’t do without it.  Amazon doesn’t have it in bulk yet (but when they do, I’ll link to it), and the best price I’ve found is at Whole Foods – $6.59 per pound.  It’s expensive in comparison to Morton’s Iodized salt, but we use so much less to get more flavour in our food.  And beautifully, it contains natural iodide, and if you have high blood pressure, this salt will actually *lower* your blood pressure – naturally and without medication.

Edited:  You can now order Redmond Real Salt from Redmond; we now have a 25# bag of kosher salt in our food storage.  Delightfully, it also came with two small shaker-jars of the Redmond Real Salt in a fine-grind, which is what we use to season homemade popcorn.  If you want prices, check out RealSalt.com .  Shipping is free on the bulk purchases, too!  :)

If you want more great items that others can’t do without, check out The Diaper Diaries.  If you want to link to your own “can’t do without,” use Mr. Linky below and send us to your Things I Love Thursday post.  :)


Baking soda isn’t glamourous and it’s not expensive.  It’s not even something I think about all that often – but I use it almost daily and couldn’t do without it.

I use enough baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) that I buy it by the 50lb bag at the local feed store (less than $15 for 50#) and keep it in the basement.  I use it in the kitchen (baking), but also for cleaning, laundry, and as a mild abrasive.

Baking soda has been around forever – my paternal grandmother used it as a child to clean her teeth.  A small wet cloth dipped in baking soda was sufficient for a tooth cleanser – long before toothpaste was around.

I have friends who make their own laundry detergent with baking soda; I’ve never done that, but I do use it in every load of laundry.  We have high efficiency machines and the pre-wash cycle adds about 10 minutes to the total laundry-time for a load.  But putting in 2 tablespoons of baking soda in to the prewash dispenser gets an extra layer of dirt out of the clothes and makes them smell SO much fresher!  I remember the first time I tried it – we had some bath towels that although they were clean, they never *smelled* fresh after coming from the washer & dryer.  I read online that another mom had great success getting her son’s football uniform free from “sweaty-kid-scent” by putting baking soda in the washer.  So I figured I had nothing to lose – and I was pleasantly surprised at how FRESH those towels smelled.  Now I use it in every load of laundry.  :)

Baking soda is a great way to freshen your carpets before vacuuming – sprinkle it liberally on your carpets and let it sit for at least 1 hour.  If you’ll be gone all day, that’s fine too – just vacuum it up after an hour (or more) and any odor in your carpet will be gone.

You can use it as a dry-shampoo for your dog – take a small amount in your palm and rub it in to the dog’s fur.  Brush it out again and your best friend will smell better and be cleaner than trying to mask the scent with doggie-perfume.  😉

It’s also great getting scuff marks from shoes off of vinyl flooring.  Just take a wet cloth or paper towel, dip it in the baking soda, and rub gently – no marking the flooring with a harsh abrasive, and it comes right off!

And if you ever need to strip build-up from your hair, this little trick will do a perfect job:  mix 3 T. of baking soda with 3 T. of shampoo and put the paste on your wet hair.  It will take some effort to get it inyour hair and lathered up, but once you do and then you rinse – your hair will be as squeaky clean as if you’d never had any product-build up on it.  :)

I love this stuff.  It’s not glamourous, it’s frugal, and it totally gets the job done.  What’s your favourite product that does more than you first expected it might?

What do you love? Use Mr. Linky to link to your “must have” or “things i love thursday” post!

I have long, curly hair.  Well, it’s curly when I don’t straighten it.  😉

But my curls can sometimes be a hindrance to having a good hair day, and I don’t like that.  For the longest time, I was using Matrix Amplify shampoo & conditioner – because my stylist told me that my fine hair needed the lack of product weighing it down.

So, okay – I used it.  And then one day, while straightening my long hair, I realized that my shampoo and conditioner were working against me.  It was releasing the curls to be – curly – and I was then trying to straighten them out again.  Hmmmm.

Being the deal-finder I am, I know how to get good products (like Matrix shampoos & conditioners) and pay a fraction of the MSRP, so I waited for my favourite store to put them on sale and used my ubiquitous coupons.  I bought a litre of each Sleek.Look product and paid less than $13 for them – combined.

I love this stuff!  Even on days when I leave my hair curly, it’s not weighed down; the curls are manageable.  On days when I straighten my locks, the flat iron glides through the curls and I’m not fighting the texture of my hair to achieve the style I want.  I know it sounds silly, but I really don’t know what I’d do without this stuff.  It doesn’t build up on my hair follicles and gives me exactly what I want.  It’s a treat to use.  :)

Incidentally, a litre of shampoo & conditioner lasts me more than 6 months, so it’s economical for me to do it this way, too.  I’d go through a lot more drugstore shampoo & conditioner in the same amount of time and have less hair-successful days – and spend a lot more in the process, too.  It’s a win-win for me. 

What do you use and love? Link here with Mr. Linky for some linky-love! 😉


Okay – mascara.  Most of us use it, most of us know what “raccoon eyes” means, and most of us hate it when it happens.  Add to the annoyance of looking like a raccoon the flaking of the stuff in to your eyes (especially if you wear contacts like I do), and the occasional tear-fest that makes it run down your cheeks. If I had longer, darker lashes, I wouldn’t wear the stuff at all.  But my lashes are reddish-brown, tipped in blonde, and short.  They virtually disappear without mascara.

Enter L’Oreal – I’ve been a fan of their products for a while now.  They recently created a new product called Double Extend Beauty Tubes – a new type of mascara.  My love-affair with CVS allowed me to try the stuff for less than $2 out-of-pocket cost, and I was happy to do so.

I LOVE THIS STUFF!!  It goes on smoothly, in two coats.  The white layer dries quickly and extends my puny lashes; the dark layer goes on easily, doesn’t tear off, and never, ever smears.  It doesn’t flake in to my eyes, and comes off in little tubes!! not in smears of blackish-brown stuff!!  Literally, like little casings that were on my lashes, they come off easily with warm water.  It’s amazing!

Did I mention?  I LOVE THIS STUFF!!  😉

Who would’ve thought that I could write about mascara and really mean it – but I can.  This stuff is worth the price of it – and CVS generally makes it more than affordable for me.  :)

I’m not going back to any other type of mascara – I like not having raccoon eyes!  :)


Okay, so I recognize that this category is supposed to promote one *thing* I can’t do without.  Yeah, but Valentine’s Day is Saturday – and with the current economic situation and family budgets, who can’t use some ideas for inexpensive gifts that are thoughtful and express our love & passion?

So here are some of my favourite ideas – and despite the fact that I’m a florist by trade, none of them involve flowers.  Let’s let the creativity reign here, eh? 

♥ Music – I’m a very musically-wired individual and Mark is, too.  So going through our iTunes library and finding romantic songs that are meaningful to the two of us (for example, some songs from our wedding, some songs of old-fashioned romance, some current songs that we like from the radio) is pretty easy.  Once you burn them on a disk, spend a little to get some labels and find a beautiful picture to print on it.  Put it in a case and voilá! You have a fantastic gift that will remind your sweetie how much you care for him (or her, if you’re doing this for your wife or girlfriend).

♥ Meal – this takes a bit more planning, but how about creating a special meal for you & your Valentine?  You don’t have to be a gourmet cook – heck, cooking hot dogs in the fireplace, combined with a romantic “picnic getaway”-theme and a nice glass of wine totally counts!  But if you do have more extensive cooking skills, plan something that’s special for the two of you.  Hire a sitter, enlist a grandparent or friend, whatever – but make this time for both of you.

♥ If you are a wine-drinker and need some suggestions for light, tasty wines, there are a few that we enjoy:  Beringer’s White Zinfandel goes well with poultry and fish; Beringer’s White Merlot is a great compromise if one of you likes red & the other prefers white (it’s not too sweet and goes well with just about everything); and Barefoot makes a great Chardonnay that isn’t terribly dry and goes really well with chicken.  Barefoot Cellars has a great sweeter white wine made from Moscato grapes, if you’re looking for a dessert wine (goes really well with fruit or cheese), and their Pinot Grigio is fantastic with fish, poultry, and ham, especially if you like a drier white wine.  If you’re a fan of red wine, Barefoot’s Zinfandel is excellent and not overly sharp from excess tannins.  Our very favourite red wine is, without question, Malbec.  Various vintners bottle it, but I always find it in the Imported Wine section of the store, as it comes from Argentina.  It’s a smooth red wine, low on sulfites (for those whom sulfites give awful headaches), and goes well with red meat as well as cheeses & fruits.  It truly is spectacular.  :)  All of these wines are $12 a bottle or less – and sipping wine while listening to music and sitting by a fireplace is one of the least expensive, romantic things I can think of. 

♥ If you’re in a part of the country where the weather is nice and not wintry (we’re not!), what about a picnic meal & walk in a park?  You’d be out the cost of a meal (even if you pick up something at a restaurant and take it to a park), and have the chance to walk & talk quietly, enjoying each others’ company.

♥ A beautiful card can also accompany a “coupon booklet” that you put together with a mind towards your spouse’s favourite things.  If your love enjoys massages or foot rubs or something like that, include it.  Include a few “naughty” coupons (or more, if you want!), a few for doing his/her least favourite chores, and a few for a “date night.”  You’ll spend more time and thought than money with this gift, but the impression will be lasting.

Hopefully, this will give you some ideas that will make your Valentine’s Day more memorable.  Don’t let budgetary pressures steal the joy of this little holiday – make it your own and look forward to it each year as an opportunity to make it memorable and special for you & your special love. 

If you’d like to link to this post with one of your own “Things I Like Thursday” posts, feel free to use Mr. Linky below and go from there.  :)


So I’m starting a new thing over here – one day per week, I’ll talk about things that make my life easier.  And maybe, you’ll find benefit in them, too.  :)

I love Ikea – this is not in question.  And I’m always looking for ways to make my kitchen more “me-friendly” and easy to navigate for the whole family.

That said, when I was at Ikea last week, I picked up a roll of shelf-liner, or as they call it, drawer liner.  I was getting frustrated with the lightweight green bumpy stuff in the cabinets and how it shifted when we put dishes away.  The bonus was that the stuff at Ikea is only $3.99 per roll.

I picked some up and measured the cabinet-space when I got home – and was absolutely *delighted* to find that it not only works well, but it looks really nice, too.  It’s clear and makes the cabinets look much more … professional? or something … than they did before.  It’s smooth on one side and has raised bumps on the other (I put the bumpy-side up) and seems as though it will be easy to wipe down when crumbs get in there (as they inevitably do).

It comes in a roll and has a little bit of memory, but it’s easy to cut with scissors and make your shelves and drawers that much more organized than

they were before. 

What can you not live without in your kitchen?  Is there anything that makes your kitchen that much more organized than before?


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