JulieMary

Potions Lessons

Some people like to do things for themselves. They like to do it yourself and make various personal products at home like candles, bath oil, soap, etc. It doesn’t matter if you can buy it in a store or online. It is fun and challenging and the more difficult the process the better. I am talking about making pepper spray at home. It is a self defense item as most of you know. After a friend was robbed while she was at home, I decided it would be a good plan to carry this product whether I am out and about or reclining on the sofa.

I read up on the ingredients and purchased the right things including a spray bottle. I am thinking of calling my potion the Draught of Living Death. I think it is most appropriate. Now I am going to give you a lesson in the preparation of a very potent pepper spray. Considering that commercial preparations are made of capsaicin (the active chemical in chili), most recipes will involve the same vegetable from which I extract the aforesaid element using acetone solvent. My own twist will be a bit of additional pepper extract since it induces sneezing and coughing. This supplements the temporary blindness and pain of the capsaicin. This is the whole idea.

I first chopped up the chilies in fine pieces. I put them in a glass container and mashed them with a fork to make a pulp. Simple enough? I then poured enough acetone into the glass so that it covered the pieces after which I covered the container with plastic cling wrap. This prevents the acetone from evaporating. I shook the glass every hour for one full 24-hour day. Now it was time to pour the liquid through filter paper and funnel it into another glass. I let it stand in a warm spot to encourage the acetone to evaporate. What is left is a sticky red substance or small crystals according to whether or not your chilies had a high water content. If you smell your mixture and there is no residual acetone, you are done.

Let me go on to continue the process of making the pepper extract. It is the same procedure as the chilies using a different glass container. You will get a grey-brown syrup. Now it is time to combine the two extracts you have made. Add 20 ml water to the glass and mix well. You can color it with food coloring (any you want but I prefer red as it seems most appropriate). The last step is to transfer this liquid mixture to a small spray bottle. You won’t want something too big and unwieldy. You won’t need much in any case. If you should use it up on an assailant, you can always make more!

Be careful not to test it on a child or pet. You really don’t want to inflict pain, so you won’t really know if your pepper spray is effective until you use it. If this doesn’t suit you, buy it in a store from a reputable manufacturer. I recommend famous brands like Mace.

Didn’t Mean to be a Pinterest Fail

In my blogs, I can talk about anything from Harry Potter and the TV show, “Lost,” to eyelashes and eyebrows. The former are my true loves, but today I am gravitating elsewhere since I have a personal concern. Maybe this has happened to you. Have you ever singed your eyelashes? It can happen by leaning over a hot gas stove where you don’t belong. You might be making s’mores at a campfire and get over excited. Maybe you want to smoke a cigarette and ask for a light. It could be a match or a lighter that does you damage. So, it is not an uncommon situation, although for me there was a different cause. I over heated my eyelash curler to enhance the degree of curl. Boy, was that a mistake. I might be the only woman in town who has had a run-in with a cosmetic device, but it happened. I was shocked when I looked in the mirror and saw that I was “eye bald.” Do burned eyelashes ever grow back, I wondered. How long would it take?

I was in a panic until I started to do some research and found this web site. You have to dig down deep to find “singed lashes.” Not many people write on this subject. I also called a dermatologist who asked me to send some photos. We got an email exchange going and I secured some helpful advice. Yes, eyelashes do grow back unless you have a second degree burn. Basically, it depends on whether your follicles are intact. This is also true of the hair on your head. It takes several weeks to start seeing some regrowth. In the interim period, you can apply eyelash growth serum if it is nontoxic and safe. There are several on the market and he gave me a suggestion. If that didn’t work in three months, I could get a prescription for a specialized product called Latisse. You have to do it twice a day at first and then in the maintenance period only twice a week. It is work it, she said, to get your lashes back.

I was encouraged and set out on a hunt for the right growth serum. Meanwhile I bought false eyelashes and a lash-thickening mascara. My friends said I didn’t look too bad. In fact, if my lashes never returned, I could stick with this regimen. It is a pain to put eyelashes on and costly to have them done professionally. However, when the experts attach them, they last for two weeks. I may indulge. Anything to avoid the bald look. I have seen people with alopecia who have no lashes or brows. Now that is a sorry state indeed. I should appreciate the fact that my situation is not dire. I expect to be back to normal in a few short months. I will abandon that nasty eyelash curler or at least stop heating it to the boiling point.

Julie to the Gym

The pounds can creep up little by little until you wake up one morning and you are… I am not going to say fat, I am going to say… a little overweight. Yes, you look in the mirror and you don’t look quite the same. There is a little more skin under the chin and a little more flab around the belly. And you say to yourself, Julie, it’s time to hit the gym.

The gym is not my thing as you might already tell. (At least it hasn’t been until now.) Because I am implying that I need to go, not need to go more often. I have to join the millions of diehards out there who like, even crave, exercise and fitness. I will attempt to lift those weights, reach them to the sky, tuck that tummy, stretch and flex those legs, and sit up and up and up till I die. I will do my crunches a hundred times and my back kicks a hundred more. I have bought a pair of the best boxing gloves, and I intend to use the punching bags at the gym to fight the weight away. I’ll also do pushups, perform the plank, toss that heavy ball, and jump rope endlessly. I will, in effect, work out.

It’s not so bad, really, unless you are a total, inveterate, died-in-the-wool couch potato, and many of us certainly are. We can watch TV, eat snacks, read books, write a grocery list, and read text messages simultaneously. It is called multi-tasking and it’s a great talent to have. We can even do it at the gym. Who isn’t on their smart phone reading emails while on the tread mill or elliptical. Everyone is! Occasionally, people will talk to other human beings if they can tear their attention away from essentials of their social media life.

So here I come gym. Greet me wholeheartedly and welcome my efforts. I am going to make a go of it and lose weight. I have been reading up, looking at books and illustrations and I think I have it down. If I join and sign a contract, it will force me to follow through and stick with it. Spending money is a big motivator, so is my new outfit from Lululemon, not to mention the great neon-colored shoes. Fashion is part of the experience, n’est-ce-pas?

My neighbor said she once had the cutest trainer and couldn’t concentrate on one thing. She finally had to switch to a new one. This is not what I call a problem. Better to look a handsome face that a geek. She did not get it! I do. Give me an ideal specimen to count my reps any time. Give me looks and brawn.

I am looking forward to my new life of exercise and fitness and the avenues it will open up for me. No more guilt when eating that extra cookie or piece of fudge. No more pangs of regret after the second helping of mashed potatoes. I think this is going to be a good partnership: the gym and me.

What kind of adult gets as into Harry Potter as I do?

What exactly does that say for a twenty-something year old girl?  Am I that bored or is it a tribute to my imagination that I can so creatively relate to such a mystical and magical movie…and the books, the books are even better?

It all began when I read Harry Potter for the first time.  I was hooked in an instant.  I could relate to the homely little boy in a strange and wonderful way.  I found myself wishing that I too went to Hogwarts and could mix and mingle with the students there.

The movie set it all to action.  I was there.  I was them.  That might not have been a really healthy place to be in but that was where I was and I loved the escape from the real world.  And…I still do.

The next book made it even better.  There were more characters, more spells and more potions to mix.  I dreamed about being Harry Potter or even Ginny.  I wouldn’t mind being Ron or Hermione either.  Just the thought of being at Hogwarts is exciting.

I not only imagine myself in the series of books and movies, I also write my own versions in my head.  I go to sleep thinking of wild and crazy things that could happen, mysteries to be solved and spells to be cast and broken.

Yeah, I guess it’s a little odd and for sure I am told that by my friends and family members.  But I know plenty of grown men who collect comic books and read themselves to sleep with them every night.  Some adults are still hung up on Disney.  I have an aunt who goes to Disneyland every year and collects Cinderella slippers too.  She doesn’t even have children.  Another relative is way into Spiderman and he is forty years old.  So, what gives?  Is it really so out of place that I love Harry Potter so?

Watching Harry Potter makes me happy.  Reading Harry Potter makes me even happier.  Writing more episodes in my head, well, that really just makes me tired but I think I could get motivated and put them onto paper and come up with a pretty good continuation.  After all, somebody wrote the book and somebody made the movie…why can’t I too?

In some ways, I feel sorry for Harry.  He reminds me of the lost child that I was.  He is struggling between good and evil, trying to do the next best thing.  And that is why he continually saves the day.  I am not sure I ever got to save the day but I did rescue a cat from a tree one time.  I didn’t get to use magic potions but if they were available, I would have.

I can see similarities I have with Harry and maybe that is why I love the series so well.  I can also relate to Ginny and some of the others too.  Maybe most of all I relate to the team spirit when they are bonding together to accomplish a mission.  Those are the parts that really pull me in.

I’m just a big kid at heart, I guess.  I am living in a grown up world and trying to make the best of it.  But when push comes to shove and the going gets tough, the tough turn on a Harry Potter flick and sink right on into it. It could be worse, I guess.  I could be grabbing a handful of drugs or going insane in my own head.  But I don’t.  I just watch yet another movie or dive into one of the books.  And I keep safe in my heart the words I learned straight from the Harry Potter movie, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Lost in “Lost”: What Would It Really Be Like To Be Marrooned?

The show ”Lost” is a wonderful show.  It’s one of my favorites ever.  Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be stranded on an island with a bunch of people you don’t even know?  I think about it all the time.

Maybe even worse that being with people you don’t know is being stuck with those you do know.  Take work for instance.  I can just imagine life on some island with my boss.  She’s as overbearing and rude as a person comes.  I am sure she’d be dishing out the orders for everyone just like she does at the office.

And Gerty, bless her heart.  She’s too old to even be working so I’m not sure she’d make it in survival mode.  Nope, she’d be the weak link for sure.

Now Brody, I wouldn’t mind being stuck with him be it an island or anywhere.  We are always flirting but have never taken it any further.  I imagine if stranded on an island that would all change in a heartbeat.

Sometimes I pay close attention to the survival shows that come on.  You just never know when your plane might go down.  I want to know what plants and bugs can be eaten.  With any luck I’d be full of fish but the ocean could be toxic in a really bad situation.

I used to love “Gilligan’s Island”.  I watched it religiously as a little girl.  “Lost” is my adult version of the great old show.  It has all the quirky characters that bring their personalities to the island just like Gilligan, Ginger, Mary Ann, the Professors and the Captain.  Oh and the Howells, of course.

There’s something romantic about thinking of being on a tropical island somewhere out in the South Pacific Ocean with the sunsets and beautiful beaches.  It wouldn’t take long to get to know the others and to figure out who you liked and trusted and…who you didn’t.

Sometimes I wonder if, in a situation like the characters of “Lost”, I would be likeable.  Would I be trustworthy?  I might be a whiner.  That is my guess.  I’d most likely complain about most everything.  But I would try to be a team player too.  That’s how I am.  I’d help out with anything and everything that needed to be done and would do nice things for even those I disliked.  I’m not sure how many true friends I would attract.  My belly-aching might keep others away but then again, my good heart might attract them.  I hope I never have to find out but then again, it might be fun, for a minute at least.

I think the very best, most exciting thing about being marooned on an island with a bunch of people would be being rescued.  Imagine the thrill!  But then I wonder, if it took a long time, what it would be like to return to my normal life and find how it had gone on without me.  Kind of eery!

The next time you are at the office, visiting relatives or are on an airplane trip, imagine what life would be like to be isolated on an island with those people.  Imagine all the things that would most likely be extremely challenging and things that might be pretty alright too.

Does Watching TV Make you Fat?

I was thinking, as I looked down at the bathroom scale with some trepidation, does watching TV make you fat? I see that a few pounds have crept onto my thighs on My Weigh In, so I am looking for an explanation. I haven’t changed my eating habits, so what then? Sure, like everyone, I sit for hours in front of the boob tube enjoying my favorite shows. Sure, I eat popcorn and drink cola while I’m at it. No, I am not exercising during this sacred time. So what’s the deal? Surely I am not the culprit and my own worst enemy!

Admit it, TV probably does contribute to some weight gain over time. After all, you are in repose and munching away mindlessly. The two go hand in hand. I think a few runs around the sofa are in order during commercial breaks. Ha Ha! I think a few major runs on the treadmill at the gym are more in order. I wish there was a magic spell I could cast to take the weight off so I could go on with my life and quit worrying about this mundane and annoying problem. I plan a marathon session watching the lengthy Lost series for the umpteenth time, and I don’t want guilt breaking the magical mood.

On the subject of fat accumulation and its correlation with TV habits, let me offer some simple advice.

  • Eat one bowl less of popcorn per night. That would limit you to two instead of three. You don’t have to have caramel flavor every time!
  • Eat sugar-free fudge instead of the usual fare. It won’t be good so you will probably just stop altogether.
  • Watch only your favorite TV programs. You will be so enrapt that you will forget you are perpetually starving.
  • Get a new scale and the most accurate scale you can find. No doubt yours is off or lies. You know you are three pounds lighter than it says! Adjust it if you have to.
  • Give up and eat what you want. You work hard and deserve a treat now and then.
  • If you are totally out of control… just turn the darn thing off.

Sitting in front of the screen is a nightly activity that I look forward to. I usually eat dinner or at the least some snacks like chips and dip. Ok, so I might be overindulging causing some nasty excess weight. I will be more judicious and take some of my own advice. But fat or not, I am not giving up on my evening ritual. If you are concerned, then watching less is not the answer. Watching more and eating less is a better formula. Maybe you can acquire a taste for carrots and celery sticks. I hear pretzels aren’t too bad calorie-wise.

Try rewarding yourself with one more hour of TV each day if you lose one pound or more. Each time you add to the loss, add another hour. Now that’s an incentive! Sooner or later, you will be back on track and a mere shadow of your fatter self.

Harry Potter and the Spell Bound Fan…Me!

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I’m not sure why but I am about the biggest Harry Potter fan on the face of the earth.  I truly believe that.  While there are tons of people who love the movies and the books, I have adopted Harry Potter into almost everything I do.

He’s not the most personable guy.  But then again, neither am I.  In fact, I’m not a guy at all.  I’m a twenty-something year old girl who in the opinion of many, am way too old to be obsessing on Harry Potter.  But, I do anyway.

The kid is such a misfit with his droopy old clothes and dorky glasses.  He’s everything you don’t want to be.  But, to me, there’s a certain air about Harry that I just adore.  Maybe it’s the fact that he rises above and conquers.  Or, at least in my book he does.

Let’s face it, Harry Potter witness the brutal murder of his parents and the attempted murder of himself and didn’t crumble.  He pushed on.  Now I never went through anything half that bad but my childhood wasn’t an easy one and when I feel like melting down, I bring to mind the bravery of my hero, HP.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” may just be my favorite of all.  I was just beginning to really get into the saga when this one came out and I was mesmerized.  I also saw a great correlation between the movie and the real world.  Prejudice is everywhere be it through ethnic groups or the fact that a person does not come from all-magical families.  Grant it that this prejudice was addressed in an unconventional form but at least it was addressed.  No, it wasn’t optimal but really, what in life really is?

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was fantastic too.  Knowing that it was to be the tail-end of the tales, my friends and I got together to watch it.  I had read the book but the others had not.  It was one of the best, most exciting nights of my life to see the story unfold.  Harry and Ginny with their three kids just blew me away at the end.  And what about Hogwarts professor Neville Longbottom?  I really appreciated not being left hanging on that at least.

Some say that Harry Potter is bad because it focuses on death and things of darkness.  I can’t argue that it does lean a little to the dead and dying side and that it is full of mystical potions.  There is a good bit of bad but there is good too.  I can list a ton of times good conquered evil with the help of my little hero.

In the series, he loves, he risks all to help and he stands for what is right.  Or, that’s how I interpret it all.  I guess it’s all in the way you look at it and at life in general.  If you put your heart into it, as I do, you will perhaps come away a better person as I hopefully do each and every time I watch or read an episode.

How To Throw a Harry Potter Halloween Party For Young and Old Alike

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The best Halloween party I have ever thrown was a Harry Potter party.  It was a blast.  What could be more perfect for Halloween than Harry Potter anyway?

First, I sent out invitations.  They weren’t easy to make but that’s only because I chose to do them myself and added a lot of intricate details.  I did them on parchment paper and in calligraphy, slipped them in an ivory colored long envelope and tied a piece of twine. At the top of the invites, I had the Hogwarts seal then I gave all the information in a HP creative way then requested my guests to dress as a Harry Potter character.

For decorations, I went all out.  Fortunately, I had some help from friends.  I rented a community center for the night and sectioned the main room off into Hogwarts school rooms.  I used black tarp to do that.  I had tables set up and covered in red brick patterned plastic covers to set the scene of an old foreign feeling building.

There was a room for the potions class.  I filled apothecary jars with candies and labeled them with gory Harry Potter style names such as Blood Worms and Gillyweed.  Another room was set up for magic drinks.  I used little Easter egg color tablets to color the beverages, which I served in clear cups.  You can’t really tell what color the tablets are until they disperse in the drink so as they did, each guest found his or her fortune.  I had a chart on the wall for each color.  Yellow was good fortune, green was a fortune awaiting them, etc. Horticulture class was of course one of the rooms too.

Snacks were easy.  I did up magic wands from purple licorice sticks dipped in Wilton glitter.  I scattered orange skittles out on a platter and laid the wands on them.  I had goodies in tiny cauldrons to be the Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop.

I also made the classic HP cupcakes with a pointy ice cream cone on top of the chocolate iced cupcake to look like the wizard hats.  I made yellow-gold lightning bolts on each cone of course.

Once you get your imagination flowing, you’ll find a ton of ideas lurk in your head.  You just need to use some Harry Potter thinking and magically release them.  I may have gone a bit overboard but I kept thinking of more and more things that would be cute and did them all.

My dog even got into the fun.  I made him a wizard hat and he wore it with grace.  Well, some of the time at least.

The party was such a big hit, I helped my sister throw a Harry Potter party for my nephew’s sixth birthday.  The kids love it and my nephew will never forget the fun they all had.

Harry Potter makes the perfect party, for Halloween or even for a birthday.  It is great for little kids and for those of us kids who refuse to grow up.  So unleash the magic and your party will be best on the block.  Just keep in mind, “In dreams, we enter a world that’s entirely our own.”  Dream on and happy partying!

Lost For a Great Halloween Costume Idea or Party Theme? Check Out These Great Rescue Tips

If you’re a die-hard “Lost” fanatic like me and are looking for an awesome Halloween costume, look no further.  You’re going to love this one!  In fact, you might love it so much that you’ll want to do like I did and throw a whole “Lost” party.  It’s fun and easy and it’s a memory you’ll never forget.

First off, you will want to decide who you want to be.  You might choose your favorite character or maybe the one you look the most like.  It’s your call, of course.

Last year I went as the spoiled socialite Shannon Rutherford.  I don’t exactly look like her and hopefully don’t act like her but it wasn’t all that difficult to pull off which I find a bit scary.  I simply work a white pleated mini-skirt, a white preppy t-shirt and a pink jacket.  I screamed a lot and talked like her too.

Claire Littleton is a fun one.  If you are pregnant, it should be a cinch.  You can always stick a pillow under your shirt (blue, of course) if you are not with child or, you can already have had the baby as in the later episodes.  Don’t forget to carry a jar of peanut butter around with your!

You guys with curly hair, sideburns and a good sense of humor might like being Hurley Reyes.  Simply dawn a big t-shirt, carry around Ranch dressing and a rabbit’s foot and there ya go.  Or, if you have no hair and can concoct a big scar below and above your right eye, you might rather be Hurley Reyes.  A dirty shirt, a ton of knives and maybe even a little blood on your shirt will put you in character.  Then there is Sawyer with his glasses, button –up shirts and blue jeans.  Throw in some books for good measure.  Jack Shephard, Kate Austen and Desmond Hume are other great options.

It’s not hard at all to pick a Lost character and dress the part.  It may not be quite as easy to figure out who is who which makes playing this game even more fun.  “Who Am I?” was the hit game at my party.  We did it like a charade and it was a blast.

Party invitations can be given out as messages in bottles.  You can purchase corked bottles online in plastic or in glass.  Be sure to request that your guests dress as a Lost character to make the party really interesting and fun.

For the party, set the scene on the island.  You can grab a beach scene backdrop and set about sea shells fish nets and other tropical treasures.  As the guests enter, be sure you have the theme song playing in the background.

I used old luggage for props.  Then I found some really cool sand textured spray paint that I used to spray on plastic table covers and placed the food and beverages on the tables.  For party snacks and drinks, airplane size peanuts and liquor bottles make a realistic touch.  A fruit tray is in order as well.

You are sure to get some creative ideas of your own as you go.  If you find yourself lost, just flick on an episode of Lost for a little inspiration.  You’ll soon find your character and tons of great party ideas and you’ll be lost no more.