Monday, January 30, 2012 is Open for Business!

My new site went live today and I am so excited! You may remember my previous post on getting paid to read. Well, it's officially official now - I have a website and everything!

My site is How clever is that? I'd like to take credit for the name but I can't. It was Felicia over at No Job for Mom who suggested I do a play on my name. I was leaning toward Fresh Eyes until my mom said it sounded like I was selling eye drops. So Felicia's brilliant suggestion (thanks, Felicia!) came along at just the right time. Seems like life often works out that way, doesn't it?

Anyway, head on over to and check it out. And if you see any typos, please let me know ASAP! I live in fear that I will have a typo on my proofreading services site, and how bad would that be for my business?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Easy Way to Lose Weight in 2012

So, how are you doing with your weight loss goals so far this year? If you're like many hopeful dieters, maybe not so good. In fact, if you made a resolution to lose weight in 2012, you're likely to have slipped more than once by now. But don't despair! There are easy ways to lose weight - really!

First, let's talk about how weight is lost or gained. I ran across The Key to Your Weight Loss New Year’s Resolution which states:
Despite the grim statistics that say most won’t lose weight, you have to know that you can. The body obeys, without fail, certain laws. The laws of body that govern weight loss are simple in concept:
* If you consume less calories and exercise more, you will lose weight.
* If you consume more calories and exercise less, you will gain weight.
* If your calorie consumption and activity level stay the same, your weight will not change.
Ok - so how simple is that? Now all you have to do is figure out how to effortlessly move into the first category, which I would like to amend to be "consume less calories and/or exercise more" because you can still lose weight doing just one or the other but doing both will speed up the process.

Now for my easy way to lose weight.

Substitute. That's right, a single, simple substitution can add up big over time. For instance, about 25 years ago I switched to fat-free (skim) milk simply because it had fewer calories and I realized I could lose weight with no effort on my part.

How did this work? Well, I typically drink one 8-ounce glass of milk each day. According to the CalorieKing website, non-fat milk has 91 calories, reduced fat (2%) milk has 122 and whole milk has 147. As I was already drinking low fat milk, my switch to skim saved me 11,315 calories per year. At approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound, this simple substitution equates to over 3 pounds lost weight for the year.

While this may no seem like much, remember that it was effortless. Also, consider how this single change adds up over time. Over 10 years, we're talking 30 pounds! And if I had switched from whole milk to skim, my weight loss would be nearly double.

Yes, there is a disclaimer!

For this easy weight loss tip to work, you can't be making up for the calorie reduction elsewhere. But you knew that, right? So no extra helpings at meals or added snacks or desserts just because you're feeling all virtuous, ok?

This easy weight loss tip works everywhere!

Another substitution that has saved me big over time is my hamburger fix. I don't have them too often but I do love hamburgers. So how can you save calories on this high calorie item?

Well, my preferred fast-food hamburger comes from Burger King and I ALWAYS opt for the Whopper Jr instead of the regular Whopper. Calorie savings? Almost half (340 vs 670). If I have just one hamburger per month, there's over a pound saved during the year. And I knew I was a total success the day I got my Whopper Jr and thought they'd given me the wrong sandwich because it was SO BIG!

So where can you make simple changes that will save you big on calories over the course of the year? Look at the foods you eat regularly and see if there are painless, calorie-saving substitutions you can make to lose weight now and keep it off in the future.

And if you'd like more ideas and inspiration for losing weight, check out
The Over-50's Guide to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off. And no, you don't have to be over 50 to read it!

Please note: I reviewed the guide previously and I liked it enough to sign up as an affiliate. So if you click on a link and buy the guide, a portion of your purchase will go to me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

These Boots are Made for Walking

…in a winter wonderland.

Well, what do you think? Aren’t they cute? And better yet, they are comfortable, warm and dry in all kinds of weather. It’s taken a long time for me to find winter boots that actually work for me but these are definitely it!

Originally I’d planned to get Sorel Caribou boots. Both my BIL and SIL wear them and have raved about how wonderful they are. Then I borrowed my SIL’s Caribous for a test-drive. NOT! They might be warm and all, but they are WAY too heavy and clumsy for my liking. You see, I want to WALK in them every day. Not just trudge from point A to point B through deep snow, but actually do some brisk walking. So heavy and bulky don’t work for me. Another problem is I’m overly picky about what’s on my feet. If I can feel it, it’s got to go. In fact, I’d rather just be barefoot all the time but that doesn’t work during winter or in restaurants.

Anyway, I did some online research in search of the perfect boot. I was pretty set on Sorel because I know they’re good. In fact, I’ve yet to run into anyone who has ever had a pair that they didn’t LOVE. Plus, I hate to shop, so if I can narrow down my choices ahead of time, so much the better. In researching the Sorel brand with walking comfort (including traction) as a main criterion, I ran across the Cumberland. I opted for leather uppers but they have the same style in some sort of fabric.

So if you’re in the market for warm, weatherproof winter boots that are actually comfortable to walk in, give Sorel Cumberland a try (affiliate link below - Amazon had the best price when I bought mine). And if you want a little more in the way of fashion, Sorel has a whole lot of other options, as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate on Chocolate DIY Wedding Cake

Chocolate wedding cake - Yum!
Photo: Sunlitway Photography
Well, here it is! The chocolate on chocolate (and another on choclate if you count the curls) wedding cake. I was afraid the Cornelli Lace (the squiggly decoration on the sides) might not show up in brown on brown but it's absolutely beautiful! And oh so yummy, too.

The bottom layer was milk chocolate and the middle layer was Devil's Food. The milk chocolate was a little crumblier than I like so I would go with Devil's Food for both were I to make a chocolate wedding cake again. For the frosting, I modified the recipe on the Hershey's cocoa container. Instead of using all butter, I substituted half Crisco to give it extra stability. Then I mixed in more powdered sugar to get a stiffer consistency for the borders.

As for the curls, all you have to do is warm a Hershey's bar to about 80 degrees and then slowly shave off the curls with a vegetable peeler. I only made a few of the curls myself and it's a little tricky to get the chocolate to the exact right temperature for curling perfection - too warm and it creates mush, too cool and you get chips. So be patient if you're going to try this at home. Just find a warm spot above a heat source and test your chocolate bar with the peeler until you get curls. And if you get the chocolate too warm, just let it cool down a bit before shaving more off. Also, don't try heating your chocolate in the microwave.

The cake stand is the coolest part of all from a wedding-cake-making standpoint. Talk about easy! Beings each layer is on a separate plate, you don't have to insert dowels for support. And you don't have to worry about getting the layers centered on each other. Also, the cake is a LOT easier to move and set up. The only problem we had is that the stand and plates were white. Not acceptable to the bride. So a little floral tape and some duct tape later (really - brown duct tape - how redneck are we, anyway?), the stand and plate edges were appropriately brown!

Me trying all the cakes.
Photo: Sunlitway Photography
To top off the cake eating experience, we made lemon and Pink Champagne side cakes for those who don't like chocolate. Or for those (ME!) who wanted some of each. We used cream cheese icing on both but added a little lemon flavor to the icing for the lemon cake. All in all, the cakes were a huge success. And the wedding was really nice, too.

Oh! And if you're thinking about making a wedding cake, see my other DIY Wedding Cake post, as well. If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or on my other post and I'll be happy to answer if I can.

And if you'd like to learn cake decorating right in your own home, take a cake decorating class online through Craftsy! (affiliate link, fyi)

modern piping cake decorating online class at

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DIY Wedding Cake

DIY wedding cake.
I'm off to help make a wedding cake. My friend's daughter is getting married next weekend and we're coming out of wedding-cake-making retirement to whip one up! Although we keep swearing that we'll never do another cake, this one should be easy. All the lovely bride wants is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. We know that some guests don't like chocolate, however, so we're also making a couple of side cakes - probably pink champagne and maybe lemon?
We've been working together on wedding cakes nearly 30 years, since her husband's niece (a bride on a tight budget) needed one and I had a budding interest and some cake decorating stuff. Over the years, we've done many cakes together, and we've each done a few alone. It's been fun but we decided a few cakes ago that it's past time to move on! Baking, decorating, storing and transporting a multi-tiered wedding cake no longer works for us. But we'll make just one more....
So why are we starting so early? Well, we bake our layers and then freeze them prior to frosting. This serves a dual purpose - first, we can make the cake ahead of time (a huge stress reducer, especially if something goes wrong) and second, cakes are easier to frost when frozen. So we'll bake and freeze this week and then stack, frost and decorate the day before the wedding, which also allows the cake to defrost overnight. Does this actually work? Well, the proof is in the results, and one thing that we hear with every cake we've made is how yummy it is - our cakes are not only pretty, they are delicious!
modern buttercream free online cake decorating class at

Update 1/22/13 - If you'd like to take an online cake decorating class, Craftsy has several really good ones. I just discovered Craftsy and sure wish these were available back when I was learning! (links are affiliate, fyi)

modern piping cake decorating online class at

And if you want to try your hand at making a wedding cake, here are my must-have recommendations:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting Paid to Read - My Dream Has Come True!

I'm embarking on a long-awaited, new adventure this month. After three-plus decades, I am finally getting paid to read. Yes, you read that right - paid to read! Does is get any better than that?

A Little History

I love to read. I was the kid who preferred to stay inside during summer with my nose stuck in a book. I read my way through my teen years, early parenthood, my kids' teen years, and on and on. I also read in bed almost every night before I go to sleep (and researchers that say it's counterproductive and inhibits sleep obviously haven't studied me - it is THE way I fall asleep). So, of course I'd love to get paid to read. I mean, who wouldn't?

I've been wanting to get paid to read for over three decades, since my oldest child was born and I wanted to earn money working at home (was I ahead of my time, or what?). In fact, two decades ago, I bought Get Paid for Reading Books by Barbara Hensen. At the time, getting paid to read was just a dream, an ideal-sounding job. There was really no practical way, however, for me to put Ms. Hensen's experience and advice to use in my own life. But fast-forward 20 years and here I am with the opportunity to fulfill my dream. How cool is that?

So How Can I Get Paid to Read?

Let me explain. I am not just a reader. I'm also an obsessive error-finder. When I read, spelling and grammar errors seem to jump right off the page. Sometimes they even stop me cold. Well, since I've become "friends" with several authors online, I've found a way to put my innate tendencies to good use and help (as opposed to annoy) others at the same time by offering a final read-through service for eBooks and quilt/craft patterns.

One thing I know from experience to be absolutely true is that it's next to impossible to catch all your own errors when you finally get to the final draft of any written material. You will often see what is supposed to be there rather than what really is. After all, you know what you wrote, right? And that is most likely what you will read. Even if (well, especially if) you read it over and over and over again. Seriously, it's true - ask any author.

So, if you have written an eBook, let me be your fresh eyes. Let me read your final manuscript through to catch your overlooked errors. Or if you know anyone who may need a final read-through of an eBook or quilt/craft pattern, please send them my way.

Questions? For now, email me at crystal (at) hornsjewelry (dot) com or leave a comment here and I will contact you. Once I have my website live, I'll include a link in this post.

Update: went live 1/30/12!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

“The best opportunities in life are the ones we create."
-Gary Blair 
I am so looking forward to this year! I have an exciting new work-from-home venture on the horizon (hint: if you write eBooks or quilt/craft patterns, you need my services!) and have an informational website in the works. All in all, 2012 promises to be great!

So, what do you have planned for the coming year?