Posted in holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Have–Smart Sprinklers

How often can you say you know an inventor?  I know an inventor!  I know a couple of inventors, but Trish Howard of SMART Hydro Systems is my favorite.  She and her husband have created an automated sprinkler irrigation control and foundation stabilization system that you will want to give your house for Christmas. Have you ever wanted a smart house that you could control from the internet?  How about a smart yard?  That’s what the Howards have created, and I got so excited when Trish was telling me about it, that I almost wished we weren’t selling our house so we could get it!  Almost. 😉

SMART Hydro Systems

It’s all about the technology.

SMART Hydro Systems is the most efficient sprinkler irrigation system available to the homeowner.  It is a web based irrigation control system that can be used to water your lawn, within water restrictions, to your specifications and to stabilize your existing foundation to prevent foundation repair.


This technology can be used to save a tremendous amount of money as well as doing our part in saving precious resources by “going green”.

When you combine state-of-the-art sensors with convenient on-line access, you get unparalleled control over your automated irrigation systems as well as foundation preventative maintenance programs. Install it and forget about it … it waters when and where it’s needed. It even reports clogs and leaks in your system, directly to your email. The SMART system can either be installed to retrofit your existing sprinkler system or it can be installed with a new system. SMART owners can see up to 40% or more savings in water as well as an immediate return on investment for the Foundation Monitoring System.

SMART Hydro Systems releases January 2012. SMART Hydro Systems can be used in two ways:
— automated sprinkler irrigation control
— foundation stabilization

*The average single-family home pours at least 25,000 gallons of water a month on the lawn as stated in a water conservation research paper from University of Florida, 2009.  With this year’s current drought conditions, that number is considerably more.  This is why there is a NEED for SMART Hydro Systems.

or phone 855-5GETSMART


The SMART Hydro System is our last Days of Christmas holiday guide entry.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the month of muchness and have found it helpful or at least fun to read.  If I don’t post again before then, Happy Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus/Birthday–mine’s tomorrow!/New Year to you all.  You’re the best readers in the whole interworld!

Posted in hair, Style

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Have–Easy Holiday Hairstyle

Easy Holiday Hairstyle

Every time I wear this hairstyle, I get positive comments and questions about how it is done.  Without exception, someone has stopped me in public to ask, leading me to believe it’s a good look.  No one believes me when I tell them it is easy, and takes me fewer than five minutes to fix–in fact, this is my running-late-no-time-to-do-my-hair hairstyle.  And, with a little bit of hair jewelry, it is quite becoming for a holiday look.

You will need 2 hair elastics, a handful of bobby pins (depending upon how thick your hair is–I can get away with between 2 and 4), and an optional embellishment.  The embellishment I use in the video below is a little Scuncii comb I got at WalGreens.

What you’re doing is making two French braid pigtails on either side of your head.  But, instead of gathering hair from above and below the braid, you will only gather hair from below.  This way, the top side of the braid is “open”.  You tuck the opposing pigtail into the “open” side of the braid, pinning the braid up over the pigtail.  And that’s it.  You don’t have to worry about parting or anything.  Just grab some hair and get going.

The most difficult part is making the pigtails. If you aren’t used to French braids, that might take a little time, but it is well worth the effort to learn.  When you’ve got your piggies tucked in tight, you can wear the resulting half crown alone, or glam it up with any number of accoutrements.

My hair looks really fuzzy in the video, but that’s because it had been up in piggie braids all day…because I was running late this morning and didn’t have time to fix my hair 😉

Posted in holiday guest blog, music

Days of Christmas: Have to Listen–Favorite Holiday Songs

I love this Paul McCartney ode to the Christmas spirit–and maybe love it all the more because it sounds like space aliens are adding their hoopy frood grooves to it.  It’s like Charlie Brown and Ford Prefect were in charge of the music.


Any version of the Carol of the Bells works for me, but I really do like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s.  And this one by the Celtic Women.  Although, I could do without the earnest staging.


Annie Lennox can do no wrong, and her version of The Holly and the Ivy is goosebump gorgeous.  So is she.  That woman is stunning.


Of the serious carols, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is my deepest favorite.


And of the not-so-serious, I prefer to put on yarmulke and celebrate Hanukkah.  With Bowser from Sha-na-na and Arthur Fonzarelli.


The Christmas song that makes me the happiest, and always inspire me to squeal up to my highest vocal heights?  Oh, my Mimi!  All I Want for Christmas is You!  (Chair dancing and humming along as I type this. Happy!)


What’s your favorite?




Posted in holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Give–Feed the World with Jewels’ Jewels (and other things)

There's a world outside your window, y'all, and you can help feed it by purchasing one of these pretties.

I am copying and pasting directly from Julie Anne Rhodes’ website here:

ALL PROCEEDS [from the sales of the pendant featured above] BENEFIT SAVE THE CHILDREN’S HUNGER CRISIS FUND Spread the true spirit of the holidays this season by giving in two very meaningful ways with a limited-edition pendant designed by jeweler Jodi Zuletta.

Crafted from hammered Argentinian silver, the pendant features a glittering drop with iridescent crystal and tiny freshwater pearl accents. The fund provides relief to children facing starvation in the drought-ravaged countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

More than 29,000 children under the age of six have already perished with another quarter million more expected before the drought ends. One-hundred percent of the monies from every sale will be donated directly to the Children’s Hunger Crisis Fund to provide children in need with food, water, and medicine.

Complete your holiday shopping and save children at the same time – one gift will put a smile on two faces!

(click here to purchase)

Julie Anne is a tireless crusader against hunger, and this is one of her ways of giving her audience an opportunity to share what they have with others.

For solutions closer to home, Feeding America is accepting donations to help put food on the tables of hungry Americans.  At their website, you can find and donate to a group in your geographic location.

In Texas, I choose to donate to the North Texas Food Bank, a charity we have supported for six years.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are able to do, I urge you to donate.  If you can spare a single dollar as donation to charity, especially this time of year, please do.  Drop a handful of dimes in the Salvation Army bucket.  Give online to the charity of your choice.  Give directly to people you know who are in need.  Every penny helps.

There are literally thousands of ways to help people, whether you are the 1%, the 53%, or the 99% remember that we are all the 100% and if nothing else, this season has come to mean celebrating the story of a truly wonderful gift.  I’m sure there are babies out there today who could use a little modern myrrh, if you get my meaning.

P.S., I dare you not to sing along!

I also dare you not to look at all that 80s hair without laughing. That Boy George…that man’s voice is amazing.  I’m going to go dig out my Culture Club albums now. 


Posted in Chef Lane, Giveaway, holiday guest blog

Days of Christmas: Holiday Must Make–Truffles, Cake Balls, and Jars of Cake

I get 90% of my sweet recipes from Jamie over at A Dash of Domestic, including the idea for Jars of Cake and Cake Balls.  I saw this Holiday Truffles recipe on Facebook, and had to try it.  I figured it was a dessert I couldn’t bake to death or ruin in some other way.

I picked up the following at the grocery store, then Thor and I got to work tonight.

  • 2 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 bag of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 14oz can of condensed milk
  • 1 box of Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 2 things of Duncan Hines frosting (1 cream cheese, 1 chocolate)
  • 1 half gallon of whole milk
  • Assorted Sprinkles
  • 1 tin of cocoa
  • 12 4oz jelly jars with lids

Following the Holiday Truffles recipe, I melted up the chips and condensed milk, let Thor do the stirring, then popped it in the fridge to chill while I went to work on the cake.  Once everything was cool, I rolled up my truffle balls and then covered them in the assorted sprinkles.  I found it worked better to warm the chocolate in my hands a little before sprinkle dousing, and I found it worked really well to just roll the balls around inside a bowl of cocoa to cover them with that.  Now they are sitting in the freezer, waiting to go to a Christmas party.

Holiday Truffles

I made the red velvet cake batter as directed, then poured in 2 cups of chocolate chips (1 semi-sweet, 1 dark) at Thor’s behest.  Half the batter I poured into the tiny jars (situated on top of my Pampered Chef stone baking sheet–I love that thing so much!  Thank you Emily Reese!), filling the jars about halfway, then baked for 26 minutes at 350.  I used a teaspoon to scoop off the muffin-y tops of the cakes, then stuffed my cream cheese frosting into a ziplock baggie and cut a tiny pinch from a corner for a makeshift decorating tip.

After the cakes were cooled, I frosted them, screwed the jar lids on, and decorated one for you to see.  Those are now refrigerated, waiting to be delivered to their lucky owners.

Cakes cooling. I set them in warm water to help cool them down without breaking the glass. Ask me about my glass breaking story sometime.
Icing on the cake.
When is a door not a door? When it's ajar. Ahahahahaha! This is a cake in a jar.
Festive, non?

I baked the other half of the batter as a sheet, then mixed it up with about a quarter of the chocolate frosting (and the cake muffin tops I had cut from the jars) and formed cake balls with that.  I rolled the balls in cocoa, and have them in the freezer with the truffles, chilling and hanging out until it is time to be eaten.  Soon, my sweets, soon.

I did melt down some chocolate chips and mixed with whole milk, then dipped about 6 of the cake balls into that.  I caught Thor sneaking them from the platter where they were cooling.  The cake-faced grin would have given it away if the chocolate soul patch he was sporting had not.  Or the stomach ache he ended up with later.

We had fun.  Next up is the gingerbread train kit we’re putting together tomorrow.  Woo-woo!

On the topic of cooking, remember that if you leave a comment on ANY blog entry between now and December 30, like The Outside Lane on Facebook, or leave a comment on The Outside Lane on Facebook, you can win a month-long Premium Membership to my favorite Personal Chef’s website: