Stop #DontJudgeChallenge

It’s no secret that when I was a kid I was teased, bullied, and ignored but until last night I forgot one of the worst things. I remembered one of their favourite taunts, they would manipulate their features either using the muscles in their face or by using their hands to try and mimick my appearance. They would take turns to see who could do it the best and they would laugh! Thinking about it now I can clearly see it happening and the feelings it envokes is the same; anger, shame, and hurt. Those were the worst days, the days that I would find a quiet corner and cry or use vulgar language to lash out. These feelings and memories were stirred up again last night flipping through all the images and videos associated with #DontJudgeChallenge.

Based on the articles I found on this “challenge” hashtag seems to have started with good intentions….we all know where that leads…..  The whole movement can be traced back to an amazing woman named Em Ford and her vlog post about how social media can be a bad influence on self esteem and how rotten people can be. You can watch her video here: http://mypaleskin.blogspot.ca it’s a powerful message!

I find it fascinating how words and images can invoke memories long forgotten. Don’t get me wrong I get the concept it’s just really inconvenient. When I first started reviewing all the posts associated with this hashtag I those a memories come flooding back that I could have done without that.  I write this in hopes that it will be shared and that all those who participated will think about their actions  it what started as a movement to protest against body shaming has tured in to mocking those with insecurities.  There are many organizations around the world actively trying to help those like me who have a very visible difference, I myself try to be a role model to all young women but “challenges” like this are seriously pissing me off!

The basic idea behind this is amazing and needs to be talked about more. I still aim to see someone with a facial difference in a positive light on a TV show or walking down a runway in a fashion show! We are all different, we are all the same…we are human!  Let’s work together and stop this “challenge” in fact I challenge YOU using the same hashtag let’s post a picture of ourselves, let’s all work hard NOT to judge!

Creative non fiction story. “Camp Dreams”

Not too long ago I submitted a story for consideration to CBC Writes Lit prize. They were asking for a short story 1200-1500 words, I didn’t make the long list so thought I would publish it here. Thanks to Jodi, my sister Crystal, brother-in-law John, and my good friend Crystal for all your help!

“Hey Mom, they are announcing the dates for this year’s trip to Camp on Wednesday, can I go?”  I am sitting at the dining room table, Mom is in the kitchen cooking dinner. There is a long silence and I almost ask again because I know with the overhead fan turned on and a wall in our way, she may not have heard me.

“No, you will not be going” she replied. I hear something hit the floor, followed by a muttered curse word. From the sharp metallic pang off of ceramic I heard a moment before it leads me to think it was metal lid from the saucepan or the metal spoon she was using that made the noise.

As I look around this grand dinning room with its arched entryway to the living room, I can’t help but imagine what it will be like when I don’t have to ask permission to do what I want. I don’t reply to her answer, there really is no point.  It is the exact same response I got last year when I asked to go to Quebec. I never get to go to the same places that my sister got to when she was in my grade. Quebec, nope, Canada’s Wonderland, nope, camp, nope again.

My sister is 2 years older but having failed grade 3 she is only 1 grade ahead of me. This has worked out perfectly for me and I find myself wondering if her teachers held her back on purpose for my benefit. This is doubtful since I wasn’t yet in traditional school when she was, but I like to believe my version sometimes. My sister is the only real friend I have at school since the other kids just stay away from me and generally don’t say much to me unless it’s required as part of the class. I don’t mind so much most of the time, I enjoy playing marbles with my sister anyways her friends aren’t so bad, at least they talk to me. Even if they refer to me as the annoying little sister!

I get up from the table and head through the long narrow kitchen to my room choosing not to speak to my Mom.  It is my silent yet powerful protest about how unfair I feel it is that she will not let me go to camp.  I know that my protests will go unnoticed, they always do; my Mom just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t see that it doesn’t matter to me that I have no friends at school, I love camp!  I love sitting around the fire and singing silly camp songs. I have such great memories from going to camp when I was younger with my sister that I was hoping I could go again! Making crafts is still one of my favourite activities.

I lay down on my bed and stare up at the popcorn celling, trying not to think about anything.  I focus on the smell coming from the kitchen. The onions and peppers mixing with the ever present smell of cigarette smoke.  You would think it would be an unpleasant odor, but does give me an odd feeling of safety, of home.

I know I won’t be able to stay angry at my Mom for too long, it’s not like I was expecting her to say yes.  I was just holding on to that little glimmer of hope, I don’t even bother asking “why?” anymore. I sit up and let my legs dangle off the side of my bed before touching my bare feet on the chilly old dark hardwood floors.  I hear the floor squeak as I turn left down the dark hallway to my sister’s room. Her bedroom is a makeshift room that for the longest time didn’t have a door. She now has a untreated yellowish wooden barn style door with black iron hinges that if you are not careful will give you splinters. I open the door and find her playing a video game, “Bonk’s Adventure”.  She is so good at this game!  I just sit down beside her and watch, we don’t need to say anything to each other we are happy just to be in the same room together.

“Girls! Dinner” We hear Mom calling from the kitchen. My sister pauses the game, gets up and turns the dial to turn the TV off. I’m feeling lazy so I hold my hand out and wait until she grabs hold, her fingers tightly wrapped around my wrist as she pulls me up with a grin.

We head straight past the big wooden front door into the spacious living room with its plain multi textured/coloured walls, the ugly wallpaper long since removed. With no actual colour on the walls or wallpaper left hanging, all you see are bits of what the wallpaper used to look like.  Big areas of beige where the glue just refused to relinquish hold of the wall and stayed firmly in place. It gives the room an unfinished look but it I don’t mind it, besides my bedroom it’s my favourite area of the house. I only wish instead of a computer desk setup under the big bay window, we had a window seat where I could curl up and watch the world go by on the other side of the glass.

After dinner, and dessert has been served my sister and I clear the dishes.  This is the only chore we have and even then, most nights my mom ends up doing it. I consider myself lucky after hearing that my sister’s best friend has to spend every Saturday cleaning her entire house:  clean her room, clean the bathroom, do all the laundry, dust the living room, and clean all the glass. I’ve been to her house with my sister shortly after the weekly cleaning has been completed, and the whole house has the faint smell of vinegar in the air.  Her dad doesn’t buy regular cleaners, she just mixes vinegar and water in a spray bottle to get everything done.

My sister and I head back to her bedroom where she puts on some music and we sing the songs together while I watch her resume her game.  Hours pass and I decide it’s time to go to bed.  I head to my room put my pajama’s on and walk the short distance across the hall to the bathroom.

Standing at the off white pedestal sink, I begin to study my reflection in the mirror.  I’m turning 13 soon and I feel so lucky that my skin is still flawless, no breakouts or pimples to be seen and my skin is still baby soft.  Looking at myself, I wish that I looked like my sister and my mom, instead what I see is a freak of nature, or a bad Picasso painting. I know my reflection, my face, is the real reason why I will never go to camp.  It is the reason why my sister is my only friend, and why none of the other kids will talk to me at school.  To the outside world I’m deformed…broken…ugly.  These are the words that come into my head when I see myself, these are the words I hear when other kids around me even bother speaking to me, they are the whispers of strangers that sink through my pores and get etched in my memory.

I wash my face, brush my teeth the best I can and head back to my room to wait for my mom.  She comes in, smelling like tobacco from the smoke she must have just finished. She tucks the covers tight and gives me a good night kiss, as light goes out, and as I fall asleep I hope to dream of a campfire, and of being different.

The power of a hashtag

Today there was a hashtag on Twitter that got my attention, it was was #FreshFaceFriday.

The “fresh face Friday” hashtag was started by TLC (The Learning Channel) and fashion expert Stacy London to repress a new episode of Stacy’s show called Love, Lust, or Run which airs Friday nights. The show aims to help women shed their “disastrous” “over the top” looks and replace them with a style that better suits their lifestyles or where they want to go in life.

I LOVE what Stacy does and I can’t argue with the results, the women she chooses are amazing and all so deserving! I hope to see a guy on there one day!

Earlier today I posted a selfie using the hashtag #FreshFaceFriday and I mentioned that putting my picture out there can be scary. The amazing Stacy London responded with kind words and I started getting a lot of kind words! It got me thinking I’ve been very lucky when it comes to Social Media not once have I posted a picture that as gone in the wrong direction, I have never been told that I’m ugly, or laughed at, nor have I found any pictures manipulated in to a hurtful meme. I’m forever thankful for that and it reinforces my will to continue to advocate for those living with a visible difference.

One of the statement’s I’ve heard Stacy say on the show was that someone will judge you by your appearance within the first 3 seconds. I know that she was speaking specifically to the type of outfit one wears, and the image that the outfit projects, however I can’t help but internalize that. Knowing that for some no matter how well dressed I am I will be judged in 3 seconds and that may not go my way, I may not get the chance to make a second impression.

I have found this to be true in job interviews and have known I wouldn’t get the job only because of the way I looked, because I have a facial difference.

I dress defensively but in the opposite way that is featured in Love, Lust, or Run. When I’m having a low day I dress up, either wearing a suit, or just simply a blazer and nice jewellery because I know I will get compliments that I look nice. I NEED those someways because it’s the only thing that gets me through the day. When I have to go out in public alone sometimes I will wear my headphones and blast my music to distract myself from seeing people in hopes they don’t see me.

I live in a world where looks matter (I’ve said this before) I know this, I don’t always accept it but I know that it’s a reality. All I can do is project hope that as a society we will continue to evolve and continue to redefine what is acceptable behaviour because we are ALL different, we ALL matter!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Feb19

If you were born in 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, or 2015 you fall under the year of the Goat (or sheep, or ram…there seems to be some confusion) and this is YOUR year! I personally fall under the year of the Rooster, similar traits!

One of my favourite memories as a kid was eating at a restaurant across from where we lived called Sing Lee’s and I loved the paper place-mats that had all the descriptions of what each animal represented and all the years that aligned with which animal. I think I like the Chinese zodiac more so than the traditional one I wrote about some posts ago.

I came across the following website and it is awesome; you can learn all sorts of interesting facts. Where do you fall in the Chinese zodiac? (http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/)

Well this will go on record as being my shortest blog entry. Sorry for those who support me and read this blog everyday. I’m so dizzy tonight so going to go and lay down! Also I’m going to start thinking about possible topics for public speaking and best ways to “brand” myself. Need to create a new more polished website and may call on a few friends for help with that!

Cooking Class #2

Last night I was really tired and so I posted some very cute pictures of our dogs. The reason why I was so tired was because after work my friend Donna, her mom, and I attended another cooking demo/class at Sobey’s.

Last night’s theme was Thai comfort food, I have to say it didn’t disappoint. Chef Patrick created a menu that is easy to replicate and tastes so divine. It gave me the chance to hear him speak about his experiences on Chopped Canada that aired this past Saturday night. Any regular reader of this blog will already know that I love all the behind the scenes info and I was glued to Chef Patrick’s every word about how it works off camera. The other awesome thing about last night was that I got to meet his lovely fiancee Andrea Lauren who was super sweet and I am so thrilled for the both of them, they are busy planning their wedding and planning a honeymoon in Thailand!

Last night’s dishes in order in which they were served were:

COCONUT AND LEMONGRASS SOUP WITH SHRIMP

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INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 thumb size piece fresh ginger, minced

1 stalk lemon grass, white bulb minced, stalk reserved for soup pot

2 teaspoons red curry paste

4 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 cans coconut milk

1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced

1 large tomato, chopped

1 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined

1 lime, zested and juiced (need about 2 tablespoons of juice)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 cup chopped scallions

STEPS

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the ginger, lemongrass, and curry paste in the heated oil for 1 minute until fragrant. Slowly pour the vegetable broth over the mixture stirring continually. Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar and lime zest simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, mushrooms and tomato; cook and stir until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until no longer translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and states; soup should have equal balance of spicy, sweet, salty, and sour. Garnish with cilantro and scallions and enjoy!

I have to say that when I looked at the ingredient list, I had reservations about liking this soup. I’m NOT a fan of cilantro but for some reason the flavour of the cilantro did not over power the rest of the flavours. I would have eaten a huge bowl of this if I had been able to. I would love to make it at home but no one but me would eat it, which may not be a bad thing.

Nest up:

THAI GREEN MANGO SALAD

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INGREDIENTS

2 red or green Thai chiles, with seeds, chopped

1 clove garlic chopped

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

3/4 cup fish sauce

2 tablespoons avocado oil

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

4 green mangoes julianned

1 cup of bean sprouts

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup dry unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons toasted dried shrimp (optional)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

kosher salt

STEPS

Puree chiles, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, and sugar in a blender until smooth.

Toss mangoes, bean sprouts, shallots, peanuts, coconut, cilantro, mint, basil, dried shrimp if using, sesame seeds, and dressing in a large bowl; season with lightly with salt, enjoy!

The hardest part about this is getting everything sliced and diced once it’s all tossed up it’s SO good. You can make the dressing ahead of time and it keeps for a while.

This salad was served alongside our next recipe:

THAI PORK SATAY

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The pork all marinated ready to grill (or in our case broil)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons chopped lemongrass

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon chopped galangal or ginger

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon yellow curry paste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 limes, cut in half

12 oz. pork loin, cut into 1″-wide, 1/4″ thick slices

STEPS

Wooden skewers soaked (this is only for presentation so feel free to skip)

Puree 1/2 cup coconut milk, lemon grass, oil, galangal (or ginger), sugar, garlic, spices, fish sauce and curry paste in a food processor. Toss paste and pork in a large bowl and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Don’t leave any longer than 4 hours as the the texture of the meat will change.

Set a grill over medium high heat. Thread a couple slices of pork on each skewer, brush with remaining coconut milk and grill turning once until charred and cooked through, about 7 minutes total. Remove from the grill and squeeze fresh lime juice all over satays. Enjoy!

These were simply fantastic!

Up next:

THAI DRUNKEN NOODLES

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INGREDIENTS

1 200g package pad Thai noodles

4 chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces

1 cup basil leaves, preferably Thai

2 shallots, chopped

2 scallions, white and green parts chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 Thai bird chillis finely chopped (if you can’t find these just use good old Jalapeno)

2 eggs beaten

2 tablespoons peanut oil

SAUCE

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/4 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce (or just plain Thai soy sauce)

1 1/2 tablespoons normal dark soy sauce

2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup Sake rice wine

STEPS

Cook noodles according to instructions on package. Drain when ready. Make sure to rinse noodles under cold water.

Put Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.

Heat oil in wok or pan over high heat. Add garlic and chilli and cook for 10 seconds. Add the eggs and cook stirring constantly until just set. Add chicken and fry until cooked partially through, about 2 minutes.

Add the shallots/scallions and about 1 tablespoon of the sauce and stir fry for 30 seconds, just to coat the chicken. Add the noodles and sauce and cook for a couple minutes until the sauce has coated the noodles completely and they start to brown.

Remove from heat and immediately add basil leaves, stir until just wilted, then serve immediately. Enjoy with a cold Tiger Beer.

Chef Patrick gave a great tip for this one, make sure ALL of your ingredients are ready to go, all cut up and the sauce is mixed ready to go. Don’t wait until the end to cook the noodles have those done before starting to fry.

Last but not least:

THAI FRIED BANANAS WITH COCONUT CREAM

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1 can coconut milk, well stirred

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 egg yolks, at room temperature

vegetable oil, for frying (don’t use olive oil, use a neutral flavored oil)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 cup hot water

3/4 cup rice flour

1/2 cup desiccated coconut, toasted

1/2 cup coconut milk well stirred

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

8 ripe baby bananas or 4 large normal bananas

1/2 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped.

STEPS

FOR THE COCONUT CREAM SAUCE: Toast the desiccated coconut in a small saute pan over medium heat until just browned. combine the coconut milk, toasted coconut, whole milk, and kosher salt in a small saucepan and bring up to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then turn off the heat and steep for 30 minutes.

Strain the coconut mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and into another small saucepan, using a wooden spoon or spatula to press down on the solids. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a mixing bowl, and then whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot coconut milk mixture to temper the eggs. Gradually whisk in the rest of the hot coconut milk and transfer the mixture back to the saucepan. Using a wooden spoon stir over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes. Strain into a mixing bowl and place plastic wrap directly on to of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool at room temperature while you make the fried bananas.

FOR THE FRIED BANANAS: Fill a wok with 3 inches of vegetable oil or a large dutch oven with 2 inches. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F over medium-high heat.

Put the brown sugar in a small bowl, add the hot water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. In a baking dish whisk together the rice flour, desiccated coconut, coconut milk, all-purpose flour, baking powder and the sugar/water mixture to form a thin batter. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes while you prep the bananas.

If using baby bananas, simply peel and slice each lengthwise, if using normal bananas slice each in half and then again lengthwise. Dip the sliced bananas in the batter, shaking off any excess and fry the bananas until golden brown and crispy, turning occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes. Place the fried bananas on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve with chopped peanuts and coconut cream sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

I would eat this meal again in a heartbeat! So good. please let me know  if you end up trying any of these, I would love to see your pictures and know what you thought.

I’m tired so here are some pictures of our dogs

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Ellie after I dumped all the toys on the floor. She was one happy puppy.

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See, lots of toys!

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Ellie is too cool for my hat!

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If you put a blanket down on the floor they will come!

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Extreme close up of Daka.

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Ellie being way too cute.

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They are always willing to help me finish my food!

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Cuddle time with Dorje.

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Can you guess what they are waiting for?

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Anywhere I am these two are pretty much always with me. Well within the house.

LOVE our doggies! Feel free to post pictures of your beloved animals.

Must have…products

In an effort to share with you, so that you can get to know me better I thought today I would go over my “must have products” I don’t have many but here are a few things I would be saddened if I had to do without.

I will mention before this gets going that I know how lucky I am to live where I do, that I have a job, a house and a family. This list isn’t of things I can’t live without because at the end of the day I could, these are just things and in no way replace what is truly important to me.

First up from the awesome store that is Bath & Body Works (http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/home/index.jsp) their line of deep cleaning soaps are the best I have ever used. When I wash my hands I need them to feel super clean which is why I love to use soaps with micro beads that help really get in there and get the dirt (or whatever) off my hands. Also it has to smell so nice, but I’m not a fan of the fruit scents nor vanilla.

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As with my hand soap I need to use a body scrub in the shower instead of simply a shower gel, or bar of soap. It really does need to feel that I have taken a layer of skin off my body when I get out of the shower. Right now I’m using one from Bath & Body Works that they don’t carry anymore which saddens me as now I need to find a new favourite.

While on the concept of personal hygiene and shower my shower puff scrub thing has to come from The Body Shop (http://www.thebodyshop.ca/en/index.aspx?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=sem_brd&utm_campaign=Brand-TM-EN&utm_term=the%20body%20shop&utm_content=Brand-Exact&cvosrc=ppc.bing.the%20body%20shop&cvo_campaign=Brand&cvo_crid={AdID}&Matchtype=e%22). So they call them bath lilies…I find the texture of these puffs to be far better than with that of other ones I’ve seen from other companies.

must have 1

Also from The Body Shop I love using their hemp mitt as an exfoliate in the shower, mostly for my feet but usually give everything a once over. I don’t have one currently but it’s on my list of things to get.

must have 2

I’m not big on beauty products and I only apply moisturizer after a shower so as to not put too much product on my face. I generally look for a more natural option and I’m currently using Nivea brand that I do like but it’s almost done so I think I may try another brand so if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comment section.

must have 3

For moisturizer on the go I have found that Lush’s (www.lush.ca) message bars are great. They have no bottles so they are super great for the environment and you only take from the bar what you need. I currently have 2 and I love them both.

must have 4 must have 5

When looking at their website tonight I found that they how have shampoo bars, I’m SUPER excited to get one and try it out but it won’t be until August unless I treat myself and shop online…we shall see.

Now these message bars are great for on the go but when I’m at home I usually use The Body Shop’s vitamin E body lotion. I find when I have dry itchy winter skin it helps calm and sooth my skin.

must have 6

Beyond my must haves for personal care I have a few items I use on a frequent basis that I really enjoy using. The first is my favourite pen to write with. They don’t seem to make them this way anymore which doesn’t surprise me because it always seems to happen that I find the one brand or type of an object and after I have been used to it and really love it they either discontinue it or change it somehow which leads me to disappointment, frustration, and having to find another version or a different thing all together.

must have 7

They don’t make them with the lids anymore…I have a few but once they are gone I’m all out!

When it comes to cleaning around the home I love things that make my life quick, and easy so I tend to buy the laundry pods such as the Tide, or Gain, I’m not too picky on brand as long as they smell good and they are on sale. Same goes for the dishwasher we use the compact pod things with a simple rinse agent and it works great. I always try to look for ones that are good on the environment and since they have little packaging or packaging I can recycle, it’s a win-win!

We just discovered and now love the steam mop I picked up off The Shopping Channel (www.tsc.ca) it helps keeps the floors nice and clean and actually you can use it on all types of flooring including carpet, ours comes with a neat attachment that can be used to steam clothing.

must have 8

http://www.theshoppingchannel.com/H2O/Cleaning/H20-Mop-X5-Elite-With-Accessories-White/pages/productdetails?nav=R:513830,N:128384,E:11773066

My friends Monica H and Susan S (they don’t know each other as far as I’m aware) both sell Epicure and I tried these sponges called “epicure’s Scrubby” and they are AMAZING, they don’t get yucky like traditional sponges and the best part is you can throw them in the dishwasher to sanitize them. You get lots of use out of them and we generally don’t throw one out until they are falling apart. You won’t find them anymore as Epicure stopped selling them, when I heard this I went a little nuts and my friend Monica H who was going to an Epicure conference put out the word and managed to get me pretty much the rest of the scrubby’s in Canada! I have NO idea what my sister and I will do when we are down to the last one, so if anyone knows of a secret stash either in Canada or in another country please let me know!

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I’ve shared mind…time for you to share yours! :)