Thursday, October 31, 2013

Week 16 Cupcakes - Churros

We are in the midst of the Tornado's first Halloween.  Between candy coming from pretty much ever place we go, his school's Halloween party last night and regular Trick or Treating fun we are swimming in chocolate and Skittles.  So obviously we need cupcakes to eat during the endless stream of Halloween TV shows.  

1. Source: The Sweet Chick
2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 4 it involves a cake and frosting from scratch and a filling.

3. Changes Made:  I didn't have whipping cream so I couldn't make the delicious sounding cinnamon mascarpone frosting she makes so I had to improvise with this vanilla frosting from brown eyed baker.

4. Problems:  None

5.  Overall Impression:  I definitely think the light mascarpone/whipped cream would have been amazing with these.  The cake is nice and the cinnamon topping provides a nice little crunch.  The dulce de leche filling is really good and for once I followed instructions and used a plastic bag to pipe the filling into the cake.  Worked great and once I was done getting all the sticky filling into the cupcakes I just tossed the bag away.  This frosting is definitely one of the best buttercreams I've ever made.  It's only requires 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes of mixing.  To make them a little more Halloween-y I added the eyes and am calling them mummy cupcakes.

6. Quantity:  12

7. Make Again? Yes:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

I have discovered a new subscription box that is seriously tempting me to break my no more boxes resolve.  It's called My Bake Box and for $20/month they send you a box with specialized ingredients to try and a new cupcake recipe.  I'm seriously considering buying myself a 6 month subscription for $100.  This is the first baking box like this and I'm loving the idea.  I also love that while its a little higher than the 2 makeup boxes I currently receive it's not as much as some of the other big boxes.  I also like that it includes ingredients instead of a random gadget.  There are only so many "time saving" kitchen gadgets I can have but I will never get tired of trying new flavorings or spices.

I am not loving the Postal Service at the moment.  We have waves of this.  Sometimes the mail just works.  It arrives when its supposed too and stuff gets picked up when its supposed too generally at a fairly consistent time.  The past week or so its been coming super late or not at all.  I had a book I got through Paperback Swap never make it and am currently expecting 2 books that should've been here days ago.  Also we keep getting other people's mail and the past few days our mail has been getting here around 8PM.  I'm hoping this is just a phase and not the new way of life.

We are going to the Halloween Party at the Tornado's school tonight and he's so excited he can barely stand it.  I have to pin up his sheriff's coat so he doesn't trip over it though.  Hopefully someone of my limited abilities can manage to use a few safety pins effectively.  The forecast isn't looking good for the actual Halloween night.  I'm sure I'm not the only parent holding my breath on that one.

I went through Disney Jr and PBS Kids and recorded every Halloween kids show they had on.  I was unaware of how many really and truly bad shows there are.  And the worse they are the more he seems to love them.  I've had a song from the Imagination Movers stuck in my head for days now!

As part of my happiness project I'm trying to stay more on top of keeping the house cleaner.  I've gone back to a room a day schedule and it seems to be really helping though I'm still not any fonder of cleaning.  I've also been trying to play outside with the Tornado at least 30 minutes a day.  So far so good.  Breaking all my ideas into chunks and implementing them bit by bit is way more workable than a complete life makeover in a day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Try-It Tuesday - Sweet Corn and Quinoa with Honey Lemon Viniagrette

This Tuesday my Try-It was this delicious looking Sweet Corn and Quinoa with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette from Iowa Girl Eats.
This is one of my favorite food blogs.  Her recipes always look so good and generally have a light twist to them.  I've been wanting to do something with quinoa for awhile but have always chickened out.  Friday night was night 1 of 2 nights that J and all the kids (except for the Tornado of course) would be gone so quinoa salad making time it was!  This recipe wasn't hard to make but was a little complicated.  It did end up using 2 pots and there was a little chopping involved but it was mostly just stirring.  It came together pretty quickly and in about 20 minutes dinner was made, pots and knives were washed and I was sitting down watching TV and eating my dinner.  Now as for the taste - it wasn't one of those meals that I took a bite and thought "This is absolutely amazing."  In fact my first thought was probably along the lines of "Huh, this is...interesting." However, I find myself strangely obsessed with this meal.  It's pretty filling and I feel very virtuous eating it which is nice.  It also reheats beautifully in the microwave which is nice because I'm the only person here who is going to eat it.  Will I make this again?  Probably, especially if J is out of town or to have on hand for lunch.  I will definitely play around with quinoa to see if I can find a flavor combination I like even better.  It started off a bit weird but its definitely grown on me.
Source: Iowa Girl Eats
Verdict: Keeper though definitely a meal just for me

Next Tuesday's pin:
For next Tuesday I'm going to be visiting my Snacks, Drinks and Breakfast Stuff Board.  This board is huge with 425 pins but largely ignored which I really should fix because there are some amazing looking recipes.  Next week I'm going to try these Pretzel Bites with Parmesan or Cinnamon Sugar Glaze.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Foodie Friday

Chef of the Month

I seemed to cook almost 100% out of Giada's Everyday Italian book this week.  This is her first cookbook but the recipes are pretty family friendly and simple.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina - This is actually recipe I've made a number of times. I got it off her Everyday Italian show.  It's super easy and tasty but also nice and light.  It's not a typical baked pasta that's weighed down with lots of sauce and cheese.  In fact the closest thing to sauce this has is an insane number of herbs and a can of diced tomatoes.  I've made this with and without chicken.  It's not something I wake up in the morning and think - I want that for dinner!  However, everyone enjoys it when its put in front of them.

I also made her Chicken Parmesan and served it over Penne pasta.  This was okay.  Definitely not my favorite Chicken Parmesan recipe but it is lighter.  Instead of coating the chicken and frying it you brown the chicken in a saute pan and then top with herbs and cheese and bake for a few minutes so that the cheese melts.

Last night I'd been out all day and had a headache I couldn't shake.  I had originally planned to make Giada's Orzotto but standing in front of the stove for half an hour turning orzo into a risotto has zero appeal. After a quick flip through Everyday Italian, one of my new favorite cookbooks, I managed to put together her alfredo sauce and cook some chicken to go with it.  So dinner ended up being alfredo sauce on rotini with some seasoned chicken and it was amazing.  The sauce required lemon juice and lemon zest so I was afraid it would end up being citrus-y but it really wasn't.  This very well may become my go to alfredo sauce recipe.

Pinterest Recipes

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies from the Pioneer Woman - I made these for my dad and thought they were really good.  They're tough enough to be able to survive transport but still chewy enough that they taste like a proper oatmeal cookie.  The huge quantities of butter and brown sugar are what make this cookie stand out and keep it from being just a plain old oatmeal cookie.

  Focaccia Bread from Anne Burrell - Anne Burrell may irritate me on television but the woman makes a mean focaccia bread.  This is one of the few that I've come across that doesn't require a sponge to start with.  It's easy to change up the seasonings so that the crunchy olive oil-y goodness can go with just about any meal.  I've made this a number of times and the only change I've ever made is to cut the cooking time down by a few minutes but that's mostly because my oven is temperamental.  It requires 2 rises so it does need to be started about 3 hours ahead of time but it always comes together as beautiful restaurant quality focaccia bread.

Sugar Cookie Bars from High Heels & Grills - These are very tasty and very easy to make festive with just a change in food coloring and sprinkles.  I made mine with purple and orange swirled frosting and topped with sprinkes consiting of bats and tombstones.  It's so much easier than traditional frosted sugar cookies too.  The only downside is that for whatever reason the Tornado decided he doesn't like this.  I probably won't make this again but it's mostly because I don't want to eat an entire pan of these by myself.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Week 15 Cupcakes - Triple Threat

Eleanor is home from school for her university's fall break.  We decided to spend the time that the Tornado was in school thrift store shopping.  We got 3 thrift stores and a consignment store in before pickup time.  She got 4 or 5 sweaters and a jacket.  I found an Auburn jersey for the Tornado and a sweater and the weirdest ever t-shirt for Emma.  As for myself I more than made up for striking out on Saturday and cleaned up.  The best find was a shirt I almost bought full priced at Anthropologie.  I'm glad I didn't buy it because I ended up getting a 90% discount!  So after all that shopping I came home and made these Triple Threat Cupcakes.  These are white cake cupcakes with an Oreo at the bottom, a cookie dough filling and brownies mixed into a chocolate buttercream.

1. Source:  Your Cup of Cake - This was a repin and not from a blog I regularly follow.  However, after trying these cupcakes I added this blog to my Feedly account.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 4.  Not hard but a lot of steps.

3. Changes Made: None

4. Problems:  None

5.  Overall Impression:  Oh my these are amazing.  At dinner last night I mentioned that I was making Triple Threat Cupcakes and without even knowing what they were Emma was excited.  She said that anything that had threat in the title was always good and she was very right.  Luckily I had about a 1/4th of pan of brownies sitting around so I didn't have to make these on top of the cake, filling and frosting.  The cake is delicious and has a lovely texture.  This is probably the best recipe for edible cookie dough I've made yet.  And the frosting...oh the frosting.  It's buttery chocoalatey heaven.  I'm not sure how much the brownies really add to the frosting so next time I might leave them out.

6. Quantity:  20

7. Make Again?: Yes.  I think Emma would mutiny if I didn't.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

I've been reading The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster lately which I stumbled upon at the library.  She's mentioned The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a few times which I also just read and took lots of notes on.  Between these 2 lifestyle projects I'm getting a bit overwhelmed.  Finally I decided if I'm going to copy them with my own happiness project than I'm actually going to have to copy them.  That means instead of implementing every idea they come up with and trying everything they mention all all at once I'm going to have to be a bit more systematic about the whole thing.  Anything that involves making notes is good with me.  Overwhelmed feeling diminishing already.

The other night J and I stood on our back deck and listened to 2 hoot owls talk back and forth.  It was really amazing.  It also gave me the stamp of approval to buy all the owl stuff I wanted instead of restraining myself.  When I mentioned this to Emma she was slightly horrified.  Apparently she wasn't aware I was restraining myself in the first place.

I caved and bought myself a pair of flannel pajamas with the classic button up flannel shirt.  Lily wears them on How I Met Your Mother and I think they look so cute.  They had some covered in owls from Target so I figured that was a sign.  I'm thinking of going back tomorrow and buying another pair.  They are comfy!

It's finally getting cold enough to wear the hundreds of  sweaters I have!  I also need to get around to sorting through the piles of dry clean only stuff I have and actually take them to a dry cleaner.  I'm kind of embarrassingly lazy about the whole thing.

One of the big thrift stores was having a 50% off sale Saturday so Emma and I went.  I completely struck out which almost never happens.  They had the largest collection of ugly sweaters I've ever seen and very little else.  I wasn't aware how many ugly sweaters actually existed until Saturday and I have visited a lot of thrift stores.  Emma did a little better and got a couple of things including the cutest black sweater with white rabbits all over it.  I'm doing some major thrifting tomorrow while the Tornado is at school so I'm hoping I do better then.

Ringo and Emma have a competition in Nashville Saturday and I'm debating whether I'm going to go and drag the Torndao with me.  There's a cupcake place, a LUSH store and unexplored thrift stores that I want to visit but I'd also be toting around the Tornado and making sure I actually see them play so I don't know.

The Tornado has discovered lemonade and is obsessed.  I never would've picked him as a lemonade lover as sweet seems to be his main focus.  He had some at J's company barbecue and has been asking for it ever since.  I bought some mix at the grocery store yesterday and he is in heaven.  The next step it to actually MAKE the lemonade.  I have at least 9 recipes for it so it shouldn't be too hard!

I've managed to keep workouts in my daily schedule!  I even did an hour long ballet workout yesterday while the Tornado was at school.  Days where he doesn't have school I at least manage to get a short Blogilates video in.  It's not the full hour she recommends but I figure a little is better than nothing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Try-It Tuesday

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest. It's definitely my number 1 time killer.  If I'm sitting on the couch watching TV it's pretty safe to assume that I'm scrolling through Pinterest on my Kindle.  First thing in the morning when I'm drinking my coffee I'm sitting with my Kindle scrolling through all the blogs I follow and tagging the posts that interest me to pin later.  As of now I have 45 boards and over 6,000 pins.  Some of those pins are pictures of things I like or place I want to see and a decent amount are outfit ideas.  Most are recipes or some kind of DIY project.  I do use recipes for dinner pretty well but there are tons and tons of categories that get pinned regularly but don't get tried out.  Hence, Try-It Tuesday!  The plan for Tuesdays is to show 1 pin I completed and 1 pin I want to attempt in the next week.

The first completed pin is Homemade Fabric Softener from my House Stuff board.  Awhile back I got some shampoo and conditioner for almost nothing.  The downside was the conditioner was awful.  I mean so awful it was useless.  So what do you do when you have 6 bottles of useless conditioner?  You put ways to use up conditioner in the search bar in Pinterest and see what you come up with.  This homemade fabric softener was the first thing I came across and it works great!  It's a simple combination of hot water, heated vinegar and conditioner and then used just like regular fabric softener.  While the clothes really don't have a scent when they come out of the dryer they are definitely softer and less static-y.  I think this fabric softener actually works better than commercial fabric softener and it's WAY cheaper.  It also almost eliminates the need for dryer sheets.  I've started keeping 2 or 3 golf size balls of foil in the dryer and haven't used dryer sheets for months.
Pin: Homemade Fabric Softener
Source: One Good Thing by Jillee
Verdict: Keeper!

For next Tuesday I'm visiting my Snacks for Me board.  I pinned this recipe for Sweet Corn and Quinoa with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette back in April and haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ipsy GlamBag Review - October

I absolutely loved my first Ipsy GlamBag and was anxiously waiting for the second one to arrive.  The second bag didn't disappoint!  I think my profile is right on target too because of all the different bags I've seen this month these are definitely the items I'd want.  The theme this month was the Art of Beauty.  I'm also really thrilled that Ipsy has added a points for review system like Birchbox has.  Ipsy offers rewards that you can redeem when you collect enough points instead of money off a purchase since they don't actually sell the items in the bag.

This month's bag is white with a rose colored zipper and rose colored writing that says Love Of Beauty is Taste,  The Creation of Beauty is Art.  I liked last month's bag a little better but this will still work great for getting all of my makeup organized.

Zoya Nailpolish in Giovanna - This was a full sized product and part of Zoya's Fall Cashmeres and Satins Collection.  Giovanna is a very shimmery gorgeous emerald green color.  It's a very bold color and while I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone a little with my nail polishes this is so far out of my comfort zone that its a little shocking.  I've had it on my toes for a few days and its definitely growing on me though.  The formula went on really nicely and covered completely in 2 coats.  I like Essie's formula a little bit better so I probably won't buy any of this brand in the future but I definitely won't be disappointed if another nail polish by them shows up in a subscription box.

LA Fresh Eco Beauty Cleanser Wipes - This came in a little sealed packet containing 10 wipes.  I haven't tried this yet because it's so perfect for travel that I want to hold on to until I go somewhere.  The reviews for this are really great though. 

Buxom Full On Lip Polish in Dolly - I was very surprised when I saw that this wasn't a full size because the sample size is HUGE.  It's about the same size as most of my MAC LipGlass.  I was a little apprehensive about the color because it looks like a very cool toned light purple but it looked more of a neutral pink when it was on.  This is a plumping formula so there is some mint tingle to it when first applied.  The first time I tried it on the tingling was pretty intense but that has faded with subsequent uses.  I normally don't like the tingling feeling but this was nice and minty feeling instead of burning so I didn't mind this one.  The staying power is pretty good for a gloss.  It won't stay on through a meal but it will stay on for a couple of hours.  It also looks really good over a dark rose lipliner.  

Nourish Organic Deeply Nourishing Coconut and Argan Body Lotion - This came in a travel sized tube.  The scent is amazing.  It's a lovely coconut scent without being to strong or sweet.  The texture is nice - it's thin enough to squeeze out easily but thick enough to be moisturizing.  I was very pleased to see that Target sells this brand.  I'll definitely be picking up more of this brand.

BigSexyHair Blow Dry Gel - This came in a decent travel size bottle.  I don't love the packaging because I have a feeling it's going to be difficult to get to the product at the bottom.  It looks like the full size comes in a similar bottle though.  Yesterday I washed my hair and brushed my usual prep/leave in conditioner spray through it.  After that I flipped my hair upside down and rubbed about a nickle size of the product through the roots and sides.  Then I blow dryed it sometimes when my hair flipped up and when all the bending over made me a little light headed, standing up like a normal person.  I was really pleased with the result.  My roots had a nice lift and it didn't leave any sticky or greasy residue.  This is a pretty easy brand to find so I will most likely be buying this!

So once again I was thrilled with my Ipsy GlamBag!  I like that it and Birchbox don't really seem to overlap so I really love having both the subscriptions.  Plus, its like having two Christmases every month!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Foodie Friday

Chef of the Month:
The second week of Giada De Laurentiis month was pretty tasty.
First up was Chicken Piccata from Everyday Italian.  This was a good chicken piccata recipe.  I left out the capers because we really hadn't enjoyed them in a previous dish.  This will probably be my go to piccata recipe from now on.
Along with that I served Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan and Bread Crumbs from Giada's Family Dinners.  This mashed potato recipe was full of cheese and butter and involved baking it after the potatoes are mashed.  This is really my favorite way to make mashed potatoes because they're easy to make ahead this way and the baking kind of breaks down any lumps making them close to fool proof.  However, I didn't think this was as interesting as my go to mashed potatoes recipes from the Pioneer Woman.  I probably won't make this again.
Third was a quick and easy dinner I made for the Tornado, Emma and myself.  Cheese Tortellini in Light Broth probably shouldn't be considered a recipe because it's so easy and fast to make but it was delicious!  Even the Tornado eats his and he's mostly on an all sugar diet at this point.  This one is also from Everyday Italian.  I will definitely be making this again.  So for this week I got 2 new recipes to add to my standard rotation and 1 recipe that was ok but not award winning for me.  Not a bad week!

Pinterest Recipes

These Ooey Gooey Monster Eye Cookies were amazing!  For starters they were easy to make.  They were also very tasty.  And what made them even better is they came out looking exactly like they were supposed too!  Decorating is not my thing when it comes to food but even I could use some food coloring on the dough and add the monster eye.  I had picked up a box of the blood shot eyes candy the other day and they looked so good on the cookies.  I wedged them in a little so they weren't perfectly centered on the middle and they looked nice and moster-y!  The Tornado loved them.  They will definitely be being made again.

I was beyond excited when I saw these Copycat Arby's Beef n' Cheddars from Oh Sweet Basil.  These are my absolute favorite fast food sandwich and we don't get to Arby's very often.  I was a little concerned when making them because I didn't see how this recipe could taste just like my beloved sandwich.  But they did!  If anything they tasted better because they weren't as greasy and heavy.  I'm not sure how much everyone else loved this sandwich but this is one of the few I don't care because mine was so good I'll be making it again.  The good thing with this is that it could be easily adjusted to just make 1 sandwich.  The full recipe really only gave me enough for 3 Arby's sized sandwiches and 1 really small sandwich.

I also made Parmesan Oven Fries from Southern Plate.  I really wanted to like these because I like pretty much everything that comes from Southern Plate and these are very good but Bobby Flay's oven fry method is just so much more efficient that I got frustrated with making them.

With dinner one night I made this Challah bread from Everyday Reading.  The flavor was very good but I couldn't get it to rise completely.  I don't know if my water temp was off or if I over-mixed but after 2 hours the dough definitely hadn't doubled in size.  This was simple enough and the flavor was good enough that it's worth making again to see if I can figure out what happened.  It doesn't hurt that the end result was still pretty tasty, especially when warm and served with some Irish butter to spread on top!
That's all the cooking I did this week!  Next week is grocery store week so I'll be making a new menu plan and trying some new things.  I have a feeling those monster eye cookies will be showing up again!  I've got 3 or 4 more Giada recipes already lined up too!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Week 14 Cupcakes - Funfetti

This weeks cupcakes are just the plain old out of the box funfetti cake mix with the plain old out of the container funfetti icing with the included sprinkles.  I'm a bit embarrassed to include this as one of the cupcakes but if I didn't make Funfetti cupcakes for Halloween J would mutiny and my waistline would mutiny if I made more than 1 batch of cupcakes a week.  So for week 14 Funfetti cupcakes it is!

1. Source: ummm... the holiday section at Target?

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 1 cause it's a cake mix with canned icing.

3. Changes Made: My big cake mix secret is I replace the water with milk especially if its a white cake mix otherwise it can be a little dry.

4. Problems:  None cause it's a cake mix with canned icing. 

5.  Overall Impression:  These are pretty typical for what they are.  I like the texture of the cake better with milk.  I much prefer a good cream cheese frosting but these do look festive.  My family adores them and they're easy to put together so that's always good.

6. Quantity:  16.  

7. Make Again?:  Yep probably for Christmas and July 4th though the frosting and sprinkles will be different colors.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

The Tornado spent about 6 hours on Sunday helping J rake up the back yard.  Granted most of the time was spent in a leaf fort J built with the bags but he did sometimes help put leaves in the bag and get new bags.  Plus, he was outside all day working with his daddy so he was thrilled beyond belief.  The picture shows only about a third of the leaf bags.  J hasn't even started on the front yard yet which is about twice the size of the back.

I've been watching Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior on Netflix and I had forgotten how much I liked it. It got cancelled after only one season much to my disappointment but now I can relive the glory thanks to Netflix.  I'm not sure what it says about me that I burn out on sitcoms much faster than crime shows.

My Ipsy bag is on its way and I'm so excited I can barely stand it.

I received my 2nd Cosmopolitan magazine Saturday.  I still haven't figured out why I have this subscription.  After reading it while I was waiting to pick up Ringo from practice I did figure out that I'm way too old for Cosmo.

I'm reading Gretchen Rubin's 2nd book Happier at Home.  I'm starting to feel like a cult member because I keep having to fight the urge to STRONGLY recommend her books to people.  She annoys me but her ideas really do get me thinking about how to improve my own life.  I've been doing a lot of thinking about how improve our house decor wise.  It got kind of stripped down when the Tornado was first walking but now he's old enough to leave stuff alone for the most part so it's time to start redoing some things.

Saturday night J and I stood on the back deck and listened to 2 hoot owls talk back and forth for awhile.  It was very very cool.  One of the owls seems to have taken up residence in one of the trees in our yard.

I have come to the conclusion that I don't like ankle boots or animal print.  They're fine on other people but I just don't like them.  On the other side of that I've decided I like oxfords and I'm drooling over a few Burberry coats.  Polyvore may not be a good idea for me because almost all the coats are gorgeous and most are very very pricey.

My love/hate relationship with Bath and Body Works Wallflowers continues.  I'm in the love phase right now but history suggests the hate phase will start in a few months when I keep having to make special trips and dish out a lot of money for refills.  I've tried pretty much every type of plug in that's made and unfortunately I like the scents and strength of fragrance best in the wallflowers.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Birchbox Review - October

My October Birchbox arrived on Thursday much to my delight.  This month's theme was Beauty Buzz and I was very pleased with everything I got.

Miss Jessie's Original Creme de la Creme Conditioner
This was really the only item that I didn't love but luckily I know someone who will use it so I'm swapping my conditioner for her lipgloss that she doesn't really like.  This came in a pretty generous sized foil packet.  For people with normal hair it'd probably be enough for at least 2 applications.  For my obscenely thick hair it'd be 1 generous application.

Folle de Joie eau de parfum
I love this perfume.  The mix of the really fresh mandarin and the warm sandlewood is amazing.  It's a fallish scent without being typical.  I may buy this once I have enough birchbox points.  It came in a little glass vial with a spray top.

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser and Muslin Cloth
When I first read the directions for this I was concerned that I would never remember to use it.  You rub it onto dry skin then use the cloth in a circular pattern to remove the cleanser and then rinse it off.  However, because you start with dry skin I can use this while I'm waiting for the shower water to get to the correct temperature and then rinse it off in the shower once I get in.  It seems to work really well.  I've had some really tiny zits appear since I started using it but they seem more like stuff unclogging than a breakout.  This cleanser has apparently won tons of awards both in the UK where the company is based and in the US.  This came in a really pretty Tiffany blue box which held one cloth a travel sized tube of cleanser.  It's actually not too expensive so I might end up buying this.

POP Beauty Aqua Lacquer in Floating Rose
This is a really pretty sheer rosy color.  I don't find the texture too goopy and it doesn't make my lips tingle at all.  The staying power isn't great but not any worse than most other lipglosses and since I'll have 2 of these I'm not too worried about it.  It has a very slight minty scent but nothing overwhelming and no taste.  This came in what appears to be a full sized tube.  If it isn't full size it's pretty close.

ChapStick 8 Hour Hydration Lock
I was underwhelmed when I first saw this ChapStick.  I mean it's ChapStick - hard to get very excited about.  Plus most of their intense formulas have given my lips an unpleasant burning sensation.  However, after 3 weeks of a cold and heavy use of both cold medicine and benadryl my lips were super parched.  When I tried this the underwhelmed feeling went away.  This stuff is amazing!  With 1 use my super dry lips went back to normal.  The formula just kind of absorbs and disappears.  There's no waxy or heavy feeling and no burning sensation.  It's very lightly vanilla scented and has no flavor.  I will definitely be buying this - especially since birchbox was kind enough to include a $1 off coupon.

So after 4 boxes I'm still loving Birchbox though I have made some changed to my profile.  My 2nd Ipsy bag should be arriving this week and I'm really excited to see what it contains especially since the first 1 was so great!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Foodie Friday

Chef of the Month Food:

Giada De Laurentiis is the chef whose books I'm cooking from in October.  The books I'm using are Everday ItalianWeeknights with GiadaGiada's Family DinnersGiada at HomeGiada's Kitchen, and Everyday Pasta.   I adore Bobby Flay and do miss all the yummy hamburgers but it's been nice to have some lighter food.  So far from the various cookbooks I've made:

Pasta Ponza: The good news is that it looked just as pretty as it did in the cookbook picture which is something that rarely happens to me.  The bad news is that we didn't really like it.  I got to use up a lot of the last cherry tomatoes from my garden and it was easy to put together but the flavor combination just didn't do it for me.  This wasn't a dish that had no flavor.  It actually was very flavorable it just isn't a flavor combination that any of us cared for.  I served it with these Pecorino Crackers which unfortunately we didn't like very much either.  The Romano cheese flavor was just too strong.  If they'd been buttery crispy crackers with a hint of the romano than I probably would've been sold but this tasted a bit like biting into the wedge of cheese and it just wasn't very appetizing.  I made this meal on October 1st to kick off Giada month and I think my family was very apprehensive about what the month would bring after eating (though mostly picking at) this meal.

After that was Farmer's Pasta which luckily was very good.  This is a super fancy macaroni and cheese with browned pancetta, mozzarella, Parmesan, fontina and provolone.  It was really good though pretty time consuming.  I figured it was just macaroni and cheese and waiting until the last minute to start it.  That was a mistake.  Sauces have to be made and thickened, cheese has to be melted and the breadcrumbs have to be mixed and cooked.  Then everything has to be combined and put into the oven.  It was super tasty but not an easy meal to put together.  I served these with Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Corn Muffins.  These were easy and fast.  I didn't like them but I don't like cornbread so I'm not really the target market for the muffin.  J and Ringo thought they were great though.

Last night I made Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise.  I guess I'm missing Bobby Flay and his incredibly delicious burgers more than I thought.  This was the first chicken burger I've made without lots of breadcrumbs mixed in to give the meat a more workable texture so cooking these was a little challenging.  I make my hamburgers in a skillet and there was no setting a nicely formed patty down on a hot skillet, it was more like glopping a pile 'o meat onto the skillet.  J watched me do this with a look of total horror on his face.  Luckily these came out amazing and the mayonnaise really makes these burgers.  I find that rosemary can be a bit overpowering so I used a pretty light hand with it in the may and it came out incredible.

Pinterest Recipes:

I haven't been using a lot of Pinterest recipes this week and dessert-wise I kind of cheated and made brownies from a mix.  They were the delicious Ghiradelli kind with a chocolate glaze on top.  I could eat the pan by myself.  I did manage to get a little inspired since I found some Meyer lemons at the grocery store and I made these chewy lemon snowdrop cookies from Sophistimom.  They came out lovely.  Nicely lemony, buttery and soft.  I didn't think the powdered sugar would stick since you just dunked the already baked cookies into a bowl of it but it did great!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Week 13 Cupcakes - Creamsicle Cupcakes

A few months ago I was stocking up on sprinkles at HomeGoods and purchased a multipack of dessert flavored sprinkles.  One of those flavors was Creamsicle.  While we were waiting in line to check out J said "You should make some creamsicle flavored cupcakes".  An embarrassing number of months later this is my first attempt.  I added a pastry cream filling but I don't really feel it added anything so I'm leaving it out.

1. Source:  My Baking Addiction blog - I follow this blog but I'm not sure how much I use it

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 2.5.  This came together easily

3. Changes Made: I added a pastry cream filling but it added very little so I'm just pretending that didn't happen.

4. Problems:  None and it smelled amazing with all the orange zest

5.  Overall Impression:  The flavor of this cake is amazing and its probably the best cream cheese frosting I've ever made.  It's light and tangy without tasting like licking a block of cream cheese.  The cake texture is a bit dry so I might add a little more moisture next time because the flavor combination is incredible.

6. Quantity:  12

7. Make Again?:  Probably but I would look at how to make the cake lighter or more moist in the future.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

1. J and I took the Tornado to the zoo yesterday.  He had a fantastic time and we rode the train twice.  It was by far his favorite part.  They've changed it up with all the remodeling so you really can't see very many animals while riding it but he spent most of the time watching the couplings between the cars so it didn't really matter.  It was challenging to get a decent picture of him because 1. he never stops moving ever and 2. some things qualify as serious fun and he doesn't smile.  I have about a million pictures where he has the most solemn look on his face as he's riding the train or looking at various animals.  This picture was the closest I got to a smile.

2.  We're close to the finish line with the forehead bandaid.  The surgical strips are off the wound and it's healing up nicely.  It'll be nice to see him without the big swath of bandaid across his face.

3.  Speaking of finish lines I think my cold may finally be going away.  I'm part way through week 3 and now I feel fine I'm just sniffling and hacking like a walrus with asthma.  But finally even that is starting to get better!

4.  I got an issue of Cosmopolitan in the mail the other day.  It was addressed to me and didn't look like a sample or a mis-mailing.  I went to their website to look at the account to cancel it because obviously it was a mistake and I figured it'd be easier to cancel it without paying for it the quicker I got on it.  I was seriously surprised when my account is listed as paid up until September of 2015.  I'm very confused.  All the people I know who would sign me up for a magazine would sign me up for something food related and most likely they would tell me about it.  It's been awhile since I've read a Cosmo though so it should be entertaining!

5.  Emma managed to sleep through all her alarms yesterday.  The problem with this is she rides to school with a friend and is normally gone before J and I are up.  Yesterday we assumed she was gone and left for the zoo without checking on her.  When we were an hour away from home I got a text saying "Umm so I just woke up."  She had no idea how she did it - she slept through 3 alarms and 2 phone calls from the friend asking where she was.  I figure if she was sleeping that heavily she probably needed it.  Also, there was no way I was going to tell the Tornado that we weren't going to the zoo after all.  We kept going and she spent the day cleaning her room.  We also gave Ringo a free sick day.  They're both working pretty hard with their course loads, band and with Emma's job so I'm not too worried about it.

6.  I'm craving a thrift store trip but it looks like I'll have to put it off for at least a week.  The Tornado is on fall break this week and shopping with him isn't the most relaxing.

7.  I made this recipe for Naan bread and it was crazy good.  I had to change up the recipe a little because I forgot to read the recipe completely and didn't realize that it actually had 2 risings.  I ended up letting it rise once for about 45 minutes and the second time for maybe 15.  I didn't roll it out as thin and ended up pretty much frying the bread in olive oil.  I'm not sure there's much better than fried bread.  The light garlic flavor was unexpected and incredible and would still be there if you made the recipe the way it was actually supposed to be.  I'll probably make it again and follow the proper directions but I'm not sure if I don't like my shortcut method better!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Week 12 Cupcakes - M&M Cupcakes

This time of year is always disappointing for me.  All of those delicious pumpkin recipes floating around and try as I might I just don't like pumpkin.  Luckily these M&M Cupcakes made up for missing out on all the pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cakes.  The buttercream is so good it almost makes up for having this cold for 2 weeks straight.  This recipe caught my eye because Ringo's favorite candy is M&Ms but they ended up being a complete family favorite.

1. Source:  Cookies and Cups. This is one of my go-to blogs especially for sweets.
2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming):  3.  It gets the extra point because it has the extra stage of crushing the M&Ms before adding them to the buttercream.

3. Changes Made:  None

4. Problems:  None.  This came together really well and the directions were exact

5.  Overall Impression:  Oh my these are good.  The frosting is divine and the milk chocolate cake is delicious.  These are crazy good.  I can't say enough good things about these cupcakes.

6. Quantity:  12 with plenty of frosting

7. Make Again?:  For the sake of my waist I probably should lose this recipe immediately but I doubt I can resist making these periodically.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

September Favorites

September ended way too fast.  I got Bobby Flay month wrapped up and am pretty sure all those delicious hamburgers have caused some artery clogs but they were worth it.  I've had the cold that will not die mixed with allergies for the last two weeks which is leaving me not feeling particularly enthusiastic but its actually been a really great month.  For starts I read Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and started following her blog.  She kind of annoys me but the information has been really useful.  Its so easy to get bogged down with all the little stresses and forget how great things really are.  This book and the blog have really helped me bring all of that into focus.   The Tornado is still loving school and things are still going reasonably smoothly for the older 3.

September Favorites:

Netflix had the audacity to pull Monk off at the end of September.  Luckily I only have 1 season to go and one of the library carries the DVDs.  Not the one closest to me but one that's still pretty close.  However, I forgave them because they put season 8 of How I Met Your Mother up and I've done little else the past couple of days than binge watch How I Met Your Mother.  I just finished season 1 in less than 48 hours.  Awful compared to the speed Eleanor and Emma can go through a season but I'm still somewhat proud/horrified at myself.

Also, I finally discovered The Chew.  I adore Michael Symons, Clinton Kelly and Mario Batali.  I'm loving this show with all the foodie stuff and the complete lack of drama.  

Favorite Clothing Purchase:  I bought these French terry pajama pants the other day from Target and I adore them.  They're the most comfortable thing I've ever put on which has been a good thing since I have the cold that will not die.  They're thick enough to be cozy without being so heavy that I get hot.  I'll probably go back and buy them in a few more colors next week.   These pants with my favorite fuzzy socks and I'm in absolute heaven.

 Favorite Workout:  I've finally added exercise back into my daily routine and I'm loving the Blogilates workouts.  She's done a billion of them so you can really pick and choose what you want to do that day and how long you have.  Her Slimmer Inner Thighs workout is one of my favorites.  She's got a good mix of toning and cardio workouts too.

Favorite Beauty Box Product:  BCBGMAXAZRIA Bon Genre.  I love this perfume and am seriously thinking about buying a full bottle.  I loved both boxes this month and am really excited to see what they have to offer in October.  I'm loving that I decided to subscribe to Ipsy too.

Pin that I'm most excited about trying:   This Copycat Arby's Beef n' Cheddar  from Oh Sweet Basil.  Arby's is my favorite fast food place by far and this is my favorite item from there.  We don't eat there very often because J really doesn't like it.  We agree on enough other places that its not a big deal but I do look forward to my occasional Arbys.  The possibility of making them at home is too exciting for words.

So that's it for September.  This cold has kept me from trying many new pins like I wanted to but it's been a great month.  Hopefully the cold will go away in October and I can tackle some crafty projects and try out a few new things.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September Chef of the Month Wrap Up

On Monday we had our last Bobby Flay meal and to be honest I'm kind of relieved.  The food was all very good but it was a LOT of burgers.  I honestly feel like my cholesterol is up.  For the 2nd half of the month we had:
Garlic Butter Burgers
Argentinean Burgers
Chicken Cutlet with American Triple Cream Cheese, Southern Ham and Arugula Salad
Arthur Avenue Burger
Cheyenne Burger
Oven Fries and finally
Double Chocolate Shake

The bulk of these recipes cake from Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries and Shakes and the cutlet recipe came from his Bar Americain Cookbook.

The chicken cutlet was good and very pretty.  It is his twist on the traditional chicken cordon bleu and was actually much easier to make than the usual roll.  The chicken was topped with a arugula salad that was dressed with a sharp vinaigrette.  The salad combined with the chicken topped with Camembert and Prosciutto was a really good flavor combination but I didn't care for the cheese on its own.  If I made this again I would switch the cheese to something a little less mild.

As for the burgers, they were all very good.  The Arthur Avenue was probably my least favorite because I didn't love the baked fontina frico that went on top instead of regular melted cheese.  However the herbed ketchup was so delicious that it made up for it. Next time I'd just top the burger with some pieces of fontina and let them melt in the traditional method.  The Garlic Butter Burger, Argentinean Burger and Cheyenne Burgers were amazing.  His oven fries are my new method for making fries at home.  They're easy and you can change the seasonings based on what you're serving them with.  The milkshake was very tasty but what milkshake isn't?

Bobby Flay's cookbooks, with the exception of his Burgers, Fries and Shakes book, were a little challenging for me to make menu plans from.  While most of his recipes are if not simple still very do-able they involved more expensive cuts of meat than I regularly purchase or took to much time.  Everything I made from his books turned out really well and was pretty on the plate as well.  If I wanted to add something new to a special occasion or just make a very nice meal I would definitely hunt down some of his recipes.  As for his Burgers, Fries and Shakes Cookbook I will most likely end up buying it.  All the burgers were completely different with great combinations of cheese and sauces.  Definitely a fun way to spice up a very ordinary meal.

Now to start cooking my way through Giada De Laurentiis's books!