Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Try-It Tuesday - Old Fashioned Lavender Milk Bath

So after all the Christmas madness but before the Tornado's birthday madness I took a little side trip to my Stuff for Me board and tried out an Old Fashioned Milk Bath from Camp Wander.  To be honest, the whole milk thing sounded a little repulsive.  I'm a fan of epsom salts and Lavender essential oil is nice stuff but bathing in milk?  Didn't sound relaxing.  To be fair I'm not a big fan of milk and really only come into contact with it in regular form in an occasional bowl of cereal.  But this bath recipe involved stuff I already had on hand, was quick to put together and promised to be relaxing.  Worst case I drained the water off and had to take a quick shower.  So the day after Christmas I mixed up my stuff and went to take a bath.  I am so glad I did.  This bath was amazing.  It was scented, it was moisturizing, it was relaxing.  In short it was everything a bath should be and another positive was that it left no residue in the tub.  I'm seriously thinking of adding this bath combination to some kind of routine.  I used whole milk but I seriously doubt it matters.  Also you could change up the fragrance to anything you had on hand or was cheaply available.

Source: Camp Wander
Verdict: Doing this again as soon as possible.

Next week I think I"m going to go visit my Cookie board and whip up these tasty looking (Fresh) Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Brown Butter Cookies.

Monday, December 30, 2013

First Golden Tote!

Golden Tote arrived!  Golden Tote arrived!  There was dancing involved when I saw the box on my front porch.  I've been drooling over StitchFix posts for awhile but just wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money on a full box of clothes.  When I started seeing Golden Tote reviews floating around that looked more my speed and to be honest I liked most of the clothes I saw better.  The way it works is like this:
You pick either the $49 tote or the $149 tote.  If you pick the $49 tote like me than you pick 1 item.  If you pick the $149 tote you get to pick 2 items.  Then the Golden Tote people do the rest.  For the small bag you get 1 or 2 surprises and for the bigger bag you get 5 or 6.  The show room updates each month and you can go and pick out your items.  This is something you order not a subscription that is automatically billed once a month.
I'd been tempted by the site for awhile but when I saw this owl sweater I just couldn't resist.  I mean come on - it's owls as elbow patches!  I'm just not that strong.

Most of what I'd seen had been reviews of the bigger bags so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  
First look: 
The box showed up via UPS about 9 days after I placed the order which isn't bad if you consider all the holidays.  The first thing I saw was the trademark Golden Tote.  It's actually a pretty nice tote bag with the words "Stay Golden" printed on the gold bars.

The Unboxing:
3 clothing items!!!  I love that 2 of them came with a little outfit inspiration card.  Not bad at all for only $49 ($56.95 with shipping)

Item 1:
The owl sweater!  It's adorable and so soft.  It will look really great with jeans or dressed up with a skirt.  I got a large because that's all that was available and I'm glad I did because I wanted it to be long enough to wear with leggings.

Item 2:
The colors are a little more muted in person.  This has a pretty little button detail on the back and the sleeves are elbow length with just a little bit of puff.  The print isn't something that I would normally gravitate towards but it's actually really flattering.  I got this in a size small and it fits perfectly.  This didn't come with an inspiration card but I've got a few ideas.  I think it will dress up or down really nicely and look great with a blazer.

Item 3:
When I first pulled this out I was a little surprised because in the light I was in the little chevron-y things looked black and one of the questions you answer on your profile is "What color do you never wear".  I'm one of maybe 2 people in the world who doesn't wear black.  However when I got this open I saw that the main color is a grey with a touch of blue that is edged with black.  This is a super soft wrap dress.  I also got this is a size small and it fits perfectly.  The skirt is really gathered and could make my hips look a bit wider than they should but I feel enough like Kate Middleton in this that I'm going to let that pass.  I think this will look really cute with thick tights and boots for regular life but will dress up nicely with heels.  

So 3 gorgeous unique quality pieces for $49 that can be dressed up or down.  I can pretty much guarantee that this will not be my last Golden Tote.  I'm already anxiously waiting for the January choices to come up!  Another thing I loved about this company is that when I placed the order I ordered a sweater in a size large but in the questionnaire I said I normally wore a size small.  Well the day before my box shipped I got a call from an actual person making sure that both were right because they wanted to make sure I was happy with my order.  I love that someone actually looked at my profile and paid enough attention to notice that discrepancy and then took the time to call me 2 days before Christmas to verify.  I really can't say enough good things about Golden Tote right now.  I'm absolutely thrilled with my order and anyone who gives me a dress that makes me feel like Kate Middleton gets high marks in my book!

Looking Back on 2013

2013 was a year of good changes for us.

Eleanor graduated from high school and started college.  Emma turned 16 and got a job and is starting the fun process of looking for college funding.  Between her test scores and grades she's got a partial scholarship to just about anywhere she wants to go but the more money the better!  Ringo also turned 16 and just started working.  He's a grade younger so we'll start the college madness next year.  No license for either of them yet but hopefully Emma will get hers in the next couple of months.  The Tornado also started school and loved it so much that we're upping it to 3 days a week in January.

Looking over my list from last year I didn't get everything I wanted to get done.  The home improvement isn't as far along as I would like.  I didn't take the Tornado to a couple of the places I wanted to go to.  I didn't learn everything I wanted to learn.  But in a few years 2014 will start and I'll worry about that then.  As for this year looking back on it it's been pretty great.

I may not have gotten everything I wanted to get done this year but I feel happier and more focused than I have in a long time.
The Tornado and I went strawberry picking and to the Botanical Gardens.  I spent more time focusing on just actually playing and doing project with him.
As for me I rediscovered my vanity but in a good way.  I only lost half the weight I wanted to lose this year but I'm maintaining at a lower weight than I have since I got pregnant.  I recognize my face in the mirror again which is lovely.  I still want to lose that last 10 pounds but I think I have a better idea as to how to do this than I have in years.
I discovered thrift stores and started having fun with clothes again.  I discovered subscription boxes and started having fun with makeup again.
Foodwise I started my 52 Weeks of Cupcakes again and have started experimenting with different Chefs' recipes with my Chef of the Month challenge.
Starting this blog gave me some accountability in those 2 challenges and in experimenting with 1 Pinterest pin a week.  While I love pinning, doing is even more fun.

So on Wednesday I'll have a list of what I want to do and learn during 2014 and at the end of 2014 I'll have the answers to that list in a much more organized fashion.  For now all I can say is that I'm leaving 2013 better than I was when I started the year and that in itself is a victory.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week 24 Cupcakes - White Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Today is the Tornado's birthday. I'm having a hard time believing how fast time has flown.  He insisted on having an Angry Birds themed party.  He's in love with that game even though he's never technically played the game.  Since his birthday is so close to Christmas I always try to go over the top with decorations.  So today instead of Santas and Christmas ornaments we had Angry Bird stuff everywhere.  And I made him cupcakes with Angry Bird candles of course.

1. Source: The cake was from Your Cup of Cake - big surprise I know.  The frosting was a standard chocolate buttercream from Cupcakes! from the Cake Mix Doctor
2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 2.  Basic cupcake and basic frosting with no filling.

3. Changes Made: None to the frosting. I had some substitutions made out of desperation in the cake.  I substituted a mix of plain yogurt and skim milk for the buttermilk and melted shortening for the vegetable oil.

4. Problems:  None

5.  Overall Impression:  These are good basic cupcakes.  The cake was tasty and since it's white you can make it any color you want.  The buttercream is chocolate-y and butter-y so it's hard to go wrong there.  A great birthday cupcake.

6. Quantity:  16

7. Make Again?:Yes, definitely.  Both the cake and the frosting were good separately and they worked well together.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Foodie Friday

So I didn't do much cooking this week other than Christmas prep.  I definitely wasn't using my cookbooks for this month other than The Pioneer Woman's Mashed Potatoes which are the usual mashed potatoes on our holiday table.
So instead of talking about the recipes I made which is pretty much the paragraph above I figured I would review the cookbooks I've been using.

I've used all 3 of Ree Drummond's cookbooks and both of Southern Plate's Christy Jordan's cookbooks.  All 5 of these books are wonderful and not in the fancy impressive food way but in the I'm tired and I need to get a good solid meal on the table that my family will eat.

So here's the breakdown:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier and both fairly comprehensive books incorporating everything from drinks and desserts to main dishes and side dishes.  You could easily put together an entire meal from either book.  The recipes are always good and pretty easy to find the ingredients for and put together.

Her newest book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays is structured a little different.  Instead of breaking down the recipes by category it breaks them down by specific holiday.  There's a New Year's Eve chapter, a Mother's Day Chapter, a Valentine's Day chapter each including everything you could use for any of those holidays from drinks to desserts and everything in between.

Which Would I Buy?  If I could only buy one I would probably buy her second book Food From My Frontier which I seemed to tag the most recipes out of.  Her mashed potatoes recipe and sour cream pancakes aren't to be missed but they're available on her blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Christy Jordan from the blog Southern Plate has two cookbooks.

Her first one Southern Plate has lots of recipes and is divided seasonally.  There are lots of main dishes, breakfast foods, muffins, breads, cookies and cakes and the majority of them are very good.

Her second book Come Home to Supper focuses mostly on main dishes.  What's great is they're usually pretty quick main dishes that can go from start to table in easily under an hour.  There are a sprinkling of sides, desserts and breads but the focus is definitely on the main dish which makes sense considering the name.

Which Would I Buy?  Probably Come Home to Supper because of all the fast tasty dinner recipes.  They're both great but I think CHTS is probably the most useful.

Both authors have blogs worth following for family friendly food.  I definitely recommend Southern Plate and The Pioneer Woman Cooks when you're out of ideas or need a little inspiration for what to cook.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Cooking

My regular routine is to make cupcakes on Tuesday or Wednesday so that I can review them on Thursday.  That's not going to happen this week.  The Tornado's birthday is this Sunday so I'll make the cupcakes for then and get Week 24's done on the very last day possible.

I made about 5 million things (well not really but it felt like it) leading up to Christmas but I'm going to talk about the ones I thought were the most interesting and different.  All 4 of these are definitely on my make again list.

These were a recipe from Carla Hall on the Chew and were super easy to make.  You whip up some egg whites, dump a bunch of seasonings that seem like they're going to taste kind of odd together, bake them for a little bit and you have crunchy mixed nuts that are just the right amount of seasoning.  The brown sugar keeps it from being to savory, the ginger keeps it from being to sweet and the black pepper adds just the right amount of balance.  

Also from Carla Hall were these Sugared Cranberries.  These were amazing.  Even my kids who aren't completely sold on cranberries liked them.  They're completely different from most holiday baked good and they're super pretty.  Also these take awhile but most of that is soaking and drying time all of which the cranberries can do on their own while you're doing other things.

Sriracha Salt from Little House Living - This look so intriguing that even though I've never tried Sriracha I just had to make it.  It's super easy and is really interesting.  The salt ends up being a coral color that is pretty in a glass jar and gives just a bit of a kick without being overwhelming.  It'd be great in eggs or on any kind of vegetable dish.

Peppermint Sugar Scrub from The Idea Room - I've made different sugar scrubs before and they're absolutely wonderful after leg shaving.  Most have a pretty high oil content but this scrub was a little different.  It's mostly sugar with a little bit of oil and it's an absolutely fantastic hand scrub.  It's just the right amount of moisturizing without leaving your hands to greasy to do anything.  The peppermint scent removes garlic and onion odors and it can also be packaged really prettily.  I ended up making a batch to keep in the kitchen for myself after I tried it.

I also ended up making Oreo Truffles, Cream Cheese Mints, Saltine Toffee, Peanut butter crackers dipped in chocolate, Chex Mix and those oyster crackers in Ranch seasoning.  There are about a million recipes for all of these floating around and they're all good and will also be repeated next year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

This seems to be what the bulk of our Christmas has been this year.  Me taking pictures of the Tornado as he opens presents.  It's blurry and dark but there's not going to be time to put up my actual pictures for awhile.

The past few weeks have been a blur of running around but now Christmas is here, food is eaten, presents are unwrapped and we are relaxing.  We had Steak'n'Shake for lunch to get rid of the sugar high that Emma and I were feeling.  I've been reading on my brand new Kindle Paperwhite.  Emma is enjoying a rare day with nothing to do to play a computer game.  J and the Tornado are taking a much needed nap.

Later there will be a Doctor Who marathon and maybe a nice long bath. Also trying out some fancy hot chocolate on my fancy new Keurig.  And for a day or 2 J and I will have some time with nothing that desperately needs to be done right now.

Oh and cupcakes are probably not happening tomorrow.  All the holiday snacking has my blood sugar through the roof so they may not make their appearance this week until this weekend but I'll get them done before week #24 comes to an end!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Try-It Tuesday: Christmas Tree Cupcakes

When the Tornado picked out this pin of cupcakes decorated like a Christmas tree I didn't have high hopes. I can bake tasty cupcakes but ones that are supposed to look like something else?  Not so much.  There wasn't much of a tutorial on this site but the picture is pretty self-explanatory so I crossed my fingers and went to work.
There are a couple of changes I would make - I would only use 1 cupcake as a trunk instead of 2 and I would use candy to make a star instead of yellow sugar.  That being said this was a lot of fun.  I got the tree put together and the Tornado was able to decorate it to his heart's desire.  This is a really good simple project to do with a small child and the end result is tasty cupcakes!

Source: Hello, Cupcake! Blog
Verdict: Definitely a keeper.  We will definitely be doing this next year though I may tweak it just a little.

For next week I'm going to be taking it easy and visiting my Stuff For Me board.  I'm thinking an Old Fashioned Lavender Milk Bath with Epsom Salt from Camp Wander will be just the thing after all the Christmas craziness.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Birchbox Review - December

This month's Birchbox came in a gold outer box instead of the usual pink.  The inner box said Sparkle and Shine and looked like it had a bow tied on it.  I'd been anxiously waiting for this box and could hardly wait to tear into it.  The first thing I noticed was that it was HEAVY.  When I opened it I found:

Number 4 Non-Aerosol Hairspray

I'm not a huge hairspray user but I was excited to try this because I loved the Prep & Protect spray from this brand.  This is a good hairspray.  It holds without making my hair feel crunchy or stiff.  The spell is kind of an herbal salon-y smell but it does fade pretty fast so to me it's a non-issue.  I'm not sure I'll buy it because I generally only use hairspray on special occasions and I'm not sure it's worth $30 for just the occasional use.

Manna Kadar Cosmetics Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion

This is a product I wasn't quite sure what to do with when I got out of the box.  I got this in the color Birchbox Love which is a very sheer pink. I've been using it as a blush which turns out very pretty without a big color impact. It also gives a nice dewey look when spread over my whole face.  This is $29 in full size and is another one that while I like it I'm not sure I'd buy it.

Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentrate (24 Hour Miracle Cream)

This is a multi-purpose moisturizer.  While the sample isn't big enough for me to use as a post-shave lotion or body lotion I did try it as a face lotion and a makeup remover.  My skin has been really dry lately and a few uses of this got it back to normal.  I also started using a new mascara that was impossible to get off and a little of this did a pretty good job.  It didn't wipe them clean but it did a better job than anything else I used.  This is a good moisturizer and the price ($28) isn't too bad but I think I'll stick to my usual Garnier moisturizer.

 Atelier Cologne Silver Iris

This is an interesting scent that comes off as almost uni-sex with the pink peppercorn notes.  I like it enough to wear the sample but there's tons of more affordable (this scent comes in at $175 for 100ml)  fragrances that I like better.

Ghiradelli Chocolate Bar

This is what made the box so heavy.  I got this in Mint Cookie and it was delicious.  The pictured toffee crunch looks pretty good too and if I see it at the grocery store I very well may buy it.  The candy bar was ENORMOUS.  I got three servings out of it.

Mighty Leaf Tea Pouches

I got 3 different tea pouches - Green Tea Tropical, Vanilla Bean and Organic African Nectar.  The Vanilla Bean is a black tea and the Nectar is herbal.  The pouches are really nice looking and the scent and flavors of these teas is amazing.  Not sure it's worth $9.95 for 15 pouches though.

This was probably my least favorite Birchbox.  I liked everything but other than the candy bar there was nothing that I would buy in full size.  Getting 1 food item is great  but getting 2 did seem a little much.  Even though it wasn't my favorite box it was still fun to unwrap and experiment with all the new products.  So December was okay but I'm hoping January will be better!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Foodie Friday

Well I actually managed to do some cooking this week!  Even on 2 nights where it was only a couple of people I got an actual meal on the table.  Since I'd really like to cut down on the spending this is pretty major.  J complains when it's a Find Your Own kind of night.  Apparently I always manage to put together something tasty for myself and he ends up with a random combination of food.  Me thinks he's exaggerating a bit though.

Chef of the Month

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: I made her Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes.  This is the weirdest pancake recipe I've ever come across and also one of the best.  It uses mass quantities of sour cream and just a tiny amount of flour and the result is tangy fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: I adore this cookbook.  I really think this is my favorite of her 3 books.  Last night I made her Spicy Cocktail Weenies (or Little Smokies in my house) even though it ended up being just Ringo, the Tornado and me.  I did a little substituting and used 1/2 tablespoon Sriracha Sauce and 1 1/2 tablespoons plain ketchup.  These were quick, tasty and with just enough kick.

Southern Plate: J and I were taking the Tornado to a little Christmas village that our town does and I needed something quick so that we could be out the door by 6 at the very latest.  Christy Jordan's Chicken Planks came to the rescue.  They're basically just chicken fingers but they're delicious.  You can see a picture of them on the lower right hand corner of the book cover.  Also I never feel bad about eating them even though I pan fry them because they're homemade and not processed but that's probably not the most logical.  Served with her Comeback Sauce these are leaps and bounds better than chicken fingers you'd find anywhere else.

Pinterest Recipes:

I made this Alfredo recipe the other night when I thought it was just going to be Emma, the Tornado and me.  It's pretty basic but good especially considering it takes maybe 3 ingredients and 15 minutes.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Recipe Critic - these cookies are amazing.  I haven't made my regular chocolate cookies in awhile because I discovered this recipe.  They're easy and they put other cookies to shame.  I'm fully on the brown butter band wagon, a card carrying member of the brown butter fan club. 

I want to do some baking today but I'm already committed to taking the Tornado to the library and finishing a craft.  I also kind of need to go back to Target.  I heard a rumor that they have stuff I haven't bought yet.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Week 23 Cupcakes - Chocolate with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

So to be honest this was supposed to be a vanilla cake with vanilla bean buttercream. However when I started reading the recipe the other day I discovered the base of the vanilla cake was a white cake mix.  A quick search through the pantries revealed that I was bingo on white cake mixes and I wanted to make the cupcakes that day.  Solution:  go a couple of pages over and use the chocolate cake recipe from the double chocolate cupcake recipe.  Results: Not bad!  The reasons these are green have something to do with the Pinterest pin that the Tornado decided we must do.  All will be revealed on that end on Tuesday.

1. Source:  Your Cup of Cake by Lizzy Early - I fall in love with this book more every time I use it.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 2.  Everything was from scratch but it was pretty simple.

3. Changes Made: I left out the cinnamon from the chocolate cake because last weeks chocolate cake had cinnamon and I wanted something a little different.

4. Problems:  None - seriously I love this book.

5.  Overall Impression:  I'm in love with this frosting.  I made a vanilla bean buttercream and despite a heavy hand with the vanilla bean it still tasted like eating powdered sugar.  This is buttery, vanillay goodness.  The chocolate cake is nice and moist but managed to hold together well.  All in all a really yummy basic cupcake.

6. Quantity:  16

7. Make Again?: Yes definitely!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ipsy Glambag Review - December

Last week I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get my Ipsy and Birchbox for the month and then I got then right after the other.  Ipsy was great this month though to be honest I think I'm kind of an easy sell.  I read reviews of people who aren't happy with one or the other pretty regularly.  Most of them get a lot more subscription boxes than I do so maybe their standards are higher.  Regardless, I'm more than thrilled with this bag.

The theme this month was (obviously) celebration.  The bag was a diamond patterned faux leather with the zipper about an inch down on the front.  It was cute but not really my thing which was good because Emma confiscated it pretty quickly.  She ended up using it as a clutch the other night.

The contents of the bag were:

Pop Beauty Bright Up Your Life Eye Shadow Trio in Naturally Bare - These are 3 full sized eye shadows though I think they're part of a 10 shadow palette.  The colors are beautifully pigmented and go on very smoothly.  I've used this several times already and been really impressed with the staying power.

Be a Bombshell The One Stick in Flustered - This is a bright pinky-red but very blendable (thankfully) creamy stick that can be used on the cheecks, lips or eyes.  There's no way I'm putting this color anywhere near my eyes because I'd look like a swollen mess but it's a good blush or lipstick color.  I haven't played with this one very much yet but I've been pleased with all the Be a Bombshell products I've used.  The main negative is since the color is so bright I will most likely only end up using this as on my lips. If this wasn't a full sized product it had to be pretty close.

Mirabella Eye Blender Brush - When I first pulled the brush out of the package I was kind of eh about it.  Seemed like a nice brush but I already have quite a lot of brushes.  However, after using it this may be my favorite thing in the bag.  It's super soft and does eye shadow magic in the crease.  Somehow it manages to put the perfect amount of shadow exactly where you want it to go.  The handle is solid metal and has a nice weight to it.  The quality is really amazing.  If I ever have to buy brushes in the future I will definitely be checking out Mirabella's products.

Nicka K New York Nail Color in Classic Taupe - Another full sized product!  I've never heard of this brand but I was really excited when I saw the color.  I've been looking for a really neutral brown that wasn't too shimmery or summery but also not to dark and this is definitely it.  The color goes on really nicely and 1 coat really is enough.  The only problem is that it does chip a little faster than my usual Essie polishes but I'm really hard on my hands for some reason and didn't have a top coat over it.

NYX Extra Creamy Round Lipstick in Ceto - this is a really pretty shimmery nude.  It goes on almost like a lip balm and isn't drying at all. The problem with this is the same problem I've come across with most lipsticks of this type - the staying power is TERRIBLE.  It's gone in maybe an hour even without eating.

So that's it for this month - All full sized products plus a great quality brush and a nice little bag.  You can't beat Ipsy for value!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Try-It Tuesday: Cinnamon Ornaments

This past week the Tornado and I gave this recipe for cinnamon ornaments from Martha Stewart a try.  The results were somewhat mixed.  The dough didn't come together very well and I had to add a little extra applesauce to keep it from hardening immediately.  During baking they cracked a lot and will have to be decorated to look even mildly presentable even for a 3 year old's handiwork.

I really didn't like the smell the first day we made these.  The odor of glue was definitely present and the cinnamon came through to harshly but after a few days the scent did mellow into the pleasant cinnamon-y goodness that make me want to eat lots of muffins and coffee cakes.

Source: Martha Stewart
Verdict: Okay but I will probably keep looking

Next week I'm going to do a pin that the Tornado picked out on his own.  This cupcake Christmas tree from Hello, Cupcake! looks basic enough so hopefully I'll be able to do it justice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Foodie Friday - a few days late

Ok so this is actually Monday but Friday I spent most of my day driving back and forth to Nashville (about 90 minutes each way) and then driving back and forth picking kids up from school and taking them to various work locations.  Oh and then I had to go to Target because that's what we're doing right now.  Going to Target, a lot.  At some point I figure I won't have to go to Target anymore because I will have bought 1 of everything they have.

This past week I did some cooking though not a huge amount.  Wednesday night it ended up just being the Tornado and me.  Since he's actually happier with a Nutella sandwich I decided to give cooking a full meal a miss.  Then on Thursday Ringo and Emma and their band concert so that took up most of the evening.  I did do some cooking last night but the majority of that were recipes I've already reviewed.

From Christy Jordan's Come Home to Supper
Grilled Chicken Tenders without a Grill - These are marinated chicken tenders that are then cooked on a saute pan over pretty high heat.  They were delicious.  This entire cookbook is proving to be pretty good for cooking family appropriate weekday meals.  Everything I've made out of this book has been fast and simple with a limited number of ingredients. Even better is that it's all turned out good!

From Christy Jordan's original cookbook Southern Plate:
Chicken Poulet - I love this meal despite the store bought stuffing and cream of chicken soup.  It's filling, it's tasty and it reheats beautifully.  I made it last weekend and ended up eating it for lunch most of the past week.

Sweet and Sour Green Beans - I didn't love this.  There was a little too much sweet and not quite enough sour.  I was running late and didn't get the bacon as crispy as it should've been so that didn't help.  However, they're simpler and healthier ways to cook green beans that I'll probably stick with.

Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays is quickly becoming my favorite of her books.  My only negative is she doesn't have a St. Patrick's day chapter.  From the Cinco de Mayo chapter I made her fajita marinade and used it on chicken.  It was sooo good!  I chickened out from trying her tortilla recipe and used my tried and true tortilla recipe.  The result was some pretty amazing fajitas.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks gave me the fabulous flat apple pie - otherwise known as a crostata. The only problem was that I left it until kind of the last minute and didn't have time to make and freeze the pie crust from this book.  Luckily her other book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier came to the rescue with the incrediably butter-y Pam's Pie Crust.

I don't think I made any Pinterest recipes this week other than Christmas presents.  Hopefully this week will be a little less hectic but I wouldn't bet on it until after Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week 22 Cupcakes - Chocolate Marscapone Filled Cupcakes

I'm not a big fan of cookbooks in ebook form.  When I saw that the cookbook from one of my favorite blogs was on sale for super cheap I hesitated but in the end I'm so glad I got it!  This is the best cupcake cookbook I've ever used.  Pretty much every recipe looks amazing and there's tons of new ideas.  Also, since all the cakes are cake mix based they're easy to put together but they're definitely the best cake mixed based cupcakes I've ever had.  I love that this is different combinations of cakes, fillings and frostings with just some basic information on decorating. Decorating isn't high on my priority list so this suited me perfectly.  Please ignore the smudgy fingers on the Kindle in the background.  I like watching Cupcake Wars while decorating cupcakes but it isn't always the best for the screen if I have to restart it

1. Source:  Your Cup of Cake by Lizzy Early

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 3 Not difficult but did require a cake, filling and frosting.

3. Changes Made:  None

4. Problems:  None

5.  Overall Impression:  These are really good cupcakes.  The little bit of cinnamon in the cake kept it from being too rich and added a nice little bit of warmth.  The frosting is divine and not overly sweet.  I'm not in love with the filling but I think that's just because as much as I hate to admit it I don't really care for Marscapone.

6. Quantity:  14 but I make big cupcakes

7. Make Again?: Yes!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

This my most favorite photo op every year.  The very first sight of the Christmas loot!  This was last year and I can't wait until next year because his reactions have gotten so much more enthusiastic.

I got my package sent notices from both Ipsy and Birchbox yesterday.  I should have my Ipsy bag by the end of the week and Birchbox by sometime next week.  Can't wait!

I found another coat at a thrift store yesterday.  It's bright blue with big buttons and I love it!  I may need to stop buying coats off.  I dropped off 5 at the Dry Cleaner's yesterday and I still need to make another trip.  The thing is I live in Alabama so while it gets cold its not quite 5 coats worth of cold.

The Tornado has stayed up a little too late for 2 night running and he's driving me crazy.  He definitely needs to stay on schedule.  I may send him to bed half and hour early tonight for both of our sanities.

I have the majority of my Christmas shopping done.  The bulk of it was done this morning in my PJs.  How did things get done before Amazon?

I also have to start making the Christmas gifts I intend to make this year.  I figured I'd skip the baked goods because there's so much of that this year and go with some of the more fun stuff I've found on Pinterest lately.

I was copying Kate Middleton as much as I could today which required my brown heeled boots.  They look great and I think I paid maybe $8 at a thrift store but oh do my feet suffer for them.  My right ankle is not going to be speaking to me tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Try-It Tuesday - Handmade Glitter Ornaments

This past week the Tornado and I made these Handmade Glitter Ornament.  I've seen them all over Pinterest for the past few years but never got around to doing them.  We made 2 - one with dark green glitter that was long and skinny and the other with white fine glitter.  The dark color definitely worked better.  The white coated the inside of the ornament but it was still translucent so you could see the inside of the ornament.  After that we did his hand print on them in different colored paint.  I have a whole new appreciation for the craft that his preschool teacher sent home a few weeks ago with a perfect hand print on it.  Even though he was being very good and paying attention the hand print was a bit on the fuzzy side.  These were really fun, easy and cost almost nothing to make.  The Tornado was able to help and had a really great time with them.  They're definitely going on a repeat list.

This coming week I'm staying on my Christmas board and the Tornado and I will be making these cinnamon ornaments from Martha Stewart.  She makes pretty birds out of them.  Mine will probably be much simpler but hopefully they'll still smell as nice and be fun to make.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I Want for Christmas - Cookbook Edition

I've been using Mondays to review my Ipsy Glambags and Birchbox but not even a shipping notice from either so far this month.  I'm feeling a little neglected but none of the bloggers I've followed have gotten theirs yet either.  I'd go on the websites but I like to go as spoiler free as possible.  So instead here is the cookbook portion of what I want for Christmas!  I love cookbooks and ebook editions are no substitute. I love to flip through a new book and tag the recipes that intrigue me.  Lucky for me the local library has a fantastic cookbook selection or we'd be drowning over here. These are the cookbooks that have caught my eye lately:

Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord

I've seen her on a few Food Network shows and I love her blog.  I got this book from the library and was really intrigued by it.  These are mostly lunches that pack well.  I'm trying to take a little more time for my own lunches and even though this book is supposed to be for kids I think I would get a lot of use out of it.  I doubt the Tornado would touch about 90% but it'd be worth a try too.  I may have cheated and put this in my Amazon cart when I was picking out stuff for other people

Michael Symon's Live to Cook

I've loved Michael Symon since I saw him as a guest judge on Next Food Network Star 3 seasons ago.  Then all the holiday specials, Iron Chef America and the Chew did little to make that go away.  I love his practical but adventurous attitude towards food and cooking.  This is one of his books that the library doesn't have and I'm anxious to give it a try.

Martha Stewart's Cakes as well as her Cupcakes and Baking Handbook

I've been obsessed with Martha lately though I can't really say why.  Her interviews always make me want to throw something at the television.  Lately though I've been trying to look through as many books of hers and I can.  I have never seen the Cakes or Cupcakes book but the Baking Handbook is fantastic.  Pretty much everything you've ever need to know about baking from basics to extremely complicated.  The variety of bread recipes is impressive.

'wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal and a Meal into a Sandwich by Tom Colicchio

Ever since the month of Bobby Flay's glorious burger creations I've been fascinated by sandwiches and the sample recipe on Amazon for this book looks beyond amazing.  Plus Ringo's been wanting a real club sandwich at home lately and this may be just the ticket.

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen

Several of the blogs I follow have been doing recipes from this book and they've all looked amazing.  Pie isn't one of the desserts I make very much but I might if I had this book.

Six Sisters' Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts and More

This is one of my absolute favorite blogs.  The recipes turn out great and most of the crafts look like something even I could make look nice.  I'd love to be able to go through their recipes in book form.

The Scarpetta Cookbook by Scott Conant

I love Scott as a judge on Chopped and the few times I've seen him cook the food has looked amazing.  Plus he's apparently a pasta expert.  How could I pass that up?

There's a ton more that I would love to get my hands on so this post could go indefinitely but these are the ones I've been tempted to buy for awhile.  Hopefully I'll have my Ipsy or Birchbox by next Monday but if not I may take a look at the beauty products I covet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Foodie Friday

Chef of the Month Recipes:

I must say while I loved most of the Barefoot Contessa's food it is a bit of a relief to start with some simpler fare.  This month I'm using 5 cookbooks - Come Home to Dinner and Southern Plate by blogger and local Christy Jordan and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of HolidaysThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl all by blogger Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman.  Both of them are a bit more on the basic side which after a month of
endless ingredient lists is pretty nice.

This week I made:

Buttermilk Biscuits from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl:  I was really impressed with how these turned out.  I missed the how to make proper biscuits cooking lesson and tend to rely on Cook's Illustrated Baking Powder Style Biscuits otherwise I get hockey pucks.  These however, turned out beautifully layered and delicious.  Definitely a new go to recipe for me.

Chocolate Gravy from Southern Plate: This was okay but I think I would've liked it better if it was a little less sweet and maybe a little more buttery.

Cocoa Cola Pork Chops from Come Home to Dinner - It was so lovely to have a simple recipe for dinner that required 3 ingredients and took maybe 20 minutes.  It's not fine quality dining but it was good and quick and the sauce tasted great over mashed potatoes.  This may not be something I crave but it's definitely a possibility for the nights I don't feel like cooking.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl: I can't say enough good things about these mashed potatoes.  They're delicious.  They can be made ahead of time and heated up with no problems with the texture.  The baking method also smooths out any lumps you may leave in if you (by this I mean me) get impatient with mashing potatoes.  I have made these for holidays and just plain old Tuesdays and they're always a success.  I have started leaving out the cream and only using one stick of butter and can't really taste much difference.

"Bama" Steak and Cheese Sandwiches from Come Home to Dinner - So I didn't expect much from these.  The ingredient list was so simple and I kind of expected it ending up just salty roast beef.  I was pleasantly surprised when this turned into a really tasty and super easy sandwich filling.  The onion and bell pepper added flavor but even the picky teenagers liked it.  These will definitely be made again.   Though I do recommend splurging a little on nice hoagie rolls and toasting them just a little.  I think next time I might try provolone instead of mozzarella.

Pinterest Recipes:

Som'Bitch Cookies from Two.Thirty.Ate - I love How I Met Your Mother.  I've watched most of the episodes multiple times and was thrilled  when I saw these cookies inspired by the cookies the mother gave Lily on the train.  This is an excellent peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and the caramel inside makes it even better.  The one problem I had was the cookies turned out enormous when I followed directions.  The ratio of dough to caramel wasn't quite what I wanted it to be.  I think when I make them again I form less dough around the cookie instead of making a little sandwich.  Overall these are excellent and I definitely plan on making this again with just a little tweak.

S'More Pudding Cookies from Chef in Training - like most things I've made from this blog these were excellent.  They're chewy, chocolate-y and marshmallow-y with just a really nice balance of flavors.

Pin I'm Most Excited About this Week:

This Crescent Cherry Cheese Cobbler from The Country Cook looks like a cherry cheese danish in 9x13 form.  Plus as much as I hate to admit it I have a weakness for crescent rolls.  Even though I might be the only person to eat this in my house I might weaken and make this soon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Week 21 Cupcakes - Rolo Cupcakes

For starters aren't these the cutest cupcake liners?  It's a baking Christmas penguin!  I found them last year somewhere and just couldn't resist them.  The only problem is that they're on the thin side so you can't really see the design after they've baked.  I've been waiting to use them so the penguin got to be the carriers for these Rolo Cupcakes.  I have a weakness for candy cupcakes and I was pretty pleased with how these came out

1. Source:  My Baking Addiction - a really great food blog

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 3.  It's a heavily doctored cake mix with Rolo's stuck in them but you do have to make the ganache and frosting.  Also the candy needs to be frozen so it's not something that can be made at the absolute last minute.

3. Changes Made: I used semisweet chocolate instead of bittersweet because that is what I had.  Next time I would definitely use bittersweet to temper some of the sweetness.

4. Problems:  None - this was a very well written recipe

5.  Overall Impression:  This frosting is not for the weak of heart.  It requires 1 full pound of butter.  I was actually pretty pleased with that because caramel frostings and I have had a love hate relationship with many being horribly sweet even when I leave out half the sugar.  Of course if you leave out half the sugar you end up with an unappetizing gravy looking thing.  All this butter gave the frosting a really rich buttery flavor with just a nice mellow taste of caramel.  The cake is deliciously moist and the frozen Rolo maintains its shape for a nice caramel-y surprise.  After tasting the assembled cupcake right after it was made I was unpleasantly surprised with how sweet it was.  All together it was just a little overwhelming.  After 24 hours the frosting mellowed a little and was really good.  I don't know if it was the time or maybe cupcake #2 just had a little less frosting.  Also I think using bittersweet chocolate in the ganache and adding the ganache with a heavier hand would have provided better contrast of flavors.

6. Quantity:  19 if you make big cupcakes like me.

7. Make Again?: Yes

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wednesday Wanderings

I think my body is taking the drop in temperature as a sign that it's time to hibernate.  Since I'm not a bear and it actually doesn't get that cold here in the South all that it's doing is messing with my weight loss plan which I'm NOT happy about.  My willpower and my survival instincts were having an argument last night about the necessity of consuming an entire bag of Chocolate Peanut Butter Chex Mix.  My survival instinct one a little bit more than I'd like to admit.

My love affair with Bath & Body Works Wallflowers is still going strong.  I have 4 Spiced Apple Toddy plugins throughout the house but the real standout right now is the Lemon Mint Leaf that's in the master bathroom.  It's just the right amount of lemon and mint to feel spa-y without feeling like you're breathing in cleaning supplies constantly.  I'm not sure I want the entire house to smell like this but it's lovely in my bathroom/bedroom.

The Tornado and I are going to attempt the popular glitter ornament that's all over Pinterest.  I'm a bit worried that the entire kitchen will be coated with glitter when this is done but it should definitely be entertaining.

We've been watching an endless supply of Christmas related TV shows and movies and now the Tornado expects there to to be snow on Christmas.  I've tried to explain that we really don't get snow here but he's not convinced.

I got the Weelicious Lunches book from the library last week and really need to invest some time into reading through it.  I have a feeling I'll end up using most of the lunch ideas for myself though.  The Tornado has shot down any lunch idea that doesn't involve a cheese sandwich.  The different lunch everyday/Bento box craze has not reached him yet.  I like the idea of having some different healthier alternatives to my lunches instead of a sandwich and Cheez-Its.

I've been kind of cranky and not in the best frame of mind this past week.  I had the startling realization that while of course the craziness of Thanksgiving had a part in it the larger problem was I had taken a break from exercising.  I got a 10 minute workout in on Monday and all of a sudden my mood improved about 100%.  Not sure how I feel about that but I guess it's not bad that the proven mood buster is both free and good for me it could be a lot worse.

I got my grabbag item from ModCloth.  It's a pretty bright red button down with a vintage-y cut to it.  I love it but it's to small to wear completely buttoned.  I think I can work with it but if I order more tops from ModCloth I will definitely order them in a medium unless it's something really loose.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Try-It Tuesday - Advent Calendar

I've been trying to make sure that at least some of the things I've wanted to do actually get done.  This past week I decided to actually make the advent calendar I've been wanting to make the Tornado since at least last Christmas.  I really liked this one and wanted to make something like it however, I ran into a few problems.  The first is that my crafting abilities are about on the same level of a 2nd grader.  The second is that I waited until around 9PM on November 30th.  The third is that I just assumed I had enough supplies to make a decent looking one.  Unfortunately, when I discovered the third problem I was hindered by the second problem so I ended up hodge podging something together that doesn't quite look like what I had in mind but it is at least functional.  Next year I need to start on this at least by mid-November and see if I can hunt up some envelope pocket type things.
Source: Inspired by Things I made though it doesn't look like the blog is still going
Verdict: Still love the one she made but I just need to get started earlier next year so definitely keep.

For next week I'm still hanging out on my Christmas board.  The Tornado and I are going to give these glitter ornaments a try.