6.03.2013

Canoe Canoe

Rewind with me, back to Memorial Day weekend. The one where every last minute was dedicated to soaking up as much weekend as possible and storing it for days like today, when I'm back at work. On a Monday. And it's beautiful outside. And I want to be here again:





We kicked off summer with leisurely dinners, Saturday brunch, margaritas at Bakersfield, drinks and shenanigans at Neon's, a taste experience at the Taste of Cincinnati, cooking out, cornhole and movie watching. And, as is the tradition now, we capped off the weekend with some Memorial Day canoeing, which is one of my very favorite activities. We even found a castle along the Little Miami River.



So...can it please be the weekend again? 

If you were weekending right now, what would you be doing?

5.31.2013

My New Gifting Go-To


It’s always a good idea to run through your calendar and scan for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or other occasions that call for gifts – weddings and bridal showers, anyone? How about Father’s Day coming up in just a few weeks? Right. If you’re on the hunt for perfect gifts, all in one convenient place with FREE shipping, then look no further than West Elm Market!

I found this off-shoot of the West Elm website recently and was pretty impressed with their selection of clever, unique and thoughtful items that would make great gifts or a special treat for yourself. For example, I got this cute little pruner for my Mom (along with a book on flower arranging) for Mother's Day, and she loves it. Lots of items are on sale right now (like these awesome wooden cooking tools), and did I mention that shipping is free*?

So check it out!

*You do have to be careful – the Market is part of the whole West Elm online store, so some things may appear on the website without the free shipping because they’re not “in the Market.” It’s slightly confusing, but when in doubt, each free shipping item is marked next to the photo.

5.23.2013

Five Favorite Cooking Blogs

It's a staple in the majority of my cooking posts - one ingredient that is almost always in play. My iPad. But seriously, where would I be without cooking blogs? More often than not, I'm pulling up a recipe from one of my favorite blogs on the ol' iPad and leaving saucy smudges all over its screen. I get tons of recipes and ideas from blogs, and because usually they’re written by people who haven’t gone to culinary school or who haven’t had any formal training, I get a little boost of confidence that I can make beautiful dishes, too! Here are five of my go-to faves:

Smitten Kitchen - Deb Perelman is the brains behind this great site. She’s hilarious, and her recipes pretty much always turn out for me. She’s got a cookbook out, but I prefer her blog for the anecdotes and real-life living she portrays while she’s getting food on the table for her family in NYC.
One of the many, many recipes I've tried and loved: Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
One I can’t wait to try: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

The Pioneer Woman Cooks - You've probably heard of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond; she has a cooking show on the Food Network as well as a few cookbooks out. But her blog is hilarious and her recipes are delicious and easy and feed an army!
One of the many, many recipes I've tried and loved: The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.
One I can’t wait to try: Cajun Chicken Pasta

Joy the Baker - Joy Wilson is a hip single lady who lives in L.A. and bakes her heart out. Her blog is full of honesty, and good life moments and lots of biscuits. Baking is her forte, but she has plenty of skills that stretch from sweet to savory, beverages to salads and beyond.
One of the many, many recipes I've tried and loved: Homemade Ginger Ale
One I can’t wait to try: Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Biscuits

Can You Stay for Dinner? - A couple years ago, Andie Mitchell lost 135 lbs and has been keeping it off ever since. Though she writes about her weight-loss journey, her blog’s focus is healthy ideas for all meals of the day (including dessert), as well as nutrition information and serving sizes. Plus, the way she writes about food – is ridiculous.
One of the many, many recipes I've tried and loved: Slow Cooked Barbecue Pulled Pork with Mango Slaw
One I can’t wait to try: Strawberry Crumb Bars

Lottie + Doof - This blog is by Tim Mazurek, who does a lot of foodie stuff in Chicago and for magazines like Bon Appetit, Saveur, Real Simple and more. His food is always beautiful, simple and perfectly flavored. Nothing goes up on the blog that hasn't been made and loved.
One of the many, many recipes I've tried and loved: Sugar Snap Salad
One I can’t wait to try: Rösti

What cooking blogs do you love? Any winning recipes?

5.22.2013

Triple Birchbox, Triple Fun

Let's do the previous three months' Birchboxes all in one fell swoop!

February


  1. Ojon damage reverse Restorative Finishing Spray - I'm still a little confused by this product. It's kind of like hairspray, but it has a light hold. And it also nourishes and protects hair from sun, pollution, etc. I guess I've never heard of a nourishing hairspray. Regardless, I don't use this too terribly much because the scent is s.t.r.o.n.g.
  2. Juicy Couture La La - I LOVED one of the Juicy perfumes I was sent, and I hated the other. This third sample from the brand is somewhere in between. It's a little zesty, and I like more of a soft-but-not-sweet scent, I suppose.
  3. Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox Beauty Balm - I received a Dr. Jart+ BB before, and it left me wanting more moisture and actually made me break out! The same for this one. So... :(
  4. Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Mascara - Goes on very smoothly, gives lashes more of a dramatic, separated look instead of full and fluffy - not bad, but not the look I'm usually going for.
  5. Ghirardelli Milk & Caramel Square - Yum!


March


  1. Macadamia Natural Oil Deep Repair Masque and Healing Oil Treatment - Confession: I haven't used this yet. I kind of forgot I had it. But I'm definitely excited to try the masque - I love a hair masque. The Healing Oil Treatment sounds like Moroccan Oil, which is my fave. But I'll be glad to have this travel-size equivalent on hand.
  2. Madewell for Birchbox Emery Board - I love cute, practical things. For example, this emery board. I don't think I'd pay $5 for it in the store, but since it's "free" in my box, I'll take it :)
  3. Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream - Super moisturizing, this cream is more like a lotion than the standard foam you'd get from other brands. The blueberry scent I received smells exactly like a blueberry muffin, which is slightly strange to smell when I'm in the shower.
  4. Alima Pure Blush in Freja - This is such a great, luminous powder blush. It does exactly what it says in the Birchbox store: "blends like a dream and delivers a truly natural-looking flush." My only complaint is that it's loose and the tiny sample container doesn't make it easy to use.
  5. Stella Cadente Miss Me Discrete? - This was good stuff. I used up the small sample spritzer of this perfume fast. The scent is soft, not-too-sweet, warm and lovely. And the full-size bottle is gorgeous!
  6. I don't know where that little black card that says benefit on it came from, or where it went. But I don't think it was from Birchbox.

April


  1. Kusmi Tea - Now Birchbox has included tea in three of my boxes. I'm just not into tea. But I may give these a try someday - I received samples of Boost and Sweet Love, which is supposed to put me in the mood. Um, ok.
  2. Skin&Co Bagnodoccia Body Gel - This smells really good, kind of an herby clean scent. Plus, it's supposed to be good for sensitive skin because it's olive oil-based. I don't know that I'd use this as an everyday soap, but I like having choices when I shower.
  3. Oribe Shampoo and Conditioner for Beautiful Color - This duo is also up there as far as scent goes. Wow! Plus, the conditioner is super rich and thick, which makes me think it's really doing it's job of moisturizing my dry, color-treated tresses.
  4. Supergoop! Advanced SPF 37 Anti-Aging Eye Cream - I've never used an eye cream before, although I've read a few things that say I should. I like that this has an SPF built in and that it doesn't smell like it.
  5. Women's Heath Magazine Subscription - This was a fun surprise! I filled out the card (no purchase necessary and it didn't ask for a credit card number), sent it in and received my first issue this month!
  6. Mirenesse Glossy Kiss in Quick Kiss - This full-size(!) lipstick pencil had me a little hesitant at first. I received the "daring orange" shade, and that is definitely a color I've never had in my lipstick arsenal. The pencil goes on very, very smoothly and very, very boldly. But I've found that if I blot after applying, it leaves me with a bright, seasonal pop of color that sparks up my look perfectly. Check it:

And that's three Birchbox posts for ya. I'll have May's review ready in just a few days and then we'll take a little break. :)

5.21.2013

Cheers!


Last week I did something that I haven't done in 14 years. I painted. The last art class I took was in the 8th grade, since I peaked that year after painting a passable seahorse. I knew there was no future in high school Art for me - I had other elective fish to fry, like Yearbook and Choir, and also my temperament just isn't suited to the patience and risk-taking associated with painting and drawing, etc.


But last week I smocked up with Leah and Beth at Cheers to Art, a fun little studio that has a bar and holds classes in which everyone learns the same painting and no experience is necessary. You might think "yeah right," but truly, I enjoyed myself (when I remembered to breathe) and I came out with a painting I'm proud of. The vibe is very chill and no pressure, so that helps.



All the supplies are provided in the cost ($35), and on our particular night, $10 of everyone's fees went to the Downs Syndrome Society.



The finished product!


If you have a chance to do a class like this I highly recommend it, especially if art doesn't stress you out like it does me. :) It was fun to stretch myself, though, and really see what I could do. So even if you haven't picked up a paint brush in 10+ years and have never had any discernible artistic tendencies, you'll still have a good time!

5.20.2013

Stay Sharp: How to Care for Your Knives So They Last

Anyone else out there drawn to only the most expensive, luxurious kitchen items? But because you don’t have it in the budget to drop $390 on a cast iron pot, you’re left to just dream of outfitting your kitchen in Aqua-enameled cookware?

And who hasn't been seduced by the knife wall in the specialty kitchen store? All those shiny, straight knives make my hands tingle with anticipation of all the fabulous chopping, slicing and mincing we could do together. If only they weren't $100+ a pop. Bottom line – I’m not going to have a block full of Wusthofs any time soon.

But that doesn't mean that I can’t have just as much fun chopping with my knives from IKEA or even freebies from Walmart.

Your knives are your most important and useful kitchen tools, so it’s a good idea to reevaluate how you’re caring for them in order to get a long life from each one, whether it was $5 or $95.

Some knife-care tips:

1) Hone your knife with a honing steel before every use. You've probably seen one of these before – one may have come with your knife set. This super awesome tool helps keep your knives at their peak condition, and using it will mean sharpening your knives less frequently. You see, the sharp part of a knife blade is, on a microscopic level, a lot like jagged teeth. When you use your knife, these tiny “teeth” are bent out and the knife becomes duller. A honing steel re-aligns the “teeth” into a straight, super-sharp edge.

2) Use a wooden or bamboo cutting board. These boards are easier on your knife, which means that the blade stays sharper longer.

3) Hand-wash your knives right after you use them. So that they stay their sharpest, knives should never be put in the dishwasher and shouldn't spend too much time in the sink getting jostled around by other dishes, which will dull or scratch the blade and possibly bend them or break their points. Plus, it’s pretty dangerous to reach into a sudsy sink with a knife somewhere in it. Hand-washing your knife might sound like a chore – but really, it should take you about 10 seconds to wash a knife, right? Better than losing a finger! :)


4) Put your knife away safely – this means out of reach of children and not in a drawer. Storing your knives in drawers is one of the worst things to do. The blade can get scratched, dulled and dented every time you open it. Plus, if it’s a crowded drawer, you run the risk of cutting yourself trying to dislodge a utensil. Use a knife block, or better yet, a magnetic knife strip on the wall. This gets your knives off the counter (counter space is super important to me living in an apartment), plus if you have kids, you can hang it high enough so that they can’t reach. These strips have super strong magnets and come in a variety of lengths. I have a 12 inch one that holds my four IKEA knives, my free paring knife that I got from a Walmart presentation randomly, and my one Wusthof knife that I used a whole birthday gift card to purchase.


You don’t have to have German precision-engineered knives with professional-grade steel – you can have a fantastic time in the kitchen with any knives as long as you take care of them, keep them sharp and of course, be careful!

5.19.2013

The Sunday Review: The Excellent Wife


A few months ago I read and discussed The Excellent Wife with a small group of women. I was the only non-wife there...go figure. But I was told that despite my not being married, I'd take away a lot of good things from the book applicable to my life now and in the future should I ever get married. I definitely did, but it's a challenging book, and the reasons are twofold.

1) Martha is not a natural writer. And neither is her editor if she has one. The book is not a heartstring-tugging, engaging read. If you are anything like me you'll be annoyed with her writing, layout, font choices and lack of proper punctuation. And repetitiveness. She also sometimes seems a little condescending or patronizing, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that what she's trying to communicate she's doing so in love. I'm guessing that as a counselor, she's used to dialoguing with women, but her thoughts translate differently in writing.

2) The Bible says that wives are to submit to their husbands. But what does the Bible mean by that? How does it look in a marriage today? Martha takes a more-or-less traditional view (but not uber-traditional, she affirms that wives should not be doormats) and that's sometimes a hard pill to swallow. While she uses scripture to back up her views on the aspects of being a submissive wife, this is still a book of her thoughts and not God-breathed Truth. So, it's important to read with an open mind and a discerning heart. This book made me uncomfortable, and it opened my eyes to a lot of what the world considers acceptable that God perhaps did not intend. I still don't know how I feel about some things she says, and feel I disagree with some things, too.

That being said, I really liked this book for its practical guidance on how to be a better communicator, conflict resolver and overall a God-honoring, loving and selfless person - whether married or unmarried. She offers helpful, Biblical advice like, "when your husband is acting like this, you do this." Or "when you are feeling like this, this is why and this is how you should change your thoughts." Martha doesn't give an inch - it's up to you to be The Excellent Wife because you want to be obedient to God, it's not up to your husband or circumstances to make you feel like being so. But she constantly reiterates that you need God's grace and help to do this and that He is faithful to provide it.

I was certainly blessed by reading and discussing this book, by being inspired to become more Christ-like, and by having my eyes opened to a lot of lies the world wants me to believe about marriage and love. And I've been convicted of how selfish I am, how much more quickly I need to forgive and how much I need the Lord's grace to do it all.

Four stars - because all the great discussion and the examination of my heart outweighed my personal preferences for beautifully written prose. (This time.)

5.17.2013

Birchbox Throwback: January (WHAT)


Boom. There it is...the much anticipated put-off January Birchbox.

Let's get down to business, shall we? Since I failed to do so four months ago...

First, No. 4 Lumiere d'hiver Clarifying Shampoo.


This smells delightful. It removes product build-up while gently cleansing without stripping moisture or color, which is nice, because most things I've read about clarifying shampoo say to not use it if you color your hair. I don't know about how much product build up it's removed; I can't really tell a difference. But it doesn't suds up too much, which means it doesn't have damaging sulfates and parabens, etc. at least. And did I mention it smells delightful? It does.

Also smelling delightful: 


Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré. Also know as the 24-Hour Miracle Cream. This moisturizer leaves my face super, super soft. Silky almost. And it's so light! I love light moisturizers that get the job done and keep doing it for hours.

And now Deborah Lippmann's The Stripper To Go, which is a packet with a little "mitt" soaked in award-winning nail polish remover.


I haven't used it yet, but apparently, you slip the mitt over each finger and swipe to remove the polish. It supposedly smells great, too. I'd like to try it on some glitter polish, because that stuff is the. hardest. to take off!

What's inside this little pouch?



Makeup and perfume!

First, theBalm Cosmetics Hot Mama Shadow/Blush.


Since I don't think this would look very good on my eyes, I've only used this as a blush - it's a nice warm shade that has some glow to it because of a golden shimmer. The thing I don't like about it is that stains my blush brush, probably because it's a pressed powder and not loose, so it doesn't shake off. Maybe I should expect this and just deal, but the next time I use it, I'm going to try a tissue or a makeup sponge. Oh, and it's also difficult to get off the brush and onto my skin. I end up having to hold the brush fibers together to make them stiffer so I can get a good swipe of color and then blend. In that way it's more like an eye shadow. Of course, it's completely possible that I'm doing everything wrong, but if a product is a blush, than it should work like a blush.

This little sample of Aerie Shimmer was a let down. 



The packaging is cute, don't get me wrong - but to me, the Aerie brand isn't a luxury beauty brand. It's a mall brand. This is like getting a sample of American Eagle body spray, or Gap perfume - the stuff that I wore in junior high (Gap Grass, anyone?). Plus, I don't like the way it smells.

So that was January. Hope you enjoyed this little trip back in time :)

5.16.2013

What to Eat This Weekend

Need some inspiration for what to eat this weekend? Here are a few recipes I've tried that will give you a truly excellent food weekend. Take a look, get inspired and get to the store!

Friday Night

Pizza night. Before you go to bed tonight (Thursday), throw this pizza crust together. It is my very favorite and is pretty simple to make. It's best when it can rise for several hours in the fridge, so making it a night ahead of when you'll need it is ideal.

Top your pizza with minced garlic and olive oil, with spinach, bacon and an egg (put the pizza in the oven without it, but leave a little space for it in the middle, then, when there's about 10 or so minutes left to cook, take the pizza out, crack the egg and put it back in until it's done!). Or pizza sauce, Italian sausage, shredded mozzarella.

For dessert? Peanut blossoms!

Saturday

Breakfast: If you're like me, you'd do anything for a runny egg yolk. Check out these super easy deconstructed egg sandwiches. They take four ingredients - and one of them is a garnish!






Lunch: Chances are, you're running errands, cleaning and keeping busy on your Saturday afternoon. Maybe you don't even stop for lunch. If you do, try this super quick meal - a throw-back from college made all grown up with shrimp, mushrooms and scallions. Just prepare the ramen as directed (I used the Oriental flavor) but instead of draining the liquid, keep it for a soup, add thawed cooked shrimp, mushrooms and sliced scallions. The shrimp will warm up in the soup!




Dinner: Fire up the grill, invite some friends and have steak night! Prepare these super easy oven fries and a spinach salad with strawberries, cucumber, green onions and a balsamic poppy-seed dressing to go with it. For the fries, cut up two russet potatoes, pour 1/4 vegetable oil into a 9-inch baking pan, toss potatoes in the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes at 425, then stir, salt and pepper again, and cook 15 more. Take them out, pour off any liquid, and put back in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.


Dessert? Banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!













Sunday

Brunch: Everyone's different when it comes to the big Sunday meal, but if you do brunch, why not try cinnamon streusel baked French toast (prepare everything ahead of time on Saturday night, refrigerate and bake it out in the morning), deconstructed egg sandwiches (or just regular eggs), bacon and fruit? I highly, highly recommend the Wellshire Farms dry rubbed bacon that you get at the meat counter at Whole Foods. It is a total splurge, but it is the very best bacon I have ever had. And don't forget plenty of coffee and OJ!




Lunch: If you don't do a big brunch or have some hungry little ones running around begging for an actual lunch, why not do chicken nuggets? They don't take much time and are so tasty and juicy. I changed the recipe a little and added some other herbs to the breadcrumb mix, and I fried mine for a few minutes on each side in a small amount of oil in a skillet.



Dinner: Maybe you do a big afternoon or evening meal on Sunday? If that's the case, then this Italian pot roast is a fantastic idea. It takes a little forethought, since you have to cook the meat for four hours, refrigerate for a few more and then warm everything up and assemble, but it's a great meal to dig into with the ones you love. So flavorful, tender and worth the effort!





5.14.2013

FENNOfashion: Making My Jewelry Dreams Come True

Back in November, I posted about how my co-worker/jewelry designer Megan Fenno was going to make me a custom bracelet based off one I was obsessed with on Pinterest. She did, and I love it! (Full disclosure: she made it for me a long time ago; I've just been putting off writing this post.)


Megan's really talented and loves creating custom pieces for people. Plus, she doesn't mind making adjustments to the piece so that it's exactly what you want.


For example, I'm possibly a little less sparkly than Megan's typical customer when it comes to jewelry. When I asked for a few changes to the studs on the original bracelet she made, she had it back to me right away with the perfect little brass studs!


I get compliments on the bracelet all the time. It's like an edgy antique leather cuff (which is my fave bracelet style), but I love that it wraps and the clasp is heavy-duty and industrial cool. When I saw it online, I was bummed because I had no idea where to find it. But I came to Megan, and she made it happen! Thanks again, Megan!