Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Livin' on the (W)edge

So wedges seem to be all the rage this season. I've owned a few pairs, back in the day, but I'm hoping to grab a few for the summer. 

Target is usually my go-to store for shoes (and practically everything else!) I just recently got these cute nude pumps, which are remarkably comfortable (read: wore them for 4+ hours at a gig last weekend and could have pranced around in them for at least another 4!) Maybe that's why they're currently out of stock too :(

But, back to the wedges!

After perusing the Target website for a bit, I found these babies:

(From top to bottom: Dolce Vita for Target - Cork Wedge Sandals in Black; Dolce Vita for Target - Rope Wedge Sandal in Cognac; Mossimo Pattie Wedge Sandals in Cognac)

Of course, who knows what they'll look like once I try them on!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beauty Product Raves!

Yes, you read that right...

Awhile back I realized I didn't have enough house projects to "sustain" this blog. So I've blogged about some recipes and some organization projects I've started, which are all well and good, but I decided it was time for a fun, out-of-the-ordinary post too.

I recently came across a makeup blog Makeup by TiffanyD. I originally found her YouTube channel when I was searching for tips to putting on eyeliner (one of my many makeup struggles) and then saw a link to her blog. She has some amazing tutorials for all things makeup related and will often post a video "haul" of different products she's recently purchased or of her "monthly favorites." I like the fact that she reviews drugstore products that she actually uses not just what she thinks is the best drugstore cleanser, body wash, makeup, etc. And I'm not a huge department store product user - I get most of my stuff at Target, sometimes CVS if there isn't a Target around - so I found her reviews/info to be extremely helpful.

Most of the products (excluding the Orgnanix Argan oil) I'm raving about today are ones that I learned about from her recommendations on her blog. However, one of the products in my list (St. Ives) I actually picked up on a whim at Target, used it, loved it and then read her review about it!

Ok, so here's what I'm raving about today:

(Oh, and I literally just realized there was a new posting/editing format for Blogger - yay!!! No more teeny tiny pictures!)

Ok, first up, Organix Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Penetrating Oil.

I've used the regular Moroccanoil before and had great results:

But I haven't been able to find it anymore in CVS (where I originally bought it)

What I did find in CVS was this cute little bottle:

I've used some of the Organix products before and really liked them, so I thought I'd give this one a try too. I have to say I am really impressed with the results - my hair is super soft and shiny and I feel like I can go without washing it for at least 2 days, which for me is great, because I have thick hair and I hate blow drying it! 

The fact that it's a fraction of the cost of the regular Moroccanoil makes me happy too. Moroccanoil can retail about $38 for a 3.4 oz bottle, while the Organix oil is around $8 for a 3.3 oz bottle. I also like the dispenser on the Organix bottle better than the Moroccanoil - I always found myself dripping a little bit of the oil on the edge of the opening of the Moroccanoil bottle that I would have to wipe up again and again. And at $38 a pop, you don't want to be wasting any of that stuff! The Organix bottle has a little opening and you can just squeeze out a few drops (which is all you need!) So glad I found this product!

Next on the list are these:

Tiffany raved about the Neutrogena brand of these cloths.  When I went to CVS they only had the store brand, which is fine with me, because I saved a little $$. (I got them for $5, the Neutrogena ones are about $8 - when not on sale apparently!) Now, I usually use the Target brand of the Biore wipes (they come in a pink package) and I honestly like these ones better. My skin feels amazingly soft, the scent is great, and the cloth itself is significantly bigger than the other cloths I was using, so I feel like I'm getting more for my money, which is never a bad thing! My next task will be scoping out Target to see if they make a store brand too.

And now for another skin care product:

This was from a recent Target trip with my Mom. (gee, can you tell what store I'm obsessed with??) I love browsing through the travel/trial size section. I don't know why, it's a weird thing about me I guess. I just love all the little miniature packaging and bottles. I usually will stock up on travel sized stuff throughout the year so I'm not running around like a crazy lady right before we leave on a vacation! I aso like to keep some travel sized stuff in our glove box - aspirin, tums, those Colgate wisp things. So I was looking for something completely unrelated to skin care when I found this cute St. Ives scrub.

I've used their infamous Apricot scrub before and liked it, but was never head-over-heels in love. This one, however, caught my eye a) because it was in such a cute bottle and b) because it was oil-free and had such a lovely scent. The color/texture are a bit funky, but I guess if it has green tea in it, then it's going to be green!

I tried it immediately that night and was hooked. It has really fine granules (or whatever they're called) so it's a super gentle scrub and you don't feel like you're using a brillo pad on your face (you know what I'm talking about!) My face felt so good afterwards and I will definitely be buying the larger bottle when this trial-sized one runs out!

Onto some nail products:

This is the Trim Nail Buffing Block (CVS for about $3-4)

Another great recommendation by Tiffany! She said it will make your nailpolish last a lot longer, and it's also great for in between polish changes when you just want your nails to look shiny.  It really helped to smooth out the ridges I have in my nails and after applying a base coat I was convinced that this little block is a miracle worker!

After using the block, I applied some Sally Hansen Maximum Growth Plus Base and Top coat (got it a few Christmases ago from my mother-in-law) which is my go-to base coat. I also like wearing it alone when I don't feel like doing a full manicure.

I love Essie nail polishes and found this one at, you guessed it, Target, for under $8. It's called Merino Cool and it's a fun greige-y color, but sometimes looks like a dark eggplant depending on the light/time of day. I applied 2 coats and then used Tiffany's recommendation of Sally Hansen's Mega Shine Top Coat. The great thing about this product is that you can use it on wet or dry nails. So you can literally apply your last coat or polish then immediately apply the top coat. And it dries in 60 seconds!!

Here's the final result:

I painted my nails at night and the next morning they looked just as lovely as the night before! Usually when I do that (paint my nails and then go to bed), even if I wait say, 2 hours, before hitting the sheets, I will almost always wake up with funny little lines/marks on my nails. Not this time!

I'm a big fan of the Shellac manicures since they last so long, but the $25 price tag is a little hefty for me to get one every 2 weeks or even every month. (I usually get one every 3-4 months) Using Mega Shine is a wonderful, budget-friendly alternative and I can't wait to pick up some more Essie colors!

Wow, that was a super long post, and if you read all the way to end, I applaud you! Have you used any of these products before? Which ones do you like the best? What are some of you other must-have beauty products?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teal, Lime green & Yellow

For me, those 3 colors scream "I'm sick and tired of cold, windy weather! Bring on the flip flops!" Or at least that's what I've been screaming inside my head this past week :)

I figured it was time to switch up the decor in our living room (especially since I realized the other day I still had a few Christmas/Winter-related items left on the mantel - yikes!!) I only purchased 2 new items - gotta love "shopping" from your own home!

The teal pillow on the left I "stole" from the guest bedroom, and the lime green one is actually a pillow slipcover that I use off and on throughout the year. The teal pillow on the right is new ($13 from Target) and has a fun velvet-y texture. (I have a red one on our couch downstairs)

I was trying to think of what I could put on the coffee table for placemats when I remembered I had bought 2 Vera Bradley ones on sale last year - how fitting that they matched my color scheme too!

And yes, that would be one of our cats sitting on the windowsill :)

The only new item I purchased was the little yellow bowl ($3 at HomeGoods!) and I placed it on a cream pedestal (Target purchase from last year)

I grabbed the following pieces to complete the mantel:
- a cool blue and green glass mosaic frame with one of our wedding pictures,
- an apothecary jar with greenish/yellowish "pears" and other filler,
- a green vase (from IKEA) with 2 daffodils from the kitchen (see previous post)
- the little green plant that's been residing on our dining room table (plant and white
planter both from IKEA)

Knowing me, I will probably change it up a few times over the next couple of days until it feels "right."

*Update* Here's the new look (and how I decorated the china cabinet/buffet)

I switched out the frame and put a votive holder with almost the same glass mosaic design in its place. I also remembered I had a cool green/turquoise platter from Crate & Barrel (on clearance last year!) that might look fun in front of the mirror, so I moved the "love" letters to their new home on the buffet:

I thought this was a good spot for the glass mosaic frame too. And in the center is a white tray from IKEA with the rest of the faux pears and some more white/natural filler. I also put 2 beige placemats underneath everything for interest.

Of course I'm still not sure if I love this new updated look - we'll see!

How are you decorating for Spring???

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Signs of Spring

I bought 2 cute vases at IKEA awhile back and have been switching out different blooms/greenery for the past few months. Of course, silly me has been forgetting to photograph them, but better late than never, I guess!

Picked these lovelies up at the grocery store last week:

When I bought them the blooms hadn't opened yet, but by the next day it was like TA-DA! I love coming home to them after a long day of work - yellow is one of my favorite colors and these daffodils seem to perk everything up!

Now if only the weather would cooperate around here - we literally had snow flurries today! Brr!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On a slow cooker kick!

So I've recently begun a love-affair with my slow cooker. My husband is ok with it. In fact, I think he encourages it. Score!

Over the weekend we popped into Border's - Brandon was looking for a book on dogs, specifically German Shepherds (yes, we're most likely getting a puppy this summer! More on that later)

I wandered over to the cookbook section and started scanning the titles for some slow cooker books. A lot of them were super fancy and seemed a bit out of my league. To me, if you have to saute something first or do a lot of prep work and then just use the slow cooker for 2 hours then you might as well just heat it up on the stove or in the oven!!

Then I found this:

It was EXACTLY what I was looking for!! Only $15 and it's packed with over 230 recipes for appetizers, soups, main dishes, desserts, beverages, you name it! I love that it lists the nutritional info for each meal as well as the prep/cooking time.

And the best part is that each recipe has no more then 5 ingredients!!!!!!!

Tomorrow I'm testing out the Garlic & Thyme Chicken Breasts - can't wait :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cheesy Slow Cooker Chicken

Probably one of the easiest crock pot recipes I've made so far(except for pulled pork, which is literally 2 ingredients - a pork roast and BBQ sauce!) I made this on Monday, so I was glad it didn't require a lot of prep work, since I'm barely awake at 6 AM anyway! I can't say this is the healthiest recipe (because of the soups) but I did use organic free-range chicken and served it with fresh roasted organic broccoli, so I feel like that cancels out all the bad stuff, right??

Cheesy Slow Cooker Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs) - I used 4 breasts because that's about all I could fit in my slow cooker
Salt, black pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted (I used Campbell's low sodium, low fat soup)
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed Cheddar cheese soup, undiluted (Campbell's again, but of course, there was no low sodium/low fat option!!)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional - I didn't use it)
Hot cooked pasta - I substituted brown rice

1. Place 3 chicken breasts in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Repeat with remaining 3 breasts and seasonings (I just threw them all in together)
2. Combine soups in medium bowl; pour over chicken. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours or until chicken is tender. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Serve over pasta

I then used this recipe from skinnytaste.com for Roasted Broccoli with Smashed Garlic.

The final product:

My husband's exact words "Ohh I could get used to this meal!"

Our first Irish dinner

Even tho this is our 3rd married St. Patrick's Day, it's the first one where I've made a traditional corned beef/cabbage dinner! I was inspired by some friends who cook one every year. I figured it couldn't be too difficult if I used my trusty crock pot!

I searched allrecipes.com for some ideas and came across this. I read a lot of the reviews and decided to substitute 2 cups of beer for 2 cups of water (so I only added a cup of water instead of 3 like the recipe calls for) and then threw in another 2 cups of beer for good measure (and yummy flavor!)

I've also been on a roasting kick lately, so instead of letting the cabbage simmer in the slow cooker all day, I roasted it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Came out better than I expected!

Here was the finished product (which earned rave reviews from the hubs!!)

The carrots, onions and potatoes didn't turn out as mushy as I would have liked, but they were still good!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Empty Bowls

The art teacher at my school recently completed a project with our 5th graders. The Empty Bowls Project began as a grassroots initiative by an art teacher in Michigan about 20 years ago. The concept was simple: create a ceramic bowl, serve a meal of soup and bread, and invite guests to take a bowl home with them. In exchange for the empty bowl and the meal, guests are asked to contribute a suggested minimum donation. The money is then used for a local food bank or soup kitchen, or sent as a donation to a national/international charitable group. You can learn more about the Empty Bowls Project here

Our 5th graders created beautiful ceramic bowls, painted them, glazed them and sold them at a school event last weekend. I decided to purchase 4 bowls and felt good knowing my money was going to the food banks in the district to help families struggling to put food on their tables (some of which might be my own students)

The bowls were carefully wrapped in newspaper and then in bright cellophane, tied with ribbon, so I had no idea what I was getting when I chose my 4 bowls.

Much to my surprise, I got a neat little assortment:

This guy is my favorite:

How fitting that the 2 blues are almost identical to my wedding colors, too: Winning!!

I can't wait to find fun and unique uses for these bowls!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef with Caramelized Onions

We had this yummy meal for dinner last week and it gave us 2 more meals of leftovers - score!

Slow Cooker Beef with Caramelized Onions

6 cups thinly sliced sweet onions (about 1 2/3 lb)
2 tsp fresh minced garlic (I left this out)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 2-lb round roast or steak, trimmed of all fat
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup beef broth

Stir together onions, garlic, sugar, thyme, salt and pepper in the bottom of a large slow cooker. Pat beef dry with clean paper towels (oops forgot to do this!!) and place on top of onions. Mix vinegar and broth together and pour over beef and onions. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Here's how it looked in the crock pot before I served it:

Served with green beans and brown rice:

Definitely a recipe I'd try again!

Monday, March 7, 2011

March =

the month we found our house!!

I meant to write a little anniversary post last Thursday, March 3rd, the day we found our house but totally forgot!

Brandon and I looked at several houses before we found "the one." Thanks to an amazing realtor (who was filling in for our initial realtor, who had to have surgery and was out for a few weeks) we realized this little yellow raised ranch was too good to pass up. The previous owner had maintained the utilities impeccably and we just had to see past the horrendous wallpaper and their style of decor.

Just 3 short days after we found the house, we put in an offer and it was accepted! It's crazy how time flies!!

And I still can't believe how this:

transformed into this:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Another "first-time Crock Pot recipe!"

The picture on the recipe card:

How mine turned out:

And after cutting into it:

Avalanche!!! It literally exploded as soon as I cut into it - but it was soo good!!

I'm guessing I cooked it too long in the crockpot and that's why pepper shriveled up? (It was literally twice that size when I started)

Anywho, here's the recipe:

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 can (15 ozs) black beans, rinsed and drained
6 tall green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded and cored (I used 3 giant ones instead of 6, which is good, because those 3 barely fit inside!)
1 cup (4 ozs) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese (I didn't measure this out, I just sprinkled it over the black bean mixture)
1 cup tomato salsa (again, didn't really measure, just spooned it out)
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
Chopped fresh chives (I didn't use any)

1. Spray medium skillet with cooking spray. Saute onions until golden. Add cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin and chili powder. Remove from heat.

2. Mash half the black beans with cooked onion in medium mixing bowl. Stir in remaining beans. Place bell peppers in slow cooker; spoon black bean mixture into bell peppers. Sprinkle cheese over peppers. Pour salsa over cheese. Cover; cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. (I cooked ours for 8 - gonna try just 6 next time!)

3. Serve each pepper with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives, if desired.

I'm not a fan of spicy foods, and these were definitely HOT, so the sour cream helped to cool things down a bit - I ate every last bite, tho, because it was so yummy!

Extreme Makeover: Pantry Edition!

Ok, so it's not that extreme, but I was having trouble thinking of a title for this blog, so just go with it!

As promised, here are some pictures of my mini-pantry makeover from Friday night:

Not the best before picture, because I remembered to snap one AFTER I had already cleared out the top shelf - the third shelf down (mostly baking ingredients) was the worst one of all and I despised looking at it day after day!

This is After picture 1.0 (see below for the final "After")

- I added a bin to the top shelf to corral all of our snack-y type foods (granola bars, popcorn, etc.):

- Cleaned out a bunch of stuff and just kept the things we needed:

- Switched the 3rd and 4th shelf so the baking items (which are the heaviest) are on the bottom:

-I took the wire rack from the 2nd shelf (it's barely visible in the before picture) and added a bin to hold random baking ingredients (shredded coconut, butterscotch chips, Heath bar candy):

I thought this looked pretty good. Then I spent 2+ hours drooling over The Container Store's website. I trekked up to my local store on Saturday and grabbed some more stuff for my pantry makeover. By Sunday, it looked a little something like this:

Top shelf: The only thing I added was a container for granola/cereal, but I was glad to eliminate another box/plastic bag and now I can see how much is left = saving $$

2nd shelf: moved the wire rack back to it's original home, used another clear container like the one on the top shelf to store pasta. Bought this to store spaghetti. Oh, and that white bin that had been on the bottom shelf? Now it's used for this:

Brown rice, gravy and spice packets!

3rd shelf: didn't change too much - just rearranged some items

Bottom shelf: Bought another wire rack to make use of the vertical space, got a smaller bin (actually for spice packets) to hold my random baking items and check out the sugar and flour containers (found here and here) that will make for less messes:

Oh, and I picked up some scoops to use with our cereal canisters (I had been using some old measuring cups - not very aesthetic!) and plopped them in an IKEA vase:

I love having a pantry where I can see everything and find stuff quickly!

I'm still planning to do a switcheroo with our lower cabinets, but I need to sort it out a bit, draw some sketches, take some measurements before I pay another visit to my new BFF, The Container Store!!