Monday, February 28, 2011

Wear: Sequin Tank

While I was shopping this past weekend, one thing stuck out to me:  sequins.  They are everywhere!  Especially on tanks.  At first I thought my search-for-the-perfect-spring-top-to-give-my-sister-for-her-birthday was causing me to retrace my steps and continue seeing the same shirt in the same store, but then I realized that no, sequin tanks are just in every store.  The great thing is that because they are in so many different stores, there is a sequin tank in every price range.  A lot of the tanks below are similar, but, as you can see, the prices are not.  So figure out which one works best for you, buy it, and throw it under a cute cardigan until we get warmer weather.  Or put it with skinny jeans and heels for a night out.  Or in the spring white shorts or pants and cute wedges.  So many possibilities!

JCrew $78.00

Ann Taylor Loft $59.50

Charlotte Russe $18.50

Express $34.90

Target $17.99

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter

Yesterday I made these brownies.

Yes, that is a dark chocolate brownie topped with a peanut butter pudding topped with fudge icing.  As we all know, chocolate and peanut butter were made to go together.  I like the combination best when the chocolate and peanut butter are separate, but together.  Like Reese's cups, the above brownie, oreos with peanut butter.  When they are jumbled together like in a chocolate peanut butter milkshake, my taste buds are confused and I feel I cannot fully appreciate how wonderful each separate flavor is.  Anyway, these brownies are delicious.  They are easy.  I was forced to give away half of them for the sake of my jeans continuing to fit over my butt in the future.

Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter
1 package brownie mix (I used dark chocolate)
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp cold milk
4 1/2 tsp instant vanilla pudding mix*
1 tub (16 oz) chocolate fudge frosting

Prepare and bake brownies according to the fudge directions (as opposed to the "cakey" brownies).  Cool on wire rack.

In a small bowl, beat the confectioners' sugar, butter, peanut butter, milk, and pudding mix until smooth.  Spread over completely cooled brownies.  Cover and refrigerate until firm (30 min to an hour).  Frost with the chocolate frosting.  (I did not use the entire tub of frosting, because I wanted the peanut butter layer thicker.)  After I frosted them, I cut the brownies, then covered them and stuck them back in the fridge until we were ready to eat them.

*put the rest of the pudding mix in a tupperware container and save it.  I'll post another recipe that calls for it later. 

Source:  recipe from Taste of Home

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Four Minute Egg, Not Four One Minute Eggs

As much as I hate having things around the house that we don't use, I sometimes really want the most obscure and impractical things.  Like egg cups.  They make me think of that scene in Ever After where the stepmother is tapping on her egg at breakfast.  "...After all that I do!  After all I have done!  It's never enough..."  Egg cups just seem so elegant and wonderfully impractical.  I saw one at an antique store this past Saturday, but it was kind of ugly.  And there was only one.  So I didn't buy it.  Honestly I don't even like eggs, so I don't know why I want egg cups so badly.  I think I just would like the option of offering overnight guests a hard or soft boiled egg for breakfast, knowing I can serve it to them in a cute little egg cup.  Here are some of the ones that I like.

sur la table


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wedding Talk: Getting Started

You just got engaged, you can't stop looking at the diamond on your finger, and you're slightly freaking out because people are peppering you with a million questions about your upcoming wedding.  Did they forget I got engaged just 18 hours ago?!  Don't worry, this is quite normal.  People mean well and hope the barrage of questions shows how happy and excited they are for you.  Planning a wedding is a big deal, and figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.  Here are some of my tips for where and how to start the task of planning your wedding.

1.  Set a Budget.  Decide how much you (or whoever is footing the bill for this grand party) are willing to spend.  This figure should include everything--from stamps for the invitations to grandma's corsage. says the average wedding costs about $28,000; that means a lot of weddings cost a whole bunch more (especially in urban areas) and a lot of weddings cost a lot less (especially with the DIY wedding trend).  Just decide what is realistic for you.  It is so helpful to have some sort of guideline as you choose vendors and make decisions for your big day.

2.  Decide what aspect of your wedding day is the most important to you.  Knowing what means the most to you will help you decide where you are willing to spend more money and where you need to try to cut costs.  If you have always dreamed of wearing Jimmy Choos and a Vera Wang dress, then your apparel is what you're willing to spend more on.  If you want to have a sweet dance party, then you will want to book a killer DJ or band and have a big dance floor.

3.  Make decisions that are consistent with what is most important to you.  What I mean by that is this:  make logical decisions about other aspects of your wedding that will help make that most important aspect really be great.  I cared most about photography.  I wanted awesome pictures that I would love looking at for the rest of my life.  Well in order to have great pictures, I needed to have a pretty background in all of my pictures.  Suddenly photography AND a pretty venue were at the top of the list.  The invitations, however, were not going to be in any of my pictures, so were very low on my list.  I barely even remember what they looked like, because I honestly just didn't care.

4.  Pick a theme or a couple of words that you want to describe your wedding.  It might be fun and relaxed, or formal, or fairytale--whatever it is you want to be communicated to your guests about your wedding.  If you have a couple of words in mind, with every decision you make you can ask yourself - is this {insert wedding adjective here}?  It will actually help you, because you will be able to easily rule some options out.  I wanted my wedding to be simple and elegant.  When I tried on dresses, I made sure they were simple but elegant.  When I chose my bouquets, I chose simple and elegant flowers.  You don't want to end up with a wedding that has conflicting messages:   a very formal wedding dress, but retro bridesmaid dresses, and a cutesy cupcake display.  You want all the elements of your wedding to be cohesive and come together nicely.  It was so rewarding to have people tell me at our reception that they loved that everything was so simple but elegant.

February 2011
5.  Get a few bridal magazines and start brainstorming and dreaming about your wedding.  Martha Stewart Weddings and BRIDES were my favorite bridal magazines.  Just mark things that catch your eye - it can be favors or dresses or flowers or hairstyles.  Then when you flip back through and look at all you marked, you will notice some trends: whether it's the same colors, or same style of dresses, or a general theme that pops off of the pages that you marked.  Also rip out the page that has the wedding checklist on it.  This will help you know when you should be booking venues, ordering tuxes, sending out invitations, etc.

There is so much involved in planning a wedding, but if you start with a clear idea of the direction you want to head, you will find that everything will come together nicely and you won't be stressing about all of the decisions.  More Wedding Talk to come!

Monday, February 21, 2011

My New Thing

Over the past couple of months I've found myself drawn to colorful, slightly imperfect but beautiful illustrations.  Especially the ones that are of every day things.  Or just pretty things.  Or things that make me feel happy.  There are so many of these types of drawings popping up everywhere!  Especially in advertising for designers and in online magazines.  Which is totally fine with me because I love looking at them!  I really would love to get some prints to hang in random places around the house.  Here are some I'm checking out this week:

Would look lovely in the walk-in closet I don't have

To hang in my kitchen

For near my bookshelf

A big chair, a book, and a snack.  Perfect.
caitlin mcgauley

I love umbrellas!
lonny mag

Let me know if you find any that I might like - I'm still looking for the perfect ones for our house!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pedicure Time!

The last couple of days have been so beautiful here!  I didn't wear a jacket today when I went out--that is definitely weather heading in the right direction.  Hopefully it will keep getting warmer and warmer, so make sure your toes are freshly painted!  You don't want to get caught with naked toes when it finally comes time to bust out the flip flops.  This is the Spring/Summer 2011 line from OPI: the Texas Collection.  If you haven't figured it out by now, one of my favorite brands of nail polish is OPI.  The colors are always the best, the names are clever, and the polish isn't watery and lasts a while.  You can find OPI polish at most hair salons.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Delicious Granola

So I've kind of started a new eating plan.  The feature article in February's Real Simple included 30 of the healthiest ingredients dietitians and nutritionists across the country recommend incorporating into your diet.  Not necessarily the eat-this-and-you'll-get-skinny ingredients, but healthy because they contain things that are good for you in them.  So Caleb and I went to the grocery and came home with 14 of the 30; I figured that was a good start.  Sunday I was a little ambitious and put spinach and oats in my fruit and yogurt smoothie.  Since that failed breakfast I've chilled out a little and am trying to use the ingredients in ways that I will actually eat them and not pour them down the drain.

I made this granola yesterday that had three of the ingredients:  old fashioned oats, walnuts, and almonds.  All three are good for your cholesterol, the almonds also keep blood vessels healthy, and the oats have soluble fiber and fight against heart disease.  This is seriously the best granola I've ever eaten, and I will definitely be making it again.

my new favorite breakfast!
4 cups old fashioned oats*
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together oats, almonds, walnuts, coconut, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt together butter, oil, honey, and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.  Carefully whisk together so it's well incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract.  Pour the warm mixture over the oat mixture and toss together with a wooden spoon.  Make sure all of the oat mixture gets moistened by the sugar mixture.

Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheets and place on the top two racks of the oven.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes, removing from oven and tossing oats on pan twice during baking.  To ensure even baking and prevent any burning, you might want to switch the pans halfway through baking.  After removing from oven, let the granola cool on pans before storing in an airtight container.  (Keeps for up to two weeks but you'll eat it faster than that.)

*Make sure you use old fashioned oats.  I read a lot about granola and using the instant ones will make your granola sandy instead of crunchy.  Also, the old fashioned or steel-cut oats are the ones that are healthiest.

Source:  recipe adapted from joy the baker

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Organize: Your Spices

When I was making my wedding registry, my sisters wisely advised me not to register for the typical spice carousel/caddy.  I agreed that it would indeed take up too much of my precious counter space and might have spices I would never use (i.e. allspice, which takes me back to fancy Chinese dinners where it was never used in moderation and you tasted/burped up allspice for the rest of the night).  On the other hand, I do not like my mom's spice cabinet.  All of the canisters are different sizes and are a huge mess.  I can never find what I need and usually end up taking half of them out to find the cinnamon.  So I decided to avoid both of these less-than-ideal situations and register for a ton of these magnetic spice tins.  I could fill them with my spices of choice and have an organized, uniform spice cabinet.  Which is definitely necessary for an OCD-prone person, like myself.  To top it off, Martha Stewart offers these cute spice labels that you can print onto adhesive paper and stick right on to your spice tins.  My spice collection is still growing, as I only buy additional spices when new recipes call for them, but I love that I only have what I need and I can easily grab the right one in the moment.  As I have more cabinet space than drawer space, I opted for the labels to go on the side of the canister rather than on top.

A great alternative that I recently read about is this spice carousel that you can mount underneath your cabinet.  Pro:  There's a dial that with each turn it dispenses 1/4 tsp of the spice out.  Con:  It is pre-labeled so you're still stuck with allspice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kitchen Wish List

You know when you're cooking and you realize if only you had this one gadget it would make things a lot easier?  Well I feel like that has happened to me multiple times over the past few months.  I finally decided to make a list of the kitchen tools I found myself wishing I had over and over again.  Some of them I really should just go buy, because they're so cheap and I know I would use them all the time.  If only I had thought of these things before I made my wedding registry!

1. Veggie Silicone Steamer, Chef's Resource  2. Microplane Zester, Bed Bath & Beyond  3. Over the Sink Board with Colander, Crate & Barrel  4. Muffin Pan Sponge, King Arthur Flour  5. Espresso Machine, Williams Sonoma  6. Silicone Flat Whisk, Kitchen Works  7. French Oven, Le Creuset  8. Palm Vegetable Brush, Amazon

What kitchen gadgets are you lusting over?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Caleb!

Today is Caleb's birthday and I am so excited to celebrate it all day!  It's really fun to celebrate one of our birthdays now that we're married.  It gets to be just the two of us, we don't want anyone else here, and we're our own family and can celebrate however we want!  I think I've been more excited about Caleb's birthday than he has, but that's typically how things go around here.

I am so thankful to have Caleb, and I love that he is all mine!  God blessed me with the best husband ever.  This is the guy that 11 years ago I wrote in my diary I thought he was cute.  For half of my life I've had my eye on Caleb, and now I get to be married to him for the rest of my life!  This is the guy that, when we were engaged, decided to buy me a red Kitchen Aid mixer for no reason.  He texts me throughout his day at work to tell me he's thinking of me and can't wait to come home and see me.  He drives me to the grocery store late at night when I all of a sudden decide I need ice cream, canned pumpkin, or ornament hooks.  He does all the jobs around the house that I hate - killing bugs, taking out the trash, changing lightbulbs, plunging the toilet.  This is the guy that spent time picking out nail polish (OPI and Essie, no less) to put in my stocking for Christmas. He chases the mailman down the street when I have things to mail but didn't get them in the mailbox in time.  He sets aside every Thursday night to go on a date with me.  He plays games with me and doesn't get mad when I beat him at Scrabble.  He listens to the details of my day and laughs at my stories.  He encourages me to try new things, to do the things I enjoy, to spend time with my friends.  He wakes up early every morning to read his Bible and pray for me.  For us.  He decided to go back to school to get his MBA so he can better provide for me.  For us.  He tells me I'm his favorite person in the whole world.  He tells me he loves me more than anyone else.  He takes care of me, because it's both his responsibility and his joy.  I love being the only one he takes care of.  He tells me my being happy is what makes him happy.  He tells me I'm his best friend.  We're all each other needs.  And that is how it's supposed to be.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Remember those lemons I got a couple of weeks ago?  Well they only last outside of the fridge for so long, so I needed to use them up.  One night I decided to whip together some lemon spice rice.  Wow - utter disaster.  The aftertaste was terrible and our tongues burned as a result of too many spices and too much parmesan cheese.  Sadly, our chicken breasts that night were kind of grizzly and fatty and nasty (definitely not my fault, definitely the chicken's fault), so our entire dinner was a flop.  About 20 minutes after we finished eating, we were both hungry.  Thankfully I had some Pillsbury giant cinnamon rolls in the fridge.  I popped those suckers in the oven and we had breakfast for dinner #2.  My first idea for lemons was a bust, but my second definitely wasn't.  These muffins are moist and have just the right amount of lemon flavor.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

2/3 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 Tbsp sugar (for topping the batter before baking)

for the glaze:  1/2 cup powdered sugar whisked together with 1-2 Tbsp of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place paper muffin liners in a muffin tin.  Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar with the lemon zest until the sugar is a light yellow and it smells deliciously like lemon.  Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, melted butter, and lemon juice.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together.  When almost thoroughly mixed, add the poppy seeds.  Do not overmix.  Divide batter between muffin cups.  Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the soon-to-be muffins.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for five minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before glazing.  Add just enough lemon juice to the powdered sugar to make a glazey consistency.  Drizzle on each of the muffins.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 12-15 muffins.

Source:  recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things for Valentine's Day

1. Truffles, Harry & David  2. Sweet Heart Sunglasses, Urban Outfitters  3. Heart Shaped Umbrella, Amazon  4. Open Heart Hoop Earrings, Tiffany & Co  
5. Valentine's Mug, Starbucks  6. Red Nouveau nail polish, Essie

Ballet Flats

I have had enough of winter and I want spring!  Well since it's still 19 degrees out and windy as all get-out, I have to settle for shopping for spring clothes!  Seriously if you have the winter blues and need some cheering, just go to the mall and walk in Ann Taylor Loft, Express, The Limited, really anywhere - the bright colors are so happy and gives me hope that spring is still coming!  Among all of the spring collections I've enjoyed looking at, I have found so many cute ballet flats.  Here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Read: A Homemade Life

I told Caleb a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to find a book that I was really absorbed in and couldn't put down.  I read a lot of books, I even read a lot of good books, but few are great.  And I have this thing for great books.  Well let me tell you - I picked this book up from the library on Sunday.  I read half of it before the Superbowl, and then I finished the second half last night.  It was so good!  I really didn't want to put it down, which was exactly what I had been looking for.

buy it here
If you like to cook, or even if you just really enjoy food and consider eating an experience, please read this book!  Molly Wizenberg is an incredible writer.  She's funny, she makes you feel like you're tasting the food she's describing, she describes each memory behind her favorite recipes in a way that just makes you feel good.  Personally, I thought Julia Child's My Life In France was boring. (Sorry Julia).  I realize that may discredit me as a cook for all time, but I'm just being honest.  She droned on about things that I thought were boring and wrote about too many recipes I know I would never even want to try, let alone make.  But the recipes in A Homemade Life I actually want to try!  I would definitely tweak some of them, but that's what I do with most recipes anyway.  So if you're looking for a good read and/or some new cooking inspiration, read this!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Valentine's Day is one short week away!  If you are cooking a romantic dinner for your boyfriend/fiance/husband/lover/whoever else you would spend Valentine's Day with and need a special dessert, make this delicious Red Velvet Cheesecake!  Now if you're about to stop reading just because you've never made cheesecake and you're scared to try, don't!  It really isn't that hard at all; you just have to be patient.  I'm not even that patient of a person and it still turned out great.  I actually made this during Christmas because I needed a red dessert, but it works even more perfectly for Valentine's Day because cheesecake is, I don't know, sexy or something, and Red Velvet is the best red dessert you can find.  Here's the recipe:

Red Velvet Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar

For the cheesecake:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 (1 oz.) bottles red food coloring

For the topping:
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper.  To make the crust, combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix together with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  To make the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-low speed for 1 minute.  Add eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder, sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla extract, vinegar and food coloring.  Mix on low speed just until fully combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 300 degrees F, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the center is firm.  Turn off the oven, prop the door open slightly, and let the cheesecake stand 30 minutes.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven; cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the outside edge of the cake to separate from the pan.  Cover and chill for at least 8 hours.

To make the topping, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth.  Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and spread the topping evenly over the cheesecake.  Remove sides of

When I made this, I foolishly decided to run to Starbucks while it was baking.  Bad decision #1 I went to the slowest Starbucks in town.  Bad decision #2 it was exam week so Starbucks was extra-crowded with students and I stood in line for forever.  Thankfully I got home with 7 minutes to spare on the timer.  To stay on the safe side, just stay home during the change the temperature, prop the oven door open portion of this recipe.  This is very delicious, but rich, so cut small pieces!  

Source:  recipe from Annie's Eats

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Weekend!

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend!  A couple of things I'm thinking about:

funny and cute blog to his future wife

The Google Art Project everyone is talking about

Someone's version of "Happiness Is..."

Find a class near you and bust a move

Tomorrow night 325.5 million of what? will be consumed

clutch with one of my favorite quotes on it

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Free Flavor Friday

I love coffee.  But I only like my coffee with lots of sugar and lots of creamer.  And coffee-mate creamers are my favorite to dump in lots and lots of.  Peppermint Mocha is my go-to flavor, but they also have new flavors that I'm excited to try! Like Caramel Macchiato and White Chocolate Caramel Latte.

Anyway, today, starting at 12 noon (EST) Coffee-mate is giving away coupons for a free creamer!  All you have to do is go to their Free Flavor Friday website at noon and be one of the first 100,000 people to request a coupon.  Then they mail it to you and you get to pick out a free creamer at the store and bring it home and drink great coffee and lay on the couch and read a magazine.  Or at least that's what I would do.

Since I love coffee and I love you all and I love free stuff, I just had to share this with you all!

Click here to request your coupon!  Happy (Free Flavor) Friday!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today marks the first day of the Year of the Rabbit!  I've now celebrated Chinese New Year for half of my life, since moving to China in 2000.  I have some great memories of Chinese New Year... one year we went to this celebration where they set off fireworks right above our heads.  Literally chunks of ash and burning whatever-else-is-in-fireworks were raining down on the crowd.  People were holding newspapers over the heads (like that would do anything to protect them), and I think I'm permanently traumatized from the experience.  ok so maybe not that great of a memory, but it was definitely memorable.  Another year we were invited to a government official's house for dinner with his wife and son.  During dinner his son not-so-subtly told him his zipper was down.  There was no discretion whatsoever:  he stands up from the table and yanks his zipper up, then sits back down and continues talking.  I don't know why but David and I thought this was so funny and would always laugh when we remembered.  I think it's probably because he had such an important job, and this was the man who always referred to me as "the girl".  I was insulted every time, so I think I was glad he did something embarrassing and awkward during the most celebrated meal of the year.  Another year we rode our bikes into the city.  Everything was closed, everyone was at home, and the streets were ours.  It was so fun!  Because driving in China is so crazy and basically no one follows traffic lights or the rules of the road, we would always ride in taxis or in the van with our driver.  Much safer that way.  The picture in my mind of us riding in the city still makes me happy.  One year I took a bath in orange peels because it was supposed to bring you good luck for that year.  I don't remember anything significantly lucky happening as a result but it was worth a try.

Since moving back to America, I've still tried to celebrate Chinese New Year.  One year at breakfast David and I asked our parents to give us hong bao, or the red envelopes with money it it that children receive for the New Year.  They told us that if we only spoke Chinese to each other all day, they would.  So on the way to school, passing each other in the halls at school, and during dinner that night, we only spoke Chinese.  It was so fun to us, and we got our hong bao at the end of the day!  My freshman year in college, I taught some of my friends on my hall how to use chopsticks.  Last year I didn't do anything, because I was holiday-overloaded:  it was Caleb's birthday, Valentine's Day, and Chinese New Year.  Seriously can we not spread out the holidays a little better?

This year I had every intention of making a bunch of Chinese food and introducing Caleb to a really fun Chinese New Year celebration, but I was too un-motivated and tired when it came time to do all the cooking.  So instead we picked up Chinese food from Happy Wok and brought it home.  Caleb got frustrated with the "inefficiency of eating with two sticks", caved, and got a fork out.  Our fortunes were both the same, which was super disappointing.  Oh and did you know that the Chinese side of fortunes have now been replaced with Spanish?!  We listened to Chinese music while we cleaned up after dinner, but I was obviously the only one singing along, which isn't as exciting.  We finished off the night by eating the Chinese version of Dunkaroos, which we bought at the Asian grocery store earlier in the week.  Even though there were no fireworks, no hong bao, and no orange peel baths, and we didn't do any of the fun activities I had in mind (like Chinese checkers and a Chinese fire drill), it was perfect because we were just together.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dry Skin Be Gone!

Winter is dragging on and that means my skin is continuing to be dry.  Ugh it is so gross!  I feel like I am constantly putting on lotion, and I mean is it even helping?  What really makes my hands (which are always the driest) feel better is a scrub that exfoliates the dead skin off and leaves my hands feeling really soft.  Well thank goodness for Martha Stewart, who introduced me to making my own sugar scrub!  I love taking a couple minutes out of my day to pamper myself, and this was seriously so easy to make.  This is what you need:

2 cups organic sugar cane
1 cup sunflower oil
essential oils of choice
food coloring

The sunflower oil is to add a smooth texture and help carry the scents of the essential oils.  Sunflower oil is odorless, which is perfect.  I got mine at an all natural foods store, which is where I also got my essential oil.  This is the brand of essential oils that I like, but really any will do.  You can use just one or mix any that you like.  I already had peppermint (I put it on my neck when I have migraines) so I just bought some grapefruit and combined them.  Peppermint is the "cooling" oil and grapefruit is "joyful".  Perfect combo!

My finished product!
To make the body scrub, just combine the two cups of sugar cane with 1 cup of sunflower oil.  When it's well combined, add one drop of essential oil at a time.  You should add the less-intense oil first, and then the more intense one.  You could just ask at the store or look up the oils you choose.  (Peppermint is more intense than grapefruit if you're using this combination.)  I think I ended up adding 3-4 drops of each in one batch.  You can see how strong you want the scent your scrub to be.  Then I added a couple of drops of pink food coloring until it was the shade that I wanted.  Then I bought cute jars at the hardware store and spooned my scrub into them, and finished it off with a label.  I doubled the above and I filled 8 jars.  I gave them to some of my girlfriends as Christmas gifts!  And I kept one for myself.  I keep it in the half-bath by the kitchen, and I like to use it on my hands after I'm done washing dishes.  (side note: I wouldn't recommend scrubbing your face with this stuff, the sugar can be a little rough for your poor facial pores.)  Your skin will be so much happier after you use this stuff! And the scents of the essential oils will really help relax you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sometimes I Need Reminding

"Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people's bad manners."  -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

There are a few (okay let's be real, more like many) things in life that get me "all worked up", as Caleb would say.  But the one that might be at the top of the list is bad manners.  I have no tolerance for people cutting me or anyone else off on the road, in line at Target, anywhere.  It's completely uncalled for.  I believe in handwritten thank you notes.  I think people should put their napkins in their laps and wipe their mouths when necessary.  And on and on it goes.  I realize I am to one extreme, but still.  There's something to be said for someone who is polite and displays good manners.  It is good for me to remember that sometimes the most polite thing I can do is overlook someone else's bad manners.  So, fellow Emily Post fans, smile, be gracious, and decide you will teach your children good manners and that, in turn, will help make the world a more polite place.