Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things to do before you turn 30

I've been a little blue lately, for no good reason except this Sunday will be my 29th birthday.

I am thankful for all of the things in my life - the people, the places, all that I've earned and all that challenges me. However, turning 29 means one thing... I've got one year left before I turn 30. 

The number is intimidating! 30. I don't feel that I will need to dramatically change how I live my life, or even tweak it. I do feel that I'm a balanced individual. However, it's the sentimental things that get to me... all of those things on my 'bucket list' that somehow need to be accomplished before I am officially in my thirties. 

Ugh, thirties! Just typing it makes me cringe. Why? In 2010, I tried to live life to the fullest:

- Registered as a bone marrow donor

- Climbed Pikes Peak, alongside my Sister

- Traveled alone to two big cities - Chicago and San Francisco - for blogger conferences. Met tons of great people!

- Developed my blog and got more involved with the foodie / healthy living blog community.

- Rode on horseback through beautiful places - the Kettle Moraine of Wisconsin, and Garden of the Gods in Colorado

- Celebrated six years of love with Zak - and bought a house together

- Saw a ton of great concerts, continued to love my job

Despite all of this... I can't help but feel a little down about the age thing! I guess it's human to not want to get older?

To combat my blues, I've been Googling. Because Googling always helps. I searched, "What to do before you turn 30." Here are a few articles I found that are very decent: - 30 things to do before you turn 30

Socyberty - 30 Things to Do Before You Turn 30 and Reasons 
(this is a less serious one)

Hubpages - 10 Things All Twenty-Somethings Need To Do Before Turning 30

How are you with birthdays / aging? Calm? Anxious?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Glambassador Review: Olay 'Luscious Embrace' Beauty Bar

This post is sponsored by Glamour Magazine, for whom I participate as a 'Glambassador' beauty product reviewer. The product was provided to me for review, and the following is my 100% honest opinion.

Today, I tried out a new product from Olay - their 'Luscious Embrace body bar with massaging design.'

Upon removing the bar from its packaging, I immediately liked the sweet 'crushed orchid extract' scent. I'm an orchid kind of girl.

Check out the little nubbies!

My review? Loved it. I am typically a body wash only user, and I could see myself converting a few times a week for this bad boy. The main reason?

The 'massaging design' felt great, and reminded me of a foam roller. With it, I  found knots on my quads / calves and worked them a bit. This soap isn't going to do the work of a deep-tissue massage, but it might help you feel better after a tough workout, or in my case, a night of dancing like an idiot at a Taio Cruz concert

Post-shower, I barely felt the need to use body lotion. This product is pretty moisturizing!

The cons? The ingredients list is full of words I can't pronounce. This criteria normally applies to stuff I eat, but it may as well start being important for the products I use on my body's largest organ - my precious skin. There are lots of chemical names, and I'm not sure I dig that.

Also, I am not sure that this product is on the market yet - I can't find it on the Olay website or via Google search. Therefore, I can't tell you how much these will cost, or where you can find them. Stay tuned, I guess?

Question for you - Have you tried out a new product recently? Any hot new ones out there that I should know about?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Redux: Cookie dough balls

I don't know about the rest of you, but the past few weeks in my kitchen have been delicious.

Okay, that's a silly proposition. I have been drooling over practically everyone's blog posts lately! This is a good season for testing out recipes. The entire blogosphere is enveloped in a cloud of deliciousness.

My kitchen experiments started with bourbon caramel sauce, a la Eat Live Run...

And cream cheese accented pumpkin bread. Recipe coming soon...

But the tastiest? The trendiest? You know what I've been up to... baking batch after batch of Diana's Chocolate Chip Dough Balls. 


You see, a few weeks back at the Foodbuzz Festival, I tried the cookies that inspired Diana's recipe, from Annie the Baker. Like nearly every other blogger in attendance, I was immediately smitten with these cookies. Imagine the crispness of a fresh-baked cookie on the outside, with a soft and buttery dough-like center. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Diana unveiled her recipe

Tonight marks my 4th trial of the recipe. Wish me luck, kids.

The first trial, I completely forgot to add the 1/2 cup brown sugar. The result was a tasty, but not too sweet cookie. I 'fixed' this by eating mine with frozen banana soft serve, topped with my bourbon caramel sauce.

The second trial, I got the recipe right. HOLY DELICIOUSNESS. However, I felt that the cookies needed more a little *oomph*. I couldn't figure out quite what that was. 

The third trial, I ditched the chocolate chips and instead devised a maple pecan variation. I added a tablespoon of dark amber maple syrup, and about 1 cup of chopped pecans. 

Before baking, I dipped the top of each dough ball in a little organic sugar, which added a little sweetness and gussied them up a bit. See? Cute.

The fourth trial - TONIGHT! - I decided to really shake things up:

Backstage Pass Redux: Chocolate Chip Dough Balls
inspired by Diana from The Chic Life

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 1 entire stick of butter, softened/room-temp (insert Paula Deen: "Butter" sound effect)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use organic, which is 'sparklier' than regular white sugar)
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 1 whole tsp vanilla
  • My addition: 1 whole tsp dark amber maple syrup (from Wisconsin, yo)
  • 1/2 more like 1 whole cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl - Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. 
2. In a medium bowl - Mix together ('cream?') the brown sugar, butter and white sugar. Add egg, vanilla and maple syrup, and mix some more. 
3. Dump the medium bowl into the large bowl, and slowly mix until even. Because my variation of Diana's recipe has so much butter / liquids, it won't be as hard to integrate the dry stuff. However, as Diana says, 'work it' and trust the dough. It will eventually be amazing.
4. Stick the dough in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour. Because it has more butter / liquids, this will be especially important. 
5. Toward the end of your holding pattern, preheat the oven to 350ª. Admire Diana's original post and cute Tiffany Blue color scheme of her blog. Smile and think of the stand mixer that your Mama *maybe* bought for your upcoming 29th birthday, *grin*.
6. Once the oven is preheated and your dough is chilled, bust out a baking sheet and cover with parchment paper. 
7. Remember that you forgot to add your chocolate chips to the dough. Add them, and stick the bowl back in the fridge for another 10 minutes.
8. Remove from the fridge and use a small scooper to form your dough balls. Diana rolls hers into little spheres, however I like the look of the scooped shape, so I leave 'em alone. If desired, dip the top of each dough ball in organic sugar, for that sparkly look. Because cookies can't wear sequins.
9. Bake in oven for about 5 minutes, then rotate the sheet to ensure even baking. Put back in oven for ~ 6 more minutes.
10. Delight in your beautiful dough balls! Hopefully?

I am going to pop these suckers in the oven and will be back to post my photos after they're done. See ya soon!

Question for you - What new recipes have you tried out lately? Getting ready to O.D. on holiday cookies like I am? Heck yes!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just what I need

Tonight will involve one or two of these:

And hanging out with these gals (Erika and Stefanie):
Sans the Lady Gaga face paint. With the same smiles, hopefully!

And this dude. 

Sure, Mr. Cruz will probably only perform for 20 minutes. He probably won't even really sing. But... Tonight. Will. Be. Awesome. Which is just what I need!

Sing it with me... "I came to dance, dance, dance..."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Tis the Season: Workout DVDs

With every passing Holiday season, comes the inevitable New-Year, New-You / get-back-into-a-fitness-routine-with-THIS-gimmicky/awful-product, season.
Yes, this is real, it's true. I can't believe I missed this being released last week.


For those fitness buffs on your Holiday shopping list, look to these fun new release workout DVDs for gift ideas. Here are some that have caught my eye:

1. Dance with Julianne: Just Dance! 
I don't really watch Dancing With the Stars, but am somehow familiar with Julianne Hough. She's stinking adorable, and I really want to try out her DVD workout. 
And something tells me that even though Zak detests DWTS, he wouldn't mind following along with Julianne and trying out this routine. Bonus. 

2. Jillian Michaels: 6 Week Six-Pack
Who doesn't love Jillian Michaels? I would love for her to mold me a six-pack in 6 weeks. Hopefully her plan doesn't include taking her B.S. weight loss supplements. 

3. Dance Fitness Workouts: Urban Street and African Beat with MaDonna Grimes
Admittedly, I have not yet heard any buzz about this DVD. I picked it off of Amazon's new release list because it looks awesome. Having taken African dance classes in the past, this caught my eye. The description promises that the program offers "Dance moves you can take to the club," so that sounds good to me! Plus, it looks like on the cover, MaDona's sport bra says 'JIINGA.' That can only be good.
Note: this DVD won't be released until January 25, 2011. 

4. Billy Blanks: This Is Tae Bo
Okay, ok. I know what you're thinking, and you're right. This did make my list mainly for its narcissistic title. However, I've heard in general that 'Tae Bo' is fun. You can pick this up used on Amazon for $7. So, there you go.

5. The Situation Workout

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious about just how gimmicky and awful this might be. You'd be lying if you aren't even a little curious, too. 
Maybe I'll have a party, and invite you all to come and try out 'The Sitch's' ab routine with me? We'll have some beers, some chips and dip, then try this workout. Then, we'll have ourselves a real situation.

Questions: What workout DVDs are you raring to try? Any current favorites?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Tis the season: an awesome gift for that preggo in your life

Happy Black Wednesday, everyone! Are you all stoked for Turkey Day tomorrow?

I am really excited for two days off from work, and to spend time with family. Oh yeah, and for all of the delicious food :-)

Today's post is Holiday-themed! I've gotten a head start on gift shopping, namely for Zak's sister Jem. She and husband Kevin are expecting their first child in April, and I've had a lot of fun researching some fun parent gifts for them. We want to get something silly, and something nice / useful.

Well, I've found the funny gifts:
This is from MuthaCrafter on Etsy. There are also framed prints, a t-shirt, and tote bags available with this design.

There's something cheeky for Dad-to-be, too:
Cute, no? 

Hope that you're having a great day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday night, is bourbon night.

At the end of a rough week, I am not always a social butterfly. I love my friends and enjoy my coworkers, but sometimes it's best if I spend a little time home alone, instead of kicking off the weekend at a concert.

Especially when on Friday afternoon, a celebrated blogger posts a recipe that sounds so delicious it makes one speed from the office, straight to the grocery store. To buy heavy whipping cream, of course.

For what? Caramel sauce. *Insert Homer Simpson drooling sound*

After seeing Jenna's recipe, I just had to try and make this myself. I very much enjoyed the process!

It's chemistry, really, but I found it fascinating that a pile of sugar and a couple tablespoons of water went from this:

To this, almost instantly boiling.

To this (!)

After adding the whipping cream:
And then, I added my own personal touch to the recipe. 

What goes better with caramel sauce than bourbon? :-) Just a little bit (1/4 cup).

Technically, Jack Daniel's is whiskey (not Bourbon). I know. I think that bourbon sounds fancier, so I'm sticking with it. So there. This caramel sauce would taste excellent with real bourbon, such as Basil Hayden's or Maker's Mark.

Once I was finished making the sauce, I decided I would need something to eat it on. A caramel sauce vehicle, if you will. And what better to go with Bourbon caramel sauce, than ice cream?

Frozen banana soft serve ice cream, that is. If you haven't heard about this recipe, you must have been living in a cave for the past year and a half.

Anyhow, you start with your frozen bananas, chop into pieces and discard the skins.

Then take 'em for a spin in your food processor.

I usually add a little almond milk to smooth things out, but was out of that so used the next best thing... more whipping cream ;-)

Keep spinning in your food processor, stopping every now and then to smooth out clumps that form. After a couple minutes, the mixture will have the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Mmmm.

I spooned some into a ramekin,

Topped with some bourbon caramel sauce, 

Dropped the spoon in the saucepan... drat. Will just have to lick the spoon later.


And more sauce.

Put it all together, and what do you get? Exactly what I needed tonight, and 100% homemade and wonderful.

Oh, and I 'dropped the spoon' again. Darn :-) Guess I'll have to fish that one out, too! What to do with another caramel-covered spoon? Hmmm....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A girl can dream: Kate Middleton's ring

Disclaimer: I'm not much into celebrities, or material things, so this post is a rarity for me. BUT it's a fun one, so just play along :-)

As you may have heard, Prince William of England is now engaged to marry long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton. 

Side note: Good for them for waiting several (nine?) years, that's what modern couples should do (in my opinion).
He proposed to her with his mother's - Princess Diana's - gorgeous sapphire and diamond ring, which he reportedly carried around for three weeks before popping the question. Aww.
(image source)

I am a fan of Diamond Nexus Labs and their lab-created, but authentic gemstones. You get the same beautiful end result, but without the blood and politics (and cost!) of mined stones. 

Check out DNL's Lady of Kensington replica of Princess Diana's, and now Kate Middleton's ring:

Pretty pretty, wouldn't you say? I may have to buy myself one for my upcoming 29th birthday...

I'm not engaged, but I did receive this sweet Simply Vera by Vera Wang created white sapphire ring from Zak last year for Christmas. 
Love it!

Questions for you: What celebrity's engagement ring are you lusting after? If you're engaged or married, what does your engagement ring look like? :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday, Monday

So today was one of those days.

You know, a work projects stacked up as far as you can see, rushing all day long, forgetting to eat lunch until 4:28PM type of day. Thank goodness for white chocolate macadamia nut clif bars. I ate one for 'lunch' and it seriously cheered me up.

Anyhow! Enough moping around. Once home for the evening, I cut and sorted some of these:

Fact: The best coupons are issued around Thanksgiving. I especially love the coupons for spices, nuts and other items for baking. Time to stock up!

For dinner, I was craving some warm comfort food, so I made some brown rice and added pinto beans, mixed veggies and some light cheese. Mexi-meal in a bowl?

Afterwards.... this:

While I was away in San Francisco on Foodbuzz weekend, Zak received a Pom-A-Gram. I sent him one via Pom Wonderful's free offer a few weeks ago, and was excited to see that it had arrived (he sent me a photo message, as pictured above). He said that he would have eaten it immediately, but had no idea how to peel or harvest it. Tonight, I decided to tackle the arduous task.

Piece of cake! The whole fruit yielded about two cups of arils (seeds). Can't wait to savor these with some yogurt, or maybe over oatmeal.

The aftermath was scary-looking. Very glad that I used a paper towel and didn't stain my butcher block countertop!

As I write this post, I am sipping on this:
A sample from my swag bag, from way back in August at the Healthy Living Summit. Lemon-y, ginger-y and delicious.

Next, I am going to relax and read some of this:

Have a great night!