Friday, February 25, 2011

Show Us Your Life: What Do You Make

Over at Kelly's Korner, we are sharing what we make. I have tried a lot of hobbies in my day: scrapbooking, cross stitch, jewelry making, card making, but sewing has probably been the only hobby that I have kept with over the last decade.

I first started out making curtains and pillows for my home. These are my dining room curtains, and it was my first sewing project. I just love sage green and toile, so what a great combination for me. I have had these curtains for like 10 years, and I don't know if I'll ever get rid of them.

I then started making table centerpieces for my dining room table. I actually got this pattern from my Grandmother. She told me it was the only pattern for this she had, and to be very careful when I copied it. It was fun to have something passed down from my Grandma.

I am now into making bags, and totally love Amy Butler designs and fabrics.

I have also gotten into making scarfs, and am hoping someday to make a dress. My mom keeps trying to convience me to start with a skirt, she said it was much easier.

My goal this year is to also try and make a quilt, but I am still looking for the perfect pattern to start. I also need a couple of weekends with some downtime to actually get started on it.

Thanks for stopping by and seeing what I make. For more projects, check out my Sewing/Craft Projects tab above.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bowtie Lasagna

Just wanted to share another fun recipe from The Pioneer Woman's website. If you read earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to meet Ree last weekend, so I am dedicating a couple of posts to her.

I found this Bowtie Lasagna through someone's Menu Monday post about a month ago, and I immediatly printed this recipe. I then found it on The Pioneer Woman's website and she had it categorized as a 16-min meal, which made me want to try it even more. It's actually from the Tastey Kitchen site, but PW featured it on her main site. It is going to become one of my go-to recipes since it was 1) very tastey, 2) so simple and easy, 3) it makes a ton, and 4) did I mention it was quick!

-- 1 pound Ground Chuck (I used Ground Turkey)
-- 5 cups Bow Tie Noodles
-- 3 cups Spaghetti Sauce (or Pizza Sauce, Whatever You Prefer)
-- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
-- 1 teaspoon Salt
-- ½ teaspoons Garlic Powder
-- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (or More, Make It To Your Taste)
-- ½ cups Mozzarella Cheese
-- ½ cups Sour Cream

I am a “make it and taste it as I go” cook. I made this in a hurry tonight, and was amazed at the results; my girls could NOT get enough of it. (I love that kind of response, don’t get it as often as I wish.)

Fry ground chuck in small pan. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.

After noodles are cooked, drain and drizzle with olive oil. Mix in your spaghetti sauce. (I can’t guarantee your results on this, because I’m spoiled; I am a “home canner” and have the BEST sauce on my shelf, a home canned marinara sauce that I use for lots of stuff—pizza, spaghetti, and of course, THIS.)

Add your fried hamburger, seasonings, cheese, and sour cream. Fold together and allow it all to combine and melt together, over low heat, for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve to your family and be prepared to have it disappear before your very eyes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

A week ago Sunday I decided to pick up The Pioneer Woman's new book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. I had been debating on just getting this book from the library, since I had heard mixed reviews, but when I heard that I had the chance to meet her, I just had to get the book so I could get her to sign it.

I started reading it on Sunday, and I think I probably read about half of it that afternoon within a couple of hours. It was so good, and very much like her writing style on  her blog, which I love. It was like sitting down with one of your good girlfriends with a cup of coffee and gossiping about your love life. I totally couldn't put it down, and even debating skipping work one day to finish it. Really I would never do that, but for about a half a min, I did debate it. Of course I had to finish the book within the week before the book signing that following Saturday. I totally wanted to tell her how much I loved her book, but got nervous, and managed to say "Hi" and "thank you!"

Some of the critics made comments about her writing style, but come on, we never expected it to be a literary masterpiece. It's a memior, and it totally follows her writing style on her blog, which makes it even more personable.

The first part of the book I guess is on her blog. So are many of her recipes in her cookbook, but I still wanted to buy it. I would much rather carry around a book than my laptop, so it didn't bother me that much of the content was the same. I actually never read her story on her blog, so it was all  new to me.

If you are looking for a cute love story that is an easy read, I highly recommend picking this up. It just made me all warm and happy to hear her story. It also totally made me want to fall in love with a cowboy. I think I fell in love with Marlboro Man before the book was over. Totally ready it if you get a chance!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls

In honor of meeting The Pioneer Woman this last weekend, I just had to try making her famous cinnamon rolls. I was a little nervous about making these, everytime I use yeast I always wonder if it will actually rise, and it suprises me when it does!

It wasn't too hard of a recipe, but it did take about 2 hours to make. So if you are expecting to have cinnamon rolls early in the morning, you better grab the ones in the can! Of course, they won't be as good as these are, and they were totally worth the 2 hours it took to make them. I made these on Sunday, and just added some bacon on the side and called it brunch!

Ree's recipe makes like 4 dozen rolls. I totally did not need that many cinnamon rolls, even in my freezer, so I halved the recipe. I also used skim milk instead of whole milk because that is what I have. They still tasted very good, and I can only imagine how they would taste with the whole milk. Next time I might try splenda just to help the calorie count on these bad boys, but who knows if they will be as tastey.

Below is the recipe from her site, but I would highly recommend going to her site directly as she has step by step pictures, which I found very helpful. I totally recommend you try these! The Maple Frosting is to die for!!

Please note this recipe makes 4 dozen.


-- 1 quart Whole Milk
-- 1 cup Vegetable Oil
-- 1 cup Sugar
-- 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
-- 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
-- 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
-- 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
-- 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
-- Plenty Of Melted Butter
-- 2 cups Sugar
-- Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon

-- 1 bag Powdered Sugar
-- 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
-- ½ cups Milk
-- ¼ cups Melted Butter
-- ¼ cups Brewed Coffee
-- ⅛ teaspoons Salt

Preparation Instructions:

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees (see note below) until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Book Review: Ape House (Chapters 26 - Epilogue)

We have finally finished Ape House over at Book Beginnings and Bookends. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who have not read it (although some of my answers below might, so spoiler alert!!), so I’ll just keep to answering the questions this time.

1. How would you describe the relationship between John and Isabel?

Although I was expecting it to get more personal, it seemed very professional to me. I think Isabel really respects John as a journalist, and trusted that he would write her story the respectable way, not like Cat and the some of the other reporters. I think it says a lot when she trusts him even though he is currently working for a tabloid newspaper.

2. What was your reaction to finding out Peter's role in the explosion and capture of the apes?

I honestly had no idea he would be involved with the explosion. I had a feeling he was involved with the sale of the Apes when he was discussing what happened to the Apes back with Isabel in the hospital. He was acting funny that day, so I assumed he was involved with the sale somehow. Who knew he would go so far as potentially harming them for money. How guilty he must have felt seeing his fiancé just traumatized and hurt. I can’t believe he really thought she would go back to him. I am glad she got rid of him so quickly.

3. Both John and Amanda ended up achieving their professional goals. Amanda ended up getting pregnant and John is excited about having a baby. Do you think this is the end to their problems? Can John and Amanda be happy?

I am not sure if it will solve all of their problems. I think there are still some issues deep down that they are going to need to resolve before being completely happy. There seems to be some trust issues on both parts and Amanda is still going to have self esteem issues (especially after having a baby). I hope for both of them, and the new baby, that they are able to resolve things.

4. What did you find to be the most intriguing about the bonobos?

I almost cried when the one bonobo was trying to communicate with Isabel when the other bonobo was in labor. And then when they reunited with her at the end, it was all so sweet. I think the communication aspect was most intriguing to me.

5. Which character did you enjoy reading about the most?

I enjoyed following John the most. Hearing about his successes and struggles in the journalism industry seemed to be the most interesting for me, especially when he was at that hotel dealing with all the crazy guests.

6. Was the ending what you expected? Did things resolve the way you thought they would?

Yes, the ending was what I expected for the most part. I kind of expected more to happen between John and Isabel, but I am glad that it didn’t happen, and he ended up still with Amanda. I thought the ending was cut a little short. When Amanda was accusing John of cheating, it just seemed like that issue was a really big one, and it was resolved rather quickly. I mean she went days thinking he was cheating, and with a quick explanation she had forgiven him and they were making out??? I mean good for them for resolving conflict that quickly, but didn’t seem real to me.

7. And finally, any overall thoughts or feelings that these questions haven't addressed? How would you rate this book for others? Any part that you loved? Anything you hated? SHARE!

I didn’t have high expectations for this book. I think some of the reviews led me to believe it wasn’t going to be as good. Plus, after reading Water for Elephants, I didn’t think she would be able to top that book. Now I don’t think she necessarily topped that book, but this was far better than I expected. When I read the description, I really didn’t get what the main story was about. I felt like they kept going on about her research, and I didn’t expect the whole reality tv to fit in anywhere. It was a very good read though, and I would totally recommend it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Meeting The Pioneer Woman

I had the opportunity to attend the Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) book signing on Sat at my local Barnes and Noble. I'll be honest I was shocked she was coming to Columbus, Ohio, and even more shocked when I found out about it early last week...shocked that I found out about it before it Usually I find out after the fact.

Ree was amazing as usual, and was signing both her cookbook and her memoir, and was graciously taking pictures. I was lucky enough to get at the store at 9 am that morning to get an early ticket (the signing was at 2 pm), so I was in the 2nd group of people, so my wait was only about 45 mins or so.

I'll be honest I was so nervous to go up and talk to her. I wanted to tell her how much I love her cookbook, her blog, her memoir (which I had just finshed the night before), her dog Charlie (love bassets!!), but I think all I manged was "hi" and "thank you". Of course I think there had to have been at least 400 people there that day, so they were keeping us moving, but allowing us to have however many books we wanted signed, and to take as many pictures as possible.

I am so glad that I got to go and meet her! I am going to do a couple of posts this week in honor of her, so if you are a fan (and who wouldn't be), please stop back over the next few days.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Show Us Your Life: My Alma Mater

This week over at Kelly's Korner, we are sharing our alma maters. I actually attended 2 colleges and have 3 degrees.

The first college I attended was a 2 year technical school in my hometown called Muskingum Area Technical College (MATC), although a few years ago the college changed the name to Zane State. Because I was in the top 20% of my class, I got a scholarship and got my Associate's Degree in Marketing Management for free. I figured it was a good opportunity to get my college paid for, and I wasn't crazy about moving away from my family, so it was a win-win situation for me at the time.

This is the best pic I could find of the campus. MATC
shared campus with the Ohio University Zanesville branch

After I graduated with my Associate's Degree, I knew the next step was to get my bachelor's degree. At the time I was dating this guy (who I ended up marrying, and then divorcing), who lived in the big city -- Columbus, Ohio. We had been dating about a year, and I was ready to move closer since we had been doing the long-distance thing for about a year. I came across Franklin University and actually found out that this girl who's mother knew my dad was going there, and she was looking for a roommate. She had actually just gotten a job at Franklin as well, and they were paying for her college. I totally applied for a job, and ended up getting a job and accepted to be a student within a few weeks of each other.

This is a picture of the courtyard and the clocktower at
Franklin University, which was the main icon for the University.

I worked at Franklin University for 6 years in the Marketing Department and started out as the Assistant to the department, then after graduation became a Marketing Coordinator, and then a Print Buyer. Also during this time I got my Bachelor's degree in Marketing and my MBA.

Franklin University is a non-traditional college. The students there are typically adult students who work during the day, and then either take evening classes or online classes. I worked full time, and then went to school about 2 nights a week. I loved that they had accelerated classes (which we half a term) so I was able to take 4 classes a term, but only had to go to class 2 nights a week (all classes were 4 hour classes, 1 night a week).

Me at graduation for my MBA

I am a little bummed I didn't get the traditional college experience of living in dorms and waking up at the crack of dawn for a lecture class, but it was right for me at the time, and I saved a ton of money because bascially I got my undergrad paid for by working there, and then half of my graduate degree paid for. In the long run it was probably for the best, and Franklin is a pretty credible school, especially in Ohio.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meet & Greet with Amy Butler

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a Meet & Greet with one of  my favorite bag/pattern/fabric designers Amy Bulter at one of my favorite fabric stores Sew to Speak. A good friend of mine introduced me to Amy's patterns and fabrics about a year ago, and I just fell in love with her cute bag designs and her beautiful fabrics.

I'll be honest, I have never been to a Meet & Greet or a book signing before, so I really had no idea what to expect. The event started at 6 pm, and I arrived shortly after 6. There was a pretty decent amount of people there, and it was so fun to stand around and talk to everyone. Of course everyone was a huge fan of Amy's and some had even brought projects that they had worked on using her patterns and fabrics. It was kind of like a fun little community of people and we all kind of bonded while waiting in line to meet Amy.

Here I am with Amy. What I thought was so unique about this event was that Amy took about 5 mins and sat down and talked to each and every person that was there. I just assumed I would hand her my book, she would sign it, and we would be on our way. At first I had no idea what to say to her, and I was a little nervous as I really looked up to her in the sewing world. But we had a good chat about where I was from, how I got started sewing and what projects I had worked on. If you notice behind us and on the table are some of her projects using her patterns and fabrics. I want to make them all of course!

I have two of her books -- In Stitches and Style Stitches, and she signed both of them for me. She was also giving away a free pattern to everyone and I got an extra one and had it signed for my good friend who I was planning on going to this event with, but she had to work late at the last minute.

If you are into sewing I would check out her books, patterns and fabrics. I have made a few or her projects, and they look complicated, but her instructions are so thought out and if you take the time and really follow them, they are almost fool-proof!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Favorite Food Network Stars

I am obsessed with the Food Network. I really got into this channel about 2 years ago. I thought if I watched a bunch of cooking shows, I could learn how to cook, kind of like learning through osmosis. Well, it actually kind of worked. I am getting better, and have been trying lots of fun things.

My boyfriend thinks my obsession with the Food Network is crazy. He says I only need 3 chanels on my cable box (Food Network and Bravo being 2 of them). When I found out about the Cooking Channel he was like "Oh great, another reason for you to never leave the house!"

Well I do love my cooking shows, and I have a few Food Network stars that I watch every week.

Ok, so not only is she beautiful, and has an adorable little girl name Jade, and a cute husband, this girl can cook! She loves pasta and chocolate, my 2 favorites!! Sometimes her things look complicated, but once you really break down her recipes, they are pretty easy.

This is my all time favorite recipe of her's Baked Penne with Roasted Vegtables. I also love this recipe for Pomegranate and Mint Sorbet.

It took me a little while to warm up to The Neeleys, but now I totally love them! I so wish I had a cute husband to cook with me in the kitchen (maybe I was jealous!). I love BBQ, and that is totally their thing, so that is probably why I like them the best. I am trying to convince my boyfriend to go to Nashville with me so we can stop by their restaurant.

I tried making their BBQ sauce a few months ago (sorry never posted about that, but I should), and used it on chicken and pizza. It was awesome and totally worth the time it took to make it (took a few hours on the stove). I also recently made this recipe for Butterscotch Apple Crisp and oh my it was wonderful (I highly suggest you try it!).

Some people love her, some people hate her, but I love Sandra Lee. Probably mostly because her recipes really taught me how to cook. They are pretty easy, especially since they use a lot of ready made ingredients. She uses a lot of dry mixes also, so you don't have to buy a bunch of spices. I also love her color coordinating sets and tablescapes, and of course Cocktail Time! Ok, Cocktail Time is my favorite, but who doesn't love a good cocktail?!?

I have tried too many recipes to mention, but one of my favorite cocktails is her Blueberry Sangria Lemonade. I make this for all my girly parties and it's a huge hit! (Oh and it's really easy to make also!).

And we can't forget Paula. She is my favorite! I love her so much that when we were in Savannah last year, we totally had to stop by her restaurant The Lady and Sons. I keep joking that I would love for her to be my mother-in-law, and she could totally teach me some southern cooking tips!

These are just a few of my favorite Food Network Stars. Who are your favorites?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Sweets

Happy Valentine's Day everyone. Just wanted to share some fun Valentine's Day sweets from the weekend.

I love making cookies, and I purchased this fun heart shaped cookie pan last year and never used it, so I thought I would make a giant cookie for my sweetie. I just used my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe and mixed in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup valentine's day M&M's (pink, white and red colors).

I then used Strawberry frosting (from a can) and more M&M's to decorate it. It was very tastey! I had enough cookie dough to make a dozen more cookies, so I gave those to my sweetie as well, and then we shared the big cookie (hey, it was good and I wanted some of that cookie also!!)

I bought like 3 bags of valentine's day M&M's because I loved all of the pink colors! The M&M's dark also had purple M&M's in the bag, which were my favorite (for the purple color and the fact they were dark chocolate). This is my fun M&M dispenser that my Grandfather made for me about 10 years ago. It is perfect for M&M's and jelly beans. You just pull the little lever out and it dispenses about 8 or 9 M&M's which is perfect for snacking.

And then of course my sweetie brought me roses for Valentine's Day. This was the first year he got me roses. Last year he got me tulips, and then a few weeks ago he got me a mixed boquet since I was sick. He is not a big flower guy (because they die), so this was pretty big for him!

And don't you just love my spring table runner! I got this from Pier 1 about 2 years ago, and I just had to start bringing out my spring items. It goes well with my new Valentine's Day wreath which I posted about last week.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and an even sweeter Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review: Ape House (Chapters 13 - 25)

This week at Book Beginnings and Bookends, we are answering questions from chapters 13 – 25 of Ape House.

This book is getting really good. I had heard mixed reviews about this book, and too many people were comparing it to Gruen’s first book Water for Elephants, so I didn’t have huge expectations for this book, but I have been pleasantly surprised that it is so good!

So during these chapters, we find out the Apes were actually purchased by this guy who is big in the porn industry. He basically is using them for a reality show called “Ape House” which is broadcast over the Internet and via satellite tv. The apes are recorded 24 hours a day, and you see them doing whatever they want to do. They can order food and other items via a computer, and they pretty much have the freedom to do whatever they want to do, they are just confined to this house like structure.

At first you think they have it pretty good, they can get whatever food they want, and they have a pretty big space to hang out in, and at least they are not in cages. But you quickly see that they are not getting the care they need. They aren’t eating nutritious foods because the apes are just ordering whatever they want (and like kids, they want fast food and candy). Their house is also getting really dirty and is not being cleaned, so there are some sanitary concerns.

Isabel has obviously figured out where they are now, and she is doing whatever she can to try and get them out of there. And John, after quitting his job and moving to LA to be with his wife, has landed a job at a tabloid magazine, and is now being sent off to cover the ape story from a reality perspective. Isabel and John haven’t met up yet, but you can see that they are going to end up running into each other, and I am sure they will work together to try and free the apes.

1. Would you watch or be tempted to watch a show like Ape House?

I might watch it at first to see what the buzz is all about, but I am not going to pay a subscription to watch something like this. At first I thought the apes had it pretty good, but I am now seeing that these tv executives do not have their best interest at heart and that these apes, although they think they have it good, aren’t really getting taken care of like they should. It reminds me of putting a bunch of kids in a house without parents and letting them go wild.

2. Do you think John did the right thing by quitting his job and moving to L.A.?

Yes, I think he did the right thing by being with his wife and letting her pursue her dreams for once. He wasn’t getting the respect at his job back in Philly, so it was probably the best thing. I think he did it more out of jealousy though, so maybe the intentions weren’t the best, but I am glad they are together (for a while at least).

3. We haven't seen a whole lot of Isabel in this section, but what do you think of Peter now that we know more about him?

I am thinking Peter had more to do with the apes being sold than we thought (and maybe the explosion also). There is definitely something fishy going on with that guy, but I still can’t figure it all out. I am so glad Isabel is rid of him.

4. Can John turn the ape story for the tabloid into something he is proud of? Is he getting a little bit of redemption by being assigned to his dream story again even if it is for a tabloid?

I am sure he will do more with the story than just write a typical tabloid article. I so want him to get a prize winning story and not that Cat chick. I can’t stand her. I hope he does something great just to get back at her.

5. Have your thoughts on John and Amanda's marriage changed since last week? Where do you see their marriage headed?

Right now I think their marriage has issues, but I think they are holding it more together than I expected. I really hope John helps Amanda get her 2nd book published. I think that would really help their marriage if she can get her career back on track, which will really help her self esteem. I think leaving her in LA with all these people criticizing her is really not going to help matters.

6. What do you think will end up happening to the apes?

I really hope that John and Isabel will help get them out of the Ape House and get them into the care of someone who will have their best interest at heart. I am so surprised that these extreme activists are not trying to bomb the Ape House. I mean they now know where the apes are also. Maybe the porn executive was behind the bombing also, who knows.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Show Us Your Life -- Hair and Beauty Tips

This week over at Kelly's Korner, we are sharing our hair and beauty tips. I am not a huge beauty guru, but I do have a few tips I can share.

1. Wash your hair every other day:
This is not for everyone, especially if you have an oily scalp, but if you have normal to dry hair, it's best to try and wash it every other day, especially in the winter. It takes a little bit of time for your scalp/hair to get used to washing it every other day, so I started by not washing it one day on the weekend. Then I would try not washing it on a weekend day, and then another day during the week. Now I only wash my hair every other day, and its just normal routine. A couple of times when it is really dry, I can go 2 days, but usually that is on the weekend if I am not going anywhere important.

It's funny because I typically plan my hair washing on the days after I go to the gym. It's funny how I can plan my week around my hair washing schedule. The best thing about this is 1) it keeps your hair from drying out, 2) it helps your color last longer because you are not washing it out and 3) you can save money on shampoo and conditioner, which helps if you buy really expensive shampoo and conditioner.

2. Exfoliate and moisturize everytime you shower:
Do you ever get those little bumps on your arms and/or legs? I used to, and then I started using those loofahs with shower gel everytime I showered, and then immediatly moisturized after getting out of the shower. I love Bath & Body Works lotions, but they are not moisturizing enough, so I mix them with the generic brand version of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion and slather that on after every shower. I have been doing this no lie for about 10 years, and I haven't had those bumps since. I totally swear by it!

3. I would love to say drink lots of water and get lots of sleep, but I totally can't follow my own advice on this one, but it really is the best for you. Oh, and eat lots of fruits and veggies!! Ha!

Some of the products I love are:

I have been using this stuff for a couple of years now, and I totally swear by it. If I do not use this, my t-zone area is like an oil slick. But even on the hotest days, this will keep my face pretty matte. It also helps to keep my breakouts to a minimum because it controls the oil (which is the biggest cause, besides hormones for my breakouts).
Although I do have a pretty oily t-zone, the rest of my face is really dry, especially in the winter. I slather this all over my face day and night (even my t-zone) in the winter, and I typically use the Dramatically Different Moisturing Gel (by Clinique) in the summer months when the humidity gets out of control.

I just started using this about a month ago, and so far I like it. I have a huge problem with my ends getting frizzy and they always seem to have split ends. The last time I got my hair cut/colored, I mentioned this to my stylist, and she suggested I try this stuff. It's about $20, which is a bit much considering the bottle isn't that big, but you only use a pea size amount (if that), so it is going to last me a while. I put this on my ends only after I dry my hair, and then I go over my ends again with a blow dryer and round brush, because the product kind of wets my hair a little. So far I am liking it, but we will see how my ends get in another month or two.

I am seriously obsessed with OPI nail polish. Its the only polish I use. It seems to last longer than many other polishes (especially drug store brands), and I just love the funky colors and the names. I totally need a new nail polish for spring, so if you have any suggestions let me know.

Any amazing products you would like to share? I am always looking for beauty/hair advice. Especially for my nails which always seem to be breaking/splitting.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My 5 Must Haves

Some things that you will rarely find me without:

1. A good book (or magazine)
I love to read, and I almost always have a book in my purse, or a magazine in my work backpack or gym bag. You never know when you might have some downtime (at an appointment, or when your computer crashes at work), when you can just take 15 mins or so to get caught up on some reading. I am currently getting ready to read How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal. Doesn't that sound like a great chick book?!?

2. My blackberry
My obsession with my blackberry has gotten worse since I had my work email set up on my phone. A couple of times my boyfriend has been like "hello...can you focus on what we are doing!" and I am like "let me just check one more emai!" I also love though how I can quickly get online and check the weather, find an address, look up movie times, check blogs or twitter, and not have to boot up my laptop. I probably will never be able to go without a smartphone anymore, which is kind of sad.

3. North Face Fleece
I am always cold, so I love to have a fleece or something to keep on hand. I love my North Face fleece because it is really soft and warm. I also have a slightly lighter one I wear in the summer.

4. My clipboard
At work I have this clipboard which has my To Do List, calendar, financial report and a copy of our master sales piece clipped to it. I take this with me everywhere I go, and it's like my brain. Whenever I am missing my clipboard, or one of the pieces I keep with it, I start to panic. It's a running joke at work, especially when people borrow one of my items. People are always like, make sure to return it to Jen, or she will freak out!

5. Pen/Agenda
I seem to always carry around a pen at work. I am one of those people who likes to click my pen, or I play with the cap. I think it's either a nervous habit, or something. I am sure that I annoy people, but for some reason I can't help it. This is my current favorite pen, which matches my agenda also, which I also can't live without!!

I am sure there are more things, but these are my top 5 (ok, maybe 6, ha!). What things can't you live without?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cider-Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter Pecan Rice

I have seen this recipe on many Menu Monday posts, and I just had to try it out. First of all, the cider glaze was AMAZING! Loved it! I will have to try this again, it was so good.

I was a little nervous about pan frying chicken (I get nervous about it not getting cooked all the way), but I just pounded them down pretty thin, and it worked out great. I wasn't crazy about the Brown Butter Pecan Rice, it was just ok for me. Next time I just might make the brown rice with some chicken stock.

I ended up making 2 chicken breast cutlets, and 1 packet of Uncle Ben's boil-in-bag brown rice, and it was enough for 2 meals.

Cider-Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter Pecan Rice (from Cooking Light)

-- 1 (3.5-ounce) bag boil-in-bag brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
-- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
-- 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 4 cutlets)
-- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
-- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-- 1/2 cup refrigerated apple cider
-- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
-- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook rice according to package directions in a small saucepan, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. While rice cooks, melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan. Add cider and mustard to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until syrupy. Add chicken to pan, turning to coat. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Melt remaining 5 teaspoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat; cook for 2 minutes or until browned and fragrant. Lower heat to medium; add pecans, and cook for 1 minute or until toasted, stirring frequently. Add rice and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; toss well to coat. Serve rice with chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day Wreath

Over the weekend my Mom made a Valentine's Day wreath. She sent me a text message with a picture of her wreath, and when I saw it, I had to immediatly make one.

This was so easy, and not very expensive. I got all of the supplies at Walmart, for a little more than $10.

Grapevine wreath -- $3.50
Peony bunch -- $5
Sock-monkey -- $3

I just cut the flowers off the bunch, with about 4" of stem, and stuck them in the grapevine wreath. I then wired on the sock-monkey. I know the sock-monkey is kind of silly, but I love sock-monkeys, so I just had to add it in there. My Mom put this in her's and we were thinking we might just remove the sock-monkey after the holiday, and we can then use the wreath for spring. We will just add a bow or more flowers.

This took me no more than 10 mins to make, and the best thing is, I can remove all the items, and update the grapevine wreath for the next holiday.

My Mom has a wreath for almost every holiday, and I think I might follow in her footsteps. I already have ideas for St Patrick's Day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Club Review: Ape House (Chapters 1 - 12)

I was so excited for the book club Book Beginnings and Bookends to start back up in February. The book we are reading this month is Ape House by Sara Gruen. I had just finished her previous book Water for Elephants, which was amazing, see my review here, so I was excited to start her new book. So far it has been great, and I can't put it down, but I am trying to stick to the reading schedule so it is easier to post the questions and not spoil anything for the other readers.

So to give you a little background on the book, the book starts out with this reporter, John, for the Philadelphia Inquirer visiting The Great Ape Language Lab to see what they are currently doing with these bonobos (a great ape). It is amazing because these bonobos can speak in american sign language and have a two-way conversation, and were so much like humans. They liked M&Ms, and toys and to play games. They also built relationships with not only themselves, but their human friends as well.

After John returns home, an explosion goes off at the lab, and one of the lead scientists, Isabel, gets hurt, and the whole lab is just destroyed. The bonobos do escape unharmed, but they are scared and hiding in the trees outside the lab, and won't get down. We soon find that this was done by extreme animal rights activists and that they are threatening not only those working in the lab, but the president and others at the University of Kansas where this lab is located.

Right after the explosion takes place, John is flown back to the lab to research what had happened and get the story for the paper. One of his co-workers, who is very competitive and seems like a b$*ch, goes out there also, and starts getting sneaky, and getting more info than John, so John is quickly sent back home. I am curious to see how he gets back out there to break the case and find out really what happened, but I guess we will have to see what happens.


1. What was your initial reaction to the idea of a language lab with bonobos who are capable of having conversations with humans?

I thought this was very interesting and was amazed at what the bonobos could do. I thought it was so cool to hear about them having conversations and building relationships with humans. I was even more excited to hear this part was based on a true story and that the author had actually witnessed it, not just a made up part of the story.

2. Isabel said early in the book that the apes know they’re apes and know that humans are humans, but they don’t see any superiority with either…What do you think the major difference is between the two?

Obviously I think the apes are a little more naïve than humans are. They don’t understand the stresses and the situations of the world that humans go through. They probably do not see superiority because they would not know any better.

3. What are your thoughts on John and his feelings towards Isabel? How do you think their relationship will play out?

I am curious to see what happens with the two of them. I think they both are in slightly rocky relationships, so depending on how close they get to each other throughout the book, this could possibly cause their current relationships to break up, or at the very least struggle.

4. How do you think Isabel will respond to the apes being taken?

Well she certainly flipped out when she found out, which was understandable. I have a feeling she is going to try and find the apes, and figure out how to get them out of wherever they are.

5. Do you think Celia is part of the team that ambushed the learning center?

I sure hope not, but at this point who knows. I feel like Isabel really trusts her, and I don’t want to see her get hurt anymore than she is, so I hope that Celia doesn’t do anything to hurt her.

6. What are your thoughts on John and his relationship with Amanda?

For some reason I really like John and Amanda together, but I am not sure why. So right now I don’t want them to break up, but I have a feeling they are going to have some struggles throughout the story. Amanda has issues with self esteem, and John seems to have trust issues. I just wish John would find a way to help Amanda with her issues. I think he needs to step it up and be more of a man. I was really disappointed when he didn’t go after her that night she broke the news about the job in LA. He just stood there and ate the food she prepared, and didn’t comfort her. I understand he was upset, but she was so proud and he totally burst her bubble about her good news. I was proud of him the way he helped her deal with her parents and how he just took off with her to Kansas while her parents stood there in the driveway completely confused.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Butterscotch Chippers

I found this recipe on Picky Palate and it is A-maz-ing! I love peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, or any kind of chips in them, but this recipe has you melt 1 cup of butterscotch chips and mix with the peanut butter, which give the cookies a really rich/sweet taste. Then adding more butterscotch chips make them even better! I highly recommend you make these, but becareful, you may eat the entire batch! My family went through the entire batch in 2 days!!

Peanut Butter Butterscotch Chippers

-- 1 stick softened butter
-- 1/2 Cup brown sugar
-- 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
-- 1 1/4 Cups smooth peanut butter
-- 1 Cup melted butterscotch chips
-- 1 egg
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla
-- 1 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
-- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-- 1 Cup butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Melt butterscotch chips over a double boiler until melted. Add melted butterscotch chips and peanut butter to beaten butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla.

2. Place flour, baking soda and salt in bowl; mix to combine. Add to wet ingredients until just combined then pour in butterscotch chips. Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough, roll in sugar then place onto baking sheet. Press tops with tines of a fork if desired. I did it both ways and both are great. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are cooked through. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

4 dozen cookies

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I found this recipe through Rachel's blog, and I think she found it through another blog, but when I went back to try and find it I couldn't. It was pretty good, and uses yogurt instead of cream, so it's not too bad for you.

I'll admit, the soup itself is kind of bland, but the toppings are what really make it good. I also discovered that mixing Kansas City Steak Seasoning with it really makes it pop! I discovered this one time when I made potato skins, and the recipe called for seasoned salt, and I only had steak seasoning on hand. I highly recommend trying it to help punch things up a bit. I also used  bacon and cheese, but you could also use salsa, tomatoes, sour cream, or really anything you desire.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

-- 1.5 tbs olive oil
-- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
-- 2 cloves garlic, minced
-- 2.5 lbs potatoes, diced
-- 3 cups chicken stock
-- 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Set a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once it's hot, add the oil, onion and garlic and cook for 5 mins, or until the onions are just starting to become translucent.

Add the diced potatoes and simmer for another couple of mins, then add the chicken stock. Let the stock come to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20-30 mins, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt.

The recipe then calls to transfer half of the soup to a blender, but I just used a potato masher to help break up some of the potatoes. I like my potato soup kind of chunky, so I didn't do this too much.

Serve immediatly with your choice toppings.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Office Space

I have been spending way too much time at work lately. Right now there isn't much that I can do about that, but I thought it would be fun to spruce up my office space a little with some fun things that would at least make it cozy and fun.

A couple of these things I already had, but over the last couple of weeks, I have made a few changes to make things a little more fun.

I apologize for the not so great cell phone photos. First I was trying not to disturb anyone since I did this at work, and we have horrible lighting at work. Without giving too much away about my work (we had to sign a privacy statement basically saying we won't say anything about our work or our clients in any social media forum), I work at an advertising agency, and our designers like it to be somewhat dark. I guess it helps with the color on the screen. It can be a little depressing at times, but all the more reason to bring in bright, colorful fun things to decorate my "pod" as we call them.

This fish light was left over after someone left our company, and I thought it was so cute, so I had to swipe it. I also love pictures, so I have some fun picture frames with a picture of me and my boyfriend on the beach (reminds me of good times when I am working so hard!), and a picture of my pup.

This is my ribbon board, which I made a while back (I posted about it here), and my bamboo plant. I am so proud of my bamboo plant and the fact that it has grown so big, and to be honest that I have kept it alive for a couple of years. I am not sure if you can tell, but on the lower left side there is a little white flower. The plant came with these fake flowers in it, and a few years ago, it was the hight of that flower. It has grown so much!

As I mentioned, I love pictures, and the walls of our pods are these weird plastically and fabric panels. I just took some left over foam board, and taped up some of my favorite pictures. The little sign at the top was left over from when another person left a few years ago. (I feel like there is this trend of me swiping stuff when people leave...ha!)

I just got this cute pen cup a few weeks ago at The Container Store.

This sign I ordered from Lydia and Pugs. I love her stuff, and when I saw these dog pictures, I just had to get one.

I also just ordered this from I loved those "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs, and we totally need that type of inspiration here at work. When I came across the "Eat a Cupcake" sign, I thought, now this one is just totally me!

My Grandma made me this cross stitch picture a while ago, and have had it at 2 jobs so far. I just love it, and it reminds me of her!

Hope you enjoyed looking at my workspace! If anyone happens to have any other fun workplace ideas, please let me know!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Like the Ice Age

This is how I feel everytime I walk outside.

While the rest of the country is getting the big blizzard, we are dealing with an ice storm here. Our city is like a popsicle!

It started last night and of course a few hours after it starts I end up falling and busting my bum on the ice. My boyfriend and I were leaving the Chiller (where my boyfriend plays hockey), and these kids tell us, it's icy out there. My boyfriend starts to say "are you kidding me" while I take a step and feet fly out and land on my bum. Fortunatly I am ok, just a few bruises, including my ego!

Then this morning I practially crawled to my garage. Ok well I didn't crawl, but halfway across the parking lot, I did stop and think about it. I of course had my hands full, so that didn't help, but slowly I made it to my car. I didn't have any problems getting to work, the roads seemed fine, just the parking lots and sidewalks were like a sheet of ice.

Then tonight it started to rain even more, and although most of the roads were fine, they hadn't even touched my complex! When I first pulled up to the entrance to my complex, I noticed there were about 10 cars sitting there waiting to pull in. At first I thought maybe there was an accident, but quickly found out it was because people kept getting stuck trying to drive up the slight icy incline of our road.

I was ok at first, but then I had to stop for someone else who was stuck, and then I got stuck, wheels just a spinning! Let me tell you, this freaked me out more than anything. I felt totally stranded, and called my boyfriend freaking out. He was like, "Jen, you need to find someone to help push you." Of course no one was willing to help, they were stuck also, and just wanted to get their cars going.

This girl behind me was like "honey, you just got to floor it." So I get back in the car, said a prayer to God, and started to floor it. Somehow it worked, and I got moving again. I just kept going and praying and finally made it to my garage. Let me tell you, I am not leaving the house until this ice has melted!! But I am very glad that I made it home safe and sound!

Hope everyone else is staying warm and safe!