Thursday, December 20, 2012

Road Map to Effectively Pack a Suitcase

Wondering how to maximize suitcase space? Need to cram a lot into a little without wrinkling everything in the process? It's easy with the smart tips on where everything should go:

1) Line the bottom with a plastic trash bag. After you've packed add another one on top. This helps fend off wrinkles and will keep it dry if it's off-loaded from the plane in the rain.

2) Stash footwear and heavy stuff along the wheel base. Fill shoes with socks or bulky bangle bracelets, then put them in individual bags or shower caps, with the soles facing the sides of the suitcase. Splitting up the pairs saves space. Rest other heavy items like a hair dryer or a toiletry kit next to or on top of shoes. Placing these things near the wheels stabilizes the bag's center of gravity so it won't topple over when upright.

3) Lay the foundation next by tightly packing rolled clothing.

4) Build the second layer by layering folded dresses, pants, and skirts on top of the rolled clothes. Alternate the sides that the waistbands are on so the stack is balanced.

5) Finish with the top level by layering crushable items such as a voluminous dress or molded bras. Stack bras flat so they spoon each other and stuff the cups with socks.

6) Wrap belts around the interior frame of the bag.

7) Stock essentials, loose toiletries and chunky costume jewelry in the lid compartments. Store delicate earrings in pill cases and string dainty bracelets and necklaces through drinking straws, taping the clasps to one end. Then secure the straws, in a plastic bag.

8) Tuck leftovers like swimsuits, hosiery, underwear, scarves - into corners and any remaining nooks.

9) Pack along a few large zippered plastic bags so you can store dirty laundry in. Press out the air and you tightly roll each bag like a vacuum pack. Lay the compressed bags flat in a side pocket.

10) Cradle fragile souvenirs in the bulkiest sweaters and arrange them in the center of the bag, where there is the least movement. For extra protection, store messy liquids - like that bottle of EVOO from Tuscany - in a reusable inflatable plastic bag designed for this job. (Try the VinniBag; $28,

If you aren't using a hard suitcase but rather a soft sided bag like a duffel or a weekender, place flat shoes along the bottom, with the soles pressed against either side. Add rolled clothes, packing them tightly to prevent shifting in transit which causes the most wrinkling. From there follow the accessories tip listed above with these exceptions: lay heels and boots flat on the top of the bag, then add the toiletry kit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shop Smarter: Avoid this Retail Trick

While some of us have our shopping completely done, others haven't even started so here's a quick tip to avoid spending more...

Retail stores have a clever way to get you to spend more: "the decoy effect." Behavioral research conducted by Dan Ariely, Ph.D of Duke University, has shown that when customers were given a choice between two products, one of which is priced lower and is lower quality (say an MP3 Player that holds fewer songs), they'll often choose the cheaper one.

BUT when a third (decoy) item is introduced at an even higher price, shoppers are more likely to opt for the mid-priced-one. Meaning - adding another product nudges shoppers up the price scale instead of making them stick with the bargain buy.

Bottom line: Think carefully when you see a display of products at varied prices, and hold steady at the price you can afford.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sweet Sunday: Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake

Great for breakfast, brunch, tea or dessert. A holiday staple.
~Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake~
3/4 cup(s) (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cup(s) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan     
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
1 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup(s) lowfat buttermilk
2 teaspoon(s) grated orange zest
2 cup(s) Spiced Cranberries or store-bought cranberry sauce
1 cup(s) roughly chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoon(s) milk


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter and lightly dust with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, then the buttermilk and orange zest. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

3. Spread half the batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop 1 cup cranberry sauce over the top, then gently spread, swirling it into the batter. Top with the remaining batter, then dollop with the remaining cranberry sauce.

4. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top and bake until the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.

5. While the cake cools, make the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle the icing over the warm cake, then let cool completely before serving.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Deal Alert for the Savvy Shoppers

Super Saver Sales this weekend!

Lululemon: Express FREE shipping. Ends 12/17. No promo code.

Anthropologie: $25 off every $100 you spend. Online & In-stores. Ends 12/16. Promo code: MERRYMERRY

Urban Outfitters: FREE shipping. No minium. Ends 12/18. No promo code.

Lacoste: Up to 40% off (Semi-Annual Sale) & FREE shipping. Online & In-stores. No promo code.

Splendid: Up to 40% off (Winter Sale) & FREE shipping. Online & In-stores. No promo code.

GAP: 30% off Online only. End 12/15. Promo code: GAPGIFT

Banana Republic: 30% off. Online only. Ends 12/16. Promo code: BR30LIST

J-Crew: 30% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/17. Promo code: WISHLIST

Old Navy: 30% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/15. Promo code: ONGIFT

American Eagle: 40% off. Online only. Ends 12/23. Promo code: 23815931

Justice: 40% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/16. Promo code: 740

Children's Place: 30% off & FREE shipping. Online & In-store. Ends 12/16. Promo code: Y3K3012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Retail Therapy: Coupon Round-Up

Want to stretch your dollar a little further this weekend? If you're headed to the stores to finish (or start) your Christmas shopping, be sure to print these coupons off before you go!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Party Pleasers: Little Cuties

I love the idea of Little Cuties. Translation: Fruit, custard, cream or meringue mini-pies baked in ½-pint, oven-safe mason jars. What a perfectly portioned treat. Just press the crust into the containers (available at Amazon, Walmart, even your hardware store). Choose a canned filling or whip one up yourself. Come dessert time, there’s no need to cut and serve. “People can grab a jar and dig right in,” says Shaina Olmanson, author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats That Shine. “They’re great for parties.” And your waistline - as long as you eat just one. Great as gifts too!

:: 2 Crowd Pleasing Little Cutie Ideas :: 

Mini Apple Pies: Who doesn't love apple pie!?!?


2 boxes refrigerated pie crusts
8 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
6 C sliced apples
1/2 C dried cranberries (optional)


1. Heat oven to 350° and set out 8 wide-mouth 8 oz jars. Cut out eight 6-inch circles and eight small circles (using jar lid as guide) from 2 boxes refrigerated pie crusts. Press into bottom, up side and over the lip of jars.

2. In saucepan, melt 8 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and cook, whisking continuously, until golden brown, 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup each granulated sugar and brown sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/8 tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over 6 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples and, if desired, 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Toss to coat. Spoon into jars.

3. Cut small dough circles into strips; weave into lattice and crimp edges. Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place jars 2 inches apart on large baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

Lemon Meringue Pies with a Thyme-Shortbread Crust : Herbed shortbread becomes the crust for this classic lemon meringue pie, adding a bit of a twist on an old favorite. These tiny treats will win the hearts of the lemon lovers in your life.


For the shortbread crusts:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the lemon filling:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 4 lemons
Grated zest of 4 lemons
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 large egg yolks, beaten

For the meringue:
8 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Makes 10 individual lemon meringue pies


1. Make the dough for the crusts: Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Mix together the flour, cornstarch, and thyme in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter and mix until incorporated.

2. Have ready eight wide-mouthed 8-ounce jars. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Shape the dough into a long cylinder with a diameter 1/2 inch smaller than the diameter of the jars you are using. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice 1/4-inch slices of dough from the roll and place a slice in the bottom of each jar. Place the jars 2 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Bake the crusts for 10 minutes until just lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4. Make the filling: Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Mix in the water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir in the butter until it is melted. Place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the lemon mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously to temper the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks into the saucepan. Bring to a boil again and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the lemon filling is thick, about 5 minutes. Spoon the filling into the warm jars over the crust.

5. Make the meringue: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Beat at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon or pipe the meringue over the lemon filling in the jars, mounding it in the center to create peaks.

6. Place the jars 2 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Bake the pies for 10 minutes, or just until the meringue is golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool completely, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve cold.

Deal Alert: Starbucks BOGO

Starbucks Buy One Holiday Beverage Get ONE FREE of equal or lesser value is here!!!

Stop by Starbucks Thursday, December 13th (today) thru Sunday, December 16th between 2PM - 5PM and when you buy One Holiday Beverage, you get ONE FREE of equal or lesser value. Mix & Match your favorite flavors.

This BOGO Free offer only valid for four days, so hurry on over with the kids after school or a friend you've been meaning to catch up with during promotional dates & times. If you're unsure if your location is participating, simply call your local Starbucks. Starbucks will carry the Holiday Drink tradition thru 12/31/12.

Valid at participating locations. Not valid at airports & grocery retailer stores.

Holiday flavors to choose from:

Caramel Brulee Latte: Made with espresso, steamed milk and caramel Brulée sauce, topped with sweetened whipped cream and caramel Brulée topping.

Peppermint Mocha: Made with espresso, steamed milk, mocha sauce and peppermint flavored syrup, topped with sweetened whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.

Gingerbread Latte: Made with espresso, steamed milk and gingerbread flavored syrup, topped with sweetened whipped cream and nutmeg.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Goodies to Gift: Festive & Edible

Give the sweetest present this year; yummy treats wrapped in pretty packages!

:: Sweet ::

Peppermint Bark : 2 pounds (4 small tins) at $1.96 each

Chocolate-Peppermint Cake Pops : 48 pops at $.23 each

Layered Chocolate Cookie Mix : 1 jar at $7.33 each; 3 1/2 dozen baked cookies

Marbled Walnut Fudge : 4 dozen pieces at $4.01/dozen

Mixed Berry Granola : About 6 cups at $1.98 per cup

Cranberry-Poppyseed Biscuits : three 2 3/4 cup bags at $1.55 each

:: Salty ::

Chunky Salsa : Makes 10 cups at $1.53

Trio of Rubs : 1 jar (11 teaspoons) at $1.50 each

:: Fast and Easy Gift Packaging Ideas :: Raid your pantry and drawers for these items to repurpose on the fly...

Mason or other lidded glass jars: These are ideal for holding homemade candies, nuts and other small bites. Just sterilize with a quick boiling water bath first. A ribbon around the top makes it extra special.

Brown paper bags: Use lunch sacks or cut apart large bags to make wrapping paper. Add a gingerbread "icing" border around the top of the package with a white pen or white out. If you gift wrap, you can use yarn or stamps to do something other than ribbon.

Shoe, jewelry or other boxes: Pick a box based on the size or amount of your to-be-gifted treats. Wrap in paper and line with tissue or wax paper. No one will notice what the box originally held.

Dish towels or cloth napkins: If you have spares - or one in set that's not stained - bundle it around your sealed backed goods especially breadas and tie with twine or burlap ribbon. An old recipe card makes a perfect gift tag.

Oatmeal canisters: Cylinders are great for small items and easy to wrap. Roll in paper, cut it and tape it. Or create "candy wrapper" ends by gathering excess paper on either side of the tube with ribbon.

Decorative tin cans: If you don't have anything lying around the house, hit up the $1 store and pick yourself up a holiday tin can. Line with tissue paper or wax paper and you have an inexpensive,

Take-out boxes or favor boxes: Available at any craft store, with a lid or just the scalloped top ($20 for 50 at Line with food safe cellophane, tie with a stitched grosgrain ribbon and wah-la!

Friday, December 7, 2012

An oldie but goodie: Bangin' Bargains under $25

Back in 2010, I jotted down a few gift ideas for specific people in your lives - the workaholic, the beauty queen, the movie buff. The list goes on. Sadly I'm sure there will be links that don't work and a few products that might seem "dated" or not even available anymore but reposting wasn't necessarily about the specific products but more to inspire your inner creativity to give something more thoughtful. Instead of just getting them something mainstream, think about each individual person. What do they really like to do? What is a gift they will keep and use, not toss in the drawer?

Check out the post HERE. Happy Shopping!

Gift Guide: Stress-free Shopping

When you need a last minute present or just simply don't have time to package and ship, the "Treater" app can't be beat! This free app (for both iPhone & Android) lets you instantly give any friend gift certificates from everything from movie tickets and massages to gourmet dinners. Simply pick and purchase a "treat" and send it via Facebook, text or email.

Great for the holidays but a useful app all year round for those life events that sneak up on you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gift Guide: Mail Order Beauty

No time to shop? Stumped on what to give a girlfriend that has everything? Give the gift of a
re-occuring monthly box of high-end assorted cosmetics. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.

For only $10-$21 per month (you can pick how many months you want the box delievered), the recipient will be able to try out in-demand, luxe skin creams, perfumes, makeup, and hair products.

Here are a few beauty bento boxes to consider:

Birchbox: Sidestep dissapointment by testing trial-size luxe beauty supplies that have receieved numerous thumbs-up. My favorite option from the list. $10/month.

Myglam: Not only does myglam offer it's four or five monthly samples in full or deluxe sizes, it also includes a cute makeup bag with every package. The website offers makeup tutorials too. $10/month.

Beautyarmy: This sampling program recommends makeup, fragrances, and more based on feedback from customer questionnaires. You can take user's advice or select six goodies on your own. $12/month.

Eco-Emi: If going green is more your style the Eco-Emi box will include 5-10 samples of natural, organic, green, Fair Trade or eco-friendly products in chic earth friendly packaging. $15/month.

Glossybox: Delivers at least five products in-demand cosmetic products from lines like C.O. Bigelow, Cargo and Burberry Beauty with the occasional full-size item - no teensy-weensy foil samples here. $21/month.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gift Guide: Simplify with Style

I don't know about you but I'm always struggling to juggle my money clutch, phone (god forbid I go anywhere without it), Target bags and a child's hand or two so whoever had the patent pending idea to manufacture a wallet that accomodates an iPhone, up to three credit cards and alittle cash is a genius in my book.

The Q Card Case for the iPhone 4/4s and 5 are a practical gift for both men and women, even teenagers, this holiday season. At only $40, you could even slide in a small gift card or some cash into the pocket for a secret surprise.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gift Guide: Make it Personal

I love the idea of a lunch box filled with a few extra goodies as a Christmas gift. I'm especially obsessed with Frecklebox's personalized lunch boxes ($29.95) that have a chalkboard inside the lid for those "I love you notes" you want to include.

They also offer a  "look like me" box ($29.95) that allows you to customize the lunch box with the correct skintone, hair color, and their favorite activity.

And if you want to take the lunch box to the next level, you can personalize a Yubo box ($39.95). Incredibly functional with three built-in food containers and a custom built ice pack. All dishwasher safe and BPA-free, phthalate-free, and lead-free.

So much to choose from! Now fill it with little surprises and you've got yourself a super fun gift!

Frecklebox also carries an entire line of personalizable items from chore charts, placemats, puzzles and binders. All so cute and affordable prices.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gift Guide: Fashionable under $50

Stumped on what to get your sister? Friend? Babysitter? I know clothing is hard to give but the Bobeau Asymmetical Fleece Wrap Cardigan makes the perfect gift. It lightweight so it can be worn year round. Flattering. A comfy throw on piece. And on sale! Currently marked down to $39.90 in the "Point of View" section at Nordstrom. Pair with a pair of earrings or a some nailpolish and you've got yourself a fashionable gift for under $50.

Or if you want to bypass the mall chaos, buy online and get free shipping! Available in 13 colors.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Get ORGANIZED. Get this...

December 1st. A perfect time to set out a game plan for the chaos of the coming weeks. And by game plan, I mean start making lists. I am a total list person. I have a list of a list of a list. I find that when I am most busy though, the Any.DO app is my saving grace. It's slogan says it all - MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Reviews on the internet claim it's better than Gmail Tasks. I agree.

The functionality of the Any.DO app is spot on. When a to-do pops into my head, I quickly and easily log it as a today, tomorrow, this week or later task. Under each task, you have the ability to mark the task as urgent, move it to another folder (this is great if you want to separate lists into personal, work, etc), set an alarm to alert you about it on a specified day and time, add a note to it, or forward it to someone in your contacts book as an email or Facebook message. And if you don't want to type out your list, it has voice recognition. Think driving and list making. Ahhh, that sings to my soul!

And if you're not naturally a list maker, here are a few of my efficient list making tips:

1) Jot down whatever comes to your mind into the lists. Even if it's simply replying to an email or text. That way it will stare you back in the face all day until you cross it off the list. And you'll never have that awful feeling that you forgot something.

2) Cross off as you go. It will keep you motivated and proud of your visual productivity. I love with the Any.DO app, you simply just swipe your finger on the screen from left to right and it crosses off and deletes. Complete satisfaction.

3) At the end of the day, take time to do some list maintenance. Meaning - clean up your list. Move what didn't get done "today" onto your "tomorrow" and get them done before moving to the next. They were put on your "today" list for a reason. You want them done. They need to be done. My mom always said, "Don't put off tomorrow, what should get done today."

But and a HUGE but - don't spend too much time on this. I find that people spend far more time managing their lists than actually doing them. I feel similar about Pinterest. Sure you have an account filled with inspirational boards of wonderful crafts, delicious food to make, and exercises to do but are you really doing them!?!?! Remember - make things happen.

4) At the end of the week, go through your "laters" and move 2-4 onto the appropriate lists for the week. That way you don't get an overwhelming, mile long "later" list that haunts you.

5) Arrange your tasks in order of how you see your day playing out. Taking time to visually map out your day will allow you to accomplish more. You'll save yourself from backtracking or doing circles all day long. What I love about the Any.DO app is you can re-order your tasks by pressing on a task and dragging it to another place on the list. Super easy and fast to do, even when you have one hand unloading the dishwasher and one hand on the phone.

Some additional key highlights and features of the Any.DO app if I haven't already sold you: Seamless cloud sync, speech recognition, time & location reminders, folders, notes, repeating tasks, calendar view, gesture support & more! All FREE!!! Available for both Android and iPhone users.

You can also sync your task lists with any other devices that also have the Any.DO app installed by signing up for a free account on the Any.DO site. You can also sync your Any.DO lists with your Google account to use with Google Tasks.

Bottom line: Any.DO is intuitive, has a simple, easy-to-read interface and allows you to effortlessly create, edit and adjust your task list for a stress-free (ok let's be realistic - stress-LESS), uber organized holiday season and 2013!!

Once you've downloaded the free app, you can reference this site for additional questions on how to use.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Burn Baby Burn: Slash 101 Calories in 10 Minutes

I find Oct, Nov, and Dec some of the most discouraging months of the year. Sure they are packed with memorable, fun-filled holiday festivities but with those festivities come an excess of mindless eating and drinking. And a season of busy schedules and not enough hours in the day. Gym? What gym.

For me it starts at Halloween. I have a sweet tooth so trying to keep my damn hand out of the candy bowl is near impossible. Insert: Gain 2 lbs. Then Thanksgiving. Dave's favorite holiday. Which translates to a menu that consisted of: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, turkey, and cranberry.

For two.

Followed by round 2 at a friend's house. Insert: Too many pounds to willingly admit. Think heavy knee bends after shimmying into my jeans.

And now the Christmas holiday is before my gut. I mean eyes. A few pounds heavier than my skin feels comfortable in and busier than ever.

Did you know that new research shows that a 165-pound women has to pare off 480 calories a day to lose 5 pounds in a month? Heavier (195 pounds)? Cut 515 calories a day. Lighter (135 pounds)? Trim 435. Crap. That seems impossible during the most wonderful time of the year, right?


No matter how busy we are, we all have at least 10 minutes. And in 10 minutes you can burn 101 calories with this at home, fat burning circuit. Do this daily, along with slash a few calories from your food intake, and you won't have to worry if that little black dress is still going to fit come party time -

1 minute of weight lifting: 7 calories (if you don't have free weights at home, use some cans of soup)
3 minutes of jump rope (no rope? Jump in place): 36 calories
3 minutes of jumping jacks: 29 calories
3 minutes of jogging in place: 29 calories

And if you're super motivated, add in 20 push-ups to bring some sexy back to those biceps.

Wondering how to slash calories from your everyday eating habits? It's easy. Here are a few examples to subtract (about) 100 calories:

Eliminate 2.5 slices of bacon from breakfast
Eat 1/2 cup less of brown rice from a stir-fry dinner
Don't add that extra 1 Tbsp. butter to that baked potato
Use 1 Tbsp. less of peanut butter on your sandwich
Don't eat those 5 extra Hershey kisses

And remember, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last Minute: Thanksgiving Dessert

Scrambling for a last minute Thanksgiving dessert idea that's not the same 'ol pumpkin or apple pie? This is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Salty meets sweet in this grand finale, which turns classic candy into a delectable tart with a custardy no bake filling. And don't stress, if you're crunched for time or the thought of making your own butter crust is daunting, a store bought pie crust will work as well.
~Salted Caramel Tart~
For Butter Crust: Yields (2) 9 -inch crusts
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter (no substitutions), cut up, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar             
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten     
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour

For Salted Caramel Tart: Serves 12

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin                                                                                                               
4 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter (no substitutions), cut up, room temperature      
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Currants, for garnish (optional)     
Candied orange peel, for garnish (optional)     
For Butter Crust: Prep time: 15 min. Total time: 35 min.
1. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and salt until pale yellow and well blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

2. With mixer on medium-low speed, beat in egg, then vanilla, until well incorporated, scraping side of bowl.

3. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour. Beat just until incorporated and dough forms large clumps. Divide dough in half and form each half into a 1-inch-thick disk. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or until firm. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 1 day or frozen up to 3 months so you can even make this now for the Christmas holiday.)

4. With hands and fingers, press dough into even layer against bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom. Freeze 10 minutes or until firm. (Dough in pan can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 month.)
5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

6. Bake crust 20 minutes or until golden brown. If crust puffs up, very gently push down bubbles with spoon without cracking crust. Cool crust completely on wire rack.

For Salted Caramel Tart: Prep time: 15 min.

1. In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water. Let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.

2. In 4-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup, 1 cup sugar, and remaining 2 tablespoons water. Heat to boiling on medium-high, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook without stirring until mixture is amber, swirling pan occasionally; remove from heat.

3. Carefully whisk in butter, a few pieces at a time, until incorporated. (Mixture will bubble up.) Whisk in sour cream, then 1/4 cup heavy cream, until well blended. Add salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and softened gelatin. Whisk until gelatin dissolves and mixture is very smooth. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature.

4. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Whisk in remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Gently fold half of whipped cream (1 1/2 cups) into cooled caramel mixture. Spread caramel in even layer in cooled crust. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 1 day to set. Cover and refrigerate remaining whipped cream.

5. To serve, top tart with remaining whipped cream and garnish with currants and orange peel.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Glam It Up: Thanksgiving Day Make-up

Step away from the oven and give yourself 20 minutes to make yourself look fall and festive with this BRONZY SMOKY EYE look on Thanksgiving Day:

Here's how:
1. Start out with a bit of foundation on the eyelids and set with loose powder. This will give your lids the perfect base to apply shadows and blend them flawlessly.

2. Take a medium to dark shimmery shade of either copper, bronze or slate and apply all over the lids up to the crease. Try MAC PRO Reflects in Antique Gold.

3. Using a clean soft brush, blend that out towards the temples. I like to blend up as well for a great smokey cat eye. Line all along the upper lash line with a black pencil and go thicker with the line towards the outer corners.

4. Using a small brush or Q-Tip, blend the top line a bit so that the liner blends into the shadow on the lid.

5. Curl lashes and apply a couple of coats of mascara. Try Lancome's Hypnose Drama mascara for great volume and length.

6. Clean off the under eye area with a makeup wipe. Apply concealer underneath the eyes. Try Smashbox High Definition Liquid Concealer.

7. Set concealer with a loose powder. Use the black pencil along the inner rim of the eyes and feel free to go outside of the inner rim and along the lower lashes just a bit.

8. Using the copper shadow on a smaller brush, smoke the lower lash line right below the black line. Blend with a clean brush so there are no harsh lines.

9. Finish the eyes with black mascara on the lower lashes as well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Eat Up: Thanksgiving Munchies

Looking for a healthy appetizer that won't spoil your guest's appetite? Look no further. This twist on a veggie tray not only displays well but requires little prep time, minimal ingredients and is low in calories and fat (depending on your choice of dip). God forbid you need a starchy appetizer before you indulge in the most caloric meal of the year!!

Fill each glass with your favorite dip, then add sliced carrots, celery sticks and pepper strips. Easy peasy. Kind of fun they look like turkey feathers too!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bright Idea: Jar of Thanks

For the next week leading up to Thanksgiving, have your family write down things that they are most grateful for, put the papers in a glas jar, then read them aloud together before you gobble down your Thanksgiving meal.

If you have guests joining, have them jot down one or two things they too are thankful for and drop them into the jar upon their arrival so they'll be included as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Design It: Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Need an inexpensive decorating idea for your Turkey Day centerpiece? Below are a few simple "Design on a Dime" approaches to decorating your table found over at My Heart's Desire used with something you probably already have lying around the house: Hurricane Vases.

Centerpiece #1:
Hurricane Vases
Corn Kernels
Small Red Beans
Green Split Peas
Jute String (optional)

Place the candle in the empty hurricane, then begin pouring the beans in very slowly around the candle to the desired level. Repeat layers with different beans. Tie the Jute (or any other festive ribbon of your choice) around the hurricane.

Centerpiece #2:
Hurricane Vases
Corn Kernels
Tall Candles
Artifical Leaves (optional)
Jute String (optional)

If you do not have hurricanes like the ones pictured that hold the candle up, then place a tall candle in the bottom of the empty hurricane. Then begin pouring the corn in very slowly around the candle to about 1/4 way up the candle. Tie the jute string around the leaf towards the top to secure it to the candle.

Love the simplistic look of the top picture? Simply fill  hurricane with either hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans. Stagger the amount of nuts in each container around each candle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bright Idea: Thanksgiving Leftovers

Having a house full on Thanksgiving? Wondering what's the best way for your guests to take home any left over food? That is if you're willing to give any away.

This week sometime, hit up your local craft store and pick up a handful of kraft paper takeout boxes and cute stick-on labels. I know Michaels carries them as does but you might have to pay for rush shipping*.

Before dinner, set up a leftover station to make dividing up the leftovers and clean-up quick and easy.

*Search for the "BioPak" takeout boxes on Sweet Lulu's website.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sweet Sunday

When fall hits (which it clearly hasn't in Southern California where it's still a sweaty 86 as I type), I crave apples. Maybe it's because I'm a born and raised Washingtonian that grows apples from far and wide but nonetheless, there is something about warm, gooey apple desserts that scream fall goodness.

I found this amazing Apple Bundt Cake over at a FarmGirl's Dabbles and personally think that it needs to be in everyone's fall baking rotation. It's moist, dense and filled with cinnamon-apple yumminess. The glaze is just plain fantastic, too. Its texture is thick and silky smooth. And the brown-butter lends it a deep almost caramel-like flavor, while the vanilla bean speckles tempt in the sweetest of ways.

~Apple Bundt with Brown-Butter Vanilla Bean Glaze~
Serves 12
for the apple bundt:
1 T. butter and some flour for preparing the pan
4 medium apples – peeled, cored, & shredded (use the big holes on your grater), to make about 3-1/2 cups shredded apples – a mixture is best, maybe 2 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, and 1 McIntosh
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1-1/3 c. white sugar, divided
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 c. apple cider
2 tsp. vanilla
for the brown-butter vanilla bean glaze:2 to 3 T. half and half
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
vanilla bean seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (split bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds)
4 oz. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
For cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 12-cup bundt pan by smearing butter over every little nook and cranny of its interior. Then add some flour and tilt your pan so flour sticks to all of the buttery surface. Set pan aside.
2) Stir the shredded apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the white sugar. Set aside.
3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
4) In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine once again. Add the apples and mix until the apples are evenly distributed.
5) Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto your serving platter.
For glaze: If you are going to top the cake with the glaze, start making the glaze immediately, while the cake is still warm!
1) First, pour 3 tablespoons of half and half into a small bowl and set aside. This is just to take the chill off, while you prepare the rest of the glaze.
2) In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sifted (don’t skip the sifting!) powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Set aside.
3) In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until golden brown. It should smell delicious and toasty. If it smells burnt, you went too far! This should take about 6 to 8 minutes.
4) Carefully pour browned butter into the powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds, leaving the darkened butter sediment behind. Add 2 tablespoons of the half and half, then add the vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. You want the glaze to be somewhat thick, but easily pourable. If it seems too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of half and half.
5) Pour the glaze over the cake while both the glaze and cake are still warm!! The glaze cools quickly, so don’t delay! Let the glaze set. Then slice and enjoy!
Another option for serving this cake would be to finish it with a simple dusting of powdered sugar once it is cool. A dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would also be very good.
The cake fares well on the counter for a few days, covered with a cake dome.

Source: A Farmgirls Dabbles – The Bundt was adapted from Wanda’s Country Home. The glaze was adapted from Martha Stewart.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ever realized?

I've never looked at these words in this way before. Makes total sense now, haha!!  

Ever realized?

Woman has Man in it

Mrs. has Mr. in it

Female has Male
 in it

She has He
 in it

Madam has Adam in it

And ever notice how all of women's problems have to do with men?

tal illness

strual cramps 

tal breakdown 


GUYnecologist (ok alittle misspelled but you get the picture)

HISterectomy (again, technically misspelled)

Happy Friday to all you strong, capable women! Don't let those men bring you down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bang for your Buck

As I was fidgeting around the house this morning, picking up the same dang toys for the gazzillionth time, a random question popped into my mind - what's one item in the house that has given us the most bang for our buck?

I honestly didn't have to hesitate. I've got two very curious boys and they always like to see what's going on, open all things by themselves, and prop themselves up inside the sink so naturally the best $7.99 I've spent is on the Ikea "Bolmen" step stool.

Don't let the plastic fool you - it's sturdy. And I love that you can easily whip it down quickly and it's ok if left outside. Which is where I find it most days as the boys stand pulling on the fence gate string. Another reason I like the plastic is because it's lightweight. The boys can easily move it from room to room to get things without having to ask. Note to self; hide all candy and chemicals out of reach.

The Bolmen step stool can be found in the bathroom section @ Ikea. And yep, it's really only $7.99.

Do you have a household product that you get the most bang for your buck out of?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins, this festive marriage of chocolate and pumpkin is delish. Dig in and savor the season!

~Pumpkin Swirl Brownies~
Adopted by Marta Stewart

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1) Preheat the oven to 350F and spray a 9″x9″ cake pan with nonstick spray.

2) In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chocolate and remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth.

3) In a large bowl beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3-4 minutes, until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until combined.

4) Put about a third of the batter into another bowl and stir the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg into it. Stir the chocolate mixture into the remaining batter and spread a little more than half of it into the prepared pan. Top with the pumpkin mixture, then drop large spoonfuls of the remaining chocolate mixture on top. Swirl a knife through both to create a swirled effect.

5) Bake for 40 minutes, until just set and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Makes 16 brownies.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Click HERE & HERE for other festive Halloween dessert posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012 fall looks for your locks

Your wardrobe’s not the only thing in need of an update this fall — admit it, you’re kind of sick of sporting the same beachy, messy strands every day, aren't you? Not to mention how fried your mane looks after all those months of fun in the sun. Clearly, it's time to change it up as fall 2012 gets underway.


Blunt Bangs: If you’ve got ‘em, flaunt ‘em. Bangs are the ultimate hair accessory this season. Whether they’re full and square, short and rounded or just swept to the side, bangs frame the face and accentuate the eyes. When styling, start drying the bangs first and remember to use the nozzle attachment on your blow-dryer. The key to getting the perfect style is by directing the airflow straight down from the root . Using a vent or denman brush and brushing side to side will keep them sleek and prevent you from looking like you’re seven-years-old again and your mother just cut your fringe with some kitchen shears. No bangs? No worries! Go commitment-free and use clip-in textured bangs from LUXHAIR™. They are simple to use and come in a variety of shades.

Perfectly Imperfect: Your friend calls it bedhead, you call it beach hair. Call it what you want but it's fabulous and effortless. Imperfect texture catches the eye and leaves a statement. But you can’t get that seductively captivating coif without using great product. Word to the wise, invest in some dry shampoo or a sprayable root powder and some pomade. Dry shampoo or sprayable powder “dirties” up the hair and gives you instant playful texture. For the ends, rub a little pomade on your thumb and pointer finger and gently twist the ends of hair to keep texture waves in place.

Boisterous Bouffants: Not the Amy Winehouse kind, think more vintage Sophia Loren. This is going to be a great style for fall brides who want to ditch the updos and go for something more dramatic. When looking for a point of reference, flip through vintage magazines. Elle magazine even is chock-full of inspiration and throwback. Remember this, classics never make a comeback. They wait for that perfect moment to take the spotlight from overdone, tired trends.

Buns, Braids & Twists: Whether braided around the crown, coiled half-back or knotted into an updo, hair is getting manipulated into a fresh, new direction this season. While some looks require an extra set of hands, others put a simple and attainable twist on the classics. Double fishtails and triple braids are taking plaits to the next level. My advice to you: practice makes perfect. Grab some dry shampoo and start watching how-to videos. You’ll be surprised how simple some of these styles are to achieve.

Sweeping Side Part: The hottest look for a night out is a deep side part. If that part is not at least three inches in length then start over. The wider the part, the more open your eyes appear. It is an alluring and seductive look that will keep your date’s attention the entire night. To get the most drama out of the part, I recommend using the highest point of your eyebrow as a point of reference. Using a fine-tooth comb, slowly draw your comb back from the crown to create the part. Once the part has been created, spray medium-hold hairspray onto a boar bristle brush and brush hair on both sides away from the part to set it. Next, spray hair all over with a lightweight hairspray. To add a little glimmer and reflection, use small amount of shine serum along the part line. The light will bounce of it and make your eyes sparkle.

Perfect Ponytail: Ponytails this season, no matter if they’re high or low, are perfectly precise and chic and not that gym-wearing pony you’ve been trying to pass off as fashionable. Put some effort and styling into the look. It will only take two minutes and you’ll look like you just stepped off the runway and not out of a Body Pump class. First, prep your hair with a light serum to add shine. Pull hair back using a flat brush to get hair smooth. Secure with a band. Next, take a lightweight hairspray and spray lightly, To smooth down the surface and prevent those pesky bumps, spray hairspray onto a clean toothbrush (or a small hard bristle brush) and run it over the surface of your pony tail.


Rich Chocolates & Cool Reds: You’re going to see a shift in color this season, especially in brunettes and reds. Color will go from less caramel to deep chocolate, less coppery to cool and slightly spicy crimson. During a color consultation, reference food as a visual. Hot fudge and orange marmalade paint a clearer picture and helps prevent end results that leave you feeling unsatisfied.

Brave Blonde: It’s time to say good-bye to flaxen and golden hues and hello to cooler, icy blondes and creamy white highlights. Now that the seasons are changing and your summer bronze-y glow is slowly fading, it’s important for all you blondes to adjust your hair color to complement your skin color. If icy and white is too extreme for your eye color and skin tone, then go more beige-y or even a little ash-y. Trust your colorist and let them determine what’s best for you. And don’t forget to maintain the look. Make sure you’re seeing your colorist on a regular basis, even if it is for a slight touch-up. Remember, when you stretch out your appointments the process if more intense and time consuming which results in a higher ticket price. Also look into shampoos that help neutralize the brass and keep you always looking cool.


Bobs: Bobs come in all forms; angled, modern, lobs, etc. The cut and styling options are endless. They key to pulling of the perfect bob is finding a look that complements your bone structure. If you have a more round face, then opt for a lob with side-swept bangs. If you have a longer neck and pronounced chin, then a modern bob with a blunt fringe will make your eyes pop. It’s also important your stylist is up-to-date on his or her education. Don’t be shy to ask questions and inquire about them furthering their craft. If they haven’t taken a class in the past two years, then it’s time to find someone new.

Click HERE for the 20 hottest bobs of 2012