Happy girls are the prettiest girls

2.26.2013

Tasty Tuesday: butterscotch banana bread

Oh hey there friends! I'm jumping back onto Cassie's Tasty Tuesday bandwagon after a long hiatus. Poor Cassie uprooted her life for a big move back to San Jose in December, so she hasn't blogged much the last two months. I am hoping that this little reminder of something she started will get her back to it, at least to share her yummy recipes again!

For today, I've got a doctored up box mix recipe to share with you that I threw together on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised by the results! I love to use a boxed cake or bread mix as a base and add a bunch of things in to make it even better, so this was a nice experiment, and proved delicious. I love when that happens! I happened to be low on vegetable oil, and was out of chocolate chips which are my go-to banana bread mix in, so I used coconut oil {my newest addiction, I could eat it by the spoonful...but that's bad} and butterscotch chips instead. 

Butterscotch banana bread
Ingredients
  • 1 box Trader Joe's banana bread mix {or similar}
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2/3 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, mostly melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup water
Directions
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, or 8x8 inch pan like I did. 
In a mixing bowl, combine bread mix, water, eggs, coconut oil, and mashed banana mixing thoroughly.  
Fold in butterscotch chips. 
Pour into pan and bake for about 50 minutes. Allow to cool, then shove into your mouth as quickly as possible. Or is that just me? 

I think you will agree with me that the use of butterscotch chips compliments the banana, and really gives a great flavor. There was something very comforting, and home-like about the butterscotch taste. It made me happy. And my tummy happy. My butterscotch chips sunk in the batter and made a really yummy bottom layer that I ended up scraping out of the pan with a fork to eat. What? You've never eaten right out of the pan before? I dare you to make this recipe and NOT scrape out the butterscotch goodness. Go on, try it for yourself!

2.20.2013

Thought provoking article

I am a sugar addict. I fully believe that sugar is a drug, and as I rarely drink alcohol, don't do drugs, and rarely drink caffeinated products, this is my one vice. And it's a big one. So when I took the time to read this 14 page article from the NY Times called The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food, I wasn't surprised that sugar {along with salt and fat} was called out as a huge proponent of the obesity epidemic. 

This article kind of blew my mind though. It's one thing to assume that processed food producers rely on salt, sugar and fat to get people to buy their products. It's incredibly sad and another thing all together to see the hard evidence from the producers themselves that they have purposefully increased the amounts of these three ingredients in their foods to make their products more addictive, and thus sell more. 

Just another reason to switch to a whole food diet idea, right? Sadly, it's a proven fact that our lives are just getting busier and more hectic, making a whole food diet free of packaged and processed foods difficult to adhere to. Immediately I called to mind some healthy foods that have been springing up more regularly that promote health in a fast way. Pre-portioned packages of fresh blueberries, carrots, celery, apple slices, and cups of fresh sliced fruit all ready to go are fantastic products to have on hand when you want to skip the more processed food options. Of course, you could make these all yourself by buying large quantities of these items them portioning them out, but the easiness of the packaged versions can't be beat when in a time crunch. 

Washing, slicing, and bagging up your produce when you bring it home, then having it on the top shelf of the fridge is a great way to make healthy options readily available. I readily admit that my produce mainly stays hidden in the produce drawers of my fridge until it withers or rots, while I reach for my processed snack foods. Just another thing I've got to work on.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know about this article to get your gears turning. I am going to go grab a handful of baby carrots and a Greek yogurt with probably more sugar than I need ;)

productivity vs. laziness

Hello dolls! Let's check in a bit, shall we?

So, there's this adage I've heard that goes a little like this: "If you need something done, ask the busiest person you know." Lemme break it down for you: Busy people get ish done, yo. 
Me? Not so much. 
In the last year I have stopped getting ish done. I know, I know, how can this been when I've had SO much more time on my hands? A year ago I quit my four year long nanny job, and consequently the seven day work weeks that came with it. For four whole years {give or take a day or week here and there} I was working Monday through Friday as an afternoon nanny, and Saturday and Sunday as a hairstylist. At the time, it was relatively easy. I made it work, even when it was hard, because that's the hand I was dealt and I was good with it. When you are young and broke you will do just about anything to keep living paycheck to paycheck, because without that hustle your paychecks just won't stretch as far. And homegirl likes to shop.

Once I left my nanny job, I picked up a third day at the salon and all of a sudden I had four days off a week. A four day weekend? That's the stuff dreams are made of. 
The majority of the time I fill at least one of those days with an on-call babysitting job, an on-location hair and makeup gig, or something else that keeps me busy. The other days? I am useless. Like lump on the couch for the most part useless. Working seven days a week I managed to blog more, exercise regularly, see friends, do laundry, and meal plan. Working three to four days a week? I sometimes don't even find an excuse to shower, let alone plan a meal, workout, or run errands. I do admit at least one day a week is productive, but that is more from my disgust with my general laziness the few days before.
Basically, I've got to get into a busier mindset in order to become more productive.  

Now, how to go about organizing my life so I can have some sort of schedule and get ish done? If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them! 

I found this cleaning schedule on Pinterest and about died. I've lived in my apartment for almost four years and there are some things on this schedule that I have never done. Seriously, steam clean grout? Clean oven? Vacuum curtains? Um, have I mentioned I really hate cleaning?
A feasible schedule for my week? Probably something like this:
Saturday: working at the salon
Sunday: working at the salon
Monday: Sometimes I can squeeze in a workout before working at the salon
{work days are anywhere from 6-12 hours, usually leaving my feet sore, my head aching, and my body tired}
Tuesday: workout, blog, hang with Billy on his day off
Wednesday: workout, meal plan for the week, blog, hang with Billy on his day off
Thursday: workout, laundry, general picking up around the house
Friday: workout, groceries and errands, make food for weekend

Right now I am not working out, I barely meal plan, I shop when we are out of staples, and my laundry can usually stretch 10 days between cycles. So the above would be my ambitious but still manageable schedule ;) I think I am going to start small and get a workout in every chance I get, and do one task around the house etc. before plopping on the couch.

So, yeah, any advice?

2.14.2013

My anti-Vday treats

Billy and I do not celebrate Valentine's Day. 
I decided I hated the day back in high school, and would refuse to celebrate due to over commercialization, and the fact that I believe love should be shown every day, not just February 14. I also do not really celebrate anniversaries other than to acknowledge the milestone. 
I'm just weird like that.

When Billy learned this about me, he was thrilled. How many guys can say their girl doesn't want flowers, or any special gestures, on the most notorious day of the year for such things? Now, I will never say no to some chocolate, so sometimes Billy and I will split a bag of Hershey's kisses, or other simple but tasty treat and call it a day. 

Today is no exception! We didn't even mention Vday to each other before Billy left for work, and I am happily in my comfy pants on the couch waiting for him to get home. I did go on a hike, paint my finger and toe nails this fantastic gun metal grey color by Orly called Sea Gurl, and watched a lot of Big Bang Theory. Other than that, no special plans here! 

I did, however, make a little tasty treat for my hard working man. Nothing says I love you like chocolate and peanut butter, right? So I made peanut butter and chocolate rice krispy treats. And honestly? I'm having a hard time not gobbling them all up myself before my love gets home!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Rice Krispy Treats
{recipe and photo via}
Ingredients: 
  • 6 tbsp butter {little more than half a stick}
  • 1 10oz bag of marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 10oz chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp butter
Directions:
Heat 6 tbsps of butter in a large pot over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add vanilla and peanut butter, stirring until completely mixed in. Dump in the cereal and stir to coat evenly with peanut butter mixture. Once the cereal is combined, pour into a buttered 13x9 baking dish, pressing down gently to smooth the top of the treats. Add chocolate chips and butter to medium sized microwavable bowl, then heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted, making sure to stir the chocolate between each round in the microwave. Pour the chocolate over the top of the treats, using a spoon to distribute evenly over the top. Let cool for about half an hour, then cut into squares and enjoy your wonderful peanut butter and chocolate treat! 

I also happened to make Italian Parmesan chicken for dinner! It's easy peasy, and really quite delicious.
Italian Parmesan Chicken
Ingredients:
  • 1 packet of Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder {or garlic salt in my case, since I was out of garlic powder}
  • 1 lb of chicken breast {or tenders, which is what I used}
Directions:
Heat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil, then spray with non-stick spray. In a medium dish, combine Italian dressing mix, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Rinse your chicken breast, then dip in the cheese mixture, pressing each side down until fully coated. Place chicken on cookie sheet, then bake for 20 minutes. Turn your oven to broil and heat for 5 more minutes to make your chicken crispy and golden brown. You can serve these with marinara sauce, or any other sauce you have a hankering for, or eat them dry as I did. Either way you will love them!

If you happen to celebrate Valentine's Day, how was it?! What were your special plans? Any fun gifts? Did you cook a nice meal, or go out to dinner somewhere fancy? 

2.11.2013

Firmoo glasses review

Hey friendos, happy Monday evening! I have a review on the docks for today about some fancy glasses from Firmoo! Sadie had to get in on this photoshoot, and I'm glad she did because she makes things cuter. Also, I had to take these all selfie style, since the hubby wasn't interested in taking photos of me last week in SF when we saw Wicked {"There are NO extra curricular activities when in San Francisco! We go there for a specific reason, then immediately return home. The less time we spend in the City, the better" are his exact sentiments.}
I was contacted recently by Firmoo, an online retailer said to be the world's most popular online eyeglasses store, to do a review of some glasses. Of course I jumped on that train, because who doesn't love getting to play dress up and try out some new specs?! 
A little bit about Firmoo, straight from the source: "Firmoo.com is the world's most popular online eyeglasses store. We have always been committed to offering customers the best quality products at the most affordable prices. For this reason, we have gained a solid reputation and trust from 500,000+ fans on Facebook. Also,we have been establishing collaborations with more than 10,000 bloggers all over the world."
What Firmoo didn't know was that my hubby is an ABO and NCLE board certified and nationally licensed optician, and deals with glasses and prescriptions on a daily basis at one of the largest prescription eyeglasses retailers in the country {Costco, whoop whoop!}
So...This review will be less "OMG I love my new cute hipster frames that take over my whole face" and more about the "diopter, prism, astigmatism, and pupilary distance", terms common to an optician's wife. Thanks B for taking the fun out of my "dress up in free glasses" game, and for making me realize that most of the cute frames I had lined up would have dwarfed my face and caused me to see double with any prescription in them.
Now let's get down to the nitty gritty!
Cons:
  • The site initially asked for my total PD instead of monocular{individual eye} PD when getting my info to find glasses. Once I chose my glasses however, I was given the option to choose two PD numbers, one for each eye.
  • I was not able to narrow my search by lens width in the free glasses section that the Firmoo team sent me to to choose my glasses. Instead I had to click through to find out the details, and I kept picking a bunch of frames that would have been ridiculously wide on my petite face. Later I discovered that in the full site, you can search by small, medium, and large frames, but a "small size" category still included up to 53mm frames, where I should really be in a 49 or 50mm frame as a small.
  • Details on each pair of glasses were good, but only available if you clicked through. It would have been better to see frame width, bridge distance, and temple length by hovering over the photo, or displayed in the thumbnail to make better ease of shopping.
  • The PD on the frames I chose were going to be way more than what I would need for a proper prescription fit. PD stands for pupilary distance, and refers to where your prescription sits in each lens.  If the PD is off by a lot, it can cause prism and make you feel pretty nauseous if bought with a heavy prescription. I have a light prescription, so it wouldn't affect me very much, but if you actually really need your prescription, this is BAD, you wouldn't be able to see. Think fish bowl effect.
Pros:
  • Lots of options! Loved that there were so many shapes and colors to choose from. It was hard to narrow down the search at first. I swear I looked through all of the frames available to me at least twice, then systematically picked through them to figure out my top 3.
  • Great prices! Who doesn't want to pay less than $50 for most frames? Not sure about the brands though.
  • Uploading your own pic to "try on" glasses is such a handy tool! It helped me envision certain frame shapes on my own face. This is the photo I used to try on the frames I decided to go with.
Now, something really cool Firmoo has introduced is the First Pair Free program, in which you can choose from selected glasses that you only have to pay the shipping on. Pretty awesome if I do say so myself ;) 

A little something Firmoo wants you to know: 
Any hot glasses/sunglasses /goggles frames you want can be found on Firmoo, and all are available for both prescription lenses and non-prescription lenses. Are you desperate to have a new look? Now you have the chance, Firmoo has launched a First Pair Free Program to people  worldwide. You will absolutely fall in love with the excellent quality, affordable prices, fashionable designs, fast delivery and the good service after trying them by paying for the shipping only! You can even get a refund/exchange if you are not satisfied with them. It's totally risk free, so why not have a try?
Click here (http://www.firmoo.com/free-glasses.html) to get your free glasses now!

2.07.2013

WILW Tiaras, witches, and jeans, oh my!

Hey friends! I wanted to get this written up and posted before the clock strikes midnight here on the West coast {oh hai, another unintentional late night!} so it's still Wednesday here! 

What I'm loving:
I love the Big Bang Theory. It cracks me up, like lol-ing on the couch with some major 'out loud' happening. I only discovered this gem in December, but I have done my part to catch up to season 5. Just tonight I saw an episode that had me shrieking, and yes I'll even admit, snorting, and smacking the couch because I thought it was so funny. You don't have to agree, because I often laugh at stuff no one else thinks is funny, like my own jokes, but hey I'm hilarious even if no one else agrees.

Anyway, the scene that had me dying? This one. Because I love me a tiara.
Other things I am loving?
Smart Water. Because after just two liters of the electrolyte enhanced {but containing no sodium} wonder on Sunday, my bloating was completely gone. My doctors recommend I only drink Gatorade until my post-egg retrieval bloating goes away, but I literally get get sick of the stuff, heartburn and all, and crave unflavored, unsweetened, plain water! This does the trick.

Wicked on Broadway. Wicked is playing in San Francisco and I knew I couldn't let it pass me by without seeing this raved about production. So I saw it today with Billy, and it was amazing! I really liked the story, the music, the cast, and wow was that set super cool! If you get a chance, definitely see this show, it was fantastic!

My Target purchases that are sustaining me lately. Like these super comfy lounge pants that I practically live in, these off white wedge ballet flats that make me feel classy and a little taller, and some sweet black leather flats with these cute flowers on the toes that are so comfortable you would think I was wearing my black sparkle BOBs instead. Sorry no link for those flats, I looked. 

My awesome Costco find of $25 Levi's 526 slender bootcut jeans, similar to these {526 is no longer on the Levi's site}. These jeans have a mid rise with some fancy stretch fabric that seriously sucks in the tummy area, has a beautiful dark wash, great flap pockets on the tush that make the booty look fabulous, and come in short, medium, or long lengths, with the short hitting exactly right for my shorty 5'3 self. I took a risk buying jeans without trying them on, because come on, not all jeans fit the same, and when you have a little holiday weight making your "normal" size a bit untrue, it's hard to tell. Thankfully, the size I brought home slipped on and fit like a glove. If you happen to run across these at your local Costco, give them a shot! 

What are you loving today or yesterday if you read this on Thursday?

2.01.2013

Escaped Book Tour

Oh, loves do we have something fun today!

I am hosting my blog friend Rachel Robinson on her book tour for her new book, Escaped: a Samantha Scott novel. This is a paranormal romance, one of my absolutely favorite genres, and I am so stoked to read it! So read on for an author q & a, an excerpt from Escaped, and an amazing giveaway for a Nook! 
Rachel created an author interview book trailer to give you a little insight into Escaped, and I love it! It's not like your traditional book trailer, but comes straight from Rachel herself in a vlog interview format, or at least that's how I look at it.
Here's a question and answer session with Rachel, enjoy!

Tell me about your Paranormal Romance, Escaped: A Samantha Scott Novel and where you got your inspiration for it? A place exists like your hometown or like mine that can never be seen or visited unless it lets you. Cadiza, is set deep in the Iberian Plateau of Portugal, far away from any civilization and inhabited by residents that are unable and unwilling to leave. Unfortunately, Cadiza is still close enough to large cities to prompt temptation in the young, willful hearts of teenagers. Or at least one, Samantha Scott.

She is unlike a normal human as are all the residents there. They are Bruxas—witches. Powerful ones. With her talisman now granted, a golden wrist tattoo giving her the ability to cast and spell at will, Samantha decides it’s time to bust out of Cadiza to fight for a life of her own in the human world.

The only hiccup in her plan is that her Bruxa Skill can’t be defined. Some witches have speed, others have the ability to use cathartic magic to control emotions, Samantha has multiple skills which make her dangerous yet valuable to Cadiza and to The Elders. Escaping was never going to be easy but now being on the run from Jade, the Eldest is going to be downright dangerous.

Jade will play dirty, even tempting Samantha with her Match—a Bruxa’s one true love to lure her back into her clutches. This proves a confusing triangle completed by Malakai, Samantha's first love and a human intermingled in Cadiza's widespread web of lies. For Samantha Scott the human world proves to be full of deceit and lies leaving her wondering if any choice she makes will be a wise one.

With her two best friends in tow, how far is Samantha willing to go to keep her magic and establish a life of her own outside of the Bruxa commune? How far will she go to protect the lives of her friends? To fall in love with whom she chooses?  Most importantly, how far will she push the limits to find herself?
I get my inspiration from everything around me. People and places of every variety imaginable.

How do you overcome writers block? I give myself deadlines. I work on a tight schedule and don’t sway from it. It’s the single-most important thing I take away from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) each year. You can always edit out the garbage later, but you can’t get back the time you should have been writing.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever experienced it? I don’t believe it happens between people. Humans are too complex for such a silly notion. I do, however, believe it happens while shoe shopping.

Do you recall how your interest in writing occurred? I’ve always been fond of words. I recall writing a poem while riding in the back seat of my Grandpa’s car. My mother cried the first time she read it. It went on to be published in a poem collection. I was probably only eleven or twelve years old at the time. I remember thinking, “I was just bored.”

If you gave one of your characters the opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say? They speak for themselves all the time! It’s why I get ulcers when they stray from my plot line. I hope one of them would say, “Go take a break, Rachel. We got this.”

What’s your favorite love story? Pride and Prejudice is the epitome of a great love story. It’s the only time I've rooted for a man so odd. It speaks volumes of Jane Austen’s talents. I’m also a sucker for a miserable, tragic love story.

Do you have a writing process? If so describe it. I’m what some call a burst writer. I have ideas, characters and plotlines that bounce around in my head at all times. I let them simmer there and make notes in my notebook here and there but never outline anything. When I sit down to write it all comes out in a big jumble. I’m obsessed; I’m crazed and completely dedicated to the story that’s finally being evicted from my mind. I like to use sticky notes for plot points. The wall in my office is covered with sticky notes when I’m writing a book.

Have you ever killed someone in a novel and regretted it later? I did this recently. I walked around for days like a depressed zombie because I knew it had to be done. It didn’t make it any easier. The good thing about writing Paranormal is that sometimes you can keep your options open for bringing characters back from the beyond in one form or another.

If someone came up to you and wanted to tell you about an idea or a book they were writing, what would you do? Or what advice would you give? To be a writer all you have to do is write. Tell the story that needs to be told, the one that can’t be quelled in the back of your mind. That’s the story people want to read. After you write the story go back and rewrite it…a couple times. Lastly, when you think your story is a perfect, scrupulous masterpiece rewrite it one more time just for good measure.

Are the names of characters in your novels important? Yes and no. It’s like a child, after you name them you can’t picture them going by another moniker. Personally, I like names that can be shortened into nicknames.

Are you mostly a clean or messy person? I’m the messiest clean person you’ll meet. My house is meticulously cleaned because of a spouse with a loving helping of OCD, but my pile of clean clothes is always lurking nearby. My office is a perfect balance of organized chaos.

Which do you find more embarrassing to write, violence or sex? Is violence embarrassing to write? My Grandma wouldn’t bat an eye at a bloody nose, though I’m sure she’d gape with unabashed horror while reading a sex scene her granddaughter wrote.

What would you do with 1 million ping pong balls? Crafting is one of my hobbies. I’d find something fantastic to do with that many balls. (No pun intended) I’m thinking a lot of spray paint and perhaps an entire wall covered with colored ping pong balls.

What do you like most about being a writer? It’s basically a free pass to be crazy. I look like a normal person so no one can guess, unless I tell them, or if they read my books, exactly what’s going on inside the noggin. The creative freedom is a rush.

An excerpt from Escaped:
"You're lying. I don't know why." I knew him better than he thought. After years apart I still had it. He remained silent and stony. He looked at me in earnest with his blue eyes. In that moment I knew his silence was as close to the truth as I was going to get.
"Fine. If you can't tell me what all this is about." I nudged the closest stack of books with my boot and then returned my gaze to his.
"Are you with me or against me?" If he wouldn't answer me straight I needed the next best thing―his alliance. He took a step in my direction. My stomach filled with butterflies as he gently grabbed my hands and stared intently at me. As he interlaced our fingers, I felt the strong, safe warmth I'd never been able to forget. The buzzing throughout my body I'd come to know when I was close to Malakai began. He released my hands and brought his hands to my waist. His grip was strong and tight as he crushed our bodies together. He pressed his chiseled chest and stomach against my body. It left me wanting more.
"I'm as with you as I can be." He trailed his hand up the side of my waist, grazing my breast as he brought his fingers up to lightly touch my neck. I closed my eyes to relish his touch, a touch I'd been without for so long. I opened my eyes to find his gaze darkened and more out of control. This was another look I knew well.
My head kept screaming it wasn't a direct answer. It could be taken one way or the other. My heart cancelled all other lucid thoughts as Kai leaned down and kissed me so passionately that I forgot I even owned a brain.

Rachel’s Bio
Rachel grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years she recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA. Escaped is her first Paranormal Romance novel.


Rachel Robinson blogs over at the Mean Girl Diaries, you can follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and check out her website for more Samantha Scott news! 
And now, the coveted Nook Simple Touch and a signed copy of Escaped giveaway! Make sure you are a Google Friend Connect follower; my GFC is on the right hand side of the page ;) Thanks!

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