The Friday Five: Spring Favorites

It’s been a looooong time since I have done one of these posts. But, I’ve been doing some shopping lately to get myself ready for Spring and thought I would share some of the things I’m loving lately, in case you are doing the same!

Ankle length pants

Being short poses a whole array of problems. I have to spend a small fortune getting pants hemmed so that they don’t drag along the ground; Capri pants are an awkward length for me and end up making me look even shorter. Thankfully, ankle length pants are a thing this season. My favorite styles right now are the slim cropped variety at the Gap and the Pixie pant from Old Navy (PSA: Both stores have sales going this weekend, if you are in the market for these pants and other Spring wardrobe staples). Both are super comfortable, with just the right amount of stretch, and can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. I predict that these will be in regular rotation for me this season, either with a tailored jacket and blouse for work or down with a t-shirt and cardigan for the weekends.

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The Pixie Skinny Ankle Pant, Old Navy

Slim cropped pants - motorcross khaki

Slim Cropped Pants, Gap

Pointed Toe Flats

I love a good four inch heel, but now that I’m frequently carrying fifteen pounds of baby around, they aren’t the most practical shoe choice. These flats pair perfectly with the pants mentioned above and give a more professional look for the office than a standard ballet flat.

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Speakup Flats, Nine West

All Things Nautical

Lately, navy blue is my new black and I can’t get enough stripes and anchors in my life. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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Blue stripe sateen fit-and-flare dress, Gap

Anchors away earrings

                           Kate Spade Anchors’ Away Studs

striped tee

Striped Sunwashed 3/4 Sleeve Tee, Loft

Urban Decay Naked 3 Eye Shadow Palette

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I know that the Naked Palettes have been incredibly popular for awhile, but I finally decided to treat myself to one when Sephora had their Beauty Insider sale lately. The set includes 12 shadows, in shades of pink and brown. The colors are vibrant and I haven’t noticed any creasing or fading throughout the day.

Sugar Honey Lip Treatment

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My standard lip balms just were not cutting it during the winter-that-would-not end, so I splurged on a tube of this amazing stuff and have been wearing it every single day. It’s super-moisturizing, without being too heavy. It comes in a variety of colors, but I’m sticking with Honey because it’s the most perfect shade of nude.

What are you loving for spring so far?

The Friday Five: Valentine’s Day Treats

One of the things that I like about Valentine’s Day is that it gives me an excuse to overdose on chocolate, the color pink and general cuteness. Three of my favorite all time favorite things.

I usually make some kind of sweet treat for the ocassion and these are just a few things that have made it on to my short list for this year:

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Sweetheart Shortbread (via Diamonds for Dessert) The recipe yields a few dozen colorful cookies, so these would be perfect for stuffing into little cellophane treat bags for all of your Valentines.

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Raspberry Lemon Whoopie Pies (via Martha Stewart) These would look gorgeous on a pretty serving platter for a Valentine’s day dessert buffet.

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Sprinkled Strawberry Coconut Scones (via How Sweet It Is) For a festive breakfast in bed.

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Conversation Heart Cake (via Studio DIY) I know they are a tradition, but conversation heart candies are disgusting. A conversation heart that tastes like cake? Now that I can get behind!

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Nutella Espresso Cheesecake (via Baker Street) I’ll choose chocolate over any other type of dessert, any day of the week, and this seems like a super indulgent Valentine’s Day treat (plus, it was National Nutella Day a few days ago!).

What are your V-Day plans?

The Friday Five: Beauty Obsessions

Friends, can we talk about something other than food for a minute?

Thanks.

Okay. Let’s talk beauty products.

I’ve always been a I’m a pretty low maintenance kind of gal when it comes to my beauty routine. Over the years, I’ve stuck with a small handful of products that I know will not cause my sensitive skin to freak out. Plus, I feel like I never know what colors complement my skin tone, so I mostly stick to the same five products that the Bare Minerals consultant recommended to me when I started using that line of make-up eight years ago.

Although it only takes me about five minutes to fix my face in the morning, I was starting to feel like my routine and my make-up collection needed a refresh for the new year. Luckily, a few generous family members provided me with Sephora gift cards for Christmas that made a mini makeover and shopping spree possible. I discovered a few new products that I henceforth will never be able to live without:

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Clairsonic Mia 2: In spite of all of the positive reviews for this brush, I had avoided trying it because I was afraid that it would aggravate my skin. My aunt gave it to me for Christmas and now I’m sorry that I didn’t try it sooner! Over the last two weeks, I’ve noticed that my skin is less red and the dry patches that I tend to see this time of year have vanished. My skin feels cleaner than it does when I just use a washcloth or my hands, even though I just use my regular old cleanser.

Smashbox

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: I always thought that primer was a waste of time and money. But, after one week, I’m a convert. This definitely helps my make-up stay in place and look fresh throughout the entire day. This product is light enough that you can’t even feel the extra layer on your skin between moisturizer and foundation.

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Dior Nude Skin-Glowing Makeup: I’ll continue to use my Bare Minerals Foundation every day because this is too pricey to buy every month. But, I’ll be using this as my special occasion/when I need to look good in photos make-up because it makes my skin look totally flawless.

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Hour Glass Femme Rouge Creme Lipstick in Grace and Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Pink Diamond: I’m listing these two together because the combination finally nails the perfect nude lip color I’ve been searching for my whole life. It’s a great everyday lip color, but also looks great paired with bold eye makeup for nighttime.

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Laura Mercier Baked Smokey Eye Shadow Palette: I’m already a fan of most of the Laura Mercier line, including blushes, bronzers and mascaras. This eyeshadow collection has an awesome variety, from matte to shimmery shades, and lasts all day without creasing. I think this particular set was a holiday product, but all of the shades included are sold separately or included in other kits in the line.

So, now I have a few extra steps in my routine in the morning and I’m going to have to increase my make-up budget over the next year. But, I was reminded how much fun experimenting with makeup can be.

What are your beauty must-haves?

The Friday Five: On Resolutions and Sweet Treats

At some point in grade school, I had a teacher who made us write down our new year’s resolutions and share them with the class. I went to Catholic school, so it was probably just another way to make us feel guilty about our bad habits, but making resolutions is a practice that I have kept up with ever since.

When I was younger, I would always resolve to stop biting my nails. It was a record if I could make it to January 4th (Getting acrylic nails for Senior Prom in high school and maintaining them for nearly a decade after that was the only thing that broke that habit. Those things are impossible to bite off). As I got older, I frequently attempted banish curse words from my vocabulary when January 1 rolled around. That proved pretty much impossible since cursing is the only thing that makes me feel better when people act like idiots.

In light of these dismal failures, I’ve started to frame my new year’s resolutions with the goal of developing new, productive habits. This seems less daunting–and more fun–than trying to get rid of the bad ones. Five years ago, instead of saying that I wanted to lose a certain amount of weight, I just focused on the idea of wanting to be in better shape, which started me on the path to working out on a regular basis. Two years ago, this blog grew out of my commitment to develop and stick with a new hobby.

This year, one of my goals is to continue to work on my baking skills. It might sound lame, but baking has become a major stress reliever for me. I’m the kind of person who sometimes has trouble turning her mind off. But, somehow its easier to do when I’m spooning flour into measuring cups, creaming butter and sugar together or scooping out cookie dough. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become pretty good at making cookies, cupcakes and brownies but I would really like to step out of my comfort zone and try a few new recipes.

To that end, here are a few things that I’m looking forward to trying out in 2013:

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Macarons: So pretty, yet so tricky to make. I received the Bouchon Bakery book for Christmas and a few of the bloggers that I follow have written that the technique used in Thomas Keller’s recipe has solved their macaron phobia.

sticky buns

Flour’s Sticky Buns: One of my favorite treats when I visit Boston. I also asked for the Flour Bakery book for Christmas, specifically so I could make them (Completed, January 21).

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Layer Cake: From scratch, since the only layer cakes I’ve ever made have involved boxed mixes and canned frosting.

cheesecake

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Cheesecake: Just because I’ve never made one of these either and they are one of my favorite desserts.

pasta fresh

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Homemade pasta: So, this falls into the savory category, but I’ll still count it in this list because it involves making a dough. Pasta making is a basic skill for us Italians, so I better start practicing.

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Truffles: I had hoped to have time over to holidays to make some to give as gifts. Oh well, maybe next year!

What’s on your new year’s resolution list this year–food related or otherwise?

The Friday Five: Christmas Cookies

Today is my last day of work for the year and I’m looking forward to spending part of my time off next week in the kitchen, making cookies.

After consulting multiple sources and changing my mind many times, here’s what’s on my list this year. I don’t know that I’ll actually get to all of them, but it’s good to be ambitious, right?

1) Black and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies: These are kind of my signature item and the first thing that I baked successfully when I was just learning how. As I mentioned last year, the recipe is handwritten and I have no idea where I got it from.

2) Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies (via Sugar Cooking): All my favorite things, all together!

3) Chewy Sugar Cookies (via America’s Test Kitchen): I have a sugar cookie recipe (that I’ve used as the base for these cookies) already, but Chester and I recently saw an episode of ATK that featured these cookies and now I’ve got to try them. The Test Kitchen always gets it right. Plus, Christopher Kimbell told me that they make everyone who interviews for a job at the Test Kitchen has to make sugar cookies. I have to start practicing for my second career.

4) Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze (via Giada deLaurentiis for the Food Network): The lemon cookies I made last year were a hit, but I figured I would give this Italian favorite at try (While trying not to get annoyed by hearing Giada’s voice in my head, pronouncing ricotta in her exaggerated, fake accent that she reserves for Italian words).

5) Cranberry Thumbprints (via Martha Stewart) I love cranberries and always regret not using them more when they are in season.

Have you started your holiday baking yet? What’s on your list?

The Friday Five: Eggnog

By the time Thanksgiving dinner was cleared from the table last week, I was already in full on Christmas mode. Our house—including the tree—is all decorated. I’ve been to AC Moore, Michael’s and Paper Source for all kinds of crafty inspiration and I’ve been pinning cookie recipes like crazy.

Most importantly, I had my first eggnog latte of the season from Starbucks. I just found out that they can be made with low fat eggnog. I don’t remember this being an option before and I’m pretty excited about it. Even though it probably saves about 13 calories.

I know that its thick texture puts a lot of people off, although I think that’s the best part. It’s just like rich, melted vanilla ice cream. I’ve been in love with the stuff ever since I had my grandfather let me try a sip of it out of a tiny paper cup at Christmas Eve dinner one year when I was little. I haven’t ever tried to incorporate eggnog into baked goods, but something tells me that it would be awesome. And, I’m sure one of the treats below could help change your mind if you fall into the anti-eggnog camp:

1)      Cinnamon Eggnog Scones (via King Arthur Flour)

2)      Eggnog Crème Brulee (via Betty Crocker)

3)      Eggnog Truffles (via Shugary Sweets)

4)      Nutella Eggnog Cookies (via Roxana’s Home Baking)

5)      Eggnog Breakfast Pudding with Cinnamon Whipped Cream (via  Lauren’s Latest)

How do you feel about eggnog? Yay or nay? Have you ever used it for baking?

The Friday Five: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week, friends!

My mom and I have been e-mailing back and forth since the end of October to plan our menu. As always, she’s in charge of the turkey and I’ll be helping out with the lower maintenance (i.e. easier) side dishes. There are so many wonderful ingredients available to cook with this time of year, including pumpkins, cranberries and apples, and we are planning to use as many of them as possible.

Here’s what we’ve got so far:

  1. Cornbread Stuffing (via Cooking Light): We’ve picked a few recipes out that we like for the stuffing. This one seems like a good base, but we’re probably going to tweak it with a few other ingredients, like golden raisins, apple, celery and onion.
  2. Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Mushrooms (via Bell’alimento): One of our favorite sides from last year will make a repeat appearance. Bonus: it’s super easy to throw together.
  3. Orange and Honey Glazed Carrots (via Saveur): We were having trouble thinking of an option for a non-green side and then I received an email from Saveur with dozens of ideas, including this one. Honey always makes for a nice, rich glaze.
  4. Cranberry, Cherry and Walnut Chutney (via Cooking Light): I love cranberries, but I like them even more when they are combined with other ingredients. We’ll still be making plain old cranberry sauce for those of us who don’t like nuts in our food (i.e. my brother).
  5. Pumpkin Pound Cake with Buttermilk Glaze (via Cooking Light): An alternative to the pumpkin pie that none of us are really a fan of.

Not pictured: Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and my aunt’s homemade bread.

What’s going to be on your table this year?

The Friday Five: Birthday Cake!

When my BFF and I were little, we spent quite a bit of time sitting on the front steps, making grand plans for our grown up lives.

We always seemed to focus on what it would be like when we were 30. It seemed so old. But, luckily, it also seemed sooooooo far away.

The time flew. And, all of a sudden, here I am on the final day of my 20s.

I have most of the things that I thought I would have back in the day, like:

A driver’s license (which I had to take five times, because I was a terrible parallel parker. Still am.). And, a car.

And, a husband.

And, good friends.

And, my own house.

And, another living thing that depends on me (Yes, she’s just a cat. And, yes, Chester is also part of the reason she’s still alive. But, I like to think that I’m helping).

I get to go where I want, buy what I want and stay up late (which for me, is about 10:00 p.m. I really live it up).

Oh. And, I have a job.

And, bills.

And, stress.

Those parts are not so fun. But, for the most part, I’m pretty darn lucky.

All that to say: I suppose that I am actually a grown-up.

Even though I still feel like I’m 11 on most days. Is that going to change automatically tomorrow?

Even if it does, I’m looking forward to a celebratory weekend with family and friends, in which I plan to indulge in as much birthday cake as humanly possible. Because that’s always acceptable. No matter how old you get.

These are a few that I wouldn’t mind seeing lit up with an alarming number of candles this year:

  1. Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing (via Saveur): This is by far my favorite birthday cake combination. I used to request it every year and my mom, the self-proclaimed Boxed Cake Queen, always delivered.
  2. Triple Chocolate Cake (via Pellman Foods): This cake has made an appearence at several of my birthday celebrations and can be purchased at Beiler’s Bakery, one of the Amish-run stands at the Reading Terminal Market. Creamy, fudgy icing surrounds four layers of rich chocolate cake. The whole thing is topped off with a ridiculous amount of chocolate curls.
  3. Lemon Cake (via Martha Stewart): As far as cake flavors go, I tend to stick to standard chocolate and vanilla, but would consider departing from the norm for lemon cake.
  4. Funfetti Cake (via the Kitchn): Funfetti still makes me feel like a kid, no matter how old I get.
  5. Pink Ombre Swirl Cake (via Glorious Treats): This is just the most beautiful cake ever!

What’s your favorite birthday treat?

The Friday Five: Halloween Leftovers

When we made our trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies in preparation for the hurricane, Chester brought along a coupon for Halloween candy. Although I love a bargain, I refused to use it. We rarely get trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and I knew that being trapped in the house for two days with three bags of candy would not end well for my waistline.

While out running errands during lunch on Halloween, I started to feel bad. If a little kid did in fact knock on my door that evening all I would have had to distribute would be Wint-o-Green Lifesavers or pennies. I didn’t want to be one of those people. You know you had them on the block where you grew up, too.

So, I grabbed a bag of Reese’s pumpkins, just in case.

Of course, zero trick-or-treaters came.

And, yesterday, Chester came home with quite the assortment of half-priced candy from CVS, including a nice variety pack of Reese’s cups, Hershey Bars, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys. He knows me so well.

So, now I’ve got leftover Halloween candy. And, I’m sure you do, too.

Fortunately, candy can always be incorporated into a variety of other treats. Halloween usually results in a pretty random assortment. Although some of these recipes suggest specific types of candy, they would all still work if you just threw together whatever you happen to have on hand:

  1. Candy Bark (via Bon Appetit)
  2. Candy Jar Ice Cream (via Everyday with Rachael Ray)
  3. Shortbread Candy Bars (via Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food)
  4. Leftover Halloween Candy Bundt Cake (via The Food Librarian)
  5. Halloween Candy Snack Mix (via Babble)

Personally, I’m glad that Halloween is out of the way so that we can move on to the “good” holidays. Bring on all things Thanksgiving and Christmas!

The Friday Five: Homemade Halloween Candy

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is next week. While I pretty much have the same antipathy I’ve always had for the holiday, I can get behind the idea of eating mass quantities of candy.

If you haven’t already stocked up on fun-sized candy bars for your neighborhood trick-or-treaters or decided how you are going to fashion a costume out of a trashbag so you can attempt to collect candy yourself, maybe you would consider a DIY Halloween this year:

  1. Candy Corn (via Serious Eats): I’m sure I could never get these to turn out as perfectly adorable as they look in the photo. Can someone with more patience than I have try it out and send me a batch? And while you’re at it, can you come up with a recipe for those little pumpkins that come with the Harvest Mix? Those things are the best.
  2. Twix (via Endless Simmer): The recipe suggests making your own caramel for these. That can be a little tricky and you might burn a finger or two, but it’s so much better than the pre-made stuff.
  3. Kit-Kat Bars (via the Daily Meal): These only require two ingredients and absolutely no baking, so they would be quick and easy to throw together for a Halloween party or other gathering.
  4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (via Not Your Momma’s Cookie): I’ve made these before (can’t remember which recipe I used, but this one looks pretty similar) and they are just as addictive as the store bought variety. And, like the Kit-Kats, they also don’t require any baking!
  5. Snickers Bars (via Bon Appetit): These just look decadent. I would make a batch to keep in the freezer for emergencies.

I will once again be hitting the CVS the day after for discounted leftovers (if you ask me, the days after Halloween and Valentine’s Day are better than Black Friday). If you get there first, please save me one of the variety packs of Reese’s candies and let me cut in front of you in line. Thanks in advance

How do you feel about Halloween? Do you have any favorite treats?