Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I'll Be There For You

I had a 'Tip Tuesday' post all written out for you today.  I wrote most of it early yesterday and knew all I had to do was get up and edit it first thing this morning before sending it out.  It was about the things I like to buy at the Dollar Store.  I'm sure I'll post it one of these days, but when I woke up this morning (at 4 am...I slept in!!) I had other things on my mind.  I started to edit that Dollar Store post and it just didn't feel right.  That's the thing about being a writer with an outlet- you have to seize the opportunity to write something whenever it happens.  So I hope you don't mind me keeping my Dollar Store info away from you for a bit, and instead talking about another subject.

I woke up this morning with Friends on my mind.  (No, not the 90's television show, although now I got you all singing the song...you're welcome)-  Just the concept of Friends in general. I grew up in a small town (in which I now live again) and some of the Friends I made in preschool are still a large part of my life.  It's a beautiful thing, having a Friend that you can say you literally grew up with- a Friend who is in pictures with you at birthday parties, school assemblies, soccer games... There is a bond there that cannot be matched by any other Friend.  Since it was a small town, those preschool and elementary school Friends became junior high Friends, and then high school Friends.

Then I remember my mother telling me when I was younger that the Friends I would be meeting in college could be the ones I would have for life.  I went to college, made the Friends, (a lot of them), but I cannot name one of them that I actually still keep in touch with today.  I was friends with a lot of boys.  I was that girl who was the only chick at the frat house.  I loved it.  Loved having boy-friends.  I felt taken care of, I felt special, I felt...not-competed with... It was nice.  I had never had that before because I had previously been stuck in a controlling and manipulative relationship where jealousy played a huge factor.  Then I met some girls and for the first time since my playground days, I made new girlfriends.  Everything was great until it wasn't.  And I won't elaborate on that but I will say that I had my heart broken and it took me awhile to recover from the pain.

No-one can hurt you deeper than a woman.

I also have a Friend (a girlfriend) whom I met in junior high.  She and I clicked instantly- did everything together, lived together through college...we were a team.  We were a dynamic and epic team.  We had fun, we shared life, we laughed, we cried, we fought, we did every-thing together.  Then things happened and we drifted apart.  For 14 years we didn't speak or see one another.  Then this year-this past week to be specific- we reunited and it felt like no time had passed.  She was once a part of my soul and now I can say she's back in.  Or perhaps she never left... Yeah, I think that's how it works.  I think once you let someone in, truly let someone inside of you to see the real you- have a piece of the real you- no matter what happens, even if they walk away, they will always hold onto that piece. You may not even feel that you're missing the piece, but they have it.  And when they return, you somehow feel completed again.

But what about making new Friends?  What about meeting someone in your adult life? ...how does that work, exactly?  That's a hard one, I think.  Unless you're on some online Friends forum (is there such a thing?), it's difficult to actually meet new Friends in your adult life...especially when your job requires you to stay home.  But it can happen.  And sometimes it can happen with such strength that it can knock you off your tracks a little bit.  When you're an adult you don't have the time to waste like you did as a kid, you're forced to be a bit more picky about whom you let in, so the Friends you may meet, the ones you consider worth your time and effort, have to be something special.  They sort-of have to be soulmate material.  Because as an adult, you have baggage- good and bad, so cultivating and sustaining new friendships can be difficult.  It no longer matters anymore what you want, or who you want, because you have other people to consider in the equation.  But when you find someone who gets you, someone you feel really deserves to be let in, it's difficult to walk away.

The old saying is true- You can't choose your family, but you can choose your Friends.  But what they don't say is that sometimes you can't choose your Friends. Sometimes a person walks into your life (or back into your life) when you weren't expecting it, when you didn't even think you needed anything, and becomes a part of you.  And whether you like it or not, however hard it may be, you remain tethered to that person- even if just in the abstract.  Because that person was let inside- you let that person inside.  And therein lies the trouble.  When you let someone in, when you allow them to see your true self, your soul, and everything else you were willing to expose, letting them go is the hardest part.

Because everything happens for a reason, timing is everything, and sometimes you need to just sit back and allow life to take over.  On one hand I believe that you absolutely control your own destiny- You want something? You work hard and go get it!  But on the other hand I believe that some things are out of our control and we need to take a backseat and allow someone else to take the wheel.  (sigh) I'm not good at allowing someone else to take the wheel in my car.  I like driving.  I'm good at driving.  I feel like I know my car the best, I know what it likes, what makes it tick, what makes it run the smoothest, and plus- I get car sick if I'm not in the driver's seat (yes, I'm still using the car as a metaphor for my life here).

But as an adult, one of the hardest lessons we have to learn is that it isn't always about what you want anymore.  It isn't always about how well you can drive, it's about how safely you, and all of your baggage, can arrive at your destination.


I decided to re-share a recipe to go along with today's post.  It felt like a comfort food type of subject today.  Because, that's the wonderful thing about food- food is a Friend I always know I can rely on.  Making food and sharing it with the people I love, like a good Friend, is something I hold so very dear to my heart and it is a part of myself that I could never give up.  And since baking is something I do whenever I feel off in some way,  whenever I perhaps am in need of a Friend, I've decided to share with you one of my pie recipes- written almost exactly 2 years ago when (clearly, according to the post content), I was in dire need of a Friend.

Blackberry and Peach Butter Pie

And while we're on the subject of pastry (one of my favorite subjects), here's the link to a post with my pie-making videos to help you with your next pie!

As always, thanks for listening.  Go hug a Friend and enjoy your Tuesday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Makeup Monday- the unnaturally natural face

So, I'm not against wearing no makeup...(honest!) I really love makeup and buying it and playing with it and applying it (onto myself and others...) But I do actually enjoy not wearing it as well- it's a good way for your skin to breathe, it's easy, it's certainly quicker than having to do a face. But a lot of times you just have to have something on your face. Whether it's because you're not having a good skin day, or you're feeling a little drab... So I'm gonna walk you through the steps of putting on a really natural face. Plus, there's a highlighting lesson thrown in for free, just because that's how much I love you.  

Ready? Ok. Here we go.  

Start with a clean, exfoliated and well moisturized face. (I cleanse with Cetaphil, exfoliate with either a warm, wet and clean washcloth or baking soda + warm water, and moisturize with a combination of Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer and Skin Eternal Hyaluronic Serum.)  (The serum goes all over my face, neck and chest, and tops of my hands...gotta keep everything looking young, ladies-not just your face!!)

(Somehow making silly faces seemed to make the not-wearing-makeup-online pill easier to swallow.  Oh!  And now would be a good time to remind you that I do not use filters or retouch any of my Makeup Monday photos because I consider that cheating- so these are all me, baby!! Scout's honor.)

Next, apply your favorite tinted moisturizer. Mine is a combination of Garnier BB Cream in Medium/Deep for my cheeks and Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream in Light/Medium on the rest of my face. (Now is also the time that you would cover up any blemishes with a light creamy concealer and/or conceal any dark circles you may have under your eyes.) 

Then apply a cream blush to the apples of your cheeks, just enough to give your face that 'I've just been frolicking out in the sun for a bit' glow. I like the Maybelline Dream Bouncy blush in Coffee Cake.  And I use my fingers to apply it. 

If you need to fill in eyebrows, do so now, lightly. And I always prefer a shadow filler as opposed to a pencil, as it has a more natural look to it...especially for the lighter haired ladies such as myself.

Next we're gonna highlight that face. And this technique is one I also use with a fully made-up face as well...just maybe a little more of it. Highlighting really helps bounce the light off your face and literally 'highlight' your features appropriately. Like having the perfect amount of that 'staring into the sunset' glow on your face 24/7. 

I have a few products I like for different occasions. 

For today I'm using the Roll On Eye Shimmer by NYX. It's been my current go-to bc it's just so easy to apply. 

And here's where it goes...

It's very important that you blend your highlighter in extremely well-  I use my fingers.  Check your face at all angles, in different lights because the last thing you want is to see the effort that was put in to this, um, effortless face...

Then I take a matte tan colored eyeshadow and brush it lightly on my brow bones to add dimension and depth to my eyes- it just makes it look like I got a little bit of sun. I've been using the Cinnamon Stick shade in this 'Spice Islands' Cover Girl eyeshadow palette since junior high. (They stopped making it and changed all their color names...don't you just hate that?)

Then follow up with one coat of a lengthening mascara. The one I used here was Loreal Voluminous Butterfly in Blackest Black.

And now all you need is a light coat of tinted gloss/balm on your lips, and you're done! I like Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm in Cherry Me

Your face feels light, fresh and completely natural...only you happen to know it isn't.

Have a Happy Monday!! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Homemade Yellow Curry Powder

I love curry. Love it. Love Indian curries, Thai curries...green...red...yellow...love it all. I'm neither Indian nor Thai but I actually have a recipe for a Beef Stew made with yellow curry and garam masala that is to die for!! I went to make it the other day and realized I was (gasp!) out of curry powder!! So instead of going out and buying more, I decided to make my own. I mean...I have quite an extensive spice collection so I can't figure out why I haven't done this before! I actually did the same thing with garam masala awhile ago and wrote about it

It's just too easy not to do, as long as you have all the ingredients. Making your own spice blends allows you to change things up and make them your own.  Maybe you like things really spicy, or maybe you don't like any heat at all, maybe you prefer your curry powder to have less coriander than mine, less onion powder, maybe you want yours to have fenugreek..it's really just up to you.  But this is my blend, based on what I happened to have.


*Yellow Curry Powder
(Medium heat) 

In a small dry saucepan, toast the following seeds on medium-low heat until fragrant. (And allow to cool) 

3 TB coriander seeds 
4 tsp cumin seeds 
2 tsp fennel seeds 
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds 
2 tsp black peppercorns 
10 whole cloves  
2 bay whole bay leaves 

Once your spices are cooled, place them in a spice/coffee grinder (not one you use for coffee!!!) and grind until they become a powder. 

Dump them into either a small bowl or the container you will be storing your spice mix in and stir or shake in the following already ground spices: 

2 TB onion powder  
2 tsp ground cayenne
•2 TB turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger

Once everything is completely mixed you've got curry powder!! Store in a cool, dry place for a couple months. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For the Lovers

You are my first cup of coffee when the morning eyes are still in bed. 

You are my something frozen on a hot, summer day- 
when the air is so thick you could slice it, 
and the sweat beads as if it were on a string. 

You are my glass of champagne when all I can muster at that very moment, 
all I can do, is sit.  And watch. 
As the tiny bubbles float and fall and float again- 
when all I want to do is forget. 

You are my novel and my sweater when the trees are bare, 
the ground is crisp and the fire is warm. 

You are my glass of Syrah after a hard day's night, 
where no one listened and no one gave. 

You are my couch, my pillow, my blanket 
when the sun has dipped and the moon is bright. 

You are the bubble bath I pour myself 
when the stress has made its way inside.

You are my Patty Griffin-Let Him Fly, 
my Otis Redding-These Arms of Mine, 
my Joni Mitchell-A Case of You, 
when the loneliness has found a home.

You are my cold sheets when the muscles ache and the head hangs.  

You are my spirit's friend. My skin's comfort. My heart's home. 

You are my One. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Makeup Monday- ...how to remove it.

I don't buy eye makeup remover. I don't have enough of a need for it to justify buying it. I don't use waterproof eye products on a regular basis, therefore my makeup comes off fairly easily with my Cetaphil cleanser. It might take me a few layers of it and a few swipes of the washrag, but it always comes off- no problem. But every once and awhile I will try a new product that is harder to remove, or maybe I needed to wear waterproof that day, and then I'm in need of something stronger...only you don't want something 'strong' for your eye area. That's the most sensitive part of your face, that skin is very delicate. 

What you want to remove the makeup with is some sort of oil. And the main ingredient in most commercial eye makeup removers is mineral oil and fragrance.  They may throw in a couple vitamins here and there but that's all your paying for. They work fine... But here's the issue with mineral oil- it forms a film over your skin that can't be absorbed. So the oil just kinda sits on top of the skin. That sitting mineral oil can then cause acne and premature aging...and that's no fun for anyone. I've used petroleum jelly before (Vaseline), because I have it on my counter for my lips, and that works fine with a Q-tip, but again, it just sort of sits on the surface of the skin.  Plus there also have been conflicting reports on petroleum jelly and how good or bad it is for your face. So, I'd rather not risk it. 

But I have a product that both gets the makeup off easily, and is good for every part of your body. You ready? 

Coconut oil!! (Like we need another reason to buy coconut oil, I know.) This stuff is such a showoff. (Settle down, Coconut.) All you do to use it as an eye makeup remover is dab a little bit on a cotton ball or pad and gently wipe off the makeup. That's it.

(I prefer unrefined, organic virgin coconut oil if you can find it. Trader Joe's has a great price on theirs.)

(If you have extra dry skin, you can also use coconut oil as a moisturizer.)

Cool, right?  Well- since we're on the subject of all natural, double duty facial products, let's just go through the whole facial routine, shall we?  I got lots of tips for ya.  

The next product I'll be pushing on you today is the one I use to exfoliate my face. I don't buy commercial exfoliants. Many of them (that oh-so-popular apricot scrub, especially) are super bad for your skin as they actually create tiny abrasions as you scrub. They do make good ones, ones that have more of a fine, sand-like quality to them, but they can be expensive. So I use...

Baking Soda!! Yep. The stuff that costs you about $.40 a box in the baking aisle. I keep some in a jar by my sink and use it a couple times a week to make my skin incredibly smooth. It removes dead skin cells, blackheads, and creates a glowy shine. Just mix with enough water on your fingers to create a nice scrub and gently rub into your skin in a circular motion. Then rinse off. 

Product number 3, and the next step in your facial routine- another big showoff- is what I use as a toner every once and awhile. Toners are great for restoring the pH balance of your skin and I also like to finish with one whenever I'm cleaning my face after wearing makeup, because it ensures that I'm getting all the makeup off. I use a commercial toner (Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner) on a regular basis but use this product every so often. You ready for it?

Apple Cider Vinegar!! Ugh. What does this stuff NOT do? I drink it, cook with it, use it on my face... It's incredible. Just dab a cotton round with some, as you would a normal toner, and gently rub on your clean face. Chances are, you'll get some makeup and dirt off. (It's kinda fun looking at the cotton after you're done.) Apple cider vinegar contains beta carotene, which helps fix any damage caused by free radicals, it's anti bacterial so it helps clean and protect it from pollution, it's good for treating acne, and is a natural way to help restore the natural pH balance of the skin. One drawback, though- this stuff stinks. It'll stink up your whole bathroom. Your husband will not like it. But you will tell him he cannot stand in the way of beauty. And he will understand. 

If you want to use this on a regular basis, mix 1 part raw, unfiltered ACV with 2 parts distilled water and keep in a little jar. But if you're only gonna use it occasionally like myself, using it straight up is fine every so often. 

 (Yeah, it can burn your eyes a bit...watch out.)

And then, the final step in my facial routine, the step that I only do a couple times a week maybe, is a mask. I've written about my homemade mask before, and here's the link- 

It's made with organic yogurt, raw honey and rolled oats.  It's incredible and leaves your skin feeling so soft and smooth. The bonus? It smells awesome...and, uh, tastes good too...you know, if you happen to be in a hot bath and some sort of makes its way onto your lips...

So that's it! All of my all natural, facial products that you probably already have in your kitchen. And if you don't- you should go buy them...they are far less expensive than the stuff you'd find in the skin-care aisle of the drug store. 

Plus- every one of these products are super good for you. And don't you want what's best for your skin? It's the only skin you've got! 

Unless you're a snake. In which case you wouldn't be reading this anyway. Because that would be weird. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cobbler Bars!!

Who doesn't love Cobbler? In the summertime, with all the beautiful, sweet fruit we have available, who would turn down Cobbler? I'll tell you who. Busy people. Standing up people. Working people. Fork-less people. Plate-less people. When was the last time you ate a piece of cobbler on the go? Never. Right? Well. Now that all has changed. I have finally created a way for all you busy people to have your Cobbler and eat it too.

(Yeah... that's not really a thing. But just play with me here, will ya?)

Cobbler Bars!! (Say what?!) It's Cobbler. But in hand-held bar form. (I know, right?) I'm perhaps a little too pleased with myself for doing this. I had the idea just the other day when I realized how much fresh fruit I had laying around the house- fruit that is delicious on its own but needed to be eaten or else it would begin to lose its deliciousness. I was in the mood to create a new recipe, and also knew that I needed something easy to take to my recipe focus group (a.k.a my father's office building- chock full of people who are eager to be my taste testers). I wanted to bring something I could just leave with them, something they could set aside to eat whenever the mood struck. Then the idea hit me- what about a bar that tastes just like a Cobbler?!

Boom. Magic. 

It was a great success! I haven't had this much positive feedback from one of my recipes in a long time- I got office-tackled with hugs, I've received several text-rants, I was followed out of the building, into the stairwell by someone who just had to tell me he loved them, and then politely and unapologetically begged me for more. Felt pretty darn good. And a big bonus with these bars is that not only are you using whole wheat pastry flour (if you so desire...) to add more fiber, but they also have a tiny fraction of the sugar you would normally find in a Cobbler. You really get to taste the fresh fruit. They aren't rich or too filling, they're satisfying and fresh and vibrant. And just plain good. 

But you don't have to take my word for it- I've got dozens of folks, (that one guy may still be following me, it's not clear) who are willing to testify.

Or...you can just make them yourself.

Either way.

First, start by measuring out 4 cups of fresh fruit. I used a combination of peaches, blackberries and cherries because that's just what I had. But you could use just peaches, just berries, anything that sounded good to you. Either way, you will need a total of 4 cups. And if you're using peaches, dice them instead of slice them. It makes it easier to eat in bar form. 

Place the 4 cups of fresh (diced) fruit in a large mixing bowl and add in the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, 3 TB cornstarch, 3 TB white sugar, a splash of almond extract (you can omit if you're not using peaches, but it really is a pleasant background flavor) and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir well. Set aside. 

In the bowl of your standing mixer place 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened, unsalted butter and 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar. Mix on medium speed until fully combined and creamy. With the mixer on, add 2 (room temperature) large eggs, one at a time. Once they're mixed in well, add a splash of vanilla extract

In a separate bowl measure out 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (or AP white flour), 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt + a good pinch. Add this to the butter/sugar mixture with the mixer turned on low. Add slowly until fully combined. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides to get it all mixed in. Set aside. 

In a small dry saucepan on medium-low heat, toast 1/4 cup raw almonds, finely chopped. Toast until you can smell them. Allow to cool. Set aside. 

Take out 3/4 of the batter and spread evenly onto a greased 8x8 square baking dish. Sprinkle with your toasted almonds. Pour your fruit mixture over and spread evenly. Dollop the remaining 1/4 of the batter over the fruit and spread as much as you can, but know that it will melt and ooze over when it bakes. It is not necessary to cover all the fruit. You want some fruit to show through the batter. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. 

Allow to cool completely before slicing into 9 squares...you can also slice those large squares into triangles for more, smaller 'bars'.  Your choice. 

Serve room temperature and store, wrapped tightly in the fridge.