It Changed My Life: Too Faced Snow Bunny Bronzer

“A little powder, a little paint, makes a woman, what she ain’t.” This ditty has been sung in my family for generations. We are, shall I say, completely committed to the transformative power of cosmetics. It’s not that I believe women have to wear makeup. Many days I simply slap on some tinted moisturizer and head out. However, on the days where I need to look polished, makeup is my best friend.

TooFaced(1)

 

I’ve found that beauty products are the most powerful on days where you aren’t looking or feeling your best. When I was working long hours at the Big Law Firm, I discovered Too Faced Snow Bunny. This multi-color bronzer is a miracle worker. It banishes redness, corrects imperfections and makes your skin glow. In fact, I’ve found that it has the power to make you appear well-rested on only four hours of sleep, perfect for applying after a big night out or a late night at the office. The best part? All it takes is a couple of swipes and you’re good to go. It’s a 30 second trick that can make you look awake and alive, that’s my type of paint.

TooFaced(2)

You can purchase Snow Bunny directly from Too Faced.  It’s also available at Sephora.

 

Advertisements

Minor Obsession: Haptic Lab

Inspired by Coley Di’s post on cozy blankets, I felt the need to brag about a project I’ve just started.  Haptic Lab is a design studio based in Brooklyn that makes amazing “soft map” quilts like this one of the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes

They also have a line of city quilts that feature hand-stitched maps of the city streets of cities including New York, Boston, Chicago and London.  Here’s London:

London

While I think the stark simplicity of the white city quilts is pretty rad, I have to admit that I love the cheery colors of their baby blankets even more:

BKln

Anywho, in addition to the quilts, Haptic Lab also sells DIY kits for the ambitious home quilter.  I bought the USA map kit around Christmas and am just now starting on it.  I’d originally planned to use a solid color as the backdrop for the map.  But then last week I noticed a pile of old jeans that I’ve been meaning to throw away/donate.  Denim seems like the most American of fabrics, so I’ve opted instead to piece together a basic block quilt of denim squares that I cut from the jeans and I’ll be embroidering the USA map on that.  I’m headed out this afternoon to pick out embroidery thread.  Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Try This At Home: Stove Top Scents

True confession. I live in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and two cats. It’s a little crowded, a little cozy and sometimes, well, it’s a little stinky. Our kitchen and dining area have no ventilation and cooking smells tend to linger. It’s not that I don’t love the smell of bacon, but day-after bacon? Not so much. Thankfully, a few years ago one of my best friends taught me her Mom’s secret trick for de-stinkifying her home. It’s so simple I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.

IMG_1687

You just fill a pot up with water, add some goodies, turn on the stove and simmer everything until your entire home smells amazing. Personally, I’m a fan of fruits and spices – here I’ve used an orange peel, an apple core, some cinnamon sticks and whole allspice. Make sure to check back in periodically and add water when necessary so that you don’t scorch your ingredients. Obviously, the bigger the pot of water the longer you can let it be. I prefer using a huge pot – generally my gigantic Le Creuset. I fill it to the top, turn the stove on low and forget about it for hours. When my whole apartment smells unbelievable I turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave it there to use again the next day, and sometimes the day after that and the day after that!

I love this method. It’s simple, it’s natural and it uses ingredients I have on hand and many that I would otherwise throw away. Thriftiness makes my inner Iowan grandmother so very happy. Plus, if you’re feeling uninspired the internet has some great suggestions for scent-combinations. The Yummy Life suggests lime, thyme, mint and vanilla extract; One More Moore shares the secret behind Williams Sonoma’s awesome smell (lemon, rosemary and vanilla); and Inspired To Share recommends pine, bay leaf and nutmeg (year round Christmas!). Would you try this at home? What scent would you chose?

Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice

Getting dinner on the table in our household is sometimes a challenge. Despite the fact that I love to cook, weeknight meal preparation often feels more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime. New York’s endless take-out options also make it far too easy to be lazy, and let’s be honest, a bit unhealthy. I find that making dinner happen is a lot easier if I think ahead and carefully choose my recipes.

I have three main requirements for a weeknight dinner. First, it most be delicious. I really don’t see the point in bothering with mediocre food. Andrew and I rate every new recipe I try. If a dish doesn’t score at least an 8 out of 10 it doesn’t enter regular rotation. Second, it must be quick and easy. Ideally I am in and out of the kitchen in under 45 minutes, leaving plenty of time in my evening for watching cheesy television. Third, it makes good leftovers. Andrew takes his lunch to work most days and I work from home. Eating leftovers for lunch helps keep our food budget in check and ensures that most of our meals are relatively healthy.

Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice passes all three tests with flying colors. Prepping and cooking takes about half-an-hour, the final product is absolutely delicious and it tastes just as good the next day. I highly recommend adding this to your week-night menu.

IMG_1712

Tropical Black Beans with Coconut Rice
Adapted From Cooking Light Fresh Food Superfast

Tropical Black Beans

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I use red, orange or yellow – about 1 1/2 full peppers) You can use pre-chopped peppers to save time.
3/4 cup chopped red onion (or 1 chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (1/2 inch) chunks mango (1 mango)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice or 4-5 tablespoons frozen orange juice*
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or dutch oven (I prefer using a deeper pot – I’m a bit messy! I generally break out my 4 1/2 quart dutch oven)
Add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sauté 4 minutes or until tender.
Stir in mango, juice, spices and beans. Cook 3-4 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Serve over 1/2 cup coconut rice and sprinkle each serving with 2 T cheese

Coconut Rice

1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant brown rice
1/4 chopped green onions
Dash of hot sauce (to taste)

Combine coconut milk and salt in a 2-quart saucepan.
Bring to a boil; gradually stir in rice.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Remove from heat; let stand, covered 5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork. Stir in hot sauce and green onions.

If you don’t have instant rice on hand you can make this with normal brown rice. I follow the instructions on the package, subbing coconut milk + broth or water for the amount of liquid required.

*We are not regular OJ drinkers and I can’t stand buying a big jug of juice just for one recipe.  Instead I keep a tub of frozen concentrate in my freezer, either in tupperware or in the the original packaging covered with plastic wrap. When a recipe calls for fresh juice I sub in frozen – I just scoop it right out of the tub and into the pot. Just make sure to add a little less than the recipe calls for since the frozen stuff is more concentrated.

Nutritional Info – Per Serving

Beans:
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 6
Calories: 237
Fat: 5.4g
Protein: 12.2g
Carb: 40.8g
Fiber: 8.4g
Chol: 9mg
Iron: 3.4mg
Sodium: 198mg
Calc: 177mg

Coconut Rice
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4
Calories: 122
Fat: 4.4g
Protein: 2.3g
Carb: 21g
Fiber: 1.5g
Chol: 0mg
Iron: .6mg
Sodium: 17gmg
Calc: 5mg

Minor Obsession: Cozy Blankets

I adore blankets. Just love them. In fact, I can think of nothing better than being snuggled on the couch under a super soft throw.  Besides keeping you warm and comfy, a good blanket can add a bit of sass and color to any room. If I lived in a big house I would have a linen closet brimming with blankets for every season and in every color.  As it is, we live in a one-bedroom apartment with very limited storage space, so I’ve had to settle for a carefully curated collection. Still, I dream of the days where I will be able to indulge my blanket fantasies – below are a few beauties that I would love to have in my home.

ZGallerie chevron-throw-orange

Super-fun, super-cozy and very on-trend chevron throw for only $60 from zGallerie.  I have a very similar blanket that I found at HomeGoods for only $30 – I’ve found a ton of great deals on blankets and other accents at HomeGoods and its sister stores, Marshalls and TJ Maxx.

handknit-swoon-throw

Bright and comfy blanket from cb2.  Perfect for adding a touch of color to any room.

Faux Fur

Faux Fur from Pottery Barn.  Perfect for cold winter nights.

img8o

Stripes or solids for $30 and under from West Elm. Cozy and wallet-friendly.

blanket

Ruffle “Sweatshirt” throw from RueLaLa.  I’ve found that Rue, OneKingsLane, Gilt, Joss&Main and other flash sale sites have outstanding deals on throws and other home accents.

Which would you choose? Don’t they make you want to spend a weekend on the couch?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

NEW_YORK_WEDDING_PHOTOGRAPHY

Photograph taken by our out-of-this-word wedding photographer Rick Collins.

Andrew and I prefer to opt out of the New York restaurant scene on V-Day.  It’s not that we don’t love a good meal or this (slightly cheesy) holiday, it’s just that neither of us can stand paying $70 a person for a meal that would be $25 a person any other night.  Instead we plan to spend the night eating some delicious delivery or picking up something from the new Mexican food-cart turned restaurant down the block and snuggling on the couch.  Hopefully we’ll be able to finish up the final season of Big Love, nothing like watching a show about polygamy to make your marriage feel nice and uncomplicated!

Travel Finds: Tinned Fish

A few weekends ago, I took a quick trip to Lisbon with a couple friends.  As far as I’m concerned, Lisbon’s the perfect city for a weekend getaway, even in January, which isn’t its best season.  For me and my friends, the weather was loads better than if we’d stayed in Scotland, but it was, admittedly, a little cloudy and chilly.  However, regardless of the season, Lisbon offers so many of my favorite things: narrow, winding streets filled with tiny restaurants and bars, wines that are both tasty and cheap, and delicious seafood.

My friends and I had been looking forward to at least one meal of grilled sardines but we quickly discovered that sardines are only in season from spring through fall.  Luckily, one of us had read about a cool little bar called Sol e Pesca that serves a wide variety of Portuguese tinned fish.  We stopped in and were all surprised to discover that tinned fish is pretty fantastic.  We tried a couple different plates that first night: sardines in tomato sauce, smoked octopus and mackerel, I believe.  Each was served simply, laid out with the addition of a few fresh herbs and paired with a big bowl of bread.  Well, we pretty much inhaled those and ordered another round.  What we’d intended to be a pre-dinner snack quickly turned into a full meal.

Not surprisingly, we wound up there again the next night.  The bar is an old tackle shop and the owners have kept it looking pretty fishy.  In addition, the house white wine was cheap and delicious and the bar staff was incredibly friendly.

IMG_3795

We also managed to snag a few tins to bring back to Scotland.  Turns out, tinned fish is the perfect Portuguese souvenir.  There are a ton of different brands, each with its own fun look.

IMG_3857

Since being back in Edinburgh, we’ve also discovered that it’s fairly easy to find the same types of tinned fish here in Scotland.  I’ve found that a tin of sardines (preferably with tomato sauce) and a baguette makes a great little meal for days when I’m feeling lazy.  In addition, taking a cue from Sol e Pesca, with a little bit of prettying up, tinned fish can be an appetizer worthy of guests.

Date Night – Boardgames & Bar Food

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a hermit. I love a good night out with friends but I also require a huge amount of downtime. Lucky for me my husband also enjoys a good night in. Many of our “date nights” are spent eating yummy delivery and watching a marathon of whatever TV show we are obsessed with at the time. But sometimes you just have to get out of the house. Saturday night was one of those nights – I wanted to DO something. The conditions weren’t ideal for an outing, Nemo had just dumped tons of snow on NYC and I am still recovering from a badly sprained ankle, so we wanted to stay close to home. We found the perfect low-key option just a couple blocks away – South, a dive bar rumored to have awesome grilled cheese sandwiches and plenty of board games for our entertainment.

20130212-210402.jpg

We were so excited to find the rumors were true. The grilled cheese sandwiches were amazing, dirt cheap, and a little fancy. We shared one with cheese and strawberry jam and another with cheese, jalapeños and sausage. Delish. I will definitely be recreating them at home.

20130212-211456.jpg

While scarfing our sandwiches we engaged in a serious game marathon – three rounds each of three different games. We started with Jenga, moved on to Uno, and wrapped up with Candyland. I’m happy to announce that I walked away the big winner, securing the victory with wins in the Uno and Candyland categories. My big prize? Choosing the ice cream we ate for dessert. All in all it was a pretty great Saturday night date – good company, yummy food, lots of conversation, and we were home in time to sneak in an episode of Big Love before midnight.

20130212-211755.jpg

It Changed My Life – Moroccanoil

I have to admit, I’ve given coleydi a fair amount of crap over the years for both her “it changed my life!” and her “it was the best XX dollars I’ve ever spent!” proclamations.  Now that that’s been acknowledged, I’ll also admit that every once in a while my own product recommendations use the exact same words.

Today, I’m sitting in my flat in Edinburgh, straightening my hair and thinking about how happy I am to have found my terrific little bottle of Moroccanoil.  I have naturally curly hair and I straighten it frequently.  It’s fairly typical white-girl curly hair (fine, tightish curls) and the excessive time with blowdryers and curling irons means its prone to damage.  Moroccanoil has, as promised, changed that equation.  I put a little bit in after showering and my hair not only dries faster but even the typically crispy bits at ends now feel soft and silky.

Seriously, this stuff is the shit.

My First Days in the Kitchen

I haven’t always liked to cook. In fact, I didn’t have a clue about what to do in the kitchen until I was 23. I was a 2nd year law student living in NYC with a tiny apartment kitchen. I’m not sure what I’d been subsisting on – probably a combination of take-out and frozen foods. I don’t remember what changed but I suddenly decided one day that “Grown-Ups” should know how to cook so I bought a few cookbooks. I started with an old family favorite – the Better Homes & Garden Cook Book. My Mom’s battered red and white checkered edition has been in my house longer than I’ve been alive. I jazzed it up a bit with the new Pink Plaid breast-cancer edition.  Cooking and a cause?  Perfect.

New Cook Book, Limited Edition "Pink Plaid" : For Breast Cancer Awareness (Better Homes & Gardens)

Like the good type-A girl that I pretend not to be, I didn’t just casually start cooking. Nope. I made a plan. It was simple. I cooked twice a week, one day I would make an old standby, the other I would cook something new. Luckily, my Mom and my best college girlfriend both happen to be fabulous home cooks, so I always had someone to call when I had questions. I highly recommend this method for anyone just beginning in the kitchen. It helped me build my confidence gradually and it was great to have a few recipes that I knew I could execute perfectly. Within a few months I’d discovered that not only could I cook, but I loved to cook. There was no turning back.

Cooking with my beautiful Mom!