26 December 2011

Dave's Gourmet Pasta Sauce

Continuing with the theme of "holiday laziness," I also went grocery shopping last minute (like 8pm on Christmas Eve "shit-we-need-milk" last minute). Not to mention, several ingredients from last week's recipes were gone so I had to scrap the list, shop blindly, and hope for the best. Fortunately, I forced convinced my husband to come with me and he absolutely SHINES at spontaneous grocery shopping.  We  managed to find brats... in California (it's near impossible)... on Christmas Eve... with an hour left to shop... after searching for three months!  There they were, like the Star that led the Wise Men to Baby Jesus, so we were led by the yellow sales signs to the meat section-- and it didn't require 3 weeks of camel travel through the desert!

We also came across Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Sauce and decided it would be amazing with gnocchi and kale. It was a good decision.  The results equalled this epic Christmas feast:

This was the first time I'd seen Dave's Gourmet and I have to say... I'm SOLD!  It's an all-natural, gluten free sauce made with All-American ingredients.  Pretty sweet.  

The ingredients are as follows: butternut squash, water, tomato paste, red bell pepper, evaporated cane juice, butter, celery, onion, garlic, sea salt, citric acid, and black pepper.  No MSG, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils... basically no unpronounceable ingredients over 9 letters or odd abbreviations with numbers. In fact, I might try whipping up my own version of this delectable sauce, but I'm happy these jars are available when I'm in a pinch or have a recipe that requires jarred sauce (I always cringe a little when I read that).

The sauce itself has a thick consistency with a sweet flavor (you can taste the red bell pepper) but no one flavor is overly potent-- it's about balance, baby.  With the (potato) gnocchi it ended up being super rich, so I think next time I'll try it with a tortellini or ravioli; however, the kale was a great accent. Kale with Butternut Squash is the new Peanut Butter and Jelly. 

Overall, I love Dave's Gourmet, can't wait to try more of their products, and think you should visit their website... NOW. 

Photo courtesy of DG site-- thanks!

23 December 2011

Plus Size Fashion

This is debuting a week late as we had another blackout last Friday.  Life is never boring around here.

What are you wearing this winter?  As I spend a ton of time at home, I mainly sport pj pants, sweatshirts, and tanks, but when I go out I'm all about scarves/jeans/button downs/ and layers.  Here are a few pieces for the plus size crowd I just love (and wish Santa would drop down my chimney).

Big shades, chunkified accessories, statement earrings, and white.  Pink and black love.

Jeans in boots, faux fur, turtle necks AND this awesome casual weekend outfit.  I need flats again ASAP.

Sexy red dress + Sexy black dress = Happy ME!

Neutrals, layers, and a trench. How hot are those bags?!

I hope plus size fashion becomes its own bigger and better industry.  Those of us with curves need clothing designed for our bodies, not larger versions of "skinny wear." Emphasize the boobs, the booty, the hips, and make more 3/4 sleeved shirts damn it!  That's a flattering length on most women. Take it easy on the tummy hugging and for the love of Pete let's see more plus size boots!  And ladies remember, loose clothing makes you look BIGGER not smaller, so look for pieces that "love" the best parts of your body and don't be scared to go sleeveless-- it actually thins you out.  

19 December 2011

Workout Tunes

Because I love lists, I'm going to give you my Top 10 Current Workout Playlist (with added commentary because it's what I do). I say "current" because fun songs come out all the time so this list will eventually change.

1. "Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine
Great beat, lyrics, and voice, not to mention inspiring in any part of your life that needs a little boost.

2. "I Won't Back Down" by Eminem featuring Pink
Though not my favorite genre, Rap, with its fast lyrics and heavy beats, is fantastic when sweating like a pig on the elliptical. Plus the whole 'not backing down' thing is perfect when 300lbs and facing off against workout equipment.

3. "Till I Collapse" by Eminem & Nate Dogg
This song is all about working hard "till I collapse." Though I'd prefer not passing out on a treadmill, it certainly pushes you back to the gym.

4. "Power" by Kanye West
A take charge kind of tune.

5. "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera. 
If you've listened to KissFM, been in a club, trendy bar, or Forever 21 in that last few months you're no stranger to the melodic (and slightly annoying) whistling of this tune.  I know it's overly pop-ish with a dash of ridiculous, Adam Levine needs to be reminded that he is not actually Mick Jagger, and it's an overall strange song... but damn it's catchy and fun to exercise to.

6. "Mercy" by Duffy
I love British Pop. Listen to this song and you'll know why.

7. "99 Problems" by Hugo
One of the best covers EVER and an altogether ass-kicking song.

8. Anything by Ke$ha
Her songs are awesome for working out. I know she has a $ in her name, but if you take the time to listen to her lyrics, you'll realize most of her music is either satyrical or meant to be shallow.

9. "Nothing But the Beat"(album) by David Guetta
It's club music. Nuff said.

10. "Mariella," "We Get On," and "Merry Happy/Little Red" by Kate Nash
Kate Nash is the shit. The end.

Honorable Mention:
"I Fucking Hate You" by Godsmack
"Gold Digger" by Kanye West featuring Jaime Foxx
"Set Fire to the Rain" by Adele
"Mamma Knows Best" by Jessie J
"All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers

15 December 2011

How to Make Loose Leaf Tea

Sit back with a cuppa and let's chat about TEA.

Drink Loose Leaf Tea. Trust me. Tea bags, while sufficient and cheap, are the leftovers from REAL tea (aka loose leaf). Kind of like eating the core from an apple and expecting all the nutrients from the skin.

Types of tea I know about-- thanks to Teavana-- are Mate (MAH-tay), Herbal, Rooibos (ROY-bus), White, Green, Oolong, Black.  I've heard about pure jasmine tea, rose petal tea... but I know nothing about these.  While rooibos, herbal, and mate have certain health properties, Teavana refers to these teas as "flavorings" because they do not contain actual tea leaves (and they're cheap so Teavana sales people are always talking up the more expensive types).

I want to highly recommend regularly drinking tea like you drink wine water.  All teas offer overall amazing health benefits while specific types concentrate on helping certain areas of the body.  You'll see.  I lost 15 pounds drinking Monkey Picked Oolong from Teavana (and I'm not the only one).  And if you're stronger than me and can transition your caffeine addiction to tea only... that would be amazing.

IF you don't like tea, then you haven't had it made properly.  Although I'm not a fan of Teavana's sales process, go sample their teas. I triple dog dare you.  Go straight for the iced tea-- mow over the crazy sales associate if you need to-- it'll change your life.  When making tea, always follow the steeping directions. Going over the recommended temp will burn it.  If you want a stronger tasting tea, add more tea leaves, do not steep over the allotted time; and if you want black tea or green tea or oolong at night without the caffeine, just add the water to the tea maker, steep for 30 seconds & drain then steep accordingly.  I know there are all these rules but if a goober like me can get the hang of it, so can you.

Caffeine: 1% of a cup of coffee (less than an M&M and a cup of decaf coffee which has 3%)
Steeps at 175 degrees at 2 minutes plus you can re-steep leaves about 5 to 6 times (get your money's worth baby!)
Health properties: Hydration, Detoxification, and great for your skin
Teavana faves: Silver Needle, Silver Yin Zen Pearls, Strawberry Paraiso (I like picking out the candied papaya pieces) and Precious White Peach

Caffeine: 5-10%
Steeps at 175 degrees for 2 minutes. Pure green teas can be re-steeped a few times but not flavored ones.
Health Properties: Regulates blood sugar, boosts immune system, and contains lots of antioxidants
Teavana Faves: Gyokuro Imperial, Moroccan Mint, Fruita Bomba, and Blackberry Mojito

Caffeine: 10-15%
Steeps at 195 degrees for 3 minutes. Great for re-steeping
Health Properties: Boosts metabolism (weight loss), promotes healthy skin & teeth, and aids in digestion (I love sipping it after a meal).
Teavana Faves: Monkey Picked Oolong, Anjou Pear-adise, and Kamiya Papaya Oolong

Caffeine: 20%
Steeps at 195 degrees for 3 minutes
Health Properties: promotes heart health, boosts energy, and maintains cardiovascular and circulatory systems (think blood :)
Teavana Faves: Nine Dragon Golden Needle, Black Dragon Pearls, and Cacao Mint Black

Caffeine: 100% (wee!)
Steeps at 208 degrees for 6-8 minutes (the longer the better, up to 15 minutes). Not recommended for re-steeping
Health Properties: Curbs appetite, energy (duh), and contains lots of vitamins & minerals
Teavana Faves: Raspberry Riot Lemon, MateVana, and JavaVana (but they have a couple new fruity ones that sound delish)

Caffeine: 0
Steeps at 208 degrees for 6-8 minutes (the longer the better up to 15 minutes). Not recommended for re-steeping
Health Properties: great for colds & allergies (no seriously, love this stuff)
Teavana Faves: Rooibos Tropica, Blueberry Bliss, Cocoa Praline Tart, and Tiramisu Treviso

Caffeine: 0
Steeps at 208 degrees for 6-8 minutes (the longer the better up to 15 minutes). Not recommended for re-steeping
Health Properties: Although Teavana tells their employees that herbals are simply "flavorings," their website lists

  • Delicious source of antioxidants and vitamins
  • Herbal infusions blend well with other teas for added flavor and benefits

Teavana Faves: Wild Orange Blossom, Peach Tranquility (when you smell it, try not to eat it. It's that good.), Azteca Fire, and Sweet Fruit Garden

Finally, the best thing about loose leaf teas is that you can blend flavors (like cocktails!), add rock sugar-- think rock candy, and toss in a bit of cream to make delicious drinks.  Here are a few "Jamie Approved Combos" that I sweeten with a teaspoon of German Rock Sugar...

Silver Needle / Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate (skin and energy)
Rooibos Tropica / Peach Tranquility (my allergy cure)
Monkey Picked Oolong / Silver Yin Zen Pearls (skin and weight loss)
Monkey Picked Oolong / Rooibos Tropica / Peach Tranquility (allergies and digestion)
MateVana / Cocoa Praline Tart / Tiramisu Treviso with a Tbsp of cream (tastes like Heaven)
JavaVana sweetened with cream (coffee cure)
Silver Yin Zen Pearls / Blackberry Mojito sans rum of course (skin and antioxidants)
Nine Dragon Golden Needle / Wild Orange Blossom (my FAVE!)
Cacao Mint Black / JavaVana Mate (mint and coffee yumminess)
Black Dragon Pearls / Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate (kick start your day)
Kamiya Papaya Oolong / Fruita Bomba / Queen of Babylon White
Strawberry Paraiso / Peach Tranquility (tastes like a popsicle)
Earl Grey White, unsweetened and iced. So good.
Youthberry White / Gyokuro (but add the Gyo 20 seconds before the YB is done steeping)

This makes me miss experimenting with tea on Teavana's dime.

And every tea drinker needs awesome accessories.  This is what I use:

Rock Sugar-- brings out the flavor of your tea without changing it. Made from beets so it's all natural and easier for your body to process.  Can use in coffee, baking, anything

Zojirushi Water Heater-- heats water to 140/175/195/208, holds 4L, has a safety lock on the dispenser, can set an alarm for tea in the morning. You can also use this to make anything instant that requires hot water (jello, pudding, bread, ramen)

Perfect Tea Maker-- makes one 16oz mug of tea (there's a larger one as well),  Add the tea, sugar and water, let steep, then place on top of a cup/thermos/mug/glass to release the liquid.

Cherry Bark Tea Canister
(Confession: I don't own this but I want to. All my tea is kept in air tight/light tight Teavana canisters though, to prevent it from getting stale-- it lasts up to a year. If you're going to invest money into tea then you should invest money into keeping it FRESH.  It is a food, after all.

If this is confusing, overwhelming, MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, I recommend going to your nearest tea shop or Teavana and asking for the grand tour.  Collect the info and make educated decisions-- most places will make you a beverage of your choice to try. 

Note: One thing Teavana employees don't like is making tea drinks.  Apparently Teavana Corporate treats beverages as a negative on sales associates' numbers (which is RIDICULOUS), so don't be surprised if an employee is reluctant about making one, overly pushy to get you to just buy the loose leaf tea, or gives you attitude.  They get a lot of pressure from the GM's.

Do you drink tea?  What do you like?  Any questions??  See you tomorrow for Fashionable Friday.

14 December 2011

Sanity Savers

Along with attaining physical wellness, I would like to improve emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well.  

Work, family, frenemies, unemployment, pets, finances-- so many things can drive us to the brink of CRAZY TOWN. Hence why God invented "Hobbies."  It's important to do stuff that takes our minds off the crap of reality and onto our dreams/talents/fun. Maybe you love to write or draw or build Lego towers only to terrorize them later with a plastic Godzilla; perhaps you enjoying singing or playing instruments or doing 6 shots in an hour.  All of these things help refresh our spirits (maybe not the shots) and increase our enjoyment of life.  And isn't that the point of it all... to savor the little things on this journey?

So here are 10 of my Sanity Savers :

1. Blogging (that's kind of a "duh" but I truly love this)

2. Cooking/ trying new recipes-- spice things up!

3. Sipping coffee at Starbucks while people watching (I like to observe the dos and don'ts of fashion).

4. Pinterest. So much fun and so much inspiration.

5. Bad Movies and TV. They require little to no thought. Disclaimer: Some stuff will destroy brain cells and lower your IQ.

6. Video Games. This one is tricky because video games can get frustrating to the point of wanting to throw the controller into the TV while bashing the console with a hammer.  So I suggest puzzle games like Peggle & Plants vs Zombies (or anything made by PopCap).

7. Visiting new places.  There's nothing quite like an adventure-- I get flippin' GIDDY (think "puppy") when I'm let out of the house to explore.

8. Singing. It brings me joy.

9. Hypothetical Conversations. Such as "if you could have any super power, what would it be?" and "which cartoon character would you date?" My answers: Telepathy and him:

Kocoum from "Pocahontas")
If you want to see the rest of the Disney Animated Male (model) Leads, click here. Amazing.

10. Board Games/ Puzzles. I love to concentrate, strategize, think.  Plus they're nostalgic.

So what are YOUR sanity savers??  Let's talk about it over drinks on Thirsty Thursday...

13 December 2011

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

The path to good health requires good-for-you food (obvi) but I've always found the idea of "healthy" food somewhat scary and depressing.  Can food that's good for you really taste yummy?  Can it be simple and inexpensive to prepare? What if I don't like it?! 

Thanks to my obsession with Pinterest & cookbooks, coupled with a love of trying new food, I'm here to test recipes, "healthify" (new word!) recipes, review recipes, and even add my two cents about healthy restaurants in the greater LA area (and a few faves from Chicago). Plus you'll be able to find cooking & shopping tips as well! 

Disclaimer: I am not a Professional (just professionally awesome!), but I am REAL so I promise to be honest about my entire process... especially if I need you to tell me where I went wrong.


After catching a glimpse of this sexy pic on Pinterest and pinning it under my "Foodage" board (follow me at pinterest.com/germangoddess), I knew I had to make it.  That and it's a slow cooker recipe.  What?! you ask.  Sexy Slow Cooker Food?!  Hell yes.

You'll find the recipe here.  The chicken is delish by itself, which is probably the healthiest way to eat it. However, hubby and I were craving Del Taco so I figured the best way to fight against wanting fast food chicken tacos would be to make homemade chicken tacos-- clever, I know.

Here's what I did. I made the recipe as is (including jalapenos) but I DID NOT ADD THE CILANTRO UNTIL THE END. It gets soggy and soggy cilantro is sad cilantro.  As I was also on a time crunch (no I did not oversleep...), I set my crockpot to High and cooked the chicken for 3 hours.  The 5 steroid charged chicken breasts were perfect, juicy, and easy to shred (and by shred I mean "cut into cubes because shredding takes too much effort").  See photo.

You'll also have tons of runny salsa juice so be sure to mix it in with the chicken.  And in case you're wondering how to store cilantro to use in other recipes (like ALL of them because it's so damn good), cut the ends off at an angle and stick it in a small glass with water.  Mine has lasted a few weeks like this:

Grab some flour tortillas and toast them up on the stove.  Just start the flame and lay the tortilla over the burner until it browns on both sides. DO NOT LEAVE THE TORTILLA AT ALL. It will catch fire.

Sprinkle on some cheddar cheese and there you have it. 
P.S. This would be AMAZEballs with homemade salsa.

Let me know if you try this!

Tune in tomorrow for Well-being Wednesday...

07 December 2011

Eye Makeup: White shadow

My newest obsession is Pinterest.  It's freakin' ADDICTING!!  Since I'm such a visual person, making virtual bulletin boards with an endless supply of pictures and topics screams "JAMIE!!!!"  Not only is it a fun hobby, but you also get tons of inspiration and ideas of how to do nails, hair, makeup, crafts, holiday decorations, food to cook, etc etc... Love.

Last week (when my addiction began), I spotted this little beauty:

Natural eye makeup: light brown shadow in the crease, white shadow on the lid, and some black eyeliner.  

Simple. I thought "Holy crap! I can actually do this and make it look good!."  That may have been an overambitious thought.

A few things you should know:
  • I am VERY new to makeup.
  • Unlike this lovely eye model, I have spotted skin covered in moles/freckles. My husband affectionately calls them "chocolate sprinkles." I call them annoying.
  • My eyelashes are lacking in volume, I wouldn't know what to do with fake ones, plus eyelash curlers scare me. I am determined to get over this.
  • I don't have any liquid liner and that might have been helpful for the thinness of the line.
These factors occurred to me, but as I have no idea what to do with my white Lancome shadow, I had to give this a try.Unfortunately, excluding the white, I don't have any matte shadows-- a problem I must remedy-- so the only browns were darker and shimmery. Still, I found one that worked. 

Subtle and easy. The other tiny issue... I'm super PALE. So the white shadow kind of faded, but for the most part I really liked the way it looked. I highly recommend giving it a try since it's a classy way to wear white shadow. If you'll also notice the professional photo, the model has white eyeliner on the bottom lid (or at least more white shadow), as well as the brown shadow underneath the bottom eyelashes. I did the same thing and it definitely helps.

Cooper helped:

If you're not on Pinterest but love to navigate the Internet for ideas, shopping, or just fun, I HIGHLY recommend.

I was a Guest Blogger

I know I've talked about my friend Lori's amazing blog A Little Slice of Special but once again, I must say how great her fashion/beauty/lifestyle blog truly is... it's GREAT!  She's added a special guest post called "Why I Blog Wednesday" and today is my contribution. So if you'd like to know why I blog or really want to see a cool fashionista doing her thing on the Internet, hop on over to Lori's and give it a read.

29 November 2011

The Sound of Christmas

When I was little and Christmas time came rolling into our home, one of our yearly traditions was watching a recorded VHS of Julie Andrews's TV special "The Sounds of Christmas" from 1987. We watched it over and over, slowly wearing out the film rewinding and replaying our favorite songs, and even watching the commercials.  There was an awesome one for Columbian Coffee where a gallery of statues came to life... this was before CGI.

What was this awesome thirty minute special all about? Glad you asked.  The wonderfully talented Julie Andrews narrates her journey and sings throughout Salzberg, Austria at Christmas. It's like a bunch of music videos strung together as a story.  Guests include The King's Singers, Placedo Domingo, and John Denver doing all kinds of beautiful/ funny performances-- from Julie stumbling into a rehearsal between Mozart (Denver) and his "musicians" (King's Singers) to attending a fairytale ball at a grand mansion.  It's beautiful and lovely and reminds me of being home at Christmas as a kid, not to mention my inspiration for some day spending Christmas in Austria... and tracing my roots.

Sidebar: I'm assuming you know who John Denver is... "Sunshine on My Shoulders" folk singer who died when he flew into a mountain. I was just thinking last night it's sad that he isn't still alive.  He does a great skiing number in the special and I wanted so bad to see it again.  Placedo Domingo is a famous tenor (The Three Tenors ring a bell?)-- of course, this was before he was one of the Three but he was still ever so famous.  And now The King's Singers. They're an acapella group from England that perform all kinds of musical styles from classical to pop to folk to sound FX. My parents knew one of the originals.  It was they who first introduced me to the Beatles, Paul Simon, and U2. No joke.  If you know who they are we need to be besties... like yesterday. Everyone (including my husband) look at me funny when I talk about The King's Singers.

Thoughts of this special are so bittersweet for two reasons: Julie Andrews can no longer sing (get choked up thinking about it) and our recording was accidentally taped over many years ago and it nearly broke my mom's heart.  She loves Julie-- her favorite actress, singer, talent-- and Placedo, and John Denver, and TKS. This was a favorite special of hers.  We got a DVD copy (by that I mean a worn VHS recorded onto DVD) a couple years ago with NO commercials.  Still-- it was a blessing to get our hands on a copy.

And then something happened. I went on YouTube this afternoon and some amazing human being with excellent taste and an affinity for technology uploaded the whole show with commercials!!!  I'm listening/ watching it AT. THIS. MOMENT. And the quality is pretty good for a 1987 recording.  So grateful.  I hope you look it up and have the patience to get through commercials and a few recording flubs because it's just awesome.  Of course you might watch it and think I'm a total dork... and that's okay too.  It's not going to be everyone's taste. I'm just happy I can look it up in my favorites any time I want.  What a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

24 November 2011

Thanksgiving (non)Tradition

When most people think of their ideal Thanksgiving holiday, this iconic Norman Rockwell painting comes to mind:

A large smiling family gathered round a well-dressed table stocked with an abundance of Thanksgiving staples, Mom's good china, a giant turkey at the center, and none of that conversational awkwardness that tends to happen when you see family you haven't seen since the last Rockwellian Thanksgiving. I always picture an overcast sky causing a light fall of snow just through the window-- Christmastime on the cusp of turkey and stuffing.  It seems like such a Midwestern ideal, and not a bad one at that.

But we all know the holidays are nothing like Norman Rockwell depicted-- perhaps it was his own idyllic hope captured on canvas.  Some traditions have a few of us going out for dinner (done that before actually) or to the movies; some of us have the large families with an over abundance of yummies while others just watch the game; some work and some travel.  There's roasted turkey, grilled turkey, smoked turkey, fried turkey, tofurkey, and ham. My point is, we all enjoy our own unique traditions at the holidays and this year was my first step in a new direction.  

You see, I practically grew up spending Thanksgiving inside that legendary painting.  Large family? Check. Tons of good food? Check. Roasted turkey: Double Check.  Everyone laughing and getting along: Triple Check.  It was a nice way to spend the holidays for the last 26 years, but now that Michael and I are in LA, traveling home isn't always an option every year. This was that year.

So in true Jamie & Michael style, we didn't plan.  I mentioned in the previous post that we were going to cook a big meal... not so much. We decided not to spend the money on a huge feast we'd be eating for weeks and instead on Lou Malnati's Chicago deep dish and sight seeing.  This was a much better plan. To sum up (ha!  I've never summed up in my life).... FIRST, I picked up a mini pumpkin pie to keep tradition semi-alive.  Then we headed to Hollywood & Highland: home of the Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, and lots of crazy  interesting people dressed in costume.  

We ate brunch at the Disney Soda Fountain and Souvenir Shop (or something like that) where I passed up the opportunity to buy MUPPET THEMED NAILPOLISH by OPI!!!  Yes, I turned down the shimmery pink "Meep Meep Meep" (Beaker for those not obsessed with Jim Henson's furry friends) and the all glitter "Rainbow Connection" but I had just gotten an 18 pc mini set-- I was trying to exercise control.  Do yourself a favor and look for them online.... then buy a bottle for me.

Michael finally got the chance to see this:

This is the Chinese Theater in case you weren't sure... O_o

Most people don't know how much I LOVE wax museums.  Like really L-O-V-E them. They're a visual feast plus I L-O-V-E the horror movie "House of Wax" (the Vincent Price version, not the crappy gore fest of a remake). I also really like cemeteries but that's irrelevant.

Marlene Dietrich at Madam Tussaud's.  

Once we'd walked around the outdoor mall next to the Kodak Theater-- and yes there were stores open during the day!-- and did the wax museum, we headed back to our 'hood, picked up caffeine (Starbucks), and came home.  Having only had 3 hours of sleep last night, it was nice to take the day slow, get in some sight seeing, then come HOME.  That's what Thanksgiving is really about anyway, right? And what's "home?" Family of course.  And wherever Michael and the cats are, I am home.  

So we chowed down our turkey pizza, I made some cocoa and we savored a little pie. Now it's time to relax, Black Friday shop on Amazon, play some video games, and get some sleep.  We've got another tradition coming up tomorrow: decorating our place for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving.  It's been around since I was born and I don't think that one will ever change-- it's a fave.

Whatever your traditions may be, I hope you enjoyed a joyous holiday with the ones you love (even if you couldn't see ALL of them).  Happy Thanksgiving ❤

16 November 2011

"Creep" Covers

I love love love music. A lot.  The more the merrier.  It's fun to discover new bands, rekindle affairs with old ones, and discover new old bands.  As I continue to grow in my marriage, I also continue to grow in my tastes, as my husband has different tastes than me and grew up listening to all the music I couldn't because of parental warnings (another blog for another day).

And so, I got this idea for a post about great songs by great bands covered by other artists.  I'll post the original, then 2 different covers I like of the same song, and you can decide which is better.  Or determine that I have horrible taste (which would NEVER happen).

The first song is "Creep" by Radiohead. Though I am not a die hard fan of the band (honestly, I don't get most of their music), "Creep" has always been a favorite since I first heard it on the radio in high school.  It's a sexy sexy song.  Here's the original:

I hope you're ready for two more versions!

There are a TON of covers for "Creep" but I chose two from two very different artists with completely opposite styles... even from Radiohead.

Next: Ingrid Michaelson. Although iTunes considers her "pop," Ingrid has a folky alternative sound not heard much on popular radio these days.  I must warn you: this is going to sound VERY different.

And finally: the Matteo DiMarr remix.  I heard this on SiriusXM's BPM station and loved it.  I think because I am all about the melody and lyrics of the original. The entire mix is 7:26 minutes so you may need to skip through the intro and get to the actual song part around 1:50.  It's a really cool mix though.

Which do you like?  Do you like either of them?

13 November 2011

Gnocchi with Squash and Kale

Though I have my fair share of duds and flubs in the kitchen, this past Saturday night I made one of the yummiest main dishes.  Goodness it was delicious!  It's technically vegetarian if you're the kind of vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy, but no matter what your tastes, the gnocchi was fantastic-- and this was my first time making that type of pasta. No, I didn't do it homemade, but it gives you (me) a sense of accomplishment when cooking successfully with a new ingredient.

Okay, enough bragging, let's get down to business.  This recipe is courtesy of Food Network Magazine, October 2011 issue.  It's also low calorie, only 438 per serving and it serves four (or two if you split it up for lunch and dinner....).    Best part-- it takes 35 min to cook, has simple ingredients, and is EASY.

Butternut Squash and Kale are great vegetables with tons of benefits, but there never seems to be a lot of recipes out there that don't involve tools I don't have (i.e. an immersion blender, food processor, mandolin). When I stumbled upon this recipe I had to try it.  Kale is normally so bitter that it's hard to work with but the nutrients are worth it. I will admit though, peeling the squash HARD when you don't have sharp knives.

Isn't it beautiful? Bon appetit!

Gnocchi with Squash and Kale

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1-1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth or water (I used the broth)
1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
1 17.5 oz package potato gnocchi
3/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until slightly soft and golden, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, sage, red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp of salt (or a pinch). Cook until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
3. Preheat broiler. Add the chicken broth to the skillet. When it starts to simmer, stir in the kale and cook until it wilts slightly, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the gnocchi, stirring to coat. Cover and cook until the gnocchi are just tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in 1/4 cup parmesan and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan.
5. Transfer to broiler and cook until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.

Hodge Podge Cooking Tips:

  • I followed the recipe exactly, excluding doing a pinch of salt over the tsp.  I'm not a salt person.  All the flavors work and I really wouldn't change a thing.
  • The complications I found were the use of the broiler and covering the pan.  I used my 12-inch skillet which I don't have a cover for.  Would that stop me? Never!  I used foil to cover almost the entire thing-- it worked the same way.  I really do need a lid for that pan though...
  • Also, the skillet is not ovenproof.  I hate when recipes tell you that you need to do stove and oven cooking with one pan-- you don't!  I cooked everything in the skillet first then transferred it to my stoneware dish.
  • I was concerned about putting the dish in the broiler under my oven, not to mention I don't think it would've fit.  Instead, I heated the oven to 475 (though next time I'll just crank it all the way to 500 degrees) and put the dish in for about 6 or 7 minutes... until bubbly.
  • Finally, I highly recommend Food Network Magazine.  Though it has its fair share of complicated recipes with obscure ingredients, there are plenty of gems, as well as great advice.  Well worth a subscription.

Current Favorites: November 2011

I'm going to make this short and sweet.

First up: my lovely nails I did for my witch costume. I've got 5 coats of various polish which made them last... well... till now.  
-Sally Hansen Double Duty Strengthening Base & Top Coat (2 for 1!)
-Gleek Out lime glittery green polish from Sephora by OPI
-Uh-oh Roll Down the Window olive green polish by OPI

Smashbox Photo Finish Color Correcting Primer
The one I use is on the right since my face has extra redness.  A great primer is a miracle worker when it comes to an even complexion. These run $16 at Sephora. 

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords for iPad.
Confession time: I have this game on DS, PS3, and Xbox360.  Am I obsessed? Maybe.  Basically it's all about matching gems to do everything, from fighting Ogres and Ghouls to researching spells and seizing kingdoms.  As it involves no actual gaming skills whatsoever it's a perfect game for me.  And the iPad edition has another storyline and more creatures to fight, capture, and glean spells from.  
100% worth the $6.99.

What would a Nov. current favorites post be without coffee?  As you should know (I say 'should' because I'm positive everyone's world revolves around the SB special drinks calendar like mind does), the holiday bevvies are out and with it my absolute favorite drink-- even more so than the Pumpkin Spices Latte (gasp!).
Gingerbread Lattes taste like the holidays-- like what Granny's house must smell like when you travel over the river and through the woods in your horse drawn carriage as the snow silently falls around you, icing the trees.
Did a coffee drink just make me sound poetic?  You bet your ass it did.

The Village Bakery and Cafe
I could eat here every day.  It's a block from my apartment, the baked goods are excellent, but even more so, the entrees are fantastic.  They make just about everything homemade, and offer vegan options with free range and organic ingredients thrown in for good measure. 
What should you try?  Well, my fave pastries are the Fighting Cake (a small yellow cake soaked with almond flavor) and the Berry Bar with lemon. Hubby loves the Donut Muffin. Meal wise, my husband loves their Chipotle Chicken Sandwich while I'm partial to the Cream of Butternut Squash Soup and Chicken Salad sandwich.  But you must must MUST order Thanksgiving on a Bun at least once (and grab extra napkins).

"A Very She & Him Christmas" by She & Him
A collaboration between Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, this album provides classic Christmas tunes with the deep vocals and lazy sound of Zooey yet still modern thanks to Ward's sweet guitar. I guess the best way to describe the sound is... cheerfully melancholic.  The reverse roles "Baby It's Cold Outside" is fast and fun, "Little Saint Nick" is a nice retro throw back to the Beach Boys, while "The Christmas Song" is slow, soft, and makes you want to curl up next to a fire with a cup of cocoa and watch the snow fall.  I'm a fan.

And how could I not toss a bit of Thanksgiving love your way? The Food Network mag (and shows and website) are a wealth of up-to-date information for all your turkey, side dish, and pie baking needs.  This issue has a mini booklet of 50 pie recipes!  Score!
Just don't read it when you're hungry.

08 November 2011


A few weeks ago, while traversing our new mall in Glendale, hubby and I made a fateful turn into my new fave store: Lush.  I'd heard of their hand-made, all-natural products from a friend and thought: "What the hell?"  I'm always searching for great skin and hair care products.

I'm hooked.

This is a company all about organic, natural, environmentally friendly, economically helpful products, and there's no testing on animals.  Plus they give samples.  FREE SAMPLES! If you want to get on my good side, give me free stuff.  Lush and I are now BFFs.
I guess a little explanation is necessary.  These are skin and hair care products, not cosmetics.  The soaps and clays are sold by weight so you can get as much or as little as you want-- which is perfect when trying new things (be bold people!).  The employees know their stuff, are nice, and will tempt  help you figure out what's great for YOU.  Being the genius readers that you are, you've  noticed I have photos and will explain the products hubby and I tried (yes, my amazing husband was excited for great skin products too-- he's awesome).  Lush isn't everywhere but they ship.

Here's everything we got in its healthy glory.  The classy clear plastic containers, as well as the tiny black ones, are for samples and cut pieces of soap.

 Up first: Angels on Bare Skin cleanser/exfoliator.
Notice how it looks like clay?  That's what some of their stuff is like. Grab a little piece and add water to get the consistency you like then clean your face.  This particular cleanser is great for oily skin. And I have to say, our skin has never looked better! (don't you love the seeds?) 

On to moisturizers!
Imperialis, Skin Shangri La (spelling? who cares), and Fair Trade Foot Lotion.  These are all very nice, especially the foot lotion because it's instantly soothing AND can be used on other parts of the body. Even though I was assured the other 2 face moisturizers have no oil and are perfect for oily skin, they still made my face greasy.  I feel lied to!  Thus I'm still on the hunt for a perfect moisturizer, but they have tons of different kinds so try a few for yourself.

Ocean Salt Scrub
OMG I love this stuff so much!  Obviously it's for exfoliating and scrubbing away dead skin cells all over that sexy body of yours (but only use 3 times a week on your face).  It's got salt, lemon, lime... and VODKA!  Warning: do not attempt to eat/drink.  Since it smells like a cocktail, taking a shower is way more fun!

Charity Pot Lotion
Unlike the moisturizers, this is not greasy and very pleasant on the skin. Highly recommend.

All materials to make the lotion are donated and Lush pays for the packaging.  The pot is $21 (as you can see you get a ton) and ALL (that's right, every last penny) proceeds go to the charity named on the lid.  As Lush donates to multiple charities, you can choose the one closest to your heart.  I chose the equine rescue in honor of my aunt's efforts to rescue and raise horses.  Plus I love furry animals.

So how do you know this stuff is legit?  Because they stick the face of the one who made it on every container along with his/her name, that's how.  Reggie made my Ocean Salt scrub-- thanks Reg!-- but he's not allowed to look at me in the shower.  That shit's private.

And finally the AMAZE-balls hair products that I will forever use...
I have fine, natural blond hair with no volume; as such, I am forever changing volumizing shampoos that never seem to do what they're supposed to.  Until now.
I use what we in the "Lush Club" (told you we were BFFs) call the Big Daddy combo. In the shower I blend some Daddy-O shampoo for blonds with Big salt shampoo for flat hair and scrub away.  My hair has never been blonder, softer, or looked better in my life.  Enjoy the photos.

It's violet (remember on that primary school color wheel that purple and yellow are compliments?!  Me either but it's true).

Big shampoo on the left.  On the right we have the Marilyn moisturizing hair treatment for blonds made to enrich color and aptly named after one Marilyn Monroe.

Here's the result!  I realize if you've never seen me before you have nothing to compare my hair to, but you have to admit my non-dyed locks look pretty spectacular (humbly speaking of course).

It's me! (I just threw this in for good measure)

The moral of my story is to give Lush a try if you're in the market for a change in beauty regime.  Great company, great products, great YOU!