30 November 2012

Chili Dip (not poop)

Chili Dip is fantastic. 

These pictures make it look like orange diarrhea, but I assure you, the taste is far better. Not that I know what diarrhea tastes like....... you know what I mean.

The best part? It couldn't be easier or less healthy for you!!! So save Chili Dip for a special treat, holiday party, or when you have "The Munchies."

Chili Dip

1 block of regular cream cheese
1 can Hormel Chili (NO BEANS), beef or turkey is fine
Bag of Corn Chips

Toss the cream cheese and the chili into a pot. Heat over medium heat and stir until well blended. Serve with corn chips.

Some Tips--

Cut the cream cheese into chunks before tossing into the pot-- it melts faster.

While the "third less fat" cream cheese may sound like a good idea, read the ingredients. There are more hard-to-pronounce chemicals in that kind than the regular cream cheese, but I've used it and it works just as well.

"Chili" and "Chili Beans" are NOT the same thing. Trust me.

Make sure you remember where you put the extra can of turkey chili so you don't have to run out a THIRD TIME for more................

29 November 2012

Kitty Kitties

Since I don't feature my cats a ton, I thought I'd do a short post about Niko and Cooper before we dive into holiday posts (though let's be honest: I'll probably show them with antlers and what not). If you like my cat stories and photos, I will write more about them.

Recently, Niko-- the gray one-- had a collection of scabs on his forehead caused by what we thought was Cooper. So we trimmed Cooper's claws, but then noticed even more bumps all over Niko's belly. This had gone on for a few weeks, and while he wasn't itching and his fur wasn't falling out, we decided to take him to the vet to rule out fleas, ringworm, and cancer.

Niko hates going to the vet:

Fortunately, it was just an infection caused by an allergic reaction to a new food he tried. He had to get 2 shots of steroid meds and now that we know he has food allergies, we will continue him on only one type of dry food we know is safe.

We had to leave Cooper all by himself, and since he has attachment issues, this was the result when we got back:

I'm glad Niko is getting better and happy the two cats are getting along... except when Niko gets stuck on the scratching post and Cooper taunts him.

27 November 2012

Homemade Whipped Cream

Honestly, I can't believe how many years and how much money I wasted on crappy  mediocre Cool Whip or Redi-Whip. I mean, making whipped cream is SO DARN EASY!

The consistency has the thickness of Cool Whip, but it does tend to lose it's form quickly. Of course, you just need to pull out the old mixer again, otherwise make just enough of what you need that day and use it up.

Isn't it beautiful?

Because many of us are used to the chemically sweetened kind, this whipped cream recipe won't taste as sweet, but you could always toss in extra powdered sugar.

I never realized the many uses of whipped cream: toss it on pies, cakes, cupcakes, cocoa, cider, and even coffee! Plus, you can add a 1/2 tsp of bourbon or liqueur per cup of whipping cream used to make your own special flavor. Next time I want to try sweetening it with agave nectar.

Seriously, make fresh whipped cream-- you're putting less crap into your system, you'll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, and your guests will think you're Martha Stewart! (unless one of your guests is Martha Stewart...)

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream 
2 Tbsp Confectioner's (powdered) sugar 

Chill a metal or glass bowl and mixer attachments. Once chilled, add cold whipping and sugar to the bowl. Beat on medium speed (I used Level 3 on my cheap-o hand mixer) until the cream forms peaks.... then beat a little more to make sure it holds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Some Tips--

Do NOT get anything low fat, you need a high fat content so the cream will solidify.

Granulated sugar won't work as it won't dissolve. If you don't have powdered sugar or all the stores in your area are out for some reason, you could make a simple syrup-- one part sugar, one part water, boil until sugar is dissolved (5 min) and chill for a few hours-- and add 1/2 to 1 tsp, maybe 2. The same measurement should work for agave nectar, but I haven't tested it yet. 

If you decide to use a liquid sweetener, no matter what kind it is, use less than what's needed for the powdered sugar, otherwise your whipped cream won't solidify.

You could add cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice for added flavor.

**This recipe comes from Food Network Magazine. Consider it TESTED and APPROVED!**

26 November 2012

I love your face: A Lush Review

In this installment of "Products I've Tried At Lush Because I'm Obsessed" we'll be looking at the products shown below:

Are you excited? No?! WELL COULD YOU GET EXCITED PLEASE?!?!?!


First up we have Jackie Oates-- a color (or "colour" if you're fancy) supplement-- Feeling Younger-- a skin tint that's basically a brightener-- and Eyes Right, the legendary mascara that's part of their new Emotional Brilliance makeup line. The only reason I even tried the first two was because I whined mentioned how I hope Lush creates a foundation & cover-up because I don't like heavy makeup. 


The oh-so-sweet sales gal convinced me I could use Jackie Oates to even out my skin tone, and Feeling Younger to brighten the dark circles under my eyes plus I could combine the two to create a lovely glow on my skin. They solved my "heavy makeup" problem because I pretty much look like I'm not wearing any! Talk about sheer coverage. I'll stick with my Smashbox foundation but I still need a cover-up that will handle more than just my dark circles. Any recommendations?

Whoever came up with the Eyes Right Mascara iodine bottle design must not wear mascara because the wand is simply ludicrous. DO YOU SEE HOW SHORT IT IS?!?! Maybe it's terrible eye/hand coordination or maybe it's the stubby top; either way: I get mascara all over my face! I had to shell out another $5 on top of the $18 price tag for a separate wand. While Lush employees will tell you the  price is "a great deal because the bottle contains twice the amount of normal mascaras," they neglect to mention that the coverage is so light you'll actually need to use double the coats... so it's basically the SAME THING.

In the two photos of me above, I'm wearing Jackie Oates, Feeling Younger, and 3 coats of Eyes Right.  

Here I am with my normal foundation and regular mascaras (yes, I wear two different ones):

Overall, I'm not a fan of all three items as I don't feel they work as well as normal makeup. Jackie Oates & Feeling Younger are great to toss on before I run errands, but for a night out or a whole day being at work, stick with a higher quality foundation from a trusted, cruelty-free cosmetic brand. Besides the reasons I mentioned above, Eyes Right comes off easily, so if you really want to try it, I'd suggest picking up lash primer. However, if you prefer a light layer, this is the mascara for you.

Next up we have a couple seasonal products:

The Jack-O-Lantern Soap at Lush is a seasonal item only available thru Halloween, usually sells out within a couple weeks of its October release, and is absolutely wonderful. It smells like a pumpkin spice latte and is moisturizing. Personally, if Lush just made these fellas into plain pumpkins, they could sell them thru Thanksgiving (GENIUS over here!! You can pay me a bonus, Lush, if you go with that idea). Put this soap on your radar for next year!

Twilight Shower Gel, on the other hand, is available through Christmas and is based on their lavender Twilight bath bomb. I know, when you (or me) read "lavender" you (me again) think "suffocating flowery scent!" but I promise the aroma is sweet and relaxing. As you can see, after I tried a little bottle, I upgraded to a giant one because I love it.

For the hair and face:

Ultrabland (the pot on the left) is a facial cleanser that doubles as a makeup remover. Seriously, if you have trouble removing that last bit of eyeliner or you wake up every morning with mascara under your eyes, you've got to try this stuff. The Lush Lady also recommended Ultrabland as a blackhead remover. Michael and I tried the method once-- use Ultrabland on blackheads, massage for a few minutes, then spray on the Eau Roma Water (toner) and wipe with a damp cloth, do this 3 times a week-- and the next day we saw an improvement. I need to get back to that.........
It's a bit greasy so make sure to wash thoroughly. I also use my regular cleanser after removing my makeup because I'm weird.

ANYWAY, I'm skipping over the Dirty for a sec to talk about the bar on the right: Fresh Farmacy. It's a facial cleansing bar that's light, smells great, easy on sensitive skin, and works well for an even, clear face. That chunk you see is a mutha f'in SAMPLE too! (Our Lush loves us) I still break out once a month no matter what I use on my face (...if you catch my meaning) but the bar even subdues pimples when they just won't be stopped.

And finally, Dirty hair styling cream, my go-to now that I'm rocking a pixie cut. The smell is addicting (is it weird that I smell it for fun?) and the hold and lift are great for using a very small amount.  See for yourself:

Overall Ratings

Dirty: 5 out of 5 hair tosses 
Eyes Right: 2 out of 5 winks
Feeling Younger: 3 out of 5 beauty marks
Fresh Farmacy: 5 out of 5 beauty marks
Jackie Oates: 3 out of 5 beauty marks
Pumpkin Soap: 4 out of 5 bubbles
Twilight Shower Gel: 5 out of 5 bubbles

**Please note that I am not affiliated with Lush, do not/have not worked for the company, and while I try almost everything as a sample first, I buy my own products.  I just love Lush that much.**

25 November 2012

Christmas is coming....

...the goose is getting fat!  (Or as I used to sing happily when I was little: "The Goose is getting laid!")

As Andy Williams says, it's the most stressful wonderful time of the year!!!  In all seriousness, I am incredibly excited for Christmas this year, as last year I was pretty much Ebenezer Scrooge from Black Friday until Dec. 26th.

I already kicked off the season early with a Starbucks snowman cookie (seriously, they're fucking delicious-- yes, it deserved the "F" word!), Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate-- made on the stove with milk, thank you very much-- and cinnamon marshmallows from Atwater's Village Bakery and Cafe

We traversed over to The Americana at Brand where you can visit Santa in his house, stroll around beautifully decorated grounds while listening to classic Christmas tunes, savor the 100ft. tree, or chase the suds they call "snow" at designated times. It's a blast!



Plus I added to my holiday movie collection with this beauty:

It's cute but "The Thin Man" is still my favorite film to watch this time of year.

In honor of the Holiday Season, I'll be posting more recipes and product reviews for gift ideas this year. Not to mention I'll have a few movie posts reviewing some of the latest releases (anyone else excited for "Les Miserables" and "The Hobbit?!"), as well as awesome/cheesy/terrible holiday films.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

23 November 2012

Gobble Gobble!

I love Thanksgiving. The entire purpose of the holiday is to gather with loved ones, eat a hearty meal, and express gratitude for the people in our lives and the daily blessings bestowed upon us. 

And if that isn't a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.

While I wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of the Christmas season, the hustle and bustle (and expense) of the holiday season often wears on many of us, so much so that by the time December 25th rolls around we're exhausted and glad the holiday is over.

I guess you could think of Thanksgiving like the deep breath before plunging head first into raging waters.

Once again, my husband and I remained in LA for Turkey Day and, unlike last year, we decided to park our butts at home and make a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.

So we tried an organic, free range turkey (pricey but delish) covered in Michael's legendary butter paste. This paste-- an unsalted butter mixed with shallots and fresh herbs-- drips down the entire turkey, ensuring a gorgeous browned skin and flavorful drippings.


He also fills the turkey with lemon, shallot, onion, and apple wedges for moisture.

As Ginger-- that's what I named our turkey-- roasted away in our volcanic oven, I prepared stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. Normally I make scratch gravy, but I kept hearing about the amazing Williams-Sonoma gravy base... so I tried it.

While not bad, it lacks a punch of flavor (so I added wine, but I'd recommend dry vermouth) and is a bit salty for my taste. Michael loved it and since he's the gravy fiend, that's all that mattered.

This was also my best stuffing yet! I'm pretty confident stuffing is in my top foods because it's so diverse, easy, and quite simply delicious. 

Yes, I put my homemade cranberry sauce on the turkey-- it's incredible if you haven't tried it!

I am thankful for being able to have such a bountiful meal, I'm thankful for family and friends, for life and the chance to live it, and for all of you, readers, for continued support of my ramblings.

And most of all, I am thankful for pie with homemade whipped cream (recipe to come).

17 November 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma Young

Grandma Young-- my great grandmother on my mom's mom's side (got it?)-- would've celebrated her 104th (I think) birthday today, probably with a big family gathering at the Rose Garden in Elk Grove Village, IL and a large cake from the family bakery.

An immigrant, Grandma came over from Austria when she was 4. She married Grandpa Young and they lived together in the same bungalow (kitchen from said bungalow pictured below) for over 70 years.

They also raised 2 children, one of whom happens to be my grandma, and together the families expanded into even more generations of well-humored and loving people.

How to describe Great Grandma....... She loved dirty jokes, Manhattans made with Vermouth, and music. Grandma had a sharp mind all throughout her 98 years, always smiling and laughing. When the store had a sale on round steak, she made Rouladen for all of the families and sent my grandma around to distribute everyone's portions.

Great Grandma's joy in life came from family, food, and fun.

On one of her birthdays, my mom and aunts and grandma drove all of us young great grandkids into Chicago to pick up Grandma Young and take her out for lunch. When we arrived, the bungalow smelled of German sausage and sauerkraut. Apparently the grocer had a sale so Grandma decided to cook lunch for all of us instead. It was wonderful.

Mother's Day, May 2007 was the last time I saw Great Grandma Young. In our final conversation, three months before my wedding, Grandma was all smiles wishing me joy in my marriage and was thrilled that I was happy. Somehow Grandma Young knew she wouldn't make it to my wedding and I think she felt bad about that: when she was in the hospital those last few weeks, she told my mom to be sure and tell me she wished me joy.
Even when her heart was growing tired, Grandma's spirit remained strong, and is, I believe, still strong watching over our family.

I was visiting my husband's family in Wisconsin, in the car about to go to the mall, when my mom called with the news of her passing. I was fine on the phone, hung up, sat in shock for a moment... then cried.

I miss Great Grandma Young every day. Our spirits were connected and I always felt close and proud to be her great granddaughter. Even though my parents raised me to be grateful, even though I thanked Grandma for every gift, every $5 pack of McDonald's coupons, and always hugged and kissed our "hellos" and "goodbyes," I still would love one more chance to say thank you to Grandma Young.

13 November 2012

Monster Trail Mix

Recognize the label? If you shop at Target you just might since Archer Farms is one of their grocery owned brands. Archer Farms is a "pretend farm." It makes the superstore corporation feel homey... or whatever.

Anyway, Target Archer Farms sells all kinds of food from different vendors. You may or may not like certain items, but I had a craving for trail mix and picked up this large jar full chocolatey peanut butter nutty goodness.

Looks good, right?

It's homemade.  Wait... what?!?! 

That's right. Yes, I had a craving for Monster Trail Mix and yes, I bought a jar from Target. But then I thought to myself: why don't I just make my own? A jar costs around $8 + tax. 

If you buy the ingredients at a grocery store that doesn't overcharge you will end up paying $12-$14 for double the amount. And if you use generic EVERYTHING you'll save even more money. Hit the sales and you'll end up getting almost quadruple.... you get the point.

Sadly, while I love the fancy meat & cheese, and produce at my grocer, they overcharge for groceries, so I ended up spending about the same as I would've for 2 jars. However, I got Reese's Chips-- which are WAY better than the ones in the Archer Farms mix.

I highly suggest you make this snack at home.


1 jar dry peanuts
1 bag plain M&M's
1 bag Reese's peanut butter chips
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 box raisins

Mix together and enjoy.

12 November 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

As I've mentioned before, my husband and I LOVE food. So much so that I'm becoming one of those people that needs to photograph every dish ordered at every meal. 

I promise I'll try to stop it. 

For our "6th year of being together" Anniversary, we ate at a local sushi joint in Glendale: Octopus. In the past we've celebrated at Cheesecake Factory because that's where our first date in Chicago took place.
Geisha Punch and a Side Salad that's incredible.

Michael and I had known each other for a year before dating. We met at Bible Study in college during my sophomore year, his freshman year. Michael went to school later in life since he was the drummer of a band signed to a label & toured right after high school. I know-- sexy.

He was quiet and serious, I was oblivious and absorbed in studies.

Miso Soup and Tempura Shrimp with jalapeno cilantro sauce.

After receiving an invite to his surprise birthday party upon entering my junior/his sophomore year, we connected and I saw the funny, playful side of Michael.

We split a Tomikawa Deluxe Entree: Chicken Teriyaki, Shrimp & Veggie Tempura, Sesame Chicken, edamame, cucumber salad, Spicy Tuna Roll, and assorted Sashimi.

After the party, Michael called me up and invited me to his apartment for coffee, to watch movies with friends, and lent me a CD of his music in the band. 

To be continued....

Another great restaurant, though a bit Hipster, is the Viet Noodle Bar in downtown Atwater. We decided a Vietnamese breakfast and coffee would hit the spot. The food is unbelievable.

Vietnamese Coffee (best on the planet) and a Rice Noodle Omelette.

Michael hung out in my dorm one afternoon, we talked, laughed, and had a great time. I thought we were good friends, but my roommate-- bright gal that she is-- insisted he liked me.

Seed. Planted.

Turmeric Fish and Rice Noodles

After Campus Crusade's Friday night service... thing, a group of us went to Michael and his roommates' place. I cannot confirm nor deny that I did a little flirting and wore a short skirt. 

He asked to get together on Sat., Oct. 29th-- but I said no. 

What? I had a Halloween party to attend!

Jackfruit Noodles with Tofu & Peanut Sauce.

I was planning a group trip to evening church on Sunday night the 30th and Michael showed up an hour early. He suggested we go get dinner. I thought that was odd since we'd be late for church...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................then I realized it was a date.

I'm not sure what came over me, but I called a friend and had her take over the field trip. Michael took me to the Cheesecake Factory at the base of the Hancock building and literally put down his menu, looked me in the eyes, and said "I like you. I want to date you. And I don't want to date anyone else."

I thought that sounded like a good idea.