Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Party Recap

Happy Halloween!!

Over the weekend, my friends and I had our annual Halloween shin-dig. We usually rotate houses and this year we ended up having it outside since this house was surrounded by woods and had a great backyard area with a bonfire barrel. So, my lack of pictures is unfortunate...but due to the low lighting pretty much all night. Luckily for y'all, the 4 of us that hosted the party arrived early enough to get some photos in before we lost daylight.

No one told anyone in our group what their costumes were. So imagine our surprise when 2 of the 4 showed up in a jelly costume!!

This year I decided to be punny (of course) so I dressed as a bee and wore the letters "YONCE" on a necklace. So I was...Bee-Yonce. Or Beyonce. 

Thank you, thank you. You're too kind. 

I modeled my makeup after the bee snapchat filter (which I love). I purchased a simple yellow dress from Amazon and had my sister-in-law add the vinyl stripes to the front. I made some wings and antenna and the "YONCE" necklace is cut out of cardboard, painted and attached to some string. 

My friend Jill, easily had the best costume of the night because she MADE this amazing hot dog costume! Isn't it awesome?!

M was a good sport and decided to dress in blue and wear an ivy headdress I made him. He was...yep...Blue Ivy. (Beyonce's daughter) He must really love me to wear that! :)

I hope you all have a great Halloween and stay safe! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Fair Affair

This past weekend, M and I (along with my sister and her boyfriend) made the one hour drive down to Columbia to the South Carolina State Fair. Man, I love the fair. Some might even say I have an affair with the fair. Yes, it's all run by some big entertainment company these days and yes, most of the rides and food trucks are just different versions of the same thing...but you just can't beat the atmosphere of the fair.

The weather was perfect. Low 60s, sunny and breezy and we came late afternoon/early evening so we could witness the fair at night. (arguably the best time to see it!) We rode the ferris wheel (the only fair ride I will actually ride) and ate ourselves silly. And that's not an exaggeration...between the four of us I think we downed an italian sausage sandwich, nachos, 3 corndogs (the BEST!), 1 funnel cake, homemade chips, a bucket of mini donuts, 2 frozen lemonades and countless bottles of water. Low key...fair food is the best.

This is what happened when M didn't crouch down. :)

My sister and I started the fair food tour by putting down these corndogs fairly quickly into our arrival. 

I kind of have a thing for photographing ferris wheels. 

View from the top of the ferris wheel at night. Spectacular! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Woes

I would consider myself a pretty decent baker. I don't made overly fancy things but I can make cupcakes or a cake or brownies well. I also make a mean banana pudding and tasty refrigerator pies.

But the one dessert that evades my skill is the basic-yet-incredibly-delicious chocolate chip cookie. I've tried every dadgum way to make these things and they still come out wrong. Mind you, "wrong" just means I didn't get the intended texture/consistency/color/flavor. None of my cookie experiments resulted in inedible cookies. That would be a travesty!

I want my cookies to be soft and chewy with slightly firm/crunchy edges. Much like a Tollhouse cookie if you've ever had the privilege of eating one (they are usually in food courts or malls). Every cookie I've made is usually cakey or it puffs up like a little dome and is more dense and melt-in-your-mouth than chewy and soft. OR, it spreads very thin on the pan and the edges get very crunchy (almost hard) like an overcooked pancake. Like I said, not bad, just not the intended goal.

I've tried just about every variable imaginable. I've refrigerated the cookie dough, tried a baking stone versus a regular cookie sheet, used room temperature butter, used melted butter, used baking powder, used baking soda, used all purpose flour, used self-rising flour, more white sugar than brown and then more brown sugar than white. I've beat the eggs in one at a time and beat the eggs in all at once. I've used an electric mixer and I've mixed by hand. I've tried baking at 350, 325 and 375 degrees.

Despite all of this, my cookies are just meh. Perfection, in this case, evades me. My beloved friend the chocolate chip cookie laughs in the face of my defeat with each failed dozen. See below the example of a recent experiment and how I got two different versions of the cookies from the same dough!

I've deduced it down to a number of factors that could be responsible for my cookie fails.
1. I'm using the wrong pan. Currently I switch back and forth between a Pampered Chef pizza/baking stone and a Pampered Chef cookie sheet that's light metal. Maybe it should be a dark non-stick cookie sheet?
2. Spray or paper? Currently I just use a coconut oil spray to spray the pan. Maybe I shouldn't spray at all? Maybe I should use parchment paper? I never have before but I'd be willing to try.
3. Baking soda vs. baking powder? Maybe I should just be using one of them. But which one?
4. Forming? Should I be forming into balls or just scooping and leave to the natural shape?

Do any of you have a foolproof chocolate chip cookie recipe? I seem to be coming up short here. Or any expert baking tips? Help meeeee!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

There are lots of things floating around in my head this morning...I figured it would be easier to blog it out.

one I was recently reminded of how much I loved Dunkaroos as a child. After researching them online I found out that they are still made in Canada and available on Amazon. So, I promptly ordered a 6 pack of the chocolate and a 6 pack of the vanilla with rainbow sprinkles and anxiously awaited their arrival.

I could barely contain myself when they were delivered and dove right into a pack. They. Were. Gross. They tasted nothing like I remembered and I was so sad that one of my favorite childhood snacks could deceive me so much. It was too sweet and too processed and chalky tasting. There are no words to describe the utter despair I felt...

two I made my very first diaper cake for a coworker's baby "sprinkle" and I'm obsessed. Only, I don't really know anyone else at the moment that is Also, yes, it does have a bottle of wine in it. Wine not? Something for the baby and something for the adults. :)

three I've only ever really bought makeup brushes from e.l.f. cosmetics but I was perusing their website last week and they were having a huge 50% off sale. (and their stuff is already VERY budget-friendly). I got a haul! I got a brow gel/powder kit, eyeliner, 3 lipsticks, cream eyeshadow, blush, facial moisturizer, concealer, an eyeshadow brush and a duo lip pencil for $27 shipped! So far I've tried the blush, brow kit and eyeliner and I'm a big fan!

four My fantasy football team is in the crapper this year. This is the worst I've EVER done. And I had a great roster at the beginning of the season but with injuries and such it's just been the pits. Every year I get depressed when my team doesn't win and every year I say I won't do it next year but then come August I start to get that itch. UGH.

five This meme is killing me lately. Why is it so funny? I will find myself thinking about it randomly and laughing...because it is so true!

Friday, October 14, 2016

What Makes Me Feel Peaceful

I could literally feel myself relaxing as I read Steph's post today so I figured it was a sign I'm meant to do my own version. Here are the things that make me feel peaceful...

  • Having a clean home when I'm "relaxing" (I cannot relax if I'm sitting in clutter or disarray)
  • Reading in my Snuggie on the couch
  • Rainy, cold days
  • An empty kitchen sink and cleared kitchen counter tops 
  • Throw pillows that are arranged correctly
  • This song...year-round
  • Content dog sounds (sighs, breathing, grunting, stretching, etc.)
  • Knowing I have nothing to do and nowhere to be
  • Hot soup
  • Prayer
  • Singing whatever song is on my mind at the moment 
  • Meal planning
  • Unplanned nature walks with my camera


Monday, October 10, 2016

DIY Farmhouse/Cottage Pendant Light from a Trashcan

I'm really into bits and pieces of the farmhouse/cottage style that's all the rage these days...especially the lighting. After swooning over so many gorgeous pendant lighting fixtures, I almost (ALMOST) bit the bullet with something I sort of liked in my price range.

Then, I was at Target (aka the happiest place on Earth) and I saw this cute wire trashcan in the Dollar Spot section. It's entirely too small to be a functional trashcan, by the way, but it was perfect for an idea I had ruminating in my head.

I really wanted to try and make my own farmhouse style pendant lighting to replace the bare Edison bulbs we had in the kitchen (peep from the end of this post). I love the light fixture, but it wasn't practical since a) anyone over 5'4" would hit their head on it and b) it was too large for that particular area. (We had the strands almost all the way up and they were still too long).

So I asked M if he could help me. Now, let's be honest, I couldn't have done this project without M. I had the idea but he basically did most of the work. I'll try to explain the steps as simply as possible. Along with the trashcan we purchased a pendant lighting kit from Lowe's. We bought this one but you could swap for a less expensive one and this project would be even cheaper.

First, M took some wire cutter things and removed the label/badge part and the handles from the basket. Then he measured and taped off to find the center of the bottom (where the light fixture would sit). He used a drill to make a hole in the center of the basket that was wide enough to push the pendant light fixture through but also small enough for it to be snug.

After he got the light fixture situated, he sanded a bit around the hole (to remove the metal shavings) and then I spray painted it. I opted for a matte black since we have a ton of white in the kitchen and I wanted it to stand out. 

After it dried, M removed our old light and installed this one. Now, here's a note of caution. M went to school for electrical stuff so he knows what he's doing. Because I wanted this one to hang much higher than the other, he had to cut about 3 feet of wire and re-wire it a bit. Most people probably won't have this issue, especially if you have higher ceilings. Anywho, so once he got it installed I was absolutely thrilled! We put one of the Edison bulbs from the old fixture in there for now. But we'll probably replace with an LED bulb soon to get more light. 

It looks off-centered but that's just because of where I was taking the photo.  I'm not the best at taking great interior photos...however I promise a better one when the light is better. Follow me on Insta to see a better photo later today. :) We were losing light as this project was wrapping up! 

I am obsessed with this pendant light. It's the perfect touch of farmhouse/cottage style and is high enough to not be a hazard for tall people. For less than $30 we got an awesome light fixture that was EXACTLY what I wanted! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Fall Purchase Roundup

Call me #basic, but I REALLY love fall. There's something about the cooler weather and changing leaves that makes me yearn for paler skin, deep neutrals and dark jewel toned colors. I've purchased a few things so far this season and will be adding a couple more. I've already blogged about a couple of them but I figured I'd round them all up into one post.

First off, the one thing I've STOPPED doing for fall is fake tanning. I still can't stop on my legs but that's just a hold over until it's cold enough to wear tights. I absolutely love the look of deep fall colors against pale skin so no more fake bake for me until spring!

Farylrobin Stella Block Heel Almond Toe Pumps (in Tobacco)
Columbia Women's Arcadia II Rain Jacket (in Red Hibiscus)
Journee Collection Link Faux Suede Ankle Boots (in Taupe)
Buffalo Plaid Extreme High-Low Top
Hanky Hem Knit Poncho (in Hunter Green)
Bite Beauty - Amuse Bouche Lipstick (in Sour Cherry)
High-Low Popover Top (in Wine)

A few notes - I already am obsessed with the wine colored popover top. If they had it in any other colors I'd have already bought them. They only have this and black and I have something already almost identical to the black one.

And I'm swooning over a chunky heel this season. Like dying. The end. Please let chunky heels never go out of style again. The end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Being Honest and Not "Bloggy"

Today's post was almost a completely different one. You all almost got a "Fall's Top Trends" post because I figured it would be much easier to write. I could just put some photos up and a little blurb about the trends and call it a day. It's happy, it's positive and it's very "bloggy".

But it wouldn't be honest with how I'm feeling now or what I'm dealing with. I'm worn the heck out. I've been running ragged over the last couple of months dealing with some major family issues (illnesses, relationships, etc.) and major work issues (work politics/drama, project management issues, etc.). I've really been doing a lot of stuff for everyone else and not a lot for myself. I've had something to do nearly every night in the last few weeks and even though I did go to the beach recently it wasn't quite the relaxing trip I may have indicated in my post.

The way I deal with stress is quite simple...I don't. I just push through and get through life and not deal with it and eventually it all catches up. Last night it caught up. I had an anxiety attack after not having had one for nearly 11 years. Thankfully, I knew what it was this time so I was able to recognize it and not further freak myself out by thinking it was a heart attack. (which is what happened 11 years ago) Anxiety manifests itself physically with me in the form of major GI upset issues along with the usual crying, panicking, anger and sadness. Last night I actually started crying because I was upset I was having an anxiety attack. Like I was glad I'd been able to go for so long and was mad I wasn't getting better at dealing with stress.

So, unfortunately this post doesn't really have a nice bow-tied ending. I'm sitting at work and my stomach is burning and in knots (because again, that is how stress manifests itself) and I feel like I'm on the verge of tears. I literally hate that more than anything because emotionally unstable people annoy me...and I'm being one of them! Writing it out helps. Praying helps. Talking to people helps. Heck, even petting and playing with Hewitt helps. But I'm not sure what will actually work to deal with it. I realize I'm 31 years old and can't properly deal with my anxiety and I'm not quite sure how to handle that. Or what to do.

Don't worry this isn't a cry for help! :) It just sucks to have to pretend to have it all together sometimes when I know I'm struggling inside. Okay, I'm wrapping up this rambling post. Check back later in the week for something a little lighter (hopefully).

Monday, October 3, 2016

Beef Stroganoff [From Scratch]

I'm embarrassed to admit that up until I made this recipe yesterday, I'd only ever had Beef Stroganoff from the box. You know, like the Hamburger Helper kind? I've made that a lot and it's delicious! But when I saw this recipe posted on Emily Bites' blog, I decided it was time to make a grown-up version from scratch.

The first and obvious difference is I used steak instead of ground beef and I was a bit concerned about it originally. I thought it might compromise the taste I'd grown up loving. Well, it didn't. Not one bit. If anything, it was actually MORE delicious! We omitted the mushrooms from the original recipe since neither of us enjoy fungi and I made a couple of minor changes from the original to suit our tastes. Our changes would modify the nutritional info she lists in her original post. The overall result was wonderful. M raved and raved about it and asked if we could have it again this week. The recipe below made dinner for both of us with enough leftover to have it again tonight for dinner. :)

Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from Emily Bites' recipe

1 tablespoon light butter (I use Land O’Lakes)
Salt & black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ lbs lean and trimmed flank steak, sliced into thin strips across the grain
2 teaspoons paprika
4 cups fat free beef broth
8 oz uncooked egg noodles
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons cold tap water
3/4 cup light sour cream
Diced fresh parsley, to taste

In a large saute pan or pot, melt butter over low heat. Add the canola oil to the pan and bring it to medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic, stir, and then cook for another 30-60 seconds. Add the sliced steak to the pan and stir. Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper. Cook the steak, stirring occasionally until just browned through, about 6-8 minutes. Sprinkle the paprika over the beef and then stir together until the beef is well coated.

Add the broth to the pan and turn up the heat to bring the broth to a strong simmer. Once simmering, add the egg noodles, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Simmer for 7-8 minutes until the noodles are cooked. While the noodles are cooking, combine the corn starch and water in a small dish and stir together until the corn starch is dissolved. When the noodles are cooked, remove the lid from the pan and add the corn starch slurry. Stir the slurry into the broth and allow to cook uncovered for a few more minutes until the sauce is thickened. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sour cream. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.