Saturday, February 28, 2015

Just Add Watercolor By Helen Birch

 Just Add Watercolor: Inspiration & Painting Techniques From Contemporary Artists by Helen Birch is a tiny tome packed with gorgeous images and truly is a source of inspiration for artists of any level of experience.

I was so excited by the techniques explored in this book.  There are several sections devoted to different types of painting mediums including traditional watercolor, gouache, digital, mixed media, other water based media and non-paper media.  Each section provided detailed descriptions of the techniques used to achieve the artwork pictured along with a full page image created by a contemporary artist.

Some books of this type seem to tell you how to paint or describe "the best way" to paint.  They suffer from a "look what I can do" mentality.  I found nothing in this book except encouragement and inspiration to try my hand at some of the techniques pictured.  Ms. Birch highlights some amazing artists, and has a knack for showcasing their work in an approachable way.  I found this book delightful, and couldn't wait to put brush to paper (or in my case cardboard since I was amazed by the artists working on non-traditional papers and mediums).  Although my work can't hold a candle to the artwork pictured in this lovely little book, I still had a wonderful time creating it.

Thank you to the folks at Blogging For Books for providing me with this book for review purposes.  I think it would make fantastic gift for an aspiring artist and I encourage you to follow Helen Birch's art blog drawdrawdraw where she explores all types of art and artists.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

So Much Makeup I Need Another Face

I went a little crazy ordering makeup.  I've been working a ton of overtime and I've been sick for weeks, so I went a little overboard and ordered a bunch of things I'd been wanting for ages.  I plan on reviewing them and swatching them later this week.

First up - my City Color Cosmetics order.  I fell in love with City Color when they featured their Be Matte blush in an Ipsy glam bag last year.  Since then I've been lucky to receive a white gold cream shadow (similar to the Maybelline Color Tattoo line) and a creamy lip stain from the company.  Their products are affordable, beautiful and worth the splurge, especially when Ipsy offered a 20% discount.

Although the items were wrapped in bubble wrap and securely packaged, the bubble mailer wasn't enough to protect the two face palettes which were on the outside.  They arrived crumbled in their pans but the folks at City Color Cosmetics reached out to me on Instagram post almost immediately after I posted an image and they left an e-mail address for me to send them photos of the items.  They said they were really sorry they arrived in a less than perfect condition and that they'll work with me to replace them.  What stellar customer service!  It made me very happy to know they were on top of things.

My EyesLipsFace Cosmetics package also arrived.  It shipped crazy fast.  There was a mystery gift promotion on Monday (spend $25 receive free $21 gift of mystery products).  I can never pass up this promotion.  All of my favorite elf products were discovered in mystery bags over the last two years.  This is my third one and it doesn't have as many products as usual but it has some really nice things I know I'll use and like.

This is my actual purchase:

The mineral pearls (top right) are supposed to be a dupe for the Guerlain meteorites powder.  One Guerlain powder would cost me more than either of my two purchases.  The special edition one with the fancy pants packaging is actually $87 at Norstrom which is more than everything I bought in today's post.  That is the main reason why unless I hit the lottery I'll never be fooling with high end makeup brands.   If a lipstick from elf gets lost or dropped or a lipstain dries out I can grab a new one.  If I dropped an $87 powder I would cry.  

This was all the items in the mystery gift.  I have been dying to try the hd cream blush and this is the color I would've selected for myself.  I'm not a big fan of brush applicator lip gloss, but I will use everything else here.  The mineral mist looks interesting.  At $6 it was the most expensive mystery item.  

I'm looking forward to playing with all my new makeup this weekend.  This will keep me entertained for weeks!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm Not Gonna Miss You

I watched the Academy Awards tonight (finally) after recording them on Sunday.

Glen Campbell's "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" was nominated for best song.   Tonight was my first time hearing it, in the deft hands of Tim McGraw, but I'm going to post a video of Glen Campbell singing it.

I was sobbing after I heard it on the telecast and even more so when I heard it in his own voice.

This powerful song is about his realization he would eventually succumb to Alzheimer's disease and is an I love you and goodbye to his wife and children.

Both of my parents are currently living with the disease, and my father's parents and my mother's aunt both passed away while suffering its effects.   In a word, Alzheimer's is terrifying.  Knowing there's every chance I'll develop it as I age and having four siblings all with a 10+ year age gap from me who are likely to suffer from it too is something that weighs on my mind.

I'm still here, but yet I'm gone
I don't play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you 'til the end
You're the last person I will love
You're the last face I will recall
And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you
I'm never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You're never gonna see it in my eyes
It's not gonna hurt me when you cry
I'm never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains
I'm not gonna miss you
I'm not gonna miss you


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Read Lisa Blakely's Caught Up In Us Free!

Lauren Blakely's CAUGHT UP IN US is free, but it won't last long!

The team at InkSlinger PR alerted me that this book is available as a free download for a limited time - if you love contemporary romance Lauren Blakely's Caught Up In Love series may be right up your alley.  If you download this free book and enjoy it, please take the time to leave a review for the author on whatever platform you download it from.  I haven't read it yet, but I just downloaded the Kindle copy and hope to soon.

To read a plot synopsis, check out this book on Goodreads: Caught Up in Us (Caught Up In Love Book 1)

If you're not a member of Goodreads yet, consider becoming one - it's free, fun and it's a great platform to review the work of authors you love and find new reads.  When you finish the book you can post your review on Goodreads too - authors love reviews!

Find your free (for a limited time!) copy here...

Amazon ➜
Barnes & Noble ➜
iBooks ➜
Google Play ➜
Kobo ➜

Amazon UK: (NOT FREE YET - if you want it to be free in UK, please report the iBooks price on Amazon)
iBooks UK:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Elf Cosmetics Mystery Deal

I can't say no to a mystery box!  I have purchased items from EyesLipsFace (elf) cosmetics twice now when they have had their special mystery deals and I have never been disappointed.  Well. actually once I was a little disappointed because the mystery portion of my purchase didn't arrive at first but it was just a mix up and when I contacted them they sent it out right away and added a free blush brush which quickly became one of my favorite brushes because of its tulip shape.

The free mystery gifts are usually available for one day only and I have received at least two products in each bag that I probably wouldn't have purchased but turned out to be really wonderful finds.  The elf lip stain markers are only $2 and make a wonderful base layer to extend your lip color.  In my first mystery box it was my favorite find.  I also loved the blush and bronzer duo in St. Lucia I received.  It had a nice color, wasn't too sparkly and the bronze shade was a great eye shadow color for me.

In my second mystery box I discovered the studio series lip stains are creamy and wonderful and come with a gloss that makes them moisturizing and helps them wear for several hours.  I also received a package of lotion wipes in a vanilla scent which were the perfect thing to take along on vacation this summer.  I also got hooked on coral lip color after receiving a mineral lipstick in a color I would've never chosen for myself but loved wearing.  Cool coral was a delightful find and I ended up getting a lip pencil in the color flame that matched it perfectly although it has been discontinued.

They seem to send a good representation of products from their line including brushes, tools and palettes in these mystery boxes and they always seem to have at least a $21 value (both times I received them they added up to a little more - $23 and $24).  Today they have a chance to score a mystery gift ($21 value) with any purchase over $25.  I was very excited because they finally restocked their mineral pearl powders which I hear are similar to the meteorites powders from Guerlain.  I don't have $54 to drop on one shade of the meteorites, but at $8 for the elf version I ordered both shades (natural and skin correcting) and I can't wait to try them.  Since I'm getting a big bag of surprise products which I've been head over heels for in the past it makes it an excellent deal.  I also picked up a few brushes, lip balms, a new matte blush/bronzer duo and a brow pencil.  I can't wait for it to arrive!

If you want to get in on the Mystery deal there are still a few hours left.  Use code MYSTERY at before midnight PST!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sports Movies

Andy does not enjoy the Oscars.

I find this questionable, but I watch the following day commercial free and make him watch the good parts (last year he saw part of Ellen's monologue, Scarlett Johansen's dress and John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel's name).  It works out to a win/win especially since we chose to watch a sports movie while waiting for The Walking Dead to start.

We just watched Draft Day with Kevin Costner.  It was a great movie - I really enjoyed the pairing of Jennifer Garner and Costner.  I thought it was much more believable than some couples casting choices, and I love that Patricia Arquette played his ex wife.  There are a TON of famous faces in this movie.  I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it in the theatres.

Last week we watched a baseball movie with Jon Hamm that was pretty amazing too.  It was called Million Dollar Arm and was based on a true story of a man who traveled to India in search of cricket players who he could develop into major league pitchers.  Plus - Jon Hamm.  I would watch him in anything.  His portrayal of Don Draper on Mad Men is everything.

I know there have been some fantastic sports movies out in the last few years.  Moneyball comes to mind.  So does 42 and stretching back a little further, I adored Matthew Maconnahey in We Are Marshall - I think that was actually the start of the Maconnaisance.  People overlook that movie, but it was the first time I really loved him in a dramatic role.  Then there was True Detective which I watched for Woody Harrelson and fell in love with MM unexpectedly.

Can you name any wonderful sports movies out in the last few years that I ought to see?  I love boxing, football, baseball, hockey, basketball - any sports movies really.  Baseball and Football movies are probably my favorite but boxing movies always get me.  I have watched Real Steel about 15 times even though some might classify that as a robot flick.  It's a boxing movie.  With a kid.  That's the best kind.

So, what sports movies am I missing out on? Are there any tv sports shows on Netflix I'm missing?  Do I need to watch The League?  I really like the actor who was in the movie The One I Love and who is on the new HBO show that comes on after Girls but I have no idea what his name is.  Tell me what to watch in the wide world of sports for the big and small screens!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snowed In

I didn't have to work any overtime today because we knew it was going to be a really snowy and miserable day.  I stayed at home and caught up on The Bachelor and worked on making some necklaces.

I stress myself out unnecessarily when I'm working on a project.  I'm always hard on myself and wind up hating the things I'm working on because what I envision them to be is always so much better than what they actually are.  I know it is supposed to be fun, but I don't have any fun when I feel like what I'm making can be better.

I don't have any pictures of the jewelry to share because I'm disappointed in it, but I can show you how snowy it is here today...

It was so snowy, I lost Andy....

If you see him, let him know I'm looking for him!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sleek Makeup

Sleek Makeup Valentine's Day Special

I have been interested in trying some new makeup brands.  I've experimented with some mid range brands like Tarte, Too Faced, BareMinerals and Urban Decay and have found a range of products from things I really think are worth the cost (bareMinerals shadow, UD shadows, Tarte eyeliner and lipsurgence, Too Faced Bronzer) that performed well for me and and others that are wildly overpriced and just didn't live up to my expectations (the rest of Too Faced I've tried, UD mascara, Tarte lipstick and bareMinerals lip gloss) .  I wanted to sample a range of products from a few brands with more reasonable prices to see if I can find a version of the items I liked the most in a lower priced brand.

Through the magic of Instagram I kept seeing postings about a makeup brand called Sleek.  It's a British brand that seems to have a wide following and there are lots of raves about the quality of their eye shadows and how they are similar to the Urban Decay Naked palettes.  Although I don't own any of the 3 Naked palettes by UD, I do have one of their palettes - Book of Shadows IV.  The shadows are  soft and last for hours with primer and I was hoping to find similar quality with Sleek shadows.

For Valentine's day Sleek ran a special deal where you could get a collection of favorites for $30.  I figured it was a great way to try a few representative products from the brand and hoped the shipping from Great Britain wouldn't make it prohibitively expensive.  I found a coupon online (welcome10) for 10% off and there was only a $2 shipping charge.  I was a little confused about an item listed as "county taxes" that was around $10 but when I paid through PayPal my total was $29 after the discount and shipping were applied.  For $29 I received a blush, a 12 shade shadow palette, a highlighting palette with three cream shades and a powder shade, a matte lipstick and a cosmetic bag with a Sleek logo.  I would easily pay more than $7.25 for each of the makeup items even in the drugstore for brands like Maybeline or L'Oreal so I thought it was a great value.

The package arrived in a black plastic bag with a Royal Post sticker and customs declaration on the front.  Inside was an extremely well packed cardboard box.  Each item had its own cardboard box or shrink wrap and was wrapped in a bubble bag as well.  It made an overseas trip in nearly perfect condition, with just a tiny chip in one pan of eyeshadow.  It also got here really quickly - I ordered it on the 13th and it was here on the 20th.  I've ordered from plenty of American companies with slower shipping.

The I-Divine "Oh So Special" palette had really pretty colors that would work well with many skin tones.  The shimmery shades like Organza, Glitz and Celebrate are lovely and reminded me immediately of the Urban Decay shadows.  I know I will get a lot of use from these shades.  The matte shades Ribbon, The Mail and Wrapped Up were a little powdery, but so are the UD matte shadows.  I'm sure these will be fine with a primer.  The packaging reminds me of BH Cosmetics and the applicator was a black sponge tip, but I will use my brushes instead.  The swatch in the photo closest to my wrist is the lipstick, the next shades are all eye shadows, the next to last blush and the bottom the antiqued gold powder highlight palette shade.

The blush in Pomegranate was really beautiful.  The style of packaging reminded me of the Nars single blushes (which I do not own although I have sampled them in Sephora) with their rectangle shape.  I like that all the compacts feature a mirror and also that this was all product and no brush because I much prefer to use my own brushes and like a wider surface to sweep over.  This is very pigmented and imparts a pretty glow with very little effort.  It has a subtle shimmer which I really like.

The highlighting palette was also exciting.  I haven't had a chance to try the cream highlighters but I'm sure they will work well as browbone highlights and I am betting they will be nice for eye shadows too.  This compact was my favorite and its mirrored surface reminded me of the Hourglass makeup compacts.   I probably won't use this as often but I'm glad to have a versatile palette - I've never owned a highlight collection before.

The makeup bag is nice quality - similar to what you would receive as a free gift with a BareMinerals collection.  I didn't count it toward the value, but it will be a good way to keep all of these products together.

The lipstick is a pretty shade although a little bright for me.  I like the matte formula, it's comfortable on and didn't drag or bleed but I only wore it for an hour or so.  This is the kind of lipstick you could apply very lightly to and cover with a coat of clear gloss to give a subtle stain effect.  I will definitely be wearing it that way.

I'm very excited to see how these products make it through a work day.  So far I feel the shadows are soft and sexy, the blush a great shade for me and the lipstick versatile.  I would order from this brand in the future, and I would really like to try their liquid lipsticks and a few other products.  I wish they were available to buy in the US so I could swatch them and see the shades in person, but they have a great value and seem to be of high quality.

It is worthy to note that the shipping label reads "Contry of Origin - Taiwan/China/Indonesia" but bh cosmetics, Coastal Scents, Nyx and other mid tier and lower teir brands are also sourced from Asian countries and I've never experienced any problems.

All said, Sleek Makeup is a thrilling find!  Hopefully I'll be posting some looks soon.  Hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Soup Of The Day

As I was making dinner I got distracted by my phone and the lovely pan of onions, celery and carrots that was softening kind of started to burn a bit.  That's how tonight's "Fire-Roasted" veggie soup started.  It was still totally delicious.  Sometimes you've just got to call it a day and embrace the mistakes!

Start with a 1lb. package of mild Italian sausage.   Lose the casings and brown it.  Transfer the sausage to a stock pot and add a cup of diced carrots, four stalks of thinly sliced celery and a small diced onion to the pan with the drippings.  Burning the veggies even though you have the lid on to steam them takes highly prized skills.  You might not be up to it.  Don't worry.  Add your probably not fire-roasted veggies to the pot along with 5 cups of chicken stock and 1 cup of V8 vegetable juice.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Add 8 oz.  dry uncooked orzo pasta once soup is bubbling and allow to boil, lower hear and simmer  covered, for 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of finely sliced spinach and simmer for an additional 3 minutes, add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and a few croutons to serve.

I added a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

I burned that too.  I am on fire tonight.

So is everything I touch.

Still looks (and tastes) delicious!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Little Reminder

Your opinion is a valuable as everyone else's.

A lot of times, people have no desire to hear any opinion that's not their own, even if yours is worthy.

P.S. - You are worthy too, not just your opinions.

There is more than one truth.

Millions of people out there may believe similarly and share a similar point of view.  At the end of the day, you are unique and no one will ever know what you know and feel what you feel.

That's okay too.

If we can accept that other people feel differently than we do without negating their feelings or establishing a "worthiness" to their opinions and belief as to what constitutes a truth for Us rather than one for the., we can start to be at peace.

Ain't nobody got time for superiority and hatred.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Seeing Things

The no sense of taste or smell has escalated into vision problems.

This cold is no joke.

I can't concentrate on the screen because I have a weird repeating pattern and flashes of blues and greens in my eyes.  And I feel dizzy and strange.

No bueno.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Close Call

I fell asleep on the couch tonight sometime around 7pm and Andy must've known how much I needed to rest.  I just woke up a few minutes ago (it is now 2am) but thankfully the date doesn't change on the blog until 3am so I didn't miss posting today.  I've gone 209 days with a post every day so I'm happy I didn't miss it.

I was hoping to reveal a new fragrance I received from Influenster, talk about the newest scent that arrived from Scentbird and tell you about the new pizza I tried from Little Caesar's tonight, but the following things thwarted me:

#1 - I have no sense of smell right now!  I ha e been sick for seemingly months, but the latest advances on the sicko front have wiped out my smeller.  So much for describing fragrances!

#2 - Scentbird didn't arrive because we had no mail due to president's day.   It is also throwing a wrench in getting my next book to review for Blogging for Books to me.  I've never waited so long for a title to show up from them.  Between the snow, Valentine's day and the holiday today I think the post office must be swamped.

#3 - No sense of smell means no sense of taste.  Although the new pizza I tried (with a bacon wrapped crust) was wonderfully hot and crispy I couldn't even smell the bacon and according to the girl in the store I made everyone hungry because that was all you could smell in their kitchen.  Even Andy commented on it the second I climbed in the car and I hadn't even heard of the new flavor, but tried it on a whim.  I wish I could tell you it was wonderful, but in all honesty I couldn't taste it which is sad because I probably shouldn't have eaten it anyway since I'm trying to eat better.  Oh well, two slices of pizza won't kill me.  In the past I would've killed four and not thought twice about it, so I should be happy I've at least embraced moderation.  

I'm off to sleep for a couple of hours more.  Hope you all had a lovely Monday and that you're staying warm and out of the path of the snow and freezing weather.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Mail

I've received a ton of gorgeous, wonderful books in the mail these past few months.  I am extremely lucky to have the chance to read so many wonderful works, many before they are published.  I've recently been contacted by a few independent authors and even a publishing company to review works on GoodsReads and LibraryThing and I often publish reviews on Amazon after the books are published if I enjoy them.  Below are pictures of several books I've received through giveaways, showing interest in authors on Twitter and Facebook and from the Blogging For Books program.  If you want to hear more about any of these titles, I plan on posting several short reviews here and on my Goodreads page - feel free to friend me there - I'm mjreynolds32 on most social media.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

This year Andy gave me something that has kept me flat on my back in bed all day long.

That's right.  He gave me a cold!


Here's hoping you all had a lovely day and that you weren't battling a fever and the lack of several senses.

Much love to all of you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ipsy February 2015 Glam Bag

This month's Ipsy bag is adorable.  I love the grey and pink color scheme.

It features three full size products and two deluxe samples.  Unfortunately my Eva NYC hair product leaked into the bag, but since the other items were all shrink wrapped it wasn't so bad.

I was hoping for the blush brush this month, but I just broke my eyelash curler this morning, so it was a welcome surprise to find and Emite curler in my bag.  I swear I already got one of these through Ipsy although I guess it may have been a different box.

The Eva NYC Up All Night Volumizing spray smells really great, I just wish it hadn't leaked.  I don't think I've ever had to contact Ipsy care for a leaking product, but they've been great in the past with questions and concerns, so I'm sure they'll respond quickly.

I'm really excited about the Model Co. Blush in cosmopolitan.  It is a light pink really suited to my fair skin tone and I love the Model Co. cheek and lip tint I have and use it all the time so I'm excited to try a new product from them.

The Mitchell and Peach fine radiance face oil is right up my alley.  It doesn't seem to have a strong scent and I love that it is a blend of oils like grape seed, coconut and apricot all of which I love the feel of.  I use Josie Maran Argan oil all the time in the winter and I am glad to add this to my routine.

The City Color creamy lip stain rounds out a wonderful bag.  Their blush is probably my favorite discovery from Ipsy so I will be ready to find a new love in this "Flirtini" lip color.  I wear stains and colored balms more than any other products, so I would've been happy to find either in this month's bag.  I'm hoping I can trade for a few of the color balms or that they have a great sale or discount through Ipsy so I can try them.

This month's Ipsy was great.  $10 well spent and I'll use every product!

Do you all have any exciting Valentine's plans?  Andy gave me my gift a day early since I have to work tomorrow - an absolutely gorgeous necklace that is in the shape of a heart with an infinity symbol and a glittering "Diamonds In Motion" center stone.  I was floored.

My husband really is the best.  Thank you baby!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thanks Honey

Thank you for putting dinner away.

Thanks for washing all the bed linens and comforters today.

Thank you for buying me vitamins and constantly reminding me to take them even if reminding me means rattling the bottles really loudly every morning when I'm not quite awake.

Thanks for trying to get me to open my eyes each day.

Thank you for the cup of coffee you make and doctor up each morning and bring me to lift the fog.

Thanks for feeding the dogs and loving them even when Obi pisses on things and loses his "living room privileges" and Cinna eats things that aren't food at all like our walls.

Thank you for patching the walls and mopping the floor and for doing so much to make our house a home.

Thanks for your patience with me when I'm not very good at being domestic, when I don't cook very well and when you realize that although me driving would make both of our lives easier it isn't very likely to be something I'm ever able to do.

I'm sorry I'm not better at everything, and that I'm sick seemingly all the time and that I fall asleep in the middle of a movie I've been dying to watch or I stay up for hours each night and then can't function like a human being.

One thing is certain.

You make me better.

When I'm down you pick me up.

Thank you for that most, and thanks for making me feel like I'm deserving of your love and support.

Thanks honey.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Who Is That?

I caught my reflection today and damn if it wasn't my mother looking back at me.

It happens all the time.

I see my mom smiling in pictures of me.  Sometimes I see my sister Marcia hidden in my reflection too.  I can't put on lipstick without considering how my features resemble hers.

Marilyn comes out in the phrasing of words my patterns of speech.  I occasionally say things and immediately follow it with "that was my sister talking."

Monica's eyes have rolled along with mine on many an occasion and I'm almost positive when my hands are crafting they're following her lead.

My dad and brother are around too.

Whenever I say "I just saw this greatest flick" or talk to my dog in a certain voice Mikey is all I can hear.  Obi is more familiar with my brother's voice than he is with mine because some days it is all he hears.

Every dumb joke or expression of wonder over an everyday occurrence is properly attributed to my Daddy.  Every time I chat up a stranger I hear him asking questions I would've never spoken in my own voice.

It's like I'm a treasury of the people I love.

What a nice thing to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pork And Mushroom Meatballs

Tried something new using lots of things I had on hand tonight and it turned out good enough to post!

Pork and Mushroom Meatballs

1 lb. ground pork
4-5oz. White or baby Bella mushrooms
3oz. (One half box) Stove Top stuffing mix for pork
1/4 cup V8 vegetable juice
1 Tablespoon siracha chili sauce
1 egg beaten
Olive oil for pan
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 lb. package Barilla veggie penne
Shredded mozerella or Parmesan cheese if desired

Finely chop mushrooms and add to egg, siracha and V8.  Stir to coat.  Add stuffing mix, combine well.  If mix seems dry add a splash of V8.  Add pork and mix well.  Form into small balls.  Add oil to a frying pan and brown meatballs, cooking 9-12 minutes on medium high until no longer pink.   Start pasta according to box instructions.  Add can of sauce to pan, cover, lower hear and allow to simmer as pasta cooks.  Drain pasta and add to meatballs and sauce, stirring to coat.  Top with cheese if desired.

These turned out great and the addition of the mushrooms and stuffing mix stretches the meat to serve a crowd.  The Barilla veggie pasta is made with 25% carrot and tomato puree.  It is my new favorite pasta and has a serving of sneaky vegetables for kids!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Flirting With Sleep

I don't know about you, but even when I am completely exhausted I have trouble getting to sleep.

My brain doesn't want to shut down.

I obsess over details of the day or projects I want to tackle or something that a high school friend said about me that made me self conscious as a teenager.  I think about sounds in the house and wonder what time it is.  Then I look at the clock and concern myself with why on earth it is taking me so long to fall asleep.  If I hear Andy's breathing change I wonder if my tossing and turning woke him and if he'll be tired and grumpy in the morning.  Basically I think of everything that can keep me alert and awake and miserable.

I found a breathing excercise online that a blogger swore put her to sleep so fast that she couldn't remember falling asleep or finishing the excercise each night.  It went like this:

Breathe in through your nose for a count of 7, hold your breath for a count of 8 and exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 12.

When I first tried it I thought I was going to pass out.  I didn't enjoy the feeling of completely emptying my lungs.  It burned and made me feel anxious and like I was choking.

Andy said "that's not going to work.". When I asked him why he said "because you're going to keep yourself awake worried that you're breathing wrong".

He was, of course, completely on point.

I'm trying Melatonin.  It is something I know works for me, but also something I often forget to take until it is practically too late for me to take it and still function.

I've tried lots of other things.  Magnesium (bad and made me jittery), Benadryl (good unless I take more than one in which case I can't wake up), Z-Quil (no effect other than a rash from the saccharine which I didn't realize was an ingredient) and Valerian Root (couldn't get over the stinky feet smell and bitter taste).  When I was a kid I drank warm milk but as an adult milk makes my stomach hurt.  Anyone have any great remedies that will help me zonk out?

(P.S. - I really need a "zonk out and stay out" solution because I often wake up at 3 AM and then obsess over every tiny noise in our house.  I think I watch too many scary movies!)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pork And Apple Skillet

I tried a new recipe tonight that turned out well.  I added several minutes to the cooking time because there was a lot of liquid left after sauteeing the pork and it needed to reduce a good bit once I added the onions and apples, but otherwise I followed the directions as written.  I chose a cornbread stuffing mix because I thought it would be a good fit.  I probably would've used cranberry Stove Top stuffing mix if I had it on hand to lend a bit of sweetness, but the cornbread variety turned out pretty good.

The recipe came from page 54 of the Kraft Stove Top Recipes Cookbook (2013)

The apples were just slightly crunchy and were very sweet and caramelized from the brown sugar. The pork was tender and had just enough salt from the vinaigrette and stuffing mix that it didn't need extra.  I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a go.

And now....


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Movie Night

Andy and I went to see Jupiter Ascending today.  It was corny, had a kind of dumb storyline, and was completely unbelievable from the first moment, but was also incredibly beautiful and had tremendous visual effects.  It was the kind of movie that I will own on bluray just so I can pause it and look at the construction of the dresses.  I sincerely spent at least half the movie staring at Mila Kunis and trying to figure out how she had such gorgeous and ever changing eyeshadow looks in space.   Is it the best movie I've seen this year?  Hardly.  But it was the one with the best clothes and most stunning action and visual effects.  It will probably win an Oscar for one of those next year.

We also watched Gone Girl.  Now I finally see what everyone has been talking about.  It was twisty and wonderful and I still want to read the book, which is an extra good sign.  I don't want to spoil it for anyone yet to read/watch it, but wow!

Now we're watching The Interview on Netflix.  Actually Andy is watching because I can't stand James Franco.  He and Renee Zelweiger went to the school of "squinting as acting" and I can't watch him for longer than a few minutes without wanting to punch him in the face.  Andy is helpfully pointing out things he know I'd like.  He has said "Eminem" and "Joseph Gordon Levitt in a sea of puppies" which was enough for me to ignore the squinting.

  With the exception of the squinting, it has been an awesome movie night!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Waiting For Walkers

I spent a good hour today hunting for news about the second half of AMC's The Walking Dead's current season.  I saw breakdowns of favorite villains, lists of the best episodes so far in the series and tons of speculation as to what's in store for my favorite cast on television.

Even my magazines got in on the action.

 They say that his "Bite Me" shirt is being auctioned off for charity and the current bid is over $4000.  I may make my own version because this is dead awesome.

See what I did there?

Daryl's back!!!

I just can't stop myself.

I also found out that Norman Reedus was in a Lady Gaga video!  How I missed this I have no idea.  I distinctly remember the lipstick gun from this video but somehow failed to realize it was him playing Judas.  If you feel the need to see him riding a motorcycle in a very sexy leather jacket and sitting in a bathtub, watch this clip.

I can't wait for the mid season premiere on Sunday night.  I may have to create a TWD themed recipe for Nerdist's #CookingDead contest.  Bob-B-Q anyone?

Here are some things I'd like to see....

Daryl caught in a rainstorm which requires him to bare even more than his arms.


Michonne making some new pets so the group has some camouflage.

A Carol takeover.

Rick finding a bunch of weapons including some wicked straight razors which he weilds as Wolverine claws but ironically refuses to use on his face.

Several flashbacks featuring Emily Kinney.

What are you looking forward to seeing this Sunday?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Supermarket Healthy By Melissa D'Arabian Cookbook Review

Melissa D'Arabian is a Food Network personality who cooked her way into America's hearts and kitchens by winning "The Next Food Network Star".  Her show Ten Dollar Dinners offers many tips for eating well on a budget and I was excited that her second cookbook would focus on how to make your shopping trips to the local supermarket an experience that is good for you, your family and your pocketbook.

Supermarket Healthy is not exactly what I expected it to be.  I had expectations of a book that focused on being able to find very budget-friendly food that was delicious and nutritious.  While there are definitely some tips on how to keep the cost down on your grocery bill, many of the selections and pantry items aren't things I would be able to find easily.  Perhaps if I lived in a larger city, almond flour, millet, miso paste and tamari sauce would be readily available, but they still wouldn't be likely items on my shipping list.  I appreciate her desire to encourage the purchase of organic produce as well, but to do so she suggests making two nights a week vegetarian to save money on expensive proteins.  This would still cause me to lay out a lot of money to procure items I am unfamiliar with.  I would love to branch out and eat healthfully in a way that doesn't double my grocery budget, but I'm not sure this book helps me achieve that goal.

The best points about this book and my favorite aspect are the "Food Blueprints" that are placed in each chapter. They are a great way to teach the basics of a recipe or technique and give lots of customization options at the same time.  From meatballs to salads in a jar, there are lots of easy to use reference diagrams that give you lots of directions, suggestions for serving and meal options.  They are sort of a "choose your own adventure" approach to dinner which I really enjoyed.  There is also a brief section that talks about the basics of an Asian pantry which I loved.  It had several facts about what the products were (like fish sauce and rice wine) and ways to add umami qualities to your cooking which I found really helpful.

Unfortunately the aspect of this book I liked the least was the photography.  There is an odd filter on these pictures that ups the red and yellow tones and makes everything look very unappealing to me.  I found myself thankfully that some of the recipes I was interested in trying like the Peach Dutch Baby Pancakes and Cauliflower Steaks with Garlic Parmesan Crust were not pictured.  The first page I opened the book to was the Pumpkin Pie-Chia Pudding was one of the most off putting food images I've ever seen.  Even the back cover has raw looking waffles and freakishly red beet dip.  The photographs very nearly made me skip this book altogether.  If I would've picked it up and flipped through it in the store I would've never purchased it for that reason.  Also there is a chapter on fish that extolls the virtue of fresh fish and buying seasonal fish when it is on sale.  I feel these would add a huge dollar amount to my grocery bill and would require extra trips to the store since fresh fish needs to be used within a day of its purchase.  I found the inclusion of recipes featuring fresh scallops and salmon a little odd and out of place in a cookbook that's subtitled "Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending A Lot".

Although I may try some of the 125 recipes included in this book for future meals there wasn't a stand out that I felt the need to cook right away.  I think this may be due to the photographs.  If it is true that we eat with our eyes first, none of the meals pictured in Supermarket Healthy made me want to bite.

I'd like to thank the kind folks at Blogging For Books for providing me with this copy of Melissa D'Arabian's new cookbook for review.  Your program has inspired countless dinners and has broadened my reading horizons in a huge way.  I'm very grateful for the chance to review these books.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blush Mystery Beauty Box Reveal February 2015

This month's Blush Mystery Beauty Box wasn't a hit for me.  There are several products I don't think I'll be able to use due to allergies or incompatibility with my hair type.  I wish Blush would take the skin tones and hair type of the ladies who subscribe to this box into account.  Although I'm really happy to see some new brands and that there are no repeat products, the overall value of this box is very poor for me personally this month.

It is also worthy to note that although the "Congratulations!  You just received over $100 worth of fine beauty products" has disappeared from the enclosure cards still makes the statement of their boxes being worth that much on their site.  I can't make these products add up to that value.  If they've changed their concept they should change the statement online or at the very least break down the values for us on the sample items.  It also says the box contains a mix of full size, travel size and deluxe samples.  Birchbox also used to claim a perfume vial was a deluxe sample, but I really don't see that.  Particularly when you can go to Sephora and request a sample to take home of any fragrance they sell.

Tocca hand cream in Cleopatra - full size
Tocca Cleopatra fragrance vial - sample
Juliette Has a Gun "Not a Perfume" - sample

The Tocca hand cream may be a miss for me because it contains Shea butter but it is very far down on the list of ingredients, so it may be manageable for me.  I haven't decided if I love the fragrance yet.  The cucumber and grapefruit description didn't sound appealing, but the dry down has musk, vanilla and Jasmine in it which I liked.  I have always been jealous when people posted vials of the Juliette Has A Gun fragrances because I thought the packaging was beautiful.  I'm no longer jealous.  "Not a Perfume" is a single note fragrance called Cetalox.  It claims to be allergen free.  Personally I think it smells like a mix of Constant Comment Bigelow Tea and Off insect repellent.  Not a good scent on me.

Color Cosmetics
100% Pure Creamy Nail Polish in Kiss - full size
Cargo Cosmetics liquid eyeliner in black - full size

This is a pretty hot pink for Valentine's day, but not a color I would normally choose for myself.  I will officially never have to buy black eyeliner again thanks to subscriptions.

Hair care
The Wrap Up by Sarah Potema bun styler in black - full size
Alterna Kendi Oil Frizz Control - deluxe sample

My hair is so baby fine that even if I had received this hair styling tool in the lightest shade I wouldn't have had enough hair to wrap it.  The Alterna product is for thick and coarse hair types which means it will be gifted to my coworker.

Skin care
NeoStrata Skin Active serum - sample
Vichy Skin Idealizer serum - sample

Both of these serum samples are very small and are labeled "sample - not for sale" which negates their cost to me.  Deluxe samples often have bar codes and have an assigned value when they are part of a free gift. These types of samples aren't very exciting to me simply because Blush has sent out many larger, more useable deluxe samples in the past.  I'm not sure either serum contains enough product to convince me to buy a full size.

The full size and travel size products prices break down as follows:
Hand cream: $20
Hair tool: $12
Eyeliner: $20
Nail polish: $12
Hair oil: approximately $12.50


Even adding a very generous $5 for each serum sample and $2 for each perfume vial the total value is just over $90.  If you're purchasing this as a one time box it is $34.95, or as a monthly subscription it is $24.95.  I'm okay with this box for the $24.95 price point but I really wish they would offer more customization in the future.  I don't have high hopes, but I would love to see it.

There was also a $20 off $100 code included this month for dermstore by using FEB15 valid through 2/28/15

Here's hoping this month's box suits you a little better than it did me.