Thursday, January 31, 2013

Loves on a Thursday: Red-y for my first cohosting gig!

Source: weheartit.com via Sarah on Pinterest

I think the drab weather has me craving color. Bold color. Between that and all the lovely Valentines Day posts I have been seeing, red is really striking my fancy. There are so many interesting ways to experience this mood-brightening color.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that although I admire bold, bright reds, they are a little outside my comfort zone. I have come to realize that this wallflower tends to shy away from colors that draw attention to myself. I often find them beautiful on others, but usually admire them from afar. Besides, wearing a bold red lip to a class full of girls wearing Uggs and sweatpants might just be a skosh out of place.

Over the past year or so, I have been working to step away from 'safe' and take risks in the beauty/wardrobe department. Starting this fall, I hope to be a part of the working world for the next couple of years before grad school...and a career woman after that. Self confidence is a must! As is a professional (but contemporary) wardrobe that may just set me apart from other applicants/employees. Embrace color! is my new motto.

 
1. My brother-in-law told me years ago there is research showing people who wear red perform better on exams. I don't know if it is true, but I think about that every time I get dressed before a big test. It can't hurt, right? This Boden blouse has the cutest leaf pattern. [Boden Soho Blouse in Vermillion Leaves2. The second I saw these glasses, I was sold (but not on the $500 price tag...youch!). They are the perfect pop of color and have a fun shape I wouldn't normally choose for myself. [J. Crew cat-eye sunglasses3. I am not one for western wear, but these ankle boots are definitely the exception. Imagine how cute they would look with a skirt in the spring and fall! [Sundance Catalog Blooming Boots4. These earrings are darling and would add the perfect touch of red. [Red flower earrings by SharonClancyDesigns5. These dishes might just make eating veggies fun. [Pottery Barn Cambria Dinnerware 6. My husband loves Marimekko designs. This sheet set is so vibrant, they may just help me get up on these dark winter mornings. [Marimekko Pieni Unikko Red sheet set7.  Red lips well done? Enviable. I bit the bullet and bought my first red lipstick last year. I really do love it! Its pencil form makes it a no brainer to apply. You can find it here. I love how Drew Barrymore paired the perfect red lipstick with minimal makeup in this photo. So pretty!

I am so jazzed to be co-hosting Loves on a Thursday with Lish and Colleen! This was one of the first link-ups I participated in and I absolutely love it. I learned how to create collages and embed Pinterest photos thanks to this link up. Needless to say, I am beyond honored to be included.

Are you a Pinner? Etsy stalker? Blog hopper? Photographer? Have cute kids? Loving life? Always looking for pretty things? I would love to see what your loving lately!

Grab a button and link up your pretty finds!
Loves ona Thursday



PRIOR TO LINKING UP

Colleen, Sarah and I would love for you follow us :) If you could provide a link back or display our button in your post, we would love that! And please credit the original source when using others projects and photographs!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scones for Dessert


I was in a baking mood on Saturday evening and started to reach for some of my delicious standby recipes. Mario was feeling something new, and as luck would have it, I remembered seeing this Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scone recipe on the blog, Brown Eyed Baker. She posted it on my last birthday, so it was meant to be. She has the most amazing recipes.

These were so simple to make! Kiddo got in on the action which made for some fun bonding time. I've mentioned this before, but Jared has a dairy allergy. He is unable to digest the proteins in milk, so even lactose-free isn't enough. He was diagnosed about 4 years ago, and since then we have figured out other ways to prepare recipes that normally contain dairy. I also feel better when I abstain from milk products, so we rarely have them in the house. And honestly, we don't miss it. I have yet to encounter a recipe that can't be modified to be milk-free. Except cheesecake. But that is what Cheesecake Factory is for. And Mario still has his beloved cheese, of course.

One obstacle overcome is buttermilk. Anything requiring 'sour' milk is easily substituted by adding about 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per cup of milk alternative. We often use unsweetened, plain coconut, almond or soy milk. Just add the ACV, stir it, and let it sit for a few minutes. That is exactly what I did here.

Now on with the recipe (again, adapted from this recipe):

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
(makes 8 scones)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup traditional rolled oats
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (we used Earth Balance)
¾ cup buttermilk (we used Silk plain creamer with approx. 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar)
1 egg, separated
½ cup chunky peanut butter (we used Skippy Natural Super Crunch)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (we use Ghirardelli)
Raw sugar, for sprinkling (I just used a touch of white sugar)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-size (alternately, you could use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture).
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk-alternative and the egg yolk.
4. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the milk mixture into the center of the well, then add the peanut butter. Using a rubber spatula, very gently fold the mixture together until it starts to come together. Add the chocolate chips and gently knead with your hands (in the bowl) until just incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the dough.
5. Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and pat it into a round disk about 8 inches in diameter. Whisk the egg white, then brush the top of the dough with the egg white, and sprinkle with the additional sugar.
6. Cut the dough into 8 wedges (do not separate them) and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached (I put a little foil around the edges to keep them from getting too brown while the center finished cooking). Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then re-slice and separate them. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, or serve slightly warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


Being the unconventional folks that we are, we ate these bad boys for dessert. Then again with my coffee the next morning.  They were a unanimous hit. Between the oatmeal and the peanut butter, one scone is filling. Kiddo, a man after my own heart, topped his with a bit of almond milk chocolate ice cream.



Linking up:
Shaken Together
Serenity you
Or so she says

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Last of My Excess Baggage


Over the break, I spent nearly an entire day purging our old or unworn clothing. I hang on to clothes for a number of reasons:
  1. I tell myself they'd fit again (or for the first time) if I lose X number of pounds.
  2. With a little tailoring, they'll look right on me. This sewing machine novice is far from that skill level and I'm probably not going to pay someone to do it for me at this juncture.
  3. I feel guilty for having bought it in the first place. Although I'm getting better, I never used to return anything. It wasn't worth the return postage, I felt bad that it didn't fit, I was too lazy...the list goes on. 
I would open up my closet full of clothes and have trouble finding something to wear. Most of us have that issue. I know. But I really did have a closet/drawers half full of clothing I didn't/couldn't wear for various reasons. Some of them I liked enough to keep despite the fact I'd never wear them.

Case in point: a J. Crew shirt I only wore once.

But they were hurting me more than anything. Every time I pulled out my dream shirt, tags still intact, and tried unsuccessfully to make it fit my body, my soul suffered. By holding on to those pieces of clothing I was inflicting damage to my self esteem.

It was time to let them go. Let go of the guilt. So I packed it all up, sorted it into piles for the Salvation Army, Planet Aid, and a local consignment store. I've never consigned before, and I'm rather excited. I have a lot of higher-end pieces that I just couldn't bear to donate, so I found a consignment store that carries nicer brands and will give me more bang for my buck. It will be more money to add to what I am now calling our Purge Pot.



Same goes for Kiddo's old clothes. Because he grows so quickly, I have tons of gently used clothes from brands like Gap and Abercrombie Kids that I knew we could get some money for. I've tried Ebay but typically find it isn't worth the effort and shipping costs. Perhaps I still haven't discovered the secret to being successful on that site. Anyway, after a little research I found a boutique that consigns nice children's clothing and toys, so I will be dropping his stuff off there soon.


As with most things, I am a work in progress. Do I return all of my unwanted purchases? Nah. More often than not, though. Do I get rid of that oh-so cute shirt that makes my boobs look lopsided? Sometimes. Are there pieces that will stay with me indefinitely thanks to the delusion that someday my body will morph into that of a catalog model? You betcha. Perhaps I'll make a pretty penny off my discards and gain the motivation to overhaul my ways. Baby steps.

Linking up:
Dear Olympia Furniture Revivals

Monday, January 28, 2013

Is there hope for us?

Source: piccsy.com via Sarah on Pinterest

I'm fortunate to have a great schedule this semester. I have class Tuesday through Thursday, leaving me with Mondays and Fridays to regroup, catch up, and, well, breathe. Not a bad way to finish up my (undergrad) college career, no?

I had a laundry list of little errands to run today, in addition to much-needed homework time at Starbucks, so I got right to it after dropping Kiddo off at school. His new school starts at 7:45a, which allows for an early start on a productive day.

First stop was the bank, as we had a random FLEX check to deposit. When my receipt printed at the ATM, the balance looked hinky. I parked for a second and used my phone to check our transactions. My heart sank. There were 13, yes 13, transactions for $184 each. I called my husband and he promptly called our bank. 

Long story short (too late?), Mario's debit card number had been hacked and someone used it to purchase about $2500 in foreign gift cards from a Nordic company (I googled them). It was obviously fraud, and the bank is taking care of it, but what a violation. And inconvenience. Mario is teaching a marketing class in New Jersey and now has no debit card. 

As I often do, I started thinking of the worst case scenario. We don't always have that kind of balance in our checking account. What if we had already mailed our mortgage and other big bills? The bank is assuring us that the money will be returned by Friday, but what about those families who aren't as fortunate as we are? Are there kiddos going without food over situations like this? I feel heartsick for anyone who has gone through this and didn't have the means to get by for a week (or more). Situations like this renew my appreciation for the life I have been given.

I also think about the person, sitting rather anonymously in the comfort of their home somewhere, stealing livelihoods. Are they able to simply ignore the fact that there are people behind those accounts? Children? Hard working families? Students trying to better their lives? With talents such as theirs, they could do good in this world. Instead, they spend their time ruining perfectly good Mondays. Or worse.

When I see a moment of depravity such as this, I worry about the world around me. And the world my son and his children will have to navigate once we are gone. We use every opportunity we are given to teach our son right from wrong. When he stays back to hold a door for an elderly person, stands up for another child, and chooses what is right over what is easy, I feel like I am doing my part to change the course of our society.

Skyrocketing poverty levels, rapid population growth, and a reduction in education rates aside (all of which are quite related), it seems that a rather common sense concept is often lacking in everyday society: consideration for others

Just this morning I saw two grown men laugh out loud at a young bagel shop employee after she dropped a sleeve of coffee cup lids all over the floor. They were not two feet away and neither thought to help her as she scrambled, red-faced, to clean up the scattered mess. 

On a regular basis, I see drivers honking and cursing at a fellow driver sitting behind the wheel of a stalled car. Not one person in a line of traffic even thinks to get out and help push it off the road. Do they not know what it feels like to have your car break down? I do. It's awful.

Kiddo found a $100 bill on the ground at a nearby mall a couple weeks before Christmas. We waited for the person to return, left a note at customer service, and did everything we could think of to find the owner. We never did, but I spent a week wondering if someone's kids went without presents because of that lost Benjamin. I am by no means tooting my own horn, but how many people in that mall would have given it a second thought? 

I am a worrier to a fault, and I certainly don't expect others to be, but what would our communities look like if people worried a little more? Could that man who was pushed onto the subway tracks been saved? Would fewer crimes go unsolved? Would that mom hit her kids in the middle of a crowded grocery store?

There are a lot of good people out there lobbying for change. I am certainly not suggesting we live in a society full of depraved individuals. But I also do not think we are going in the right direction. 

So what can be done? I suppose it starts one person at a time. Those of us who live honest lives and show compassion for others add up. If we show our children what love and kindness look like, we've done something. We have taken the first step. 

We cannot know in advance if helping a single mom pay for her groceries could change the course of society. But if she goes home and teaches her kids to show the same compassion, we are on our way to something better.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Monday Already?

Husband has come and gone. The semester is officially in its second week. Things are a whole lot more hectic around here, but I'm hopeful that we can establish some sort of lasting routine this week. During the spring semester, especially, weekends are highly anticipated. Between Mario's nonstop travel schedule and the hustle and bustle of classes, activities, and homework, Saturdays are our time to get in some much-needed, uninterrupted family time. Setting the reset button, so to speak.

Fortunately, I don't have Friday classes for the first time in four years, so I had the luxury of enjoying lunch with husband and the joy that is $250 in car upkeep. After owning it for nine months. This was also a common theme:

I'm guessing people thought I was a sophisticated British woman rather than the contagious mess I actually was. That's what I tell myself anyway. Deny, deny, deny.


Mario came home with the plague a virus last weekend which I inevitably caught. Between the brutally cold temperatures and the stress that always accompanies the first week of the semester, I couldn't shake it. The worst part was waking up every twenty minutes during the night gasping for air because I forgot to breathe through my mouth. 

I swear by the Sudafed you have to sign your life away to obtain, but it leads to a fitful night's sleep. My husband, on the other hand, swears by Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus.  Willing to do anything, I gave it a go. Don't tell him I said this, but he was right wasn't wrong. I don't love the baking soda taste, but I think I stumbled on the perfect combo: Orange Zest Alka-Seltzer and Tangerine Emergen-C. Oh the fizzy deliciousness. This was my little weekend nightcap. A touch of vodka might have been the cherry on top.


The last three photos pretty much summed up Saturday. That is not to say it was an unproductive weekend, however.


I tried out a great new recipe. Don't worry, I'll be sharing the wealth.


I put away two piles of clean laundry that have threatened to bury us alive for some time now.

.
I cleaned out this monstrosity that had me looking like a crazy bag lady every time I went to pay or find my keys.


I packed a sack breakfast for Husband since he had to hit the road by 5a on Sunday for the 3rd weekend in a row.


And I cut and marked the templates for my bedroom gallery wall. No more naked walls...this baby is going up. This week. I hope.


Oh, and I ordered pizza. That was really taxing.


I took some really hard-hitting photos of things like bedhead and kitty heinies.

Don't think the level of lameness this weekend possessed is lost on me. As much as I'd love to say it looked like this:


Alas, no.


Linking up:

stillbeingmolly

Scavenger Hunt Sunday: Around the house

I ran into my professor/academic adviser a couple days ago and started talking cameras. He is an ornithologist (bird scientist) and zoologist who takes amazing photos of animals around the world. He advised against taking my camera out in frigid temps because once you take the camera inside, condensation can build up inside and damage some of the components. I also didn't want to have to leave it in my freezing car between classes and appointments. Because I am most definitely not an expert on properly warming up a camera, I decided to look a little closer to home when snapping this week's prompts.

My point: Subzero temperatures all week made it difficult to photograph nature.

Being confined to my house for this project was actually a good thing, I think. I had to look at my surroundings in a way I hadn't before. Wait, that blanket is made of fabric. Whoa. It is amazing how we sometimes exist in our environment without really considering it. 

Next week's prompts will probably be more inventive, but here goes nothing.

1. Lace



You know how guys get attached to one ratty pair of shoes in particular and you stop remembering how long he's had them? These shoes are it for my husband. The laces are frazzled and they've seen better days, but they also form to his foot in a way that only years of wearing can.

2. Bling


Next to my wedding and engagement rings, this is my favorite piece of bling. Kiddo made it for me out of duct tape, and I picture his little hands cutting out the heart and carefully folding the tape just for me every single time I wear it. Love. It.

3. Wood


This is part of Jared's 'Woodland Dwelling' he made at school using only objects found in nature. There is moss, rocks, twigs, tree bark, flowers, etc. The idea is that once you build it and put it outside, woodland fairies will come to live in it. He did it all by hand using nothing but his imagination. It is really fun and unique, but is also three stories tall and takes up a lot of space. I can't bear to part with it just yet, so I just need to find the right place for it to live. And the fairies, of course.

4. Fuzzy


Mr. Vista loves being photographed. Which is why he is the perfect muse. This cat has fur like I have never felt...and only nature can make. He is the softest, warmest little creature. And most definitely fuzzy.

5. Fabric


My aunt made one of those fleece blankets with the knotted edges for my birthday. It is big, cozy and oh so warm, which is why it instantly became our couch blanket...perfect for lazing under. I've always loved the color combination, too. So I decided to experiment taking photos of the different textures and liked this one. It could also have counted as 'fuzzy', but the cat would not count as fabric.

Happy Sunday! Until next week...