Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 2014 Birchbox Deconstructed

One of the things I love about my monthly Birchbox subscription is the element of surprise. Some months I am pleasantly surprised and others are a bit of a let down.

This month was a tough call. I'd have to say I was split down the middle. Loved half of the items and as for the other half, well, let's just say it was "meh".


Here's what was sent to me (in order of what I liked most):

1. BeeKind Body Lotion (Received a sample. Full size, $15)
This lotion which is made with honey and organic chamomile sinks deep into your skin to restore moisture.
My thoughts: Loved the light, earthy scent, and the reasonable price.

2. Sumita Color Intense Eye Pencil (Received a sample. Full size, $11)
A soft wax liner pencil that delivers rich, long lasting color that won't irritate eyes.
My thoughts: I haven't found many eye liners that are irritating, but I did like that this one didn't bleed and make me look like a raccoon halfway through the day.

3. Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine (Received a sample. Full size, $65 - $170)
This versatile, distinctive citrus blend lasts all day...and then some.
My thoughts: I liked the scent and the fact that it didn't wear off after an hour or two. But I can't get past the hefty price tag.

4. KIND Snacks Healthy Grains Bar - Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt (Received one. 15-count, $11.88)
A perfect combination of salty and sweet with a whole-grain punch.
My thoughts: Seriously, Birchbox? I can buy this in my grocery store.

5. Color Club Gala's Gems Collection Nail Polish in Gold Struck
This exclusive shimmery shade is available only through Birchbox.
My thoughts: I don't do shimmery nail polish, so this was not for me. I gave it to my 8 year old who loved it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Menu Plan Monday :: 4.14.14

This week is spring break. The kids are home from school all week, and the Hubs isn't traveling this week. So, I am planning for family dinners that hopefully everyone will enjoy.


Monday - Pork brasciole that the Hubs picked up from our local butcher.



Thursday - Escarole and bean soup (I'll be adding sliced pepperoni to this recipe)

Friday - Potato galette (I've been itching to make this recipe for a long time.) with a side salad.

Saturday - My great nephew's first birthday party.

Sunday - Easter

Menu planning doesn't have to be a chore! For inspiration and to see what others are eating this week, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. To see all of my menu plans, click here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Fab Finds

It's Friday, and it's 66 degrees Fahrenheit! I'm excited! After I hit publish on this post, I'm off to pick up an iced coffee from a local coffee shop and then I'm hitting up a local jewelry store to spend a gift certificate I got for Christmas.

Enjoy this week's five fab finds. Have a great weekend!

{Pretty Parisian-inspired thank you cards for thoughtful friends}

{A pretty place to keep my favorite magazines. Found at Marshalls}

{Fresh flowers to brighten up rainy April days}


{Much needed help for my hair in between trims}

{Loving this chambray blazer as a dressier alternative to my chambray shirt}

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Nothing much beats the taste of warm coffee cake in the morning. I like to make this recipe on special occasions such as Christmas morning, but it's perfect any day of the year, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings.


Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream

For the topping:
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, chopped and chilled

PREPARATION
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan.

2. To prepare the topping, place the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix with your hands or a fork. Add the butter and continue working with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Divide into 2 equal parts, about 1/2 cup each.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each is added.

5. In another large bowl, sift the dry ingredients:j flour, soda, powder.

6. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture in three batches, alternating adding sour cream between each batch. Fold until the mixture is well blended.

7. Pour half of the batter into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle one half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture on top of the batter.

8. Drop the remaining batter by heaping spoonfuls on top of the topping and spread to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of topping over the top.

9. Bake for 60 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let's Chat {Random Ramblings}

It's time to catch up. It's been a few weeks, and I need to vent, so let's do this. Grab some coffee, tea, whatever you like. If it's five o'clock where you are, pour yourself a glass of wine.

It's six weeks ago this week that Harper was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. They have been six short but long weeks. Although we've learned a lot in these six weeks, we still have a long way to go.

The battle never ends, and some days it can be an uphill one. The constant management of blood glucose levels is forever on my mind. I can be an obsessive person by nature, and the desire to constantly check Harper's blood sugar is ever-present. So, I try to restrain myself and limit the testing to 8-10 times per day.

And then there are the nights. The nights are scary. How do we have any indication of her blood sugar dropping is she's sleeping and unable to recognize her symptoms? If Harper's blood sugar drops too low, she could become unconscious. How will we know if I'm not checking her blood sugar every hour or two? Most nights I wake at least once to check her blood glucose level. If I am not happy with her number, I'll wake again an hour or so later to check it again.

It may not be necessary, but it certainly gives me the peace of mind that I need to fall back to sleep until I wake again in another 3 hours.

Over the past 3 weeks, we've had our first experience with low blood sugar. One Friday evening as we were getting ready to go out for dinner, Harper complained of feeling shaky and hot. Immediately I told her to check her blood glucose level. It was 54. Her target blood glucose is 150. She was low. And this low was scary because it was our first experience with a low blood sugar.

I gave her a lollipop, a sweet luxury she hadn't had in over a month, and a juice box, another luxury of which she's been deprived. And we waited for her blood sugar to rise. Checking her blood sugar every 15 minutes, Harper patiently waited as the number slowly climbed.

Eventually, it came within a normal range. And we were able to breath a sigh of relief.

It was going to happen at some point. Every diabetic has times when their blood sugar plummets. I was glad that her first time happened while she was at home and not at school. Now, she is able to recognize the symptoms and react quickly and appropriately.

It's all part of getting accustomed to this new life of ours. Most days I forget that life was once different than this. I guess that's a good sign.

And it helps to have some other fun things going on. Easter is coming. The kids have spring break next week. I'm looking forward to taking a break from packing lunches for a week and not waking up to an alarm.

Harper's Communion is May 3rd. We are having a small family gathering after the mass. She's excited about it, but admitted to me today that she's a bit nervous. I think that's so cute. I ordered the invitations today. I am a Tiny Prints girl, but tried a new site this time around. I had a promo code that came with my MacBook when I bought it a few months ago. I thought now would be a good time to use it. If I love the invitations, I will definitely share them with you.

I'd love to hang around and chat longer, but I've got a stack of magazines on my nightstand that are waiting for me. And I am pretty excited to crawl into bed and read them.

Thanks for listening. xo

Monday, April 7, 2014

Menu Plan Monday :: 4.7.2014

This week, I am trying a few new recipes. It seems as if I make the same meals over and over again, and spring seems like a perfect time to add some new recipes into the rotation. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the family likes the new stuff.



Monday - Chicken nacho soup (on the cover of this month's Food Network magazine)

Tuesday - Dinner out

Wednesday - Spaghetti with my favorite jarred sauce with homemade garlic ciabatta bread

Thursday - Spring green risotto

Friday - TBD. Likely to be takeout since I have a get together that evening.

Saturday - Make your own pizza (hopefully on the grill if the weather cooperates)

Sunday - Arugula salads with grilled, sliced filet mignon

Meal planning doesn't have to mean pulling your hair out. Check out a variety of meal plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday. To see all of my meal planning posts, click here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Fab Finds {Chocolate Edition}

This week, I'm all about chocolate. I've been craving its mouth watering goodness in any form. Here are the ways I've been satisfying my cravings.

{Wine, grapes, and chocolate (my new favorite kind) for dessert}

{Chocolate croissants from La Boulange at Starbucks}


{The ultimate comfort food for me is chocolate chip cookies. These cookies by Tate's Bake Shop are the best when I don't feel like making my favorite recipe.}


{An all-time favorite nail polish color, chocolate cakes from Essie}


Thinking outside the box with this one.
{My latest music obsession is The 1975's song titled "Chocolate"}

What are you crushing on this week? Leave a comment and let me know if you've found something that you think I'd love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Entertaining Essentials

Summer is coming, and for many of us that means increased opportunities to entertain friends and family.

Whether it's an outdoor dinner party or merely cocktails and appetizers on the patio, it's important to be prepared with the necessary entertaining essentials.

Entertaining Essentials

Platters
I like my food to take center stage not the platters, so I opt for neutral colored or marble platters that are perfect for showcasing the delectable treats.

Here are a few of my favorites:
White rectangular serving platter
Marble server
2-tier serving platter

Drinkware
Every good party starts and ends with great cocktails. But what good is a cocktail if you're not serving it in a great glass? Save the red Solo cups for the kiddos and stock up on some inexpensive drinkware. Whether you are serving wine, beer, or cosmos, make sure your drinkware makes a great impression.

Here are a few of my favorites:
Cylinder champagne flutes (only $1.95 per glass)
Pilsner glasses
Old Fashioned glasses

Mood Lighting
Ambience can mean the difference between a party that's drab and one that's fab. You want enough light to be able to see who you are talking to, but you don't want to be blinded by flood lights.

A touch of soft lighting creates a friendly vibe. If indoors, place a few candles strategically throughout the rooms where your guests will mingle. If outdoors, lanterns are always a big hit.

Here are a few of my favorites:
DIPTYQUE Bougie Eucalyptus Candle
Things That Make Scents soy candle in "Under the Boardwalk"
Nautical rope lanterns

Good Music
You'll need some good music to go along with that mood lighting. I love Pandora for parties. You can set up any number of stations that will appeal to your guests. In fact, ask your guests what kind of music genres or favorite musicians they like when they arrive. Add the stations in Pandora, and your guests will be pleasantly surprised to hear their favorite tunes. It's definitely a nice touch.

Some of my favorites of the moment are:
John Legend
Bastille
The 1975
Ellie Goulding
Passenger


Monday, March 31, 2014

Cavatelli with Broccoli {Meatless Monday}

This is one of my all-time favorite pasta recipes. It's light. It's easy, and it's perfect for any season of the year but especially spring. I've included it in many menu plans, but for some reason, I've never posted the delicious recipe.

Until now...

CAVATELLI WITH BROCCOLI

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 cups broccoli florets
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, more if you prefer spicier
1-1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-16 oz. package of frozen cavatelli, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preparation
1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot.

2. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Burned garlic is bitter.

3. Add the broccoli, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and cook for about 3 minutes.

4. Add chicken broth and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Cook the pasta according to package direction. When finished, drain pasta and add it to the broccoli mixture. Toss well to combine.

6. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled on top.

This dish pairs wonderfully with a glass of chardonnay.

Menu Plan Monday :: 3.31.2014

It's hard to believe that it's the last day of March. I am so ready for spring and for grilling weather. I've been stockpiling grilling recipes all winter, and I can't wait to put them into the rotation.

But this week it's business as usual since it's still not quite warm enough for grilling.


Monday - Dinner out.

Tuesday - Cherry tomato spaghetti with a side salad.

Wednesday - Baked & breaded chicken cutlets (my own recipe) with roasted new potatoes.

Thursday - Beef and black bean chili (this recipe was taken from "Dishing It Up Disney Style, A Cookbook for Families with Type 1 Diabetes". We were given the cookbook while Harper was in the hospital last month.


Saturday - Dinner out. Kids choice, so it will most likely be hibachi!

Sunday - Hubs is on Sunday dinner duty.

Don't make meal planning a chore. Check out a variety of meal plans at I'm an Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday. To see all of my meal planning posts, click here.