Friday Pie Day: Chocolate Pecan Pie

Happy Friday!! It feels like this week has been eternal. Really.

Chocolate Pecan Pie 2Anyway, about pie. I love pecan pie! What I don’t love, though, is the weird goop that always seems to live between the crunchy-sweet pecans and the buttery crust. It’s made of corn syrup, among other things, and the texture kind of creeps me out. So when my cousin asked me to make pecan pie last holiday season, I developed a recipe that didn’t really have a goop layer. My pecan pie has a layer of chocolate.

Yup, a glorious layer of melty dark chocolate, on top of the flakey, buttery crust and underneath the crunchy sweet pecans. There’s also some bourbon. So, pretty much- this pie is perfection.

Chocolate Pecan PieMaking this pie is super easy- arrange the dough, scatter chocolate, scatter pecans, mix and pour the liquid bits and bake. It’s rich and chocolate-y and not too sweet, the perfect finish to any holiday meal. Or, in my case, the perfect things to bring to fire fighters when I visit on the weekend :) Enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon
8 oz pecans, chopped (or whole!)
1/3 cup butter, extra soft but not melted

Assemble the solid parts: Preheat over to 325. I used a tart pan, and I guess normal people use pie pans…but I like the surface area of a tart pan. Anyway, stretch the crust into whatever pan you’re going to use, and sprinkle the chocolate over top. For the pecans, you have a few options- I laid my pecans out nicely for this pie, and it took about five minutes. Alternately, you could do what I usually do, which is chop them and stir into the filling mix.

Assemble the filling: In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the cinnamon, bourbon and a dash of salt. You could also use some vanilla in the place of bourbon, or even in addition to it. Whisk in the butter- it needs to be extra soft so that you can stir it in, but so that there are still pea sized chunks of it; it shouldn’t be all the way incorporated. Add the pecans, if you’re going the chopped route, and pour the entire mess into the crust. I bakes mine for about 45 minutes, until the top was solid and you could tell that the middle was cooked through.

Serve: after you cool for about an hour, or you can make ahead and reheat. The melty aspect of the chocolate was a highlight of this recipe, buts still pretty insane when it’s cooled- choose your own adventure! Either way, think about topping with some whipped cream, and serve it up with hot coffee. Delicious!

Thursday Thoughts: 2014 Gift Guide

Welcome, my friends, to this week’s edition of Thursday Things! We’re getting into the holiday season, so it should come as no surprise that we are talking about gifts today.

I love looking through gift lists- I know that consumerism can be overwhelming, but I really like seeing all the new things that came out this year! I can spend irrational amounts of time on Pinterest sorting through lists of gifts for women, for teenage girls, for yogis, for book lovers, for mamas, for professional women, for techies, for hostesses, for bakers, etc. And, throughout the year, I pin some of those things to my own Perpetual Wishlist board.

Today, I took some of my favorite items on the board and created my 2014 gift guide. This list doesn’t have a particular audience in mind, but are some items that anyone would love to see under the tree this year.

So tell me, friends- what’s on your wish list?

Gift Guide

Clockwise, from the top:

Crabtree and Evelyn La Source Handcream: this smells so good, and leaves my hands perfectly moisturized without feeling greasy. This would be an amazing stocking stuffer!

Oakley Changeover Sunglasses: I’m traditionally a girl that buys two or three pairs of sunglasses every summer at TJMaxx, and then lose them over the course of a few months. I’m thinking it’s time for a change, though- it might be time for some nice sunglasses that actually have a case that I keep track of for years on end. I’m also one of those people that can’t go outdoors without sunnies, so these might be the perfect gift!

Nixon Watch: one gift that I always love is a good watch. I like to be on time to everything, and watches give me a feeling of being in control of my time. I love bigger, men’s style watches that I can wear loose on my wrist, and this one would be a gorgeous addition to my collection.

External Hard Drive: there are truly six memory cards floating around in my wallet, and I’m always looking through each of them to find the right photos. Next year, though, I swear that I’m going to organize all of the photos onto an external hard drive- and this one is the perfect candidate for the task.

Tea Pot: for the past three winters in our house, I’ve been thinking to myself- we could really use a teapot. Well, this is the year, and this glass one looks like the most gorgeous candidate!

Chemex: I have a theory that coffee tastes better when you pay a little attention to it. This chemex pour-over set up with be the perfect addition to any coffee bar, and an excellent compliment to a new tea kettle!

Yoga mats, blocks and straps: there are so many benefits that you can take from yoga- it’s great for your physical health, in terms of balance, strength and flexibility, but it also effects your mental and emotional health. While yoga certainly requires no equipment, having some blocks and straps can really help you reap extra benefits.

Garmin VivoSmart: it’s 2014, and everyone’s busy. It can be hard to fit in a workout, to track calories, to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Fortunately, the VivoSmart makes things just a little bit easier. It monitors your heartrate to let you know when you’ve been sitting for too long, and it buzzes to let you know it’s bedtime, among other awesome features. This will be the perfect gift for anyone who is looking to improve their health this year.

 Pearl and Diamond Earrings: it’s weird, I know, but I always have this impression that professional women a) wear lipstick and b) always have pearl earrings in. These earrings are sensible enough for work, but also gorgeous for dressing up. Plus, my mom has a pair just like them that I adored growing up :)

Nifty Climbot: there have just been one too many situations where I’m stacking books and scarves in order to create the perfect spot for my camera to rest at the right angle while I take photos. Not only will this tripod stabilize my camera, but the legs are the perfect combination of bendy and supportive, so you and adjust and wrap them nearly anywhere! Perfect for anything from phone cameras to DSLRs.

Passport cover: when you travel, if you’re anything like me you have your passport out for check in, and then you tuck it into any of the pockets in your carryon and can’t find it again when you need it. Fortunately this cover will keep your passport a bit more visible, and offer you a convenient pocket for boarding passes and receipts.

Moccasins: it might just be me, but I think that slippers are the perfect gift for every Christmas. Some people do pajamas, but I say its time for a Christmas Eve slipper tradition. These particular moccasins are fleece lined and incredibly cozy, and the rubber soles make it easy to step outside to grab the paper without getting your feet wet. Plus, they’re perfect for driving to grandma’s house :)

His and Hers pillows: these are absolutely the perfect addition to your bedroom décor, and would be a sweet housewarming gift for your favorite couple friends. Or, you know, adorable in your own bedroom, if you’re looking to gift yourself!

Perfume: many people have one perfume that’s their signature scent, and that’s fine! I am not one of those people, however- I like to get a new scent each year and experiment with different varieties. Then, when I smell a particular perfume again, I remember some highlights from that specific year. For next year, I’m loving this Ralph Lauren scent- it’s a little sweet, but also dark and kind of sexy…a perfect forecast for the upcoming year!

Leather Portfolio: for me, nothing says ‘I kind of have things together’ as someone who is carrying a portfolio. Your work could be a scattered mess in there, but carrying your notes in one of these give off a perfect professional vibe. I think that one of these portfolios in a pretty color would be a perfect gift for someone who is just launching an awesome career.

These are some of the things on my list- what’s on yours?

Sausage Tortellini Soup

Guys, I love winter- I do! I adore the cold, crisp weather. I like walking on the sidewalks on campus when I’m headed into work and the sun hasn’t risen yet. I like the way that people are a bit more orderly in the winter, because everyone just wants to get where they’re going in as efficient a way as possible. I like the snow, and driving in the snow, and snow in my hair, and snow covering my car. Also, I like seeing Howie in jim jams- that’s a serious winter highlight.
Sausage Tortellini Soup
There are some days, though, that really take it out of you in a way that doesn’t seem to happen so much in the winter. Days when the weather is weird and drizzly and just gross. Days when it never really gets light, and the sun doesn’t even try to peek through the fog, and that’s a little depressing. Days when everyone is a little snappy because no one is enjoying the day so everything kind of sucks.
Sausage Tortellini Soup2
Not to be Susie Sunshine, but I actually like those days, too! Because those are the days that call for going home, pouring a glass of wine, and making a huge pot of soup. I don’t know about you, but for my house, the restorative power of soup is insane.
Sausage Tortellini Soup3
Today I’m bringing a recipe for tortellini soup. There are quite a few ingredients, but it comes together really easily and could be on the table in about 40 minutes. Like many of my recipes, this one is endlessly customizable- change the veggies to whatever you have on hand or eliminate the meat if you want to go veggie. I sometimes get a little squicky about beef broth, depending on where I’m shopping, so I’ve been known to swap it out for chicken or mushroom. Every version I’ve made of this has been great and, as a bonus, freezes really well. Next time you’re struggling through a gross day and need some comfort, think about making this Sausage Tortellini Soup- it will turn your day around, I promise!
Sausage Tortellini Soup
1 small zucchini
1 pepper
4 plum tomatoes
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cups kale
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with the casings removed)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tbsp. oregano, dried
1 tbsp. parsley, dried
1 can cannellini beans
8 oz can tomato sauce
5 cups beef stock
I package fresh or frozen tortellini or mini ravioli
Freshly shredded parm
Prep the veggies: slice the zucchini in half length wise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices; dice the bell pepper into 1/4″ pieces and seed and dice the tomatoes; peel and dice the carrots, and dice the celery. Set all of the previous ingredients aside. Rinse and slice the kale into pretty thin strips, and place in a separate bowl. Dice the onion and grate or mince the garlic, and set these separately of the other ingredients.
Cook the sausage (if you’re using sausage) and veggies: Heat your soup pot to medium high heat (I like to used enamel coated cast iron dutch ovens) and add the sausage. Break apart with a fork or a wooden spoon, and cook until slightly browned, then drain off any excess fat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for three to five minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the wine to the pot to deglaze, and use a wooden spoon to start to push up the browned bit of sausage that are stuck to the bottom. Once the wine has mostly been absorbed, and the zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, carrots and celery. Cook the veggies for another 4-5 minutes, or until they start to soften and take on a bit of color.
Finish the soup: Stir in the basil, oregano and parsley, and cook for a minute. While that cooks, drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock/broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook in the soup, according to the pasta instructions. When the tortellini is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the kale. Let the kale soften for a few minutes, then ladle into bowls and top with shredded parm. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread, and this is the perfect winter evening meal…with plenty left for the week’s lunch. Enjoy!

November 2014 Subscription Box Reviews: Birchbox, Ipsy, and Sample Society

I know that December subs are coming out over the next week, but I still wanted to include my November comparisons- I always like to see how the subscriptions stack up against each other!

Birchbox ReviewBirchbox

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel, Bain de Terre Styling Oil, Tocca Hand Cream, Not Soap Radio Body Wash, Ellovi Lip Butter, plus a bonus foil packet sample of Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter. Overall, I am thrilled with this box! Juice Beauty is a great brand for sensitive skin, the Lip Butter was surprisingly awesome and I already knew I loved the body wash, which is why I chose it as my sample pick. Plus, I really love getting a bonus sample, especially something yummy and convenient like the almond butter- it lived in my purse for a week until I needed an emergency snack and at it smeared on an apple :) I’m traditionally a bit weary of styling oil, and I feel like I have a ton of hand cream samples, so those weren’t my favorite items. Since the rest of the box was awesome, though, those really weren’t a deal breaker- great job this month, Birchbox!

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 full sized or deluxe sample products, plus a makeup bag

This month my box included Be a Bombshell Eye Base, IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye,  J Cat Beauty Lip Paint, Mark Anthony Argan Oil Hair Spray, Temptu Highlighter, and the glittery cosmetics bag pictured here. For at least the second month in a row, I’m pretty skeptical about my Ipsy box. The thing is, it felt like I wanted to love everything when I opened my box! But then I started to use everything, and my enthusiasm waned. First, the eyeshadow base- I’m not a fan of Be a Bombshell, and I thought the idea of a shimmery base that’s supposed to act like a primer was weird. The under eye cream was a great idea, but a miss for me because it was the wrong skin tone- I wish that ipsy wouldn’t guess at things like this because it’s a completely wasted sample. I was thrilled to see the super dark/berry colored lip paint. The color didn’t work on me, though, and it was impossible to apply with any precision, which is really the part that irritated me the most- I can deal with a color issue if I could at least get it on my lips! The highlighter is fine, and I actually love the subtle sheen, but I’ve been inundated with Temptu products recently and would love to see more variety. So, overall, I was actually really disappointed- I was so excited to see my products, but then none of them actually wow-ed me. I guess that’s the point of the sample subs, though…at least I’m trying new things?
Sample Society Review

Allure Sample Society

Monthly Delivery for $15/month

Includes 4-5 Full sized and deluxe beauty and makeup samples

This month I received Alterna Caviar Oil, Calvin Klein Reveal perfume, LORAC Cobra Mascara, Malin and Goetz Bergamot Body Wash, MD Cream Beauty Balm. Honestly, guys- the only item in the box this month that held my interest was the mini mag, and that was only because the editors of the mag pretty much snarked on every single item they included in the box. They called the Caviar syrupy, and included tips for washing it out; they used words like ‘porny’ to describe the perfume and ‘wtf’ in relation to the mascara wand. Reading that before I even opened the box certainly did not inspire confidence in the products, and I wasn’t much more impressed after I sampled them (stopppp with counting the perfume as a sample, especially if there’s nothing else that’s awesome in the box!!). Next month has a few full size samplers, though, and a Crabtree and Evelyn hand lotion, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed- I have faith in you, Sample Society!
So that’s what I have for last month’s subs. Is there another subscription that anyone else is loving lately??

Happy December!!

Friends- hello!

You know, one month ago I was preparing for a November blogging challenge, and all of the sudden life started happening, so hard. Two huge reports due at work, and my department is understaffed. Statistics exams, and I don’t know anything about math. Grandma D passed away and, while not altogether surprising, it was a bit sudden and certainly heart breaking. Friendsgiving for thirty planned, and then cancelled. Blerg.

Unsurprisingly, I struggled to even keep my head above water- certainly, it was a character building month, and I was a quick study on the art of juggling, prioritizing, and triaging.

But now it’s December 1. It’s well past my bedtime, and Howie and I are snuggled into the flannel sheets, drinking hot cider and planning for my favorite month of the year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we are coming off of a glorious vacation week in sunny Port Charlotte and plunging head first into Christmas, birthday and anniversary celebrations over the next six weeks…truly, December is such a glorious month!

All of this to say- hi, again! I’ve missed the consistency that blogging brings to my life, and am looking forward to sharing more again with you this month. December is jam packed, that’s for sure, and that will certainly translate to a ton of content. Over the next month, we’ll be bring some serious Friday Pie Day, a bit of wellness, fabulous book reviews, a few holiday projects, and a ton of Howie– and you know there will be food. I hope that you are all just as excited as I am!

December
So tell me- what’s your favorite part of the season? Or are you seriously grinching it over the winter?

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Hi friends! I’ve had a few hiccups in my life this month, but I’m back- with tons on my mind. Most urgently, I’d like to discuss Brussels sprouts.

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Hash 3
I may have mentioned this before, but I absolutely adore Brussels sprouts. They’re adorable mini cabbages, they’re a little trendy, but most of all- sprouts are insanely delicious. When you caramelize some sprouts and add bacon and sautéed onions, it’s a feast! And when you addsome eggs and bake for a while, you have the most amazing breakfast hash.
Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Hash 2
Seriously, I’ve made plenty of sprouts-and-bacon combinations for dinner, but the eggs were an unexpectedly tasty edition that moved my side dish into breakfast territory (or, let’s be real, a perfect duty-day dinner). Though this hash is the result of a happy accident (why on earth were there three pounds of sprouts in my fridge?) it will absolutely be in heavy rotation this winter- it’s tasty, filling, and a great way to sneak some veggies into breakfast. Even folks who don’t share my irrational passion for Brussels sprouts will enjoy this dish- the bacon and sautéed onions are the most dominant flavors. Give it a try- I’d be surprised if this dish didn’t inspire an appreciate for sprouts in anyone.
Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Hash
- 2 dozen or so Brussels sprouts (about 3 cups chopped)
- 6 slices bacon
- 1/2 sweet onion
- salt and pepper
- 3 eggs
Prepare your ingredients: rinse the sprouts, and then slice them into quarters. Slice the bacon into very thin strips, and julienne the onion. Crack the eggs into a bowl to make sure that they’re all good, and set aside (don’t stir). Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare the hash: heat a cast iron (or other oven safe) skillet on medium high. Add the bacon and cook for a minute or two. Add the onion, and stir to coat with bacon grease. Cook the bacon and onions for three or four minutes, until the bacon is nearly cooked through and the onion is getting translucent, or beginning to get some color. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan, and stir to coat (at this point, you may also need to add some olive oil, depending on the fat content of your bacon- you don’t want standing oil, but you also don’t want dry sprouts). Let the sprouts stand for about two minutes, then turn. Allow to cook about two minute more and turn again. Repeat once or twice more, until the sprouts start to gain a bit of color. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add eggs: once the sprouts are a bit golden around the edges and are seasoned appropriately, pour the eggs over the top and move to the oven. Now, I like my eggs to be pretty firmly set, so they were in the oven for about 16 minutes. For normal people, who like soft cooked eggs, that time will, be closer to 10-12 minutes- adjust to your preferred level of done-ness. Remove from the oven, and serve with hot sauce or salsa, if desired. Enjoy hot with some toast for sopping!

After the Wedding: How the Gloves Split Their Finances

Well, hello again, hive! In my last ‘after the wedding’ post, I explained that McGlovin and I are most effective when we work independently towards a shared goal. Once we are clear on our objectives, there’s no need for either of us to micromanage because we’re pretty clear on the division of responsibilities and we have absolute faith that we’re both doing our part. This style has worked for us when we were planning our wedding, when we arrange vacations, when we embark on home renovations and when we handle our finances. Yep- we know it’s uncommon, but McGlovin and I still have separate finances and no plans to combine them anytime soon!

So here’s some back-story: when McGlovin and I started dating, we immediately fell into a pattern of alternating who paid for dinner or movie tickets or things. When we moved in together we continued to split things somewhat evenly- I think he paid for our rent, and I paid for insurance, utilities and groceries. We bought a house, and now he pays the mortgage and insurance, and I continue to pay for utilities, our car insurance, groceries, etc. There’s just never been a real reason to combine finances, and keeping them separate seems to work for us.

When people learn about this arrangement they usually have tons of questions- I’ll try to answer some of those now!

Q: So, wait, your money stays totally separate? A: Yes. My paycheck goes into my bank account, his goes in to his. We each have health insurance taken out (somehow, it’s cheaper for each of us to have our own insurance) and we each have money put into retirement accounts. I don’t have access to his bank accounts and he doesn’t have access to mine. We could, but…why? We check in pretty regularly about whats in each of ours.

Q: How do you control discretionary spending, then? A: Well- we each spend whatever we want on whatever we want to buy. We don’t have a rule about telling each other when we’re buying things, but we would never hide it or judge…he knows that I spent some dollars on a bag a few months ago, and I recently learned about how expensive chain saws are…it’s crazy! And we usually talk about bigger things, like computers or other big ticket items. But we each use our own money, and stay on track with our financial assignments, so we’re good.

Q: Ok, so you each spend all of your money? A: No. Although all of our money is separate, we do tons of planning for our dollars. McGlovin is responsible for savings, and we check in regularly with that. We are saving for the long term, but also for shorter term items like vacation and a kitchen renovation. As for me…I’m responsible for paying my debt. I went to a private Catholic school for undergrad, and graduated with a serious amount of student loans, so a huge amount of my money goes to paying back those loans. Any money in our checking accounts after paying what we’re supposed to is ours, though.

Q: How does everything balance out? A: surprisingly well. McGlovin makes more money than I do, so he’s responsible for paying for more things (I count our mortgage and savings as paying for things, in addition to paying for date nights and vacation spending and things). He also tends to spend a tiny bit more money than I do, because he has it; for example, he has a higher car payment, because he was okay with budgeting that. I bought a less expensive car, because I’d rather spend my money on things that aren’t car payments. So we’re each pretty happy with our standard of living.

Q: That’s all well and good for right now, but what are you going to do when you have kids? A: I have no idea how that will affect us. To be honest, I imagine that we continue to each pay for some things- he’ll be the one taking them to the doctor, due to his schedule, so he’ll probably pay for that and likely childcare. I’m the one with a Prime membership, so I bet that I pay for diapers and things that need to be shopped for, like clothes.

Q: I still don’t understand why your finances are separate, since you are open about your spending and seem to be on the same page. Wouldn’t it be easier to just put everything together? A: Ok, here’s the thing: I bank with USAA. I love their customer service, their fee free ATM situation, and the fact that I never need to go to a bank for anything. McGlovin loves his local bank- he likes the people that work there, he likes to go in for his transactions, and he likes knowing that he has a local contact for any financial need. Neither of us wants to switch to the other, so we keep our banking separate. Yep- we’re a married couple with separate finances due to our irrational banking preferences.Our financial planner has approved this :)

So that’s what we do. Neither of us has direct access to the other person’s money, but we still consider all of the money in our relationship “one pot”- it just lives in difference places. If we ever needed to reallocate dollars from one account to the other it would absolutely not be an issue. Mostly, though, we just regulate our allocation by adjusting who pays for what. We know it’s not a conventional way for couples to handle things, but our separate finances has been working for us so far!

Tell me, hive- do any of you maintain separate finances, or plan to after marriage? Is there a specific reason why, or why not?

October Subscription Box Reviews: Birchbox, Ipsy and Sample Society

**due to a glitch in scheduled post, I think this is coming out a day late. Sorry for the double post, but I hope you enjoy my subscription box review for October!

Birchbox2Birchbox

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream, dr. Brandt Clean up Mask, Harvey Prince Petaly Noir, Coastal Scents Eye shadow Palette and Essential Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel.  Overall, I’m on the fence about this box- I wish Birchbox would stop, already, with the Harvey Prince perfume samples, and I don’t really know how much more eye cream I can actually use. I’m interested in the eyeshadow palette, because I don’t usually buy or use eyeshadow- this will be fun to experiment with! And I always love skin care/mask samples and can always use more yummy smelling shower gel. So, this box is kind of neutral for me….but I’m sure I’ll love one of the products before I get the next box. Which reminds me- last month’s Liz Earle cleanser sample was ah-mazing. So good- I love it.

IpsyIpsy

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 full sized or deluxe sample products, plus a makeup bag

This month my box included Albertini Warm Love Pumpkin Exfoliating Staff, Figs & Rouge Hand Cream, Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser, Skone Cosmetics TATTOOED Eyeliner, Starlooks Lip Gloss, and the quilted cosmetics bag pictured here. Similar to Birchbox, Ipsy is a kind of ‘meh’ for me this month. I absolutely loved the warming/exfoliating cleanser- it’s pumpkin scented and also works really well! The cleanser, on the other hand, didn’t work so well for me- it was just a weird gel that sat on top of my skin, and didn’t clean it at all. I also don’t care for the lotion- it’s pretty thin and not terribly moisturizing, with a strong scent. I don’t use eyeliner frequently, but it’s nice to have when you need it, but the lipgloss color was a bit too ‘grandma’ for me…so, overall, this box was kind of a dud. Sorry!

Sample SocietyAllure Sample Society

Monthly Delivery for $15/month

Includes 4-5 Full sized and deluxe beauty and makeup samples

This month I received a Bond No. 9 Bon Bon perfume sample, Estee Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum, L’Oreal Paris Total Repair Extreme Shampoo and Conditioner, Emi-Jay Hair Ties, Bobbi Brown Mascara Sample. Now, I’d say that I am actually very satisfied with this box, but many others were upset- the Estee Lauder sample was originally billed as a larger size; the shampoo and conditioner samples are drug store samples, and this box is supposed to showcase higher end samples; the hair ties and perfume are kind of low grade samples. Well…I actually love everything in this box. I’m so happy to be able to sample an expensive night cream (sure, I would have loved a larger sample), I never mind shampoo and conditioner (so long as they are not foils!), the hair ties are already in my purse because I’m always searching for one, the perfume actually smells lovely, and I love the mascara sample. Yes, the Bobbi Brown is the only real high-end sample, but I’m so happy to see it there! It’s great, and I love a mascara sample. So, overall- I still love the Sample Society Box. I don’t have a lot of confidence in next month’s box, based solely on the spoiler, but I’ll hold off judgment until I get it :)

Friday Five: Friday Pie Day

Friends! It is Friday, and I’m thinking about pie.

Friday Five PieOne of my Autumn Goals was to increase my friendship time, so in a fit of seasonal enthusiasm, I decided to host a Friendsgiving Dinner. And then I invited thirty-ish people, most of whom accepted. So I’m hosting a dinner for 30 at my house in three weeks!

I’m actually really excited- Evan and I used to host ‘family dinner’ events pretty regularly where we would invite tons of people over for dinner. It’s a logistical challenge, for sure, but I know that we’re up for it. Also also…I love that Thanksgiving provides such an obvious theme. I’m still brainstorming menu options, but dessert has been on my mind all week. In the spirit of keeping things a bit streamlined (necessary when feeding thirty people) I decided to do a pie bar (which clearly brings back tons of delicious memories of our wedding pie bar). So todays Friday Five is my pie brainstorming:

  1. Apple pie. Boring, maybe, but I prefer to think of it as classic. Apple pies are my go-to dessert, the first pie that I learned to make, and the pie that I prepared for our wedding. Also, never tell my mom, but my dad secretly prefers mine to all others. So for me, apple pie is absolutely a must for any pie selection.
  2. Pecan pie. Now, I’d never made pecan pie until last year, when one of Evan’s cousins texted and asked me to make one for Thanksgiving. I kind of hate most pecan pie, though, because there’s usually a nice crispy top with all the nuts, then a weird, way too sweet, layer of goop that makes me want to die. I studied a ton of recipes, though, and did plenty of experimentation, and created a pecan pie that replaces the later of goop with a thin layer of dark chocolate. It’s amazing. This is not at all humble, but my chocolate pecan pie may be the best recipe that I’ve ever created. Get excited!
  3. Pumpkin pie. I don’t like pumpkin pie…at all. But it’s a classic, and can you even imagine a Thanksgiving dessert table without it? I’m wondering if I can update it- maybe a brownie bottom, or make a pumpkin cheesecake, or something else that is delicious and not just pumpkin. This pumpkin silk pie seems interesting. Any suggestions?
  4. Peanut Butter Banana pie. I’ve only made this guy a few times, but I think this particular crowd will appreciate it- and mostly, I’m just looking for any opportunity to make it again.
  5. And this last spot….is a wildcard pie. Should I do a berry pie? Key lime pie? Grasshopper pie? Boston cream pie (not a pie at all, actually)?

So, what are you making for Thanksgiving dessert? Alternately, what are your favorite pie recipes? I’d love to get a few more ideas before I have to narrow down my last pie option!

What I Read, Summer 2014: part two

Here we go: the other half of my reading list over summer!

Everything Leads to YouEverything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour

Although I did recently suggest that I was putting a hold on my YA fiction reading, I seem to have inadvertently re-engaged with the genre. Everything Leads to You is the story of Emi, a high school senior who is working to find a place for herself in the film industry. Here’s the thing- the premise of this character is awful. This is an alleged 18 year old, who is offered her brother’s apartment for the summer, with an outstanding job in the film industry, doing set design, on the dime of her college professor parents? Unlikely, and that’s irritating. Once you can get past the unrealistic characters (pretend they are in their mid to late twenties, and it’s fine) I actually loved this story! There is a scavenger hunt of sorts, and it’s a romance without being romantic. Bonus points for being a pretty quick read. I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend this to others, with the understanding that the character circumstances are ridiculous.

The One and OnlyThe One and Only, by Emily Giffin

I assume that everyone knows what they are getting into with Emily Giffin novels- Wikipedia accurately describes her as an author of the genre “commonly categorized as chick lit”. The One and Only is a tiny departure from her usual romantic comedy, though- Shea is a thirty something who has worked in journalism in a football-obsessed Texas town her entire life. As she starts to consider pursuing something outside of her comfort zone, Shae simultaneously begins to engage in a romance with her best friend’s widowed dad. Yep, it’s totally weird and a little cringe-worthy, but I was actually happy to read some light literature that had characters that diverged a bit from the usual. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to suggest this book to anyone else, but if asked, I wouldn’t give it a negative review.

Red Hook RoadRed Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldman

Red Hook Road was a great, great read- it’s one of those books that, when I finished, I was truly satisfied that I spent the time to read it. Red Hook Road starts with the tragic death of a newlywed couple, but chronicles the unlikely relationships that continue to develop between the two families after the accident, romantic and otherwise. I can’t even go into various plot details, but I will say that the characters are so well developed, and the relationships and conflict between them is really well written- I can’t recommend this book more highly, and am certain that you won’t regret reading it.

Fallen SkiesFallen Skies, by Philippa Gregory

I’d like to preface this by saying that Philippa Gregory is my guilty pleasure read- I seek out any and all of her work and consume it within days of learning of its availability. Just so you are aware of my bias J Anyway, Fallen Skies is the story of Lily, a chorus girl in post WWI England, whose mother dies and, in the traumatic days after that death, agrees to marry a decorated but troubled war veteran. Gregory is usually pretty wordy in her descriptions, and this novel is no exception- I regularly skipped paragraphs at a time of descriptions of people and settings. The characters are interesting, though, and I found myself developing feelings towards them; I think actively liking and disliking fictional characters is a sign of good writing, and that was evident here. About two thirds of the way through the book I thought I was going to be left very disappointed, but a plot twist closer to the end left me pretty satisfied with the story, as a whole. So, take this review for what you will- I love the author and I enjoyed reading the story. It’s long enough, without being a superb novel, that I wouldn’t likely proactively recommend this too other.

Sea CreaturesSea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel

Sea Creatures is an interesting story- it’s told from the perfective of Georgia, who is married to a successful scientist who has a pretty intense sleep disorder (necessitating a cuff, when he finally does sleep) and their son, who has regressed and refuses to speak any more. At the onset of the book, the family has just moved from their hometown due to a sleep related incident that is clarified later in the story, and tensions about the future are a bit high. Georgia takes the side job as the assistant to a widow-ish man with a house on the ocean, and brings her son along. Interesting things ensue, and we learn more about characters background, and then more interesting things happen, and then the ending is satisfying. This novel is not an award winner, sure, but I enjoyed reading it and think that it would probably be a good candidate for the ladies in my bookclub, if that’s any indication of its quality.

So! That’s most of everything that I managed to read over the summer. I’ve already started to amass quite the list for fall reading, but always love to get recommendations! So- what are you reading, or what have you read, that you’d like to recommend?