Fall Fun Series II: In The Kitchen

This week is all about crafting and culinary adventures. I’ve been in the mood for soups and chilis lately and was holding onto a particular recipe for a couple of weeks. It was based off of a recipe from Ayesha Curry’s cookbook The Seasoned Life, and comes from the blog How Sweet Eats: Game Day Beer Chili.

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The finished product is a well-balanced, hearty, and flavorful chili with enough servings in the pot to freeze plenty for later. I did need to tweak the recipe a little to suit what I had available when I spontaneously decided to make it after a family event.

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What excited me the most about this recipe were the additions of maple syrup, cinnamon, and a can/bottle of beer. I chose the beer Madtown Nutbrown with the intriguing description: A blend of seven unique malts give this brown ale an earthy aroma and a flavor reminiscent of caramel with a slightly creamy finish.

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Migraines and exams over the past week have prevented me from doing all of the crafting and baking that I planned to do by this point in the fall season. In lieu of making a sweet treat over the weekend, I threw together a very simple, but tasty latte a couple of times. The drink combined Starbucks’ dark roast coffee Caffè Verona, lightened with International Delight’s sugar free Pumpkin Pie Spice creamer, and flavored with Torani’s sugar free Salted Caramel syrup.

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Another busy week precedes a trip to the pumpkin patch on a farm with family this weekend. I think this marks my first official autumnal outing, unless shopping and decorating for Halloween counts. What kind of fun fall activities has everyone been up to?

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Blogmas 2016 Day 16: Too Faced and Tacos

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Today I wanted to share one of my first holiday purchases of the season; it was a ‘must have’ for me once I saw the previews. Too Faced released several holiday gift sets ranging from $12 to about $60, including lip products, eyeshadows, mascara, and more. I’m so glad that I got my hands on the one set I was most excited for: Grande Hotel Café.

This particular set houses three holiday-themed palettes: Peppermint Mocha, Gingerbread Cookie, and Eggnog Latte. Each one is scented according to its name, and contains six eyeshadow colors colors each. Also included in the set are two blushes, a bronzer, and a Better Than Sex mascara.

I received this makeup set from Too Faced a couple of weeks ago, but I challenged myself not to start using it until Christmas and New Year’s Eve were closer. Today is the day!

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I have a set of Philosophy perfumes that match perfectly with Grande Hotel Café’s colorful packaging. Maybe I should start using these sets together? I did get them both just for the holidays!

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Today and tomorrow my life is all about snow. Some of my plans have been cancelled and my new plans for the time being are to keep up with the shoveling whilst cooking and baking. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted jambalaya or tacos for lunch, so I cooked up some Cajun chicken tacos. They came out a liiittle too spicy for me, so I had to add more sour cream to my tacos than I usually do. With all of the frost outside, I guess I could use the heat.

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I also spontaneously picked up a couple more gifts while running out to get supplies for my snowed-in weekend. I couldn’t resist these little cuties for the kids in my family. I didn’t intend for it to be a tradition, but I seem to buy one or more of these as a gift every Christmas. It’s probably my past as a Beanie Baby collector that draws me to these TY stuffed animals.

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Now it is time for me to bake more cookies as the snow falls and waits for me to shovel it away. Happy Friday!

Blogmas 2016 Day 14: Cookies!

I had a lot of fun baking and decorating my first round of Christmas cookies. I put on the Frank Sinatra Christmas station on Pandora and was up all night and into the morning working on some goodies for my family and friends. My boyfriend was hard at work putting all of the lights and decor up outside – yes, in total darkness. We’re night owls this season, but at least we’re night owls together.

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I made milk chocolate bark with caramel drizzle, crushed Reese’s cups, M&Ms, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. I think the kids in my family will enjoy them.

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I was going through some of my old photos for reminders of what kind of treats were made for previous holiday seasons. Last year’s batches of  Christmas cookies and bark were a little different.

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And the year before, it was all about easy and simple cookies, because my energy went to something else. I teamed up with my sister and we made a small village of gingerbread houses. I’m sad that I didn’t get pictures of each one.

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Gingerbread houses are a lot more difficult to build than I remembered from my childhood. At least my nieces enjoyed destroying and eating them. This is why I’ve stuck to just making the cookies…

 

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Body Care & Home Fragrance Scent of the Day: It’s all about the vanilla/sugar cookie products for cookie day.

 

Blogmas 2016 Day 11: Snow Day #2

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I was up bright and early at 5:45 AM this morning after getting tons of much needed sleep over the weekend. I had my coffee, snapped a few pictures of the fresh snow, and then started shoveling it away. It may be hard work dealing with all of the snow that falls, but I love the way that everything looks outside with an undisturbed blanket of white. It wasn’t all bad.

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My first official Christmas gathering is over a late lunch with friends this Friday, and my first Christmas party is on Saturday night with some family. It’s getting real for me now. I haven’t even filled out Christmas cards yet, or begun any baking, but at least I’m pretty much set for gifts.

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My first round of cookie baking and decorating starts tomorrow night so that I can get a box of treats mailed out on Tuesday. For the party this Saturday I want to bake cupcakes so as not to cause holiday cookie burnout for anyone (including myself). I have chocolate and vanilla cake mixes and frosting, and an adorable Christmas cupcake kit ready to go.

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Body Care Scent of the Day: Victoria’s Secret Snow Mint
Home Fragrance Scent of the Day: Goose Creek Peppermint

Blogmas 2016 Day 6: Victoria’s Secret / PINK… and Mac & Cheese?

Even though I love Victoria’s Secret, I did not watch their fashion show last night. Judging by some people’s reactions on social media, I’m missing out by always skipping these. Oh well. In honor of the event, though, I thought I would share another festive wintery purchase that I made online around Black Friday (not exactly a Black Friday sale, but still a good one).

I have a ton of Victoria’s Secret body care and fragrances, but I’ve only been using the PINK body care products since this summer. Although they seem to have a university/college student theme and I am still in college and in my 20s and such, I felt that the body care might smell a little too “juvenile” for what my tastes have gradually become, if that makes sense. It turns out, however, that they smell like just about any other feminine lotions or soaps that I’d pick up from B&BW or the drugstore. Consequently, I now own these body care items as well.

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In adorable holiday packaging, I received:

Just Say Snow – Peppermint & Pink Peony
Sleigh What? – Vanilla Infusion & Praline
Happy Holiyay – Juicy Raspberry & Sugared Musk

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What makes these three sets even more adorable is that they came with tiny “sweaters!” Remember when I said I was a sucker for cute little details? Yeah, that one got me. Dang it.

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I know I mentioned in my last post that I’m focusing on health and fitness this month, and I am, but I had a random craving today. I wanted some homestyle mac & cheese, so I made some homestyle mac & cheese. I used the Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese recipe for the mac & cheese itself from I Heart Recipes that I’ve used before and loved. I took it a few steps further by pouring it into a glass pan, topping it with shredded cheese and crushed Rittz crackers (which I prefer to bread crumbs, but either works), and baking it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

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There is just something about mac & cheese that I can’t seem to get enough of. As a child, a teenager, and now an adult, it is my go-to comfort food in any form. It’s somehow a little more perfect when I’m stuck inside during these cooler months. But now, I need to go work off some of the calories that my random craving gave me.

Fall Fun Series: Recipe – Cornbread Stuffing

My favorite recipe to make during fall, especially for Thanksgiving, is cornbread stuffing. The recipe that I use came from my mother. She was born and raised in Germany, so she never experienced a Thanksgiving until she met my father while he was stationed in her country with the army. They moved all along the U.S. west coast and ended up in Tucson, Arizona, where she first started learning how to cook “American” food. I made her recipe on Thursday this week, and while it was cooking, I decided to chat with her about it over coffee.

 

Me: How long have you been making this cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving?
Mom: Since 1975.
Me: How did you discover the recipe?
Mom: Your dad took me to a friend’s house in Tucson for my first Thanksgiving dinner, and his mother served cornbread stuffing like this.
Me: And you asked for the recipe?
Mom: Yes. It originally had apple in it, but I avoided adding that once you and your brothers came along.
Me: Did you ever have “traditional” stuffing on Thanksgiving?
Mom: Yes, your aunts make the regular stuffing, and it’s fine. We ate that if we were with them for the holiday. I just prefer the cornbread kind, so that’s what I serve.
Me: Did you eat anything like this in Germany?
Mom: Well, we obviously didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and turkey was not a very common food served back then. I ate potato salad, but not mashed potatoes.
Me: Did you like Thanksgiving dinner?
Mom: No, not really. It was weird to me, like most other foods. I only liked cheeseburgers, and this stuffing once I found it.
Me: What about now? Do you like Thanksgiving food?
Mom: It’s great. I love leftover turkey sandwiches.

 

Since I grew up with this recipe, it’s my go-to when I cook my own Thanksgiving dinners now. Cornbread stuffing is pretty common, but I don’t see it a lot here in the Midwest on Thanksgiving. I like that this version of stuffing is a little sweet, because in my opinion, it complements the mashed potatoes and gravy quite nicely. It keeps the meal from being a total salt-bomb, and I find that I miss having it if I am someone else’s guest for the holiday.

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The recipe calls for two boxes of cornbread or corn muffin mix (my mother prefers to use corn muffin mix, so I use it too), about four carrots, about four celery sticks, about four eggs, an onion, a half-stick of butter, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and a half cup of chicken stock. I use 3-4 tablespoons of the poultry seasoning and salt and pepper it to taste.

The first thing to do is mix the batter (needs an additional egg and 1/3rd cup of milk per box) and bake the cornbread in a large glass dish for 15-20 minutes. Usually, this is done the night before Thanksgiving, so that the turkey can hog the oven. Next, the carrots and eggs are boiled, peeled, and chopped. About half of the onion is chopped and added to the pot with some butter.

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I like to cut the cornbread into cubes and assemble everything together inside of the glass dish while the onion is sauteing in the pot. When the onions are browned, I add all of the remaining ingredients into the pot, add a little more butter and some water, season it well with the poultry seasoning, and let it cook on low for an hour or two.

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The stuffing is nearing completion once everything is well blended and becomes “mush,” as we lovingly call it. The stuffing can be returned to the glass dish and baked for another 30-40 minutes (or as needed) at 375 degrees.

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The end result should feed around 10-12 people. We usually have leftovers, because this is a pretty large batch.

 

 

I took a break from pumpkin scents this week and finally decided to try my Carrot Cake wax melts from Goose Creek. I’d been holding onto this particular melt since spring because I thought it would be best used as a transitional fragrance from summer into fall. I couldn’t be more pleased with this scent! There was nothing weak or artificial about it – I really felt like I was smelling the most decadent carrot cake baking in my oven. It was quite strong, too, although not as powerful as the Pumpkin French Toast experience I had last week.

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The scent lingered for hours after only melting in my warmer for an hour or so. It was incredibly tempting, but I did not break down and go get my own *real* carrot cake for consumption. I would definitely recommend this one to any foodies out there.

Fall Favorites Tag: Remixed

I am not a warm weather person. It is uncomfortably humid where I live, so my summers are sticky and suffocating. On the flip-side, my winters are frozen and eternal. The spring and fall months are my reprieves, so I get very excited once they arrive.

To help immerse myself into the first official week of fall, I thought it would be fun to try out the Fall Favorites tag that became popular among beauty gurus on YouTube last fall. Since I am a scent junkie, and not a beauty guru, I decided to tweak the questions a little to suit my interests!

 
Favorite Candle
Bath & Body Works – Leaves

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This is just my perfect autumn fragrance. It’s the first scent that I think of in relation to the fall season, and it’s the only one I cannot go without once the season begins.

 

Favorite Wax Melt
Goose Creek – Campfire Marshmallow

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This scent is very, very similar to a popular pick for the candle question, which is Bath & Body Works – Marshmallow Fireside. However, I prefer Goose Creeks’ version by far. It is stronger, and in my opinion, the scent throw is much better. Highly recommended!

 

Favorite Body Care
Bath & Body Works – Plum Cider Warmth

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These products are from the 2015 fall traditions line. I regret not buying a matching shower gel, or the full-sized bottle of fragrance mist. They seemed to sell out fast.

 

Favorite Perfume
Victoria’s Secret – Forever Sexy

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I have a whole mob of perfumes for cooler weather, but this rollerball has been my favorite transitional warmer-to-cooler weather choice for the past 2 fall seasons.

 

Favorite Lip Color
NYX – Devil’s Food Cake

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I prefer lip glosses to lipsticks, and the Nyx Butter Glosses are pigmented enough to put deep fall shades on my lips, while providing the glossy finish that I like.

 

Favorite Eyeshadow Palette
Too Faced – Chocolate Bon Bons

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I didn’t think of this as a fall-related palette until this past month, and now I can’t stay away from it. The deep browns, the mauve/taupe and gray shades… it’s just so perfect for the season.

 

Favorite Clothing Item
Scarves!

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A scarf paired with a sweater is likely how one would see me dressed between October and March, whether I’m inside or outside.

 

Favorite Drink
Pumpkin Spice Latte

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I like both homemade and Starbucks PSLs. If it’s one of those times when I’m trying to lay off of the caffeine, then my go-to fall drink is a decaf vanilla chai tea latte… but I’ll still be craving a PSL.

 

Favorite Dessert
Tie-dye Cupcakes

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I love making these spooky, colorful treats for Halloween gatherings. They are especially great because it’s a surprise whenever someone bites into them!

 

Favorite Thanksgiving Food
Pumpkin Pie

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The truth is, I LOVE Thanksgiving dinner. All of it. I like to cook each dish, I like to eat each dish, I like the days of leftovers that follow. I couldn’t pick just one, so I decided to go for the dessert – pumpkin pie. The reason why is that I can have Thanksgiving dishes year-round, but I pretty much only have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. It’s a little more special.

 

Favorite Fall Movie
Rob Zombie Movies

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This guy just does creepy really well, but what I appreciate the most are the bits of humor that sneak by in his films. The Halloween remake was festive and entertaining.

 

Favorite Fall TV Show
American Horror Story

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I watch AHS every fall, as well as The Walking Dead, but I’m not a superfan of either show. I’m a Game of Thrones girl. However, I have enjoyed watching each season of American Horror Story so far. Season 2: Asylum was my favorite, and one I may have to re-watch.

 

Favorite Halloween Costume

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Simple, easy, and obvious is the way I go for Halloween – or I should say, this is the stage that I’ve graduated to now. I killed it on costumes as a kid. I did cool face paint looks as a teen. I did “sexy” costumes as a young adult. Since age 24, I may have drinks with friends or take my nieces out trick or treating for Halloween, but I’ll typically stay home, eat candy, and watch horror movies with my boyfriend. (Picture: We dressed as Handsome Devils.)

 

I tag everyone to do the Fall Favorites tag, whether it is my remixed version, or the original by Jaclyn Hill!