Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One of My Favorite Things — Everyday Minerals

I love getting packages. Most of the time, they're found on the porch, in the unmistakable smiley arrow box (Amazon Prime is both a blessing and a curse). But sometimes, something special arrives the old fashioned way — via the US Postal Service.

I opened the mailbox tonight to find an eagerly anticipated package containing a little something for me, and a little something for my niece.

My sister told me about Everyday Minerals a few years ago and I've been hooked on them every since. They have an incredible selection of mineral makeup, amazing prices and excellent customer service. Plus their application brushes are by far the best I've found for mineral makeup. I started out with Bare Minerals and still use some of their product, mostly because it lasts so long, but I've transitioned over to Everyday Minerals for any new purchases and have been nothing but pleased.

My oldest niece turned 13 December 1st (yeah, I'm way behind), and to celebrate this milestone, I asked her mom if it would be OK to get her some makeup. She was fine with it, especially since she knew I'd be getting Everyday Minerals. So last week, I placed my order and found the delightful package in the mail today.

I love how Everyday Minerals packages their products. No wasted space, generally speaking, and everything fits perfectly in the smallest package necessary. Stacked, rolled and nestled together Tetris-style, the adorable vials of loveliness are always fun to unwrap.

EM pkg

Most of what you see is for my niece (I'm *dying* to see what the eye palette looks like, but it's got a plastic outer seal-darn) but a few of those are for me. Hooray!

If you love mineral makeup or have been anxious to give it a try, I highly recommend Everyday Minerals. They have sample sizes of almost all of their products and your first trial is free. You can't beat that. And as it says on the packaging sticker, their products are organic, all-natural, vegan and cruelty free. There's a lot to like about that.

p.s. This is not a paid endorsement. I just love their product and can't help but take pics of their packaging. I have other images from a previous order somewhere...)

p.p.s. I took all of these photos after the sun set. Thanks to my tripod, an 18 second exposure (really!) and Adobe Raw, I was able to use the tiny bit of available light and avoid turning on the overhead light. This is what it looked like outside!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Easy Weeknight Dinner — Smoked Sausage & Cabbage


It's not glamorous and certainly isn't photogenic, but this one-pot meal is easy, delicious and (mostly) nutritious. I like to put a tiny spin on the traditional boiled cabbage and sausage and saute it instead. You'll need a head of green cabbage, a package of smoked sausage (I like to get the turkey kind to cut back on fat), some salt, pepper and a little oil and butter.

In case you're wondering, I use a cheese shaker as a salt shaker since 
I use kosher salt for just about everything, including at the table.

Remove the outermost leaves then chop the cabbage, using a big honkin' knife! (Well, that's what I like to do. I *heart* my santoku knife.) Keep the pieces about the same size to help it cook evenly. How I chopped it is probably not ideal, but it worked.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pan and add about 2 tablespoons of butter - salted or unsalted, doesn't matter. Put over medium-high heat until butter is melted and slightly bubbly.


Add cabbage and turn down to medium heat.

Toss the cabbage to coat evenly, add a bit of salt and pepper,  then let it cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

The cabbage will wilt and start to get a little brown and caramelized.

Now add the sausage...

and some water to deglaze the pan.

Cover and turn heat to low, cooking 5 to 10 minutes depending on how you prefer your cabbage. I like mine well done, so I let it go closer to 10 minutes.


Serve immediately. This also makes great leftovers. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #39—Vienna Bread


BBA Bread #39—Vienna Bread, another rustic bread similar to French or Italian, but with some enrichments.

I'm ONLY THREE BREADS AWAY from baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a number of us have finished). Want to learn more about it? Check out the following links:
So the only thing I remember about this bread is that it gets the "Dutch crunch" topping. That's probably a bad sign, don't you think? I don't recall NOT liking it (how's that for a double negative) but it must have been pretty non-descript for me to remember almost nothing about it. 

It's an old-fashioned rustic bread, like some others we've done, but this is enriched with an egg, a tiny bit of sugar and butter and a bit of diastatic malt powder to help with color. Italian bread was the other rustic bread to use malt powder.


The Vienna bread also introduces a new technique for bread topping called "Dutch crunch" which involves rice flour, regular flour, yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water. You make a paste then spread it on top of the shaped bread before proofing. It was an interesting procedure and technique, but a bit anti climatic for me. 

The verdict: A good if forgettable loaf. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I thought I'd share with you my favorite quote of the season. It comes from my youngest niece.

C last Christmas

C just turned nine on November 30 and she still believes in Santa, which I think is awesome. The longer kids hold on to that kind of optimism, the better I feel about the state of the world. So a few weeks ago, she came home and was talking to her mom about what the kids were saying at school about Santa.

"Some kids are saying that Santa is just parents, but I don't think so. I mean, there is NO WAY parents could afford to buy all those presents!"

Love it, for a couple of reasons. First, that she just dismissed the rumors and stuck to her guns. And the other, that she realizes what a big deal all of those presents are. Pretty cool, eh?

This is most likely the last Christmas my sister will have a Santa believer in the house, so she's holding on to it, begging the other two girls to play along and let C have this last one.

If you'd like to experience the optimism a nine year old has, head over to this post on The Bloggess. It just might restore your belief in Santa – or at least the goodness of people. It's easy to see, hear and read about all of the bad things going on, so it's nice to see the other side, too. Regular people helping other regular people, strangers helping strangers through this crazy little thing we like to call The Internets.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are happy, healthy and with the people you love and who love you.

Christmas 2009

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #38—Tuscan Bread


BBA Bread #38—Tuscan Bread. It's claim to fame? It's salt free. Does that equal "taste-free"? Let's find out...

I'm "oh-my-gosh-so-close-yet-so-far" baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a number of us have finished). Want to learn more about it? Check out the following links:
I know, I know. I'm dragging my heels with this challenge, no question. Blogging about hasn't exactly been stellar, either. I made those lovely loaves you see up there nearly three months ago. 

As I mentioned in the intro, this bread is salt-free, an anomaly in the bread world as salt adds considerable flavor to bread. But Tuscan bread ekes out flavor in another way – by using a flour and water paste prepared the day before final mixing and baking. Boiling hot water gelatinizes the starches in the flour, "releas(ing) flavors that give(s) this bread a distinct quality, quite unlike any other bread." 


To the paste is added the usual suspects: bread flour, yeast, water and in this case, olive oil. Mix, knead, proof, shape, rise... and bake.


They certainly look lovely, but how do they taste? I thought they tasted darn good. Sure, a bit bland on its own, but I really liked it warm, dipped in olive oil and spices as shown in the first photo, and lightly toasted with a bit of butter.  I'm not sure I'd make it again given the other outstanding alternatives in this book, but it was certainly worth trying.

See what other BBA bakers had to say:

Janice at Round the Table

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm in love

juke front

After 13-1/2 years, I have new car. A NEW new car, first one ever, and only the third car I've ever owned. It's a Nissan Juke and It. Is. Awesome. Don't get me wrong, I loved my 1996 Civic.

civic front

I got it in 1997 with less than 8000 miles on it - practically new. It held up like a champ and has maybe two tiny tiny spots of rust.

civic side

The only thing really wrong with it is the radio. It's kinda busted. It works, but you better not want to adjust the volume because it's a crap shoot on whether it will go up or down – regardless of which way you turn the knob. And the left speakers are touch and go.

civic dash
Actual miles! I don't get out much.

But you who doesn't care? My dad. He bought my old Civic and is as happy as a clam. Win - win!

I looked at a 2011 Scion TC, a 2011 Honda CRZ, a 2007 Mini Cooper and the 2011 Juke. I sort of shocked myself by not falling in love with the Mini. It's the car I've wanted since the first time I saw one, about 7 years ago. But until there's a dealer closer than 100 miles away, I'm going to wait.

juke side

I was getting ready to make a decision on a car when I saw the Juke commercial for the first time. You know the one with the guy that has to pick up the donuts. I tried to decide if I thought it was really cool... or really ugly. I immediately went online to check it out. The next day, I asked a friend that works at Nissan if she had seen one in real life. After her praise of the vehicle, I decided to add it to my test drive list.

juke dash

A week or so later, the local dealer had one! So Dwight and I went by that night after work and I gave it a spin. I really liked it, so my decision was down to the Mini and the Juke. I thought long and hard about it and... well, you know the conclusion. I picked one from the list of Jukes the dealer had allocated, gave them a deposit... and waited.

juke int
Super high-tech dash. A far cry from the Civic. And, hey! The radio works–WOO!

By most standards, it was a short wait – about 3 weeks – but for me, it felt like an eternity. It was worth the wait, though. I LOVE it.


Can't you tell?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post at Culinary Covers

cut cake

It's been almost a week, but I'm finally getting around to letting you know that I've written a guest post over at Culinary Covers. Run by Lori Lange (otherwise known as RecipeGirl), Culinary Covers is "a blog about investigating the cover recipes of cookbooks and magazines." When Lori put out a request on Twitter for people interested in guest writing, I jumped at the chance.

You might remember that I received David Lebovitz's latest cookbook Ready for Dessert My Best Recipes back in April, when it was first released. I poured over it the day it arrived, oohing and aahing over many of the recipes. As soon as Lori posted her request, I knew which recipe I wanted to make — the cover of Ready for Dessert.

cover clone
Here it is — My reproduction of the cover shot

I've written about the cake over at Culinary Covers, but wanted to share some of the in progress photos along with images of the finished cake — since the cover image is only partially frosted!


candied almond collage copy

cake progression sharpen


cake topping2

cake slice

And here are some set up shots:
cake setup2

cake seutp

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shrug Pattern Roundup

Remember this?


Well, Annette over at Craft Stew compiled a comprehensive and fun list of all kinds of free DIY shrug patterns, and she included mine! You can check out my How To: Make a Shrug from a T-shirt here.

Head over the Craft Stew for ideas and inspiration, including a few "no-sew" tutorials. Thanks, Annette!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010


For whatever reason, my hometown decided to have trick-or-treating on Saturday the 30th instead of on Halloween. Turns out it was a great idea. The weather on Saturday was as good as you can hope to expect in the final days of October in northern Indiana and while Sunday's weather was decent, nothing beats having a relatively mild and clear evening for the kids (and adults) to have some fun.

We get our fair share of trick-or-treaters, and my sister and her husband take their kids around our neighborhood and have since we've lived here. I'm pretty sure this was the first time all of them stayed out until the very end. They had a great time.


M was dressed up as an M & M and C was a witch. 


I decided to do a quick "costume" after seeing the no sew ideas on


I took a chance and stopped by Dollar General on my way home. Sure enough, I found what I needed—rubber snakes and fake hair. I bought two synthetic hair pieces—the quality you would expect for "hair" that cost $2—as the instructions suggested, but I ran out of time to braid and pin the second one to my head. So what you see is my hair, braided, plus a long plait of fake hair wound around the top, with 50¢ snakes scattered throughout.


It was so much fun. I got many compliments. And one girl (she was probably 12-years-old or so) wouldn't even come up to me, she was so freaked out by the snakes. Success!

I hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween and are now basking in the glow of a kickin' sugar high.
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