Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birchbox Review: October 2012

If you don't know about Birchbox, it is a monthly subscription service.  For $10 a month, you get a box of 4 to 5 high-end skincare, makeup, and/or hair care products to sample.  Sometimes there are also "lifestyle samples", like an organic granola bar, tea, etc.  Some products are even full-size!

It is a really fun thing to get in the mail!  Plus, I am a product junkie and love being able to try all these different products.  Check out the website for more information!

This month's theme is: Transformations.

Birchbox October 2012

Products Included:

1. Lucy B Pink Frangipani and Wild Jasmine Roll-On Perfume Oils - I found both of these scents nice, though I rarely like any perfume samples.  The Pink Frangipani mentions "notes of pineapple, heliotrope, and coconut milk."  It smells like a very sweet honeysuckle to me.  The Wild Jasmine has "notes of waterlily, white ginger, and magnolia."  I definitely smell the magnolia.  It reminds me of going to my Mamaw's house in the summer when I was a kid.
2. Ouidad Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel - I really liked this hair gel. It is a clear, light gel that really seemed to help my curls stay hydrated and nice.  I felt like it made my curls more defined while keeping the humidity from frizzing things out.  I wish I had this gel as a teen growing up in the South. lol
3. theBalm Cosmetics Mary-Lou Manizer - LOVE this and bought the full-size product.  It is a gorgeous, champagne-colored powder with shimmer that can be used as a highlighter or eyeshadow.  It is really a lovely shade, with a smooth, velvety texture.
4. Vitivia Pro:Vitamins A15 and C10 - I really loved these.  I put them on before bed.  Both of them are really smooth gels that made my face feel very soft and smooth.  And I loved that they came in just the perfect amount for application.

Luna Protein Bar in Chocolate Peanut Butter - I love Luna bars.  I usually keep them in the house for those times when I am famished and have to run out the door.  This one was pretty good flavor and texture-wise.

Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012
Birchbox October 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Smoked Salmon Chowder

This is the final week of my October Soup Series.  If you missed the previous recipes, I will list them at the bottom of this post.

When I was given some tasty smoked salmon as a gift, I knew I wanted to make a chowder with it.  Sean and I LOVE the clam chowder at FX McRory's, a bar in Seattle.  Every time we travel up to Seattle, we have to eat there.  It is probably the best chowder I have ever eaten; and I've tried chowder from many regions.

My goal was to make a chowder that tasted as close to the FX McRory's chowder as I could possibly get it.  I used my memory of my favorite chowder, along with this recipe, to make the following meal.  The addition of the dill, along with the bacon, celery, and green onions, really makes this fantastic.  You can use whole milk to make this super creamy, but I always use our favorite 2%.  I took liberty with adding the green beans because I was using the vegetables that happened to be in my freezer.  I loved the green beans in it so much, I kept them in.

I think this is probably my husband's favorite soup that I have ever made.  When I told him it was going on the blog this week, he was really hoping I would make it at home again. :-)

Smoked Salmon Chowder

- 1/2 pound red potatoes
- 1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch wide strips
- About half a bag of frozen cut green beans, thawed
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 2 cups scallions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- 1 Turkish or California Bay Leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (I probably added 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
-  3 cups milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Filet of Smoked Salmon, cut into small pieces (or 1 1/2-pound salmon filet, skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste (I usually add a lot of fresh cracked pepper)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, then cook in a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender. (About 10-15 minutes)  Drain in a colander and set aside.

Cook bacon in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from pot, then cook scallions, garlic, thyme, dill, celery, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender. (About 5 minutes)

Add milk and cream and bring just to a boil.  Reduce heat to moderately low, then add potatoes, green beans, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper.  Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Discard bay leaf before serving.

Previous Soup Series Recipes:
Skinny Mac and Cheese Soup with Broccoli
Thai Cabbage Soup
Chicken/Shrimp Tortilla Soup
Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from my sweet furkids and I to you and yours!  I hope y'all have a safe and thrilling night!

Sean and I usually stay in and watch scary movies.  We'd have to take out a loan to treat every ghoul and goblin in our neighborhood.  So here's to hoping we don't get egged or TPed.

And as a special treat, here are a few more photos:

This is my nephew playing around in his costume!  He howled and even played fetch with us. lol

Sean and I in 2005; 2006 as a pirate and a doctor; and all the chihuahuas (and 2 papillons) dressed up in 2004.

Saloon girl; Devil girl; and 50s Housewife.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What I Wore: It's a (Faux) Wrap!

I hope you said the title of this post like Admiral Ackbar.  :-)

Sean and I finally had a chance to go out on a date this month.  It has been long overdue.  We also had a Groupon to spend at our local movie theater.  Before we went to see Looper, we ate some yummy seafood.  It was so nice to just relax and have a fun evening that did not involve checking things off of our endless To Do List.

Our evening did not require me to be more dressed up than usual, but I really wanted to put in the effort to look purty and get dolled up.  Enter the Harlow Faux Wrap Dress by Kiyonna.  I've had my eye on this dress since I first came across Kiyonna's website last year.  The cut of the skirt and closer fit are a little outside of my comfort zone, but I really wanted to try it out.

I felt a little self-conscious when I first tried it on.  However, I quickly warmed up to the silhouette and felt sassy in no time!  Three-quarter sleeves are my favorite length.  With this dress being a faux wrap, I didn't have to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions.  Having never owned a wrap dress before, it has always been a worry of mine.  This was a great way for me to stick my toe in the water, I suppose.

The sash is sewn to the dress on the side, so all you have to do is tie it.  It isn't a fussy dress you have to constantly fidget with.  I stuck with basic black accessories to keep things simple.  I'm so happy with this dress and the way I felt in it!

Harlow Faux Wrap Dress in Egyptian Blue - Kiyonna (I am 5'9" and wear a 4X in this dress.)
Black Wedges - Avenue
Black Bubble Necklace - Torrid
Black Rhinestone Bracelets - Torrid

Disclosure: I am a member of the Kiyonna Blogger Brigade and they provided me with the dress in this post.  All opinions on the item are my own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What I Wore: Weekend Fun

Last weekend was a busy one, but lots of fun! After my hair appointment, we went shopping for my niece's 3rd birthday. For people who don't want to have kids, Sean and I have a lot of fun shopping for our nieces and nephews! lol We had various errands to run Saturday and Sunday, with the birthday party Sunday night.

I kept the clothes casual and comfy for all that running around. Plus, it was raining and dark and grey all weekend. Blah.

I was looking to replace my old grey sweatshirt-like top from Avenue, but couldn't find anything too similar.  I bought a couple tops from Lane Bryant in the hopes they would be close to the Avenue top.  One was too small and one was this dolman sleeve top.  I know dolman sleeves can be a bit awkward/boxy, but this top is really comfortable.  It will be great for running errands and such.  The embellishment is so pretty and sparkly.  You know how I feel about sparkles.

Jeans - Avenue
Dolman Hoodie - Lane Bryant
Pink Sequin Converse - Target

Auntie couldn't resist getting Addy these very cute sneakers.

And here's Kiki and I with a bonus outfit, after my hair got wet running to the car:

Jeans - Avenue
Pink Lace Cami - Lane Bryant
Ruffle-front Knit Top - Lane Bryant
Pink Sequin Converse - Target

I hope you all have a fun, pre-Halloween weekend!  I'm looking forward to a game night with friends, but not looking forward to cleaning the garage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Welcome to Week 4 of my October Soup Series!

This week brings us Chicken Pot Pie Soup.  This recipe was posted earlier this month on Skinnytaste.  Every recipe I have made from their site has been really tasty so far.  For healthier and low calorie recipes, they are consistently delicious and flavorful.  The Chicken Pot Pie Soup is only 169 calories for a 1 cup serving.

This comforting (and very filling) soup is full of veggies.  I chose to serve it over half a buttermilk biscuit, with the other half on top. You could make little pie crusts or puff pastries or any kind of biscuit really.  I highly recommend this soup, and so does my husband.  He loved it!

I changed a few things, just a couple small differences, which I will include in the recipe below.  Most of my changes stem from the fact that I wanted to add some extra veggies, so I increased the liquid a bit by adding some vegetable broth.  You can find the original recipe here.  If you are starting out with raw chicken breast, poach the breasts in water for 15 minutes to cook through.  I removed them from the water and shredded them with a fork.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

- 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp flour (to make gluten-free use 2-3 tbsp cornstarch instead)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 4 cups fat free milk
- 3 large celery stalks, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms
- 2 chicken bouillons
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 12 oz frozen classic mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed small (I used 4 small red potatoes, skin on, cubed small)
- 16 oz cooked chicken breast, diced small
- Salt

In a small bowl, create a slurry by combining 1/2 cup of the cold water with the flour.  Whisk until well blended and set aside.

Pour remaining water (1 1/2 cups), 1 cup vegetable broth, and milk into a large pot and slowly bring to a boil. (You could also replace the water with veggie broth for added flavor.)  Add celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, chicken bullion, potatoes, thyme, fresh pepper, paprika, frozen vegetables and return to a boil.  Partially cover and simmer on low until vegetables are soft, about 35 minutes.  Add chicken, then slowly whisk in slurry.  Stir well.  Cook another 10 minutes, until soup thickens.  Adjust salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste.  Serve and enjoy.

This soup would also be great over rice!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Q & A Monday: Winning The Lottery

It has been such a busy weekend!  I hope y'all had some fun, with a chance to rest and regroup for the week.  I was up early on Saturday for my hair appointment (my Instagram haircut picture is below) and shopping for my little niece's 3rd birthday.  I even turned in six of my empty MAC products for a free lipstick!  On only about two and a half hours of sleep, I think I rocked my Saturday pretty well.  But I did fall asleep on the couch after we got home. lol

Sunday was a little more chill.  We attended my niece's birthday party then went grocery shopping.  I'm hoping the husband and I get a date night in this week.  I have two Groupons for the movies that need to get spent!

It is time again for Friend Makin' Monday.  If you have a blog, I would like to invite you to answer the questions as well.  Leave me a comment here, so I know you are playing.  Then you can also leave a comment over at All The Weigh, so other folks can check out your answers as well.  It is a fun way to connect to other bloggers.

 Winning the Lottery

What’s the first thing you would do for yourself if you won 100 million dollars?  Note: this question is specifically for you…what would you do for fun after the family and the bills and the obvious stuff was taken care of?

In winning an extraordinary amount of money, I would first buy the perfect house, or have it built.  We would decorate it exactly how we want it.  Then I'd get laser hair removal.   I'd help my close friends and family with any issues they had in regards to bills and such.  I'd also set up college funds for my nieces and nephews, as well as a nice chunk of retirement money for my husband and I.  Plus, I suppose we'd need to invest some of it as well.

Now we can start to play.  My favorite charities would receive nice sums.  We'd visit my sisters, grandmas and my husband's family.  Maybe we would plan some big group adventure somewhere.  Maybe we could make our own cruise.  We would travel to places like Ireland, Italy, Greece, Scotland, England, Spain, etc.  I would go shopping to my heart's content!

I'd have NKOTB, BSB, and Westlife perform concerts for me.  A maid, a personal chef, and my own private team of doctors would all be hired.  I'd take classes on a myriad of subjects and just make more opportunities to enjoy life and do more things I wouldn't have the opportunity to do otherwise.

What would you do with all that money?  Happy Monday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Wore: Goodbye, Summer!

This farewell is a bit late, I know.  Excuses, excuses... :-)

On one of our last sunny outings, I ended up going shopping at Lane Bryant to use my Real Women Dollars.  It was a very warm day, so I donned this easy outfit.  It wasn't fussy, was easy to change in and out of, and sparkled!

I also tried tying the open cardigan for something a little different.  I actually kinda liked it that way, plus it kept the wind from blowing the cardigan open.  Tonight it is a chilly 47 degrees.  I actually just had hot cocoa for the first time this season.  So goodbye, dear summertime.  I will miss your sun, but I look forward to wearing a few cuddly sweaters to shield me from the cooler temperatures.

Sequin tank - Avenue
Open Cardigan - Torrid
Denim Capris - Lane Bryant
Sandals - Avenue

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thankfulness Thursday: Week 12 - My New Mattress!

This is Week 12 of Thankfulness Thursdays. Through Thanksgiving, I will be posting once a week about something/someone(s) I am thankful for. This is a link-up with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista.


Today I am very thankful for our new mattress!!  We've only been sleeping on it for 5 nights so far, but I can already feel the difference.

About four years ago, after our wedding, we ended up spending some time researching what kind of mattress we wanted to upgrade to.  The one we had was an almost 20-year-old queen size, uncomfortable mess.  It was my mom and stepdad's mattress before they gave it to me when I moved out.  Just the idea of such an old mattress filled with germs from twenty years of use made me sick.  I couldn't wait to get a new one!  Plus, it was extremely hard to sleep on and constantly caused us back, neck, and shoulder issues.

After a couple trips to the mattress store, we bought a comfortable single spring pocket one.  We spent a lot of money on it and assumed it would last us a long time.  I don't know if it is a flawed design or the fact that we are heavier people, but the mattress started to sag after about a year.  It became increasingly uncomfortable and contributed to a lot of our back/shoulder/neck problems again.

When we saw Groupon had a deal for a memory foam mattress, we jumped on it!  It was a fourth of the price of our expensive mattress and had lots of good reviews.  When it finally came in the mail, we topped it with a new gel foam mattress topper.

This whole week, we have slept so soundly.  Maybe too soundly for me because I haven't even been getting up with my alarm.  I've been too comfortable!  I haven't had any major pains and neither has my husband.  YAY!  I can only hope it continues this way and we actually get our money's worth from this mattress.  So far, everything seems like a good sign!  Thank you, Groupon!

It's about five inches lower than our old mattress, so I am going to have to tweak the wall art and such. lol

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is Week 3 of my October Soup Series.  I previously introduced this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe about 3 years ago.  I've been making it that long and it is SO GOOD every time.  Each time I have made it, I tweak it a little bit.  I thought I would re-introduce this soup with all of my tasty updates!

Sean and I don't eat meat very much, so this time I replaced the chicken with shrimp.  My few changes for the shrimp version are mentioned at the end of the recipe.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

-  4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
-  2 cans of chopped green chilies (I don't drain them)
-  At least 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (I generally add more than that because I love garlic)
-  1 onion, diced
-  2 cans (about 15 ounces each) of diced tomatoes, including juice
-  2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
-  2 containers of chicken broth (I generally use about 6 cups)
-  Tortillas (I usually use flour tortillas, but you can use any kind you like), cut into inch-wide strips
-  A bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
-  Limes, cut into wedges
-  Shredded cheddar cheese
-  Sour cream
-  Avocado, peeled, seeded, diced, and tossed with lime juice to prevent browning
-  Spices: About a teaspoon of each - Cumin, Ground Cayenne Pepper, Ground Coriander, Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime Seasoning, Mrs. Dash Chicken Seasoning
-  Salt and Pepper to taste

(Optional: chopped peppers in adobo sauce, chopped jalapenos, hot sauce, etc.)

1.  Place chicken in the crock pot.  Add chilies, garlic, onion, tomatoes, black beans, and broth.
Add in your desired seasonings.  Cook on Low about 7 hours. (On High about 3 hours.)

2.  When chicken is tender, remove it from the pot and shred it with the tines of a fork.  Place the shredded chicken back in the Crock Pot, adjusting the seasonings and adding more broth if you need to.

3.  Just before serving, add the cilantro to the pot and stir.  Leave a couple tablespoons of cilantro out for garnish.

4.  Top each serving with tortillas, lime juice, cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Enjoy!!!
(This recipe makes about 8 bowls of soup. GREAT for having friends over!)

For the Shrimp Tortilla Soup version, I replaced the chicken with a pound of small shrimp.  I use the frozen cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp.  Thaw them and put them in the Crock Pot about an hour before dinner time.  Add an extra can of black beans and use vegetable broth in the shrimp version.

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