Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keeping my base..

I came back from Spring Break with a little more color than expected for someone who is religious about applying Water Babies 70+ Sunscreen all over my body and Anthelios 60 on my face before I get dressed for the day.  I also wear a big straw hat everywhere I go and sit under an umbrella if I am on the beach or by the pool, but I cannot just be in the shade all day long!  I like to walk on the beach, swim laps and play with my kids in the water.   I re-apply the sunscreen as often as possible and get back in the shade when I can but, doing all of those activities makes it hard to keep lily white! This time, I blame the day at the Water Park!

Now that I am home and back in the "shade" I want to stretch my color through Easter and, if I am lucky, Memorial Day!  I discovered Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Spray Micro Mist from a lady who looked like she just spent a day outside. She had a fresh, healthy glow and I was really surprised it was from a sunless tanning product.  I will be using it to keep my body from going back to its winter pallor.



For my face, which actually stayed pretty protected and got just a hint of a light tan, I use two products:  Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation and Laura Mercier Bronzer.



I love how the No Foundation Foundation feels on my skin and that it gives me an even, glowing complexion.  I apply it after my moisturizer and before my makeup.   I use the finishing brush, seen in my earlier post Couldn't Give these the "Brush Off", to lightly dust the bronzer around my temples, checks, chin, down my neck and d├ęcolletage.   I top it all off with a swipe of mascara, pink blush and lipgloss.

Now if only the weather would cooperate, I would banish my winter wardrobe to the back of the closet and show off my "tan!"




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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bird Houses

It feels like Spring has sprung!  I love waking up to the birds chirping. We have bird houses all along our side yard that are always filled with birds in the Spring and Summer months.  Many of the bird houses were made by my husband with our sons.  Depending on what kind of bird house you would like, you could make this a fun weekend project with your kids.  My husband likes to make everything from scratch and enjoys the ritual of going to the hardware store to get all the materials and then using his power tools to assemble the project!   I want to show you the variety of bird houses we have to give you an idea:

Our older son and my husband made this a few years ago.  When they finished building it, they stained and varnished the final product. I love how weathered it has gotten.


The birds love this house because soon it will be hidden by all of the climbing hydrangea leaves and eventually flowers. This picture reminds me that I need to dead head the old blossoms this weekend!



Just as I was taking these pictures...look who stopped by!  Too bad this robin does not like to live in a bird house because he would have first dibs!

  

There are some really easy to make, pre-cut and packaged Bird House Kits at The Birdhouse Depot

or, you could be more like my husband, and follow Mike's, the how to guy,  step-by-step instructional  of how to build a Bluebird nesting box bird house. 


If you are not interested in the DIY Bird House, there are many wonderful styles available to purchase.  I received this one from my parent for Christmas and it comes from Wooden Expression.com.


Our neighbors have this beautiful "multi-family" house in their garden.  


Here are a variety of styles and choices from  Yard Envy:  


Whether you make or buy your bird house, don't forget to get the supplies you need for installing it at your location of choice (I like being able to see the bird houses from our kitchen window or from our patio.) We have many attached to our fence and then others on a 4x4 pressure treated lumber post.  If you live near the ocean, you should consider stainless steel nails and screws so that they do not rust from the salt air.

Now all you need to do is sit back and wait for the birds to come.  (Hint: It helps to strategically place a bird feeder to attract your dwellers!)









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Friday, March 23, 2012

March 2012 Book Club





This month we met at Adrienne's house for Book Club. While I look back at the evening what I recall most was how many conversations I had with each member about the recent books we have been reading and how much they have enjoyed the titles.  Kari was particularly vocal about how much she has enjoyed learning about different periods of history from books she would never have thought to read if not for book club.  Being a champion for reading this warms my heart.  This is why we created our book club and it makes me happy that everyone has risen to the challenge to pick titles that are out of our comfort zone! 

The food was just a memorable and I would hate to leave that part out of the review of the evening.  I was so engrossed in the evenings conversations I did not get a lot of pictures.  Claudia brought a delicious seafood dip on sliced toasted bread for an appetizer and Adrienne made Shrimp Scampi with Linguine, with a big green salad and fresh bread for dinner.



Wendy brought a huge box of  Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes!  Just looking at this picture makes me hungry for one!


For March we read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. It was unanimous, we all loved the book.  Learning about another bit of history and the atrocities the Lithuanian people were subjected to lingered in our minds well after we had finished the book.  The book did not delve too much into the politics of the time, but we as a group discussed the Soviet occupation in Lithuania and tried to have a mini history class at the table.  I know I need to get on Wikipedia for a refresher course!



It is the story, as told by, a fifteen year old Lithuanian girl named Lina Vilkas.  The book opens in June of 1941 when Lina, her mother and brother are torn from their home by Soviet Officers, told to pack what they can and herded with hundreds of others on a journey in over packed, dirty, trains to work in labor camps in Northern Russia.  Meanwhile, Lina's father was arrested and transported to a prison separately from his family.  While Lina and her family dream of being reconnected with her father, they endure the most horrible conditions of dirt, hunger, freezing temperatures, barely any shelter or necessities of life all while laboring for little or no food. As the family is moved from one labor camp to the next and finally landing near the Arctic Circle in the most inhumane conditions we see these people doing anything they can to survive and how dreaming of their freedom and returning to their previous lives keeps them alive.  It is a story of hardship, pain, loss and true survival.  


To purchase and a synopsis: Barnes & Noble




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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ginger Cookies

I cannot believe I took a departure from chocolate and made ginger cookies!  My husband and I were flipping through our cookbooks and the World's Best Ginger Cookie caught his eye in our at Blanchard's Table cookbook.



Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and assemble your ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, for rolling batter balls


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda and salt. 


In your mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar.  When it is light and fluffy, add the egg and mix until combined.


Blend in the molasses (doesn't it look like chocolate syrup? I wish!)


Slowly mix in the flour mixture (so it does not fly up in the air when the mixer turns on.)

 

Scoop out the batter with your 1-inch scooper and roll into balls.



Roll the balls in the granulated sugar.


Place the rolled, sugared balls on your cookie sheet spaced accordingly and flatten with your fingers. Watch out, the cookies spread more than you think!  


Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes until browned.


Viola!  Beautiful browned, lightly sugared, Ginger Cookies!


I vertically stacked all the extra cookies in a sealed Rubbermaid container and put them in the freezer. I love freezing my cookies so that they stay fresh longer, and these taste really yummy when they are cold!  I have to say these are the perfect combination of spice and sugar with a soft, lightly chewy cookie.  They may not be chocolate, but they are certainly on the top of my favorites list!



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Monday, March 19, 2012

Greetings from...




Hello from sunny Florida!

There is nothing better than getting off the plane in West Palm Beach. There are people actually waiting for their loved ones in the terminal that is filled with music...happy people, with good color and no coats!  The air is warm, there are palm trees lining the parking lot and the traffic cops are nice!  Feels like it should be Disney World!

To make dressing (and packing!) easier for vacation,  I pack all solid colored basics, mainly white, that I can pair with a few patterned tops and my basic accessories.  I thought I would give you a look at a few of my "patterned" clothing items and "basic" accessories!


1. GlamourpussNYC Cover-up   /  2. Lauren Merkin Clutch    /  3. Jack Rogers Platinum Sandals  /  4.  Sequence Collection Tote  /  5. J. Crew Straw Hat  /  6. Gap Printed Maxi Dress   /  7. Joe Fresh Stripe Boatneck


The best part of vacation is not worrying about anything... and that includes my clothes!  If I forget something or we get invited to a fun event, I either make what I have work or go shopping! Isn't that what a vacation is all about? Leaving the stress at home and going with the flow! 


Now if only I could decide between a rum punch or pina colado...



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Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

I am excited to have Lisa do another guest post for us.  She is a much better baker, and has more Irish in her family than I do!  So who better to give us a little St. Patrick's Day inspiration than her??!!??

***

My Father-in-law is of Irish descent, so we make the obligatory Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick's Day.  A couple of years ago, we had my in-laws over to share this lovely meal with us and I felt it was a good opportunity to take stab at Irish Soda Bread.  I had never even eaten it!  I used the recipe below from Everyday Food Magazine. I do not know if it is authentic, but it works beautifully and tastes really great.  Irish Soda Bread is a quick and easy bread to make because there is no yeast and, therefore, none of that annoying proofing and rising, etc.  I am no chemist, but I believe it is the baking soda and a little Irish magic that makes it rise.  It is crusty on the outside and buttery and mildly sweet on the inside.  I make two breads: one with caraway seeds, which I believe is traditional, and one without since my kids don't like them. We find it is best eaten warm out of the oven, slathered with salty Irish butter.  It is still good once it is cooled, but what bread isn't yummiest when its warm?  I think it is also traditionally served with orange marmalade or some type of preserves.  Even if you are not a bread baker (which I am not) this one is easy to try and impressive looking.

 

First, lets assemble the ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs


A baking mat like this is a must-have for all bakers (see special note at the end of the post for more information)

 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a baking sheet.  In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients:  flour, sugar, raisins, caraway seeds (if you are using them), baking soda, salt and baking powder


In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and butter.  I melted the butter to make it easier to whisk together.

 Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to create a dough.


With clean hands, flour your mat and transfer the dough to the mat for kneading.



Knead your dough until it is smooth, using more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your surface, and form a 9-inch bread round.


 


Place the dough on your buttered baking sheet.


 Score (mark the bread with knife lines) in an "X" pattern.

 

Using melted butter and a pastry brush, lightly brush butter over the top of the dough.  


 


Place the dough in the pre-heated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Rest on a wire rack until cooled enough to eat.




Special Cook's Note:   An indispensable baking product is the silicone baking mat I used.  It is like a silpat, but it cannot go in the oven.  I use it for kneading and rolling out dough and pastry so the dough does not stick to the counter.  You use much less flour which makes the clean up much easier!  The one I am including here has a ruler on the edges and measured circles in the middle which takes the guesswork out of getting your dough/pastry to the right size for your dish.  Also, if the dough/pastry is delicate, you can pick up the mat to transfer it to a dish or pan.


Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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