Sunday, August 24, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Just the other day, as I was rushing to get to Mr. A's wine tasting/fancy dinner, I was on the phone with a friend. I told her I had to go, and she was all "OH, I'll let you go and get back to your fabulous life."
And I was all LADY, YOU CRAZY. Most of my time is in spent in laundry stand-offs. Or tending to my never ending tummy troubles. Or pondering things to buy online, of which I have nowhere to actually wear. In fact, lately, I have been feeling particularly un-fun and un-fabulous due to the never-ending routine in my day to day life: wake up, get ready, go to work, read the internet, go to the gym, go to sleep.
This lack of fabulosity (Yes, I watch Kimora: Life in the
So I've sort of succeeded. Birthday dinners and fancy steaks and meeting up after work. I'm now available for that! Big change....So it was perfect timing on the part of the folks at BlogHer and M&M’s to contact me about reviewing the new Premium M&M’s. The campaign is all about being fun and fabulous and LO! I AM NEWLY
- Like that would stop me from taking free candy.
- More on that later.
But what to do with all of these M&M’s?
Even pre-going-off-the-sugar, I would have a hard time downing this many of any candy. After sampling all of the flavors…..uh, many times over, IN THE NAME OF RESEARCH, I formulated a plan. And I made dinner plans.
You see my lovely friend Ariele was making her triumphant return to
Well, sort of baking. If you know me at all, you will have already guessed that by baking, I mean that I bought a batch of prepared sugar cookie dough at the grocery store.
Now these Premium M&Ms are considerably larger than your average M&M- similar in size to the regular old peanut variety. So it wasn’t really an option to make my favorite cookie, the M&M sugar cookie. So instead, I decided to whip out the food processor and chop these babies up.
Hmmm... what is missing here?
After pulsing the M&Ms, I took the pre-made dough squares and rolled them in the resultant chocolate/nut mixture. I also recommend pressing some extra processed M&Ms on to the dough once they hit the pan, as the cookies spread when baking.
I WAS RIGHT. They also added a nice crunch to the cookie. I like my cookies a bit undone, so they tend to be a bit soggy. The M&Ms and almonds perked them right up!
With the rest of the dough, I made larger dough balls, and then pressed two of the Triple Chocolate M&Ms into the center of the dough. The Triple Chocolate flavor is a lot richer (in a good way) than your average plain chocolate M&M. Downright truffley in fact. The M&Ms melted together during the baking process, creating a gooey chocolate center.
On the night of the dinner, we had originally decided to meet at a wine bar. Unfortunately, when we pulled up, we discovered that it was closed. Ariele, mother to two very young children, was NOT happy.
“But I’m wearing gold shoes!” she cried. “WITH A HEEL. I NEVER WEAR HEELS
(Seriously. That happened. Our cars were parked next to each other and she actually held up the shoe, because her tale of woe is so much more compelling with a visual.)
And people, when presented with something like that, you find the fun and the fabulous pretty quickly.
So we moved on to Sambuca, and cocktails and conversation was had. Discussing old college friends and boyfriends and playing Remember That One Time When…. It was the very definition of fun and fabulous, and the whole dinner served as a reminder that making more effort to see the people in my life on a regular basis is something that pays dividends.
After dinner, I whipped out the cookies and M&Ms and we all tried the entire collection. I have to say, everyone was impressed. We all agreed that M&Ms really took it up a notch here. I love regular M&Ms, but these are bit more in the vein of Chocolates, and not just candy. Much more like a dessert, and less like a snack. Just really really good. The cookies were a hit too. And the next morning, Ariele called and told me that her kids loved them as well. So they certainly aren’t so fancy that a child can’t appreciate them. Kim, she who throws more wedding/baby showers than anyone I know, said that she would like to use them as favors for showers. The pink and blue of the almond flavors make them perfect for baby showers. When Mr. A and I got married, we had a candy bar for our guests. The Premium M&Ms would also be a perfect addition to something like that.
I decided to make mini-cheesecakes. Not shockingly, I just used a no-bake cheesecake mix.
If you use an appliance, it is automatically legitimate "cooking."
After pressing the graham cracker crust into the bottom of each dessert cup, I added a layer of chopped up M&Ms (for these, I used Mint and Triple Chocolate). I then added the cheesecake filling, and on top of that, another layer of chopped up M&Ms.
I don’t think I need to tell you how much these were enjoyed. And they took all of ten minutes to make.
Matt and Bryan's kitty collection- Let me show you it.
A brief description of the flavors:
Chocolate Almond- These are pretty close to Peanut M&Ms in taste. But the chocolate is better. More flavorful and the candy shell flavor isn’t particularly intense. I consider that to be a good thing.
Raspberry Almond- I don’t like fruit. I don’t like fruit flavors. Things shaped like fruit. Things that have possibly come into contact with fruit. But I actually kind of like these. The raspberry flavor is really just a hint of raspberry- not strong at all. These were a big hit with all the non-fruit haters.
Mocha- Really, really, really good. The ONLY thing I will drink at Starbucks is a Java Chip Frappucino. These were very reminiscent of that flavor.
Mint- These are my personal favorites. Great for after dinner- perfect mint to chocolate ratio. They would taste delicious chopped up over ice cream as well.
Triple Chocolate- A close second. These are certainly not your average plain M&M. Much deeper chocolate flavor. Especially good when cold.
And If you would like to hear what other people have to say about this product, click here.
Anyway, like I said earlier, this is sort of conflicting with my whole "trying to eat fewer sweets" thing. It's been a struggle. Fortunately, I love chocolate, but am able to control my consumption. It never ceases to amaze Mr. A that I can keep a candy bar in the refrigerator and take single bites from it. I enjoy a candy bar over a number of days. He is baffled (you probably are too). He is also highly irritated about the constant chocolate crumbs I leave in the fridge from my bites.
M&Ms are actually a perfect solution to this little problem. I like to keep a jar of them in the freezer because I like my chocolate cold. I can grab just a few and they will satisfy a sweet craving with ease. And lack of mess. I actually got this idea from my mother- she has long kept a mayonnaise jar full of Peanut M&Ms in her freezer. When I come home to visit, it is something I actually find kind of comforting to see (and no, M&Ms did not pay her to do that).
And lastly, I leave you with this Scene From a Marriage:
Slynnro: Now that the Olympics party is over, you can have the leftover cheesecakes.
Mr. A: I was waiting for you to bake them.
Slynnro: Um. They’re NO BAKE.
Mr. A: So you don’t have to cook them?
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Generally, when we go on vacation, it is an event that is booked six or so months in advance. Thus allowing me to ponder what I am going to pack for a very extended period of time. This trip, however, was planned a mere three weeks in advance. Call me crazy (and I know you will), but I find a mere three weeks to obsess over a vacation an incredibly insufficient period of time. I need to refresh Anthropologie.com 650 times! I need to debate my current swimsuit wardrobe for hours! I need to track down all of my J.Crew flip flops in a variety of colors! I need to draft several packing lists, based on previous packing lists for vacations to a similar climate!
You may think I speaking hyperbolically here, but you would be wrong. I really do all that stuff, and I was immediately stressed about packing when we booked the trip. This is because I am a serious over-packer. When I travel, I like to have options. I don’t pack an outfit per day. I don’t try to pick brown or black as my shoe color for suitcase efficiency. I’ve been known to pack a shoe suitcase, for a vacation lasting less than a week. I will bring a different handbag for every day. Five different swimsuit cover-ups. Yes, when I get home and unpack I lament about how I didn’t really need all of that stuff. But I’d rather that than get there and wish I had something I did not bring. And our last vacation added a new concern to the mix- packing the “oh shit delayed baggage” carry-on bag. Our baggage was delayed, and for about 12 hours, no one could find it. Eventually, we just drove up to the airport, walked through an unmanned customs station, and found it sitting unattended in a pile. But nothing takes the excitement out of just landing in paradise like realizing your entire wardrobe is missing and that you won’t be enjoying the beach in your new bikini, but instead the hotel provided bath robe (you should totally click on that one- it’s funny).
So, I’m going to show you how to pack if you just can’t say no. If looking good is more important to you than not having to lug three suitcases through the ridiculously complicated
Obviously, step one is make a list. Of course, you should make this list on your computer because you will want to edit it several hundred times. I also recommend a two-column format.
When making this list, start with the clothes you will wear for dinners out, which will logically allow you to add the appropriate shoes, jewelry and bags.
I do not allow myself to go in to accessories until the dinners-out wardrobe is finalized. Then add day clothes and swimwear and cover-ups. I always bring work out clothes because I am that jackass in the hotel gym.
When I pack my clothes, I use the roll up method:
When you are bringing as much shit as I do, space in the suitcase is a premium. This will absolutely save space, and it will keep your clothes perfectly wrinkle free. And if it doesn’t, well, that is why you brought your steamer with you, duh. To get the perfect roll for my dresses, I start at the bottom, because it is widest, and roll up. I also use this method for my tops and pajamas. However, I generally fold my shorts because they do not lend themselves to this method. I put those in the suitcase first and set the rolled items on top. Also, you may notice if you have a
On top of that, I add my hats. I have a fabulous sun hat and I usually bring a baseball cap. This is because Aaron thinks me + baseball cap = cutest thing ever. Who am I to argue with that really?
I wear the cap on the beach if I am in the water because it is less likely to fly off than the sun hat. The sun hat is great for sitting on the beach, and for the generally required snorkel boat trip we take. Plus, it makes you feel all glamorous and stuff.
Then comes the shoes:
I am a big fan of shoe bags. My mom bought me an adorable shoe bag for Christmas a few years ago. And this year, Aaron’s aunt adopted some animals from the World Wildlife Fund in our name. The certificates and souvenir stuffed animals came in these fantastic canvas bags that I have repurposed as shoe bags:
Pandas love shoes. And being adopted.
At this point, you may be questioning the logic of putting shoes on top of clothes. BUT! If you put your rolled clothes on top of the shoes, they fly around in your suit case and come unrolled. With the shoes on top, they do not, and the weight of the shoes doesn’t seem to put a dent in the clothes. And the shoe bags protect the clothes from anything that might be on the shoes.
This is where all the planning starts to go downhill…
I shove all the undergarments, socks, and swimwear into the top mesh pocket, as wrinkles aren’t a concern there. Inevitably, before the zip-up of the suitcase, I end shoving a few absolutely unnecessary items because hey! There’s room! Why not?
Briefly, on swimsuits:
Both of the blue print suits are made by Shoshanna. The brown is made by La Blanca. The Shoshanna suits are absolutely amazing. If you are bigger than a B cup, you should absolutely try them out. If you have a larger top, and smaller bottom, you need to be buying swimsuits in separates. Shoshanna tops are made in cup sizes, up to Double D, and they come in petite and regular sizes. And the halter top? Is your friend, ladies. And I’m just throwing this out there because it needs to be said:
IF YOU ARE BIGGER THAN A B CUP, NO BANDEAU TOPS OF ANY KIND.
Anyway, on top of all that, I add my new LeSportSac case:
Isn’t it just the cutest? I’ve been looking around for the perfect toiletries case for a while. I found this one a few months ago. It’s available in a variety of fun prints, and it has tons of pockets for all of your stuff. Briefly, a few of my favorite toiletry pieces:
See, now here? Is where I reveal one my beauty secrets! Get pumped!
Bliss FatGirlSlim and Bliss The Love Handler
I KNOW I KNOW! Fat reducing creams? Slynnro, seriously?
Hear me out!
I know I am not a fat girl, and no cream is going to make a fat girl slim. However, this cream makes a puffy water retaining girl less puffy and water retaining. It also temporarily reduces cellulite, which I certainly do have. Same goes for the Love Handler. I use FGS on my thighs, and I am telling you that there is a noticeable difference in size. I think it flushes out all of the water and whatever else makes you feel puffy. In like, seconds. The Love Handler does this for abs. I’m telling you- I would not admit to owning these products unless I honestly thought they helped.
I am also a sunscreen maniac, and I use the Kiehl’s Vital Sun Protection for my face and body- it is great protection and doesn’t cause break outs. I always shower before going to the beach, and I use the Crème de Corps as a base moisturizer for my skin. It has SPF in it, and the more SPF layers you’ve got on, the better. I also use a regular moisturizer with SPF every day. Now, here is where I get controversial- my mother once told me that the best sunscreen you can wear is makeup. And I agree. I have never once gotten a sunburn while wearing foundation. Of course, I do not want to wear a thick layer of foundation to the beach. This is where Clinique Almost Makeup SPF 15 comes in. I also put on a layer of this on top of my sunscreen. I think the opaque nature of makeup provides an extra layer of protection. Plus, your skin looks better in beach pictures! It’s lightweight and doesn’t look like you are wearing foundation, waterproof, and does not cause break outs. I heart this stuff!
I also bring my favorite vacation perfume- Comptor Sud Pacifique in Vanille Amande. It smells heavenly, and I have had the bottle for over 2 years, and it is still kicking. Everyone told me to wear a special fragrance on my wedding day, and this is what I chose. I recommend that to anyone (Jess) who might be getting married. One spritz, and I am taken back to our honeymoon, specifically, this huge bathroom and getting ready for a nice dinner.
I also have a travel jewelry box that I take with me. It’s kind of small, which is good, since it forces me not to take everything in my ridiculously messy regular jewelry box:
And lastly, snackies! Aaron and I love to have Goldfish and Twizzlers for the beach! And it’s way cheaper than buying $20 cookies at the hotel store.
The new, most complicated element of my packing is now my carryon, as I am going to pack enough in it to last me one luggageless day. I recently got this $98 LeSportSac duffle on sale for $20, obviously at Bloomingdale’s:
It’s the perfect overnight size bag. In it I will put 1 swimsuit, 1 coverup, 1 pair flip flops, small sample sizes of facewash, medications, toothbrush, makeup (which I keep in this bag that was a hasty purchase at Heathrow- anyone going to
And another question- reading recommendations? I’m the world’s worst book picker outer. I usually let Aaron do it, but he has been lazy and I am still bookless. What is a great beach read? Bear in mind, I do not do books about people with shopping addictions, or novels about women who are getting married or single and looking for love. Help a girl out.
I'm sorry if this has bored you all to tears. The end.
*Around these parts, we say “RTG” instead of ready to go. Try it some time. Also, when we are cold, we say BRR. It’s like Brrrr, but we pronounce each letter individually. And now you can pretend to live with us with a bit more accuracy.
In that spirit, I bring you Legs Hips and Thighs of Steel! with Leisa Hart!
My mother was always a big fan of home aerobics videos, so long, long ago when I decided to start exercising my senior year of high school, these are the kinds of videos I did. My favorites were by Joannie Greggains, but you can't get those on DVD. Incidentally, if you are in possession of a copy of Firm Fannies, I will pay top dollar.
I bought this last year, did it once, nearly died, and didn't pick it up again until fairly recently. And dude, this video? KICKS YOUR ASS. It is also an excellent ab workout because you spend a fair amount of time laughing hysterically. To wit:
This video is divided into 4 components: Legs of Steel- cardio and toning, and Hips and Thighs of Steel- cardio and toning. I've done the cardio and it is surprisingly difficult and tiring. You have to put up with a LOT of ridiculous commentary, but if you are not already doing some form of cardio, it will definitely get you going. I just do the toning exercises because I do enough damn cardio thanks. The toning portion is about 12 minutes, so it's reasonable to do in addition to running or walking.
I also recently bought Total Body Challenge: Pilates (available at Target). Initially when I did the tape, I was not impressed. It felt way too easy. Until the next day when I tried to fucking walk and my legs were so sore I had trouble getting out of bed. While I am all for exercise that doesn't seem as hard as it really is, it is somewhat frustrating to spend time working out and not feel like you are accomplishing anything during the act. I like to feel tired and sweaty after a workout. This video doesn't really give you that satisfying feeling. So far, I have only done the lower body workout, but there is also an upper body and abs toning section of the video. Each portion is around 15 minutes.
And now, on with the real show.
This is a selection of what I felt were the Best of the Best exercises from the 1980s videos I used to do. I do not do this regularly, and every time I decide to pick up again I ask myself why. It is absolutely critical that you perform the exercises slowly and not in a jerky manner. It's not just about the action of moving your legs around. It is about slowly contracting the muscles.
For the first exercise, you start on your side with your arm propping up your head:
Bottom leg bent, top leg straight out. Lift and lower:
For 25 reps.
Next, bend both legs at a 90 degree angle, stacked on top of each other. Lift and lower:
For 25 reps.
The last exercise in this position is a bit difficult to describe. Start with your knees like this:
you will then need to rotate your leg so that your feet touch:
Now roll over on to your hands and knees. For the first exercise, you will bring your knee in, and then extend it out:
For 25 reps.
For the final exercise from this position, bend your knee as in the first picture from this set and then lift and lower, keeping your knee bent the entire time.
So, that's it! My magical thighs routine. I'm terribly afraid none of you will be impressed, but give it a try. If at the end your muscles aren't shaking, you are probably doing it wrong. It is hard for me, and my legs are quite tired at the end. Good luck!
Get these exercises while you can! This post will not stay up forever because hi! Embarrassing photos. Also, I have already gotten a few totally creepy emails asking to see pictures of my thighs. AAAAAAAHHHHH! The things I do for you people.