Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Day Prep

A quick post before I get ready to head out for an exciting New Years Eve!

While out and about running errands, I saw so many girls popping into Akira, Express, Anthropologie, nail salons, and hair salons getting fixed up for tonight. Instead, I was gathering last minute ingredients and serving pieces for a New Years Day Friends and Family Brunch that boyfriend and I are hosting. I may be 24, but I have the personality of a 28-year-old, that's for sure. 

Boyfriend helped me prep as much as possible tonight so that tomorrow morning we can wake up and just pop a few things into the oven. He even cleaned the apartment while I finished up in the kitchen. Isn't he great!? Parties are the perfect excuse to give your place the cleaning it's been needing for a while, and I'm hoping it stays this organized.

 The menu came from a Christmas Brunch article in December 2012 issue of "Martha Stewart Living" and includes a spinach-and-fontina strata, winter fruit salad with basil syrup, cider-braised slab bacon, cheddar-apricot puffs, and doughnuts filled with grapefruit-vanilla jelly (doughnuts from a 12/2011 "Bon Appetit" magazine. How grown-up is that!? 

Boyfriend even helped me chop 2 lbs of spinach for the strata. 

I really hope I have enough food. I even got out our drip coffee maker, will brew up some tea, and will be serving pear bellinis and, of course, mimosas.
I hope you all have a fun, safe night, surrounded by people you love when the ball drops. :)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Holidays!

What a great holiday season this has been!
I spent a week in Cleveland with my family, came back to Chicago on Friday, taught a few group fitness classes, then headed to boyfriend's grandmother's house for Christmas with his family. And boy is his family generous! I'm so lucky and thankful to have them in my life. My immediate family consists of three people. I hardly knew any of my grandparents, they all passed before I was 8 years old. My father has one brother and my mother is an only child. Around our table sits my mom, dad, sister, and any boyfriend we might be dating at the time. So to be surrounded by boyfriend's sister, her boyfriend, parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews is a treat I wasn't able to grow up with. They may complain about the chaos around their table, but I think it's so much fun. 

And while visiting family is always a blessing, there is something so comforting and relaxing about being back in our little urban Chicago apartment. 

After we came home today, I hit up TJ Maxx for a few items. 

A new basket to corral our many mittens, scarves, and hats. For the past few months, they were living in a duffel bag behind the couch.

A few new serving dishes for New Years Brunch

I picked up all of my ingredients for my first annual New Years Day Brunch, straightened up the apartment, and hung an entire wardrobes-worth of clothing from Grandma and mom. Now it's time to relax, plan out my Brunch cooking strategy, and catch up on reality TV. 

I can't wait to finally have an excuse to use my "Cheers!" plates from Williams-Sonoma. My mom bought these for me last year - six plates, each says "cheers" in a different language. 

Wish me luck in cooking this New Years Brunch with an almost guaranteed hangover.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

LUSH Reviews: Ice Hotel and Aromaco Deodorant

Ever since I discovered Lush a few years ago, I've been a frequent fanatic. The SA's at my local store on Armitage know me by name and could probably point out exactly what products I'm going to buy.

I'm really into trying out new products from Lush, and in my efforts to support the environment and the general philosophy that green, eco-friendly and natural products are best for your skin, Lush is a great fit. I'm so spoiled to have locations in Chicago close to my home AND work.

This Christmas, I made an effort to try out several of the Christmas-themed bath bombs and bubble bars. I bought my boyfriend the "BubbleBeard," but he has yet to try it out. I think he's putting it off so that he can pretend to have a big white mustache a little longer.

Here's what I have tried:

Ice Hotel Bubble Bar
The 3.5oz bubble bar sells for $6.95.

 The Scent:   It contains peppermint and lavendar, my two favorite scents! The peppermint flavor is extremely relaxing and soothing, one of those minty scents that feels like it could clear your sinuses, but it's not THAT strong.

When To Use: It's great after a hard workout. I used it to relax my muscles after teaching BodyPump.This would also be great to steam up and bathe in if you've got a mild cold.

The Perks: There is a small amount of white glitter on top of the bar, but it doesn't dirty your tub up, you hardly notice it after the bath. Even better, it produces fluffy white bubbles, so your tub won't be stained.

Sad News: Unfortunately, this bubble bar can be bought online only. If it were carried regularly in stores, I'd be sure to buy one every time I stop in Lush.

Overall:  A+++

Aromaco Deodorant
3.5 oz costs $6.95 

Ever since I learned that the metals contained in deodorant can, officially cause Alzheimer's Disease and cancer (sad face) I've been on the search for a natural deodorant that would be healthier for me to use. I tried Aromaco Deodorant from Lush, recommended by one of the SA's, and I'm torn.

The Pros: It works. I don't have smelly pits and I'm not sweating as much. It's not billed as an antiperspirant, but it does contain chamomile vinegar to tighten up the pores under your arms. The scent is faint. It smells like witch hazel, which is kind of like tea tree oil.

The Cons: The texture is extremely rough. It hurts to rub it onto my skin.  I'm so used to using deodorant in an applicator that it is strange to just rub a bar on my armpit, anyway.  It doesn't come in a container, so it just sits wrapped in the Lush paper on my dresser, and I'm not sure how sanitary that is. But the chunks are too large to fit in a Lush tin.

The hunk that I bought is going to last me a while, but after that, I don't think I'll buy it again. TJs has a natural deodorant that doesn't look like it will scrape up my skin, and I'm hoping to try that.

Overall: B- ; The product works, but it's not that comfortable to use.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for a natural deodorant, I'm still on the hunt!

Bath, Brew, Read

Bath: Lush Father Christmas Bath Bomb

The Scent: I wasn't much drawn to this in the store. It's a spicy clove scent. Nice for Christmas, reminds me of a spiced wine. But the packaging was so cute, I thought I'd give it a try. And it did deliver.

When To Use: This isn't really the bath bomb to wake up to. I'd use it at night, after a long day. Say a nice Saturday in. The spiciness feels like a warm blanket in the bath tub. Super cute packaging, this bomb would make a great stocking stuffer.

The Perks: Super cool packaging and effects in the bath tub. Drop Santa in and he starts off with red fizz and LOTS of red glitter. But as he melts away, a green bomb is unleashed for the ultimate "Christmas in the bathtub" experience.  Plus at 7oz and $6.40, he's probably one of the better deals in a bath bomb.

Sad Face: I just wasn't a HUGE fain of the scent. Clove isn't really my thing in a tub. Plus, I was scraping red glitter off myself for 20 minutes. And my tub looked like  a craft store. The red and green does leave a bit of a stain on the sides of my tub. (wasn't as bad as some, thought).

Brew: Trader Joe's Chamomile Tea
 I love TJ's Tea! 20 bags for $1.99, you can't beat the price, and it's good quality, too.
I find it hard to find a chamomile tea that holds a strong flavor for a long time. TJ's Chamomile Tea has a great sweet flavor, and I'm considering mixing it with a peppermint tea for an Aveda-like effect. It would also be good with some honey, but was sweet enough to drink it plain. Naturally caffeine free, this tea is perfect for night time, paired with a hot bath and good book.

Read: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami...Still!
Man, this book is long! But it's good. I checked out a few reviews, and there are a lot of people who criticize this book for its length and for being too obscure. The book is long, but I don't think it ever gets boring, it's just a bit frustrating that I keep reading and reading and reading and.... The two story lines are beginning to intertwine more, which makes me want to push forward, wondering how one story will respond to the actions of the other, and I'm slowly understanding the world that they live in. Again, if you want a good book that will make you think, pick it up!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Years Resolution Realization

After listing, prioritizing, and charting 40 personal new years resolutions, I realized that it would be most important resolution I can make to myself is to chill out and smell the roses. 

Garden in London

2013 shouldn't be about having or doing everything, but continuing to be genuine to I am, doing what I want to to and what I believe will make me feel better. Always pushing forward, but if I try to do everything, I will eventually burn out. 

As I was listing out some habit changes and things I hope to accomplish in the next 365 days, I realized that many were things I do about 75% of the time, and this year should really be about getting comfortable with committing to the lifestyle I want to live. 

My 40-long list made me feel like hiding under a blanket and throwing in the towel...

...until I realized that my list consisted mostly of tiny events, activities, and things that can be accomplished quite easily. But thinking about them all put together sends me into automaton mode. NOT GOOD. All of these things can be accomplished.
Here's my chart (this is not in order of priority, fyi.), and I'm hoping this blog can keep me honest and in check about my goals.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Quality of Life
Create one fabulous outfit per week
Use up my current makeup before buying more.
Cook more. Be adventurous with cooking. Go to the butcher and know what you’re talking about.
Establish a green, eco-friendly health/hygiene/beauty routine
Support local businesses instead of chains.

Try new restaurants

Wash my face every morning and night.

Instead of buying lots of things on sale at Anthropologie, maybe invest in a few key pieces from different designers and stores.
Read the news – politics, understand what’s going on in the world.
Take Ellie on more walks.

Move up in career – get a raise.

Stop turning the tv on immediately, automatically.
Focus on accessories, smaller pieces instead of buying more shirts, pants, etc.
Invest in a nice bag/purse
Read more books. – Read 12 books this year, at least. I would join a book club, but I have so many of my own books that I want to read.
Become a better group fitness instructor – more confident, sure of what I’m doing, and more in control.
Don’t waste money – on unused services, unnecessary items, on food.
Attend networking events.

Learn more about healing powers of tea

Really think about what I’m buying – do I need it? Do I want it? Is there anything else I’d rather have?
Learn to clean as you go.

Do more yoga.

Save money

Explore more free events and happenings in Chicago
Lose fat – Note, it’s not lose weight. Beause I want to gain muscle and stay strong.
Spend less money

Attend more museums.

Learn more, adopt a few natural health practices
Really make an effort to use up all food bought.
Do DIY projects

Become healthier

Really set up an apartment to be proud of – polished.
Cook more
Stretch more.

Spend more quality time with boyfriend

Eat Better

Spend more quality time with friends

Drink more water

Feel confident in how I look and feel

Experiment with fashion. Try to push my prepster envelope.

Learn a different language

Take a vacation by self

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Madewell Coming to Chicago!

 Image from Here

Am I late on this news? 
I don't care, as long as it's really happening!

Madwell is apparently opening in 2013 at 1103 N. Rush, where Starbucks used to be. 

I can't even contain myself. 

This is the best news since Obama was voted back into office!

It's like a J. Crew for a slightly more urban crowd. 


The Best and Worst Part of New Years

Sitting in my parent's house, surfing the internet for two more days until I head back to Chicago, I began thinking about my New Year's resolutions. I've never actually made a New Year's resolution, I always thought they were silly, thinking I should always be striving to do my best. But sometimes a few thought-out set-in-stone goals are necessary to develop the habits that you know will make you a happier person. 

The usual resolutions vaguely look something like this:
          1. Lose weight
          2. Dress better
          3. Read more
          4. Spend less money

The problem here is that these resolutions provide little to hold on to. They're too general. Lose weight...should be satisfied and feel accomplished when I wake up one morning with a pound less of water weight? Or maybe I'm just supposed to continue to lose weight the entire year, leaving this goal never really accomplished. 

But if I want to be a little more focused: 
          1. Lose 12.5 lbs. - how do I know I will be happy here? What if I look too skinny? What if I   want to lose more?
          2. After I lose 12.5 lbs., I will need to buy all new clothing, which opens up an opportunity to dress better. Buy nice clothing. But at the end of the day, don't I really like to just dry my hair, do my makeup, and throw on a nice pair of jeans and sweater before heading to work? I'm really not that high maintenance. 
          3. Read one book per month - I read on my way to and from work. And after I get home at 7pm, make dinner, eat dinner, hang out with boyfriend, pick up the apartment, get anything set for the next day, when am I supposed to add time for EXTRA reading? What if I pick up a 1000-pager that's supposed to be good? Am I still obligated to finish that in 30 days? Ugh. 
          4. Spend $1,527.99 on self in one year - How practical is that? And once I lose that 12.5 lbs. I'll need to buy new clothes anyway, and they have to be GOOD clothes to accomplish resolution #2, so I think we can just can #4.

What is a 20-something to do? What would Martha Stewart do?

I do want to lose weight, look better, read more, feel more cultured, and save money. All respectable goals. It's so difficult to find a happy medium! I have so much more control with my all-or-nothing attitude. But perhaps 2013 would be a happier year if I learned to be a bit more flexible. 

I think I could make a 100-strong list of what I'd like to accomplish in 2013. 

As I'm thinking of the best way to establish some goals to REALLY achieve, a few rules/ideas are coming to mind: 

         1. Be systematic, but flexible - prioritize your goals/resolutions; set dates for them to be accomplished, or ideas of date to be accomplished, and create a mental guidebook of how you're going to achieve them. But if going to the gym 5 times per week becomes unrealistic after that big promotion, whatever. 
          2. Prioritize - which resolutions are most important to me? Do any of them have a deadline? 

           3. Start small and get bigger with confidence - If I want to lose 10 lbs, I'm going to make it my goal to lose 4 consistent lbs by March. Then maybe 2 more consistent lbs by May. And so on.

          4. Don't try to do it all in January - Maybe the most important, if I try to accomplish my 100 goals all in the first 30 days, I will no doubt be defeated. As soon as I want something, I'm a do it, get it, buy it, have it, use it IMMEDIATELY kind of person. Learn to chill out, let things take time, and space it out.  

My little buddy and I are going to sit down with a notebook and make a list: 

What would make 2013 better than 2012? 

Because that is the ultimate goal, right? We'll report back with our findings. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas to You!

May your day be filled with life, love, and gorgeous trays of delicious cookies. 
Go ahead, indulge!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Hi all!
I'm currently sitting on a bus going to Cleveland, OH. When you're spending six hours on a megabus, you need to be careful who you sit by. Unfortunately, I'm sitting behind one of those inconsiderate individuals who reclines his chair back as far as it can go.

I'm tempted to tap him on the houser and say, "Excuse me, but I have legs."

So rude.

What would Martha do?

I can't get to Cleveland soon enough. Never thought I'd say that...

Mom always makes a nice Christmas Eve dinner, we drink hot chocolate, eat cookies, and unwrap some new pajamas.

What are your Christmas Eve traditions?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bath, Brew, Read

Me-time is very important. I constantly schedule myself to do something "productive" or "new," if I didn't take some "me" time, I think I'd spontaneously combust. 

To alleviate some of the damage done by my recent Christmas shopping, I've picked up about 15 extra group fitness classes to teach over the next month. I'm going to be busy and sore, but it's definitely a necessity to make up the money difference. 

This weekend, I taught my regular spinning class on Friday, picked up a Spinning class Saturday morning, plus my usual Saturday afternoon BodyPump class, and then picked up a Spinning class this Sunday morning. 

This schedule (on my days off, mind you) means two things: TEA and BATH TIME! 

Bath time seems to be the only time I can really take it easy. Probably because I'm sopping wet in a tub. I suppose I could run around the living room, kitchen, and bedroom like this, picking things up and putting things away, but would that really be appropriate? 

Last night I popped "A Gold Star" Lush bubble bar into the tub. 
This yellow and gold star sells for $7.95 and is only available online at I usually pick up a few "online only" products when Lush offers a free shipping promotion.

The website says the scent is frankincense and sandalwood, it basically smells like lemon. The scent was nice, but not my favorite on from Lush, by far. I'm more of a floral/lavendar fan. 

Golden glitter/confetti bursts out of the star as you crumble it, leaving your bathtub with a pretty golden glow. I'm not the biggest fan of Lush bath products containing glitter and confetti. They make for a pretty bath time, but when I have to spend 3 days cleaning up little starts from the side of my bathtub, I quickly lose any sense of calm that I had earlier. 

On the plus side, the yellow color did not leave a yellow ring around my bath tub, like some Lush products are known to do. 
Overall grade: B ; nice, but I probably won't buy it again.

I also brewed myself a cup of Adagio Candy Cane Tea.
This is my new tea obsession. I love Adagio teas, and this limited edition black tea brews full of flavor with actual bits of candy cane mixed in. Adagio Candy Cane Tea is by far the best candy cane/peppermint tea I've had. Because I'm a tea snob, I brewed it in my Breville tea maker  at 212 degrees for 3 minutes. 
 Overall Grade: A+ ; LOVE IT!

What was I reading? 
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I read "Norwegian Wood" last year by Murakami, and loved it, so I figured I'd pick up his newest book. It follows two stories, one about a male author hoping to re-write a story written by a dyslexic, enigmatic teenage girl, and the other about a female assassin who finds herself in an unusual time.

I'm loving this book so far. I really enjoy reading Murakami's books. Although he's a Japanese author writing about Japanese characters, I have no trouble relating to the people and situations he creates. His writing is poetic without being flowery, and provides a solid amount of mental stimulation - more than chic-lit fluff, not as incomprehensible as philosophy. 

A good choice if you want something to think about.  

the world didn't end....


So the world didn't end, apparently. Maybe it did end, and we all just don't know it? Sixth Sense style. Has anyone checked in with Australia? 

Well, I'm still here, and I came across these ADORABLE winter scene terrariums/dioramas in Martha Stewart Living's December issue.

This made for a fun Saturday afternoon project, and can be made as simple or as complex as you'd like.

I went to Michaels and picked up a mini glue gun, some fake snow, and because I couldn't find any small figurines like Martha used, I grabbed some Christmas/winter-themed buttons. For the base, I used an old glass sauce jar that I had saved in the kitchen. 

Because I used a glass canning jar, I needed something to bring my scene up above the copper rim of the lid. I found a random paper condiment cup in my craft bin and glued that to the inside of the lid. It was the perfect height to peek up over the lid.

Elmer's Glue painted across the clay mound held my fake snow in place, and I hot-glued my buttons into a little scene

Before I screwed the lid into place, I tossed some extra loose snow into the jar to fill up the gap between the condiment cup and the glass. 

 This would make an adorable hostess gift for a holiday party or decoration for your home. 

If I were to do this again, I would use a bell jar terrarium, something larger than just a canning jar, so that I could make a larger scene. I'd also look around for a few pretty objects, like Martha's penguins or skiers. 

These monogram wreaths are going to have to be my next holiday DIY - aren't these gorgeous? Via Anthropologie Magazine and Camille Styles, a blogger I've JUST discovered. I think she's going to become a new favorite of mine :) 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Making Caramels


So when I came across this recipe with a few alternatives in Martha Stewart Living's December issue, I decided to make caramels for my co-workers for Christmas.

I made the classic caramels as well as the chocolate coconut caramel candies.

The process was very simple, but there are a few things you need to be particular about in order to be successful.

Temperature is key!
 You really do need an accurate candy thermometer, and I don't think mine was too accurate. I ended up using the look of the caramel, color, gauging when it started to really crystallize. This recipe calls for the caramel to reach 248 degrees F, but working with a gas stove made that pretty difficult, as the pot doesn't heat up evenly.

I was worried about burning the caramels (you can't come back from that!), so I took my classic caramels off the stove a pinch too early. After 8 hours of waiting for them to set, though, they firmed up and had a great caramel consistency.

I definitely took the chocolate caramels off the stove too early, as I couldn't guess the color of the caramel after the chocolate was added. These only firmed up to a thick chocolate sauce consistency, so after they set, I melted the caramel in a pot and heated it up a bit more. This totally fixed the consistency problem, and they turned out even better than the classic caramels.

And you really do need to use a LARGE POT for these. Because of the cream, the mixture boils and foams up pretty high, so you need that extra height to prevent it from spilling over.

Be patient and watch these on the stove. Don't overmix. Sometimes it's good to just let the mixture be on the stove.

The recipe did make a large number of caramels. It took FOREVER to wrap them all up in saran wrap.

I packed them in these cute Martha Stewart gift boxes from Michaels to bring to the office.

What do you usually give your co-workers for the holidays?

Weekly Spin Playlist

I teach Spinning twice per week (Mondays 6AM and Fridays 6PM) so I thought I'd share a playlist each week that you can try out on your own, or come up with some ideas for a few great workout songs to keep you motivated!

1. Alejandro (Skrillex Club Mix) by Lady Gaga - 6:18 - nice long warm up, take your time, gradually build speed and resistance. Stay in the saddle, on a flat road. Come out of the saddle if you want a little stretch.

2. Come On Eileen by Save Ferris - 4:09 - This one's about speed. So pick up the pace. Increase speed to a strong run, about 80% of your maximum speed and hold for at least 45 seconds. Recover in second, to keep the heart rate up. Repeat.

3. On My Way by Billy Boy On Poison - 2:44 - Here's where we'll transition from a flat road to a strong hill. Add resistance every minute or so. When you first hit that hill, come out of the saddle, try to keep your speed up through the resistance. Continue to add resistance until the legs start to slow down.

4. Golden Age by Asteroid Galaxy Tour  - 3:50 - Add on a little more resistance and settle into the saddle.

5. Gone Remix - 5:32 - Take 1 or 2 minutes to recover, then start slow jumps.

6. Henrietta by The Fratellis - 3:32 - Continue Jumps. Jump for 30 seconds, then take a 30 second brake, and repeat.

7. I Walked In by Broughman - 4:22 - Add on that resistance and start into our second and last hill

8. Boulevard of Broken Dreams Remix by Greenday - 4:34 - Your choice, hill in the saddle, or come out to 3rd.

9. Bombs over Bagdad by Outkast - 5:06 - Three sprints, 15 - 20 seconds each, with a minute recovery in between.

10. Get Lifted by Tiesto - 5:21 - Your choice, finish out with a run, jump sequence, or hill. Whatever you're feeling today!

11. Bleeding Love / You Live, You Learn - About 8 minutes of cool down, resistance off. Keep the pedals moving for a minute or two to let heart rate come down slowly. Don't forget to stretch!

*Does your Spinning instructor have a sequence or song that just rocks your class? Let me know, I'm always looking for new suggestions to keep it fresh!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is that from Anthro?

I am an Anthropologie FREAK. It's not a secret. When I packed up my closet to move into my current apartment, I realized that a solid 90% of my wardrobe came from Anthropologie. Woops.

Now, just to clarify, 90% of what I buy from Anthropologie is also bought on sale. I my opinion, they have great sales, and if you can hold out long enough, you can get some great pieces for a very great price.

Last year, before Christmas, Anthropologie had a MASSIVE 50% off everything sale. OMG.
This year, no word of a major sale like that again, though for the past few days, Anthropologie has had quite a few great, though random, items on sale for around 30% off, like these AG Stevie Cords ($50 in stores) and a few sweaters.

A lot of their house decor/candles/vases/kitchenwares are on sale for an extra 30% off, so if you've been eying something, I think now might be the time (though you could wait until the weekend to see if they bring us an X-Mas special).

Because I spend way too much money at Anthropologie, and can't walk out of that store without a cream-colored bag in my hand.

My newest finds: 

Manor Mary Janes - I saw these shoes on the website and called one of my three local stores (Yes, Chicago has three stores!) to put them on hold in a 7. The site lists that these run small, but my usual 7 fit perfectly. They might not be super practical for winter, but the temperature has been pretty warm here for the past month.

I usually don't like to pay over $40.00 for anything, I wait for sales, but these are kind of perfect, so for $49.95 (down from $108) they were MINE! I haven't walked around a full day in them, but they feel like they'll be pretty comfortable, perfect for running around Chicago in.

Gift-Trimmed Pumps - I don't know if I like you like these? I'm always on the look for some solid nude pumps that will look good with anything. These have a fun little present bow on top, but I haven't decided if they look cute or weird. BUT THEY WERE ONLY $19.95. So why not, right? If I decide I don't like the bow, I can always take it off and find a cute disc or fabric piece to put in its place, a fun DIY project! The heel height isn't too uncomfortable, though the leather is pretty stiff, and I can see myself getting a heel blister from wearing these all day/night.

Albeit Lipstick in Bisque -   A while ago, I heard that Anthro's new makeup lines weren't a great hit, but this barely there neutral is going to be my new go-to. Albeit lipstick in Bisque is a slightly rosy, bit darker beige. It's even a bit moisturizing and goes on smooth.

 White Poppy Vase -  I'm only slightly obsessed with the line of flowered vases that Anthro sells. I also have this one so whenever I see one on sale, I'm sure to pick it up. You have to be careful with these, the petals are fragile, and before you buy, inspect the vase for chips. I grabbed the white poppy vase for $14.00, down from the original $20, so I'm happy! It's currently sitting on my nightstand.

 If there is a big sale this weekend, I'll definitely be there.  My bank account will not be happy, but I will! Don't forget to finish your Christmas shopping and good luck wrapping up all those presents!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sonoma Sustenance

A major perk of having a fabulous mother with mad cooking skills is that she's in the "In Club" at Williams-Sonoma. Meaning she works there, for their nice discount - and that discount treats you nicely.

When my mother came to Chicago about a week ago, we, of course, took a trip to Williams-Sonoma at 900 North Michigan Shops, because "Chicago has things that the Cleveland store doesn't have." Which is true, I guess.

We picked up two holiday-themed chocolate goodies:

1. Peppermint Baked Brownie Mix - A+++ This stuff was delicious. Not only does it come with a peppermint candy topping, but the actual brownie mix itself is infused with peppermint. Just add butter and eggs to their packaged mix, fold together gently, and bake for about 30 minutes. My shotty oven required me to bake them a bit longer than 30 minutes.

These brownies came out thick and gooey, boyfriend was so upset that I was making them for my co-workers and not him (don't worry, I did leave him a few).  They were a hit with my co-workers. At $16.95 per box,  yes, these are the most expensive brownies I have ever baked/eaten, but hey, it's the holidays. And they are SO GOOD.

2. Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate Mix - A+ Finally! REAL hot chocolate. This isn't a cocoa powder, the container holds real flecks of chocolate that you melt with milk on the stove. This hot chocolate is so creamy and thick, one cup will definitely fill you up. Make a cup for your boyfriend so he doesn't try to steal yours. Careful, the calorie count is pretty high, and this stuff is addicting.

There is also a peppermint hot chocolate flavor, but the bulk of the peppermint taste is lost after boiling with water. I'd stick with the classic flavor.

At almost $20/jar, still an expensive investment in hot chocolate, but what do you expect from Williams-Sonoma?

*If you buy the hot chocolate, you MUST ALSO BUY the Williams-Sonoma homemade marshmallows.  They come in two sizes (the minis are plenty) and are shaped like giant cubes, not  the look or consistency of your typical Jewel-Osco marshmallow, but they melt so perfectly in a cup of hot chocolate, creating a creamy, marshmallowy layer of perfection. Both the classic marshmallow and the peppermint marshmallow are great.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Is it snowing? Nope.

An awkward conversation to have, dandruff is.
Everyone has  a little bit of it, and we all go through serious attacks every once in a while.

I hate to admit, but lately I've had horrible bouts of the flakes, intermittently escalating to full blown traumatic experiences. And I feel like I've tried everything.

Failed Attempts
The Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse didn't work for me. It just left me feeling self-conscious of how I smelled.

I forked over a wad of cash for Aveda's Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner.  It smells good, but was a total waste of money in my fight against the flakes. 8.5 fl oz. cost me $15.50 each, and spending $30+ on some conditioner and shampoo that didn't work makes me feel silly. Plus, the shampoo tangles your hair, I felt the need to glob on the conditioner. This gets a C- from me.

The standard Head and Shoulders is always hit or miss for me. If I use it excessively, it will eventually fix my dandruff. But this last time, I found myself in a blizzard and couldn't get out.

My Salvation
I resorted to a special scalp product, used it twice, and BOOM. Like Harry Potter apparating out of Alaska, my dandruff disappeared. The secret weapon: Lush Superbalm

I went into Lush intending to buy their Snake Oil scalp treatment bar, but was told it was being discontinued, and figured I'd just buy the Superbalm. It has a MUCH better smell than the Snake Oil bar.

This product contains coconut oil, chamomile blue oil, and even lavender to give it a nice scent. It curse dandruff with the help of a naturally derived salicylic acid. This felt soothing on my scalp.

You take a small amount of the product - but even if you use too much, you won't stay greasy - and rub it into your scalp. I recommend you take your time to part your hair several times and rub the balm into your scalp - avoid rubbing it on top of or into your hair, you really want it on the scalp.  Leave it on for 20 minutes (though longer doesn't hurt), then wash it out in the shower.

It's been three weeks, and dandruff hasn't returned. This product really worked for me.

And since I prefer using all natural products, I'm really glad it's Lush.  I don't think $19.95 is too expensive for a dandruff product that solves all of your problems.

Have any of you tried the new Superbalm? What are your thoughts? Any other recommendations (natural or not) to get rid of a torrential downpour of dandruff?