Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pasta Alla Checca - Test and Review

I watch Its Judy's life on youtube. It is a daily video log of the day for a family of three. The husband made this recipe and it sounded very good. I wanted to try it myself.

Here is the video recipe. Pasta Alla Checca by BenjiManTV

I started the dish before realizing I was out of spaghetti so I had to use elbow pasta instead. I think it would have been much better with spaghetti or fettuccine. I also used a lot less olive oil than the recipe specifies. I used yellow tomatoes because they were the sweetest ones at the grocery store. I also haven't found an issue with storing the mozzarella with the tomatoes mixture. It would have looked prettier with red tomatoes or a mixture of the red and yellow.

This is a really simple and tasty dish but requires some fore-thought to prep the tomatoes. It tasted fresh and had a good balance of savory and tangy. The oil wasn't too heavy for me. I will be making this again.


  • 1 box of pasta
  • 2 containers of tomatoes (small cherry or grape tomatoes that come in a plastic container)
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • 1 package of fresh basil leaves
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. 2-8 hours ahead of serving prepare the tomatoe mixture.
  2. Cut the tomatoes, basil, garlic and place in a bowl. Salt and pepper.
  3. Pour in oil. I certainly didn't use a cup's worth. More likely less than half a cup.
  4. Cover and let it sit between 2-8 hours.
  5. Cook pasta.
  6. Cut mozzarella into cubes and mix into tomatoes.
  7. Pour freshly cooked pasta over the tomatoes, toss and serve.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Apples with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips

Is is a great snack and a good way to eat fruit for a picky eater while still having yummy chocolate. I've seen this in Pinterest with the peanut butter drizzled on top but I aim for the short cuts that reduce prep time and clean up while still giving me results. I usually use semi sweet chocolate chips. I tried the mini version but it didn't give me enough of the chocolate flavor. I also tried dark chocolate, which I usually prefer, but it didn't work will here.


  • Place a spoon or two of peanut butter in a microwavable dish like a small ramakin. If you use a durable plastic spoon, you can put it in the microwave with the dish.
  • Heat the peanut butter until warm, about 30 seconds.
  • Slice the apple into quarters, cut out the core. Then slice each quarter into thirds.
  • Pour some chocolate chips on top of the peanut butter.
  • Dip the apple into the mixture and eat!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Peach Crunch Cake - Trial and Review

Peach crunch cake is a simple layered dessert that goes great with ice cream. Take the extra time to use fresh peaches because you can taste the difference. I took this to a party and it was a hit. I received many complements and a few people asked me for the recipe.

The cake mixes in with the butter and peaches creating a gooey warm pudding. The brown sugar, butter and nuts give it a crunchy top. Two great textures.

The original recipe called for canned peaches in a light syrup. I used fresh and created a simple syrup for the peaches that replaces the syrup in a can.


  • 4-5 Fresh peaches
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 handfuls of brown sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp of chopped nuts (pecans)


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel the peaches. Reserve the peels. Slice and dice, then place in a 9x13 baking pan.
  3. In a pan, heat the water over high heat. Squeeze the peels of the peaches and pour in any juices from cutting the peaches.
  4. When it comes to a boil, add in the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  5. Pour it over the peaches.
  6. Pour the cake over the peach mixture.
  7. Slice the butter and place over the cake.
  8. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter.
  9. Sprinkle the nuts over the brown sugar.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes. Bake longer if you use a smaller pan.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bachata and other Latin dances

When I started ballroom dancing, I had never heard of bachata or merengue. I vaguely knew what salsa was (other than the reason tortilla chips were invented). Now I'm obsessed. I can't stop listening to music for these styles of dance. I love dancing them and that has translated into a love of listening to that style of music. Bonus points: since the lyrics are in Spanish, I can't sing along. However, I've found that I'm starting to learn phrases even though I don't know what they mean.

Check out my playlist on Spotify or on YouTube. I do have some favorites.

Will you become as obsessed as I am?

Hashtags: #Spotify #Music #Bachata #Salsa #Merengue #Latin #Dance

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to determine if sunglasses are polorized

I confess I'm a geek at heart. When I saw this video, I just had to share it. Here is a trick to determine if the sunglasses you are looking to buy are polarized. Take two pairs and hold them in front of a light. Overlap the lenses and turn one 90 degrees. There should be a visible decrease in the light coming through the lens. See the photo below.

I thought this is a great trick because its an easy test to perform in stores. I love polarized sunglasses because the block out glare and are generally darker with out the lens being dark. I have sensitive eyes and always wear sunglasses.

Bonus tip from Snopes: wear polarized sunglasses when driving in the rain. They help to block out the reflecting and scattering of light in the rain or fog allowing you to see better. It doesn't work for non-polarized.

Hashtags: #lifehacker #tips #mylife #sunglasses #science

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chicken Piccata - Trial and Review

I found a recipe for Chicken Piccata off of Pinterest. It taught me a great technique for cooking chicken faster. Take the chicken breast and cut it in half horizontal. You end up with two cutlets of the same size. No pounding needed. Plus it is so quick to cook. You can find the original recipe from the link above but here is my version.

I use a chicken broth concentrate instead of chicken broth. This reduces the amount of time needed to reduce the sauce. Since there isn't much other prep and it takes two pans to cook all the chicken, I use the chicken cooking time to prepare the rest of the ingredients.

I left out the butter from the original recipe. I didn't feel it needed the flavor and I didn't need the extra calories. I also didn't salt or pepper the chicken. I didn't miss it much because frying give it a lot of flavor.

I don't bother to measure out the lemon juice or the zest because I like the lemon flavor and it saves time. It is the same for pouring the honey from the bottle and estimating with handfuls instead of actually measuring.

Thought it seems like there is a lot of steps, this can be made in under 30 minutes. Plus if you add sides that make themselves, like pasta or mushrooms, you can make a complete meal.

I love this recipe and it has become one of my go to for a quick dinner. I have most of the ingredients on hand and just pick up the fresh lemon and parsley. It has a great mix of fresh, tart and sweet.

Bonus: Put the lemon rind down the disposal to make your drain smell better.


  • 1 package of chicken breast (3 breasts)
  • Flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 lemon (both zest and juice will be used)
  • 1/2 C Water
  • 1-2 tsp chicken broth concentrate (I use Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1-2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 handful of parsley


  1. Pour the oil into a frying pan and heat on medium. Slice the chicken breasts.
  2. Dust a plate with flour and dip the chicken, both sides.
  3. Add to the hot oil and fry 2-3 minutes on both sides until golden brown. Remove and place on plate.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, cut the green onions into rings using the white and light green parts only. Zest the lemon. Chop the parsley. Heat the water until boiling in the microwave and add in the chicken broth concentrate. Chop the parsley and the capers (this helps to dispurse the flavor).
  5. Remove any excess oil or add some to the pan until you about about 1 tsp of oil. Add the green onions and cook until fragrant.
  6. Add the chicken broth and let it reduce until there is very little liquid left.
  7. Add in the honey. You can pour directly from the bottle. Cut the lemon in half and juice it over the pan. I love a wooden reamer because it is cheap and works great. If you juice it with the cut side up then squeeze it with the cut side in the palm of your hand, it helps to keep the seeds out.
  8. Turn off the heat and mix in the parsley, capers and lemon zest.
  9. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers - Trial and Review

One word: amazing. This is such a fantastic recipe and it is so simple. I followed a recipe I found on pinterest for Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers but modified it a little bit.

Here is my version.


  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Small onions
  • 1 Small package of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 Pinches of dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 - 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
  • 1 Package of roast beef sliced meat
  • 3 Large green peppers
  • 1 Package sliced Provolone cheese (I used reduced fat)


  1. Place pan on medium-low heat. Pour oil into pan.
  2. Slice onions. Then place onions and mushrooms in pan. Cook until carmalized, about 30 minutes, stiring every 5-10 minutes.
  3. Flavor with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Remember that the roast beef will be salty.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the peppers in half and remove the insides.
  5. Slice beef. Add to pan and cook 5-10 minutes.
  6. Place a slice of cheese inside each pepper.
  7. Add the vinegar and stir, then remove from heat.
  8. Fill the peppers with the mixture. Then cover with another slice of cheese.
  9. Bake in the oven until cheese is bubbly and golden. This took about 7 minutes.

This has no carbs. Do I miss the bread? Yes because philly cheesesteak sandwiches have wonderfully crusty bread but this is a great alternative when going low or no carb. I added the acid and the dried herbs to give it a little more flavor. I didn't use the butter because I didn't think I would need the flavor.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

How to move ahead when "Everything Sucks"

Another wonderful lesson from Marie Forleo. This one is so hard for me because it requires retraining my brain. In here Q&A Tuesday video, Marie TV, talks bout how to deal when everything sucks. It is an exercise in seeing the positives that is so difficult for me because I automatically jump to the negative. It takes redirecting my thoughts to see the positive. Sometimes I have to vent in order to move past the emotions of the issue and start redirecting my thoughts. Sometimes I'll write it down, but usually I have to talk to someone who knows me well and cares. Then I'm able to tweak my thinking. Pull up the lessons I've learned on how to deal with difficult people or difficult situations. I hope that the more I practice directly my thoughts, the easier it will come. I feel it is related to the daily positive list activity I tried and both activities will help make the other easier.

She also stresses the importance of moving ahead. Nothing is more torturous than not doing anything. But it is even more difficult to make a choice if all the choices suck. I think it is important to remember that you are going to make mistakes. Something will fail.

But I think she is missing the spiritual part. It is important to pray to God about how to move ahead. Reading from the Bible can also help. I feel it is reassuring to keep thinking that God put me in this place for a reason. What am I supposed to learn from this. Sometimes there are things that you can only learn from a struggle. When it is easy, it doesn't require faith. Plus struggle inspires personal growth.

It includes a great tweetable and a quote from Mia Angelo - "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude about it."

Guarana - Soda from Brazil

A soda from Brazil. I went to a Brazilian steak house and the people I was with bought this so I've been interested in trying it. A friend brought these to a party and I was able to try it.


The can it pretty plain. There is a picture of the guarana seed.


It smells great. Very fruity.


It is very sweet. It has a unique flavor that I would describe like a mild berry flavor.

Would I buy it again?

Probably not. Berry isn't one of my favorite flavors. But it is fun to try new sodas. So if I was going to a party or a special event, I would think about getting more.

Guarana is from the maple family and is common in Brazil. It is known as a stimulant and has twice the amount of caffeine as coffee.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sometimes you've just got to have fun

All this week, I've been staying at work late until 7pm. I'm trying to catch up with a project. So by the time I get out, I'm a bit stir crazy. I had a great dance class where I started acting a bit mischievous. Then a dance party where I started with some silly antics like an overly dramatic Bolero and a silly Bachata. That continued into the evening where I challenged by instructor to dress down.

Now you have to understand, there is a professional dress code which stricter than business because the men wear ties or vests. So to throw down a challenge to my instructor, who is the manager at the studio, threw him for a loop. He was stuck in an internal battle (from what I could see). To be the boss or accept the challenge.

As you can see below, he accepted the challenge with flair! Much to the surprise of his other instructors (but not to his wife, who I bet had a bit to do with this; Thanks!). As the time for my lesson approached, his wife was standing by with a camera phone in hand. Then out he walks with a hawaiian shirt, suspenders, cargo shorts and a belt. LOL. Plus he kept his pink plaid socks on.

I jumped! I screamed! I smiled and gave him a giant hug! It made my night. And you know it didn't effect how professional I saw him. I have even more respect for him because he will accept a playful challenge from a student and delivered more than I expected. I was actually more relaxed during the lesson because of this. I was able to think more, analyze more, absorb more. Because sometimes you've just got to have fun.

Interested in learning how to ballroom dance or some social dances? Have a wedding coming up? Check the Arthur Murray Studios of Dallas/Plano. The teachers are fantastic.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thank you notes

When was the last time you received a thank you note? Heck, when was the last time you wrote one? It seems with the ease of electronic communication, the art of hand written notes is being lost.

In my experience, it has been limited to Birthdays and Christmas when gifts are exchanged. But what about deeds? I'm a student of ballroom dancing. After my first lesson, my instructor wrote me a thank you card. I was so surprised. It was so joyful to receive something when I didn't give a gift. Since then, I continue to receive thank you notes at varies times. And I'm always so happy to receive them. They make my day. I've kept each one because these are so unique. And I go back and read them whenever I need a smile. It has even encouraged me to write thank you cards back after a performance or competition because I know my instructors went above and beyond.

Why shouldn't I express gratitude in any little way. Sort of like the pay it forward movement (which has gained popularity) but you are paying it back because it is deserved. I feel good deeds are repeated when they are appreciated. I value notes more than an email, call or in person because it is tangible and takes more time. I am a visual person so I can keep looking back at the note. I think the time investment part is partly to blame for the decline of notes because everyone is so busy these days but that is exactly why I value it more.


I feel that writing thank you notes is an important skill to teach my son. I started out having him write thank you notes by getting him to draw a picture. I would write the message. But as he has developed his language skills, I've asked for him to think up of the message, guiding him into a simple template.

Dear <Name>
Thank you for <item>.
Something about it. Ex: I like it very much. or I will use the money to buy the Spiderman toy I've been saving up for.
Hope to see you soon.
Love <Name>

Of course this is very basic but it is a guide that I hope he will expand on. This will be something that I will continue to develop with my son.

Do you write thank you notes? If not, I hope this has inspired you to write one.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Etsy shop is up and running

I accomplished much this weekend including two new paintings and painting a dish with a group of friends. I also set up an Etsy shop with all of my paintings. Please stop by and visit!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fentian's Botanically Brewed Dandelion & Burdock Soda

Fentian's Botanically Brewed Dandelion & Burdock Soda originally from Target. I received the box from a friend. It comes in packs of four.


The box is very interesting. It reminds me of something from 100 years ago. It had the history about the brand and a description of the product. This would have grabbed my attention at the store. The cap has a cute picture of a dog.


After reading the description, I thought it would smell like cough syrup but it didn't. It had a little sweet smell but manly herbal.


So different from anything I've tried before. Not too sweet but it has about the same amount of sugar as other sodas. It manly tasted herbal but a little sweet. I didn't taste much of the ginger. It doesn't have a spiciness to it that ginger beer has. It finished with a taste of anise. It didn't have any floral flavor. Apparently burdock root has great health benefits. I've never had anything with either burdock root or dandelion in it so I was very interested in these flavors.

Would I buy it again?

Probably not. I think this was a limited edition item.

4 Keys to Dealing with Criticism

I watch Marie Forleo on Marie TV and her website Marie Forleo. She had a great Q&A Tuesday video about dealing with criticism. Now, I'm assuming and so is she, that this is negative criticism and not constructive criticism. Because the simplest way to handle constructive criticism is with a thank you.

She starts out by saying that everyone judges, even you judging yourself. This is true but it struck me as being completely contrary to what the Bible says and what is best for your self estime. The Bible tells us not to judge and to provide grace. If we were really following this, there wouldn't be a need to know how to deal with criticism. But this of course is part of our down fall as humans.

It’s easy to attack and destroy an act of creation. It’s a lot more difficult to perform one." – @ChuckPalahniuk via @MarieForleo

Yes, yes and YES. So be proud that you did something. Be even prouder that it was noted enough to be criticized.

She lists this great quote by Teddy Roosevelt and I love it so much that I felt the need to write it down.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

This did two things for me. First it made me realize that criticism is going to happen especially if you create/do something that is large enough to be noticed. The bigger it is, the more it will be noticed. Criticism should be taken as a compliment that you were noticed. Second it is okay to try and fail because at least you tried. She follow ups with another great quote.

"Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are."

Now if only I can keep this in my mind every time I receive criticism or especially more important, prevent my action because of the fear of receiving criticism.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Painting, and Painting, and Painting

At the end of the last month, I created a Facebook page for a new custom painting business I started up, Paint by Color. Of course I had my hopes set up too high. I thought everyone would jump at the chance to have a painting customized to their own taste and color palette. I was disappointed when I sent out more than 50 invites to Like the page but got only about 15 people to respond. Especially since Facebook doesn't enable statistics until a page receives more than 30 Likes.

Since then, I've painted a few more new designs. Dropped by prices by 50% AND introduced a grand opening sale (20%). This did little to encourage people to purchase a painting. I did receive two commissions but that was due to me personally talking with the person and asking if they wanted a painting. And it really stinks since I've got a ton of free time this month. I barely have my son at all. So my weekends are empty.

I believe this is all due to lack of marketing but this is a weak point for me. Especially paying for marketing when I'm not receiving much income at all. Since dropping the price and underestimating how long it takes me to complete a painting, my price per hour has dropped dramatically. And I'm still trying to cover the initial costs of supplies.

My plan is to personally speak to a few friends and encourage them to share the page. One in particular has commissioned a painting and will be taking it "on tour". It is based on her favorite coffee drink and she plans to show it to all the Starbucks she frequents. I've also started a referral program. Plus I plan on starting an Etsy store and researching more ways to market. Do you have a blog, website, shop? How do you market?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Archer Farms Gelato in Chocolate Hazelnut

What it is

When I stopped by Target this weekend, I was craving some icecream. Target Cartwheel had an additional percentage off of Archer Farms Gelato so I decided to get it a try.


It looks great. I love the toppings and I thought it would give it great texture.


It smells sweet, not bad.


I was so disappointed. The texture was too soft. It had no taste. No chocolate, no hazelnut. It was just sweet. Plus it had these really frozen, dried chunks that tasted like cardboard with freezer burn. The toppings didn't give it a great texture either. Plus they had no flavor as well.

Would I buy it again?

No. It isn't worth it. I don't know if I would try the Archer Farms brand again for Gelato. I'm really thinking about throwing it out instead of eating the rest because I don't think it is worth the calories. And I really hate wasting food.

Saving Money at Target

How I save money at Target.
  1. Use a Target card. Get 5% off your bill.
  2. Bring your own bags. Get $0.05 per bag.
  3. Check out Totally Target for deals and how to stack coupons.
  4. Check out and print off Target coupons.
  5. Download the Target store app on your smart phone and check out mobile coupons. You can also have the link texted to you.
  6. Download the Target Cartwheel app on your smart phone or online.

Target has both credit and debit cards so if you don't want a another credit card, you can get the debit.

Bringing your own bags may seem like a hassle but you're going to have a folder of coupons anyway. Plus you can stuff your bags and coupons into one and carry them all in one bag.

I've been shopping at Target for groceries for a while but it wasn't until recently that I found Totally Target. This website posts deals and coupons for Target. It is awesome to see what sales pair up with the manufacturer and Target coupons. Plus Target has mobile coupons AND a new application called Cartwheel. Cartwheel provides 5%-15% off deals for items all through out Target. They can be very specific, like just Original Coke soda, so check out the details. My Target has free wifi, so I wait until I'm in the store to check out the deals. Both the mobile coupons and the cartwheel deals can be scanned directly from your phone.

You going to need some patience. The cashiers at my Target have a hard time dealing with cloth bags, coupons, scanning your phone. And check out takes longer than others. Plus I have to explain something or another.

Savings at Target and other stores

  1. Coupon websites.
  2. Newspaper.
  3. Manufacturer websites.
  4. Facebook pages.

Coupon websites I visit on a weekly basis:

I used to have a newspaper subscription but I found that majority of the coupons are for processed foods, prepared foods, cleaning items and personal care. I just wasn't using these coupons so I don't get the newspaper anymore.

Also check out manufacturer websites for coupons and deals. Like Facebook pages for your favorite products and manufacturers. Often times special coupons will be posted just on Facebook.

How do you save money? Do you have a special tip or a website? Let me know.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Three Positive Things - Monday

Getting to sleep in an hour and still getting to work on time. 

Getting to speak with a friend at church group.

Getting my server side component to load the data and return it to the html page.

Three Positive Things - Sunday

Getting all glammed up for the dance performance.

Dancing with my instructors and my solos,

Getting food with dance friends.

Three Positive Things - Saturday

Pancakes with my son. Chocolate chip - always.

Dance practice. The lion king formation is so much fun.

Picking up empty canvases. A whole bunch of new designs are floating in my head.

Dressy Friday

I've started a trend this summer - to wear a dress each Friday. Its summer and its really hot here in Texas (104!). People are starting to wear shorts to work and Fridays are usually the most casual day. However that is also the day of the dance studio practice party. So I was thinking, hot weather, dancing = dress!

Follow / post with hash tag #DressyFriday on instagram (user kristinbriley) or twitter (user @kristin_briley).

Paintings for Sale

I started a custom painting business called Paint By Color. I've got a page on Facebook which hosts all the available designs and samples. Each is priced per design. Plus there is a 20% sale going on through July.

I take the design and work with your to pick colors (and other design items like a poem). Then I'll paint it just for you using acrylic on canvas.

Please stop by and have a look. If you would like to purchase a painting, send me a private message and I'll take it from there.

Paint By Color

Friday, June 28, 2013

Keratosis Pilaris - KP - Chicken Skin

I suffer from KP on my arms and my thighs. I have for as long as I can remember. I didn't try to treat it much when I was younger but now I'm not aware and I want to do something about it. I've read a lot about it but the information varies. Exfoliate, don't exfoliate, use gylocic acid, use BHA, use AHA.

I've tried Dermadoctor KP Duty but it didn't work for me.

I've tried Glytone KP Kit, 15.1 ounce Package but it also didn't work for me. The body wash didn't do anything special. The lotion was thick and heavy on my skin. I didn't like that feeling. Plus it stung if you applied it to freshly shaven skin (package says not to but I did anyway).

I've tried RESIST Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA. My thighs have gotten a little better but my arms have stayed the same. This is a lighter lotion and absorbs quicker.

I've been reading Caroline Hirons and I want to try some of the recommendations she has. I copied them below. This post is not only to share information but to become my trial and error cheat sheet! Twofer!

Clinc on Thursday March 15, 2013 "I know it seems random and for a little while expensive but I would use a normal body lotion by garnier etc (much under-rated! - Body Repair - the red one - is one of my top 3 body lotions) and in the evenings apply Alpha-H Liquid Gold ALL OVER THE ARMS - I assume its your arms? The glycolic will sort it out. Honest. And its not THAT £££." "Cool Fix from SpaceNK"

Dry Brushing. This isn't the first time I've heard about the benefits of dry brushing. I've been trying it occasionally but not enough to report on the effects for KP. Tati of Glam Life Guru has a great video on it. I like the dry brushing but I don't know if it is really having an effect. It took a little while to get used to and was painful at first. I dry brush about every other day.

Three Positive Things - Friday

I got to go to the dance party and dance with my favorite instructors. I danced a wonderful salsa and Viennese waltz among others.

I got to hang out a little with my coworkers after work. Got the lowdown on some future projects.

I got to eat a doughnut today and I didn't eat too many.

An experiment in positive thinking

Lately, I've been having problems concentrating, positive thinking and my general mood. I suffer from depression so part of this is par for the course. But if I can do anything that is not medication related, I am willing to try it.

I came across this article on one of my favorite sites Lifehacker. How Positive Thoughts Build Skills, etc. I thought it would be great to do something to help change my mood.

I'm going to start out with writing about three positive things a day. The article says you can see effects in three days! Heck, why not if I'll start seeing effects in as little as three days.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Savings at CVS

How I got $61.72 worth of items for $33.31!!

I stopped into CVS to check out the deals. I had a extra rewards for $3 off of $15. I checked out the coupon machine. I got a coupon for $3 off a purchase of $15 worth of hair color. So I checked it out and there was a deal for $3 extra bucks with purchase of two L'Oreal hair colors. One Garnier Olia and two L'Oreal Root Rescues went into my basket.

Then I checked out the makeup. I picked up a coupon for NYC and Rimmel. These were manufacture coupons attached to the displays. Always check out the new product displays for coupons. I had another coupon for NYC that I had printed from the internet. I picked up the bronzer in Sunny. I've been eyeing it for a while but couldn't bring myself to buy it because I didn't need it and I couldn't get a deal.

I also had a coupon for toothpaste so I stopped by and there was a deal going on. Buy two duel packs and get extra bucks. Two duel packs went into my basket.

I also got a coupon from the CVS machine for 20% off CVS brand products. I picked up some more medication, one was buy one get one 50% off.

When I checked out, I made sure to split my transactions, making sure to purchase the minimum or just what it took to get the extra bucks. I had three transactions. In total, I got 61.72 worth of items. I saved $28.41 with coupons and discounts and extra bucks. I spent 33.31.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chicken Parmigan

  1. Pound out chicken breast until pretty thin. Then flour, egg and Italian bread crumbs (in that order) place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper place in oven at 375. The parchment paper helps crisp the chicken. You have to flip the chicken. I'm not sure on time but basically we flipped it when the bottom of the chicken was golden and had a nice crust. when both sides are golden, then put a small amount of whatever marinara sauce you use at the bottom of the casserole dish. place the chicken on top and sprinkle chicken with cheese. we used a romano, parmessan mix bake until cheese is melted and has a nice bubbly goldness to it

Archer Farms GYRO wood-fired crust pizza

I was in Target today when I saw this pizza. I haven't have gyro meat in a while and it sounded good. It was on sale plus I had a coupon so I picked it up.


It looks really good. There is a variety of colors and textures that make it very appealing.


It smelled pretty good cooking.


The chucks of gyro meat very large enough to get the flavor. There is a lemon, cheesy base that is very tasty. The onions are a nice accent.

Would I buy it again?

Unfortunately, there isn't enough of the toppings. I prefer just to have more in each bite. The crust is nothing special and there is at least two inches of it after the toppings stop. I don't think I would buy this again.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sleep Problems

My name is Kristin and I have sleep problems.

Like many other adults, I have trouble sleeping. I used to be an awesome sleeper. I would have no issues going to sleep with little to no extra wind-down time. I would stay asleep until my alarm went off and I would feel just fine throughout the day. But ever since my divorce and subsequent depression at the end of 2010, I've had problems getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling refreshed. I'll go through each sleep period and give a little overview of what I've tried, what has worked and what has not.

Getting to Sleep

One of the biggest suggestions has been just relax. When ever I've tried to just relax, I start to think more and my brain just ramps up. Something I've always done is having my phone near by to write down any todo tasks or items I think of. That usually helps to get that item off my mind. But I would stress over events, emotions or general depression.

I also tried creating a routine but I didn't have time for a nightly bath and 20-30 minutes of reading. Or stopping all thing electronic 2 hours before bed. Seriously? I'm a single mom who only gets about an hour to myself a night. Of course I'm going to watch TV AND be on my computer. I did try reading but I wanted to read the Bible and then remember it the next day. Plus think about what I was reading. This always winds my mind up and not down. Then I wanted to read parenting or self help books but the same problem. So on to fiction. Well the ones I picked I loved so much I couldn't put it down. I would end up getting to be way too late.

I tried many medications. All of which didn't work or had troublesome side effects. Lunesta worked for a while then stopped working. Sonata the same. Trazadone would knock me out within 30 minutes but after a few nights, I would get the worst nightmares. High stress, high anxiety that would keep me in a dream state while I experienced and remembered all of it. Unfortunately it took a while for me to connect the dots and stop the medication.

Something else I learned that took a while (a few weeks), was not to take my antidepressant (Viibryd) before bed. I was taking the medication in the morning with breakfast. I told my dr that I was sleepy in the morning (now due to other issues) and he suggested taking it in the evening. So I started taking it about 30 minutes before bed. After a few nights I would notice that I could hear white noise louder. It felt like I could hear my blood rushing through my veins. Then this sensation would build up, electric-like sensations would shoot through my limbs and I would jerk. These sensations would become painful and I had a few nights where I cried myself to sleep. I started to develop anxiety not knowing what was causing the pain or when it would occur. I decided myself to stop taking the medication at night and resume taking it in the morning since that was the most recent change.

I came to find out that it was serotonin syndrome due to the affect of the antidepressant. While this issue was occurring, I tried doing research using my terms, electric sensations, pain, etc but not much came up. I remember reading about serotonin syndrome but it didn't match what I was experience. Hopefully my explanation will help someone else.

Staying Sleep

I thought I had my sleep issues under control, then I started waking up about every 90 minutes. Waking up enough to open my eyes and remember it. It would make me feel sleepy all day. This wasn't working and something needed to be done. I spoke with my dr and he perscribed Lorazepam and it worked. This was the fastest solution to any of my sleep problems but the most odd solution. An anti-anxiety to help stay asleep?

In the summer of 2012, I went to Japan. It was awesome but with the 14 hr time difference. It completely threw off my sleeping. I knew this was going to happen. While there, I found that Japan has fantastic chocolate and brought a whole bunch back, including dark chocolate, my favorite. I started having a bit each night before going to bed. After about a week, I started having nightmares. Not as violent as I described above but just enough to through off my day. Again, it took some research and some time for me to figure out that dark chocolate was giving me nightmares. Yet another side effect of food though unexpected. It makes me sad I can't have it at night, but that means I must eat chocolate during the day.

Waking Up

Just recently I've had issues waking up. My alarm would go off and would be going off for about 5 minutes. I would have to tear myself out of sleep and open my eyes. They would stay open just long enough to turn off the alarm and then shut. I would end up sleeping again for anywhere from 10-20 minutes and it would repeat. I would lay in bed for about 5 minutes with my mind convincing my body to wake up. The fog of sleep would last until 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon despite multiple cups of coffee. It came on sudden. What was going on? Again, I thought I had my sleep issues under control and again, things changed.


I take .75 mg of Melatonin to get me to sleep. I also take 5 mg of Lorazepam to stay asleep.

It has to be in a certain tiredness state in order to go to sleep now. I end up with a mixed up going to sleep routine. I wash my face and brush my teeth. Then do some stretching and rub lotion into my feet while giving myself a mini foot massage. I use relaxing pillow spray from Bath and Body Works on my pillow. And massage Sally Henson orange cuticle treatment on my fingers. Then I'll watch a YouTube video or two about 10-15 minutes depending on how tired my mind feels.

If you have sleep issues, I feel for you. Keep working at finding a solution. Try to figure out what is going on, and what has changed. Even if nothing has changed in your routine or medication, your body is always changing and you may need to adjust what was working. I hope my story has giving you some ideas.

Simple Sesame Ginger Chicken

I used a little help tonight with Campbell's Skillet Sauces in Sesame Chicken with Garlic and Ginger. I added onions and seasonings. It turned out really yummy.

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • Chicken, (I used the whole package. 1.6 lbs there is a lot more sauce than what I normally eat)
  • Pepper
  • Ginger
  • 1 Packet of Campbell's Skillet Sauces in Sesame Chicken with Garlic and Ginger Toasted sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Saute until translucent. Add chicken. Season with pepper and ginger. Follow instructions on sauce. When finished, turn off heat and add a dash of sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Very good over pasta or rice.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who I watch and what I love about them

Since I'll be referring back to these people, I figured that I tell you about them and what I love. Some are girls, some are guys. Some are professionals and some are not. Some are from the US and some are not. What I'm trying to say is that I watch a lot of people to try get a variety and different opinions. Here they are in a order of top 3 favorite, other beauty bloggers, non beauty vloggers.

Top 3 Beauty Vloggers - If you subscribe to anyone, pick these three
Emily. Emily shines in front of the camera. She used to be a TV anchor and it shows. She does wonderful looks, product reviews, favorites. She even has a weekly live broadcast where she gets real and answers other people's questions.

Wayne Goss. From the UK, Wayne is a professional makeup artist with a love for brushes. His videos are short and to the point. He want to not only show you the technique but will explain the why, what and how. He also does a lot of product reviews on a second channel. He is one of the few who doesn't forget about women of color and mature skin. Love, love, love him!

Pixiwoo. From the UK, the Pixiwoo sisters are professional makeup artists. One has a line of brushes. They have great tutorials for specific looks or people. They also have a tutorial series that takes every one and every type into account.

Other Beauty Vloggers

Tanya Burr
From the UK, Tanya started out as a makeup artist trained by the PixiWoo sisters. Now she does beauty videos and makeovers. She has a lovely personality and a great natural look. She explains techniques very well.

Makeup Geek
Marlena is not only a makeup artist, but she is making her own line of makeup. She has a large selection of shadows. She has a collection of videos explaining eye shapes and different eye shadow looks.

Fleur De Force
From the UK, Fleur has been making a lot of videos of hauls, products and clothing. She has a lovely personality and is a joy to watch.

Lisa Eldridge
From the UK, Lisa is a professional makeup artist with many years in the industry and has done makeup for magazine covers of every high end fashion magazine. She does work on herself or models. She has a wonderful set of videos on foundation; finding and using the best for you.

Sam Schuerman
I've just started watching Sam but there is something about her personality that has me hooked.

To me, Casie feels like the all american girl. Getting tips and tricks from her for makeup and dyeing hair.

Michelle Phan
Michelle seems to be one of the top youtube bloggers. Here videos have a very high production value.

Daily Mix TV
Each day a different video from this group of UK youtubers. It may be makeup, style or just entertainment. Some have their own individual channels.

From the UK, she has a lovely accent. She is beautiful and has a wonderful personality. She hasn't posted a lot of beauty videos lately but each video is entertaining.

Nikki Phillippi
Nikki has taking beauty videos to a new level, beauty from inside out. She has a great positive outlook on life. She sounds like a life coach in the making.

Tiffany D
Tiffany works with Sigma and always has a discount code at the bottom of her videos. She also receives MAC collections and will do reviews on them. She has great product reviews.

Tati is the runner up in Allure makeup blogger and a professional. She has great drugstore looks and product reviews. Her videos are very well produced and edited.

Becky mainly has vlogs but she is a joy to watch.

Alli does a variety of videos of makeup and nails.

Eleventh Gorgeous
Though I'm not that crazy about their signature opening line, I love the dialog between these two sisters. They have a lot of hauls and reviews.

Miss Glamorizzi
She takes beauty beyond skin deep. She has a lot of hauls and reviews.

Lets Make It Up
Great hair tutorials.

Melissa reminds me of Paula Dean except talking about makeup and beauty. She has a strong southern accent with a warm southern personality. Good videos on hauls and reviews.
Non Beauty Vloggers

Joey Graceffa
Joey is very entertaining and a joy to watch. He has a lot of funny voices that you hear throughout the videos. You may know him from The Amazing Race 2013.

TED Talks
Great ideas are shared here. Wonderful talks on just about anything.

Its Judy's Life
Judy has daily vloggs about her daughter and her husband.

Jim Champman
From the UK, Jim is brother to the pixiwoo sisters and engaged to Tanya. He also has a style video on the Daily Mix. He has a wonderful personality and is very entertaining to watch.

Who do you like to watch? Let me know because I'm always looking for new people.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Save Your Money, Buy a Dupe

I love buying makeup but I hate spending money, so I love dupes! Here is a great list of eye liners and eye shadow pallets by one of my favorite YouTubers, Emily. She's so entertaining. Bonus video, colab with Melissa.

Lipstick organizer

I saw this in a vlog by ShadesOfKassie. What a great organizer. I don't know if it fits more than Mac but I assume it will fit anything that's round. (If you can't see it, you're blocking ads.)

How to Start Over When Things Fall Apart

As always, filled with a ton of great information. I'm really loving Marie's advice.

Think Thin

Free eBook! I can't wait to read it. I've heard many good reviews.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ground turkey in a Cuban sofrito with Twisted Iced Tea

I made a dish for lunch and dinner tomorrow. I took a recipe for a Cuban sofrito and added ground turkey to it. I originally had the sofrito in a quesadilla and really enjoyed the flavor. Sofrito is saute green peppers and onions with garlic, cumin, oregano and white wine vinegar. It is the vinegar that really gives the flavor character. I added in ground turkey for a protein and grated carrot for more fiber, color and taste. The sofrito recipe is from The Fresh 20 for Feburary 1 in the Classic plan. I also had a Twisted Tea by Samuel Adams in Sun Tea flavor. It was good. I could taste the difference between a regular iced tea brew and the sun tea.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to get fuller lips

One of my favorite makeup artists on YouTube is Lisa Eldridge. She has been in the makeup industry for over 20 years and does magazine cover shoots for magazines like Vogue and Elle. She is a real expert. She's just posted a video about how to make your lips look bigger.

I love this because I have a much smaller bottom lip. I struggle with symmetry and lipstick transfer.

She starts with buffing a moisturizer on lips with a cotton swab. Using a rolling motion, she exfoliates and she pushes the moisture in. Dry lips flake and show lines.

Using L'Oreal - Infaillible Lip Liner - Always Toasted 708, she buffs in the color using circular motions. I think that this is key because it creates a softer line. It also helps to get the color into the skin and all over the lips in thin layers. Leaving a layer of pencil helps keep the lipstick last longer.

She also creates a red lip with similar techniques. She uses a matte lipstick to prevent seeing the lines from glossy reflections. She also suggests putting a thin layer of color on first to use as a guide. And using a lighter color as a brightener in the center of the lower lip to make it look fuller, instead of a gloss. (If you can't see it, you're blocking ads.)


Monday, January 7, 2013

Mom's Crab Dip

  • 2 8oz boxes of cream cheese
  • 2 6oz cans of crab meat
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 Tbsp minced onion
  • Pepper to taste
  • Bread crumbs for top

Mix everything in a bowl and spread on a shallow baking dish, like a quiche dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Japanese Beef Curry with Rice

This recipe goes back to the roots of Japanese curry; it's almost a rich beef stew. Beef symbolized the opening of the country to outside influences in Meiji Era Japan. Leftover curry freezes well, but take out the potatoes or they will turn into mush.
Japanese curry mixes are labeled with their level of spice. Amakuchi is quite sweet,chūkara is medium and karakuchi is hot. I usually use a chūkara mix and add some red chili powder at the end if I think it needs more heat.
Serves 12
Stewing beef such as chuck (neck/shoulder) cut into 1 cm pieces — 500 g
Vegetable oil — 2 Tbsp
Butter — 2 Tbsp
Large onions — 5, thinly sliced
Ginger — 1 large piece, finely chopped
Garlic — 3 cloves, finely chopped
Medium carrots — 3, sliced 5 cm thick
Medium potatoes — 4, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm pieces
Water — 1.5 liters plus ½ cup
Dried bay leaves — 2
Commercial curry mix — 240g (1 large packet or 2 small packets)
Red chili powder (optional)
Plain steamed rice
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat and add the beef. Sauté until well browned. Take the meat out and set aside. Add the rest of the oil and the butter to the pan; add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté over medium-low heat until the onion has lightly browned. Turn the heat up to high and add the carrots, potatoes and beef. Sauté briefly, then add 1.5 liters of water and the bay leaves. When the pot starts to boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
20 minutes in, remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon or spatula (this prevents the potatoes from disintegrating). Continue simmering the sauce until the meat is falling-apart tender, an hour or more.
Remove the pot from the heat. Add ½ cup of water to cool down the sauce, then add the curry mix, broken into small chunks. Stir until the mix has melted completely. Add the cooked potatoes back and reheat the sauce over a medium-low heat — do not let it boil. Add a little red chili powder to taste if needed.
Put some hot steamed rice on one half of a shallow bowl; pour the curry on the other half. Serve with fukujinzuke (a chopped vegetable pickle), rakkyo (pickled shallots), grated cheese or a raw or boiled egg.

Friday, January 4, 2013

White Chicken Chili

This is the award winning Chili recipe from my work's chili cook off. It won first place out of 10 other chili recipes. Myself and three other coworkers took two separate recipes, made them, changed them and combined them to come up with this.

Recipe has been doubled.

  • 3 lbs ground chicken
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • Cook ground chicken and onions together until onions are translucent and chicken is no longer pink.
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 finely minced jalapenos
  • Sauté with chicken and onions for about 3 minutes.
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t cumin
  • 2 t ancho chili powder
  • 2 t coriander
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Add spices and cook into meat about 5 minutes.
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 4-6 4 oz cans chopped green chilies
  • Add to meat, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes or so.
  • 1 1/2 - 3 cups chicken broth
  • Add chicken broth as needed to keep liquid enough to not burn.
  • 4-6 cans cannellini beans, drained
  • Process 1-2 cans of drained beans with blender (depending on how thick a consistency you like), and add all beans to chicken mixture in large dutch oven or crockpot.
  • Heat through, then reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.
  • Just before serving, mix in 8-16 oz greek yogurt or sour cream

Serve with lime, cilantro, grated cheese, fresh jalapenos, fritos, crackers, whatever sounds good.

I've also experimented with not blending the beans and/or not draining them. You can adjust the liquid and simmering length to reach the consistency you desire.