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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Steps

  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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Steps

  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.

Look

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

Smell

It smells great. Very fruity.

Taste

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.

Parenting

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.

Look

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.

Smell

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.

Taste

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.

Look

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

Smell

It smells sweet, not bad.

Taste

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