October Shopping List

Some of my finds for this month:

October Shopping List

Public Goods Gift Set, Emerald Top, Black Booties, Cognac Mules, Black Turtleneck, Essie Nail Polish, Amber Glass Bottles, Black Serving Utensils, Bird Tray, Hello Notecards, Cognac Leather Wallet, Black Lantern, Wooden Cutting Board, Candle, Graphic Pillow Cover, Natural Blanket, Notebook, Reusable Bag

In my closet, I’ve added a few rich seasonal colors in classic pieces.  My clothing is heavily informed by timeless classics.  I usually dress in neutrals, but buy a piece or two for the season, like this emerald top from H&M.  For fall, I think a classic black ankle boot works with everything.  I am living in these mules from Madewell, because they are easy to kick on and dress up or down.  I’m obsessed with the leather wallet from Sézane, I love the color and simple design.
Our apartment is pretty minimal and modern, but I like warming it up for the season with natural elements like the wooden cutting board and the natural throw blanket.  I also like black accents to catch the eye, like these black serving utensils and the black lantern.  The lantern reminds me of the ones I saw outside restaurants in Stockholm at night.  I think simple things like changing out toss pillows and small accents make the apartment feel seasonal, but don’t hit you over the head with it.

I decant our soap into these amber glass bottles, I love eliminating branded packaging whenever possible. I am curious to try Public Goods, an online company that offers personal care and home products in minimalist packaging.  The products are clean (environmentally friendly and non-toxic).  With a subscription to Public Goods the products are very affordable.  It’s a brand I’m curious to try.

Cooking from Magnolia Table

fullsizeoutput_3bb9.jpeg

On a recent trip to the library, I spotted Magnolia Table: a collection of recipes for gathering on the best-seller shelf.  The cookbook is a recent project from Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper.  I love to unwind by watching a few episodes, and I am always amazed by how Joanna and her husband, Chip, spin old shacks into gold in Waco, Texas.  The couple has expanded their brand, Magnolia, beyond flipping houses.  Besides all their business ventures, they have published a few books, including Magnolia Table.

After flipping through the pages, I found that most of the food in this book is opposite to what I cook day to day.  Jo’s recipes are her takes on classic southern food. I tend to cook meals that are lighter and more vegetable-forward.  She advocates for shortcuts, like opting for store-bought pie crust and chicken stock.  The raspberry-chipotle pork tenderloin recipe simply calls for marinating the pork in Fischer & Weiser’s Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.  I was a little disappointed, hoping to find a recipe for an original sauce.

The handful of recipes that connect to Jo’s heritage surprised me the most.  She shares just a few recipes passed down from her family, and those are the ones I wanted to cook.  In her recipe for Syrian donuts, she included a photo of the original version, typed up by her grandfather before he passed away, which I thought was so sweet. 

  There were two recipes that I wanted to cook. The first recipe in the book is for buttermilk biscuits, something I happen to make regularly.  She wrote that she tweaked her biscuit recipe every Sunday until they were just right.  Her pride in this recipe made me eager to make the biscuits myself.  I also decided I’d try out her mother’s bulgogi, a type of Korean barbecue. She said that while growing up, her mom mostly cooked American food but learned traditional Korean dishes later in life. Bulgogi is something I wouldn’t have made if I saw the recipe on a website, but the story of her mom learning to cook from her Korean friends compelled me to try it.  

The bulgogi was easier to prepare than I thought.  The recipe calls for slicing, marinating, and grilling beef.  It is served on a bed of rice with a cucumber-kimchi salad on the side.  I decided to make a few adjustments to be practical.  Because I’m just cooking for two, I made about a third of what the recipe called for (it calls for 4-5 pounds of beef tenderloin). I also used a cheaper cut of meat.  The kimchi salad calls for gochugaru, a Korean chili flake (I had to google that).  While I probably could have picked some up from a Korean market (there are a few in Pittsburgh), I decided just to use regular chili flakes I had on hand.

The marinade was simple to put together, and I already had all the ingredients in the house (soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, green onions… all pretty basic).  The recipe called for three cups of sugar, and I felt a little guilty putting so much in.  When it came time to cook up the beef slices, I used a cast-iron skillet because we don’t have a grill. This worked out really well except for my first few slices, which burned because the heat was too high and all the sugar caramelized too quickly.  The flavor was excellent – sweet and salty and earthy.  The spicy and crunchy cucumber-kimchi salad paired well with the rich beef slices.  It also reheats very well and would be great for batch-cooking or meal prep.

fullsizeoutput_3bb8
The biscuits, on the other hand, were not as successful as the bulgogi.  I followed the recipe to the letter, but my first batch fell flat.  They lacked the fluffy texture I expect in a biscuit.  She calls for a lot of butter and buttermilk, which I think added too much liquid to the dough. She brushes them with both egg and buttermilk, which made the biscuits taste too eggy and left a sickly yellow film on top. 

I made a second batch, omitting the egg wash and using the cubed butter method instead of the grated butter method.  I also used about 20 percent less buttermilk than the original recipe calls for.  Joanna’s dough contains an egg, giving the final product a more cake-like crumb than I want from a biscuit.  The second batch did come out better, but even after a few adjustments, I’ve made way better biscuits (specifically using the recipe from Dining In, Alison Roman’s cookbook).  I prefer a lighter, saltier biscuit with a better rise, something that looks more like a snowball than a hockey puck in shape.

 

I’m not the right audience for this cookbook.   Magnolia Table delivers crowd-pleasing dishes that make more sense for a big family than someone like me, who only ever prepares weeknight dinners for two.  While I like to have leftovers, I had to cut both the recipes I tried in half or more (most of them serve 6-8 people, and some serve more like 12-14).  It is, after all, a collection of recipes for gathering and not a collection of recipes for an urban couple. While the food didn’t click with me, I did enjoy reading about her history and how cooking has connected the generations of her family.  

fullsizeoutput_3bba

September Shopping List

 

September Edition Shopping List

Duvet Cover, Clarifying Shampoo, Backpack for 15″ laptop, Salt Box, Woodblock Print, Net Bag, Utility Jacket

I’m looking at this duvet cover from Schoolhouse – a home design store that will be opening in Pittsburgh this fall.  I like keeping my bedroom really simple and neutral because I think it helps me sleep.

Woodblock prints like this one from Blockshop Textiles have been catching my eye lately.  The prints are simple designs with great composition.  Blockshop Textiles also sells graphic scarves, rugs, pillows, and table linens.  I really like the Hans Napkin, too. 

Utility jackets like this one from Everlane have been a staple of my wardrobe since high school.  I count on my jacket to have a lot of pockets because my pants usually don’t have any. Structure gives this casual jacket a more formal look.

I have been wearing Fjallraven backpacks for years but am looking for one to fit my 15″ laptop.  I’ve also been carrying these simple net bags, which work great for grocery shopping.  I always travel with one stashed away  so I never have to use a plastic bag.

This clarifying shampoo really helps my hair feel extremely clean, clearing up any built-up product.  It’s something I really only need to use once a week.  I like this one from Sachajuan because it barely has any scent (maybe just a hint of rosemary?).  Neutrogena makes a very inexpensive and effective clarifying shampoo, but I couldn’t stand the smell.

 

 

Herbivore Botanicals Mask Review

Herbivore’s Pink Clay Hyaluronic Acid Mega Moisture Creme Mask ($48)

 

IMG_0659

 

IMG_0657I bought this mask last September from Sephora and only really used it twice. This is totally out of my own laziness and not a reflection of the quality of the mask at all. I bought this for two reasons: I wanted a hydrating product for winter and the gorgeous packaging (is that bad? I’m just being honest). Initially I was VERY turned off by the separation of the product. I even considered returning it when I saw yellowy goops of oil bubbling between gobs of pink gooey clay. Also, I think the product leaked and the box had an oil stain on it. But that stuff is just a mark of a genuine small-batch, independent beauty company. Speaking of small batch, I don’t think this product is available anymore. That doesn’t mean a true Internet-sleuth couldn’t dig up a jar, it just means Sephora isn’t selling it.

I admire Herbivore Botanicals for their commitment to using high quality ingredients when formulating products. They make a variety of face oils. The most popular on Sephora.com is the Blue Lapis variety, but they have specialized oils for cell rejuvenation, youth preservation, and hydrating glow oil. A short aside on the topic of face oil: I’m a firm believer in face oil, I love layering the stuff all over my face before I go to bed and waking up to baby-soft skin and how smoothly my make up goes after applying it. Oils have become an essential step in my skin care routine. Anyway besides oil they sell facemasks, soaps, lip moisturizer, mists for literally everything, and bath salts.

On to the mask I bought. I am somewhat of a mask-hoarder. I love trying different skin care products and my biggest weakness is a great mask. It’s so fun to see your face transform after slathering on a mask. I like brightening with minty green algae masks and pore vacuuming with charcoal. Masks also deliver amazing results that are both instant and lasting. I am all about a great mask.   Herbivore’s Pink Clay Hyaluronic Acid Mega Moisture Creme Mask, which I promise I will never write out again for the rest of this review, is hydrating without leaving my skin feeling oily. That’s my key takeaway. I like that my skin feels soft and smooth and clean but not, well, too oily. My skin just feels clean and hydrated and nice. Applying the mask is a little messy. I wouldn’t do it without the provided spatula and although some things I’ve read online call it “pre-mixed” I absolutely recommend thoroughly mixing it before use. I let the mask sit for about 20 minutes and it does not ever dry out like other clay masks (probably because of the oils in it) so don’t wait for the mask to dry into a hard layer. I just splashed it off with warm water and then pat my skin with a towel to dry.

Is this the absolutely greatest mask I have ever used? Probably not. It’s better than average and because I admire Herbivore Botanicals I will buy their products again. I mainly bought this mask to support a good company and try out their line. I really want to try out their charcoal products, texturizing hair spray, and lip products.

 

And just for fun and a good laugh, here is my Snap Story quick take of the mask.

Useful Links:

Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore at Sephora

 

Spring Beauty Favorites

I’ve been looking ahead to spring and rocking a no make up, natural look.  Here are my go-to products to achieve a fresh looking spring face.

MAC Addict

IMG_9939

A few days ago I splurged a little bit at the MAC store.  Instead of keeping the joys of my custom eye shadow palette or obsession with Fix+ to myself I decided to write about it.  During my visit I picked up a custom eyeshade palette, the MAC 217 brush, Brow Set, Fix+, Cremesheen Glass, and a bottle of Snob.  I’m going to talk about the eye shadow and Fix+ spray.

IMG_9940

Making a custom eye shadow palette was an impulse decision.  I’m a big fan of the Naked 2 (and who isn’t?) but I wanted something small for on the go.  My heart was set on picking up one of the Yves Saint Laurent quads.  The beautiful packaging and shimmery pigments compelled me on Sephora.com, but in person I found the sets lackluster.   At MAC I realized a better move was creating my own palette with four perfect colors.  The artists helped me pick a good combo that was pretty close to the colors I use most in the Naked 2 palette (Bootycall, Tease, Half-Baked, and Suspect). The colors here are Naked Lunch, Haux, Wood Winked, and Mulch.

The way that MAC custom palettes work makes so much sense to me as a consumer.  The palette itself is made to last.  The eye shadow pans are magnetized and can easily be changed.  So if I run of out of one color I easily can buy a new pan and replace it instead of having to wait until all the colors are used up.  Another perk—if I get sick of a color I can just change it out.  The palette costs $9 and each eye shadow pan is $12.  Individually packaged eye shadows (not pans but full containers) cost $15 for the same amount of product.  To complete my on the go kit I also grabbed the 217 brush because it can be the only brush I need for basic eye.

I love shopping at the MAC store because I learn something new every visit.  I picked up a great tip about wetting a synthetic eye shadow brush with Fix+ and using it to get a much bolder eye color.  Fix+ is basically a miracle product.  I was reluctant to buy it because it seems like a $21 bottle of water, but honestly it’s so much more.  It can be sprayed on the naked face as a skin refresher, used to set color, and in the words of Beyoncé, “it makes your skin look like skin again” after putting on make up.  (You know that icky look of foundation on skin?  When you can totally tell someone is wearing make up because of that weird, unnatural texture?  Yeah, Fix+ takes care of that).  I love everything about Fix+ its light, clean scent and it’s incredible result.

Here is a swatch of Urban Decay’s Chopper applied with the Fix+ trick and without.  I’m pretty impressed with the result—perfect for some bolder going out type make up.  With Fix+ on the brush the color goes on more like paint.  Something I really like about this is that no flecks of color stray off the eyelid (does anyone else have this problem?  I always get shadow on the side of my nose).

IMG_9951

Decorating

ImageMy taste in interior design is clean, comfortable, warm, and modern.  I threw together some pieces for my ideal space for hanging out.

I think the most important thing is a great couch you could spend a whole day lounging on.  Since the couch is somewhere you could study, sleep, watch TV, or relax with friends, you end up spending a lot of time there.  Invest in an awesome couch.  Next, furnish that couch with some warm blankets and pillows.  I love this wool one from IKEA, I have it in my bedroom and it is super warm.  Because I’m a nerd, I’m obsessed with this ‘Ctrl, Alt, Del’ pillows.  They also have a Command, Option, Control version for Apple fanboys and girls, but I like the look of these better.

Coffee tables are likewise critical.  I love having a place to put things like beverages, magazines, various TV remotes or controllers, etc.  I also really like this nice tray which I would put fancy puzzle toys on, just for fun.  Also critical?  Lamps.  Improper lighting can be very frustrating.

This step ladder book case is pretty great, too.  I  would furnish it in a way that personalizes the room, like with large comic book anthologies stacked horizontally on the bottom shelves, an iPod dock somewhere in the middle, and framed photos toward the top.  Simple but functional.

Now, my favorite.  The beautiful bar cabinet.  Nothing says awesome like a stocked bar cabinet.  Not to mention this one is a transformer, it unfolds to maximize functionality and space.  The top becomes like a counter so you could even serve from it.  Obviously this is a pretty decadent luxury item that I cannot afford, but it is just so Batman.

Also needed for this room but not pictured:  a great TV cabinet with lots of places to hold gaming systems, media players, video games, DVDs, etc.  I think media items are best kept out of sight.  Clutter is distracting and triggers anxiety.

When decorating I like mixing high and low in a way that looks really seamless.  Like I said before, it’s important to spend money on important things like the couch or other items where functionality is critical.  When it comes to picture frames, pillows, and other accessories that’s where I try and save money.  The bar cabinet is a splurge, but c’mon, it’s pretty sweet.

If you like what you see definitely check out my Pinterest!! Most of it is decor inspiration.

Review: Marvis Toothpaste

IMG_9903

When I first heard of Marvis toothpaste I was pretty intrigued.  This stuff costs somewhere North of $10 a tube and it’s just toothpaste,  what could possibly make a toothpaste so expensive?  The packaging is beautiful and hip, the flavors are unique, and it’s Italian.  I can’t remember the first time I heard of the decadent dental product.  It might have been from watching Queer Eye re-runs on Netflix.  It might have been a blog somewhere.  Doesn’t matter.  But this stuff is like a unicorn, you can’t find it ANYWHERE. Like everything else I do, I researched.  The stuff comes in seven flavors: Cinnamint, Aquatic Mint, Ginger Mint, Jasmin Mint, Classic Mint, Whitening Mint, and Amarelli Licorice. Marvis Toothpaste has been around for over 50 years and was originally intended to clean the teeth of smokers.  The packaging is so beautiful and is reminiscent of a time when things were made better, when quality was king. Reviews I read claimed that the toothpaste leaves the mouth feeling clean all day, has a great flavor, and does all the other great stuff toothpaste does, only it does them better.  The review that really sold me said, “This it the greatest toothpaste ever. It is like you just went to to the mouth store and purchased a new mouth.” I finally bit the bullet and ordered a tube, playing it safe with Classic Strong Mint (off Amazon, of all places), but you can get it from C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries online.

The toothpaste arrived quickly, because for some reason I still have an Amazon Prime membership.  It was time for the maiden voyage.  My first impression was that I liked the texture, it seemed to have a lot of body to it.  I must say, I think it’s incredibly commendable that Marvis took something mundane and made it pretty extraordinary and luxurious.  The mint flavor was sweet and rich and strong but not overpowering. It lathered up quickly and easily.  My teeth felt very clean and smooth and my whole mouth was refreshed.  Damn.  It was awesome.

I don’t know if I’ll make the permanent switch to Marvis because it’s so expensive, but I do want to try each flavor.  This stuff is seriously awesome, but no amount of awesomeness could justify spending over $10 on a 4oz tube of toothpaste.

Perfect Polishes

My latest obsession has been nail polish and my collection has doubled this past month.  The best brands in my opinion are OPI, Chanel, and Butter.  Chanel has the most beautiful colors but at $26 a bottle it’s a little pricy.  OPI nail polish is such a quality product I can’t say enough about it.  I love the way OPI colors look on the nails, the clever names, the polish consistency, everything.  I only recently discovered Butter’s products but I’m already in love with the polish.  Butter also makes a really great nail polish remover.  More on that later.  Here are some of my current favorite colors.

OPI launched their Germany collection and I want every single one.  My favorite is Don’t Pretzel My Buttons, which I think is the perfect nude.  Nude polish is a on trend right now and for me it’s a staple.  I think it’s great for a clean, no frills look.  I never really wore metallics before but now I love them.  Metallic colors are very forgiving if you make a mistake while polishing.  Some people complain about removing glittery polish, but I haven’t really had a problem with it.  Check out my gallery for more favorites.

 

Bialetti Moka Pot

Recently I purchased an Italian coffee pot and it makes a truly great product.  I love coffee and espresso but not enough to spend thousands of dollars on a legit espresso machine, but my Bialetti Moka Pot works just fine.  From what I’ve heard, the more the pot is used, the better the coffee tastes.  The Internet is full of stories about people pulling these out of their grandma’s attic and using them for years.  They are relatively inexpensive ranging from about $20 upwards depending on retailer and capacity (note that the capacity is measured expresso cups, approximately 2 oz, not 8 0z of liquid).  The coffee is not a true espresso but it is very strong and richer in taste than drip coffee.  I hear the coffee produced makes a great cappuccino or latte but I only like black coffee.  These little pots are pretty intuitive but don’t actually come with instructions.  After scouring YouTube tutorials, articles, and forums, lots of trial and error, and a moderate dose of patience, I think I’ve come up with a good method.

Here’s what to do:

  • Warm up a burner to medium heat
  • Boil water
  • Once water is boiled and the burner is warm, add hot water to the bottom chamber of the moka pot, fill just below the steam valve
  • Place in coffee holder and fill with coffee (I used Illy), then screw on top.  Make sure to hold the bottom with a pot holder (it’s hot)
  • Set the pot directly on the stove until coffee erupts and fills the pot (listen for a gurgling noise), remove from heat when top is full
  • Place hot pot on a trivet
  • Serve coffee with a small cookie and enjoy.

Bialetti Moka Pot Sur La Table (34.95), Illy Coffee Sur La Table (15.95), Plate CB2 (1.95), Espresso Cup and Saucer Crate and Barrel (3.95), Espresso Spoon Crate and Barrel (2.50)

%d bloggers like this: