Hot Chocolate

ImageWhen the weather looks like this (my actual back yard) and people are throwing around terms like Polar Vortex nothing is more appealing than a little hot chocolate.  Now I can’t hate on Swiss Miss too hard, but, Parisians are the true masters of Le Chocolat Chaud.  Powder packets are a staple in American “rip and dump” cooking.  But you know what tastes better?  Actual melted chocolate.

Straight Up Hot Chocolate the European Way:Image

1 c. Milk

1/3 c. Chocolate Chips

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

Let me talk about the milk situation for a second.  People are really weird about milk.  I’m team skim milk and it’s honestly the only milk I’ve ever known.  Now I understand that sometimes for cooking skim is not ideal but I usually just use it anyway.  The milk isn’t really the star of this recipe, now is it?  Just use whatever milk you have and I’m sure everything will be fine.  I’m sure a heavier milk would make this taste better but it’s fine with skim milk.  When I want to get fancy I might do like 3/4 skim milk and 1/4 half and half or whatever.  I’m sure almond milk would also be pretty awesome here.

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Anyway the direction is pretty simple.  Just throw the milk in a little sauce pan (it’s better if it has a pseudo spout on the end for the sake of pouring) and put it on medium-lowish heat.  It shouldn’t boil.  Now I chose to get fancy and use two milks here but again the milk thing is really not a big deal.  Whisk that milk until it’s a little foamy looking.  Here’s an action shot.

Now turn the heat down a bit and slowly pour in the chocolate chips and brown sugar.  The brown sugar is critical, it makes the stuff taste like a cookie.  I caution the chip pouring because of the splash factor.  This hot chocolate is so good you won’t want to waste even a single drop.  When you pour in the chips stir it up until it’s all melted and the mixture is a really nice rich brown.  Now it isn’t going to look dark enough but as the chocolate melts the color deepens so just be a little patient before dumping in more chocolate (I’ve made this mistake).

And that’s it!  This is really strong so serve it in an espresso cup.  It’s not a lot of effort and usually the ingredients are on hand but it’s way more impressive than powder packet hot chocolate.  A little suggestion, if I may: skip the marshmallows.  This is super sweet and it doesn’t need anything add ins.  I know mini marshmallows would look adorable in this mini cup of hot chocolate, but it would just be a mistake.  You have to be strong and resist.

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MAC Addict

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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.

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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).

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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

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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)

Fjällräven Kånken Classic

After a few months of trying to decided whether or not I could pull off a backpack, I finally got my Fjällräven Kånken Classic. Kånken backpacks are made by Fjällräven, which is like the Swedish equivalent to The North Face.  Fjällräven literally translates to Arctic Fox.  They make outdoor activewear (jackets, pants, sweaters, hats, etc.) and a collection of rucksacks.  The Kånken first hit shelves in 1978 and the design hasn’t changed since.  The backpacks are available in a wide range of colors and various sizes.

I ordered my through J Crew (because of their convenient return options), but I’ve seen them on many other third-party reseller websites ranging in price from $45-75.  The most colors are available through the official site.  I selected the Ice Blue color because it reminded me of the Team Zissou uniforms.  It fits the perfect about of stuff.  It easily holds my 13″ MacBook Air so I think it would be great for travel.  There are side compartments that fit a standard plastic water bottle (16.9 oz); however, my 27 oz Classic Kleen Kanteen does not fit in the pocket.  The front pocket is great for keys, earbuds, sunglasses, phones, or other small go-to items.  Because the main compartment is a rectangle it is very easy to organize the contents.

Here are some pictures that provide a better look at the size of the Fjällräven Kånken Classic:

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Easy Chalk Board

Here’s the finished product.

Just because I’ve always wanted to, I made a chalk board the other day.  It’s a project that is easily completed in one day, the only part that’s time consuming is letting the chalk board paint dry.  You can purchase all the supplies for around $20-25 depending on whether or not you already have some basic painting supplies.  Mine came out looking a little rough, but I kind of wanted it to look like that.  I used a piece of cheap plywood, but any surface will do.  Here’s what I did:

Supplies: 

1. Plywood cut to 18″ x 24″ (If you go to Home Depot they will cut it for you for free!)

2. Chalk Board paint

3. Foam paint brushes

4. Paint stirring stick (you can get them free in the paint department of any hardware store)

5. Paint can opener (I had one in my house, they are probably inexpensive)

6. Painter’s tape

7. No. 2 pencil.

Process:

I started by covering my workspace with newspaper for easy clean up.  A drop cloth works, too.  I used my paint stirring stick to draw a border as a guide to ensure a straight line with the painter’s tape.  I lined the tape up with the marks I had made then covered the border and edge with tape.  The paint can recommended a coat of primer, but I skipped that because I didn’t want my chalk board to look fancy or perfect.  I used foam brushes but would recommend a roller so the paint dries more smoothly.  I applied three coats of paint, letting the board dry for four hours between coats.  Overall I think it looks pretty good!

Here are some pictures:

I used Frog Tape, a No. 2 pencil, foam brushes, chalk board paint, a paint stick and can opener to turn a piece of plywood into a chalk board.

You can see the resulting grooves from the foam brush. Try using a roller or sanding and priming the wood for better results. I like the character.