Friday, February 27, 2015

all curled up

wheph!  the past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind.  the show that we have been working on opens tonight, and we are so excited to be finished with it after this weekend is over.  we don't get a break though, because work on the next show starts right after this one closes.  i try to keep telling myself . . . just a few more months until "show season" is over.  after this weekend, we'll have one show down and two more to go.  we love working on the shows, but we sure are looking forward to being able to relax . . . sometime.

all of these late night and weekend rehearsals haven't left us much time to be home with leko,  so we try our best to squeeze in as much quality time as we can whenever we are home, even if it is only for a few minutes to inhale dinner between work and rehearsal.  this past weekend i found leko curled up in a perfect circle taking an afternoon cat nap on one of his favorite cozy fleece blankets.  he's so cute, i just couldn't resist snapping a picture.  i texted the picture to ryan since he was at rehearsal and he really enjoyed it.  that kitten of ours sure knows how to make us smile!

we're looking forward to seeing our parents this weekend when they come up to see the show tomorrow.  we will have a few hours of "free time" on sunday night before the next show starts, so we are really looking forward to being able to sleep and curl up with that kitten of ours!

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 26, 2015

my top 5 winter skin care must-have products (for under $5)

we have been experiencing record low temperatures in the northeast over the past few weeks.  the deep cold winter weather sure takes a toll on my sensitive and fair skin.  it seems like every year my lips chap and the skin on my hands cracks no matter how much a bundle up.  during these cold months, there are a few must-have products that i swear by for combating chapping and cracking, and for healing my skin.  here are some of my favorite skin care products during the winter months:

1. kiss my face pure olive oil bar soap - my mom first introduced me to this olive oil bar soap when i was just a kid.  i have used it as a face soap for my whole life.  i wash my face with this soap twice each day, once in the morning and once at night.   i totally credit this soap for keeping my face clean and clear from breakouts for years.  when i met ryan in college, he had a lot of acne breakouts.  i convinced him to try this soap and he has been using it ever since.  it drastically reduced the amount of breakouts on his face.  ryan's mom even uses this soap now too.

2. suave smoothing body lotion with cocoa butter and shea - we first learned about this lotion on a trip to north carolina to visit ryan's brother a few years ago.  ryan's brother was using it and we gave it a try.  we instantly feel i love with it, and as soon as we came home we bought a bottle of our own.  we have been using it daily ever since.  i am typically not a fan of lotions because i don't like lotions that leave me feeling greasy.  this lotion doesn't leave a greasy or oily residue at all.  it drys wonderfully while still keeping skin hydrated and moisturized.  both ryan and i put it on our hands religiously every night before bed.  bonus: it smells great too!

3. olay age defying body wash - i am a big fan of olay products, so i was excited when olay came out with a line of body wash with olay moisturizer in it.  this is by far, hands down, my very favorite body wash.  i am in love with it and it has done wonders for my skin.  (by the way, there are always coupons available for this olay body wash online.  i have never paid full price for this soap at target because there is always a coupon available!)

4. burt's bees beeswax lip balm - i'm not someone who likes to wear chap stick or lipstick, but i do love this lip balm.  ryan has been using it for years, and he got me into it.  it is so soothing and has a great peppermint tingle too.

5. neosporin original ointment - whenever i got a cut or a scrape as a kid, my dad would always whip out a tube of neosporin.  it is a miracle product for healing cuts and wounds fast.  when my hands get really bad in the winter and when lotion just won't do the trick anymore, i turn to the neosporin.  i usually put it on my chapped hands right before bed and cover my hands in a pair of old socks.  it looks silly, but it works like a charm!

. . .

all of these products can be found at your local target, drugstore, or online for $5 or less!  keep your eyes open for coupons too.  whenever we restock these products in our house, we almost always use coupons that we find online.

i'm curious . . . what are some of your favorite skin care products?  for years my parents have absolutely sworn by a+d original ointment for healing cracked skin, not just in the winter, but year round.  what are your must-haves?

stay warm!
love, laurie

. . . 

*please note: this is not a sponsored post.  the content is based solely on my own personal opinion.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chip cookies

i needed to make a quick dessert to take into work this week for a co-worker's birthday.  (it seems like it's always someone's birthday in our office!)  i knew that i had oats, dried cranberries, and white chocolate chips in the pantry, so i decided to make a batch of cookies with those ingredients since i had them on hand.  the result was a delicious cookie with great flavor.  it was a huge hit with my co-workers too!

oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chip cookies
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 12-14 minutes
yields: 18 cookies
adapted from cooking classy

6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).  beat in the egg.  add the vanilla and mix well.  in a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  add the flour mixture to the butter, along with the oats.  mix until incorporated.  fold in the cranberries and white chocolate chips.  roll the dough into balls, about 2 tablespoons each, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  use a flat-bottomed glass to gently press the cookie dough balls into disks.  bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly golden.  once baked, allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

love, laurie

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a much needed haircut!

it's been over five months since the last time i got my hair cut and it was in need of some tlc.  so, yesterday i got my hair trimmed a bit.  since i tend to only get my hair cut about twice per year, i opted to get it a little bit shorter.  it's a nice change and it feels so light and healthy again!

happy tuesday!
love, laurie

Monday, February 23, 2015

no-bake cranberry pistachio chocolate ginger granola bars

i'm absolutely in love with making homemade granola and granola bars.  don't get me wrong, store-bought granola is great and all, but there's nothing quite like making your own and knowing exactly what's in it.

over the weekend i made these no-bake granola bars.  they have such a wonderful depth of flavor thanks to everything that's packed in them: cinnamon, peanut butter, oats, pistachios, cranberries, chocolate, and ginger.  i opened up my kitchen cabinets and threw into these granola bars whatever i could find.  all of those ingredients are held together by dates.  dates are truly amazing.  they are like a natural sweetener (no need for sugar or honey in this recipe) and they act like glue to hold all of the ingredients together.

these granola bars taste amazing and they come together in no time at all.  you don't even need to turn on your oven to bake them.

they are packed with power ingredients, they are hearty, they are wholesome, and they are naturally sweetened.  they're vegan and gluten free too!

they make a great on-the-go snack.  healthy and easy!

no-bake cranberry pistachio chocolate ginger granola bars
total time: 10 minutes
yields: 8 granola bars

12 medjool dates, pitted
2-3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips, chopped
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

in a food processor, puree the dates.  add the water gradually as the food processor purees the dates until a moist paste forms.  blend in the cinnamon and peanut butter.  transfer the paste to a large bowl and add the salt, oats, pistachios, cranberries, chocolate, and ginger.  stir well until everything is evenly incorporated.  line a 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.  spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish.  press the mixture down firmly with your hands.  cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars with a sharp knife.  store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

love, laurie

Friday, February 20, 2015

this cold weather is no joke!

we are in a deep, deep freeze here in the northeastern part of the country.  yesterday, our local meteorologist said that temperatures are currently warmer in alaska than they are here in pennsylvania!  there is something very wrong with that.

this weather seems to make everyone so angry, and i can't blame them.  it is brutally cold and it is so depressing.  the cold temperatures really aren't funny at all, but my dad called me this morning with a few cold weather-related jokes, including this winner: "how cold is it?  it's so cold that i saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets."

it doesn't look like this cold spell is going to break any time soon.  it's predicted to last for at least the next week . . . gross.  in the meantime, i'll be dreaming of tropical places like hawaii and trying my best to keep myself warm.

have a great weekend, and stay warm!
love, laurie

Thursday, February 19, 2015

almond poppy seed pancakes

we are always looking for new breakfast ideas for weekend mornings.  we made these almond poppy seed pancakes for breakfast on sunday morning this past weekend, and they were so wonderful.  the almond extract gives these pancakes an awesome flavor, and the poppy seeds give them a great texture.  we garnished the pancakes with toasted sliced almonds and a sprinkle of some additional poppy seeds.  we served them hot off the griddle with warm maple syrup.  such a delicious way to start a sunday!

almond poppy seed pancakes
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 6-7 minutes
yields: 2 servings
adapted from cooking classy

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and poppy seeds.  in a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk just until combined.

heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  cook for 4 minutes, until small bubbles begin to form.  flip the pancakes when they start to bubble, then cook for 3-4 minutes, until they are golden brown and cooked throughout.  once cooked, transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree F oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining pancake batter.  serve warm with toasted sliced almonds and warm maple syrup.

love, laurie

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

mini cherry cupcakes with chocolate cherry frosting

i wanted to make a dessert to take into work for valentine's day last week, so i decided to make mini cupcakes.  mini cupcakes are perfect for the office since they are practically bite sized.  plus, everything is just so much cuter in miniature format!

since it was valentine's day, i opted for a cupcake with a pink hue.  after debating what to make, i decided on mini cherry cupcakes with chocolate cherry frosting.

these cupcakes were a huge hit at the office.  one of my co-workers said: "wow, these little cupcakes sure pack a big punch of flavor!"  she was right.  the cupcake itself has a wonderful flavor thanks to chopped maraschino cherries and the juice from the maraschino cherries.  (the cherries not only give these cupcakes a great flavor, but a great pink color too!)  dark chocolate is a great compliment to cherries, so i topped these cupcakes with chocolate frosting that had a splash of maraschino cherry juice in it.  talk about a great combination!

for decoration, i added a few white nonpareils on top of the frosting.  the bright white nonpareils were so pretty against the dark color of the chocolate frosting.

these cupcakes were so good, and they didn't last long.  at one point throughout the day, i saw one of my co-workers break off the bottom of one of the cupcakes and place it on top of the frosting to make a cupcake sandwich.  i couldn't help but laugh.

no matter how you eat your cupcakes (regular or sandwich style), these cupcakes are delicioius!

mini cherry cupcakes with chocolate cherry frosting
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 20 minutes
yields: 24 mini cupcakes and 2 regular cupcakes

cupcake ingredients:
10 maraschino cherries
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maraschino cherry liquid
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg white

frosting ingredients:
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3-4 tablespoons maraschino cherry liquid

to make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line two mini muffin pans with 24 mini cupcake liners.  set aside.  finely chop approximately 10 maraschino cherries.  place the chopped cherries on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer until creamed together.  in a glass measuring cup, stir together the cherry liquid, milk, and almond extract.  in a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.

beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the batter.  beat well after each addition.  in a separate bowl, beat the egg white with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  gently fold the beaten egg white into the batter.  fold in the chopped and drained cherries.  evenly divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.  (note: this recipe makes enough batter for 24 mini cupcakes and 2 regular cupcakes.)  bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.    allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

to make the frosting, beat the softened butter with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar along with the cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of the maraschino cherry liquid.  beat well to combine.  continue to add additional powdered sugar and maraschino cherry liquid as needed to reach desired frosting consistency.

love, laurie

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

happy mardi gras!

happy mardi gras / happy fat tuesday / happy fasnacht day!  no matter what you call it, it's a great excuse to eat a doughnut today!

here are some of my favorite homemade doughnut recipes:
- baked mocha cake doughnuts with coffee cream cheese glaze
- baked strawberry cake doughnuts with strawberry glaze
baked pumpkin doughnuts with brown butter and apple cider glaze topped with pecans
- baked apple cider doughnuts

have a great day!
love, laurie

Monday, February 16, 2015

valentine's day 2015

we were excited that valentine's day fell on a saturday this year, and that neither of us had to go to work.  the forecast was threatening several inches of snow, so we opted to keep things simple.  we ran a few errands in the morning and did some grocery shopping before the snow started (very romantic, i know) and then we headed back home to have a quiet valentine's day at home.  we spent the day together, enjoying each other's company, cooking dinner together, and watching a movie.  it was so nice, especially since we have been so busy lately.

^we decided not to exchange gifts, so i was surprised to see that ryan came home with two pink roses on friday night after work.  it turns out he got them for free from an event that was happening at work.  nothing better than free roses!  they were so pretty and have been so nice to look at, especially considering all we have had to look at lately has been snow.^

^i made a batch of mini cherry cupcakes with chocolate cherry frosting to take into work on friday.  they were so good and our co-workers absolutely loved them.  i took a few of the leftover cupcakes to ballet class on saturday morning and they didn't last long at all.  the girls attacked them like little ballerina vultures!  good thing i saved a few at home for us!^

^we were surprised when we checked the mail and found a card address to leko in our mailbox!  ryan's aunt sandy sent leko a valentine card along with a picture of her kitty (named miss kitty)!  we showed leko the card and the picture and he thoroughly sniffed it and checked it out.  it was the cutest thing ever!^

^for dinner on saturday night we made garlic basil pasta tossed with shrimp and vegetables.  it was so good.  we finished off the night my cuddling on the couch with leko to watch this movie while eating the last of the leftover cupcakes.^

hope everyone had a lovely valentine's day!
love, laurie