01 December 2010

Clinique Superbalm Lip Treatment

This stuff sucks.

I don't think I've ever been quite so disappointed in a product.  Ever.  If you're just dying to spend 12 bucks on something that sits on your lips and feels greasy, just go buy 6 tubs of Vaseline.  It'll last a lot longer, and I'm betting it'll work better.  If you're wanting something, though, that lives up to the promise that Clinique makes about their lip treatment, ("Deeply hydrating balm that helps to repair distressed lips and replenishes moisture loss.") then skip the Clinique counter and head over to Philosophy for their Hope in a Tube Eye & Lip Cream.  As an added bonus, it fights wrinkles, too.

REN Skincare

I've been using these products for quite a few months now, and I was reserving judgment until I was certain, one way or another, how I felt about them.  Now, I can comfortably say that I love them.  I have "problem skin," and though I'm reluctant to admit that my skin is high-maintenance, I don't know why I should be surprised.  I mean, everything about me is high-maintenance, right?

The products are made using organic, natural ingredients and fewer chemicals.  There are no sulfates, no fragrances, no parabens, dyes, or animal byproducts.  Every ingredient is plant-derived.  Also, the company is green and they not only recycle, but they also donate a portion of the proceeds to promote a healthier environment.

So, yeah, the products are touchy-feely, and you get sorta' warm and fuzzy when you think about all the good you're doing by buying them.  That's nice, right, but do they work?  YES.

My favorite product is my cleanser:  Mayblossom Balancing Cleanser Gel.  I use it along with my Clarisonic, and I love that after I wash my face, my skin feels completely clean, but not at all dry or tight.

I'm also a big fan of the F10 Enzymatic Smooth Radiance Facial Mask.  It promises to exfoliate and detoxify, and leave your complexion smoother...and guess what?  It does.  The mask also contains Vitamin C, which is super good for your skin because it apparently combats free radicals (I don't even know what those are, but they just sound dangerous).

I've used so many skincare lines through the years, and the one thing that they all seem to have in common is inconsistency.  Maybe one will work for a few days, or even a whole month or so, but inevitably, I begin to have the same problems I've always had:  enlarged pores, sporadic break-outs, and dry spots around eyes and below my nose.  I haven't had a break-out in months, and I'm definitely starting to notice a real difference in my pores.  My laugh lines and crow's feet are diminishing, too.  I think the key, though, is the combo of REN's products with the Clarisonic.  REN works alright by itself, but alone, the results are nothing like what they are when I use them with the Clarisonic.

There are several other products that I'm dying to try, so I'll report back when I do.

I'm declaring blog bankruptcy.

Sorry, for those of you who were waiting patiently on me to update you on the remainder of my trip to Alabama.  I got sidetracked by work and about 100 other things, so now it's clear that it's simply not going to happen.  Most of the people who read this blog were there anyway, so y'all all know what happened.

Moving on...


Lucky me, I spent Thanksgiving with The Lambs, one of my favorite families. Mark is a police officer at Salt River, and Janel does my hair. Janel and I always talk cooking while my color is...coloring, or whatever, so I was really excited to have Thanksgiving at her house! She is Superwoman:  five kids, and she somehow finds the time to sew adorable aprons (like the one I used at home during Christmas last year) and lots of other cuteness, make gourmet popcorn, work at her dad's business, do hair, and make GORGEOUS cakes, plus tons of other stuff that I'm sure I'm leaving out.

I didn't think people decorated with plates anywhere except the South.  Imagine how happy I was to see Janel's Thanksgiving tablescape and the matching plates!

Janel made the table runner...out of BURLAP and CORN HUSKS.
Told y'all she was talented.
Needless to say, we had a blast! I arrived in time to watch some of the last of the cooking, and then we had lunch. Afterwards, Janel and I messed around with Mark's new camera. It's fancy and has loads of different settings, and it makes really great pictures.  We even brought out the tripod and the detachable flash, and then we really got creative!

For Thanksgiving dinner, there was turkey, spiral ham, stuffing and dressing, two kinds of sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, jello salad, and homemade rolls (Mark's sister grinds her own wheat...my, oh my):

Janel's spiral ham

Janel's dressing

And the cranberry sauce (yuu-uum!)

I was in charge of desserts, so I made Italian Cream Cake, Mrs. Nina's lemon squares, and a chocolate chess pie.  The pie wasn't feeling photogenic, but...

the Lemon Squares were...
as was the Italian Cream Cake
(recipe is in the previous post, if you're interested)
After cleaning up, we sat down to watch the Saints game.  Y'all know that I'm not much into pro football (Bama and LSU monopolize my football-watching time), but because the Lambs were cheering for the Saints, so was I.  We were all happy when they pulled off a win in the last seconds of the game!

I hope y'all had as great a Thanksgiving as I did!

26 November 2010

Italian Cream Cake

I spent Thanksgiving with some sweet friends, and much to my own amusement, was placed in charge of desserts. I'll post about Thanksgiving as a whole separately, but I wanted to include the recipe for Italian Cream Cake on its own. I keep promising to share the recipe, so here we go:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup Crisco
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small can of coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Sift the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl.  Cream the shortening, sugar, and butter with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the egg yolks and beat well.  Add the flour/soda mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk until both are incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract.  Using a spatula, fold in the coconut and the pecans.  Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff.  Fold them into the batter mixture.

Generously butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans OR one 13x9 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes for the 8-inch pans, or 45-60 minutes for the 13x9 pan.

Allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese icing.

NOTE:  If you make three 8-inch layers, you will need two recipes of the frosting.  You only need one recipe if you make the 13x9 sheet cake.

8 ounces cream cheese
½ stick butter
1 box confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar.  Add vanilla extract.  Fold in pecans.

14 August 2010


I just returned yesterday from a last-minute trip to Texas. Last week, I was in my supervisor's office, and he asked if I wanted to go to Texas. I said, "To live? Yes, please." He explained that there was a Crimes Against Children conference happening in Dallas, and that another person who had planned to go now couldn't, leaving a spot open for me...but that I would, sadly, have to return to Phoenix the following Thursday.

Needless to say, I immediately began readying myself for the trip.

I had a wonderful time. The conference was informative and often entertaining, in as much as a crimes against children conference can be entertaining. I miss being in school, so I soaked up all the knowledge I could in four short days, and I now have aspirations of prosecuting cyber crimes. We'll see where that goes.

Hopefully, it will take me to Texas, because I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Texas really is like a whole other country, y'all, and that's definitely a good thing. Good manners, good food, hats and boots wherever you look, and lots of smiling faces. Work has been keeping me feeling pretty burned-out, so I'm happy to report that I'm home, feeling refreshed and energized for a new week.

05 July 2010

Could I be a hat person?

I think that, with this hat, I could be.

Anticipation Heels.

I need these shoes.

Plus about nine other pairs from Anthropologie. My, oh my.

Banana Pudding

2 small packages Jello instant vanilla pudding
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 cups milk
12-16 ounces Cool Whip
3 bananas, sliced
1 box Nilla Wafers (please don’t buy the store brand; it really does make a difference)

Mix together the pudding, the milk, and the condensed milk. Fold in the Cool Whip. In a trifle bowl, layer as follows: Nilla wafers, bananas, pudding. Repeat until you’ve used up all the ingredients. Refrigerate. Easiest pudding ever, but so good. My supervisor at work requests that I make it at least once a month. He’d eat it a lot more often if I’d make it, actually.

Pasta Salad

SCM: Yes, this is the pasta salad you gave me the recipe for ages ago. I make it all the time. It’s so easy, and flexible…one of those great salads you can make out of whatever happens to be in your cupboard.

- 1 pound pasta (whatever kind you want to use; I use whole wheat spirals).
- 2-3 bell peppers, chopped (doesn’t matter what color)
- 1 cucumber, sliced and seeded
- 3-4 green onions, chopped (you can substitute some different sort of onion if you don’t share my love of green onions, or leave it out altogether)
- one bottle Kraft Greek Vinaigrette dressing
- pepper (to taste)
- 1 package Feta cheese, crumbled
- fresh cilantro (to taste)

Mix everything together, and if it still looks dry, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the Feta last, and just sprinkle it over the top. Cilantro wasn’t in the original recipe, but since I add cilantro to everything, I figured, why not? You can also bake chicken breasts and then chop them up and mix them in. I’ve also added in mushrooms and olives at different times, and both were good. Told ya: can’t mess this up (unless you try to use a different salad dressing; that’s the one ingredient that must remain constant!).

Alabama: Monday and Tuesday

Wedding festivities begin!

But not quite yet. The whole family was coming for dinner on Tuesday, but before that Mama had to teach a CPR class in Meridian. I decided to go with her, seeing as how I’d been meaning to get CPR certified for ages, but just never signed up for the class. But, even before that, I woke up and baked a cake. I know. Please, please acknowledge the amount of discipline it took to get me out of bed and conscious enough to bake, and then still get myself showered and dressed in time to leave Butler at 10:00 a.m.

What kind of cake? Italian Cream. My favorite. Ostensibly for dinner the next night, but really because I’d been craving one for ages.

I can report that I passed the test (which was a relief. How embarrassing would it be for the instructor’s daughter to fail?) and am now officially CPR certified (though I still don’t have my card yet).

Up next, a trip to Walmart (UGH) to buy all the groceries for dinner, followed up by a trip to Sam’s (I forget what necessitated this trip, but I think it might have been grapes for the grape salad). My sweet Mama bought me a surprise: the Alice in Wonderland DVD I’d been wanting.

Then, home to get all the tables set up and dressed, and of course, to cook. Tuesday night’s dinner was fantastic! I’ll post the recipes for pasta salad and grape salad. Along with that: Low Country Boil (shrimp, potatoes, corn, sausage), steaks, banana pudding (the best recipe ever, which I’ll also post), 7-layer salad (which I don’t like, and therefore will not post the recipe for) and I can’t even remember what else. OH! The cake!

I’m not sure what everybody talked about after dinner because Malak and I went back to Mama’s room for some peace and quiet. The Hopper was tuckered out, apparently, because he made it through about 20 minutes of Wonder Pets before drifting off to sleep while playing with my hair. Goodness gracious, I love that little boy.

30 June 2010


Photo'Perfexion Fluid Foundation

Alright, I admit it: I’m capricious when it comes to my makeup. I’ll use something for a day or two, decide that I love it, and then rave about it, only to be proven wrong after about a week and a half. Such is the case, recently, with my foundation. I was using philosophy’s the supernatural makeup, which initially attracted me because it's a hybrid liquid/mineral makeup. After three months with it, I can say that I’ve made the informed decision to dislike it. It’s too thick and just unattractive, not to mention that the only shade that came close to matching my skin tone was WAY yellow. I felt bad about not using it once I’d bought it, though, so I used it all up ‘til it was gone. Such a good girl.

Enter, Givenchy. Yes, I’ve only used it for a day, so yes, you’re likely to be reading about my disdain for it in a month or so, but… Right now, I really like it. The texture is silky and smooth, not so thick that it won’t spread evenly, but not so thin that it doesn’t cover adequately. The coverage, actually, is pretty remarkable, especially given that it doesn’t look mask-like. It’s now 3:50 p.m., and it hasn’t worn off at all since I put it on this morning. The color is a MUCH better match for me, too.

The best part, though, is really unexpected: it smells SO good! I’ve never really noticed what my foundation smelled like before, but this just smells really fresh and…pretty (for lack of a better word).


We got to Memphis and figured out where we were just in time to get to The Peabody for the ducky parade. I cannot adequately describe the cuteness. We even visited Duckingham Palace, where the ducks reside on the roof of the Peabody. Then we rode the streetcar (trolley?) around town before finding our way back to Rendezvous for dinner. All I can say is, YUM.

From there, we went to Muddy’s Bake Shop, where I dove head-first into Heaven, via their grasshopper cupcake. I still haven’t figured out what they do to their cake to make it so moist. By far, the best cupcake I’ve had in my life, hands down. I got to meet the Neeses and their two adorable, sweet little girls, who came all the way to Muddy’s, even though they must have been exhausted after spending their day outside (it was hot, y’all). Lucky me, I got to hold and cuddle the littler gal, while being entertained by her big sister as she thoroughly enjoyed some cupcake icing!

We left shortly thereafter for the long drive back to Alabama, but not before I secured a care package for home: 2 grasshoppers and 2 neapolitans. I arrived back in Butler EXHAUSTED, and celebrated my third night in a row of staying up past 2 a.m. by going to church Sunday morning and then taking about a 4-hour nap Sunday afternoon.


“I miss green.” This is the thought that I had constantly as we drove through Alabama into Mississippi. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned to appreciate the beauty of the desert. Finally, I acquiesce: living in a valley cradled by mountains really *is* majestic (even if the valley is brown, and the only green around is a random cactus). Nothing compares, though, to miles and miles of varying shades of green, and the sight of oak trees shading the clover that blooms along the sides of the interstate. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and the conversational catch-up with an old friend.

I have GOT to move to Oxford. I mean, really. I don’t think there’s a more perfect place on the planet for me. Were it not for that whole bar exam situation, I’d be tempted to move tomorrow.

We started off at the visitor’s center. Here’s how the conversation with the little woman there went:
US (smiling): “Hey!”
HER (not smiling): “How can I help you?”
US: (*blink, blink*) “Ummm…we’re visiting Oxford for the day!”
HER: “Oh, you are?”
US: “Yes, ma’am.” (Here, we looked at each other, wondering if we’d stepped not into the visitor’s center, but instead, into this woman’s home, or perhaps the library, where speaking was forbidden.)
HER: “Well, what were you planning on doing?”
US: (*scratching heads and still blinking*) “We were kind of hoping you could help us with that. We thought about going to Ajax Diner for lunch and then to Square Books, and then to Rowan Oak. What would you recommend?”
HER: “Oh, I think you should go to Ajax for lunch, and then Square Books is right over there (*pointing in the opposite direction of where Square Books actually is*). And yes, yes. Rowan Oak is William Faulkner’s house, so you should definitely go there. Oh, and they just remodeled the stadium. I like to watch the light shows there!”
US: “Um, okay. Bye.”

Whereupon we walked around the square for a minute, and then went to Ajax Diner for lunch (I had catfish, which was perfect, and sweet tea, which I can’t get enough of whenever I’m home). Then, you guessed it, we went to Square Books (I could spent about eleventy hours there, but alas, I forced myself to leave so we could get some other stuff done). We finished our walk around the square by visiting another bookstore (where I bought the June issues of an adorable little magazine called Garden & Gun, and The Oxford American, which included an article by Elizabeth Wade, my friend from undergrad. How proud am I?) and then getting caught in a little thunderstorm. During the thunderstorm, I realized that I had left my purchases at the bookstore, of course, so we had to walk back over there. Luckily, it wasn’t too far.

Thank goodness Bonnie thought to pick up a copy of the city map at the visitor’s center. Using it, she was able to navigate us to Rowan Oak. The tour costs $5, is self-guided, and takes approximately eight minutes to complete. The grounds are really beautiful, though. Who knew ol’ Bill had stables?

Somehow I got put in charge of the map after that, but in spite of my shortcomings, we somehow made it to the Ole Miss campus just in time to witness a photography session featuring the tackiest wedding party in the history of time. Ole Miss neckties for the boys, and FAKE red and blue flowers, with streamers, for the girls. Yuck.

Ole Miss is pretty, but it’s got nothing on Tuscaloosa. Plus, the stadium is ugly. And the “light shows” endorsed by the visitor’s center lady? Yeah, it’s just the lighted scoreboard that runs around the perimeter of the stadium. Poor woman has no idea what a pretty stadium looks like. She should go visit Bryant-Denny.

After that, we figured we’d seen about all that Oxford had to offer, so we headed to Memphis!

Alabama, Day 1

I arrived in Butler at about 2:30 in the morning on Friday, June 4, despite my plane having landed at 9:something Thursday night. The humidity hit me the second I stepped off the plane, and I will admit to a moment of panic. How was I supposed to BREATHE for the next 12 days? Phoenix heat is one thing…and don’t get me wrong, it’s fairly miserable. But Alabama humidity? That is something else entirely. Mama and Aunt Toni met me at the airport, and I was SO glad to see two such friendly, welcoming faces!

We stopped in Birmingham to visit Uncle Bob and Aunt Thresea, and then we made the drive to Choctaw County. I spent the day (after I woke up) helping Mama get ready for Relay for Life, and then after going to the luminaria ceremony that night, I drove to Livingston to spend the night with my friend Bonnie. We talked until about 3 in the morning, which made me realize just *how old* I am, and then we woke up bright and early (somehow) and set out for Oxford!

15 June 2010

Hello, Dumplin'

It’s become abundantly clear that I’m not in the mood to work today. So, because Amanda commented that she’d like the Chicken and Dumplins (yes, I know there’s supposed to be a “g,” and yes, I refuse to include it) recipe that I promised to send her, I’ll take up a little more of my workday and type it out here.

First, though, an introduction. My Aunt Marcel makes the best chicken and dumplins ever. Aunt Marcel is my grandfather’s sister; her birthday was Friday and she turned 86 (I think…or 85 maybe? Someone help me here.). I’ve only made them once, and she walked me through the process via telephone. I must have called her about 12 times, just to make sure I was doing everything right. All my Arizona friends were suitably impressed; I, however, was suitably exhausted. Apparently, I still need practice if I’m gonna make it look as effortless as she always did.

I’m sure that I wrote the recipe down somewhere way back then, but I have no earthly idea where it might be…probably on a scrap of paper stuck in one of my many cookbooks. So, as I was driving Aunt Marcel home from Mary Allison’s rehearsal dinner on Friday night, I asked her to explain to me again how she makes her dumplins. This time, I was ready! I pulled out the iPhone and took an audio memo! Now, whenever I want, I can pull out my phone and hear my sweet Aunt Marcel’s voice!

Here we go:

Cook your chicken. I *think* that Aunt Marcel boils hers on the stove, but I cook mine in my pressure cooker. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Aunt Marcel warned me to be sure I get all the bones out of the chicken so that I don’t choke any of the people who come over for dinner; I address this problem by buying frozen, boneless chicken breasts. Aunt Marcel says that these do not make a rich broth, which is why she uses a whole chicken. I address this problem by adding canned broth to my homemade broth…but some of you may not want to do that. If you choose to use a whole chicken, PICK OUT ALL THE BONES. Dinner guests apparently do not enjoy nearly strangling themselves to death on a stray chicken bone.

Aunt Marcel also tells me that if I want to make sure I get all the fat out of the broth, I should remove the chicken, then pour the broth into a Tupperware container, and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, all the fat will have congealed on the top, and I can just pick it off. She further tells me that she does not recommend doing this because the dumplins won’t be as good.

Her recipe for the actual dumplins is more of a ratio. You can double or triple or quadruple it, depending on the number of people you’re feeding. A triple recipe, I am told, makes about enough for 6-8 people, “depending on how hungry they are.”

To one cup of self-rising flour, add one tablespoon of oleo (for those of us who are not 86 years old, that means margarine), and some ice water. The exact amount of ice water is uncertain, but Aunt Marcel and Granny Joyce (Amanda, Rob, and Rebecca’s grandmother…and really, for all intents and purposes, mine too) estimate that it’s about two tablespoons. The ICE part of the ICE WATER is very important. Your dumplins will not hold together right if you use water that is just cold or room temperature.

Mash this mixture together; you can use a spoon if you want, but Aunt Marcel recommends that you do this part with your hands. Once it’s mixed together, form it into a ball, and then roll it out “pretty thin”. I will leave in your discretion what the definition of “pretty thin” is, but I imagine it’s basically a matter of taste. Cut the dough into dumpling-shaped pieces, and drop them into BOILING broth.

It only takes a few minutes for the dumplins to cook (8-10 minutes, actually), so after about that long, add in all your chicken and let it boil for a few more minutes. Then make some cornbread and EAT.

Speaking of Blake...

Because I'm never home, and I never get to see him, I feel the need to memorialize a conversation I recently had with Blake Benson. For those of you not lucky enough to be acquainted with him, he is perfectly adorable, and will turn four years old in August.

Setting: Amanda and Lee's car, on the drive from Butler to Birmingham. Amanda told Blake that my house was far away, and that you had to get on an airplane to get there.

BLAKE: Lane, why is your house so far away?
ME: I don't know, Blake. That's just where I moved to, but I wish I didn't live so far.
AMANDA: Blake, where do you want Lane's house to be?
BLAKE: Close to MY house!

Yes, my heart melted. Sweetest. Thing. Ever.


Well, not really. CATCH-UP is more like it.

I spent the last week and a half at home – and when I say “home,” I don’t mean my house in Arizona. I mean Butler, Alabama, the itsy-bitsy town where I was raised. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve lived in Arizona for FOUR years; whenever I’m getting ready to head back to Alabama, my subconscious takes over, and in my mind, I’m going home. My mama still lives in the house where I grew up, across the street from the house where Grandmamma and Papa lived (doesn’t matter than other people live there now; it’s still my grandparents’ house to me), and across the street from my Aunt Enone.

I went home because my sweet cousin, Mary Allison, got married. Of course, on the big day, I forgot my camera in the car, and in any event, I was too busy at the reception to take any photos (in case you’re wondering, I was taking care of Mattie Grace, who went and got sick with the pink eye and some God-awful sinus infection right before the wedding. Bless her heart, poor baby. I hear she’s all better now, though.). Lucky for you, BooMama’s blog covers all the prettiest parts, and whatever she didn’t cover, I’m sure Amanda will (once she posts about the wedding…right now, you can look at some stupendously cute pictures of Blake at Disney World and at the lake, where he recently learned to fish).

Suffice it to say, MA’s was one GORGEOUS wedding! John, my cousin Rebecca’s husband, remarked that it was the single most Southern event he’d ever attended. I believe he’s right, and I couldn’t have loved it more. I’m so thankful I got to be there and be a part of it!

I have lots of things I need to post about, and I promise that I will…soon. I went to Oxford and Memphis while I was home, and I got (*whisper*) Botox, which will be an entire post of its own, because I didn’t get Botox by myself. Oh, no. We had a Botox party, y’all, and Aunt Toni was invited! I did some cooking, too, and then spent my last night in Birmingham, where I got to be present for John and Rebecca’s first dinner party at their pretty, pretty new house.

I had a fantastic trip and arrived safely back in Arizona yesterday evening…and I should definitely be working instead of blogging right now. So I’ll go…

02 May 2010


2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla (my addition)

Preheat oven to 375.

I will begin by admitting that I didn't have whole milk on-hand, so I substituted 1/2 cup 2% milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Add to that the other liquid ingredients and the eggs, and whisk to combine. Add the flour and salt. Pour unto popover cups (fill about halfway) and bake for 45 minutes.

Now I will admit that I don't have popover pans (and here I was thinking there was no kitchen tool or appliance that I did not possess). I planned to substitute muffin tins, but I couldn't find them. How does one lose muffin tins?! Anyway, I found my mini muffin tins, and once the popovers were done, I decided that I'm never making full-sized ones again! These were the perfect size! I made the following adjustments: I heated the oven to 350, and I baked for 17 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven, I ate them with powdered sugar. I stored the leftovers in a ziploc, and today, I sprinkled them with fresh Parmesan and toasted them for a few minutes. Both versions = yum.

30 April 2010

Ulta v. Sephora

I went to Ulta last weekend. Accidentally. I had been to Sephora already, but I forgot to buy the one thing that I went to Sephora to buy (though I more than made up for it in impulse purchases). Sephora is pretty far from my house, but there's an Ulta nearby. I'd never been to one, but I've heard they're basically the same.


Ulta was dark and kind of dirty. Everything was quite disorganized, and I had trouble finding anything. They were out of lots of stuff, so once I found the right area, I was still left digging through a bunch of mis-shelved crap, looking for what was really supposed to be there. To make matters worse, the employees just sort of stood around chatting with each other and never even asked me if I needed help. When I finally asked one of them if she'd help me find an item, she looked at me like I was *really* inconveniencing her.

Needless to say, I won't be back.

Except, the item I purchased (the Anastasia brown pen, below): I have to return it. It worked great for about 2 days, and then it stopped working. Clearly, the thing had been sitting there so long that it got old and dried out! Ugh. Very unsatisfied customer.

26 April 2010

never let them see you shine

by philosophy

I’ve been using these products (the scrub and the primer) for a few weeks now. My face has finally cleared up (thank you, purity made simple and Clarisonic Face Brush), but I was noticing that I’m VERY shiny. I think it has to do with the temperature heating up out here. I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t like it. I feel like I spend about half my day staring into a mirror and holding a compact, and powdering my nose.

I love the scrub, especially. The primer doesn’t really work unless I use the scrub, too. So, here’s my ritual:

NIGHT: purity made simple cleanser; on a clear day treatment gel
MORNING: never let them see you shine scrub, on a clear day gel, hope in a bottle moisturizer, never let them see you shine primer. Followed by makeup.

So far, so good. It’s 1:30 p.m., and I haven’t powdered since I left home this morning. Only minor shine around my nose.

Anastasia Brow Pen

I should probably have blogged about this product a long time ago, since Amanda introduced me to it at Christmas. It’s now my go-to brow liner. The reason I prefer it over pencil liners and powders is simple: it actually looks like eyebrows and not like pencil or shadow. The thin little tip is perfect for drawing individual hairs, and the two shades are so neutral that you don’t have to worry about your brows not matching your hair. Thanks, Amanda!

23 April 2010


I know, I'm arriving a little late to this party, but I watched my first episode of Glee last night, and I am hooked. I can't wait to catch up on the episodes I've missed!

Key Lime Pie

A Story in Two Parts

Many of you know that I finished trying a child death case about two months ago. While I was still busy with case prep, one of the defense attorneys and I started talking about how happy we would be once the case was over. I promised to bake him a pie in celebration (well, I promised a cake; he said he’d prefer pie), and he requested key lime (ostensibly because I am Southern, but I think it’s because he wanted to passive-aggressively torture me by forcing me to juice and zest about 117 tiny little key limes). But I digress. He's since gotten another job, and today was his last day...so we had pie at my office to say goodbye.

I’ve never made a key lime pie before, so I couldn’t decide what recipe to use. I finally decided to make two different kinds.

PIE # 1:
1 9” graham cracker pie crust
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
½ cup key lime juice
zest of 2-3 key limes

Mix the ingredients together and dump them in the pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Result: a very nice but intensely tart pie. If I had this to do over again, I’d have made the pie crust instead of using a ready-made one. Otherwise, the pie set up nicely and was very easy to slice. Also, it was SUPER easy to make.

PIE # 2:
1 9” graham cracker pie crust
3 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup key lime juice
finely grated peel of 1 lime

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt; gradually stir in the water. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Gradually stir about 1/3 of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks; stir mixture into the remaining hot mixture in the pan. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring, two minutes. Stir in the butter, lime juice and peel and cool slightly. Pour into the baked pastry shell and cool.

This recipe told me to make meringue topping and then place the pie in the oven to brown. I didn’t make meringue, so I just put the pie in the oven for about 3 minutes. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do this or not, but I got worried that the eggs didn’t get cooked enough on top of the stove…so, a few minutes in the oven assuaged some of my fears of poisoning my office with salmonella.

Result: a pie that I think tastes better than the first one, but that didn’t set up so great and didn’t present as prettily. Again, not the biggest fan of the prefab crust, but whatever. I'll do better next time.

Note: I topped both pies with fresh whipped cream. To the heavy cream, I added a little bit of confectioner’s sugar and some almond extract. I used my stand mixer to whip it until it was fluffy and beautiful.

Note 2: I used a microplane zester. If you don't have one, go get one. Don't even attempt to zest these itty bitty suckers without it.

05 April 2010

Happy Easter!

I had a great Easter weekend. I spent most of Saturday relaxing, which was nice given that I had to work last weekend. Twelve straight days of work tires me out!

For Easter, I went to church and then spent the afternoon at the home of some wonderful friends. Their Easter get-togethers remind me of my family's when I was growing up. Tons of family, bunches of children, egg hunting, games, wonderful food, and funny conversation. Since I don't have any family out here, I feel so lucky and blessed to be included in their day.

This year for Lent, I gave up celebrity gossip. That might sound petty or trivial, but if you stop to consider how much time I spent checking People.com and UsMagazine.com (both on my computer at work and my iPhone), and how much time I spent watching E!, it turned out to be WAY to much time spent caring about a lot of crap that I have no business caring about. Whenever I had a few minutes to kill, I'd log onto the Internet and read mindlessly about people that I don't know and who, for the most part, disgust me with their ridiculous, silly, and often illegal behavior.

I think I've learned to make better use of my time. One positive result has been that I read the news more often, and I pay more attention to it (rather than just glancing over it). Also, I've begun to spend my free time on activities that probably won't rot my brain: playing crossword puzzles and Scrabble on my iPhone (okay, it's not really Scrabble; it's really the Words With Friends app -- my user name is avbreland, so if any of you have it, please start a game with me, and if you don't have it, get it).

I haven't reverted back to my old habits yet. We'll see how long I last, now that I don't have the guilt of Lent to keep me on the straight and narrow.


I made these for the first time while Mama was in town for Thanksgiving, and we loved them. We loved them so much, in fact, that I may never buy another box of Bisquick...and even if I do, I won't be using it to make waffles. These are the best ever; a little more effort, but SO worth it. Mama called today to get the recipe, and it hit me that I should share it with all of you. So, here we go:

3.5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
0.5 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
8 large eggs, separated (yes, you're reading that correctly; it says EIGHT)
3 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
(I also added an entire tablespoon of vanilla extract, and I sometimes add pecans. I just sprinkle the pecans over the top of the batter after I ladle it into the waffle iron.)

Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Whisk together egg yolks, milk, and melted butter (and vanilla, if you add it) in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overmix.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Whip the egg yolks to soft peaks (I did this in my stand mixer) and fold into the batter in two additions.

Ladle about 3/4 cup batter into the waffle iron. Cook until crisp and golden.

It takes a little longer to get these crispy than it does with waffles that are more similar to the Bisquick variety. I just played around with my waffle settings until I got it right.

These are eggy, not bready. They're great, even completely dry and without a drop of syrup. I froze my leftover ones (this recipe makes a lot of waffles) and made bread pudding out of them a few weekends back. I didn't have old bread and was in a baking mood, so I improvised. Yum!

Recipe (minus my commentary) is from Breakfasts & Brunches by the Culinary Institute of America.

26 March 2010

Clinique All About Eyes

Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage

A birthday gift from Amanda, along with the cutest little makeup bag you've ever seen (mine is red and lives in my purse, where it took the place of about three other smaller bags).

This is some amazing stuff. It sort of tingles when you apply it, and after about 15 minutes, those awful eye bags that I wake up with are GONE. Seriously. Thanks, Amanda!


Well, there it is. I turned 29 on Monday, and I've been expecting the gray hairs to sprout and the lower back & knee pain to start ever since. Luckily, neither of those has transpired yet (although I will admit that I found one gray hair a couple months back and basically had to be talked down from throwing myself into the canal).

That said, the big day itself wasn't nearly as traumatic as it might have been. I went to work, like I always do on Mondays, and my boss brought Sprinkles cupcakes to celebrate. I had lunch with some funny friends who always make me laugh. Dinner with more wonderful friends followed work, and then I went to sleep pretty early.

There is a wonderful legitimacy that comes with being 29, I think. I've decided that this is going to be a great year. I feel blessed and lucky to have the family and friends that I have, and despite the fact that I live so far from many of them, I think that as I get older, I appreciate them more and more. My job is dynamic and interesting, and I'm finally comfortable enough with my experience and skill set that I can relax a little bit and enjoy it. I guess that as it turns out, 29 isn't all that rough after all...

17 March 2010

The Office of Desire

by Martha Moody

Plot (another one courtesy of amazon.com): “Moody stages this sharply observed tale of office relationships gone very wrong at a small Ohio medical practice. When Dr. Will Strub marries office nurse Alicia, he becomes increasingly involved in the local fundamentalist church. That puts him somewhat at odds with his fellow doctor and business partner, Dr. Hap Markowitz, who defines himself as a non-observant, God-fearing Jew. Meanwhile, middle aged office receptionist Caroline begins her own new relationship with a 72-year-old patient named Fred, while Hap devotes his spare time to his seriously ill wife, making office manager Brice literally the odd man out. The slow descent into insanity by one of the characters leads to a tragedy that affects all involved; gay relationships, evangelical fervor, amputation and infidelity all play in. There is a point where loyalty became a sickness, where faithfulness to someone else became a way to destroy yourself, Hap observes, and each of Moody's well-drawn characters embodies that statement in his or her own way. Hap and Caroline alternate with first person narration, which lends Upstairs Downstairs–like shifts in perspective, which can be distracting. Moody keeps things moving, though, and gets the details right, whether adding up emotional balances, Prozac samples or a patient's bill.”

I had a great time reading this book, in spite of its somewhat depressing and often wistful tone. Plots that rotate around personal relationships rather than defining, dramatic events always fascinate me because they so accurately reflect real life. There’s a lot of “drama” in this book for sure: life, death, marriage, divorce, illness, legal problems, etc. But the real heart of the story is the characters themselves and their evolving relationships with one another. The author strikes a solid balance between character development and plot.

Unlike the amazon.com reviewer, I didn’t find the teeter-tottering perspectives distracting at all. I enjoyed reading the different ways Hap and Caroline perceived the same events; Hap is a doctor while Caroline is a receptionist, so there is a wonderful upstairs-downstairs dynamic (reminiscent of Gosford Park and lots of Agatha Christie, actually). Good book.

To the Power of Three

by Laura Lippman

This is the second book of Lippman’s that I’ve read, and I’m thinking it may be the last. My gripe about this one is the same as last time. The book is excellent and kept me riveted right up until the end, and then, the ending sucked. Everything was tied up in a neat, pretty little package with a bow, by a single character who all of a sudden decided that she just had to tell the truth. As mystery novels go, this is, in my opinion, the worst ending possible. And let me tell you, it NEVER happens that way in real life. The killer (or the witness, or whoever) does not get a sudden attack of conscience and run to the cops to reveal “what really happened.”

Plot: Three teenage girls, who have been best friends since 3rd grade, are the center of a high-school shooting. One of them is implicated as the shooter while the other two are the supposed victims. All three are bright, popular, and have promising futures, so no one can grasp the motive behind the shooting. The action centers on the small town’s reaction to the shooting, the investigation by the detectives, and the families’ attempts to ferret out what really happened.

Most mystery novels end with a bang. Either the literal bang of a gun, or some really exciting, shocking surprise that the reader might have been piecing together but couldn’t quite get a handle on. Lippman, though, writes compelling, moving, perfectly paced novels that end with a dull thud. In the case of this novel, it’s also a little far-reaching and implausible, too. Yuck. I’d rather read a book that’s awful from the beginning (Lord Jim, anyone?) than enjoy one so thoroughly only to be this disappointed upon finishing.

27 February 2010

Clarisonic Face Brush

Got mine yesterday (happy birthday to me, a month early...thank you Mama!). I had to charge it all night, so I couldn't use it until this morning. My, oh my. I love it. I'm hopeful that my skin will benefit from it, and that my pores will go AWAY soon. The only drawback thus far is really minimal: when I wash my nose, the vibrating makes me sneeze.

Living proof.

full thickening cream

To be honest, I'm not altogether sure why I bought this product. I walked into Sephora with a specific purpose, but then saw these adorable little bottles all standing in little lines, so I was intrigued. Amanda, I thought of you instantly, because they will blend perfectly with your bathroom decor.

Also, my hair is curly, but it's pretty fine...and it's much flatter out here in Arizona, what with the lack of humidity and all. So, I thought it could possibly benefit from some body and volume.

While I was talking to the Sephora lady about it, she told me that I shouldn't use it with any other products that contain silicone. The leave-in conditioner that I've been using for over a decade, and which I love (Biosilk Silk Therapy) does contain silicone. Sad face. But, luckily for me, Living proof makes a leave-in conditioner, too.

It's called frizz (only I can't figure out how to use the strikethrough function, so just imagine that it's there). So far, I love both products. My hair is fuller, but it's not enormous, just normal. The other great thing is that the product doesn't make my hair hard, and it doesn't flake. It just feels like hair, and the more I run my fingers through it, the more body it seems to have. It also takes care of the flyaways that I used to have, and it makes the horrible cowlick in the front of my hair controllable.

17 February 2010

kiss me tonight

This is philosophy's version of Neosporin Lip Health. Unlike the drug store product, this one works. Love it.

kiss me

by philosophy

I don't need to discuss again that I'm on a never-ending quest for a product that will stop my lips from peeling. Well, I'm not sure yet whether this product will stop it, but it certainly makes the flaky skin go away.

It's a lip exfoliator, and it tastes like sugar...so I'm guessing that it has sugar in it. I have to stop myself from licking it off my lips.

In addition to scratching off the flaky skin, it also conditions and makes my lips soft. I'm a fan.

29 January 2010

Neosporin Lip Health

(the one in the little tub, not the one in the tube)
Hmmm. Well, Arizona is dry; hence, my lips are always dry. I was at Walgreen’s buying shampoo, and my lips had actually bled that day because they were so chapped…so I decided to be economical (for once) and buy something to heal them. Neosporin Lip Health looked the most promising, so I gave it a go.

First of all, it feels like lotion on my lips. In case you’ve never had that feeling, and in case you’re wondering, it’s not altogether pleasant. Also, it doesn’t really soak in all that quickly, and it doesn’t taste all that great. So I sort of sat around, waiting for it to absorb – meanswhile, I was utterly unable to drink or eat anything or lick my lips (because I didn’t want to taste it). Now, granted, I didn’t completely follow the directions because I didn’t wait for bedtime to apply. It is listed as an “overnight” product, but seriously, my lips were hurting during the day!

Even after I used it correctly, I still didn’t notice all that much of a difference. I’m still using it at night because I have it, and I figure that maybe it’ll keep me from getting those little wrinkles around my mouth. But barring some drastic development between now and the time I run out, I won’t be purchasing it again. My mouth just doesn’t respond positively to drug store makeup, apparently. Fine with me: more reason to go to Sephora/Nordstrom/Barney’s.

Dior Serum de Rouge Lipstick

Amanda gave me a tube of this (color # 710) because she wasn’t a huge fan of it. All things considered, I agree. I love the color, but the lipstick itself is nothing special (which hurts me to say about any Dior product). I wear it over my Dior Lip Maximizer, though, and it does fine.


I am, in general, a huge fan of LipFusion products. My favorite is the regular, non-tinted lip plumper (which is not a lip plumper at all, because I don’t use lip plumpers, and I love this product). When I was home at Christmas, I went shopping (and movie-watching) in the freezing weather with Amanda and Rebecca. Of course – of course – we stopped at Sephora, and I picked up a tube of INFATUATION, in Full Frontal (not lying, that really is the name of the color).

The color is fantastic: a sort of coral/neutral that becomes a little less intense after you wear it for about 15 minutes and turns to a very pretty, daytime color. Sephora bills the product as follows: “Discover the first liquid lip color with extraordinary Amplifat™ technology to increase and maintain body fat just where you need it most!” I don’ t know about all that, but I can say that it’s a nice lipgloss, though I notice no plumping whatsoever. I do notice, though, that it doesn’t clump together, the color doesn’t bleed, and the gloss lasts a while (considering that it’s gloss).

Chanel Aqualumiere Gloss

It’s Chanel. It’s lipgloss. I don’t think I should have to say more. Of course, I love it. My color: #79. I’m sorry, that’s all I know. It’s sort of a brick/rust color, with a little bit of a gold shimmer. The color if VERY sheer, though, so it’s not nearly as shocking as it might sound.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer

I read this book while I was home over Christmas. I’m only just now blogging about it because…well, because that’s how my job has been lately.

The book is told through letters exchanged between the main characters (in my English-major days, I would have described it as “epistolary,” and I admit that I gleaned some enjoyment from having remembered that word). I bought the book before I was aware of this, and if I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I’d realized that. I usually don’t care for reading letters within books, and again, in the interest of full disclosure, I generally skip over them if they’re inserted in the middle of a novel. I shouldn’t. This book taught me that reading letters reveals far more about the character than the mere contents of the letter itself; I grew fond (or not so fond, depending) of these characters as I learned their individual vernaculars, writing styles, vocabularies, and syntax.

If book awards were given out like the SAG awards, then this book would be in the “Outstanding Performance – Ensemble (Drama)” category. Although there is a “main character” in Juliet Ashton (by the by, how much do I love her name? VERY.) other characters are more developed than the usual supporting characters are, which makes the book more satisfying.

Brief plot synopsis (courtesy of amazon.com, who for once did a pretty decent job): “The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers.”

This isn’t “literary fiction” at its most literary, but it’s often funny and heartwarming, and it was the perfect book to entertain me during my Christmastime illness. In case you're wondering: yes, the book does explain what a potato peel pie is.