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.