Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's all Bourdain's fault

You know, as in Anthony Bourdain? I fully blame my current obsession with food and cooking and all things 'foodie' on him. Well, it's not all his fault, but it all started with him....

See, I was at Barnes and Noble a couple years ago, perusing the paperbacks, when I stumbled upon his first non-fiction book Kitchen Confidential. I read the back cover and I was sold. When I finally got it home and started reading it, I couldn't put it down. The world he described was so unlike anything I'd ever experienced and I was entranced with all of it. Granted, I didn't feel a sudden pull to the profession of being a cook, but I was mesmerized by his stories nonetheless. So, I sought out his second book and then his third....

But, that wasn't enough. I wanted to learn more about the world of the professional chef and somehow managed to find Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef-- an account of what it is like to be a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) through first-hand experience and interviews. And again, I was struck with how different this world is from my own. I continued to read various books on the subject and would occasionally check in and read Ruhlman's blog, too. I didn't have a ton of background in this new foodie world I was delving into, but I was really enjoying learning all about it.

And all of this talk of 'fresh' and 'homemade' and 'from scratch' started affecting the way I looked at the food I made at home. I was inspired to start cooking more in my own little measly kitchen. Not just your run of the mill stuff, but slightly more complicated dishes that relied on more than just canned or frozen ingredients. And wouldn't you know, I actually enjoyed it. Like, a lot. Especially when most of the meals I made actually tasted good; much better than the half-hearted stuff I had gotten used to making.

My confidence in the kitchen grew and over the past few months I've made a real effort to branch out and consistently try new recipes. Even if it doesn't turn out, at least I'm trying new things and hopefully increasing my skill set at the same time. But, I have still been intimidated to try anything from a 'real' chef. Those recipes from Real Simple and Cooking Light are cake, but one from Bon Appetit or Martha Stewart? Well, those completely frighten me!

But last week, I stumbled upon The French Laundry at Home through Ruhlman's blog. Carol is a lady that began a project to make every recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook; the reason of which, can be found here. I started scrolling through her blog and was awe-struck. She isn't a professional chef, but there she is anyways, working her way through the cookbook, blogging about both her successes and mishaps along the way.

And there it was again -- inspiration. If she can do it, why can't I? Maybe not make all 150 of them, but the idea of trying even a few of those insanely beautiful, gourmet recipes was so exciting! So much so, that I went out that night to buy the book (long story short, I had to order it, but it just got here tonight!)

As I've waited for the book to arrive and my anticipation has grown, I've also realized that this endeavor is purely selfish -- it's not to try and master a recipe for times when company comes over nor is it to provide weeknight meals for the hubs and I. This is purely to try something new and bold, that frightens me as much as it excites me. I am giddy! Also, if you're local, don't be surprised if you get a random call from me to come over one day and sample some goodies. Even if the goods aren't perfect, I'd like to share if they're somewhat edible. ;)

I plan on blogging about the recipes I try, complete with pictures -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, please be sure to visit Carol's blog and give her some comment love -- she is a great writer, an obviously talented cook and the whole reason I'm starting this little project in the first place. And for all you food porn fanatics, there are plenty of things to drool over there ;)

I know I started off blaming Bourdain, but maybe I should be thanking him? I guess so. Without stumbling upon that book of his in the first place, I would have never known what I was missing in the kitchen. :)

30 by 30

I finally finished the list. I was actually surprised at how difficult it was to come up with a total of 30 separate things I'd like to do before my 30th birthday. I've been very blessed and have been able to experience/do a lot of things that were important to me throughout my life, which made making this list a bit difficult. I've also categorized the list more for my own OCD tendencies than anything else. And again, a huge thanks to Jess for the inspiration for this! :) I've had a lot of fun thinking about all the stuff I'd like to accomplish over the next 18 months and I'm excited to get started!

Home-Life
1. Buy our first home
2. Find a church and start attending regularly
3. Go with my mom on a girls-only weekend trip
4. Call/visit my brother more

Service Projects
5. Volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen
6. Adopt a family for the holidays

Health/Fitness
7. Participate in the 3-day Breast Cancer Walk
8. Run a 5K
9. Find my 'happy and healthy' weight and maintain it
10. Take a master class with Wade Robson
11. Go for a run on a local beach

Food-related
12. Take a knife skills class
13. Learn to make a good piecrust
14. Make homemade bread
15. Learn to make homemade chicken/beef stocks and use them regularly in cooking
16. Go wine-tasting with the hubs
17. Try at least a dozen recipes from The French Laundry Cookbook
18. Eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant*
19. Attend a class(es) at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA); either Napa or [hopefully] NY campus*

Fashion/Beauty
20. Learn to apply false eyelashes
21. Own a pair of designer shoes
22. Add several classic pieces to my wardrobe

Miscellaneous
23. Read at least 10 classics that I didn't read in school
24. Meet and have a book signed by an author that is important to me
25. Attend a Patriots game
26. Finish our wedding/honeymoon scrapbooks
27. Visit NYC
28. See a Broadway show
29. Watch the sunrise
30. Visit local museums that I still haven't explored

So, there it is. I figure I'll do updates every couple months to track my progress. Should be fun!

* These are things I'd actually like to do to celebrate my 30th birthday. When the hubs heard that I actually wanted to take serious cooking classes he looked at me like I'd grown a second head. Oh well, it's my birthday and I'll cook if I want to. ha!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Almost Monday again

After a short work week, I had another long weekend.

Yay!

And still, it went by far too quickly.

Boo!

Another quick note before I jump into the weekend review. I've decided in the interest of keeping my friend's identities somewhat a mystery, I'm going to start using nicknames. Now, I will admit upfront that I'm horrible at giving nicknames to people. So, I apologize in advance if you're reading along and are thinking 'wow, that is me, but that is an awful alias!' I might enlist the hubs for some help in this dept. since he is a master nickname-giver. We'll see. In the meantime, you're just stuck with whatever uncreative things my mind can come up with. ;)

And now on to the weekend adventures:

Friday
I had the day off, which is always a good thing. After sleeping in, I made it to the gym for my favorite step class and my instructor had brought her new baby with her. (A babysitter was there too, so class continued as normal.) She is just a precious little soul and it was so good to finally meet her. Class was hard and it left me just exhausted. After a quick lunch, I found myself not able to motivate to get off the couch for anything. The weather combined with the lack of sleep during the week made for a very lazy me.

Hubs and I had date night plans, but at the last minute we scrapped them for a night in instead. Our favorite fancy at-home meal is seared steak with roasted asparagus and white cheddar-onion mashed potatoes, paired with a bottle of red wine. I've made it so many times at this point, that I almost don't need the recipe anymore. Dinner came together quickly and then we watched The Bourne Supremacy (what can I say, we're extremely behind on our movie watching) while we ate.

Saturday
I was up fairly early so I could get ready and then head down to meet my friend Blondie (formerly known as K) at South Coast Plaza for a day of shopping, talking, eating and drinking. We're quiet proficient at all of the above. ;) She was running a bit late b/c puppy class ran longer than expected, so I shopped a bit by myself while waiting for her. I picked up the new Shu Uemura Mini Eyelash curler, some Kiehl's shampoo and a couple of kitchen gadgets from Macy's. I also popped into the Ferragamo store, a store I'm not known to frequent, and found a pair of classic black work heels that I've fallen in love with. [Side note: I still have an "IOU" from the hubs for a fancy schmancy pair of shoes leftover from the honeymoon. I think I'm ready to cash it in. Wheee!]

After Blondie arrived, we stopped for lunch at Wahoo's and then bummed around some shops. We spent hours catching up what's happened over the last couple of months and started to throw around bridal shower/bachelorette party ideas for our friend Vino's wedding in the fall and Blondie's sister's wedding in the summer. We thought a stop at the Border's wedding section would provide some inspiration, but instead it just provided a comfortable place for us to sit and talk over coffee about my crazy family and how much fun it is to be an adult [insert sarcasm here].

The rest of the afternoon went quickly and we capped off the night with dinner and dessert, complete with lots of strong coffee for the drive home, at the Nordstrom cafe. We were some of the last people to leave and by then, the rain had started up. Again. The drive back to LA was rough. The rain and wind were kinda crazy, but thankfully, I still made it home in about an hour.

Sunday
Ugh. I had to wake up far earlier than I cared to in order to do a couple of time sensitive things for work. And then I couldn't go back to sleep. Sigh. So, I read a little, had a quick shower and then fixed breakfast before hubs and I headed off to Staples Center to watch the Lakers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Such a great game... until we managed to lose. :( One upside was getting to see LeBron James in person; he truly is a man-child, just such a presence on the court, even amongst a bunch of other very tall players.

I'm still sleep-deprived and fell alseep on the ride home and have been kickin' it on the couch ever since. The poor hubs is working away in the office, drinking copious amounts of tea to try and stay awake. Sad. And I guess at some point we should figure out what we're doing for dinner. Hmmm, I'm fresh out of motiviation to make anything so it should be an interesting night.

And, like the title says, it's almost Monday again. Busy week ahead with a real debbie downer weekend to look forward to. I'm trying to just focus on the good stuff though. Trying is the key word of course. Here is to a good week folks!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Brother

Disclaimer: I usually try to make my blog posts upbeat and chipper. However, I'm not very upbeat and chipper right now. In fact, I'm down-right frustrated, angry and "so over it". The "it" to be described in future posts. I'm still gonna have a lot of happy posts b/c overall, my life is great and I am beyond lucky. I'm just afraid that all this frustration has got to get out somewhere, and that somewhere is here.

I have a younger brother, born about 4 years after me. My mom has these great stories of me being so protective of him when he was first born. [I guess when he'd cry I'd go to her all upset and say 'Don't make my brother cry!', like I was afraid she was hurting him or something.] And as kids, we got along well. I'd play GI Joes with him, he'd play Barbies with me and we'd watch WWE wrestling together. Sounds crazy, but we had a lot of fun.

Somewhere along the way though, things changed. I was the 'easy child', always did what I was told, did well in school, didn't need a lot of boundaries because I was too afraid of disappointing anyone to actually try and break any rules that were out there. My brother, however, tested boundaries and while he did okay in school, he was always compared to his 'older sister'. My mom did a great job raising us, but my dad wasn't always around. I think my brother missed him, missed having a male figure in his life. I'm sure that was never easy. But I didn't think like that when I was a teenager. Instead, it was just easier to say that he was the one with issues and it wasn't my problem. We started fighting. Nothing physical, but the attitude and nasty words we threw back and forth to one another was nothing short of ugly. And it got worse and worse til I went off to college. And then we just basically stopped talking.

I went about my business, doing well in school, loving the freedom college allowed me, while my brother stayed at home and continued to rebel against everything and everyone. It just drove us farther and farther apart. The few phone conversations we had always ended poorly. We just didn't see eye to eye on anything. I'd try to give him advice and he shrug it off as his 'know-it-all' older sister just trying to be the smart one again. I was so tired of the drama that seemed to constantly surround him that talking to him was a burden.

Everything came to a head about 5 years ago. I was home visiting my mom, he still lived there. I inadvertantly hurt his feelings and he just lost it. The details aren't important, but after a vicious verbal exchange I just knew that our relationship had been damaged beyond all repair. It broke my mom's heart. She wanted her kids to be close and to be able to depend on each other. I knew that we'd never get there.

Apologies were later exchanged, but it was just words. We were both still very hurt by what was said. Sometimes it's easy to forgive, but that forgetting part is much more difficult. We still didn't really talk and the few times we did, it was strained at best.

My wedding approached and I asked my husband to have my brother in the bridal party, which he gladly did. Even that did little to help mend the fences between us. The wedding pictures show a nuclear family all smiling and happy. The reality was, in a crisis, my brother would be low on the list of the people I would call first.

Around this time, my grandfather started getting sick and going downhill. He lived with my parents and my brother was still living there, too. The strain of the situation was wearing on my mom, and my brother would sometimes call with updates, but again, the conversations always ended with both of us exasperated with the other.

And then, one night, it all changed.

My brother and I had just chatted and like always, the conversation didn't end well. A few minutes later though, my mom called. She had just talked to my brother. He mentioned that his initial reaction to something I said that he didn't agree with was to yell at me. But instead, he was quiet and just thought about it for a minute. And realized that maybe I had a valid point. And in that instant, everything was different. I just knew it.

I quickly got my mom off the phone and immediately called my brother. We both knew that the conversation would be different this time. It was. We talked for 3 hours, never once raising our voices. There were a lot of tears, a lot of sincere apologies, a lot of explanations of anger and frustration that had been building for years. And that night, in October 2006, we began truly rebuilding our relationship.

God works in mysterious ways because the timing couldn't have been better.

In December 2006, my dad dropped a financial bomb on my mom 6 days before Christmas that would rock the entire family. In January 2007, she filed for divorce. In February 2007, my grandfather (my mom's dad) passed away.

And through it all, my brother and I talked and cried together and screamed together and supported one another when we both knew no one else in the world could be better for the task. Not spouses, not friends, not even parents.

I'd like to say that I would have gotten through the last year okay without him. But that would be a lie. I think my brother would say the same thing about me. We have not only mended our relationship, but we're closer than we've ever been. We don't always 100% agree with one another and sometimes we still get frustrated with the other person, but we're human. The bottom line though is we respect each other. We have the other's best interest at heart. We look out for each other. My mom is beyond ecstatic.

The only downside to all of this, is that there has been so much family stuff that we've been dealing with, that we haven't gotten to know each other as much as we'd like. My brother commented last night that he still doesn't really know what I do on a day to day basis (and vice versa) because so many of our conversations are just about damage control within the family. This year, I'm making an effort to change that.

I can't put into words how grateful I am that we found a way to start over. To truly deal with the past and then put it away. I love him a lot and am so happy to have him as my brother.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Randomness

It's a very short week for me as Monday was a holiday and Friday is my regular day off. One work day down, only 2 more to go! Wheeee!

I'm trying desperately to get back in the groove after being a bit "off" last week, but the short week is making that difficult. I have managed to cook dinner 2 nights in a row (after several nights of takeout) and I made it to a hip hop class last night after blowing off the gym on Monday. All good things, but I still feel like I'm struggling. Eh, at least the week is almost over and there are lots of fun things to look forward to for the weekend.

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon that was supposed to be just a cleaning. Yet, it turned into a cleaning + a filling. :( It really didn't hurt, but the novocaine lasted a really long time. Made eating in the afternoon difficult so I was a total little piggy at dinner. Oink oink.

One of my blogger pals, Jess, created a "30 by 30" to-do list that I find quite interesting. So much so, that I've been working on my own list and plan on posting it here. It's not quite finished yet, but maybe by next week or so.

I've got several other blog post ideas floating around in my head, but I've just been too tired and preoccupied with other stuff to actually sit down and expouse on said topics. Soon though, very soon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

MIA

Yup, that's been me. I don't have a great reason, but I'm back with somewhat abbreviated recap. Yay!

Last weekend, I went to the awesome Fondue Party and Charity Event thrown by the OC nesties who are running the LA Marathon with Team in Training (recaps can be found here, here and here). It was a great night; I got to finally meet some of the OC girls, eat a ton of yummy cheese and chocolate and drive down and back with a crazy carload of LA girls. Oh, and I won a one-hour massage GC in the raffle! Score! All in all a great night. But then, the weekend went downhill.

The next morning I woke up feeling severly hungover; not an issue except for the fact that the night before I was DD. I progressively felt worse as the day went on and wound up missing my friend's 30th birthday party that night as I just couldn't get myself off the couch to make an appearance. Boooo! I was sick the rest of the weekend and early into last week. Not fun.

My routine has just been "off" since then and am just now feeling like I've got things back on track. This week it's back to normal. :)

Today I did make it out to a Blog Party bruch organized by the monkey (good times as expected), but had to leave way too early to watch my boyfriend (aka Tom Brady) play in the AFC championship game. They won. It's been a good day ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Delurking is Delightful

Come out, come out, wherever you are....




It's National Delurking Week folks (thanks for the heads-up nanners!) If you've been reading, but haven't been commenting, now is the time to do so. Oh come on, you know you want to :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gym Tales

  • It's almost 2 weeks into the new year and I still don't feel like there has been an onslaught of new year resolutioners at the gym. Sure, I've noticed a small uptick in the number of folks there on a given night, but nothing close to what I was expecting. Yay for that.
  • After 2 weeks away, the hip hop class at my gym resumed Monday night. There was a new girl in the class that looked very much like she was trying to be in a hip hop music video -- midriff top, bell-button ring, baggy pants, tons of make-up, quirky hairdo -- but the girl could dance! Having someone like that in a class usually filled with folks who haven't danced before is a lot of fun and really inspires me to step it up. Add to that the fact that almost all the music played was from Mr JT and it made for one kickass class!
  • Trainer workouts are still in killer mode. If you ever want to have your gluts say hello whenever you move, I highly recommend front lunges with the addition of touching your front toe on each one. 15 on each side, 3 sets. If you want to shred your quads, squat thrusts with the addition of a push-up in the middle and a jump at the end will do the trick![insert evil grin]
  • I really need to start doing the stair climber at the gym, but it intimidates me like no other. Sigh. I just need to suck it up and try it already.

One more alter-ego, just for kicks.



I like this one. Yay!

My Heroes alter-ego

Thanks to Winnie for the link!



Hmmm.... She is my favorite character on the show, but I don't know how I feel about being labeled "flighty and clueless."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Travel gear and other fun stuff

I had the best of intentions that the entire weekend would be a "stay at home" one due to the massive amounts of rain we were supposed to get. That is, until I woke up on Saturday, saw that it was dry and then the "day at home" turned into a "day on the road." :) I had some returns that I needed to take care of and was also on a mission to start gathering clothing and other necessities for our upcoming Peru trip.

Usually for a vacation, I might pick up one or two new things (a cami, maybe a skirt, etc) just because it's fun to wear something new on a trip, but this time I actually need functional stuff. Since I've never been to the rainforest and quite frankly had no idea what I'd need there, I found this handy dandy gear list from our dear friends at REI that at least pointed me in the right direction. The only downside is that I don't currently own most of the items on there. Boooo!

For me, the most difficult things to purchase are usually pants/shorts and shoes. Thus, the decision to get these items as early as possible and fill in the rest later. My first stop was The North Face as I had already tried multiple pant selections from REI and it was just a disaster. [Why there are not options for convertible hiking pants with a bit of stretch in them is completely beyond me! I get that hiking pants need to be functional and all, but a bit of stretch would really assist with the comfort and movability factors. Someone could make a killing if they'd develop and sell something like this....]

Sadly, TNF wasn't much better. Their spring line doesn't hit stores until mid-February and the few pant options they did have were less than inspiring. I purchased one pair that were just alright, in case I really can't find anything else that works better. My complaints to the cashier were met with a sad smile and nod. He wished me luck finding something that was functional and didn't make me look like a potato sack, but I have a feeling that he thought my chances winning the lottery were better than finding said pants.

Afterwards, it was on to Lucy to check out their new lightweight travel pants for spring. I wanted a plain pair of black pants that would be comfortable on the plane, easy to walk around in and could be dressed up for a nice dinner. Lucy had several pairs that fit this category and while most of them were cute and fit well, I ultimately decided on the Pathway pant -- flat front, side cargo pocket, lightweight stretch fabric and they can be rolled up to a capri length in warmer weather. And the best part, they are something I'll actually wear in normal everday life, too. Score!

After dealing with the pants, it was time to tackle the shoe issue. Buying shoes is never simple for me. Not because I'm super picky, but because finding a 10.5 narrow athletic shoe is nearly impossible. My best bet is usually New Balance (thank god for them, seriously), but this time I was outta luck. The Pasadena store didn't have even one trail or hiking shoe in my size in the entire store. The stock at their other local stores was also dismal. I did manage to scour the internet that night and ordered a total of 4 pairs from various websites in the hope that at least one would work well. The contenders:

Really, I'd be happy with any of them at this point. I just want them to be comfortable and for me to have enough time to sufficiently break them in before the trip.

After all that craziness, the rest of the weekend was somewhat uneventful.

  • I got all of the returns done
  • Cooked a yummy dinner Saturday night -- seared scallops w/ lemon orzo, parmesan garlic bread, green salad and white wine
  • Made broccoli cheese soup for lunch and a french-style beef stew dish over homemade mashed potatoes for dinner on Sunday
  • Did 10 loads of laundry (this is what happens when you don't do laundry during the last couple of weeks of the holiday season)
  • Straightened up the apartment

And now, it's back to work. Lots to do this week, little time to get it all done. Ah well, at least things are back to normal.

Friday, January 4, 2008

I feel pretty, oh so pretty....

In terms of makeup and beauty products, I tend to be very loyal. Once I find something I like, I stick to it for a long time before I decide to try something new. I tend to buy nice (re: expensive) makeup and then use it til it's all gone. My usual lotions and styling products, however, often come from the drugstore. In early December, I realized that I hadn't brightened up my makeup routine in almost 2 years and I was still struggling to find a good everyday body lotion and an evening face moisturizer. It was time to hunt down some new products!

MAKE-UP
A couple months prior I purchased new primer, tinted moisturizer, and translucent powder from Laura Mercier and I was very happy with it. After trolling around on their website, I saw that a regional make-up consultant was going to be at a local Bloomingdale's doing free makeovers. I woke up early and headed down to the mall with the hope of scoring an appointment and ultimately winding up with some fun new products.

I got there a few minutes before the event was supposed to start and even without an appointment, I was seated right away. A local make-up artist was tasked with talking to me to find out what I was looking for and then getting my foundation all prepped so the consultant, Heather Roddy, could come in and do the colors. I was there for probably around 45 minutes and most of that time was spent with Heather, who was awesome! She totally listened to me and gave me the look I was trying to achieve, not some crazy look that I'd never wear. She also made it very easy for me to watch her apply the colors so that I'd know how to replicate the look at home --- something I've never encountered at other make-up counters.

I was very pleased with what she did and purchased a whole bag of loot. I was even more excited over the next few days when I tried to duplicate my new look by myself and was fairly successful at it! Score! I've been using the new products for almost a month and while I like all of them, a few really standout:

Eye Basics: This is a cream primer for your eyes that dries to a powdery matte finish. It can be worn alone for a natural look, or underneath colored shadows to prevent creasing. I don't quite know how I lived without this stuff. It's fantastic!

Eye Liner: This is a powder that is applied wet with a small, flat brush. The gals called this "tight line", I'm guessing because of the very thin, precise line you're able to achieve when using this product. I was skeptical at first because I've tried MAC Smudge Pots before and it was a disaster. But, after watching it applied (both to the underside and topside of the lashline) and then realizing that even after wearing it for 12 hours it never smudged, I decided to try it on my own. I'm in love with this product!! The line it produces is perfect and once you get the hang of the application part, it goes on quickly and easily.

Stickgloss Palette: I have a hard time finding lipstick and gloss colors that I like wearing and this palette allowed me try a bunch of different shades to see what looked the best. It also has options for daytime as well as nighttime wear. The best part is that all the featured colors can be purchased as a stand alone product, so when the palette is gone, I can just re-purchase my favorites.


SKINCARE
After having such luck on the make-up front, I figured I'd tackle skincare next. My friends T and the Monkey had commented how much they love Kiehl's products and while I didn't pay all that much attention at the time, I remembered their rave reviews and thought I'd check them out seeing as how I haven't been all that impressed with several recent drugstore purchases in this area.

I started out by doing a bit of research online so I could go into the store somewhat informed about their product lines. I was specifically looking for a heavy duty handcream and a good facial moisturizer to combat the dry skin I'd been having from all the chilly weather.

Going to the store right around the holidays was maybe not the best idea as they were out of a lot of their small-sized facial moisturizers (and the samples to boot), but the clerk gave me a great rundown of lots of their products and had me try a few out. I left with their Kiehl's Delights and a handful of the Ultra Facial Moisturizer samples and went home to give them a whirl. Long story short, I've been back another 3 times over the past month and I am absolutely addicted to their products!! The rundown of my new obsessions:

Lip Balm #1: My mom used to always use good 'ol petroleum jelly on her dry lips, but frankly, I just found it gross and gloopy. This is a petroleum based lip balm, but without the gloopy, gross feel to it. I put it on before bed one night and woke up the next morning looking like I'd have the most beautiful collagen injections and a pale pink stain applied to my lips. I've been sold ever since. By far, the best lip balm I've ever used.

Ultimate Strength Hand Salve: My hands have been uber dry and were starting to crack, but this lotion changed that overnight. Like any hand lotion, it leaves a bit of a film til it sinks in, but it leaves my hands buttery soft and it doesn't irritate any cuts or scrapes that I may have. The light eucalyptus smell is pleasant without being overpowering.

Creme de Corps: One of their signature products, this stuff is the most amazing lotion I've ever tried, hands down. Granted, it's very pricey, but my skin has never been this soft and smooth. I often have a problem with bumps on the back of my upper arms that no lotion has been able to smooth away and they have disappeared over the past 2 weeks with using this stuff. I slather it on right after getting out of the shower and as silly as this sounds, my skin just feels warm and taken care of after it's applied. It's practically scentless too, so it doesn't interfere with my perfume. Even at the end of the day, my skin still feels buttery soft with no dry flakes. If I could only use one skincare product the rest of my life, this might just be it!

Abyssine Cream +: I really wasn't looking for a face cream that tackled fine lines and wrinkles as I still think I'm a bit young to be worried about such things, but after seeing this cream applied and then literally disappear into a matte finish before my eyes, I had to try it. I hate applying lotion on my face, going sans make-up and then having that "shiny" look the rest of the day. I started using it just at night after taking off my make-up and it really does dry immediately to a matte finish, but still provides plenty of moisture to my very dry skin. I've been trying to hurry and use up my normal everyday lotion with an spf so I can get this cream with the spf for daytime use. I'm not sure how it's doing with minimizing any fine lines I may have -- if it's helping with that all the better --but the matte finish alone is enough to make me a huge fan of this cream.

Amino Acid Shampoo: This came in the original sampler pack I purchased and while I've only used it a handful of times, I am impressed at how my hair is left soft, shiny and full of body afterwards. This is quite impressive as my hair is straight and very fine, so a lot of shampoos I've tried just leave my hair heavy and oily. The light coconut scent is just icing on the cake. On my next Kiehl's run, I'm anticipating a nice, full-sized bottle coming home with me :)

As I've said before, I'm usually a drugstore girl when it comes to skincare, but these products have totally changed my way of thinking on this. Yes, they're pricey, but I am so impressed at how well they work and the huge difference I've witnessed in my skin, that I'm willing to cut back in other areas to make these part of my normal routine. A huge thanks again to T and the Monkey for the recs!! :D

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 is definitely off to the right start!

After a really fun NYE, we woke up fairly early on the 1st to get the new year started. I caught a little of the Rose Parade and then it was football, football and more football on the TV for the rest of the day. However, it was also time to finally take the tree down, pack up the Christmas decor and get the apartment cleaned and organized again. This took us most of the day, but by the evening our place looked fantastic and it was nice to know that the holiday clean-up wasn't hanging over our heads anymore.

Hubs also finally got around to transferring his itunes music from our old computer that was barely revived enough for him to get the music files off of it (really, the poor thing is begging to be put out of it's misery) and onto the new pretty pink one. We picked up gigantic back-up hard-drives during our latest Costco adventure so we can have all of our important music and pics stored on another, separate location in case the new computer ever decides to randomly bite the big one. As he was getting this all organized, it was time for a trip down music memory lane. Seeing my very white husband bumpin' to Tupac and then crooning to Frank Sinatra within seconds of each other is beyond hilarious.

For dinner, we tried out a local Chinese restaurant for takeout and sadly, it was just okay. :( We're still trying to find a good Chinese takeout place that is close to us, but so far, we're failing miserably.

Yesterday it was back to the grind. Not much to report here. Everyone is still trying to get back in the swing of things. After work, I hit the gym to meet with my trainer for an hour. The first 30 minutes were pure hell. It went beyond that burning sensation in your chest to full on 'OMG I'm gonna puke'. And yet, as awful as it was, I felt really good afterwards, like I had really accomplished something. We're keeping this schedule up until at least the Peru trip, but I might just vote to keep going like this even afterwards. We'll see....

And now, to the best part of last night -- dinner! In order to make the healthy eating a bit less boring, I told myself I was going to try out a bunch of new Cooking Light recipes that I've had my eye on for the past month or so. Last night it was Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce with a simple green salad on the side. I followed the recipe to the letter with the exception of using the Barilla Plus penne instead of just the regular stuff. I cannot tell you how absolutely amazing this dish was!!! No pics of my version because we dug in as soon as it was done, but this stuff is just so good. And it doesn't taste like you're eating a "diet" dish, which makes it even better. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself. Easy enough for a weeknight meal, but fancy enough that you could even make it for company and they'd think you slaved over for much longer that it actually takes :)

While I'm sore this morning, I feel really good and slept like a baby last night. So far, 2008 is shaping up to be a pretty good year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy 2008 Everyone!

Last night we went to a small party at our friend's apartment to ring in the new year. The food was plentiful and delicious (sliders, chicken satay, shrimp cocktail, pigs in a blanket, homemade ice cream, etc) and the drinks were overflowing. Well, they were overflowing for most of the guests -- another girl and I were DDs, so by the end of the night it was really the coffee and water that was overflowing for us.

After chatting and eating we played some trivial pursuit 90's edition (the boys team killed us) and Guitar Hero on the Wii. I have never played GH before and I am so bad! The controls are just not intuitive for me at all and yet, by the end of the night I had decided that the game is a must have (that is, if we can find it in stock anywhere.)

Right around midnight we switched on the tv and rang in 2008 with Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve. Anyone else just feel sad when they see Dick Clark on the screen these days? I know he is doing better than he was last year and I give him props for still going on air to count down the ball dropping, but it really just breaks my heart. :( Champagne was toasted, we kissed our significant others and then 2008 was officially here. GH was played for another couple of hours and then it was time to call it a night.

Hope everyone had a great night and that 2008 is a great year!!