Friday, April 29, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Mrs. Fields Chocolate Marshmallow Clouds


Years ago, Mrs. Field published a cookie cookbook.  While it has a chocolate chip cookie recipe in it, she didn’t share her famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But it’s okay, since there are a lot of great recipes in it.  I recently rediscovered one of my favorites from that book and am sharing it now. 

Chocolate Marshmallow Clouds are divine.  Rich chocolate cookie dough containing mini chocolate chips surrounds a creamy marshmallow center.  What could be better?

the ingredients

surround the frozen marshmallows with cookie dough and then
roll the dough into a ball, ensuring the marshmallows are completely

ready for the oven

the cookies often crack while baking

Click here for the recipe

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Four Star Finds: Nestle Delightfulls

For more information on this product, click here

What is better than a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?  A chocolate chip cookie made with Nestle Delightfulls, chocolate chips filled with creamy caramel!  They’re so delicious and add a wonderful taste and texture to ordinary chocolate chip cookies.  Need I say more?

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product

Monday, April 25, 2016

Travel: EPCOT in Orlando, Florida

the famous geodesic sphere that has become the symbol of EPCOT
For more information on EPCOT, click here

EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is a Disney theme park located in Orlando, Florida that is often referred to as a permanent World’s Fair.  Showcasing international culture and technical innovation, the theme park presents learning in a fun way.

EPCOT has villages replicating different countries complete with each country’s foods, products and performing arts.  Thrill and slow rides that emphasize the technologies that enable the experiences abound and the grounds are beautifully manicured.  With its varied attractions, EPCOT has something for everyone!

a quaint "English" street

EPCOT held a garden show while I was there.  The topiaries were incredible!

The Sum of All Thrills ride allowed riders to create their own bobsled ride

an artisan at work

a display explaining Japanese Kawaii

musicians at the Moroccan restaurant

Friday, April 22, 2016

Movie Review: No Good Movies

We go to the movies one or twice a week and In the almost three years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve always been able to write a movie review.  Not so this time-I’ve seen three movies recently and can’t recommend any of them.  Hopefully, I’ll have better luck next time!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Review: “The Boys in the Boat”

   The Boys in the Boat
   Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat is the story of the University of Washington crew team that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Opening in 1933 with the team members’ freshman year, the novel focuses mainly on Joe Rantz, a determined, honorable student raised in abject poverty and abandoned by his family.  His struggle to make and remain on the team is interspersed with rowing technique, crew history and information about the state of Germany at that time.  The story culminates with the Olympic medal race with the team competing against the German National Team.

Two people recommended The Boys in the Boat to me-a blog reader and a friend.  It took me a while to get to it, but it’s a fabulous book!  I love it so much I told Kevin about it AND bought it for my son.  It’s a bit sad to read about the rampant poverty and the country’s lack of social services at the time, but the story is ultimately inspiring and uplifting,  If you read one book this year, this is the one to read!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Home: Daffodil Arrangement

I love this arrangement!

The practical engineer in me used to have a hard time buying flowers and candles.  After all, they’re transitory and die or get used up.  I’ve realized that both add so much joy to my life that they’re worth purchasing.  I do try to be somewhat reasonable about these purchases, though, and buying seasonal flowers is one way to reduce their cost.

Since it’s that time of year when daffodils are ubiquitous, I like to have them in our home, especially because they’re such happy flowers.  Over the years, I’ve learned a way to make them pop! 

I buy three bunches of 10 daffodils-these flowers look better when closely
grouped together.
  Since they are closed when purchased, I put them i
 water overnight to open.

Next, I remove the papery brown shell 

It looks so much better without the shell

Then I start arranging them in my hand, rotating the bunch while I add
more flowers, always trying to ensure the bunch is even.

Add flower preserver to the water

Tie them with a rubber band and trim the excess stems and then place
in a pretty vase

Friday, April 15, 2016

Style: Double Draped Top

Michael Stars top7 for all Mankind jeans, Kirkland camisole
Dior wallet, LK Bennett shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses (old),
Calypso St. Barth necklace (old)

I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked the look of a white top with jeans-it seems so simple, but maybe its simplicity is what’s appealing.  When I do this look, though, I don’t want it to look boring, so I try to choose tops that have some visual interest to them.  To me, the draping makes this top anything but dull.  Even better, it’s versatile and can be worn open, with one side draped or, as shown here, with both sides draped.

Paired with some dark wash jeans, classic aviators, a wallet on a chain and funky lace up shoes, this outfit is anything but one-dimensional!

These lace-up shoes are so cool and fun!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: S’mores Cookies

s'mores cookies

Like most people raised in this country, I ate s’mores during my childhood.  When I was in my twenties, they seemed to be less prevalent but are now enjoying a resurgence in popularity.  I understand why, because who can resist the combination of graham crackers, melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows?  Given my love of cookies, putting these elements in a neutral cookie dough would be even better than the original treat!

Making a s’mores cookie is more complicated that it seems.  In the past when I’ve tried to bake with marshmallows, I seem to get a sticky mess.  However, Kraft’s Jet Puffed Mallow Bits are the solution!  They are firm enough to hold their shape during the baking process while providing that marshmallow flavor integral to s’mores.  Using dark chocolate baking pieces made this dessert more sophisticated and to get the graham cracker flavor, crushed graham crackers replaced some of the flour.  The results are to-die-for!  If you’d like more than one opinion, when I asked a friend what I could bring to a dinner at their house, he replied, “Those cookies B is in love with.”

the ingredients

I crushed 7 graham crackers and had some leftover crumbs

Combining the dry ingredients

Adding the "goodies" to the dough.  The marshmallow bits can be hard to find,
so here's a link

Ready for the oven

Ready to be eaten

Click here for the S'Mores Cookies Recipe

Monday, April 11, 2016

Four Star Finds: Boscia Sake Brightening Hydrogel Eye Masks

For more information on this product, click here

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the dark circles under my eyes.  Sure, they can be hidden by applying concealer, but my goal is to get rid of them.  To battle this problem, one of the products I just started using is Boscia’s Sake Brightening Hydrogel Eye Masks.

I was interested in this product because I’ve read that sake factory workers have beautiful, even-toned hands, due to contact with the sake.  After giving them a try, I’m happy with the results.

My dark circles appear to have faded a bit, my fine lines seem to be smaller and my skin feels more hydrated.  Even without these benefits, I’d wear these gel masks just because they feel so soothing and are a nice little pick-me-up!

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Travel: Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida

Whimsical Seuss Landing

an adorable topiary

Hogsmead was charming


Honeydukes is a candy shop just like in the Harry Potter books

Since we were flying home that night, we opted to skip
the wet rides

Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a thrill-seeker’s paradise.  Filled with epic rides, shows and interactive attractions, the park brings to life some of our best-known books, comic books, and movies.  With six separate islands (Marvel Super Hero, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Lost Continent and Seuss Landing), this theme park has something for everyone. 

Since these “islands” were modeled on Universal Pictures’ movies, each island’s set is absolutely amazing!  For example, when I was in “Hogsmead,” I felt like I was in the village described in the Harry Potter books.

In addition, the rides and attractions are world class-the Dragon Challenge roller Coaster in Hogsmead is the best I’ve ridden (You know it’s going to be good when you are required to remove all hats, glasses, backpacks and bags AND empty your pockets before being allowed on the ride!).

Another thing I liked about Islands of Adventure is the park’s size.  It’s not too big, and has just the right number of attractions for a full day.  If thrill rides are your thing, I highly encourage you to visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

For more information on Universal's Islands of Adventure, click here

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Movie Review: “Hello, My Name is Doris”

   Hello, My Name is Doris
   Rated R

In the time I’ve been writing these movie reviews, I have never, until now, come home from seeing a film and was so excited that I immediately wanted to write about it.  Hello, My Name is Doris is sweet, a little sad, but funny and ultimately uplifting.  After the death of her elderly mother, a chance meeting with a new co-worker and attending a self-help seminar, Doris decides to cast aside her fears and truly live her life.

I don’t want to give anything away by saying more, but Hello, My Name is Doris is a gem! If you see one movie this spring, see this one!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: “Andy Warhol was a Hoarder”

   Andy Warhol was a Hoarder
   Claudia Kalb

I’ve always been fascinated by mental illness and disorders, and that’s probably why I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology.  In the book, Andy Warhol was a Hoarder, author Claudia Kalb examined various historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, George Gershwin and Howard Hughes and “diagnosed” their mental illnesses and psychological disorders.  I added the quotes to “diagnosed” since Ms Kalb doesn’t have a master’s degree or PhD in Psychology nor is she a medical doctor.  However, her comprehensive review of historical data presents good arguments that she is correct. 

In each chapter, she addresses a different person and presents a case study for why she believes that person has a particular disorder or illness.  Some of the cases are very obvious, like assigning alcohol addiction to Betty Ford or bulimia to Princess Diana, but others are more nuanced, like her belief that architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a narcissistic personality disorder.  After describing each illness or disorder, Kalb also discusses their symptoms and also presents treatment plans. 

Though Andy Warhol was a Hoarder sounds like a dry textbook, it was fascinating to read how these well-known people had their struggles and perhaps, became better people because of them, especially since they all, with the exception of Princess Diana, lived before pharmacological treatment options existed.  For example, Kalb believes that Abraham Lincoln suffered from clinical depression.  Since antidepressants weren’t an option, I wondered if his depression led to his compassion, empathy and resolve to end slavery.  If you are at all interested in Psychology, Andy Warhol was a Hoarder is a fascinating read!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Home: Elevating a Big Box Store Houseplant

an ordinary plant, leaf shine (click here for more information)
 and sheet moss (can be purchased with at most nurseries,
 home improvement stores or craft stores)

close up of the sheet moss

the final product

Because my houseplants don’t have a very good survival rate, they’re not a splurge purchase.  Instead, I tend to purchase them from big box stores.  However, they don’t look quite as polished as when they’re from a high-end nursery. 

Luckily, I have a few tricks to spruce up houseplants.  First, I add sheet moss to cover the soil, and then I spray the leaves with leaf shine.  This process results in an upscale looking decorative item!