Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving internet world!!

I am pleased to report that I am prepped and ready to go to Thanksgiving dinner in a few hours. Wine was purchased, and I made cranberry sauce as my contribution. I am celebrating with my friends Katie and Joe this year, and I am so glad they decided to open up their table. There will be lots of other people there, so it should be a super social and lovely time.

Cranberry sauce might be my favorite part of the holiday meal, which is amazing because it is so easy to make. Inexpensive, too. Because there will be 14 at dinner, I made a medium sized pot's worth, which took 3 bags of cranberries. At two dollars a bag, and the price of two cups of sugar, it is a delicious contribution that won't break the bank.

First, put one cup of water in the pot for every bag of cranberries you intend to use. The Oceanspray recipe also calls for a cup of sugar per bag. I do not do this. I prefer my sauce to be more tart, a hair healthier, and more runny/juicy, and I only put in 2/3 of a cup per bag. So this batch of 3 bags called for 3 cups of water and 2 cups of white sugar. Bring these to a boil.

Then, add the rinsed cranberries. Bring the mixture to a boil again. It is hard to tell when it is boiling again, but you will hear the berries starting to pop. Then, boil it for 10-15 minutes. I like my berries to be mostly popped and smushy so I will even cover it partially to help facilitate this.

When it is done, mine looks like this. Cover it and let it cool at room temp...or let it cool at room temp for a couple hours and then put it in the fridge like I did.

The next morning...


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tea No-Buy...FAIL.

So much for avoiding purchasing new tea. I was at Marshall's (for an entirely different purpose, new shoes I did not get) and saw a fairly varied selection of tea from Les Palais des Thes. The packaging for this French company is SO gorgeous and their tea isn't cheap to order online, so I was SO excited to see this in store. I found myself very quickly with about $100 worth of tea in my hands, and then I saw three options from Den's Tea as well. Den's Tea specializes in Japanese tea, and is also a brand I have meant to order from for a long time.

Don't worry, I did make cuts. I realized that with the sampler, and having some at home already, I should cut what was in my arms in half. My deal with myself is that I can go back on Tuesday or Wednesday to get more/get the bigger canisters of some flavors IF I taste the samplers first and really feel I cannot live without. The full size canisters at Marshall's are $13 and originally $18 or $19...twice as expensive as any other tea they tend to carry.

Here is what I came home with.

By far the most exciting purchase was the gift set from Les Palais des Thes. Originally $60, I paid $40. It came with 12 little vials of their tea blends, each reporting to contain enough for a 6-8 cup teapot, and a 125 page book/catalog hybrid that I found to be very interesting. It will be a lot of fun tasting all of the blends.

I already flipped through the book, which contains information about tea history, countries of origin, all to showcase the types of teas this brand offers in a comprehensive way. A tea newbie would find this really helpful in general, and I found it to be interesting even though I already knew a lot. A seriously cool way to provide a catalog of the options of a company, one I plan to keep on my coffee table.

Also from the same brand they had an iced tea set on clearance...$9, less than half the original price. It was shrink wrapped so I know it wasn't tampered with. It contains four teas, with five iced teabags individually wrapped, meant for 16oz room temp brews. Normally I am all about loose leaf, and prefer the lack of packaging of it. Even for tea bags. But one thing I hate is that unless I brew up a few bottles of iced tea before going to school to teach, I don't have much opportunity for tea all day. These are meant to be steeped at room temp for an hour or so, making them perfect for throwing in a purse or bag and steeping them after I finish my morning hot tea I take with me.

Next, I found a couple things from Den's Tea. I stuck with the Houjicha, which was a couple dollars cheaper ($4) than the Genmaicha ($6). The Houjicha is also individually wrapped teabags, which I like having around for when I am dog sitting for extended periods of time. I will be visiting family from Dec 10-18, and dog sitting from Dec 20-Jan I will most definitely be using these. I often bring loose leaf tea home as I know they have an infuser, but I keep things simple when I dog sit.

As a bonus, only vaguely tea related item, I got a skincare set from Origins including the Frothy Face Wash, White Tea Skin Guardian Serum, and the White Tea moisturizer for $10 because it had no tag, there were no others, and the girl at the register had no clue about the price point of the brand. Given how sure I am that the set was likely meant to be two or three times that price at minimum, I am a happy girl.

I love Marshall's.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Face Oils and Candles

I woke up this morning and it was 20 degrees. Ugh. I know it is just a cold front and it won't stay QUITE this frigid permanently, but it is still jarring when yesterday had a high of 50. Today it isn't supposed to get much higher than 25. I suppose at least the rain finished yesterday?

Two of my cold weather saviors are face oils and candles. I use face oil all year round, and recommend it to everyone I meet. If you have oily skin, most of the time adding a drop of face oil to your routine at night will help calm down your skin because it won't feel the need to overproduce. If you have dry skin like me, it is a no-brainer. Nothing has improved the tone and texture of my skin so drastically. I use it year round - I just finished a little size of the Josie Maran Argan Oil Light, which I was using over the summer for a slightly lighter feel. This is available for less than $20 at Sephora in a small size, which I can attest will last you for at least three months. I use a drop underneath moisturizer, more if I am struggling with a dryness issue. This oil is routinely in various sets as well.

Another must are candles. Candles make the cold weather a lot more worth it to me. The house smells nice and cozy, and the look of the flame is soothing to me as well. I recently purchased four Diamond Candles on special. I have used them before, but they tend to be a bit pricey at $25 and shipping is never cheap. With my 40% off deal, and a promo code, I was able to get 4 for $60 including shipping which made them basically half price. They are huge, and are well worth it. I am trying my very best not to get sucked into the Bath and Body Works money pit candles this year, as they don't last as long as soy blends do. Also, Diamond Candles have a fun ring packaged inside the candle with a code to type in online to see if you win a ring worth something more than costume jewelry.

I have never won, but I don't buy the candles for the ring. It is just a fun extra. I like how unique my ring is for this Pumpkin Chai candle, but it isn't super practical or my style. I save my rings in a little jar - I am thinking they could be fun to use for decor or something someday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Empties: Argan Oil and Concealer

It is a miracle when I manage to finish a beauty product. I go through items like conditioner, shampoo, and body lotion with regularity because I use them the most often, and I have a pretty sizable surface area for body lotion. But I seriously never finish the vast majority of my cosmetic items. Financial revamp is definitely a part of what I am trying to change about my life, although I have been working on that much longer. Little things, like trying to waste less food, purchase less when I have no need (particularly when my urge to goo hoard backups upon backups of things is so strong), and use up what I have can go a long way. I will always want and purchase new beauty related things, but I feel way better doing so when I have used up some things along the way.

These two items are go-to for me. The first is a small bottle of the Josie Maran Argan Oil Light. I use facial oils every night as a serum before bed. I have combo/dry skin that tends to be sensitive. In the past 6 months, I have had some issues with hormonal breakouts. Nothing mediates all of the problems the way oil does. It calms redness, makes my skin look more even toned, seems to reduce the appearance of any acne scars quickly, and obviously hydrates my skin well. In the summer, I was using a drop of this with a drop of rosehip oil. I am glad to finish this, as late fall/early winter is upon me which means using 4 drops of oil, and a switch to using the regular version of this oil. It really solves the dry skin winter issue to the point where if I could go back in time and tell my past self 3 things, how to properly prevent/treat dry skin would be one. Luckily thanks to subscription boxes, I am never without a good facial oil, and this brand is easily accessible.

The second one is even more amazing. I don't think I have ever finished a concealer before. This Bobbi Brown Undereye corrector was the right tone to counteract the crazy blue circles I get on even my best nights of sleep. Nothing holds up so well, covers and counteracts so effectively that I have ever found. And I know I bought a replacement two months ago when it looked like I might run out. But my replacement is currently lost in the abyss of the student teaching mess, and even with the Sephora VIB sale I managed to force myself to hold off on replacing. I still have the concealer I use over the top, and have been layering another concealer underneath as double duty...but it just isn't the same. I am giving myself a few weeks after student teaching to clean and reorganize and hunt down my new one before I replace this one. I don't really hesitate on dropping 25 bucks for this one.

Oatmeal Kick Up

So I am eating my breakfast getting ready to go to school after two of the most insane weeks of my adult life, medically. I have a new allergy, amoxicillin, and the kids have really virulent strep bacteria and viruses they are being a bit too free with sharing. Here is hoping the mess is over.

But I am so bored with pretty much all of the food in my house. This blog is supposed to inspire me to make changes, take life up a notch. Well, student teaching has sucked every ounce of improvement motivation right out of me.

This morning, however, there was a flash. I wanted some cinnamon-y tea that tasted like red hots that would hopefully wake me the hell up after my sick day yesterday. So I double strength brewed a cup of tea using Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset...and used it in my oatmeal as the liquid, with a dash of almond milk.

Oh heaven of heavens. The possibilities this has opened. Delicious is just not a good enough word. And now I am rather curious to see what flavors happen if I use greens, or oolongs, or other flavors of black.

I highly recommend it if you have an extra 5 minutes in the morning and want to make oatmeal something a bit more special.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Student Teaching: Second Placement Week 2

I meant to post this a long time ago. Then student teaching happened, and the sick kids with their strep throat happened. I am now on the mend, having had strep for the first time since I was in elementary school myself, and I feel like time is whooshing by!

I love second grade. I've missed it. This group of kids is a lot rougher than my fourth graders were, but even still I feel a lot more confident going in each day. The concepts they learn are simpler, and to me easier to teach. I also find it easier to assure them that I am teaching them important information. While I also felt confident in telling kids that learning to multiply was important...I felt less confident with needing to learn specific grammar concepts I don't remember ever learning myself, or three different techniques to add and subtract. And oftentimes, there is info involved that just isn't important all, or at least hasn't been in my life so far. I feel like everything you learn in Elementary school should be important to the rest of your life, and sadly, it is not.

Now I can focus on being anxious about getting a job. Yay?