Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrate, and Happy Sunday to those who do not!

Today I have an Easter-egg worthy sparkly pink manicure using polishes from the new Nicole by OPI collection exclusively for Target.  I am utterly obsessed with both of these shades and I think this combination is fabulous.

Nicole Pink, Seriously with Nicole Make a Comet-Ment





For Easter today, J's family came down to visit, so along with my family (and the seven dogs between all of us!), we decorated Easter eggs, had a doggy bone and treat hunt in the yard, and ate more chocolate than any of us should eat in a month.  

I found these awesome egg pictures to help inspire our egg dying creativity.  
How amazing are these?



link &

What did you do today?  
I'd love to see some pictures of any creative Easter eggs you make.
Have a beautiful Easter!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brooke Cooks - Peanut Butter Eggs

I remember as a very young child opening the big freezer in the dark, unfinished back room in our basement on the night before Easter and discovering trays and trays of peanut butter eggs filling the ice-encrusted shelves.  Some of the eggs were dipped in chocolate, some were plain, and I vaguely remember something coconut as well.  I rushed up the creaking stairs to tell my parents about my find, and my dad went back down to the basement and brought back one egg for each of us.

I remember coming to expect finding those eggs in our freezer each Easter, as if somehow they too were delivered by a rabbit, only to open the freezer one Saturday night before Easter and discover that they weren't there.  That year, my dad made them on Easter day.

My dad has been making these peanut butter eggs for Easter for years and they are as much a part of our Easter tradition as taking pictures in front of our 22 year old cherry blossom trees (that moved with us to our new house when we did), putting rabbit ears on the dogs, and dying eggs.

This year I made the peanut butter eggs.  I tried my best to shape them into a nice egg shape (if I had a deviled egg tray, that would have been great), but this is certainly a treat that tastes better than it looks.  I didn't dip mine in chocolate because I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate together (for some reason peanut butter and chocolate are unbelievably good separately, but taste weird together).  They would be much prettier dipped in chocolate or drizzled with chocolate, but they taste divine just how they are.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 jar creamy peanut butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Directions
Beat together peanut butter, cream cheese, and butter until creamy.  Add salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Mix in powdered sugar.

Using your hands, shape dough into small balls or egg shapes.  Arrange on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and freeze until firm.  Once firm, you can decorate with chocolate or transfer to an air tight container.  I like to keep mine in the freezer because they stay firm but never get solid.

Enjoy!

They look like a bunch of stones on a cookie sheet.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Go Green!

For Earth Day, I knew I wanted to wear green polish, and I was already leaning towards Zoya because 1) they have so many great greens, and 2) they are vegan and were one of the first polish lines to eliminate bad chemicals like formaldehyde resin and toluene.  But I still couldn't narrow down my color choices.  So yesterday I wore glittery, fabulous, green-as-money Zoya Ivanka and today I am wearing the utterly unique Zoya Gemma.

Zoya Gemma


Zoya Ivanka
Check out some amazing photos of Ivanka HERE.

Guess what?  Zoya brought back their Polish Exchange for another year!  Now through April 27 (not much time!), select between 6 and 24 bottles of Zoya polish for only $4 each (half off the usual $8 a bottle, plus shipping is included).  This year, you don't need to mail in the equal amount of bottles that you would like to exchange, but Zoya still encourages you to mail in unused polishes so they can be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way.

Use code EARTHZOYA and get started at www.Zoya.com!

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!


Today is Earth Day, so I wanted to encourage you to take a moment and think about what efforts you are making to sustain and protect our globe.  What else could you do to help?
Some easy ways to "go green" today and every day are:
  1. Recycle.  Recycling is so easy and a great way to help keep reusable materials from being dumped into already overflowing landfills.  There is only so much space on this earth, and we have already filled a tremendous amount of it with our trash.  Think about what you throw away and ask yourself, "Could this be recycled?"
  2. Start a recycling program.  When my sister started working as a receptionist in December, she realized that there was no recycling program in place and everything was being thrown away.  So she got a cardboard box, wrote "Recycling" on it, and started encouraging everyone to recycle at work.  That one little step has saved a tremendous amount of reusable materials from going to a landfill.  See what you can do to make recycling more of a priorities where you work or at places you frequent.
  3. Compost.  Where I live, a little-known secret is that the county will give you a free compost bin as long as you promise to use it for at least one year.  I got mine more than two years ago and it is great.  I toss all fruit and veggie scraps in there, as well as grass clippings and dry leaves.  Come spring, I use all of the nutrient-rich dirt that my compost bin produced for my tomato garden.  Even if your area doesn't give out free bins, you can always start a small compost area in your yard.
  4. Car pool.  Rising gas prices have made car pooling a much more enticing option, but aside from saving money, car pooling also helps prevent additional emissions from entering our atmosphere.  Find out if anyone at your office lives near you, or Google car pools in your area.  Public transportation is also a great option.  Here in DC, we have the metro, which is a great way to get to and from the city.
  5. Monitor water usage.  Turn off the sink while brushing your teeth, fix a running toilet or a leaky faucet (it is easy - even I can do it!), install a low-flow shower head, and aim to only run the dishwasher or laundry machine when you have a full load.
  6. Cut back on energy usage.  When you leave a room, get in the habit of turning off the lights.  Your electricity bill will thank you too!  Turn off power strips and unplug appliances when not in use, contact your local energy company to ask about switching over to wind or solar power (it costs just a few extra dollars each month), turn off the "dry" feature on your dishwasher and let your dishes air dry, and hang your clothing up to dry (it helps your clothing last longer too!  I have a foldable rack I got at Target that I use to hang up everything but jeans and towels.).  And the easiest tip of all: buy energy saving CFL light bulbs.  They cost a little bit more up front, but they last for ages and use significantly less energy.  J and I put CFL bulbs into all of our recessed light fixtures when we first moved into our house (almost three years ago) and we haven't replaced a single one yet.  Also, when you need to purchase new appliances, look for ones that are Energy Star certified.

It can be easy to be a little greener when you are more aware of the choices you are making. Take time today to help out our environment, and think about what you can do each and every day to be a little greener for our beautiful, life-sustaining planet earth.  

Happy Earth Day!
I would love to hear about the ways you are "going green" today!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dos Senoritas!

I've been wearing lovely China Glaze Senorita Bonita since Friday (luckily, I took pictures on Friday because they are looking a little worse for wear today).  I also have a picture of another senorita - my Heidi, also known as the Senorita Heidicat.  She's learned to respond to both "Heidi" and "Senorita" because I call her both names equally (and yes, all of my pets have ridiculous nicknames, hence "Caracita").

Senorita Heidicat

China Glaze Senorita Bonita

I love this glass-flecked shimmery purple!  These pictures make it look a bit cooler than it actually is (my pictures from the Island Escape Collection are much better).


Thanks for checking out the lovely senoritas!

In addition to that, my friend recently graduated from nursing school and has started the process of looking for a job.  While looking for a job is never easy, I decided to help her find some fun, fabulous new nursing outfits.  We checked out Blue Sky Scrubs, since they offer fashionable discount scrubs and nursing uniforms.  In addition to that, they have all types of scrubs, including all cotton scrubs and even lab coats.  
Blue Sky Scrubs has very reasonable prices and all of their scrubs are custom tailored from high quality fabrics.  They have a great, wide selection and truly offer something for everyone!  We were really impressed with Blue Sky Scrubs.  Check them out at: http://www.blueskyscrubs.com/

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wild and Wonderful

This past weekend, I went to lovely West Virginia.  These are a few of the pictures I snapped when the sun finally broke through all of the rain.




Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Favorite Things - Lights

Happy Saturday!  Today I have a few of my favorite things, namely some of my favorite lights.

My fabulous find: a $3 chandelier at a going-out-of-business vintage store in Florida in 2007.  The best part?  It works!  I bought a new chain, a medallion, and Vera Bradley Java Blue shades to give it a fun look.

Not a fabulous find (J bought this for me years ago), but I love it.  I keep it in my office.

I just scored this Vera Bradley lamp at a yard sale last weekend for $5!  I'm still trying to figure out where I should put it (I'm thinking in the foyer).

I'm not a huge fan of this chandelier that we installed in the dining room a few weeks ago, but it was free and it provides lots of light, so I can't complain about that - especially after not having a working chandelier in there for years.  What I do love are my fun Java Blue shades.  They kind of match the pineapple-y thing that is going on with this chandelier too!

Not a light, unless you count the candle inside, but this fun, hanging cage is one of my favorite items.  I got it at Homegoods in 2008 for around $15.

And finally, my pretty pink chandelier, complete with crystals.  This one was from Pottery Barn and was not a steal, but I adore it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brooke Cooks - Veggie Filled 100 Calorie Pasta

These past few weeks, I have been trying to incorporate extra fruits and veggies into all of my meals.  This delicious pasta makes a great lunch, plus it is really filling and loaded with good-for-you veggies.  At barely 100 calories, this dish is perfect for adding your favorite protein and a great side.  I like to have a Quorn vegetarian "chicken" patty mixed in for protein, plus an apple and a piece of cheese on the side.


Ingredients:

  • 1 package Tofu Shirataki (or other type of Shirataki noodle)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3/4 cup fresh mushrooms

Directions:

Drain and thoroughly rinse tofu shirataki.  I also like to cut it up using kitchen scissors, because the noodles are really long.

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil.  Add tofu shirataki, asparagus, and peas.  Cook for about four minutes, or until asparagus is tender.  Drain and set aside in colander.

In saucepan, saute garlic and mushrooms with a tablespoon of water until mushrooms are soft.  Add tofu shirataki, asparagus, and peas to the mushrooms and cook for an additional minute to reduce the water (tofu shirataki noodles tend to be watery).

I like to sprinkle with salt, but low sodium soy sauce also adds a really nice flavor to this dish.  It also tastes great with a little cream cheese mixed in or shredded cheese sprinkled on top.  Enjoy!!

tofu shirataki = 40 calories
asparagus = 15 calories
peas = 25 calories
mushrooms = 22 calories

1 serving = 102 calories

Make sure to add protein as well as a side (a small salad, an apple, some carrots, a bowl of soup, some sushi, etc.) to make this a more complete meal.  Like I mentioned above, Quorn vegetarian "chicken" patties go great with this; I toast one for two full cycles, cut it up, and serve it on top of the pasta.  My favorite sides are either an apple and a piece of cheese or a Greek yogurt.



Flutter Away - Kiss Mani!


I love this fun manicure so much - I can't stop admiring it!  I started with two coats of Nicole Daffy Dill, then used Kiss Nail Artist Flat Stickers for the rhinestone butterfly.  The stickers are thin and flat, therefore you can layer different stickers to create unique designs.  Next I made dotted designs using the AWESOME Kiss Nail Artist Fine Tip Art Pens.  These are SO COOL.  I have dreamed of something like this!  It is basically a polish-filled felt tip marker.  The Kiss Fine Tip Art Pen is so easy to use.  There is no drag and the colors go on so smoothly - just like a marker.  I am obsessed with these - the nail design options are endless.




The Kiss Nail Artist Fine Tip Art Pens are sold in packs of two; the pack I received contained pink and silver.  A set containing black and white pens is also available (and I can't wait to get my hands on those!).


Kiss Nail Artist Flat Stickers come in packs of 120.  The pack I received had a sheet of rhinestone butterflies and flowers, a sheet of delicate gold flowers, and a sheet of cool black baroque shapes. 

Learn more about Kiss Nail Artist products at KissUSA.com.

Products provided for review

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crackle Glaze Fault Line

China Glaze Crackle Glaze Fault Line over Nicole by OPI Pink Seriously and Nicole by OPI Make a Comet-ment

You can see the difference in how the Crackle Glaze polish shattered where I used a thin coat versus a thicker coat (thin on middle finger, thicker on ring and pinkie).  I think it looks pretty cool with the sparkly pink showing through!

Washington DC

J and I went to DC for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival this year.  Although I have lived outside of DC my entire life, I had never been to the festival before.  This weekend was a bit dreary and chilly, but we had a great time seeing the cherry blossoms (they were few and far between), the monuments and memorials, the kites (there were hundreds!), and the museums.










I also wanted to wish my longtime friend (and someone who is in DC each and every day!) a very happy birthday.
Happy Birthday today, Theresa!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Brooke Cooks - Chili

I LOVE chili year-round.  My mom makes the absolute best chili;she likes to throw every but the kitchen sink into the pot (and it always comes out tasting great).  It is her way of getting rid of leftover soups, sauces, or taco and burrito fillings from the nights before.  Feel free to add leftovers to your chili, as long as the flavors mesh.

I typically like to make my chili in the morning, stick it in the fridge, and then heat it on the stove for dinner, which gives the flavors more time to develop, but even on nights when J and I just throw it together, this chili is delicious.


Ingredients:
1 large onion or 2 small-medium, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 Tb olive oil
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
16 oz canned tomatoes with seasoning (I love zestjalapeƱo)
16 oz can kidney beans
16 oz can black beans
16 oz can garbanzo beans
16 oz can vegetarian refried beans
2/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 Tb ketchup
1 Tb honey (or sugar)
1/2 Tb honey mustard
1 Tb chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 packet taco or chili seasoning
1/2 bag Quorn or Morningstar Farms vegetarian ground beef

Recipe:
  • Saute onion and pepper in olive oil on medium heat until tender.  Add canned tomatoes.
  • Drain and rinse kidney, black, and garbanzo beans.  Add to chili, along with the refried beans.  Stir in corn, tomato sauce (I like to use a jar I already have open - skip this if you don't have one open), ketchup, honey, honey mustard, chili powder, taco or chili seasoning, cumin, and vegetarian ground beef.  
  • Turn heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until warm throughout.  Serve with shredded cheese, brown rice, sour cream, and fresh avocado and cilantro.  How easy is that?

When I made chili this week, I diced up a random pepper I found in the fridge and tossed it in. When I went to try the chili I was VERY surprised by hot how it was; it turns out I had thrown in a habanero pepper.  I liked it, but it was too hot for J to eat.  But feel free to try adding different peppers and seasonings!  Also, sometimes I add two cans of kidney beans and skip the black beans (I LOVE kidney beans).  The garbanzo beans add an interesting texture and a slightly differently flavor that I love, but if you're not a fan of chickpeas, use a different type of bean.  I hope you enjoy this - it is one of my favorite recipes :)

Thanks for reading!

PS: were you as shocked as I was to see Pia head home on Idol last night?  Weigh in HERE.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

CND Shellac Manicure at Biago Salon


I am so excited to share the fabulous CND Shellac Manicure that I received at beautiful Biago Salon in Clarksville, MD.  A lot of people have asked me how I was finally able to grow my nails out (they have been breaking my entire life!), and a big part of what strengthened my nails and helped them finally grow was the CND Shellac Manicure.  On top of that, I had chip-free CND Shellac nails for more than 3 weeks!

I have been friends with the owner of Biago Salon, Lynn Lazarra, for 12 years.  I started getting my nails done at her salon when I was just 13 years ago, and I have watched her salon grow into the amazing hair, nail, and beauty spa that it is today.  Lynn kindly invited me to come to Biago to try the new CND Shellac Manicure.

What is CND Shellac?
The CND Shellac Manicure is a new process that gives you an instantly dry manicure that lasts for 14 chip-proof days.  I was pretty skeptical going in, because even my best manicure has never lasted for more than a few days without chips.  The Shellac system is applied in layers, beginning with a special base coat.  Each layer is quickly sealed under a special UV light, which cures the polish and makes it chip-proof and instantly dry.

What makes CND Shellac unique?
Aside from wearing for a minimum of 14 days, the CND Shellac Manicure also dries instantly. Lynn actually had me put my hands into a bucket of bolts immediately following my manicure.  I was sure my nails would be covered with nicks, but they came out spotless (it was actually a very bizarre feeling - when I do my nails at home, I can't touch anything for at least 30 minutes!)  CND Shellac Manicures are also harmless to your nails, unlike gel or acrylic nails, which leave your nail beds thin and fragile.  In fact, the CND Shellac Manicure protected my nails so well that they were able to grow out without breaking or peeling.  Plus, when you are ready for a new color, they are fast and easy to remove.


Why I'm a CND Shellac convert
I loved wearing my CND Shellac Manicure so much, and I was AMAZED that it lasted for not just 14 days but 24 days (at which point only one nail chipped).  That is more than three weeks!  It was awesome having perfectly polished nails while typing, doing dishes, shopping, when I went to my friend's wedding (and that was on day 15!), and then gorgeous nails the rest of the week for work.  I hate having chipped nails, so I typically end up spending a lot of time painting my nails during the week, but with the CND Shellac Manicure, I could just enjoy having beautiful nails every single day without ever worrying about them looking bad.

Downsides
I am an obsessive polish changer (which you probably know!).  The biggest downside of the CND Shellac Manicure was that I couldn't change polish colors every few days like I am used to, but the benefit of having fabulous nails every single day made it worth it.  The other downside is the cost, but if you are someone who gets manicures regularly, the CND Shellac Manicure seems like a more economical option given that it lasts for so long (whereas a traditional manicure typically chips within a few days).

Try it for yourself!
CND has introduced tons of new Shellac shades, ranging from fun, bright Hot Pop Pink to Rock Royalty, a deep, rich purple.  If you live in Maryland, I very highly recommend visiting Biago Salon for a CND Shellac Manicure, but if you live elsewhere, check out CND's Shellac Salons for a certified salon near you.


Biago Salon and Spa
For my Maryland readers, I encourage you to check out Biago Salon.  Lynn is one of the kindest and most genuine people I know, and on top of that, she is extremely talented.  Lynn is the only person that J and I trust to cut our hair, and my mom and sister are huge fans of Biago stylists Nancy Denton and Rachel Gross.  Everyone at Biago is so kind and friendly, and above all they are all extremely knowledgeable about and skilled with hair and nails.

Biago currently offers hair treatments including cuts, coloring, and styling; nail services such as the CND Shellac Manicure, spa pedicures, and manicures; and a number of spa and facial treatments.  Learn more about their services in their spa brochure.  To contact Biago to learn more or for an appointment, call (410)531-5730.


Day 1
My beautiful CND Shellac Manicure in Red Baroness.  I love how shimmery and multidimensional it is.

Day 16
More than two weeks in, there are no chips and just a hint of tip wear.  The only indication that this manicure wasn't done the day before is that it had grown out.

Day 22
I took this photo after wearing my CND Shellac Manicure for more than THREE WEEKS.  

Learn more about CND Shellac at CND.com, find a certified Shellac salon through their salon finder, and visit Biago Salon at Biago.net.  

Have you tried CND Shellac yet?  What did you think?
Thanks so much for reading!!


 
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