Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homemade Lip Gloss

When I saw this idea, I was super excited. Nothing is better than saving money on makeup, cuz that stuff is EXPENSIVE! Here is the original idea. The lady wasn't kidding when she said Kool-Aid is tart!

-1 packet of Crystal Light or Kool-aid (reds and pinks are best for color)
-petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
-an empty lip gloss container
-a cotton swab

I saw a tiny Vaseline container for lip gloss at Target and though it was perfect. I picked up the pink lemonade Kool-Aid also.

1. Mix 1/3 of the packet with the Vaseline using the cotton swab to stir.  If you are doing this in an empty lip gloss container, fill the container up with Vaseline first, then mix in 1/3 of the packet of flavoring. Let sit for 1 hour so that the granules can dissolve.

I tried the mixture, and this was my reaction:

The lady wasn't kidding when she said Kool-Aid is more tart than Crystal Light. It was soooo sour! I ended up throwing mine away. I will attempt this one again, but probably not for a while! Next time, I will use Crystal Light.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mini Spinach Dip Bowls

I have had this on my "food to make" list for quite a while, and finally buckled down and made it. I was doing a dinner of snacks, so I picked out a bunch of snacky foods, and this was the only one not prepared in advance. It's super easy, and really tasty! It makes a great snack or appetizer. Here is the original recipe. My version is slightly altered, per usual.

Serves: 12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes (for frozen bread dough)

-1 loaf frozen bread dough or 1 can refrigerated bread dough
-1/2 cup sour cream
-3 oz cream cheese
-2 cups spinach, chopped coarsely
-2 tablespoons of shredded parmesan cheese
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-1/4 tsp garlic powder
-2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Rinse the spinach thoroughly in cold water. Chop into small pieces.

3. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Form bread dough into bowl shape small enough to fit in each muffin tin bowl. As a side note, the refrigerated stuff forms a little bit better than the frozen dough. I couldn't make a bowl shape to save my life! The dough should be about an inch thick.

4. Pour the olive oil in a pan, and set to medium-high heat. Cook and stir spinach until wilted (about 3 minutes). Add in garlic powder, and cook for an additional minute. Remove from stove.

5. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, spinach, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese together until well blended.

6. Scoop mixture into each mini bowl.

7. Pop into oven and bake 20-25 minutes, until edges of bowls are golden brown.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ninjabread Cookies

I admit, this is not an original recipe, but it was a lot of fun to do. I got the cookie cutters at Target.

Serves: 12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

-Ninja cookie cutters
-cookie dough (I bought sugar and chocolate chip pre-made rolls)
-white frosting
-food coloring
-icing (desired colors)

1. Place cookie dough roll on a plate.

2. Sprinkle flour on your table or countertop, and roll out a good sized piece of dough from the roll (big enough to cut out the cookie). I did this by hand, but you can use a rolling pin for a flatter finish.

3. Push the cookie cutter firmly down into the dough. Remove the excess edges and set aside.

4. Sprinkle sugar on top of sugar cookie.

5. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place each cookie on the sheet, leaving generous space between each.

6. Follow baking directions on cookie package (mine baked for 10-12 minutes). Here was the result:

OH MY GOD! They became sumo wrestlers in the oven! What happened? ALL of the cookies came out this way. With some quick thinking, and while the cookies were still warm, we re-cut the cookies a second time.

They were a little rough around the edges, but aren't all ninjas?

7. Allow cookies to cool at least 20 minutes. Separate frosting out into bowls. Add food coloring to each bowl to get desired colors.

8. Frost each cookie, and decorate with icing.

What are the most fun cookies YOU have ever made?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Flat Iron Cover

I saw this a while ago and have been wanting to do it for so long! I finally was able to. The search for a rectangular potholder was easier said than done. I looked everywhere before I found one. So many times, I am traveling and I need to bring my hair straightener with me, but I have just used it and it is still hot, and I don't have time to wait for it to cool down so I can throw it in my bag. Simple fix--cover the hot part and pack it! Here is the original idea.

-1 long, rectangular potholder (not the square ones--they aren't long enough! I got mine from Walmart)

1. Lay your potholder out, and make sure it is long enough to cover the plate part of your straightener.

2. Remove any tags and fold potholder in half, the long way.

3. Starting from the corner with the fold, sew the bottom part shut using loops, to keep it more securely closed.

4. Continue sewing around the corner, and up the long side.

5. Stop sewing when you get to the second corner, leaving the top open. Here is the finished product, with the flat iron inside!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nail Whitening

I have never actually wished for whiter fingernails, but I found this great tip from my favorite magazine, Marie Claire. After using a nail polish color for a while, or leaving it on for an extended period of time, it can leave behind a yellow color on your nails. This is a quick fix! Repeat every 6-8 weeks for best results.

-1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
-2 tablespoons baking soda

1. Mix hydrogen peroxide and baking soda together.


2. Apply the mixture thoroughly to your nails, and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

3. Rinse off mixture with warm water. I can tell the difference--can you?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Candy Buttons

Remember candy buttons from when you were little? I know I do. I remember peeling the dots off the paper, and sometimes the paper would stick to them. This recipe was a special request from a blog reader. Props to Sandy Toes and Popsicles for the great tutorial! Here is a template you can download and place under your wax paper, so that you know where to place the candy buttons.

Prep time: 15 minutes

-2 egg whites OR meringue powder
-1/4 tsp almond extract OR lemon juice
-1 lb confectioner's sugar
-food coloring
-artificial flavoring (optional)
-sandwich bags
-wax paper

1. Mix the sugar, egg whites, and almond extract together on low speed for 1 minute. Now, whip for 10 minutes on high speed. I cheated, and only whipped for 5 minutes, but the mixture wasn't grainy at all, which is ultimately what you are going for.

2. Divide the icing into small bowls.

3. Add different food coloring to each bowl. If desired, add different flavors to each as well.

4. Pour each color into a seperate sandwich bag and seal each bag tightly.

5. Cut a very small hole in the corner of each bag.

6. Lay a piece of wax paper over a cookie sheet. Slip the template under the wax paper. Squeeze one drop of icing at a time onto the paper, where you can see the dots through the paper. This was a long and tedious process for not a lot of yield. I did 2 rows of each color and then called it quits.

7. As you can see, my buttons looked more like Hershey's kisses or something. How do they get perfectly round? My hand is just not that steady. Store in a cool dry place overnight.

8. Once candy has hardened, store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

Monday, July 23, 2012


And now, the long-awaited London post, starting with some common stereotypes!

*The British have bad teeth. False. The people I met/encountered had normal teeth, although they did take the time to explain this stereotype, which I am grateful for! Apparently, with socialized medicine, only a few dentists are covered under that. Thus, it can take months, and even years, of being on a waiting list to see one of those dentists. The British are so accustomed to not paying for healthcare, that the idea of seeing a teeth specialist and having to pay for it seems utterly ridiculous. Makes sense, huh?

*The guards at Buckingham Palace have to stand out in all kinds of weather. True. Those guards are amazing...they are out there no matter the heat or the cold. Although, I did discover that they have little shelters to stand under, that are tall enough to accomodate their tall hats. I don't think I would have noticed otherwise, had it not been raining

*The British are extremely polite. True. For the most part, all the Brits I met were very nice and very polite, except one guy who I encountered at a Burger King in London. He wouldn't take my debit card because it had a crack in it, so he handed it back to me and said, "We don't take cheap cards here," and he refused me service. Oh well, it was only BK--can't expect loads of kindness from a fast food place.

*It's always raining in London. False. Although the weather is highly unpredictable, I am told it does rain quite a bit there. It rained on and off pretty much the whole time I was in London.

*Those double decker red buses are everywhere. True. The red buses are not only tour buses, but also the main bus transport in London. You see them quite frequently.

*Everyone eats fish and chips. False. It is a popular dish, for sure, but not EVERYONE eats it. Although the ironic thing about that is I went to order some at a pub, and they were all out. So everyone must have been eating fish and chips that particular day! The British are fond of meat and potato/veggie dishes though.

Day 1: Friday, July 13th, 2012: I must preface this by saying that per my earlier blog, the U.S. did win the bid for Miami! So, in 2016, Miami will host the World Federation of Hemophilia's Congress! Woohoo! I am so psyched about that. So, Friday morning, I woke up early, packed up my last minute things, and checked out of my hotel in Paris. I took the Metro to the Gare du Nord, or North Train Station, where I would be taking the "chunnel" from Paris to London. When I arrived, I saw a huge billboard of all the departing trains, and located mine, which would be departing to St. Pancras, London at 11:47am.

Board for departing trains in Paris, Gare du Nord

I waited at the platform a bit, because only after a certain time would the departing platform be revealed. There was a military guard walking around the station with a very large automatic gun. It was really scary! I am glad I arrived early, because I started looking over my train itinerary, that I printed from my email, and it said I had to check in. A kind gentleman that worked at the train station directed me upstairs to the check in. Oh, so that's how they keep track of those international passengers! I actually had to go through customs, just like I would in the airport. They stamped my passport and asked me a lot of questions like, how long would I be in London? Where would I be staying? Did my host know I was coming? It was pretty intense. After I was all checked in, I sat and waited in a waiting lounge nearby the departing gate. When they called my train to board, I lugged my suitcase onboard. The train was very much like an Amtrak train, in seating style and comfort. The train took off, and I fell fast asleep. I was very tired from all of the conference stuff. The ride from paris to London was only about 2 hours long, and only 20 minutes of that trip were spent under the English Channel. That part was also just pitch black, underground. Sadly, I don't have anything exciting to report other than the fact the train goes under the channel. When I arrived in London, the first thing I saw was Olympics hype. For example:

St. Pancras Train Station in London

It was pretty cool and exciting. In fact, the area I would be staying in was Stratford, where the Olympics are taking place. Now, coming to London, I didn't know a single person. That was kinda scary, but I had done my homework beforehand. I started using a website called CouchSurfing (www.couchsurfing.org). Basically, you can search for people to host you on their couch for a number of nights. It's a really cool site, and I highly recommend it. You have to make a profile and everything. I met my host, Miles, from there, and he graciously offered his air mattress to me. When I got into London, I checked the time. It was about 2:00p. I had to meet Miles at the Stratford station at 6:00p. I decided to see as any things as I possibly could before I had to meet him.

I had been looking at a map of tourist-y London places while on the train. I compared that map to a subway map, and circled the stops where those places were. The first place I headed was to Baker Street. I had heard from someone that there really was an address on Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes had lived. Now, for the life of me, I couldn't remember what that address was, but I thought I would take my chances. The subway, or "tube" was very navigable. I got off on Baker Street, and walked a little until I saw a whole bunch of caf├ęs and restaurants named after Sherlock, so I knew I was close! Across the street I spied 221B Baker Street, otherwise known as the Sherlock Holmes museum. Bingo! I crossed the street and took pictures. The line to get in was long, so I moved on to stop # 2: Abbey Road.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum
I got off at the Abbey Road stop. My only regret was that I didn't have 3 friends with me so that I could re-create the famous Beatles album, Abbey Road. Many people did this, stopping traffic quite frequently. Miles later told me that the pedestrians did have the right of way, even if they were taking pics and being tourist-y.

Abbey Road

My next stop was Buckingham Palace. Now, keep in mind that I didn't have a place to stow my luggage, so I was getting pretty tired from lugging it all over the place with me. I asked for directions from a nice British gentleman, and he directed me through a park, about a 10 minute walk. It also had started to rain. I made it to the palace and took some pictures.

Me in front of Buckingham Palace

The Royal Guard, sheltered from the rain
The palace was very big and impressive! I did a time check, and it was a little after 4p. I decided it was best for me to start heading back to Stratford station, so that I could meet Miles on time. I took the tube, and arrived to Stratford. Amazingly, they had wireless internet, so I was able to get online for a while and entertain myself. I sat for a good 45 minutes, until it was close to 6p. Then, I moved my suitcase and myself into more of a plain view. Miles spotted me first, and came right up to me. I extended my hand, but he instead went in for a hug. I liked him immediately, as this was a typical move I would do! We dropped off my luggage at his house, and he introduced me to some of his housemates. One of them, Izzy (the only girl), tagged along with us, so I was excited. We headed out, our gameplan to pick out some food to make for a real British meal. We talked all about stereotypes of Americans and British. We had a good few laughs from all of that. We walked through Stratford and found some cool stuff, like the Olympics mascot.

Miles and I with the Olympics mascot
Also, we went to see where the Olympics were being set up. We couldn't get too close, but it was still pretty cool.

Scene of the Olympics!
Miles and Izzy told me they were both sick of the hype already. I can only imagine! Next, we headed to a pub. I got to try my new favorite beer, which is a flavored cider called Kopparberg. It's not from London, but it was so light and fruity, it didn't even taste like alcohol! I smuggled one of these home in my suitcase.

Flavored cider: Kopparberg
Next, we went grocery shopping. Miles and Izzy picked everything out. Then, we returned to the apratment, where Miles cooked it all up into this delicious meal:

A real British meal, homecooked!
We had potatoes, stuffing, veggies, meet, and those bread looking things are Yorkshire puddings. Sooo good! I went to bed so full that night! Miles and I stayed up pretty late just talking about random things. We decided we were going to sleep in late, since we both were feeling a bit sleep deprived.

Day 2: Saturday, July 14th, 2012: We slept in until about noon, which was a lot later than I think we had intended! All the same, the sleep felt great. We quickly ate some lunch, got ready, and headed out. Miles took me to this place where we would see a lot of street performers. We saw a lady who hung upside down and juggled knives.

We also saw a guy from the U.S. that called himself Arizona Jones. He had a fedora, a whip, and everything. He called Miles up to help him with his tricks. But, it started raining, and he was forced to pack up and leave without having done his finale.

Miles helping Indiana Jones' brother: Arizona Jones
Next, we headed back in the direction of Stratford station because we were meeting up with another awesome guy I met through Couch Surfing. His name is Mo, and he is a wonderful person. Miles spotted him based upon my description, and we went out for coffee (tea for me). We had a GREAT conversation, and ended up playing all kinds of card tricks. I screwed mine up though, haha.

Mo and I on the streets of London

Then, Miles showed us his devil sticks performance. He is really good at them, and was showing Mo and I how to do them as well. You basically have two sticks and you need to keep a third one in the air and twirl it with the first two. It is a lot harder than it looks!

Miles and his devil sticks
After meeting Mo, we headed out to get some lunch at Wetherspoon (a popular local pub chain). I had some steak and kidney pudding and a cloudy, unfiltered cider the locals call "scrumpy." I love cider so much, that I even liked the scrumpy. My first choice of food was actually fish and chips, but they were all out--sad! I want to make this at home though--doesn't it look good?

Steak and kidney pudding: a real London meal!

After lunch, we headedback to Miles' apartment to get all fancied up. We were going to an event at a famous London landmark called the Gherkin. We were invited by Miles' friends, but had no idea what it was all about. But hey, I love any excuse to get dressed up!

The Gherkin

We arrived at the Gherkin, and discovered the event was being put on by a group called Hello. We heard other people around us asking what Hello is. It was definitely funny that we were not the only ones who didn't know! I got to meet a few of Miles' friends who were pretty cool: Joe and Jamie. We mostly hung out and talked in the upstairs bar lounge. We also had some fun with the props available to us.
Me, Miles, and Joe
After a few hours, we decided to head back before the last of the trains stopped running for the night.  It was another great night!

Day 3: Sunday, July 15th, 2012: I woke up early, packed up my remaining things, and Miles walked me to the Stratford train station. How I wished I could have stayed longer! I was really beginning to miss home though, so it was the perfect time to start heading back. I said my goodbyes to Miles, and took the train to Heathrow Airport. Since I didn't have a ton of time to shop, I picked up several gifts in the airport for friends and family back home. I boarded my flight and headed home, with some wonderful new friends, great pictures, and a ton of good stories.