Monthly Archives: December 2013

Seasonal Buys to Warm Up Your Winter

I’m not usually much of a spendy shopper, but my shopping definitely picks up as the weather hits the coldest times of year.  In the midst of twinkly lights and presents, there are also the seasonal items that I love, so I like to pick up a few sweet things in the winter, and I’m sure you guys do too!  Here are some of my favourite items.  They’re still in stores right now, and likely at great deals, so there’s no need to lose our holiday cheer just yet!

1 – Bath & Body Works seasonal candles

I like candles in general, since they’re beautiful accents, their flames lend to instant magic and romance, and they usually come in amazing scents.  My favourite scents, though, are the holiday ones!  I’ve had a BBW Twisted Peppermint Candle on hand for every winter since getting married, and this year I picked up a Red Velvet Cupcake one as well!  These particular 3-wick ones last a long time, and are usually 2 for $30, so you can pick up a few – they make great hostess gifts!

2 – Chocolate Advent Calendars

Here we have the classic Lindt chocolate advent calendar.  These are so much fun!  Sometimes we buy them and alternate who gets the treat each day, sometimes we buy cheap ones and eat the whole thing in one sitting, we’re such rebels haha!

3 – Bath & Body Works Holiday Lotions & Creams

This particular one was a Pink Sugarplum scented lotion from Bath & Body Works, but I love picking up Peppermint scented lotion, it’s a great pick me up for dull days!  The Twisted Peppermint (same as the candles in #1) is a nice scent that’s not overly feminine or overpowering, and it smells like a candy cane with notes of vanilla!

4 – Starbucks Seasonal VIA

By now, my love of the Peppermint Mocha is well known, but I also found this stuff – VIA in Peppermint Mocha!  You mix it with hot milk, and it’s like the most amazing and caffeinated peppermint hot chocolate ever!

5 – EOS Holiday Lip Balm Collection

As I’ve already mentioned in this post, I love eos lip balms, so I picked up the holiday pack!  It has the Sweet Mint flavour, as well as Limited Edition Vanilla Bean, and Raspberry Pomegranate – they are all super yummy!

Those are my favourite seasonal buys of 2013, and it sure helps that I love peppermint and candy cane scented and flavoured stuff!  Besides, chocolate is really always in season 🙂  What are some of your favourite items to pick up that get you in a holiday mood, or just pick up your spirits when it gets cold and dreary outside?

Advertisements

Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cheesecake

Here we are, in the midst of what has become known in diet circles as calorie bomb season.  It can definitely be tougher to make healthy choices when we’re offered with not only lots of delicious food, but also lots of not-very-healthy food, and also likely doing some travelling.  My best advice is not to stress about it too much, enjoy the time, make memories, enjoy the food, and try and be smart about it – eat fruit and veggies when they are an option, etc.  However, I do find that having a helpful recipe or two up your sleeve helps as well, if you’re entertaining or contributing to the menu.  Here is a delicious festive cheesecake (yes, cheesecake!) that is amazing as a lighter choice.

Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cheesecake (original recipe here)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Splenda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. (about 2/3 cup) fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg whites (about 4 egg whites), room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 standard-sized candy canes or 12 mini candy canes, crushed
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray
  2. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, Splenda, and vanilla.  Use an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes, mix until smooth.
  3. While mixing, add yogurt, egg whites, and flour one by one, gradually.  Mix until uniform, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add in half of the crushed candy canes, mix in gently.  Pour mixture into the cake pan.
  5. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy canes.  Let cool completely, and refrigerate for at least a few hours.
  7. When ready to serve, slice up into 8 slices, and enjoy!

There you have it, a refreshing and fun dessert with a crisp minty bite of candy cane that won’t fill you up with sugar 🙂  I enjoyed this one so much, I’ll probably re-make it with leftover candy canes!

Do you have any lightened up holiday recipes, or even just favourite holiday recipes?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Hello sweet friends!  It’s finally here, those beautiful few days of family, celebration, and of course, remembering the miracle that happened long ago in Bethlehem. He came, He lived, He walked, He taught, and then died so we may live.  It’s amazing every time I think about it, and to think of the deepest love that was at the heart of that miracle moves me to my core.

I’ll be taking a bit of a break from blogging to enjoy and celebrate all the wonder and hope that abounds, and I hope you too have a beautiful Christmas season.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:13, 14, NASB

(Nativity photo from Do Small Things With Love at http://www.dosmallthingswithlove.com/2013/11/33-nativity-crafts-christmas.html)

My Favourite Lip Balms

If you’ve been following this blog, you know by now that I really like makeup and beauty.  Although I like to have an easy to create look for most days, I’m not one to shy away from experimenting, or busting out a smokey eye or bold lip.  However, even more important than makeup is caring for your natural beauty.  That means taking good care of and protecting and pampering your skin, hair, nails, etc.  I know for me personally, my lips tend to get dry and chapped, which doesn’t look or feel nice at all!  That’s why today I’m sharing my favourite finds for keeping lips hydrated, soft, and smooth 🙂

1 – Body Blends Naturals Lip Balm

This lip balm is great for temperate weather, and is almost like a gloss.  It comes in liquid form, in a squeezable tube, and slicks on a nice, clear, colourless shine.  It boasts shea butter, beeswax, and beneficial oils for hydrating, as well as 9 organic extracts like bamboo and green tea.  It has a very soft sweet mint flavour, and I love that it is a natural product, and is free of sulfates, parabens, and gluten.  It’s a great product for light moisture, though I found it didn’t quite protect as well as I’d like in cold, dry weather.  You can buy 3 tubes for $14.70 plus tax here, so it’s a great price for a really great product!

2 – Nivea Essentials Lip Balm

I’ve been a fan of Nivea lip products for years, and I’ve really liked their tinted and Pure & Natural lines of products, but this basic one is an old favourite and a basic essential.  It has shea butter and something called Hydra IQ.  It delivers a very nice rich moisturizing effect, and it lasts very long, so I’m able to drink my coffee or water and eat, and it’s still there.  It’s also nearly invisible as well as free of any scent or flavour, so it’s great for men – Nick uses this one quite a bit!  I usually buy it at a drugstore, where you can get a pack of two for pretty cheap, and a single tube will last at least a few months.

3 – EOS Lip Balm

Oh my goodness, guys, this one is amazing!  These little spheres are 100% natural, and 95% organic.  They contain vitamin E, shea butter, and jojoba oil, and taste and smell amazing!  It’s like candy on your lips 🙂  The lip balm goes on clear with very little shine, but lasts very long, and you can almost feel the deep conditioning effects.  I’ve found this one layers very nicely with lipstick and gloss as well, so that’s an added bonus.  One little sphere will last a long time, but I picked up a bunch, I love rotating all the different flavours!  Pictured above, I have Pomegranate Raspberry, Strawberry Sorbet, Sweet Mint, Vanilla Bean, and Summerfruit.  This one is also usually available at a local drugstore for a very reasonable price.

What are your favourite picks, or have you tried these products?

Butternut Squash Soup

I don’t know about you, but I find fall and winter are the perfect time to bring out the soup recipes.  There is just something so comforting and soothing about a nice hot bowl of soup on a cold, grey day.  They also provide the perfect time to explore seasonal flavours in soup.  Here’s a recipe that apparently comes from Kelly Osborne’s weight loss plan, and is absolutely delicious!  I’ve adapted it a bit to our tastes.  Here’s a picture, I had it for lunch!

Butternut Squash Soup (original recipe here)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced small (I used a yellow onion)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled, chopped into 1 inch cubes (I used russet)
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat oil to med-low.  Add garlic, onion, and a pinch of salt, stir for 4 minutes.
  2. Add squash, carrots, potato, and water.
  3. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
  4. Remove from heat, add milk, stir well.
  5. Puree soup in a blender, working in batches.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  6. Sprinkle with a hint of cinnamon before serving.

And there you have it!  Simple, hearty, and delicious.  I really like the idea of pureeing soup in a blender because it looks and feels creamy without adding in tons of fattening cream.  I also liked to sprinkle a hint of cinnamon to really bring out the fall flavours, since it highlights the squash very nicely.  I love that it’s an easy recipe, especially since it seems that butternut squash soup is everywhere these days!  Nick isn’t usually a big fan of soup, but he really liked it too!  I know I’ll be making a few more batches of this recipe while it’s cold out.

Have you guys tried this recipe?  Or found other ways to use squash and other seasonal vegetables in your cooking?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

First, a quick confession – I am the type that gets all excited about Christmas pretty much in November.  Basically, as soon as the stores start spraying holiday cheer and evergreens everywhere, I bust out the Christmas songs and seasonal everything – I love it!  Especially here in Canada, it’s a perfect way to brighten up our terrible winters a little bit 🙂  So it should come as no surprise that I quickly decided to brighten up our apartment with some Christmas decor, especially since this is the first year we have room for a tree!

I started off simple, with elegant red tall candles in glass holders on our dining table.  Tall candles and tapers always seem so lovely to me, and I love the bright red colour of these.  (Candles, candleholders, and tray all from Ikea)

For the coffee table, I splurged a bit on a fabulous bowl, which will be perfect for all seasons, so it was more than worth it!  I’ve had my eye on this bowl for over 2 years now, so I know I’ll love it for a while.  To add seasonal cheer, I filled it with some bright ornaments.  This look is simple, easy to pull together, and very festive!(Bowl and ornaments from Ikea)

And now for the star of our show – our very first Christmas tree!  About a month ago, there was a big sale on at Canadian Tire when they rolled out their trees and holiday decor, so off we went and picked out this beautiful prelit tree!  We also picked up a few ornaments there, and some more at Ikea.  Here are some close-ups of our picks beyond the basic ball ornaments:

At Canadian Tire, we picked up this beautiful sparkly pink swan, silver deer’s head, and this adorable snowman!  And of course, my lovely little Starbucks cup – not only for my love of their delicious concoctions, but also an ode to many sweet memories spent with friends over coffee ❤

And at Ikea, we got this sweet teddy bear and rocking horse in a 2-pack, as well as a 4-pack of silver tasselled ornaments, and a 4-pack of white ornaments with silver design.  The silver star tree topper was also an Ikea purchase!

So our home has been filled with cheer since early November, with a lovely tree, ornaments, and Christmas music filling the air, though I figured I’d wait until December to post about it!  How are you guys decorating for the holidays?  Any earlybirds like me?

Three Ingredient Coffee Cupcakes

Does anyone love coffee?  Cupcakes?  If you’re like me, probably both 🙂  Well then, how about coffee and cupcakes all in one?  I think I just heard clouds parting and angels singing…

I found this recipe on Pinterest recently, and let me tell you, it was gone in a weekend!  A dozen cupcakes (or muffins if you prefer un-frosted) completely devoured between Friday evening and Sunday night, so it’s gotta be good.  Here we go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix – I used Butter Pecan
  • 1 can white frosting
  • 10-12oz coffee – about the size of a large cup (290-350 mL)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray, or line with cupcake liners.
  3. In a bowl, mix dry cake mix with 8-10oz of coffee, until it forms a nice batter.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin pan. Bake as per box, 20 minutes in my case).
  5. While cupcakes are baking, add the remaining coffee to half of the frosting.
  6. Allow baked cupcakes to cool for at least 5 minutes once done, and then frost.

Enjoy!

There are so many reasons I love this recipe.  The cupcakes are delicious enough to eat alone, unfrosted.  If you eat them unfrosted, they’re actually low-calorie, much like my pumpkin & mix muffins.  Even with the frosting, they’re not exactly low calorie, but they’re much less of a calorie bomb than regular cupcakes.

Also, the coffee.  I love coffee so much, and it’s a morning essential.  Using it as the baking additive made the cupcakes amazingly delicious and moist.  It’s also a super versatile recipe, I’d love to try it with a chocolate cake mix for mocha cupcakes, maybe with caramel frosting.  It’s also tasty enough that it just might motivate me to make my own cake mix, and then it can actually be from scratch – mmmm.

Anyone else baking with some java?  How did it turn out?  Or try this recipe, I can pretty much guarantee deliciousness.