Review: PopSugar Must Have, January 15

Popsugar January 2015b

PopSugar Must Have

Monthly delivery for $39.95/month

Includes “must have” items across all catagories, targeted for women, chosen by PopSugar editors.

To be very clear, I likely would not have gotten this box if I hadn’t used a 50% code. As it happens, though, I found the code and loved the spoilers, so I ordered and was not disappointed!

Popsugar January 2015

This month’s box included Jack + Lucy Pom Pom Hat, KeepCup Brew 12-Ounce Reusable Coffee Cup, ToGoSpa Eyes, Manduka eQua Hand Towel, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, Skin Jewel Tattoos and General Mills Nature Valley Protein Granola. Most items in this box are awesome and everything will be used! The hat is pretty trendy, slouchy with a faux fur pom, and very season appropriate- so much so that it was already in my gloves/hat bin when I took these photos! The cup is double walled perfection- a little small for me as a travel mug, but perfect as an office coffee cup (I can carry it all around the building without sloshing everywhere). Although I probably wouldn’t have purchased the eye masks, they seem like a great treat for a future morning after a long night. Similarly, a yoga towel wasn’t a high priority for me but is a perfect addition to my gym bag. I actually ADORE the First Aid cream- it’s perfect for my elbows and heels, moisturizing without being greasy and thick and heavily scented- and it already has a spot on my regular beauty routine. The tattoos and granola aren’t really high value for me, but are welcome additions to a well curated box (I’m already thinking about what girls night out will be appropriate for metallic tattoos). Overall, this box was such a winner for me and an especially great value at about $20. I planned to cancel after January, but didn’t get around to it, so I’m looking forward sharing my February box!

January Subscription Box Review: Birchbox and Sample Society

First things first- I didn’t post December reviews, owing to the insane amount that was going on last month. You know :) However, my ipsy box was really lackluster- for at least the fourth time in a row. So, I cancelled that subscription. Right now I’m getting Birchbox and Sample Society, and may be creeping into PopSugar and Darby Smart…keep your eyes peeled for those :) So, with that disclaimer, here’s what we’re looking at for January beauty boxes:

Birchbox

 

Birchbox

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included Number 4 Non-Aerosol Hairspray, Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion, Mirenesse Mattfinity Lip Rouge, Harvey Prince Sincerely,  and Manuka Bee Venom mask. You know, I loved the last two Birchboxes, but I’m a little ‘meh’ about this one. You know how I feel about perfume samples, especially Birchbox’s obsession with Harvey Prince- it feels like a wasted sample. The body lotion is fine- I like to rosemary scent, but kind of wish they would have given this sample at the same time as the body wash of the same scent. The hairspray is also kind of neutral for me- though since I rarely use it, it is actually pretty convenient to have a mini. The last two products are interesting- I’m very hot and cold about super bright lip color, but I really like this one! I think it has everything to do with the matte texture. And the mask…I’m a little apprehensive of the concept of venom in a mask, with my sensitive skin. Of course I’ll try it, but I’m keeping the Benedryl on standby. Overall, I don’t feel like I wasted money on this box, but it’s not really a standout for me.

Beauty Bar

Allure Sample Society

Monthly delivery for $15/month
Includes 4-5 full and deluxe sized beauty and makeup samples
This month I received the Philip B. Light Weight Deep Conditioner, Revlon PhotoReady Eye Art, Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar, StriVectin Intensive Illuminating Serum, and ZOYA Polish in Rayne. The samples are all a pretty decent size, and I love that they included six items. The Revlon sample kind of threw me for a loop, since this box doesn’t usually do drug store brands. On the other hand, it’s full sized product and the gold color is interesting, so I’ll definitely be trying it out- I really like that you can use the shimmer alone, or layer it with more glitter for an evening look. Beyond that, though, I’m pretty into everything else in this box! I don’t know much about Phillip B as a brand, but my hair loves a deep conditioner- especially in this winter.  I know that StriVectin is a great brand, and I’m glad to see this serum is in a pump package- even if I can’t seem to find any information on the product. Hope in a Jar is a cult classic, so I love the travel size, and this ZOYA polish is making me look forward to some imaginary spring break plans. The one product that I’m super excited about, though, is the the Sea Mud bar- people say its amazing for your complexion, and heaven knows I love anything that makes that promise :) Overall, as usually, I’m pretty thrilled to try out some great new skincare and makeup products!
Anything that you guys got this month that you either loved or didn’t love?

Creamy Kale Soup

Happy Wellness Wednesday, my friends! I work in a place that is really into employee wellness, so for me, Wednesdays are a chance to wear yoga pants to work and make sure I get a 30 minute workout in- it’s pretty nice. Wellness Wednesdays also remind me to pay a little closer attention to what I’m eating, and make sure that I’m actually fueling my body by making intentional choices, which can sometimes be especially challenging at work.

My solution to healthy office eating recently has been soups- they’re usually pretty quick to make, are easy to load up with veggies, and I can make an entire batch on Sunday and have lunch all week. For me, that’s a pretty winning combination! Eschewing all modesty, my soup game has been pretty strong this winter, and today I’m excited to share my soup-er delicious Creamy Kale Soup (see what I did there??).

Kale Soup 4

I’m not usually a person for blended soups, nor a person that likes to eat things that look like baby food- let’s start with that disclaimer. This soup gets tons of texture and flavor from a few slices of bacon, though, and that really brings it into adult-food territory. Also, even though it’s a pretty creamy texture, there’s no milk or cream- softened potatoes are blended with chicken stock, which results in a really lovely, velvety consistency.

Kale Soup 3

This soup came together really easily, and is full of kale, which I love. Evan does not love kale, but he surprised me by agreeing that the soup is pretty delicious- though he suggests that the bacon, sautéed with onions and garlic are largely responsible for the flavor, with some credit going to a sprinkling of parmesan cheese J I say, give this soup a try- it’s moderately healthy, pretty warm and comforting, and great with a slice of avocado toast on a lazy weekend afternoon!

Creamy Kale Soup

3 slices bacon (for a veggie option, just use 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
Salt
Red pepper flakes
2 baking potatoes (probably about a pound, total- I used two healthy sized Idaho/russet potatoes)
1 bunch kale (about 4-5 cups when chopped)
4 cups chicken or veggie stock or broth

Prep your ingredients: Dice the onion, and peel and roughly chop the garlic (remember, everything will be blended so garlic can be a bit larger than usual). Peel and rinse the potatoes, and dice into about 1 centimeter cubes. Chop the kale, then rinse thoroughly and drain excess water. Lastly, slice bacon into relatively thin slivers.

Assemble the soup: Add bacon to a soup pan or wide sauce pan, and cook over medium low for about five to eight minutes. Low heat is best for this step, since it will slowly render the fat…and bacon fat is what will give us that smoky flavor. Once the bacon pieces are crispy, carefully remove those from the pan and set aside, leaving all of the fat. Add the onions and garlic and increase the heat to about medium; salt liberally and cook for another five to eight minutes, until the onions are translucent and just begin to take on some color. Add the potatoes and season will red pepper flakes to your preference- I added about ½ tsp for heat without making my eyes water. Stir the mixture to thoroughly coat the potatoes, then let sit for four or five minutes so they have a chance to cook on one side. Stir again, and let cook for another four or five minutes. Add the kale to the pan and stir to encourage wilting. After three or four minutes, when most of the kale has lost its rigidity, transfer the entire mixture to the blender.

Blend the soup: This can go a few ways. I use a Ninja, which is pretty beg. As a result, I am able to fit all of the ingredients along with all four cups of broth. Then I press blend and let it go for about 90 seconds, and everything gets nice and smooth. (If you have a smaller blender you could either work in two batches, adding half of the kale/potatoes and half of the broth, or you could blend the soup mixture with only as much broth as you have room for, and then transfer it back to the pan to stir in the rest of the broth.) Either way, make sure that you leave the lid to your blender slightly ajar, to allow room for the heat to escape- very important! Once blended, transfer to bowls, top with the reserved bacon, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Buckeyes/Rice Krispy Peanut Butter Balls

Friends, I’m sure you’re aware- tonight is the College Football National Championship game. Living in Columbus, I am more than aware, and the anticipation has been palpable all day, if not all week!! I’m not a born and bred OSU fan, but I’ve lived in Columbus for about five years and I’ve certainly gotten into the spirit of things. Today I’m bringing that Buckeye Spirit to the blog, with my take on Buckeyes.

Buckeyes-Peanut Butter Krispy Balls3

First, a gratuitous photo of Howie getting his OSU fanatic on:

OSU Howie

Also, if the Howie pic didn’t get you into the spirit of things, how about a game-day trailer?

Ok, so Buckeyes. Buckeyes are a nut, yes, and also a candy that consists of a peanut butter center coated with chocolate. I actually don’t really care for traditional homemade buckeye candy…the peanut butter and powdered sugar filling is pretty sweet and not particularly appealing to me. Instead, I like to make peanut butter rice krispies, shaped into balls and coated with chocolate- they have tons of texture and a slightly salty component.

Buckeyes-Peanut Butter Krispy Balls2

These are a little tricky- first, you want to kind of smush everything together to crush the rice. This is best accomplished when the mixture cools for a few minutes. You also need to keep your hands as non-sticky as possibly- I sometimes use Pam, but I’ve also had luck with sporadically dipping my hands in cool water. Either way you do it, the mixture stays pliable for a while, so you form the balls, chill in the freezer, then roll in chocolate. It’s a bit of work, but the results are super delicious…and perfect for game day!

Rice Krispy Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups peanut butter
5 cups rice krispies
1 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mixture…the world is your oyster!)
¼ cup milk or cream, divided

Make the krispies: First, prepare a cookie sheet by laying down a sheet of parchment or wax paper; set aside. In a saucepot, mix the corn syrup, sugar and peanut butter and cook on medium low until melted and the sugar is no longer granular (about five minutes). Make sure that you stir pretty regularly during this time! Measure the crisp rice into a pretty large bowl, and pour the peanut butter mixture over that; stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated. Give this mixture a few minutes to cool, then use your hands to start forming into balls. TIP: I have the most luck when I squeeze a walnut sized ball pretty hard, transferring from hand to hand, and then gently forming into a ball- you really want to compact things. Once you’ve formed the entire mixture into balls, place the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer to firm things up.

Make the chocolate coating: pour the cholate of your choice into a microwave safe bowl (tall and narrow is a better bet than short and wide, if you have the choice) and add half of the milk (2 tbsp). Microwave on 30 second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir really, really well- sometimes you think the chocolate isn’t going to smooth out, but it really will! At this point it’s a judgment call- the chocolate needs to be thin enough to coat the krispies, but not too thin. So, if you need to, add more milk (a tiny bit at a time) until the chocolate reaches the consistency that you’d like. Using a fork, or a toothpick, dip each rice krispy ball into the chocolate, leaving a dime-sized space at the top without chocolate. Refrigerate for a few hours to solidify the chocolate, then bring to room temperature before serving.

Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream

I know that it’s crazy cold out, and I know that it’s January and I’m supposed to be on a health kick. The thing is…I love ice cream. And I love making ice cream, and I love eating ice cream, and I’m a little lactose sensitive, and I have very little self control, and ice cream.

So that’s just about that.

Chai Ice Cream 3

I was thinking about how ice cream was going to come into play in the cooler months, and the obvious answer is by using comforting winter flavors. Today we are taking a look at Chai Ice Cream and, if you’re really feeling it, Pumpkin Chai Ice cream. My sister introduced me to the yummy flavor combo of Pumpkin Chai and now, much like ice cream, I can’t quit it. The pumpkin is absolutely optional, though, so leave it out if you’d like!

Chai Ice Cream

 

As always, this ice cream is super simple. The base takes about fifteen minutes to make, then I chill it in the fridge over night to cool (that’s also when I put my ice cream maker in the freezer, because I always forget). The next day the base goes in the ice cream maker for about then minutes. From there, I transfer to pint containers and freeze for a few hours, or just top it with some whipped cream and enjoy the immediate satisfaction of a milkshake. Either way, it’s a super delicious winter treat!

Pumpkin Chai Ice Cream

–          2 cups milk
–          4 tsp cornstarch
–          1 ¼ heavy cream
–          2/3 cup sugar and 2 tbsp sugar
–          2 tbsp corn syrup
–          ¼ tsp kosher salt
–          4 chai tea bags (I used Tazo brand)
–          1 ½ oz cream cheese
–          1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, completely optional

Make the base: In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2-3 tbsp of the milk, and set aside. In a saucepan, bring the rest of the milk, the cream, 2/3 cup sugar, syrup and the salt to a boil, and boil for 4 minutes exactly. Stir in the slurry, and boil for about a minute; add the tea bags and steep for 10 minutes. While that’s steeping, in a small bowl (I used the same one I had the starch mixture in) mix the cream cheese with about ½ cup of the milk mixture, until it’s completely lump free. Remove the tea bags from the milk, and mix the cheese and milk mixtures together; cool completely.

Note: some people use an ice bath to cool the base immediately, but I like to make the base the day before, and let it sit in the fridge. This is also helpful because it reminds me to put my ice cream maker into the freezer to sit overnight, as well.

Make the ice cream: assemble your ice cream maker. Pour the base into the freezer and freeze according to your manufacturer’s instructions. When there are about five minutes left, you can add the pumpkin mixture if you’re going that route. Once the mixture reaches a firm soft-serve stage, transfer the ice cream to freezer containers and freeze for at least two hours, to really firm up. Or, transfer it to a pint glass and top with whipped cream and enjoy as a milkshake- totally your call.

Simply Glorious.

Two years ago today, Evan D and I got really dressed up and went to a fancy church and made some significant promises, then fed people cake and gin and danced until we collapsed from exhaustion. And it was glorious, my friends. Simply glorious.

weddingOur brief marriage has been blessed with so much goodness and fortune- so much more than we could ever deserve. As we were planning our wedding, Evan and I were reminded regularly that we were working on a wedding, but we should really focus on building the foundation of our marriage…and build that foundation, we did.

Today, though, I want to go back and talk about the wedding itself. It might be an odd analysis, but I truly believe that our wedding day led to a profound change in who I am as a person, who Evan and I are as a couple, and how we manage our relationships.

I am, historically, a very independent and self-sufficient person. I’ve encountered many people who are reluctant to make decisions or who seek much council before they commit to things, and I do not share that trait. Rather, I find that it’s usually much more efficient for me to weigh my options fully, then make a choice and enact a plan myself.

Planning the wedding, this was actually pretty helpful. I would research and lay out the options, Evan and I would discuss, and then we had a deadline for deciding things. This was actually a great time in our relationship, when Evan and I first started learning how to work together on significant projects. It was on our wedding day, though, and a few days leading up to the wedding that I realized that I needed to step off of the control bus and let other people climb aboard. Though I was insanely hesitant to let others carry out our wedding, this was actually the catalyst for significant change in my life.

wedding 2Guys, our friends and family absolutely overwhelmed Evan and I with love and support. We knew there were awesome people in our lives, truly. But for the weekend that encompassed our wedding, it was like we were surrounded by an entire community whose sole purpose was to fill our lives with joy. That sounds so hyperbolic, I know, but that’s exactly how it felt when we were at the altar, looking out at all of our loved ones. Their happiness and hopefulness and blessings radiated back at us, and it was simply magnificent.

486194_10100176551810770_1527903546_nWhen I say that that day changed our lives and our relationships, I truly mean it. I am, usually, a reserved person and Evan and I aren’t the most highly social couple. We’re not hermits or particularly antisocial, but we traditionally wouldn’t go noticeably out of our way to be social. But when, in his homily, our priest reminded everyone gathered that they were an important part of our marriage, it really resonated with us. Just as our family and friends are in our lives to provide comfort, encouragement, love and sustenance, so too are we required to feed our relationships.

And now, more than ever, we engage in our relationships as much as we are able. We drive a few hours most weekends to see friends or family. We write notes and send cards. We text and we skype and we facebook and take photos. We laugh and hug and snuggle and generally try to give back as much love as we are able. This focus has enriched our lives and resulted in so much contentedness and, as I suggested above, has profoundly changed our lives. So today we celebrate our marriage, certainly, but we also express so much gratitude to the community which sustains us.

2015: a year of wellness

2015 is starting off right, my friends! Evan and I are wrapping up an insanely fulfilling holiday season, I just celebrated my 28th birthday with some of my favorite people, and the Buckeyes pulled through with a Sugar Bowl win. On top of that, Evan and I will be celebrating our second wedding anniversary this weekend and, since it’s my year to plan, I know that we have some pretty awesome things coming over the next few days. Overall, this has been a pretty solid opening to what I hope will be a fabulous year!

Now, you all might remember that I’m a girl that loves planning and goal setting- I think the post-wedding posts on organization and financial planning highlighted that particular trait. It’s a little surprising, then, that I really don’t love making New Years resolutions. My theory is this: people make resolutions for really specific changes and embark on these changes on January 1. Things start to peter out and, after a few months, resolutions are abandoned to busy scheduled and more important matters. So, rather than resolutions, I like to set broad intentions, and prefer assign a word, or theme, to each year.

Past themes have included ‘Be Open’ (a plan for saying yes to everything, and being open to opportunity, change and growth), ‘Practice Generosity’ (though not necessarily monetary- more like generosity of time, patience, kindness, etc), and ‘Life is a Puzzle’ (related to curbing my tendency to over analyze and easing anxiety related to compulsive planning). This time around, I’ve decided that my theme for 2015 is ‘Wellness’.

Texture

Wellness is kind of a trendy catchphrase, and it can mean some many different things to different people and groups. Most of the literature suggests that there are eight components to wellness: social, physical, environmental, emotional/mental, intellectual, career/livelihood, spiritual, and financial.

So, what does wellness mean for me, and what will it mean for 2015? Well, it mostly means being intentional, and being aware of the decisions I’m making. Specifically, I plan to address organization (both time and physical organization), stress management, fitness, quality of sleep, nutrition and hydration. Pretty much, I’m looking at areas of my life that have room for improvement, and which I can control, and making changes for the better. It feels a little abstract at the front of this project, but I actually have a ton of apps, projects, processes and products to explore and to share- I’m really excited to think about the possibilities!
So tell me about your new year- what intentions are you setting?

Friday Pie Day: Chocolate Pecan Pie

Happy Friday!! It feels like this week has been eternal. Really.

Chocolate Pecan Pie 2Anyway, about pie. I love pecan pie! What I don’t love, though, is the weird goop that always seems to live between the crunchy-sweet pecans and the buttery crust. It’s made of corn syrup, among other things, and the texture kind of creeps me out. So when my cousin asked me to make pecan pie last holiday season, I developed a recipe that didn’t really have a goop layer. My pecan pie has a layer of chocolate.

Yup, a glorious layer of melty dark chocolate, on top of the flakey, buttery crust and underneath the crunchy sweet pecans. There’s also some bourbon. So, pretty much- this pie is perfection.

Chocolate Pecan PieMaking this pie is super easy- arrange the dough, scatter chocolate, scatter pecans, mix and pour the liquid bits and bake. It’s rich and chocolate-y and not too sweet, the perfect finish to any holiday meal. Or, in my case, the perfect things to bring to fire fighters when I visit on the weekend :) Enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon
8 oz pecans, chopped (or whole!)
1/3 cup butter, extra soft but not melted

Assemble the solid parts: Preheat over to 325. I used a tart pan, and I guess normal people use pie pans…but I like the surface area of a tart pan. Anyway, stretch the crust into whatever pan you’re going to use, and sprinkle the chocolate over top. For the pecans, you have a few options- I laid my pecans out nicely for this pie, and it took about five minutes. Alternately, you could do what I usually do, which is chop them and stir into the filling mix.

Assemble the filling: In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the cinnamon, bourbon and a dash of salt. You could also use some vanilla in the place of bourbon, or even in addition to it. Whisk in the butter- it needs to be extra soft so that you can stir it in, but so that there are still pea sized chunks of it; it shouldn’t be all the way incorporated. Add the pecans, if you’re going the chopped route, and pour the entire mess into the crust. I bakes mine for about 45 minutes, until the top was solid and you could tell that the middle was cooked through.

Serve: after you cool for about an hour, or you can make ahead and reheat. The melty aspect of the chocolate was a highlight of this recipe, buts still pretty insane when it’s cooled- choose your own adventure! Either way, think about topping with some whipped cream, and serve it up with hot coffee. Delicious!

Thursday Thoughts: 2014 Gift Guide

Welcome, my friends, to this week’s edition of Thursday Things! We’re getting into the holiday season, so it should come as no surprise that we are talking about gifts today.

I love looking through gift lists- I know that consumerism can be overwhelming, but I really like seeing all the new things that came out this year! I can spend irrational amounts of time on Pinterest sorting through lists of gifts for women, for teenage girls, for yogis, for book lovers, for mamas, for professional women, for techies, for hostesses, for bakers, etc. And, throughout the year, I pin some of those things to my own Perpetual Wishlist board.

Today, I took some of my favorite items on the board and created my 2014 gift guide. This list doesn’t have a particular audience in mind, but are some items that anyone would love to see under the tree this year.

So tell me, friends- what’s on your wish list?

Gift Guide

Clockwise, from the top:

Crabtree and Evelyn La Source Handcream: this smells so good, and leaves my hands perfectly moisturized without feeling greasy. This would be an amazing stocking stuffer!

Oakley Changeover Sunglasses: I’m traditionally a girl that buys two or three pairs of sunglasses every summer at TJMaxx, and then lose them over the course of a few months. I’m thinking it’s time for a change, though- it might be time for some nice sunglasses that actually have a case that I keep track of for years on end. I’m also one of those people that can’t go outdoors without sunnies, so these might be the perfect gift!

Nixon Watch: one gift that I always love is a good watch. I like to be on time to everything, and watches give me a feeling of being in control of my time. I love bigger, men’s style watches that I can wear loose on my wrist, and this one would be a gorgeous addition to my collection.

External Hard Drive: there are truly six memory cards floating around in my wallet, and I’m always looking through each of them to find the right photos. Next year, though, I swear that I’m going to organize all of the photos onto an external hard drive- and this one is the perfect candidate for the task.

Tea Pot: for the past three winters in our house, I’ve been thinking to myself- we could really use a teapot. Well, this is the year, and this glass one looks like the most gorgeous candidate!

Chemex: I have a theory that coffee tastes better when you pay a little attention to it. This chemex pour-over set up with be the perfect addition to any coffee bar, and an excellent compliment to a new tea kettle!

Yoga mats, blocks and straps: there are so many benefits that you can take from yoga- it’s great for your physical health, in terms of balance, strength and flexibility, but it also effects your mental and emotional health. While yoga certainly requires no equipment, having some blocks and straps can really help you reap extra benefits.

Garmin VivoSmart: it’s 2014, and everyone’s busy. It can be hard to fit in a workout, to track calories, to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Fortunately, the VivoSmart makes things just a little bit easier. It monitors your heartrate to let you know when you’ve been sitting for too long, and it buzzes to let you know it’s bedtime, among other awesome features. This will be the perfect gift for anyone who is looking to improve their health this year.

 Pearl and Diamond Earrings: it’s weird, I know, but I always have this impression that professional women a) wear lipstick and b) always have pearl earrings in. These earrings are sensible enough for work, but also gorgeous for dressing up. Plus, my mom has a pair just like them that I adored growing up :)

Nifty Climbot: there have just been one too many situations where I’m stacking books and scarves in order to create the perfect spot for my camera to rest at the right angle while I take photos. Not only will this tripod stabilize my camera, but the legs are the perfect combination of bendy and supportive, so you and adjust and wrap them nearly anywhere! Perfect for anything from phone cameras to DSLRs.

Passport cover: when you travel, if you’re anything like me you have your passport out for check in, and then you tuck it into any of the pockets in your carryon and can’t find it again when you need it. Fortunately this cover will keep your passport a bit more visible, and offer you a convenient pocket for boarding passes and receipts.

Moccasins: it might just be me, but I think that slippers are the perfect gift for every Christmas. Some people do pajamas, but I say its time for a Christmas Eve slipper tradition. These particular moccasins are fleece lined and incredibly cozy, and the rubber soles make it easy to step outside to grab the paper without getting your feet wet. Plus, they’re perfect for driving to grandma’s house :)

His and Hers pillows: these are absolutely the perfect addition to your bedroom décor, and would be a sweet housewarming gift for your favorite couple friends. Or, you know, adorable in your own bedroom, if you’re looking to gift yourself!

Perfume: many people have one perfume that’s their signature scent, and that’s fine! I am not one of those people, however- I like to get a new scent each year and experiment with different varieties. Then, when I smell a particular perfume again, I remember some highlights from that specific year. For next year, I’m loving this Ralph Lauren scent- it’s a little sweet, but also dark and kind of sexy…a perfect forecast for the upcoming year!

Leather Portfolio: for me, nothing says ‘I kind of have things together’ as someone who is carrying a portfolio. Your work could be a scattered mess in there, but carrying your notes in one of these give off a perfect professional vibe. I think that one of these portfolios in a pretty color would be a perfect gift for someone who is just launching an awesome career.

These are some of the things on my list- what’s on yours?

Sausage Tortellini Soup

Guys, I love winter- I do! I adore the cold, crisp weather. I like walking on the sidewalks on campus when I’m headed into work and the sun hasn’t risen yet. I like the way that people are a bit more orderly in the winter, because everyone just wants to get where they’re going in as efficient a way as possible. I like the snow, and driving in the snow, and snow in my hair, and snow covering my car. Also, I like seeing Howie in jim jams- that’s a serious winter highlight.
Sausage Tortellini Soup
There are some days, though, that really take it out of you in a way that doesn’t seem to happen so much in the winter. Days when the weather is weird and drizzly and just gross. Days when it never really gets light, and the sun doesn’t even try to peek through the fog, and that’s a little depressing. Days when everyone is a little snappy because no one is enjoying the day so everything kind of sucks.
Sausage Tortellini Soup2
Not to be Susie Sunshine, but I actually like those days, too! Because those are the days that call for going home, pouring a glass of wine, and making a huge pot of soup. I don’t know about you, but for my house, the restorative power of soup is insane.
Sausage Tortellini Soup3
Today I’m bringing a recipe for tortellini soup. There are quite a few ingredients, but it comes together really easily and could be on the table in about 40 minutes. Like many of my recipes, this one is endlessly customizable- change the veggies to whatever you have on hand or eliminate the meat if you want to go veggie. I sometimes get a little squicky about beef broth, depending on where I’m shopping, so I’ve been known to swap it out for chicken or mushroom. Every version I’ve made of this has been great and, as a bonus, freezes really well. Next time you’re struggling through a gross day and need some comfort, think about making this Sausage Tortellini Soup- it will turn your day around, I promise!
Sausage Tortellini Soup
1 small zucchini
1 pepper
4 plum tomatoes
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cups kale
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with the casings removed)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tbsp. oregano, dried
1 tbsp. parsley, dried
1 can cannellini beans
8 oz can tomato sauce
5 cups beef stock
I package fresh or frozen tortellini or mini ravioli
Freshly shredded parm
Prep the veggies: slice the zucchini in half length wise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices; dice the bell pepper into 1/4″ pieces and seed and dice the tomatoes; peel and dice the carrots, and dice the celery. Set all of the previous ingredients aside. Rinse and slice the kale into pretty thin strips, and place in a separate bowl. Dice the onion and grate or mince the garlic, and set these separately of the other ingredients.
Cook the sausage (if you’re using sausage) and veggies: Heat your soup pot to medium high heat (I like to used enamel coated cast iron dutch ovens) and add the sausage. Break apart with a fork or a wooden spoon, and cook until slightly browned, then drain off any excess fat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for three to five minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the wine to the pot to deglaze, and use a wooden spoon to start to push up the browned bit of sausage that are stuck to the bottom. Once the wine has mostly been absorbed, and the zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, carrots and celery. Cook the veggies for another 4-5 minutes, or until they start to soften and take on a bit of color.
Finish the soup: Stir in the basil, oregano and parsley, and cook for a minute. While that cooks, drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock/broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook in the soup, according to the pasta instructions. When the tortellini is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the kale. Let the kale soften for a few minutes, then ladle into bowls and top with shredded parm. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread, and this is the perfect winter evening meal…with plenty left for the week’s lunch. Enjoy!