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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Birchbox 💛

If you aren't on the pulse about these subscription boxes that everyone's doing anymore....where have you been?!

There are so many different types! Each of these mail home subscription boxes is full of a bunch of goodies for you to try out to see if you like the products. Of course you get to keep what is sent to you and then if you like it you have a chance to buy full sized products at a discounted rate. It's a pretty sweet deal for both the consumer and the brand. 

I asked for a birch box subscription from the hubby for an anniversary gift and so far I love it! I got to go online and answer a few questions about my likes and not so likes, so that now I'll be getting products picked specifically for me. I've been dieing to get my hands on one of these to try it out. Ever since I stopped working at Sephora 5 years back, I've missed the amount of free and awesome products I would get to try out and be the first to know about and Birchbox is helping me out with that while I'm tied to the house with little miss. 

I'm a bit behind with this post so I've actually gotten two boxes already! 
I'll be giving everything a try and will update with what I think!

I haven't heard much about the other types of boxes yet but here's a list of a few that sounded like something I might try out after my subscription is up! 

Ipsy for a glam bag of beauty products.
-$10 a month for 4-5 top 
Dottie Box for handmade products from indie artists.
-$20 a month (plus $6 shipping)
Umba Box for modern and whimsical women’s handmade products.
-$25 a month (Shipping is $5, or free with a 6 or 12 month subscription).
Bark Box to treat your doggie babies
-$19-$29 a month depending on your dogs size (includes free shipping).
Cravebox.com for a mix of beauty, food, and home products.
-$10-$20 a month (infludes free shipping)
Citrus Lane for the best products for kids and parents (newborn to 5 years)-$21 a month (includes free shipping).
-Receive 4-5 kid friendly items. 
Box of Brew for all the ingredients to brew your own beer.
-$15-$25 a month 
There's tons of different types of these subscription programs, some for men, for health nuts, Eco friendly, and even one for that awful time of the month when Aunt Flo comes to town called the 28 day hug. Give them a peek, with Christmas not too far away these are some solid ideas for gifts! 

Shutterfly Halloween Special offer! Hurry valid til Nov. 1st

Hey All!
I just stumbled upon an awesome deal from Shutterfly!

From now until November 1st, you can get 99 4x6 photo prints for just $5.99 shipped! When you get to the checkout enter the promo code SPOOKY and it'll bring your prints down to $0.06 each which is a steal of a deal. It's only valid once per mailing address so tell your fam ;)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baking with babies...cake pop do' sand don'ts

Sophie's Christening is this Sunday and as a favor I decided to do my research and find out the best way to make cake pops. I found tons and tons of pins and tons and tons of blog posts with do's and don'ts of pop baking and here's what I've gathered through trial and error and a lot of laughs with friends. 

If you're making any combo of supermarket boxed cake flavors, the cake balls them selves are simple! Simply follow the directions on the box and bake your cake as you usually would and let it cool in the fridge for a bit. No problem! Then my favorite part, take the cooled cake and smash it. Reach in there and really crumble it all up like a crazy lady, go head girl get your stress out. 

Next mix the crumbled cake with almost a whole tub of frosting, but not the whole tub! Just about 3/4ths of the tub. Too much will make your balls too sticky and mushy....ha, sticky and mushy balls...go ahead and laugh you know you want to. Next just roll them up into balls and lay them out on cookie sheets to be placed back into the fridge again to chill for a while


Once they've hardened (but not solid as a rock) take them back out for dipping. I put mine in the freezer for about an hour or two. On bakerella she suggests letting them sit in the fridge overnight and she is a cake pop queen so I believe her. I however had limited time and the freezer works just as well. 

Now this is where I ran into trouble. I used Wilton's chocolate from Michaels in pink and white to dip the balls in and it was horrible! It was way too thick and I even tried adding vegetable oil like the bag suggested. This only caused my chocolate to burn almost immediately in the double broiler I was using. I think that chocolate is just meant to be for chocolate taffys instead. I 

had read that slow and steady was the key to the chocolate melting and we were taking our sweet time but still having no luck. We then tried the 30 second interval microwave way. Again, no luck, still lumpy and hard to deal with. We didn't waste it though, so my first round of pops that I had help from friends making turned out looking more like lumpy chocolate meat balls. But the baking with baby team at least looked cute doing it. And baking with a 2 and 4 month old is no easy job. There were many of "who's that", "mine or yours", "who pooped" and one armed dipping. I am they luckiest girl to have a 7 month preggo friend and a new mommy of Sophie's future hubby that are still willing to help through thick and thin. I love those chicks (and Owen)!

The next night my loving husband helped with the remaining 50 undecorated pops. He ran to the store and bought the only thing I could think would work guarantied on short notice. The same chocolate I've used for strawberries or pretzels in the past. 

This worked perfectly! I know that if I had bought better chocolate online ahead of time I would have been good with the first batch. I would love to know where and what brand I could get good chocolate without buying online though if anyone has suggestions for next time?!

But this kind worked perfectly and I had a few other tips I used. Aside from making sure the cake balls have hardened a bit before dipping, also be sure not to stir the ball in the chocolate. Put the ball in and pour the chocolate over top of it. This will help keep the cake ball in tact and not crumble. Pick the ball up from the bowl with a spoon and tap the spoon against the side so that the excess chocolate slides off and leaves a smooth look still. Plop the ball onto a cookie sheet with wax paper on it and decorate with sprinkles before it completely cools and hardens. Also before it hardens this is when you add the stick. Dip the stick in chocolate and then poke it into the cake ball, the chocolate works like glue and keeps the ball from falling off the stick. Ta - Da!!

The flavors I went with were funfetti (mixed with cream cheese icing), chocolate (mixed with double fudge icing, 6oz of mini chocolate chips and Duncan Hines mint flavor packet-yum btw) and the last kind was something different. I've made eggless cookie dough balls before and I am obsessed with them. I could literally eat it all myself. So I decided to make these chocolate chip cookie dough bites and dip them as if they are the same as the cake. It turned out great, just be sure to refrigerate until serving. Here is the recipe for the cookie dough balls, it's super easy and no baking required at all and only 5 ingredients!!! 

Ingredients

    1 cup salted butter, softened
    1½ cups packed light brown sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups flour
    6 ounces miniature chocolate chips 

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar together.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well -- use your hands to get it together the best.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls.
  4. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Dip in chocolate, drizzle with chocolate or eat as is -- equally delicious no matter what!
  5. Let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Store in the refrigerator. 

This is Halloween, this is Halloween

Just seven more days until Halloween! And unfortunately this will be my first where I'm not dressing up....I'm feeling old. But it's ok because I have the most adorable costume for Sophie. She's now 4 months old and is just the sweetest little stinker ever.
She is going to be sporting a skunk costume this year and I've already had a trial run and she seems to like it just fine! But then again she enjoyed pumpkins until we put her in one about 10 times today too haha. We've all seen the adorable baby in a pumpkin photoshoots am I right? Well it's a lot harder than it looks! We picked our pumpkin out with no trouble. 

And she loved the pumpkin patch! 

So we decided to give it a try today starting with cutting off the top, putting in a plastic bag and plopping her in for hole placement. 
Easy peasy, all smiles. 

But then on the third or forth shot, there were tears almost from the both of us. There comes a point where you just feel like you might be to torturing the poor girl. First leg holes were too small, then the sides were too high for her poor little arms. Then when we finally got the cutting finished I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her outside for a picture on the front steps. I then realized just because we have been having exceptionally beautiful weather lately doesn't mean that it's not still windy and a bit chilly. So after doing crazy dances on the front lawn to make her laugh instead of hysterically cry we went and took the party right back inside. 

I have her a few minutes to check out the pumpkin and then out her right back in. Again with the tears. What finally worked for my third and final attempt was holding her up standing in the pumpkin, letting her sit herself down and then acting like an idiot to get the smiles. Directly after she napped for a good hour, it's a tough job being a model. Here's the best we got!