Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'm Thinking Purses

I'm Thinking Purses


Have you ever noticed that I hardly ever wear purses in my outfit posts? That's because I have a weird relationship with purses. I don't really care about them. And I hate changing them out. It takes too long and I always end up forgetting something. Like my wallet. Not good. So, I hardly ever change purses. I've been wearing my most recent purse for at least a year. Every. Single. Day.

But of course, that gets old. I'm so tired of my purse. I hate it actually. It's falling apart and it looks terrible. It's definitely time for a new one. I've actually needed a new purse for about six months, but I'm having a really hard time choosing one.

Here's my problem: I'm at a point in my life where I'm ready for higher quality items that are going to last me for a while. Especially if I'm going to wear a purse every day for a year, I feel like it is time to invest. I'd love to buy a nice, designer bag that is good quality leather and will just get better with age.

However! I am very anti designer purses. I think we can all agree that designer purses are more about status than about a place to keep your keys, wallet, and lipstick. They always have the logo on the front (hello, I'm a person, not a billboard!) which I absolutely hate. It's downright impossible to find a nice bag that doesn't have the logo on the front.  Designer bags scream, "look at me, I'm expensive." I want my apparel to express my personality, not how much money I make, or how much I choose to spend on clothes. 

Here is my other option: I am so loving Anthropologie's spring clutch collection. They are all in the $50 to $60 range and I want every single one. They are so funky and fun, but they aren't really an investment. Anything with embroidery and beading has a definite lifespan. But, I wouldn't be a walking advertisement. And with the low price tag, I could maybe splurge on more than one. Maybe.

So. Do I save up for this bright, happy Coach bag that literally stopped me in my tracks at Macy's? Good quality, will last a while, but still in my price range (sort of, not really)? Or....do I start a collection of super adorable clutches from Anthropologie? Very me, less expensive, but won't hold up to wear and tear. I am the Hulk, I will destroy these dainty bags. 

I'm torn. Thoughts? 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies


So I'm working on this post early this morning. I basically had this whole thing written about how I wasn't really a cookie person, but I like these cookies. I love pretzels, I made these totally for me, these cookies make me a cookie person, blah blah blah, stuff like that.

Just now as I was finishing the post it hit me. Not a cookie person? Not a cookie person?! I've made more cookies lately than any person should make ever! I'm the Cookie Master! The Cookie Ninja, the Cookie Queen! (Feel free to refer to me by any of these titles). I can make cookies with one hand tied behind my back, no recipe, and barely any ingredients.

Not a cookie person. That may have been true, once upon a time. But no longer. I am the Cookie Goddess.

I'm also very humble. Can't you tell?

Anyway, I'm officially a cookie person and I'm really into making cookies right now. Here are my reasons why:

1. They are super easy to make.
2. I always have the ingredients to make some kind of cookie around.
3. Hands on time? We're talking ten to twenty minutes tops.
4. Crowd pleasers! Undercook them, overcook them, people will still eat them.
5. Lots of room for creativity. If it is a food item, it can go in a cookie.
6. My husband loves them. And I like to spoil him. I should not be a mother, I'll have bratty kids.

And since we are making lists, here are some of my cookie tips:

1. Try to make your cookies as uniform in size and shape as possible. The best way to do this is to weigh them. I know, this seems ridiculous, but weighing your dough makes perfectly uniform cookies and this ensures that they cook evenly. I actually don't weigh mine. But I am the Cookie Ninja, so I can get away with that. And you can too, but be as precise as possible. If you have a scale, use it.

2. Better undercooked than overcooked! Even if they are too gooey at first, they will cool and solidify. Overcooked cookies will just get harder. I'm looking for a slight golden brown edge and no wetness in the middle. If they still look wet in the middle, leave them in. But if you are unsure, go ahead and take them out.

3. I like to sprinkle my cookies with sugar and a bit of sea salt. I sprinkled some cookies with sugar one time and Olie just loved it. So now I do it every time. And a touch of salt just brings out the flavor. This also adds a nice crunch on the top and a pretty presentation. You definitely want more sugar than salt. And always kosher or sea salt! Not table salt!

4. If you aren't yet a Cookie Master, bake them in small batches. This way, you can see what went wrong. Are my cookies too big? Did I cook them too long? Etc. Cook one pan at a time and make adjustments as needed.

This cookie recipe is my new all-time favorite. It's like a Reese's with pretzels. Wait, why isn't that a thing?

Now go make these cookies! Spoil someone you love. Or spoil yourself! You deserve it. Or maybe you don't, but these cookies will make you feel better.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies (Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup peanut butter (I used chunky, but use what you have)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pretzels (any shape) broken up
Sugar for sprinkling cookies
Sea salt for sprinkling cookies

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease two cookie sheets.

Mix your flour and your baking soda together. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat your butter and sugars on medium speed until nice and fluffy, about five minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, use cake beaters. They do a terrific job.

Add in your egg, peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add in the flour and mix until just combined. Add your chocolate chips and your pretzels. Don't overmix.

Shape your dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Press down and flatten them out as much as you can. This dough is actually a bit tough to work with. It's crumbly and the pretzels want to fall out of the dough balls. If the pretzels fall out, you can place them on top. They will bake into the cookie. Dust with sugar and sprinkle sea salt on top. Slide cookies into the oven.

In my oven, cookies take 11 minutes. You're looking at anywhere from 10 to 13 minutes of oven time. Check them at 10 minutes. Remember, slightly golden brown around the edge and no wetness in the middle.

My cookies were a bit too round on the top. This happens. Put on an oven mitt and, when they are fresh out of the oven, press gently down on your cookies. This kind of smooshes everything together and makes a flatter cookie.

There you have it! I loved these cookies. The dough was awesome too. But then, all cookie dough is awesome.






Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!





Happy Memorial Day! I hope everyone is using the day off to swim/grill/drink beer/hang out with friends (I think Olie and I are going to do some yardwork, which is not as much fun). Take some time today to think about/pray for the families who have lost loved ones in service of our country. And be sure to thank any veterans you know. They risk everything for us.

On a lighter note, I finally found a one-piece that fits! And that doesn't move around when I swim. That's the main thing I like about it. I'm not really a sit-by-the-pool-and-look-pretty kind of girl. I like to actually swim and jump around and play. This suit really stays in place, which is so nice. And it's preppy and adorable and gives me curves that I don't have. Now I just need a new pair of sunglasses and I'm good to go.

Don't forget sunscreen! I go for 50 and up. Sunburn=sad face.

Swimsuit: Calvin Klein, Hat: Dollar Tree, Earrings: Charlotte Russe

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'm Thinking Denim Shorts

I'm Thinking Denim Shorts

I'm not a big shorts person. I don't know why, most people in the south wear shorts like crazy. I'm just a little more partial to skirts. Maxi skirts mostly. Give me a breeze, please! But everyone needs a good pair of denim shorts. They go with everything, they don't have to be ironed (major plus) and they never go out of style. For a non-shorts person, a good pair of denim shorts is all I need. So, I'm on the hunt for the perfect pair.

Here are a few that I'm crushing on. I'm really loving the black ratty ones, but I think I'm getting too old for shorts like that. And I don't really hang out in biker bars (though I'd probably be a lot cooler if I did). I'm also loving the last pair, which I think are actually pajamas, but we don't care about that do we? 

Shorts Left to Right and Top to Bottom: Etsy, Topshop, J. Crew, Fat Face, Rag & Bone, Zara


Monday, May 19, 2014

How To Make Stuffed Pretzels

There is something about soft pretzels. They are probably one of my top ten favorite foods. Mainly because they feel like a real treat. It's not everyday that you get a soft pretzel. And I never order them out, because I know they aren't fresh. Don't try and fool me, restaurant! I know you get your pretzels in a big frozen bag from a restaurant supply store! And those soft pretzel stores in malls? How long have they been twirling around in that case? Days? Weeks? Months? So I generally wait for the homemade ones. Unless beer cheese is involved. Then it's less about the pretzel and more about the beer cheese.

Have you ever had a stuffed pretzel? It's just a soft pretzel stuffed with something yummy. Like cheese. I generally go for cheese.

I decided to do a little stuffed pretzel tutorial for you all. I made these the other night for dinner (hello, add a salad and this is a meal!). What is so great about stuffed pretzels, besides how super yummy they are, is the fact that you can make them any way you want. I decided to make an Olie themed stuffed pretzel and a Meredith themed stuffed pretzel. Olie's filling: pepperoni, ham, sautéed onion and garlic. Meredith's filling: cream cheese and ham. This was mostly just stuff I had in my fridge that I needed to get rid of. So raid your fridge and get creative.

It doesn't matter if you have never made homemade pretzels before. It's a pretty simple process. So just go for it.

Soft pretzels were one of my very first recipes here on The Starving Artist (almost two years ago!), so for the dough, I'm just going to link you to that recipe: click here. (I've also made pretzels dogs, which are equally amazing).

So you've made your dough and have let it rise until doubled in size. It's fluffy and elastic and amazing and ready to be stuffed.

Punch down your dough and turn it out onto a clean surface/cutting board. Cut into 12 equal pieces and roll into small balls.
Cover the balls of dough and let rise for ten minutes. Now it's time stuff!

Take a dough ball and roll it into a little square. You will have to pinch it and shape it to get it square, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Drop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of stuffing into the center of your dough square. Like this:

Now, pinch the opposite corners of your square together. Pinch the dough together so that your filling won't come out in the cooking process. This is what your pretzel should look like:
Pretty cute right? 

Continue to stuff your pretzel dough. They don't have to be perfect, just make sure you pinch them well. Once all of them are filled, cover and let rise another thirty minutes. 
While they are rising, start boiling 8 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons of baking soda. It takes a while for this much water to boil, so you want to go ahead and get it going. Once it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease two large cookie sheets.

After your dough is done rising, it's time to boil! Using a slotted spoon or spatula, gently place 2 or 3 pretzels into the simmering water. Wait about 30 seconds, then gently flip them over. Wait another 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels from the water and place on your greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat this process until all of your pretzels have been boiled. Throw them in the oven for about fifteen minutes, or until golden brown.
Voila! Stuffed pretzels! Easy right? This is one of those rock star recipes. They make you look a lot more skilled in the kitchen than you actually are. As my mother in law always says, "if you can't convince them, confuse them."

Any ideas for stuffing? What sounds good to you? I'm always looking for new combinations.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Beer To Pick Up This Weekend: Hoegaarden Wit Blanche


It's that day again: Friday! Some weeks Friday just sort of comes out of no where, but then some weeks you are literally counting the minutes until its arrival. This week was one of those weeks. I'm not sure why, nothing bad happened. I was just ready for Friday. So ready that the second I got out of work, I made a Kroger run and picked up a 6-pack of Hoegaarden. And Pine Sol. I needed Pine Sol.

This was one of the first "good" beers I ever liked. Now, I'm not a beer snob, good is subjective. I think Natural Light is a good beer. But I think I'm alone there. I really love how carbonated it is. And everyone in my family drinks it. It's sort of our thing. Anyway, back to Hoegaarden. I remember the first time I had it. My husband (then boyfriend) picked it up for us to share. I was trying to be cool and pretend to like fancy beers, when really I wasn't that into them yet. But this beer. It was love at first sip. A lot of times, those first beers that you like you grow out of. I used to drink Lienenkugel Sunset Wheat ALL THE TIME. Now, I think it tastes really weird and fake and oddly like blueberries, which is probably why I liked it in the first place. You grow up (a little) and so do your taste buds. But Hoegaarden has hung around for me. It's just really good.

So what does it taste like? This one was really hard to pin down. It's sparkly and sweet but has a dry aromatic taste to it. There is something there that I can't seem to describe. It's an earthy sweetness that is just magical. It's fruity, but not citrusy. Perhaps it just tastes like nostalgia. It tastes like hot summer nights in Olie's backyard, hanging with friends, drinking and grilling. It tastes like sweat and love and charcoal. I can't drink it without thinking about some of the best nights of my life. It's a throwback. It's wonderful.

Never had it? Now is the time. Go pick up a 6-pack, grab your favorite people and fire up the grill. I think you might taste it too.

Have a great weekend. I can feel summer coming and I like it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bandwagon





Well, I've jumped on the bandwagon. Two bandwagons actually. I broke down and bought a military jacket AND a pair of geeky glasses.

I try not to do trends. Do you all remember the Isabel Marant sneaker wedge things from last year? Yeah, what was that all about? I thought they were so awesome, and now I think they look so dumb.  I'm glad I didn't jump on that one. I almost did. And now there is the whole cut-out thing going on. Sometimes cute, but mostly just weird looking.

But these two trends I can get behind. The military jacket always comes back around. And it goes with everything. It's very versatile, I've already worn it like crazy. Also my office is really cold, so I need a jacket most days. And the glasses? Well, seeing as how my old pair was crooked and had paint on them, I figured it was time for an update. And I got them from Coastal, which gives you you're first pair free! I paid 14 dollars for shipping and that's it.

So yes, I'm being trendy. Sue me.

Jacket: Old Navy, Sweater: Calvin Klein (men's via TJ Maxx), Jeans: Old Navy, Boots: Target, Necklace: Zara, Bracelets: Urban Outfitters, Earrings: Fabb, Glasses: Andrew Marc (via Coastal)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I'm Thinking Straw Hats

I'm Thinking Straw Hats


I've never been much of a hat person. I don't know why. I think they look cute on, but I never seem to wear them. But then I bought my Dollar Tree hat (seen here). I only bought it because it was $1, but I've already worn it a good bit! It's cute, shields your face from the sun, and covers a bad hair day. What more could you ask? It does tend to fly off of my head (it was $1, after all), so I'm thinking of investing in another one. Nothing too expensive: with sun, sand, and sweat it can't be expected to last very long. And it's straw. I mean.....not very sturdy. Here are a few that I have my eye on. I'm thinking that first one from Forever 21 may just make the cut.

Hats left to right and top to bottom: Forever 21, Anthony Peto, Pacsun, Lori's, Gigi Burris, Vince Camuto


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

With Cleaning Comes Life Lessons


Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've just been in a bit of a rut. Especially in the kitchen. Everything I cook lately just seems.......not amazing. I've made some yummy stuff, but nothing has really turned out the way I wanted it to. So, I've been focusing on some other things. Mainly art and my house. And cleaning!

Last weekend I completely gutted my closet. The picture above is my 'before' closet. And that's not including the closet full of only dresses. I felt like it was high time for a fresh start. It's also pretty ridiculous to have a ton of clothes that you don't wear. I got rid of A LOT of clothes. To be honest, the whole process was strangely liberating. I didn't realize what a stressor my closet had become. You know how frustrating it is when you want to wear that super cute top but you just can't find it? Yeah, that was my morning routine. I knew the day that I looked for twenty minutes for a pair of underwear that something had to change. Not a particular pair of underwear. Just any pair. And I had just done laundry. That's a problem. The picture below is all of the stuff that was just sitting in the bottom of the closet. Pretty terrifying.

The process was a bit overwhelming. But I got organized quickly. Anything that was really ratty got trashed. You wouldn't believe the stuff I was holding onto (yes you would, we all do it). Anything that was old/had a small stain got sent to the Goodwill. Anything that was still relatively new and in good shape I took to Plato's Closet.

Ok, so......have you been to Plato's Closet? It's kind of awesome. There is a ton of teenager-y crappy stuff, but there are also some real gems. You have to look for the diamond in the rough, which is always fun. I got two super cute t-shirts for $8. One was from Old Navy and one was from the Gap. And they look brand new. I also bought a pair of glitter Nine West heels (I had too, I couldn't help myself) for $12. And I made a little cash off of the stuff that I sold. Not much. But it's better than nothing.

Then I went to Anthropologie to get a new dress (since I got rid of about ten and Anthropologie has the best dresses). Cheap dresses are too short for me, I just have to accept it. But then I got a great dress, regularly priced at $128, for $38! I mean....you can't beat that!

All this is a round-about way of saying I don't think I will ever buy anything full price again. Everything always goes on sale, why should I pay some crazy jacked up price? I'm ready for good quality, more grown-up clothes, that will last for a while. I thought that would mean more money, but with sales and my newfound love for Plato's Closet, I can spend the same if not less on my clothes than before. I just have to be smarter about it. Which is a challenge, but makes the whole thing much more fun.

I swear, 26 is the year of life lessons. Some of them are hard, but some have been fun. In a nutshell: Less clothes, better quality, never full price. Check out my 'after' closet. I love looking in it. I can see everything right away. It's awesome.

Thanks for letting me share my little life lesson with you. Any tips for cleaning out your closet? How do you decide what stays and what goes? Also....any shopping tips? Let's all help each other be as awesome as we can be.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Red!


I never wear my hair back. Like....never. It makes me feel really exposed. I'm pretty sure it comes from my terrible acne-filled teenage (and into my twenties) years. My hair is my armor. It always has been. Also I have a chubby neck. And also, I'm obviously nuts.

I'm really trying to be better about that. Being nuts, I mean. I'm trying to experiment and push myself out of my ruts. Hence this updo. Also, my hair was really dirty and I needed Chinese food. That will force an updo out of anyone. 

I thought the whole ensemble was pretty adorable. Sometimes it's fun to be matchy matchy. Also, I just love red. It's my favorite color. It just says, "hello, look at me!"

Hope you're having a great week! Thanks for stopping by!

Top: Zara, Jeans: Wal-Mart (dyed red by me), Shoes: Converse