Sunday, January 31, 2010

Today's Special: Where I Finally Use Those Ramekins I Bought

A few weeks ago I accompanied Annie on a shopping trip to Tai Pan Trading. She was there looking for some decorations for her living room and I agreed to come a long as consultant to make sure she didn't buy anything ugly. When I left, Seth asked me if I planned on buying anything. "Nah," I said, "I can't think of anything we really need. Unless you want a giant basket full of potpourri." "Yeah that sounds good," he said,"and get me a candle statue." "Done."

Long story short I was in the store 5 minutes and had already picked out some miniature bowls (you know, the ones they use for pre-measured spices on cooking shows?) and ramekins I wanted. I only spent like $15 but I could see the scared look on Seth's face when I walked in the door with a giant bag. I convinced him that I'd bought all the items for him. The small bowls were for dipping sauces (think pizza crust & ranch dressing), and I needed the ramekins to make him the chocolate souffles we saw on America's Test Kitchen.

So, this week I decided I should actually use the ramekins. What better use for a ramekin than French Onion Soup? I was going to do the chocolate souffles too, just so I didn't look like a big fat liar, but they didn't have the bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate bars I wanted at the store I went to, so these will have to wait for another week or so. By the way, I've used the miniature bowls I bought for pre-measuring my spices when I cook and it really does make me feel like I'm on tv! Totally worth it.

Sunday: Crock Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy- I've used this recipe before and really like it. It makes its own gravy, but it's super salty if you use it straight out of the pot. I thinned it out with water until the salt level was to my liking and then thickened it with cornstarch on the stove.

Monday: French Onion Soup- I saw this recipe on America's Test Kitchen (I know, I know, big surprise). I thought this turned out really well, although I did alter their instructions a little. I think they get carried away with all the nit-picky steps, so I just sliced up all the onions and cooked them in a pot the whole time until they were done (I did do the deglazing thing 3 times though). I figured why put the onions in the microwave for 20 minutes to soften them when you can do it faster on the stove and they probably taste better? But, you can do it however you want to. ANYWAY, I'd make this again. Although, I would probably use a greater ratio of beef broth to chicken broth.

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday:  Sichuan-Style Chicken with Peanuts- New Recipe. This was so-so. EatingWell's recipes are sometimes a little extreme on their serving sizes. I'm glad I doubled this one. I think this would be better if the chicken marinaded longer and the sauce was made ahead of time. There just wasn't as much flavor as I thought there'd be. Also, I think it would have been better on brown rice instead of on its own, which I would have done, but I didn't feel like it...

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Tuna Casserole- This is one of my "good 'ol standby" recipes. It's something my mom used to make. I always have the ingredients on hand for this and it's so simple I don't even need to look at the recipe anymore.

Bonus: Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake- New Recipe. I made this cake so I could use up some oranges that were about to go bad. I didn't make any frosting or glaze to go on it... just used hot fudge! Also, I always use Pan Release on recipes like this. It works really well... much better than just greasing and flouring the pans and it doesn't leave any white residue.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Word Wednesday

Ok so I almost forgot about New Word Wednesday. But it's still Wednesday, so there.

This week's word came from President Obama's "State of the Union" address. It was actually kind of tough to find a word I didn't know in his speech because he doesn't try to talk over the heads of the American people. He wants people to understand what he says. It's all about transparency, yo.

noun:  ill humor, peevish temper, or spite.

Bet you didn't know 'spleen' had any other meanings besides the body part, eh? Well it does. Although I have to confess that Obama didn't use this word in his speech. I was listening for a big word but I never heard one I could use, so I got this word from Seth. It was used in the book he's reading about the 'Age of Enlightenment.' (I made this sentence up... it didn't come from the book... in case you couldn't tell)

"The spleen displayed by the disgruntled employees aroused a feeling of uneasiness in the boardroom."

So don't let your spleen get the best of you this week. Keep your spleen under control. And make sure to remove your spleen. The end.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Look Just Like...

So Allison did a Facebook status update today themed after a famous person she'd been told she looks like. I don't normally do the "copy and paste" status updates, but I though, Eh? Why not. So I thought you'd all be on the edge of your seats wondering who my famous look-alikes are. Ok, probably not, but you get to hear them anyway.

#1 Natalie Wood- A lady I met briefly while training for a job in Santa Clara, CA went crazy telling me how I could be "twins" with Natalie Wood. At the time I had no idea who she was. You probably know her from "Miracle on 34th Street" and as Maria in "West Side Story." Sadly, she drowned in 1981.

#2 Rose McGowan- Again a girl I worked with told me I looked like Rose McGowan. I don't really know anything about her except that she was on "Charmed" and she seems a little crazy.

Have you been told you look like someone famous?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

On my way home from work today I saw a woman driving a Hyundai Santa Fe.
The license plate frame said the following:

'Silly Boys, Trucks Are for Girls.'

Um, am I missing something here?

Last time I checked, THIS...

Was NOT the same as THIS...

In fact, I dare say THIS...

Is just a glorified version of THIS...

So lady, I'm pretty sure you're not gonna have any "boys" fighting you for your "truck."
In fact I'd say your Hyundai Santa Fe is the OPPOSITE of a truck.
Just my opinion.

Stop Screwing Around!

It's a lovely Friday evening and Seth and I have been lounging around the house doing a whole lot of nothing in our usual Friday evening way. Free time has the uncanny ability to put awesome ideas into your head as you may well know, and this is where our story begins.

Recently I bought a chin-up bar to put above the office door. This is a pretty cool chin-up bar because it requires no installation and can easily be removed. On this particular evening as I walked by the office door, I stopped and tried unsuccessfully to do a chin-up. Seth was watching me at this point and I suddenly had a bright idea. "I bet I could give you a piggy-back ride." "What?" "Yeah I swear I could probably do it, let's try." So Seth grabs ahold of the chin-up bar to support some of his weight as he's climbing on my back. "Wait! Wait! My pants are falling off, I gotta tie them really fast so they don't slide off." So I secure my pants and we try again.

Just as Seth's legs are secured around my waist, I hear a crash, and something hits my elbow hard as Seth falls to the floor. I turn around to see if Seth is ok, worried he's hit his head or landed weird. Luckily he's fine. At first I think the chin-up bar broke, but not so. Apparently the bar was pulled the wrong way and flew off the door and hit my elbow. Yeah, great idea, ME. See what happens when you screw around? You're lucky you didn't put an eye out!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

Our personality infused cat, Gracie, has a very odd but endearing ritual we've come to notice. At night before we go to sleep, Seth and I will usually read for a few minutes. During this time, Gracie is usually sitting down on the floor somewhere, roaming the apartment looking for trouble, or participating in her normal late night cat behaviors.

As soon as the lights are turned off and Seth and I get into sleeping position, there's Gracie. Like clockwork we'll hear a little "meow" sound as she jumps on the bed. Then she strolls across our chests and stands there looking down at us, with her Batman silouette. She'll purr very loudly and then as if she's tucking us in for the night, will either bump our heads will her nose or kiss us goodnight with a lick on the forehead. With that, she'll retreat to the end of the bed and go to sleep.

We've only noticed this routine recently, though I wonder how long it's been since she started this. It's something we've come to expect and if one day she forgets to tuck us in, I'm sure we won't sleep a wink.

Today's Special: 30 Minutes or Less

Sunday: Baked Trout with Basil Pesto Pasta- Place whole trout in a baking dish (or wrap in tin foil) and bake for 20 min. per inch of thickness in a 400 deg. oven. Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice if desired. I just used up the leftover pesto sauce from last week's pizza for the pasta. Nothing fancy.

Monday: Grilled Steak Salad with Caper Vinaigrette-New Recipe. This turned out really good. I was worried about being hungry after eating just a salad but the serving size was huge and still had a lower calorie count than anything I've made for a while. I completely forgot to put watercress on my shopping list, but luckily I'd bought a tub of mixed salad greens, so I just used those. This tasted great as leftovers too, especially because I didn't mix the steak/tomato/veggie mixture with the salad greens until ready to eat (so the lettuce didn't wilt). I have to admit it was tough to slice up Seth's perfectly grilled steak and put it in a salad. We really had to restrain ourselves from eating the whole thing plain.

Tuesday: Brothy Chinese Noodles-New Recipe. This was a really fast and easy recipe. If you have never used fresh ginger and/or sesame oil you are missing out. Whenever I smell sesame oil I just want to drink it. This recipe called for bok choy and ground turkey, both of which I've never used before, so it was fun to try some new ingredients. You may have to add additional liquid to this (I just used water) to make it more "brothy," my noodles kept soaking it all up.

Wednesday: Leftovers (For the record, microwaved trout isn't that great. Always remember "fresh is best.")

Thursday: Vegetarian Reubens with Russian Dressing-This recipe is a repeat. I've made it once before and was surprised at how good it was. The recipe desciption said something about it being "so good you won't miss the corned beef" and I was like, yeah right. But, it was true! Seth was raving again tonight about how much he liked it and requested seconds!

Friday: Broccoli, Cannellini Bean and Cheddar Soup-New Recipe. This was yet another fast & easy recipe. Sadly the new pitcher I'd ordered for my out-of-commission blender hasn't arrived yet, so I had to blend this up in the food processor, which worked, but probably not as well as the blender. I thought this tasted like a fresh mild broccoli cheese soup. The recipe says it makes 6 servings. I think 4 small servings is more like it, and 2 if it's the main dish. Seth and I had no problem polishing this off in one sitting. Very good and a great healthy alternative to regular broccoli cheese soup.

Bonus: Fresh Berry Gratin- New Recipe. So after we ate the Broccoli soup I had a hankering for something sweet. We didn't really have much around in the way of desserts, so I decided to make this! I used frozen mixed berries and I thought they worked just fine. This whole dessert took less than a half hour to make and that includes the 15-20 minute bake time. I was a little skeptical of this but was very pleasantly surprised. My new favorite fast dessert.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Word Wednesday

I came across a lot of new words this week and had a hard time choosing just one. I came across this one last night as I was reading "Robinson Crusoe," and thought it was a word that had the potential to be used somewhat frequently.

 [in-yoor, i-noor]

verb (used with object):

1. to accustom to hardship, difficulty, pain, etc.; toughen or harden; habituate (usually fol. by to): inured to cold.

verb (used without object):

2. to come into use; take or have effect.
3. to become beneficial or advantageous.


The way this word was used in my book was something to the effect of "the next morning after a long turbulent first night at sea, Crusoe felt a bit better having become a little inured to the movement of the ocean."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Snacks: The Secret to Fishing

This last Saturday we went ice fishing at Devil Creek Reservoir. We met Seth's dad, brother-in-law Marty, and niece Arielle there, along with what turned out to be a bunch of fishermen there for an ice fishing tournament.

It was a really nice day and it was good to get out of our dark apartment. Seth and I caught 4 good sized rainbows. They sure tasted delicious!

Marty and Arielle with a catch.

Daddy Hanson drilling some holes.

Seth pulling up a rainbow.

The Spoils.

I'm watching the holes. Honest.

Seth drilling more holes.

The Spread.

I have a tip for all you who are wondering what our secret was to catching fish.

#2 Go get a snack. Yup that's right. Not getting any bites? Go dig yourself out a snack from the cooler and I guarantee that'll bring them in. And don't get all sneaky on those fish. They know when you're just pretending to get one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Today's Special: Try it You'll Like it!

So this week my intention was to just make a bunch of tried and true recipes. This ended up being a lot harder than I thought because I realized there were so many new recipes I wanted to try. But, I did manage to do 3 'tried and true' recipes and 2 new ones. Everything turned out really good this week, just the way I like it.

Sunday: Bow Ties with Sausage, Tomato, and Cream- New Recipe. Somehow I managed to whip this up with stuff I had on hand. It was fairly quick to make and tasted great. Seth said it was one of the best things I've made for a while. Probably because it's not healthy in the slightest.

Monday: Sherried Sardine Toast- New Recipe. Seth & I saw this on one of my favorite cooking shows, Good Eats (gotta love Alton Brown). It looked really good, but a little scary, so I decided to give it a shot. Plus, you know how guys love to eat fish that come in tins. This was really really good. If you decide to make this, make sure you buy the exact same sardines (bristling sardines, 2-layer, packed in olive oil) stated in the recipe. I think the regular ones are fishier or something and don't work as well. I substituted balsamic vinegar for sherry vinegar because I couldn't find it, but I thought it matched well with the other ingredients. I also didn't let the mixture marinate for 45 minutes because I was about to starve to death. It ended up being more like 5 minutes, which I thought might compromise the flavor, but I didn't think there was any negative effect on taste. This wasn't near as fishy or scary as I thought it'd be. I would definitely make this again.

Tuesday: Chicken Shrimp & Andouille Jambalaya- Old Favorite. Ok, so it's not that old of a recipe... probably within the last year. But it's good enough and easy enough that I've made it several times already. Probably one of my very favorite recipes. It seems like I keep tweaking it everytime I make it. This time I used turkey kielbasa sausage instead of the andouille and I really liked it. Kielbasa is pretty cheap and the turkey kind is a lot healthier and doesn't taste weird or anything. Make this stuff, you'll love it!

Wednesday: Black Bean Soup- I've made this before and decided to make it again this week so I could use up some celery. Plus it was about time for some soup and a 'meatless' meal is always good on the budget.

Thursday:  Garden Tomato and Basil Pesto Pizza- I've made this before and think it's a great, quick easy meal for busy nights. I used a bit more pesto sauce (I use Classico brand because it's fairly cheap and tastes really good) than the recipe calls for because I can't really taste it otherwise. I also got ahead of myself and put the basil on before I cooked it. It still tasted fine, but next time I'll be sure to remember to add it after the pizza is baked.

I also decided the Boboli pizza crusts are far superior to the Mama Mary ones I've bought recently. The Boboli crust has a lot more flavor and it's a bit puffier. If you like the flatter crispier crusts, you'll probably like Mama Mary brand. I would stick with their regular crust though, not the wheat one. It tasted weird and overpowered the ingredients.  I guess you could make your own crust (I like this recipe), but then this wouldn't be nearly as fast to make.

Friday: Leftovers

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Plan to Take Over the World

My goal this year isn't to lose weight. If that's an added bonus to everything else I do this year, fine, but I'm pretty happy where I'm at. I did all my weight loss last year (about 20 pounds! wahoo!) so this year is the year to get really fit. I want to be strong. I want to be INVINCIBLE!! {insert evil laugh here}

In order to keep up and improve my level of fitness, I've decided on a handful of fitness goals I can work towards. Here they are in no certain order:

1. Continuously be able to run at least 3 miles.

2. Be able to run at least 6 miles without stopping by the end of the running season.

3. Do 15 full pushups at a time by the end of the year, with a constant progression of 1 per month (I can currently do 4).

4. Be able to do 4 chin-ups by the end of the year (1 every 3 months).

5. Hike up to the waterfall in Adam's Canyon without having to stop and rest.

which naturally leads me to...

6. Take over the world by Christmas. How hard could it be?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Word Wednesday

So remember how last week's word was 'vertiginous'? Well, turns out the same day I did that post I came across that same word in the new book I'm reading! Twice! And I felt so smart because I knew what it meant. I swear I'd never heard that word before, but maybe it's like when you get a new car and all of a sudden you become aware of all the cars that look just like yours and it seems like there's way more of them than there used to be. Anyway, my point is, I can already tell this is helping me 'grow' my vocabulary. And I'm actively trying to find new words now... gives me some motivation to read more. Now, onto today's word:


Adjective: Covetous, greedy, and rapacious share the sense of desiring to possess more of something than one already has or might in normal circumstances be entitled to. Avaricious often implies a pathological, driven greediness for money or other valuables and usually suggests a concomitant miserliness: the cheerless dwelling of an avaricious usurer. (from

I think maybe Ebenezer Scrooge would be a perfect example of an avaricious character.

Seth actually asked me if I knew what this word meant one evening and we had to look it up. Oddly enough, it was just after our discussion about how I jokingly wanted to buy more stuff to review on my blog. Come on, I mean I may be covetous, but miserly? What do you people want from me?!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Today's Special: Temperature Guides & Ethnic Dishes

Sunday: So, I'd originally planned to have steaks today but Seth's cousin Greg invited us over for dinner so I didn't have to make anything! Greg made a big turkey dinner that was awesome. Seriously Greg... some of the best stuffing I've ever had (and it was Stove Top! Who knew?). So instead of posting a recipe for today I'm gonna give you some cooking tips.

Here's a trick to know whether your baked potatoes are perfectly cooked: Continually monitor the internal temperature of the potatoes by sticking a probe thermometer into the center of one of your spuds (or you can check them periodically with a cooking thermometer). The potatoes are done when they reach 210°F. (You may want to check each potato, especially if they aren't uniform in size or you have a crazy oven like I do). Bonus Tip: The internal temperature of perfectly baked bread is 200-205°F.

If you don't already have an oven-probe thermometer GET ONE. It's one of my most frequently used tools in the kitchen. Plus they're pretty cheap... this is the one I have and it works just fine. Also, don't use it in your grill unless it's at a low temp (ie slow cooking a roast). This probe only goes up to 392°F. I learned that the hard way when I broke my first one.

Most thermometers will already have a temperature guide on them. I don't ever use these. The temperatures printed on them are too high... especially for meat. They're the USDA temperature guides which means somebody is trying to cover their butts so they make them higher than they should be so they don't get sued. If you like dry food, go ahead and follow their guides. If not, use these (I wrote them on the back of my thermometer).

Poultry: 165°F
    Medium: 150°F
    Well: 160°F
    Rare: 125°F
    Medium Rare: 130-135°F
    Medium: 135-140°F
    Medium Well: 140-150°F
    Well: 155+°F
Ground Beef, Lamb, & Pork: 160°F

Also keep in mind that internal temperatures will continue to increase by approximately 5°F when removed from heat. But it's best to let meat rest a few minutes before cutting anyway so all the juices don't fly out.
Monday: Penne with Artichoke Sauce-New Recipe. I was really disappointed with this one. It tasted pretty much how it looks.... bland. Seth liked it more than I did, but I think it's because he had more artichoke chunks in his. I'm not sure if it made a huge difference or not, but I used marinated artichoke hearts from a jar instead of fresh ones. There was no picture of this recipe on the website. I should have taken that as a clue.

Tuesday: Caldo Tlalpeno with Quesadillas- New Recipe. This turned out really good. We gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday: Baked Cod with Chorizo & White Beans- New Recipe. I thought this recipe sounded a little odd but gave it a shot because it had good reviews. I couldn't find chorizo at the store I went to so I just got turkey kielbasa as suggested in the recipe.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well all the flavors blended. We both liked this a lot and ended up eating all of it.

Thursday: Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Pizza-New Recipe. I'd bought a ready-made whole wheat pizza crust with no real plan for it this week. I got home on Thursday night and had to leave again in an hour so I needed something fast and easy. I found this recipe, made it and ate all within the allotted time. I used mozzarella cheese instead of the asiago because it's all I had. Probably would've been better with the asiago, but it still wasn't bad. I wasn't too crazy about the pizza crust I bought... maybe I'll make my own next time. The way this tasted when I ate it I'd give it about a B-. But it has potential (would be good with some chicken or sausage on it too I think).

Friday: Chicken Piccata with Pasta & Mushrooms-New Recipe. This was good, but I thought it would be better with all the raving reviews it had. Not bad, but not good enough for regular rotation.

Saturday (Breakfast): Denny's-Style French Toast- This is one of my favorite breakfast recipes. I've used Texas Toast style bread and sliced French bread with very good results. Today we also finally got around to eating some venison sausage one of Seth's cousins gave us at a family reunion this summer (yeah, I know it's been a while... I was a little scared to try it). Anyway, the sausage was awesome! Glad we have 2 packages of it.

Also, I just wanted to thank Seth again for this awesome new camera he gave me for Christmas. It has a FOOD setting on it which is amazing. My pictures have turned out much better this week and my frustration levels have decreased dramatically. Having the right tools for the job sure makes things easier.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Can Vouch For That: Part 3

It's time for another installation of my favorite things! I really like doing these posts for some reason. Almost makes me want to go out and buy more stuff just so I can write about it... Ha ha Seth, just kidding. (no I'm not) 

Baking Soda: Ok I know this is going to sound a little weird, but I like to use baking soda as a beauty product. After years of trying everything from expensive facial scrubs to sugar, I have finally found the perfect exfoliant. My pores always seem to get clogged so fast so I have to exfoliate everyday in order to keep my skin looking good and my makeup application smooth. I add probably 1/2-1 tsp. of this to my facial cleanser (see below) every morning and scrub away. The baking soda is rough enough to be a great exfoliant, but not so rough it hurts. Plus it's what, $1 for a box? And it lasts forever.

Cetaphil Facial Cleansers: There are actually two different Cetaphil cleansers I use. The first one is called "Gentle Skin Cleanser: For All Skin Types" and I use it in the morning mixed with the above mentioned baking soda. It's very mild and is best for light dirt/oil (i.e. from sleeping). This isn't very good for removing makeup. The other Cetaphil cleanser I use is the one labeled "Daily Facial Cleanser: For Normal to Oily Skin." I use this one at night when my face is more grimey from dirt and makeup. I don't like mixing this one with the baking soda... I think the combination is too strong for my skin.

I do wish the bottles looked a little more different because it would be easy to accidentally grab the wrong one at the store (which I have done).

Oxo Mug: This is my second Oxo mug of this design. The first one was very similar, but it was blue plastic instead of stainless steel. The stainless steel mug was probably $10 more than the plastic one, but it is much better at retaining heat. These mugs are spill-proof because of an inner seal that opens and closes when you push the button on top. I also like that the lid screws on and there is no handle to get in the way. The lid isn't the easiest thing to clean thoroughly, but I just rinse mine through with hot water and soap and it seems just fine.

CoverGirl LashBlast Length: I was hesitant to try a CoverGirl brand mascara (my inner snob I think), but figured it couldn't hurt as I hadn't liked any others I'd tried. Plus the bright packaging and plastic wand bristles sucked me in. I can now say I have finally found my perfect mascara. The wand is AMAZING. It separates each last beautifully and picks up just the right amount of mascara. I can easily apply more layers of mascara without getting spider lashes or clumps. And it doesn't flake off during the day! That has always been my one problem with every other brand of mascara besides Loreal. This stuff really is great. And because it's CoverGirl, it's also pretty cheap! (p.s. I've heard the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume mascara is great as well. I may try that one next just to see if it's as good as this. I couldn't decide when I bought this if I'd rather have length or volume. That's what she said. HA!)

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Lotion: Let me get one thing straight... I HATE lotion. But it's pretty much a necessity, so I have to have it. There are so many problems with lotions and I hate spending money on lotion anyway, let alone on stuff I don't like. Up until now the lotion I bought had either too strong of a fragrance or was 'fragrance free' which always smells like glue. Or, the lotion was way too thick (think body butter)... never completely soaking into my skin making it impossible to pull my jeans on or leaving grease marks everywhere. Or the lotion wasn't thick enough and my skin would need several applications in order to get the right amount of moisturization. Then a few weeks ago I bought this stuff. It has a very light 'milk chocolate' smell (but not too sweet or off-putting) and it's the perfect consistency. Most of it gets absorbed into my skin before I get dressed so it's not too greasy. It makes my skin feel so smooth and it doesn't irritate the sensitive skin on my chest and neck. Plus it was cheap... around $7 for 13.5oz.

Revlon Colorsilk (Dark Mahogany Brown #32): After getting my hair professionally colored a couple times, I realized I was going to go broke if I had to keep doing it every month or so. In comes the store-bought color-in-a-box. Let me tell you I was scared to color my own hair. What if the color was all wrong? Or I missed a spot? Or it looked completely unnatural? So I did some research and found a couple brands that were rated highest, especially in the brunette color family. After spending probably 2 hours in the isle at Target trying to decide what color to get, I settled on Revlon Colorsilk Dark Mahogany Brown (#32). I just about did a dance at the checkout stand when the total came to about $3.50. Let's see... $3.50 vs. lots of money... I choose $3.50! Anyway, long story short, I really really like this color. It is just what I was looking for and it also fades really well... maybe even better than the professional color I had done. Plus, get this...the last time I went in to get my haircut, one of the girls complimented me on my hair color. And, my stylist couldn't tell I'd dyed it again! Sweet! p.s. This stuff also makes my hair look really shiny :)

Quaker Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal: I'm all about eating healthier stuff, but that's not the initial reason I bought this. I think regular instant oatmeal is way too sweet... especially because I usually eat 2 packets. In the past I'd mix one packet of regular sugary stuff with one packet of plain flavor, but then it was a little too bland. With the lower sugar oatmeal I can just use 2 packets of the flavor I like and it turns out perfect! I keep a stash at work for quick easy breakfasts (just dump it into a cup and add hot water from the tap on the coffee machine) and there you have it! I have tried the fruit & cream type flavors which are good too, but I'm a bigger fan of the cinnamon and brown sugar flavors.

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Vanilla Almond Milk: I'd heard about almond milk before and people were always raving about how good it was. I thought it was probably the same people who though soy milk was good (yuck), but decided to give it a shot anyway. This stuff is so good! It tastes great straight up or on cereal. I've never tried the plain unflavored stuff and not sure if I ever will, but vanilla has my stamp of approval. (You can find this by all the other regular milk & soy milk in the grocery store.)

Biggest Loser Bootcamp & Cardio Max: I added these 2 DVDs to my workout video collection recently to keep me from getting bored with my indoor workouts. They are both pretty tough, but not too hard. The cool thing about these is you can customize your workout. Each DVD has a menu with a warm-up, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Cool-down. It tells you how long each segment is and then you can select the sections you want to do that day and it plays them automatically. It suggests you start at level 1 and gradually add each segment as you get in better shape. If you do the entire DVD it is about 50-55 minutes (10 minutes of which is the warm-up and cool-down). As the name states, the Cardio Max is a bit more cardio centered where the bootcamp is more circuit training, switching between cardio and strength training... although both videos involve strength & cardio segments. I like that they have the Biggest Loser contestants in the videos because they look more like regular people and because they are obviously fitness video rookies... they have constant goofy smiles, don't do the moves exactly right all the time, and are completely out of sync with each other. For some reason it's not annoying, more funny than anything. One last note, if you don't want to do pushups, don't buy these.

Scientific Angler Fly Boxes: I finally forked over the cash for some decent fly boxes after the cheap one I had completely fell apart after only a couple uses. These boxes rock. They are quick and easy to open and stay securely shut. There is a rubber seal around the edge that keeps the box watertight and it fits perfectly in a vest pocket. The foam holds the flies really well and the gaps keep the hackle from getting smashed. There are a large variety of inserts available so you can choose the one that suits your needs (i.e. smaller dry flies, large streamers, nymphs, etc.). I even have one with extra compartments that I use for sinkers and strike indicators. The inserts remove completely from the clear cases so you can swap them out depending on the situation and there is enough clearance between the insert and case for bigger flies so they don't get smashed. I also like that they are color coded and clear so I can tell at a quick glance whether it's my 'dry fly box' or my 'wet fly box.'

Bed Head Hard Head Hairspray- I read somewhere that hairspray that doesn't contain water as an ingredient is much better, so I decided to see if this was really true. This hairspray is one of the brands I found that doesn't contain water. It was pricey... about $13 at Target (but the cheapest of the water-free hairsprays I found), so I had really high standards for it. I have to say it does have much better hold than the hairsprays I've used in the past. It dries almost instantly and for a flexible hold, you don't need much. Use a little more and your hair won't budge an inch. It smells a little booze-ish to me when it first comes out of the bottle, but this smell dissipates quickly and there is no accompanying lingering perfumey smell. If I used a lot of hairspray on a daily basis this could be an expensive new habit, but luckily the bottle is pretty big and one bottle of hairspray lasts a long time for me.