Does Latisse Work?

My name is Britt and I have a dermatologist addiction.

Perhaps I have guinea pig in my blood. Or maybe I’m just curious? But when Vore and I got engaged, it all got ramped up a notch. I went on a self-betterment campaign, mostly involving my face. In the past year, I have tried a chemical peel (horrific pain, scary peeling), Retina A (massive skin irritation), microdermabrasion (like this, but no major results)  and IPL photo facials (love!)

Beyond that bridal glow, I had it in my head that lush lashes were a must for the wedding day. Enter Latisse.

I’ve never had much in the way of eyelashes. Naturally, they are semi-thick and dark, but short. I started using Latisse a year ago, with the intention of cutting it off after the wedding. The stuff is pricey, but man did it work! After three months, I had to drop back to every other day because my lashes were too long. And now I’m addicted. Stopping after the wedding just didn’t happen.

Commonly asked questions:

Does it change your eye color? My dermatologist did warn me about this possibility. I have light blue eyes and I’ve been using it for a year. No difference.

Does it irritate your eyes? My eyes did get a little red and itchy for the first couple of weeks, but beyond that, no biggie.

How long does it take to work? It was about a month before I saw any change. At three months I had monster lashes and had to scale back to three doses per week. That maintains the length without them growing past my eyebrows, which I consider scary.

How long does a tube last? With daily use, mine lasted about 2 months. But that’s because I squandered the stuff. More on that in the section below. After a year, I’m on my 4th tube.

Tips:

  • Never pay full price for Latisse. I certainly haven’t–it’s $120 for a teeny tiny bottle! We have several local spas operated by dermatologists who will gladly write your prescription.They often have buy one, get one free deals. Call around, then stock up.
  • The pack comes with two brushes for each day. Hogwash! Use only one brush per day. Do you honestly think you will cross contaminate your own eyes?
  • Don’t drench the brush with the drops. Just a dab will do you. You don’t have to soak your lash line, just dampen it.
  • Spread leftovers on your eyebrows. Latisse will thicken them too!

Have you tried Latisse? Were your results as magical as mine?

(Awfully Similar to Nestle) Tollhouse Cookies.

Remember that episode of Friends where Phoebe talks about her grandmother’s famous cookies? She said the recipe came from a distant French relative named Nestlé Toulouse.

I think Phoebe and I might be cousins.

Chocolate chips from the Engagement-A-Versary celebration

Nestle Tollhouse cookies are a go-to for me. When I was in high school, I started baking them with my mom, and I’m positive I’ve made the recipe 1000 times since. I could whip up a batch of these cookies in my sleep.

But we all know I can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve tinkered with the classic, giving it a cinnamon-y signature and a bit of extra flour for texture that works better without nuts. Here’s is my version, with the changes highlighted in red. 

Britt’s (Awfully Similar to Nestle) Tollhouse Cookies.

2 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

(Combine these dry ingredient with a whisk in a small bowl)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon high quality vanilla extract

(Beat in a large bowl until creamy)

Add 2 large eggs, one at a time.

Slowly beat in flour mixture.

Stir in 1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips, but no nuts

Now here’s where I get more specific than my friends at Nestle. They say to just drop the cookies onto the sheet with a spoon, bake at 375 degrees and you’re done. And you could be…if you want runny cookies. But you want perfection, yes? Here are my tips for getting the very best cookies.

*Refrigerate dough until it’s firm. Otherwise, it’s a sticky mess when you try to handle it. Try not to eat copious amounts of the dough. This will be hard.

*Use a ½ tablespoon to form evenly sized balls. Roll them with your hands, place on a baking sheet and freeze. This gets the butter extra cold, so it doesn’t run in the oven.

*Place frozen balls on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Parchment paper mean no sticking and you can get the cookies off the baking sheet in a hurry. I’ve found that no more than 12 fit on a tray, unless you don’t mind a cookie collision in the oven.

*Bake for 8 -10 minutes or until light brown. I usually turn my pan about 7 minutes in so that the cookies are evenly baked. (My oven stinks, so this step may be unnecessary for you)

*Slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheet so they don’t continue to brown.

*If you have leftover dough, leave them in the freezer and pull it out on a whim!

Engagement-A-Versary + Favorite Wedding Gifts for the Kitchen

One year ago today, Vore asked me to marry him.

We were hiking. The proposal was very simple, very private and very us. It was perfect. Your wedding is supposed to be the best day of your life–and in a way it was–but to me, the day we got engaged might have been even better. No pressure, no planning: just bliss.

Our engagement photos, taken last spring at Moss Rock Preserve

Today we are celebrating in the simplest way: I’m making Vore’s favorite cookies for the occasion. (Recipe tomorrow!) In the meantime, I thought I’d share my favorite wedding gifts for the kitchen. Not surprisingly, these are the tools that I use daily.

The Vitamix is the winner by a landslide. And yes, I use a blender almost every day.

Pre-Vita, I broke two blenders in the process of makings smoothies with frozen fruit. And these weren’t cheap blenders either! When my maid-of-honor asked me what I’d like as the hostess gift for my engagement party I dropped a hint for this bad boy. (VitaMixes are crazy spendy, but there were 10 hostesses, so it made the gift cost reasonable.)

Vitamix = Best. Gift. Ever.

I use it to make smoothies, sauces, soup…you name it. My Vita eats ice for breakfast. It’s motor is referred to as the “chainsaw of the kitchen.” In my opinion, the reputation is earned.


GlassLock storage containers. I’m weirded out by plastic in the microwave. What’s leaching into our food? These glass containers take away that worry. They also seal extra tight, keeping air out of leftovers and making them last longer.

Le Creuset non-stick frying pans. These were a swap after we got a random, unusable and expensive gift from a local kitchen boutique. The owner swore these were the best non-stick pans she’d ever used and I’d have to agree. From eggs to grilled cheese, I give these guys a workout.

Wusthoff chef’s knife. How did I ever survive without a real kitchen knife? We also received a set of task-specific Henkels, but this is my go-to knife. If fits my hand perfectly.

Skyros Legado dinnerwareI already had my grandmother’s set of everyday wear in Blue Danube (You can see it here) so I wanted our pattern to be something extra casual and cozy. I love the “R” monogram for our last name. Perfection.

If you’re married, what were you favorite wedding gifts? What do you use daily? 

Nominated! Very Inspring + Versatile Blogger Awards

Blogging serves a number of purposes in our household. For the sake of brevity, I’ll narrow it down to three:

  • Blogging is  like journalling, but I don’t have to get OCD about my handwriting. All the cathartic moments, no scribbles, White Out or cramping right hand.
  • It solves Vore’s “you never make the same thing twice, and I really liked that fill-in-the-blank” problem. If I write recipes here, they are catalogued and my crazy experiments can be replicated on a whim.
  • Blogging connects you with like-minded people. Folks who get excited to talk about the same things you like. You get to make the coolest friends!
That’s where Jasmine at Paintbox Kitchen comes in. She’s a fellow food blogger who gave me an awesome Saturday surprise–she had nominated me for two awards! These are the Versatile Blogger and the Inspiring Blogger. The rules are for the awards are three-fold: thank the blogger who nominated you; post seven fun facts about yourself; nominate others. I’ll play!

Nominated for an award? whythankyouverymuchjasmine! I’m blushing.

Now on to those 7 (utterly random) things about little old me…

  1. While I don’t teach group fitness anymore, that was my extra money job in grad school. I was a threat on a Spin bike! I am also certified in YogaFit and TurboKick.

    Post TurboKick certification. Sweat much?

  2. I am named for my paternal grandmother, who’s maiden name was Briton. She was from England, and met my grandfather while he was abroad in WWII. God bless her proper British soul, she was sent home to live on a farm in Mississippi.
  3. I’ve run a half marathon. One was enough.
  4. I love to travel. I’ve been to Canada and Mexico several times. I’ve also backpacked through Europe, Australia and New Zealand and visited the Caribbean.
  5. Even thought I loved, loved, loved Bridesmaids, Mean Girls is still my favorite movie. Shallow? Maybe.
  6. Speaking of bridesmaids, I’ve been one 9 times. Our wedding had  11 attendants. I’ve got fab friends!
  7. My first pet was a cat named Woodie. The first street I lived on was High Point Terrace. This makes my stripper name “Woodie High Point.” Could I make that up?

And now, for my nominations for the Versatile and Inspiring Blog Awards:

iGriza. Say hello to the ever-hip Laura at www.grizaland.com. Her blog has grown over time and has all kinds of cool stuff about technology, babies and life in general. Always a fun read!
Every Food Fits. Stacey rocks. In a beautiful moment of serendipity we got to chatting on Twitter a couple of years back. She and I have a lot in common, including a passion for balanced food. She is also an insanely talented photographer who posts equally enticing recipes at www.everyfoodfits.com. 
Frugal Feeding. What a fun blog! The recipes at http://frugalfeeding.wordpress.com/ are always creative, inspiring and cheap–just the way I like them! That little splash of British whit makes reading all the better.
Southern Protocol. Y’all watch out for Lizz. She and I met as displaced girls from the Deep South, living in Dallas. We’re back home now–her in Charleston and me in Birmingham–but our connection stayed tight. She owns an etiquette and wedding planning company and her blog http://southernprotocol.com/blog is sure to keep you minding your p’s and q’s.

Personal Demons: The Food Kind.

An interesting article came through my Google Reader today from the ever-fabulsous Fit Sugar. It’s titled, “Even healthy foods are fattening: proper portion sizes for calorie dense foods.” Oh, the truth in that statement…

I’m all for fats. I eat nuts and oils and even (GASP) butter pretty much every day. But it’s a handful of nuts and a couple of teaspoons of oil. After all, how many people do you know who down an entire container of  hummus with the “healthy fat” defense? Sorry girlfriend. You just drowned the benefits in excessive calories.

Which brings me to my next point: Absolutely anything can be unhealthy if it triggers you to over eat. There are the 3  “healthy” things that I can’t have in the house:

Orange Juice. Chug-a-lug. I can’t drink just 8 ounces. I’ve been known to down a half gallon in two days. My solution: Eat an orange. There’s more fiber and it’s more satisfying.

Kashi Go Lean Crunch. I refer to this as “Kashi Crack.” It’s got tons of fiber and an amazing taste. I tried everything to keep this under control. I once portioned an entire box into 1/2 cup servings. And then I opened the containers and grazed. Kashi = banned. My solution: Mix walnuts into my yogurt instead. All the crunch, none of the addictive behavior.

Fresh Market Veggie Chips. I mean, they’re vegetables, right? Sort of. They started out healthy and then they got fried. These things are good. I mean really good. I walk by the cabinet and can’t resist handfuls. My solution: Carrot sticks, perhaps with some of that healthy hummus. Carrots are crunchy. Hummus is filling. Crisis averted.

Outside the “healthy” category, I simply cannot resist cinnamon Teddy Grahams. And so the processed little bears stay off our pantry shelves.

What “healthy” foods can you not resist? How do you modify so you aren’t depriving yourself? 

Non-Rap Songs to Get You Moving.

Vore's manly iPhone vs. my Nano. Despite their differences, there's nothing but love.

Vore and I don’t have the same taste in music. Not even close.

He prefers songs produced before we were born. Maybe the 80s if you’re lucky. I’m the blonde suburbanite who favors rap. I kept thinking I’d outgrow it. Didn’t happen.

I have a knack for making everything into a challenge, so why not our music differences? Could I scan my iTunes and compile a rockin’ playlist without one rap song? You bet your sweet beat I did. Turn it up loud:

 

Veggie’s Ultimate Rap-Free Workout

Ray Lamontagne. Henry Nearly Killed Me

Dispatch. Here We Go

Sarah Borges. I’ll Show You How

MOE. In a Big Country

A.R. Rahman. Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)

Florence and the Machine. Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)

Adele. Rumor Has It.

Andy Hunter. Smile

Mute Math. Spotlight (Twilight Mix)

Nika Costa. Stuck to You

Ryan Adams. To Be Young

KO-S. Valhalla

Say “Hey” to the Croquette

Some might consider me a Cooking Light fan girl. 

In my stash of go-to recipes, you’ll find no small number of Cooking Light creations. When my monthly issue arrives, I read it cover to cover, dog-ear, then experiment. Here’s the story of one such adventure: Potato, Mushroom and Leek Croquettes. 

Getting started: The fresh line up

The croquette holds a special place in my heart. As a child, my grandparents would often take me to a meat-and-three called The Pioneer. It had a waterfall, a playful waiter who pulled my ponytail and a delicacy we called the “squash puff.” I was in love.

The squash puff was really a croquette, but “puff” rolls off the tongue much easier for a 5-year-old. These were crunchy fried goodness–heavenly–and kind of terrible for you.

Given my love for the puff/croquette as a genre, you can imagine how excited I was to see a healthier version in Cooking Light’s Super Fast section. Yukon golds and mushrooms? Bring it on.

Inspiration struck to make these beauties on a Saturday afternoon. I got the patties ready to rock and roll, then stored them in the fridge until I was ready to pan fry them for our Sunday lunch. A little pre-planning took “super-fast” to the next level.

I followed the recipe closely, save these small substitutions:

  • I used portobello mushrooms in place of the cremini/button combo.
  • Pre-shredded Swiss/Gruyere blend made prep work a breeze.
  • Brown rice flour took the place of all purpose.

The results where divine! A crunchy layer on the outside gives way to a creamy middle.This experiment was declared a success.

 

Our plates were balanced with black beans + beet greens (left over from Farro Salad) and carrots. Vore had a pork chop for good measure.

Farro, Roasted Beet and Feta Salad.

When it comes to Birmingham restaurants, Bottega Cafe is high on my favorites list. The chef, owner of several great spots in town, is a bit of a local icon. I’m convinced that’s because of his emphasis on high-quality, local ingredients.

Farm fresh ingredients mean that Bottega’s menu is exceptionally seasonal. As in, the selection might be entirely different from day to day. I’m all for variety, but that does get a little frustrating when you have a favorite. Such is my story with farro salad.

In the winter, Bottega sometimes serves a simple salad of arugala, farro, roasted beets and feta. I adore it. And since it’s practically never on the menu, I had to recreate it at home:

For the farro mix

3 cups cooked farro

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

*Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. That’s it! The longer the salad sits, the better it tastes.

 

For your topping pleasure

roasted beets (I used the Oh She Glows method)

block style feta cheese

arugala

Greek seasoning —>I put this stuff on everything!

This makes 4 appetizer salads or 3 entrees. My entree (pictured above) included about 2 cups arugala, 3/4 cup farro and 1/4 cup each feta and beets. We topped Vore’s salad the same way, but added a piece of swordfish to give it a little staying power.

I’ll leave you with a word of warning: Beets make EVERYTHING red, including the hands that slice them. Be prepared for some short-term stained fingers and for goodness’ sake, wear an apron!

The Little Things.

Sometimes, the littlest things make a long day better. Today, when shopping in Whole Foods, I needed small amounts of a few fresh herbs. But to buy an entire $1.99 pack of thyme when I only needed a tablespoon? Madness! I know from experience it will sit in the fridge unused and utterly wasted.

And then I saw this “pasta mix” pack, combining oregano, thyme and basil. All the herbs I needed, 1/3 of the price and zero waste. I did a happy dance all the way to the Whole Paycheck cash register. See…the little things.

What little things make your day?

Balsamic Vinaigrette + Grilled Veggies

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Perfect for grill time with my man.

On the menu, veggie kabobs, Vore's chicken + chops and asparagus. Unpictured: stir fry tofu.

The two of us have gotten quite efficient at weekend cookouts. In the morning, I prep veggies and he gets meat ready. We throw the ingredients in the fridge for a little marinating time, then light the grill a couple of hours later. But what to marinate with? We adore veggies with a little bit of punch. Vinegar? Yes, please.

My favorite recipe for balsamic vinaigrette comes from a local chef, who uses it on a divine baby blue salad. I’ve tweaked it here to use a bit less oil and sweetener, adding basil to punch up the flavor. Make a batch of this to marinate your veggies, then use the leftovers in salads throughout the week. The taste (and the ingredient list) are far superior to the bottled stuff at the store.

Lightened Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tablespoons spicy mustard

1 Tablespoon honey

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 small shallot, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup olive oil

*Add all ingredients, except the oil into your blender. Get it moving.

*Blend on a low speed, slowly streaming the oil in, until all ingredients are incorporated.

The grill is a great time-saver for the Veggie-Vore household. It provides main course for the next couple of days and gives us great flavored veggies to mix into omlettes, use as pizza toppings, etc.

What’s your favorite grill material?