Birchbox Review


This month I received my first (and last) Birchbox. I didn't cancel my subscription because I'm unhappy with the contents but because I'm trying to save money. It was nice to get just one and see what it's like but to be honest, I don't know if I'll ever renew my subscription. Although it is exciting to get a little "surprise" box in the mail, I think I'd rather just spend $10 on makeup that I know I'm definitely going to use.


At first, the item I was the most interested in was the eye liner... until I realized it's GREEN. I'll probably just be trying out the lip/cheek tint and the various lotions. The earbuds will come in handy as a backup in case my current pair breaks. Also, I'm not big on perfume because my sense of smell is so bad that anytime I smell it on someone is when they've used WAY too much... so I probably won't be using that.

Overall, I'm not disappointed with this month's Birchbox, I've just come to the realization that it's not for me. I'm far too picky when it comes to beauty products. 

What about you guys? Do any of you subscribe to Birchbox? If so, what are some of your favorite past Birchbox items?

County Fair Chili Competition


On Saturday I competed in the OC Fair Hot! Hot! Hot! Chili, Wings or Salsa competition. There were about 150 entries overall. Many of the entries were salsa but I'd say at least 30-40 of them were chili. As the judges tasted each entry, I awaited the results but was convinced that I had scored close to last place. Many people used prime cuts of meat and craft beer while I had simply used ground beef and Budweiser. I didn't think I stood a chance! After two hours, the judges were finally finished and the results were read aloud, beginning with 10th place. I can't even explain how surprised I was when they announced that my chili had won 3rd place! 

I've already shared my chili recipe here on the blog but I made quite a few alterations for this competition. If you're interested in giving it a try, here's how I made it this time around...

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 80/20)
  • 16 slices of bacon
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beer (more can be added later to thin the chili out a bit)
  • 1/3 cup A-1 steak sauce
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Cholula hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

-Combine your chopped stewed tomatoes, carrot, celery, onion, tomato paste, beer and A-1 steak sauce in a large saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the other parts of the chili.
-Combine the flour, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano and paprika in a small bowl.
-Fry the bacon. Do not drain the grease. Set the bacon aside and cook the ground beef in the bacon drippings. Drain the grease. Add the mixture of spices to the beef. Do not add the entire mixture at first. Taste the beef as you go and only add the amount of spices you prefer. 
-Break the bacon into small pieces. Add the bacon and beef to the tomato mixture. Add the Cholula hot sauce and the brown sugar a little bit at a time, tasting as you go. You do not want the chili to be too spicy or too sweet. The only way to find the combination you prefer is to taste as you go. If you happen to add too much brown sugar, a dash of vinegar will balance out the sweetness.
-Let the chili cook for an hour or two and then add the beans, fresh cilantro and fresh parsley. Cook until heated through. Serve with your choice of condiments. Grated cheddar cheese is my favorite!

This chili tastes even better the next day! Add some water or a little beer to thin it out before reheating. Enjoy!

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Are you guys excited?! I am! I've always really loved the Olympics and to be quite honest, I think it's because I've never had cable and when the Olympics are on, there's always something entertaining to watch. I'll definitely be watching the opening ceremonies tonight while doing some cooking. I entered a chili contest at the OC Fair and the judging is tomorrow. It's going to be a fun weekend! Now, in honor of the Olympics, I've put together a very special Olympic-themed list this week...

This Olympic rings necklace DIY is so cute. I love how small and simple it is too. You could really wear it anywhere. 
 
If you're looking for something to wear during the games to show your Olympic spirit, check out this tank top featuring the vintage poster above (photo found here). 

This Olympic-themed party is full of adorable decorating and food ideas that would be perfect for kids or adults. I especially love the Olympic rings made with crepe paper and styrofoam.

How about a London-themed print to commemorate the Olympics this year? I love the colors and the vintage feel of this one.

Last but not least, my weekly wrap-up wouldn't be complete without one of my favorite components... good food! Take a look at this photo gallery featuring some of London's traditional dishes!
 
Have a great weekend everyone!

Little Purchases


Are you guys familiar with The Plaid Barn? My friend Heather introduced me to the site and I made my first purchase a few weeks ago. I just couldn't pass up this little chevron packing kit. It was only $3.57! You can't beat that. I like having cute little packaging materials on hand for gifts. The bags would be perfect for some homemade cookies and those clothes pins... how cute are those?

Anyway, since I won't be making very many unnecessary purchases in the coming months in an attempt to save money, I thought I'd share one of my last ones with you. I also received my first (and last) Birchbox this month. There's so much good stuff in it that I hate to cancel my subscription but again, it's just not necessary. It's funny how I tend to think that little purchases here and there aren't a big deal, then all of a sudden a huge rock shatters my windshield (that totally happened yesterday) and I'm thrown back into reality. Little purchases are fun but it's nice to have some money saved up when life throws a rock at your car. Am I right?

Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going a little more smoothly than mine.

Let's Get Real #2

Last week was the first in a series of new posts I'm going to be doing called Let's Get Real. In case you'd like to get caught up, you can check out that post here. Now, today I thought I'd talk a little bit about purses...


This is my purse, otherwise known as the black hole. It's the ONLY purse I use. I carry it every single day. I bought it at an estate sale for $4, I think... I don't remember but I know it was cheap. Sure I have other purses but if I choose to use a different one, that means I'd have to transfer all of my stuff. No thanks! How lazy is that? I'd rather use a purse that doesn't necessarily "match" my outfit than have to move everything.

I think I should also mention that this is my purse on a good day. The amount of useless receipts, old tissues, and miscellaneous trash that piles up inside this thing is ridiculous. I don't need to carry all of this around with me but I feel better when I do. I love having everything I might need on hand... a toothbrush, hand sanitizer, pain relievers, makeup, deodorant, candy... you know, the essentials. So, let's just say, if you ever happen to find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with me, I've got you covered... although, you'll have to give me a second... "I can never find anything in here!"

Spicy Pickled Carrots


I've pickled plenty of eggs in my day but I've never ventured out of my comfort zone. So, about a week ago I decided to try my hand at pickling some carrots. I used a lot of the same ingredients that I use in my spicy pickled egg recipe and they turned out great!

Ingredients:
  • 3 - 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 jalapenos, sliced (more or less depending on how spicy you want them)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1/2 of a white onion, sliced
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, sliced

Some people choose to boil the carrots before pickling them. I didn't so my carrots are still really crunchy. Both ways are delicious.

Combine all of your ingredients (except the carrots) in a pot and cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat.

Combine the carrots and the remaining warm ingredients in a jar and refrigerate for a week or so. Honestly, these carrots were nice and spicy after about 2 days though. Enjoy!

Weekend Finds #9


I finally had some free time over the weekend to do a little thrifting. I found a pretty cool estate sale and picked up a few items including an interesting thermometer/wall hanging from Bad Oeynhausen, Germany and a pair of cute cast iron bookends.

 

P.S... I went to the fair on Sunday and my cookies didn't win :( BUT I ate a ridiculous amount of food and got to watch the pig races so all in all, it was a successful trip.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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I still haven't gone to the fair to see if my cookies won a ribbon but to be honest, I don't really care that much about winning. It was pretty fun to enter and I'm just excited to see them on display. A few more reasons why I can't wait to go: bacon wrapped turkey legs, deep fried everything, little baby animals, crazy rides... did I mention bacon wrapped turkey legs? I seriously love the fair. I'm hoping to go on Sunday. So, if you don't see a post from me on Monday morning, it's because I ate too much and can't move. Juuust kidding... maybe.

Now, since it's Friday, I'll leave you with a few of my favorite discoveries from the past week...

This paper mache lamp DIY from Prudent Baby is just beautiful. The finished product looks like it belongs in a museum!

Shutterbean... how am I just now starting to read Shutterbean? So many great recipes! These crispy chicken fingers have my name all over them.

This BLT with avocado and basil mayo via The Kitchn. I hate mayo but I don't mind it when it's flavored. Basil mayo sounds pretty darn good.

The paint by numbers collection in this Design Sponge Sneak Peek caught my eye right away. Am I the only person who can't find paint by numbers anywhere? 

Lastly, I have a new favorite Etsy shop... Soda Pop Prints. I can't get over that greyhound riding the scooter.

That just about wraps it up. Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday!

July Sponsor Spotlight

It's time for the July group sponsor spotlight! I'd like to introduce you to some of the lovely (and hilarious) July sponsors. Seriously, these ladies are cracking me up with their bios...





Use code PLEASENOTE to receive 15% off everything in Lauren's shop!



Interested in becoming a sponsor next month? Check out the sponsor info page!

On saving money...

Yesterday as I sat in my car studying my grocery store receipt to make sure all of the member discount and sale item prices were correct, I realized... it's time to make a plan. Sure I do my best to find discounts while grocery shopping and I only buy myself new clothes when I absolutely have to, but there's a lot more I could be doing to save money. So, I decided to make a list and I'm going to do my absolute best to stick to it.

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I know that most of these seem obvious but I think it's important to remind myself sometimes what I could be doing to save more. When I look at this list I'm almost a little ashamed. Do I need to go to Starbucks? No! I can buy a 32 oz. can of coffee for what it costs to buy TWO coffees at Starbucks. That can of coffee lasts months. It's important to put that into perspective once in a while.

Eating out less often, clipping coupons, and planning meals is also extremely important. My new plan is to make large dinners a few times a week so I have leftovers for lunch and possibly the following night.

As far as my car goes... I DO NOT need to be using the air conditioner so much! I could save some gas if I just suck it up and roll down the windows instead.

As far as cutting back on fun little purchases... Etsy makes it really difficult! I don't buy much on Etsy but when I do, it's usually always an impulse buy. It's time to limit those impulse buys to once a month!

Lastly, I love making gifts, I really do. My problem is, I don't plan ahead. For example, I'll know I have a birthday party to attend in two weeks and what do I do? Wait until a day or two before to figure out a gift. By that time, buying it is just easier. So... close friends and family, get ready for more handmade goodies from yours truly!

Sponsor Please Note in August!

It's that time again! I'm currently accepting August sponsors.
If you're interested, head on over to the sponsor info page and take a look. I'd love to spend August with you!
Psst... featured ads are still available!

Let's Get Real

My mom and I were recently discussing Nora Ephron and her hilarious book, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Upon reading a few excerpts, I was immediately inspired to create a new feature here on the blog. I'm calling it... Let's Get Real. I'm going to be sharing some of my thoughts on being a woman... you know, little things here and there that you might not see everyday in this crazy little blog world.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about fashion. Sometimes I enviously look at fashion bloggers and think to myself, "Wow... that's such a cute outfit. I should really put more effort into my clothes." Well, the truth is, I could try harder but what I wear everyday is really far down on my list of priorities. I'm just not a fashion-y kind of girl, and I think there are a lot of you out there that feel me on this. Why not share that? It's nothing to be ashamed of. There's nothing wrong with jeans and t-shirts. They're comfortable! The simpler the better. That's my motto. So... let's talk shoes, shall we?


These are my shoes. They're dirty and falling apart. Is that tacky? Wait... let's be honest... I don't really care. Sometimes I wear Vans and sometimes I wear Converse, although the Converse usually win. On the weekends, when I'm running errands and I'm extra lazy, I'll wear flip flops. That's it! Sure I own heels but I don't wear them unless I absolutely have to. Of course I understand having to dress up for work but I've been lucky enough to have jobs with casual dress codes. This extreme love for Converse makes me wonder if I'll ever be too old for them. Will I look ridiculous wearing them at 60? Possibly. Will I wear them anyway and bask in their comfort? Definitely.

Orzo Salad


On Saturday I had a hankering for some pasta salad but wanted to try something a little different. I'd never made anything with orzo before so I decided to give it a try. Well... I'm hooked! Adapted from this recipe, this salad is easy to make however you like. 

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups orzo
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1/2 cup pitted, halved kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook the orzo according to the package directions. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, basil, salt, and pepper. I used basil leaves from my tiny basil plant so I didn't really need to chop them.

Toss the orzo and the dressing. Add the tomato, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Serve chilled.

Weekly Wrap-Up


It's feeling like a pulled pork kind of weekend. I think it's time to bust out the crockpot. Pulled pork is just one of those recipes that's way too easy but for some reason I don't make it very much. I guess that's because it takes so long. What better time than the weekend, right? Now, since it's Friday, I'll leave you with a few of my favorites from the past week...

It's definitely shorts season around here and these DIY summer shorts from A Beautiful Mess are adorable. My favorite pair is the white with the fringe.

I don't know what it is about this outfit, but Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere has officially made me long for a cute sweater like that.

I've been trying to think up a new business card design and this post from Kate of Scathingly Brilliant has me completely re-thinking the entire process. So many good ideas!

Last but not least... did you think I wasn't going to include a recipe (or two) in my weekly favorites? Impossible! This recipe for bunuelos with spicy chocolate sauce from Spoon Fork Bacon has my name all over it!

One more recipe I'm drooling over is this roasted zucchini, black bean, and goat cheese enchilada recipe from Sprouted Kitchen. 

That pretty much wraps it up. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sangria


So my roommate Amy and I decided make some sangria last weekend and we were more than pleased with the results! Here's how to make your own...

Ingredients: 
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/2 cup brandy 
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 2 cups Sprite or carbonated water (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 1 orange sliced
  • any other fruit you like (we used strawberries and raspberries)

Mix everything together and put it in the fridge overnight. We chose to mix everything EXCEPT the Sprite/carbonated water. We added that right before serving so it would be nice and bubbly!

County Fair Cookies


As I mentioned briefly on Monday, I'm entering some cookies into the culinary competition at the Orange County Fair this year! My aunt sent me this recipe and it's so delicious that I thought it was worth a shot! The competition will be stiff so I'm not getting my hopes up. It was just fun to enter. I'll also get to see my cookies on display at the fair! I'll keep you guys updated on the results. Also, if you'd like to give these cookies a try, I shared the recipe here at the beginning of the year.

Weekend Finds #8


I finally found a typeset drawer this weekend! I've been looking at them online but was always too cheap to pay for shipping. When I saw it at a yard sale I practically ran to it! I'm going to mount it on the wall in my bedroom and keep all of my tiny knick knacks in it.


There's just one problem... it's been painted. I would much rather the drawer just be natural wood but there's no going back now so my new dilemma is deciding what color to re-paint it. I couldn't decide between black or mustard yellow but after my mom picked up a few paint chips for me to take a look at, I think I've decided on yellow. 


I can't wait to post more photos of the finished product!

Sunday Afternoon


This weekend was a little busy but Sunday afternoon was nice and relaxing so I thought I'd take a few photos to share with you guys...

1.) simple homemade pie crust
2.) jars in need of a good DIY project
3.) baking entertainment
4.) my new NoraJane pillow!
5.) practicing making cookies for the county fair culinary competition

Weekly Wrap-Up


Happy Friday, everyone! Before I start my little weekly wrap-up list, I wanted to take a moment to say goodbye to one of my all time favorites, Andy Griffith. I don't know about you guys, but I've always loved The Andy Griffith Show. You'll be missed, Andy!

Now, since I'm writing this post late at night and I haven't gotten nearly enough sleep this week, I'm going to keep my list short and sweet...

Out of every 4th of July post I saw this week, my favorite was definitely this one. I'm jealous, Maryam!  So many awesome photos.

Katie from Skunkboy Creatures shared a really cool DIY this week. I love those cheapie Rite Aid shoes as is, but this project makes them ten times better.

The ladies of Oh So Lovely showed us how to make fizzy watermelon pink lemonade. I'm definitely going to have to try this.

Lastly, another recipe I'm intrigued by is this one for chicken fried sweetbread nuggets from Spoon Fork Bacon. Yum!

That just about wraps up this crazy week. Have a great weekend, everybody!

Andy photo found here.

A Trip Down Memory Lane


Last weekend my roommate Amy and I were doing a little thrifting when we came upon two bags of Perler beads. I probably wouldn't have taken a second look at them except my coworker and I had recently been discussing them so I was a bit nostalgic. 


We bought the bags and a couple of the little pegboards and spent Saturday afternoon watching old VHS tapes, drinking homemade sangria and crafting with our Perler beads. What could be nicer than that?

Weekend Finds #7


First of all, happy 4th of July! I hope you're all having an excellent day! Now, I thought I'd share some of my weekend finds with you. After weeks of having no vintage shopping luck, I finally found some good stuff last weekend! 


I'm probably most excited about those mixing bowls. I don't have a good set and I've been using large tupperware bowls. Not only are these nice and big, they're a great color!


I found this oval frame and added it to my collection of things I still need to hang. I want to cover one of my bedroom walls with mismatched frames.


Last but not least, I found these dolls at a yard sale. They were too cute to pass up. The little couple is my favorite!