Monday, October 29, 2012

My Golden Birthday

Today is my 'Golden' birthday, and I can assure you, it will be something to remember. Not for grand celebrations, but due to severe weather approaching New York City. Hurricane Sandy is predicted to arrive in full-force by mid-day.

Sunday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation of Zone A in Manhattan. You guessed it, our Tribeca apartment is situated right in the heart of that area. When a city of this size declares a state of emergency, you know they're not joking around... It was time to pack up and move out! We're lucky that our brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in a part of the city slightly more inland from the Hudson River. And thankfully, we'll all be together, making the storm much more bearable.

But, leaving our neighborhood did feel a little eerie... Sidewalks were lined with people carrying grocery bags and luggage, while cars and taxi cabs were at a standstill on the West Side Highway waiting to escape downtown, and yet the city was very quiet. As the saying goes, the calm before the storm.

I laughed tonight because growing up in Minnesota, a late-October birthday usually meant snow. And sometimes that snow amounted to arctic blizzards. Never did I think, however, I would have to evacuate my home, prepare for a hurricane and turn another year older, all in one day! My Grandma used to always say, "You can't control the weather". And, boy was she right!

The bright side in all of this? The Mr. is now saying it's 'Birthday Week'. I'll take that over just one day any year!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Creamy Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

When the weather starts to get chilly, I tend to crave everything pumpkin: soups, scones, pies and lattes... The list goes on and on! While wonderfully delicious, the unfortunate issue associated with this seasonal craving, is that often times the above mentions are mixed with cream, butter and sugar. (Insert big sigh... Ugh). Unhealthy to the utmost extent!

Over the past couple weeks, my Mom and I have both been trying to exercise a little more and eat a little better. Something that's easier said than done, for sure! (Insert another big sigh... Ugh). Remotely, we are holding each other accountable!

At one of my Mom's recent morning workout sessions, her instructor passed along a recipe for a healthy, pumpkin breakfast smoothie. As soon as I heard the basic ingredients, I couldn't stop thinking about ways improve the flavor and texture, while at the same time, maintain the nutritional benefits.

After a few attempts, I'm ready to share my favorite rendition. High in protein, low in sugar, and packed with everything healthy. Beware, you may never crave a Thanksgiving pastry again!

Creamy Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie
6 oz. Vanilla 0% Greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
1/2 Banana, frozen (using a frozen banana will always improve the consistency of the smoothie)
1/2 Cup pumpkin puree, frozen if possible (be sure to use pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling)
1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon, and just a pinch of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1 Scoop whey protein powder (I like Tera's Whey in Bourbon Vanilla or Plain Unsweetened)
1/3 Cup milk (Almond, Soy or Skim)
2 Tablespoons apple cider
1/8 Teaspoon agave nectar
3 Ice cubes

Mix all ingredients in a blender to desired consistency. If more liquid is needed, use apple cider or milk, depending on taste. This recipe should yield one large smoothie. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Simple, Inexpensive Lip Conditioner

When it comes to making a beauty statement, the bright, bold lip is here to stay. And, I couldn't be more thrilled!

Arguably, lipstick is the easiest, most accessible and inexpensive way to change your look from day to day, or simply, from day to night. However, applying any sort of pigment or gloss, with hopes of achieving a 'fashion ad result', is much easier said than done. And often times, the culprit of a less than desired application, is the condition of the lip itself.

The best way to prepare your face for any sort of make-up is to ensure your skin is exfoliated, conditioned and well hydrated. I can help you out significantly with the first two points, but water is the only solution to the third. Case and point, drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

During the colder months, skin becomes especially dry and flaky. If not properly exfoliated, dead skin cells tend to accumulate, making your overall complexion dull. Even with intensive moisturizing products, without frequent exfoliation, essential water and oils won't be able to penetrate the skin's exterior.

There are a lot of facial and lip scrubs available for purchase, but many come at a high and unnecessary price point. For me, the easiest and most effective formulation can be made right at home, in less than one minute.

To prepare, simply mix one teaspoon coconut oil, one teaspoon cane sugar (or granulated sugar) and one teaspoon honey in a small bowl to form a paste. Gently rub over lips for one minute and then rinse with warm water. Repeat twice per week. Store any extra exfoliating paste in the refrigerator for up to five days.

*Image via MAC Cosmetics

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DIY Brightening Kiwi Mask

We're so excited... Two of our close friends are tying the knot this weekend in Boston! The event will be a festive, fall party, held at an Estate located just outside the city proper. 

I love getting dressed up and usually look for any excuse to do so! For me, part of the fun of attending any soiree is the anticipation and preparation beforehand.

I like to incorporate a brightening face mask into my beauty routine a few days before the event to rid my skin of any impurities and give it a more natural glow. I've used a variety of branded products in the past, but have evolved into making my own at-home scrub. I prefer this variation because it's all-natural, less expensive and very simple to prepare. 

The formulation relies heavily on the super-fruit qualities of kiwi. With its powerful duo of antioxidant vitamin C (more than an orange!) and exfoliating alpha hydroxy fruit acids, kiwi creates more elasticity in the skin.

To prepare, mix: 2 kiwis, pureed + 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (I use plain Greek Yogurt because of the thicker consistency) + 1 tablespoon orange juice + 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl until well blended. Using your fingertips, apply to the entire face (avoiding the eyes). Leave on until dry, then rinse well.

*Image via Martha Stewart

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ultimate Skin Perfector: BB Cream

Fashion trends and scientific advancements have always influenced the ever-growing beauty industry. While that will continue, other influencers are gaining traction. Products that not long ago only had local relevance in a particular part of the world are quickly becoming global phenomenons! The most recent example of this is the BB Cream. 

I'm sure some of you have already jumped on the BB bandwagon. And others still aren't entirely sure about what this product is, or what it does. 

BB Cream, also known as Beauty Balm or Blemish Balm, originated in Asia in 2005, had huge success, and is the hottest talking point in the beauty industry these days. The all-in-one product functions as a primer, anti-aging serum, moisturizer, light moisturizer, and a sunscreen. BB Creams typically claim an SPF of 30+. Think of it as a tinted moisturizer on steroids!

I've tried several different brands of BB Creams currently on the market (one of the perks of being a beauty junkie and working in Product Development/Global Product Marketing for MAC Cosmetics)!

Some formulations are better than others. So, I encourage you test a few different brands to find the right match for your skin tone and type. As a starting point, here are a few of my favorites! 

 *Image via InStyle UK

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

The best bakeries in the city have tiny, tiny storefronts and offer only a few sweet treats. Four and Twenty Blackbirds falls into this category. The Brooklyn shop sells only slices of (AMAZING) pie and coffee/tea... Nothing more.

The one exception: the earliest of risers may get their hands on a whole pie, if luck is in their favor. A limited number are made each day.

Not long ago, Four and Twenty Blackbirds shared their famous recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie. I've been wanting to make it ever since, and could think of no better occasion than Canadian Thanksgiving!

(The Mr. and I are very lucky to be able to celebrate this loving holiday twice each year!)

Earlier in the weekend, we ventured to the Tribeca Greenmarket to pick up fresh apples. For baking, the best varieties include: Crispin, Granny Apple and Cortland.

Now, let's get started...

The key to a good pie is a good crust. I've tried several variations and the best is Martha Stewart's rendition of Pate Brisee. The end result is soft and flakey, with the perfect amount of buttery richness.

Pressing the dough into a disc rather than shaping it into a ball allows it to chill faster. This will also make the dough easier to roll out.

I tend to like everything in small portions, so I chose to make several mini pies. While it's a little more time consuming to form each pie individually, I think it's a prettier way to serve this dessert.

Once the pastry dough is shaped nicely, it's important to layer the apples and caramel sauce in thirds. This allows the sweetness of the fruit and the saltiness of the candy to combine evenly.

The end result is almost too pretty to eat... Just kidding! It's best served with a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Desert Oasis

The Mr. and I just returned from a wonderful week-long vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Our days were filled with desert hikes and poolside relaxation, and in the evenings, Southwestern cuisine and outdoor bonfires.

Time flies when you're having fun! Why does vacation always have to come to an end?

The scenery was gorgeous and I tried to take as many pictures as possible during our morning walks (emphasis on the word "morning", as it was HOT in the afternoon)! This was my first time in Arizona, so the landscapes were fascinating.

Our hotel was situated at the base of Pinnacle Peak. A gorgeous elevation reaching more than 1,300 feet. The hike is moderate with spectacular views!

Prior to our trek, the park volunteer warned us of rattlesnakes. Terrified by the very thought (which I think was apparent to the Mr.), we asked what one would do, if one encountered this sort of creature? The rangers response, "We've had over 2 million visitors hike this path and nobody has been hurt yet. Have fun!"

Hmm, somewhat of a relief, I guess. We continued!

After spending a full morning in the hot sun, at lunchtime it was time to plunge in the pool! And, drink water. And, more water... And, even more water! The Four Seasons really had the best water. Each day, it was flavored with different fruits and herbs. I think I'll do a full post on the water at a later date. It was that good!

In the early evening, the Mr. and I continued our hiking adventures before dinner. The Arizona sunsets are probably the best I've ever seen. It was unbelievable how pink the sky turned, and how quickly the darkness made the color vanish away.

After a fabulous trip in celebration of our first anniversary, we're looking forward to many, many more!