Monday, August 26, 2013

Iced Frothy Chocolate Latte

Coffee makes me smile and what makes me smile even bigger is pretending I'm a barista in my own kitchen. Guilty as charged. When I whip out my apron, I mean serious business. So much so that my kids probably think I'm insane.

I do have a confession: I'm not a coffee drinker; I opt for herbal tea instead. Nor am I really tempted to drink it, however, the thought of my own little cafe - and my husband being addicted to it - is enough to try my hand at making it super duper yummy. The smell, the flavor, the roasted beans, the chalkboard seasonal 'specials' in Starbuck's are all enough to send me over the moon and back.

You see, it all started when I went to Italy years ago. I have vivid memories of sitting at numerous cafe's with my sister and sipping cappuccino's, one right after the other, and being totally satisfied. Its no wonder we would walk for miles on end without feeling one bit tired... now it all makes sense.

Its not about getting a caffeine jolt or getting a 'fix'. Its the experience and I'm all about that, especially when it comes to food. This barista has come up with an awesome recipe for making a plain cup of joe taste worthy enough to be in the category of Italian coffee. Its frothy goodness is so scrumptious that its great on its own, with the foam being good enough to sip a little at a time (you know, while making an obnoxiously loud sipping noise).

Here's a general recipe. Sorry, I didn't really measure precisely; I just threw these in on a whim. After tasting it, though, I knew I had to share it!

Iced Frothy Chocolate Latte

Espresso (I just fill my maker up with espresso and a little water -- at least a couple shots worth)

Ice (LOTS of it, a couple handfuls or however many your blender can tolerate)

1 Cup Milk (I used whole, but you could use whatever. I've also used coconut milk as well)

Two tablespoons Hot Cocoa (or unsweetened cocoa... although this gives it a deeper flavor). For this one, I used a Godiva mix we had in the cupboard. Normally, I'd use cocoa and just sweeten it with sugar.

Brown Sugar (optional, depending on how sweet you like your drink)

Cinnamon (optional)

First I tossed the ice in the blender and then added the cocoa mix. I then poured the espresso in and filled the rest of the blender with milk. Once it turned a milky, creamy color, I blended away. To serve, I put some ice into a glass and put cinnamon on top of the ice (before pouring the drink) and once the latte was in, the cinnamon saturated in the drink. Yumm...

Okay okay, so I'm not a coffee drinker but I did take a sip. It was amazing... and now I have the jitters. I'll leave the coffee drinking to husband since I'll probably be awake until tomorrow night.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kitchen Reveal - I

For those of you following my blog, you'll remember I am in the process of overhauling making over our kitchen. Since my last post, I had found a color and husband and I spent a good part of our Sunday painting. He just looooooooooooooved that. 

Having weeded through the 'gray' section of just about every paint swatch known to man, I finally chose a color. I went with Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore. The woman at our local hardware store almost sold me on BM Aura, that is, until I asked the price. All I could think of was the hard budgeting needed to make that happen and to be honest, paint is paint. As long as we were covering up the existing wall color, I didn't care what kind it was. No need for the creme de la creme here. 

Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

Primer is already on there

Satin finish, by the way

 I learned that we could go to Lowe's and have our beloved Gray Owl color-matched. Oh, the joy I felt! So, I did just that. At first it was mixed too dark, then too light, but the third time was a charm and came out perfectly. I found it helpful to arm myself with the BM paint swatch so they could mark the paint on the color once it was mixed. *Note: I'm omitting the part where I finally got the can and walked away, spilling every drop onto the floor, forcing the patient worker from behind the counter to clean it up. I embarrassingly admit that as it lay on the floor, I couldn't help but think what a great color it was.

Don't mind the messy kitchen... 

Since our existing walls were not only darker, but also semi-gloss, it forced us to have to prime those babies. Keep in mind that I had to stick to budget. No budging here. I ended up getting a quart of primer (I forget the brand, but it was at Lowe's and worked fantastic at covering up those walls). Since Gray Owl was also in a quart, the added expense wasn't too big a deal. 

We seriously had to stretch every ounce of each paint can to the best of our abilities. Scraping the inside of the cans with a little paintbrush was not beyond us. In the end, it worked. Because I was going to put up the bead board wallpaper (next post), it made sense to not buy a gallon of paint only to have it left over. I also purchased low-VOC (Olympic brand) paint as it wasn't available in no-VOC... a small price to pay (literally!) for choosing Lowe's over Benjamin Moore. 

I have to say, the color is amazing and even more so against the white cabinets. Its almost like a cloud swooped in and hung around long enough to make you go 'ahhhhhhh'. Soft. Like the feel of cashmere against your skin. I can't quite describe the feeling of the room now, but there is such a difference from what it was like before. Needless to say, I love being in the kitchen even more now.

Friday, August 9, 2013

oil cleansing method

When I was preggers with my daughter, I became very conscious of what I was putting on my body. Usually a new mom worries about what she puts into her body, but since I ate well (and my cravings were all over the junk food map!) I shifted my focus onto beauty products.

Holding my squirmy 8-month old here, which is why I look funny!
I soon discovered that the stuff I was washing my face with were not only toxic, but also unnecessary. You know when you know these things in the back of your mind, but you gravitate towards the pretty little packing and advertising claims anyway? That was me.. Yep. Didn't help that I worked for a magazine that had blow-out sales twice a year and I scored high-end (ie, ridiculously expensive) products for only a few bucks. Seriously, I packed in closets full of beauty potions.

This is my beauty arsenal and all I use on my face.

FAST-forward four years and I'm still on this kick. Except now we're on a one-income salary and it just doesn't pay to spend money on, erm, 'incidentals'(?) Since my obsession second home is Pinterest, I've discovered a great and healthy cleansing method that costs very little money and it has given me super glowy, dewy and clear skin (I can go on and on). 

What is it?
OCM. That's right. Just three letters crunched together to sound like a cable channel. Maybe it is, but I've definitely tuned in. It stands for Oil Cleansing Method and I'm in love. I've 'Youtubed' this and even read various testimonies on it. Women love this. So, I too, have jumped on the bandwagon to Great Skinville. 

How on earth do I wash my skin with oil? 
Easy peasy. Simply put a nickel-sized drop of oil between your palms, rub your hands together and massage onto your face. *I keep my skin dry for this part.* Once I've got it all on, I moisten a washcloth with warm/hot water and stretch it out over my face so it 'steams' my skin. I leave it there for a minute or so and continue to do this a few more times until I feel the oil has penetrated. I then continue to rinse the washcloth with warm water and exfoliate in circular motions. This is very relaxing! However, most nights I'm just scrambling to get myself - and kiddies - to bed that I totally miss out on that.

Do I wash morning and night?
Depends. Sometimes I'm too busy to wash my face in the morning and I just do it at night.. you know, to 'wash the day away'. I find it also saves on resources and since your skin doesn't get terribly dirty from night to morning, I think its fine.

Is it capable of removing makeup? 
Honestly, I don't usually wear makeup, so I'm not an authority to say. However, I have worn HEAVY DUTY organic sunscreen that turns my skin kabuki-white, and seriously doesn't budge AT ALL, and I haven't experienced a problem with taking it off. You just have to put the washcloth to your face and rinse it more times, but it eventually does come off. Makeup is much easier to dissolve!

What oil do I use?
I use Castor oil because its good with removing impurities from your skin. I've also used olive oil and coconut oil and liked those as well. Its all about preference and what works for you. I would just steer clear of lower quality oils since it is your face and you don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity. Trust me, the stuff lasts a long time since your only using a little bit and its much cheaper in the long-run than buying face wash!

What do I use after washing?
I put a drop of Moroccan Argan oil onto my face and rub it in while its semi-dry. I find when my skin is still a little wet it seeps in better. I love how it moisturizes and keeps my skin dewy. Plus, its Fair Trade, so its good not only for me, but the workers who harvest it. I don't use any creams or moisturizers and I'll always opt for oil even when I'm in a pinch. Heck, I even moisturize our babies delicate skin with almond oil!

So that's it. Beauty routine in a nutshell, nature's "pretty little packaging"!