Brie and Grape Chili Mac&Cheese

Every year my family makes NYE appetizers including the classic Heinz recipe of grape jelly+ chili sauce meatball recipe. This year, after an embarrassingly long work conversation about Mac and cheese in all its magestic forms, I decided to come home and get a little creative with my leftovers. Brie Mac and cheese with a healthy dose of spicy sweet meatballs was born.

1 pound penne pasta

1 tablespoon butter

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 Tb flour

2 of the 8 ounce rounds of Brie cubed and with rinds removed

1 bottle Heinz chili sauce

1 bottle grape jelly


Cook pasta according to package directions drain and set aside. 

Cook up your favorite meatball recipe or defrost some unflavored frozen meatballs.

Cheese sauce for pasta:

add milk and flour to small sauce pan and stir over medium heat until milk slightly thickens. 

Remove from heat and stir in cheese until thick and melted. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat.

Sauce for meatballs:
1 cup chili sauce

1 cup grape jelly

Blend well and pour over cooked meatballs; allow to marinate for as long as possible. 
Combine meatball and pasta dishes and garnish with extra pieces of warm Brie! YUM


A let’s get real look at budgeting for travel


It’s no surprise that I read a lot of travel blogs and skim more than my fair share of travel IG accounts. Waking up to a few snaps from Japan or Egypt is a great reminder of what is to come, travel is always something to look forward to. Often, usually in the form of a meme, I get overwhelmed by bad travel advice – particularly of the financial variety. A lot of travelers like to say anyone can afford it – they just need to budget properly. This always reminds me of when my mother tried to return a candle that wouldn’t burn and they told her it was because she didn’t “hug it” (they meant fold in the wax but still). Basically it is always your fault. You did something wrong. If you spend enough hours on YouTube you’ll see people make the same declarations about $8,000 pocketbooks. The fact is you can’t take a $2000 vacation if you don’t have $2000. You also don’t have $2000 if you have zero savings, are late on rent, and haven’t saved a cent for retirement. It’s the Suze Orman buzzkill moment that goes against everything your newsfeed is telling you. So how do you afford it?
First things first is full financial honesty. Set goals that include retirement and emergency funds, cover your expenses. Plan your travel budget last – this coffer can be filled and empties at your whimsy. The Eiffel Tour will be there later unless the French order its immediate removal (I think they’ve grown fond). In the end your need for travel will never outweigh your need for good credit.
Make a travel bucket list.

The Maldives are sinking, so is Venice. The glaciers are melting. Things do disappear. A few years ago I read a travel diary about Egypt and realized my ultimate destination was gone, I didn’t want to go to Egypt now I wanted to go in 1960 when the hanging gardens still bloomed and lesser temples were open and empty during the day. This is still on my list (what’s not?) but it was lowered a notch or two. The Maldives is pretty high on my list because it may not be around long. 
Next up are places that take a lot of energy. Machu Pichu is hike hike hike so I’d better be able to. My friend booked a scuba diving trip because her inner ear troubles were getting worse.
Next are places that are expensive. I’m not takin a trek through Africa with someone I found on Craigslist I want a legitimate agency and I don’t want a hostel when I’m so far from home. The expense and effort can sometimes blend at this point but best case scenario we get super rich in the future!
Retirement can be an endless boat cruise. One couple I know retired and spent a year cruise-hopping around the globe. Easy living.
Now that you have a hard- core plan and maybe a few scrapbooks filled with dream hotels and meals it’s time to save. Saving money is so boring and I’ve read a few blogs on “making it fun!” But no it’s boring. The are the obvious concessions – don’t go to movies, cook your own dinner, forget you’ve ever heard the word Starbucks. Obviously the IG approved LV luggage is out of the question. Some blogs say stop giving gifts – and this is legitimate advice for people in debt – but I disagree. Personal gifts can be very important to others and they will notice if you always put your goals above theirs. My friends and I travel together so we don’t do gifts – we go out to dinner and put the rest towards a trip. More and more people are skipping Christmas gifts in order to take a family trip instead. My friends and I also make group decisions about going to restaurants or movies. Either the entire group has to want to spend the money or it has to be extremely important to one person. There is a balance between saving money off frivolous expense and joining people you care about doing something they love.
Get a second job. There was a really depressing article a few months ago about how having two jobs is the new standard. I had four jobs at the time and wasn’t thrilled at the news. If your career or hobbies lend to a second job (graphic design, baby sitting, tutoring, bartending, coaching a sport) you can get a five month gig and then take a trip off your earnings!
Another tip is to stop dating and die alone. Ok this is drastic (and dark) but dating is expensive! So is a wedding, having kids, buying a house. These goals often seem like emotional choices but they are also financial so don’t forget to save up and don’t get bullied into blowing all you money on travel “because it’s what really makes you rich”. People matter too.


Loved this tag from ShopSRJ and done by Trina Leavers and HaveLouisWillTravel so I thought I’d give it a whirl on this balmy NY morning (just kidding I keep my Popsicles on the porch now). 1. Who are your style icons: Bette Davis for makeup and the Downton cast although I suppose for everyday it’s Shay Mitchell. 2. Best style tips and advice? Choose a fitness idol with the same body type as you and wear what you like as long as you’re covered in all the legally mandated areas. 3. What was your style like as a teenager? Oh dear – California girl turned to normcore turned to Veronica Mars layered grunge 4. What type of outfit do you wear most? Dress and leggings 5. Who is your favorite designer? Alexander McQueen and Chloe… Oh and Rag&Bone… Oh and Balmain!

How to Prep Older Walls

If your dream house has character and charm it is most likely moe than five years old. And it is most likely full of not so charming problems. While every episode of Property Brothers goes over the internal problems that need professional attention there are plenty of cosmetic ones that add days to your prep work.

Yes, days.

I recently painted my room after a long lead up and I was excited to get into it but once I moved all the furniture out and took down the wallpaper I realized the walls were in terrible shape. So began nearly 72 hours of wall prep.

1. Wash the walls. You’ll be amazed at the grime and glue that will come up. Don’t use too much water, this is more like an exfoliation. The sponge will snag on uneven surfaces, clumps of dust won’t get in your paint, and you’ll get an idea where you need to spackle.

2. Sand down bumpy areas and scrape places the wallboard is peeling. You want to be very careful not to punch a hole in the board, the goal is just to stop the peeling. 

3. Spackle every hole and even out dips around bolts (these often settle and jutt out through the paint). You may need to even the areas you sanded as well depending on how bad your peeling was. 

4. Wash your walls again so your paint adheres well.

5. Keep these materials handy while you paint – you’ll probably find more holes and rough patches (particularly if you’ve ever had the room wallpapered).

These steps are a pain but once the paint goes up it will look much better. If the walls have serious problems (like holes) a painter or handyman can usually fix these for you. You can also cover some damage by choosing a light color in a matte that will hide damage. High gloss and eggshell will show off any wall damage.

Embrace a little “damage”. You have an older house with charm and this means some bolts will show like the house of Frankenstein. You can hide bolts behind art or furniture or you can leave it front and center as signifiers of age like the rings of a tree.

Love it, need it, want it tag

1. What are you currently in love with, that you own
My pink and white satin Victoria pj set – so cozy and luxurious!!

2. What would you buy on your 2015 wish list
The black cherry Rebecca Minkoff quilted affair handbag
– went in for the Le Boy dupe = love bag but the T was so sporty I then fell for the quilted affair

3. What does your makeup collection need?
Nothing! VIB Rouge…. Enough said right? (Although 2x skincare may happen)

4. What do you need to add to you handbag collection?
Smaller bags that can fit a wallet and sunglasses but don’t weigh 40 pounds. (The forever 21 luggage is taking me down like Piza)

5. What do you want to add to your wardrobe?
Cute 60s style long sleeve peasant dresses

6. What do you want to add to your SLG collection?

7. Dreams and aspirations for 2015
Spend more time on worthwhile things, less Netflix and less shopping! (More reviews here too!)

8. To-do list 2015
Paint my room!

9. Holiday plans?
A few potential escapes are in the mix… Stay tuned to come along!

10. Where would you love to go on holiday?
Asia – Japan is the dream but it is very expensive so SE Asia (Thailand Cambodia and Laos tour) or China

11. Bucket list items to tick this year
I don’t have a bucket list but I suppose getting another stamp in my passport is tops.

And of course I tag everyone who would like to do this.


Choosing Skin Care @ Sephora

Sephora is the land of all things colorful and fun, I’m obsessed and I know I’m not alone. Still there are A LOT of products and most are VERY expensive, so knowing what to buy can be tricky. Since I shop there a lot I get asked a lot of questions about what I actually buy. While I have a few favorites, I’m always trying new things and I recently decided to slow down on the make-up front and focus on some fancy skin care. My goals are anti-aging but really healthy glowing, non-broken-out skin is what I’m after.

I never use limited editions skin care because it takes way too much research to pick it in the first place!

Reviews are the first place I look. I read a few from each star category – often beauty bloggers get on a band wagon and then everyone who paid $90 disagrees – but usually a product sold at Sephora will be a 4+star product (as it should be). There are so many “review programs” now that people do for free swag that reviews can be tricky, I ignore anyone that reviewed a sample, “just bought the product yesterday”, references an allergic reaction and blames the brand (please test products on your arms, chemicals are harsh and natural ingredients are derived from allergens), or is just too dang glowy. Did it change your life? Really? The Q&A will give the best picture of the product, and I head there next now that I’m certain at least a handful of people really benefited from the product. How long will the tube last, smell, texture, results? These things are addressed in Q&A and are useful.

Then there is the ingredient review… I already liked what was listed on the front of the box enough to consider buying the product but getting into the full ingredient list is a head ache. People talk about a “holy grail” product but there are no products that have none of the baddies and all of the effects.

There are a few key ingredients that are great for your skin Vitamin A, E, Aloe, shea butter, glycerin oat – you’ve heard all of these before – and there are ingredients that are bad for your skin – parabens etc. etc. – but what about those mystery ingredients? The ones that are really hyped up but go under a hundred different scientific names and require a PhD to understand?

I always look for things within the product that may create a false positive. For example a night cream that contains “reflective pigments”, why? These will make you LOOK more awake but they will also make it difficult to see if there is any long-term result (and long-term results are why we’re paying $80 and not $20). Optic brighteners fall into this category, these absorb UV light and emit viable light, ex. caffeine or Magnolia Extract. These are great as makeup but don’t really constitute skin care since the effects are temporary. They don’t actually change your pigmentation like some things…

I’m wary of the words “brightening”, “radiance”, and “reduces photo-aging”, sure I want my skin to be bright but I don’t want it to be lightened. Alpha Arbutin is a popular ingredient for “brightening” and it is a skin lightener (used for age spots). Hydro-quinine is the most potent and famous lightener but Ascorbyl Glucoside pops up a lot too. Ascorbyl Glucoside can also be listed as Vitamin C on the front of the bottle. There is nothing wrong with using brighteners or lighteners but if you look at reviews you’ll see people say they are suddenly going down a color shade in foundation – which is not my goal. I particularly hate the term “corrects uneven skin tone” which I used to read as redness (my problem) but actually means dark spots. *** If you’re only looking to prevent aging look for products that defend from environmental factors rather than the more aggressive (and expensive) anti-aging treatments. You are building a line of defense here, if you do begin to see wrinkles find a targeted product (glycolic acid is great for cell renewal) and use only where you need it. 20s = defense 30s = anti-wrinkle 40s = lifting 50s = brightening , the trick is to stay a decade ahead of the problem. (Genetics runs a huge curve here too)

Foaming cleansers – beauty blogs claim these guys will mess with your face’s PH balance and cause break-outs and aging, I’ve heard that the chemical that makes them foam is bad for you, still there are tons of reputable foaming cleansers on the market. The jury seems to be out on this but I’m still staying away (never really liked them anyway). There’s an interesting back and forth/Q&A on this blog.

Vitamin C / L-ascorbic acid – it is pretty clear that vitamin C can be stable, unstable, or non-functioning. While the verdict on which chemical compound is BEST for C absorption it seems to be officially recognized that the jar must be air-tight. Get your C in a pump to make it worth your while.

Petroleum– the newest way we’ve all been “doing our make-up wrong” gasp. Generally believed to be safe from reputable brands (possibly carcinogenic from others)- this is great before sports (like skiing) to avoid wind burn. Petroleum seals moisture in so it shouldn’t be the “softening” ingredient in your product. If you’re using Vaseline, apply lotion and then seal it in with Vaseline.

Directions. Sometimes I buy a cleanser or eye roller and don’t read the directions only to discover that I should have been shaking before use or applying in a circular (exfoliation) motion or applying to dry skin. Products will be most effective when used properly and can be damaging when not (like never shaking a product until you’re halfway through and then you’ve used all the saline and now have a puddle of harsh BHAs that burn your skin). We all know that shampoo should be poured in a dime-sized amount (flashback to a 90s Ellen stand-up special) but sometimes those directions will surprise you.

My Shopping List – there is a lot of brand repetition here which reflects who the products are geared for IMO

Daily Moisturizer

Origins – A Perfect World $41 1.7oz

Shiseido IBUKI $45 2.5oz

Shiseido Urban Environment $30 1oz

Night Cream

Origins Night-a-Mins $41

NUDE Advanced Renewal Overnight Repair Mask $48 1.7oz

Night Eyes

Origins Eye Doctor $36 .5oz

Fresh Black Tea Age Delay $85 .5oz

Day Eyes

Shiseido SPF for eyes $36 .6oz

First Aid Beauty Detox Eye Roller $24 .34oz


Glamglow Supercleanse $39 5oz

Perricone MD Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment $39 4oz

Clay Mask – There are SO many and Body Shop and LUSH have great ones as well, sulfur+clay = awesome

Fresh Umbrian Clay $32 3.3oz

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Mask with Red Clay $30 3oz

Deep Cleansing

Korres Pomegranate Deep Cleansing Scrub $21 1.35oz

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue with Red Clay $24 4.7oz