Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Product Review: Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair

I’ve been meaning to post about the wonderfulness of this product for several weeks now but I just keep forgetting. Something else I’ve been forgetting to do is actually use the product though so when I pulled it out last night and swept it over my sofa for the first time in few weeks and immediately saw the AMAZING results, I felt it was time to share.

As you know I have this furry little friend who loves to lay around and watch tv with me and cuddle on the sofa. However Ellie’s white hair plus a dark brown sofa:

is not the best combination.

When I first saw one of these products I was so excited. I thought “Wow! This is EXACTLY what I need! This will be great – how easy!”. I brought home the 3M Fur Fighter and got to work. It did the job but the teeth on the little sheets were just so thin. It didn’t really seem like the teeth were long enough to grab much or like the sheets would hold very much hair. I tried it a few times, luckily it had been purchased with a coupon, and then resorted back to just vacuuming the furniture every now and then. Not fun or easy.

So I was super excited when Pledge released their much improved solution to the pet hair/sofa problem – enter the Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair.

This product is the best thing ever! And so much better than the other version, sorry 3M. This one does a great job of picking up all the hair, lint, etc and then keeps it all in the little bubble thing on the top instead of it just being kind of ‘out there’ on the other one. Its got 2 rollers underneath with much better 'teeth' for grabbing the hair. Also, I’ve used mine several times and its nowhere near full. It’s a great thing to just swipe over the furniture before company comes over. I think it could even be useful if you didn't have a pet, just to clean things up a bit. I highly recommend it and you can click here for more information! (I was going to have you click there for a coupon but unfortunately its expired - sorry! I think its normally about $5 and so worth it!)

I know I'll be needing to use this tomorrow after Ellie and I watch Giuliana and Bill and the premiere of Top Chef Las Vegas tonight - yea! I really hope this is a fun group of chefs! I think it will be so much fun to watch them cook in all the fantastic restaurants in Vegas also. My friend Heather is going to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Las Vegas this very weekend and I'm so jealous! Hopefully she will post a great review for us next week... The cookbook is amazing; I can only imagine what the food would be like at the actual restaurant!

Friday, August 7, 2009

This weekend calls for...Sangria!

{image courtesy of ibiza hotels}

Well actually probably not this weekend as I already have festivities planned that include champagne and margaritas for Julie's going away party. She's leaving us to head waaaaay across the state and start law school in a few weeks. Hopefully she'll be working here in the summers! But maybe your weekend plans call for sangria???

I made this sangria recipe a few weeks ago when my friend Lauren came to town for a girly weekend and to see The Fray in concert. I feel like I always see tons of sangria recipes, everyone seems to have one that they swear by, or one that is just SO easy. I've made a few and they always just seemed to be missing something. I ran across this recipe in a free neighborhood magazine that I ususally just toss in the recylcing bin but the promise of "cool summer cocktails" on the cover caught my eye this time.

As I read the recipe I saw one ingredient - that proves to be key - that I'd never seen in a sangria recipe before: frozen lemonade concentrate. My curiosity was peaked! (Plus I've been on the lookout for fun punch recipes ever since I finally gave in and bought one of those cool glass beverage this was just another excuse to use it.)

Luckily the meal I'd planned for that night would complement the sangria well so it seemed like the thing to do.


1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
1 orange, sliced into rounds
1 lime, sliced into rounds
1/4 cup white sugar

8 maraschino cherries (optional)

There really aren't any 'directions' for this - you just mix it all up and enjoy! They did suggest you mix it the night before for best results but I did ours right before we drank it and Molly, Lauren and I thought it was pretty tasty!

I made a double batch of this and we used Yellow Tail Shiraz as the red wine - it was fantastic! I was a little leery of the brandy taste but it really worked out and the frozen lemonade concentrate gave it this little extra zing that I feel like is usually missing from my other recipes. It was refreshing and light instead of sickly sweet, which is how I feel about some others.

For dinner that night we had Cumin Dusted Chicken Breasts with Guacamole Sauce from Cooking Light. YUM! This was so easy and I highly recommend it with sweet potato fries. (the frozen ones are actually really good!)

Hope everyone has a fast Friday and a great weekend!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This week...

So not much has been going on with me this week. Work has been busy so that’s nice – love it when the weekends seem to get here more quickly! I did my duty as a Junior League volunteer on Monday night and helped make 1200 (yes that’s right twelve hundred) lunches to be delivered to the homes of underprivileged children on Tuesday and I have managed to do some form of exercise on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. All in all a pretty good week!

Tuesday was another appt to Shred it with Jillian. I still do levels 1 and 2 back to back. I just can’t seem to get into level 3 for some reason…but 1 and 2 seem to do the trick and deliver a pretty good, sweaty workout. Wednesday I went to my parents house and used their pool to swim laps. I was really good about doing this in high school and the first fall/winter that we had the pool my dad even heated it for me so I could keep swimming as the weather got cooler. It was great! Sadly, that was the one and only fall/winter we kept the pool heated – in fact, I think we shut that heater off as soon as we got that first bill…it was nice while it lasted though! With this weather being so HOT I thought I’d try and take up swimming again and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not sure if I’ll be shredding it or swimming this afternoon but I am determined to do something and try and keep this habit of working out 3-4 times per week up for the next few months. I’ve got a bridesmaid dress to fit into for my friend Lauren’s wedding in October! (Side note so Lauren does not freak out: I’m sure the dress will ‘fit’ – I just want to make sure I look as good as possible in all of your pictures – yea!)

I’ve also fallen into the trap of a few more tv shows this week. One has been on for a few weeks and I’d been recording it but hadn’t watched any episodes until this past Sunday when I decided I needed to try it out and either keep it going or delete all of them. The show is on Lifetime on Sunday nights and its called Drop Dead Diva. Its actually pretty cute! The basic premise is that this shallow model girl dies and ends up switching bodies with an overweight super smart lawyer who was also shot at the same time – so realistic, right? So she can tell she’s in this new body and has all of her same memories of her former life but also has all the skills of this lawyer now. Its kind of cheesy but they try a case on each episode so that is interesting. It kind of reminds me of Boston Legal in a way. It’s a keeper for now.

The other show I am now adding to my regular reality tv rotation is Giuliana and Bill on the Style network. I watched the premiere last night and just LOVED it! They are so cute together! And I love how they compete with each other on things, all in a cute way. Very good show. I’m excited to see what all is in store for this season! (I’m also fairly certain I’m going to have a major crush on Bill Rancic by the end of the season….or the 2nd episode…)

Check back tomorrow if you’re in need of a really good sangria recipe – mine’s been tested and approved!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Ellie!

Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear Ellie.....

Ellie is 3 today!
This was taken by the breeder when she was about a month old...she looks awfully innocent!
Ellie and her 'friend' the day she came home...7 weeks old

First encounter with Molly...

...soon to become her best dog friend

Playing on the tennis courts - about 3 months old

Running in the backyard - about a year old...I think

Happy Halloween! - 2008

...and Merry Christmas! - also 2008

The Birthday Girl! (today!)
She was a really good sport about wearing the bow and posing so nicely...

I guess she knew she would be rewarded!

Protecting her new zebra toy...

Happy 3rd Birthday Ellie!

You're now 'legal' in dog years!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cupcakes and a Movie Sunday

I was so excited when my grandmother gave me the new Martha Stewart Cupcakes book a few weeks ago. As soon as I started perusing the glossy pages, I was dying to make several of the recipes. Have you seen this book? It is GORGEOUS! Seriously – if you like cupcakes, you should buy this book. It would also be a great gift!

For my first endeavor, I decided to make the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes. I invited my mom over to help and watch a movie and let me say it was MUCH easier and much more fun to make cupcakes with someone than by myself. This way we were both cleaning and splitting up the steps, it was actually pretty relaxing!

So we’ve done this “cupcakes and a movie” thing on a Sunday twice now. Might be a nice little tradition to start!

As I said, our first go round was with the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes. I am a sucker for anything with mint and this recipe only makes 12 cupcakes so it seemed like a safe place to start. The recipe was easy to follow and the cupcakes were great! I do think we cooked them a tad too long though so be sure to watch yours starting at about 25 minutes if you try these at home. The peppermint patty candy ended up being kind of hard and chewy instead of soft, as in the pictures in the book.

Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes - Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes

8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I used regular Hershey's)
12 small chocolate covered peppermint patties, such as York

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners. Place chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until just melted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Whisk in the sugar and salt until mixture is smooth, whisk in eggs to combine. Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth.

Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each lined cup. Place 1 peppermint patty on top, gently pressing into batter. Top with two tablespoons batter, covering patty completely. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted halfway into centers (above mint patty) comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

The movie that accompanied the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes was “Last Chance Harvey”. It was alright. Good for something to have on in the background but not really something I’d want to watch over and over.

This past Sunday we had “Cupcakes and a Movie”, Round 2. This time it was Martha’s Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes and “27 Dresses”. We were going to watch “Confessions of a Shopaholic” but once we saw all the steps involved in these cupcakes, we thought it might be better to just have something on that we’d seen several times before.
As it turns out, the cupcakes were not that labor intensive. It was just the time spent waiting for them to cool and then frosting that took awhile but we just watched the movie during that time anyway. Really though, there is nothing to be intimidated about here, it was actually pretty easy and the end result is fantastic!

I love how the frosting looks like real peanut butter cookies!

Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes – Martha Stewart Cupcakes
Yeild: about 2 1/2 dozen (I only got about 2 dozen when I made them)

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter (I used Peter Pan)
3 large eggs
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream (I used light)

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used 1/3 less fat)
1½ cups powdered sugar, plus more for decorating
3 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups creamy peanut butter (I used Peter Pan)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Prepare cupcakes: Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Put butter and sugar into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a regular mixer). Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Mix in peanut butter. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Add flour mixture; mix until combined. Mix in sour cream.

3. Spoon scant 3 Tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. Bake until pale golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 13 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

4. Prepare frosting: Put cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter into the clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the clean paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Stir in peanut butter with a rubber spatula.

5. Spread 1½ Tablespoons frosting onto each cupcake. Refrigerate until frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Using tines of a fork dipped in powdered sugar, score each top in a crosshatch pattern.
6. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 2 days.

These are good but they are RICH. I’ve still got several of these cupcakes left, even after taking some to work (this is when I wish my office had more people!), and I do have to fit into a bridesmaids dress in October so this "Cupcakes and a Movie" may not be an EVERY week occurrence but maybe every other week…there are lots more recipes I’d like to try!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stuff White People Like #127...

While perusing another blog for the first time today, Everyday I Write The Book, I ran across this hilarious account of how people feel when they know a book they want to read is about to be released as a film otherwise known as "Stuff White People Like #127":

"...these announcements create a ticking time bomb where by a white person must read the book in ADVANCE of the release of the movie. This is done partly so that they can engage in the popular activity of complaining about how the movie failed to capture the essence of the book. But more importantly, once a book has been made into a movie, a white person can no longer read that book. To have read the book after the movie is one of the great crimes in white culture, and under no circumstances should you ever admit to doing this. Literally dozens of white friendships have imploded when it was revealed that someone read Fight Club after 1999."

Once again, I could not have said it better myself...I cannot tell you how many conversations I've had with people EACH and every time a book based movie comes out.
"Oh yeah, I really want to finish the book so I can go see the movie...." - ALL THE TIME.

So of course with the impending theatrical releases of "Julie and Julia" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" I tell myself each day that I will start one of these books and work on finishing it quickly so I can go see the movie while it is still in the theater. I've been wanting to read "Julie and Julia" for some time now and just got my mom's copy from her last week but "The Time Traveler's Wife" has been on my to-do list for much longer. I think it was my book for book club last September... Maybe now that I've seen the amazing movie previews it will spur me on to actually start the book though. Love Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana is someone I could definitely stare at for a few hours.

Hopefully neither of these movies will end up being the great tragedy that was the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" movie or "My Sister's Keeper" whose theatrical adaptation can be described as nothing short of purely criminal. I did not see the movie but was told about the cheap-o ending, why Jodi Picoult signed off on that is beyond me.

(Anyone know if authors actually have to 'approve' things when they make a movie? If I wrote a book that was being turned into a movie, script approval would be in my contract for sure.)

Maybe today will be the day I start one of these books - they are both coming out in 2-3 weeks so I need to get started!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NKOTB - Round 2

When I heard NKOTB was touring last year I was beyond excited. This was a dream come true! How many times do you get one more chance to see your teen idols?

So back in October, Hailey, Molly and I braved the crowds for the NKOTB reunion tour and had a blast!

Needless to say we were SUPER excited when they announced that they'd be adding more tour dates for this summer! We were able to get awesome 10th row upgraded seats thanks to my dad and see what they're calling their last show! I wouldn't be surprised if they had a few more up their sleeve sometime in the not too distant future, but for now - we saw the last concert they will ever perform!
Sadly Hailey could not join us this time as she was vacationing, er working, in the south of France! (She really is working really hard there and not having a super duper 'vacation' time - hopefully she did have fun on her weekend trip to Nice though which is technically where she was while we were at the show....)

The concert in October was a little more fun because with this one they were all very aware that it was the 'last show'. They were even crying at one point! We still had a blast though and I think its safe to say that if they do decide to 'reunite' again - we'll be there!