30.3.12

The Nail Files: Sparkles For Audrey



The Nail Files


Last week, I noticed that not one but TWO Nail File posts included the prettiest Robin's eggshell blue I've ever seen. It took me two trips to the store but FINALLY, I got myself a bottle of China Glaze's For Audrey and, let me say, I've fallen in love with the colour! It's just so freaking pretty! One of those colours that I know I'll wear all of the time. And it's so perfect for spring!



But, as we all know, I can't wear nail polish without an excessive amount of a little bling...


So here's what I used this week. OPI's Crown Me Already, China Glaze's For Audrey, and OPI's Gone Gonzo. 



I did two coats of For Audrey and then did the top two thirds of my nails with one coat of Crown Me Already. It was missing something, so then I added a small section of Gone Gonzo on the bottoms. It looks like a sparkle-fade and I couldn't love them more!


Thanks to Tara and Vicki for hosting!




Book Club Friday: One Night Stand




It’s Friday, Friday, gotta-share-my-book-reviews-on-Fridays…



And that’s today!!


This week, I’m reviewing this!


*strokes wind chimes*




Many months ago, I read my first little black dress book. At the time, I had positively no idea what that meant. Then I hit up a sale at my local bookstore and noticed another author with the same little logo on their cover. Since I enjoyed the first one so much, I threw One Night Stand into my cart. Not that I had a cart, per say, but you get my drift.


I’m not going to lie, I think that I’ve fallen in love with little black dress books. They seem to have straddled themselves between women’s fiction and chick-lit. And what a wonderful place to be.


All right, onto One Night Stand...


Eleanor Connor isn’t like most twenty-something women you know. Not because she’s a bartender – that’s not unusual. And it’s not because she has a handsome and attentive male best friend – nope, that’s nothing new, either. What makes Eleanor stand apart from the crowd is that, aside from being a bartender, she’s a very successful erotic author.


Yeah, you read that right. Eleanor writes erotica.


LOVES!


In stark contrast to her professional life, Eleanor is kind of a prude. Nothing too intense, or preachy, but she definitely doesn’t get out much. Then, one night, a mysterious stranger comes into her neighbourhood bar and they leave together after Eleanor’s shift. The bummer is that she was far too drunk to remember to use a condom. Or remember his name. Or anything about him, generally speaking.


**Side note: I find it very frustrating when sex scenes in novels don’t include the use of birth control. It’s terribly unrealistic, considering the times, and I don’t think it sends the right message. Wrap it up, people. WRAP IT UP! Especially with strangers. ALWAYS WITH STRANGERS. Okay, rant over.**


So with her best friend and a private investigator, Eleanor sets out to find her one night stand and tell him that he’s going to be a father. Too bad all she has to go on is his vague resemblance to George Michael (post-Wham, pre-bathroom arrest – this is Eleanor being specific, not me, and yet another reason why this book rocked so hard).


Ms. Cohen created two characters that are freaking awesome. Awesome and authentic. I LOVE me some British chick-lit and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s funny, touching, and the pace is so quick you’ll think it’s a novella. I’m a sucker for an author who can present big-time emotional issues in a light way and Ms. Cohen hit this one out of the park.


So this is a full-out BUY THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW kind of review. I’m going to be on the serious lookout for other little black dress books. Just like the actual dresses, I don’t think you can go wrong with one. 


And in other book-related news, remember that contest I entered last week? Well I WON!!! YAYAYAYAY!!! As the winner, I get my first signed copy of a novel, ever!! And I actually get TWO novels!! AND bookmarks!! Thank you SO MUCH to those who voted for me!!! Obviously, I wouldn't have won without you!


You know what that means!!


*points* 


YOU get a (virtual) cupcake!



*turns and points* 


YOU get a (virtual) cupcake!



(Virtual) CUPCAKES FOR EVERYONE!!!




I'll show off my SIGNED AUTHOR COPIES once they arrive!! 


Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!!



27.3.12

Help Out a Super-Fan, Will Ya?



Remember the time I had the chance to win signed copies of books from one of my favourite new authors? 


I do!


Because it's happening RIGHT NOW!


YAY!


The author I'm talking about is Tawna Fenske and she writes seriously funny romantic comedy. Check out my review of her debut novel, Making Waves, which was probably one of the funniest books I've ever read. For reals.


So when I saw a post on her blog about a caption contest, with the prizes including a signed copy of each of her novels (and a bunch of bookmarks), I just had to throw my hat in. When I woke up this morning, I saw that I made it into the voting round!


Wheeeeeee!!



*spins*



Here's my entry:


  
For whatever reason, I can't get this centered. Sorry. 



So, now I need your help! 



*slides over virtual {insert favourite flavour} cupcake with extra icing and sprinkles*



Please click here to vote for me in the comments section! There are four other entires, so there's quite a bit of competition and I reallyreallyreallyreally want to win!



*smiles expectantly while rocking ever-so-slightly*



And AFTER you vote for me in the comments section, head on over to Amazon or your local bookstore to pick up one of Ms. Fenske's books! 



                                   


But only after you vote for me. 




 (Even if you like another caption better than mine. Not that you will. I mean, obviously mine's the best. Haha!)



The contest closes at 5pm PST on Thursday, March 29, so please head on over RIGHT NOW before then.


Thank you!!!



**UPDATE: I have to say that I'm SERIOUSLY touched with all of the votes I've gotten so far. It makes my heart feel good. Thank you to everyone!! There's still two days left, though, so please don't be annoyed as I continually reference this contest until then (make sure to tell your friends, too!). And obviously, I don't mean that you've literally touched me as that would be inappropriate (although perfectly fitting for this contest). **


26.3.12

Bootleg Big Mac




Here's the deal, lovely blog readers. I have a problem.


 In recent years, I've fallen into the very nasty habit of eating fast food on a regular basis. Wendy's, Harvey's, Burger King - I ate them all. The lure of low-cost hot lunches subsidized by endless coupons from our mailbox proved too hard for me to resist. Then Monopoly hit Mcdonalds and things got downright ridiculous.


So, on the eve of 30th birthday, I made a decision that I wouldn't eat fast food anymore. Like, at all.



It's been just over three months since I've gone cold turkey and things have been going well but sometimes, I still get cravings. Cravings for something that's often advertised on television, which doesn't help (stupid marketers).


What is it?


The Big Mac (with no onions).


So, when someone I follow on Pinterest posted a recipe on how to make a Big Mac, it took me about seven seconds to scour my cupboards to see if I had the ingredients. Turns out, I didn't. So off to the grocery store, I went.









As we all know, the most important part of a Big Mac is the sauce, so this post is focused on that. As great as the Pinterest picture looks, though, the sauce left a little to be desired. 


1 teaspoon onion, grated on a microplane grater
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon marmite, vegemite, or Maggi seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric



Pinterest Sauce


After driving all around Fredericton looking for marmite, which apparently hasn't been in consistent use since WWII, I couldn't find any. In fact, the lady at The Bulk Barn looked at me like I had spaghetti stuck to my forehead. I eventually found some vegemite at a health foods store, so that's what I used (side note: then I went to Wal-Mart to get some groceries and saw a display of 20 jars of marmite...for half of the price I paid for the vegemite...*shakes fist*).


Anyhoo, it doesn't really matter because the sauce left quite a bit to be desired. It was way more yellow than pink and far too tumeric-y. I made a second batch with 1/8 teaspoon of tumeric but...well...it was still too much. So, I've pretty much established that tumeric doesn't belong in Big Mac Sauce. Ever.


Disappointed but not deterred, I launched a full-blown internet search and found another recipe. The best part was that I already had all of the ingredients!



1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons French Dressing
4 Teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon finely minced white onion
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Internet Sauce

Verdict: Pretty freaking close! It was still slightly too sweet so I made a second batch and used 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. 



With the sauce almost perfect, I moved on to the next stage and made two thin-nish patties. At least,  I thought they were thin until I bbq'd them and it turns out, they weren't all that thin. Adding a couple of cheese slices, pickles, shredded lettuce and - BAM - suddenly I had a bootleg Big Mac. Truth be told, I ended up taking out one of the patties after this picture but it was still delicious! And most importantly, not as poisonous!** The beef I bought is from a local farmer who doesn't use antibiotics or growth hormones and I didn't fry the patties. The cheese is actual cheese versus the plastic-y cheese and I used low-fat mayonnaise for the sauce.


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

So if you're a Big Mac enthusiast and would like to make a homemade version, skip the Pinterest Sauce and head right for the Internet Sauce. You won't be disappointed! 


Now if only I could get my hands on a soda machine...


**Please note that I did not say "healthy" or "better for you." It's still a whole lotta carbs.**


23.3.12

The Nail Files: Mexican Wrestling Mask



Wohoo! It's time for The Nail Files!


The Nail Files


Here's what I used this week:


Stripe Rite Black, Stripe Rite Silver Sparkles, OPI Fly and OPI Do You Lilac It?



First, I did two coats of OPI's Fly and then two coats of Do You Lilac It? on my accent finger. I'd planned on just doing a few silver stripes but...well...then things got slightly out of control. Even though the stripes were thicker than I planned, they weren't super defined so I outlined them in black. 


I totally think it makes my accent finger look like a Mexican wrestling mask.



*climbs up on ropes*



*smiles*



*launches self with flailing arms*



Thanks to Tara and Vicki for hosting!



20.3.12

Say My (Computer Generated) Name, Say My (Computer Generated) Name...


There are two name generators I've played with recently and they gave me the funniest suggestions that I just HAD to share.



The first name generator site helps you "find your own pen name"


Mine is:


Spicy Pepper



*dies of amazingness overload*




There is a 40 - 60% chance I may actually use this. I mean, come on! SPICY PEPPER? That's gold!




And have you seen this link for your Hunger Games name?



HUNGER GAMES!!


AHHHH!!!


I'M SO EXCITED!!!



And you know what made me even MORE excited?



When the name generator told me my Hunger Games name was:


Labia Biggentall


*collapses into fit of laughter*


How inappropriate is that?! Also, I should note that I died in the 62nd games of starvation. The REAL question, though, is: would Labia Biggentall really die of starvation? Really? Nobody would give Labia Biggentall a little snack?


Bahahaha!!!



So what are YOUR names?



16.3.12

The Nail Files: X


This week, on The Nail Files....


The Nail Files



I was stuck inside due to snow feeling adventurous this week and thought I'd try something a little different. Here's what I used:


OPI's Do You Lilac It?, OPI's Fresh Frog of Bel Air and Rite Stripe's Silver Sparkles.




I did two coats of Do You Lilac It? and then two coats of Fresh Frog of Bel Air on the tips. After the tips were dry, I did a line of Silver Sparkles underneath. I think they look a little bit like Easter eggs!



Thanks to Tara and Vicki for hosting! 





Book Club Friday: Bird by Bird



Book Club!!


BOOK CLUB!

 


This week, I’m reviewing this:

 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


It’s the book I won from a lovely agent named Linda Epstein. Upon first inspection, it seems like a “how-to-write” book and…well…it kind of is but there's SO much more in Bird by Bird than just writing advice. And the best part is that it's funny!


SO FUNNY!!


** Disclaimer: There’s quite a bit of cursing in this post. Not by me, but by the author. I’m sure after the intro describing Bird by Bird as a "how-to-write" book, you’re wondering where the cursing would come from. Well, you’ll just have to read my review to find out. I just thought I’d warn you first about the potty-mouth situation (potty-keyboard? Haha). **


Okay, back to the hilarity that is Bird by Bird. I think it’s best if I just share a few snippets.


From page 2:

“Every morning, no matter how late he had been up, my father rose at 5:30, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning. Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill.”


First paragraph of Chapter 1:

“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.”


Still, not convinced that this is the greatest book about writing, ever?


That’s cool, I can keep going.


Chapter 3 is called: Shitty First Drafts. Seriously. I just about choked when I read the title. Mostly because it’s totally true. All first drafts are shitty. Oh, so shitty. Especially mine (ha).


*groans*


But to read another writer acknowledge, nay – SUPPORT – the Shitty First Draft, well – let’s just say it kept a smile on my face for days. Ms. Lamott explains that the purpose of a first draft is just to get things down, which is one hundred percent true. Scenes/plot twists/characters - they can be fiddled later but you need something to fiddle with or…well…you’ll be stuck fiddling your first few pages over and over and over (wow, not only is there a lot of swearing in this review but a little pervy-ness too. Something tells me that Ms. Lamott wouldn’t mind. In fact, she’d probably love it. Moving on...).


There are chapters about finding good critique partners, sketching out a plot, developing authentic characters, and a whole lot of other good stuff. There’s even a chapter about how to deal with your inevitable jealousy of über successful writers (and you can only imaging how Ms. Lamott handles that one). And that’s what’s so great about this book. Ms. Lamott manages to find the most perfect (and funny) stories from her life and uses them as examples for the point she’s trying to make. 


There really is nothing like a learning sneak-attack.


Bravo, Ms. Lamott. BRAVO!


*claps*


So, if you love to write, are thinking about starting, or just want to read something that will make you laugh, pick up Bird by Bird. There are more than a few reasons it’s a National Bestseller. 



14.3.12

Slow Cooker Sessions: Mac and Cheese



Another slow cooker gem from Pinterest. I really don't know how I survived without either for so long.


Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese





The stuff you need to make this delicious thing:

1 1/2 cups milk
One 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled to room temp
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups (12 oz) shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni or mini penne tubes, par cooked and drained (this means cook them for about five minutes until tender but not completely cooked)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs




** So, after following the directions, I have a VERY hard time believing this recipe was designed for two people. Two sumo wrestlers, maybe. This recipe could be split in half, or thirds even (it's hard to have half of an egg).**

Take the milk, evaporated milk, melted butter, eggs and salt and whisk until well blended.  If you wait a little too long to add the melted (and cooled) butter then you have to be very enthusiastic with your whisking. Not that I'd know what that would be like.



BEFORE you add anything to the slow cooker, spray the entire inside with non-stick spray. If you don't, then you'll lose all of the delicious crispy edges because they'll be stuck to the stupid inside  of the stupid slow cooker because you forgot to spray the stupid spray...not that I'd know what that would be like, either.




Pour in the liquid mixture, and add the shredded cheese and pepper.


Then mix in your half-cooked pasta. This recipe called for elbow macaroni but...well...I didn't have any. Penne, though, I had two bags of. I followed the same concept of cooking it halfway.


After the pasta is as coated as you can get it, sprinkle the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top. Here's where it gets a little tricky. Cook for 30 minutes on high and then 2 - 2.5 hours on low. Seems unnecessary but it makes the cheese nice and crispy around the edges.



And VOILA! The breadcrumbs are a great addition and I'll probably add more next time. The penne worked out perfectly and The Remix had two servings for supper and then took leftovers for lunch. That's the real sign of a good recipe. 


But seriously, spray the inside first. The slow cooker took FOREVER to clean....You've been warned (twice, actually, so if you forget, it's totally not on me...haha!)




12.3.12

Why All Customer Service Reps Should Have Southern Accents


About a month ago, my blender tried to kill me.


Okay, it wasn't like it grabbed a knife and chased me around the kitchen, but it did unleash a cloud of smoke and spit a million pieces of tiny black bits of plastic around my kitchen. 


True Story.


I was making my standard breakfast of a frozen fruit smoothie just like any other day. Frozen peaches, bananas, strawberries, yogurt and veggie juice: the breakfast of champions. Even though the fruit and berries are already cut up, I blend the smoothie on a low setting for a minute or so first and then pop it on high. 


It was in Blender Phase 2 that everything went down. Literally.


I was putting things back in the fridge/freezer when I heard a thump. Just as I turned around, the blender hopped, nearing the edge of the counter but that wasn't the big deal. 


The BIG DEAL was that the glass part of the blender had completely filled with a white smoke and the blender's usual loud blendy-noise was almost deafening. Freaking out, I unplugged the unit. The SECOND I did, though, my ENTIRE smoothie rushed out the bottom. Freaking out, again, I picked up the glass pitcher to put in the sink, which is when the teeny plastic attack began. 


In less than thirty seconds, my kitchen counter was covered in smoothie, black bits of plastic and my house smelt like burnt rubber. 


Naturally, I wasn't going to take The Attempted Murder sitting down. And the longer I scrubbed my kitchen cabinets, sticky with fruit and yogurt, the madder I got. By the time I'd wiped down, cleaned and collected as many black plastic bits that I could find, I was fuming (ha).


So, off to Twitter I went.


Dear : Your blender tried to kill me this morning by almost catching on fire and spitting bits of plastic everywhere. 



A few minutes later, I was contacted by customer service and they gave me a phone number to call. 


Charged up, pissed off and ready to lose it, I called. I mean, this blender was NOT cheap and had broken a WEEK after our year's warranty expired. Oh yeah, I was going to let them have it. 


But then, something happened.


Something...unexpected.


The phone rang twice and then I was greeted by a woman with the most disarming Southern accent.


Rep: "KitchenAid Canada customer service, how can I help you?"

I live in Canada. I Tweeted KitchenAid in the USA who gave me a Canadian contact number. Why is the Canadian customer service line manned by a Southerner? No. This is a trick. Stay on-course, Jennie. Let 'em have it!


Me: "My name is Jennie Shaw and I got this number from your Twitter. I have a file started and its number is {whatever the number was}.



Rep: "Ma'am, please let me put you on hold while I read through your file."

Did she call me Ma'am? What is it about a Southern accent that's just so soothing? I think I like it. Yes, I like it a lot.


Me: "Okay."


Rep: "Ma'am, I am so sorry this happened to you. Are you all right?"

 I wonder where my giant sunhat is? I should find it, make some sweet tea and hang out in my rose garden. Focus, Jennie. You're mad, remember? Wait, did she just apologize and then ask me if I was all right?


Me: "Err, um. Yes, I am."


Rep: "You're sure that you're all right? That must have been really scary."

I like Southern accents. They're so smooth. It's like listening to a poem. Wait, did she just ask me if I was all right, again? And did she also sympathize with me?


Me: "Um, yeah. I'm fine."


Rep: "Please know, Ms. Shaw, that this is a highly unusual story. Your safety is our first concern so I'd like for you to tell me what happened so I can forward a report to our technical department. Please know that we that we are so sorry this happened."

I wonder if this rep has a rocking chair on her front porch. She probably does. Maybe I should ask her. No, I called this number to get mad. Why was I mad, again? Oh right, because my blender tried to kill me.


Me: "Well safety should be your first concern, considering it pretty much caught on fire. Not that there were flames but there was a lot of smoke. And then my smoothie went all over my counter and onto the floor. Little bits of plastic shot out everywhere and my house smells like burnt rubber."


Rep: "Our technical department will want to know every detail you can give them so this never happens to anybody else. KitchenAid makes great products but that doesn't mean there aren't any problems. When I first bought my stand mixer, it didn't work at all...{proceeds to tell me a very long and detailed story about how her stand mixer was fixed}"

Why is this rep telling me about her own problems with KitchenAid appliances? Doesn't she know that all of the customer service calls are recorded? I hope she doesn't get in trouble. Maybe I should write an email or Tweet how helpful she's been so she doesn't get canned. Wow! We've been on the phone for almost half an hour! I bet if we lived in the same place, we'd be friends. 


Me: "Well that sounds like an awful story! I'm happy to hear that you got a new one."


Rep: "And rest assured, Ms. Shaw, that I will be sending you a new replacement blender, complete with new warranty, as soon as we get off the phone. Would you like the same colour?"

Well isn't she just the nicest customer service rep, ever? She probably goes to football games on the weekend and then has a bunch of people over for a BBQ. Ooo, a BBQ'd chicken burger would be good for lunch...


Me: "Actually, the store didn't have any white ones when we bought it, so I'd love a white one instead of pewter. It matches my stand mixer better."


Rep: *laughs* "Oh yes, it's very important to have everything match. I'll send a white one out to you right away."

Why can't I have a Southern accent?



 And if the phone call wasn't enough, the rep called my house a week later to make sure that (a) I got my new blender and (b) that it was working well and not catching on fire.


The new blender

A follow-up call? From a concerned Southern customer service rep? To check that my replacement appliance was working well?


In. Credible. 


So here's what I learned:


(a) I cannot stay angry at someone who has a Southern accent.


(b) Especially one who apologizes and then tells me about her two sons (who are in college and doing well, by the way).


(c) KitchenAid is a pretty smart company as they're aware the effect Southern accents have on those not from the South - other companies should take note.


(d) I want a Southern accent, myself.