Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Measuring Success and Life Update: 8/29/17

Last month, I intentionally skipped doing a progress post on my fitness and healthy lifestyle journey. Since starting this blog, I've done a progress post at the end of every month. It was kind of my thing and also a good way for me to track my progress in non-scale (and scale) victories.  But, it got a little difficult to do those posts, so I took a break for a month. Why you might ask?

Because I'm pregnant!

To be honest, it's been really hard to write posts and censor myself to make sure I didn't say anything to give it away. When you blog, you write about your life. All of your life. There are few things that are off limits, but this was one of them. I'm now 13 weeks along, though, and we've told our families and close friends, so now I can share with the world.  So, there you go. I'm preggo.

Obviously, this made taking my measurements and weight and photos and other non-scale victories a little difficult. It's hard, really hard, not to freak out as you expand and grow when you've spent a year and a half working to lose weight and get healthier. Yes, I know, I'm pregnant and supposed to do those things. It's still hard. Especially when you just look fat and not pregnant. But having clothes that fit and still working out have been key for me.

Not including the last few weeks due to travel, I've still been working out 4 or 5 days a week. I haven't been doing two classes a day, mostly because I run out of energy or breath by the end of the first class, but I've still been doing my spin, barre and bootcamp classes. I haven't been doing yoga because my studio only does hot yoga and my doctor nixed that.  Fun fact, that was actually the first thing that made me think I was pregnant. I did my usual Monday night yoga class. The instructor was one of the more challenging ones, but not more than I could handle. The last 15 minutes of that class was spent in child's pose doing my best not to pass out or get sick. I've never had that happen, not even in an m'bala class, which is much more challenging than a hot power flow! Turns out that's why your doctors don't want you doing hot yoga while pregnant - the heat, your exertion and inversions can make you dizzy or even pass out. Fun!

This monthly post is going to change a little, mostly because it really doesn't make sense to keep up with trying to get smaller! Instead, I'll be focusing on how I feel, weird pregnancy things and anything else I feel like throwing in that month! I'm still focused on being healthy, even more so now, but in a different way.

So, thanks for hanging around for the first year of this blog.  Year 2 is going to look a lot different, but still pretty fun!

Are there any fun questions you think I should answer/add to this monthly post? What do you want to know from the pregnant lady?!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

One Year Blogiversary and Giveaway!

Sometime last week (Monday to be exact), The Zinn Life turned one.  I started this blog a year ago as my third and final attempt at blogging. My idea was to write about my new health and fitness journey and to actually keep up with a blog. You see, I have a blog problem. Or rather, had. I would start one, get really into it for a few months and then fall off the face of the earth.  I told myself that The Zinn Life would be my final attempt at blogging. I was either going to stick with it or give it up. Luckily, I've stuck with it.

I've learned a lot about blogging this year. I can honestly say I've come a long, long way. I joined a local blogger group, learned about classes that one of my favorite bloggers was offering (Skill Pop is amazing if you've never tried it, by the way!) and took the classes. I utilized a lot of information from those classes! I learned how to give my blog a brand, set a schedule, a tone and how to make it look like something I would actually want to read. I learned about monetizing in another class. I've done a few giveaways, worked with companies like Influenster to review products on my blog and other really cool things that I never thought I would do. It's been a big, fun, and challenging year.

If I had to pick one thing out of everything that I've learned, both from myself and others, is that you need a why. I've said this in my other blogs about my fitness journey, but it's so true. To be good at anything in life, you need to know why. For my real job, I do compliance for federally funded programs. I do it because being in compliance helps the city I work in continue to receive funds, which allows us to continue to serve those that are most vulnerable and need help with housing. For my blog, I blog for me. I blog to remember my journey, my trips and to share those things that hit my heart in the middle of the day, or class or shower and I just need to share them. But I also blog for others like me. For the bigger girls that are working their tails off to like themselves. For people that love food and are trying to find a healthy balance of eating everything they want and wanting to eat what they should. For the people that just want to do a little better in life and have fun doing it. And for those people that, like me, love material gain and a good sale. All of those are the reasons I do this. The reasons that I go to work, go to the gym, make dinner, clean up and blog before I go to bed. This is what I remind myself of when I'm really tired and don't want to blog. That's my why. And why I keep going and hope to keep doing this for a long time! 

In celebration of my one whole year of successfully and consistently blogging, I'm doing a giveaway.  Everything in this giveaway was purchased by me, thinking of you. It's my way of saying thanks to those that have been here and read my ramblings. To saying hi to any new people that join.  Because a blog is only as good as those that read it. The giveaway includes:
  • My absolute favorite water bottle from a local store in Raleigh, NC called The Local Squirrel. We had a blogger meet-up there and I saw this and immediately coveted it.  The last thing I need is another dang water bottle, so I resisted.  Then, when I started thinking about this giveaway, I realized it was perfect.  The ladies at The Local Squirrel were super helpful and gave me a discount to help me provide this for you! Check them out if you're ever in Cameron Village. 
  • A $25 gift card to Athleta. Athleta is a store that caters to women and their fitness.  Their slogan is "Power to the She," which I adore.  I've bought some really cute things from Athleta and they carry yoga towels and mats! Bonus - if you aren't a girl or don't want workout items, it also works at Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap! 
  • Cute journal from Target. Because it was in the dollar bin and adorable. You're welcome. I keep one of these in my purse at all times for writing random things down and taking notes in meetings. 
  • Hair ties and a bracelet to wear them on. My mom got me one of these silly little bracelets for Christmas and I kind of love it. I always have a hair tie on my wrist, but this bracelet makes it look like an actual bracelet! Practical and cute!

To enter the giveaway, simply enter your information below and complete some activities to help keep this blog successful! Giveaway closes on August 30, 2017 at midnight.  Share and like away! Thanks for being here!

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

What To Do in Downtown Tampa

I'm not going to lie, when I first found out that I was doing training for three days in downtown Tampa, I was less than enthusiastic.  When I found out that I would be coming back on a Saturday, I was even less enthused.  I checked around for things to do and it didn't seem like I really had that many options.  But, I remember something that my co-worker quotes his former boss on all the time, "You might not know a city when you visit, but you better know it better when you leave than when you arrived."  I decided to take that to heart.

And you know what? I had fun! I had more fun than I thought I would and most of it was by myself. So in the event that you ever find yourself in downtown Tampa, here's some of what I found to do!

Where to Stay
My training was at the Tampa Convention Center.  My very intense training happened to be at the same time as the Food Fanatics conference, so it took a lot of willpower not to just hop over there instead! There are two hotels close to the Convention Center, the Embassy Suites and Marriott Waterside.  I stayed at the Marriott. I was a really bad blogger and didn't take pictures of the hotel, but I can give you my likes!

The room was super nice. I had a king size bed with a nice size bathroom. My room faced downtown, while others faced the water. I actually enjoyed facing downtown, it was really pretty at night and kind of fun to watch others go about their lives. Here's the view from the water side.

The food was good! My flight was delayed by two hours, so I didn't actually get to eat real food last Tuesday until 8 PM. Hanger is real. I went to the hotel restaurant, Champions, and had this amazing turkey burger! I'm not sure if I was just starving or if it was really that good, but it was delicious.  It had mozzarella, tomato and a pesto sauce (like a pesto ranch?!) on it and used naan as the bun. So good! I also ordered room service Friday night because I was tired of eating dinner out alone.  I had a pizza and key lime tart that were both really good!

It's super convenient! The trolley is right outside the door (I'll get into that later!) and it's within a three minute walk to the Convention Center and the River Walk.  There is a Starbucks in the Embassy Suites, but it's literally a two minute walk there as well!

The fitness room has amazing equipment! I only used it once, but they had about 5 treadmills, 4 bikes and 4 ellipticals.  The ellipticals had a fan at the top that would blow air on you. Life changing, I tell ya!  They also had weight machines, free weights, a bosu (which is pretty uncommon in my opinion) and weight bench. The pool was also really nice, but I didn't frequent that.

I would definitely stay there again!

Where to Eat
Most of my adventuring revolved around food. There isn't as much to do at night during the week and, to be honest, things can be kind of boring by yourself.  Food, however, is never boring.  There wasn't much food near my hotel and the Convention Center.  Finding the trolley and realizing I felt safe on it by myself was a game changer!

The Colombia
The original Colombia is in Ybor City.  I didn't eat at the real, original Colombia restaurant.  There was a smaller version in walking distance that a friend and I ate at twice for lunch.  I had an actual entree once that was pork covered in Cuban breadcrumbs and Swiss cheese and paired with the yellow rice and the other time I had a chicken sandwich with plantains. Both were amazing meals!  I did pass by The Colombia while exploring Ybor City, so here's a photo of (part) the original!

So, funny story. I accidentally ended up in Ybor City.  I had originally planned to go, then I was tired after training all day and was going to meet a friend at a restaurant, but took the wrong trolley.  So I ended up in Ybor City anyway. And it was pretty awesome!  I went to a greek restaurant and ice cream shop while there.

I got off the trolley at my stop in Ybor City and walked around to find a place for dinner. I really was after the ice cream, which I'll get to, but figured I should also eat real food. I ended up at Acropolis, a greek restaurant.

It wasn't super busy, but at one point, they cranked the music, started dancing and throwing napkins around. Then they were breaking plates.  Other people in the restaurant got up and danced with them.  I just watched, fascinated. It was such a fun atmosphere! I ate dinner here by myself and with everything going on, I had so much else to pay attention to, that it really didn't even cross my mind to be bored.

The real reason I was going to Ybor City.  My friend had told me about Snobachi earlier after he and his family went there.  They make ice cream like hibachi and they have liquid nitrogen fondue. While the liquid nitrogen looked cool (you dip your chosen food in, then eat, then blow smoke out), it really wasn't my cup of tea.  So I stuck to the ice cream.

Basically, they start with the ice cream in liquid form, then pour it on these cold plates where it freezes. They add in mix-ins, flatten it back out and roll it up.  Then they add sauces, toppings, etc.

I did a vanilla base with cheesecake flavor ice cream, added Nilla wafers as my topping and Nutella inside and out.

Holy. crap. It was seriously the best thing ever.

What To (and not to) Do
Things I thought about doing: going to the beach, going to see a game, etc.  But that was all way too far away. Downtown Tampa is thirty minutes from the baseball stadium and an hour from the beach. But there are still some fun things to do!

The trolley was a game changer. It doesn't go super far, but fare is pretty cheap.  You can pay $2.50 for a single trip or $5.00 for the whole day, which also covers bus fare.  I wasn't brave enough to do the buses too, but I wore that trolley out!  I took it to Ybor City, the aquarium, etc. For $5 a day, I could do a lot of stuff!  Some people also stayed at the Hampton Inn, which wasn't super close to the Convention Center, but was right on the trolley line and they rode that in every day. It's also super cute and a fun little experience.

This is my don't do.  Friday afternoon I was bored and kicking around.  I stopped by Channelside thinking I could do some shopping or find a place to eat and there just wasn't much there.  There were some bars, a Hooter and a Coldstone, but after Snobachi, who needs Coldstone?! It was just a little underwhelming to me.

Florida Aquarium
I did the aquarium Friday afternoon. I was lazy and took the trolley (also because it was raining).  For $27, I wanted to be a little more wowed, but I enjoyed it.  I got to see some big alligators, sea horses and the ever adorable lemurs! Plus, I felt like I had done at least a few touristy things!

This guy was huge!!

The otters were actually playing/fighting with each other in the water when I walked up, which was fun!

 Lemurs! We love these guys! If you're ever in Durham, check out the Lemur Center! But they were so cute all scrunched together and sleeping.

 And then this guy popped his head up! So cute!

Seahorses! I love how vivid this photo turned out!

This is the huge tank.  I'm sure there is another term for it, but the gigantic shark and sting rays were in here as well.  I could have stood there for hours just watching all of them, but there were lots of kids that wanted window time, so I obliged.

I was a little sad that Tampa did not have it's own Starbucks You are Here mug so I could add to my collection (I already have Florida and Miami), but I will forgive them that.  Overall, I actually had a much better time than I expected. I was excited to get home on Saturday, but I can honestly say that I would probably do Tampa again.  Near the beach, of course!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Get to Know Me: 50 Completely Random Questions People Rarely Ask (Blog Tag)

Last week my friend Molly at Still Being Molly did a post answering 50 random questions about herself. I loved it and told her I was going to steal her idea! My blog is still mostly a hobby, so I still get to fun stuff like this!

Here we go! Here are 50 completely random questions people rarely ask!
  1. What's your favorite candle scent? Anything that is not food related! Christmas or Fall scents are probably my favorite. 
  2. What female celebrity do you wish you were related to? Emma Stone. I love her oh so much.
  3. What male celebrity do you wish was your brother? Justin Timberlake. I love his personality and think he'd be super fun!
  4. What's your favorite thing about marriage? (And if you're single, what's your favorite thing about being single? Having someone that is just as weird as I am. I can say whatever terrible thing is on my mind and chances are he's thought the same thing. Aaron is truly my partner in crime! 
  5. What's one thing you own that you should probably get rid of, but you can't? I actually purged a lot when we moved, but there are about four or five pairs of high heels that I own that I will never, ever wear again. They are taking up valuable shoe space, but I love them and can't part with them. 
  6. Can you do a split? That's a big fat no. You should see me try to do a half split in yoga, it's pretty sad.
  7. How old were you when you learned how to ride a bike? Who remembers that? Maybe 6 or 7?
  8. How many oceans have you swam in? Just the Atlantic. I've been to the Pacific Ocean, but I didn't swim in it.
  9. How many countries have you been to? 4 St. Lucia, Japan, Canada and US
  10. Is anyone in your family in the army?  My mom's dad was in the army and my dad's dad was in the navy. This question confused me, does it mean army as in the specific branch or army like military? Things you only think when you grew up in a military town!
  11. What was your favorite tv show when you were a child? General Hospital.  The lady that ran the daycare I grew up in watched soap operas and GH was my favorite.  I remember telling her to wake me up for my nap in time to watch my "story" as she called it. 
  12. What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight? Pretty sure that was a clown. Mom made me a clown costume with a ton of elastic that could be worn for multiple years! lol
  13. Have you ever read any of the Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Twilight series? no, yes and no, I tried Twilight, but couldn't get past the first chapter in the first book.  Too many feelings for me.
  14. Would you rather have an American or British accent? American, actually. I like my Southern accent
  15. Have you ever taken karate lessons? Nope!
  16. Do you know who Kermit the frog is? But of course!
  17. What's the first amusement park you've been to? I think Disney World. I was pretty young when we went there and I didn't grow up going to amusement parks.
  18. What language, besides your native language, would you like to be fluent in? Tagalog. Weird, I know. I worked at the library as a page for two years in high school (six years total) and loved shelving the foreign language books. Tagalog was the one I had never heard of and always interested me the most. 
  19. Do you spell the color as grey or gray? Grey
  20. Do you know triplets? No, but I know a lot of twins!
  21. Do you prefer Titanic or The Notebook? The Notebook.  If you're a bird, I'm a bird. 
  22. Have you ever had Indian food? Yes and it's one of my favorites! I haven't met a curry I didn't like. 
  23. What's the name of your favorite restaurant? To be fair, I have two. In Fayetteville, where I grew up, it's Luigi's.  In the Raleigh/Durham area, it's Relish. If you come visit me, chances are pretty good I'm going to take you to Relish!
  24. Have you ever been to Olive Garden? Yep and I actually like it. 
  25. What would your parents have named you if you were the opposite gender? Andrew Stephen, I believe. I know my dad wanted a boy named Andy. 
  26. If you have a nickname, what is it? To some, I will forever be a version of Davenport - Davs, Davies, etc. My dad calls me Sarah Cait once in a while
  27. Who's your favorite person in the world? Aaron. I'm in training all week and I kinda miss him. Don't tell him that, though. 
  28. Would you rather live in a rural area or the suburbs? Suburbs and not afraid to admit it! I like conveniences, thank you. 
  29. Can you whistle? Nope.
  30. Do you sleep with a nightlight? There is one in our bathroom so I don't kill myself when I get up in the middle of the night, but that's it.
  31. Do you eat breakfast every morning? Yep. I wake up hungry.
  32. How many times have you been to the hospital? To visit people? A lot. Admitted? Once, when I was born. 
  33. Have you ever seen Finding Nemo? Yes!
  34. Where do you buy your jeans? Mostly Loft or Ann Taylor.
  35. What's the last compliment you got? I'm going to go with a work compliment! One of my coworkers told me the other day that I do compliance like it's supposed to be done, more teaching and less "gotcha." For me, knowing that others respect what I do is huge!
  36. Do you usually remember your dreams in the morning? I remember bits and pieces and try really hard to remember them, but rarely do I remember them an hour past when I wake up.
  37. Favorite beverage that isn't water? Coffee. Specifically Skinny Cinnamon Dolce or Peppemint White Mocha. 
  38. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? About 75. That doesn't include flip flops. I have a problem. 
  39. How old were you when you found out Santa wasn't real? I want to say like 8 or 10. Apparently my parents had to tell me because I got into a fight with a kid telling him Santa was real and I knew it because the hand-writing on the gifts was different than either of my parents'. Oh little Sarah, haha. 
  40. What is one food you used to hate but now you love? I don't know that there is something that I hated that I now love. I remember when I first tried sushi, I didn't like it, but now I love it. But foods I hated, I pretty much still hate.
  41. What is a weird lie you've told? I used to lie to the dentist about my gag reflex. I mean, I have one, but I would make it oh so much worse than it was.  As a kid, all my teeth were pulled by the dentist and I hated him for it (sorry CP).  He was actually a great guy, but all I saw was the guy pulling teeth out of my head. So I would do whatever to keep it from actually happening. 
  42. Heels or flats? Flats all day long. I used to wear heels all the time, but I've become a creature of comfort the past five or six years. 
  43. Do you have weird phobias? Do carwashes count?! I also hate, hate, hate roaches. 
  44. What is a word or phrase you always say? I know, right?
  45. What is a song you blast or belt out when you are alone? Really, it's more like what won't I belt out? Pat Benatar, Outkast, Eminem, Garth Brooks and Journey are my faves, though.
  46. What is one of your biggest pet peeves? When Aaron puts my pots back in the wrong place. 
  47. Do you sleep with your closet door open or closed? Open. The closet is at the end of the bathroom, so it looks weird to close the door. Also, I can see my wall of shoes from my bed and who wouldn't want to see that?!
  48. Would you rather be attacked my a big bear or a swarm of bees? Both of these sound horrible, but I'm going with bees after watching The Revenant. 
  49. Do you have any weird things you do? I gots many! I perpetually feel like I've left the oven on and make Aaron turn the car around to go check it. 
  50. What movie could you watch over and over again and still love? Twister, hands down. Pitch Perfect is a close second but if Twister is on, I will sit down and watch it. Every. Single. Time.
Happy Friday! If you're a blogger, do this and let me know when you do! It's fun :)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Packing Light: Travel Accessories to Make Life Easier and When to Buy the Travel Size

I'm in Tampa for training this week and will be flying back on Saturday morning.  Back in the day, I was a horrible packer. I would pack way too much stuff and would end up having like three bags plus my purse. It was nuts.  Now that I travel two to three times a year for work, I've become a much more efficient packer.  Mostly because I hate checking bags and when traveling alone, you don't want to be stuck wrangling huge bags my yourself. My goal is always one personal bag, one luggage bag.

Luckily, there are awesome people out there that have come up with some amazing products that make packing lightly something that is actually attainable! Here's what helps me keep everything in one bag! Note - these are just products I use myself and love. Nothing is sponsored nor am I an affiliate.

Eagle Creek Pack-it Garment Sleeve
This guy is the BEST! I got this last year when we were packing for our Alaskan cruise.  I wanted something to protect our fancy night wear that wouldn't take up a ton of space and this guy is perfect! At one point, we had two of my dresses and Aaron's dress pants in there and it still folded flat! The sleeve only comes down to just below the waist, but you can easily fold longer garments up into it.  The cushioned rods keep fabric from creasing. I like it because it's an easy way to hang my dresses and dress pants without taking up a lot of room and without wrinkling them! I place this guy on the bottom of the suitcase and pack up from there!

Photo courtesy of The Container Store

Jewelry Case
My favorite jewelry case isn't sold anymore.  It was from Stella and Dot. I've had it for at least five years and I love it! I'll give you a few options, though, based on what I like.  This is really only needed if you're an accessory nut like I am.  If I'm going to the beach, I just use one of my many mini-cosmetic bags because chances are I'm going to live in the same thing every day (silver or gold hoops, maybe a bracelet or a necklace). But when traveling for work, I take more stuff. I tend to wear basic pants and a top, or a dress, that all coordinate and then change it up with jewelry.  You can take a load of jewelry and it take a lot less space than five different pairs of shoes! When looking for a jewelry case, I like them to be flat, have hooks for my earrings, something to keep my long necklaces in place, and a few pockets for those things that don't snap into place super easily.

Stella and Dot Travel Jewelry Box ($38) - Pros: They make and sell jewelry, so their cases are the best designed, in my opinion.  Cons: It's not flat anymore! This makes it bulkier to pack. But worth it if you have a lot of big jewelry to carry. Still only takes up the room of one pair of heels!

Vera Bradley Ultimate Jewelry Organizer $54 - First off, I have never, ever been a Vera Bradley fan. But while searching for a good, flat jewelry organizer, this one hits a lot of the features I mentioned above.  It's $54, which is a little pricey, but if you are a big accessorizer, this will make your life so much easier! And it lays nice and flat!

Mini Surge Protector with USB Ports ($15)
Another item I purchased for our cruise that has become a lifesaver! A lot of the newer hotels have lamps with plugs or, if you're lucky, USB ports. But a lot of your older hotels don't have those features.  Add to the fact that most of my chargers are now USB ports, it can get a little hairy if I forget to bring the plug for your USB cable. Which has happened more than once.  Now, I just keep this guy in my luggage. It's perfect for charging all of my electronics on the nightstand, or wherever, if there is a shortage of outlets.

To Buy the Travel Size or Not?!
I don't know about you, but I have a ton of travel size items in my house.  And they are mostly things I don't even need a travel size for! There are some items you should never purchase travel size for (ie - toothpaste, just go to your dentist!), but some items you can't really avoid.  Here's my list of must have travel-size items.
  • Face wash - I wash my face in the shower. I'm still not entirely coherent at this point and find it easier to just use a smaller version of a tube I'm used to than to try and put it in one of those little travel size tubes.  I end up putting too much in there and then I feel like I've wasted it.
  • Salon hair care - My conditioner curdles, straight up curdles, when I put it in travel tubes. I have no idea why it does it, but it does. And it's disgusting. I pay way too much money for that stuff for it to curdle.  Luckily, the travel size is only $5 and it lasts me about two to three trips. 
What are some of your favorite travel accessories? 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tee Pee Sugar Cookies

I have busted out my cake decorating supplies and skills out more in the past few weeks than I probably have in the past two years! It's sad, really. I made onesie cupcakes for a co-worker's shower and then my friend Sarah text me this past Friday saying, "How much do you love me?!?!" Now, if you have a close friend, you know what those words mean. It means they want you to do something. That something was tee pee sugar cookies.

First off, Sarah is an amazing cake decorator. It's almost not even fair to put my decorating skills next to hers, so I don't. She did a Peter Pan/Tinkerbell theme.  This was the amazing cake that she made.

She asked me to make tee pee sugar cookies to go with the cake and the theme.  This is the photo from Pinterest that she sent me.  You can access the Pinterest page here (it only took me to an Etsy page, so if this is your photo, please let me know and I'll give you credit!)

She only wanted 24 cookies and I love her girls like they really are my neices, so I said yes. It looked tedious, but doable. I checked and had a sugar cookie mix in the pantry (score), so all I had to do was pick up a box of royal icing.

My original idea was to find a triangle cookie cutter and use that for my template. Apparently, cookie cutters don't come in basic shapes.  I did find a square cookie cutter, but it would have made the tee pee too wide, so I decided against that. Instead, I traced a three by three by three inch triangle and then drew another triangle inside to make an opening.  I drew this on parchment paper and then used my fondant ball tool to trace the outline onto the rolled out cookie dough.

Then, I used the fondant knife tool to cut along the lines. If you have no idea what I'm talking about or don't have these tools yourself, this set actually has both of them.

Once the cookies were cut out, I baked them. The first set, I made a little too thin. They were hard to pick up, so when I rolled out the next set, I did them thicker and they were perfect! I pulled the cookies out when they were done and let them cool completely before decorating them.

To decorate, I used royal icing. I'm lazy, so I use the box mix.  One box mix made enough icing for these cookies.  I fully iced 25 cookies. I probably could have done about 30, but I honestly ran out of time and patience. Once the cookies were cooled, I outlined the border of the cookies in white using a 3 tip. I mostly left the icing white and did a small amount in brown for the dots on the tee pee, as requested.

Once the outlines had dried, I thinned out the icing to flood the designs.  I completely flooded each cookie first, so that I had a white background to work with. I normally flood with a three on the edges and a 10 in the larger areas.

Then, when the background was dry, I used a 1 Tip to draw the lines and zig zag patterns. I used a 3 tip for the brown dots. 

I'm going to be honest. While, these were fairly easy to duplicate, royal icing is a pain. By the end of the cookies, my back was killing me and I could barely open and close my hand from dealing with the icing. By the last few cookies, the icing had begun to dry in the tip and I had to swap to another tip.

But they did turn out rather cute!

I was pretty proud with how these babies came out. I was also told they were pretty good, so I'll take that as a success! However, please know that I'm really not making any more cakes or cookies for at least a month or so! While I have enjoyed getting use out of my stuff, and have learned how to put all the couplers in the dishwasher (hallelujah!), in the words of my hubby, this isn't my gift. I can do it and I like knowing that I can do it, but I think I'm a little too type A to do it on a regular basis.

But for a good friend and her cute baby's first birthday? I'll make an exception!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Favorite Finds: Drug Store Beauty Products

There are some women that never wear makeup.  There are some that wear minimal makeup, such as mascara and lip gloss. I am not that woman. I don't have bad skin, I don't necessarily need to cover anything up, but I personally think that makeup helps finish off my outfit. It brings out my deep set eyes so you can tell that I have them, it brightens up my complexion and, let's be honest, it's fun! Years ago, I switched over to prestige brands such as Urban Decay, Smashbox, Marc Jacobs, etc and left the drugstore brands behind.  But lately, I've been bringing the drugstore brands back and I love them!

I'm not going to lie, I've been trying out more drugstore brands simply because I have coupons for them.  I use Ibotta and it's recently had really good rebates for brands like Cover Girl and Neutrogena.  This allows me to buy some new seasonal products without feeling guilty about it.  I'm not an affiliate of any of these brands, I'm just sharing what I've been wearing lately.  So, without further ado, here's my four favorite drugstore beauty finds!

Yes to Cucumber Micellar Water (Target - on sale for $8.09, Ulta - $8.99, CVS - $9.99)
I'm new to this whole micellar water thing. I've been admittedly terrible in the past about taking off my makeup at night. I'm still not great at it, truth be told.  But this product does make it a lot easier! I've been using this with my Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway.  The meltaway didn't make my eyes happy, so I started using the micellar water for my eye makeup and it's worked like a dream! The only thing I don't love about this product is that it's a pump so I can't just squirt some on a q-tip when I want to clean up my eye makeup.  I have to get the liquid on a cotton ball first and then rub the q-tip on the cotton ball.  But for $8.09, it works like a dream!

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer (Target - $10.99, Ulta - $12.99, CVS - $13.49, Walmart - $10.97)
I picked this guy up at Target on a whim.  After a week at the beach, summer face was in full effect and my regular foundation was at least one to two shades too light.  I had a rebate for Ibotta for $4.00 off this product, so I figured $6.99 was a good investment for a light, sheer foundation to get me through the rest of summer. And I love it! It has SPF 20 (my regular foundation has none), goes on super light but with good coverage and doesn't feel super oily. I hate, hate, hate that oily face feel. Yuck. And the best part is, Ibotta still has the rebate for $4.00 off! You can use it at Target and Walmart. If you don't have Ibotta, you can use my referral link

My summer color is on the left and my winter color is on the right. I'm wearing Ivory to Fair in the Neutrogena.  

Neutrogena Moisture Smooth Color Stick (Target - $7.99, Ulta - $8.99, CVS - $8.99, Walmart - $7.97)
When I picked up the Skin Enhancer, I also picked one of these up.  I had a $2.00 rebate, making my purchase only $5.99. Plus, there was a bonus at the time for another $1.00 rebate if I did both Neutrogena purchases, so I figured why not.  Cheap retail therapy is always a good thing! I love a good lip crayon. I'm not a huge lipstick person. I have full lips and they rarely need, or do well with, a ton of saturated color. But color sticks I can control better and tend to stay on longer, so I'm more apt to wear them than lipstick.  I was a little disappointed that this is more like a cross between a gloss and a lipstick and less like a crayon.  The pigment doesn't stay as long, however, it's super moisturizing and a has a really nice, light fragrance. Not a smack you in the face fragrance, but a light, pleasant one. This rebate is also back this month and I plan on buying another one! I'm wearing Pink Nude. 

NYX Professional Eye Shadow Base (Target - $6.99, Ulta - $6.99)
NYX is my go-to cheap brand.  They have many of the same products that my expensive brands carry, but at a fraction of the cost.  I picked up this eye shadow base because I had just replaced all of my makeup and was still reeling from that cost when my usual eye shadow base also ran out.  I didn't feel like spending another $20, so I picked this guy up to see how well it worked.  I wouldn't say that I like it better than my usual (Urban Decay Primer Potion - I use sin), but I am impressed with how it works for a $7 product! My eye shadow stays in place all day and it doesn't gunk up in the corners.  If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, definitely check this one out!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Onesie Cupcakes for a Girl Baby Shower

It has been a really, really long time since I have busted out my cake decorating skills. About three or so years ago,  I took cake decorating classes from Wilton at Michael's.  I did all but one of the classes and that was for gum paste flowers. I don't ever plan to make wedding cakes, so I don't regret not doing that! In my office, I'm the resident baker, so when we were planning to have a baby shower for my co-worker, I was asked to do cupcakes.

Originally, I had planned to do something really simple and just get baby shower cake decorations from Michael's and just put them on the cupcakes.  But when I went, they were out of all the things.  Apparently, they had a buy one get one 50% off sale and got cleaned out.  So, in my usual Sarah fashion, I thought, "Oh hey! I can just do outlines of onesies!" That seemed simple to me. It always seems simpler than it actually is.

I ultimately decided to make white cupcakes with white buttercream frosting.  I baked them in white liners, then dropped into these cupcakes cups that I picked up at Michael's. For the decoration, I decided to outline baby onesies in royal icing. I did that instead of fondant because I would have had to freeze fondant and I just don't have that kind of room in my freezer.

For the cake, I used my favorite White Almond Sour Cream Cake recipe. The recipe is for wedding cakes, so I half it.  Half the recipe makes 36 cupcakes.  I've made this recipe so many times and it really is one of the best and my favorites.  The cake comes out evenly and white, no browning. It's also a little bit denser, which is great if you are using fondant or other heavy cake decorating materials.  For the buttercream, I actually use the Wilton Class Buttercream recipe.  I use water instead of milk.  When I was taking classes, Wilton used straight shortening but they've now switched to half butter and half shortening, which is what I use. You'll need two recipes of buttercream for these cupcakes. You really only need about 1.5 recipes, but I just go ahead and make the full two and add buttercream to other things in life, like cookies and graham crackers.

To make the onesies, I used royal icing.  You can make your own royal icing or you can pick up a premixed box from Michael's, which is what I did. Royal icing requires sifted sugar which I wasn't in the mood to do. I used one box and it was plenty of icing.

I found this outline of a onesie on Pinterest:
I printed out the outline at 25% percent and used it as my template.  I placed it under parchment paper and traced the designs with the royal icing on the parchment paper.

We had decided that the colors for the shower would be pink and purple, so I mixed those colors and did half the onesie outlines in pink and the other half in purple.

I did some as solids and some with designs (polka dots, stripes, chevrons, etc).

Make sure when making your royal icing that you have the right consistency.  I made it too thick the first time and my hand was cramping really badly while doing the first few outlines.  I thinned it out some and it was perfect.  You thin it out by adding more water, just be careful because a little goes a long way with royal icing!  Once the outlines and designs were made, I thinned out the icing even more to "flood" the designs.  For flooding, you want to be able to drip some of the icing back in to the bowl of icing and it disappear in about 10 seconds.

I let the onesies dry overnight and the next morning I loaded them into some trays I had.  When I first started cake decorating, I bought all these supplies and I don't ever get a chance to use them.  So I was pretty excited to finally use those guys again.

I made the onesies on Monday and they lasted until the shower on Friday.  I made the cupcakes and buttercream Thursday night. I had really grand plans of doing some baking one night, then making the buttercream the next and then decorating the last night, but that didn't happen.

I piped the buttercream on the cupcakes Thursday night and did a test run on them for decorating.  I was really happy with how they came out!

My friend that professionally decorates cakes recommended that I wait to decorate the rest until right before the party.  I'm glad she did because when I came down the next morning, the onesies had melted in to my test cupcakes!

A tip and warning - when making these and putting on the actual cupcakes, be super careful! I broke about five pieces.  I had extras, so I was okay, but they are really fragile.  As you can see, I ended up with about three naked cupcakes.  Make yourself some extras or, if you have room in your freezer and time, make them with fondant instead.

These turned out really cute, I got tons of compliments and I'm proud to say I still know how to do this stuff And now I'm good for the next six months to not do any real cake decorating! I'm sticking to my day job!