Opening Bubbly

Our neighbors gave us a bottle of sparkling wine recently as a thank-you for the numerous times that Ever Patient Spouse helped them load and unload their kayak from the roof of their car.

Last Saturday night, it was a gorgeous summer evening that seemed perfect for sipping some bubbles.

Don’t be intimidated to open champagne or other sparkling wine.

The cork only flies off haphazardly in movies, not real life, nor does it spray wildly out of the bottle unless a pro athlete vigorously shakes it before it’s opened at the end of the Super Bowl.

To open:

  • Remove the foil.
  • Untwist the wire cage. Keep your thumb on top as a precaution while you untwist, but it’ll be fine.
  • Hold the bottle in its mid-section with your non-dominant hand.
  • Cover the cork with a towel and grasp the top with your dominant hand.
  • Turn the bottle, not the cork. It should release with 3-4 turns.
  • Pour, toast and enjoy!

Cheers!

For a really spectacular presentation, consider sabering the bottle. This isn’t as hard as it seems, and the WOW factor is extreme.

Here’s how to do it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candy Bar Brownies

Our friends P & T invited us over to their house on Sunday, and I gallantly said I would bring a dessert.

Except that I barely ever cook, I didn’t have much time, and I couldn’t think of anything to make.

And then I remembered these candy bar brownies.

I saw this recipe in a newspaper column about five years ago, back when we were still living in Texas.

At the time, it seemed over-the-top decadent for a picnic or potluck, which struck me as being particularly Texan.

These brownies couldn’t be easier (even for me!), and they turn out great every time. You can also mix up the filling, but I am partial to the original recipe.

Ingredients:

Here’s what to do:

  • Spray a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with cooking spray
  • Prepare the boxes of brownie mix according to instructions
  • Pour half of the raw dough into the prepared pan
  • Top with broken-up pieces of the candy bars
  • Cover with the rest of the brownie mix
  • Bake at 350 F for one hour. This last part is important! It takes a long time for these to be done.

Here’s a snap from the half-way point:

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I leave the candy bar pieces pretty large and distribute them so that each brownie will have a bit of candy.

After baking, the candy bars form a truffle-like layer of filling that is absolutely delicious.

A few tips:

  • Don’t try to skimp and just use one box of brownie mix, unless you use an 8″ x 8″ pan. Otherwise, they’ll be too thin and you’ll lose the layered effect if you use a 9″ x 13″ pan.
  • Box brownie mix is also fine for this recipe, since the truffle-y filling is the star.
  • There’s something about the smooth and creamy texture of the Symphony bars that make them well-suited for this, but these would also be awesome with Reese’s peanut butter cups in the middle.

 

 

 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Beauty Deals

Oh, how I love the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale! 

Spectacularly sad but true, I look forward to this event with no small amount of anticipation every year.

The Beauty Exclusives are particularly hard to resist.

Yesterday I got my hair done at a salon that happens to be a mere 10 minutes away from the only Nordstrom around, and mysteriously my car navigated there on my way home.

This year did not disappoint.

First up, this Kate Somerville set.

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While this set is still pricey ($98), it’s worth $191, making it one of the best deals of the sale. The Age Arrest Anti-Wrinkle cream is worth $90 alone. And if you haven’t tried it, the ExfoliKate treatment is one of the line’s star products. 

Next, AERIN Beauty’s ‘Lilac Path’ perfume:

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This was a wild-card that I did not anticipate purchasing (and also not an official Beauty Exclusive), but I got swept up in the scent and had to have it. There are five fragrances in this line, and it was difficult to pick out the one I liked best. I was waffling between this one and two others, ‘Ikat Jasmine’ and ‘Evening Rose.’ They were all really sophisticated and a little more perfume-y than what I normally wear (either Bobbi Brown or Jo Malone). This picture doesn’t do the bottle justice; the cap has a lovely lilac stone on top.

With the AERIN perfume, I received an Estee Lauder gift with purchase. I chose the cool colors for the lipstick and eyeshadows. You also could select a moisturizer in a generous sample size. The other items were a cleanser, mascara and serum, all packed in a navy blue bag.

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These Voluspa candles were a steal! I bought two sets, one for myself and one for gifting. I’m not sure if I’ll keep them together or break them up, since they make such great hostess gifts and are easy to wrap in colorful fabric, furoshiki-style.

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The last thing I purchased was a bit of a beauty risk, at least for me.

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Since I’ve been maintaining my fake eyelashes, I’ve been wearing almost no eye makeup, which means my lips need a little more attention lest I look completely washed out. 

Once again, I’m late to the party, but I love the modern look of a nude eye and bright, matte lip. Except up to now, not on me.

This M.A.C. set came in pink, coral or nude. It still feels outside of my comfort zone, but I went for the pink. Bright, shocking pink.

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Besides the gloss and lipstick, there’s a brown eyeliner (full-size) and eyeshadow trio with two champagne-y colors and one that is a sparkly plum. All are pretty.

Here’s me trying out the lipstick:

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Still not sure if I’m ready to go out like this. Baby steps.

In the end, I got another bag of beauty samples, which I love to save and use for traveling.

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The blue bag is the Estee Lauder one from the gift with purchase, and the purple nylon one contained the samples above. There were two Jo Malone perfumes (score!), plus samples from Kiehl’s, Lancome and Laura Mercier.

I was embarrassingly excited over this haul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workout Recovery

Last Thursday  night after work, I was feeling pretty strong and decided to run my own half-marathon.

Good news: I came in first place!

Bad news: I also came in last place!

And on Friday morning, I was plenty sore.

I should rely on these strategies more often, but here’s what I’ve found helpful for muscle recovery. foam roller

  • Foam rolling. Oh, it hurts so good. This exquisite torture is worth the myofascial release on the other side, but it really, really kills! One of my friends told me she had to drink two beers every night before getting on the roller. This compact foam roller targets trigger points and gets the job done.

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  • Legs up the wall. I always forget to do this! But it’s great for recovery. Hold as long as you can, ideally several minutes. This is a legit yoga pose; learn the fine points here. 

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  • Aveda active composition. This blend of wintergreen and menthol smells like a Wint-O-Green Life Saver and is a much classier version of Ben Gay.

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  • The Stick. I first saw – and purchased – one of these at the Expo for my first marathon, waaaay back in 2006. It’s a rolling massager for the legs, and it is really helpful to work out lower extremity knots. If only I could find mine! Argh.

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  • Elemis Musclease Active oil mixed with Instant Refreshing Gel. A recipe for heaven. Get them here.

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  • Natural Patches of Vermont Arnica Patches. These were a recent discovery, but they seem to be helpful. They apply like a Band-Aid and can be worn for up to 24 hours. They also have several different essential oil blends for other concerns, like headaches and stress.

I hope these ideas are helpful! Drinking lots of water is also a key to recovery.