Spring Cleaning Weekend

Happy weekend my friends!  It is a gorgeous day today in Seattle, blue, cloudless skies, 66-degrees, and people are out and about, soaking it all in.  This weekend, my husband and I have plans to de-clutter and clean the basement (What a perfect activity for a fair-weather weekend, right?).  We're hoping to reorganize, clean, and purge some of our old junk before we tackle the baby's room.  Then, Easter dinner with my family on Sunday, and perhaps an egg hunt too, if we're lucky!

So excited it's Friday!
What are you up to this weekend?

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Have you ever been to a blow dry bar?  I finally took the plunge and tried this hot new hair trend while in Santa Monica for my sister's *surprise* engagement party.  In case you've never heard of this, the gist: $35 for a shampoo, scalp massage, blow dry, and style.  No cuts, no color.  I tried to study their blow drying habits to emulate at home (no such luck), but regardless, my hair looked fantastic for 3 days straight. In other words, I'm sold!  Dry Bar was where we went for this particular visit, but there are many other boutiques and chains that offer similar services.  In Seattle, Swink Style Bar and Obadiah Salon, just to name a few. 
Might this be one of your favorite things as well?  If you've never tried one before, I highly recommend you treat yourself.  It is the perfect quick pick-me-up, or an ideal way to primp and look smashing before a special event!

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Quote of the Week


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Stroller Search

Since we're just two short weeks away from the halfway point of my pregnancy (!!!), I figure it's high time I do some research on the best products for baby.  First up...STROLLERS!

Lately, I've been perusing my fave mommy blogs to read their takes on their preferred stroller.  Here is a pretty good stroller post that gives some honest pros + cons for a handful of popular ones.  Prior to being in the stroller market, I'd always heard about the Bob, but I realize there are many more options on the market now, and I don't want to see myself short.

So mamas...what's your stroller of choice?  Please share anything and everything - why you LOVE your stroller or hate it.  I'm all ears :)

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Happy Friday

Happy Spring!  It's been a while since I've done a link love post, so I'm throwing together a random hodge podge of easter links and such that I've saved up for a while now.  Have a happy weekend!

+ new york subway easter eggs

+ in the mood for some instagram snail mail?

+ Easter sweets; chocolate dipped peeps pops

+ gold marbled easter eggs

+ bright and springy platforms sandals

+ fun photo series: photographer's girlfriend leads him around the world

+ got a sharpie? easy black & white easter eggs

+ spring pavlova with rhubarb and pistachios

+ easter egg hunt party favor? DIY bunny ear bags

+ love this darling speckled egg cake

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Feedly It Is!

It's official - Google Reader, I'm sad to see you go, but I've officially moved on over to feedly.  I played around with bloglovin' but feedly really parallels Google Reader it its organization and formatting, plus you can continue to press the "J" key to scroll down, and "K" to scroll back, (as in GR).  In addition, its clean, simple aesthetic is also appealing,   Best part, all of your existing GR data transfers over unbelievably fast, truly it was maybe 10 seconds, seriously!  Another fun perk I've discovered, feedly recommends other blogs you may like based on your current data content.  I'm always looking for new blogs, and this cuts down all the work for me!

Here's a great tutorial if you'd like some assistance in making the move yourself.

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These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

Another favorite thing to share - my bkr water bottle.  Now, this is a relatively new purchase, but I'm already in love!  Ever since the research/findings about reusing plastic water bottles, I've been in the market for a bottle with staying power.  I dabbled with aluminum water bottles, but disliked the metallic taste they left in my water after multiple uses.  

The bkr is different than most water bottles I've found.  First, it's a glass bottle wrapped in a sleek silicone gel sleeve.  I first learned about this trendy glass water bottle over at The Soho.  Both the bottle and silicon sleeve are dishwasher safe, with a twist on plastic top.  I purchased the apple green color "Smith" via Amazon, and I'm quite smitten.  Also, I know from experience that it's pretty darn durable, I accidentally flung my bottle across the parking lot at work, and while it gathered a little dirt, the sleeve kept the bottle safe and intact.  In my book that makes for a keeper!

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A Little Saturday Morning Entertainment

How can you not love Justin Timberlake?  Even if you're not officially a fan, he's funny in everything that he does!  Personally, I've always been a fan, even way back when during his *NSYNC days of bad hair and 5-part harmony.

I just stumbled across this recent clip of Justin Timberlake singing a rendition of "Sexy Back" with Jimmy Fallon and a barbershop quartet.  Love it!!
P.S. If you haven't seen Justin Timberlake's latest hosting of SNL on March 9th, I suggest you start there!
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Weeknight Baking: Red Velvet Cupcakes

This past week was Staff Appreciation Week at school.  The school day would not run nearly as smoothly without the tireless work of our amazing support staff.  They're so often "behind the scenes," running a literacy group, supporting a student in math, or reading a social story with a special needs student.  Unfortunately, these individuals often go without the praise and recognition they deserve.  Being an instructional aide is a low-paying, often thankless, tough job - I know from experience, I used to be one prior to teaching!  But their role is essential, they are crucial cogs in the living, breathing machine that is a school.  

Throughout the week we had our students write letters of thanks to these individuals, recognizing their efforts in and out of the classroom.  On Thursday, to culminate the week with a sweet treat, I made cupcakes on behalf of my first grade team.  I chose Red Velvet Cupcakes, a semi-homemade recipe I borrowed from my friend Lindsay, who made four of these cakes at my sister's engagement bash!  Paired with cream cheese frosting and red + white sprinkles, these cupcakes were a hit!

Chocolate or Red Velvet Cake
- One box of red velvet OR chocolate cake mix
- One box of jello pudding mix
- One cup semi sweet chocolate chips
- One cup milk chocolate chips
- One cup sour cream (I used 1 tub of plain greek yogurt)
- 2/3 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of oil
- A splash of vanilla
- 4 eggs

Mix all the wet ingredients first and slowly add in the jello pudding mix and cake mix.  Add the chocolate chips last and mix everything well.  Spray a bundt pan with Pam for Baking and then cook at 350 for about 45 minutes or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.  You can also make this as cupcakes, just bake 15-20 minutes instead.  Enjoy :)

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Google Reader No More

Have you heard?  Google Reader is retiring!
My first reaction was WHAT?!?! What am I going to do now?  I have countless blogs in my Google reader feed.  It's unbelievably convenient, efficient, and I love having the option to preview a post within reader rather than having to click every post open for comment.  

So...what's up next?  I've been hearing about a few alternatives on other blogs, including feedly and bloglovin', but I haven't done my research yet to know which is best. 

What are your thoughts?  Where are you storing your blog shortcuts next?

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

If you've read my blog before, you know I love to read.  I can devour a book in a week, weekend, or day, depending on how much it piques my interest.  In the last few months, I've been keeping myself occupied with pregnancy research and reading, so I haven't been reading much for leisure.

I'm anticipating the day (not so far off) when I won't have the time (or energy) to read for pleasure, so I'm trying to take advantage of the 24 weeks I have to go until the baby arrives.  My mom just bought me this book, which is wetting my whistle for now, but I'm eager to stock my shelf for some reads for the next few months.

So...read any good books lately?  Do tell!

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Last Weekend

Last weekend, my sister got engaged!  
Her fiancĂ© planned quite the production, an elaborate plan that about 40 people were in on, and managed to keep secret for a month, a feat in itself!  On Friday afternoon, he picked her up from work in a stretch limo, proposed with a gorgeous ring, and then drove to a rustic hotel to "celebrate with a drink."  Little did my sister know, that a surprise party of 40+ close family and friends were waiting in the wings to surprise her yet again.  My mom and I were a big part of the surprise, since all of the other guests live in LA (we had flown down early Friday morning, unbeknownst to her).  
The best part, my sister called me from the limo, squealing "Guess what? I'm engaged! AHH!!"  Of course, at this time, I was waiting in the dark, crowded amongst 30 of her closest friends and family.  After some "subtle" shushing, and maneuvering into a quieter room, I relayed my excitement and congratulations, without her getting suspicious.  Assuming I was still in Seattle, she sent me a picture and described how they were celebrating the rest of the evening, or so she thought... A few minutes later, the limo arrived, and he led her up the candlelit stairs.  When the lights were turned on, everyone shouted "SURPRISE!" and "CONGRATS!"  She was totally stunned (there might have even been a few mascara tears)... 
After the champagne celebrations at the hotel, we celebrated across the street at their apartment, where earlier in the day we had laid out a beautiful spread of appetizers, snacks, and beverages.  All in all, it was such a happy day, and my sister was beaming ear to ear throughout.  I'm so glad I was there to partake in their special day.  Can't wait for the wedding!

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Weeknight Baking: Strawberry Banana Bread

I was immediately charmed by this recipe the second it popped up on my pinterest screen, strawberry banana muffins, two of my favorite flavors together in one!  

I happened to be petsitting my parents dog, and knew my mom (who always keeps a stocked fridge) had fresh strawberries on hand.  Perfect!  I gathered together all the ingredients and started mixing.  However, my parents are in the process of moving, and I only realized after I had three bowls of mixed liquid and dry ingredients that the muffin tin had already been packed.  Whoops!  So much for planning ahead.  

No problem, I improvised.  I luckily found a 9 x 13 bread pan, alone and perhaps forgotten during the packing process in a dusty cupboard.  I did end up baking it significantly longer that the muffin recipe suggests.  Every few minutes I did a toothpick test, and when the top was golden brown, the toothpick emerged clean. I wasn't sure how this recipe would translate to a bread, but it was delicious, flavorful, and most importantly moist (there's nothing worse than an over dry bread!).

Definitely making this bad boy again!  Glad to find a banana bread recipe that includes strawberries for some seasonal baking delights.

An Announcement

So guys, I have some news.  
Hopefully this will explain my recent lack of posting and why I've been M.I.A. from the blog world recently.  Can you guess? 
 I'm pregnant!
My husband and I are over the moon!  I'm currently a few weeks into the second trimester.  We're so excited to welcome a little one into our family in late August!  Thanks for sticking with me through my blogging silence, I'm hoping to pick up the posting now that my secret is out!  We don't know the sex yet, but are finding out in April. 

Stay tuned...

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Sorry I'm a week behind on my favorite things posts, my bad.  There's been a lot going on around here, stay tuned for a follow up post to explain...

In the mean time, here's another one of my favorite things, Origins Drink Up face mask.
I've tried many a mask in my hey-day, what girl hasn't?  Many slumber party memories include "beauty sessions" involving many a drug store face mask paired with cucumber eye patches.  I would consider my skin combination, oily at times, dry at times, but temperamental to unsuspecting breakouts as a result of trying out new products.  As a result, I'm a bit wary to try anything new on my face, especially a face mask, which has the potential of mobilizing into a break out machine.  

However reluctant I was, I inevitably tried this mask at the recommendation of the make-up artist who did my wedding make-up!  This 10-minute mask isn't aimed to deep clean or exfoliate, it's sole purpose is to rehydrate your skin.  And I can honestly say that after using it, my skin feels soft and supple, and very hydrated, believe it or not!

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Weeknight Baking: Grapefruit Olive Oil Poundcake

I'm a little behind on blogging this week, but I have a baking adventure to share.  Another Smitten Kitchen recipe complete.  With a few spare grapefruits on hand, it seemed the perfect time to try this recipe, Grapefruit Olive Oil Poundcake from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  Plus, I just purchased a new portrait lens for my camera this week, a 50mm 1:1.8 G, which turned out to be ideal for pound cake close ups.  :)
While I love grapefruit, I found this cake was almost too grapefruit-y, if that's even possible.  The syrup, glaze, and poundcake all are infused with grapefruit juice and/or zest.  However, having said that, the glaze really added an delicious oomph I appreciated.  I also used Trader Joe's gluten-free all purpose flour for the first time, which worked nicely.  While I probably won't be baking any grapefruit cakes again anytime soon, I may try using this recipe, but substituting in oranges or blood oranges for the citrus component.

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