Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Dear reader, I loved these cookies! They're light and summery, a little bit minty and and just sweet enough. I named them "white" because the coconut oil makes them so light colored, and it seemed appropriate for their fresh, summery taste. Plus, most mint cookie recipes end up green somehow, and I wanted to highlight the fresh white look. 

There's a teeny tiny hint of coconut taste to them, but it's so faint that my friends weren't able to identify until after I told them. It's just enough to add to the crisp, summery flavor. 

Also, I popped them in the freezer after a few days, and eating them straight out of the freezer turned out to be a GREAT idea. I'll definitely make these again (at least once) before summer's over. It seems like it might be a double-batch-and-freeze kind of cookie...



(adapted from this recipe)

1 cup coconut oil, melted and somewhat cooled
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

In a large bowl, beat the coconut oil, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract until well combined. Stir in egg whites and salt. Gradually mix in flour. Finally, stir in chocolate chips.

Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper. Form the dough into balls, and flatten each ball gently with your palm. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until cookies are just barely beginning to brown around the edges. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Hi, dear reader. Happy summer! 

I tend to associate dry skin with dry winter, and slathering on moisturizing lotion during cold weather. But summer's the time when I really need to exfoliate. Despite my efforts at protecting my skin from the sun, I always end up with some dry skin. And during the season of sunshine and showing off skin, I want it all to be smooth as a baby's bum. Don't you? That means exfoliation, baby.

Sugar and salt scrubs can get pretty pricey (and the cheaper ones have been pretty yucky in my experience). It's so easy to make them at home, though, and extremely inexpensive. Plus you know exactly what you're putting into it: how much more natural could it get? 

The basic formula is sugar or salt + oil + scents (like essential oils, extracts, herbs, etc.). 

I made this little batch for a friend as a gift. 

By the way, my very favorite moisturizing lotion EVER is Trader Joe's Midsummer Night's Cream. I started using it this year and my skin has never been softer.


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond oil (or jojoba, grapeseed, etc.)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or two freshly scraped vanilla beans also do wonderfully)

Stir ingredients together until well mixed. You can add oil as you need to for texture. Store in an airtight container. Rub on skin while in the shower, and rinse well. 


For the scrubber:
sugar, coarse sugar
table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, epsom salt (depending on how coarse you want)
brown sugar

For the oil:
(All of these contain great nutrients for your skin! :))
almond oil
sunflower oil
jojoba oil
grapeseed oil
avocado oil

Notes about olive oil and coconut oil:

A friend recently directed me to this post about oil cleansing, which warns against using olive oil and coconut oil in skin products, writing that many users have experienced breakouts and irritation. Personally, I've never tried coconut oil in a scrub, but I've come across several recipes that use it. Also, I wonder if it's difficult to scoop out once the oil solidifies. Let me know if you try it! As for olive oil, I've never had a problem with it in scrubs, but I've never tried it on my face. Use your own judgement, and as always, leave a comment to let me know how it went!

For the extras:
essential oils (lavender, lemongrass, rose, jasmine, sandalwood)
extracts (vanilla, peppermint, coconut, almond)
ground dried herbs (lavender, thyme, sage)
citrus zest (lemon, orange, lime; start with about 1 tablespoon per cup of sugar/salt, and adjust from there)

See this article about the five best essential oils for glowing skin.

I'm always experimenting and would love to hear your ideas. Let me know if you try some combination you really love :) Hope you're having a great summer!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Hello, dear reader. And happy summer!

We had our first cookout a few weeks ago. The older I get, the more I love cooking out. In our circle of friends lately, we've been really into "bring your own meat" cookouts, which make for really easy prep. Plus they make hosting a large crowd a lot more manageable (especially on a grad student budget, which most of us are on).

My menu was extremely easy (and quick) to prepare, and everything on it keeps well as leftovers. Here's what I did:
     quinoa salad
     big bowl of edamame
     bacon goat cheese bites (and a basket of crackers)
     cheesecake tartlets

Does anyone have any suggestions for refreshing hot-weather alcoholic drinks that are good for pitchers/large batches? For the party I made this white sangria, but it wasn't much of a hit. I let the fruit soak for 24 hours, and it was still pretty bland. Next time I'll opt for some bourbon iced tea or maybe a some kind of gin drink.

These adorable bite-sized cheese balls were my favorite. (And that's saying something, because I love bruschetta probably too much.) They were a huge hit, and I recommend them highly! They're easy to make and look VERY cute, and they're perfect for parties. This recipe stays at the front of my party book.

BACON GOAT CHEESE BITESadapted from this recipe

8 ounces goat cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons dried herbs (I used oregano, basil, and thyme)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
large pinch salt
12 slices bacon, cooked till crispy
1/2 cup walnuts

*This recipe would be easily halved, but this amount disappeared quickly in a crowd.
**You can easily make these 2 - 3 days ahead. Just store in the fridge on parchment paper in an airtight container.

First cook the bacon. I like to bake mine on a foil-lined baking sheet - about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven when bacon is just crisp, and soak up the grease with a paper towel. Let cool.

Combine goat cheese and softened cream cheese and mix well. Stir in herbs, garlic, pepper, and salt. Put the mixture in the fridge.

Once bacon is cool, chop roughly. Place in a blender or food processor with walnuts, and process until minced. Pour into a bowl.

Remove cheese mixture from fridge. Use your hands to roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls - about 3/4-inch wide. Roll balls in bacon mixture so they are well coated. Store in fridge until ready to serve.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Hello, dear reader. Hope you're enjoying the beginning of summer. I'm about to take little trip to visit family in Illinois, and I'm so looking forward to it. Despite the heat and the 95% humidity, I love Illinois in the summer. Probably what I miss most about midwestern summers is summer thunderstorms. After a hot sticky day, there's nothing quite like running outside into heavy rain and thunder, tromping around barefoot and feeling the thunder rumble. And the whole time it's still 80-something degrees, so the wetness is a welcome refreshment.

The forecast calls for storms this week. I can't wait!

The other thing I'm most looking forward to is driving out in the middle of no where (you don't have to go far), in the middle of the night, sitting out by a silent field and watching the stars. Nate and I tried to get that kind of quiet the other night in the bay area (to see the recent anticipated meteor shower, which we didn't see), and we totally struck out. Too close to city lights and noises, and not enough time to go up a mountain just for an evening view.

Of course I'm hoping that those thunderstormy skies clear up enough for me to get a star fix.

Since I'm leaving for more than a week, these last few days have involved a lot of strategic cooking in order to use up all the food we have in our kitchen without having to throw anything out before leaving town. Naturally we had some ripe bananas, so I used them up on my favorite banana bread recipe. I've baked this recipe several times now, learning and tweaking a little bit each time. This time it was so delicious that I decided it was blog-worthy.

I've made this recipe with and without chocolate chips and walnuts, and with both; every combination works well. This time I left them out, since I was feeling more of a classic banana bread taste.

Enjoy any little trips you might be taking in these early weeks of summer!


Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 ripe bananas, smashed (very ripe (read: almost black) = best)
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1- 2 tablespoons bourbon*
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1 3/4 cups dry oats, blended (in a blender or food processor) to powdery consistency
optional 3/4 cup chocolate chips or walnuts

* just for flavor; it mostly bakes out, but if you particularly dislike bourbon, use only 1 tablespoon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a big bowl, mash the bananas. Don't make them too smooth - there should be some small chunks. Stir in the melted coconut oil. Mix in sugar, egg, vanilla, bourbon, baking soda, and salt, and spices. Gradually fold in powdered oats. If using, stir in chocolate chips or nuts last.

Bake in a greased 4x8 inch loaf pan for one hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Hi, dear reader!

I'm generally a very floral, flowy, nature kind of person (and our apartment is just like that), but I'm such a sucker for modern, minimalist design and geometric shapes. I have lots of little modern/geo decor ideas collected in the back of my mind, but I've had no way to realize them since our (small) apartment aesthetic is very vintage/rustic. I haven't figured out a way to incorporate the geometric themes I love with the homey, traditional style of our decor.

I was going to stamp up some pretty vintage looking napkins when I realized this was my chance to sneak in some shapes. Napkins!


It was one of those last-minute craft urges - you know, where you have an idea and you HAVE to make it right this very second? But I don't have any stamps. So I pulled out some potatoes, spent about 20 minutes carving, and voila! (Almost) free stamps for my new geometric napkins!

To make potato stamps:
  1. Cut a potato in half (width-wise). 
  2. Insert a cookie cutter about 3/8" into the potato (white part, not skin part), to cut the shape. 
  3. Use a knife and/or your fingers to remove the extra parts, using the cookie cutter cut as a guide.
I used "soft" fabric paint - Washable. Got it at Michael's - some matte and some metallic. 

While stamping, you may get some extra paint around the edges of your shape (squished out when you pressed down on the stamp). Use a Q-tip to dab the extra paint away and smooth out the line. 

After the napkins dried overnight, I washed them in the washing machine, and they came out perfectly well and very soft (not stiff from the paint). 

Happy crafting!

Monday, February 17, 2014


Hello, dear reader! I hope you've enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend. I had plans to go camping with my husband and some friends, but we ended up staying home because half of us were sick! I was bummed, but it gave me a time to do some little DIY projects around the house.

I've had this stack of old jeans taking up space in my closet for months now, waiting to be patched. And I finally faced the facts: if I haven't patched them by now, it's never going to happen.

So I put them in the donation pile.

And quickly took them back out...


I didn't sew anything. I used iron-on hem tape. 

1. Thrifted curtain sewn on one leg:
The first pair had some holes up high, so I had to add length. I lengthened them with denim from another pair of jeans, added some floral fabric, and then cuffed them. The fabric is from a curtain I thrifted :) Again, it's all done with iron-on hem tape!

2. Cut off, lengthened, and cuffed:

For this pair, I added some denim to make them longer, then cuffed them. I'd already cut up the legs from this pair for rags (whops), so I ended up adding length with denim from another pair of jeans. The hem looks a little funky, but they look cute on and will be great beach shorts!

3. Un-cuff hem (to lengthen), and lace sewn on one leg:
These are the shorts I never wear because they're a little too short. I finally took a seem-ripper to the cuff, unrolled it, and ironed it out. That extra inch makes a big difference! On a spring-cleaning spree, I pulled a out a lace shirt I never wear, cut it up, and sewed a pretty piece of it onto one of the legs. I love these!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Perfect Ranch Cheesy Chex Mix

Hello, dear readers!

Are you a chex mix person? I've always associated it with the holidays, since my mom makes huge batches of baked garlic chex mix at Christmastime. It sits around in bowls which somehow refill themselves and makes the most perfectly cozy vacation snack.

Plus, chex mix makes a great gift. And not just during holiday time!

After filling up on the baked garlic stuff this holiday season, my mom and I had an urge to get some ranch action in for a next batch. I combed through many recipes for cheesy ranch chex mix, read many reviews, and created this one. I love it. Hope you enjoy it!

Perfect Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

makes 11 cups

2 cups goldfish crackers (cheddar)
2 cups cheese-its (cheddar - parmesan duo)
2 cups oyster crackers
1 cup small pretzels (I like the square, lattice/grid shape the best)
2 cups corn chex
2 cups rice chex

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 pkg. (1 oz.) Ranch dip or dressing mix (I've used both - either is fine!)

Combine crackers, pretzels, and cereal in a large bowl. Pour about half of the melted butter over the mixture, then sprinkle about half of the Ranch mix. Stir to coat. Repeat with remaining butter and Ranch mix. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes a great gift or party snack!