Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mini Meatloaf Bites

Remember that potluck dinner I went to on Saturday?  Cooking for potlucks is always tricky because whatever you bring has to be portable as well as easy to re-heat if necessary.

In walk your new best friend - Meatloaf bites!
MIni Meatloaf Cupcakes

I'm sure you've seen meatloaf cupcakes/muffins on the internet somewhere.  By shrinking the size and piping mashed potatoes on top, you turn this main course into a cute appetizer.  Sometimes I add small pieces of bacon on top as a garnish.

The meatloaf recipe I use is my grandmother's, it's super easy and makes a very traditional meatloaf.  You will also need a mini-muffin pan (or two, to speed up the process) and a frosting piping bag with a star tip.

Mini Meatloaf Bites
yield: 36 bites, which equates to one whole meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef/turkey/pork
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs (or 3/4 cup oatmeal)
1 cup milk
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 package instant mashed potatoes (Yes, instant.  If you're going to be piping the potatoes on top, instant is much easier to work with)

Pre-heat your oven to 350.

The first step is always to gather all of your ingredients.  That way, you notice before you get halfway through the recipe if you're missing something.  At the gathering stage, I realized I didn't actually have an onion, so I substituted a 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder instead.

In a large bowl, soak the breadcrumbs in milk until they have visibly absorbed the milk - ~2 minutes.  Bread crumbs should look like this:

Add the meat, eggs, onion, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, sage, and dry mustard.  Mix well.  The best method for mixing is by using your hands.

Spoon out a generous portion into the mini muffin pans.  Meat shrinks when you cook it, so fill up each section all the way (and even over the top a bit).  I always smooth out the tops so they come out of the oven prettier.

Bake for 15-17 minutes.  After 10 minutes of cooking, spoon or squirt about a teaspoon of ketchup onto the top of each bite and then return to the oven.  You could alternately use barbecue sauce if you prefer.

This is what the bites should look like when they're done.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan.  While they're cooling, make the instant mashed potatoes as directed on the box.  Let the mashed potatoes cool for 10-15 minutes.  If you're impatient you can start piping right away, but risk burning your hands.

Put the mashed potatoes into the frosting piping bag, and add it to the tops of the bites.  I like to do so while they're already in the container I'm planning on transporting them in.  To make sure they don't rattle around in transport, pack them into the container really tightly.

I pipe the mashed potatoes kind of high on top of the bites.  If you have them on hand, bacon pieces or chopped chives make a nice garnish.

And you're done!  These are a very easy and fun appetizer that's sure to please.  If you need to re-heat these, just stick the whole container in the microwave for 2 minutes.

MIni Meatloaf Cupcakes

Sunday, July 29, 2012

5 Tips for Curling Stubbornly Straight Hair

Last night was my brother's fiancee's birthday party.  We started off with a potluck dinner at their apartment, and then headed over to Waba for a little Korean karaoke.  Have you ever tried Korean-style karaoke?  It's one of our favorite group activities.  Instead of singing in front of an entire room or bar, you rent a private room just for your friends.  By the end of the night, everyone ends up singing and dancing on top of the tables.  We love it so much, we're going back in a month for my little sister's bachelorette party.  Yes, both of my siblings are currently engaged.  No pressure, boyfriend!

I thought I came up with a pretty cute gift idea: a gin and tonic kit (or as we call it in my family, a G&T Station).  Gin, tonic, limes, and a mini cutting board.  I wanted to add a little knife too, but it turns out they don't sell just one knife by itself anywhere.

Jeff always complains if I don't sign his name ;)

So anyway, the hair!  I thought since I was just watching the Olympics all afternoon anyway, I might as well curl my hair while doing it.  I've recently discovered how to get my stick-straight hair to cooperate and stay curled all night.  

1. Prep!
Getting your hair to curl starts in the shower.  The trick is to make sure you aren't over-conditioning.  Using too much conditioner will weigh down your hair and take away your curls' staying power.  Make sure you are only putting conditioner on your ends.  

Before I start curling, I let my hair dry naturally for 20-30 minutes and then blow dry it.  I use Redken Guts 10 Foam, pulling up my hair in sections and spraying directly at my roots.  I also use a volume spray, and then blow dry upside down.  I add a little hairspray after I finish blow-drying, which adds a nice base of product to my hair to help it hold the curls.

2. Use the right tools 

I recently invested in a Hot Tools 1" curling iron.  I had been resisting the idea of buying a more expensive curling iron for a while because I couldn't see how the "professional" curling iron would do better than my old one.  It has made a huge difference!  The new iron gets so much hotter, which helps set in curls and makes it take much less time.  It also is much so much easier to use.  

3. Curl
Before curling each section of hair, spray the section with a thermal hair spray (I love Kendra Thermal Styling Spray 19) and comb through with a fine-tooth comb before curling.  When curling, focus on the top of the section first before pulling the bottom of your hair into the curling iron.  

4. Set
This is the most important step for getting stubbornly-straight hair to set.  As I pull each section out of the curling iron, I immediately pin the curl up using a duck-bill clip.  Once my whole head is curled and clipped, I let it set for at least 20 minutes to let it cool completely and give the curls staying-power.  For good measure, I usually add a couple sprays of hairspray while it's up there.

(pre-makeup, that's what those 20 minutes of setting time are for!)

5.  Finishing
The final step is to let down all of the curls, run your fingers through your hair, and add another layer of hairspray.  And voila!  Curls that last all night.

Seriously, I looked at my hair when I got home at 2am (ahem) and it still looked great!  Even after hours of singing, dancing, and sweating, those curls held up.

Let me know if any of these tips work on your hair!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Obsession: Leopard Print Scarves

I've been looking for the perfect leopard print accessory lately.  The print itself can be overwhelming and tacky in large portions, but when incorporated in small pops in an outfit, in the right print and texture, it can add a nice sophisticated touch.  My sister has an adorable leopard scarf from Old Navy that I've been lusting after for months, but despite the fact that we no longer live together, I still feel like a copy-cat buying something she already has.  

via Pinterest
via Pinterest

DIY: Pencil Skirt

So I've been using sewing machines since I got tall enough to reach the petal on my mom's machine, but I've realized recently that I really don't know that much about sewing.  Sure, a hem I can do, but when I try to work from a pattern I get completely lost.  Luckily, the Internet is full of easy tutorials.

Inspiration for today: Merrick's Art

When she posted a tutorial for "The Easiest Pencil Skirt You'll Ever Make," I thought, "The easiest?  Really??"  

It turns out she was telling the truth.  I had a little trouble because I think the thread I purchased was a little too delicate, but I think it turned out pretty well - I might even wear this creation in public!  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Accidental Shopping Spree

So I might have a teensy bit of a shopping addiction.  Over the past 24 hours I have added two skirts, a top, a bracelet, a dress, and a fantastic bag to my wardrobe.  Maybe I should hide my credit cards from myself...

Michael Kors Clutch

I've been looking for a colorful clutch to wear with a black dress to a wedding later this summer, and today this little baby was waiting for me in TJ Maxx.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it's Michael Kors, which set me back a little more than I wanted... It's gorgeous though so I think the pros outweigh the cons.

I also got this fantastic bracelet in the mail from Banana Republic.  It was on clearance, I only bought it because I needed to hit a certain dollar amount to get a huge discount.  I think I made an excellent choice, it may be my new favorite piece of jewelry.  It's still available online here.  

I got it in the mail at work today - it matched my outfit so I threw it right on.

I always feel a little prissy carrying my bag around like that ;) 

Scarf - I've had it so long, I honestly don't remember.  It might have been Alloy or FredFlare.com
T-Shirt - Gap
Skirt - Loft (a purchase from yesterday afternoon)
Bag - Express
Sandals - Payless (see here)

Have you made any awesome purchases lately?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


In Forever 21 yesterday, I found this:

What's with the armpit?  I found this on a couple of shirts at Loft too.  The ends of the sleeves fit.  The body fits.  The neckline isn't big enough for it to be off the shoulder.  Why are the armpits so big?  Do they want me to look like a bat? 


Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

Friends - One to three is sufficient

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I think, after living in this apartment for two and a half years, I've finally finished the "office" section of my bedroom.  I say office in the loosest sense of the word of course, because I usually just use the space for hair and makeup.  And sometimes eating.

The vanity is one of my favorite things that I own.  I got it from an estate sale - it was in one of those houses where the woman would have been considered a hoarder except she filled rooms with really nice antiques instead of old newspapers.  I found this in a closet that had literally been turned into a giant vanity table, surrounded by other vanity mirrors.  

The idea for this organization strategy came from Pinterest - here and here.  The heart box was a gift from my aunt, she gave it to me back when I was 12 and was not yet able to appreciate it.  Everything else is supposed to be a candle holder or is an apothecary jar - all from Michael's.  And yes, that's a picture of me and my college roommate Beth air-high-fiving in our caps and gowns.  

This was just added last weekend.  This was a set of two simple shelves from Michael's - on sale for $8!  Luckily my daddy taught me well, so I was already in possession of tools and enough know-how to install them myself.

I think I originally envisioned this as being a part of a shelf, but then realized I don't actually have a workshop to build things in.  While my bedroom can be easily transformed for crafts, sewing, or painting, woodwork seems a little different.  These hooks came from Michael's as well, I think they were a dollar each.  It's great having my jewelry on display because I'm more likely to remember what I have and then wear it.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Date Night

Last night my boyfriend Jeff and I checked out Tapas Gitana - Yum!  It took a reaaaaally long time for the food to come out though, so we accidentally drank quite a bit of sangria...
Shirt and Necklace - New York and Company (2011)
Shorts - Gap (here)
Shoes - Hive and Honey (here)
Watch - Breda (similar here)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


So the wedding we went to last weekend was fantastic, partially because it was a beautiful ceremony (the bride, groom, and several members of the bridal party cried), partially because all weddings are good, and mostly because it was at a hotel on the McDonald's campus in Oak Brook, which is really beautiful but also odd.

 The hotel itself was very prairie style and had amazing views - unfortunately it was raining on and off throughout the day so the ceremony itself was moved inside. Everything was also subtly-themed McDonald's which I found amusing - M's on the door handles, all of the artwork had a McDonald's sign in it somewhere.

Me and the boyfriend :) 

Who doesn't love a good dressed-up strawberry?

Best part of the night?  At 11pm they came out with a late-night snack...

Yes, please!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Loft, why must you torture me so?!

So Ann Taylor Loft came out with a super cute bright orange pleated skirt this week, and teased me with it in their emails and by putting one in the store window.  I went to try it on today, and they're already out of the orange.  No matter, I thought, I'll just buy it online.  Not even listed on the site!  Come on Loft, stop teasing me!!

Berry Blue

Monday, July 16, 2012

Look what I got...

Yep... it took me less than a week to cave and buy a denim shirt.  Working in the Loop is dangerous!

Shirt - Old Navy
Shorts - Target (2006)
Shoes - Target (2010)
Necklace and watch - New York & Company

I get so many compliments on this watch - people think it's expensive, but really it's held together with elastic so it breaks every six months or so.  I know I could buy something more expensive that could last me longer, but I keep buying it over and over again instead.

Antique Oval Stretch Watch

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Glitter Gradient Nails

Tonight I'm going to a wedding of two people I don't know.  In case you don't know me, I. LOVE. Weddings.  Doesn't matter who's getting married, doesn't matter where it is or what food they're serving.  I love them all.  If I had a little more nerve, I would have totally hung out with Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.

In honor of the occasion, I thought I'd try painting my nails with a glitter gradient, something I've seen floating all over Pinterest.

Their way:
Oooh, Shinies! 
via Pinterest

My way:
It turns out this look is really easy.  I used Essie Lady Like as the base color and then Milani Disco Lights for the glitter.  To make sure they would look good layered together, I first painted them both onto a sheet of paper (I also then held the paper up to my dress to make sure everything would match).  I keep reading about sponging, but frankly, I didn't have any sponges and Walgreens is a whole two blocks away, so I painted on the gradient instead.  

First I did base coat (again, Essie, which is my favorite) and then two coats of Lady Like.  I let this dry for about 10 minutes, and then started the gradient.  I took the Disco Lights and wiped the brush so there was very little polish on it, and painted starting about three quarters of the way down the nail.  Then I went back with more polish on the brush and did another coat from about halfway down the nail.  Then I painted just the tips again to really cover that section, and finished with Essie top coat.  You can see in the picture that I got a little bit of glitter on my skin on my ring finger, after washing my hands once or twice that went away.  

This look overall took about 20 minutes (or one rerun of The Hills) to finish.  Now I just need to do some hair and makeup and I'll be ready to go!  Alternately, I could continue laying in bed and watch another episode or two of Lauren and Heidi fighting...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Obsession: Denim Button-Up

I really want a denim shirt - they manage to look casual but sophisticated at the same time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Today I forgot my keys at work, and subsequently spent two hours going from the Loop to Lakeview to the Loop to Lakeview... but at least I looked cute doing it!

Dress and Necklace - H&M
Belt - Old Navy
Shoes - Payless (see yesterday)

Shoe Addiction

Yesterday I received three pairs of sandals in the mail.  Do I have a problem?  Probably.

From left:
Bamboo Sherin-02
Payless - Universe Embellished Sandal
Payless - Shine Studded Sandal

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Often as I wander through the Internets, I find myself thinking, "Will that work in real life??"

I mean, blogs and Pinterest are full of pretty photos of perfect food, crafts, clothes, hair...  But in real life, nothing is perfect.  So I thought, hey!  People keep telling me to start a blog.  So here we go.

Today for dinner, I tried out Crispy Gnocchi Pesto (via 1 Cup Awesome)

I've been basically obsessed with gnocchi since my boyfriend (accidentally) took me to Spiaggia for my birthday this year.  If you have, you know, two or three hundred dollars to spare, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  If you aren't making it rain all over Chicago, at least stop in for a plate of the gnocchi.  Literally one of the best things I've ever tasted.

Anyway, back to the Crispy Gnocchi.

Their way:

My way:

Okay, so this isn't my first attempt - shhhh, don't tell!  The first time I tried it, the gnocchi was overcooked on the outside, but still uncooked inside.  Thanks to my cheap & tacky apartment, my stove  tends to be waaaay too hot, so the gnocchi *appeared* to be done after the 4-6 minutes the recipe suggested.  On the second try, I cooked it on a much lower temperature, which took longer but got the job done.  

I also cooked using grapefruit seed oil instead of olive oil (my new favorite!) and added a salmon burger paddy from Trader Joe's.  Yum!