Saturday, February 28, 2015

Guest Post: Five Paws Up

Here is my first Saturday takeover guest post! Introducing, the one, the only, Starla!

Hi, I'm Starla! My mom is crazy about me and this whole "blogging thing" so I thought I would help her out by making a quick celebrity appearance. I noticed my mom was conspiring with on her email one day. Apparently they had offered mom an opportunity to join their pet blogger program. Cool, whatever. Then she told me that I could get to try some nice new products. OKAY I'M DOWN, CHOOSE ME, PICK ME! Ahem, I mean, I'm great at trying out products and reviewing them.

Anyways, I don't know about you, but I love LOVE LOVE peanut butter. I really can't trust you if you don't like peanut butter. I totally lucked out when they sent me some peanut butter SmartChips.

Alanna & Company: Smartchips for Pet Dental Health Month
I like crunchy bags. 

Alanna & Company: Smartchips for Pet Dental Health Month
Curious looking thing...

Alanna & Company: Smartchips for Pet Dental Health Month

Alanna & Company: Smartchips for Pet Dental Health Month
Behaving badly worked. She gave me that yummy thing.

So delicious. I gobbled it right up. Mom laughed when she told me it was half made of vegetables (yuck) and also that it was for dental health. I don't know why she thinks everything needs to be healthy.

Overall, I give it five paws up. I think I like this guy, he also sends me my food each month in a big box that I like to jump in and roll around. 

Alanna & Company: Smartchips for Pet Dental Health Month

Anyways, I gotta get back to patrolling the premises. Mom is at some silly wine tasting today and she doesn't realize how many squirrels have tried to attack the place today. What would she do without me?

Disclosure: I received this product from in exchange for my honest and open review. All options are my own.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Spotify Hacks + What's on my playlist now?

I apologize for such a short list this month! I've actually been trying to listen to audiobooks when I drive so I haven't been picking up on new music from the radio as much as before. I also have really been jamming out to the "Hanging Out and Relaxing" Spotify playlist which doesn't really have any brand-new music for me to share. But here it is anyways! 
  1. Earned it by The Weeknd. It took me so long to realize that he actually misspelled his name on purpose. Also this is from Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, so another thumbs up to this song.
  2. Elastic Heart by Sia.
  3. Unapologetic Bitch by Madonna. Madonna will never get old. She is great!
  4. Truffle Butter by Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne. I don't think you want to know what kind of truffle butter she's talking about....or do you?
  5. Ice Princess by Azealia Banks. I really don't like her, especially for how she has hated on Iggy but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. 
  6. Planes by Jeremih and J. Cole. Such a sexy song! J. Cole always does it for me. 
  7. Movement and Location by Punch Brothers. I guess this is kind of country-ish and I typically don't like country. The main singer's voice just gets me and kind of reminds me of a more bluegrassy version of MuteMath which is my FAVORITE BAND EVER. Punch Brothers are actually playing at a small music club called the 930 Club that's near me, but of course when I found that out, they were already sold out. 

Lastly, here is a Spotify hack that I didn't even realize I was doing until I downloaded the desktop app. So I usually listen to spotify on the web app on my chrome browser. I also have the app Ad Block Plus for Chrome, which sucks for browsing blogs because sponsors, passionfruit, etc. won't show up BUT is great for Spotify! If you have Ad Block Plus activated while listening to Spotify on your browser, it will entirely skip the ads and commercials, thus leaving you with only music tracks! Yay for hacks. 

Do you guys have any new music suggestions I should be listening to?

Linking up with Karli and Amanda.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Introduction to Baking: Cherry Pie By Scratch

Alanna & Company: Cherry Pie by Scratch Recipe

So I'm not the best cook and I'm not the best baker, but every once in awhile I try my hand at either. I am a big proponent for easy, simple recipes. So when I decided to make a pie the other day I thought, I will find a recipe with the least ingredients possible. And I did! I found the Artful Parent's cherry pie recipe and it seemed pretty simple enough and with a title of "The Best Cherry Pie Recipe" I decided that this recipe was a winner.

I thought, "I can just get the frozen roll-out pie crust dough, and all I'll need to get is the filling ingredients". So off I went to my grocery store to get all the ingredients.

Alas, I searched and searched and there were no canned cherries. No big deal, I'll just get frozen cherries. Decided I didn't need the almond extract, when the hell was I going to use that again? I found the rest of the ingredients, except frozen pie crust dough. Ehhhh, no big deal, I'll just find a Pinterest recipe of how to make pie crusts. So I found this recipe of how to make pie crusts with the least ingredients possible.

Alanna & Company: Cherry Pie by Scratch Recipe

So let's start with the pie crust.

Homemade Pie Crust Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup, All Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup, Shortening or Unsalted Butter
  • ½ tsp, Salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp, cold water
  • Flour for dusting surface to roll out dough

My perfectly rolled pie crust! I was so proud. 

Homemade Pie Crust Directions

  1. In a medium bowl blend together flour, salt, and shortening/butter with a pastry blender or fork. You want the flour mixture to be pea-sized crumbles.
  2. Slowly add cold water by teaspoons. Then mix by hand.
  3. When dough starts to form a smooth ball, put on floured surface. 
  4. Roll out and place in pie plate. Leave half of the dough for the top crust, you can just leave in the bowl and put that in the refrigerator for now.

Cherry Pie Filling Ingredients

  • Two bags of frozen pitted sweet cherries. 
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (not necessary)

Alanna & Company: Cherry Pie by Scratch Recipe
Once you cook down, the cherry mixture will end up semi-gelatinous.

Pie Filling Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Make the pie filling by mixing the two bags of frozen cherries with sugar, cornstarch, salt, and almond extract in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add a little bit of water (probably about a half a cup) to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the liquid is thick and bubbly (partially jelled). Set aside to cool. 
  3. Sprinkle the counter with flour and roll out the bottom pie crust. Arrange in pie pan. Pour your cooled pie filling in the pan.
  4. Roll out the top crust. Use a sharp knife to cut the top crust into strips for a lattice crust or use a cookie cutter to make other designs. 
  5. Either drape your top crust over the pie, if you used a cookie cutter design, or weave your traditional lattice crust.
  6. Trim the edges of the top and bottom crust to 1/2 – 1 inch beyond the pie pan and then fold under. Either press around the perimeter with the tines of a fork or crimp it with your fingers.
  7. If desired, brush the crust with a beaten egg white. And really beat the egg, otherwise it will pool at the sides of the pie crust and make it look kind of funny once baked like mine does...
  8. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place on a lower rack (to catch any potential drips) and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F then lower the oven temperature to 375 F. Bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust looks nicely browned and the juices bubble up thickly.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool for approximately 3 hours before eating. This is important to let the filling gel correctly.
  10. Enjoy!

  11. Even after the multitude of failures, it actually turned out really good! So learn from my mistakes and make a great goddamn cherry pie!

    Have you ever baked something entirely from scratch? Or have you struggled with pie crusts like me? Please tell me I'm not alone....

    Linking up with Ash.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why I'm a Bad Blogger

Yay for Wednesdays. Yay for confessions! Today I have to confess...I'm a bad blogger. And here are the reasons why:

I confess I'm a bad blogger because....I suck at make-up. I suck at make-up tutorials. And by make-up tutorials, I mean following the instructions of others. If you expect me to make any how-to post anytime soon, expect a post that is what not to do.

I confess I'm a bad blogger because...I still can't justify spending all my extra cash on this damn blog. I have splurged on some sponsorships (Hey Ash & Stephanie!) but paying for hosting my blog is just not on my radar. I have figured out how to work PicMonkey like a pro (no photoshop for me!), and lastly my iPhone takes damn good photos. Sorry not sorry.

I confess I'm a bad blogger because...I'm not a Mormon, I'm not engaged/married, and I'm not a mommy! Also, I still haven't figured out why there are so many Mormons who blog! Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating, I'm just still curious why there's such a huge majority...

I confess I'm a bad blogger because...I don't like running or yoga and have never tried Barre.

I confess I'm a bad blogger because...I'm not good at taking selfies or OOTDs. I also still get self-conscious about taking photos in public.

I confess I'm a bad blogger because...I don't particularly like to do DIY projects. I always say I will....but I never do.

I confess I'm a bad blogger boyfriend and I don't have the most romantic "how we met" love story. It was more like, I was drunk at a fraternity party and he offered me a refill of jungle juice.

Oh well, screw stereotypes! Also I love my followers who like my bad blogging, you guys make every week better! Happy Humpday!

Making Melissa

The Blonder Side of Life

Monday, February 23, 2015

Where To Brunch in DC

Happy Monday! Who watched the Oscars last night? I was able to break my usual grandma routine and stay up through most of them. I'm so glad I was able to watch Birdman early Sunday before the Oscars since it won so many awards last night. I was also happy that the Grand Budapest Hotel took home many well-deserved awards. Even though Boyhood wasn't my favorite movie, I thought that the movie would have won more... Were you surprised with any of the results?

Today, I bring you: the best brunches of the D.C. metro area!

Like any twenty-something, I'm practically obsessed with brunching (yes, it's a verb) and mimosas. I can drink them all day (but I won't, don't worry). Not sure how important brunches are in other cities but around this area, it's the thing to do. So if you're ever in the DC metro area here are some of my favorite places on Sunday morning.

Birthday brunches. Couldn't even stop eating for the picture.

Best Party Brunch: As a preface, Virginia doesn't allow any "unlimited" drink specials. It's sad. But luckily D.C. does! The best party brunch I like to go to is Mad Hatter. I've been there for a handful of birthdays and they also have a nice private room that you can have for large parties. It's a whopping $10 for unlimited mimosas and their food is your typical brunch options with options like eggs benedict, french toast, breakfast burrito, etc. Also, they have that crazy drink pictured below! It's a Mad Hat!

Unattractive, I know. But you had to see that drink!
Best Farm to Table Brunch: Copperwood Tavern. All their food is farm to table and they make all their condiments in-house (downfall: their ketchup is kind of weird...) They have a good selection of drinks and I would highly suggest their spicy bloody mary. You can get great food from simple steel-cut oatmeal to a fancy quiche lorraine. A nice perk for your friends who don't like brunch food as much as we do, they can order from the regular menu.

Best Buffet Brunch: Whitlow's on Wilson. If you are hungry, go here. You will have food options for days. Buzzfeed actually rated this the best bar in Virginia. It's $18 for all you can eat. Their buffet food goes on for days where you can select anything from Cheesecakes, Scrambled eggs to...wait for it.....king crab legs! A secondary perk is their bloody mary bar for the pick bloody mary drinkers in your life. Pro tip: Their brunch starts at 9 a.m. but they don't put out all the food until 11 a.m!

On that note...Best Seafood Brunch: If you've never ventured into Old Town Alexandria, you're truly missing out. It's super quaint and walkable all on King St. There's tons of great restaurants but I really like Virtue Feed & Grain. They have an amazing ambiance. Their hush puppies are mouth-watering and have a great seafood soup. My favorite is their Chesapeake benedict which is an eggs benedict with Maryland Crab cakes. 

Best Patio Brunch: Can you tell that I'm ready for Spring & Summer yet? Lavagna in DC has a great little patio to eat their amazing food on. You have the option of mimosas bottomless or not (always a plus!), bellinis, plain prosecco, bloody marys, and tequila bloodies. My favorite food to eat is the pancakes with nutella!

Best Dim Sum: A lot of people opt to go to Ping Pong, which is great. I've been there but if you want true authentic Dim Sum, check out China Garden. I've been going there with my parents since we moved from Toronto. It is your most authentic dim sum food (seriously! Chinese tourists come here in bus loads). If you've never heard of or tried Dim Sum, check out this article here. Also it was just the Chinese New Year! Go be cultural. 

Love all you loyal readers. I hope you like brunch as much as I do and if you're in the area, I'm always up to trying new places! Give me some suggestions.

Joining the Let it Shine Blog Hop and Mingle Monday.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Dream Home

Everyone loves to dream about their dreams. Recently I've been thinking about what my dream home would be like. Currently my boyfriend and I live in a really nice condo, albeit really cramped condo! Of course, we probably should have done a bit of research about the storage lockers in tour condo building before we moved in to find out that they were all sold out! You would be surprised how many weird places you can store your luggage in a 900 sq. ft. condo. So back to my dream home, here are the things I would absolutely need.

A grand entrance.
A fireplace. 
A giant back yard that doesn't face any other houses. Any body of water would be awesome too, but I don't think necessary.
A library. I've probably watched Beauty and the Beast a couple times too many.

I would also need this pillow for my library.


and lastly lots of parking! I'm over this parallel parking thing. Go big or go home, right? 


What are your must-haves for your dream house? What are your favorites about your current home?

P.S. I'm going to an Urban Cowboy party tomorrow and have no clue what to wear. Has anyone been to one, what should I wear?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blogging Editorial Calendar: What I Use

So there's tons of posts out there that really expound on why editorial calendars are useful. I actually just started scheduling posts the middle of last month and so far it's been great. I've had my posts scheduled about two weeks out and it's been really great to have some consistent content. 

I started out by using Google calendar. It's an easy way that I can sync my calendar across all my electronics (laptop, phone, tablet) and it has a great month at a view glance. I'm sure many people use this way. It's also easy to drag and drop if I need to reschedule a post. 

I also recently purchased a May Designs planner from Bronte Designs and that has been my new favorite tool for blog posting. There's just something about having a tactile object that I can have in front of me. It's small enough that I can fit it in my purse and carry it around and it's super cute. It's also Oprah's favorite planner. It's super easy to write in, has sections for Things to Do, Errands to Run, and Oh! Don't Forget! Here's a quick preview of my planner a couple weeks ago. 

Now my next task is to really start organizing. As any lifestyle blogger, you know that you post about a lot of different things. Its been really nice to be able to track my categories that I post about and I can work on keeping different types of posts on the same days each week. For example, I try to have a recipe, DIY, or any pinnable post on Mondays. 

Lastly, there is something to be said about spontaneity and flexibility. For example, if a cute link-up comes up, or something in pop culture occurs, it's always nice to be able to break the routine and talk about something new. 

I really love scheduling my posts and planning everything out ahead of time. Do you schedule your posts or use an editorial calendar? How far in advance do you plan ahead?

Linking up with Kels.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How I'm Trying to Save $$ This Year

Alanna & Company: Saving Money Tips and Tricks

I have always been a saver. I remember getting money from my Bat Mitzvah at thirteen years old and thinking, "This will be a great emergency fund!" Yeah, well that emergency fund ran out real quick when I hit college. My second emergency fund that I started when I was still living on my parent's dime ran out last year. Boo, for living in nice condos, owning a dog (By the way, how do homeless people always own dogs? Maybe the dogs make them go broke and then they become homeless? Thoughts for another day), and loving designer purses & wallets.

  1. Only buying Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts if I have a gift certificate or my company is paying for it. I actually read somewhere on her blog that Alyssa from Life of Blyss was doing this and I thought that was a great idea! I wonder how many $4 Chai Tea Lattes have added up in the past years.

  2. I will be taking out my credit cards from my wallet after work trips. I've been usually good about paying off my credit cards, but I also like to spoil myself. Last year was the start of not paying off my credit cards in full each month and it makes me want to cry a little bit. So after this work trip, that's it. I'm taking my credit cards out of my wallet. If I don't have the money in my debit account then that money is not getting spent.

  3. I will pack my lunch! Repeat, after me, I will pack my lunch and not go out to eat if I have lunch already. I know I'll cheat, so I've told myself I'll only go out to lunch once a week. After all the money I spend on groceries and all the times I take home leftovers, this should be a simple feat to accomplish.

  4. Stop partying and drinking so goddamn much! "Let's go out and have one or two drinks!" easily turns into "Give us a round of shots!" My boyfriend and I have pledged to each other not to drink as much and to monitor our going-out spending more. This should be a big savings!

  5. It is a great budgeting tool if you use it. So I'm trying to follow all my budgets accurately and use "rollover". Rollover is basically if I go over one budget for that month, then it will roll over into the next month. It is a free app for desktop and mobile and made by Intuit!

  6. Lastly, telling all my friends about it. I know this sounds silly and/or annoying, but they can hold me accountable, even if I don't ask for it. I've made a blatant point about telling my work friends about #1, so they know not to tempt me by asking me to go to Starbucks with them!

So hopefully all my techniques will work, I'll try to follow up with this post next month and let you know how I've done! Do you have any money saving tricks you are trying to use this year?

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Favorite Dog Products

If you don't know, I have a 3 and a half year old Cattle Dog named Starla. She is the apple of my eye, she can do no wrong is a little devil, she is extremely smart (just like her momma), she's beautiful, and she's totally spoiled!

I got Barkbox immediately after adopting her in May 2014. That way I stockpiled tons of toys, figured out which treats she likes (all of them) and doesn't like (ha...yeah right), and it was always fun each month for her to open up her Barkbox. Of course, I went to Petco and went almost broke because of all the other things I needed wanted to buy for her.

So here are my absolute favorite dog products so far!

1. Tretball Football from Barkbox! This is one of her favorite toys. You can pull it apart and stuff treats into it. It really makes Starla work hard for her treat, and keeps her going because it has holes so she can smell the treat. Here's her trying to pull it apart to get one little treat! It takes her at least 10-15 minutes to get the treats out depending on how big the treat is.

2. Nature's Miracle Deodorizing Bath Wipes. These are great for days that she needs a bit of freshening up but not a full bath, or for days that I should probably wait to bathe her for a few days because it'll be rainy for days. They smell good without being overpowering, they are alcohol-free, and have conditioners to keep her skin and coat looking healthy and shiny.

3. Whimzees Dental Chews. These are great for heavy chewers. They are a lot harder to chew on than Dentastix or Greenies which is good for Starla because she'll chew through those in a minute. They come in toothbrush shapes and hedgehog, and alligator shapes and are sized for your dogs weight. She goes crazy for these.

4. Loving Pets Gobble Stopper Slow Feeder. So Starla will inhale her food if she has the chance. Probably something about being a rescue and living with many other dogs. She definitely needs any type of slow feeder because she gets indigestion and it's not safe when she eats that fast. I started by putting a tennis ball into the bowl, but she would just pick it up and throw it out. This is good because it suction-cups into her bowl and is immovable! There are always slow-feeder bowls, but they're just not as cute as my ceramic bowls.

5. If It Barks Customizable Martingale Collar. If you don't know what a martingale collar is you can read about it here. I'm slighty overprotective and worry a lot so it makes me feel safer that it is a collar that's very hard to slip out of. If It Barks also offers tons of super cute pre-made designs but are also 100% customizable. In addition, their customer service is amazing!

Do you have any favorite dog products? I will also give a coupon code to one person for 20% off your first order on If It Barks if you enter the giveaway below! ;)