I Love Lamp

I love lamp, just as much as I love Anchorman, Steve Carrell, and his character, Brick.  If you don’t love Anchorman, then shame on you.  But I really, really love this copper Scoop Table Lamp I bought at West Elm.

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The lamp was $69 + tax, although I can’t find it shopping online so it may only be in stores.  The shop I went to had the same lamp in silver, too.  For my room, I like the look of mixing different metallics.  The tissue box cover is something I bought at an estate sale for a dollar recently, and the green sand hourglass was about $9.99 at TJ Maxx, I think.  Here’s what the set up looks like on my little, black desk with the lamp turned on, and the three animal mounts are from Home Goods:

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Walking into West Elm made me feel like I wanted to give up all my possessions and move into the store permanently, everything was gorgeous and awesome, very chic.  There were these big fluffy pillows, and the pillow inserts were only $25.99, but the lamb’s fur pillow cases were around $160.00 each.  I wanted two of them, but instead I limited myself to a few valuable purchases.  The lamp was something I needed, the Lucite skull was too cool to pass up on, and the soft purple and cream throw blanket was so enticing on a cold day like today.  Next on my “to buy” list are these amazing wine bottle toppers, in the spirit of my metallic theme:

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I’m dying to get these so I can display and serve wine with these gems. These Geo Bottle Stoppers cost $49, I decided to wait until a day I feel like treating myself.  Aren’t they fun?  I now know I can find anything and everything home related at West Elm and it will be fun and stylish, too.  I came across lots of things that would make perfect gifts for birthdays and special occasions.  The throw blanket I bought was on sale for $24.99 marked down from $60, and the skull was $19.00.  If you’ve never been to West Elm and you like to shop or decorate spaces, check it out.

Happy shopping,

Chelsea

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How To Be Happy

I’m no expert, and I know that, but I’ve found that certain things make me feel so much lighter and happier every day while I’m going through my routine, so I thought it might help to share them.

During yoga one morning, my instructor told us to lift the corners of our mouths into a smile and to find a peaceful happiness in our practice, and she said that yoga isn’t about straining or forcing your body into results.  My face was clenched and we were twisting in a pose, so when I started to smile, I relaxed completely and I was able to enjoy the moment.  Now, whenever I’m feeling tense at work, or any time I get stressed, I remind myself to smile.  The act of smiling changes my attitude and my demeanor so positively that I think it’s one of the best ways to turn a bad day around.  Yoga is also one of the best ways.  It teaches you to let things go and live in the present.  Breathing deeply and being attentive to your body and mind is the best care for yourself.  I think it also helps you focus on what is important by clearing your mind of all your daily troubles.

People post yoga videos on Youtube and people without a gym membership, like me, can watch them for free and follow the videos in their own homes.  I stumbled upon an awesome Youtube yoga video by a girl named Adriene, and she shared something insightful that I think about all the time.  The pose is lying on your back with your knees in towards your armpits, holding on to your feet in “happy baby” pose.  She told us to roll forward and backward, and she laughed and said this part of the practice reminds her to have a sense of humor in life because it makes you look and feel like a ridiculous child.  I’ve ruminated over it many times when something small happens during the day that I would have normally overlooked, but instead I laugh out loud and enjoy it.  I think about it again later and laugh again at some of the small, funny things that happen, but usually get passed by.  Instead of getting frustrated at people’s quirkiness or stressed about little problems, I feel entertained and much more pleasant.  Finding humor in little things is freeing.  Like getting stuck walking home in the rain, or noticing someone furiously picking their nose on the train.  Just laugh and think, “Isn’t life interesting, and aren’t I so lucky to have a front row seat?” Be lighthearted and be compassionate towards others and you’ll be happy with yourself, or at least that’s what I’m discovering.

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Finding happiness and working towards inner peace together,

Chelsea

Easy Pasta Bites

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Pasta Bites

This recipe makes for a quick, easy, and delicious appetizer, snack, or dinner.  It starts with buying a box of Trader Joe’s Arancini Bites from the freezer section of Trader Joe’s and picking up your favorite pasta sauce, my choice is Prego because it also functions as a pizza sauce.  Arancini are an Italian snack made by rolling balls of cheese and Arborio rice in breadcrumbs, and then they are served with marinara sauce and some parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking pan with aluminum foil 

Serving size is 2 bites, and the box comes with 12 pasta bites – 120 calories/serving 

Bake for 12-16 minutes, serve with 1/2 cup of pasta sauce per serving, a pinch of parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of garlic salt. 

Happy snacking,

Chelsea

My dinner:

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It’s OK to Be a Cookie Monster

It’s OK to be a Cookie Monster

Trust me, we all deserve it from time to time.  But it’s especially OK with these Chocolate Chip Cookie Chips because they’re not all that bad for you.  They are perfectly sweet and a mix between crunchy and chewy.  You’ll be happy to know that they are also made with no trans fats, no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no GMOs.  Wasn’t that a great idea – making a hybrid of a cookie and a chip?  That’s some delicious culinary science right there.  I can’t way to try the other cookie variations…Sea Salted Peanut Butter is at the top of my list followed by Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  They also carry Cinnamon Sugar, Original Flavor, and right now a “flavor of the month” which is Oatmeal Rasin.

The cookie chips are made by HaanahMax Baking which is located in Gardena, California, but I highly recommend searching grocery stores near you for the sweets before ordering them online.  I bought one 6 ounce bag for $4.99 plus tax, compared to ordering a pack of four 6 ounce bags for $23.96.  Ordering makes each bag a little more expensive and you have to wait for them to be shipped.

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“HannahMax Baking Cookie Chips are the original all natural, super crunchy, absolutely delicious snack cookie.  Made from only the highest quality ingredients, Cookie Chips are a daily indulgent treat you won’t feel guilty about. “

I won’t feel guilty about it, unless I eat the whole bag in one sitting.  I started to do the math…each bag has 6 servings, and a serving size is 5 cookies which is 120 calories, so if there are 30 cookies in a bag, then I could feel OK with eating half the bag for 360 calories of all natural goodness.  To put in in perspective (for myself) it’s about the equivalent caloric intake of eating 3 and 1/2 Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, my favorite.  Would I rather eat 3 and a 1/2 Reese’s or 15 Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups?  I might need to conduct an experiment to decide which is more worth it.

Happy munching,

Chelsea

Source: Crunchy Cookie Chips

Song Love

“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, ft. Jess Glynne

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Break Free” by Ariana Grande, ft. Zedd

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These are the cover photos of my two favorite songs right now by Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne, and Ariana Grande and Zedd.  I’m obsessed with “Rather Be” because the music is so amazing; I love that it is upbeat and poppy with a violin and a little electronic sound…and the chorus is impossible not to sing along with.  Plus I love that its a love song.  Ariana Grande’s song is about the opposite; it’s about her independence and self-discovery, breaking free from someone who was holding her back.  It’s a total girl power song, and I’m a fan of the dubstep influence coming from Zedd.  Check ’em both out below and enjoy the beats.  I hope you like them as much as I do.

Happy jammin’,

Chelsea

Raising the Bar

A Review of Protein Bar

     I recently stumbled across a place called Protein Bar and it caught my eye, thanks to the bright, orange color scheme.  The windows advertised shakes, bowls, and burritos, oops I mean BAR-ritos.  I love all three of those things, so I had to check it out.  I read about it online and discovered that they make all of their menu items super healthy.  The bowls and bar-ritos are made with quinoa instead of rice, all natural and organic proteins, whole wheat wraps instead of flour tortillas, and home made sauces with all organic ingredients.

“Our mission is to change the way people eat on the go. This means our menu, service, stores, and work are all focused on healthy food that can be served in a quick, engaging way for active, on-the-go customers.” From The Protein Bar

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I tried a protein shake my first time at the Protein Bar, and it was named Wrigley Peeled – how cute is that?  And since I just moved to Chicago I think I found particular joy in it, but the shake was delicious in itself.  I had to choose a protein – whey, soy,  egg, or vegan – and then choose a milk – 2%, skim, almond, or coconut – and you can add optional boosts.  Boosts include Aloe, Energy Blend, Fat Burner Blend, Fiber Blend, Flax Oil, Flu Fighter Blend, Hangover Blend, and Multi-Vitamin Blend.  Some are self explanatory, like Energy and Far Burner, others I really don’t know the benefits of, like Aloe or Flax Oil.  I don’t know what good they would do for my body or when might be the right time to add them in my shakes, so I have a little research project on my hands.

The Wrigley Peeled shake was amazing – it was made with my choice of whey protein, almond milk, organic peanut butter, banana, and organic agave nectar at about 290 calories (530 for the larger size) for $4.39 plus tax.  Gotta love the chocolate, peanut butter, and banana combo.

Today, my order was the Millennium Perk milkshake with the BBQ chicken Bar-rito – the sticker on my bar-rito says “We do healthy…healthier.”  Both were seriously scrumptious, so I am yet to be disappointed by this place.

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The Millennium Perk shake which was made with chocolate protein, espresso protein, my choice of almond milk, and house-made cocoa malt at about 150 calories (again for the small size/ the large is 250).

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Here was my BBQ Bar-rito, made with all-natural chicken, organic quinoa blend, cheddar, house-made agave BBQ sauce, and Protein Bar’s “Super 6 Salad Mix” wrapped in a whole-wheat flax tortilla and then grilled, at about 570 calories and cost $7.29 plus tax.  The organic quinoa blend consists of red quinoa, golden quinoa, white millet, amaranth, and flax seeds.

Both the shake and the wrap are recipes I want to try to duplicate in my own kitchen very soon, so check back with me!  Some other things on the Protein Bar’s menu include breakfast items like Greek Yogurt bowls, scrambled egg bowls, and Breakfast Bar-ritos; they also have chicken chili and vegetarian chili, Signature Salads, some high protein snacks and sides, and a kids menu.  They have a Protein Bar app that you can record your credit or debit card number onto and scan your payment using your phone if you are a regular customer as a rewards program…when you sign up you get $2 off and for every $88 you spend you get an $8 credit.  I signed up right away.  There are thirteen locations in Chicago and other Protein Bars in Colorado and Washington, DC.  If you live near one, I suggest you give it a try!

My rating for the Protein Bar is 4.2 stars.  My only criticisms are that price is a little high for food on the go, and that although the wrap was delicious, it wasn’t extremely flavorful.  Also, I ordered the 12 oz shakes and they seemed to disappear way too quickly.  But at almost $5 for a small shake, I’m not willing to spring for the larger portion.  Altogether, the quality of the food trumps the little extra spent on it.  I love Protein Bar!

Happy eating,

Chelsea 

 

One Fair Saturday

Kane County Fairgrounds

On a free Saturday, my boyfriend and I wanted to do something really fun.  My idea was a day at the beach with food, drinks, and kayaks, but after some internet searching, we found that the beach I wanted to go to, Montrose Beach, was one of the “most frequently fouled by contaminated water” beaches in the Chicago area, according to the Chicago Tribune.  Who knew?  We googled “activities to do in Chicago” and “best places in Chicago” to find something else, and my boyfriend came up with the Kane County Fairgrounds.  It was about an hour away, but well worth the drive.  The food was awesome, we both had delicious sandwiches and shared a pile of homemade chips covered in cheese and bacon called “The Heart Attack.”  We stuffed our faces and suffered no health issues, but again, it would have been worth it.

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Throughout the day we played games, walked around looking at all of the horses, bunnies, and pigs that were competing for ribbons by their owners, and we had a caricature drawn of us.  I think it bears some resemblance.  A nice, talented man named Richard Sherman drew the picture, and we love it – I can’t wait to frame it.  We shot 25 ping pong balls at fishbowls to win a prize, and on the very last ball my boyfriend made it in, scoring us an energetic little goldfish.  We named him Chance, because on the very last chance he became our new pet.  The fair was such a fun experience and a great way to spend a day.  If you find yourself in a predicament like ours, searching for something active to do, try looking up county fairs in your area.  You might walk away with a full stomach, a new pet, and a story to tell.

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Chelsea

Song Love

The first track of Guster’s new upcoming album is called “Long Night” and I love it!! I can’t wait for the release of the album in early 2015.  Here’s the Guster website in case you want to know more about one of my favorite bands or purchase some awesome Guster bobbleheads/coffee mugs/other paraphernalia.  If you like what you hear, preorder the album here, and watch a quirky video of Guster announcing it with farm animals.

Chelsea

Book Review: Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

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Book Review of David Sedaris’ Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

The first time I read David Sedaris I instantly fell in love with his writing.  I was reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, and when I finished, I could not wait to get my hands on another one of his books.  Next was Naked, and then When Engulfed in Flames, and I didn’t stop until I read everything he’s written.  Those three collections of his short stories are my favorites, and they make me laugh out loud imagining his life experiences.  I love his wit and humor, and his ability to tell stories so incredibly well.  This book, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, isn’t written by David Sedaris; instead, it is a collection of his favorite short stories by his favorite writers (authors who influenced him to become a short story writer himself).  Since I love his style, I knew I would love his taste.  This collection is so rich and wonderful, and I felt like every story was a treat.  It ranges in emotional appeal from humorous to morbid, and a story or two definitely brought me to tears.  It is a wonderful variety of excellent writing – and the great thing about short stories is that they are easy to read in a sitting, and if you don’t like one, you can skip it and move on to the next.  However, I felt that all of David’s picks were thoroughly entertaining, if only because of how well written they are.  I strongly suggest reading it if you’re looking for something really interesting and diverse.

A special note about purchasing this collection is that the proceeds go to a nonprofit organization called 826NYC, which is dedicated to helping young students ages 6 to 18 develop writing skills.  The book’s epilogue, written by Sarah Vowell, discusses 826NYC’s efforts including tutoring, writing workshops, assistance with school publications and with homework, and other free, educational events.  The organization is hidden behind the storefront of Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., which draws in many of the students that end up seeking help from 826.  In addition, every cape and utility belt bought at the Superhero Supply Co. directly supports 826NYC, and the coolest part about it is that a secret door separates the store from the writing lab (very Scooby Doo bookshelf trap door if you ask me).  How much better does it get when you buy a book?  Amazing stories AND the benefit of helping kids.  Buy this book.  Have I convinced you?

Stories included in Children Playing:

  • Introduction by David Sedaris
  • “Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired” by Richard Yates
  • “Gryphon” by Charles Baxter
  • “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “Half A Grapefruit” by Alice Munro
  • “Applause, Applause” by Jean Thompson
  • “I Know What I’m Doing About All the Attention I’ve Been Getting” by Frank Gannon
  • “Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out” by Patricia Highsmith
  • “The Best of Betty” by Jincy Willett
  • “Song of the Shirt, 1941” by Dorothy Parker
  • “The Girl with the Blackened Eye” by Joyce Carol Oates
  • “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk” by Lorrie Moore
  • “Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor
  • “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel
  • “Cosmopolitan” by Akhil Sharma
  • “Irish Girl” by Tim Johnston
  • “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff
  • Epilogue by Sarah Vowell

If you’re wondering about the name of this collection, David was inspired by a painting of the same name by Adriaen van der Werff in 1687.  He said he felt like a small speck at the foot of his awesome writing heroes, trying to accomplish a fraction of what they have done.  Here’s what the painting looks like, and you can see the same statue on the cover of the book:

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Excerpt from David Sedaris’ Introduction: “When apple-picking season ended, I got a job in a packing plant and gravitated toward short stories, which I could read during my break and reflect upon for the remainder of my shift.  A good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.  This led to a kind of trance that made the dullest work, the dullest life, bearable.”  He also states his belief that “stories can save you.”  I think David Sedaris is one of the best modern writers of the most up-and-coming genre of literature, the short story cycle.  I hope to meet him some day; I like to imagine that we could be great friends, talking over coffee and laughing at each other’s anecdotes.  For now, I am the child bowing at his feet and raving about his work, spreading the love of one my favorite authors.

Chelsea

Picture of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

An Ode to Kate and a Thanks to Lucy

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A friend gave me these gorgeous, gold polka-dotted Kate Spade notebooks and the adorable pencil bag which had a ruler, two golden pencil sharpeners, two pencils that say “to whom it may concern,” and an eraser inside.  She also gave me these awesome Kate Spade paperclips which are shaped like bows.  Paperclips that look like bows!!

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I’m fairly confident that a more beautiful writing set has never been created.  I love the eraser.  It’s so cute and encouraging with the words, “to err is human” printed on it.   The gold, pink, black, and white combine in a sophisticated, but fun look.  I have been using the big notebook nonstop, making grocery lists, to-do lists, and jotting down directions.  Lucy gave me the perfect gift and I LOVE IT!

Cheers to being Kate Spade girls.

Chelsea