Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Travel] Havasupai / Havasu Falls

Because of my travel loving sister, I found out about one of the top "go-to-before-you-die" places in the world called Havasupai, better known by the most famous waterfall there, Havasu Falls. Havasu Falls is just one of the many beautiful, natural, and amazing waterfalls located in Arizona's Grand Canyon on the Indian Reserve Land of Havasupai Tribe (official website).
Havasu Falls (no editing! None of the pictures you see are edited)
It's kept in such great condition (so far at least) because the tribe limits how many people can go into the area each year. My sister and her boyfriend, my mom, and I all went (my workaholic dad passed on this; HIS LOSS!) in late June, which is one of the hottest times to go, and it was everything and more I could have imagined. However, we did a lot of planning, research, and preparation for this trip so to (hopefully) save you some time, I thought I'd share what I know and experienced. I strongly recommend you do lots of research as well, do NOT take this trip lightly (figuratively; literally you do want to try and limit how much you bring) as it can be potentially dangerous if you are not prepared! Before reading on, here's a short video my sister put together of our trip (please bear with the shakiness as I filmed bits of it and wasn't aware of how steady I had to be!)


Preparation
First, you must obtain a camping permit or a reservation at the hotel lodge before your trip (most people stay at least 1 night there but you can go for a day trip in some non-summer months, this also requires a permit). On their official website, they say they take requests either through email or on the phone (numbers and emails can be found on the website) but from what I read online (and what we did) it's best to call them. If you've done any research on Havasupai, you will know that you will probably have to call multiple times to (1) have someone pick up and (2) have a date available that you can make. They don't give you a time period to call between so we called multiple times a day during regularish business hours 9 AM - 4 PM (we found morning is the most likely to have someone pick up) and would ask if there was any hotel lodge cancellations in the next month until there was an opening available that we could make. We chose to stay at the lodge for the A/C + shower but also because we don't have the compact lightweight camping tents or sleeping bags but if your group is down for camping, I assume you just call and ask for any available camping permits. For the lodge booking, we had to give our credit card information over the phone to put down a $40 deposit (but this is not charged right away) and then received an email confirming the booking. You're supposed to print out the confirmation email and bring it but my sister actually forgot it but it ended up being okay when we got to the lodge and talked to the receptionist (but you should still bring it!!). It costs $145/night to stay at the lodge which has only rooms with 2 queen beds which was perfect for us 4 people.
Once you've got your dates and permit to stay there, you need to start preparing what to bring. You will be hiking a LOT. It will be hot and sunny. You will need water and food. Here's our checklist (bear in the mind that we did NOT camp so we did not include camping gear!):
-Hiking backpacks
-Clothes: Shorts, Sports Bra, Hiking Socks (3 at least), T-shirts (dri-fit), Tank Top, Sleeping Wear - T Shirt / Shorts, Swimsuit, Hats
-Water shoes (4)
-Hiking shoes (4)
-Towels (microfiber ones = light)
-Sunglasses
-Food / Beverages: Protein Bars (at least 5 per person), 3L Camelbak (3), Extra Bottles of Gatorade (2), Gatorade powder
-Camera Related: Waterproof camera (1), DSLR (1), Tripod (1), Drone (1), GOPRO (1), Camera Charger (1), Extra Battery (1)
-Toiletries : Lip balm with SPF, Tissue Packs, Mosquito repellent, Hand sanitizer, Small First Aid Kit (Band-aids, Alcohol Swabs), Wound dressing/wrap in case injury, Medicine - Tylenol, Advil, Claritin), Toothpaste (1) / Toothbrushes (4), Face wash (sample packs), Lotion - face and body, Sunblock SPF 50 (2) 
-Flashlights (1 per person) + head lamp?
-Spray bottle to fill with water to spray while we hike
-Whistle for emergencies
-Poncho/water jacket for possible rain
-Map of Havasu (need to print)
-Confirmation Receipt for Lodge (1)
-Phone Chargers (4)
-GPS? (If the car we rent does not have one built in - Use Phone?)
-Cash? You can pay with credit
-Small Umbrella
-TO BUY IN VEGAS: Disposable Water Bottles, Ice (for initial hike in), Gatorade
As you should be able to see, we had camera equipment which you may or may not be brining. Drones are actually banned in Havasupai so bring at your own risk(?). The important stuff for the hike though is appropriate hiking backpacks, clothes, and shoes, water (at least 3 L), sunscreen, and food/snacks (at least enough for the hike in, you can buy more at the store in the village if you need but keep in mind that prices might be a little more than usual). It is IMPERATIVE that you have the right gear or else you will end up with blisters and a sore back if not more. We didn't own hiking backpacks before this trip but they are MADE for carrying heavy weight for extended periods of time so we asked around and borrowed 2 (though we actually had 6 to choose from) and bought 2. Hiking backpacks have sizes and you should go into your local store to get fitted. REI actually has a very good return policy (hint hint) if you don't already own a hiking backpack. A hiking backpack will distribute the weight on your hips and shoulders and allow you to fit all your goodies. We also bought 3 L waterbladders which I thought weren't necessary at first (why not just bring multiple water bottles right?) but I was actually so grateful that we had them. You need to be constantly hydrating and having the little sippy sippy easily accessible makes this super easy. You should also bring a bottle of Gatorade or some sort of electrolyte/salt replenish-er drink since you will be sweating. Also, if you plan to hike to Beaver Falls or walk around the waterfalls, you should bring water shoes or shoes that you are comfortable wearing in the water as you have to walk through multiple streams.

Getting There
Havasupai is located in the Grand Canyon. We flew into Las Vegas and then drove about 4 hours to get to the parking lot and trail entrance to Havasupai. The Las Vegas airport is actually closer than the Phoenix Arizona airport to Havasupai. The last place to fill up gas is about 2 hours from the parking lot at Peach Springs so plan accordingly. You will also likely lose signal as you get closer so have a print out map of directions or have an offline map saved on Google Maps (I would try setting it to/close to the Havasupai trailhead). I would advise looking up the directions on multiple sites to make sure you don't end up in the wrong place.
From the parking lot (known as the Hilltop Parking Lot), you must either hike down, ride a mule/horse, or take a helicopter in ($85 one way, they take cash or credit card but there is a $10 credit card fee, you need to contact them beforehand if you wish to helicopter in). The same goes coming back out; hike, horse ride, or helicopter. You can ride the horses/mules or have them just carry your things in; this needs to be arranged ahead of time and costs around $85 I think.
Get an early start on the hike!
The Initial Hike In
The total hike from the parking lot to the Havasupai village (which is where the villager live, the hotel lodge, the visitor center, and the convenience store and cafeteria) is approximately 8 miles (this is what it says online and this is also about what we got on our phone pedometers) but if you are camping, the campground is another 2 miles from the village. Going to Havasupai is going down into the canyon but it is only a steep decline for the first 1.5ish miles and then it becomes pretty much flat the rest of the 6.5 miles. For most people, the 8 mile hike takes 3.5-5.5 hours. We took just under 4 hours at a pretty normal pace (we already had too many stops in my opinion). For the spring and summer months, it is imperative to leave early to avoid the heat. When we went in late June, temperatures were already 95-100 F by 9-10 AM and peaking at 112 F at around 4 PM, so we got to the hilltop around 5:15 AM and started our hike at 6 AM (had to eat some food, get our bags ready, go to the last real bathroom you'll see for a few hours, etc). Most people were already starting the hike at 5:30-5:45 though so we were definitely the late stragglers. Luckily, when you leave around that time, you should be hiking in the shade of the canyon and there are only a few places where you'll have the sun directly beating down on you. I'll say that it really wasn't too hot (like when it's so hot the air is hard to breathe) because of the shade and there was also a steady cool breeze throughout (I assume this is due to the rivers + waterfalls located nearby?). The paths are wide and well-defined though it sometimes forks but the forked roads will converge soon after so I don't think you can get lost. The hardest thing about the hike, in my opinion, was that the path is made mostly of little pebbles and rocks. Imagine walking on sandy or rocky beach, not as easy as a treadmill or packed dirt paths! However, the hike down is totally doable and my 50+ year old mom was able to do it so don't be scared! Just be prepared and walk around a bit with your pack stuffed with weights beforehand so you're not completely caught off guard. Hiking back up is another thing though as the, now last, 1.5 steep part will be much harder as you go uphill but it's not impossible (we chose not to hike back out and took the helicopter instead which is another challenge in itself actually, more on this later).
Be aware of the pack mules and step out of their way when they come by!
The Village
The people of the Havasupai tribe live in the village area where, like I said earlier, there is a visitor center, hotel lodge, supermarket/convenience store (limited fruits/vegetables/meats), and a cafeteria/restaurant with a good selection of hearty foods. We ate at the cafeteria for dinner on our last day but it closes around 7:15 PM so we actually missed it on our first day but we had brought packets of tuna and some sandwich thins (more portable than normal bread) so were able to eat that instead. Again, the campground is 2 miles from the village so you can rest up/refuel at the village before going to the campground if you are camping. You can refill your water using the water from the hotel lodge sinks or from a natural spring pipe in the campground.
Filling up our water bladders at the campground natural spring for the long hike!
The Waterfalls
You will reach the village after approximately 8 miles. However, the actual waterfalls are located 1.5 to 5ish miles away. We went to 4 of the main waterfalls but there is at least one other one that we missed. There are 2 waterfalls, Little Navajo and Havasu Falls, located in between the village and the campgrounds (2 mile distance between the two sites). The path from the village to the campground is a bit sandy/dusty but otherwise it's not too bad of a hike and is downhill (going the other way around is definitely a little tiring). Both waterfalls are pretty visible and you just have to go a little off the main path to get to them.
Walking to Havasu!
Little Navajo was actually my favorite waterfall of them all because you can jump off of it (yes I'm very into cliff jumping now haha *__*). It's about 30 ft at the highest point at the main fall but if you walk a bit from it (not on the main path), you'll reach another part of Little Navajo (this is the waterfall we missed) and apparently that part is 50 ft. The rocks aren't very slippery and I just wore lightweight shoes instead of water shoes (my sister and her boyfriend had water shoes though) and didn't have any issues. I would definitely recommend wearing some sort of shoe (and not flip flops) when going on the waterfalls since you'll be stepping on and over rocks. You can choose from multiple places to jump from the waterfall but please please be careful because there are a few rocks so jump wisely. Lots of the local kids and other hikers will be jumping around there so watch and ask where to jump from if you aren't sure.
Lots of people jumping at Little Navajo!
Havasu Falls is located less than 0.5 miles from the campground and is the most famous waterfall. I don't think it's safe to jump from it because it is quite high and the water pool below it is not very deep but I did see someone on Instagram post a video jumping off (not from the very top though). It's a beautiful waterfall and worth the swim around or some time spent there as there are a few picnic benches. Some people even bring tube floaties to play around with.
Casually floating around
There are 2 other main waterfalls that are further out from there, Mooney and Beaver Falls. Mooney Falls is just past the campground edge (the entire campground is a bit less than 0.5 miles in length?) but you have to go through 2 short caves and down a steep set of stairs made partly from the cliffs and partly from wooden ladders and metal chains. Know your limits!
Steep climb down!
Some people only go to Little Navajo and Havasu which is totally fine but since we stayed for 3 days and 2 nights, we were able to go to Mooney and Beaver. The round trip from the hotel lodge (in the village) to Mooney and Beaver and back was about 11 miles total and since we spent time at Beaver eating lunch, we got back around 5 and spent some time at Little Navajo since it was so hot and then returned to the village around 6. I would advise carrying 2-3L of water/person as well because we only brought 3 water bladders that day (3 L each) and actually drank up 1 of them and came down to about 0.5 L in the other 2 bladders when we reached the campground where we were able to refill our water. We also had 4 bottles of Gatorade (made from powdered mix), 1 for each person.

Mooney Falls was maybe my least favorite because it's SUPER tall (not jumpable for sure..) and water sprays out so as you're climbing down the cliffs, you're getting sprayed by the mist. Beware the the water is very high in lime (which is what makes it so beautifully blue) and if you don't wipe it right away from your camera lens, you'll get water spots/stains that are little difficult to get off. Nevertheless, it's still a nice waterfall and there's a large water pool surrounding it including a swing off a smaller water drop!

Beaver Falls is supposed to be about 3 miles from Mooney but the path to Beaver is not very clear in the beginning so it could take your longer. If you want to go to Beaver Falls (which is a collection of multiple somewhat smaller waterfalls), you have to go past Mooney Falls (away from it). You want to leave early if you're going to Beaver to avoid hiking in the heat of day; we planned for 6 but ended up actually leaving at 7 and we were definitely still hiking around when it got pretty hot. You will need to bring your water shoes or wear them instead of hiking shoes (up to you) as you will be crossing multiple streams of water (not super strong current ones that might knock you over). You'll also be walking on paths that are overgrown with plants so if you're antsy about being touched by plants, well either wear long pants and bear the heat or suck it up I guess? You don't have to worry about ticks or anything and the plants aren't sharp/won't cut your legs up. Soon after Mooney, you'll see a fork in the path. If you take a right, the path will end at a stream which we thought meant it was a dead end but on our way back, we somehow ended up crossing a stream and having to follow it while wading in it and ended up back at this supposed "dead end" we had seen earlier. I think I'd advise going this way on your way to Beaver Falls as we took the fork left and went on a path that is pretty narrow and covered in green bushes and vines.
Crossing the river!
It gets kind of confusing from there as there are multiple forks and paths, some of them less defined than others, and we sort of just trampled our way through and ended up at a stream (which I suspect is connected to Mooney's water runoff?). We saw some other people walking around who were coming BACK (and this was only at 8 AM!) from Beaver and they told us to cross this stream so we put on our water shoes and did so. You have to be smart and choose and area that isn't too deep because there are areas of the streams that get relatively deep but you should be able to find a place to cross that won't go past your thighs/get your shorts wet. We had walking/hiking sticks which were super useful in judging the depth of the streams. After that, the path to Beaver is pretty well-defined and doesn't branch off like crazy. We had to cross about 4-5 more streams (2 more big ones and then a few more other smaller ones). You will pass by/see lots of streams with little falls and can stop there to rest/play in the water if you want..
Crossing streams!

When you're close to Beaver (maybe 0.75 miles?), you'll reach a huge palm tree (not tall but just wide) and you can either go left or right. If you go left, you'll have to cross a stream of water and then continue onward to the falls. If you go right, you'll have to climb a ladder and continue to the falls basically walking on a cliff. Some people who had gone to Beaver already told us that that way was more "sketch" and advised we go left (which they took coming back). If you go left though, you will have to cross a few more smaller pools of water (all shallow) when you can see the falls/you're right next to them, you'll actually want to go through them to find a place to put your things. To do so, you have to go down a cliff which has a rope for you to hold onto for dear life, but that last part, you definitely want to be a bit cautious.
This is the bit right BEFORE the sketchy cliff shuffle (remember this is the path if you go LEFT at the palm tree)
Clinging on!

Crossing the pool of water connected to Beaver was difficult because it is initially deep (up to my waist but I'm short so maybe up to the average person's thighs/definitely will get your pants wet) and we had to carry our backpacks over our heads to avoid getting them wet (camera gear remember!). It's only deep for a short bit and then gets shallow and you can cross easily to get to the other side where you can put down your stuff.
This area was shallow!
It felt like a long hike initially though especially when you're not sure when you'll reach the falls but hiking back it really wasn't too bad. You can jump from a few of the waterfalls but you need to be careful because the water isn't super deep so you may touch your feet if you go straight down so I'd advise canon balling or flattening out when you hit the water. Be SAFE!

Leaving Havasupai on the Helicopter?
The helicopter only runs on certain days (Saturday and Sunday for sure, I forget the rest so you should look this up) and costs $85 per person. Cash or credit card is taken (credit card preferred apparently but there is a $10 credit card fee). If you choose to take a helicopter out (which we did since we were sore and tired from hiking 10+ miles for 2 days in a row), you will have to wait at the fence surrounding the helicopter pad (next to the cafeteria) early in the morning the day of, around 4-5 AM. You can only "book" the helicopter flying into Havasupai but no reservations are taken for helicoptering out. Other people will start lining up early as well so it's best to get there early and be first in line even if you can't write down your name until 9 AM (supposedly. We actually didn't have the paper sheet passed out to put your name down until maybe 9:30?) and the helicopter does not start flying until 10 AM. The Havasupai tribe members have priority and do not need to wait in line to take the helicopter out so do not be surprised if you are not the first to leave even if you are first in line. The helicopter ride itself is maybe 5-7 minutes? But it takes 15-20 minutes for one full helicopter trip (loading on, flying out, loading off, flying back) which can hold 4-6 people each time. We got in line around 5:15 AM but unfortunately for us, there was a group of 14 people who had just a few people get up early and get in line around 4 AM or something so this really pushed us back in line (and was quite irritating to be honest). Not including the 14 people in front of us, there were only 2 other people before us so total 16 people before us and we ended up flying out at 1 PM. So yes it would have been faster to hike out but my sister's boyfriend's knee was swollen and hurting so it wasn't an option really.


Last Precautions
It is recommended that you do not hike during peak heat hours which are 10 AM - 4 PM (we did end up hiking during this time on our second day to Mooney and Beaver and it definitely got hot between 12-3)
It is possible there could be flash floods so review safety guidelines on what to do for a flash flood (get to higher ground!)
There are sightings of snakes (we didn't see any) so review what to do in case of a snake bite.
ALWAYS carry more than enough sunscreen, water, and food.
Do not hike alone. Havasupai is an amazing experience to share, go with your friends and you won't regret it.

Lastly, we created a Google doc which you may or may not find helpful. It contains more information on how to get to each fall and other info (courtesy of my sister and online research).  I hope this post (which has taken me quite some time to write!) is helpful in preparing for your trip to Havasupai. It really is one of the most beautiful places you will see and the hike makes it worth that. Treasure the land and keep it in as pristine shape as when you came.
Havasupai you were AMAZING! (taken on top of Little Navejo)

Making Chocolate Pancakes with Chocolate Coconut Milk

I went to Lake Tahoe in May with my family for my grandma's birthday. On our last day, there was a biking race that my father and uncle wanted to check out so we all went to have a look. Apparently there was an Olympian biker there as well as Christine Armstrong? I got a few pictures of the front leaders but don't know who's who.

Anyways, getting to my point, while we were there, there were a ton of tents set up with companies advertising their products and giving away free promotional items. One of these places was So Delicious, a company that specializes in dairy free products including nut ice creams (cashew ice cream anyone? Their cappuccino one is actually really good and you can't taste the cashews at all) and coconut milk/ice cream. I actually got a free carton of chocolate coconut milk and so when I got home, I had to figure out what to do with it. Yes I could just drink it, but I'm not a huge juice/anything drinker (I like to stick with my water and tea) so I figured, might as well see if I can bake anything with it. I then came across this post which inspired me to try it out. The original recipe used Silk almond milk but I figured coconut milk wouldn't be any different and the pancakes turned out wonderful (albeit a little flat and not your typical fluffy pancake) and delicious.
The original recipe calls for:
  • 1 cup Chocolate Silk Soymilk or Chocolate Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • Whipped cream for topping
I made a few changes (less butter and normal instead of Kosher salt) in addition to using the So Delicious chocolate coconut milk. For my next attempts, I plan to try using a substitute egg (flax seed + water) and/or whole wheat flour. I think it would be nice to also include chocolate chip bits in the actual pancake because you can never have too much chocolate!
Anyways hope you chocolate lovers give this a try and thank the original recipe maker! Hope you're all having a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

My 2016 Spring Bloom VoxBox

As we near the end of May and into June, I can definitely say spring is going by fast and summer will be upon us all too soon. The weather is warming up, my nose gets itchy and my eyes water if I don't use Flonase in the morning, and I'm starting to feel comfortable wearing T-shirts and/or a skirt without thick woolly leggings! I got some products from Influenster that are all too perfect for the season and have put them too the test and want to share my thoughts with you all now.
Secret Outlast Deodorant
This is a bit of a weird one but honestly don't we all use deodorant and who wants those nasty pit stains or that weird sour stinky who knows what smell coming off of them? Certainly not me. In general, deodorant lasts me forever so it's hard to get to try a new one but I got a travel size of the Secret Outlast Deodorant in the completely clean scent and it's been working really well. Spring is like the time when it can get warm and dresses and T-shirts are out..basically all the more reasons to wear deodorant. I like how this doesn't mix with my sweat scent like my previous Secret deodorant sometimes did and it really does a good job at keeping me from getting those sweaty pits.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil
I'll start off by saying I've never used a "dry oil" and have only ever really used jojoba oil (once for my hair) and coconut oil (multiple times, also only for my hair). I've never used an oil to moisturize my body or face but have heard of such uses so was interested in trying this product for such purposes in addition to using it on my hair. I wish there were better instructions or directions for this product though because for someone who is new to dry oil or any oil for this matter, they might just apply the oil throughout their hair thinking it would have some shiny/silky effect on their hair and then be left with a greasy head all day.
The full size version of this comes with a spray pump but the sample I received was so small that it was just an open bottle with a screw on cap. This forces you to tilt the bottle and pour the product out which, like any oil or liquid, can cause it to dribble down the bottle and create a bit of a mess - which with oil, is more difficult to clean up then say, water. So already, my first time using this, I had some issues with pouring out the oil and having some of it go on my desk and not my hand. This wouldn't be a problem for the full size of the product which comes with a spray but it is something to keep in mind if you're looking to get a smaller size of this product.
-For the hair: The first time I used this, I poured it into my palms, rubbed it in to distribute it evenly, and combed it through the ends of my hair only. I did not go anywhere near my scalp for fear of a greasy head which was a good thing because my ends definitely looked a bit wet and piece-y for the whole day (signs of oily hair). I didn't use very much product, which means a little bit goes a long way, and the instructions on the website say you can spritz this in your hair
-For the skin: This doesn't leave your hands feeling super oily IF you rub it in completely. So start with only a little amount and rub it in thoroughly; that means MAKE THAT SMALL AMOUNT GO THE DISTANCE. The price is $36 for a full size which okay, isn't off the charts but it is more than the $3 Cerave lotion I usually use right? I think it does a good job at moisturizing my skin and doesn't make me feel all sticky or wet like other lotions do. Your hands will definitely feel different but with lotion your hands feel different too. I think it just takes some time getting used to.
-For the face, I have yet to try mixing this in with my foundation (not sure how oil and makeup go together...) but apparently it's supposed to give you a healthy natural glow. Someone else can try this out I suppose ;)

Sunbelt Bakery Chocolate Chip Bar
I brought this with me on my hike in South Lake Tahoe and ended up eating it back at my hotel when I was doing nothing exciting. Nevertheless, this was delicious. A bit on the sweet side and very similar to a Quaker Chocolate Chip granola bar but thicker. I wouldn't mind buying this again in a 6 pack (vs individually) to have as a healthier snack or dessert option for those days when I'm craving the sweeties.

Not Your Mother's Plump for Joy™
This is a hair thickener which is so great for people like me who have thin limp boring hair. I know how bad teasing your hair is for you so I rarely do it (that and I'm pretty bad at it) so having this was the perfect way to get the volume from teasing, without having to actually go through the teasing process. It's better than hairspray because it doesn't make your hair super crunchy and nasty and well the sample size of this is so perfect for traveling when space is limited and you can only take so much with you!

Cutex Nail Polish Remover
This is kind of amazing for travel because who wants to be lugging around a giant bottle of nail polish remover when they go on vacation right? I'm not even sure TSA would let you bring on a full size nail polish remover bottle and I don't know if there are travel size bottles of nail polish remover. So here we have the solutions - Cutex nail polish remover pads. These are thick pads (they wont just rip on you as you scrub away hard at your nails - trust me I tried with glitter polish) that are completely soaked in nail polish remover so they'll get your nail polish off in no time. The pads are so big that I swear they could do your fingers and toes all with one pad. Definitely one of my favorites. I wonder how long they last unopened though since I'm planning on going to Croatia in about 1.5 months and I don't want these drying out on me! (Which reminds me, even those these have acetone, they're not THAT drying because they have flax seed and other oils combined so it doesn't leave your nails gasping for moisture.

Sinful Colors Nail Polish in Bling it On! Teal Midnight

Because I had my Cutex pads, I was also able to easily try out my new Sinful Colors polish Bling it On! in Teal Midnight. Apparently it's limited edition so if this appeals to you, you better find it quick!
In the above picture, I tried on various combinations and coats of the Teal Midnight nail polish as well as my other Sinful Colors polish, Ingr, which is part of their extra shine collection.
-Index finger: 2 coats Ingr
-Middle finger: 1 coat Ingr + 1 coat Bling It On Teal Midnight
-Ring finger: 2 coats Teal Midnight
-Thumb and pinky: 1 coat Ingr
Both polishes are pretty sheer which isn't a bad thing. You don't need to make super thick coats since they'll go on sheer even if you glob it on so it's better to work with less product, let it sit and then do at least one more coat (probably 3 total would be best). Ingr with 2.5 coats was really great - opaque sea sky blue with fine shimmer (it really makes it look like the ocean). It has a nice glossy and shiny finish too. Teal Midnight is definitely a glitter top coat but it's not PACKED with glitter so if you're really looking for the glitter aspect, I'd suggest putting it on a sponge and then dabbing it onto your nail. I just brushed on the nail polish and would have liked more glitter but it was hard to get the glitter without getting the polish and making a huge glob/mess on my nail. You'll for sure need a clear top coat over Teal Midnight though because you can feel the glitters (that roughness doe). I wouldn't suggest using Teal Midnight on its own because it's way too sheer even with 2-3 coats which is pushing it because you get so much empty sheer nail polish and not enough glitter. This would definitely be perfect though if you just need a hint of glitter to boost your nail game.

Anyways, this is one of my more thorough reviews and I feel like I covered the key aspects and points of each product. I hope it helps you make your decision if you're looking to get any of these products. Please know that even though I got these products for free, all opinions are my 100% true to me. What works for me might not work for you so take everything with a grain of salt! Skin tone, skin type, hair type, etc all factor in to how a product works with you! Well, that's my spiel for the day. Have a wonderful day all you wonderful people reading this :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

3 tasty, easy, and photogenic sandwiches

There's nothing better than making tasty food except for tasty BEAUTIFUL food that you can show off on Instagram, am I right or am I right? Just kidding but I'm sure it's one of the top 5 best things in the world (trying to make a reference to the season premiere of Game of Thrones season 5 which just came out last Sunday and oh man I could go on and on about it). Anyways, here are some of my favorite sandwiches of the moment to make that are all so simple and easy to whip up that you'll spend more time taking photos of these than you will spend making and eating them combined. These are perfect for a morning brunch, afternoon tea party, or special lunch party!

1. Cream Cheese with Dill and Smoked Salmon and/or Cucumber
This has got to be one of the best sandwiches out there. You can make these open faced or not (well I suppose any sandwich you can choose to cover or leave uncovered) but they definitely are easy to dress up with a sprig of dill resting on top. I say and/or regarding the smoked salmon and cucumber because both of them go SO well with cream cheese mixed with dill and together they're pretty bomb as well. I know cucumber butter sandwiches are like a thing but those just don't taste good in my opinion. Dill has a nice slightly spicy (but not actually) sharp flavor that really enhances the fresh cream cheese and the saltiness of the smoked salmon or the crisp watery taste of cucumber (make sure to have thin cucumber slices though or else it'll be too overpowering) - all of this comes together to make one of the best sandwiches ever. Honestly everyone gobbles these up when my sister and I make them.
To make this sandwich: I don't actually follow any specific recipe (though there are plenty out there online so feel free to Google if if you're a very exact precise measurement type of person) and just eyeball it. However, if I were to measure it, I'd say it's 1 tablespoon chopped dill to 4 oz (half a pack) of cream cheese. Of course this can be adjusted to your liking but I personally like more dill than less. You can mix these with a fork or a blender (I generally use a fork because less clean-up and since I don't usually work in large batches, a fork does the job just as quickly). Stir it all up, spread it on your bread (this can be a little difficult if the cream cheese is thick/cold/firm but it doesn't have to be an even layer - a nice sort of chunk looks just as nice like in the photo above), and top with smoked salmon or thinly sliced cucumber or both! I generally don't toast my bread for this sandwich but you totally can if you like; I just think a nice soft textured bread works well with the flavors of the sandwich fillings. I like to cut my bread for these type of sandwiches into small squares (usually about 4 squares per one slice of bread) so you get a small tear of smoked salmon and/or a half or quarter slice of cucumber (if your bread squares are large enough or you're making a full sandwich, you can obviously keep your cucumber slices whole and layer them). For open faced sandwiches, it looks nice if you take a small leaf/sprinkle of dill and place it on top as I did in the photo above. The photo right below (from my previous post actually), I didn't have dill so used thyme but I wanted to include this photo so you could get some idea on how to arrange cucumber and smoked salmon on your sandwich. The second photo down shows salmon with dill and cream cheese. I used two different types of smoked salmon in the sandwiches below (if you're wondering why the color difference).

2. Hummus, Pesto, and Tomato 
This is one of my newer sandwich tries and oh my, I'm so sad I didn't try this out earlier. This combination is AMAZING. I initially was thinking just hummus and tomato topped with a basil leaf (saw it on Pinterest) but then I had pesto spread in our refrigerator so thought I'd try it out and golly me, it was heavenly. I would highly recommend toasting your bread for this sandwich because the crunch of the bread helps balance out the soft texture of the hummus and pesto, as well as the moistness of the tomato. Plus, this sandwich looks good with the crust left on so less work for you right?

To make this sandwich: Toast bread (I think wheat or some other non-white bread would go best with the fillings but I used white and it tastes just as good). Allow to cool somewhat before spreading on an even layer of hummus (so it doesn't melt or get weird and soft) and then spread on a less even layer of pesto. Thickness is up to you but I'd say don't be too shy! Top with slice(s) of tomato(es) depending on the size of your tomato and bread. If you're feeling fancy, add a basil leaf on top for some extra photo points (I forgot to but it still looks bomb right?)

3. Melted Smoked Gouda with Turkey Breast, Fruit Jam, and Toppings
The title for this sandwich is kind of all over the place but really there's no specific name for it since I add whatever I have at hand. The basics are cheese (I love smoked gouda but it's not one of the most "melty" cheeses so provolone any other cheese that melts well would work fine), deli meat (I go for turkey breast since it's generally the healthiest and doesn't have too strong of a flavor), and fruit jam (the two photos below, I used strawberry jam but any jam would work fine, you just want that sweet concentrated flavor to contrast the savory cheese and meat). From there, I like to play around with what I have. Usually having something that gives the sandwich a "crunch" is nice like an apple slice, candied nut, dried fruit (try even the freeze dried kinds), or crunchy veggies like romaine lettuce. Having another sweet bite such as a fruit like a blueberry, strawberry, apple, pear, etc also adds to the sandwich.
To make this sandwich: Layer cheese over bread and toast until cheese has melted. Let cool for 1 minute before cutting into desired size/pieces and adding layer of deli meat. Add thin layer of toppings of choice including sliced fruit, fresh vegetables, and crunchy nuts. Drizzle fruit jam over (if thin enough) or spread over cheese and deli meat before placing all toppings if too thick. Make sure it's visible because it adds a nice touch to the overall sandwich.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Breakfast, brunch, and lunch for two - cute sandwich and other food ideas!

I recently made a little mini tea time brunch for my mother and me (my sister was at work) and wanted to share what I made in case some of you are looking for food inspiration for your next tea party, fancy breakfast time (need to impress a man?), or lunch gathering!
Menu items including:
  • Lemon ricotta pancakes with slice bananas and drizzled honey (Original recipe here)
  • Mixed greens salad with strawberries, walnuts, blueberries, and raspberry vinaigrette
  • Romaine lettuce mixed with cucumbers, pecans, tomatoes, and homemade pesto lemon vinaigrette
  • Avocado toast with sliced cherry tomatoes 
  • Toasted smoked gouda cheese sandwich with sliced turkey, spinach, and candied walnuts (my mom actually tossed and toasted the walnuts herself!). Strawberry jam toe tie it all together
  • French brioche bread with cream cheese spread, cucumbers, and smoked salmon. Garnished with thyme (but really dill would have been better but I didn't have any at the time!)
  • Fruit bowl of bananas, cantaloupe, and blueberries
  • Lastly TEA! - "Yummy" by Lupicia. This is strawberry and vanilla flavored smooth rooibos tea; no milk added. It's not overly sweet smelling like some fruit teas and really has an amazing taste to it.
Cream cheese and dill is the perfect spread for a cucumber or smoked salmon sandwich so combining it with both of them was a no brainer. Unfortunately I didn't have dill at the time so sprinkled some dried thyme on top instead and it was pretty good! The freshing flavor of the cucumber really balances the salty smokey salmon and the smooth texture of the cream cheese all on a nice slice of fresh brioche (but any bread will do really). I find for this type of sandwich you don't need to toast the bread.
The lemon ricotta pancakes were SO, I repeat, sooo good. I linked the original recipe earlier but there are definitely lots of recipes online to use. My pancakes weren't bursting with flavor but if you have ricotta lying around, these are a good way to put your ricotta to use (if you're not a lasagna type person). I love how the pancakes are super fluffy and not overly sweet. I added in the lemon flavor by squeezing in some lemon juice and adding fresh lemon gratings over the pancakes. Added a side of sliced bananas but any fruit will do, some maple syrup or honey, and boom - sweet wholesome goodness.
Strawberry jam and honey to top off the pancakes and with sippings of the tea? Can't get much better than that! Having these cute little jars of jam and honey really add to the overall presentation which is why I'm so glad I nicked them from a hotel I stayed at a little while back haha! (Okay I didn't really, someone I was staying with had ordered sandwiches and they came with these jars of jam and honey but they didn't use them so gave them to me!)
Here's a close up of my (basically) cheese turkey sandwich. What makes this better than your typical sandwich is the fact that it's toasted so the cheese is all nice and soft, you have the extra sweetness from the strawberry jam and candied pecans (which also gives a nice crunch!), and you get your daily dose of veggie with that one leaf of spinach ;) Perfect right? This was actually my mom's favorite sandwich. Also can I add how CUTE the little wooden board is? I got it from Ikea for only $2.99!
Cheers to a successful tea time bonding with my momma <3 I hope this gave you some ideas for your next home-baking food excursion! The dining and silverware you use really make a difference in the overall presentation of your food so take your time and pick up random bits and bobs that will really tie together your whole table and the food you make. They don't even have to be expensive (cough my wooden cutting board!) and most of our tea cups and tea plates are thrifted or bought from garage sales. A few are from Daiso, our local Japanese $1.50 shop (most things there are only 1.50 including their glassware!) and some others from Hong Kong or TaoBao (the China ebay). Good luck and leave a comment below if you know any tea party bloggers that could give ME inspiration!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Art of Making French Macarons

I've been debating if I should make this post, given the plethora of macaron resources available on the web, but thought that, with the countless batches I've made, it wouldn't hurt to add my thoughts, tips, and suggestions that I haven't seen many people talk about. Therefore, this post may skim over the basics of making macarons but I will provide a list of all the posts I've read and found helpful in my journey to making macarons. Please note that I use the French macaron recipe, NOT the Italian version!

Note: I am in NO way an expert at making my macarons (oh how one can dream!) but I have made them enough times and watched enough videos to have learned what does and doesn't work [for me] and what, really, [imo] just doesn't matter. And if you learn anything from reading all this mumbo jumbo, it's that macarons may be finicky, they're very individual-tailored but you can still get away with variation in some places.

1. The Recipe
There are SO many different recipes for macarons and I really don't think it matters which one you use (so long as there are enough reviews saying it works). I've actually written down all the macaron recipes from the big name bloggers and compared their amounts of almond flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and egg whites and yes they do vary (some more so than others) but I've tried them all and they've all created normal nice macarons. In general, the egg white amount is constant in recipes with the greatest variation in almond flour to powdered flour ratio. Granulated sugar is always less than powdered sugar and almond flour but I've found that the amount of granulated sugar doesn't make a huge difference to the success of your macarons. Most recipes call for more powdered sugar than almond flour; others call for equal amounts. I personally like the ones that call for an equal amount because I (assume) it means the macarons will be less sweet. If you go for a recipe that has a super high almond flour ratio though, your macarons will end up with a more cakey dense texture rather than the light fluffy one.
The recipe I am currently using is from Indulge with Mimi . I've halved it so that my ingredients are:
  • 25 g egg white
  • 22.5 g granulated/white sugar (I've lowered this to 20 g and had no issues with my macarons)
  • 32.5 g powdered/confectioners' sugar
  • 32.5 g almond flour
My scale doesn't go actually measure to the 0.1 g so I guestimate from there and it doesn't make or break my macarons (more evidence to support my hypothesis that macarons may not be as finicky as you think). I have also tried All Recipes recipe which (when divided by 4) called for:
  • 25 g egg white
  • 12.5 g granulated/white sugar (I usually used 7g actually without issues)
  • 50 g powdered/confectioners' sugar
  • 22.5 g almond flour 
What you hopefully can tell is that the top recipe calls for more granulated sugar and less powdered sugar. Some amount of the powdered sugar (about 10g) is also added to the amount of almond flour. So here are 2 quite difference recipes that both gave me fine results. Both have given me batches that didn't work out also but I blame other external factors (ie. myself or the humidity).
2) Batch amounts
I highly recommend that you start with small batches of macarons if you are new to making macarons or experimenting with adding flavors (ie cocoa powder, green tea powder, etc). Even I still work in small batches (mostly because my silipat doesn't fit properly on my tray so I can't fill it up completely) because almond flour is quite expensive and I really don't want to be throwing away 60 macaron shells (aka two whole trays) if something went wrong. It is also recommended you only bake one batch of macarons at a time due to incomplete heating if you use two racks of your oven. I think if you're pro enough or know your oven well enough, you can try using two pans at once but I wouldn't advise it if starting out.

3) Macaron Baking Process
The general guidelines for macarons are simple:
1. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar
2. Beat egg whites to soft/medium firm/firm/stiff peaks (I will discuss this in a bit) - at some point of this beating process, you are supposed to add in your granulated sugar. When you do this honestly doesn't matter. Just sometime before it gets to the right peak stiffness (I add it in earlier than later. You can add it in all at once or break up the additions, I don't find that making a difference either but I think splitting it up is better to "not break the meringue").
3.Fold egg whites and almond flour+powdered sugar mixture together (aka MACARONAGE process)
4. Put into piping bag/plastic bag and pipe onto silicon mat or parchment paper
5. Bake at some temperature for some amount of time.

Now if you read this recipe, you might have lots of questions. Aren't macarons supposed to be very finicky? Why is there not one straight guideline on how to make them? Well that's because they are highly specific to the baker! What works for one person will not work for another. So let's slowly take apart this generalized recipe and go over the important and not so important parts.

1. Yes you need to sift your almond flour and powdered sugar. This gets rid of lumps. However, does this need to be the first step? I've decided: no not really. IF (and only if) your almond flour is very fine - usually meaning you didn't grind it up yourself - and you know it will sift through the strainer easily, you can directly sift the powdered sugar and almond flour into your bowl of beaten egg whites. However, because I previously would grind up my own slivered almonds to make almond flour, I know that making your own almond flour means it is a lot harder to sift and therefore takes more time. In those cases, I advise sifting before hand because waiting too long to incorporate your meringue and dry ingredients can cause issues (I have yet to run into those. Fingers crossed, knock on wood!)
2. I'm going to talk about aging your egg whites in the next section because I want to focus on the stiffness of your meringue here. Some recipes/videos call for medium firm peaks, others call for firm, and some call for stiff. I personally tend to err on the side of too stiff rather than too soft, but that's just me. I do this because I read you can beat the air out of the meringue that is stiffer but you can't really "add air" to a meringue that doesn't have enough (ie. one that only has soft or medium peaks). I've seen lots of videos where people use meringues with only medium peaks however and their macarons turned out beautifully though so what does that tell me? That either way is fine! Perhaps one is more reliable than the other (I choose to think that is the stiffer peaks method) but it's up to you to experiment and figure that out.
Credits to Betty Lou Crocker
In this image above, the most right photo is labeled as a "stiff peak." I, however, beg to differ. I believe that is more of a medium firm peak. A true stiff peak (one that I aim for) looks like the photo below (credits to acup4mycake). The "peaks" shouldn't fall over like in the previous photo. Do note that the size of your "glob" of meringue does affect whether or not the peak will stand up or not (aka if you get a bigger glob with a higher peak, it's more likely to fall over because of gravity). However, if in that same meringue batter, you can get a smaller peak that stands straight up, I think you're good to go.


3. Folding your macarons is something you just sort of watch videos to learn how to do and then do your best to imitate. I don't think counting how many folds you do is very helpful because different recipes = different amounts of batter = different amount of folds needed. I suggest watching every macaron folding video out there and choosing which folding technique you like best and working with it. Or just do a combo of them all. There's no one absolute way and as long as you don't OVER fold, you're good. I actually was so scared about over folding that I under-folded my macarons the first time and they came out all bumpy! If you are having issues with hollow macarons by the way, you're probably being like me and simply folding together the egg whites and dry ingredients and you need to actually 'deflate' the batter by smearing it on the bowl. This is kind of scary the first time around because everyone's always saying don't fold too much or else your batter will get runny and here you are just smooshing down this air-filled batter that you worked on so hard to maintain. I'm just going to leave you with one macaronage video that I learned from (you can tell I really like Indulge with Mimi; she has good resources). I basically try and fold under the batter and bring all the dry ingredients to the top and then use my spatula to scrape the edge of my ball of meringue so that some "wetness" from it can touch the dry ingredients. That probably doesn't make sense but I do that over and over and then when it's all combined, I start smearing my batter across the side of the bowl to "deflate" some of the air. Like I said, watch videos!
4. Oven Temperature
Everyone's oven is different. Some people say 285 F, others say 300 F, and some even say 350 F. I started at 305 F and had my macarons totally melt (feet spread outwards - a sign of too high oven temp) so I lowered it to 295 F. This was better but macarons still browned or were hollow if I took them out earlier so I came to 285 F. I have a feeling my oven runs on the hotter side (I don't use an internal oven thermometer but highly suggest you get one to ensure your oven temperature is true to what it says. They're quite cheap anyways ~$6-8). The temperature and timing is something you will have to play around with but I think starting at 300 F might be a good starting point. If your macarons brown or your feet spread outward, lower the temperature by 5-10 degrees next time. If no feet form, you need to increase your temperature. Timing wise can range from 10-20 minutes. I currently work with 16 minutes at 285 F but I put my oven temperature to 295-300 F when preheating and then lower it to 285 F when I put the macarons in. Not sure if this makes a huge difference but I like to think it prevents my oven from reheating due to loss of heat when I open the oven to put in the macarons. This is a good trick to try if your macarons seem to crack even though you are putting the oven at a relatively low temp and doing all other preventative measure (aka smacking them to get rid of air bubbles).
5. Aging Egg Whites?
This apparently is a much discussed topic and more often than not, people say to do this. This is because it does some funky stuff with the egg white proteins which will stabilize your meringue making it firm up and make those nice beautiful peaks. I assume this has something to do with denaturing the proteins and also drying out the egg white so it has less liquid. After consulting the various online macaron gurus, websites, and discussions, I've decided it doesn't matter if you age your egg whites or not but it doesn't hurt to either. I've only come across one recipe that specifically said to use fresh egg whites and I didn't try their recipe because, despite using the french macaron style, they said their macarons didn't need to be set on the counter for one hour. Crazy and I have no idea how that works but they definitely had nice looking macarons! Anyways, if you wish to age your egg whites, you can split the egg yolk and meringue 1-5 days before (after 5 days, your egg whites might go bad) and leave them in a container either in the fridge or counter top. I've never left mine on the counter top for fear something might go wrong with them (I live in America where we put our eggs in the fridge; I do know elsewhere people just leave their eggs out which is crazy to me but apparently is due to differences in the processing of the eggs? Who knows). I've heard that the container should have holes in it (ie. use saran wrap and poke some holes) but I'm not too fussed; like I said, aging your egg whites doesn't make or break your macarons. I've made macarons with aged and non-aged egg whites. If you're worried about your meringue not stabilizing (or you've had issues getting stiff peaks), you need to make sure your bowl is clean (wipe it down with vinegar or lemon juice if it's been used for other cooking adventures involving oil) and try adding a pinch of cream of tartar or salt right when you start beating your egg whites. I do find that my egg whites stiffen up more quickly when they're at room temperature so this IS one thing I recommend. If you're taking a egg right out of the fridge, put it in a cup or bowl of warm-hot water while you go measure out the rest of your ingredients (about 5 minutes). If you've already pre-split your egg white and yolk, just leave it on the counter for 20 minutes (but that usually is too long for me so I just go ahead and use it "cold").
6. Troubleshooting
Last but not least, here are a few things I don't think enough people talk about so I wanted to cover them here:
- Double stacking baking pans
I read about this a few times but didn't think it was a huge deal. I started with only one baking pan and had enough good macarons turning out in each batch to think that one baking pan was good enough (I usually had 2-4 out of 20 macaron shells that cracked). My baking sheets are (I assume) good quality ones also so I didn't think double stacking would help much. Plus who knew what adding a second pan would do to my baking time or temperature? But, when I had two completely failed batches of macarons (cracked shells) without any changes to my recipe or technique (well besides using parchment paper but that's not supposed to affect your macarons!), I decided to give it a go (what else did I have to lose?). The effect was significant and I'm disappointed I didn't start doing this sooner. Before double stacking my pans, my 2-4 cracked macarons were always piped in the same area so I assumed this was a "heat pocket" area of my oven. However, because double stacking baking sheets (aka using two baking pans instead of one) apparently conducts the heat better, this eliminates the issue of heat pockets. And sure enough, my batches since double stacking my pans have all had ZERO cracked macarons! Woohoo! So I am now a converted advocate of double stacking pans.
A batch of my beautiful no crack animal shaped macarons :)
- Wrinkly macaron shells
This happened to me once and I am still puzzled why. I was trying to make bear shaped macarons on parchment paper and it was raining outside (see next trouble shooting point on humidity). As you can see in the photos below, the macaron shell looks wrinkled like a thin sheet of paper (and there are cracks!). If you look carefully, the edges of the macarons (at the feet) are slightly browned meaning I baked them for too long. I've tried troubleshooting what might be the cause for this but it seems the general answer is you either took your macarons out of the oven too quickly or you didn't let a skin form. Now I made sure that a skin was formed on all my macarons before putting them in so unless humidity affects macarons in another way, I don't think it was the rain. However, when I checked my macarons at the 4-5 minute mark (total baking time 16 minutes at 285 F), they were cracking so I opened the door quite a bit before closing it quickly. I think this gust of cold air may have contributed to the macarons crinkling but I can't say for certain. So as you can see, I don't have a good answer for wrinkly macarons either but they don't seem to be a common thing so hopefully you don't find yourself in this dilemma. I'm leaning towards the answer being that my macarons cracked and wrinkled because I didn't tap them enough and that random gust of cold air. Perhaps the humidity made my skin that formed weak but I do recall that when I touched them, I was surprised by how firm they felt. If you have a better answer to why this happened, please leave a comment below!
-Weather/humidity/environment
Apparently this plays a pretty large role in making your macarons. If the area you live in is too wet or humid, the macarons will have a harder time drying, thus making it harder (if not impossible) to form a shell. This can be circumvented by running a range-hood fan (aka the fans above a stove) and/or using a fan on light speed to blow at the macarons gently to dry them. Now I've baked macarons twice in the rain and all my macarons in each batch cracked. However, I was also using parchment paper (vs a silicone mat which I normally use) and not double stacking my pans. I had also checked and there was definitely a skin formed so not 100% sure that the humidity was the factor or if it was something else. I have baked with parchment paper since then WITH double stacked pans in normal weather conditions and had 100% success rate so I'll leave it up to you to decide how large of a role weather plays.
- Overmixed or spread out badder
No one talks about how you can SAVE these but I've found a way (hoozah!). It's not entirely foolproof but works most of the time! If you know your macaron batter is too liquidy, start by piping REALLY tiny circles. They will spread so pipe less than you think is okay (I'd say maybe a dollop the size of a US 25 cent quarter) because even if it's too little, you can add more. Now what if you put too much or your batter just totally spread? Let your macarons sit for about 15 minutes so a thin shell can form. Then take a circular cookie cutter or a small cup with the circumference you desire and place it on your macaron. Wipe away whatever excess macaron batter there is outside of your circle and remove the cutter. You should have a normal sized macaron that will hold its shape. If your batter is still too liquidy and spreads out after you've tried fixing, wait another 15 minutes before repeating. Make sure that you give enough time after fixing a macaron via this method (~15-20 minutes) to form a skin around the edges because even if the tops are dry but you just scraped the sides, the sides wont have a skin and will likely crack or do something weird in the oven when you bake it. This technique also works well if you have a silicone macaron mat that actually has raised circle spots to place your macarons as this acts as a guide.
 
I suggest (if you haven't already) you go check out these pages if you are troubleshooting basic issues These are the web pages I looked at when I first started a few months ago and still look at today when something goes wrong.
  • Food Nouveau - covers the basis really well
  • ChocoParis - my favorite and probably most comprehensive troubleshooting page; so many people have posted questions and gotten answers so you're bound to find your problem
  • Not So Humble Pie (aka Ms. Humble) - great for trouble shooting
  • Zumbo - A nice clean cut problem & answer page
  • Indulge with Mimi - helpful photos included, not the most complete troubleshooting page however

    I know this was a really long post but hopefully you found some answers to any questions or concerns you've had about macarons. Macarons are beautiful little desserts when you get them right but know that they taste good no matter how they look so have a ready line-up of friends to eat your "failed" batches that don't meet the photoshoot cut!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    [Nail Look of the Day] Lace, florals, and polka dots; who wants a tea party?

    I was inspired by a photo I found on Pinterest (if you want to see the original, you can sift through my nail inspo board here) and decided to recreate the look. I think the flowers turned out really well (I used a different blend than usual to make my petals) and I was really pleased with my pinky-peach base color.
    Unfortunately, I can't really share what nail polish I used to get the base pink-peach color because I actually used two sheer nail polishes to create it. I started with a coat of a peach nail polish that had too much orange undertones for my liking (it's an Asian brand - The Face Shop - if you're interested but I doubt it's still in production). It's relatively sheer so I let it dry and then did one super thin coat of Revlon Pink Cafe nail polish (I've used this a couple of times in previous nail looks). This nail polish starts off being pretty sheer and "jelly" like (if that makes sense) which allowed me to layer the two colors without having one totally block out the other. I'm definitely pleased with the end color.
    Once I let my base color dry, I created half moon shapes with my a pale pinky white nail polish. In retrospect, I would have done this layer first THEN painted on the pink-peach color because it was pretty hard to make the rounded curves this way around especially because my pale pink-white nail polish brush (a Julep polish) was super fat and not made for tight corners. I think a white would have made this layer stand out more (I actually did use a white polish for my pink nail which you can see in the photo above and it made that layer look like BAM so much more obvious. It depends on the look you're going for I suppose. While this layer was drying, I used a dotting tool dipped in that same pink-white lace color to draw half circles to create that "lace" look adn then used aother dotting tool dipped in white nail polish to create polka dots around the half circles or on the pink-peach base area. This part was tricky because I tried making some dots INSIDE the half sphere space but it wasnt very large so not sure if it made the look better or worse.
    After that, I just drew on the flowers by having a small puddle of a hot pink (Sally Hansen Hot Magenta) and light pink (Sinful Colors Easy Going) and using a dotting tool to mix the too a little before placing the tip on my nail and creating a circle of swirled color that looks like a rose. Using a toothpick or a thin dotting tool, I used a green color that I created by blending Essie Mojito and Sally Hansen Emerald Express. I wouldn't suggest this and would advise just getting an actual dark green color because Emerald Express is a glitter polish but it was the only dark sort of green color I had and I wanted to tone down Essie Mojitio.

    Anyways, I'm not sure if this post was terribly helpful but hopefully the pictures were inspiring or fun to look at if anything. Please excuse the dryness and wrinkliness of my cuticles and palms by the way! :) Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions, suggestions, or requests!

    Sunday, February 7, 2016

    Disney Princess Series Nail Art: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    It's been a while since my last Disney nail art recreation but I definitely struggled deciding what I wanted to do for Snow White. There weren't too many other nail art designs with her as the theme (compared to other Disney princesses) so I had trouble finding "inspiration"/something to base the look off of. In the end, I found two designs (I forget where exactly) that I liked so I combined them to come up with this look below!
    My bow was a bit messy but overall I'm pretty pleased with how it all came together. It's a simple french tip with a twist. It was a little weird putting the red rhinestones at the tips of my nails so if you aren't comfortable with that, you can just dot on red circles instead. I think this is a nice look because having red, yellow, and blue (Snow White's main colors) all over your nails can be a bit overwhelming and this was a good compromise.
     The nail polishes I used to create this look are as follows:
    -Forever 21 Nail Polish in Ruby Red
    -Revlon Colorstay in Coastal Surf
    -Orly Nail Polish in Lemonade
    I added red rhinestones that I got from a wheel palette off of Ebay for less than a dollar and drew on the bow using a dotting tool and toothpick (either or is fine). I finished off my nails with (as always) a coat of seche vite (and extra at the ends to really make sure my rhinestones stuck). Below is a step-by-step visual of what I did (sorry it's so much harder to take a step by step of my actual nails when I'm painting them!).
    Anyways I hope this gives some of you inspiration for any Snow White themed occasion you might have. If not, well, it's still nice to look at right? ;)