Hair Challenge!


I have been in a hair rut for a while now. It all started when I rekindled my relationship with my long-lost love, the ugly 90’s scrunchy. I did so unironically and unapologetically. Like ” I’m a grown-ass woman and I want to feel like I’m wearing cozy sweatpants on my head.” I bought a ton of soft black fabric scrunchies and fell into the not-cute hair abyss. Every day. Even if I was going to work out in the world (and not my home office) It’s a little embarrassing, actually.

When the challenge to do something new presented itself I nervously jumped in. I have very fine, low-maintenance hair and I basically cut new layers and bangs quarterly and call it a day. I realized that my hair is about five inches longer than it was this time last year, quite by accident. I wasn’t trying to “grow my hair out” but that might also have contributed to my hair apathy. I just didn’t want to deal with it, I guess.


I buy good hair products and use holistic shampoo, but aside from that I’ve been at a loss. I work from home about half of the time and I have to get up super early to take my boys to school, so I got into the habit of rolling out of bed and grabbing a scrunchie from my bedside table (I have those suckers everywhere: dresser, car, work bag, purse, sweater pocket, bathroom…) and smooshing my hair into it. I can’t even call it a “messy bun” because that sounds effortless, breezy and cute: everything this abomonation is NOT.

I told my challenge partner that I was happy with my cut (I got a really good cut recently-ish) but that I was over the “messy bun” in a scrunchie situation. I had no idea what she would come up with, but what she suggested was:

1. Side pony via topsy tail plus bonus updo with a clip and topsy tail

2. Bun filler

3. Banana clip

I was nervous. I have never used a topsy tail although I have tried to flip my hair over into a topsy tail-ish configuration. I have a bun filler, but I was convinced I didn’t have enough hair to cover it so it has sat in my Drawer of Beauty Misfits for months and months.  Bananna clip: whaaaaaat?! That’s taking it even further back than my scrunchie days. I loved me a banana clip. I also loved this thing: (wtf were those things even called?) I didn’t buy one, even though they were super cheap because I already feel old and suburban enough lately.


I went off in search of my new tools. This is what I used:


The Goodie mini-spin things were not part of my challenge, but I’ve been curious about them so I thought I’d add them to the mix. I had no idea where to even buy a banana clip–like, do I need a time machine? But NO! They are very widely available come to find out. Are they making a comeback? Who knows, maybe it will just be me and my old-school hair accessories. That’s fine too. I already had the top right bun filler but I bought a bun-rolling tool thing meant for little girls because I figured that’s all I had enough hair for.

I had the topsy tail in my hand at Target and just…couldn’t pull the trigger. It’s just a dumb piece of plastic. I knew there had to be another way. I made the innocent decision to google DIY topsy tail and fell into a strange and alarming YouTube hair tutorial rabbit hole. Holy cow! I haven’t been to that particular corner of the internet before. It’s fascinating and awesome and a little scary. Anyway, I learned that a zip tie could very easily be converted into a topsy tail knockoff. And if I wanted I could spray paint it to give it “swagger.” Um, no thanks. I’m good. No one will ever see this thing on my counter. But–here’s what it looks like:


I had to watch like three videos, but then–


Whoa! It worked!!! I was stunned at how snug and awesome it was. It looks cutest a bit off to the side I think. I also tried the topsy tail/clip updo which was a style that was part of the challenge from my partner. I thought that was cute too:


I was nervous about the bun filler donut thing since I had tried and failed. This time, though I actually looked up instructions on how to use it and realized I had been doing it totally wrong. So um…it turns out I DO have enough hair for it and guess what?! I LOVE it! It looks cute and polished and it quick to put in. The only downside is I can’t put my head flush against my car seat when I’m driving so it gives me weird driving posture. Maybe for days I’ll be in the car a lot I will put it a bit to the side. I tried the little-girl bun roller thing too, but it gave me a wimpy bun that looked like my regular buns because it used my existing hair. The donut thing really does seem to give the illusion that my actual hair is capable of a “real” bun, which is exciting!


Next up: banana clip! I bought a three pack at CVS. They were on sale PLUS I apparently had racked up a few dollars credit from accruing points so I paid 24 cents for them! I was shocked because I never shop there. I put in the black one and to my suprise it was super cute in front and back (all the messing with my hair had given it some root volume that is usually absent) and it was really comfortable to have in. It made my hair look super long and flowy back there, which I loved:


I also bought some cute ribbon elastic things to use in lieu of my beloved scrunchie. I was amazed to find that if I ACTUALLY COMB MY HAIR and throw one of those in there, it looks cute and polished and is just as comfortable.


It really  hasn’t been my poor hair’s fault that I’m in a rut: it’s totally me. I have always had this internal narrative that I have crappy hair so I don’t pay attention to it. But if I actually spend more than three minutes blow drying and smoothing my bangs it looks so much better and gives me a much better foundation for second-day styles.


I have spent so much time on my brows, my makeup, my skin but have completely ignored my hair for years. I would never have tried to change that on my own accord, but this challenge pushed me to try a few things that I would have dismissed otherwise.

I am happy to report that I have spent more time on my hair lately and have worn the bun and the topsy tail a few times. I haven’t worn the banana clip outside the house yet, but I am not avoiding it and will definitely add it to the rotation. I tried the Goodie mini spin pins and although I think I need more practice, I was able to do a half up thing that I didn’t hate:


I also reminded myself that even if my bangs are being weird, I do not have to resort to the scrunchie:


I have to admit, on days when I am going to work from home or on weekends I do still tend to fall into the scrunchie trap, but I am so happy to have some different options to look more polished and cute when I am out in the world.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Easter Coconut Sheet Cake


I haven’t baked at home in a while. I always bake something yummy for Easter, and I would have done the same this year too, but
we went out of town for my cousin’s wedding that weekend. We got back just in time to change clothes and head to a concert on Sunday.

With all the activity that weekend I just didn’t have the energy to celebrate Easter. We are not religious so our celebration normally includes spending time with family, dying eggs, cooking, eating and lots of chocolate bunnies in the kids’ baskets.

I was excited to make this cake after Easter, but decided to make cupcakes instead. Of course my usual helper was excited too. (Cider was mine, not his) 😉


The cake was fun and easy to mix up and everything was smooth sailing…
Until I got to the frosting. I was planning on preparing all four colors…ok, well at least two, and I was excited to practice piping with a couple of different tips. I’ve piped the egg shape before and it’s fun.

I warmed the egg whites and sugar and whipped them, everything was fine. I added the butter, that was fine. I added the rest of the ingredients, and the buttercream started to look broken.

I kept mixing hoping it would come together, but no such luck. I chilled it more, I beat it more, I added more butter…but nothing changed. I folded in coconut flakes and dyed it green hoping the wonky texture wouldn’t matter.


The buttercream piped ok but still looked weird and watery, so I threw a discounted kiss on top and called it a day.


So what am I going to do with all these yolks?

Go see if my fellow bakers had better buttercream than I ended up with!

Next up: Buttery Pound Cake with Salty Caramel Glaze. OMG.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Blood Orange Tiramisu


I decided to make this for dessert when my husband and I were having friends over for dinner. He was making squid ink pasta with mussels and an orange-fennel salad and I thought the orange tiramisu would be perfect.





The recipe says it’s the perfect “make-ahead dessert” so of course I gathered ingredients in the afternoon on the day I needed to serve it after dinner. I was happy to find cara cara oranges but I also grabbed a couple of tangelos too, just because.




The recipe came together quickly and easily and I tossed it in the freezer for an hour and moved it to the fridge for the last five although I should have probably left it mostly in the freezer. Surprisingly, this was my first tiramisu so I wasn’t sure how it would be after chilling for about five hours. I did know that it would be better overnight, but alas…I am a huge procrastinator. It went in the freezer at about 3:30pm and we cut it at around 8:30pm.


The ladyfingers were soft but not completely spongey/soaked through but the flavors were so perfect. It didn’t slice up, of course–we kind of just scooped the soft layers onto plates and within minutes that’s what the plates looked like.



There was only one small slice left and I happily ate it the next morning. It was perfect. The flavors had finished developing and the ladyfingers were soft and delicious.




I had a bit of citrus to use up so I decided to make a marmalade. It was yummy and a nice treat on my toast all week.

I will definitely be adding this to the rotation. My older boys aren’t the biggest fan of citrus desserts but I feel much better serving them orange soaked tiramisu rather than coffee. ( I do value sleep after all!)

Go see what everyone else thought, I have a feeling they loved it too!

Next up: Light and Lemony Jelly Roll with Raspberry Cream Filling. I made this one when we were test baking, but I may make it again anyway, it was a nice one.

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting


This cake was a big hit in my house. There are five members in my family so having a giant sheet cake around is always a good idea. I am from Texas so there was no way I was skipping this one! I haven’t encountered these cakes often as an adult, though–they were mostly a staple of my youth.


The cake came together easily and I loved that it baked so quickly. The cakes I remember as a kid all had chocolate frosting and usually chopped pecans on top, but the peanut butter frosting tasted exactly like my grandmother’s peanut butter fudge! The one downside was that the amount of peanuts it called for was a lot and for some reason I used them all. I gently pressed them down into the warm frosting so they would stick but I still spent the week sweeping peanuts off of my floors. Next time I’ll definitely just do a light sprinkle.




The frosting fused perfectly and I loved that the yummy peanut butter layer was almost as thick as the cake itself. The frosting coated the cake and kept it moist all week and it was a great after dinner dessert every night for almost the entire school/work week. My big boys requested it for their lunch box dessert a few days as well.


Everyone was sad to see it go and it will definitely be added to our family dessert rotation!

Go see what my baker friends thought about this cake from my home state!

Next Up: Blood Orange Tiramisu!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise


I was so excited to make this cake. I had never made homemade toffee before and you can always count me in if a bundt cake is happening.


The toffee making started out fine, I had a hard time reading my thermometer and was afraid to let the mixture go too long. I pulled it, poured it in the pan and added the chocolate and almonds. My husband is making a 7 layer dip for the Super Bowl today and he was not amused that I took the glass pan he had pulled for his dip. I assured him I’d be done and have it washed, ASAP.





The toffee looked amazing in the pan and I was excited to taste it. I asked for help breaking it out of the pan and that’s when things went south. I didn’t let the toffee cook on the stovetop quite long enough and the texture was more like caramel than toffee. When my sweet man was trying to liberate it from the his pan it shattered. I knew I should have used the metal pan!!

The rest of the cake preparation went much more smoothly, and everything seemed fine. The batter tasted super yummy. My only concern was the cake seemed to sink slightly as it cooled. Once I flipped it over it seemed fine.

I haven’t tried it yet because we are taking it with us to friends’ house this afternoon, but I’m guessing it’s going to be great!

Go see what my fellow bakers thought!

Next Up: Cherry Almond Crisp–yum!

Welcome Casper!


So the day has FINALLY come! Our brand-new Casper bed arrived today, a day early! I can’t express how excited we were to see this on our porch!


We immediately raced to our bedroom to evict our terrible back-breaking old mattress.


We had a pile of stuff under our bed, unbeknownst to us, plus we discovered a broke slat–boo! After removing the pile of toys and random stuff and fixing the slat, we were good to go.



It was so fun to liberate the bed from it’s box.


Look at how pretty she is! We were so nervous about this whole purchase but really felt confident in giving Casper a shot after doing some research.

We were so discouraged after a few trips to brick and mortar furniture shops, and I was hoping there could be a better way. Casper definitely made purchasing our new bed easy, and it was delivered a day earlier than expected. The whole transaction and delivery took less than a week.

The idea of sitting on a mattress for five minutes with a pushy salesman (and they were ALL pushy) staring at us, then dropping thousands of dollars was daunting. We kept thinking ‘well, we can save up…’ but then I went home and read reviews on our favorite mattresses and there were so many bad ones.

Lots of people saying how much they regretted spending so much money on a mattress that off-gassed, developed ridges and bumps, made them uncomfortably hot while they slept, made sex impossible….YES–many of the beds we were considering are apparently NOT easy to have sex on. I couldn’t imagine reading that then returning to the store to either open a line of credit that I would be paying on for years or plunking down a big chunk of our savings account.

I was so happy to have discovered the Casper bed–it was affordable for us and it had every single desirable feature we could hope for: made in the US, no chemical flame retardants, a unique allergen-free latex foam/memory foam design, (according to reviews) enough bounce to keep my marriage from being sex-free, plus free shipping and quick delivery. I had a great month at work and so we took the plunge.

The feel of the mattress was great, right out of the box and there was NO off-gassing. I realized after a few minutes that there was no noticeable smell associated with the bed, at all. I could detect a faint scent of something that smelled ‘new’–a bit like starch on a new shirt or white Elmer’s glue–very mild and hardly noticeable. That’s IT.

Tonight is our first night sleeping on our new bed. Lounging has felt amazing, so I’m hoping sleeping will be the same. I was so nervous feeling the bed for the first time, but it was perfect. soft yet supportive. I’ll be sure to update after we sleep on it for a few days!

Want $50 off a Casper of your own? Click here!

Penguins in the Kitchen: Joy the Baker Melt-y Chocolate-Truffle Cookies


One day I got a package in the mail from Amazon. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I had no idea what could be inside. The box contained two cookbooks: Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence and Brookes Headley’s Fancy Desserts, an unexpected “just because” gift from a friend in California.


The first recipe I tried from Homemade Decadence was a classic yellow cake. It is a rock-solid basic recipe and should be anyone’s go to for birthdays, potlucks or just because. I made it for a friend’s birthday and baked it in a bundt pan and topped it with a chocolate ganache and sprinkles. The recipe makes one bundt or three 9″ layers or 24 cupcakes.


I’ve started baking with a group of friends and I chose this cookie for our first recipe, based on ingredients I had on hand. I love chocolate truffles and was really excited to bake these.


It was weird for me to put a cookie dough together by hand, I’m so used to using my stand mixer. They came together fast and with no issues along the way. The recipe was simple and straight forward. I put the dough in the freezer for 18 minutes instead of the fridge for 30, scooped them out and rolled them in powdered sugar and had them in the oven quickly. I was disappointed that the recipe only yielded 16 cookies: there are five people in my family and we all love cookies. Next time I’d definitely double the recipe.


The cookie was supposed to be slightly underbaked. She recommended about 10 minutes bake time, but I know my oven: cookies this size will NOT be underbaked at ten minutes, they will be tiny bits of charcoal. I started them off at 5 minutes, rotated the pans and put them in for three more minutes. They were perfectly set and after cooling on the pan for five minutes I moved them to wire racks.

They were definitely best warm: melty and yummy. They were a cross between a chocolate crinkle, a brownie and a truffle. I love the color contrast between the confectioners’ sugar and the dark chocolate cookie, but I am curious to see if 3/4c. sugar/1/4 cup cocoa powder would make it taste even more like truffles.

The cookies pack a punch and are very very rich. I had two–they are definitely not snacking cookies, just a bit is enough. But even so–16 cookies will not cut it for my house!

Have you made these? What did you think?

Baked Sunday Mornings: Sweet & Spicy


I can’t fully express how much I loved the Gingersnaps with Lemon Sugar. I was totally ambivalent about making them and had zero expectations, and was beyond surprised at how delicious they turned out.


I was really pleased at how quick the cookies came together, and how little mess they made.




I weighed the ingredients and baked the cookies for about 14 minutes. They were perfectly uniformly soft when warm and crisp-chewy the next day. I almost ate all of these single-handedly, and will absolutely make these again.


I didn’t make our first recipe in this book, Election Palmiers and so I decided to catch up and make them this week.





It was so fun to make these and I got to use my new pastry mat for the first time which was great. I was worried about the cayenne, I don’t love spicy foods, but I decided to trust the recipe and go for it. I did cut it back by 1/4 tsp. but that’s it.

My cookies were not the most even–some were way thicker than others and my rolling technique was not on point, but the issue I had was the lip-tingling burn I felt when I bit into them. I don’t normally get angry at cookies but I was kind of annoyed at this one. I’m so glad I made them and gave elephant ears a shot, but I will not be making these again.

Go see what the other bakers were up to this time!

Next up: Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise– I can’t wait to try this one!