Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dark Chocolate Crunch

(Confession: The actual name of this recipe is Date Crunch, but I think most people have an aversion to dates and wouldn't bother trying the recipe based on that alone. I suggest you try it with the dates first and if you don't like it maybe sub dried cranberries or blueberries. Trust me, it's SO good.)

This dessert is so unbelievably addictive. You will eat the whole pan. I adjusted the original recipe to make it gluten free, but using any of the Annie's Bunny cookies will work (except for maybe the ginger snap kind).  I made this last night when we had friends over to play cards and it's always better to eat it with other people so you can marvel over how good it tastes. Mmmmm.

Dark Chocolate Crunch

8 oz Annie's Bunnies (I used the gluten free Snickerdoodle kind)
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
2 TBSP honey
6 TBSP butter (I use a non-dairy kind)
3 oz bittersweet baker's chocolate
3 oz semi-sweet baker's chocolate

Crush the bunnies before opening the bag (or with a rolling pin). Finely chop the dates and mix with the crushed cookies along with the raisins. Melt the butter with the honey. Pour over cookie mixture and stir until well combined.  Press the mixture down into a 8 x 8 inch pan. Chill in fridge for 1-2 hours until firm. This step is key, so that you don't lose the "crunch" of the bunnies and the base won't fall apart.

Melt chocolate. Pour over bunny mixture and spread so that it completely coats the top of the cookie base. Chill in fridge for another hour until chocolate is hard. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

On Cosmetics.

Disclaimer : If you're a guy or you don't wear makeup, this post will bore you to tears. I don't spend a lot of time doing my makeup but I feel like I've learned a little bit about what's good and what's not and wanted to share it with those of you who care to know!

I've always loved doing my makeup. I think it's because I like to paint and color and shade and draw. And makeup is like a big box of crayons.  I've been wearing makeup since I was teenager, so I can only imagine the $$ I've spent trying different brands, shades etc.

My problem is - I always go for the cheap makeup that tends to look better in the packaging than it does on my face only to result in a hoard of cosmetics collecting dust in a corner of my bathroom cupboard. The problem with cheap makeup (anything in the $7 and under range) is that it looks cheap. It may look alright freshly applied, but a few hours in and everything has either faded or looks what I describe as "messy" - especially when it comes to cheap eyeshadow. The same could be said of cheap clothes - you get what you pay for. Spend the extra $$ and it tends to fit better and last longer than bargain brands.

Well I got to a point about a month ago where I felt like buying the cheapo brands was actually costing me more because I was having to replace it frequently, and there was a greater chance that after trying it out once I wouldn't want to use it again which equals total waste. One of my biggest gripes was with mascara - which tends to either clump and/or flake off throughout the day. I decided to try out some of Sephora's brand after falling in love with one of their products. I also had a gift card there from Christmas, so perfect. Turns out - going expensive isn't always the best either.

What I've learned is this:  

Covergirl and Mabeline ($5-7 range) are the best for your money brands in terms of affordable makeup. Anything that costs less than these brands is going to be pretty poor quality, even though its cheaper. L'Oreal's products ($9-11 range) are better quality for not much more money - at least in my experience. So now I generally skip CG and Mabelline and go for L'Oreal. Unless it something like a cover stick, in which case I go cheaper.

One thing to completely avoid are those all all-in-one makeup kits - you know, the ones with about 30 different shades of eyeshadow and 5 lip glosses.  Unless it's a high end brand it's definitely going to be super cheap quality and you'll never end up using it. I speak from experience here.

Speaking of experience, I don't know much about higher end brands like Chanel or Clinique. I've never been able to afford them but I assume they're better quality. A friend of mine has a tube of red Chanel lipstick and it always looks flawless. That said, one thing I learned the hard way that a higher price tag doesn't always equal significant difference in performance. But more on that in a minute.

For those of you who  are interested, here's what I'm currently using and why:

1. Foundation + Primer

I only use foundation (and spot stick) under my eyes so I'm not too picky when it comes to brands. I have a bottle of Covergirl Visalift that's a liquid foundation but it's a little too orangy for my pale skin, so I mix it with a lighter shade of a Covergirl spot stick.

I had one of my best friends do my makeup for my wedding day and I remarked on how flawless it looked the whole evening (like, no fading whatsoever). Turns out that the key to keeping eye makeup from fading is to use Eyeshadow Primer. This was my first "big" purchase when it came to makeup but it was worth it. A $20 tube of Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer (Sephora) will last one to two years depending on how frequently you use it.  I only use a tiny drop and don't use it on a daily basis so it's lasted me a long time.

2. Eyebrow Shadow + Tools

I only recently started using eyebrow shadow - in order to match my darker hair color - but I love the definition it brings to my very fair eyebrows.  I use Mirabella "Naked" shadow that I got on sale for $5 at my hair dresser's. I got the black eyebrow brush for $4 at Walgreens and I've had the blue brush (to smooth out the look) for ages. I think it's Mabelline and it's probably around $2.

3. Eyeshadow

I tend to stick to neutral colors when it comes to eyeshadow (brown + creme + peach tones) but occasionally I use Orange Facets that I got on sale for $3 at Sephora. The tri-color shadow was given to me by someone who wasn't using it and it's Wet n Wild brand - one I tend to never buy because the quality is almost always lacking. That said I only use a little bit of the middle rose tone to add some color and sheer.

I actually prefer using matte eyeshadows, as shimmer tends to fade or look messy after a couple of hours.  I love the neutral shade on the right (L'Oreal). It doesn't add color but it evens out the tone of your eyelid and highlights your eyeliner - my favorite part!

4. Mascara

Here's where I've had the hardest time finding what I like. My lashes are long but sparse and thin so I wanted something that plumped and filled out. The problem is, most mascaras that promise to plump also tend to clump. So that was my initial reason for switching to the more expensive brands. I saw a recommendation for Fiberwig Beautizer (at Sephora) which cost around $22 - triple the price of what I usually spend. But I had a gift card so I figured I'd try it. It was worse than my $5 tube. Thankfully Sephora accepts returns. This time I switched to They're Real (by Benefit at Sephora) which was around $28. So expensive. And it was good - it pretty much did what I was hoping and had a great brush, but I didn't think it was doing the job 5x better than a $5 brand. That's when I tried out Mabelline's newest mascara - The Rocket. It had a very similar brush and does the same, if not better, job of plumping and filling out as the almost $30 tube. So in this case, cheaper was more worth the money (though I've heard from a couple different sources that if you're willing to spend $30+, Dior makes really good mascara).

5. Blush + Cheek Stain

Tim doesn't think I need to wear blush, but I love the color it adds. Just a hint of rosiness. Right now I'm using a shade by Mabelline, but once that runs out I'll probably switch to L'Oreal because as I mentioned I tend to find their makeup better quality.

The only reason I even have this cheek stain is because I got a sample as a "birthday gift" from Sephora.  It's called Watt's Up! by Benefit and is more of a highlighter than a stain. But I like adding it to my cheek + brow bones for a bit of shimmer.

6. Eyeliner

I feel like eyeliner creates the most dramatic effect for me. In my experience, even after using eye primer, pencil liner almost always fades. So I decided to switch to liquid liner. I bought Lancome's Artliner in black (at Tim's request, though I prefer brown) from Sephora for around $22. Like the pricey mascara, it doesn't do the job that much better than cheaper brands of liquid liner but I used my gift card, so I didn't feel so bad. In the future I will stick with the gel pots (in the middle) that you apply with a special brush. It goes on just as nice as liquid liner and is also easier to apply under the eye. I use L'Oreals gel liner in Espresso ($9) and love it. Once the Lancome stuff runs out, I'll also probably get it in black.

7. Chapstick + Lipstick

Tim's obsessed with Burt's Bees, so naturally I use it too. I also like using Mabelline's Baby Lips if I want a quick moisturizer with a bit of color.  I didn't wear lipstick for a number of years, but then Tim and I were at the mall one day and passed an Avon counter that was offering two lipsticks for $10 and I went for it. I use a berry red color that I sometimes mix with a peachy color (by Mabelline) if I want to tone it down.


Ok so this probably makes it seem like I take a lot of time to put on a lot of makeup. If you know me, you know I don't wear a lot of makeup - I tend to keep it subtle, which is what I prefer. I also heard years ago, that if it takes you more than 5 minutes to do your makeup, you're taking too long or wearing too much. I think I've kept to that 5 minute rule for many years and it works for me - not that there's anything wrong with taking more time.

Up until recently I never really gave makeup brands that much consideration, but when you think about it (if you are a woman who wears makeup) it's something you use everyday so it makes sense to buy wisely.
Do you have any brands or products you swear by?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Preschool.

Jack turns three in June. 
Three = eligible for fall preschool enrollment.

Yesterday was a day where, despite having gone to bed at 1 am the night before (poor, poor decision), I made a concerted effort to really engage with the boys. Jack and I worked on alphabet flash cards, I crawled around on the floor a lot, we sang Raffi songs. I mean - I really gave it my all. And by noon (when Tim came home), after five hours of active toddler engagement, I was totally exhausted.  And that's just five hours. I know most moms give it a good solid eight hours before their spouses come home. Not to mention single parents! So you'd think I'd be celebrating the day when I could bring Jack to a place where they will teach him lots of neat things and do lots of creative activities while Moses and I kick back at home eating bon bons and oat puffs.

I was SURE I'd be excited for the day. Not because I don't like raising my kids, or because I dislike my time with Jack. But anyone who has two children 2 years and younger at home (who rarely nap at the same time) knows we all could use a little break every now and then. And when that break means someone is teaching my child valuable life skills - even better. Especially since there's some crazy statistic out there that kids who go to preschool have a higher rate of obtaining college degrees. So basically, if I don't send Jack to preschool I'm setting him up for a life of future hardship.

Nice try, statistics.

In any case, I love the idea of preschool. I just don't love the mega bucks it costs to attend (why aren't they free?!) Plus I started to feel sad that I would miss out on being a part of those "hands on" years of learning. But then I was like "Come on, Lauren. YOU can do that." Naturally, I have visions of Jack and I skipping through the woods examining leaf samples with magnifying glasses. And making solar systems out of styrofoam balls. And making lots of hand-print turkeys for Thanksgiving. Sure, it's probably not going to be a cakewalk, but preschool is expensive. While part of our tax return would certainly cover the fees, I think it's worth it for me to at least try my hand at intentionally educating him in the way a preschool teacher would. Between Pinterest and the craft store I'm sure I'll manage to sort something out.

That all said, I know I'm going to have to be organized in order to make this fun instead of stressful. To do it well, I'd want to set aside exclusive time with Jack two days out of the week (based off a normal preschool schedule) to do some intentional learning, which would mean I'd need someone to care for Moses.

I'd also like to follow some sort of curriculum - mostly because I suck when it comes to thinking about creative activities. I found this option through another blog and I think it could work well since it's simple, free, and incorporates faith into the lessons.

So that's the plan. 
Any advice on how to go about doing this in a fun, non-stressful way?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


There's only 8 days left in February and so far I've posted once. I haven't felt as motivated to blog lately. I've said it once, and I'll say it again - reader participation really does help in wanting to keep the "conversation" going (hint, hint!). But it also comes down to a lack of energy to write out my thoughts into something worth reading.

In any case, here's a montage of everything I've thought about blogging about and never got around to it:

On us...

We celebrate four years of marriage this month!

Tim is a month into his second semester at CSU. I'm liking his new schedule because it allows him more time at home, though we know we need to be careful in setting aside blocks of time for him to study. If all goes according to plan, he should have his English degree at the end of this year. We are so grateful for this time together, knowing that once he has a full time job all of that will change. We are so blessed. We are also so thankful that he has been healed by God of his chronic, intense, all-over joint pain through the use of magnet/infrared therapy. Sounds crazy I know, but it worked for him!

I am still enjoying my time at home with the boys, though cabin fever is beginning to take it's toll. I find myself losing my patience more and my tendency to yell increasing. Being indoors all the time with two active boys is challenging, both mentally and physically. Sometimes I feel like a caged animal.Facing all my health challenges has definitely added to my frustrations, but these seem to be on the upswing (praise the Lord!) so I'm hopeful. I truly can not wait for spring to be here so we can break out of winter hibernation. That all said, I count it a privilege to be a stay at home mom and I will always choose raising them myself versus another career path.

This year holds a lot of exciting things, including Tim graduating, new and exciting ventures, getting to go back to England (I can't wait!), returning to Goderich, and possibly trying for Baby # 3 - but not until the fall/winter and only if my health is stable.

On faith....


So thankful that God is bringing us into a new and better understanding of the Gospel message and that His
G R A C E is so key, so YES! I am praising God today that for the first time in a long time I have the assurance of salvation and I can stand and say with C E R T A I N T Y that I am saved and that it is by the blood of Christ alone shed for me! How could I ever let that be taken from me? And not only that but the joy that is found in the Lord, the freedom from not being under the Law, and the deep, unending love of God for me? What Tim and I both hunger for is more of the joy of the Lord and a deeper understanding of the depth of His love for us. To truly believe those words in Zephaniah that declare:

"The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing."

I think we have been lacking in certain areas because we doubted His love for us, his boundless compassion and forgiveness - that even on our worst days, when our obedience to His commands was left wanting, we were never beyond the reach of His grace. God IS jealous for our hearts and DOES love us passionately. Why is that so hard for me to receive? Being in His Word (which I have always struggled with) is helping every day to know Him more. From my study of the Old Testament, I'm learning that the character of God is F A I T H F U L and P A T I E N T.  The picture of having a heart of stone these past several years keeps coming to mind, and of God breathing L I F E back into my spirit makes me think of Ezekial 11:19:

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them;
I will remove from them a heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." 

I am excited as we move forward into old Truths that have become new again. I pray these Truths continue to transform our hearts and renew our minds.

On the boys....

They both fell in love with Raffi through watching this concert on youtube. God bless that man. His presence and song create the proverbial happy place for young and old alike. I grew up loving his music and I'm so glad my boys love him too. Here they are watching together on the living room floor. It twas short lived, but sweet nonetheless.

Jack is pushing all my buttons lately. Maybe it's because we took away his naps so that he'd go to bed at night without a fuss (and by fuss I mean getting up every few minutes for an hour and a half after bed time), but man is that little guy feisty these days. His new thing is saying "But...." followed by some sort of argument as to why he should or shouldn't be doing somethingSo frustrating. I know he's only two and a half, but he has the communication skills of a four year old, so I tend to expect more maturity out of him than maybe I should. Figuring out this parenting thing is exhausting and I'm so keenly aware that my anger and impatience is not helping anything. I asked Jack the other night what I could do to be a better mom to him and he said "Play." So true. I admit I have a short attention span for toddler games. Plus, I think we're all overtired which just makes room for more crying (including me!) That all said, I'm daily blown away by how bright and attentive Jack is. That he's sweet, generous and thoughtful. He verbalizes his love and is quick to compliment. And he's a good little boy. This past weekend a lady came up to me while we were out for ice cream to tell me how thankful she was to see children like Jack who were well behaved.  I'm grateful she took the time to share that with me.

Moses (Bobes, more often) is getting into everything now that he's mobile and almost walking. He's taken about five steps, but tends to prefer crawling. If you scold him when he's touching something he shouldn't, he gives you a crooked little grin and then does it again. Oi ve. But I know there's not real mischevious nature behind it, just a playful nature. Moses has the best laugh once you get him going - it's right from the belly. I look foward to the day where he and I can have a conversation and he and Jack can be eachother's best friend.

The end.

Friday, February 1, 2013

August 28, 1656

image source
 After much weakness and sickness when my spirits were worn out, and many times my faith weak likewise, the Lord was pleased to uphold my drooping heart, and to manifest His love to me, and this is that which stays my soul that this condition that I am in is the best for me, for God doth not afflict willingly, nor take delight in grieving the children of men; He hath no benefit by my adversity, nor is He the better for my prosperity, but He doth it for my advantage, and that I may be a gainer by it. And if He knows that weakness and a frail body is the best to make me a vessel fit for His use why should I not bear it, not only willingly but joyfully? The Lord knows I dare not desire that health that sometimes I have had, lest my heart should be drawn from Him, and set upon the world.
Now I can wait, looking every day when my Savior shall call for me. Lord grant that while I live I may do that service I am able in this frail body, and be in continual expectation of my change, and let me never forget Thy great love to my soul so lately expressed, when I could lie down and bequeth my soul to Thee, and death seemed no terrible thing. O let me ever see Thee art invisible, and I shall not be unwilling to come, though by so rough a messenger. 
- from The Works of Anne Bradstreet 
On days like today, when I feel discouraged that my health is still not back to what it was, I have to remember these words of Anne Bradstreet and the fact that my ailments aren't terminal and that it's not the end of the world to be bloated everyday, even if it is really annoying.

Praying for total healing. 
Thanking God for a diagnosis
and still being diabetes free 
29 years after having most of my pancreas removed.
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