Sweet success

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WedBrilliant is growing quickly and I’m tasting the sweet, sweet taste of success. We’re up to about 700 fabulous vendors who are bidding on the wedding needs of couples throughout the nation and we haven’t even been around for a year yet. That kind of success and forward movement keeps me energized as an entrepreneur and I’m excited to see what the coming year brings!

Thanksgiving has come and gone and despite my wish for things to slow down this time of the year, we’re into the full swing of holiday season. Our Thanksgiving was the perfect mix this year. We invited my best friend and her boyfriend to come join us, so it was fun to have guests, but totally low-key at the same time.

Chocolate layer

Chocolate layer complete!

I decided to try a new take on an autumn dessert and not use pumpkin. {Now, don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin and it’s been tastifying our waffles, breads and cookies for weeks now!} But, really, the Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Pots de Creme that I made a couple days ago for Thanksgiving dessert have made me forget that pumpkin ever existed. We loved the combination of sweet and salty, creamy delicious taste and I loved the relative ease in making them! Thanks to The Kitchen McCabe for the original recipe and inspiration! Here’s my very slightly adjusted take on the delicious Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Pots de Creme:

Ingredients

  • 1 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 C. Good quality Dark Chocolate (I used chocolate chips!)
  • 2 T. Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 2 T. Water
  • 1 1/4 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 t. Coarse Salt
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1 C. Heavy Cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  • Cocoa Powder or Cinnamon for dusting

Instructions

FOR THE CHOCOLATE LAYER:

  1. Heat the 1 C. heavy cream, chocolate, and 2 T. sugar in a saucepan over medium/high heat, whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the 2 egg yolks lightly with the whisk. Pour about 1/4 C. of the chocolate mixture in a slow, steady stream, into the egg yolks while whisking constantly to temper.
  3. Add the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture and combine.
  4. Heat the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just thickens and bubbles. (It just takes a minute or two, so stay close!) Do not cook too long or eggs will curdle.
  5. Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla, and divide the chocolate pudding between 6 small dishes (I used my china tea cups!). Tap the dishes gently on the counter to settle the pudding and help the top even out.
  6. Refrigerate the dishes while you make the caramel pudding.

FOR THE CARAMEL LAYER:

  1. Place the 1/2 C. Sugar and 2 T. water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Brush the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
  2. The sugar will begin to caramelize after a few minutes. Do not stir, but swirl to help evenly caramelize.
  3. Heat the 1 1/4 C. cream in the microwave until hot.
  4. As soon as the caramel is golden brown, pour about half of the heavy cream in. The mixture will bubble quite furiously; make sure to not let it bubble up and out of your saucepan. When the bubbling starts to die down, add in the rest of the cream and salt, and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Remove from heatYum!.
  6. In a small bowl, lightly beat the 3 egg yolks with the whisk. In a slow, steady stream, pour or spoon in about 1/2 C. of the caramel cream, whisking constantly.
  7. Whisk the tempered egg mixture back in the the saucepan with the caramel cream and bring back to a boil slowly, whisking constantly.
  8. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, remove from heat.
  9. Divide between the 6 dishes and tap to settle the pudding.
  10. Refrigerate for a few hours, or until cold and set.
  11. Top each pudding with a dollop of whipped cream, a dusting of cocoa powder, or another appropriate garnish!
  12. Enjoy!

I’m Set for Winter

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InfluensterOne of the perks of being an Influenster is that I get a complimentary chance to try some new products that have just hit the market, and review them here. When the Moda Vox Box arrived a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to find some of my favorite things, and discover some new items that are now on my “must haves.”

Highlights include the incredibly rich and chocolatey Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa packet. Two things to own up to:cocoa

  • I am a huge fan of chocolate, and love a good mug of hot cocoa! I don’t care what season it is, I’m always up for a hot cocoa.
  • I will admit that I had previously been a hot-cocoa-in-the-packet snob. Not anymore!

When mixed with milk and heated to the perfect drinking temperature, this hot cocoa is simply divine. I love how chocolatey it tastes, how smooth it is, and best of all, how easy it is to prepare! {And drinking it with marshmallows out of my Paris mug is icing on the cake.}

Hair FoodLet’s talk hair. Hair Food, that is. This new line of hair care products are miracle workers. It’s like sending your hair to the spa for a week. It comes back refreshed, with extra bounce, and feeling good. To top it off, the nourishing Hair Food Hair Mask I’ve been using makes your hair more shiny and gives it an overall healthy luster. The smell is terrific too. Kind of wish they made body wash…

Having a best friend who is in medical school is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is obvious: hello, every medical concern I have gets a quick answer via call or text! Love that. The curse? She’s incredibly busy and I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. We had a really interesting conversation recently though about workouts and the necessity to hydrate before and after. And, she told me about the absolute importance in replenishing the body with electrolytes that are lost during workouts. I had no idea. So, I was thrilled to see the resource Natural Spring Water in my Vox Box because not only does it hydrate, but it also adds back those electrolytes! So, I am feeling extra healthy (and being good to the environment) these days now that I’m refreshing and replenishing with resource!

One of my other favorite finds in the Vox Box has been the incredible Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer. Winter hits and my skin looks and feels horrible. Especially my hands. All of a sudden they go from nice 30-ish hands to those of a 60 year-old. (No offense, Mom!) So, I was thrilled to get to try the Jergens challenge by using the Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer as part of my daily routine. And, I love it. Not only does it immediately solve my dry skin problems, but it improves the appearance of my skin right away. Without any greasiness or the feeling that I can’t do anything for 5 minutes while my moisturizer dries. Nope, none of that. The light, pleasant scent is great, too!

And my eyes have received a special surprise, too. Thanks to Rimmel London, I’ve been rocking my new Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara. It makes me look like my lashes are fake. No joke. They’re super full and luscious looking. Maybe it helps that I have long lashes to begin with, but this mascara is terrific! To top it off, I get to pair my pretty eyes with the Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick and Lip Liner. I have to admit that I’m not a big lipstick wearer, but when I got this lipstick, I wanted to try wearing a more bold color (red, I loved it!) and I was curious to see how my lips would feel 15 minutes after applying. They still felt soft and moisturized, so it really does as it promises! Yay for protected lips in winter weather.

And last but not least, the Puffs SoftPack I got to try out is a new favorite in my house. The soft and thick tissues are not in a box, but in a plastic “container,” so moldable to any location. They’ve lived on my desk for a bit, but I did stuff them in my purse (I know, I need to buy the little packs next time!) in a pinch. Another way to keep me and mine pampered this winter!

There’s a First Time for Everything

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I’ve been asked by my esteemed alma mater, Willamette University, to speak at an event tonight titled “Careerapalooza.” It’s an opportunity for current students to hear from alumni who have spread out and are successful in a variety of fields ranging from health care to art to (yes) startups. I’m nervous and excited because I’ve been asked to speak as the token entrepreneur – the first time I’ve officially gone out there in this capacity. But, you know, I think this is making my new-ish title of “founder/CEO” that much more real to me, and also making me realize, “this is it, I’m really, truly an entrepreneur.” The recognition by others as such confirms it all to me.

I’ve found that being a sole founder, one who has boot-strapped her way to launch and to success, is like living in a vacuum. You move forward on your own plan, your own timetable and with your own checklist of things to accomplish, without much feedback from the outside world. When I stop to take a breath tonight and to articulate to Willamette students the path I took to get where I am with WedBrilliant, and suggest advice for anyone interested in striking out on their own and turning that idea into reality, that’s when it’s going to hit me how I’ve truly made my own dreams come true. And fittingly, that’s one terrific definition of “entrepreneur.”

Time for a Facelift

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But not for me, sillies. It wasn’t long ago that my sporadic musings on my blog were fueled by a guilt-ridden determination to sit down a write. It was hard to make time to do so, though. That’s because when I’m not running my public relations consultancy, I’m raising two young boys, and also apparently decided that wasn’t enough, so launched my first startup, WedBrilliant, in the spring of this year. But, it occurred to me that if I’m spending all my time on those things, why not merge them together here on my blog. So, it’s a facelift for my blog, see?

bannerI’m really excited about this new direction and focus for me here. I am so passionate about being a mom, and working hard for my PR clients, and growing WedBrilliant into a fantastically successful business – basically trying to “do it all” on a daily basis.

I’d love to engage with other startup founders/CEOs who do double or triple duty, like me. That’s what inspires me and keeps me pushing forward. At the end of the day, I’m fueled by the saying that “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I would have far more regrets and wondering “what if” the rest of my life if I hadn’t gone out and made my dreams come true for myself. And I think that quality of mine is what I have in common with other creative startup founders, and it’s a quality my husband and I are working hard to develop in our sons!

Until next time..

Working Out & Looking Good

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When Influenster and Victoria’s Secret asked me to try the new Victoria’s Secret Victoria's SecretSport collection sports bra and crop pants, I couldn’t wait. Finding the right fitting exercise clothing is so important and so difficult for me. I was eager to see if Victoria’s Secret figured out the “secret” to it!

So, my pretty, complimentary test box arrived and I happily dug through everything to find my black sports bra and matching crop pants. The pants are perfect. Accentuate what needs accentuating while tucking in everything else. Plus, I move really easily in them. Loved them so much I went back to the Victoria’s Secret store and purchased full length tights for winter activity!

Now the sports bra is the item I was most leery about. Having something fit well, provide great support and look good is near impossible. Or, let’s just say I haven’t been able to find that trifecta. But, once I tried this one on, I was smitten. Admittedly, I would say the only downfall is that my particular style (Incredible) was a little tricky getting in and out of, but I’ve got it down now. Other than that, this sports bra is hands down the most comfortable and supportive one I have ever tried. On top of that, leave it to the designers at Victoria’s Secret to create something that makes you actually look good in a sports bra. Not just look fine. Look good. Truth. So, I found what I thought didn’t exist and now I need to go get a couple more in different colors and styles.

Girls, it’s time to ditch what you’ve been wearing and give the Victoria’s Secret sport collection a try. If you’re anything like me, I can guarantee you’ll be happier and ready to toss everything else you’ve been wearing!

When skin care meets skin protection!

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I was diagnosed with my first melanoma 9 years ago and I’ve had several since then, so I am constantly vigilant and protective of my skin. I have been a Neutrogena devotee for years now and all my friends and family know that I treat the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunscreen like foundation. It’s the first thing I put on my face and neck (and hands, arms…) every day and the last thing I take off. So, clearly I’m in love.

But, when I got the opportunity to also try the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair products provided to me by Neutrogena, I leapt at the chance to do even more for my skin. These thoughts and opinions here are completely my own and I hope they can help others when shopping for good skin care products.

photoFirst things first: after I clean my face every morning, I start with a little Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream to help smooth out the fine lines and add some moisture. Then, of course, it’s sun protection time! I smooth the Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer with SPF 30 from the top of my forehead down below my jawline and onto my neck. The remaining bit goes on the tops of my hands – don’t forget that area! The SPF 30 in there makes the world of difference in my comfort level. Just knowing I have that protection during the day eases my mind. And, I reapply often!

When it comes time to remove the day from my face, I alternate between smoothing on Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer and Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum. What I love about all the products is the super light feel to them. Nothing feels too heavy or clogs my pores. My skin seems to glow and I could swear that my fine lines are disappearing! Best of all (to me and all melanoma survivors!) is that my skin protection is being taken care of during the day. These fabulous Neutrogena products don’t breaking the bank, even though the moisturizer with SPF 30 is pulling double duty!

I’m still a committed Neutrogena fan for life and you better believe my two young sons are already rocking their Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen! Now I’m hooked on these Rapid Wrinkle Repair anti-aging products and am confident that I’m doing the best I can for my fair skin!

Every Mom Deserves a Little Pampering Every Now & Again

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When Influenster asked me to test some new products and pamper myself while I was at it, I wholeheartedly said “YES!” Chasing after 2 and 5 year-old boys is exhausting… whew!

When I received my box of goodies, I was thrilled. A little something to perk up my face in the mornings, luxurious soap products to soak in a tub with at night and everything in between!

A haven’t used Avon products before, but I’m a believer now. The Avon Anew Reversalist is the perfect little pocket compact to keep in my purse. Dabbing a little under my tired eyes every morning keeps the creeping age fine lines and dark circles at bay. Love!

And the other day, when I 2 year old fell on our walk along the trail by our house, we came home with scraped knees, scraped palms and tear-stained cheeks. The cheeks were the easiest problem to resolve. Then I remembered the super-handy pocket-sized Neosporin Neo To Go. It literally is the length of my finger and sprays Neosporin on “owies.” I think he was more entertained by the fact that I sprayed him than anything else and lo-and-behold, he was running around a minute later. Win for mom!

Another “mom to the rescue” moment recently was when both boys were battling summer colds. (Sidenote: ugh, so not fair!) Thankfully, I had my Puffs To Go tissues at hand for every sneeze they had. And the best part about those Puffs were that despite using tissue after tissue, their little noses didn’t get irritated!

While you may think all it does is rain in Portland, Oregon, you’re wrong. But I don’t tell too many people that because otherwise everyone would move to this green paradise! Anyway, I digress… We’ve been having a heat wave recently. And 90+ dIvoryegree temps on a regular basis calls for ice cream. Well, gelato in particular. And Breyers Gelato Indulgences to be even more specific. This creamy, super chocolately heaven on a spoon has been amazing. I know my fair share of ice creams, but this one tops the list of ice cream available at grocery stores. The slightly higher price tag is more than worth it. Trust me!

Shell is one of my preferred gas stations, so when I learned of their Fuel Rewards Network through Influenster, I signed right up. Now I get points for purchasing this common necessity and feel good about getting a deal whenever I fill up the tank. Thanks Shell!

When I peeked at the bar of Ivory soap, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. The packaging is so cute! I kinda wanted to just leave it sitting on the side of my bath tub so I could admire it every day! But, glad I finally opened it up. It’s fresh scent, good “clean” (yes, it’s a pun) ingredients and decades of being in business continue to make Ivory a go-to family soap. And now it’s just prettier!

Overall, I’d say I’m a more-prepared, better smelling and maybe even bearing fewer fine lines around my eyes. I’d call that TLC I received from Influenster successful!

It’s a Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask #PowerofPlants kind of Friday night

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So, things have changed. Friday night excitement now revolves around relaxing and putting the week behind me. Tonight I turned to the new Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask I recently received from Influenster to try out. Showered and then applied the dark green mask to my clean face. The best part was that the bathroom was still a bit steam room-like (I know, I know, I shouldn’t take such hot showers…) so my pores were super open when I put on the mask. I highly recommend trying that approach, or just using a warm washcloth on your face before applying the mask!

Anyway, after it dried (about 15 minutes) and I could feel my face tightening, I rinsed it off with warm water and then smoothed on my revitalizing face cream. My skin is baby soft and I feel renewed and refreshed. Might have to do this on Sunday night too, just to ensure I tackle the week with my best face forward!

J’adore my delightful Valentine’s Day Treat Box

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It’s a couple weeks post-Valentine’s Day, but I was lucky enough to receive a delightful and complimentary “sweet” treat from Influenster to try out. (Want to be an “Influenster,” too? Let me know, I still have some invitations I can share!) It included so many great products, and I’ve been busily testing/trying them recently. Where do I start? I adore chocolate, so I’ll be honest, the first thing I opened was the HERSHEY’s kisses. Love the Valentine’s Day colors of pink, red and silver. They’re currently sitting in a cute bowl on my counter and look very “spring-ish!” And, I actually made cookies with them – perfect accessory to a cookie.J'adore Vox Box Looking for recipe inspiration? The HERSHEY’s website has some great ones!

I’ve unluckily been hit with a nasty cold over the last week, and warm drinks have never sounded so good. Thankfully, I’ve been able to try my simply indulgent Creme Caramel Red Rose tea. And once I finished those tea bags, I went out and bought more. I mean, Creme Caramel? It’s like dessert in a mug. Yum. Bonus: my cold seems to be retreating. Coincidence?

My Kiss Looks So Natural “faux lashes” were great fun to try. True story: I hadn’t used lashes before as I have pretty long natural ones. But, it was fun to try these and they really were a great addition. They just made my existing lashes seem that much fuller and were totally natural looking. Not fake at all. I highly recommend these lashes if you’re in the market!

While I worked to beautify myself, I excitedly used the Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask one evening. I surprised my hubby when I came downstairs with the dark green mask on my face, but after 15 minutes, I washed it off and then truly had some of the softest skin I’d ever felt! Best part is that I’ve used it several times over the last 2 weeks and can definitely tell my face is healthier, softer and more kissable. And since I have wavy hair, I’ve been thrilled to use the Frizz Ease 3 Day Straight spray. I spray it on while my hair is still wet and then dry it as I usually do. It seems to stay more straight and a bit more shiny than usual. Can’t beat it!

And, as a little bit of a surprise for the hubby, Influenster included Vaseline’s Men Spray Lotion. For some reason, he seems to be really into this. I think it’s likely because it doesn’t have a strong scent, he can easily just spray it on, versus having to rub on lotion, and it’s keeping his skin soft. But, whatever the reason, clearly he enjoys it – I catch him spraying it all over every time he gets out of the shower. I might have to steal some myself, just to try it out for myself. Shhh, don’t tell!

Suffice it to say, I truly did “adore” the J’adore Vox Box from Influenster this month – and I’m already hooked on so many new products!

Tea’ing it up

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I drink 2-4 cups of tea a day. I’m always cold (veins not pumping blood as well?), so a warm mug of something is my constant companion. So, I was super excited to pick up a pack of Celestial Seasonings Green Tea this morning, and try this variety for the first time. Since I woke up with a sore throat, I figured it’d be a win-win.Celestial Seasonings Green Tea

And, I was right. It’s not overpowering (as some green teas can be), is very smooth (I guess the white tea component gets the credit for that), and I’m ready for another mug. Talk about a way to easily get my 8 glasses of water every day!

On top of everything, the art on the box is wonderful. I know it doesn’t really change the taste of the product when the packaging looks better, but the artistry here is really something else. Props to Celestial Seasonings and thanks to Influenster for the initial complimentary tea bags that have me officially hooked!

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