November 20, 2015

Favorite Things List

Christmas is almost here! It's snuck up on me again this year because they weather stayed warm for so long. I wanted to make a list to share of things that we've loved at our house this year. I would love to hear your favorite things, too.



Whenever someone asks for toy suggestions, Magna-tiles come to mind first. They are fun and easy to use, quick to clean up, and don't have any small parts for babies to choke on. My kids have made structures taller than them! Ours are stored in two clear plastic shoe boxes and only take a minute to clean up, while still building enormous and varied structures. We have the clear colored sets (they also come in opaque colors). These are a toy investment but it's easy to add on more sets if you want to start small. These would also be a great idea for the grandparent's that aren't sure what to get. I've watched kids from ages 2-12 build these for whole afternoons at a time. My kids are hoping for the clear set this year (my daughter wants them to build Elsa's castle).

I love Legos as much as the next mom but the first time you accidentally step on a Magna-tile, you'll see one of the reasons I prefer them to Legos most of the time. These are available on Amazon and at Target. There are a lot of knock off brands but I haven't tried them. I will say we've used our Magna-tiles almost daily for a few years, on hard tile, with push toys and books and kids all over, and none have chipped or broken.

Nose Frida

It's actually not gross at all. After my baby had Pneumonia and RSV last winter, I buckled down and bought one. I wish I had had this with each of my babies! Easy to use, easy to clean, makes a big difference. It's so scary when baby is congested and sick and for me it always seems to happen in the middle of the night which makes it extra stressful. It's not as fun as a new outfit, but I'm sure the new mom in your life would get a lot of use out of this weird but useful thing.


Priddy Baby makes our favorite board books. The pictures are vibrant and clear. We keep the Treasure Hunt books in our car and every kid wants to look at them.


Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I don't consider myself an artist but I love how Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic shows how creativity is within each of us. She encourages growth, learning, and living true to yourself- all mixed in with inspiring stories and beautiful words. Her podcast is a lot of fun, too.

Habitat by Lauren Liess
I got this for my mom's birthday and she actually squealed when she opened it. Lauren Liess has classy and distinctive style that is a pleasure to behold. I've only flipped through this book (because my mom is still hoarding it) but it's absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

Design Mom by Gabrielle Blair
I met Design Mom on her book tour and was blown away! I've read her blog for years but she was just so smart and authentic at her signing. Her book is lovely and features so many practical and beautiful suggestions for living with kids (her blog series is my favorite thing to read each week, too).

Secret Paris Coloring Book
I really hope Santa brings me this coloring book. The drawings are beautiful and varied (look at the reviews!) I love to sit and color or draw after the kids go to bed while we watch a show on Netflix (Psych lately, what are you watching?) Are you into coloring? My mom's been buying me geometric coloring books since I was in grade school and I love that it's getting to be such a thing now, with new beautiful books coming out every day.

I just got some Prismacolor Colored Pencils for myself and can't believe how smooth and nice they are. I love the color selection, the nice trays and tin, and the blendability. My kids know that these are "mommy's pencils" and use their crayolas. I used to think theirs were just fine but my eyes have been opened. So maybe you shouldn't buy these...


Stila Stay All Day Eyeliner

I felt so validated the other day when I saw that this is Sephora's top eyeliner. I've recommended it before and keep going back to it. The marker type applicator makes a good cat eye a breeze and works just as well for a subtle line with its tapered tip. It also comes in a lot of colors but I've only tried black (give me all the black eye makeup! And clothes! And furniture! It's a problem.)

The other product I am consistently asked about is my blush. I resisted trying this for years because I didn't think it could live up to the hype but it does. Strangers stop and ask me about my blush frequently.

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

I am inappropriately into nail polish. I've tried to give it up and not care but I love it. Doing my own nails takes most of the cost out of it so that's how I make my peace. I've tried a lot of things but recommend CND Vinylux to anyone. It's much easier than Shellac (I have this gel system and love it, but it takes a lot of time). Vinylux doesn't even need a base coat and the polish lasts a week on fingers- even with persistent dish washing that takes a toll on my hands.

You can also use the topcoat with any brand of polish. It keeps my girls' nail polish on so much longer than others I've tried, even among professional brands.

Hair- The Wet Brush & Biolage Shine Milk

My best friend does hair and got me hooked on both of these products. I keep recommending this brush because moms keep talking about hair brushing battles with their children. One of my darling blondies has sensory issues and cannot deal with having her hair brushed or washed. A few sprays of shine milk on the ends and she doesn't even  mind having her hair brushed when its wet. If you have a sensitive child, I can't recommend the Wet Brush enough.

I also use it for myself (I prefer the paddle brush) because it works well and feels good. I keep a mini brush in my bag and in the bathroom as well because it's just the right size for little hands and fosters independence. They come in a lot of fun prints and colors and are also available at Target.

Note about knock-offs: I bought a few small off brands at Sally and while they feel good, they haven't held up nearly as well as my Wet Brushes. The bristles bent over and the handles got gummy.

Biolage Shine Milk is a great, lightweight detangler. It smooths and tames fly aways and dry hair and does a great job refreshing my girls bed head. My friend recommends it for all hair types and uses it on all of her clients after washing their hair. I may or may not have five bottles of this stuff hoarded in my cabinet.

Wool Dryer Balls
This is a random one, I know. But- these cut my drying time by about 20% and broke my dryer bar habit! We haven't gotten into the driest time of winter yet so I'm not sure how they'll do for static then but as of now, we have no static, no chemicals, and less energy used. Plus, my baby thinks these are the best toy in the house and loves to play with them. Maybe Santa had better buy another set. I've heard you can make them, too, but I've been so happy with this reasonably priced set I found on ebay.

Twirl Dresses

I can't make a list of our year without including the Lularoe Dot Dot Smile Twirl dress- the ultimate twirling dress for little girls (click on this link for a 5 second video of the twirling). I mentioned sensory issues above-  this dress has single-handedly eliminated clothing battles with my daughter. She picks a dress, I pick a bow, she's dressed and darling. She wears Playground Pals shorts/bloomers under them so she even wears them to the park and PE. She also wears leggings underneath when it's cold and a cardigan or jacket on top when necessary (we live in Arizona so these are definitely suitable for about 11.5 months of the year here!)

We buy from Lularoe with Lauren but there are consultants all over the country, check out instagram and facebook. These dresses cost more than I normally spend on kids clothes but they are made in the USA and definitely support my new less is more, becoming minimalist policy. I could throw away 95% of the other stuff in their closets and they would never notice. They also broke my 2 year old's Princess Dresses Only Habit that got old after about five minutes. I do laundry so often that having just a few of these works fine- machine wash and hang to dry. Watch the rest of your kids clothes languish (is that good or bad?) I love the Cassie pencil skirts and happy patterned baseball tee's for myself.

This is a decidedly un-cooking list, but if you are looking for recommendations I have lots of posts for my favorite kitchen tools. What's on your list this year? I love reading people's recommendations!

*some affiliate links used. that means you pay the same price but a portion of the sale price comes back to me to help support this sorely neglected blog and my Trader Joe's habit.*

November 18, 2015

Delicious, Hold-Their-Shape Sugar Cookies (with Raspberry Dust)

You guys, can we still be friends if I only take photos with my phone? I hope so. Blogging time is short right now, but still have a lot of requests for recipes and love being able to access my favorites here, so quick posts it is. 

I have a tried and true sugar cookie recipe here but love trying new ones. This one from Nicole Gerulat did not disappoint. She's my favorite photographer and perfect taste. Check out her site and instagram feed sometime- so much inspiration! These buttery, chewy cookies have no chemical leaveners (baking soda or powder) so they hold their shape beautifully- perfect for complex cookie cutters.

The topping on these cookies isn't a sprinkle or glitter but raspberry dust! Trader Joe's Freeze Dried Raspberries, crushed and then sprinkled right on top. I love the pop of beautiful color and the tart taste perfectly compliments the buttery cookie and sweet frosting. Nicole uses a delicious strawberries and cream frosting. I made my basic favorite whipped cream cheese frosting and added a few teaspoons of frozen berries pushed through a sieve. The subtle pink color and berry flavor was lovely.

One last word on sugar cookies- with such simple flavors, quality ingredients make a world of difference. Spring for real butter, good vanilla (I love Costco's), etc. Your tasters will thank you! I also like to mix things add by adding in citrus zest to the dough or flavorings to the icing.

This cookie recipes works well for royal icing, as well. Let the cookie cool completely and frost as desired (you can see my method here. I am far from a pro but they come out cute enough for my kids- the Queen was so excited about these dresses that I had I hard time keeping her cute little two-year-old hands off them.) Check out this instagram feed if you want some really beautiful cookie inspiration! For now I settle for delicious and pretty, if not perfect!

{Friendly Frankenstein's for Baby Strawberry's school Halloween Party, imperfectly iced in the middle of the night to meet a tight deadline, no perfect cookies here!- with Wilton Candy Eyeballs. My kids LOVE these.}

Hold-Their-Shape Sugar Cookies
adapted from

2 1/4 Cups (4 1/2 sticks) Butter, softened to room temperature
2 1/4 Cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 cups flour
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. 

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until well-combined and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until combined. Mix in vanilla. Add salt then add flour a few cups at a time, mixing very gently and slowly until it's just barely combined. Overmixing will result in a tough cookie.

Divide dough into two batches. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/2” thick. Cut with a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2” apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheet (silpat). 

Bake at 325ºF for 10-13 minutes, depending on size of cookie, until thoroughly cooked, but not browned. Let cool completely then frost as desired. These cookies keep and freeze very well.

September 21, 2015

Black and White Chocolate Chippers

Black and White Chocolate Chippers... just like the mall but even better.

Another day, another cookie recipe, complete with quick instagram photo. I have nothing amazing to report except that everyone loves these. People ask for the recipe all the time so I figured it was time to repost it. The chocolate dough is absolutely delicious and very flexible. My brother in law always requests these with chocolate chips instead of white. I prefer white chocolate, Andes mint, or peanut butter chips in these. Reese's pieces or chopped up Reese's would be delicious too. Or mint M&M's. You can't go wrong here.

To get the beautiful black color, use at least half Hershey's extra dark chocolate cocoa powder if you can find it (they carry it at my grocery store and it has a red label). I'm all for kitchen short cuts but don't forget to sift, or at least stir together with a fork the whole dry team in a bowl so it's evenly distributed. The cocoa powder is always lumpy for me.

Black and White Chocolate Chippers
from Anne Strawberry

Yields 3 dozen standard size cookies

1 3/4 cups Flour (Be sure to level off- you don't want too much)
1 1/4 cups Cocoa powder (Half regular cocoa powder, half Hershey's Special Dark if available)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
1 extra large Egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
2 cups white chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli or Guittard)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets (Grease or line with silicone baking sheet or parchment paper).

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes in the KitchenAid). Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and mix until well combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips. Scoop onto the prepared cookie sheet and squish slightly if flatter cookies are desired (I think the cookies look prettier if they are squished about half way down before baking).

Bake for about 8 or 9 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with milk and store in an airtight container.

September 1, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My kids keep growing up- my little man is in third grade now and Baby Strawberry started kindergarten! That leaves me at home with a baby and a toddler now that school has started. It's unbelievably quiet around the house now that my Chatty Kathy is back in school! I'm trying to get into a good routine and that includes more cooking and baking. Summer heat will end around here soon I hope (haha) and I am already pinning away baking recipes. I've delved into podcasts and try to read grown up books occasionally but seem to spend more time cleaning up after kids than I ever anticipate.

While I wash dishes and after I drop the kids off, I'm currently listening to:

Spilled Milk (Molly Wizenburg- I LOVED her book Delancey. This podcast isn't suitable for kids!)
Sorta Awesome
Edit Your Life (from the creator Parent Hacks)
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
Ted Talks Audio
Bon Appetit (don't miss the episode with Ina Garten!!)

My kids (and I) love:

Story Nory
Sparkle Stories

Do you have any podcasts to recommend? I have The Mystery Show and This American Life on my queue but haven't gotten to them yet.

My current and always struggle is the perfect chocolate chip cookie. This is the first recipe I ever made on my own and one I always come back to. I've had a few friends ask how I make mine so I'm recording my current method. I like my chocolate chip cookies chewy, chocolaty, and salty. Lots of brown sugar and evenly shaped through a cookie scoop. Temperature of dough, pans, and kitchens also seem to make a difference. I use a half sheet pan with a silpat. Has anyone tried the Amazon brand silicone mats? I have several name brand Silpats and a couple knock offs and have been pleasantly surprised. I would definitely recommend one with the cut off corners so it fits nicely in your sheet pan. If you end up using the same pan again, make sure it's cool before you scoop the dough onto the pan (sometimes I run mine under cool water once they've cooled to the touch).

A note about the butter: I used to soften my butter until it was super super mushy. Recently I've decided that my cookies turn out better with cooler butter. My kitchen runs hot (Arizona problems) but I only set it out for five or ten minutes and then go for it. It's soft enough for the KitchenAid to make swift and thorough work of the butter but it still completely holds its shape.

Do you have an ultimate chocolate chip recipe? I've made and posted them so many times but I'm always hunting for the elusive perfect one. I keep telling myself that even if they don't come out perfectly, they're still delicious (remember, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!") My kids never object to a fresh batch!

Anne's {current favorite} Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Anne Strawberry

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter- barely softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons good vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt + more for sprinkling
2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups chocolate chunks or chips (I prefer semisweet or a mix of milk and dark chocolate, whatever you have)

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream sugars and butter in mixer for one minute. Beat in egg until thoroughly combined. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and slowly mix for about 30 seconds until combined. Mix in chocolate for about 10 seconds (or by hand with a spatula). Be careful not to over mix the dough once flour is added.

Scoop cookies onto cool cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Sprinkle with a bit of salt. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling rack and enjoy.

December 11, 2014

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

One of my favorite parts of the Blogosphere right now is all the holiday gift lists. Here are a few of the random things I'm loving lately. Do you have an amazing product you want to shout from the rooftops? Let me know! I still have a few people left on my list!

I've posted about these before but I know there are people out there that still don't use these scoops. These are one of my favorite kitchen tools. I use them to scoop out even cookies, portion batter into muffin tins, make even and round pancakes, and more. They're kind of addicting and even though I'm trying to become a kitchen minimalist, I still want a few more sizes of these. This multipack is a great place to start and useful to any kitchen. I never make cookie or cupcakes without a scoop. It's just so easy and they look like a million bucks.

Are you still looking for the perfect present for your kids? There are the toy of the year at our house- beloved by all from ages 1-8 (and everyone who comes to play). They are easy to pick up, have no little painful pieces to step or choke on, and encourage a lot of creative building. My kids love to make tall 3D structures and come up with something new every time. They're expensive but well made and really encourage the kind of play that we want. We have the 100 piece set and hope Santa will double that this year. No report on the knock offs but my kids have played hard with these- building and destroying towers, with helpful toddlers stepping on them all along the way. Not one has broken so way to go Magnatiles. We've heard great things about Magformers, too.

Right now my toddler is mauling the screen while pointing at the Magnatiles picture and asking for more. They really are that good.

My best friend does hair and got me hooked on this product a couple of years ago. She uses it as a detangler on all of her clients and recommends it for every hair type. It's a lightweight spray with a subtle, fresh smell (I am really anti smell and we have lots of sneezy people are our house and this is highly approved). I spray it on the ends of my hair right out of the shower before brushing. I also use it to style my girls hair. "Baby Strawberry" has curly-ish hair and this adds moisture and defrizzes her hair. It also makes mean work of bed head and keeps their hair soft and nice while reducing the tears and drama of doing little girls hair. Find it on Amazon or at Ulta. CVS even carries it but they charge an arm and a leg.

 Wet Brush, $5- $12

I can't mention shine milk without thinking of my Wet Brush. This is my go to brush for wet or dry hair. Maybe you already have one but it's come to my attention recently that some people still haven't tried them. They are amazing- even my ultra sensitive daughter can have her good morning rats nest tamed with this brush without a tear. My favorite is the paddle brush and we also have the little baby brushes for my girls to use and to go in the diaper bag and car. They're available on Amazon, at Target, and I find them sometimes at TJ Maxx. There are tons of knock offs out there but I use the real deal. Has anyone tried both? We tried the Knot Genie which came highly recommended but it was not nearly as soft or effective as this. Not impressed.

I usually make caramel sauce but you can't beat this one from Trader Joe's. It's only a couple dollars for the cute little glass jar and it's delicious. We like to dip apples in it or drizzle it over ice cream and brownies. I mixed it with powdered sugar and milk to make a caramel glaze for my apple pie at Thanksgiving. No we don't eat it with a spoon out of the jar straight from the fridge that would be ridiculous. Find it at Trader Joe's (see the link here on Amazon). This would make a sweet neighbor gift with a few yummy apples or on it's own.

I love the look of lipstick but can't handle it too often. Too many monkeys helping and touching me all day to worry about that! These Revlon Balm Stains are easy to apply (they look like a giant crayon) and last well. You can layer the coverage for a subtle or bolder look according to your needs. I keep this in my bag and can slip a little on so I look less like the sleep deprived mommy that I am or put on a nice thorough layer for a really bold lip for date night (or girls night, make up is for the ladies really. I think my husband would prefer if I never wore lip color ever again.) At around $5-8 it's easy to experiment with colors (this one is my favorite).

They last a really long time, too, unless your toddler decides to copy mommy. Find them on Amazon or at Target.

I love my embroidered Mexican shirt from Flor de Luz's shop. It's so happy and pretty and I wear it every time it's clean (much to my Mom's chagrin). I have a few for my girls, too, and have been known to bribe my oldest daughter with a chocolate chip to wear her's at my whim. Look at this fancy one! And I love these black tops too.

I want Santa to bring this one for my toddler!

People tell me all the time they're too scared or klutzy for liquid eyeliner. This Stila Stay All Day waterproof liquid eyeliner is my favorite. It's so easy apply- it feels just like you're using a marker. It wears well and lasts all day without flaking and doesn't make my hypersensitive eyes water (I don't use it on the waterline but use a pencil liner there). This makes a great cat eye or a simple subtle line and comes in a ton of colors. It also comes off easily without tugging or pulling on your eye.

Marc Jacob's also makes an amazing liner (with even sexier packaging) called the Magic Marc'er and it's even blacker. I love it but it costs A LOT and the applicator wears out before the product runs out so I wouldn't recommend it unless you have eyeliners to burn and can afford to replace this every month... which is ridiculous. Don't forget Sephora has a great return policy if you really don't like what you buy.

I love this Scotch laminator. It doesn't take up much room and is really useful to have around the house if you're a little OCD like I am. I've used it for kids crafts, organizing, church projects, and more. My son is always asking me to laminate a bookmark from school or favorite drawing. It's quick and easy to use (just put your paper inside the plastic sleeve and run it through the feeder) and I love not having to run to the store to laminate something. It comes with some sheets to get you started and you can buy refills at Target or at Michaels (with a coupon) or on Amazon of course. This has really come in handy at my house and doesn't take up much room to store. Win win.

Nail polish gets better every year! I love hearing about new types and testing them out. My favorite brand is OPI but my special splurge is Gel or Shellac nails. I share the CND Shellac System with my mom and sister in law and it makes for an absolutely gorgeous manicure. It's a more time involved process, though, and removal requires soaking. My new go to happy medium polish is the CND Vinylux. It wears well for a week without chipping and has awesome and reasonably priced colors. It will keep your pedicure looking perfect for weeks, too. I have some of the colors but usually cheat and just use this top coat over my OPI.  When I don't have time for color I just my favorite base coat- OPI Nail Envy. It strengthens your nails and helps them grow in nicely. It also fills the natural ridges and will protect your nails from discoloring over time from polish so I use it as a base whenever I paint my nails. When I do this for my girls it helps their polish stay on longer, too (are my kids the only ones whose nail polish just chips right off?!) On it's own the Nail Envy dries in just one minute so I can have shiny clean nails in a hurry.

The last one isn't a gift exactly but will give you a little pocket change to get yourself something nice after all your online shopping. I've been using Ebates for years and it's a totally free website that gives you a percent back of your online purchase. All you do is sign up and sign in and when you go to buy something online, search their site for the store you're looking for. Almost every site I use is there- Gap, Target, Sephora, Macy's, Nordstrom, WalMart, Kohl's, etc. Cash back typically ranges from 3-10 percent and over black Friday weekend I got cash back from each of these places up to 15%! They record your purchase and credit your account after your order is processed. It takes about two seconds of extra work and then you receive payment a few times a year via check or PayPal. It's always a pleasant surprise to see a PayPal credit in my account amidst all the withdrawals! I also use ShopatHome which is a similar free service and compare who offers the better cash back percentage that day (they vary). Give it a try- it really adds up if you shop online!

What are you asking Santa for this year? Le Creuset and All Clad? I'm trying to de-highmaintenance-ify myself but let's be honest they are always, always on this cooks wish list. Do you have any awesome products to recommend?

*some affiliate links used. that means you pay the same price but a portion of the sale price comes back to me to help support this sorely neglected blog and my Trader Joe's habit.*