Daily Deal Sites: The reason I check the mail without my husband.

I would say over all I’m a pretty good person. I’m kind to others. I’m loyal to my spouse. I support the community. I use reusable bags at the grocery store (because the city of Austin makes me.) I love small animals and children, which I guess are kind of the same thing.  Yeah, I have some really good qualities. However, I have one big character flaw. It’s big.

I struggle with self-control. I have a hard time resisting a baked good. If I’m reading a book, I will stay up late to finish despite the fact that my alarm clock – my daughter – goes off at 6:15 am. Every. Single. Morning.

And worst of all, I cannot pass up a good Daily Deal site. It’s an obsession. It takes every ounce of willpower that I have not to buy something once a day. I’ve gotten better. Mostly because Ben takes care of our finances so he sees almost everything I buy. But let me tell you, those ruffle capris I bought for Little Miss the other day? Totally worth explaining. Ben rarely complains. He just shakes his head. However, that alone is usually enough to make me feel guilty and curb my spending. Usually. If not, I just check the mail when he’s at work so it isn’t super apparent that I’ve ordered something else. It works for a minute but the man has a nose for undisclosed purchases. He always finds out.

Because I’m a giver (another one a my GOOD qualities) and because misery loves company, Erika helped me put together this little guide, sharing all of our favorite deal sites. We included descriptions below. Check them out. And when your spouse asks you where you found these sites, don’t mention our names. We have enough annoyed husbands on our hands as it is.

Daily Deal Sites

A Side of Peaches — My 15-year-old niece Riley turned me on to this site. They sell one item a day until it is sold out. I’ve picked up a lot of costume jewelry on this site. My very favorite necklace came from this site. Ben is still cursing Riley over this introduction.

Babysteals — My first foray into the land of daily deals. I’ve bought clothes, diaper bags, toys and books from this site. They sell two items a day until they are sold out. Get up early to check out their offering of the day because sometimes they go quick! Their network also includes a kids site and a scrapbooking site. All three feature tons of fun products.

Buffalo Brickyard — They showcase multiple items by individual companies for a couple of days at a time. Their offerings include everything from personalized lunchboxes to straws to jewelry.  As of this morning they are selling pink lion shirts that say “rawr” which I’m pretty sure will be coming to live at my house.

GroopDealz — Oh, goodness.  Where to begin. Each day they offer multiple items. Their women’s clothing is usually darling and I love their accessories. I have also bought some ridiculously cute clothes for Little Miss on this site. I follow their Facebook so I usually catch the items I want early on.

Pick Your Plum — I have been a fan of Pick Your Plum since they started. They feature great craft supplies, finished decor, and personalized items. It is always fun, bright and on trend. While we in Utah, I was talking to a cousin who lives next to the founder. She said that they are very particular about the items that they sell and they test everything.

The Plaid Barn — Craft supplies, jewelry and DIY. Oh my! Check out their past items and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. I get sucked in every time they sell new blank paper tag. Every time. Just be quick because it is one deal a day and then they are gone.

Very Jane — This is my latest discovery. Like Groupdealz and Buffalo Brickyard, they sell multiple items at once. Jewelry, home decor, and clothing are just some of their offerings. They recently featured a little girl’s fairy dress that just about killed me not to buy. The things I do for the sake of a happy marriage.

Starbucks: It’s Not ALL Coffee!

I remember my first time at Starbucks. I was about 16 (so, last year, right?) and my cousin and I were hanging out with our aunt. And my aunt was telling us about how good Starbucks is, and “let’s go there and get us a treat!” And I was concerned because isn’t Starbucks a coffee place? and I don’t drink coffee. But she assured me they had non-coffee drinks too. So, tepidly, I hopped into her car and together the three of us went to Starbucks. And when we got there, I just stared at the menu board with wide, unknowing, overwhelmed, naive eyes. Latte, Frappucino, Espresso, Macchiato, Mocha, Cappuccino. Was I even still in America? Those were not English words. Sure, I’d heard some of them before, but what did they all mean??

So, I did my best to collect myself and my aunt helped me pick out the non-coffee treat that sounded most appetizing. The Vanilla Bean Frappucino. You guys. My first sip and I knew — I just knew — my life would never, ever be the same. It was just delectable. How could something so plain (I mean, it’s just vanilla ice cream, for goodness sake) be so darn delicious?! To this day, I really don’t know.

Since that first Vanilla Bean Frappucino, I have taken it upon myself to find out just how tasty the rest of Starbucks’ non-coffee menu is. And I am here today to let you know that it’s just as good as that first Vanilla Bean Frappe (I’m pretty much professional now, so I get to abbreviate—jokes, guys… just jokes). So, without further ado, here is “Your Guide to Delicious Caffeine-Free Beverages from the World’s Most Caffeinated Beverage Shop”. Because, who doesn’t love spending $3.50 for 8 oz. of hot chocolate!

A few disclaimers:

*All images used are from the Starbucks website. I would’ve taken my own pictures, but I don’t have the patience to be a food photographer, which I found out when I attempted to photograph my homemade lemonade.

**Also, you should know, not all of these drinks are totally caffeine-free. The hot chocolate has a little bit of caffeine in it (it’s old news, but chocolate has caffeine in it).  All drinks in this guide, however, ARE free of coffee.

Starbucks

Cold Beverages

Passion Teas – The iced versions are both “an infusion of hibiscus and natural tropical flavors.” They are a caffeine-free, lightly sweetened, refreshing way to stay cool through beverage on a hot summer day. If you prefer your teas hot, get the brewed version. I can’t say I’ve ever had it brewed but if it’s as good as the iced or lemonade versions, then I know it’s a winner! Starbucks describes it as “hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango and passion fruit.” How can any of those flavors be wrong?

Frappucinos – My first Starbucks love… I have never met a Starbucks frappe I didn’t like. All of these are amazing: Vanilla bean, double chocolaty chip, cinnamon dolce crème, caramel ribbon crunch crème, and strawberries and crème. I dare you to read the descriptions on any of those bad boys and not have to try every single one. They are all delicious. I love getting the Vanilla bean and adding caramel drizzle and whipped cream on it. So much delectableness in one drink. And how do you know you’re getting a coffee-free version? Any of the frappes that are crème-based are made with milk instead of coffee. (Again, the chocolate version has a bit of caffeine in it.) And if it’s just coffee you’re opposed to, and not necessarily the caffeine, maybe try one of these. We cannot be held responsible if you go into a sugar-induced coma, but we do pretty much promise you it’ll be worth it.

Smoothies and Sodas — The sodas are still in the testing stages, being piloted in Austin and Atlanta. Lucky for us, we have two Austin-resident authors on this blog, so Tracey graciously volunteered to try the sodas out. Here are her words: “I like the root beer the best.  It has Chai spices so it has a fun little addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. I would totally get it again. The Ginger Ale is good… it is a little bitter but all in all refreshing. The Lemon Ale has a hint of apricot… it has a nice lemon flavor without being tart. It hasn’t given me heartburn and that is always a plus.” So, I guess, we at OUO are fans. Hopefully they decide to roll these out in Starbucks across the land so we can all taste them! And of course, the smoothies are always a delicious choice.

Hot Beverages

Milk-Based Hot Drinks — Some of my absolute favorite Starbucks beverages are the hot ones, which I guess makes sense, right? Because, after all, it is a coffee house. So, I discussed the milk-based frappes above. But the milk-based hot drinks are just as good! The hot chocolate is so good, especially if you get a shot of hazelnut or caramel. Now, if you’re like me and you aren’t a huge fan of chocolate, fear not! The steamers and white hot chocolate are my to-die-for favorites. A steamer is just steamed milk, but if you get a shot or two of vanilla (or any flavor for that matter), it’s seriously an amazing little treat. Top it off with some whipped cream and caramel drizzle. And white hot chocolate, because, just why not?!

Fall Drinks — How excited are you for fall? I mean, I love me my summer months, but fall is just the greatest. Holidays and cute sweaters and boots and a chill in the air and my birthday and Christmas music and shopping and all the good food and so on and so on and so on. And Starbucks really just makes fall that much better with its apple drinks and pumpkin drinks. Honestly, if you haven’t had them yet, just take my word for it. As soon as October hits, you get your booty over to your nearest Starbucks and get you one or the other. Or both. (And if you don’t want the coffee version of the pumpkin one, just ask for the Pumpkin Spice steamer). And once you have your fall drinks in hand, you can come back and thank me.

A Letter to My 23-yr-old Self.

A letter to my 23 yr old self

Dear 23-year-old self,

Hey there missy!  How’s it going? I just thought I’d drop you a quick note. First of all, I want to tell you, congratulations on the awesome life you are going to have.  I’m not going into detail because I don’t want to ruin the surprise. But really, in the midst of all this 20-something angst, just remember, your thirties are going to be pretty fantastic. In fact, just get through the next couple of years and you will be A-OK.

So. Back to the reason for my letter. I was staying at Mom’s last week and I was talking to our sister Beth. Yes, Beth, our 12-year-old sister. Anywho . . . we were talking about dating, school, roommates and such and I got to thinking about you. You are in the middle of one heck of a time aren’t you?  We don’t have to go into the gory details. I was there, remember?  I totally get what is going on. I thought you could use some unsolicited advice right now. Since I am you, I know you probably think you have it under control but I thought I’d toss some out there anyway. So here we go.

1. Give yourself a break. Over the next couple of years you are going to make some fairly lame decisions. (Seriously, no matter what that boy says, dying your hair black is NOT a good idea.  Really.) However, despite the lameness, you are going to figure things out, re-prioritize and end up with a booty-kicking life. Try to remember your end goals; degree, happy marriage, children, financial security, etc  While making decisions try to visualize how they will contribute to these goals. If you go off path, that’s ok. You can ALWAYS change course to get back. Just remember the road might be a little rougher.

2. Be willing to listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you have to hide it, don’t do it  If you are doing it to make someone else happy, don’t do it.  And most of all, if it gives you a sick (I said sick, not nervous) feeling in the pit of your stomach, DON’T DO IT.

3. You only live once. Your future husband hates this phrase. If I were to call him and say “YOLO” to him right now, he’d probably hang up on me. But for real, embrace life. Take opportunities. Travel. Have fun. Build relationships. Don’t be afraid to have your heart broken. All of these things are just experiences that will mold you. And that cute guy from work that is always flirting with you?  You know the one. Just go for it. I promise you, it is going to be fun.

4. Money in the wallet is better than money in the closet  I’m not saying don’t indulge every once in awhile. I’m just saying, maybe think ahead, oh, like a week, to when your rent is going to be due. We both know telling Mom we need some money is NOT a pleasant experience. Just put the sweater down. Oh! And buying groceries at Chevron on your gas card is a bad idea.

5. Go to class. What’s that?  You are only about one semester from graduating?  Then why does it take you another four years to do it?  Hmmmm?  Yes, I know parking is lame at school and you have to climb about a billion stairs to get to class but you are young. Just go already. This will save you a lot of anxiety  and hassle. It’ll also provide you more opportunities. Stop being lazy. Buy a parking pass  Go to class. Also, have you thought of taking a photography class?  Just an idea . . .

6. Try harder at work. While socializing at work is super fun and you are going to make some fantastic friends there, you are there to work.  Work hard and it’ll pay off.  Slack and you’re going to have, you guessed it, anxiety. Also, just be on time for heaven’s sake. Yeesh.

7. Be forgiving but cut your losses. Holding a grudge never helped anyone. Confront issues head-on. Letting them simmer is going to cause anxiety  Are you picking up on a theme here? Try to fix the mistakes you make. Forgive others for the mistakes they make. Toxic relationships don’t do you any good. If you can’t fix it, let it go. Point #2 can definitely be applied to relationships.

8. Exercise. Please. For your 34-year-old self struggling to be healthy. Help a sister out  Oh, and maybe cut back on the Wendy’s a little bit. Thanks.

9. Listen to your parents. They love you. They don’t quite understand you right now but they understand the ramifications of some of your choices. When they don’t seem super excited about a boy that you bring home, there might be a reason. I can promise you they are going to love your husband. Also, remember, they are human and have their own stuff to deal with.

10. Finally, stop buying CD’s. Just go get an iPod already. And maybe invest in Google, Apple and Facebook.

Alright, that’s it for now. I have to go take care of an undisclosed number of children and work off an undisclosed number of pounds. See Point #8. Keep your chin up!  Your time is just around the corner.

 

Love you!

Tracey (Age 34)

Faux Oreo

There are four reasons why I’m sharing today’s recipe.

1.  It is black and white week. Is there anything more fitting than an Oreo?

2. I just got back from 10 days of vacation with both my children. Without my husband. This gurl needs some sugar.

3. It is ridiculously easy and I am super tired. See Reason #2.

4. Kent (brother of Tracey, husband of Erika) loves them.

Since both of my kids are yelling at my husband and I need to prep for a night out with the hubs before I pick up my sitter (Mary, Sarah’s sister. Oh, it is a tangled web.) we are going to keep this short and sweet.

Go make these cookies. Now. Eat them with a large glass of milk. Watch some of Sarah’s black and white movie picks and browse the interwebs for the darling clothing pieces Erika hunted down for you.

Faux Oreo

Black and White Outfit Inspiration

So every girl has her own version of an LBD, amiright? But does every girl have her own version of these incredible black overalls? Or these amazing black destroyed jeans? Or this fabulous black leather jacket or adorable black sunnies? Or the skirt, zipper-pocket tee, hat, purse, or shoes?! Seriously. I. love. everything. here. And black is so classic. And so timeless. Buy something black and you can pretty much bet on being able to wear it forever (or as long as it fits). Which brings me to my next point. Black is slimming. It’s cool. It’s versatile. Should I keep going? Basically, what I’m saying is, you must have black in your closet. In some way.

BlackOutfit

Overalls // Striped Pullover // Hat // Sunnies

Zip-Pocket Shirt // Leather Jacket

Destroyed Jeans // Purse // Heel // Pencil Skirt

Also, I love black and white together — there’s really nothing more perfect. It’s just as, if not more, versatile than black alone. I mean, you can wear these two colors in anyyyy season! So, as you may have read in previous post, I’m obsessed with stripes. And polka dots. And now apparently stars too. Because, do you see that scarf down there? Swoon. Seriously, get your black and white on ASAP. Literally.

BlackWhiteOutfit

Shirt // Scarf // Hat

Sweater // Purse // Maxi Dress

Shirtdress // Skirt // Sandals

And while I was on this black-and-white train, I thought it was about time to stop discriminating. I haven’t posted outfit inspiration for men yet. Until now. So, none of these items are extraordinarily epic. Just your average, run-of-the-mill black and white items. But, for real, I think the husband needs some of these. That jacket? Hello! And the sweater? Drooling over it. He does already have those skinny slacks from Express in grey, and I just will have you know, kid looks hot-daaaang good when he wears ’em. Mmm, yup.

BlackWhiteOutfitMEN

Beanie // Sunnies // Graphic Tee // Sweater

Slacks // Jacket // Shoes // Weekender // Wallet

Prejudice Today and Implicit Association Tests

For our third installment in Black and White Week, I’m making an admittedly odd interpretation of the theme by having a little micro-discussion on racial prejudices. Won’t you join me?

I remember some years ago coming across a study (no idea how academic it was, to be fair) that said our generation is a bit impatient with the notion of racism. As in – why aren’t we past this already? Why does this keep coming up? It’s a nice thought, in a way, but it also implies the danger that we are not giving the issue its due diligence. Feeling impervious to what is considered a widespread concern creates a sudden vulnerability: those who forget the past and all that.

Still, it’s just some random article – probably misremembered at that. But the idea rings true to me. The fact is, racism does keep coming up; a brief glance at the last month’s news will tell you that. Being flippant about it doesn’t deal with it properly. And in spite of our blog’s raison d’etre, I don’t plan on offering up much more of an opinion on this topic today. In fact, I more just want to make the observation that racism is still very relevant, still a problem.

But then, where to start? How does a better discussion begin? Lately I’ve been fascinated by the Implicit Association Tests study going on at Harvard right now. The intro page offers up the suggestion that people might not know their minds as well as they think. The tests are an effort to compare/contrast our conscious views with our unconscious ones. This includes attitudes toward gender, religion, race, and much more.  They are careful to warn before taking the test that you might not like the results, and furthermore, they acknowledge that these results are ultimately just interpretations.  Still. Aren’t you curious? Maybe in order to have a better conversation about troubling prejudices, we need to better know where we stand.  To use another very famous quote, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Take the tests here. Thanks for reading my ramblings today. Erika’s back tomorrow with black and white outfit ideas, and in case you missed it, be sure to check out Tracey’s black and white soda from yesterday!

Old Fashion Black and White Soda

Black & White Soda

 

I am a huge fan of old fashion soda fountains. They combine three of my favorite things: soda and ice cream and nostalgia. When we decided on the theme for the week, I thought it might be fun to share a recipe for a nostalgic beverage.

Black and White sodas are also known as “egg creams”. According to Wikipedia, they were exclusive to soda fountains as they could never be bottled effectively. An egg cream contains soda, milk and either vanilla or chocolate syrup. It does not contain eggs or cream. For our purposes today, we went with chocolate syrup.

The kids and I are still on vacation so Ben’s mom, Granny, was my recipe tester this morning. She only wanted a “little bit” and then “maybe a little bit more”. Her verdict: “I would definitely serve this at a party.” How fun would that be?! An old fashion soda fountain at a wedding or birthday party? I’m thinking we may need to explore this option.

Just a little advice. Make sure your club soda is cold. This makes a big difference in the final product. Also, part of the charm of this drink is in the layers that form during preparation. Make sure you add ingredients in the proper order and then be sure to check them out before you slurp it down!

But If You’re Thinkin’ About My Baby It Don’t Matter If…

It’s Black. It’s White. It’s Black and White Week! Over the next few days we’ll be treating you to some recipes, fashion, and…social science? You know it, and all of it will fall under our big black and white umbrella. Have any monochromatic life problems? Send them our way!

Today, I’ll be sharing a couple of black and white movies that, should we sit down to lunch together, I would tell you very matter-of-factly to add to your Netlfix queue. Now, I am far from an expert on this topic. (For example, shouldn’t I technically be calling them black and white films? Ah, well.) And it’s funny how we sometimes lump black and white movies all together, as if they are their own genre.  But I will say that watching a black and white film seems to carry an inherent nostalgia with it. So, in that mindset, here are some black and white films that are on my keepers list:

Casablanca – The quintessential, no? Humphrey Bogart is jaded ex-pat Rick Blaine, who finds himself torn between the greater good and the love of his life.  It’s cliche to call this one flawless, but hey, it is. Watch It For – The long list of classic movie lines. “As Time Goes By”. Ingrid Bergman. The endless discussion of whether you like the ending. Then, as a bonus, watch the Marx Brothers’ spoof, A Night in Casablanca.

Night in Casablanca
Equally flawless, I say.

Sabrina – Ugh. This movie. It’s so charming it hurts. Chauffeur’s daughter Sabrina pursues wealthy ne’er-do-well David Larrabee, whilst David’s older brother Linus does his best to sabotage. It’s old-fashioned in every way, so be forewarned if that’s not your thing, but know that I easily prefer it to most every rom-com from the last 5 years. And why this over the Audrey Hepburn pantheon? The clothes, darling. Watch It For: Billy Wilder’s direction. Edith Head’s costumes!!!! Audrey Hepburn, the reason for 90% of the film’s charm. “La Vie en Rose”. Mid-century glamor.

sabrina3

And The List Goes On…

Here’s a few more that I love, but might not categorically recommend.
The Elephant Man – If you want to see a David Lynch work without losing your mind.
The Manchurian Candidate – If you like a slow-burn thriller.
Citizen Kane – If you somehow escaped formal education without seeing it, and thought The Social Network could use a more “best American film of all time” quality to it.
Modern Times and/or City Lights – If you love premium physical comedy.
Young Philadelphians – If you have a crush on Paul Newman.
To Kill a Mockingbird – If you, again, escaped formal education without seeing it.
The Apartment – If you liked Sabrina, but wished it was wittier and a little more depressing. Or if you’d like to see more of young Jack Lemmon out of drag. Or if you just really like gin rummy.
12 Angry Men
– There’s no way you escaped formal education without seeing this. Stop playing.

What are some of your favorite older movies? Love – or hate – any above?

 

Peach Lemonade. Blueberry Lemonade.

I love soda. When I was growing up, we never had soda in our house. Mostly because my mom is smart and realized early on how truly horrible it is for the human body — rots your insides and all that. But telling a kid they can’t have something is a surefire way to make sure they crave it. My grandma drank Pepsi like it was going out of style, so going to her house and stealing sips of her Pepsi behind my mom’s back was always my favorite challenge. It was one of the only ways I was able to get soda.

Finally! I was in college and on my own and I had soda at my fingertips, whenever I wanted it. Well, whenever my meager college earnings would allow it. And then I was done with college and I was a working woman. My slightly larger, post-college earnings called for a 32-ounce a day, while I sat in my office chair for hours on end. It was unhealthy at best. I felt disgusting every time I got to the last drop. Hmm, weird… my mom was right about the soda thing. Who knew. So at the end of 2011, on New Year’s Eve, with a final can of Dr. Pepper, I made a commitment to stop drinking soda. (And I did! For a year and a half, until one hot summer day not too long ago when I rediscovered Vanilla Dr. Pepper. Curse you, Sonic! But I digress.)

In the midst of that whole not-drinking-soda thing, I found that water just wasn’t cutting it. Cue my love for lemonade! I’m borderline obsessed. I know the sugar content leaves something to be desired as far as being healthy goes, but something about lemonade seemed just slightly healthier than drinking soda. And so, because we at OUO are givers, today I am sharing two of my favorite homemade lemonade recipes.  A peach lemonade and a blueberry lemonade. Both are fairly simple (I mean, I can make them). Both are summery and refreshing. Both are just delightful.

peachblueberry

*Note: You can use either still or sparkling water in either of these recipes. They’re delicious either way!

Lemon Mousse Icebox Cake

So you may remember last week when Sarah posted the easiest ice box cake of all time. Well, since it is lemon week, we thought you might be interested in another recipe.

Lemon Ice Box Cake

This particular version isn’t quite as easy but the effort is totally worth it. The kids and I are still on vacay so I made it at my parent’s house. My dad asked why I didn’t make a banana one. He wasn’t hip to our theme. For that matter, he isn’t very hip to lemon. However, being the good dad that he is, he gave it the taste test this morning to help me out.

Guess what? He liked it. A lot. He said, “This is a really great light summer cake.”

That’s right, Dad. I know stuff.

The recipe is based on the Lemon Cream Icebox Cake found on theKitchn. I made a few changes to suit my own personal taste. Hopefully you like it as much as my dad and I do.