Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vanilla Bean & Sea Salted Caramel Cupcakes

As a Raley's Something Extra Try It member, I was sent a box of Raley's Vanilla Bean cake mix, a custom recipe for Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting, cupcake wrappers, some coupons, and a handy whisk to help me put this concoction together!

As a huge fan of vanilla, especially vanilla bean, I was really excited to try this recipe. I mean, who doesn't like cupcakes, vanilla, cream cheese, and caramel?!

The cake mix was easy enough, just add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1 cup milk, and whisk together. Then add to baking cups, 2/3 full, bake at 400 deg for 14-16 min. I used my convection bake setting and they were done in 12 min.

Making the caramel was much easier than I thought it would be. Just add the heavy whipping cream, brown sugar, and butter, bring to a boil, then simmer at a low boil for 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt, stir, then put in the fridge to chill.

The frosting was the most difficult (for my arms at least - that's right, I use a hand mixer. I haven't been able to get my hands on a stand mixer yet. They're so expensive!). Using some of the caramel you made, cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, mix them all together until they're well mixed and fluffy.

There was tons of frosting leftover so I put it in a container in the fridge. Not sure what I might use it on yet, but you never know! It might come in handy. Using the remaining caramel, drizzle it over the cupcakes and add a pinch of salt to each. Man these are so good! My husband and I can't eat 22 cupcakes between the 2 of us, so I ended up taking these to work to share the deliciousness. They were a hit!

The finished product!

Have you made caramel sauce from scratch before? Or frosting? This took me about an hour and  a half to complete from start to finish, which I don't think is too bad considering the results! 


  • 1 (16oz) box of Raley's Vanilla Bean Cake Mix

Salted Caramel
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Generous pinch sea salt
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

  1. Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Let cool when done baking.
  2. To Prepare Caramel: bring cream brown sugar and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and keep at a low boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in vanilla and salt and transfer to a small bowl; cover and chill.
  3. To Prepare Frosting: beat cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and 3/4 of caramel together until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until smooth.
  4. Spread over cupcakes and drizzle with remaining caramel, warming for a few seconds in the microwave if too thick. Add a small sprinkle of sea salt to each cupcake.

Disclosure: I received this product free from the Something Extra Try-It program but all the opinions are my own.

Friday, April 19, 2013


BzzAgent was kind enough to send me a bottle of the new Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Oil-Free B.B. Cream in light/medium to test out.

I hadn't tried a BB cream before, but I knew they were all the rage. I would put this in the same family as a tinted moisturizer, offering spf protection while still giving some coverage for blemishes, etc.

My "before" face - no makeup

I wasn't prepared for how liquidy it would be. It's extremely runny when you open the tube, so be careful! A little goes a long way.

I have very fair skin, and tried the light-medium shade. It was a little darker/orange-y for my skin tone, but was able to blend it out pretty well. It does a good job of covering most blemishes and helped even out my freckles and all over skin-tone.

My "after" face - Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Oil-Free B.B. Cream
I added some bronzer, blush, eyeliner & shadow, mascara, and filled in my brows (of course) and was ready with a quick, fresh, everyday look. I wish I had this when I went to Jamaica! It would have been perfect for those days at the beach when you don't want a full face of makeup but still have some coverage and sun protection to boot. One of the only downsides is it can wear off fairly quickly. On days I wear it to work, by the time I get home most has disappeared. It's oil free, but but I wouldn't say it's completely shine free as advertised. I used a powder to set it. I haven't tried it with a primer yet, but I figured as a BB cream it shouldn't need one. It's meant to be a quick coverage, and in that is does quite well.

**Disclosure: I received this product free from BzzAgent but all the opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And.... I Cut All My Hair Off

I've been growing my hair long pretty much my whole life. Every now and then I would cut it to about my mid-back or just under my shoulders, and to me that was short. I know most people will say that's still long, but to me it was short. To me, long isn't until it reaches beyond mid back. My hair was down past my waist (to just above my behind) when I trimmed it in November, and even then I wanted to cut it all off, but I waited because of the wedding. I didn't want to cut it all off and then not like it. Then in early February, I cut over 6 inches off to below my chest.

Then last Tuesday, I decided after work that I wanted to go even shorter. So I did! This is the shortest my hair has been since junior high. I haven't had short hair in a VERY long time. This is the look I was going for, a long, aline bob, that's a little textured but not crazy.


And this is what I walked away with. It's longer than I wanted, but the stylist said it's better to go longer at first in case I didn't like it (which makes sense), but I'm not very happy with the way it looks in the back. I also would have preferred if there were no layers on one side so it would be the same length in front, but other than that I like it! I know I'm being picky, but as my husband says we're all our own worst critic.

I think I'm going to go back in 6 weeks and go a bit shorter! At least in the back (I still want to be able to put it in a pony tail, even if it's tiny). Everyone was so shocked when I walked into work on Wednesday, most people had to do a double take. Many have told me that I look like a completely different person (good or bad?), but I've gotten nothing but compliments. I think it was about time to do something outside my norm. I don't color or dye my hair at all (never have) so this was pretty big for me! I'm actually looking forward to all thing styles I'll be able to do with my hair that I couldn't before because I had just way too much of it. Do you have any recommendations for me?

Monday, April 15, 2013


We've always talked about having our own garden and growing some of our own food but hadn't had the chance to actually put the idea into action. Recently we were able to set aside some funds and thanks to the Home Depot Black Friday Spring sale, were able to get most things on our list for a pretty good discount!

We're also trying to spruce up our home and yard for our family reception/party in June and I can't wait to show off this baby!

We were able to get a 4x4 raised planter bed and they had a great deal on already started veggies, so we picked up 3 kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of cucumbers, green bell peppers, and red and white sweet onions. I cannot wait for these to start producing fruit! I want to get a few more (or even use pallets if I can find a way to get them home) to start some other fruits and veggies like garlic and maybe even some herbs.

We also picked up some carrot and watermelon seeds and are trying to start these on our own. The carrots should be germinating (7-8 days) and hopefully start sprouting soon. They're in the pot (an idea I got from Pinterest - seriously, I've learned so much since joining the site). We're hoping the watermelon (planted to the side of the planter box and pot) actually take. My husband was such a good sport and we worked for 4+ hours to get this all set up.

This beauty was an idea I got again from Pinterest (see my comments about it here). This was great! It was also very quick. I laid the pots out and painted one coat, let them dry while I went to work in another area of the yard, when dry painted a second coat, let that dry, and they were ready! The plants were 2/$1 during the same (talk about a good deal!) and we picked a variety to add color. I didn't paint the entire inside of the pot since it would be covered by soil and plants anyway, and only painted the inside rim to the bevel.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pinteresting Projects

Thanks to Pinterest, I've been trying out all sorts of new things! I was determined to not be one of those people who spends hours a day pinning things, but then never putting it to use. So here are a few things I found on Pinterest and decided to try. The pictures below are mostly of my finished projects with links to the Pinterest post below (unless stated otherwise)

Crocheting: I've always wanted to learn to crochet. I've known how to knit for a long time but people kept telling me that crocheting was so much easier. I did not believe them. At all. Especially after looking at some of the tutorials I found online, but after trying it, it is WAY easier and so much faster. Also, I thought I would share that on my trip to the crafting section at my local Walmart, when looking for some starter crochet needles, I was so confused because the sets only came with one needle of each size. I thought I was going to have to buy 2 packs to be able to do anything until I picked up a how-to book and read through it. NO ONE EVER TOLD ME YOU ONLY NEED ONE NEEDLE TO CROCHET. Yeah. So some of you might find that pretty funny.

Crocodile Stitch Scarf
This scarf was only my second project after starting crocheting, and let me tell you, it was hard. I started this scarf over 5 times before I got the pattern down and I watched Yarn Muses (see link through Pinterest) videos over and over for help. BUT once I got it down, it was a piece of cake!

Chunky Infinity Scarf 
I made this after the crocodile stitch scarf. No pattern  used, just made it myself! Couldn't have done it without Pinterest's help teaching me to crochet in the first place.

Coffee Cozies
This was actually the first project I worked on when learning to crochet. Let me tell you how easy it is. With never having done a single crochet stitch before, I was able to make this in about 30 minutes. Talk about easy gifts! Not to mention they save paper from not having to use those cardboard sleeves. They work on mugs too!

DIY Planters
The original post for this had a birdbath on top, but I liked the idea of topping it off with flowers. Some advice, the tutorial says to add the potting mix as you add the pots to the rebar, but this makes inserting the plants very difficult. With the exception of the bottom pot, I would wait to add the soil until after you have the plants in the pot. I also didn't use a primer on the terracotta pots, used 2 coats of Rustolium spraypaint from Home Depot, and they turned out great!

I've tried a bunch of other stuff including recipes and things I've found but didn't take photos of my finished product. I've even created a board of things I've tried and put little notes in the pins. Feel free to check it out!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Soft Scrub Advanced Surface & Giveaway *closed*

Purex recently sent me a free bottle of Soft Scrub Advanced Surface to test out. The "NEW Soft Scrub® Advanced Surface is the rinse-free gel that cleans and polishes granite and marble countertops, glass cooktops, and stainless steel. Soft Scrub Advanced Surface is both tough on stains, and gentle on even your most delicate surfaces. Now you can get the cleaning performance you've come to love from Soft Scrub® in an easy to use gel."

I'm a fan of the original Soft Scrub and use it in my bathroom, so I was excited to test this version out. I have a glass cooktop stove as well as a stainless steel faucet. The cooktop was inherited with many stains when we moved into our home (about a year ago) and I haven't quite been able to get it as clean as I'd like. Not to mention stainless steel shows water spots like nobody's business.

This is an all-purpose cleaner that comes in a clear gel that pours right out of the bottle (no need to dilute). I poured it on, spread it around the stained areas, and waited a few seconds.

Stained burner

Before spreading out the gel

Then proceeded to wipe off with a damp paper towel. It didn't remove many of the old, set in stains (that probably have been there for years) but it cleaned most of the stains and it did clean the cooktop to the point that it shined. I was impressed! I really like that you don't have to rinse the area after use and it's safe to use the burners on cooktop after as well. It's really fast acting, you only need to let it sit for 30 second max, which makes it extremely convenient if you're like me and aren't trying to spend all day scrubbing the stove.


If you would like to try Soft Scrub Advanced Surface for yourself, I am giving away coupons for a free bottle! Share this post on Facebook or Twitter (leave a link back to your post in the comments with your name and contact email address) to be entered. It could be "Read Jackie's blog for a chance to win a free bottle of Soft Scrub Advanced Surface" or something of the like. The contest will be open until 9pm PST, Wednesday, April 10th.*

*Contest open to U.S. residents only and have a valid mailing address.
**Disclaimer: I was sent this product & giveaway items for review purposes, but all the opinions are my own.