Monday, November 30, 2015

My First Advent Calendar

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm in full on Christmas mode. I managed to hung up every string of lights I had collected over the years without making the house look like an outrageous light show. Earlier, I was out for a grocery run and in the car I saw so many people's houses decorated with holiday lights. It got me so excited because the holiday season is officially here! Another exciting thing is the world of advent calendars. With a surprise behind each door, it's such a fun way to count down to Christmas. Though advent calendars are quite limited in the States compared to UK, I was very happy to find one that suited to my taste. I picked up the Yankee Candle advent calendar because one of my favorite things in the winter time is having lit candles on a chilly night. And anything that smells warm and inviting, I'm all for it. I think these scented surprises are perfect for the tealight holders that I got earlier this month. Aside from it being my first advent calendar, it also feels very special because I get to open door number one on my birthday, the first of December! Something tells me I'm going to start December on a very good note. 

Friday, November 27, 2015


:: on my plate ::


I had the perfect Thanksgiving day with my parents yesterday. We were very lucky to have the day off together as a family, as our schedules can be tricky to work around with. We started the day with an early lunch out of town at a hot pot place called Boiling Pot, and then stopped by the 85C Bakery in a nearby city to pick up a birthday cake (we were celebrating my birthday early). The bakery was bustling with people, and the cakes were disappearing from the displays like I've never seen before. I picked out the Mango Cream Brûlée, which is a vanilla sponge cake layered with vanilla brûlée and mango mouse. It was one of the best cakes I've ever had and it undoubtedly knocked out the store-bought pumpkin pie we had for dessert that night. As for the dinner, I started preparing for a small Thanksgiving meal around 4pm. It was my first time making Thanksgiving dinner. To be honest, I had no game plan or strategy planning out the dishes and the timing, I just dove right in with the prepping. The turkey was on my mind during the whole process, as I did not want the main course to burn. While I paid close attention to the turkey and it turned out just right, I can't say the same for the rest of the dishes, sadly. The side dishes were slightly burned, and as my mom was helping me save the dishes and picking out the burned pieces while my dad was carving the turkey, I couldn't be more thankful than in that moment. I am truly thankful for all that I have, and for my parents especially because if it isn't for their love and hard work, I wouldn't be where I am right now. Okay, mushiness over. Dinner was served at 7:30pm and it turned out to be a huge hit (despite the slightly burnt casseroles and the chunky mashed potatoes). For dessert, there was the cake and obligatory pumpkin pie, which I shared them both with my mom. This was one of the best Thanksgivings I've had and it'll surely be one of my favorite holiday memories to look back on. 

What was your favorite part of Thanksgiving this year?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trader Joe's Tuesday: Pumpkin Rolls

I had dessert for breakfast. And it was the best thing ever all thanks to these delectable pumpkin rolls. Think warm and fluffy cinnamon rolls, except pumpkin! These made my weekend morning wonderfully sweet and delicious. The smell of pumpkin filled the whole house and I was practically hovering over the oven, waiting to get my hands on one. Of course, no roll is complete without the icing. The package comes with a packet of pumpkin spice icing, which I drizzled and ultimately drowned the rolls in. Indulging in these pumpkin rolls is one of my favorite things about fall and with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I'm just getting warmed up with all the seasonal desserts!

 { rating } 
5 out of 5

Previous Trader Joe's Tuesday posts:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Healthy Holiday Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

A classic green bean casserole with homemade mushroom sauce!

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In my previous Healthy Holiday Recipe, I shared something sweet and it was so good that it made me feel like I was cheating on dessert at the dinner table. This time I'll be bringing you a savory dish that is one of my favorites for Thanksgiving: green bean casserole.

I love to find ways of making recipes healthier without sacrificing for taste. This simple green bean casserole is an excellent example, as it trades in the canned stuff for a lighter mushroom sauce that will possibly make you reach for seconds. The Trader Joe's fried french onions might just be my new favorite thing. They're packed with flavor and the crunchy texture makes me feel like I'm having onion rings at the dinner table. I may have used more than what was really needed for the topping, but they were just too good to pass up. For the creamy mushroom sauce, I used cornstarch, milk, and vegetable stock. I prefer this simple sauce over cream of mushroom in a can, which has a high sodium content. The homemade sauce is also a great option if you want to shy away from using heavy cream, a key ingredient that makes the sauce thick and creamy and what is typically found in a green bean casserole recipe. Definitely give this recipe a try if you are looking for a healthier dish to make this Thanksgiving!

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Makes 2 servings


 2 cups green beans, cooked and drained
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced white mushroom (about 5-6 whole mushrooms) 
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt
ground black paper 
1 cup Trader' Joe's Fried French Onions


Preheat oven to 375 F. and set aside a a small casserole dish.

In a pot of boiling water, cook the green beans until they look green and tender. Drain and set aside. If you prefer them to be a little crispier, you can run them under cold water to stop them from cooking after draining them. 

To make the mushroom sauce, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced shallots and stir for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until they are soft and turning slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper.  

Sprinkle the cornstarch over the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour the vegetable stock and milk. Bring mixture to a boil or until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. If mixture is too thin, you can add parmesan cheese. If mixture is too thick, you can add more milk.

Add the green beans and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper if desired. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Top the casserole with fried french onions and bake for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 20, 2015

My West Elm Collection | Holiday Decor

Lately, I've been obsessed with adding fancy, decorative touches to the house that are fitting for all the end of the year festivities. West Elm, the ultimate home goods store that is all about classy and chic styles, has been my favorite place to have a look around. I constantly found myself making a mental wish list of all things sparkly...and rustic...and Mercury. I'm like a giddy school girl when it comes to decorating the home, and the holiday season is the perfect excuse for going overboard with fun and festive decor. It's only appropriate, don't you think? So after the umpteenth time of visiting the site and admiring their beautiful selection of things, I picked out a couple of decor pieces for the holidays. I know any experienced holiday shopper would know better than to buy anything between now and Black Friday (Cyber Monday too), but patience isn't one of my strong suits when it comes to shopping. The first thing I got was the set of the 6 Mercury ornaments. I fell in love with how glamorous they looked on the site. In person, they look just as pretty! Each of the glass ornaments is covered with silver and metallic specks, which look subtle from far away, but super neat up close! And can we just talk about the festive packaging it came in? I felt like I was opening a Christmas gift when I saw the confetti-like tissue paper tucked around each ornament. I hung the ornaments on the tree (and yes, I already have my tree up!) and they look as lovely as ever. I love that the simplicity of the detail doesn't get drowned out with the red and gold accents on the tree. It has the opposite effect actually, as they are quite eye-catching with its metallic-like finish and reflective glass.

To match with these ornaments and because I simply adore cute and dainty decor that can be put to good use for the home, I selected a couple of candle holders in various Mercury styles for the living room coffee table. Again, they feature the same glimmery look as the ornaments. However, these tealights have a dusted and aged finish, leaving random traces of transparent glass all around. When lit in the dark, the tealights sparkle and glow beautifully through the see-through areas. The flame reflects off the metallic glass, which creates a very warm and cozy setting. I placed my four candle holders around a simple plant on the coffee table, and voila I have myself a holiday centerpiece! I think any minimalistic would approve of my decor choice, yeah? They give the living room space a classy touch, and of course make the space feel so much cozier on a chilly night. 

In case you couldn't tell, I am loving these new additions to the living room space. The way that the Mercury-finished glass catches and reflects light is absolutely gorgeous and unlike anything I've ever owned in terms of home goods. Not to mention that the minimalist style is the perfect balance to the bright red and green colors that I have spread out around the house. What are some holiday decorations that you have in your home? Do you have a favorite among them?


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Healthy Holiday Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping

A warm & comforting dish that can double as dessert!

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Someone in the family volunteered me to be the host for this year's Thanksgiving dinner and at first I thought "this is going to be so fun!". But then I realized the loads of work that come with such a task. But since it's going to be for a small gathering and I do love spending time in the kitchen baking lovely and mouth-watering dishes, I can't complain and thought I might as well enjoy myself and knock everyone's socks off with my skills in the kitchen. (Jokes, I'm a novice when it comes to cooking). Since then, I've been searching the web (and by web, I mean pinterest) for simple and healthy dishes to make for a small holiday dinner. While the recipes I found all looked delicious and instagram-worthy, they were packed with heavy and processed ingredients. That made it not so appetizing for me. I was hunting for healthier versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes in all corners of the internet. Green bean casseroles and sweet potato casseroles were among the top hits that I found, as they are everyone's favorite at the dinner table. I will be sharing the recipe for the latter today!

This sweet potato casserole with praline topping is a different take on the traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. The toasted pecans with sugar and flour add the perfect crunch to the light and fluffy mashed sweet potatoes. I used the measurements from a couple of different sources and adjusted them to my liking. I kept this a low-sugar dish, because I wanted to bring out the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. This is an easy recipe that you can whip up on the side, as most of the ingredients can already be found in the kitchen. The only thing to note is that there are a couple of ways to cook the sweet potatoes, you can bake them at 425 degree F. for 1 hour or cut them up and bring them to a boil on the stovetop. Whatever method you choose, getting the sweet potatoes ready will take the longest so I suggest baking them first thing in the morning on the day of Thanksgiving or even the night before as they can be stored in the fridge. 

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Makes 3 servings


For the sweet potato casserole
2 large red sweet potatoes, baked
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping
1/2 cup raw pecan pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, in solid form


Set oven to 375 F and set aside a small casserole dish.

Using a spoon, scoop out the meat from the baked sweet potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl. Mash the potatoes with a fork until it's fluffy. 

Combine milk and vanilla extract into the large bowl with the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well. Pour the mixture into a small baking dish and smooth top with the back of a spoon or spatula.

To make the topping, toss together the pecans, brown sugar, and flour. Cut in bits of coconut oil with a fork or knife. The final mixture should look crumbly.

Layer the pecan topping into the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Christmas Tree Part 2 | 2015

A little over a week ago, I posted a video of myself setting up my tree for the holidays [read & watch here]. Part two of that video is now up! It didn't take me as long as the first time where I spent hours fixing the burlap ribbons and string lights. I can be super picky about how everything is placed on the tree, so truth to be told I would not be make a very good buddy for decorating the tree with. I've actually been putting up the tree by myself for the past few years, and I don't mind it at all. That may have just sounded really sad, but I'm always pleased with how the tree turns out. It makes me happy seeing the Christmas tree all lit up and making everyone get into the holiday mood. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

7 Skincare Tips from a 21 Year Old

Tips for clear & healthy skin!

 Please note that my skin is far from perfect and all tips shared are based on personal experience. 
~ Skin type is oily & sensitive ~


I bet you've heard this one a hundred times - from parents, friends, celebrities - but it's so true, drinking lots of water does wonders for the skin. The skin is our largest organ and we're made up of more than 50% water (55% for adult women, 60% for adult men), so staying hydrated is key to healthy and glowing skin. I like to add a few lemon slices in my water, as lemons are known to have many beauty and health benefits. Just to name a few of them from the top of my head: They brighten skin's complexion, get rid of toxins in the body, and speed up the metabolism.

"Sunscreen prevents wrinkles!" That's what my mom would always say to me. It wasn't until I got a little older that I realized the harmful effects of too much sun exposure. UV rays ages the skin, which can make your face look dull and uneven. I find it really easy to forget to put on sunscreen because you can't see or feel any immediate results from using the product. I had the hardest time making it into a habit of putting on SPF every day, because firstly I didn't enjoy its consistency and secondly, I wasn't a fan of the smell. But once I found a sunscreen that was suited for my skin type, and one that I enjoyed using, it simply turned into another important step in my skincare routine.

It's hard to find time in the busy week to really take care of my skin and give it the attention it needs, which is why I like to treat myself to mini pampering sessions on weekends. I would do a deep cleanse and exfoliate, then finish with a hydrating sheet mask. When I'm feeling up to it, I would follow Korean beauty's 10 step skincare guide, I usually stop after the 7th step because I'm run out of products to use by then. I think this is a nice way to de-stress while preparing for me the week ahead.

This spins off from my previous tip. The concept of exfoliating sounded foreign to me for the longest time, but my skin has improved significantly since incorporating this essential step into my skincare routine. I use a gentle scrub suited for sensitive skin and focus more on the areas around my nose where my pores the biggest, which leads to more dirt and oil build-up. The exfoliating beads can cause serious irritation for your skin if you are not gentle with it.

Growing up, I was told to wash my face 3 or 4 times a day. I was such a messy eater and got food everywhere on my face that my parents made up this ridiculous rule to wash my face after every meal. They said it was good for my face. And I believed them! I thought if I washed my face enough times, I would have clearer skin. That's a completely false idea. I stick to washing my face once in the morning and again at night only. Washing your face too many times in a day can strip the natural oils from the skin, making it look dull and dry.

Warning: the next bit is going to sound gross. When I was young & clueless (still clueless, and I'd like to think I'm a kid at heart) and whenever felt a pimple forming on my face, I would touch that particular area on my face just so I can fully accept that it was there. I didn't realize how bad it was to touch my face like that, especially when the breakouts were in full force. Germs spread, oils spread, and next thing you know more pimples will be coming your way. I've let go of those slightly obsessive habits and just left my face alone. Breakouts go away much faster that way, as skin cells work their lovely magic.

Ever since I started using serum a few years ago, my skin has improved tremendously both in look and texture. I've always had dull-looking skin that lacked a healthy glow. But after catching onto this trend, my face appears brighter and has a more even skin tone. I've also had fewer breakouts. Because serums contain quality ingredients, they do not come cheap. I say splurge a little and treat yourself, a little goes a long way with these products and they deliver amazing results.


Those are my tips for ya! I hope you found them to be helpful and if you have any questions about anything related to skincare, ask away in the comments and I'd be happy to answer them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Christmas Tree | 2015

There is probably an unspoken rule somewhere out there about how the tree shouldn't be up until after Thanksgiving. Well that rule completely went out the window when I decided to dig out the Christmas decor and put up the tree this past weekend. I felt like such a rebel. And yes, I am that person who gets super carried away with all things festive around this time of the year. There is no better way to get in the holiday mood than being surrounded by fairy lights and holiday decor. Scented candles, twinkling lights, and pops of red and green are some of my favorite things to decorate the house with. They make everything feel warm and cozy, I love it. Anyhoo, for my tree this year, I decided to go with a shabby and chic look hence the burlap bow topper and understated gold ribbons. The other night, I purchased a set of shiny ornaments online on impulse so I'm not sure how they'll be incorporated into this theme. But knowing me who is a sucker for cute and dainty things, I will surely find a way to display them in the house if not on the tree.

I hope this is getting you into the holiday spirt. Though it may be stressful for some of you who have not even begun to think about Christmas, I will let you in on a secret. My holiday gift is completely blank, as I have absolutely no idea what to get for my friends and family this year. Starting with the holiday decor was the easy part...

As for the video showing how everything went down with the tree, I cut down a 3 hour recording of myself and the tree to a clip that's less than 2 minutes. Watch below for lots of fast forward motions and the inevitable - detangling the string lights. I will be posting a part two video where I decorate the tree with ornaments and bright, shiny things! 

Happy 11/11!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

I did some major fall baking for these past two weekends straight. The kitchen smelled like sugary pumpkin pie spice and warm cinnamon and made the whole house all cozy and wonderful. I basked in this sweet aroma last Saturday evening as I devoured one of these pumpkin chocolate muffins. They were fresh out of the oven and obviously I couldn't resist. The recipe makes 6 muffins, which I think is the perfect serving size for a family of three. Though the original recipe is the cupcake version and while I do agree that cupcakes are more fun, I still appreciate a hearty and gooey muffin every now and then. These pumpkin chocolate muffins are just that. They're incredibly soft and fluffy, and the chocolate swirls add a special touch to the sweet taste of fall. Definitely let me know if you will be making these this season!

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Makes 6 muffins


For the chocolate batter
1/3 cup flour = (5 tbsp + 1tsp)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk*
1 egg yolk

For the pumpkin spice batter
7 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
1 egg white
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

*I used low fat milk with 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice as a sub
*You can sub in 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground ginger for the pumpkin pie spice


Preheat oven to 350 F and place 6 liners in the muffin pan

Make the chocolate batter first. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk the oil, vanilla, brown sugar, buttermilk, and egg yolk. Set aside.

Now for the pumpkin spice batter; in another medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg white, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, oil, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

For the chocolate batter, mix the dry ingredients into the large bowl that has its wet ingredients. Then for the pumpkin spice batter, mix the dry ingredients into the other large bowl that has its wet ingredients. 

Layer the batter in the liners. I layered the bottom with a scoop of chocolate first, then the pumpkin, and chocolate, and more pumpkin. Now the fun part! I used a toothpick and swirled the layers on top. You can actually swirl the batter as you pour in each layer for that swirls all around effect!

Bake the cupcakes for 17-19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with only a few crumbs.

Since these are muffins (personally, I like to call them naked cupcakes), that means there's no need to wait for them to cool so biting into a fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin is a must! Okay, maybe wait a minute or two, don't want to risk burning yourself.

Recipe adapted from Dessert for Two