Monday, May 23, 2011

Walk of Tulips

These are from a gorgeous day of running errands the other day.  While waiting to cross the street, I noticed the flowers above and had to take a picture.  This turned into me taking a lot of pictures as I walked around getting errands done.  Tulips seemed popular in this area!

Love the multicolored display.  And found these two tulips pictures below growing around each other.  How cute :)

Pretty lamp post.  Pretty flowers.  Pretty tree.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Relaxing on the Beach

I spent a large amount of my my Mexico vacation on the beach.  This was the view I enjoyed as I reclined on my chair and read my book while sipping on unlimited pina coladas, mojitos, and caipirinhas.

Below is the water we swam in and the sand bar we played on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Junk Nail 2

To start off with, I confess this is not a junk nail.  That was the intent but once I stamped this design on to my ring finger I realized two things.  First, the design was relatively subtle.  Second, I loved it too much to keep the prettiness on only one nail.  And so the junk nail spread to all the other nails!

For my nail posts, I was thinking about also providing info on what I used (nail polishes, nail stamping plates, etc)--that is, if there is any interest for that information...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cenot Ik Kil

This sinkhole is located near Chichen Itza (a separate post on that coming up), a large archaeological site built by the Mayans.  It is not the main sinkhole at Chichen Itza where sacrifices were made, but we were told it is one of the prettiest.  There was a large sprialing staircase to take us down to the level of the water. 

This is the view across the top of the sinkhole from the staircase entrance.  You can see the gift shop on the other side.

And this is looking down into the sinkhole from the top.

There was an opening in the staircase behind some vines.

And we are at the water level!

Looking up just a bit.

And looking up at the opening from the water level.

Another shot of swimming tourists.

And a close up of the vines.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chocolate Choco Chip Waffles

My favorite meal is breakfast, but unfortunately on most mornings it is a rushed bowl of cereal.  Well, no more!  I had a free morning and decided to attempt waffles--waffles not made with a mix.  The recipe said it would make 3 waffles...I got about 10.  Luckily, they freeze well and that means toasting a frozen waffle is as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal!  And another reason to love these waffles even more:  I don't need syrup!  I  drench pancakes and waffles in syrup, but these taste so good with frozen yogurt that no syrup is needed, saving my coronary arteries :)

Chocolate Choco Chip Waffles
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 oz mini chocolate chip (or regular sized ones) (I added them until I felt like I had enough)
  • 2 teaspoons baking pwder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup skim or 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • toppings: frozen yogurt, berries, confectioners sugar, chocolate syrup, etc.)
  • Heat waffle iron
  • In bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, cocoa powder, sugar, choco chips, baking powder, and salt
  • Stir in milk, oil, and water 
  • Beat egg whites into stiff peaks and fold into batter
  • Use your waffle iron to make waffles!  I could give you instruction but each iron is a bit different, and I bet you know how to use yours better than I do!
  • Add toppings.
  • Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Junk Nail 1

The concept of a junk nail was recently introduced to me by a co-worker whose ringer finger nail looked like a disco ball, while the rest of her nails were a much more subtle, solid color.  She explained to me that while it would be fun to have all disco nails, it would simply be too much, so she limits the fun to her "junk nail".  The ring finger is a good spot for a junk nail because it's big enough to handle some design unlike many pinky finger nails--and it is not predominantly used like the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.  This not only makes the nail less obvious for professional situations, but also preserves the work you did on it. 

A few days later, another co-worker had the cutest flower design on her ring finger, as well as a nice glitter layer on half of her other non-junk nails.  Inspired by the two ladies, here is my first quick and easy experiment with the junk nail.  I love the blue glitter nail polish, but it's usually too obnoxious to wear--perfect for the junk nail!  I added a fine gold glitter layer over the bright purple to my pinky and thumb nails to complete my manicure.  

Since then, I have discovered the art of nail-stamping, so expect much more intricate junk nails in the future!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DIY Masquerade Mask

It's almost Mardi Gras time, which always reminds of parties, beads, and masks.  This mask that I made was for a masquerade ball, but I figured it was a good time to share it.  Sadly, I did not take pictures of the process, so here is a brief step-by-step.
-Supplies: blank face mask, Lace trim, Sequin trim, Ribbons, Paint--and any glitter, sequins, feathers you want!
-My mask came gold, but if your's doesn't, paint it a base color.
-Then get creative decorating!  I started off using a thick lace trim to border the top half of the mask.
-The lace trim was too thick for the bottom, so I switched to a thinner sequin trim.
-Outlined the eye holes with black paint.
-Made a rose out of sheer ribbon, using intruction found here
-Where I was going to attach the rose, I first pasted a couple strands of thin ribbon and some feathers flaring out to the upper side, then pasted the rose on top.  I curled the ribbon using the side of scissors.
-Let it dry and go out!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Second Attempt at Mehendi

Mehendi artwork has been considered beautiful throughout the ages and in no way shows signs of going away. These hands were done the night before Eid, and I was invited b/c my friends knew I would like to experiment with drawing mehendi.  At the time of this picture, I had drawn with mehendi only once before (you can see that time here) and the other girls there were incredibly talented. I had a lot of fun hanging out with the girls, creating something beautiful, and then admiring that beauty!  Can you guess which hand I did?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sushi and Tempura

Yesterday was amazing because I went to dinner with friends and had two of my favorite foods: sushi and sweet potato tempura. Last night's meal was a great value and left both my stomach and my wallet happy.  This picture is not from last night, but from a much fancier sushi and tempura outing in Chicago, but I was reminded of that night.  Yay for yummy food and pretty presentations!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mehendi Inspired Tuxedo Brownies

Inspired by my first attempt at mehendi (seen here), I decided to decorate these tuxedo brownies.  What are tuxedo brownies, you ask?  They are a layer of brownie on the bottom and a layer of cheesecake on top.  Yum.  Maybe instead of mehendi patterns, I will make heart designs for Valentines Day in a few days.

Tuxedo Brownies

  • Brownie Layer
    • 1 pouch brownie mix
    • oil, water, and eggs according to brownie mix instructions
  • Cheesecake Layer
    • 2 cups (16 oz) cream cheese, softened
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
  • Preheat oven to 325deg F
  • In bowl, blend brownie ingredients according to brownie mix instructions
  • Spoon batter into lightly greased 13x9x2 in pan
  • In another bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth
  • Add 2 eggs and continue to mix until blended well
  • Gently spoon cheesecake mixture over brownie batter and spread evenly
  • Bake 40-45 minutes, but keep an eye on them
  • Cut into squares after cooling
  • Decorate with red frosting (as I did here) or melted chocolate

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Agra Fort

This is one of my favorite pictures from a trip to see the Taj Mahal (see pics of the Taj here).  As beautiful as the Taj Mahal is, I enjoyed Agra Fort even more because it also has impressive artwork and is huge, leaving more architecture to be admired.  In the picture above, we were standing on one part of the fort, overlooking the part of the fort that is pictured, which itself had a great view.  Here are some other favorite spots in the fort: 


Monday, February 7, 2011

Pre-Workout Smoothies

Yes, downing a smoothie before working out may seem like a bad idea--usually it's a post workout reward.  But I need this little boost of energy that is both easy and quick to make.  It would be amazing to be able to make these with fresh fruit all the time, but that is not always possible where I live.  The following is using mostly ingredients that keep well so they can always be on hand.

In a blender, blend the following:
  • vanilla yogurt
  • ice cream
  • ice cubes
  • milk
  • ingredients for flavors (see below)
  • sugar to taste
You can change the proportions of the ingredients to get the smoothie texture you desire at the moment.  Add more ice cream and less ice cubes and milk to make it thicker.  Add more milk to make it thinner and easier to gulp down quickly.  Add more ice cubes if you are in the mood for a less creamy version.

  • Strawberry: 
    • I got a large bag of frozen strawberries from Costco.  They last forever.  Drop a few in for each smoothie.
  • Strawberry Chocolate: 
    • frozen strawberries
    • chocolate syrup--the kind you make chocolate milk with :)
  • Banana Split
    • frozen strawberries
    • banana (use only 1/3 or 1/2 banana for a single smoothie)
    • chocolate syrup
  • Mango
    • mango pulp/syrup--I recently discovered this comes packaged in a plastic bottle at Asian supermarkets.  I was used to buying mango pulp in large cans and was always figuring out how to use that much pulp before it all went bad.  This bottle concept is amazing because it allows me to use a little bit of pulp at a time while the rest stays fresh.  
  • Strawberry Mango
    • frozen strawberries
    • mango pulp
I didn't give exact measurements on the flavors because I tend to add some, taste, add some more of this or that, taste, etc.  Just have fun with it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Huge Ring Makes Me Happy

Any day that I can get away with wearing a huge ring is a good day in my book.  This was today's awesome ring--given to me by my brother for my birthday.  Since then I have developed a small collection of large "cocktail" rings, so future posts of other rings highly likely!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taj Mahal--up close and personal

It's always a good day when you get to spend it exploring one the most famous and beautiful architectural works in the world.  Most people are familiar with images of the Taj Mahal as seen above.  What I was most impressed by were the details--it's these details that made the trip to see it worth it.  Here you go, the Taj Mahal, up close:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cappucino Brownies

Regular brownies are always great, but even better when they are extra special like these Cappucino Brownies. The brownie part has a coffee flavor to represent the actual coffee. The white chocolate ganache on top represents the steamed milk foam on top of a cappucinno, and the cinnamon on top completes this "cup" of coffee.  I think I shall experiment more with different types of brownies. As always, recipe below:

Cappucino Brownies:

  • Brownies:
    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
    • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • White Chocolate Ganache:
    • 6 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped
    • 5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Brownies:
    • Preheat oven to 325°F.
    • Line baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on 2 sides.  Spray foil with nonstick spray.
    • Stir butter and chocolate in a large saucepan over  low heat until chocolate is melted.
    • Remove from heat; whisk in sugar, then eggs, 1 at a time.
    • Whisk in espresso powder, vanilla, and salt; sift flour over and stir to blend well.
    • Transfer batter to prepared pan.
    • Bake brownies about 30 minutes until tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached (make and chill ganache while waiting for brownies to bake and cool)
    • Cool completely in pan
  • White Chocolate Ganache:
    • Place white chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate in bowl.
    • Let stand 30 seconds, then stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. If necessary, microwave on low power in 10-second intervals until white chocolate is melted completely.
    • Chill about 25 minutes until ganache is thick but still slightly pourable.
  • Assembly:
    • Using foil as aid, lift brownies from pan. Turn over onto sheet of parchment paper, tray, or any flat surface.  Peel off foil.
    • Pour ganache onto center of brownies and  spread to edges.
    • Sprinkle with cinnamon.
    • Chill until ganache is set, at least 2 hours. 
    • Cut brownies and serve!

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    Statement Bracelet

    Every time my outfit allows me to wear this bracelet, I am happy.  Usually, I don't like wearing bracelets because they get in the way of typing, but there is just something about the big flowers and pearl band.  In fact, I am currently lusting after many other large bracelets to add to my jewelry collection.  What's your favorite statement bracelet?

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

    These are the the best oatmeal raisin cookies I have had--so yummy, so soft, so perfect!  And how can one not be happy when their apartment smells of freshly baked cookies?  Wonderful on a cold, winter day.

    Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
    1. 1/2 cup butter, softened
    2. 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (I used butter)
    3. 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    4. 1/2 cup white sugar
    5. 2 eggs
    6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    7. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
    9. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    10. 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
    12. 3 cups rolled oats
    13. 1 cup raisins

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. 
    3. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. 
    4. Stir in the oats and raisins. 
    5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
    6. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in airtight container. Make sure you get some, because they don't last long!

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Botanical Gardens

    Yesterday, I went to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens--what a nice way to spend a free evening.  You may be asking what kind of gardens can Cleveland have in the middle of winter?  Well, to be honest, most of the gardens are under snow at the moment, but they do have a glasshouse with two large garden exhibits.  The first was modeled after Madagascar and had a lot of spiny plants.  The second was modeled after the Cloud Rainforest in Costa Rica and it's where my favorite picture of the day (seen above) was taken.  My favorite part of this exhibit was the colorful butterflies and birds flying all around us.  Too bad they moved too quickly for a good picture.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    First Attempt at Mehendi

    I have always admired the intricate mehendi artwork seen in several Eastern cultures, but never knew quite where to get the mehendi paste or how to apply it.  Imagine my delight when I found prepackaged mehendi cones at a grocery street on Devon (a street full of Indian stores and restaurants in Chicago).  These pre-made cones made the prep super easy--just cut of the tip of the cone, squeeze on to hands, and then don't touch anything for several hours as the design absorbs into the skin.  Since it was my first time, I kept it simple.  The top hand is my first mehendi drawing ever, and the bottom hand is mine.  Feels good to pick up a new skill and create something pretty!  

    Some tips to get the designs to come out dark and last long:

    1) Exfoliate the skin before you start drawing.  This ensures that only fresh skin will get the dye--not old skin that is about to fall off soon anyway.

    2) Put a pinch of sugar in a small bowl of lemon juice.. Apply this mixture on the design once it is somewhat dry and won't be smeared.  You can apply this by either spraying or dabbing softly with a cotton ball.  I prefer to soak a cotton ball and drip it over the design until it is covered.  This will help darken the color by increasing the acidity and keeping the paste moist enough to let the dyes continue to soak into the skin.

    3) Keep the skin warm!  Heat will help the color seep in faster and deeper.  So if you are prone to cold hands and feet, put them by a fireplace, heater, or any other source of heat.

    4) Keep the paste on as long as you can, preferably overnight.  I like to draw the design after dinner once I have nothing else to do for the day.  Then right before going to bed, I will apply the lemon-sugar mixture one last time and cover my hands loosely with paper bags or cloth scraps.  In the morning, peel off the paste.

    Pictures of future, more intricate mehendi attempts coming in future posts.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Crème Brule French Toast

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I never skip it.  But it's rarely more complicated than a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice.  Then I came across Crème Brule French Toast at a friend's party and fell in love with it.  Once I figured out how to make it myself, I feel even more in love.  You see, I like to EAT, not COOK when I wake up.  But with this, all the work is done the day before, and all I do is pop it in the oven when I wake up.  Easy.  It tastes like French Toast, with a surprise Crème Brule layer on the bottom.  The bright red strawberries I had in my fridge and the compliments from my breakfast mates were just more reasons to smile that morning!  Oh--and if you make a big batch, the leftovers can give you great breakfasts for many days. Don't worry, the recipe is below:

    Crème Brule French Toast

    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon syrup
    • French or Italian bread (1-1.5 inch thick slices)
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup half and half
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon orange liquor or orange juice
    • cinnamon to taste (optional)
    • Melt butter in saucepan
    • Add syrup and brown sugar
    • Stir until sugar is dissolved
    • Pour liquid into bottom of glass dish
    • Arrange bread on top of sugar Mixture
    • Mix together eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, and OJ (and cinnamon)
    • Pour over bread
    • Soak overnight in fridge
    • Bake 35 minutes at 350deg 

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011


    Welcome to Small Happy Pills--a blog devoted to the smaller pleasures in life.

    These are the things that put a smile on my face even during the worst and most stressful of days.

    These are the things that probably prevent me from needing the real "happy pills".

    This blog's goal is to inspire others to appreciate the small joys in their life and to smile more often.  My life is in no way unique and many of the small things that make me happy are the same small things that you and millions of others in the world may have enjoyed at some point.

    Feel free to comment and leave your small joys--I might try them out and post!