Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 New Year's Eve Hair Tutorial Video

Glamorous Hair in 10 Minutes!

As promised in my 2016 Fall Wedding Style - Jumpsuit or Jumpdon't? post, I have written a follow-up hair and makeup tutorial, just in time for New Year's Eve! Check out my how to video. Step by step instructions and a guide to my favorite products are below. Pro Tip: Bookmark this tutorial for Valentine's Day too. Don't miss the other half of this series, 2016 New Year's Eve Makeup Tutorial!

2016 New Year's Eve Makeup Tutorial Video

Glitzy Glamorous Makeup in Only 10 Minutes!

As promised in my 2016 Fall Wedding Style - Jumpsuit or Jumpdon't? post, I have written follow-up hair and makeup tutorials. Better late than never and just in time for the holidays, the sparkliest time of the year! Check out my how to video. A step by step guide and all of my products are listed below! Once your makeup is done, be sure to check out the 2016 New Year's Eve Hair Tutorial Video!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wine Wednesday: New Year's Eve Champagne Punch

wine wednesday sangria

The countdown to New Year's is on and we are getting into the spirit(s) a little early at the Benjamin house. In the spirit of Wine Wednesday, Ross and I have tirelessly and tipsily tested and perfected these Champagne Punch recipes to leave you weak at the knees (no New Year's kiss required).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Terra's Kitchen - Our First Vessel

I spend evenings private tutoring once or twice a week after work. This means that I don't usually walk in the door until 7 PM, meaning dinner doesn't hit the table til 7:30 (if we're lucky). Ross knows his way around the kitchen, but most of the recipes we eat are foods I grew up helping cook and the recipes exist in my head. For the last several months, we have been relying on pizza as a staple on my late nights. We call it in and I swing by to pick it up on my way home. This is great, but ultimately expensive and repetitive. Terra's Kitchen to the rescue!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa treated everyone well. Need some last minute recipes to bring to grandma's?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Coco & Chanel's Christmas (Dog) Cookies

dog biscuits treats homemade
Chanel licking her lips for that cookie!!

I love baking Christmas cookies for Ross and other family members during this time of year, but I always feel like I'm leaving Coco and Chanel out of the fun! After Coco's Birthday Biscuits were such a success, I have tweaked the recipe with a seasonal spin. Next time you're making cookie dough, whip up a batch of Christmas Doggy Cookies for your favorite four-legged friend! When wrapped up right, these make unique hostess gifts for friends and family with a dog. I made a triple batch for my pups, my parents and my in-laws. They are a hit all around. Shout out to my mom for helping mix all of that dough, what a work out!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Google's 2016 Year In Search

Take a quick look back at 2016 with #Google #YearInSearch. I dare you not to cry!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Best Freebies & Money Making Gimmicks of 2016 - Treat Yo Self!

Influenster PinchMe BzzAgent

Over the course of 2016 I stayed a loyal member to many of my survey panels but sought out product testing and other incentivized apps and websites to bolster my income, especially this holiday season (who can't use a few extra dollars for that festive peppermint mocha?? not me!!). It paid off. To date, I have earned $600 in PayPal and Amazon gift cards and the year is not over yet. Now do I have your attention?! Yeah, I thought so!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hello, December!

December to me means fuzzy boots (sing along with bottom jeans, boots with the fur, the whole club was lookin at her...), peppermint everything especially mochas, twinkling lights (and makeup), and SNOW. Where is the snow?! It was 52° in Denville this morning. Nothing like getting out of bed on a December morning covered in sweat. I don't even need snow, I'm not that high maintenance...maybe just some seasonal temperatures? Lower temperatures will definitely be more comfortable for all of the running around we have to do this month...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bye, November! Holiday Travel & Packing Tips

November was a whirlwind of fun in the Benjamin house. The first weekend was my brothers birthday. The next week, we spent a long weekend in San Francisco. We came home and promptly hosted our Friendsgiving #KikkomanParty - our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We wrapped up the month by celebrating Thanksgiving with family and kicking off holiday shopping with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. December will be just as exciting and chaotic!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Homemade Pressure Cooker Cranberry Sauce

This past weekend I volunteered to bring the cranberry sauce to our family Thanksgiving. I am all too familiar with the bland, overly-sweet cranberry log. Fresh cranberries run $1-$2 a bag, and for a group of 30, I could make a double batch of my homemade sauce for $4 (since I already had sugar at home). Packed with flavor from the fresh berries, my homemade pressure cooker cranberry sauce was a hit. Ready in under 10 minutes, it's a great go-to for holidays and easy to customize.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bring Hope #into17

Thanksgiving is often a time to reflect on the year past, a chance to express gratitude.  According to the CDC, 25 million Americans suffer from depression each year. That's about 1 in every 12 people, so chances are, you know someone battling depression. During 2014,42,773 turned to suicide and almost 494,169 visited the hospital for self-harm behavior. Despite these alarming statistics, suicide, self-injury and depression are highly stigmatized and treatment, research and awareness campaigns are underfunded in comparison to other charitable organizations. For those battling depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts, the holiday season is not always so bright. It can be wrought with anxiety or loneliness. Although this is not my battle, I have been on the sidelines. For this reason, every day, especially during the holiday season, I count my blessings that despite any dark periods, my family is still whole. I take these weeks to hug tighter, love bigger, and most importantly, pay it forward to those still looking for help.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Friendsgiving: My Kikkoman Brine a Juicy Bird House Party

dairy free thanksgiving friendsgiving
Flexing with my pies!
Earlier this year I signed up for House Party, a website that sends you branded party kits (for free!) to help promote new items and generate buzz around specific products and brands. Each month several parties are posted to the home page, members apply, complete activities to get product information out there and then hosts are selected. I was selected to host the #KikkomanParty, a Kikkoman themed party to generate some buzz about product line and how it can be used at Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Your Next Move

Life is like a game of chess. We see several choices ahead of us, and we make our move based on the situation that we perceive to have the best possible outcome. But the player on the other side of the board, be it an actual human or some outside force, may make an unexpected move. And suddenly we're faced with a potential outcome we didn't see coming....In those moments, we have to ask ourselves: Do we surrender? Or do we keep playing in the hope that we will somehow be able to make it out that situation on top?
 You still have moves left to make, even if you can't see them right now. So please don't give up because the road ahead seems impossible. Don't give up because you think you won't win. You have no idea what victories you'll win in the future if you stop playing in the present.
So keep playing.
Always keep playing. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Happy Election Day!

According to the US Census, only 65% of US Citizens age 18 and over were registered to vote in the last major election. A total of 56.5% of US Citizens age 18 and over got out and hit the polls in 2012. That means about 102,300,000 stayed home and kept their opinions to themselves.

Get out and vote! It's your right! Make your voice heard - share your opinion!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy Friday! - Planning Wallet-Friendly Weekend Getaways

You can say that again! I'm super infatuated with Friday's in November since half of them are holidays! This coming Friday, we observe Veteran's Day, which is a great opportunity to take a long weekend and explore America. At the end of the month, we celebrate Thanksgiving - another long weekend full of family, friends, and food.

Next weekend, Ross and I are taking advantage of the long weekend, plus a few days, and some awesome travel rates to head out to San Francisco for a few days. I can't wait! Neither one of us has been and we would love to explore a new city with the few days off from work. This is a much better way to spend a long weekend than sitting home doing laundry!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Happy Birthday, Coco!

Ross and I adopted Coco and her mama Chanel when Coco was only 3 months old. She and Chanel were rescued together on the streets in Kentucky when Coco was only 2 weeks old. Before we met Coco, she had been adopted out twice and returned. Although she was old enough to be off on her own, she cried when she was separated from her mama. Once we met Coco and saw the love between her and Chanel, we could not separate them one more time. Instead, we adopted both dogs. To this day, they sleep curled up together, clean each others hard to reach places (ears, tops of head) and wrestle like maniacs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hello November

November is a busy month in the Benjamin household and across the United States. Over the 6-day Thanksgiving weekend, travel of 50 miles or greater increases by 54%, according the United States Department of Transportation. (It only rises by 23% during Christmas time!) This year, we are not part of that statistic, but we do have quite the month of travel, family and friends planned out...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Haunted House Party - DIY Troll Costumes

My husband and I love a good couples costume for Halloween, but we love saving money even more. This year we decided to throw it back to the 1980's and dress up as Troll dolls, a tribute to our childhood and a great opportunity to DIY. With the upcoming release of the animated Trolls movie, we were even able to pull our dogs into the mix! Not only did this make a great, budget friendly costume, it is a great last-minute fix too!

Halloween Haunted House Party - Recipe Rendezvous

Now that we have our own home, I have grown to love Halloween. I see it as another opportunity to get our friends together for a night of cocktails, snacks and good company. This year we took on the theme of "Haunted House". We went for an abandoned, run down vibe, decking the house out in spider webs, old black and white photos, and black lights. We set our TV to play "The Twilight Zone" for hours, thanks our Amazon Prime subscription. Creepiest of all was our menu.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

AchieveMint Update: How To Sync Apps for Points

A week and a half ago I signed up for AchieveMint, a website / app that rewards you for healthy activities. I have received a lot of questions and comments with regards to how the scoring works for AchieveMint, as well as how to connect apps and sync accounts. For more information on AchieveMint in general, check out my original post AchieveMint: Get Paid for your Healthy Lifestyle. For information on scoring and points, check out my post AchieveMint Update: 1 Week Later, Points Breakdown with what I have learned far. The easiest way to answer questions about connecting and syncing apps was to show you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AchieveMint Update: 1 Week Later, Points Breakdown

I have been using AchieveMint now for 11 days. I have made close to $2, earning about 120 points per day. To sign up, use my personal link to earn an extra 250 points and kickstart your earning.

Monday, October 17, 2016

2016 Fall Wedding Style - Jumpsuit or Jumpdon't?

I spent 2015 concerned with the wedding fashion, ie. bridal gowns, tuxedos and suits, bridesmaids dresses, and apparel for moms, dads and grandparents. Now that I have made my journey from Miss to Mrs, my concern is with wedding guest fashion trends. My background in architecture and design gives me a unique perspective into fashion. I love mixing neutral tones with one big pop of bright color.

Friday, October 14, 2016

AchieveMint: Get Paid for your Healthy Lifestyle

I have written several blog posts (Pact App: Tips & Tricks and Pact App: Tips and Tricks (Update)) about the Pact App, which rewards users for exercising, eating healthy, eating fruits and veggies. The catch with Pact is that you personally decide how many activities you are going to commit to each week and wager a dollar amount that you will pay if you don't meet your goal. This was a great system to keep me motivated, but within the last several weeks, my Samsung Galaxy S7 underwent a system update and I could no longer submit fruit and veggie photos. Mid-week I was left with 12 veggies unsubmitted. Luckily, I was able to contact customer support and they suspended the pact without penalty to me. This has left my Pact lacking in terms of income in the last few weeks - the veggie pact was the real moneymaker.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kale Mashed Potatoes

Ross and I love shopping at Costco for the overall savings, especially for produce. Per pound, everyday items like bananas, potatoes and greens are a great value. The savings are only worth it if you 1. have the storage space for 15 lbs of potatoes or 5 lbs of spinach, 2. can finish the larger than life packages before they spoil, and 3. can come up with enough inventive ways to use these ingredients without getting sick of them. As a family of two, the bulk sizes at Costco can become an issue. We accept the challenge and it has forced our creativity in the kitchen, hence recipes like my 20 Calorie Spinach Coleslaw and Taco Roasted Tomatoes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Married Life: 1 Year Later

Ross and I have officially been married for 400 days. Our last year has been a whirlwind but in the best way. Now that we have moved (mostly) and finished wedding planning, we have had more free time on our hands than we know what to do with. As a newlywed, this is great, but I can't imagine that I am the only new wife who felt the withdrawals of wedding planning. My new found energy has been thrown into this blog, continuing to travel the world and country with Ross, and exploring our backyard of New Jersey with Ross and friends.

Monday, August 22, 2016

DIY Wine Tumblers

Custom tumblers and water bottles have become increasingly popular with the rise of Etsy. I do not argue that they make great gifts and are fun to use around the house. They are an easy thing to DIY with the right equipment and materials and ultimately save time and money compared to ordering online. You can easily get a 100% unique item, suited to your occasion.

Maya Rudolph Tells It Like It Is

Check out this too funny, laugh out loud vajingle from Maya Rudolph and Seventh Generation about organic tampons (who wants those artificial scents and deodorants in their most sensitive areas?) 

"Who needs that in their hooha?"

White you're at it, come join Generation Good with me for cool opportunities from Seventh Generation to test out and hype up their products!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pact App: Tips and Tricks (Update)

Several months ago I wrote a post about the Pact App, with some tips and tricks of my own. After continued use, I have learned some more knowledge to share. Although brief, it helped to clarify the system for me and can help any users other users.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#BordenCheeseParty - Another House Party Hit!

A few months back I signed up for House Party, a website that sends you themed party kits (for free!) to help promote new items and generate buzz. Each month several parties are posted to the home page, members apply, complete activities to get product information out there and then hosts are selected. I was selected to host the #BordenCheeseParty, a Borden Cheese themed party to generate some buzz about their product line of sliced, shredded and block cheese. The catch?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid - My Latest VoxBox Review

I have been a member of Influenster since February and have received VoxBoxes for a few campaign now. I recently received the Maybelline Color Sensational Vivid Matte Liquid VoxBox, which included two samples (Nude Flush and Rebel Red). I received the samples in exchange for spreading the word about the product and writing honest reviews.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Taco Roasted Tomatoes

It's Taco Tuesday!

Tomatoes are ripe and in season. I love roasting them to bring out their flavor and nutrients. I have run across Italian -inspired roasted tomatoes in the past, featuring pesto and Parmesan cheese. They're delicious but they don't compliment every dish that I serve up. Last night we had Southwest chicken burgers and corn on the cob for dinner. I gave my Taco-inspired roasted tomatoes a whirl and they were a hit. They took 5 minutes to prep and cooked in about 15. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3...4!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#DunkinParty - My Dunkin Donuts House Party

A few months back I signed up for House Party, a website that sends you themed party kits (for free!) to help promote new items and generate buzz. Each month several parties are posted to the home page, members apply, complete activities to get product information out there and then hosts are selected. I was selected to host the #DunkinParty, a Dunkin Donuts themed party to generate some buzz about their new Bakery Series line of coffees. The catch?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

20 Calorie Spinach Coleslaw

Nutrition Information with carrots (left)
vs. without carrots (right).

I have recently been enjoying homemade coleslaw with my barbecued dinners. It is light and refreshing and adds enough acidity to my dinner to balance out sweet fruit salad or baked beans. The other night I went to make a fresh batch, thin sliced my cabbage and realized that I was fresh out of carrots.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Half-Homemade Ice Cream Cake (On a Budget & a Diet)

Warm summer nights and hot summer days call for refreshing treats to keep cool. It was supposed to be 90 degrees for my last party, so ice cream was definitely on the menu. An ice cream sundae bar is great, but it can be quite the investment, to purchase all sorts of toppings that ultimately go untouched and just take up precious fridge space.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day BBQ - Recipes & Cocktails for a Crowd

My husband and I were tasked with hosting a Memorial Day Weekend BBQ for my father-in-law and his extended family. We were happy to take on the duties of hosting. We love a good party, especially a BBQ. Grilling means shared cooking duties for Ross and I and keeps the house cool on warm days (no oven!). And after all..happy wife, happy life. I love to cook, but I do enjoy taking a break, handing Ross the reigns and sharing the responsibility (especially when its his family critiquing). We will be having ourselves plus 10 guests at our home, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, some of which have yet to see our new house. We are excited to show it off a little, even after a year.

Monday, May 23, 2016

#ComeClean with Seventh Generation

I received a coupon to try Seventh Generation laundry detergent, which is free of artificial brighteners, dyes and scents, through their online community Generation Good. I started out very skeptical of this brand, especially when it came to some of the heavy duty laundry loads that come through my washing dog blankets and bedding, rags, towels and workout clothes.  Anything the dogs touch becomes engulfed in a cloud of fur, and this time of year, dirt.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Better Late Than Never - Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

2 years ago, Ross and I made a trip out to Las Vegas. On May 5th, we drove out to see the Grand Canyon. At this point, we had been dating for about 3 and 1/2 years and were getting ready to break ground on our house together. The plans were set, our variance was approved by the town and permits were being filed and pulled. The next logical step was getting married and low and behold, Ross had been secretly working on this for months. He proposed at the Grand Canyon and the rest is history. Although we haven't been big partiers, Cinco de Mayo holds a special place in our hearts so it was a reason to fiesta this year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pinch Me! (Freebie Alert!)

Pinch Me is a website that sends out monthly sample boxes...FOR FREE! Just sign up, fill out a member survey (to get matched with the best samples) and give honest feedback a few weeks later (how would you rate it, would you recommend it, have you purchased it, etc.) No strings attached.

Snuggle Bear Den (Freebie Alert!)

Come Join Me at the Snuggle Bear Den!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

DIY Mother's Day Cards

I got a Cricut Explore for Valentine's Day last year. It came in super handy for doing a lot of custom DIY things for our wedding (table numbers, menus, favors, etc.). Since the wedding, I have taken to making DIY cards for holiday's and birthdays.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

DIY Air Plant Terrariums

My new teardrop terrariums hanging in our kitchen window.

I've always loved having plants around my various homes, dorm rooms and apartments, but life always seems to take over and the plants never survive. I have had success throughout the years with various succulents and cacti, since they are tolerant of my usually deadly droughts. Air plants have always fascinated me, with their low (basically no) maintenance and resiliency. They seem to have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years, especially in small terrariums.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pact App: Tips & Tricks

I signed up for Pact back at the end of February. I was enticed by the thought of earning money for activities that I was already doing (exercising, eating healthy, eating fruits and veggies). What freaked me out and still freaks me out is the thought of paying the big bucks if I don't live up to my commitment. Even worse is the thought that my biggest pact, the fruits and veggies, is at the mercy and votes of the rest of the community. My bank account is basically in their hands.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Summer (read: "Bikini Season") is Coming! My Trials and Tribulations of Getting Bikini-Ready Post-Wedding

It seems like the stores stock Christmas decor, Halloween candy, Easter basket stuffers and Valentine's treats earlier every year. The same goes for swimwear, shorts and the ever-popular crop tops of summer. Here in New Jersey, we have only had warm weather for a week or two, but the stores have been stocked for summer since February (which I can't complain definitely made sure I was ready for our March/April trip to Florida). As soon as the new season's fashion hits stores I start brainstorming how to shed my winter weight and how to afford a closet overhaul. Since summer clothes have been out on the racks, I've been on the hunt for the most rewarding (physically and monetarily) programs.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Maybelline Fit Me Foundation

My Maybelline Fit Me VoxBox

I recently received by first VoxBox from Influenster for the Maybelline Fit Me Foundation campaign in the mail to try for free.

Hello, Hello!

Ross and I on our trip to Florida (April 2016)
Hello, my name is Abby. I am a young, newly married architect. My husband, Ross, and I live in New Jersey with our 2 dogs, Coco and Chanel.