Super Bowl M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Super Bowl is this Sunday (go Broncos)! Bake up some of these deliciously soft M&M chocolate chip cookies to show your team spirit and satisfy your Super Bowl partygoers' sweet tooths. 

Super Bowl M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 15 large cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not 'cook and serve'), OR use 2 teaspoons cornstarch in place of pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate M&M's mixed into the dough + about 1/2 cup for placing on top of dough mounds

First, combine the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

Gradually add the flour (scoop then stir), pudding mix (or cornstarch), baking soda, and pinch of salt.

Next, pick out the colors of the Super Bowl team you are rooting for! Hint: blue and orange for the Broncos or blue and green for the Seahawks. As you can see, I chose Broncos.

Add the chocolate chips and M&M's to the bowl. Then, store the dough overnight to let chill.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Form 15 equal-sized mounds of dough, roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Place these mounds on the baking sheet, and space them about 2 inches apart. Add about 1 tablespoon of M&M's on top of each mound for extra color.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cookies for about 11 minutes, or until the edges firm up and appear a light, golden brown. 

Let cool, and enjoy!

Happy game day baking!


Miss Behavin': Isla Vista's Go-To Clothing Boutique

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hanging out with Kelly Scott, owner of Miss Behavin’ women’s clothing store in Isla Vista, CA. 

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Kelly is no stranger to Isla Vista’s beachside party scene. Throughout high school, Kelly would trek to Isla Vista for weekend parties. It was during this time she first noticed there were no storefronts catering to the fashion needs of UCSB and SBCC women in this college community. 

At that time, opening a women’s clothing store was just an idea, but Kelly has always had a self-proclaimed passion for fashion. Kelly majored in sociology in college, and eventually attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. There, she studied fashion merchandising management. She lived and worked in NYC for five years, where she worked in Vogue’s accessory department, and maintained client relations with fashion brands like Juicy Couture. 

Eventually, Kelly found the NYC fashion scene to be too corporate. After flying home for Thanksgiving, Kelly asked her parents to drive through Isla Vista on their way home from the airport. It was then Kelly saw the available storefront which would fuel her move back home to California, and one day house Miss Behavin'. 

Miss Behavin’opened its doors in 2007 to serve college women in Isla Vista seeking affordable fashion. The store features modern and vintage-inspired fashion pieces with new shipments arriving daily. The boutique’s decor pays tribute to iconic fashionistas by way of vibrant posters, bold colors, and fun details. There is always something to keep shoppers entertained, whether it be lounging on the couch reading fashion magazines or staring up at the store’s chandelier (Kelly’s favorite). 

Having been a Miss Behavin’ customer for four years, I can assure you this clothing store is Isla Vista’s hidden gem. Whenever I visit the store, there is always upbeat music playing, a unique selection of ever-changing merchandise, and Kelly’s smiling face to greet you at the door. Shopping at Miss Behavin’ is always a positive experience, and something I look forward to whenever I visit. Kelly gives you 100% honest feedback when you try items on, helps you style your entire look, and throws awesome sale parties with great freebie chocolate chip cookies (yum). Kelly has a lot of heart when it comes to the fashions she hand selects for her store, and more importantly, ensuring her customers leave Miss Behavin' with their days made a little bit brighter.

You can visit Miss Behavin’ at 6551 Trigo Road in Isla Vista, CA. The store is open Monday-Saturday from 11:30 A.M. - 7:30 P.M., and Sunday from 12:00 P.M.- 6:00 P.M. You can check out some of Miss Behavin's merchandise on their Facebook, or buy online at their website.

The view first walking into Miss Behavin'.

Miss Behavin's jewelry selection.

The store's back wall.

Miss Behavin' sells a variety of sunglass styles, beauty products, and Voluspa luxury candles. 

The black dress (left), white crochet top (top right), and sunglasses (bottom right) are some of the items I have purchased from Miss Behavin' during my time at UCSB. Be sure to find Kelly at Miss Behavin' and tell her Jen sent you! 


Currently Crushing

Today marks the start of a new series called Currently Crushing. This series will feature the links, products, songs, events, trends, foods, etc. I am currently crushing on. Hope you find a new crush!

This is a song written and performed by my friend, Kelly, and her boyfriend, Ben. I heard bits and pieces of this song when Kelly was first writing it, and I am even more excited by this end product. The song details the frustrations experienced by college students as they attempt to navigate their "post-grad" lives; especially feeling boxed into a career corner. You can read Kelly's original blog post here. Basically, the song is all about being fearless in the pursuit of your passions. Definitely give it a listen!

I don't know why or on what level, but I am really in love with this art print. As a cultural anthropology major, one of my favorite things to study has been homesteads. I'm really interested in the materials used, lengths of stays, decorations, and overall purposes behind different cultures' definition of a home. I'm equally obsessed with my own family, so I consider an art print with "I love my family" (no matter the home inhabited) to be really charming. You can purchase this print on Etsy by clicking here.

I found this on Pinterest, and just think it's such a cool term. I like to think I, as well as my blog, portray these qualities.

Remember when Jennifer Lawrence tripped going up a flight of stairs to accept her Oscar for Best Actress last year? Well, this commentary just surfaced about how she fell because she was distracted by the thought of cake. I think Jennifer Lawrence is hysterical, and I joke with a lot of my friends that she is my spirit animal. So, in honor of the fact that yesterday was National Chocolate Cake Day, I present you with this funny gem.

You can now purchase personalized signature necklaces (say what!). Etsy shops (like this) sell these custom, sterling silver beauties for around $40. I like these jewelry pieces because the thought of knowing a loved one took the time to come up with a meaningful message, write it down, and purchase a commemorative piece of jewelry is just too heartfelt to handle.


Mondays at McConnell's

If you're going to Santa Barbara, you have to check out McConnell's Fine Ice Creams at 201 West Mission Street. Since going to UC Santa Barbara, I have visited McConnell's to celebrate the end of final exams, date nights, or hanging with friends. Such was the case today when Brit and I took Jenna for her first ever McConnell's trip (gasp!).

This is the McConnell's at Mission Street. This storefront has been in Santa Barbara since 1949, and (in my opinion) is the best of McConnell's three Santa Barbara locations. There is easy parking, lots of indoor/outdoor seating, friendly staff, and '50s checkered floors. You can't beat its sweet, vintage vibe.

Because this is the original McConnell's storefront, there is a wall of VIPs who have visited the ice cream store over the years. My favorite is the frame of Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhall from when they went on a Santa Barbara ice cream date. Their date happened during my freshmen year of college, and boy let me tell you, the girls at UC Santa Barbara were in a field day when the news of a "TSwizzle" spotting broke.

The ice cream case at McConnell's. Om nom nom.

Brit and I enjoying our ice cream cones.

Needless to say, Jenna is officially a fan of McConnell's!


The Art of Unwinding

Relaxation. It's something we all know we need, but seldom make the time to actively do. Given the craziness of our lives, it's important to take time to unwind. Unwinding gives us a chance to sit back, relax, recharge, and find ourselves anew. Taking a moment to relax is not selfish or wasteful. Unwinding is beneficial to our physical well-being, mental self-awareness, sense of fulfillment, and enjoyment of the amazing lives we lead. Learning to unwind is an art form. Find the time you deserve.

Clear your Thoughts
Ever feel like your mind is constantly go, go, go? We all have. Pressing the "refresh" button on our thoughts is something we rarely take the time to do. It is something easier said than done. Luckily, there are great mobile apps like Smiling Mind that make daily meditation a breeze. I started using Smiling Mind about two weeks ago for a daily, five minute meditation session. Those five minutes a day have definitely calmed my mind by bringing some much needed peace and focus to my daily thought processes. Yes, meditating might sound a little hokey (it did to me!). But seriously, try it before you shut it down. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Slow Down
My mom has the nickname "Spring Butt" because she is constantly on the move and her booty is never seated for more than a couple of minutes. As I have grown up, I have slowly but surely inherited this characteristic. I am always on the move to classes, meetings, errands, friend's houses, you name it. Sometimes, it's important to just sit and slow down. When I wake up in the morning, I try to do basic stretch exercises for 3-5 minutes. Starting my day by stretching out my body is the perfect slow start to the morning. It gives me the opportunity to mentally focus on my day's to-do list, and put me in-tune with myself. 99% of the time, being in-tune means the realization: "I need coffee." This is where leisure comes into play.

Let Leisure In
My perfect leisure activity always involves a cup of coffee in my hand. Sometimes I'm on the couch at home with my corgi cuddled up on my lap, and other times it's sitting at the beach surrounded by morning fog. Either way, coffee is my BFF. To effectively unwind, you need to ask yourself what your ideal form of leisure is. Is it watching the Harry Potter movies? Walking into (and sampling) a local chocolate shop? Going for a walk? Making a DIY herbal facial steam? Playing dress-up in your own closet? Pinpoint whatever it is and make it a part of your daily routine. Rediscovering your favorite down-time activities is key for unwinding.

Practice Appreciation
When you have the privilege to unwind, appreciate the moment. If you practice appreciation, your five minutes of meditation, slowing down, or finding your old favorites will be enjoyed tenfold. In other words, appreciation will make the moment seem longer than the time it actually was. Appreciate those moments, and especially yourself, for taking the time to unwind and do something good for you.


Put A Little Prep in your Style Step

Since going to college on the east coast, my younger sister's fashion sense has definitely become preppier. However, she still manages to retain her boho-inspired, California touches. These details, along with classic, prepster elements make this style all her own. Check out Ally's look and get inspired to put a little prep in your step.


Healthy, Heartful Bread

I read this post on My New Roots that claimed this was "The Life Changing Loaf of Bread." Here's why:

First of all, when I make bread, there are bowls, spoons, measuring cups and flour everywhere. There is always a mess to clean up, and my biggest pet peeve is trying to get the very last bit of dough unstuck from the mixing bowl. The only thing this bread leaves you with is a used spoon and a measuring cup. Everything you mix, you do so right in the loaf pan. Genius.
Second, bread almost always requires some kneading, then some waiting, and then perhaps more kneading. This bread, on the other hand, is super straightforward. Dump all the ingredients into the loaf pan, stir, and let it sit for a couple hours. Or overnight. Or all day. Or however long or short you find convenient. No pressure.
Third. Bread recipes are specific. Use this kind of flour, and that kind of yeast…
What if I told you that if you don’t have hazelnut, you could use almonds? If you don’t like oats, you could use rolled spelt. Out of maple syrup? Use honey! Just replace the ingredients in the same proportion and with a similar ingredient for the best results. 
Fourth, breads require a rising agent, whether that is a sourdough starter (this takes days to make) or commercial yeast (which should really be avoided if possible). This bread doesn’t. End of story.
Fifth, your typical loaf of bread is not really that healthy. It uses flour, which has often been stripped of much of its fiber, bran, essential fats, and unless milled mere hours before baking has lost most of its nutrients through oxidation. It is high in carbohydrates (often refined ones at that) and low in protein and healthy fats. It is high in gluten and sometimes has kooky ingredients like corn syrup and food coloring. Unlike your typical bread, this recipe uses whole grains, nuts, and seeds. It is high in protein, fiber, and is gluten-free and vegan. Everything gets soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion making this bread good for you.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds (Use pre-sliced versions; not the whole nuts as pictured in this post)
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or butter
1 ½ cups / 350ml water
In a loaf pan, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir them well.

Whisk the oil, water, and maple syrup (see my favorite syrup below). Then, add them to the dry ingredients in the loaf pan. Mix everything until the dough is soaked and becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable).

This is my new, favorite maple syrup. My dad and I bought it on a whim in the food aisle at our local Marshall's. This vanilla bean maple syrup is seriously phenomenal, and worked great with this recipe. If you have the means, I highly recommend purchasing it for this recipe and others in the future.

Put saran wrap over the dough and let it sit at room temperature over night. 

After sitting over night, you are ready to bake! Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Place the loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the bread from the loaf pan and place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let it cool completely before slicing. 

Now, dig in! I microwaved my slice of bread for 30 seconds in the microwave before spreading some honey butter on top. It was delicious and definitely different. My best description of this recipe is an energy-packed granola bar turned bread-lover's BFF (minus the carbs). It has the consistency of a hearty bread with the grit and health benefits of a granola bar. Ultimately, I really liked this recipe as a bread enthusiast who is always open to healthier alternatives. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Happy baking!


The History of Bold, Red Lips

Bold, red lips are all the rage right now. They scream confidence, sex appeal, and femininity. Being a history major, I decided to research the origins of this beauty trend, and offer some tips and tricks on how to rock it for yourself. 

The Ancients
Ancient Mesopotamian women were possibly the first to invent and wear red lipstick by decorating their lips with crushed gemstones.

In the ancient Indus Valley civilization, women applied lipstick as face decoration (think face paint).

In Egypt, women extracted red dye from focus-algin, iodine, and bromine mannite. Then, these women extracted fish scales to add a pearl-like shimmer to their red pouts. This Egyptian process was more like a crazy science experiment than a beauty regimen. Unsurprisingly, these women (Cleopatra included) succumbed to serious illnesses associated with this process.

By the 16th Century, the process of making lipstick was a little safer. Queen Elizabeth I, who popularized cosmetics, was famous for her pale white complexion and crimson lips. Her lipstick consisted of a mixture of beeswax and red stains from plants. During this time, Medieval European women believed cosmetics (especially lipstick) warded off death. This explains why the Queen's ladies-in-waiting applied makeup to their post-mortem Queen. This tradition of beautifying the dead continues to this day.

In 1770, British Parliament passed a law which annulled marriages if women wore cosmetics before their wedding day. This ushered in a strict anti-cosmetics reign in England whereby only prostitutes were exempted and could wear makeup. France, on the other hand, took a different approach. Around the 1780s, elite French women were encouraged to done cosmetics. In France, the 'bare face' was only acceptable for prostitutes and working women.

By the 1800s, the English Queen Victoria deemed makeup 'impolite' and the trend went out of style during her reign. However, the French still pushed the envelope. French actress and early film star, Sarah Bernhardt, was famous for wearing red lipstick. She even publicly applied the product, which was a major social taboo at that time.

In the 1890s, lipstick made its way to the U.S. in its first advertisement featured in the Sears Roebuck Catalog. At that time, lipstick was manufactured using carmine dye extracted from cochineal insect scales (yum!).

By the early 20th Century, lipstick was back and bigger than ever! In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal lipstick tube. Soon after, the modern swivel lipstick tube was patented in 1923. From there, companies like Chanel, Guerlain, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubenstein, and Max Factor started to create and manufacture lipsticks.

Early film stars (such as Clara Bow pictured below) were lipstick trendsetters. Clara wore the darkest lipstick shades available so they would show up on black and white film.

Emerging marketing and advertising industries significantly bolstered the 1930s lipstick industry. Helena Rubenstein, founder of Helena Rubenstein makeup, was the first to advertise lipstick as promoting sun protection (before SPF was important). Also, manufacturers promoted lipstick as an 'important part of the war effort.' American society encouraged women to go to work for the war effort and look glamorous while doing so with slogans like, "Do your bit, but with a little bit more."

During World War II, lipstick was a scarce commodity. The solution? Hazel Bishop, a chemist, developed a 'no-smear lipstick.' Her revolutionary product was the first of its kind, and claimed to stay put all day. World War II also saw the emergence of the famous pin-up girl, most notably Betty Grable. Betty's 'million dollar legs' and puckered pout increased lipstick's popularity. By the late 1940s, 90% of American women wore lipstick thanks to marketing campaigns from newcomer companies Maybelline, Revlon, and CoverGirl.

By the 1950s, red lips oozed sex appeal. Starlets like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor skyrocketed red lipstick into the homes of 98% of American women. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, red lipstick was replaced by trendier beige, white, purple, and black hues. Beige and white lipstick colors were popularized during the Mod era of the 1960s, and the 1970s punk movement saw a surge in black - and purple- hued lipsticks.

Red lips made a comeback in the 1980s thanks to M.A.C. and Madonna. M.A.C. introduced their first line of lipsticks, and Madonna jetsetted the line's "Russian Red" color to cosmetic stardom while wearing it throughout her Like a Virgin concert tour. 

The early 1990s grunge movement introduced brown and plum shades of lipstick with actress Drew Barrymore being the movement's biggest trendsetter. However, red lipstick was the prevailing go-to shade for starlets, supermodels, and just about every woman looking to make a standout statement.

Today, the bold, red lips trend is bigger and sexier than ever. Starlets such as Scarlet Johansson, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Dianna Agron, and Taylor Swift have brought the red lips trend back into the spotlight. After Taylor released her 2012 album Red, the country star commented, "I'm always wearing red lipstick!"

How to Rock the Trend
Feeling inspired? First thing's first, click here to match your perfect shade of red to your skin tone. Next, start experimenting with different beauty brands. If you need help getting started, the below red lipsticks are some of my personal favorites. 

Be sure to comment below which brands and hues are your favorites, and have fun rocking this bold look!

Inspired by Elle Beauty