Monday, April 30, 2012

Cappuccino Muffins with Espresso Spread

Muffins are just ugly cupcakes. Or so the story goes. I, on the other hand, think muffins are pretty adorable! I also firmly believe that what a muffin may lack in pretty decorations, it makes up for in flavor. There's also nothing like a warm muffin with a cup of coffee and a good book; not that I'd know what that was like these days or anything. So, I guess I could have just came out and said "I love muffins", but that wouldn't have been very fun, now would it? If you've not skipped to the recipe yet, then I must be doing a good job! Yay, me!

Speaking of coffee and muffins, one of my all-time favorite muffins is one adapted from a Taste of Home recipe. These are the perfect blend of chocolate and coffee. And the espresso spread is to die for! I use leftover spread for bagels. These bad boys have enough "wow" factor to delight and impress guests, while also casual enough to enjoy with the family for a weekend brunch. Make extra to freeze or eat through the week! If you like this recipe, I now have a printable link. For the pinterest fans, I've added a "pin it" button so you can keep it handy.

Cappuccino Muffins with Espresso Spread
     (Print Recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour                                               
3/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Espresso Spread:
4 oz cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Yields: About 14 regular-sized muffins and 1 cup of spread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In case you are not familiar with coffee granules, here's the kind of container you can find them in. As you can see, this brand says "crystals", but it's the same thing. I've also used many different brands with these and all with the same result.

In a small bowl, stir milk and coffee granules until granules are dissolved. There is no need to heat the milk to dissolve the granules. If there is a granule or two that doesn't dissolve, that's fine.

In another bowl, lightly beat egg into melted butter and vanilla. Pour into coffee/milk mixture and mix well.

Now this is the part where you may think you totally messed something up somehow. It's going to be very clumpy due to the coagulation of the warm butter and protein in the eggs mixing with the milk and coffee (that's my critical thinking skills at work). Don't try to beat it out. It won't work. Leave it how it is. (The first time I made these, about 5 years ago, I wasted a lot of time!)

Create a well in the flour mixture and pour your chunky coffee mixture into it.

Stir just until moistened.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full. Considering these make about 14 muffins, I like to break out my mini muffin pan too. I can get 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins out of this. Tip: When you have empty places in your muffin pans, fill halfway with water to help with even baking. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 17-20 minutes or toothpick comes out clean. 

While muffins are baking, in a food processor or blender, combine spread ingredients; cover and process until well blended. Refrigerate until serving. 

You don't have to arrange your muffins and spread for pictures. You can just go straight to eating J


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Free 8X10 Photo Canvas!

Here is an awesome offer from Canvas People! A free 8x10 photo canvas! All you pay is shipping and handling. This will make a great mother’s day gift J The offer is good until May 13th, but you need to hurry and order by April 29th to be able to get it for Mother’s Day. I’m ordering mine tonight!! (Pretend you didn’t see this mom!) Or you can also use this link for 50 dollars off any canvas! Click on the banner and get yours today.

One Love Organics Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm (Birchbox Sample Review!)

Last month I received a sample in my Birchbox from One Love Organics. It was their Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm. I love the idea of a free-of-fillers, chemicals, synthetics, parabens, dyes, fragrances; and natural/organic beauty products. However, they can be iffy at times and I’m pretty peculiar about what I put on my body, especially my face, considering that’s what people see all the time and my skin is also temperamental. It tends to be very dry in the winter and very oily during the summer and I'm very prone to breakouts two weeks out of the month. 

Birchbox describes this as a “makeup remover, cleanser, and head-to-toe moisturizer” all rolled into one. Okay, tracking. One Love Organics describes being able to use it as “…head-to-toe cleansing, moisturizing, conditioning, smoothing and massaging.” Even better! But that’s where I got skeptical. It’s been my experience that with these alleged all-in-one products, there is always something missing, making them not so much “all-in-one”. Kind of like the one size does NOT fit all. I’ll take you through my whole experience.

As you can see on the outside of their container, two of the things stated are the fact that they handcraft all products in small batches and they are cruelty free! Now, I know it has a pic of the cute little bunny, but I can imagine it goes for all furry critters too J Both of these facts are important to me. Small batches at a time cut down on excessiveness and wasting. As for the cruelty-free aspect, I find it contradictory for an “organic” line to test on animals. It makes me wonder what else they are contradictory about, if that makes sense.

 One of the things One LoveOrganics talked about was how a little goes a long way. My thought was "I sure hope so!", considering it’s only half an ounce in the sample container. However, these pics were taken today and I’ve been using this product almost every day for the last 2 weeks and you can see how much I’ve used. I haven’t even touched the bottom yet! The full-size product retails for 68.00 USD for 3.5 ounces, however, with the very small amount needed when using this balm, I think it is well worth the money.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the jar was the smell. It smells ah-mazing! It has a light, tropical-like scent to it that I love. Secondly, when I ran the tip of my finger across the top, I found it was in fact, quite “balmy” and rather stiff. I was skeptical once more. This could have went wrong. Very wrong. First of all, I’m a fan of my cleanser creating a good lather. You can just see the little bubbles getting into your pores, so I was stand-offish for that reason. Second of all, considering the fact that it is “balmy”, I was concerned about the possibility of greasiness.  Come to find out, I didn’t have to be concerned for too long.  One Love Organics nailed it! You can see below where I was able to “whip” it up slightly. By adding just a little more pressure into the balm, the heat and friction will break it down to a very spreadable consistency. Which is why you don't have to use much. 

 Now Birchbox and OLO both recommended using the product as a cleanser with the OLO My BFF Shammy, which is their microfiber cleansing cloth that is effective up to 200 washes and reduces the amount of cleanser you have to use (which, seriously, if I have to use any less balm, I’m buying stock!). However, seeing as how Birchbox did not send me one of these (come on, Birchbox!) then I had to make due with a regular ol’ washcloth L To use this product as a cleanser, you take a little of the balm and massage it into your face. Seeing as how you can’t exactly splash water to rinse it off, you have to use a warm washcloth (or the BFF shammy) to wipe your face clean. I used a white washcloth so I could really see what it was pulling away. I was very surprised. I wear moderate makeup with heavier eye makeup and it took it all right off with no problems. It leaves your face feeling very moisturized afterwards as well. So unless you have very dry skin, I doubt you’d have to follow up with a moisturizer. And if you do, here’s the beauty of it: just add a little more balm to your face because it’s a moisturizer as well! This time of year, my face isn't either too dry or too oily, but I have been having some dryness between my eyebrows. So I did go back and spot moisturize with it a few times. Not greasy at all! It actually can be used head-to-toe as a moisturizer, conditioner, or to massage with!  On the One Love Organics website it even tells you how you can use it with your favorite mineral powder to create a custom treatment foundation or as a hair pomade.  Very cool, if you ask me.

So all of this is great, but what is in it is what makes it incredible. Because let’s face it, there are awesome products out there, but at the end of the day, if you are smearing chemicals all over yourself, then what’s it really worth to you then? This balm is made with cold-pressed plant oils (like pure virgin coconut and sweet soy) to break down and remove dirt and makeup, while the other plant-based oils, (like mango butter seeds) boost the formula’s hydrating power. If it looks like I’m sold, it’s because I am. J It's not just because it's been an incredible product, it's left my skin unbelievably soft, and it's so simple it looks hard; But also, after looking over this company and reading their manifesto (Seriously, check this out!), they just may be my new beauty crush!! I highly recommend checking this one out. If I end up trying more of their products, I’ll definitely let you in on those as well!

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Come chat with me on Twitter if you have used this product or others of this company. I’d love to hear about it! Twitter handle @SBasanAW

You can find me on Facebook where I link up everything I do so you won’t miss a thing. Southern Belle as an Army WifeFacebook Page

If you are interested in signing up for Birchbox, which is a monthly beauty subscription of samples delivered to your door for 10 dollars, then check them out here------->>>

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloggy Boot Camp Saint Louis 2012 Recap

I returned Sunday from Bloggy Boot Camp in Saint Louis, hosted by the SITS girls and let me tell you, my head is STILL spinning. Those girls are incredible! Tiffany Romero just has a passion and energy about her that is so contagious you just want to be a part of it all. Francesca Banducci is such a sweetheart and compliments her so well. I love these girls! Together they are incredibly empowering and inspirational to listen to. I left feeling so very motivated and ready to take on so much more than I even thought possible. In that room Saturday, I came up with a good five ideas, not just for this blog, but for ANOTHER blog (yes, I’m in trouble) and other aspects of life as well! I’m so glad that this was my first conference as a blogger. If you are a blogger or are just interested in joining a community of 15,000 women there to support one another, then you must go over to and check them out! 

I got to meet some amazing girls this weekend and it's been great to be able to put a actual person where the computer screen is!! I got to finally meet Jacinta from! We didn't get our start in blogging, but we have a developed an online relationship over the last few years, so blogging was just one more thing to throw into the "common" pile for us! She was my roomie for the weekend and we had a lot of good laughs. 

 Some of the others that I now have a face for are the incredibly sweet and fun Debbie from, the hilarious and like-minded Kelly from, the uber talented Che from, and the artistically inclined Erin from It was so nice meeting all of them on top of all the other girls there!

So, of course it was a fun time where we laughed, was awed, and almost shed a tear or two, but I want to share some of the top things I took away from it with you. In no particular order they are:
     1) Okay, so maybe I'm not being entirely truthful when I say in no particular order, because truthfully this one has been on my mind since I left. Wordpress, Wordpress, Wordpress. I know I'm not the only one. I know I should and I get why, and while I was there I was feeling  it. However, now that I'm back, I'm back in lingo over it. I don't know exactly what it is. I'm thinking maybe that unbelievable intuition I have is telling me not to jump into it and to do it right because WP feels right, but something feels off. Any thoughts about the process would be GREATLY appreciated! 
     2) You're only as good as the company you keep, from Laurie Turk the amazing TipJunkie, who is a blogging guru from out of this world! You hear this throughout life, but it's so true. She was one of the most energetic and fun women I've had the pleasure of listening to. 
    3) Understand your strengths and surround yourself with those who have the opposite strengths, from Tiffany Romero. Such a great tip that I wondered why I didn't think of that! I think we sometimes do that subconsciously to avoid the "too-many-chiefs..." scenario; however we also get pulled into the atmosphere of like-minded individuals and want to be a part of what they are doing, not realizing at the time that it may not work.
     4) VLOGGING-Duh!! Danielle Smith, pioneer vlogger, if you will, from, spoke with us on the importance and power of vlogging. This woman knows her stuff and in the back of my mind, I knew that different forms of media was important and I have been looking for ways to incorporate it, but I've been avoiding vlogging. Probably for the same reason many have. Worried about what I look and sound like and not being comfortable in front of the camera. Also there's the issue of the kids running through every thirty seconds, but then she made the point of that's part of our lives so go with it! So I'm going to do her 7-day challenge and get on with it!
     5) When you look good, you do well, from Cynthia Nap at This was the base of her segment on the importance of appearance on your blog (and other aspects of life as well). Now, we all know looks can be deceiving, but at the same time, we also know how small-minded the world can be, so being presentable is important in order to captivate and hold an audience. That's the key idea I took away from her segment. She had so many other good things to say and such fun ideas that I'll probably be visiting her for some designing in the future!

This is no where near all of what I took away from it. We had a segment on SEO and on the importance of Pinterest/Stumblr as well. The business portion I couldn't even begin to cover what I took away from that because I'd be here all day! Allison from Sway Group had some great advice and tips on pitching and connecting.

So as you can imagine, I now have a to-do list a mile long, a to-do list that I haven't even started yet, and a to-do list for my to-do list. When Tiffany said we were all going to go home and think "Oh, sh**!", she wasn't kidding. I literally thought that and then I literally LOL'd.  

If you have never been to one of these conferences, I highly recommend the SITS girls. This was just their first stop this year, so you can catch them a few more times! Check out Bloggy Boot Camp for more details! If anything, you can go just so Tiffany can take amazing pics of you ;) 

For more pictures of the event, go to the SITS girls photostream for a recap! 

Come chat with me on Twitter about your experiences in conferences or ideas on anything (such as my WP conflict). Twitter handle @SBasanAW.

Or come like me on Facebook to keep up with fun there! Southern Belle as an Army Wife Facebook Page

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Party Time at Ultimate Blog Party!!

Ultimate Blog Party 2012

Hey, ya’ll! I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I didn't want to miss the Ultimate Blog Party by "5 Minutes For Mom". Being fairly new to the blog game, I had no idea what it was at first; but once I heard more about it, I wanted to be apart of it!  So here's a little about me: My name is Erika and as the title suggests, I'm a military wife, Army-type. FYI, I'm also a lover of hyphens...and a bit random, but I usually pull it together by the end, don't worry. My husband is a SFC in the Army and we are currently doing a somewhat "chill" duty station, although that's about to soon change--again.

(My handsome honey-bunny and I)

We are also the proud parents of two beautiful and incredibly intelligent babies. And by babies I mean a six-year-old girl and a three-and-a-half-year-old boy J

(My little posing Kade-y Bug)

And introducing Mr. Camero Incoopertus, Roman

Let's try Mr. Grumpy Gills again...
You can see how it goes with him, right? He's my hellcat.

That's a little intro to us. I've been blogging regularly since December 2011. The main reason I started this blog was to record family happenings and what-nots for our family and friends and it kind of developed into this. Someone is always asking me how I do something or for recipes, so I thought this was a good place to share. This is also a good way to let people in on the life of a military family in a different way. The stigma that plagues military wives can be pretty brutal sometimes, but I assure you, we are not all "that" way. As a matter of fact, most are not. We have lives of our own and we are tough as can be. What other choice do we have? On top of me being a Southern girl to the core, you'll find it's not exactly what you may expect.

I go to school full-time, finishing up my nursing degree, but aside from that, I do it all. I LOVE to read and write, but what you'll find on here is that I LOVE to cook, create, and laugh about pretty much everything. You'll find recipes that have been recreated or that I just whipped up on my own. I usually give pretty detailed tutorials with a lot of pics. Same way with some of my crafty creations, (sewing, crocheting, and everything else you can imagine), although I'm just a little behind on putting those up. We are also putting up our first garden, so you'll get to read all about the fun involved there, and let me tell you, it's already started. See why my child is no longer allowed to garden with me.  I also like to share my latest finds and buys and do the occasional review. I'm also considering sharing some coupons and such that some friends have asked about. I'm certainly the Jill-of-all-Trades, but master-of-...well, I'm pretty dang good at a few, but I suppose for vanity purposes, I'll go with "master-of-none". Joke, people!! But seriously. 

Here are a few of the things you may find here:

This is me. This is my creative outlet. I love to meet new people and find new blogs, so if you come by for a visit, let me know, so I can check you out as well! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Let's Look at Beauty Samples!

I may have mentioned it only once or twice, but I subscribe to two monthly beauty boxes. I LOVE beauty products and what better way is there to find an awesome product than by getting monthly samples? It’s also sometimes hard as a mom to be able to get somewhere and talk recent beauty with professionals. Another issue I have is the area I live in. When I say Walmart is “high fashion” around here, I’m not making a funny. That’s about as serious as it gets. Oh, how I miss being close to the city, in that aspect! So these beauty boxes have been amazing for these reasons. The first one I subscribe to is Birchbox. For 10 dollars a month, you are sent 4-5 random high-end, up and coming beauty samples. I think it’s the fact that you don’t get to choose what you get that makes it a hit or miss sometimes. I’ve been with them about 8 months and I’ve received 3 boxes that I didn’t really care for. However, I’ve never received a box that I didn’t like something out of.

Since we were on vacation last month, I didn’t get my box until later in the month. March was a special month for Birchbox because you had the opportunity to get a special Teen Vogue box. I opted out of that and went with the regular box and I’m glad I did. Here’s my March box:

The first thing I noticed about the box was how heavy it was. Generally they are pretty lightweight, considering they are samples; however, this month, the box was surprisingly heavy. You can probably see why. These were LARGE samples.

1.  Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm by One Love Organics: This is a two-in-one cleanser and moisturizer that has no fillers in it. You can use it as a cleanser and moisturizer, or if you need to moisturize an area, you can moisturize with it as well. Head-to-toe. I'm actually very impressed with this product and will be reviewing it soon, so stay tuned for that! Sneak peek on a few of the reasons: My face has never been so soft with any other product; it smells light and tropical; there's only 0.5 oz to the sample and I've been using it a week, yet have barely put a dent in it (a little goes a LONG way!). These folks may be on to something! (Full size, 3.5 oz: $68.00; Sample, 0.5 oz: $19.43 Value)

2.  Quick Curls by Miss Jessie's ® Original: It says on the bottle that this is "The Best Darn Curl Cremes Period". We shall see because I'm very particular about them and I'm yet to find one that I like better than Biolage. It's says it's lightweight, light-scented, and anti-frizz. I'll keep you posted. This is a large sample so I'll try it a few times before I let you know. (Full size, 8 oz: $32.00; Sample, 2 oz: $8.00 Value)

3. Invigorating Tibetan Shower Cream with Rhubarb by I  Coloniali:  This is an Italian brand that uses a rare eastern rhubarb that is supposed to have revitalizing properties for your skin. I wouldn't know. I took one smell of it and put the lid back on. It don't stink, but I'm a woman and I like to smell like a woman. What I wash with has to be feminine like and it had a stronger smell than what I like. So I may be missing out on world's softest skin here, but I'm not rubbing it on me, sorry. It's a shame too because the sample is nearly half the size of the full product! (Full size, 250ml: $29.00; Sample, 100ml, $11.60 Value)

4.  Deep Massage Body Cream with Myrrh by I Coloniali: This was actually the bonus sample for the month. I haven't used it yet, but if it's anything like the previous sample and given it has myrrh, I'll probably be using it on my husband rather than vice versa. (Full size, 200 ml: $68.00; Sample, 10ml: $3.40 Value)

5. Pomegranate Buffing Beads by WEI™: I've yet to use these either, but I think they are a pretty neat concept. They are a preportioned powdered scrub that you mix in with your regular cleanser, turning it into an exfoliant whenever you feel the need. The packets are handy for on-the-go. I'm anxious to see how these will do, especially considering all the wonderful benefits of pomegranate peel! (Full size, 20 packets: $20.00; Sample, 2 packets: $2.00 Value)

6. Nail Lacquer in Jackie Oh! by Color Club®: I absolutely love this poppy pink color! It's so bright and fun! I'll show you what it looks like next week. The real test is how well it stands given my day-to-day activities. (Full size, 0.5 fl oz: $8.00; Sample 0.25 fl oz: $4.00 Value)

So the grand total value for the March Birchbox is....$48.43. Next week, I'll show you what was in my February and March, and yes I mean February (I had a lost box), Beauty Army boxes. 

If you are interested in learning more about these or any other boxes, go visit my friend, Jacinta at My Beauty Boxes. She does nothing but great reviews of not only these two boxes, but many others as well! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cute-sy Mug-sies, Spending Daddies, and Cry Babies

Today I want to share some of my latest finds and favorite buys. And by that I mean mostly coffee mugs, with a few other things from our Disney and Louisiana trip a few weeks ago. I LOVE coffee. Community Coffee, to be specific. To me, the mug is half the fun; so resisting a cute mug is almost as hard for me as shoes or a purse. Not exaggerating. 

I love Alice. This happened to be the cutest Alice mug I saw. I loved the pretty blue jewel, her name scrawled on the inside, and the simplicity of it all :)

To go along with it, we found this book called All Things Alice by Linda Sunshine. It's absolutely adorable! It's a collection of artwork, stories, recipes, letters, games, and poems, all inspired by Lewis Carroll. It also includes rare excerpts from Carroll's works as a child. Love this book!

One of my favorite Disney movies is Nightmare Before Christmas. It's also one of my kids' favorites. Don't know what it is about Jack Skellington, but he's the man! This mug is pretty fitting for me :) 

We also found this cute little Jack cup (which I'm currently drinking out of!)

One of the things my husband and I love to do is go into different Cracker Barrels in different states to peruse the stores. In one in Louisiana, we came across this at 75% off. Who can resist an adorable giant onion?! He was just so sad. We couldn't leave him!

Those are just a few of the things I loved (and bought). Every store, my husband was making me buy something else! You'd think it'd be me spending a ton of money at Disney. Oh no! My husband went on a spending spree. Every time I turned around it was something. He even went so far as to buy into the Disney Vacation Club. We did get military pricing and an excellent deal (more about that at a later time), but I was surprised, none-the-less.

Is my husband the only one who goes to Disney and spends the family fortune? Please do share your surprise spending. You always see Disney savings tips, but NEVER Disney spending sprees! J

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Bunny Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is made around here only on Easter and if it's a special occasion where my husband requests it. This is a recipe I have used for the past few years that is so good, that I barely deviated from it (found here)...which is highly unusual for me. I'll share that with you, but more importantly, the Easter Bunny himself is something my grandmother always made during Easter. It's super simple, and the kids LOVE it! We always decorate with whatever Easter candies and whatnot we have lying around, so it doesn't require much work at all.

Best Carrot Cake
(printable recipe)

3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups finely grated carrots (about 4 medium)
1 cup raisins
1 cup flaked coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2-4 T heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; stir into egg mixture.
  4. Stir in pineapple, carrots, raisins, and coconuts just until mixed.
  5. Pour into two greased and floured 8-inch rounds. 
  6. For two rounds, bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
  7. Cool on wire rack before frosting.

Since the cake is pretty easily put together, I didn't take any pictures of the process of making cake. Just a few tips with cakes that I always do. After I grease and flour, I line the bottom of my pan with parchment paper to ensure it never sticks. Before putting it in the oven, I hold the pan about six inches from the counter and drop it to release air bubbles. 

For the frosting:
Cube the butter and cream cheese. Beat with 2 T of heavy whipping cream and the vanilla until smooth.
Add confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time until all mixed in. Add the rest of the whipping cream, 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. You want it creamy, smooth, and it should have a shine to it.

Once completely cooled, invert one of the rounds on a rack. 

Using the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick, trace two curved lines on the round to resemble a baseball. (That oops is why we trace first :D)

Once you have your lines even, using a sharp knife, cut along those lines.
I was out of cakeboards, so on the counter I laid out a baking sheet with parchment paper extended out to accommodate the size of the bunny. First, lay down the other cake round that hasn't been cut. Then take the right and left pieces of the cake you cut and place them above the other cake as ears.
 Place the center cut piece at the bottom of it as the bow tie.
 Frost and decorate as desired.