Top 10 Sephora Favorites

I watch a lot of YouTube videos, mostly about makeup or cooking.  Yeah, exciting, I know.  This weekend, as I was getting my list of things I needed to buy at Sephora together, I realized I could do my very own “Favorites” post on my blog.  I know I usually write about food, but I thought I might branch out a little.  A post here about makeup.  A post there about Jake and the fun things we do around Dayton.  You know…mix it up.

One of my new, must have onhand at all times, favorite things is Sephora’s Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover ($14).  This is what a makeup guru would call a “holy grail” makeup remover.  I wear a decent amount of eye makeup (shadow, liner, mascara) and I don’t like to stand at my sink for ten minutes each night taking off my makeup.  I used to use Bliss Lid+Lash Wash Makeup Remover and I thought it worked great.  Then, last month when I went on vacation, I took my travel sized Bliss remover instead of my Sephora remover and I was cursing myself every day!  Note to self:  pick up a travel sized bottle of the Sephora remover before my next vacation.

I’m sure there are hundreds of different bronzers that work just fine on most skin types, but I’m partial to this one.  NARS Bronzer in Casino ($39) has been my go to bronzer for several years.  It’s on the pricey side, but it’s worth it.  It’s got just a hint of shimmer and it’s the perfect shade if you’re slightly darker like me.  There is a different shade called Laguna that flatters more people’s skin tones.  Whichever you choose, it’s awesome!

Speaking of NARS, I have a weakness for their shadows, even though the price tag gives me heart palpitations whenever I think about it.  That being said, NARS Eyeshadow in Kalahari ($35) has been my favorite “quick and easy eye shadow day” look for years.  I love it because all I have to do is prime my eyes, add the light shadow all over my lid, add the darker shadow in the crease, then line my eyes and throw on some mascara.  Quick, easy, and gorgeous!

And since we’re on the subject of primers, Urban Decay’s Primer Potion ($20) has been in my makeup drawer for at least ten years.  Ever since I started going to Sephora, I have been picking up this little beauty.  A primer evens out the skin tone on your eyelid, covers any bluish veins that might be visible, and provides an even surface for the shadow to glide onto.  Their original shade (pictured above) has been what I reach for most, though I have also used Eden, which is a gorgeous warm bronze color.  It’s beautiful if you want to achieve that goddess type look, but isn’t my favorite for an everyday primer.  Sunday, I didn’t see the original so I purchased Minor Sin, which is sort of a mix between the Original and Eden.  I’m not sure if I’ll love it as much as the Original, but we’ll see.

My new favorite liner is Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner ($22).  Now, I am NOT one to purchase liquid liners or mascara from Sephora or Ulta.  They dry out too quickly and I don’t feel like I get my money’s worth.  This is especially true with mascara.  I love my mascara and end up going through a tube every 3-4 months, which is good because you’re supposed to throw them away after 3 months anyway.  However, I received a “best of” kit for Christmas last year and this eyeliner was included.  I’m kind of picky with my liquid liner, but this baby definitely knocked it out of the park.  I love it!  It glides on smoothly, is dark black (instead of grayish black like some liners), and stays all day like the name says.  (A close, cheaper version is Maybelline’s Lash Stiletto.)

While we’re on the subject of eye makeup, these Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on Eye Pencils ($20) are pretty awesome too.  I like to pick vibrant colors like Vice (pictured above) to add a little pop of color to my eyelid. I draw on a kind of thick line over my shadow and follow up with a thin, black line on top of it.  It gives my eyes a little hint of something special on days I’m feeling a little feisty.  I also have Woodstock (a hot pink color) and Deep End (turquoise).  These liners glide on super easy and, like the Stila liner, stays all day long.

It’s not makeup, but something I purchased a couple times now is Tory Burch’s self titled fragrance ($68 for 1 oz).  It is my favorite scent currently.  It smells like Neroli, Grapefruit, Cassis, Bergamot, Peony, Tuberose, Jasmine Sambac, Vetiver, and Sandalwood (per the Sephora website).  To me, it’s very woodsy and citrusy, not too sweet, and perfect for everyday wear.

Another fragrance I’m in love with is actually a recent discovery.  I feel confident it will be purchased again and again though.  Clean Fragrance in Skin ($38 for 1 oz) is…well…clean smelling.  It’s notes are Honeydew, Lotus Blossom and Fresh Air Accord, Dewy Petals, Aquatic Notes, Blue Rose, Musks, Amber Wood, Vanilla.  It’s kind of like walking along the beach on a warm, breezy day.

A list of my favorite Sephora items wouldn’t be complete without Urban Decay’s Naked Palettes ($54).  There are four of them and, honestly, I can’t really pick a favorite.  Depending on the time of year, I rotate through all of them.  The most recent palette, Naked Smoky, is the one I’ve been reaching for first lately.  I need to research more ways to play with the colors so I branch out from my typical application, but overall I love this palette!

Last but not least is the Beautyblender makeup sponge ($20).  This little sponge is a miracle beauty product!  It gives your foundation the look of an airbrushed application.  It smooths everything out, fills in your pores, and removes any excess product from your skin.  To use, you simply wet it and squeeze out the excess water, then blot on your skin.  Sometimes I rub my foundation into my skin first and then use the sponge to blend it out.  Sometimes I apply dots of foundation over my skin and use the sponge to achieve a thin layer.

So there you go.  Ten products I love and have purchased at least twice in my life.  What are your favorite products you can’t live without?

Meal Plan for 10/4-10/10

We’ve gotten in a routine at our house.  Since I’ve taken a job as a store manager, I am lucky enough to get most nights and weekends off.  If you’ve ever worked retail, you know how rare this is.

At my job, we get to pick two Saturdays a month that we want to take completely off.  The other Saturdays we have to work a short, four hour shift.  Because of this, I tend to do most of my meal planning, grocery shopping, and recipe prep on Sundays.

Typically, I make my meal plan either Saturday night or early Sunday morning.  Then I add all my ingredients I need to pick up to my GroceryIQ app on my phone (love this thing btw) and try to get to the store by 10A.  Our Kroger is packed by 10:30A, so the earlier I get out there, the better.

I am still in the process of figuring out the best way to record all my meal planning and the results of each meal.  I’ve tried several different ways from using an app like Instagram, to Pinterest, to keeping a running, written list of meals I like.  I think I may have figured out the best way, but I haven’t actually put it in practice yet, so I’m not going to share quite yet.  If anyone has any thoughts on this, let me know.

Lately, I’ve just been making a list.  I write out the days of the week, add in any appointments, plans, events, etc, and then start filling in meals.  Since I’m a manager, I have to close one night a week (typically Thursdays), so I add that to the plan.  This coming week, I am going out with friends on Tuesday night, so that goes on there too.  This way, I can plan for my guys to have a meal Jeff can make or they can go out to eat on nights I won’t be there to cook.  Thursday night works for me to close because it’s 35¢ wing night at BW3s!

That was a long intro to tell you about the meals I have slated for this week…

Sunday – Marinated and Grilled Pork Chops with Skinnytaste Garlic Parm Roasted Fries

Monday – Waffle Crusted Chicken w/ Skewered Grilled Potatoes

Tuesday – Coneys for the boys using my City BBQ Chili recipe

Wednesday – Baked Chicken Parmesan with roasted green beans

Thursday – BW3s for the boys

Friday – Garlic Bread Chicken Nuggets with Corn Casserole

Saturday – Grilled Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice

So that’s what’s planned for our house this week.  I’m hoping to report back with all kinds of yummy additions to my list of Must Make Again meals!

Full disclosure:  95% of the pictures in this blog post are NOT mine.  I DO NOT take credit for them or the deliciousness they portray.  For the actual recipes I will be using this week, please click on the associated links in the titles.

Parmesan Parsley Potatoes

In the two-thirds of a year, I have become a devoted fan of Gina over at Skinnytaste.  It all started when I was given her cookbook for Christmas.

At the start of 2015, I decided I was going to refocus on exercise and eating healthy (an original idea, right?).  I wanted to incorporate recipes from the Skinnytaste cookbook because I had heard her recipes were delicious yet healthy.  She lost a bunch of weight using the Weight Watchers system and, though I wasn’t a Weight Watcher, I still liked the concept behind their plan.

After trying and loving several of the cookbook recipes, I ventured over to her blog, where I was delighted to find a vast array of new ideas for dinner.  I began pinning tons of things from breakfast to main meals to side dishes.  She has all sorts of great recipes.

Tonight, as we tried to capture the last few drops of summer sunshine (err…early fall sunshine I guess :( ), I knew I wanted a delicious, yet decadent-tasting recipe as a side to our grilled pork chops.  I stumbled upon this recipe that sounded perfect.  Garlicky, cheesy, potatoey, delicious.  This will definitely be going on my Must Make Again Pinterest board.  (Incidentally, if you want a few suggestions of what I’ve tried and loved on Pinterest, check out that board.  If you want some ideas of things to avoid, check out the Done and Done board.)  FYI, I try to comment as to why we loved or hated the recipe.

Gina’s Parmesan Parsley Potatoes

1 tsp oil
1 garlic clove, minced (I used Trader Joe’s garlic paste)
Cooking spray
1 medium russet or yukon gold potato, washed and dried
Salt & Pepper
Parmesan cheese (she suggests 2 tsp)

Begin by slicing your potato in 1/4″ strips.  Following Gina’s advice, I used my mandolin to slice my potatoes in 1/4″ planks and then sliced those planks in strips.  I dunked my potatoes in cold water at this point for 10 minutes and, honestly, I think this was a mistake because they were not nearly as crispy as I wanted them to be.  Gina does not say to do that and I think I should have followed her on this.  Instead, I read another reader who suggested doing this would lead to an extra crispy fry, which is my goal in life.  Full disclosure, I probably didn’t dry my fries as well as they needed too.

Preheat your oven to 425º.  Prepare a cookie sheet with the cooking spray.  Toss your fries with the oil, garlic, salt, & pepper.  I do this right on the cookie sheet.  Spread out in an even layer then bake in the oven for 10 minutes* on each side.

*I ended up baking them for 10 minutes, flipping, and baking 10 more minutes.  Then, as they weren’t very crispy, I bumped up the temp to broil and cooked them for an additional 10-15 minutes.  I think the pre-soak and the fact that I didn’t measure my oil might have been where I went wrong.  So, if you learn anything from me, follow the recipe.  Regardless, I loved them!  They were super yummy.

BTW, I think I have a new mascot for Red Nose Day…  (Google it if you didn’t hear about it this summer.)

Recipe Revisit

If you’ve been on my blog much in the past, you may have noticed that I updated my recipe page(s).  I went back through my old recipes, categorized them, and posted pictures of everything on their respective pages.  In doing so, I realized that several of my recipes either had no picture or very, very bad pictures.  So I thought I’d update them slowly over time, especially in the case of recipes I find myself making over and over and over again.

Case in point, Taco Soup.

IMG_0016This is one of my go to recipes to make when it gets colder outside.  It reminds me slightly of chili, but with a little Mexican flair.  It’s perfect for a quick and easy lunch, especially when you store the soup in mason jars in the freezer.  It’s so simple to grab a jar of frozen soup and throw it in your lunch bag for later.  Bonus, it serves as the ice pack!

When you get a spare minute, click on the Recipes tab at the top of the page and browse around for a minute.  My suggestion?  Check out the Family Favorite link first.  Happy cooking!

BBQ For A Good Cause

It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE supporter of our local bbq joint, City BBQ.  I got promoted to a different store earlier this year and it just so happens to be right across the street from a City BBQ.  Like literally right across the street.  I could walk there.

I don’t.  But I could.

I do tend to end up at City BBQ probably once a week though.  It’s an addiction really…

I’ve written about how awesome their food is a couple times on the blog.  You know what else is awesome?  When they throw a benefit to support cute, furry animals.  Well, that’s what’s going on this Friday at the Beavercreek location!

City BBQ 4

City BBQ has teamed up with Dayton local brewery, Warped Wing, to support the Dayton Humane Society and their sweet, adorable little puppies and kitties with the BBQ, Brews, and Tunes charity event!  For just $20, you can enjoy a buffet dinner, six beer tickets from Warped Wing, live music, and the ability to feel good about supporting a great organization.

And, in case you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you nab some of the full cut brisket!  It’s my new favorite item on the menu. Moist, juicy, and so flavorful.  Mmmmm.  There are no words.

So stop by City BBQ for dinner on Friday night and have a delicious dinner while supporting a great cause.  For more information, visit the BBQ, Brews, and Tunes Facebook page!

CIty BBQ 3

Garlic Rosemary Dinner Rolls

One of my favorite things I’ve ever posted on this blog were these:

Cinnamon Rolls 3Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls.  They are awesome.  Seriously good.  They do take a little bit of extra effort to be honest, but they are so worth it in the end.

Today, I ran into my sister-in-law at the grocery store and she happened to mention them so, obviously, I started craving them.  As we were right next to the baking aisle, I zipped through, grabbed a packet of yeast, and it was decided.  Today was cinnamon roll day.

Well, today also happened to be chicken brining day and what goes better with delicious brined, roasted chicken than homemade dinner rolls!  As we were running errands, I began to ponder whether or not the cinnamon roll dough, which was rising beautifully on my dryer as it tossed my clothes around in the warm heat, would transform into dinner rolls.  They are, after all, both yeast rolls.  I figured I’d give it a try.  What’s the worst that could happen?  No dinner rolls?

Yes, I realize that would be a travesty, but nonetheless.

So after I prepped the bird and veggies and popped them in the oven, I retrieved my bowl of glorious dough from the laundry room and portioned out about a third of the dough.  I kneaded it a bit and rolled it around, then cut it into 8 equal pieces.  After I covered them with butter and some seasonings, I threw them in the oven with a silent “please let these be delicious”.

IMG_0034Oh.  My.  Word.

They were FABULOUS!!!  A bit denser than traditional dinner rolls, but we were using cinnamon roll dough after all.  These rolls are definitely reappearing on the fourth Thursday in November at Bethany’s house…


Garlic Rosemary Dinner Rolls
(adapted from Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Roll recipe)

1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
9 cups flour, plus an extra cup if needed
1 heaping tbsp baking powder
1 scant tbsp baking soda
1 heaping tbsp salt
Dried rosemary
Garlic powder

Warning:  This will make a TON of rolls.  This recipe is originally for making cinnamon rolls to share.

Mix milk, sugar, and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until it starts to look like it might boil.  I whisked mine every few minutes to make sure it stayed combined.  Set aside for about an hour and cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch.  Sprinkle yeast over the top and let sit for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, measure out 9 cups of flour into a large bowl.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine.  You can also sift the ingredients if you want.  Mix your yeast into the liquids and then pour in the flour.  Whisk to combine and then switch to a spoon when you can’t really whisk anymore.  If your dough is still too sticky at this point, you can add a little more flour.  My dough needed a little extra.  You want the dough to be slightly tacky, but not coating your whole hand when you pull it away.

Make sense?  Sure, Bethany.  Clear as mud.

Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm spot in your house.  I was doing laundry, so it was the perfect place to stash my mix.  Let sit, covered, for at least an hour until the dough puffs up.

After an hour, punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured board.  Knead the dough a little until it’s smooth (I think I did this for about 2 minutes).  Cut your dough into equal pieces and form into balls.  I sort of fold my dough under itself to make a nice, even top to my rolls, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

Place your rolls in a buttered pan and leave a couple inches of space between each.  Cover and let rise again for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375°.  Uncover rolls and brush them with a little melted butter.  Sprinkle on dried rosemary and garlic powder, then bake for 15-18 minutes or until your rolls are nice and golden brown.


These rolls go well with roasted chicken, steak, or….nothing at all.

Use Your Noodle

We have a new commercial development being built near our house.  It’s very exciting because there are several new-to-Dayton restaurants being built AND an old favorite of mine, Noodles and Co.  I was first exposed to Noodles when it moved in at the Greene (a local mall) and more often than not I would eat there when I went shopping.  When I found out Noodles and Co was expanding to Austin Landing, I was pumped.  I love their Pad Thai and Curry Soup.

Since I follow Austin Landing’s Facebook page, I learn about all the “soft openings” and “sneak peaks” that happen at their various stores.  One such sneak peak was for Noodles.  Jeff, Jake, and I, along with a couple friends, were able to sample one free dish per person one night.

As we were eating, Jill, the manager, came over to see how our meal was and to ask us if we’d eaten at Noodles before.  I said I had and we got to talking a bit.  I explained I was a food blogger and she asked if I’d be interested in doing a tasting.  Duh.  That was easy.

I invited a few other bloggers and some friends to lunch on a snowy Thursday in March where we were able to sample several of Noodles’ dishes.

We started with a couple flatbreads.  The always available Margherita (classic tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella)

Margheritaand the limited time only Fig and Pig (described as “caramelized onions, naturally-raised, slow-braised pork, crumbled feta and Parmesan cheese on a toasted flatbread, drizzled with Balsamic Fig-infused oil and topped with more feta cheese and an Arcadian lettuce mix” on their website).  This was hands down the best thing I tried during the lunch.

FigPigPumpkin, one of my fellow blogger’s daughters, wasn’t too sure of the “pizza” but tried it anyway.

Pumpkin2Next up was the Penne Rosa, a penne pasta tossed in a spicy marinara, topped with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  A delicious, classic choice, albeit a bit spicy.

RosaTo cool off our palettes, Jill brought out their Mac and Cheese with Parmesan Crusted Chicken.

Mac and CheeseAfter trying a bit, she asked us if we liked spicy.  “Try it with Sriracha,” she said.  Boy, lemme tell ya.  It gives a seriously good flavor to the already yummy dish!  I have been back since and ordered mac and cheese (instead of my Pad Thai staple, mind you) and doused it in Sriracha.  Stuff is good, man…

SrirachaTo bring in some of their Asian influenced, the Bangkok Curry was next.  This dish was a mixture of rice noodles, veggies, and sweet coconut curry sauce over a bed of cabbage.

CurryTo be honest, this wasn’t my favorite dish.  It wasn’t bad and I for sure ate my serving, but I probably won’t be ordering it for myself in the future.

Alongside the Curry, she served up the Med Salad, which is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a Mediterranean influenced salad with tomatoes, onions, olives, feta, and vinaigrette.Med Salad

One cool thing about Noodles is they offer a “World Map” of choices you can make at their restaurants for under 500 calories!

choicesThis Bangkok Curry and Med Salad combo was one of those options.  If I had had those two complete dishes as my lunch, I would have been pleasantly full.Under 500

Steak Stroganoff was up next.  This dish was traditional egg noodles covered in a creamy stroganoff sauce topped with seasoned steak and Parmesan.  Because several of us were sharing one dish, I don’t think I got very much of the sauce so my bites were a little bland.  But the sauce I did taste was yummy!Stroganoff

The next Asian dish we had was the Japanese Pan Noodles, which I’d had before.  Veggies, udon noodles, and bits of steak were tossed in a deliciously sweet sauce.  I loved this one and kept going back for more little bites.  YUM!Udon

Next up was the Pad Thai.  We all know I love Pad Thai, so of course I loved this one.  I’ve gotten it more times than I can count and am definitely a fan.Pad Thai

Finally it was time for dessert!  In all the time I’ve been coming to Noodles, I only ever thought they had their jumbo rice krispy treats (they’re right there on the counter).  When Jill brought out the trio of treats, I was floored!

First, I tried the Chocolate Espresso Cake.  I love chocolate, but sometimes it’s a bit rich for me.  This was a very rich cake and I was satisfied with just a small bite of it.  Jeff would have gobbled that whole thing up though.Chocolate Cake

Next, I tried the Carrot Cake.  When I was in the hospital after I gave birth to Jake, I probably at a piece of carrot cake each day because the hospital’s cake was that good.  This was a close second.Carrot

Finally, I sampled the Tres Leche cake.  MMMMMM.  It was so yummy.  We each had a taste of the desserts and then one person would get the final bite.  I got the final bite of this one.  I savored every second of it too.  It was delicious!Tres Leche

I already knew I was a fan of Noodles and Co, but with this tasting I love it even more.  They have so many good options and are conscious of people’s desires to eat healthier.  All the nutritional values are on their website, so you can plan before you go too.  With that World Map, it really makes it easy!

They have something for everyone, even the pickiest eaters like my little guy.  Their associates are very friendly and go out of their way to help, coming around to check on your meal periodically.  They even bus the tables for you!

I want to thank Jill for bringing us in for a fabulous lunch on a dreary Thursday morning.  It was very nice and pleasant.  I think I speak for everyone when I say we all enjoyed it.

So if you’re in the area, stop in and grab a meal!  It’s a fabulous place.


Brownie Buckeyes

I’ve lived in Ohio for 10 years this May.  One of the first things I learned when moving here was their state “treat”:  The Buckeye.  Buckeyes, for those of you who are not fortunate enough to know, are delicious balls of peanut butter and powdered sugar hugged by a thin layer of yummy chocolate.  They are quite possibly my favorite treat in the entire world next to brownies.

Buckeye Brownies 2

So imagine my lust when my coworker showed me a picture of what I can only describe as the love child of a brownie and a buckeye.  Buckeye Brownie Cookies.

“You or Barb should make these” was all the text read.  One look and I was hooked.  Since our store was having a carry in soon, I mentally penciled these cookies in as a surprise treat for my team.

If you like peanut butter, brownies, cookies, or anything in between, make these.  They are epic.

Buckeye Brownies 3

Brownie Buckeyes
(from this recipe)

1 family size package brownie mix
1 egg
1/4 stick butter, melted
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter
4 oz candy chocolate (that stuff in the block near the chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 350*.  In a bowl, combine the brownie mix, egg, butter, and cream cheese until well mixed.  Using a medium scoop (approximately 1.5 tbsp), scoop the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with a silpat AND sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Yes, they are that sticky.  You should get almost exactly 24 cookies.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix up your “buckeye” layer.  Combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar until well mixed.  Using a small scoop (approximately 2 tsp), scoop the mixture into 24 balls and set aside.

When you take your cookies out of the oven, you’ll want to immediately top with your peanut butter mixture.  I flattened the PB balls out in my hand to make a disc, then placed that over the cookie.  Let these cool completely.

After your cookies are cooled, you can top with your chocolate later.  Melt 4 ounces of candy chocolate in the microwave on 30 second increments, stirring in between.  It should only take 1-1.5 minutes.  Spoon or pipe your chocolate on top of the peanut butter.  Let them sit until the chocolate layer is hardened.

Buckeye Brownies

Try not to eat them all in one sitting.  I dare you.

It’s About Thyme

entrance2Fresh Thyme is a combined spirit of a weekend farmer’s market and the convenience of a neighborhood store to create a new and health shopping experience.”

I’ve always been a grocery store junkie.  In college, my best friend and I would actually take “field trips” to the grocery store just to see what was new.  A little pathetic, maybe, but I don’t care.  #sorrynotsorry

After we moved away from each other, we would still take our little field trips.  One time when I was in Louisville visiting her, we went to Fresh Market.  I liked it so much I wrote a blog post about it!  Other times, before we had Trader Joe’s close to us, we met in Cincinnati to see what all the fuss was about.

When I was contacted to provide an honest review of a new grocery store in the Dayton area, I immediately signed up for it.  How exciting!  What’s funny is when I was contacted, the girl didn’t tell me what grocery store it was.  Just that it was a “new store in the Dayton area”.  I’d made plans to visit the store with a girlfriend even before the name was revealed.

My friend, Kristy, and I planned to go to Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market last Sunday afternoon.  Looking back, it was probably the single most awful time to go to the grocery store we could have picked.  The fact that I (the person who would rather chew her own arm off than be in a big crowd of people) still enjoyed myself speaks volumes. First and foremost, it was a gorgeous day.  Chilly, but bright blue skies.

Outside I’m always in such a great mood when the sky is filled with light, wispy clouds, aren’t you? In we went, with no intention of buying anything.  Kristy suggested we get a cart, which we did.  She wanted to get a big cart but I assured her we wouldn’t even need the little mini cart.  Haha.  Yeah, I was wrong.

EntranceThe first area we came to was produce.  It was a farmer’s market, after all.  Now I know every store has their own lost leaders (products with super low prices that drive customers in the store), but $.89 for a pint of strawberries is crazy!  And what’s more?  They were delicious.  Seriously.

I kept looking for prices to be unreasonable as they are in most “trendy” grocery stores, but in all honesty Fresh Thyme had very comparable (if not cheaper) prices to big box retailers like Kroger.  In addition to their great prices, they have this cool thing where you can “double dip” on Wednesdays.  They call it Double Ad Wednesdays. See, every Wednesday their new ad breaks BUT their old ad still rings at the sale prices.  What does this mean?  On Wednesdays you get both the past week’s and the current week’s sale prices at the same time! Kristy and I meandered around, trying to take in everything the store had to offer.

BreadOne of my favorite little corners was the artisan bread display.  I was tempted to pick up a loaf of the sourdough, but I am trying to be good and avoid loaves of bread.  They can be a trouble food for me.

BakeryI was happy to learn that these artisan breads are made locally, be it in the store or utilizing local area bakeries.

SandwichesMoving right along, they have an assortment of sandwiches and other goodies you can purchase for lunch or a light dinner.  I used to work right down the road and it would have been awesome to be able to run in for a quick bite knowing I was getting quality, local ingredients in a delicious meal.

SushiTheir sushi selections were amazing too.  Wanna know something cool?  They fly in their seafood fresh daily.  Wanna know something else cool?  They do their research and make sure their fish is sustainable, proving they are not only looking for the best quality product but are also considerate of the environment.  I like that.

You know how that “other” grocery store has their infamous salad and prepared foods bar?


Meat1Next up was the meat counter.  Some of you know how much I love the meat counter at Dorothy Lane Market.  Fresh Thyme gave DLM a run for their money.  Such succulent cuts of beef!

Meat2Check out their carne asada.  Doesn’t that look yum?  I thought so.  A pound of it made it into my cart. Another thing I liked about Fresh Thyme was just how many things they made fresh in house.  One thing in particular was their sausages.  They have over a dozen different varieties of sausage they make daily.  I’m definitely picking up a couple of those next time!  I smell sizzling sausage with peppers and onions in my future…

OnionsTheir produce section seemed to be never ending.  I loved the gorgeous displays all over the place.  As opposed to the picked over selections at Kroger, this produce was piled in luscious, bountiful mounds. I found out they source their produce locally and buy direct from vendors in order to keep costs down.  I’ll bring up those strawberries again.  We were able to sample them in the store and they were so yummy I bought two pints.  I’m very seriously considering stopping by again to pick up more even though it’s out of my way.

OK, wait.  Let’s talk bulk bins for a minute.

CoffeeBulkJust look at these beauties!  Coffee, grains, flours, seeds, nuts, fruit.  You name it.  They had it.  It’s the perfect way to try something you’re curious about (read: coconut flour) without having to invest in a $10 bag of the stuff you may never use again.

That’s all.  Carry on.

To be perfectly honest, Kristy and I didn’t spend a whole ton of time in the dry grocery section of the store.  We were too fascinated with the fresh areas.  We were able to find several varieties of Vita Tops (one of Kristy’s favorites) and a great deal on Alexia frozen potatoes though.

Finally we wandered around the “fun” aisles.  That’s beer and wine to you.  They have a huge selection of both!

BeerThey had at least 8 cooler doors full of craft beer as well as domestic favorites.

Wine2Wine1In addition, they had an enormous amount of wine, especially for a relatively small grocery store.  Love it!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Did I like this store?  No. I loved it.  I was so impressed by the quality of ingredients, the layout and merchandising of the store (which is a lot coming from a retail manager), and most of all the affordable pricing.  I talked to several of the employees while I was there and you can really tell they love what they do.  They want to bring happiness and quality to their customers, a trait I find extremely rare in the retail environment. At Walgreens, we hold the customer experience in the highest regard, so when I find other retailers who do the same thing (read: Chick Fil A), I make it my mission to point it out.

Basically, everything you need to know is in their mission statement:  to improve the way our communities eat by offering fresh and healthy food at amazing values, in a fun and vibrant store with friendly faces. I felt every bit of their mission statement in the too-crowded-for-my-comfort-level visit on Sunday afternoon.   (Disclaimer: it was only too crowded for me.  Normal people would be perfectly fine in there.)

If you’re looking for a new grocery store to try where the quality is king and the prices are reasonable, check out Fresh Thyme.  I promise it’s worth a trip.

In all honesty, I was compensated by Fresh Thyme to review their grocery story, but all views and opinions of the store are 100% my own.

Double Chocolate Brownies

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Last year, my husband was informed that he would need to start traveling for work.  His company’s parent is located in Amsterdam, so he boarded a plan and crossed the pond for the first time in his life.  I wasn’t jealous.  I swear.

Jake and I stayed behind and did our best to pass the time while Daddy was away.  To make the separation a little sweeter, Jeff brought me back a tin of Belgium cocoa that was the best, most delicious cocoa I have ever tasted in my life.  Within days of him being home, I was in the kitchen trying to decide what to use my new cocoa in.

I opted for my favorite dessert of all time:  brownies.  Double chocolate brownies to be exact.

I have made these brownies a few times over the past year and have informed Jeff that every time he goes to Amsterdam, he is to purchase at least one tin of cocoa.  If he wants to continue to have these brownies, that is.

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For Valentine’s Day, my little cooking buddy and I whipped up a batch of these brownies as Daddy’s Valentine’s Day present.  We also shared some with Jeff’s parents as a thank you for watching Jake as we went to dinner at J. Alexander’s.  (Side note:  avoid that place on Valentine’s Day.  Unless you don’t mind waiting 3 hours for a table.  The sad part?  We even called ahead.)

Later on, Jeff’s mom told him the brownies we gave her were the best brownies she’d ever had.  That says a lot because we live right down the road from a grocery store who is famous for their Killer Brownies!

The next time you want to make something delicious for a loved one, try these brownies.  They’re simple, easy, and insanely good.  Just be warned you may not be able to get rid of that person after.

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Double Chocolate Brownies

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.  Prepare a 13×9 pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add in the flour, cocoa, and salt until mixed well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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