Taxes and Toms

I did my own taxes this year for the first time ever. I filed them three days before they were due, my TurboTax froze every 13 seconds, the “Print & File” portion took over an hour and it ruined two perfectly good TV-watching evenings. When I was asked how likely I was to refer Turbo Tax to a friend, I quickly entered a “0.” When they asked me why, I realized that my primary frustration was the IRS, no so much TurboTax, but I didn’t change my review. My advice for anyone doing taxes is to freaking hire someone — which is exactly what I plan to do every April for the rest of my life.

The only comforting thing about the whole experience was that I made just about $600 on the deal. Stress and frustration plus extra income is a deadly combination, particularly when there’s an open sticky note on my desktop titled “Things I Want.” I realize that it’s never a good idea to spend money before I make it, so I plan to only buy one of these things immediately and then indulge in the rest when the money is actually in my account.

Must-haves:

Black TOMS

Black TOMS - Copyright TOMS

Other than loving the one-for-one campaign, I’m just obsessed with these comfy, go-to slip-ons. I currently have them in navy and sparkly burlap and wear them all the time. I need the black pair to replace my fur-lined black Sperry boat shoes as my summer everyday work shoes. Thank goodness for my business casual dress code! You can buy them from TOMS online, but I recommend ordering from Nordstrom; they’re the same price but Nordstrom offers free shipping.

Sequin Shorts

Sequin Shorts - Copyright Your Stuff Work (and every celeb gossip site ever)

If you follow me on Facebook (which you totally should; find me here), you know that I’m really hooked on the idea of sequin shorts (or sequence shorts if you caught my typo on FB #embarrassing!). I’m sure I’d wear them maybe five times all summer, but I just think they’re absolutely adorable! Plus, I’m still 13 and think Selena Gomez is freaking adorable (and hilarious is the Disney show “Wizards of Waverly Place”) and pulled these off perfectly. They would also be stunning with some sheer black sheer tights in the winter. I can’t quite find the pair I’m in love with, but I’m leaning toward these black ones from Express or these Raspberry ones from Nordstrom.

Navy Dress Pants

Navy Dress Pants - Copyright Victoria's Secret

My poor friend has had to listen to me talk about how I want navy dress pants for the past two months. I want them so bad but just can’t find the perfect pair! I have actually bought a pair of navy pants from Loft on two separate occasions only to convince myself that they’re just not right. This pair, that I first found in the VS catalog, look like they might just be the ones. Unfortunately, VS is tricky because when everything is on tall, busy, tan pretty people, everything is extremely, deceivingly perfect. I might have to give these ones a shot. They’re $50 online at Victoria Secret, which I didn’t think was too bad for dress pants.

Leather Jacket

Leather Jacket - Copyright Zimbio

I’m not positive that I’m edgy/cool/gutsy enough to wear a leather jacket, but I’d really like to give it a try! I just love the tough look! I think it would mesh well with my girly undertones! This is kind of like the sequin short problem: I’m not sure what kind to buy! Consider my quest officially started! I will totally let you know what I end up buying!

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How are you spending your tax refund?! Please don’t tell me you’re saving it. I’m not sure I could handle that.

Cheers!

Banana Chocolate Coconut Bread

I’m going to make this post post quick and easy, in the spirit of this quick and easy recipe!

Quick backstory:
I had two brown bananas, so I obviously jumped to banana bread immediately. I had half a box of yellow cake mix leftover from some cake batter rice crispy treats a few weeks back. I had previously found a super easy banana bread recipe on Artsy Fartsy Mama that required just that! I also was making the bread at my parents’ house, and my mom (who always have everything) had some chocolate chips and shredded coconut. The stars aligned. Check it!

Banana Chocolate Coconut Bread
NOTE: This recipe is halved because I only had 2 bananas. Plus I added the coconut.

1/2 box yellow cake mix
1 egg
2 overripe bananas, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
 Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth.
Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and then dust with flour. Pour all the batter into the pan.
Bake at 350F for 35 – 40 minutes.
Enjoy!

CAUTION: Hot!

I worked at Starbucks from age 16 to 22. These were primary caffeine-dependency development years. These were the years that make a coffee addict. These were the years that separate the boys (8-A.M-coffee-drinkers) from the men (8-P.M.-coffee-drinkers). These were the years of all-night study sessions, all-night 24 marathons and 5 A.M. opens (which inevitably always followed all-night bar crawls). These were the years when eight hours of sleep was easily replaced with a iced quad espresso.

When you work at Starbucks during these defining years, you’re given the tools and products to coddle your relationship with coffee, and things can get out of hand really quickly. During these building years, I was given high-quality coffee, for free, on a daily basis.

Then I quit. It was a very sad day, half because I left the job that paid for everything from prom tickets to college loans and half because I now had to actually pay for coffee. This was mind-blowing to me. I quickly realized that I had an addiction that I (figuratively) couldn’t afford to quit and (literally) couldn’t afford to uphold.

I was officially a coffee snob who still needed her fix but couldn’t afford a daily triple  grande nonfat no whip mocha. So I swallowed my pride, bought a $10 coffee maker, a Black-Friday-special coffee grinder and started splitting a $13 pound of Starbucks whole bean coffee with the boyfriend every week. In the way that having to buy your own food is a shock after moving away from home, having to pay for a pound of Starbucks coffee that you got for free for 6 yeas was just as rough. It was just what I needed, though, to balance my need for good coffee with the thickness of my pocketbook.

This all leads me to the purpose of this post, which is to share something with you that I really enjoy. Today, I wanted to tell you about the best coffee tumbler that I have ever owned. In case you forgot, I worked at Starbucks for 6 years and have owned a LOT of tumblers! I am kind of an expert on the topic. I’d also like to point out that Starbucks stopped sending me paychecks eight months ago and no part of this is a paid endorsement.

This is the Starbucks double wall, stainless steal coffee tumbler in red. It keeps coffee hot like nobody’s business. I take my coffee to work in the morning, but sometimes I get caught up doing this, that and the other thing. Somedays I even forget I have coffee until after lunch, and guess what? My coffee is STILL hot! Not only does it keep coffee hot for almost ever, but it seals like a dream! I carry it to work in my lunch bag, which gets knocked all around on a crowded bus, and it never spills in transit.

Kenny has the same one silver. He’s actually the reason I picked this one in the first place. I was at a Starbucks yesterday and they still had the silver and red version of this cup. You can also order the blue version online here.

I just wanted to pass this recommendation along to anyone in the to-go coffee cup market! I just love it so much and would highly recommend it.

Easter Eggs Pt. 2: Go Crazy

Easter eggs are a real treat! I mean, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any craft that is 90% edible. I’m 23 years old and still color eggs annually. So today, I will be sharing with you some fun ideas for decorating your Easter eggs this year!

I would like to make the same preface that I made in my Easter Eggs Pt. 1 post, which focused on how to hard boil an egg. These tips and suggestions are not EmJoyable exclusives, but an aggregated list of suggestions that I’ve dug up for you. Consider this your one-stop-egg-dying-shop. It’ll be great!

Kool-Aid Colored Eggs! - Copyright Hey Jen Renee

Before I get started, I need to get a rant off my chest right quick. What did we ever do before Pinterest?! Can you imagine all the people out there with these really awesome ideas that they were totally hogging for themselves? How would we know how to organize our ribbons, dress up our children or do that cool braid thing? I digress.

Back to the egg decorating! Check out some of my ideas below. I will be dying my eggs on Saturday and be sharing my pictures with you all on Tuesday!

All-over Color 

Before a week ago, I had no idea that there was any way to color an egg other than the box of PAAS egg dye that you buy at Walgreens. Depending on what stores you are shopping at and what items you have at home, this may or may not still be your cheapest option. Here are a few other ways to get all-over color on your eggs.

Wilton Icing Color – This method requires Wilton Icing Color, vinegar and hot water. I thought this will cool because I have Wilton icing color coming out of my ears! I’m actually kind of embarrased that I didn’t already know about this method since icing color is almost the same as food coloring, which I did know about.

Food Coloring – For this method, you will need standard food coloring, boiling water and vinegar. Easy peasy.

Au Naturale  – I thought this was a really cool idea, but I would probably never actually do it. This would be great if I had beats and saffron just chilling in my cabinet at all times, but I don’t think it’d worth buying those things just to dye eggs. But if you do, knock yourself out! Let me know how it goes! For this, you will need a variety of fruits, veggies and/or spices and vinegar.

Tie-Dye – This strategy is so much better than my attempts to tie-dye eggs as a kid. My plan was to just dip the egg in as many little cups as possible, but that usually just turned them brown. This is a really cool way that uses the polarizing effects of vinegar and oil to create a tie-dye appearance. I’m really excited for this one! For this you will need vinegar, cooking oil and food coloring.

Dye with a Tie – I literally mean dye with a dye. I think this is brilliant! But only if you can find cheap, pretty ties. That’s the part that sounds like kind of a pain. Be sure to check out the link for the end result of differs tie patterns. Very cool!

Copyright Our Best Bites

Kool-Aide – I think this is by far the easiest and cheapest way to do it. All it is is Kool-Aid mix and water! And it doesn’t even have to be hot water! This one really pumped me up!

TIP: Put the egg inside a wire whist to easily dip the egg in and out of the egg dye. #Pinterest

Color Combinations 

Half & Half – Dye half (horizontal or verical) your egg in one color by dipping only part in each color dye. Or try leaving half white. This HRH Collection manicure post got me really pumped for this design.

Sponge Painted : This ones pretty self-explainitory. Dip a sponge (or scrunched paper towel) in dye and dab your egg to your liking.

Before you color …

Crayons – Use a light colored crayon to draw words, shapes or patterns on your egg. Dye, let dry. Everything in crayon will remain free of dye.

Tape – Press tape in rings around the eggs. Dye, let dry, remove tape. #stripes

Circle stickers – Press small, round stickers scattered across the eggs. Dye, let dry, remove stickers. #polkadots

Add Some Flair

So now that your egg is colored, it’s time to dress it up! Top your eggs with glitter, sequins, ribbons and felt!

Copyright - Delish.com

Do you have any egg decorating ideas? Tell me all about them! Send me pics of your eggs, too!

Happy Easter!

Chicken Taquitos

I have a habit of finding ideas for recipes on Pinterest, then Googling the recipe with the word “easy” in front of it and using that recipe instead. I love baking and cooking, but I love a simple recipe as much as anyone. I’m hard-pressed to find a dish that is so incredible that it is worth lots of time and/or ingredients. I’m a firm believer that good food can be easy.

I found a recipe for Taquitos on Pinterest that looked really great. I had never even thought about making taquitos before because I was previously convinced that taquitos only came from the frozen food aisle. In the spirit of my laziness, I then Googled “Easy Chicken Taquitos” and found this recipe on Quick Dish.

I’m not going to lie, there were a lot more ingredients than I was hoping for in a recipe with easy in its title. In this case though, most of the ingredients were spices. I was convinced that I probably didn’t have all of the necessary spices, so I bought a packet of taco seasoning and had every intention of using that instead. I was really surprised by how many of these spices I had in my spice cabinet, though! So if you have them, great! But if you don’t, you can totally use taco seasoning.

Spices aside, I found these little taco roll-ups quite delicious! I altered the recipe slightly based on what I had available. Feel free to do the same! Enjoy!

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

3 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup salsa
1 tablespoon lime juice (approximately juice of 1/2 lime)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion (or onion powder)
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
(OR you can use 2 1/2 teaspoons of taco seasoning instead of the cumin, chili powder, onion and garlic salt)
2 tablespoons dried cilantro
2 tablespoons sliced green onions (approximately 2 green onions)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 cup grated pepperjack cheese (or cheddar, taco blend, Mexican blend, etc.)
16 small flour tortillas
salt

PREP:
Preheat over to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Microwave cream cheese for 30 seconds or until soft. Add salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, minced onion and garlic salt. Mix well. Then add cilantro, green onions, chicken and cheese and mix until combined. (I intentionally didn’t include a photo of this section. It’s not the most appetizing looking stuff. It’s yummy though, I promise!) Put a spoonful of the mixture on the lower third of a tortilla.

Roll as tightly as you can. Place seam-side-down on prepared pan. (I don’t recommend putting them this close together. The edges didn’t get as crispy as I would have liked.) Spray with cooking spray.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until edges start to brown. Serve with sour cream, salsa and/or guacamole. Enjoy!