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Beth Harbison
Angie Rumer and Joy Buckingham of New Sharon, Iowa created Peppermint Mocha Cookies and submitted them to Cooks Illustrated, thereby winning first place in the cookie contest AND in my heart.


Here is their recipe (I am making them right now!):

Peppermint Mocha Cookies

Ingredients

Cookies
1 3/4cups all-purpose flour
1/2cup cocoa powder
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/2teaspoon table salt
8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but still cool
3/4cup granulated sugar
1/2cup brewed espresso or strong coffee, cooled
1teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting
6tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
2cups confectioners' sugar
2tablespoons milk
1/2teaspoon peppermint extract (or to taste)
1 - 2drops red food coloring
10-15crushed peppermint candies

Instructions

  1. 1. For the cookies: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. 2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into medium bowl. With electric, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add cooled espresso and vanilla and beat at medium-low speed until combined. Scrape down bowl. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

  3. 3. Roll dough into thirty 1-inch balls. Place 15 balls on each prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until just set, rotating sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking, 8 to 9 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes; transfer with metal spatula to wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes. (Cookies can be stored in airtight container for up to 4 days.)

  4. 4. For the frosting: With an electric mixer, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners' sugar and beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add milk, peppermint extract, and food coloring and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Frost cooled cookies and immediately sprinkle each with crushed mints. (Once frosted, cookies are best served within 1 day.)

 
 
Beth Harbison
09 December 2008 @ 11:45 pm
OK, I love the convenience of bottled water.  If my conscience and budget would allow it, I'd have millions of bottled waters in my fridge at all times, like a model home does. 

But.

It's expensive and the plastic is arguably dangerous.

So I got a cool looking aluminum bottle from Barnes and Noble.  But weren't we worried about aluminum a few years ago?  And this says not to get it too cold or put hot stuff in it, which makes me worry about what happens if I put something in there that isn't room temperature (it's probably fine, but, you know, I'm a worrier).

Then I was at World Market the other day and saw the Voss bottled waters.  In cool glass bottles.  For $2.29 you can buy a bottle of water you can drink now, in a bottle you can clean and re-use FOREVER.  And it's clear, so you can see that it's clean, unlike my otherwise-cool-looking aluminum bottle from Barnes and Noble.  Check it out:


 
Now, my husband thinks this looks like a shampoo bottle, which is Not True (though if it were, I'd totally buy the shampoo) and also so waht?  It's an awesome reusable glass water bottle that fits in the car cup holders, looks nice on the bedside table, and costs a tiny fraction of what other re-usable water bottles cost.

But if you go to get them, be careful to get the glass ones.  There were plastic ones the same size, which makes me wonder if Voss is switching over to plastic.  Better hurry and get yours now, just in case!

 
 
Beth Harbison
Today's product  recommendation:


The Avocado


With the economy in the toilet, I feel a little frivolous recommending $36 tinted moisturizers (like Stila's fabulous one!), especially since I'm starting to think it's irresponsible for me to keep putting these things on my credit cards and wondering why my monthly minimum payments are so high.

So.

Today's recommendation actually comes from Jackie in Michigan.  Jackie, like many of us, is pinching her pennies so hard that Lincoln screams - but she's a beauty junkie!  Here's her tip for a spa day at home, and also mine:

Slice an avocado in half lengthwise and dispose of the pit (unless you're going to try and sprout it in your kitchen, directions for which you're not going to find from me). Remove meat, but keep the skin!  

First slice three nice slices to put on the spa sandwich you should be making for yourself with a little turkey breast, a dash of chipotle mayo, and grainy whole wheat bread. That's my contribution.

Then mash the avocado meat.  Set a small portion aside (about 2 tablespoons) and add a raw egg to the remainder.  Mix well.

Put the egg/avocado mixture on your dry hair and, ideally, cover it with a slightly damp towel that you've warmed in the microwave (if you don't want to clean the towel afterwards, though, you can instead cover your hair with an old plastic Target bag).  Let it sit for twenty minutes, eat your sandwich, then put the reserved plain avocado on your face and wait ten minutes.

Head for the shower, taking the avocado skins with you. 

Use the outside or the inside of the avocado skin to exfoliate your face before rinsing the avocado off (the inside of the skin is a little more abrasive than the outside).

Next, rinse your hair, then shampoo and condition lightly, with gentle shampoo (Target baby shampoo is not a bad option at all!).

That's it! You are as beautiful now as you would be if you'd gone to a spa and spent hundreds of dollars on treatments!  Granted, you're not QUITE as relaxed as you would be, especially if you got a hot stone massage, but your wallet is quite comfortable and your conscience is as clean as your hair!
 
 
Beth Harbison
20 September 2008 @ 12:04 pm

This will not be the last time I rave about Soap and Glory, one of my new favorite product lines (from my old favorite store, Target).  But this stuff:



is fantastic!

It's Soap and Glory's Hydrating Shimmer Lotion and if you're familiar with "Hollywood Glow" (a previous Favorite of mine) then you'll be interested to know that, in my opinion anyway, it's the exact same thing.

Only way cheaper ($9.99 vs. $26).

For a way bigger bottle (5 oz vs. 2 oz).

You can buy it at your local Target, when you're picking up extra copies of SHOE ADDICTS ANONYMOUS and SECRETS OF A SHOE ADDICT (you are, right?), or you can buy it at Target.com. 

I cannot wait to see what this company comes up with next!
 

 
 
Beth Harbison
03 September 2008 @ 09:07 am
...I recommend this guy:



D. Scott Ball owns The Cut and Color room near Disney World (cutandcolorroom.com) and, although he is all but impossible to get an appointment with, he is available to consult when you have an appointment with any of his staff.

And he is brilliant.

He has an eye for cut - taking into consideration not only your face but your body proportions - and does the best color I have ever had. 

I am a total hair whore - my first great stylist, Denise, was Princess Diana's stylist (alas, she moved to Brazil); my second did lots of Hollywood names - but this guy is the BEST!

And it was in his salon that I learned about Bumble and Bumble's awesome Creme de Coco 7-minute hair masque:

bumble-bumble-creme-de-coco-masque

I don't know about the claims of "breakthrough Japanese technology" but what I do know is that this seriously left my hair soft and really, really shiney.  For DAYS. 

This is one product I will absolutely buy again!
 
 
 
Beth Harbison
21 August 2008 @ 10:36 am

Blinc "Kiss Me" Mascara
You'll never smudge again.


Kiss Me Mascara

At this very moment, I am in tropical storm whipped Florida, alternately battling the elements AND enjoying the pool, waterparks, and jacuzzis and this stuff really stays put!!!  I am completely addicted.

Here's the company information:

What it is:
The famous pioneering, tube-technology water-resistant mascara.

What it does:
Blinc Kiss Me Mascara is the original tube-technology mascara. It's invented to form tiny water-resistant "tubes" around your lashes for maximum amplification and hold, rather than painting them like conventional mascaras. Once applied, the tubes bind to your lashes and cannot run, smudge, clump, or flake, even if you cry or rub your eyes.

What else you need to know:
This mascara adds both volume and length, to give you a radiant natural look that lasts all day. Neither water nor pressure alone will remove Kiss Me Mascara. Only the combination of lots of warm water and gentle pressure (no need for harsh makeup removers) will slide the tiny tubes effortlessly off your lashes into your hand. Upon removal, you will actually see the tiny tubes slide into your hand.

Among the nominees in the 2008 Best of Sephora, Blinc Kiss Me Mascara has is clinically tested to be non-irritating, making it ideal for sensitive eyes, contact lens wearers, and active people in search of a mascara whose look, hold, and ease of removal is without compromise.
 


 

 



 
 
Beth Harbison
Sometimes it’s hard to be June Cleaver in a Sharon Osborne world.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s – a time of Shalimar perfume, long (and forgiving) print dresses, Bridge Nights, and lots of foods involving cream cheese or Jell-O.  Sometimes both.

All of it seemed incredibly wonderful to me (especially the jiggling food!
)

When I grew up and had kids and my own house, I found that life was different from what my parents had when I grew up.

The houses were smaller.

But the food was so much better.

No more chutneys!  No gelatin!  No "Pringle Crusted Halibut Pot Pie."  Frankly no more moms getting dinner on the table every night at six sharp.  We were too busy, too stressed, to make square meals on a schedule.

But we did cook often, and it was always good stuff.  Our little block of townhouses in the D.C. suburbs was filled with bartenders and gourmands!  Truly not one week would pass that children didn’t cross the parking lot delivering portions of hot Shrimp Diavalo, Butternut Saffron Risotto, Buttermilk Panko Chicken breasts, warm-from-the-oven chocolate macadamia cookies, or something equally tempting to neighbors’ houses. 

We all sat together at night in the parking lot on summer nights, pulling up grills and folding lawn chairs, laughing, cooking and drinking while the children played and the sky stretched from twilight to the deep purple of midnight.

And it was on one of those nights that this recipe was born.  A recent Florida transplant to the neighborhood mentioned how much she loved grilled pineapple.  I was intrigued.  Grilled pineapple? 

It wasn’t just for breakfast while on vacation in the south?

I was willing to try it out.  I put a slice on the hot grill, and one taste of that thin edge of caramelized crispiness, complimented with the juicy tropical succulence of the fruit turned me into a believer. 

And an inventor.

What if I paired that sweetness with the heat of, say, wasabi, I wondered.  And the crisp bite of red onion. 

I swear to you I really think that way. 

All.  The. Time.

So I tried it.  And the resulting recipe, below, is, in my estimation, the finest summer recipe there is.  Apart from fresh lemonade, that is (trick: juice the lemons by beating them on low in your KitchenAid mixer). 

One bite and you are in summer heaven, whether your summer heaven is a beach in Maui, under a palm tree in Key West, the plains of Kansas, or a back yard in New Jersey.

Or a tiny postage stamp of a yard in a parking lot for sixteen townhouses in the suburbs of Germantown, Maryland.

We’ve all moved on now, to bigger houses, further away.  But we (and our kids) still talk regularly and see each other as often as possible.  And the food still comes, only now it’s usually just an email.

How does this relate to my book, Secrets of a Shoe Addict?  That’s easy.  Books – more importantly characters – aren’t created from nothing.  They come from life, from experience, from friends, and – when you’re lucky – from lots of happy memories.  Secrets of a Shoe Addict is about the camaraderie among women, the friendships that face occasionally-stark reality with humor and support.  The book takes all the stories we told and heard those boozy/munchie summer nights and turns them into something else, but the feeling of fun and friendship remains.

And so does the Pineapple-Shrimp Teriyaki Kabob recipe!   

Pineapple-Shrimp Teryiaki Kabobs

The best skewers for kabobs are ones that are flat instead of round, because it’s easier to flip the kabobs on the grill. If you’re having a salad on the side with this dish, it’s nice to grill extra pineapple and add it to the salad.

For the teriyaki marinade:

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup mirin wine
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon wasabi powder (or ¼ teaspoon wasabi paste)
1 large garlic clove, smashed (not pressed or chopped)

For the kabobs:

1-1/2 lbs jumbo shrimp

1 lb cubed fresh pineapple
2 large red onions, cut into wedges


1.  Combine marinade ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then lower heat and simmer until sauce has thickened and reduced to a syrupy consistency. Cool and remove the garlic clove (discard).

2.  Marinate the shimp, pineapple, and red onion in the teriyaki marinade for ½ hour, then skewer onto kabob sticks, alternating pineapple, shrimp, and onion.

3.  Grill over hot charcoal or medium-high gas for 4 minutes per side, or until shrimp is done.


 
 
 
Current Location: Home!
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: Follow You All Over the World - Marti Jones
 
 
Beth Harbison
07 August 2008 @ 07:43 pm


So I've been researching products recently for my next book and it got me nostalgic for the old products from my youth.  Get women talking together about this stuff and everyone has LOTS to say and the melancholy becomes almost tangible.

I think the number one thing people flip out over and wish they could find again is Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo.  They have it at Vermont Country Store online now, and it smells, well, terrific, but I dont' know if it's made by Jergens, who made it originally.

It should still be on the shelves of Target, Wal-Mart, etc.  Why would the company stop mass producing something so universally loved?

But there's my recommendation today: get Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific from Vermont Country Store.  You'll pay 100 times what you did originally but you'll be glad you did.   And if you're too young to remember this blissful stuff, do yourself a favor and try it out.  The flowery/spicy smell is fabulous!

Now, if only I could find someone manufacturing pink bottles of Tickle anti-perspirant....


 
 
 
Current Mood: melancholymelancholy
Current Music: My Sharona
 
 
Beth Harbison
02 July 2008 @ 04:18 pm

STOP LICKING THE WALL

 

“I am completely serious, take the trash can off your head now.”

 

We were staying in an ornate suite in the New York Palace Hotel, which contained a glass-shelved bar and lots of fussy, fragile knick-knacks.  My eight year old daughter had decided it would be fun to put a wastebasket on her head – a wastebasket that God-knows-how-many strangers had dropped, blown, spat, or otherwise expelled God-knows-what into – and walk around, a veritable bowling ball in a $900/night-plus-damages bowling alley.

 

It wasn’t the first time I’d been amazed at the things I’d said in the interest of educating and protecting my children.

 

“Don’t run with scissors”?  “Don’t play with matches”?  Those ordinary gems were for other moms.

 

Moms with normal children.

 

For me, it was, “Stop wiping your nose on the dog!”

 

“When I say get out of the pool to pee, I don’t mean on the sidewalk!”

 

“Changing your name to Superman does not give you the ability to fly, don’t ever try that again!”

 

“Don’t put the wheels from your Hot Wheels cars in your ears.”

 

Did you ever wonder who the idiot was that Petula Clark had to instruct not to sleep in the Subway?  Not to stand in the pouring rain?

 

I’m guessing he was a Harbison.

 

Once upon a time – and, believe me, it is a fairy tale remembrance for me – I used to talk to other grown people about grown-up things.  I could converse about politics, art, almost anything without looking out the corner of my eye for sparks, fire, blood, or accidental drownings in toilet bowls.

           

Then I had children.  Two of them, a girl and a boy, born ten years – and two miscarriages -  apart.  I have been at this for a long time.  With the first one I was young and feeling my way through an unexpected pregnancy – raising a baby at twenty-two was a bit like being a finger-wagging bossy older sister.  In retrospect - back in the quaint days when the counter clerk at the airport would simply ask you if a swarthy-looking man with a bomb and an agenda had packed your suitcase – the world was a lot safer.  But watching my baby cross my living room - strewn with Duran Duran cd’s, John Hughes Betamax tapes, and baby clothes --  felt like watching her swim a length of shark-infested ocean.  “Watch out!”  “Be careful!” “Slow down!”

 

The world changed a lot during the decade that passed before the next baby was born; the internet became easy and accessible, cell phones became the norm, Tivo made life wonderful.  We entered and new millennium and the world got smaller, more intimate.  And briefly – this was 2000 – it felt a little safer.

 

With information on almost anything just a few clicks away, and cell phones cheap enough to give to my children and sophisticated enough to contain locators, I foolishly thought having the second child would be easier.  I certainly thought that I’d be more relaxed, that I’d worry less, that everything would fall more naturally into place.  Because micro-management and constant instruction – and the accompanying constant worry - tend to be the domain of the new parent, right?

 

Not in my case.  If I’d kept my mouth shut and let my son put tiny rubber wheels in his ears unchecked, I’d probably be giving him these directives in sign language.

 

With both children it was the same.  Those first few tentative, failed baby steps were precious.  We gloried in them.  Encouraged them.  Pulled the children along with sheer will, clapping and shouting encouragement like we were cheering on a Superbowl win.

 

They were brilliant.  The smartest children ever.  Raising them would be like having the most witty, entertaining houseguests in the world. 

 

Then we spent the next two years chasing around what amounted to a two-foot drunk issuing instructions that only someone very drunk, very stupid, or completely inexperienced with life could need.

 

“Stop licking the wall.”

 

“That’s a birdbath, not a toilet.  Apologize to Mr. Palmer and get a bag.”

 

“It’s pronounced pumkin, honey, not fuckin.  Please don’t tell Mrs. Clemens you saw her fuckin in the window of her front room last night.” 

 

I used to use this mouth to discuss global warming, the “Francis Bacon was really Shakespeare” theory, the works of Hemingway, and, okay I’ll admit it, Big Brother and Survivor. 

 

Now I say things that would make no sense to a foreigner, trying to learn English.

 

“Stop putting green beans in your brother’s nose.”

 

My parting instructions when I leave my kids at their friends houses have become embarrassing.  “Play nicely.  Share.  Don’t pull the dog’s whiskers out.  Knock before entering the bathroom. Don’t put a ping pong ball in your mouth to see if you can whistle with a ping pong ball in your mouth.  Look both ways before crossing the street, and that means side to side not up and down.    Please don’t talk to Mrs. X about the president again.  In the unlikely event that it seems like a good idea for you to stick your peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the underside of the kitchen table, please don’t.”

 

Every time I think I’ve covered every possible scenario, no matter how illogical, they find a previously-undiscovered loophole and I have to add something like “Don’t wipe snot on the wall while you’re sitting on the toilet” to the list.

 

It’s not always entirely their fault.  Sometimes I forget my children take everything literally, so a metaphor gets me into trouble.  When my grandfather died just before my daughter’s eighth birthday, I assured her that, even though he was gone, he would always be with her.

 

She didn’t sleep for days.

 

Finally I had to backtrack and say something that made more sense to her, even though it felt less true to me.

 

“He’s gone and we’ll miss him.”

 

It fell short of the spiritual lesson I wanted to take the opportunity to impart, but ultimately I believe it spared her the nightmarish imaginings of her great-grandfather standing by in the dark, unmoving, unspeaking, uncomprehending.  Not quite himself, not quite gone.

 

We’d taken our cue from an earlier problem, when my husband had tried to explain the importance of hand washing in order to remove potentially dangerous germs.  Now, I will say I think he probably overstated the case.  He tends to lose patience when forced to argue over simple instructions and I’m fairly sure that argument ended with something like, “Because if you don’t wash your hands, you might eat germs that will make you get sick and die!”

 

I didn’t actually hear him say it, but, given the fact that she turned into Lady Macbeth, washing her hands into a cracked and bleeding mess for the next several months until she finally got enough therapy to stop makes me think his argument was pretty compelling.

 

That’s why when my son had to be told not to lick the wall, I explained, simply, that he might get a bad stomach ache.  Children get too obsessed with more dramatic ideas.  No one gets obsessed with the idea of puking or diarrhea.

 

The other day, it was like the third day of summer vacation and my son was getting bored, I heard my daughter say, “Oh, my God, Jack, take the trash can off your head!” I swear to God, it’s true.  And I took a moment to appreciate the sweet irony of her incredulity, but, of course, it wasn’t her kid who was grinding the remnants of bathroom waste into his hair, it was mine.

 

So the sweet irony dissolved like smoke and I had to Handle the Situation while she walked out of the room, rolling her eyes at his stupidity.

 

This could have been a good place to point out that they outgrow the need for this sort of obvious instruction; that as children grow older they also grow wiser and the advice turns to a more poignant, more meaningful “neither a borrower nor a lender be” kind of thing.  You might imagine – or at least I would have – that by the time my daughter was eighteen, we’d be having deep talks about relationship decisions, career directions, coping with changing friends and deepening responsibilities.

 

But, no.  Two days before she called her brother an idiot for putting a trash can on his head, I’d had to tell her, “It’s not my job to remind you that you’re a vegetarian before you start pulling meat off a rotisserie chicken carcass and scarfing it down” because she “could. Not. Believe.” I had stood by and watched that when yesterday she’d told me meat was gross and she was never eating it again.

 

I cannot even imagine what I’ll have to say next.  Will I be the one responsible for telling my grandchildren an umbrella is not a parachute?  Am I the one who will have to call poison control if they pour themselves juice cups full of orange cough medicine, thinking it’s juice as their mother/aunt once did?  At this rate, will my children even be capable of having their own kids one day without explicit and inappropriate instruction from me?

 

I don’t know if the fault is mine.  If there was something I could have said very early on that would have blanketed everything from eating Barbie hair to bringing the wading pool into the house. Do Aesop’s Fables cover this kind of thing?  Would reading them “The Donkey and the Lap Dog” subconsciously communicate basic common sense to them in a way that real life apparently didn’t?

 

All I know is that I’m not alone.  My friend’s son stuck snausages (dog treats that look like Pigs n’ Blankets made of clay) on the trays at a party one time and she didn’t know it until she found the half-eaten ones all around the house the next day. There’s something you wouldn’t have thought you’d have to say to the kids during party prep beforehand!

 

Just the other day, I heard a mother at the neighborhood pool say to her toddler, “Just put your shorts on your head and stop whining.”  I looked over at them and the reason for needing the shorts on the head wasn’t obvious, but I knew there had to be a good reason.

 

There always is.

 

So I’ll just chug along, trying to keep my family alive and healthy, occasionally doling out more of these bizarre words of common sense. "I don't care how it looks, the toilet is NOT filled with blue Kool-Aid. Now pour out this drink you gave me, uncork that bottle in the fridge, and get mommy her happy juice."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Current Mood: amusedamused
 
 
Beth Harbison
24 June 2008 @ 11:19 am

"Erase Paste" by Benefit 

Erase Paste

The product description for this calls it "brightening camoflage" and that is EXACTLY what it is.  Perfect for anything you want to hide,
but this is the best under eye circle concealer I've tried yet.

And I've tried them all!