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Monday, January 30, 2017

Are you getting the most use out of your flatware?

Flatware used to be very coveted tools that were considered a luxury. In modern times, it seems that a single fork on the table at each place setting is accepted as adequate. This is an injustice that has led to sloppy eating habits and a loss of etiquette as well as manners.

At the absolute minimum, a place setting should have a knife and fork. Preferably a bread knife on a bread plate as well if the meal so dictates. Having a dinner knife allows you a "pusher" for getting smaller bites of food onto your fork. This eliminates the need to shovel bites of food off of your plate and into your mouth.

Having a separate bread knife ensures that your butter stays clean and that guests can access the butter as needed. Its terrible to use your dinner knife on your dinner only to find out that you were expected to use it on the butter first. If you will not have bread knives, ensure that your guests have access to the butter before soiling their dinner knives.

If you have a salad or vegetable course, you should utilize a salad fork and knife. The smaller fork is specifically designed for salads and the knife ensures that larger pieces can be cut into manageable bites.

The larger spoon in your flatware set is the soup spoon. The smaller one is the tea or dessert spoon. If you have one of the modern sets, it is generally a five-piece set. A small fork and spoon, a large fork and spoon, and a dinner knife. To fully utilize this set, you can use the smaller fork and the dinner knife for the salad, the larger fork and a steak knife for the entree, the larger spoon for soup, and the smaller spoon for dessert.

Ensuring that you use the proper utensils for your meals will empower you to have an enriched dining experience. You and your guests will be able to have more control over the food on the plates giving confidence and enjoyment to all.

Do you utilize multiple pieces of flatware for your meals? Please comment below with your thoughts and experiences.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Teach Patience and Build Your Toddlers Confidence with this Easy Yogurt Cake

Children can learn so much from making things in the kitchen. Not only does it teach them patience and how to follow instructions, but it also teaches science and builds confidence. The younger that you start allowing children to help in the kitchen, the better.

In France, it is customary for children to bake on the weekends. They start at around three years old. They will bake in the morning and enjoy the treats for their afternoon snack. This helps teach patience. It also breaks the cycle of instant gratification. This is a wonderful approach that sets children up for success throughout their lives.

One of the earliest recipes that children delve into is the yogurt cake. This cake is perfect for small hands. It uses two 6 oz. yogurt containers that then become the measuring cups for most of the other ingredients. This recipe is very forgiving, so if a cup is overflowing or not filled all the way to the top, the cake will still turn out well.

You can allow children to get creative with this cake by adding frozen berries or chocolate chips. You can top it with powdered sugar to serve. Use icing, whatever you and your children would like. The possibilities are endless and this is a great way to allow their creativity to shine!

Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Yaourt)

2 - 6 oz containers of plain yogurt
2 containers Sugar
4 containers Flour
1 container Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 container Frozen Fruit or Chocolate Chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. Spray large loaf pan or 9" cake pan
3. Combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil.
4. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
5. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add any additions.
6. Pour into baking pan and bake 35-45 minutes, until butter knife inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool on cooling rack.
8. Enjoy as an afternoon snack!

I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! If you make this cake, please share on Twitter using #alacuisinellc. I would love to hear about your experiences, so please comment below.

I first learned of this recipe when I was reading a book called Bringing Up Bèbè and then again here.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Make Meal Times Easier with this Simple Habit

Have you ever had that moment where you just finished cooking dinner after a stressful, hectic, crazy day, and its much later than your family's normal dinner time, and as you triumphantly announce that its ready, you realize that the table has not been set? Now dinner is getting cold while everyone pitches in, grabbing the plates, saucers, flatware, glasses, napkins, and condiments. Dinner is now cold. What's the solution?

Everyone knows that I am a big planner. I am a firm believer that meal planning can make life so much easier. And meal planning is crucial for this habit to work. Its best if you know what the next meal is going to be, or at least have a basic idea of what it will consist. You can find more information on meal planning and prep here.

After you clear the table following a meal, set it for the next meal. Simple right? At minimum, put out the plates, saucers, and cloth napkins. Then, if you have children they can put out the flatware and condiments while you make the glasses.
There are several ways that you can modify this habit to suit your needs.

In my home, I like to put out the plates, saucers, glassware and napkins every single time. I will add the flatware sometimes as well. Tables look very pretty when they're set. And its so warm and inviting to sit down at a set table without all of the hustle and bustle beforehand.

You can easily add or remove a place setting if you have an unexpected guest or a guest who cancelled. One of the biggest benefits of utilizing this habit is in the mornings. To wake up to a set table and coffee already brewing is amazing!

This easy tip has helped our meals to run much smoother and helps me to be just a little more prepared throughout the day. I would love to see your set tables on Twitter using #alacuisinellc! Do you set your table for the next meal? Please comment below and share your stories. Your comment could be a featured comment of the week!

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Younique Cosmetics Interview with Traci!

We have probably all experienced that moment when our makeup is perfectly applied, only to have it ruined during a dinner party or special occasion. What is a woman to do? I was fortunate enough to get to interview the woman who has all of the answers, Traci with Younique cosmetics!

Tracie has been with Younique for about eighteen months now. She has a large number of devoted clients and she improves women's lives on a daily basis. Here are her answers to our most pressing questions.


1. When was Younique founded and what sets Younique apart from other companies?

Younique has been around for less than four and a half years. It was founded with the purpose of funding the Younique Foundation to uplift, empower, and validate women.

The Younique Foundations serves to provide women and children that are victims of sexual abuse with resources, counciling, and education.

2. What is some advice that you would give women when it comes to choosing the right cosmetics line for themselves?

Research! Look at the ingredients and endorsements. Talk to presenters. Look at their pictures. Ask tons of questions!

3. Tips for helping makeup last throughout the day?

Good skin care! It puts skin at its optimal health to better receive makeup application. Use a primer before and set your makeup after applying.

4. What is the best product that you have for dinner parties and special events?

Our lipstain! Its lasts all day with no smudges, smears, or residue. You don't have to worry about it leaving lip prints on your glass, silverware, cloth napkins, or your teeth. It comes in a variety of beautiful shades and takes the anxiety out of special occasions.

5. How can we buy your products?

You can go to my website at

Such wonderful information! From a wonderful woman! You can see a segment of the interview on my YouTube channel here. I hope that you found this information as helpful as I did. It was truly a pleasure to do this interview and to learn about this amazing company. I have tried the lip stain and it really does last all day through multiple meals. Definitely worth checking out!

Do you use Younique cosmetics? If not, do you plan to start? I would love to hear about your experiences below.

*This is not a sponsored post*

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Dressing Presentable Always Will Change Your Life

Its so easy to get caught up in the social norm of wearing yoga pants or tattered clothes everywhere you go. And, who cares? Your friends should accept you just the way that you are and no one else matters, right? Wrong. Here's a basic explanation of why.

When you dress well, you should first and foremost be doing it for yourself. If you regularly wear workout clothes everywhere, have you noticed the profound change that you feel when you dress for an occasion? You will normally feel better, have more confidence, and be mindful of what you're doing.

When you take pride in your appearance, you are practicing self-love. And when you practice self-love, you tend to take pride in your appearance. It shows that we respect ourselves and are worth the effort. It also shows others that we respect them. We are treated better by others because we make the effort to treat ourselves well. We are setting the standard for how the world interacts with us.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you wear a cocktail dress to buy groceries. But, dress in your nice clothes. Throw out the tattered, stained items. Whatever you prefer, nice jeans, skirts and blouses, dresses, that's what you should wear. Utilize aprons to protect your clothes when cooking or doing messy projects. If you love doing your makeup, then go for it! If not, then find out the minimal routine that makes you feel put together and stick with that. The same rules apply for hair.

The routine that works best for me is to immediately upon waking up, get ready. Then I have my coffee and breakfast. As the mother of a toddler, this has been the best way for me to ensure that I am presentable always. I'm ready for whatever comes my way, errands, unexpected guests, spills, messes. This is why aprons are so important, more on that here.

And, regarding children, I know that it can be really difficult to hold yourself to the presentable always standard. But, the extra ten minutes to do it will make all the difference. I think that it sets a good example for them as well. Our children are little sponges who love to copy us. By setting the example of self-love, we are teaching them to love themselves and take pride in their appearance. A great way to help set them up for success in the future!

I hope that you enjoyed this insight. Do you make it a point to dress well every day? If not, do you plan to start?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Plan your Starbucks Dates Carefully

That moment when you're having an amazing date night with your husband. The anticipation. The joy of making yourself extra pretty. You have your Starbucks gift card and you are ready to go! This is a tale of planning ahead and knowing thy limits.

When we arrived at Starbucks, we were so excited that it was actually slow. There were maybe four or five people inside, a few others enjoying the seating on the patio. Did I mention that it was seven at night.

We were both optimistic that we would be able to enjoy our highly caffeinated delights with no late-night repercussions. My husband got a chocolatey frappacinno and I ordered the smoked caramel. We got them almost immediately and they were amazing.

We sipped them slowly in the peace and quiet, enjoying our view of the moon from the window. It was peaceful, romantic, delicious. We finished our drinks and decided to get refills. This one time, frugality was not on our side.

I ordered an iced coffee and my husband got sweetened tea. More caffeine, more sugar. We took a few sips and loaded up in the car to head home. We enjoyed our refills all the way home. It was late by then and my bedtime for the night.

We got our sweet daughter settled in and then I went to bed myself. I laid there peacefully for the next THREE hours trying to lull myself to sleep! Yes, I know, if you can't sleep, you're supposed to get up and try later. Try that advice when you're absolutely exhausted and hyped up on caffeine and sugar at the same time.

I finally went to sleep that night, and when I did, it was a peaceful sleep. When I woke up, part of me was totally saying "worth it!", but the rest of me realized that perhaps, Starbucks dates should be reserved for mornings and afternoons. So, it was a valuable lesson learned. Beware when Starbucks beckons you with its amazing coffees, and be aware of the time of day. And, although I had a wonderful, romantic time with the man of my dreams, if we go in the evening again, I will be exploring decaf options.

I hope that you enjoyed this little adventure that I had. Have you had a similar experience? Has your body informed you of new limits lately?

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Aprons - Not Just for Previous Generations

We all have those fond memories if our grandmothers or great-grandmothers going about their housework and cooking in their aprons. Somehow, aprons started becoming less important and it stopped being normal for women to make them a priority. This is a big mistake and I'll explain why.

Now, you might be thinking that there's really no point in wearing aprons because you're just wearing your "house clothes" anyway. Well, this is the point where you stop selling yourself short. I'm a big advocate of dressing well at all times. It doesn't matter if I have a million errands that day or I'm staying home. This has several beneficial effects.

By dressing well, I feel better about myself. I'm more motivated to accomplish things throughout the day. I don't have to worry about unexpected guests. I don't have to worry about the fact that we just ran out if milk and now I have to get dressed and do makeup and hair to leave the house. I'm ready for anything. There have been other unexpected results from this approach, but I will save that for another day. Back to aprons.

As the mother of a toddler, I experience a lot of messes. And sticky hands. All the fun that comes with small children learning to navigate the world. My aprons protect my clothes. They allow me to go about my day fully experiencing life without having to worry about ruining my clothes. I can cook, clean, and do crafts fearlessly!

There are so many gorgeous aprons available that you can find ones for any taste and style. I suggest having at least a few so that you can change into a fresh one if your gets really soiled. And, you'll have more available while others are being laundered.

So, give yourself the freedom to wear your nice clothes and know that they're protected with aprons. You will see such a big difference. Especially if you are the mother of young children. It is an absolute game-changer!

I hope that this gives you the confidence to be able to dress nicely for yourself and be able to protect your clothes at the same time. Do you already use aprons? Please share your apron pics on Twitter using #alacuisinellc. If not, do you plan to start now? Check out my video where I talk about the importance of aprons!

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Look Your Best With this Easy Dinner Party Tip!

When you're hosting a dinner party and you're the cook, jewelry can become a challenge. You want to look your best, but rings and bracelets can get caked in ingredients. And, necklaces can take unintentional dives in that perfect casserole as you're checking it in the oven. What is a woman to do?

I was recently reading an amazing book on entertaining. The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits is a treasure trove of amazing insights to entertaining. One gem from the book that I want to share is the secret jewelry tip that is a must for hostesses. Earrings!

Yes, earrings. Big, statement earrings. When you're cooking for a special event, this is the one jewelry item that is safe from all things cooking. They add to your glamour and will dress up your outfit without getting caked in sauces and flour. They are your safe choice to be a dazzling chef while serving up that traditional secret family recipe to all of your guests.

Pick the earrings that you don't wear often because they're a statement piece all their own and don't pair well with your necklaces and other jewelry. Now is their time to shine! Skip everything else and let them have their day.

You can dress to impress and be neat and clean while cooking. With just a little planning and forethought, you can let your inner diva reign and utilize those special jewelry pieces that don't get to shine on a regular basis.

Hopefully this tip helps you at your next party! What is your go-to jewelry when you host dinners? You can purchase The Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits here.

*this is not a sponsored post, allviews and opinions are my own.*

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Are Your Portion Sizes Out of Control?

We all know that when we go out to eat, we are given ridiculous portion sizes. Quanity has topped quality and our health and waist lines are suffering. The good news is that we don't have to let our out of control portion sizes dictate our lives as long as we exercise some proper planning.

The key to correct portions is developing those habits at home. When you plate your food, don't pile it high, covering every inch of your plate. In fact, no food should ever go around the rim of your plate. You should be able to see your plate through your food. It should be delicately placed, preferably in a way that's aesthetically pleasing.

We have all heard the ratio that half of the plate should be vegetables, one quarter starch, and one quarter protein. But, what about the fact that there are a multitude of plate sizes on the market. The ratio is not to be taken literally. It means that out of the proper portion sizes, you should aim for twice as much vegetables as starch and protein.

You may need to measure out your food at first to be sure that your portions are correct. After it becomes a habit, you can measure once a month or every other month, just to be sure that your portion sizes aren't creeping back up. After everyone makes their plates, put the food away if you are tempted to go back for seconds.

When you go out to eat, its easy to feel like you deserve that huge serving, especially if you don't go out often. But going out to eat should not be an excuse to jeopardize your health and well-being. Skip appetizers and share an entree with someone. If sharing isn't an option, ask for a to-go container and put half of your entree in it. Its understandable not to want to waste food that you've paid for, but there's no need to eat it all in one sitting either.

You may notice that you are hungry after meals when you first start utilizing proper portion sizes. It is very temporary and worth it to be able to maintain a healthier you. Don't give up, you can do it.

Proper Portion Sizes

2-3 oz. Meat
1/2 cup Rice or Pasta
1 cup Vegetables
1 1/2 oz. Cheese
1 cup Milk or Yogurt
3/4 cup Fruit Juice
1 small Fruit
1 slice Bread
2 Tbsp Salad Dressing
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 tsp Butter

I hope that this information on portion sizes helps inspire you to put consideration into your own meals. Were you already aware of proper portion sizes? Do you already exercise proper portions?

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Sweatman's Barbecue, Eutawville, South Carolina

It was an overcast, cold day as I pulled into the dirt parking lot of Sweatman's Barbecue. The solid white, pig-shaped sign is simple and tells you everything you need to know. As I walked up to the front door, across the historic front porch, I was transported back to a simpler time. The smell of barbecue creating a spark of excitement in the anticipation of the meal to come.

The restaurant is comprised of additions to an old house. You can still admire the rugged construction and smaller doorways in certain dining rooms. As you enter through the front door, there is a guest book filled with signatures from all over the world.

The menu consists of an all-you-can-eat option, a one-time-though option, as well as to-go plates, and meats, hashes, and other delights sold in various quantities. The buffet consists of baked macaroni and cheese, baked beans, green beans, skins, rice, hash, chicken, white and dark meat pork, ribs, coleslaw, dill and bread and butter pickles, bread, and of course, banana pudding. Drink options include sweet and unsweet tea and lemonade.

When you get to the table, there are three sauces available. All made fresh with Sweatman's own recipe, there is mustard, ketchup, and vinegar-based sauces. Various antique and rustic decor line the walls adding to the charm of this quaint southern treasure. Everything is located for maximum convenience with an effortlessness that only the South can accomplish.

The food is amazing. The pork is so tender and juicy. The macaroni is perfectly cooked with plenty of cheese, showing that the owners value quality over scrimping on costs. The skins are light and flaky, the ribs tender enough to fall off of the bone. The coleslaw is sweetened just enough to cut the tartness of the cabbage, making it perfectly balanced. The banana pudding is loaded with wafers and banana pieces, once again displaying the emphasis on quality. A perfect dessert after such wonderful barbecue.

It quickly becomes quite clear why so many others have visited this local wonder and have chosen to write about it. The original methods and recipes have been perfected and are here to stand the test of time.

If you're in Eutawville, SC on a Friday or Saturday, I suggest you stop in at Sweatman's and enjoy some of the best barbecue in the state, if not the country. Perhaps, you'll be lucky enough to go when Nums Nums and Knick Knacks is having a bake sale and you can experience two treasures in one day! Have you ever been to Sweatman's Barbecue? If not, do you plan to go?

***This is not a sponsored post and all views expressed are solely my own.***

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Your New Year's Resolutions Should Include Vinegar

We are constantly bombarded on tv, in magazines, and in stores by ads for various cleaners. The cheaper ones are chemical-laden and the natural ones can get really pricey. Some work and some don't. How can we navigate all of these choices? Easy, ditch the store bought cleaners and make your own!

Using vinegar as a cleaner has so many benefits. It's effective and it's a fraction of the cost. I've heard some protest to the use of vinegar because they are not a big fan of the smell. Well, not to worry, the smell of vinegar dissipates as it dries.

I like to use tea tree essential oil in my vinegar cleaner, but you can use so many others. I've known others who use lavender, lemon, cedar, the possibilities are limitless. So, feel free to find the essential oil that is best suited for your individual needs. I, personally prefer tea tree oil because it is a natural disinfectant and mold killer. It gives that extra boost to the vinegar so I can clean with confidence. You can check out more uses for tea tree oil here.

So, why use vinegar as a cleaner? Vinegar is also a natural disinfectant, as well as a brightener, and herbicide. It not only cleans, but it makes things sparkle as well. You can find hundreds of specific ways to use vinegar here.

Vinegar Cleaner Recipe

2 Cups Distilled White Vinegar
2 Cups Water
25-50 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil

1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
2. Shake gently to mix well.
3. Clean to your heart's content!

I hope that you enjoy this cleaner. It is such an effective and affordable cleaner. Do you already use vinegar to clean? What's your favorite essential oil to use when cleaning?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Are diet foods bad for you?

Most of us have reached for the diet soda or artificial sweeteners at some point when trying to lose weight. Unfortunantly, artificial sweeteners can actually rob us of our health and cause additional weight gain.

Weight Gain - Our bodies react to fake sugar the same way as the real stuff. It triggers signals that cause fat to be stored instead of burned.

Dulls taste buds - the intense flavors of sweeteners such as aspartame overload tastebuds hindering us from being able to enjoy the subtle sweetness of things like fruit.

Disprupts body's natural ability to regulate calories - when our bodies are flooded with synthetic foods, it hinders the body's natural ability to handle hunger and full cues.

Depression - Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a 30% increase in risk of depression. Aspartame has been categorized as a neurotoxin by the EPA right alongside arsenic.

Damages kidneys - artificial ingredients put an unnecessary strain on kidneys which are ill-equipped to process them.

Linked to weakened bones - individuals who consume two or more servings of diet foods have an increased risk of osteoporosis and suffer from more broken bones than those who abstain.

Damages brain cells - lab studies have concluded that artificial sweeteners damage, and even completely destroy certain brain cells, causing headaches and a decrease in fine motor skills.

These are just some of the potential issues associated with diet drinks and synthetic sweeteners. If you're trying to lose weight, nothing is better than reaching for real foods in moderation. We can't outsmart nature and by trying, we are only setting ourselves up for potentially serious health complications in the future.

You can find additional information herehere, and here.

I hope you found this information helpful! Were you aware of the health risks associated with artificial sweeteners before reading this? Do you use them?

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Do You Truly Experience Your Food?

In this day and age, many of us have lives so demanding that we have become accustomed to rushing. One common sacrifice is the act of savoring our food. To consume anything at all some days is sadly considered a victory.

Meals are one of the most primary functions that we achieve throughout the day. How we approach them says a lot about our personalities. If we treat meals as an inconvenience or something that merits little more than an afterthought, then we are telling ourselves that we are not worth the effort. We are stifling our own importance.

We must love ourselves enough to savor our meals. We all deserve to have the time to experience our food. Interesting things happen when we do this. Our taste buds may change. We realize that certain foods taste differently when we take the time to chew. Slow eating also leads to better digestion and becoming full from less food.

To truly savor your meals, start in the kitchen by savoring the various aromas. Allow your anticipation to grow. Set the table with the best that you have, even if you're dining alone. You're worth it! When you practice self-love, it spreads to all areas of your life in the most beautiful way.

When you sit down to eat, plate your food beautifully. Use appropriate portion sizes. Not too big for obvious reasons, but not too small either. Starving yourself in your younger years will only destroy your metabolism later on, not to mention that it can lead to very sad health complications and an awkward lifelong relationship with food.

Take small bites, chewing carefully. Taste your food. Experience the different layers of flavor. Give yourself permission to enjoy it. Take breaks in between bites. Put down your fork and knife. Savor the aftertaste as well. Enjoy the combination of flavor, and texture and the resulting culinary experience in its entirety.

If you are dining with others, enjoy conversation with your meal. But please don't use your phone, (mobile or landline). No doing anything other than savoring your food and fellow diners.

Understandably, there will be times when sitting down and savoring your food will be impossible. This should be the exception and never the rule. Strive to relish your meals as much as possible, even if only for twenty minutes. The differences that you will see will make you very happy that you did.

Check out my video where I discuss this in more detail here. Do you take the time to savor your food? Do you rush through every meal as an afterthought?

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