An Abundance of Bread Pudding

At the close of Odd Couple I found myself in possession of an entire loaf of white bread and since I’m a whole wheat, multi-grain kind of girl this left me with a bit of a conundrum. The obvious conclusion quickly revealed itself – bread pudding. Is there really a better use available?

Now, I never really looked at recipe for bread pudding prior to this particular experiment. My first attempt actually came from saving some soggy french toast. Anyway, working off this previous experience and a quick glance at Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook; this is the recipe I concocted.

Odd Couple Bread Pudding

Odd Couple Bread Pudding

12 slices of white bread

5 eggs

5 cups of milk

3 oz spiced rum

4 tbl butter

8 tsp sugar

2 cups blueberries

1 tbsp vanilla

1 tsp cloves

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix the eggs, rum, milk and spices then tear up the bread into chunks into the mix. Add sugar, blueberries and chopped up butter. Cook at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the top is browned. It will rise as it bakes and settle once cool.

Obviously this makes a decent amount. I ended up splitting it up between a pie pan and small baking dish.

Also, this dish has been co-worker approved.

Bread Pudding 2

A Variation: Baked French Toast

Still having some bread left and a little obsession with lemon curd recently, I decided to try out a healthier variation on the bread pudding that is based more closely upon the french toast recipe that started it all.

Baked French Toast

8 slices of bread

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups milk

1 cup blueberries

2 tbsp slivered butter

lemon curd

1 tsp cinnamon

dash of cloves

powdered sugar (optional)

Grease a 9×9 baking dish. Mix the eggs, milk, spices and butter. Set aside. Spread lemon curd on four pieces of bread and place in the bottom of the dish lemon side up. Some tearing to accommodate may be necessary. Add the blueberries spreading them across in a single layer. Pour 1/2 of your egg mixture over this layer. Spread lemon curd on the other four pieces of bread and place these face down over the first layer. Pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over the bread. I used a slatted spatula to make sure my surface was flat and egg soaked.

Let sit for 5-10 minutes then bake at 400 for approx. 45 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Baked French Toast 2

Enjoy.

Both recipes reheat well as well :)

Four Days Left…

That’s right, there are only four days left until the 2010 Spring/Summer lia sophia catalog is GONE. I’m sure that like me all of you lia sophia lovers out there feel that same mixture of sadness and excitement that I do. Sadness because all of these beautiful pieces will no longer be available, which means if you’re in love with any of them then there are only four days left to get them.

If that is the case for any of you fine readers and you don’t have it ordered already, I’ve decided to open up the Mystery Hostess Party to my readers for these last four days.

What does that mean? On top of getting the great July special to purchase your favorite retiring pieces (Buy One, Get Two more expensive pieces @ 1/2 price), with any purchase of $65 or more you can choose 1 additional item at hostess pricing (any item under $100 for $15 or as marked)*. I will also do a drawing from the orders placed and someone will receive free jewelry.

Here’s an example:

Purchase these using the current sale:

Sidekick Earrings – $24
Garden Grove Bracelet @ 1/2 – $17.50 (reg $35)
Appletini Ring @ 1/2 – $24 (reg $48)

Total (before shipping & tax): $65.50

Get the Chamomile Necklace for $20 (regularly $118)

That would be $225 worth of jewelry (with a lifetime guarantee) for $85.50.

Go here to place an order using ‘Mystery Hostess’ as the hostess name. There’s an online catalog here as well.

Orders need to be placed by midnight July 31st to be part of the Mystery Hostess Party. Feel free to contact me via the comments below or at alainarkraus at gmail dot com.

*The Mystery Hostess pricing is something that I enter manually. It will not show automatically, but no orders are processed without me reviewing them first. You can also order via email at the address listed above.

A Song of Ascents

Psalm 121

A song of ascents

If I raise my eyes to the hills,
from where does my help come?
My help comes from ADONAI,
the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
your guardian is not asleep.
No, the guardian of Isra’el
never slumbers or sleeps.

ADONAI is your guardian; at your right hand
ADONAI provides you with shade –
the sun can’t strike you during the day
or even the moon at night.

ADONAI will guard you against all harm;
he will guard your life.
ADONAI will guard your coming and going
from now on and forever.

from The Complete Jewish Bible

I was going to write in a story first; before the typing in the Psalm. A little bit about my day that would put it into context, but it didn’t feel right when I read it. It’s not that today was a bad day. In fact, in many respects it was a good one, but life and finances have a way of being depressing some days. Today was one of them.

Then I read this Psalm and it reminded me that life is a journey that I haven’t reached the destination of yet. God will be there with me just as He has many times in the past. It’s easier to remember that when circumstances are crazy or a big decision is looming, but oftentimes the knowledge gets lost in the mundanities of day to day life.

Bright, shiny objects have a way of distracting me from my faith just as they do other things in my life, only they aren’t always bright and shiny. Sometimes they’re dark, depressing and draining. That’s when I have to listen and remember that, just as He reminded Elijah, God is not always in those things which grab our attention. Instead, He is often found in the quiet voice waiting for us to listen and recognize that we are not alone. He has not left us, but is there to guide us as He has been since the beginning.

6 Steps to Awesome Office Decor

1) Find something that inspires you.

In the example I’ll be using the inspiration came from a little prank performed by the developers which involved turning the alpha of our new website entirely into Papyrus font from Helvetica. They were being very naive if they didn’t expect retribution.

2) Working off of your inspiration, select a specific thematic element you wish to focus on.

In this case we chose flowers. After all, as their note said, by expression their deep affection for Papyrus they were already half way to being 5 year old girls. We just thought we’d help them in this endeavor.

3) Shop around a bit to find the best price on your decor.

In a great moment of serendipity, we discovered that another co-worker was having a yard sale the day we were shopping for our cubicle face lift which included some gorgeous hot pink flowers from their wedding. Not only did they have the flower bundles, but they also had rose petals, bead strands and tealight holders to match. It was glorious.

4) Check your calendar for the best, least disruptive time to institute your decor changes.

It just so happened that entire development team was on vacation for two consecutive days leaving their side of the cubicle completely open to our decorating choices. They may never do such a thing again.

5) Decorate, tweaking to get the absolute best effect.

We chose a Friday, post 5 pm to enact our choices. Strangely, there were a number of folks still in the office at that time, but they were all supportive of the updated decor. We also found that the bouquets of flowers had lovely yellow ribbon on them that we were able to re-purpose in our efforts. Here are some images of the finished product:

An overall look at the finished product

It just makes the picture, doesn't it?

Need a vase, try a paper towel roll (they won't even realize what it is).

Each dev got their own name tag - in Papyrus

See the lovely bead draping

6) Wow your friends and colleagues.

Being the non-morning person that I am, I missed the first two gents initial reactions, but the third was quite entertaining as he came to a complete stop upon entering. Interestingly, he noticed the name tags before even realizing that the profusion of hot pink. They did admit, at least in hushed whispers to each other, that they had been owned.

Two days later

As for the decor, if has stood the test thus far remaining up for the past four days. We are not entirely certain if they don’t mind the pink or are just unwilling to spend the energy required to remove it all. Time will tell.

Life Online: Humor in the Hated Error Message

Error messages. We love to hate them. They’re like that whack-a-mole game we played as kids. You hit them to make them disappear only to have another show up mocking you from a nearby location. On and on they seem to go, only unlike the game the errors don’t stop coming after a certain number of encounters.

As one in the field of User Experience (UX) one of our major goals is to prevent those pesky little messages from ever appearing, but despite our best intentions errors still happen. Because of this in Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Ten Usability Heuristics’ Error prevention has a friend known as Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors. Here is his recommendation on how to accomplish that:

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

It’s good right? None of us like getting the messages that say some random line of letters and numbers is having an issue with port 80 and needs your attention. Well, developers probably like those, but for the rest of the world it tells us nothing other than that our computers hate us in that moment in time. Plain language is a very good thing.

So, earlier this afternoon I got an IM from the Product Owner (lead) for the team I work with asking me to write an error message. It turns out that people who have cookies turned off in their browser couldn’t get past the first page of our sign-up process. I asked a couple questions then quickly mocked up samples for them. They were narrowed down to these two potential options.

Option 1

We know cookies can be hard to share, but we need them in order to proceed. Please check your privacy settings to make sure they are not disabled.

Option 2

Please check your privacy setting and makes sure cookies are enabled in order to proceed.

These were read by a fellow UXer, the Product Owner and myself. We all had the same reaction and I found it fascinating. Personally we all liked ‘Option 1’ better, but felt that we should use ‘Option 2’ in the actual message users read. We even agreed that we prefer a sense of humor when we encounter error messages, but that was not (as far as I am aware) the message that was chosen.

Why? Because convention, standards and even our heuristics tell us that that’s what we’re supposed to do. In fact the heuristic previous to the one previously quoted says that ‘dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed’. In other words, no joking about cookies.

Now, I know I have a bit of a quirky sense of humor. I’ve even got a category in my blog known as ‘Shenanigans’. What I’m curious about is what the actual users of the internet think.

Which option would you rather see if you got that error?

2010 lia sophia conference: Clinton Kelly, The Fab 15 and more

How you dress from head to toe tells the rest of the world how you wish to be treated.
-Clinton Kelly

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the highlights of the 2010 lia sophia conference was having Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not To Wear as our keynote speaker. Needless to say, the welcome he received was rather, er, enthusiastic? It could without exaggeration be described as a roar of cheering and applause. He was a bit overwhelmed, but what else can you expect from 4,000 crazy jewelry ladies? ;)

Before I get on to the fashion portion of his speech, one of the things I found interesting in listening to him speak was that he told us how he ended up on What Not to Wear and how he didn’t initially think it was something that he really wanted to do. It seemed like it was just some makeover show, but he shared how he has since learned that it is about more than just changing clothes, it changes lives as well. He also shared that his inspiration is the real life working woman. I liked him before I heard him speak, but afterwards I must say my admiration has only grown.

So, the fashion portion of his speech can be broken down into 3 main sections – 4 Faux Pas, the Fab 15 and Trends. I’ll cover the first 2 in this post and then talk trends later this week.

4 Faux Pas

The United States for the most part is a hot mess.
-Clinton Kelly

1. White CrossTrainers

These are meant for the gym, not errands or anything else not work-out related. Instead some great alternatives include a great pair of boots or ballet flats, sandals (not flip flops) or a pair of fun, funky non-athletic sneakers.

2. Mom Jeans

Just say no. While shopping to replace any mom jeans you may be hanging onto keep in mind that the average woman on What Not to Wear tries on 20 pairs of jeans before finding a pair that fits. Instead get a pair of dark wash boot cut, trouser or skinny jeans.

3. Giveaway T-shirt – “There’s a reason they’re free”

The one exemption is when you’re at the event the shirt is for, such as those glowing yellow shirts we have. We were instructed not to integrate them into our everyday wear (I wonder why…). Instead go with a simple cotton blouse. Just like the jeans it probably won’t be the first one you pull off of the rack.

4. Hoodie

Fellow hoodie lovers I totally feel you on this one, but we must admit that the simple structure jacket that Clinton recommends instead is both more attractive and makes us look more put together. Besides, it’s a great way to accentuate the good in our figures and disguise some of those places we’d rather not focus on.

Now let’s take a look in Clinton’s closet…

Clinton Kelly's Closet

The Fab 15

1. A great pair of boots

There are a wide variety out there. You may decide you have to have more than one pair.

2. Ballet Flats

Great for errands and adding a splash of color to an outfit.

3. Sandals

As in actual sandals, not flip flops.

4. Dark wash jeans

This is a recurring theme. If you don’t have them get a pair.

5. Cotton Blouses

‘Blouses are not fancy, they are a fancy name for a woman’s shirt.’

6. Jackets

To replace those hoodies you’ve worn to bits

7. A trench coat

Also lots of styles available from a traditional camel to something bright and funky.

8. Cardigans

Aren’t just for twin sets. There are a lot of great cardigans out there just waiting to brighten up your wardrobe.

9. A little black dress

This should pull double duty going from day to evening with just a change of accessories.

10. A day dress

This is the simplest thing a woman can pull on in the morning and microfiber is a great option for a day dress.

11. A colored cocktail dress

That’s right. A dress for going out that isn’t black.

12. A pencil skirt

Or four. Wait, that’s my closet. These are a flattering basic to build on, just make sure not to get one that is too long or a mini.

13. Walking shorts

Because Daisy Dukes probably aren’t sending the message you want to put out there.

14. Killer heels

Platform heels are a great option. As Clinton said, they’re like training wheels for the uninitiated.

15. A day bag and metallic clutch

With the day bag you can go classic or pick a color that pops, while the clutches are great in bronze or gunmetal which both go with a wide variety of options.

 

And can you guess what Clinton said was the #1 must have for every woman’s wardrobe?

A professional bra-fitting

If you’ve never had the girl’s professionally fitted you can get it done for free by a trained professional at most local department stores like Macy’s and Dillard’s. You may be surprised at what you find out, especially since the majority of women are actually wearing the wrong bra size. Not only will the girls appreciate your consideration, but the right bra can make a world of difference. After that, visit the denim area and make sure you’ve got a pair of nice fitting dark wash jeans.

Want this list to go? Here’s a single page overview of Clinton’s Fabulous 15 you can download.

For more from Clinton come back later this week to catch my last conference post on upcoming trends or find him in any of the following places:

His book, Freakin’ Fabulous

TLC’s What Not to Wear

Twitter

And, now on Facebook!

2010 lia sophia Conference: Jewels and News

I’m running behind on posting this. I know it and am just going to go ahead and apologize. Now, let us travel back in time about a week and a half…

In the wee early hours of June 27th, which felt even wee-er and earlier with closing The Odd Couple the night before, I met my mum and two other ladies in the McDonald’s parking lot to head out to Milwaukee for the annual lia sophia conference. A lot of the information I gathered whilst there is directly related to business, but I do have some highlight’s from the trip to share.

June 27th

We arrived in Milwaukee mid-afternoon and, being unable to check into our hotel, decided to go join the crowd in waiting for registration to open up. That may not sound like a very exciting prospect, but having been to conference previously we all knew that within our registration bags we would find treasures totally worth the wait.

Fall/Winter 2010 catalog

Multiplicity bracelet set

Nottingham necklace - the Fall/Winter Dress for Success piece

That night we met up with other ladies (and one gent) from our group and headed out to The Cheesecake Factory to celebrate my birthday (Yay!).

Mmmmm, Key Lime Mango cheesecake

July 28th

The whole bright and early thing followed through the whole trip as we headed over to the US Cellular Arena for opening session to be there when doors opened at 8am. With our coffee in hand we arrived glowing – literally. Here’s mum and I a little later in the day so you can see what I mean.

What does MORE mean to you?

Considering the color, our Zone looked pretty fab and there really was no missing us. The morning was opened up with DJ Ravi on the drums with the Maske Electric String Trio. It was pretty spectacular. Then we moved onto business and recognition. Here are some factoids that may be of interest:

In the 2009/2010 conference year lia sophia…

  • entered 439,000 shows/parties
  • had 28,000 active advisors
  • sold just under 14 million pieces of jewelry
  • was cited by the Direct seller’s Association as an industry leader in promoting ethical behavior

What’s even more exciting is what they announced for the future.

  • Updated e-vites for hostesses
  • a lia sophia YouTube channel (coming this fall)
  • the ability for hostesses to post their shows to Facebook
  • a pendant flier (much like the beloved ring page)
  • AND, the most exciting yet, a lia sophia app for iPhone and Android that will go live with the new catalog in August!!!

We also visited the new line jewelry displays, which had all of the new pieces coming out in the Fall/Winter catalog. Here are a few sneak peeks:

Sporting the Front Row bracelet, necklace and ring

Presence necklace

Empire bangle bracelet

June 29th

“You can wear as many as you want. One, two, six, seven – as many as you like – up to your elbow.”

Ellen Kiam on bracelet trends

This morning’s general session was all about the jewels. We heard from the Advisory Board, they oversee what retires and what new pieces come into the catalog; Ellen Kiam of the Kiam Collection, it’s very Chanel; and Clinton Kelly. Yep, that’s right, Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not to Wear was our keynote this year. I’ve actually got a whole blog post just from him that will be showing up in the next few days. I will tell you now though that he was an awesome speaker and the cheering he got from the crowd when he came on stage was almost enthusiastic enough to scare.

Elena Kiam then shared about Dress for Success and the Red Carpet Collections. So far this year lia sophia has donated over 58,000 pieces of jewelry to Dress for Success, which is a value of over 3 million dollars in jewelry. It’s a great organization and you should totally learn more about them if you aren’t already familiar with them.

On the Red Carpet and media side of things, lia sophia had over 3 billion media impressions last year, which is pretty astounding. If you’re looking for some high fashion jewelry worn by the celebs, there are a couple of Red Carpet Collections out currently and we got a sneak peak of the latest collection which will be premiering at Fashion Week in September. It’s pieces are gorgeous Art Deco/Old Hollywood inspired with a lot of rose gold.

We closed out the conference with our White Party (echoing P Diddy’s massive bash). It was quite the party with food, dancing, a museum, aquarium, fireworks AND another piece of jewelry!

Del Mar bracelet

A lightshow so close I had to lay down to watch them

Harley Davidson last year, White Party this year, what will they come up with next?

That’s all for now, but I’ll have more news, updates and Clinton Kelly showing up soon!

Addendum

It has come to my attention that I’ve had some lovely visitors who came across my blog while looking for the new Fall/Winter 2010 lia sophia catalog. Welcome! Thanks for coming by and I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit. My understanding is that online catalog and the free iPhone/Android catalog app will not be available until August, but if you’re really, really anxious to see a catalog I encourage you to get in touch with a local lia sophia advisor as we should all have at least 1 in our possession. If you’re in mid/lower Michigan feel free to contact me at alainarkraus @ gmail.com, otherwise you can search by zip code/address on the lia sophia website.

You’re still welcome to contact me about jewelry, but the wait for the new catalog is over. It HAS ARRIVED and you can find it here.

Also, the lia sophia app for iPhone and Android is now LIVE and FREE for download!

If you’re just curious about the sale for next this month click here to see the August specials flyer.

For more pictures from conference see my facebook album here.

Lastly, make sure to check out the Bling Giveaway for a chance to win a piece of jewelry from the new catalog :)