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Month: April 2012

Disneyland Tips Part One

Disneyland Tips Part One

There are lots of tips out there for enjoying Disneyland to its fullest, I’m going to try and mention only those I haven’t seen all over the internet!
What to do ahead of time (if you have a good week or so before your trip).

Order trading pins from ebay or amazon! Do a search for “Disney trading pins” or “Disney pins lot” and don’t be afraid to spend $16 on 25 pins. At the park, pins go from $9 to $13+. They are EVERYWHERE in the park. Your kid (or you) will want one. It’s easy to get the pins you want by trading for them and going in the park with a cheap “starter” set will totally help you out. While we were at the park, there was a deal on a starter pack of 8 pins (I think) that only cost $18, once you have already spent $40! Almost all Disneyland employees wear pins and they will happily trade if asked.

Upon entering the park (especially if you are there for a magic morning), many employees line Main Street wearing a white Mickey glove. They are literally waiting to trade pins!

I wish I learned this before we went. Once we bought Dallas pins, he didn’t want to trade them away.

Notice the Costco Travel lanyard around his neck? He didn’t seem to care about having a Disney lanyard, but your child may, so shop around ahead of time if you wish to save a few bucks.

Speaking of lanyards, a friend had told me that many people lose their park/hotel tickets by keeping them in the cheap plastic holders that come with most lanyards. Instead of the plastic variety, secure on a fabric, zipper pouch. Kind of like a really thin wallet. Maybe like this one.

The other money-sucker we discovered at the park were the penny crushers. While crushed pennies and pins may sound dull, keep in mind that these souvenirs are more of a way to keep kids distracted in line or busy while waiting for food, than anything else. They are also great time passers for little guys who may have to wait while their older sibling rides a “big” ride.

Come loaded with pennies, but even more loaded with quarters. A few of the really cooler crushers cost $1.26. Most are 51 cents. Seriously? Where is the symbol for cents on the keyboard?

Anyway, one great way of toting all those coins around is with a decorated M&M’s mini or Airborne tube.  We bought a penny book at the park for around $8, which provided much entertainment on the way home.

What to Pack

  • My friend Mary warned me about packing rain gear and I’m so glad I listened. Southern California weather is about as stable as the celebrities it houses. It was humid, rainy, windy, sunny and hot…all within one morning. Unless major rain is forecasted, skip the rainboots. Just shove mini umbrellas and light rain coats in your suitcase.
  • If you are driving, buy a big, fat case of water. If you aren’t driving, buy a case when you get there. This was what we used most. Water sells for $2.79 a bottle in the park and you’ll be so happy you aren’t forking that cash over!
  • All sizes of sunscreen. Pack one big bottle for the hotel, and have a few travel sized bottles for your backpack, as well as a face stick. No matter how light I tried to keep my backpack, it always felt too heavy. A small bottle of sunscreen would have helped. I’m totally freaky about sunscreening my family and we still all ended up with burns. Again, coo-coo SoCal weather.
  • Via! If you are at all picky about your coffee, pack some regular or iced via. I don’t drink hotel coffee. Blech.
  • Plenty of fruit and healthy snacks. Hotel apples tend to have that mushy, meaty taste and there will be no shortage of junk food. Having healthy choices on hand helped out.
  • Dum Dums and other small, non-choking type candy. This will save you in lines. Disregard last line about healthy food when it comes to impatient kids.
  • Hotel room games & dvds. There will always be some waiting time in the hotel room and if you don’t want your kids to spend the whole time playing with the a/c or the safe, pack some stuff to do.
  • Stamps for postcards.
  • Bring baseball caps & sunglasses.

Eating

  • California Adventures has healthier food, except for Ariel’s Grotto, which is totally delicious but also responsible for my vacation weight gain.
  • The best coffee is not at the coffee shop on Main Street. It’s definitely at the Jolly Holiday restaurant in between the entrances to Adventureland and Frontierland.
  • Jolly Holiday has a roast beef salad with red onions and feta. Sub out the creamy dressing for balsamic, it’s totally yummy.
  • Skip Rainforest Cafe. Way overpriced. If your kids insist, ask your hotel for a coupon. Ours had coupons for a free kids meal with priority seating.
  • You can find beer at California Adventures over by the pier. You can also find a small smoking section if you need one.
  • We have eaten at The Storyteller’s Cafe, Goofy’s Kitchen and the Plaza Inn for character meals. Goofy’s had the best characters, Storytellers had the best food and Plaza Inn was just convenient.
  • Tomorrowland and areas of California Adventures have some good breakfast options. $5.99+ will get you either a chorizo burrito, french toast or a platter of fruit.

Attractions

  • Get to the stupid princess hangout early. Like, earlier than you think you should. You’ll wait 30-45 minutes for a few autographs and photos.
  • If you are in the park on the weekend for part of your trip, be sure to hit the princess storytelling time, we missed it.
  • Same goes for visiting Tink in Pixie Hollow.
  • If you have a little one who won’t wait the long wait for the princesses in the morning, throw them in the stroller and jog (seriously honey, jog) over to Tomorrowland for the breakfast I mentioned above. It will help keep them busy while you have another family member hold the line.

Getting Around

My friend Jen said something like, “I will put my kids in strollers at Disneyland until 16.” You’ll want to as well. As much exercise as you want your kid to have, they are going to get tired. And so are you. You’ll end up carrying them. Bring some sort of wheels, you won’t be sorry.

If you are the type of person to say, “I would never put my kid on a leash,” then you have never had the kind of kid that needs one. No, seriously, you haven’t. The rest of us with kids that will absolutely, under no circumstances walk in the same direction as their mothers (like, ever)…we deal with the pain of the harness. Yes, we know it looks like a dog. No, we are not cruel parents. Our kid is not safe in public without it.

Max isn’t one of those kids. Dallas was. Dallas was a walking nightmare. Holding his hand? Ha! Hilarious! Max is a great little walker. However, all bets are off at Disneyland. Parents there are totally overwhelmed with their own kids, so kidnapping isn’t a big worry. It’s more about losing your kids. We’ve all “lost” our kid for even a couple seconds, it sucks.

So don’t roll your eyes at those of us who use these. If you want to, just make sure we can’t see.

World of Color

I know almost everyone loves this show. We bought the special dinner at Ariel’s Grotto to get ourselves special reserved seating at the show. My kids HATED it. Maybe they have sensitive ears, but they both were totally bothered by how loud the music was. They couldn’t see most of the show (we weren’t early enough to be at the rails/ropes) and there was only one row of people ahead of us.

The show is 30 minutes and intense. They didn’t get it. We left early and saw others running for the hills. I can only imagine the mass exodus after the show lets out. There are a.lot.of.people.

There was a little boy wearing large headphones at the Disney Jr. show. It could be that he has noise sensitivity or some type of issue with sounds. However, I thought it was a pretty darn smart idea of his dad to throw those babies on. I’m not an audiologist (but I’m friends with one, if that counts), but the volume of the parades and shows can seriously not be good for little ears.

Until Part II

One quick note for part one. Be prepared for California Adventures if you are going with little ones. There are two water features that require your child to be fully clothed, with shoes on. There are no lockers inside the park until it is finished with the remodel, so you’ll need to carry around clothes and towels. (Remember that stroller I suggested?) Oh, speaking of…we used a Sit & Stand stroller (along with most guests), which helped give Dallas some down time. He woke up on day three with a cold and really needed that rest.

How to Grill Seriously Juicy Chicken

How to Grill Seriously Juicy Chicken

My kitchen aficionado friend, Jody shared a chicken tip a year or two back and I can’t believe I haven’t told you about it yet! It’s a quick and simple way to ensure grilled chicken comes out tasting ab-so-tutely-wootly amazing. Many warm days inspire the lighting of the backyard patio grill. Unfortunately, if sauce or fatty beefs aren’t involved, a grilled bird rarely excites anyone. Something about cooking chicken at high heat really sucks the moisture out of it. Makes sense, right?

Now, I am not going to pretend I have ANY idea why this trick works. It just does. I actually have no idea how it even affects the nutritional value of chicken. However, it works at Thanksgiving and by golly it has no choice to work throughout the spring & summer. Here we go. Brine your chicken. Yep, that’s it. It sounds more complicated than it truly is. Here’s what you do.

In a large ziptop bag, mix:

  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup honey (agave if you don’t have enough honey)
  •  4 cups of water

Now you can add about 4 full-sized chicken breasts, adjust the recipe to the amount of poultry to be cooked. Throw the bag in the fridge for 2-4 hours (more won’t hurt) and grill as usual.

The super juicy and slightly salty chicken will blow your grilling mind. I totally promise. If you try it and it doesn’t work, you can send me a nasty email. That’s how much I believe in this. I really hate nasty emails too.

For some reason, I have had boat loads of blog views for the Hawaiian Dip recipe I posted back in February. Most people find it through Pinterest. (If you still need a Pinterest invite, let me know!) However, one person commented, “I love how people throw pineapple and coconut in something and call it Hawaiian. Rediculous.”

That bugged me. That’s why I wouldn’t even begin to know what to do with a nasty email. And yes, I know she spelled ridiculous wrong, so joke is on her. Stupid Hawaii Five-O hater. I guess I’d never make it in New York now, would I?

(Still writing up my Disneyland tips if you are wondering!)

Happy-ish Monday!

We’re Back!

We’re Back!

What a wonderful vacation  trip to Disneyland my family had! This was the first time my children surprised me with normal, human behavior on the long drive. We left for Southern California early last Sunday morning, which I believe helped the drive go by quicker. Coming home at eleven in the morning on Friday made for a seriously long trip home, but at least the kids had eaten and were sleepy enough for a nap.

I’m excited to do a post about Disneyland tips. Once I’ve caught up on laundry that is. Who can wait twenty years, though? I guess I’d better just do it tomorrow. There was so much packing ahead of time and with two days of rain forecasted in a sunny week, I just wasn’t exactly sure what to bring. Turned out I’d need more pants, more sweatshirts and perhaps an extra tank top or t-shirt as well. Southern California is so strange. I’ve always loved going down there, but this was the first time I was really excited to leave. The traffic is just too stressful at my old age of 34.

With all the time spent packing, I wasn’t able to make protein bars or pack some of the other types of foods I planned to tote along. I quickly learned that it doesn’t matter how healthy of a choice you make, if you eat out on a daily basis, especially for more than one meal…you are going to be loaded with sodium.

I totally caved twice. The first was with Dallas’ “free” Cold Stone mini ice cream cake. I normally don’t care for red velvet, but this cake was topped with ice cream and whipped cream ciphered straight from a heavenly cloud. Needless to say, I ate more than I should have. There was also the dinner at Ariel’s Grotto with family style appetizers (including lobster salad, cheeses and dried fruit) as well as a heavenly platter of desserts.

I was seriously feeling it the next day. I plugged my BodyBugg into the computer when I got home and learned that I averaged about 12000 steps a day and burned between 2800 to 3500 calories on average. I did my strength workout Monday and Wednesday, but passed out when I got home Friday. Otherwise, exercise only took the form of walking.

With all those calories burned, I came home 1/2 pound heavier. Disneyland can now also be referred to as Sodiumland. 

Turkey, black beans and quinoa with feta on kale salad. Jealous? Didn’t think so.

Back to the workouts as of yesterday and back to complete coherence (is that the right term?) with the DAMY Health plan.

To see our family photos from the trip, head over to our family blog at http://www.dallasrocco.blogspot.com

Happy to be back and sharing the food love!

 

 

The best chef ever

The best chef ever

The chef made the best dinner ever, according to Dallas. Gag me with a spoon. On the upside, it is hard to complain about a free kid style dinner each night. The Park Vue Inn kinda rocks.

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I5 and finally time to blog

I5 and finally time to blog

Now that I am confined to the car, I have time to blog. To bad I don’t have the finger stamina to say much via my Android phone. I’ll be posting photos of all the Disney food to come. For thisy morning I will stick with Dallas’ donuts yesterday. Let the sugar coaster and fifth birthday week celebrations. Commence. May the odds be ever in my favor that I will come home weighing less.

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Ah, Memories

Ah, Memories

It was just about five years ago, when I enjoyed a lunch at Buckhorn Grill with my husband and was eyeball assaulted by a young couple. They were not the first to give me the wide open eyed glare, but they sure were the most obvious. I can only hope I was serious birth control for them. I was about 36 weeks pregnant, measuring three weeks ahead. For the non-birthers out there, that means I looked like I had more than just a burrito for lunch. I was a walking candy apple.

I don’t have a photo that will do my belly justice. So, instead I’ll show you a photo of me in my room at 13.

Ah, memories. Of the worst lamp. Ever.

Anyhow, my “baby” is almost five years old and we are planning a trip to Disneyland to celebrate. Does anyone have any tips on places to eat outside of Disneyland? Preferably spots that include vegetables on their menu?

I was really excited to reserve a table at The Blue Bayou, the restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean. I just checked out the prices though. $35 for a friggin’ Monte Cristo? Really? Do I need to be an actual pirate to afford to eat there?

I want to show you what I made tonight. Salt & vinegar kale chips, doesn’t that sound cool? Well, they sucked. Let’s just call a spade a spade and a tangy, salty leaf…a tangy, salty leaf. If you see a recipe for these guys floating around Pinterest or other spots on the ‘net, just ignore.

You know what I’ve been doin’ lately? I’ve been tricking my kids. Ah, the joys of life. They are such liars when it comes to being hungry. They swear they want that banana. They NEED that banana. Guess what? They end up eating two bites of that banana. I can usually serve anything to Max and he’ll give it a try (except cottage cheese, he’s scared witless of it). Dallas on the other hand, if anyone besides him even gets eyeball prints on his food, he won’t touch it.

So now, I take their uneaten bites, chop them up, freeze them and throw them in other stuff later. Uneaten, but touched fruit? Goes in smoothies. A couple bites taken of your veggies? Goin’ in your pasta. Ha-ha! Suckas.

We celebrated my sweet and sassy niece’s 7th birthday this week too. Sassy Cassy! I love her, but I don’t think there is anyone who loves her more than Dallas does. He worships that girl!

    

Jy needs the computer for work now, so I’ll get back to packing. Email or facebook me if you have any Disney eating tips! Happy Monday (a-cuz it’s ovah.)

 

 

 

Flaxy Chocolate & Banana Muffins

Flaxy Chocolate & Banana Muffins

I grabbed a bag of 8 super ripe bananas yesterday (for $1) and new they would need to hurry themselves into smoothies or baked goods if they had any chance of survival. After scouring muffin, cookie and bread recipes, I found one chocolate chip banana muffin blog post that I was eager to replicate. Almost all of the cake-like recipes out there call for tons of oil and flour. Luckily, I had stumbled upon a recipe that not only kept the flour choice exclusive to whole wheat, but substituted in some oat bran as well. Party city, right? Stay with me.

There are still sugars of the white and brown (white-suntanned) variety and a bit of oil in this recipe. However, I knew that some of these muffins would be going in the freezer until we head out for Disneyland, so they couldn’t all be super healthy and sugar free. Otherwise, I’d be the only one eating them.

I didn’t plan on trying these guys, they aren’t on my clean eating plan. That didn’t stop me from turning them into my morning snack though. At least I know I got in some fiber, right? Oh, I didn’t mention, this recipe also contains 2/3 CUP(!!!) flax meal. Yowsa. They are so good you guys, so good. Both kids had two servings and I’ve had to dodge the kitchen all morning to avoid coming in contact with the chocolate chippy baked balls of heaven.

As you know, I love my donut pan. This recipe made two dozen muffins, plus 9 fauxnuts. I plan to tote the fake donuts along on pass them to the back of the van during our drive down to Anaheim. There are a lot of ingredients, so be warned. The results are totally worth the effort though!

 

Flaxy Chocolate & Banana Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ⅔ cup flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup yogurt (I usually use a fat free vanilla Greek yogurt)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups ripe bananas (4-5 bananas)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like to mix semi-sweet, milk & dark)
  • ½ square semi sweet baking chocolate – grated (optional)
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • Source: http://www.lovefromtheoven.com/2011/03/02/banana-chocolate-chip-muffin-recipe-muffin-makeovers/#ixzz2ZAiirI6d
Instructions
  1. First mix your dry ingredients, then Mix your wet ingredients together, leaving out the bananas. Smash your bananas in a separate bowl before adding them to your wet ingredients. Combine the wet into the dry and gently stir. Carefully fold in chocolate chips or nuts.
  2. Fill muffin tin ⅔ full and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°
 

Cilantro Chickpea Salad

Cilantro Chickpea Salad

Little April shower

Beating a tune as you fall all around

Drip, drip, drop little April shower

What can compare with your beautiful sound?

My name called by a Barista? It might come in a close second, Bambi.

So, it’s raining off and on and we have all the time in the world this week as school is out for Spring Break. Luckily, us Californians are quite fearful of water falling from the sky, so most kid friendly places are empty. Well, except for the pay to play joints, I’m steering clear of those stops. We are half way through our looong week at home and things are going pretty well.

I surprised the kids with a Playdough Swirl Shop set that I had tucked away for a rainy day, the boys went shopping with me and I still saved plenty of money AND I’ve managed to get some laundry done. No one said I have put any away, but at least it is clean.

No lecture this week. Just gonna show you what only 3 coupons can do at F&E.

Look what Fresh & Easy started offering. A fun CSA style organic box! We have tried Farm Fresh to You off and on and have had decent experiences. I usually end up cancelling subscriptions in favor of finding my own organic deals though. F&E’s box is fun because it is right there, where you can look inside and make sure you have exactly what you want. Everything is organic and your savings is listed on the side.

 

While at the store, I grabbed (almost) everything I needed to replicate a tasty looking salad I spied on Pinterest last night. Cilantro Lime Chickpea salad sounds like a springtime dish and I am trying my best not to turn to big bowls of cheesy pasta during all this rain!

The original recipe instructs the spinach and cilantro to be chopped to bits in a food processor. I created my lunch while Max was napping, so a knife had to do the work. I’ll admit the food processed version looks much more fun.

I’m still eating on the DAMY program, where chickpeas are my carbs for lunch and not my protein as they had always been in a past life. I mixed in some cottage cheese and wound up topping the salad with a few pumpkin seeds. Totally satisfying, totally spring-y and totally delicious.

Head over to Oh She Glows to get the recipe for Cilantro Lime Chickpea Salad and drool over her photo!

I have about 80 pictures from Easter and this is the best one I could find. Why is it so hard to have two kids look forward and smile at the same time? Why oh why?

Back to Reality

Back to Reality

It’s time to come back to reality!

I had a wonderfully relaxing day out with friends on Saturday and a great Mexican Easter dinner (as in Mexican food), not special Mexican activities. There will be a lot of sweating this week after too many “tiny bites” of sugary treats. My brother’s girlfriend also almost killed me with a butterscotch trifle, which sent me to heaven and then brought me back down to earth real quickly once I realized how many calories I had eaten.

Now that the Easter bunny has come and gone, it’s time for me to spend the next two weeks getting ready for our trip to Disneyland and Dallas’ 5th birthday. You can expect a bunch of posts in the road trip series to pop up as well as some post-Easter exercise posts.

Welcome back to reality friends. For the moms out there, welcome to your kids’ spring (break???). Mama mia, may the force be with you.

 

Review: Clean Eating’s Hot & Sour Swiss Chard

Review: Clean Eating’s Hot & Sour Swiss Chard

Most of the time, when anyone suggests a recipe for greens, it includes bacon. It’s pretty hard to feel like you are getting healthy and doing the right thing and loading up on dark green vegetables, when they are soaked in pig grease!

I’ve been bonkers over kale lately, sauteing it with some garlic, olive oil and salt and topping with chicken and balsamic vinegar. I’ve tried to branch out by eating the type of greens I never bring home, chard. It is no longer super important to me to spend the least amount of money on greens possible. I’d much rather buy pre-cut and pre-washed and spend an extra buck or so. My greens are always washed at home too, I’ve seen too many a bug to be comfortable eating straight from the bag.

I found this recipe by simply Googling the term, “Clean Eating chard” and luckily, the dish came out tasting better than I thought it would!

This is super easy to make, you basically saute your chard while you whisk together a sauce. The sauce will need about a minute on the stove and voila! I substituted agave nectar instead of the honey, but it’s up to you how to sweeten. I know the chard in this photo looks greasy, but it’s not. The sauce is mostly apple cider vinegar and tomato paste with honey (or agave). Totally fast and totally healthy. Hurray for bacon-less greens!

Ok, time to go hit the elliptical. All this exercising and eating (6 times a day) has left me less time for blogging. But don’t think I forgot about you. Pretend like I’m your boyfriend away at summer camp. I write when I can, but you are always on my mind! (And I’m totally sweaty all the time now).

 

Let Me Tell You Again (Don’t Roll Your Eyes at Me!)

Let Me Tell You Again (Don’t Roll Your Eyes at Me!)

    

Dallas came shopping with me tonight for a speedy grocery pick up. When shopping alone, I tend to buy all healthy food that no one else seems to love. When Dallas goes shopping with me, Max and Jy end up happy too. Dallas has no problem urging me to buy plenty of snack food and more dairy products than we ever need. In addition to Dallas’ snacky suggestions, I had to pick up baked goods for a meeting tomorrow morning a ready to eat dinner for Dallas and myself, as well as a pre-made lunch for Jy tomorrow. Oh, and we are out of protein powder and Splenda (for Jy) at home. What am I getting at? I was so worried that my quick round up at Fresh & Easy was going to get me another $200 grocery bill.

Fresh & Easy specializes in, well…their own brand. It’s not the same as big box grocery store generic stuff. It’s usually higher quality than most name brand food and always has less ingredients. It’s rare to find any F&E food that contains crazy preservatives or chemicals either. The only time I have truly disliked a F&E food was with their take on Ritz crackers. Awful. They taste like paint thinner probably does.

The organic lines are always affordable, but my favorite line in Fresh & Easy is the wholesome goodness selection of foods. These usually mean kid friendly, organic and pretty darn close to clean eating.

Anyway, back to the point of my story. I am getting to be a pro shopper, which means I’ve spent too much time and money in various grocery stores. So, you can believe me when I tell you that my filled cart (these pictures don’t include everything) would EASILY have cost $200 at a large big box store. Maybe $175 at Target. Fresh & Easy? $135!!!

Fresh & Easy gives you gift cards. Every week.

Huh? Gift cards? Yes, right in your mailbox. In my town, they come on Tuesdays. This week there were two coupons in the mailer which equalled $13 off when you spend $80. However, I am signed up for the Friends card, which also sends me coupons and earns points which give me even more coupons. The F&E email sent to me this week (for having a Friends card) had a $16 coupon off of $80 too.

My cart totalled $164 and I was able to use the $13 coupons from the mail and the $16 coupon in my email, saving me $29. Yes, $29 by using 3 coupons. Ok wait…tell me again why you aren’t shopping at Fresh & Easy?

 

A Post for Supermodels in Training

A Post for Supermodels in Training

So, you wanna become a hot girl? I found some proof that I’ve had the skillz in this department from way back when. I would guess this first piece of evidence I am about to show you is from 1984, when I was around seven. I’ve added labels to the parts of the photo you will want to pay special attention to.  I’m in the bottom row, center.

I still can’t find a hairstylist who can quite match the mullet/pompadour/ducktail look like the stylists of my childhood. Ah, Supercuts.

Ready for lesson #2? This one comes from my rehearsal dinner in 2005. Please take note on how to suck your face so far into itself that you create not just one, but several chins.

If you plan to have photos of your hotness created, be sure to get a photographer with stellar Photoshop skills. Look how lovely you can become when have of your face is shaved off. Nose job in a flash!

In case you aren’t getting the best idea of how beautiful I can be, I’d love to just take a quick photo right now and post it. Warning, I’m not gonna get all gussied up, ok? Just me, au natural.

And if you are ever questioning how big your hair should be. Remember, go big or go hang out with David Hasselhoff.

If you are worried about looking thin, then you probably don’t want to take a photo on your way to the hospital to deliver an 8 lb. 12 oz. baby.

If you aren’t feeling beautiful, just add an accessory. Extra cute is better.

When you aren’t feeling super classy, give your hair that special bottle of color which yells, “I work in a trashy diner.”

And now you know all there is to know about becoming a hot girl. Wait, you were looking for a recipe?