In case you've been wondering ....

So, we picked up Rock Band 2 for the XBox a couple of Sundays ago. And what a hectic time it has been since. B and I find we barely have time left in the evenings for anything else, once the food has been bolted down we give each other sidelong looks, race to our instruments and groove our aging body-parts till way past bedtime. As an addiction it wouldn't have been so bad if every time I surfaced I didn't find a messy house, dishes piling in the sink, laundry baskets overflowing, frozen food pile seriously dented and work clothes begging to be ironed. Sigh.

A typical evening generally unfolds as follows,

B: Do you want to go to the gym?

CP: Sure, pick me up at ...

B(talking very fast): ... or we could go home and play!!

CP: :D

I must have been prescient, 'The Couch Papayas' has a rock band ring to it, dont you think????

Makeup, diet and moi !!

I've been wanting to jump on the mineral makeup bandwagon for quite a few months. Not because I've been gulled by the miracle benefits to skin that have been promised by all and sundry and their aunts, more because I love to play with makeup. Anyway, so I was hampered by trying any out because I HATE being left with a full jar of makeup that doesnt match and that I paid a ton of money for. I must mention that I'm pretty sad at choosing colors and have terrible luck buying makeup off the shelf. Unlike makeup in India or UK, the drugstore brands in the US (L'Oreal, Revlon etc) do not provide testers. And buying a department store makeup brand would require a person who isnt as as me.

So, I had given up on that particular wishlist until I stumbled upon Everyday Minerals, a mineral makeup company I've fallen in love with. First, they offer a FREE sample kit - with 3 foundation samples, 1 concealer and 1 blush, you just pay for shipping. And the best part, they do not limit you to one sample per customer. As I made my way through the samples, the admiration for the company's large-minded policy has changed to admiration for the makeup itself. It's goes on very smoothly, they have a ton of colours to match a wide range of skin types and because it's powder I find I can layer it on as much or as little as I like to create a very natural look. The price for the full-size makeup is also much lower then you would find in the stores. And as a final clincher, last weekend someone actually said to me 'You look great, your skin is glowing.' :D I think, after that, any other makeup brand will have to be pretty miraculous for me to give this one up.

Since I dont use much else, I cant plug anything other than the foundation and powders, the blushes I did get with my sample kit seem pretty enough. If you are wheatish-complexioned (much as it cracks me up, I couldnt find an apter word) like me, you might find the Olives - Light Olive, Olive Golden Medium or Olive Medium a very close match. Oh, and I must recommend the brushes too, they are absolutely the softest, and more importantly, cheapest brushes you will find anywhere!!!

Additionally, I think I've finally hit upon the perfect diet plan. And more importantly one that doesnt leave me tired with low energy towards the end of the day, which was the major problem with all the diets I have tried before. The only thing I'm doing, besides a judicious consumption of sweets and fried foods is that I started reducing my calorie intake. The only change I made in my diet, was to replace my night-time dinner of 2 chapattis with whatever side-dish I cooked up, to 1 chapatti, and reduced consumption of rice during lunch from every meal to once in a while replacing it with chapattis whenever I have the time.

And with this regimen I lost approx *drumroll* 8 lbs in 3 months!!!!! The first few days I was a little hungry but I ate salad alongside to compensate but now I find that the one chapatti fills me up without any additional cravings at all and more importantly I'm also exercising without any adverse energy effects so I think this is the right way to go (as an aside the 'looking great' comment earlier did have the weight-loss reason too, and while I got a lot of those no one mentioned skin 'glowing' until I started to experiment with the makeup). This means that this year will not see my festival staples of besan laddoos and chaklis being made, all because of the diet of course :D

Happy Diwali folks!!!

The Fabulous Outrageous Brownies

I believe that everyone needs a good brownie recipe in their repertoire. Notice I only said good, because for me a brownie was just that - a delectable treat most people cannot ignore, perfect for office parties, school bakes, picnics, potlucks and barbecues. And until Saturday, my good brownie recipe consisted of buying a packet of Betty Crocker's brownie mix from the neighborhood grocery store and pretending to bake.

Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies changed all that. To start at the beginning, B and I were hosting a party last Saturday, so I was trolling Ina Garten's recipes for a pie I had a memory of seeing her bake on TV. Ina is the host of Food Network's Barefoot Contessa. I love the show for Ina's ample enthusiasm for the food she cooks and her laidback gourmet attitude. Plus all her recipes I've ever tried have been phenomenal. So, anyhoo, when I came across the recipe for her Outrageous Brownies, reading the recipe set me drooling and the reviews which followed decided me, I just HAD to bake them.

The only thing scaring me was that the recipe used 1 lb of butter for 20 large brownies. But, with a memory of the Contessa's generous portion sizes, I decided to divide the recipe in half, filling up a 13 by 8 inch pan to make 24 perfectly good-sized brownies.

And, all I can say is, now I know what I've been missing all this time. And I will never go back to that horrid baking mix again. These brownies are absolutely, spectacularly perfect, - the mix of bitter and semi-sweet chocolate just sweet enough, melty, gooey, crunchy and oh-so-chocolatey. If you ever need a chocolate fix, look no further. It's because Ina uses real chocolate (instead of cocoa powder) and coffee in the recipe. You dont really taste the coffee in the brownies, it just heightens the chocolate flavour making it rich and enormously satisfying.

So, anyway, my idea for the party was to setup a sundae bar of sorts with the brownies, vanilla icecream, nuts, cherries, whipped cream as fixings so people could whip up their own. And, of course, every self-respecting sundae needed some chocolate sauce. Since, I had some chocolate chips left over from halving the recipe, I decided to melt them AND drizzle some Kahlua into it to match the coffee flavour in the brownies. Kahlua chocolate sauce ..... some days I blow my own mind!

As with all my experiments, a lot was lost in translation. My chocolate chips melted obligingly over my double boiler and then I decided to add some water to make sure that the choc wouldnt reconstitute again. Unfortunately I added cold water and before my horrified eyes the melted choc congealed immediately into a lumpy mess. No amount of boiling or heating served to loosen it up. A bit panicked I added about 4 tbsp. of Kahlua, it remained gunky. So, finally in desperation (and since the goop tasted so amazing I didnt have the heart to throw it away), I iced my brownies with the pseudo-sauce, leaving it to harden naturally at room temperature, and I left a couple of the brownies un-iced for the kids. No sundae bar, of course.

What can I say, the guests looooved the brownies, the compliments kept flowing all night long!! I noticed dieters who timidly cut the brownies in half, throw caution to the winds and head back to wolf the rest down. Seriously, you cant stop eating these. And the best part, B overheard people agreeing that the iced brownies were much, much better than the un-iced ones. Dont get me wrong, the original is a brilliant recipe (thank you, Ina!!!!), but of course triple is better than double chocolate. So there. I actually (albeit however unwittingly) MODIFIED a Food Network Star's recipe AND MADE IT BETTER!!

Needless to say, I beamed like a mad Cheshire cat the rest of the evening.

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