About Danielle Lewis

Posts by Danielle Lewis:

fortune cookies know best

I was pretty unaffected when Snoop Dogg told me what to do with that big fat butt, but when a fortune cookie told me life is a wiggle, that got me thinking.

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Yesterday I almost bought a new car. My aunt decided she wants to get a new one now so that when she retires in a few years she doesn’t have to deal with it then. She drives a 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe with hardly any mileage and in excellent condition so as soon as she told me she was getting rid of it, I jumped on the chance to upgrade my little Dodge Neon. Within minutes we had a payment agreed upon and since I’m family, and she is an angel and spoils me and my bro, she wouldn’t be charging me interest. I could sell my car to take care of some credit card debt I wracked up last summer. Since I’m going to be living at home for a few years without having to pay rent this would be a prime time to handle my first car payment. I’d already been thinking about getting a new car for a few months just because I want something nicer to drive and would love 4WD for the icy mountain roads I have to deal with now during my commute. A perfect opportunity just fell into my lap…but then I had dinner with my dad and step-mom and I got that silly fortune and started thinking. Sometimes my brain starts firing thoughts quicker than I can keep up with and the cons of the me-purchasing-a-new-car list started developing.

  • My internship isn’t guaranteed and I won’t know for sure until June if I get it. Me taking on a car payment when I’m in this limbo is probably a terrible idea. I’d probably even be jinxing myself for being cocky about this whole situation. Who knows what could change as far as my location and financial responsibilities if I don’t get to complete my internship through WIC. If I have to apply for another program and move somewhere and pay for it, I don’t want the added expense of a car payment to hold me back.
  • I see myself moving to a big city in a few years and I’m not trying to have to deal with a SUV there. Ideally I wouldn’t even have a car if I lived in the city…but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • I love clothes and shoes and I spend more time in those than in my car. If I have to cut back on my shopping for a car payment, you better believe basic tears will start flowing.
  • And then there’s my wanderlust…how much traveling could I do with $13,000? A LOT.

I got pretty frustrated when I realized that I can’t get a new car because I’m waiting to know when I can get my internship and get one step closer to becoming an R.D. But I took a step back and thought about how petty I sound and also about the moment of clarity I had a few months back when I realized what my monthly student loan payment would be and how my spending habits would have to change. I am only 23 years old and I have plenty of time to achieve my dreams… and all the things I listed I can do if I don’t hinder myself with unnecessary expenses, and that’s pretty freakin’ sweet.

I’m in a weird place right now, living at home away from all my friends, I don’t have to study, I’m single and sometimes I go to bed at 8:30. I think that’s why I wanted the commitment of a car payment, because I feel like I’m just like floating around and have no clue what’s going to happen next. If I had a new car and a car payment, maybe that would change, maybe not. But I have all this time to spend time with my family and time to be selfish and focus on me, like 100% and I should definitely take advantage of that and stop trying to grow up any faster than I have to. It took a lot of back and forth thinking to get here, but now we know that’s because life isn’t a struggle, it’s a wiggle.

 

 

 

five life lessons I learned in 2014

 

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2014… as the cliche goes, was quite the roller coaster; a year full of ups and downs, twists and turns. I may have been the walking definition of a mess for the past couple of years after an incredibly thoughtless decision turned my life upside down. It’s been a long journey getting to the place I am today but I’ve never learned so much about myself or life in general as I did this past year. I’ve finally decided to share some of my personal life with the world, not because I’m looking for sympathy or attention, but because there’s comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one struggling through this crazy life and that in the end, while they may not turn out the way you were hoping, things really will be okay.

1) Drinking excessively…. just stop.

One of the most important things that came to light for me this year was that my partying had gotten a little (okay a lot) out of hand. I started drinking late in the game compared to all of my friends and I stupidly tried to keep up with everyone else, at parties and in bars, refusing to face the fact that my tolerance is never high and there is no rhyme or reason as to why some drunk nights were the best and others my life truly hit rock bottom. For the longest time I just left it up to fate and whatever happened happened and the next morning I blamed it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. I lost a lot of respect for myself and lost a lot of respect from others who didn’t know me well enough to find another redeeming quality to keep me in their lives. Seriously, sometimes drunk Danielle is the absolute worst. While I strive to live a life of no regrets because I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, I hate that “that drunk girl” is how I will be remembered by a lot of people in college. It’s not really about me caring about what others think of me but the bigger picture of what kind of memory I want to leave with the people I meet in this world, which is a happy and kind girl, not one who gets too drunk and is prone to crying. I was lucky enough to be involved with a guy for a little while at the beginning of the year who let me in on a little secret that I was better than my drunken behavior and that I needed to cut it out pronto. So I did. I’m certainly not perfect but my drinking responsibility has improved so much, as it should be at age 23. I am beyond grateful for the friends and family who encouraged me to chill out with the drinking but still loved me, supported me and always lifted me up when I slipped (and fell, sometimes in thorn bushes.)

2) A mirror is kind of magical because it reflects what you want it to.

Deep, I know, but just go with it for a sec. Alcohol easily segues into another reflection on 2014 because I gained about 40 pounds since I started drinking. This year I put my foot, and sometimes my glass down, and literally worked my butt off to change my habits and to remember how important exercise and nutrition are to me. I lost 20 pounds this year which I’m super excited about, but the other thing that happened concerning my appearance was the day I stopped using the mirror as a self-loathing device and the sincere life-improvement that followed. The weight loss has definitely helped boost my self-confidence, but I also made an active decision to stop letting my reflection make me feel inferior. Of course there is nothing wrong with acknowledging flaws and working towards a better, healthier body (that is a huge part of my career choice), wearing makeup to cover up imperfections and doing your hair so it best flatters your features, but it truly goes deeper than surface beauty. You have to look past the imperfections in that reflection and find something deep inside of you that you are proud of and love about you, because until you see your inner beauty and let it shine outwards, you won’t be happy or feel pretty and that is a terrible way to live. I am so glad to leave that behind and I wish that for every other girl and woman out there who struggle with feeling beautiful.

3) I need to take the time to quiet my mind.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you I can talk endlessly about the same thing. For hours. This is a good quality in the form of being passionate for things I love doing and for positive things that make me happy, but when it comes to hashing out scenarios like why a boy made me think he genuinely cared and was still able to drop me like a hot potato, the second another girl came along, is the biggest waste of my energy. I get so hung up on things like this. A huge part of my unhappiness has stemmed from me having these ideas about how things should be with relationships between everyone I know, my friends, family and guys in particular. When things don’t go as I hoped or think they should, I can’t get a handle on it because I’m so hung up on the “principle of the matter” and then I read into situations and blame myself for everything. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone thinks and feels about things a different way and that should just be left at that. Of course I’m going to have heartache when people come in and out of my life but if I stopped being the outgoing, fun-loving girl I am for fear of losing the people I let into my life, I would lose out on so many amazing opportunities to make friends and have fun. That being said, I need to learn where to draw the line of letting people walk all over me and to start standing up for what I want and deserve even if I’m scared of causing strain on my relationship with that person. That is something I’m still working on but having that knowledge is big. A Pinterest quote once told me that it takes the same amount of energy to build yourself up as it does to tear yourself down, so why should I ever waste it on the negative? I started meditating this year in search of some inner peace and happiness. It works very well during the calm parts of life but when things get hard and stressful, I struggle with sitting still and quieting my mind, which is when I need it most. Life is not always going to go the way I plan and people will come and go. The second I was able to accept that simple truth, a weight lifted off my chest and I felt instantly happier.

4) I want to be romanced.

I have been more or less single since my jr. year of college. After a heart-wrenching breakup, I didn’t think I wanted to ever deal with boys or relationships again because I couldn’t possibly bear losing someone else, yet I continually had a guy in my life. Deep down (and this was completely unbeknownst to me) I had the need to be wanted, so I found it where I could. And let me tell you, casual sex is only fun for so long, a.k.a once, kind of. I actually hurt myself way worse than if I had just been real with myself, mended my broken heart and waited for the right guy to come along again. Trying not to be in a relationship with someone who it seems you are, but you aren’t, and you are both just using each other to fill some kind of void in your life, is the most mentally exhausting thing I’ve ever experienced. It made me crazy and brought out the worst in me every time. And while I did seem to have a good time, for the most part I was never able to be genuinely happy because of that constant feeling in my gut that there was something wrong with the way I was going about my life. So from here on out, I’m closing my legs until I get the door opened for me. Just a joke, mom, don’t worry, I’m waiting for the romance I finally know I deserve.

5) I say sorry entirely way too much.

This one is short and sweet and to the point. I’m not sure if a single day has gone by in the past several years of my life that I didn’t say sorry. And it’s obnoxious and I can’t keep doing it. Of course there are things that happen that deserve an apology but about 70% of the times I use sorry are unnecessary, just me worrying that everything is my fault. So in 2015 I’m going to stop being so sorry for everything. In the words of my favorite artist, the haters gonna hate baby, I’m just gonna shake it off, shake it off.

I guess you can say that these lessons I’ve learned capture all of my New Year’s resolutions that I haven’t bothered to list one by one. I’m taking these things I’ve figured out about myself and life and I’m running with it. 2015 is going to be my best year yet. And I wish the same to all of you!

dark chocolate peppermint cupcakes

The Christmas craziness has finally settled down and I have a moment to post about the holiday cupcakes I made last week. These were inspired by the delicious Ghirardelli peppermint bark dark chocolate squares and a candy-cane filled with holiday flavored airplane bottles I was given for Christmas.

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Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

My go-to chocolate cake recipe. Instead of 2 tsp of vanilla, I used 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of Godiva chocolate liqueur. The other substitution is dark chocolate cocoa, but if you prefer milk chocolate, the regular cocoa is fine! I used red cupcake liners to make the peppermint bark garnish pop. This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Peppermint Schnapps Buttercream Frosting 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp peppermint schnapps
  • Beat butter for a few minutes. Add powdered sugar a cup at a time on a low speed. Beat to incorporate, scraping down bowl as needed. Add peppermint schnapps. I know this seems like a ton of frosting but I used almost all of it!

I’ve never put a lot of extra effort into the presentation of my baked goods, and I figured now that I’m blogging I better start! So instead of the usual Ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner, I decided to take some extra time and use a tip (I got a new set recently for my birthday) and piping bag. Took a lot longer to frost, but I’m so pleased with the result I will definitely not be going back to the old way. I unwrapped a handful of the Ghirardelli chocolates to make some chocolate curls and sprinkled those on top of the properly frosted cupcakes. I always store my cupcakes in the fridge and they keep fresh for about a week!

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! And if your New Year’s resolution includes cutting back on sweets, you still have 3 days to indulge!

drunken eggnog cupcakes

It’s the holiday season… and nothing says holiday more than eggnog (and a little bourbon!)

Drunken Eggnog Cupcake

Use a basic white cupcake recipe. This recipe made about 14.

  Keeping with the name, I added 1 tsp of vanilla but for the other tsp I subbed bourbon.

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Milk Chocolate Bourbon Ganache

Next came the milk chocolate bourbon ganache. I thought it would be cool to use eggnog instead of heavy cream, except I found out that eggnog doesn’t get firm like heavy cream so I ended up with more of a chocolate eggnog sauce to drizzle on top of the iced cupcakes.

  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, I used ghirardelli milk chocolate
  • 1/2 TBSP bourbon

Warm the eggnog over a double boiler until almost boiling. Pour warmed eggnog over chocolate chips and whisk until completely melted. Stir in bourbon. Let cool at room temperature or in the fridge/freezer to make the process faster.

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If you would prefer to go with my original idea which was to hollow out a portion of the cupcake, fill with a thickened ganache and then frost, use:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 TBSP bourbon

Repeat process above and when cupcakes are cooled, hollow a small circle out of the center, fill with ganache and frost. Garnish with some shaved chocolate or a sprinkle of nutmeg to go with the…

Bourbon Eggnog Frosting

  • 4 1/2 – 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp whiskey
  • 4 – 5 TBSP eggnog

Beat sugar and butter until well combined. Add vanilla and whiskey, and finally eggnog, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add more sugar if too liquidy and eggnog if too thick.

To frost, put a sandwich size ziploc bag (perfect piping bag in a pinch) inside a glass, folding sides over the edge of the glass. This allows you to add the frosting without making too much of a mess. Close up the bag and cut off a small amount of one bottom corner. Pipe frosting in a swirling motion. Drizzle “ganache” over frosting (or for the original idea, sprinkle the chocolate shavings/nutmeg.)

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I snapped the picture immediately after drizzling the chocolate “ganache” but it was pretty runny and spread out quickly. I would recommend freezing the ganache for an hour or longer to thicken and then refrigerate cupcakes to store. Bottom line they are delicious. I’ll master presentation and figure out consistencies another day.

happy turkey day

This year my aunt and I are in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my dad’s side of the family. After deciding on an apple pie, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert, I realized chocolate was missing. Since this day is centered around turkey (and being thankful), I thought why not make chocolate turkey cupcakes? And that is how these little beauties were born.

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Cupcakes:

A basic chocolate cupcake recipe. Dark cocoa instead of natural unsweetened cocoa will give a darker color and I prefer the taste.

Frosting:

For frosting, I used the recipe straight off the back of the Hershey’s cocoa container. Feeling a little adventurous, I added about 2 TBSP of peanut butter and used almond milk to go with the Reese’s flavors. The consistency of this frosting is perfect for piping! Since I didn’t have to worry about the presentation of the frosting as much, I just put it in a Ziploc bag, sealed the bag and snipped a piece of the corner off to quickly pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake.

Decoration:

Gold sprinkles are the next step.

I had wanted candy corn for the tail feathers because that was what I had seen online, however a few days before Thanksgiving apparently is not the best time to search for candy corn. My creativity thankfully kicked in while I was wandering the aisles of Walmart – Reese’s Pieces would make a perfect substitute! I placed five along the back of the frosting for each turkey.

These crunchy pieces of peanut buttery chocolatey goodness also worked for the beak. I used a knife to cut several of the orange pieces into fours. Use a large chef’s knife and they break apart just like you want them to!

Next I unwrapped the Reese’s cups and used a knife to make a slit on the center of the backs to stick a quarter of the orange Reese’s piece inside.

  A dab of black gel icing make simple turkey eyes.

The last step is setting the Reese’s cup on the frosting to put the head in place.

And wallah you have an adorable, delicious chocolate turkey!

My family was all over this baking project and named the turkeys. They also jumped for joy when I gave the o.k. for them to taste the frosting. I’m definitely feeling thankful for my family and the love and happiness they bring into my life.

And of course I’m thankful for chocolate.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Malibu escape

 

After suffering through a few days of unwelcome below-freezing temperatures, and multiple text conversations mentioning the misery of winter between me and a close friend, I thought we could use a vacation. Sadly my life isn’t that glamorous, so I settled on bringing the sunshine the next best way I know how, and I baked.

As much as I love everything pumpkin this time of year, I wanted a complete escape. I consulted Pinterest for tropical dessert ideas and pina colada bars sounded amazing. I adapted this recipe by exchanging rum extract for Malibu coconut rum. I used 1 tsp in the bars themselves and about 3 tsp (to taste) for the glaze. From the extra sweet rummy glaze to the perfectly flaky crust, these little guys were delicious!

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But let’s backtrack to my original we-need-a-vacation thought. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen each other and I wanted to do something sweet (I love puns) and send him a tropically-themed care package (I also love gift-giving.) To cover the bases of my theme, I also procured a couple airplane bottles of tequila, a two-serving size bottle of margarita mix, a lei and hand crafted a palm tree card with a finishing touch of coconuts.

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I was so excited about how it all came together and taped up my box, anxiously awaiting my lunch break when I could run by the post office for the send off. I had previously researched sending alcohol domestically via USPS but after setting my box on the scale and being prompted to answer the “flammable” question, I double checked with the lady behind that counter and got turned down. BIG bummer. Apparently alcohol has to be ground shipped which takes 7-10 days a.k.a the shelf-life of home baked goods. Womp.

I sent the bars anyway, along with the front half of the card that wasn’t written on yet, with a new message. He got the package yesterday and likes them, so mission (mostly) accomplished.