Top Knots and Curly Locks

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review: 2014

It's hard to believe that in a matter of hours, it will be 2015.  What a year 2014 was.  I didn't realize just how much happened until I was going through my pictures for this post.  Here's a brief overview of my year.

I started the year off by heading to Los Angeles with one of my best friends to attend the Grammys.  This was my second time going to the show and I was so excited to be able to share it with Kyle this year.  It was also the first time I used Rent the Runway and fell in love!

I didn't have a Valentine this year, and my little brother's was out of town so we decided to spend the day together.  He'd been dying to dread his hair, so against my better judgement, I helped him.  Then we went to the movies and saw The Neighbors.

I received the sweetest message from Dove naming me their Woman Crush Wednesday.  It really means a lot to me because I've used this brand for years.  Also, their note shows they went through my pictures and took time to get to know me and make the message personal.

On April 15th, I went for a run.  It wasn't just any run, it was the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

I'd been working at WSAZ for seven months when my mom and little brother finally visited the station and got to see where I spend so much time.  I gave them a tour of the building and Anthony sat behind the anchor desk!

It seems like every season on The Bachelor someone goes rappelling down the side of a building, into a cave, something.  Well, this summer, I was given my own chance to rappel.  I was so nervous when the time actually came, but it was so much fun!

I had the joy of co-hosting my first ever bridal shower for Mary.  It was such a sweet brunch and the first time several of the bridesmaids met.  I was in charge of the cupcakes and had fun coming up with designs to put them in.

Speaking of Mary, we went to Wine and Design in Huntington for the first time in August.  It was so much fun, we laughed the whole night!  Even with our lack of artistic ability, I think our pictures look great!

Colbie Caillat brought her tour to Ashland, Kentucky and not only was I lucky enough to go, Mom and I were lucky enough to get tables right at the foot of the stage.  Colbie's voice sounded just like it does on her CDs.  Mom and I both walked away so impressed, not just by her talent, but by how she is such a great role model.

It's not every day you have a great hair day so I had to document this one when it happened.  I did my hair the way I always do it, but for some reason it decided to really cooperate.  Now that I know my hair can do this, it has set the bar really high for itself.

What a better way to celebrate my 24th birthday than to log into Twitter and see a picture of myself in Times Square!  As promotion for the release of the Sexiest Man Alive issue, People tweeted out for people to send in a picture and they would turn it into a cover.  Then, from those covers, they would select a few to put on a billboard in NYC.  I never imagined my picture would be one of them!

My dad and Ella have such a special bond.  He went to China for her adoption after her dad, my mom's cousin, had to have surgery and wasn't able to go.  This picture is from a Christmas party.  My dad had had a tough call week and it was past Ella's bedtime.  We looked over and found the two of them like this.  You know it's serious sleep time when the thumb goes in Ella's mouth.

Thanks for a great year, 2014!  I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store!  Be sure to follow me on Instagram to keep up with me all year long.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Here in the Pino household, we take our Christmas traditions very seriously.  The tree does not go up until after Thanksgiving.  (Except for that one year my dad had the day before Thanksgiving off so he decided to put it up.  It was not a pretty sight.  Never again.)  Then on Thanksgiving Day, we kick off "The Pino Family Christmas Movie Festival."  We start by watching Christmas Vacation, then continue on until just a few days before Christmas when we watch Elf. Unfortunately, between my dad's call schedule and my work schedule (I work 2 p.m - 11 p.m. Thursday-Monday) we only watched the first and last movie.  We don't just watch Elf, we have a party ... a pajama party to be exact.  My dad dresses up as Buddy and family friends come over decked in their p.j.s to watch the movie.

Like father, like daughter.  I was so excited to have footie pajamas with a hood to wear this year.  You'd be surprised how hard it was to find.  I could only find them with footies or with a hood, but never both.  My mom found these at Sears.

The moms called this picture "Elf Unplugged" 

Aaron's seeing eye dog, Joel, and I are best friends.  At one point, we even held "paws" during the movie.

Pups and pajamas, it doesn't get much better

Remember how I told you we're serious about our traditions?  I wasn't kidding.  If you don't wear your pajamas, you have to wear a pair of mine, namely a dress nighty from Victoria's Secret.  The top picture is from 2009 when Austin didn't wear his and the bottom picture is from this year when Nick didn't wear his pajamas.

What are some of your favorite traditions?  I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 12

It's so hard to believe the 2014 edition of the 12 Cookies of Christmas is over.  It's even harder to believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  How is everyone doing with shopping and wrapping?  I have all of my shopping done, but still need to wrap my presents.  Here's one final cookie to get you in the holiday spirit!

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup granular sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon red food coloring
2 cups flour, firmly packed
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the microwave
In electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar and granular sugar
Add in baking soda and salt
Mix in egg
Add red food coloring and and mix well
Pour in melted chocolate
Slowly add in 1 cup of flour
Add in sour cream
Add remaining flour
Mix in chocolate chips
On a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, drop tablespoon size cookies
Bake for 11-13 minutes

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Monday, December 22, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 11

Here's another one of my Nana's recipes that has been handed down.  You know recipes are going to be good when they're hand written on cards.  You can make these cookies for any occasion.  I made them for Halloween and used themed cookie cutters.  For Christmas, I added in some red food coloring.  The possibilities are endless.

Nana's Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream butter and sugar
Mix in egg, vanilla and almond extracts
Blend in dry ingredients
Chill for 2-3 hours
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Press out dough and cut into desired shape
Place on a greased cookie sheet, or sheet lined with parchment paper
Bake for 7-8 minutes

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 10

My mom deserves all the credit for these cookies.  I was at work last night and didn't have a cookie set for today.  Well, my sweet mother surprised me and made these.  (Really, I think she just wanted in on the action and the bragging rights, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.)  This is a recipe she used to make with my Nana when she was younger.  Since my grandmother is no longer with us, any questions we had about the recipe had to be taken to the internet, instead, but they're just as good!

Graham Cracker Pralines

12 graham crackers
2 cups butter
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and top with parchment paper
Break graham crackers and place on sheet
Melt butter on stove
Add in brown sugar and bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes
Remove from heat and mix in pecans and coconut
Spread mixture over crackers
Bake 12-15 minutes
The graham crackers will appear soft, but will set up as they cool

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 9

When it's cold outside, there's nothing like a mug of hot chocolate.  And now, there's nothing like a hot chocolate cookie.

Hot Chocolate Cookie

1/2 cup butter, softened
19.5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Roughly 30 marshmallows

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together butter and 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
Stir frequently until smooth, let cool for 15 minutes
Using an electric mixer, beat together butter, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth (about 2 minutes)
Pour in cooled chocolate mixture and mix
Slowly add in remaining dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt
Chill dough in refrigerator for an hour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Line baking sheet with parchment paper
Scoop one tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball and place on sheet, flattening slightly
Bake 12 minutes
Cut remaining chocolate into 1-inch squares
Snip marshmallows in half, crosswise, and stick 1 square of chocolate onto the cut side
Remove cookies from the oven and top with the marshmallow and chocolate, chocolate side down
Bake another 4 minutes, or until marshmallows are soft
Transfer to rack to cool

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 8

We need to set some ground rules before we get to the recipe.  Spritz cookies are high-maintenance cookies.  They must be put on a chilled, ungreased baking sheet. Even though the cookie sheet needs to be chilled, the dough can't.

Spritz Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons almond extract
Sprinkles (optional)
Food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
With an electric mix, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add egg and beat well
Mix in vanilla, milk and almond extract
Slowly add in flour and baking powder until well combined
Mix in food coloring (optional)
Fill cookie press with dough and desired disk
Press onto chilled, ungreased cookie sheet
If you want, top with sprinkles before baking
Bake for 8-10 minutes
Cool for 2 minutes on sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 7

Welcome to the 7th day of the 12 Cookies of Christmas!  Today is also national "Bake Cookies Day".  Here's a little background: cookies first came to America in the 1600s.  They got their name from the Dutch who called them "koekje" which translates to little cake.  Over time, the name changed to cookies.

My family is a BIG fan of cinnamon rolls, so today's cookie has quickly become a favorite.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

For the cookies:
3/4 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

For the cookies, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy
Mix in eggs and vanilla
Slowly add in four, salt and baking powder
Mix until the flour is just incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft
Divide dough into thirds and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon
Working with one third at a time, roll out dough to about 10 inches by 5 inches
Gently spread butter on top of the dough and sprinkle with 1/3 of filling mix
Starting with the 10-inch edge, roll into a tight log
Slice the dough into roughly 1-inch slices and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, or greased
Bake for 9-11 minutes, cool for 1-2 minutes on pan then transfer to wire rack to cool

Prepare the glaze by mixing milk and powdered sugar together
If you like a thicker glaze, add less milk; for thinner, add more milk
Drizzle over cookies

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 6

It's hard to believe we're already to day 6!  Today's cookie is a tasty twist on a classic recipe.

Chocolate Swirl Meringue

Egg whites from 3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
4-6 oz chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper
In a mixer with whisk attachment, whip until soft peaks form
Slowly add in both sugars
Add in vanilla and vinegar and continue to mix
Drizzle chocolate on top of meringue (do NOT mix in), then spoon onto the parchment paper
Continue to do previous step until all the mixture is used
Bake for 40-50 minutes
Cool on a wire rack and store in airtight container
OPTIONAL: If you have remaining chocolate, dip the bottom of the meringue into it

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 5

Are you a fan of pecan pie?  If so, then these cookies are for you!  It's like having your own mini-pie, but in cookie form!  I must admit, I did cheat and use a pre-made pie crust instead of making my own.  Using the pre-made crust makes this recipe a breeze!  But feel free to make a homemade crust.  Let me know if you do!

Pecan Pie Cookies

1 prepared single pie crust
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a pan on the stove, combine butter, pecans, brown sugar, corn syrup and eggs
Cook on medium-low until mixture thickens to the consistency of pecan pie filling
Remove from heat and set aside
Unroll pie crust and using a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out circles
Fold up the edges about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch
Place on parchment paper lined pan
Spoon 1 tablespoon of pecan pie mixture into each circle
Bake 8 minutes
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Monday, December 15, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 4

I took these cookies to work one day and they disappeared in no time!  People kept going back for seconds and even thirds!  Love sugar cookies?  Love chocolate?  I give you today's cookie.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon
2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Microwave chocolate and butter until melted
In mixer, blend sugar and the melted chocolate
Stir in egg and vanilla
Slowly add in flour, baking soda and salt
Chill dough until easy to handle (roughly 30 minutes)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Spoon onto greased cookie sheet or parchment paper
Bake for 8-10 minutes

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 3

For today's cookie, we're making Chocolate Swirl Cookies.  The first time I made these for my family, they were an instant hit.  After my dad's first bite, he told me I had to make them for our open house.  Without further ado, I give you the recipe!

Chocolate Swirl Cookies

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon shortening
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour, measured then sifted
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a double boiler, melt: chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and shortening until combined; set aside to cool slightly
Cream together: butter, salt, vanilla and sugar
Slowly add in flour and mix well
Add in a few splashes of milk to help hold the batter together (I tried measuring out, but am not exactly sure.  I'd say I ended up using 1/4 cup, but add in slowly -- you can always add in more, not subtract)
Divide dough into thirds
Roll out into a 10 by 6 inch rectangle (be sure to do this on a floured surface or wax paper)
Spread each rectangle with the chocolate filling
Starting at the 10 inch side, carefully roll up
Place on parchment paper to bake
Add sprinkles (optional)
Bake for 20-25 minutes
Allow to cool before slicing


Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 2

This is a favorite recipe that was handed down from my Nana.  When I was little, she would make these cookies and I would eat them by the handful.  Since the cookies are so small, you can eat a couple without feeling too guilty! ;)

Pecan Wedding Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped (depending on preference)
Powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 275 degrees
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla
Slowly add flour and chopped pecans
Form into balls, place on greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet with parchment paper
Bake for 45 minutes
Roll in powdered sugar while cookies are still warm (I like to roll them twice!)

Let me know what you think of today's cookie and be sure to check back tomorrow for a new recipe!

Missed out on the other 12 Cookies of Christmas?  Check them out here!

Friday, December 12, 2014

12 Cookies of Christmas: Day 1

Welcome to the 12 Cookies of Christmas!  Every day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, a different cookie recipe will be featured.  I hope you enjoy and feel free to share some of your favorite cookie recipes!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Cream sugar, oil and cocoa
Beat in eggs and vanilla
In a separate bowl, combine: flour, baking powder and salt
Slowly add flour mixture to chocolate batter
Cover and refrigerate for up to an hour or put in freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up dough
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in powdered sugar
Place on greased cookie sheet or cookie sheet covered with parchment paper
Bake for 10-12 minutes

Let me know what you think of today's cookie and be sure to check back tomorrow for a new recipe!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

NYC: It's Been A Long Time

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE New York City.  I lived there every summer during college.  It had been a long time since I'd been back for a visit: 2 years and 4 months to be exact.  Way too long.  I was lucky enough to have a short visit this past week and made the most of every moment.  My dad was teaching, so I tagged along with my parents.  He worked while Mom and I played.

We got into the city Tuesday evening.  After an hour and a half taxi ride from the airport to our hotel (what a warm welcome back) we checked into the hotel and headed out for dinner.  We went to one of our favorite Spanish restaurants, Meson Sevilla.  A girl I interned with, Megan, joined us for dinner.  There were four of us for dinner and we ended up ordering five desserts!  As my dad said, "That sounds about right!"

Our five desserts

Wednesday, Mom and I hit the ground running.  We went across the street to get bagels from the deli, then headed to Radio City Music Hall to pick up our tickets to see the "Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular".  This was at least my third time seeing the show, but it never gets old; plus, the show changes from year to year.  I sat there in awe of the dancers' precision.  If you ever get the chance to see the Rockettes, do it!

Mom and I before the show

Radio City is beautiful

After the show, Mom and I hustled around Midtown trying to decide on what musical we wanted to see that afternoon.  We ended up seeing "Sideshow".  I didn't know much about the show except it was based on, well, a sideshow act.  I was blown away by the true story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.  I am now fascinated with the sisters who overcame abuse to become one of the biggest acts in Vaudeville.  Now I want to learn everything I can about them.  It's a moving story and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some tears in my eyes by the end.  It was a special performance because it was the first time the understudy for Violet, Megan McGinnis, went on.

While we waited for Dad to get off work to meet for dinner, Mom and I headed to Sprinkles.  I entered a contest on Thanksgiving to win a dozen cupcakes for free and I did!

After picking up my cupcakes

Once Dad got off work, we met up with a family friend for dinner at an Italian restaurant before we went and saw the musical "The Last Ship" that Sting wrote.  This wasn't my top pick of shows that I wanted to see, but again, by the end of the show, I had tears in my eyes.  While we were in the show, news broke that the police officer in the Eric Garner choke hold death would not be indicted.  By the time we got out of the show, protests were in full force.  We saw the tail end of one as we walked to our hotel.

Thursday started out the same way, Mom and I got bagels for breakfast and then we walked around until we had to change hotels.  Earlier in November, my picture was on a billboard in Times Square as part of a promotion for "People's Sexiest Man Alive" Issue.  I was determined to find the billboard where it was and I found it!

My picture, on my birthday in Times Square

Look familiar?  Here's my billboard ... sans me.

We moved to a hotel in SoHo that was closer to where my dad was filming his lectures.  I headed into Midtown before my parents to meet up with Megan and another fellow former intern, Danny.  It was good to see them after so long and catch up.  Once we parted ways, Michelle, a bridesmaid with me in Mary's wedding, was at work just a few blocks away at Nobu, so I ran to see her for a second before meeting my parents for dinner.

I surprised Michelle at work

We had dinner at a Thai place and then headed to see "If/Then" starring Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp.  The show is about a woman who moves to New York trying to restart her life.  The story then has two plots, showing what would have happened if the main character picked one choice and then if she would have picked the other option.  The plot of the show was brilliant.  As a big "What if?" person, the show really spoke to me and showed me that things will happen the way they're supposed to.  It's a show that really makes you think.  It's different and doesn't follow the typical arc of a show.  And again, I had tears by the end of the show.

Friday was my last day in the city, Mom and I spent it by exploring SoHo and window shopping.  Then we had lunch and she put me in a taxi and sent me to the airport.  I did a better job not crying in the backseat, unlike the last time I left the city.

While it was a short trip, it was a great one!  I miss you already, NYC!  I promise it won't be another 2 years and 4 months before I'm back!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Gift Giving Guide

It's officially less than a month until Christmas!  I'm a firm believer in no Christmas decorations, music, movies, books, anything until the day after Thanksgiving.  With Thanksgiving being so late this year, it really cut into my Christmastime! But, today is Black Friday and the official start of Christmastime, (at least for me!) so I've compiled a list of some presents for everyone on your list.  Let me know which one is your favorite!

Check out this Fortune Teacup Candle!  Once the candle burns down, your fortune is revealed.  $24

Bike Light $12.59

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Love My: Red Jacket

My birthday was this past Wednesday the 19th, so in honor of the day, I bought myself a birthday present: a brand new, red coat.  The Anne Klein peacoat I've been wearing is at least 6 years old and has served me well.  I got it from Century 21 in NYC during a visit one year.  I haven't really looking for a new coat, the one I have is still in great shape, but when Shay over at Mix and Match Mama posted her favorite jackets, I knew I had to get this one.

The peacoat comes in 6 colors and is so much fun!

As you can see from the two different pictures, you can button the collar up and it protects against wind and colder weather.

I got the jacket in red and am obsessed!  I'm a size 4 and ordered it in a medium and it fits perfectly!  The jacket is doubled breasted and from Thread and Supply.  Coats can get a little pricey, but this one is reasonable at $58.  Plus, Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns!  To make the deal even sweeter, Nordstrom is featured on Ebates, so it's like you're getting paid to shop!  If you're interested, you can sign up here.  I always check Ebates before doing online shopping of any sorts.  Not only do you get cash back for all purchases, they usually have a coupon code.

Let me know if you get the jacket for yourself, I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Mousse Recipe

You're not going to believe it when I tell you this dessert is low-carb!  It's delicious and tastes just like pumpkin pie.  Let me know what you think of it!  The recipe comes from Brenda over at Sugar Free Mom with a few adjustments from yours truly.

1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
5 tablespoons of sugar substitute (I prefer Whey Low)
Dash of cinnamon

Blend cream cheese and pumpkin puree until smooth.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Divide into cups (should make about 8) and chill.
Before eating mine, I mix in plain protein powder (I use PlantFusion).