Monday, June 30, 2014

The All My Favorite Things Cookies

If there is one thing I inherited from my Dad (besides his stubbornness) it would be his love of sweets. If I had to rank my favorite sweets, it would be chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, and birthday cake respectively. As the holiday weekend is quickly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to share (sorry for the lack of a better name) the All My Favorite Things Cookies which earned their name for combining traditional chocolate chip cookies with Oreos and birthday cake.

I first discovered these Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies on Instagram and instantly had to try them out. They were delicious! I strongly recommend using her recipe but if you happen to forget it, I have followed the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough recipe before (minus the nuts because those are not one of my favorite things) and modified the flour portion so that it was 1 1/4 cup of dry cake mix and 1 cup of flour.

Now, life was feeling pretty good with the combination of chocolate chip cookies and cake batter but I was still torn between the cookies and my love of Oreos. I then spotted these while browsing Pinterest (never, ever search for chocolate chip cookie Oreos on Pinterest.) 

I thought I would venture off of the recipe map and try to create Oreo cookies covered in chocolate chip cake batter cookies. Brilliant! I had a small fear that my creation would end up on a site like this, but spent some time researching how to make this dream a reality. The trick, once you have covered the Oreo cookies (DoubleStuffed is the only way) with about 2-3 scoops of chocolate chip cake batter cookie dough, place the cookies in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Once they are frozen, I usually bake mine for about 10-13 minutes and I watch them closely to make sure they keep their shape.

After they have cooled completely, the end result is heavenly. One time, I had some M&Ms lying around and decided to mix those with the sprinkles and chocolate chips (just to make sure my favorite candy was represented as well!) I now use them every time!

They are a crowd pleaser for holiday functions! Just add color coordinated sprinkles and M&Ms (red and green for Christmas, pink and red for Valentines, red, white and blue for the 4th of July) and use white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate.

Eating one is probably the equivalent of eating 4 cookies total, but I promise it won't disappoint.

Happy Holiday Week! Let me know if you make the cookies. I would love to hear how they turn out.


Danielle & Henry

PS. If my career in recruiting does not work out, I think I have a future ahead of me in baked goods photography!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Motivates You?

This might be my favorite question that we ask during our internal interview process. I find that a lot of people describe themselves as motivated but when it comes to explaining what it is that motivates them, they are unable to articulate it.

I definitely have an advantage when the question comes back to me because I have spent a significant amount of time pondering what it is that truly motivates me. I know that I have always been intrinsically motivated from a young age, but I really wanted to be able to articulate what it was that motivated me. I thought back on my extensive 25+ years of life and there was one underlying motivation that stood out – words of affirmation.  

Now, I happen to be aware that this is one of the 5 Love Languages and I immediately went into a panic thinking I was not in touch with my appropriate love language and worried about the effect this could have on my self awareness for that relationship I am never in. But no fear, my love language is still Quality Time.

When I think back to my school days, I always wanted to be the star student and loved to be acknowledged for my efforts. I appreciated when a teacher read my essay aloud or posted my work on the bulletin board.

Yes, being an only child, I received lots of words of affirmation from my parents. Maybe it was her cheerleader past, but my mom loved giving words of affirmation in the form of little notes. I always had a post it in my lunch box that read “You’re so smart!” “You’re the best!” “You Rock!” “You’ve got this!” or hidden notes on the back pages of my notebooks about how great I was. Talk about building confidence.   

Professionally, when I look back on times when I was motivated to do my work well versus when I was not, it comes down to how much affirmation I was receiving. In my current job, we love to give words of affirmation. We have lots of celebrations and excitement over everyone’s accomplishments. Unfortunately, I did not receive as much encouragement when I was teaching.  

Even in my personal life, I find that I am motivated by words of affirmation. There is one instructor at my barre studio who I adore simply because she is so positive and constantly affirms my workouts with applause and cheers.  I prefer working out with a trainer versus on my own because then there is someone there to tell you just how hard you have been working and what a great job you are doing.

At my school in Mississippi during TFA Institute, we would end each day by all standing one large circle and singing the song below. At the end of the song, someone was called on and they would say something they did well that day and then we would all cheer before repeating the process. Of course there were hand movements to accompany the song.

Hey you’ve got it!
HEY HEY you’ve got it!
Some days you’re gonna struggle
But today

Why can’t everyday end this way? What are you motivated by? Winning? Money? Material possessions?  I would love to hear! 



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wearing Shorts to Work

Since we have officially welcomed in summer, my boss declared that the SSG offices were now short friendly. I was pretty excited about this wardrobe declaration and eagerly started to create work appropriate outfits that incorporated shorts. I find blazers to be fun (Don't believe me? Check out this post from College Prepster) and love how easily they can make an outfit look more professional while still being playful. 

 Navy Blazer + Striped Top + White Shorts (in stores, but these are dreamy) + Nude Wedges

Time to #Hustle at work in my shorts!


Danielle & Henry

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Week of Skinnytaste Meals

Since being introduced to Skinny Taste, I have loved creating many of Gina's recipes. My favorite part about her blog, most of her creations are foods that I actually want to eat. Hello, healthy alternative to my favorite buffalo chicken wrap. She also includes the nutritional information such as serving size and calories which I find helpful when tracking my meals.

Last week, in attempt to be health conscious, frugal, and savvy with my time, I prepared all of my meals for the week on Sunday and used Skinny Taste as my inspiration.

I started the week with her Skinny Buffalo Burger Quesadilla recipe. Oh my yummsicles! This recipe was not only incredibly delicious, it was really easy and took maybe 15 minutes to make. I love an easy, quick meal especially during the week.

I also made her turkey taco recipe and used it for various recipes throughout the week. Of course, I started with the Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps (mine came out more like a lettuce bowl) but I also used the turkey to make a salad, a quesadilla, and served it one night over brown rice topped with pico. So delicious and I never got tired of eating it.

Since I had purchased bison, I decided to make another burger last week. I went with her Salsa Verde Burger recipe and it was beyond flavorful. I skipped out on the cabbage and avocado (of course) but before you judge too quickly, I served the burger on a lettuce bun! I topped it with some of the left over pico from the quesadilla burger recipe for a little extra flavor. I will definitely be making these again. My mouth is watering even writing about it.

I am excited to try new recipes for this week's meal planning. She has so many to choose from and is even releasing a cook book soon. I can't wait! Follow along on Instagram to see what I create!

Hens is disappointed because aside from the occasional dropping on the floor, he had to stick with his dog food for the week! Ruff life.

Happy Eating!


Danielle & Henry

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Go To Summer Dress

Every summer, I find that dress. The one that I want to wear everywhere. Last year, it was the JCrew Navy Scalloped dress (here is a similar version from this year's collection), which I still adore. This year, it is the Annie Griffin Collection Cooper Block Stripe Dress. It's navy. And striped. I can't think of a better combination, unless we added polka dots! (If you sign up for emails on their website, you receive 15% off your first order.) 

I first wore the dress to a wine party I hosted and paired with my Tom's wedges

Here, I wore the dress to work and decided to dress it up a bit with a blazer. I got mine from JCrew a couple of years ago but here is a similar one. I'm in love with my new Jimmy Choo wedges and think they go with everything (which they do!) I also always have my Loren Hope Gold Link Bracelet on paired with my Kate Spade Bangle

Do you have a go to summer dress? I would love to see!


Danielle & Henry 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Perfection

The word perfect has to be the most overused adjective in my vocabulary. Does my hair look perfect? Is this outfit perfect? Are the pillows straightened on the couch perfectly? How did I look in that picture? Perfect?

When I think back on majority of my life, I was always striving for perfection. In school, I was not content with an A but was attempting for that perfect, 100%.  I unknowingly had a huge fear of failure and was only putting myself in situations where I knew perfection could be achieved.  This preoccupation with perfection consumed my identity and I did not realize the effect it had on me until recently. Now, I am not saying that I was absolutely perfect because I definitely had my struggles. Sure, I did not do so well on an exam from time to time but those little hiccups were easily overcome and I was back on track rather quickly.

My first year out of college, I had moved to a city where everyone I knew felt like a stranger to me. I was truly on my own financially and was not balancing the income and expenses very well (thanks Dad for giving me expensive taste.) And probably the most comical part, I was Ms. Leach to about 120 students who had no idea that I taught myself the Algebra lesson we were learning the night before. I was overwhelmed and terrified because in my first shot at the real world (what I had been working towards for the past 19 years of my life), I was “failing” myself. My student’s weren’t mastering their daily objectives and their test scores were low. My credit card had more on it than I ever cared to admit. The only “friend” I really talked to was Ashley at the Chanel make up counter who had to talk to me since I was purchasing make up and adding to that already overused credit card.

My second year of teaching definitely improved but I never really felt like I had achieved all that I had wanted to when I came into the classroom. I started to make a few real friends in Charlotte and things were slowly improving. I was still in search of that perfect young adult life. In June of last year, I started a new job as an Executive Recruiter and while I had my typical new job anxieties, I was thrilled to be back in control and ready to achieve perfection once again. At least this is what I had told myself.

A few months into the job, I had my first candidate say no to a job offer and I sobbed hysterically. (Looking back, convincing someone whose last salary was $120,000 to take an $85,000 offer with an hour long commute each way would have been a miracle.) I was convinced that this was the end and my boss was sure to let me go. Instead, while I sat in his office and cried he told me a story I have heard him tell countless times since. It is about this picture that has a chalkboard with two sides. One side is labeled “Successes” which had a few tallies and the other side was labeled “Learning Experiences” which had many more tallies. He told me that as long as I learned something from the experience, it wasn’t really a failure.

Obviously, I had heard this type of rationale before but it wasn’t until he told me this story that I really looked at my failures as learning experiences. For so long, I played it safe. I was too afraid to fail and therefore missed out on a lot of learning experiences. Looking back, those times when I have struggled are the times when I have really learned the most about myself. Those setbacks are the events that have shaped me into the person I am today.

The moral from this over-worded post, I recently decided to give up on my constant strive for perfection (or at least I am trying to) and I love it. Not saying that I am OK with failing and that a life of mediocrity will content me, but that need to strive for perfection in everything I do, has been lifted (a little.)

I’m not one to go back into the past, but if I had any advice to share with my younger self, it would be to embrace those learning experiences and give up on being perfect! When I tell this to my former students now, they laugh at me and say they will just start failing all of their tests! (Not what I mean if you are reading!)

This blog is one of the tiny steps in me letting go of perfection. I am sure there will be mistakes all along the way. I have no idea how this will turn out. Maybe, I will fail. But as long as I learn something in the process, it will all be worthwhile.

How do you feel about being perfect? Did you learn the importance of learning experiences long before me? I would love to discuss!

Thanks for reading.


Danielle & Henry

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why Blog?

In one of my first college courses, we were required to keep a blog. In my first entry, I wrote about how I was not trendy, cool, nor witty enough to write a blog and how much I dreaded the assignment. A couple of years later, I decided to keep a blog during my three-month mission trip with Sozo Children in Montana. With the lack of cell phone service while in Montana, the blog became my main form of communication with friends and family. I started to share my innermost feelings on the blog and panicked when I saw the number of people of reading it on a daily basis and set the blog to private with a password.

In the past year, I have really started reading blogs on a more routine basis and have been quite surprised by how much I have related to the authors. As an introverted person, I have hard time sharing details of my personal life with friends and family let alone posting for everyone to read. I started to develop a deep admiration for bloggers for their vulnerability and honesty. While the thoughts of sharing my personal thoughts and feelings intimidated me, I longed to be part of the blogger world. 

After much contemplation and worry, I decided to do it and write my own blog. I don’t really have a plan as to which direction I would like to the blog to go, but hopefully it is one you will enjoy. Yes, I read a lot of fashion bloggers but I care about so much more than fashion so I want the blog to touch on pieces of things that interest me the most. 

I decided to call the blog Elle Paige & Henry. Elle Paige is the nickname my mom gave me in response to people always calling me Dani (more like Dannnnnnny), which I never enjoyed. Of course, no aspect of my life would be complete without my other half, Henry, so I decided to include him in the blog as well.

Maybe this blog is the start of an incredible journey that will lead to my childhood dreams coming true and I am able to star in a movie about my life or maybe no one besides my mom will read and I will stop writing in a few months. I guess you will have to read along to find out!

Here we go!

Danielle & Henry