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The Better Year In Review: 2012

December 29, 2012

I can't believe there are only three days left in this magnificent year. It was a truly special one for me and my family. My brother officially became a doctor, my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary, I graduated from high school (leaving behind the school I've been at since I was 4 years old), and started my first year of college! It's a lot to accomplish in 365 days, but we did it and though we have so many pictures the memories in our heads will never fade.

IMG_0756monique and brittTHERE I AM IMG_8895DSC00695IMG_4218
Cheers and best wishes to you all in 2013!

The Better Martha Goes Kitchen Krazy: Part I (Realistic Sized Kitchens)

December 27, 2012

My mom and I are two oddballs that fit together when it comes to interior decor. When we are shopping I'll see a nice bench I'll say something like "This would be great for my dining room," and my mom will think for a second and go, "I like it, but will it fit in such a small space?" It seems like a perfectly normal conversation except for the fact that I don't have a house so obviously I don't have a dining room to be decorating. I don't know when this game of designing my future home started, but we are both on on the borderline of dementia. As long as neither of us buys furniture for the house I don't have, we are in a mentally stable state (I think).
After watching episode after episode of Kitchen Cousins on HGTV, I am now obsessed with kitchen renovations and naturally this means I had to start planning my future kitchen immediately. is one of my favorite websites. I have to be very strict with myself about how much time I spend there or else I will look up from screen only to realize its 2 am.
Here are some of my favorites.

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The Better Martha Returns with Thanksgiving Snapshots

December 23, 2012

I know it has been nearly a month since I last made a post. I can't believe it! I have my first semester of college under my belt and let me tell you it was no easy feat. Everything was smooth sailing until I came down with a horrible bug in November that I'm just getting over. It was so horrendous that it sent me to the ER late at night-no fun. I'm back and better than ever, but I feel horrible for not getting to make posts about Thanksgiving, my birthday, and the Christmas countdown. 

Anyway, here are some long overdue Thanksgiving snapshots. It was a particularly difficult holiday for me. I so desperately wanted to fly back home to California, but the airfare and travel time were too much to justify a few days at home. Instead I spent Turkey Day with my sister at her boyfriend's family's house which was totally worth staying on the east coast for. 

{The Better Sister lights dining room candles}
{Fancy cheese and fruit platter}
{The dining room table all filled}
{Carbs! Nom!}
{Rotisserie turkey cooking on the grill} 
{Snazzy table setting}
{Picture from helping my sister set up her Ebay store--link to be posted soon}
{Day after Thanksgiving pancakes}

The Better Sounds of Christmas

November 23, 2012

It is the day after Thanksgiving, and that means it is officially acceptable to start playing Christmas music. Truthfully I have been listening since the beginning of the month, but I decided to spare everyone who doesn't share the same level of enthusiasm. 
These are the Christmas albums I constantly have on repeat. If you haven't heard of Straight No Chaser, run don't walk, and get yourself to the iTunes store because they are absolutely AMAZING! Having so many holiday albums means that I have multiple versions of the same song. I created a playlist with my favorites of each (though there are a few songs where I couldn't make up my mind about which I liked best). Here it is: 

  1. This Christmas ...Straight No Chaser
  2. Carol of the Bells...Straight No Chaser
  3. Winter Wonderland...Jason Mraz
  4. All I Want for Christmas Is You...Mariah Carey
  5. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?...Ella Fitzgerald
  6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...Ella Fitzgerald
  7. Sleigh Ride...Ella Fitzgerald
  8. Little Drummer Boy (Glee Cast Version)...Glee Cast
  9. Angels We Have Heard On High...Josh Groban & Brian McKnight
  10. Holly Jolly Christmas...Michael Bublé
  11. If Every Day Could Be Christmas...98°
  12. Oh Holy Night...Kelly Clarkson
  13. Winter Wonderland...Bing Crosby
  14. Silver Bells...Harry Connick, Jr.
  15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...Christina Aguilera
  16. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch...Straight No Chaser
  17. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree...Brenda Lee
  18. Jingle Bell Rock...Straight No Chaser
  19. Jingle Bells (feat. The Puppini Sisters)...Michael Bublé
  20. Baby, It's Cold Outside (Duet w/Nick Lachey)...Jessica Simpson
  21. Let It Snow...Straight No Chaser
  22. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer...Straight No Chaser
  23. Do You Hear What I Hear (Glee Cast Version)...Glee Cast
  24. We Three Kings (feat. Mary J. Blige)...Rod Stewart
  25. Frosty the Snowman...Harry Connick, Jr.
  26. Christmas Island...Ella Fitzgerald
  27. Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)...Jessica Simpson
  28. The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)...Nat King Cole
  29. I'll Be Home for Christmas...Josh Groban
  30. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...Brian McKnight
  31. White Christmas...Bing Crosby
  32. Santa Baby...Eartha Kitt & Henri René
  33. Christmas Eve With You (Glee Cast Version)...Glee Cast
  34. Blue Christmas...Michael Bublé
  35. The Christmas Waltz...Harry Connick, Jr.
  36. Mis Deseos / Feliz Navidad (Duet With Thalia)...Michael Bublé
  37. Auld Lang Syne...Mairi Campbell & Dave Francis
  38. Who Spiked the Eggnog?...Straight No Chaser
  39. Or you can check out my playlist on iTunes

The Better Stuff I Want

November 04, 2012

When I was around 6 years-old my mom instated a rule for me: no talking about your birthday before November 4th. It was the only way she could make sure that I wasn't making my wish list nine months in advance. Part of being a grown-up (aside from not saying "grown-up") is not getting too over joyed about birthdays, so I guess that still makes me a child. November 4th is here so excitement and birthday planning have commenced. As of now here are some things I wouldn't mind unwrapping come December 4th.

what i want now
  1. Sephora by OPI Wild About Shimmer Polish
  2. Rebecca Minkoff Swing Ostrich Shoulder Bag
  3. Bite's Luminous Crème Lipstick in Tannin
  4. Votivo Aromatic Reed Diffuser-Honeysuckle
  5. Kipling Luggage Teagan Large in True Blue
  6. Barbour Ladies Utility Jacket in Olive
  7. Crumpler Haven Camera Bag Large in Grey/Green
  8. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Camera Lens
  9. Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens
  10. Canon Speedlite Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

The Better Martha's Dorm: Part III

October 31, 2012

It's All in the Details

Since paint is an obvious no-no, I hung two pink curtains for a pop of color. Dorm floors are never welcoming so this *PBteen rug is a great way to make the room more inviting. To hide the unsightly things I store under my bed I tucked a window curtain horizontally between my bed and mattress; it's an excellent way to create a makeshift bed skirt. 
{Framed artwork and potted plants add a bit more color and life to the room}
{A canvas picture of Diana Ross and the Supremes. It was a big investment but totally worth it}
{When my room mate is sleeping I like to put this scarf over my lamp to keep the light level down}
{Monogramed Pottery Barn towels}
{Custom shower caddy and flip flops--a lovely gift from my brothers girlfriend}
{Plates and cutlery from Target}
Since I'm not allowed to take furniture out of my dorm, replacing my chair wasn't an option. Folding a blanket over it and adding a pillow makes it more decorative and comfortable. 
IMG_0357 IMG_0352
The Real Simple slim hangers are the greatest thing to ever exist. My clothes don't slip because of the velvet texture, and the hooks in front allow you to stack clothes to save room.

The Better Martha's Dorm: Part II

October 24, 2012

Organization and Storage

This post is dedicated to the organization and small details that make my room extra special. Since I'm living here for most of the year it makes sense that I put in the effort to making my environment feel like home.

{Favorite things: comfy chair, potted plants, family photos}
IMG_0417 Under the bed
{A peek under my bed. So many essential items that are not to pretty to look at are here.}
{Closet top level: sweatshirts, detergent, tupperware. Mid level: Clothes, scarves, belts. Bottom level: shoes}
{Command hooks for bags and Martha Stewart storage boxes for food}
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{Storage seating that holds snacks and serves as a stepping stool to get on to raised bed}

The Better Martha's Dorm: Part I

October 19, 2012

A post dedicated to my dorm has been the most requested; after all this is The Better Martha Goes to College. I have been putting it off for so long because, believe it or not, it has taken me a month and a half to complete the moving in/ decorating process. Since dorms are so tiny (unless you luck out) every item I add to my room is carefully thought out. A few items too many and you end up with a space that resembles a junk shop. 
Recently my blog has had a lot of food posts, but it's time for all things dorm now!
I really lucked out that my sister wanted to get rid of some stuff from her apartment. The bedding curtains, dust ruffle, and pillows are all from her. She originally purchased the duvet cover from Anthropology; the pink pillows are custom made; and the pink curtains are from Target's Xhilaration line. 
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If you have a small space, the bed is really the most important part of your room. I study in the library so when I'm in my room I spend all my time on my bed. It is just as comfy as the one at home because I invested in a three inch mattress pad and a feather bed topper. A little excessive, but totally worth it!
Although I have a room mate, I'm only showing my side out of respect for her privacy.

The (Even) Better Chocolate Chip Cookie

October 14, 2012

I know I already have a chocolate chip cookie recipe out, but recently I've discovered a way to make it even better. Everyone and their pet dog claim to have the best CCC recipe, ever, but they lie. A long time ago I read this article on what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie--the kind you remember a week after it's been digested. I can't find the article, but here are a few of the rules that will improve any recipe.
Rule 1: No chocolate chips allowed. I know those cute little chips in the Nestle package are so cute and easy to grab as you walk down the baking section. But don't touch them. Just don't. For a wonderful cookie experience you either want to purchase chocolate candy making wafers like this, or you want to hit the candy aisle and load up on high quality chocolate bars like Godiva or Ghiradelli. This is the most important rule. Because chocolate chips have wax-like substances in them--that's how they keep their shape--they aren't too wonderful to work with. Also the yummiest cookies have irregular chunks of chocolate that come out of the oven melted and then solidify for an extra little snap!
Rule 2: The more varieties of chocolate the better. Once you coarsely chop all your chocolates and put them in the dough, you are guaranteed an unique taste every bite. I try to use at least three different types of chocolates with varying cocoa percentages.
Rule 3: Double that vanilla extract. 1 tablespoon is never enough.
Rule 4: When creaming the butter and sugar, don't overbeat with the mixer. This contradicts the golden rule of baking: cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. The truth is that when you beat the sugar and fat you aren't just mixing it, but you're trying to get as much air in there as possible. This is good for making light fluffy cakes, but not cookies. Chocolate chunks can't be supported in a dough that light, and you'll end up with flat cookies. Mix butter and sugar until evenly incorporated.

Rule 5: After rolling cookie dough balls freeze them. Have you ever wondered why the cookies at the bakery always have the perfect consistency? Slightly crisp edges with a melting, gooey center? It's because of the way bakeries operate; no one person sees a cookie through from raw ingredients until the finished and out the oven. In reality it could easily take three people to make one cookie. Let's say three girls operate a bakery: Olivia, Mackenzie, and Brittany. Olivia only makes the dough, puts it in a tub, then into the industrial fridge. Next Mackenzie will come in and she'll take the large tub of dough out, use a cookie scooper, and scoop hundreds perfect balls of dough onto cookie sheets. Later Brittany will come in and be in charge of baking the cookies.
(If you are still reading this I commend you. You must be very dedicated to perfecting your cookie.)
So the reason bakery cookies get this great consistency is because of the in between refrigerating time the dough goes through. Everyone knows that things bake from outer edges in. Because the dough is well refrigerated the dough edges cook well, but the center remain a little underdone. When you take cookies out the oven they should look a little unfinished. Allow them to rest on the counter before transferring them to a cooling rack. This way the residual heat will cook the cookies through without overdoing them.
 Rule 6: A little salt is what you need. Contrasting tastes help enhance flavors. Topping the unbaked dough balls with a few granules of kosher salt will help rev up the chocolaty goodness.
Rule 7: Don't use any fancy butters. It is counterintuitive since you are trying to make the BEST chocolate chip cookie after all, but the higher end butters tend to have higher fat contents which will leave you with an oily cookie.