Tried & True: Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies

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Finally back at it again with the #FoodieFridays! Food has been such a big part of my life lately but not in a way that I could write about it on my blog until now. Thanks to my lack of warm weather plans, I took to the kitchen during my few days back at home this past week.

I wanted to make something different, but not too timeIMG_0908.jpg
consuming. Cookies seemed like a good way to go, but I wanted something more than my basic chocolate chip cookies. This led me to deciding to make yet another Pinterest find, Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies from Betsylife. Luckily for all of us and my family, I was very happy with how they turned out.

Highlights:

  • Dark chocolate is really underrated and I used to consider caramel overrated, but the combination is perfect. These cookies specifically have a great ratio so that you’re never stuck with a caramel-less bite.
  • These cookies still manage to not be over chocolate-y, so you can shovel down more than a few without immediate guilt or that death-by-chocolate kind of feeling.

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Tips:

  • IMG_0848.jpgUse the full 9 oz bag of Toll House DelightFulls. It seemed like too much so I did not initially add all of them, but after doing my first batch I added the rest of the bag to the dough I had left and it really added to the rest of the cookies
  • Be cautious but generous with the salt. I personally do not like a lot of salt with caramel, but I was a little too cautious with these cookies.
  • Judging these cookies in the oven was tough because they start out dark anyway, so I personally just trusted my gut. They do not spread very much, but you will start to see them almost crack open a bit like a load of bread when they’re done.

My family found the appearance of these cookies in relation to how appetizing they are debatable, but we all loved them for their taste. Heated up and mixed with vanilla ice cream is an extra special treat!

Let me know if you try this recipe! Also, does anyone have any tips for how to come up with my own recipes? I can’t just talk about other people’s creations forever!

Crazy for Caramel,

Casey

5 Rules I’m Following for My Professional Instagram

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 8.39.04 PM.pngSocial media continues to be a big part of my life, so I have been juggling with the idea of starting a second Instagram for months. I was not sure if I should take on the small commitment, if it would get too complicated, or if I should focus it more to food. I finally took the leap when I realized I needed to better separate my personal and professional life. The thing was that I do not want to separate them too much. I had to decide what I wanted to post in order to make sure the account did not just become another thing with my name on. It has finally come down to these few rules that I stick by:

5. Follow (almost) EveryoneIMG_0421.jpg

I’m constantly following new people in order to get my name out there or to have a more exciting feed. Following back requires more caution, but I try to be good for a follow and like.

4. Connect to Other Platforms

Not that this has helped me so far, but connecting my photos to my twitter or even this very post keeps everything connected and simpler. It creates a big picture that allows my friends, family, and future co-workers get to know me better.

3. @CaseyIrwin97 is basically @conscienceofcasey

I didn’t make a strictly blog-related Instagram because I wanted to encompass more of myself as a brand and not just post there when I post here, but I will always incorporate the two. On top of everything, Instagram in another way to promote my blog and another creative outlet that ai try to post on as much as possible. 

2. Keep it ArtsyIMG_0724.jpg

One of my favorite things about Instagram is the creative part of it. While my personal
account is still creative and pretty, my professional platform will have no boundaries and I will let myself have more fun with it.

1. Be Professional First, Myself a Close Second

My personal Instagram could easily be a professional one, but as I network and develop my skills I don’t think my friends would find conference photos quiet as entertaining. My professional instagram will incorporate my personal life and professional life into an feed that highlights my skills and social media interests.

I would love it if you could check out this Instagram I just rambled on about!

Constantly Captioning,

Casey

Starved Rock State Park

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Every week approaching summer seems to get longer as we have to stare at beautiful days from inside buildings. One thing that I didn’t think I would miss about warm weather is being out in it. I never used to be an outdoorsy person, and I don’t think I would put that in personal description about myself now, but cabin fever has me dreaming of fresh air and long walks. Now the beloved beach is a different story, but the woods are a new thing for me. It leaves me reminiscent of my day trip to Starved Rock State Park in Olgesby, Illinois this past summer. The midwest is not known for much other than strange metal beans and pizza, but I will give it some credit for maintaining our nation’s natural beauty at a few more hidden gems.

Why Make the Trip to Starved Rock:IMG_6456.jpg

  • That moment you step out of the car, whether your from one or 10 hours away, is going to be a great feeling. Before the heat hits you, but after the air conditioning has been giving you goosebumps, is pure bliss–and you don’t quiet know what is ahead.
  • The views are amazing from the top of the highest mountain or the deepest part of a valley.
  • Horseback riding and boat tours are apparently offered and I am sad I missed them but you shouldn’t.
  • You can’t get a better workout than running from a giant spider or searching for that one hidden trail.

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Specifics:

  • Waterfalls: I never thought I would see a waterfall in a place so close to my everyday suburbs. I believe my friends and I made it to the biggest one, and while it was still not huge it was still breathtaking.
  • Lodge: Starved rock isn’t just a bunch of trees, but an occasional wedding destination or lunch outing. Taking cover for an hour or two in the lodge is perfect for getting reenergized for the next trail, especially when they have a great menu.
  • The River: Some of the trails go right along the water. It’s no ocean, but the breeze coming off the water and openness comes as a nice second.

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I can imagine my experience would have been even better if it hadn’t been the hottest day of the summer when I trekked through the woods. Now you definitely won’t see me camping anytime soon, but I am ready to hit some East Coast hiking trails soon! Being around actual mountains is a real treat that I could get used to.

Have any of you ever been? How about East Coast destinations? 

Constantly Curious,

Casey

 

A Full Natural-Curls Hair Routine

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I recently wore my hair straight for two days, and as fun as it was to be almost unrecognizable, returning to my curls felt great. I’m known with the girl with curly hair,and I love that. While my routine can be kind of high maintenance, I know it is a lot simpler than putting 300+ degrees to my hair every day just for it to get frizzy with one drop of moisture. It’s taken me several years, but i’m happy with my hair most days and I thought I would share my routine with you all, just in case anyone is struggling with taming their mane.

Night:

  • I only use shampoo about once or twice a week. I still shower every single night,
    but I usually go right for the conditioner. A stylist told me this tip years ago and I think it helps with frizz!
  • Coconut oil is my only nighttime product. I put in and flip my hair around to let it dry a bit before I braid it back–which I do overnight or else I would have to shave my head from the ensuing rats nets.

Day:Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 7.51.01 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 7.50.54 PM

  • Each morning, I stick my head under the sink and wet my hair. I also have a spray bottle full of water that I used to the hard to reach spots so that all of my hair is wet. You could shower instead, but I am just someone who has to shower before bed!
  • Moroccan Oil Curl Defining Cream and John Frieda Curl Reviver Styling Mousse are next, in that order. After years of trial and error, I have found these are great for preventing frizz and helping my hair not get weighed down by itself. I always flip my hair around a bit and scrunch it a couple times with my hands afterwards to help the product evenly cover my hair.
  • I let my hair dry a bit before styling, typically in a Snookie-style half-up look, that is a perfect time to do my makeup.

Everything in BetweenIMG_8713.jpg

  • Half-up hairdos are my go-to, but i’ll wear it all down if I know I won’t be out in the wind a lot.
  • Headbands and Beanies are iffy, but can occasionally work
  • Ribbon hair ties and small clips are my best friends.

Everyone’s hair is different, but all of the products I use have
something to offer. Embrace your curls in any ways that you find suits you!

That girls with curly hair,

Casey

Support Cancer, Dancing, or Both

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Photo Via http://www.nydmnyu.com

 

A more serious note on this Monday morning…

Part of the reason I joined a sorority was for the philanthropy. I could tell from day one my sorority is passionate about everything they do–especially philanthropy. Joining them has only heightened my interest in helping others, so when I was recently given the chance to sign up to dance for 12 hours straight as part of an effort to raise money to fight childhood cancer, I knew I had to give it my all.

UDance is my school’s year-long effort to raise awareness and money to fight childhood cancer with the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation. It accumulates into a 12 hour dance marathon, highlighting that our 12 hours of dancing does not add up to the difficulties that patients and their families face. I have signed up to be a dancer, as I mentioned, which means I have to raise a minimum of $460. My personal goal is $1000, but every penny counts. The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation was started after a father lost his young son, Andrew, to Leukemia. Andrew’s father, Joe McDonough, is an incredibly kind, warm, and funny man.

The story behind the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation really struck a cord with me. Imagining my own brothers dying in my arms, as Andrew’s sister had to experience, absolutely terrifies me and I feel bad energy thinking about it as a type. Out of that came a positive message about staying positive, or “be positive”, that I find so inspiring.

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Photo Via UDanceDelaware.org

I hope no one sees this post as an easy way out for my Monday schedule or a sell out, because I really just see it as the best way I know how to get the word out. I am writing to ask all of you to consider donating, or even just spread the word to someone who might. I don’t know most of you, but chances are you know someone affected by childhood cancer.

I am excited for this experience and to see how much money my school can come together to raise. Please donate to my personal page here… every single penny counts!

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Photo Via udreview.com

Thank you and have a great day.

Be Positive!

Casey

Why and How I Photograph Food

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I have a confession to make: I took a picture of a majority of the meals I ate over winter break. It was not because I happened to have my phone out, but rather I was proud of how good the meal looked. I think a colorful and well presented meal is a good tell of how well it is going to taste and sometimes even how healthy it is. You probably won’t see a lot of my dining hall meals on Instagram because they just are not worth my time (or even tastebuds recently), but I do not see any shame in whipping out your phone to capture meals worth remembering–which is my foodie case is most of them.

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Do It For the Insta?

I don’t take pictures just to post. Even before I really got into social media and blogging, I was taking picture of my food. Now I’ll admit it’s nice when it turns out to be Instagram worthy, but at the end of the day I am happy with all of my food pictures.

Memories May Be BeautifulIMG_0128.JPG

I am all for some good old nostalgia. Pictures of food,  like any pictures, can remind you of both the deliciousness of the meal and the event around it. This stands for life in general as far as photography, so food is just another part of it that people sometimes neglect. Remembering my eighteenth birthday as special is easy, but seeing the picture of my colossal cake brings back specific memories of my family laughing at its unanticipated size.

Rewarding

On the occasional days that I eat a healthy meal, I find it rewarding to capture it. It helps me to remember to eat healthy when I look back, and it makes the whole idea of eating healthy more appealing when the food is so beautiful!

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What I keep in Mind:

  • Lighting: Dark, romantic lighting may set the mood for date night, but that chocolate cake might just look like mud. I’m not personally a fan of flash, so check your settings.
  • Editing: Don’t over edit your food, whether you’re posting it or not. Food isn’t necessarily all natural anymore with rainbow bagels and ice cream sandwiches, but the photos shouldn’t make them look cartoon-ish.
  • The Surroundings: Depending on your intentions, the setting is everything! *Queue brunch pictures*
  • Take some pictures, then put you’re phone away! I’ve always wanted to play that game where everyone’s phones go in the middle and the first person to grab theirs has to pay. I am obviously for capturing memories, but enough is enough sometimes.

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Now I feel like I need to have this post printed out with me whenever I feel like people are staring at me when I take pictures of my food, which is even more necessary now that I write for Spoon University.

Do it for the Food!

Tweet and tag me in  your food pictures! 

Constantly Capturing,

Casey

 

Warn the Presses: Proud Feminist Here

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I do not want to get political; I just want to be honest.

In just one semester at college, I managed to make two speeches about slut-shaming and analyze another speech about overall feminism. If I was not sure about it before, I am sure now: I am a feminist and I could not be more proud. I have never seen a problem with the word, but I have now been shown the real power and importance behind the idea of feminism.

I would like to share with you all what I wish everyone could take the time to see, learn from, and stand with as a new feminist. Feminism is about equality, which is a part of so many things.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 8.50.33 PM.jpg

Slut-Shaming: All Hail Emily Lindin

The key to public speaking is speaking about something you are passionate about. Although my family never understood my chosen topics, making two speeches on the topic of slut shaming was very important to me. I was inspired by Emily Lindin, founder of The UnSlut Project–which is “Undoing the dangerous sexual bullying and ‘slut’ shaming in our schools, communities, media, and culture” (Twitter). My classmates expressed to me that they did not know this was a problem, so I am glad there are people out there devoted to stopping an issue that I have experienced myself (solely for the way I dressed on a hot day).

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Image via theinspirationroom.com

 HeForShe: Everyone’s Girl-Crush, Emma Watson

Emma Watson has spent the majority of her life in the spotlight as an actress, but more importantly she has made somewhat of a name for herself as an intelligent, caring feminist. People expected her to behave a certain way when she earned the title of a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. This title, even combined with her Brown and Oxford University educations, is still seen as the least of her accomplishments and that might just be part of the problem that she was honored to become an ambassador. Watson speaks on behalf of women around the world in order to change people’s views on feminism in relation to how men view the word as well.

Coco Chanel. Maya Angelou. Malala Yousafzai.

All very different women; All feminists in my eyes (even if not in theirs).

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Recently shared by Christina Caine, founder of A21 Campaign

I will respect my fellow women in what they choose to call themselves, but I feel an extra sense of pride for women who take the title to the next level. I am both anxious and excited to see other women’s successes as well as my own, and I only hope that our strength leads to better results for women in difficult situations. Check out or follow the amazing women above because although they are making lot of great changes, we could all one day be in  the same ranks if we have enough courage and passion.

 

Forever a Feminist,

Casey