Tuesday, May 31, 2011

E.L.F. Trial

Hi Everyone!

Today I ran through my E.L.F. loot and used all the products that I recently purchased and I wanted to share my thoughts about each product with you.

EYES:
I am really liking the Endless Eyes Pro mini Eyeshadow Palette in Everyday Classics. I have dark brown eyes and all the colors offered in this palette compliment my eyes so well that I can't believe I've gone this long without it! The pods are tiny which kind of concerned me because I am afraid that it won't last very long. Despite its size, the colors are rather vibrant and well pigmented that I find myself using a very scarce amount of product while still achieving the desired look. So with 32 colors to choose from, I doubt I'll be running out of options any time soon. I give this product a thumbs up for sure!

Up until this purchase I've used two eyeshadow brushes by EcoTools for eyeshadow application. One is a semi-fluffy brush that I use for all over color and the second one is a stiffer pointed brush for my contrasting color in my crease. I am amazed at the Blending Eyeshadow brush from E.L.F. This is a super fluffy brush that delivers great coverage for my all over eye color while still providing enough stiffness needed to apply contrasting color to my crease area with a smooth almost effortless smokey eye effect. Totally satisfied with this brush. So much so that I haven't even touched my EcoTools brushes in almost a week!

I've been a huge fan of LA Splash's eyeshadow base for a long time because it is a really good product. But, I wanted to try something different so I picked up the Eyelid Primer which came in Sheer and I have zero complaints about this product. I have been so used to the tacky feeling of LA Splash's eyeshadow base that when I applied the E.L.F. eyelid primer it went on creamy and dried almost powdery I was somewhat convinced that it was going to be a dud. I was wrong! I have come to appreciate the powdery finish and it definitely allows the eyeshadow to go on smoother and it seems to keep my eye shadows brilliant all day and I have yet to find it crease any of the color. I will definitely buy this product again.

The last two products I got for my eyes are the Waterproof Lengthening & Defining Mascara and the Waterproof Eyeliner Pen both in Black. The mascara isn't something that blows my mind. I am really picky about my mascaras and am constantly on the search for the perfect one. This is not it. I'm not a big fan of the applicator brush. It doesn't seem to have enough bristles to really grab my lashes and coat it with product. I guess that's to be expected since the product isn't a "volumizing" mascara but it didn't lengthen my lashes either and the only "defining" characteristic about this mascara is that it defined how sparse and short my lashes really are. I'm not going to stop using it, however, because I've had some luck with other mascaras that start off like this but after a couple weeks of the formula drying out they seemed to have worked better so I'm hoping that happens with this one too.

On the flip side I'm completely in love with the eyeliner pen! I can't stop raving about it! It's super easy to use (literally like a pen...well marker really) and I love the results I get from it. It's definitely waterproof (it didn't budge after a severe episode of waterworks this weekend while visiting my brothers) and I want to buy a stock in this product because I think it's the best eyeliner that I have ever used!

LIPS:

Recently I made a ridiculous purchase... it was for Tarte's LipSurgence Natural Lip tint in Lucky which retails for $24. No that's not a typo, I really did pay $24 for a friggin lip stain. Anyway, I do like it- it delivers fantastic color and lasts all day just like advertised. I just can't believe that I spent that kind of money when E.L.F. has a wonderful lip stain with comparable results for just $3! The color that I got is called Bombshell and it is a really gorgeous color. I've got pigmented lips naturally, and this color just adds a little something to my natural lip tone that makes my lips look way more kissable! I'll swipe on a little lip balm while I'm moisturizing my face and once that kind of soaks into my lips I'll apply the lip stain (without the gloss) and it'll last through breakfast, coffee, endless glasses of water, and lunch. The gloss is nice, but I like wearing it matte. I did notice a little bit of bleeding so I suggest using a lip liner that matches your lip color and letting the lip stain fully dry before applying the gloss.

The Essential Lipsticks are actually kinda nice. I picked up Classy and Posh and I do like them a lot. But I tend to reach for the lip stain regularly so I haven't really used the lip stick alone. The colors are really nice and true to the color online. I like the smell of the product itself... kinda smells like fruit punch. You can't go wrong with these lipsticks and for only a buck a piece, I suggest you try out a few and let me know what you think!

FACE:

The only face products I bought this time around are the Natural Radiance Blushers in Shy and Glow. I don't like them whatsoever. First off they are super duper tiny, hard to slide open and terribly sheer. Although the colors look very different, once applied I can't tell the difference between the two. The product seems so cheap that one swipe of the blush brush sends a dust storm of blush into the air. Really irritating. I don't recommend this product at all. I will probably try their Studio Blush in the future but in the mean time I'll stick with my Covergirl stuff.

Well that was my review of the E.L.F. cosmetics I recently purchased. Leave a comment below if you've tried any of the products yourself or if you have any questions.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a fantastic day!

E.L.F. Cosmetics Loot

Hello Everyone!
Today I'm super excited to share with you my awesome selection of
E.L.F. cosmetics that I just got in the mail.

If you are a make up junkie like myself, you might have been following the recent
online disaster sale hosted by NYX Cosmetics.
Basically, it was their 12th anniversary sale which was supposed to last 12 hours
and a bunch of their products were available for purchase at just $1.20 (plus shipping).
The problem was that nobody was able to access the website
because supposedly the high volume traffic caused the servers to crash.

In my opinion, NYX handled the entire situation in a very distasteful manner.
They simply released a public statement (via Facebook) claiming
that they had a very successful sale and were somewhat apologetic for those of us
who were unable to participate (which according to their FB board, was everyone).

To add insult to injury, they offered a measly 50% off discount code
which we had to use within 7 days of receipt and included free shipping to that order.

I suppose 50% off NYX stuff isn't too bad but I have to stick to what I believe in
(even though it's just make up in this case).
They advertised something spectacular and then delivered something less than mediocre.
I don't stand for dishonesty in any form that it may come in.

Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere and this is what I have to show for it!
I haven't actually used ELF products but all the reviews that
 I've read and seen on them look really promising.
I'm just going to do a run down of all the products I've purchased
and I'll most likely do a quick post about my thoughts on them later.

So here is what I bought:

EYES:

Endless Eyes Pro Mini Eyeshadow Palette in Everyday Classics; Blending Eye brush; Eyelid Primer in Sheer; Waterproof Lengthening & Defining Mascara in Black; Waterproof Eyeliner Pen in Black


LIPS:

Studio Lip stain in Bombshell; Essential Lipstick in Classy and Posh
FACE:

Natural Radiance Blusher in Shy and Glow
 
The website was very easy to navigate and the shopping experience was enjoyable.
I did appreciate all the little tips and tricks that is offered
at the bottom of every page, usually pertaining to an item similar to
whatever it is you're currently looking at.
The videos were a very brief look at the product
and not really a review or "how to use" kind of tutorial... seemed kind of pointless really.
But, it did showcase the color next to skin (instead of on a white background)
and the size of the product, which can be useful.

Anyway, be on the lookout for my reviews of these products in an upcoming post.

I'm super excited and I hope you are too!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cakes since Wilton

These are just a few projects I've done since taking the Wilton cake decorating class.
If you're interested in what the class was like check out my post on Wilton Cake Decorating.


This is actually a frozen butter cream transfer. I didn't learn this particular method through Wilton but the basic technique is almost exactly like what we learned in class. I did use the butter cream recipe from the Wilton student lesson plan book and I did add piping gel to thin consistency icing (which is the method taught in class for writing on cakes). Also, in order to do the actual transfer I followed the same directions used to do a piping gel transfer. So, same technique I just used butter cream and froze it for a neat little transfer which is easier and less stressful than piping a design directly onto a cake.



This cake was designed to be very austere. Simple frozen butter cream transfers of Air Force insignias and the career field badge of the promotees. My icing consistency was totally whack which is very evident in the sagging of the icing on the sides of the cake and was the main contributor to the soft corners. I'll do better next time...



The world famous 1M swirl. Super easy to do once you get the hang of it. Cupcake nails are a waste of money, just use your non dominant hand to spin the cupcake- better control of the cupcake which in turn makes prettier swirls. Also, make sure your icing consistency is on the medium to thick side to ensure you get and maintain the definition of the swirl.




This cake is the epitome of the Wilton cake decorating class. The cake was torted, filled, and iced exactly like I learned in the course. I also did dimensional decorating with the grape bundle and standing leaves and I finished the cake with two different shell designs for the top and bottom border.




Again, this cake completely highlights everything I learned in the Wilton cake decorating class. The roses were made using a different technique than what was taught in class but because there are so many variations of icing roses you can literally use the same basic technique and tweak it slightly to achieve the type of look you're going for. I didn't want ribbon roses on this cake, so all I did was use an up and down motion while turning the flower nail in ascending odd increments. (<--- If I completely confused you, just check out the instructions here)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wilton Cake Decorating

I finally signed up for the beginners course through my local JoAnn's store. I searched the Internet for a complete review of the course and what I should expect upon my first class but I didn't find anything detailed enough for me. So my goal here is to offer as much information for any new students who are interested in taking the course and any tips I think will be useful prior to and during the course.

     Before signing up:
I recommend that you scour your local craft stores for coupons or sales for these classes. Personally, I don't think it's worth paying full price unless my schedule just couldn't jive with the instructor's schedule. Every couple of weeks the classes go on sale offering you several different options such as a percentage off pricing, or buy one, get one free type deals. Some stores even throw in a military discount if you're close enough to a military base so definitely ask if you're associated with the military.

     Info about the course:
The Wilton Method courses consist of 4 sessions with each session being roughly 2 hours long. You will need to purchase the student starter kit and the coordinating lesson plan book for whatever course you've signed up for. Being a novice baker myself, I have majority of the tools that are in the student kit but the few essential items that I didn't have added up to be about the same price as the entire student kit itself. So I just went ahead and bought the student kit, which is around $40 but I had a coupon so I think I got mine for maybe $34. The lesson plan book is only $5 and I actually use it a lot while decorating to jog my memory about different techniques.

     Starting the course: Decorating Basics

Day one of your course you should bring the student kit, lesson plan book, and 6 flat undecorated cookies.
I also suggest that you bring a small tub of ready to use decorator icing in case you have a large class, although it's not really necessary. My instructor demonstrated how to make basic butter cream icing (using shortening instead of butter, it's Az after all) and then it was divided among us to use later. We covered the different types of piping bags that are available and how to fit them with a coupler and a tip. After all the technical instruction we filled our piping bags and were taught what designs each tip made and different methods for piping icing. Finally, we got to practice on our cookies!

Basic whole wheat vanilla shortbread cookies

*You'll need to make your own icing following the recipe in the lesson plan book and bring in a single layer baked cake (along with your student kit and lesson plan book) for day two.

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Day two: You will learn how to torte your cake using two different methods, create a dam for the filling, and ice the cake. Your instructor will then cover different strategies to successfully decorate your cake, including how to properly color icing and how to do a piping gel transfer.

Whole wheat yellow cake with sugar free raspberry
preserves and iced with rum butter cream 

*You'll need to make a double batch of icing to bring along with un-iced cupcakes for day three. Also, I suggest you make a bunch of 2 inch squares using parchment paper at home instead of buying the pre-cut ones. It's super simple and way cheaper.

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Day three: I think this was the most fun class overall. Tons of hands on learning which is always nice and we covered so many different techniques and design options that I constantly have to refer back to the lesson plan book as a reminder of all the things I know I could do to enhance the look of my cupcakes. This day seemed super short because we had so much material to cover and there just wasn't enough time. So I definitely suggest getting in a nice cup of coffee before class. =)


Mocha cupcakes iced with peppermint butter cream

*For the final class you will need to make a double batch of icing in several colors and consistencies to bring along with a cake already iced and your design template.

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Day four: This class also went by really quickly because we had some anxiety about the 'final' cake like it was being graded or something so we really wanted to practice as much as we could before we had to decorate our cakes. Along with all the skills we've learned so far we were finally taught how to write in both print and script. Our instructor also taught us how to make one variation of a rose. After all the essential information was discussed we were encouraged to decorate our cakes using as many methods as possible without the cake looking overdone and chaotic.

 
  
Checkerboard cake filled with hazelnut ganache and iced with vanilla butter cream


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My thoughts on the course:
     Overall I think it was definitely worth the price that I paid (less than half off). Although I baked and decorated a lot before taking the course I was finally able to create not only delicious cakes but cakes that also looked really good. I use the skills that were taught in class every single time I decorate now and the reactions I get from people about how the cakes look also prove that the course was worth it.
     I do want to point out that if you have the choice between a new instructor or one that has been doing these method courses for a while, I would suggest going with an experience instructor. Simply because the time allotted for each lesson is only two hours so a new instructor might not be very good at time management due to all the material that has to be covered.
     Also, before signing up for a particular class ask how many students are signed up so far and avoid a class that has more than 8 people. You'll get more one on one time this way, which is way more beneficial for you in the end.
    Lastly, have fun with it! It's a cake decorating class after all. =) Go in with an open mind and the willingness to learn and you'll walk away with tons of cool cake prettifying skills!


I hope this gave you a detailed run down of what to expect from a Wilton Method Cake Decorating Class.
 If you have any questions at all just comment below.

OH! BTW- I'll be posting some pictures of the cakes I've done recently. It should be up within the next couple days. So be on the look out for that!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

~My Favorite Things~

I think this particular subject is going to be a series of posts. I'll want to update you with new favorites as time goes on and I come across new and neat things.

It is a bit random but I'll cluster like items together in future posts. I'm thinking maybe a "Summer Faves" post... What do you think??

Husband and I are candle lovers. We really like burning scented candles and so when I came across these candles on sale at Kohl's, I was super excited. I have purchased expensive candles  like Gold Canyon and Yankee in the past, which are really good too but these are my favorite by far. The price, quality, and availability are really hard to beat. They are called For Every Body candles which are soy based and without harsh fillers that are usually found in other brands. The scents are very potent and fill a room nicely without fear of being too overwhelming. We burn candles for hours on end (which isn't recommended by the manufacturer but we just can't help it...) and a large jar can last us about a month. And once we burn the wick all the way down, we just place it on a candle warmer and enjoy the scent for another week.



Because we live in Az where the sun is relentless I really enjoy wearing my Fossil sunglasses. I like all sunglasses in general but Fossil seems to make really good sunglasses. The frames are sturdy enough to withstand hours of splashing around in the pool and being shoved into the bottom of my gym bag and fashionable enough to wear with everything I own. I like the colors they come in and the quality of tint used on the lenses are so top notch that I have only had to replace one pair because I scratched the lenses with my keys. I currently have three pairs: one for eye protection when I ride Husband's motorcycle, a pool pair, and my everyday pair.


We have a zoo. Not an actual zoo but we are pet parents to 5 wonderful animals. Two dogs, and three cats to be exact. We also had a snake and a fish and we sort of had a squirrel... Anyway, with all these animals to feed, bathe, walk, and entertain- cleaning the litter box is my least favorite chore. We finally invested in a great product that turns this gross chore into a ho hum task. This self cleaning litter box with disposable cartridges from ScoopFree is brilliant. I recommend it for anyone who has more than one cat. The actual box is expensive and the cartridges are pricey but the pros outweigh the cons in this situation so... it's totally worth it to me.


I've just recently started wearing perfume and I really enjoy this one called Pleasures from Estee Lauder. The smell is so long lasting and really feminine without being sweet that it almost bums me out if I forget to put it on before I leave the house. It's my understanding that the Pleasures line consists of several other scents which is confusing because they're all named "Pleasures" but I'm assuming this is the original scent and here is a picture from their website so you know what to look for if you're interested in what it smells like. I got mine from Ulta.

And the last thing I want to show you on this post is one of the reasons why I wake up in the morning haha... I am addicted to coffee. With my morning cup of coffee I add 2-3 teaspoons of this delicious creamer from Coffee Mate. In a previous post I mentioned that sugar is the devil to Husband so he won't touch this stuff (although they do offer sugar free options as well) but I don't mind sugar in small amounts like this. Plus, coffee is a treat for me so I want every aspect of my coffee to be 100 percent enjoyable. Over the holiday last year I discovered so many different flavors of creamers but this has to be my favorite for sure. What's great about this particular flavor is that it's not seasonal so I can get it all the time at any grocery store. I do prefer the powder over liquid, to me it seems like I get more bang for my buck using the powder.


That's my little list of favorite things for this episode. Let me know if you use, have used or will use these products and what your thoughts are.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lake Havasu Adventure

197 miles north west of Surprise, Az there is a place where something amazing can be found. The London Bridge!!! Husband and I took a nice little drive out there recently and were impressed with how interesting this place is. We definitely want to go back again soon with our friends... perhaps for a birthday weekend blowout or something... hum I'm sure I just heard the "Think Tank" start up. lol.

Anyway, just over the bridge there is this fabulous restaurant called Shuegrue's. Since we've only ever been there one time I hardly call my review of the place a set in stone recommendation. Perhaps you can consider this a mild nudge to try something new? The atmosphere was quiet and pleasant with a very accomodating staff. We enjoyed really good food and a superb view of the bridge and the water.


Husband and I started off with the seared ahi tuna appetizer. For the $14 price tag I say what we got was totally worth it. The slices of fish were very close to the size of a credit card in length and width and they were probably about half an inch thick. Perfectly seasoned and seared so much so that the only sauce needed was a pad of wasabi and a house made soy sauce. It was so good that the entire dish was devoured by the time my mind thought to snap a picture to post. So... this is all that was left.


Our lunch entree was the grilled coconut talapia with a mango salsa and wild rice. Absolutely refreshing to have such a simple dish executed so well that we even might drive back up there just to eat it again. A lot of places get so fancy with sauces and cooking methods that take away from the flavors of the food that make them so wonderful to begin with. Luckily for us, Shuegrue's knows how to do it right!


If you're in the area and haven't visited Lake Havasu City yet I strongly suggest that you do! There's something about that place that just exudes a 'good time' kind of feeling. You just can't be upset in a place like that!!
 














If you've been to a neat place similar to Lake Havasu, I'd like to hear about it. Leave the information as a comment below with any restaurant or actvity recommendations!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Arcosanti

Arcosanti is situated about an hour outside of Prescott Valley, Az.
It is a self sustaining town initiated by Italian architect Paolo Soleri
(also the creator of the world famous Soleri Bells).

Imagine the thrill of finding out about this experimental town in the middle of the Arizona high desert.
Creepy, huh? I mean just the combo of words like "experimental town" and "desert"... 
Insert flash backs of "The Hills have Eyes" scenes here. Haha...
Well, I immidately programed my GPS and took a stroll up north to see what this place was all about.



The picture above is the view from the access road leading up to the entrance. What's interesting is how the entire town blends into the landscape, which was the entire point of Soleri's concept.


If you're unfamiliar with Soleri's design concept for this experimental town, check out the website for more information. The construction started back in the early 1970's and once complete the idea is that this town will be home to 5000 people. It's designed to be a self sustaining community based of the concept of arcology which states that people and buildings co exist with each other as one harmonious being.

 I was able to experience one of the many facets this place has to offer with the cafe lunch buffet. All the food is grown on site using one of the two greenhouses continuously evolving to better support the prototype town. The food was actually really decent for it being coined "buffet" food.

My meal that day was roughly $9 and I had a bowl of hearty chicken and corn soup with garbanzo beans, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, some sort of penne pasta casserole that resembled a less cheesy mac and cheese, meatballs in marinara sauce and a side salad with green and black olives, shredded carrots, red onions, and a basic balsamic vinaigrette. Along with all that was a nice chilled glass of raspberry infused black tea that I refilled about a dozen times during my meal. Hands down, the chicken soup was the best part.


To me, one of the most unique structures of Arcosanti has to be the vaults. The picture seen below is of the South Vault. It was the first structure to be built at the Arcosanti Mesa. A few years after this vault was built, a twin vault was constructed to the north and together they are the gathering point for many activities at Arcosanti. It's a very serene space and the view of the desert scape is lovely.



The view from inside the vaults look onto a nice little lawn that features Italian cypress and olive tress. The olives grown on these trees are harvested, canned locally and are available for sale in the Visitor's Center.




This is the Ceramics Apse where wind bells and tiles are produced. Besides the beauty of the architecture and products made here the purpose behind its design is quite worth the visit. Again, more information can be found here.



View from inside the cafe facing the surrounding desert to the south


That was my little visit to Arcosanti. It's an interesting place for sure and I'm really glad I got the chance to check it out. I'm excited for the completion of the town and to see if all the ideas will be realized and executed. A self sustaining town that doesn't destroy the natural surrounding is something I can stand behind.  Yay Earth!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Food Post, Part 2

This is the continuation of our Food Post and our Top four favorite places to dine. Enjoy!

4.Pei Wei (Litchfield Rd and Bell Rd) Super quick Asian food. I say Asian because they have dishes from all over Asia. The noodles are yummy, not exactly authentic but good nonetheless. I always break and get the Pad Thai (which is nothing like authentic Pad Thai, but really good either way) They do offer brown rice, double veggie portions, and stock velvet (steamed) protein. Exactly the kind of food my husband loves to eat, without either of us having to cook it. They're also really fast which is great for us because we get kinda grumpy when it comes to waiting for food.

Pad Thai with steamed shrimp; Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls
images courtesy of Peiwei.com
 
Spicy Korean with steamed chicken; Minced Chicken lettuce wraps
images courtesy of Peiwei.com

3. Wildflower Bread Company (Litchfield Rd and McDowell Rd) The most enjoyable lunch place ever. They have so many sandwiches that start off healthy but include things like fresh mozzarella or Swiss cheese. The cool thing about Wildflower is that they encourage you to make it your own. You can add or subtract any ingredient listed in your sandwich. They make all the breads there on site which includes a nice 9 grain bread that we get. I suggest you try the Red, White and Blue bread as well as their Irish Soda bread... they're seasonal which adds to the novelty.
Chicken Continental sandwich w/ orzo pasta salad

Along with the delicious sandwiches (they have other dishes too like salads and soups, pasta, and breakfast foods) they have a full bakery display with the only somewhat 'healthy' item being a low fat peach and whole grain muffin but it's made with real sugar and sugar is kinda the devil to us (mostly to husband... I like sugar just fine). My meal is not complete without a large cup full of their iced tea. It's a black tea with hints of strawberry and passion fruit. It's so refreshing I usually drink it unsweetened with a light squeeze of lemon.


2. Tomo Japanese Cuisine (Dysart and McDowell) Hands down the BEST Japanese food in the valley. Husband and I lived in Japan for four years and we KNOW our sushi. This place has tapped into our love for Japan through the food and the atmosphere. The owner is a really good friend of ours now because we've been going back every Friday night for the past 4 years. The fish is high quality and prepared in a way that reminds us of being back in Japan. I mean, this place got it right!!! It is a bit trendy with the decor and music but we've been going there for so long that it doesn't even bother us anymore. =) Everything that we eat here is so delicious. Not one item on the menu (which is added to frequently) has been less than excellent.


Jack pot roll
Sushi Combination D; 12 piece chef's choice















And finally, our all time favorite place to grub, day or night, rain or shine, has got to be hands down without a doubt.... drum roll please....

1. Chipotle!!!! (Litchfield Rd and Bell Rd) Here's the thing about this wonderful place- they are fast, super awesome customer service ALL THE TIME, consistently delicious and surprisingly really healthy. As busy as this location (and most others that we've been to) can get the team of employees does such a great job at making the wait tolerable. Because the food options are kept simple, we're never really waiting for more than a few minutes at max. If you want to avoid the line all together they offer many different ways to get your order in such as calling it in, faxing it or jumping online. 

So, I do have to mention that there are foods that are less healthy than we would like (pinto beans are cooked with bacon, chips are deep fried, and cilantro rice is made with plain ole white rice) but we just don't order it.... except the rice. I'm from Guam- I really like rice.

Husband's order goes something like this: Three soft tacos, black beans, chicken (or steak), fajita veggies, corn salsa, and guacamole.























I get a burrito bowl with rice, black beans, chicken (or steak), corn salsa, guacamole, and lettuce. Although there is hardly any benefit from eating romaine lettuce, the crisp freshness adds something to my bowl that makes it almost magical. Haha...

Unfortunately, there isn't a single picture of our Chipotle food because quite honestly we waste no time between paying for the food and us completely devouring it. So... check out the website or drop into one today and treat yourself to awesome food and be the envy of all your friends.


Well this wraps up our Crazy 8 Local Chow Spots post. I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Until next time, have a yummy day!