Skywalker Olive Oil: Fit for a Space Princess

Some of you may be familiar with the name “Skywalker.” It’s the last name of some characters from a space-themed entertainment franchise. Or perhaps you’re familiar with the creator of the Skywalkers, George Lucas. The namesake doesn’t end with fictional characters. Lucas has a well-known ranch by the same name that hosts a sound design firm, an inn, and even a vineyard and seven-acre olive grove.

That’s where the Skywalker Olive Oil comes in. Even if you’re not lucky enough to be able to stay on the Ranch, you can feel like one of Lucas’ personal friends for just $25. You see, while the wine has been available to purchase for a while, the olive oil was historically reserved for close friends and family (until now!).

There are two types of olive oil available, Il Convento sul Trasimeno for $35, and Viandente del Cielo for $25. I bought a bottle of the Viandente del Cielo on a whim, and I’m thrilled I did. Not only do I have a beautiful talking point for the next time I have guests over, but the olive oil itself is fantastic.

I paired the olive oil with some fresh ciabatta bread, and compared it to my typical olive oil, Trader Joe’s Kalamata Olive Oil. While the Kalamata oil is extremely strong and tastes purely of kalamata olives, the Viandente del Cielo was light, fresh, and complex. The website says that this oil “is a unique blend of Frantoio, Pendolino, Leccino, Moraliolo and Cipressino olive varietals, to which it owes its mild characteristics and notes of artichoke, straw and pepper.” You can definitely taste the pepper. The smell of the oil is very bright, and the taste is smooth with a fantastically peppery finish. I would highly recommend it!

You can find both olive oils at SkywalkerVineyards.com. Will you be picking up a bottle?

Which Meal Delivery Service is the Best?

If you’ve been on Facebook or ever listened to a podcast, you’re sure to have heard of Blue Apron. It’s one of the original Meal Delivery Services, a box of food delivered to your door, pre-portioned to create easy and delicious recipes. But is it worth it? And is Blue Apron the best service, or just the first?

 

I reviewed three different services back-to-back and ate a whole lot of home-cooked meals to give you the scoop.

 

Spoiler: Meal Delivery Services are awesome.

 

Pros:
  • I tried new things. New recipes, new foods, it got me out of my comfort zone and cooking rut.
  • I ate out less. Having a meal in my fridge ready to go in 30 minutes or less meant less impulse delivery/take out orders.
  • It saved time. I didn’t have to plan out my meals for the week or do a big grocery trip.
  • I spent more time with my husband. We agreed to make all of the meals together, which meant we had a fun activity to do together each day.
  • The meals are (mostly) portion-controlled. The meals only make 2 (or 4) servings, so I know I’m not over doing it. (Like I do every time I make pasta…)
  • The meals were good! The food was delicious and I was proud of a lot of what we created.
Cons:
  • It’s a bit pricy. The meal plans run around $10-11 a serving, so while it’s cheaper than going out to eat, you could definitely save more money by going to the grocery store and buying sale items/items in bulk .
  • There are no leftovers. While I like that it’s portion-controlled, I didn’t love that my fridge was fairly empty and I didn’t have as many options for lunch/additional dinners.

 

First of all, let’s talk about the process. You sign up for a plan, and then you are invited to pick a certain number of meals each week to have delivered to your door. You can initially personalize your plan with diet preferences, and then it will continue to send you weekly meal deliveries unless you skip that week. (It’s very easy to skip weeks, and you can schedule them out fairly far.)

 

Your box of food will arrive at your door on the day you specify, and then you’re ready to cook! The ingredients come labeled and with recipe cards, so you know exactly what you need for each dish. The meal plans assume you have some basics: salt and pepper, oil, access to pots, pans, and bowls, a cutting board and knife, and access to a stovetop and oven. The most important ingredient is a large nonstick pan (I’d recommend around 12″). A lot of the meals involve cooking everything in a single pan.

 

The recipes come with pictures (and often the websites have supplemental video) if you need assistance with cooking it. And then, voila! You’ll have a delicious meal in front of you in around 15-45 minutes, depending on the service you use and the dish you’re making.

 

Below are a variety of Meal Plans in alphabetical order with info on pricing, what makes their plan unique, what we made, and our reviews. When they’ve been available to us, we’ve also included promo codes, that will give you a discounted first box. I’d highly recommend trying a discounted box. You’re getting a great deal on a few meals, and it’ll give you a good idea on if you like the service or not. You can cancel any time! (Full Disclosure: Many of the promo codes are affiliate links, and will provide me with credit for future boxes or a small stipend. Basically, when you use them, we both win.)

 

Let me know in the comments which Meal Plans you’ve tried, and what your thoughts were!

 

$8.99-9.99 per meal
Get $30 off your first order with this link
TL:DR; It’s the most well-known for a reason. It’s a great first box and you’ll keep coming back to it.

 

What Makes It Unique?
Blue Apron was one of the first services and they’re continuing to adapt and get better as they grow. You get to choose between 8 meals each week, and they also offer wine boxes and any tools you may need for your kitchen.

 

Meals Tried
  • Spiced Beef Pitas and Garlic Lebneh
  • Seared Cod and Creme Fraiche Sauce
  • Taiwanese-style Chicken
Pros/Cons
+ The food was all tasty. Not the most amazing dishes in the world, but nothing was a “dud”. Great home-cooked meals.
+Portion sizes were perfect.
-They encourage you to wash and pat dry EVERYTHING and salt and pepper EVERYTHING. You really don’t need to do that.
-Meals can take up to 45 minutes to make.

Would We Get It Again? Yes. And we have!

 

$11.95-13.95 per meal
Receive a FREE dinner kit for two with this link
TL:DR; This is the quick, gourmet, and FILLING option. It’s the closest to dining at a restaurant in your home.

 

What Makes It Unique?
Gobble delivers meals that can be made in 10-15 minutes. This means some things are pre-made and most of the veggies are already pre-cut for you. There are 10 meal choices to choose from each week, and you only need to order a minimum of two different meals. Gobble also offers side dishes, desserts, and cocktail mixes for you to purchase ala carte.

 

Meals Tried
  • Focaccia Grilled Cheese (plus soup and salad)
  • Bistro Filet au Poivre
  • Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Cabbage Slaw
Pros/Cons
+It’s quick! Great for busy nights.
+These meals tasted the best out of all the kits we tried.
+-The portion sizes are HUGE. (This is a pro and a con. Great for hungry appetites or people who want leftovers. Not great for portion-control or diets.)
-You’re not learning how to cook a meal from scratch, so you won’t easily be able to replicate these dishes on your own.
-It’s slightly pricier than the other services.

 

Would We Get It Again? Yes. On a busy week when we don’t have time to make full meals.

 

$8.74-9.99 per meal
Get $40 off your first order with this link
TL:DR; HelloFresh may have the prettiest packaging, but the food lacks compared to other services.

 

What Makes It Unique? HelloFresh has the best packaging. Each meal comes packed in its own box that fits perfectly on the shelf of your fridge. You can choose between meat & fish or veggie packages, so it’s vegetarian-friendly. HelloFresh has a breakfast option as one of the 8 meal choices for each week. They also have a wine box and a store for kitchen tools.

 

Meals Tried
  • Shrimp Saganaki
  • Chicken Lo Mein
  • Winning Pork Medallions
Pros/Cons
+The packaging is wonderful!
+The various meal options (vegetarian, breakfast) were nice to have.
-The meals themselves weren’t the best. (It felt like the flavors were unbalanced.)

 

Would We Get It Again? Possibly, if a fantastic menu comes up. But we just weren’t super impressed with the meals.

Hellboy Hell Water

Forget Fireball. Next time you need to reach for a cinnamon whiskey, you’ve got Hellboy on your side. The new Hellboy Hell Water is a small batch, naturally flavored cinnamon whiskey, micro – distilled, bottled and styled in the old traditional process of making Southern Corn Whiskey. And because it’s Hell Water, it’s 66.6 Proof. Ugh, it’s too perfect. AND you can buy it online for only $20.

Not sure what to do with Hellboy Hell Water (other than drink it straight)? The Hell Water Recipe page has some great ideas. My faves include:

Hellboy and Hazelnut

Equal Parts:

  • Hellboy Hell Water Cinnamon Whiskey
  • Hazelnut Liqueur

Shake with ice and strain.

Hellboy Monster Mule

  • 1 part Hellboy Hell Water Cinnamon Whiskey
  • 5 parts Ginger Ale

Garnish with cherries and serve on the rocks.

Hellboy Cinnamon Crunch

  • 1.5 ounces Hellboy Hell Water Cinnamon Whiskey
  • 1.5 ounces RumChata

Fill a martini shaker with ice, Hellboy Hell Water Cinnamon Whiskey and Rum Chata. Shake and strain into a martini glass, or a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick.

 

What would you make with a bottle of Hell Water?

Cake Decorating Trends for 2017

As I said in my last post, one of my resolutions this year is to learn how to properly decorate cakes. So I thought I’d do a bit of research on the hot trends in cake and cupcake decorating. Here are some of the hottest decorating trends for 2017, in no particular order:

Naked

Naked Cake

This style of cake has been around for a couple years, and it’s still gathering steam. Bakers are learning that no one really likes tons of fondant, and that a cake can look elegant and beautiful on its own. This cake is more difficult than it looks to make, because your cake and icing layers must look good. (Although you can play around a little bit with decor like flowers and berries to disguise anything imperfect.) I can just imagine a cake like this for a Hobbit-themed party! (Cake by Miss Ingredient.)

Geode

Geode Cake

This is one of the coolest cakes I saw in 2016. Originally created by Rachael Teufel of Intricate Icings, this entirely edible cake is a classy way to show off your love of science. The geode is made of rock candy and accented with gold flecks. The idea looks extravagant but is fairly easy to do, which is why you’ll see a lot of copycats in this next year.

 

Metallic

Gold Sequin Cake

Speaking of gold flecks… Many wedding trend experts are claiming that metallic cakes are still a hot thing this year. And it’s no surprise. With a variety of tools (edible spray paint, edible paint, and edible gold flecks) available, you can get a wide range of lux looks easily. (Learn how to make this gold sequin cake at TheCakeBlog.com.)

Over the Top

Over the Top Cake

Yeah, sprinkles do make it better. And so does candy and cereal and additional baked goods and… Yeah. People get a bit carried away with their cake decorations. AND I LOVE IT. I’m obsessed with this over-the-top decadent trend. Just looking at this cake feels like the most fun party you’ve ever been to. I can imagine one with tons of candy being perfect for a Wreck It Ralph themed party, and one with tons of rainbow/technicolor making the perfect “Lisa Frank”-style throwback birthday cake. (This “Hero Cake” can be ordered from Unbirthday Bakery.)

Drizzle Cakes

Drizzle Cake

If you check out my Pinterest board, you’ll see a lot of this style there. Why? Because it’s relatively simple and makes every cake automatically look drool-worthy. Plus, it can work with almost every trend mentioned above. Drizzle over a naked or metallic cake for an added oomph, or add sprinkles and candies on top to make it absolutely ridiculous in the best way. This is first on my list of cake decorating skills to master. (Learn how to make this cake at TheFirstYearBlog.com.)

 

Want more decorating inspiration? Check out my new Cake Decorating Pinterest board. And let me know in the comments what trends you’re most excited about!

My Resolutions for 2017

2016 has been a busy year over here. I launched a line of natural sprinkles and sugars, had recipes show up in Board Game Bento’s subscription box, did double duty as a sexy goldfish AND sexy Alexander Hamilton, and could even be found hosting Dungeons and Dragons’ and Desert Bus for Hope’s charity livestreams.

2017 will already be off to a great start with a redesign of the natural sprinkles and sugars and a NEW product line coming out in February. Stay tuned for more info on both of those! (And with those will come a site redesign. Exciting stuff!) But new products aren’t the only thing to come from a new year. I’m taking time this week to think about the things I want to do to make my life even better and more fulfilling in 2017, and I’ve come up with a few resolutions:

Learn to make beautiful cakes

I’ve focused on cupcakes and gotten pretty darn good at them. I can whip up some professional looking cupcakes in no time, and they’re a go-to when I need something to bring to a party. But I attempted to make a normal layer cake this year, thinking it would be easy. It was, to put it lightly, a disaster. I’ve ordered some basic cake decorating supplies from Amazon and started an inspirational Pinterest board. This year, I’m determined to master a few basic recipes and decorating techniques for cakes. I’ll make sure to post any successes to the blog so you can learn too!

Read at least a book a month

Ok, ok. I know that this seems so easy if you’re a reader. But unfortunately, I spend so much time on the computer, that I don’t give myself the time to sit down with a book. So this year, I’m going to actively try to unplug and get away from screens more and sit and read physical books. I’m hoping to read more than 12 books, but didn’t want to scare myself with too ambitious of a goal. I’m currently reading The Girl on the Train and Ship of Magic, and have Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Drunk Tank Pink, You May Also Like, and The Name of the Wind on deck. Know of a book I should add to my “To Be Read” pile? Let me know in the comments.

Visit a new Seattle restaurant each month

I love exploring new restaurants and places in Seattle, but have gotten so comfortable with cooking at home and visiting old favorites, that I’m starting to lose touch on the restaurant scene. So I’m going to keep an eye on Eater’s Heat Map for Seattle, and pick a new restaurant to try each month!

Finish my “100 Good Deeds” Bracelet

I have this awesome bracelet that has 100 beads on it, each one representing a good deed. You move a little rubber stopper past the beads each time you do a good deed, and I’m hoping to complete the bracelet in a year. This is extremely ambitious, and means I need to be doing a new good deed once every three and a half days. I’m not counting things like “letting another car in during traffic” or “tipping a waiter well when they don’t deserve it” or other things that would qualify as just being a decent human. If you have any suggestions of creative good deeds or random acts of kindness I could do, let me know in the comments! (You can get a bracelet yourself at 100gooddeeds.org.)

What are your resolutions for 2017?

Kitchen Products for Star Wars Fans

With the release of Rogue One today, I’ve been seeing some great new Star Wars products pop up. No longer are the days where you can find a poster and a couple men’s shirts. Now you can’t go more than a few feet without seeing something else with the Star Wars brand. And I’m not upset about it. Case in point: These kitchen products. They’re useful and attractive, and shows off your fandom in a way never before possible. Treat yourself to one, or grab one for your friend who likes to cook, or maybe runs a geeky food blog (hint, hint).

Darth Vader’s Lightsaber Immersion Blender

You know those objects that you can’t live without once you find out they exist? Yeah. My immersion blender will never be as cool as this. $29.99

Death Star Popcorn Maker and Bowl

Movie nights just got WAY more awesome. Plus, this hot air popcorn maker looks attractive on your counter when not in use! $49.99

Darth Vader Oven Mitt

 You can still look bad-ass even when practicing safe kitchen behavior, and this oven mitt is proof. You can also get a Stormtrooper Oven Mitt, or if you’re like me, you’ll want one of both. $17.95

 Lightsaber Spatula

Everyone could use a nice, new spatula. And why get a boring one when you could get a LIGHTSABER ONE? I rest my case. $19.99

Lightsaber Pizza Cutter

You may be saying, “Tara, there are too many lightsaber utensils.” To which I would say, “I don’t understand. That’s not a thing. Did you know this one makes lightsaber sounds when you cut pizza with it?” $14.62

Lightsaber BBQ Tongs

Oh! You thought we were done with the lightsaber kitchen tools. That’s cute. Anyway, this lightsaber is also BBQ tongs and also makes noises, and look at that, it has a red storage case so you can play with it when you’re not BBQing. You clearly need this. $29.99

 

So there you have it. My Christmas wish list I mean, last minute holiday gift ideas for anyone who loves Star Wars, which is basically anyone you know.

Do you have any fun Star Wars kitchen items? Are any of the ones above on your holiday wish list? Let me know in the comments!

Class Up Your Dinner Party with Hellboy Wine

 

I’m such a sucker for geeky wine collaborations, so naturally I love this. Dark Horse Comics has teamed up with Portland, OR’s Stoller Family Estate Winery to create the 2011 Hellboy Reserve Pinot Noir.

If you’ve never tried wine from Oregon, you’re missing out. I can guarantee this wine will be fantastic, and the label will make you want to save the bottle after it’s empty. The Hellboy Reserve is the perfect bottle to bring over to a dinner party, or to cozy up with while reading your new pulls.

According to the press release, “The wine label for the 2011 Hellboy Reserve Pinot Noir features an illustration by legendary HELLBOY creator Mike Mignola and Eisner Award-winning colorist Dave Stewart which originally appeared as the cover for the classic comic book HELLBOY: THE SLEEPING AND THE DEAD #2.”

The wine is currently available for pre-order and will be released on October 31st. This is the first in the Hellboy series. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Purchase your bottle at stollerfamilyestate.com.

Sexy Alexander Hamilton: The Photo Shoot

The goldfish may have officially won the “Ridiculous Sexy Halloween Costume” contest for the year, but so many of you commented about how much you loved the Alexander Hamilton costume, that I just needed to do a shoot with that as well. (Special thanks to Yandy for sending me the costume! It’s not too late: you too can be a sexy Alexander Hamilton this Halloween!)

The lovely and talented Liz Leo shot these pics of me at King’s Hardware, where we stumbled upon the perfect American Flag table in their back patio. It was meant to be. And for those asking, this costume is very comfortable and well made. It’s the highest quality pre-made costume I’ve seen! So turn on the Hamilton soundtrack and guess which song lyrics served as inspiration for each pic:

hamilton-headshot

hamilton-ten-dollar

hamilton-shot-collage

hamilton-beer

hamilton-book-collage hamilton-kings

Halloween Photo Shoot: “Sexy” Goldfish

Sheesh. Over 41 of you voted for me to become a “Sexy Goldfish” this year, and because I love you, I did it. This costume is a beast. Every single part of it sparkles, even the eyes. It’s a leotard-meets-hoody so it’ll show off a lot of leg, and keep you warm with the foam insulated hood. And it’s not meant for anyone over 5’5″. Seriously. I needed help getting it on and off because the torso was about half the length of mine. If you’re petite, though, this costume will probably look freakin’ adorable. Want to give it a try? You can find the goldfish costume and more Halloween costumes at Yandy.com!

A huge thanks to Liz Leo, who takes these photos of me every year. She’s got a great eye, and can always make me look pretty and serious, even in the silliest costumes! Without further ado, your winner of “Weirdest Sexy Halloween Costumes 2016”:

goldfish-full-body

goldfish-bubbles

goldfish-with-cracker-full-body

goldfish-toilet

Psst. I’ve got a secret for you. Another costume got a lot of positive attention, even though it wasn’t the winner, and I did a shoot for that one as well. You’ll see those pics tomorrow morning. Wanna know what it is? You’ll have to wait for it…

The Weirdest “Sexy” Halloween Costumes of 2016

You asked for it. Seriously. I’ve been getting messages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, asking when this was coming, and suggestions for costumes for this year. And all of those costumes were from Yandy.com. So I reached out to Yandy, and asked if they’d be down for sponsoring this year’s post. They said yes! So get ready for even weirder, even SEXIER costumes than ever before.

For those of you who are new, here’s the deal: I’m showcasing some of the craziest “sexy” costumes I’ve seen this year. YOU get to vote for the one you want me to do a photo shoot in. And then I have to do it. Because I love you. (You can see the previous years’ collections and shoots here.)

Now, full disclosure. There are some legitimately awesome sexy Halloween costumes on Yandy. (And many other sexy costumes that I may not be able to leave the house in. But hey, you do Halloween however you want.) But picking those for this aren’t as fun. So take a look for yourself, but then come back here and pick something ridiculous for me to wear. You have until the end of Sunday, October 9th. (I’ll pick a winner on Monday.) Without further ado…

Current Events

You’ll trend on twitter faster than Kim K.

 [row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-donald-trump

Donald Trump

The most terrifying costume of the year. Only complete if I can get some friends to dress up as tacos to represent the taco stands that will be on every corner if he loses.

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yandy-hillary-clinton

Hillary Clinton

How do you make Hillary Clinton sexy? You take the “pant” out of “pantsuit.”

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yandy-pizza-rat

Pizza Rat

Ladies and gentlemen, my Patronus: Pizza rat.

[/column]

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yandy-alexander-hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Contest over. This is legitimately the sexiest. It wins. History has its eyes on me wearing this costume.

[/column] [/row]

Frisky Foods

You’ll be labeled “Fast Food” in these costumes. 

[row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-pizza

Pizza

You want a pizza me?

[/column]

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yandy-burger-1

Burger

Oh, is one sexy burger not enough for you? Don’t worry. There are TWO sexy burger options. TWO.

[/column]

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yandy-fries

Fries

You want fries with that shake? (Add a beret to make these French.)

[/column]

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yandy-pumpkin

Pumpkin

It puts the “spice” in Pumpkin Spice.

[/column] [/row]

Sexy Saturday Mornings

All your nostalgic favorites, not at all how you remembered them.

[row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-charlie-brown

Charlie Brown

Good grief.

[/column]

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yandy-oscar

Oscar the Grouch

Let’s be honest. This is on the list because Yandy calls it the “Sexy Trash Monster Costume.” And who DOESN’T want to be a sexy trash monster?

[/column]

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yandy-spongebob

Spongebob

Go business casual with this work-appropriate ensemble. Patrick Star more your speed? They’ve got that too.

[/column]

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yandy-captain-crunch

Captain Crunch

Oops! All Sexy. This captain wants to know what you’d like for breakfast.

[/column] [/row]

Animals

Brings another meaning to the term “Petting Zoo.” 

[row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-seahorse

Seahorse

This wins for most absolutely random.

[/column]

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yandy-unicorn

Unicorn

Feeling horny?

[/column]

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yandy-goldfish

Goldfish

I just…I can’t.

[/column]

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yandy-bunny

Bunny

When someone says they’re dressing up like a sexy bunny, “Bugs” isn’t usually the one I have in mind.

[/column] [/row]

Geek Chic

Recreate your favorite fanfic in these costumes.

[row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-astronaut

Astronaut

A sneek peek at Elon Musk’s space suits for Mars travel.

[/column]

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yandy-spiderman

Spider-Man

Yeah, ok. I’d kiss someone upside down in this.

[/column]

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yandy-yoda

Yoda

A drink buy me you will.

[/column]

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yandy-punisher

The Punisher

Oh? You want to be punished?

[/column] [/row]

Disney Dreams

I don’t think this is what Walt had in mind…

[row][column size=”one-fourth”]

yandy-mickey

Sorcerer Mickey

All your fantasias will come true.

[/column]

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yandy-bambi

Bambi

BAMBI OH DEAR GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU

[/column]

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yandy-dory

Dory

You’ll confuse a lot of children.

[/column]

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yandy-cheshire-cat

Cheshire Cat

“Hey, my smile’s up here.”

[/column] [/row]

So…what’s it going to be? Vote for the costume you want me to wear in a photo shoot in the comment below. I’ll order the one with the most votes on Monday, October 10th!