Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Crafting!

WOW! It has been SO long since my last published post...if you actually read my stuff, thank you, and I apologize it's been so long. I appreciate that you actually check out my posts 

All of you three readers know how much I love crafting, so you're not going to believe me when I tell you it had been literally months since I had gone to the craft store for more than just one specific item. Well, I went about two weeks ago and had an amazing time. I was there for over two hours! I think I circled the entire store at least three times, and perused several sections more than that. It was fantastic. I got some great ideas for projects I wanted to do, and got some supplies for a few of them and additional supplies to add to my armamentarium at home (like the jewelry findings and gift ribbon). The photo below is only about 3/4 of what I bought, because I got multiples of some things and I did get more jewelry making supplies but it would have been hard to see what they really were anyway. 

So the yarn is going to be for a scarf; I need a brown scarf and have a pretty hard time finding exactly what I want and then have a hard time justifying buying it because I can make it...we've had this conversation before! The green scrap fabric is this really thick upholstery-type fabric almost, and I'm going to use it to cut out a mini tree skirt for our tiny table-top Christmas tree...if I ever get around to putting it up this year...haha! The beeswax is for candles, lip balms, and lotion bars. The feathers are for all sorts of things, but I saw these amazing ornaments at a store down the street (very posh home decor...) and couldn't bring myself to buy them - they had cool pheasant feathers and they were really neat blown glass I thought, I'll just make something similar. I got some clear glass ornaments on the local Buy Nothing Facebook page, and put a few feathers inside each one. Similar enough, and super easy and cheap - not like the $30+ ones at the home store down the street! 

The little package of the mini trees and wreath was SO cute, I just had to come up with a project for it. I first thought I'd do a shadow box type of project with them, holiday themed of course, but I couldn't find quite the right type of box I was thinking of. I wanted to decorate them somehow, so I got some really small fake pearl beads to glue on like they were ornaments or something. I got the moss to go in the bottom of whatever form of diorama I ended up making with the trees. Fast forward a couple days, I was at the Goodwill in the Central District (the best Goodwill ever, their Seattle Flagship store), and I found the perfect jar for the project! Just big enough for both of the little trees and the wreath, and just the right price - $2.99. I also scored some other amazing finds at Goodwill that day - love when that happens!

So below is the in-process photo, working on gluing the little pearl beads on the trees and wreath.

Yes, I still use Elmer's Glue, haha! Below was the part when I was trying to figure out if the trees were going to be very stable on the moss in the bottom of the jar, and just how much moss I should use and what would look good.

The two photos below are the finished product! I put three of the little feathers in the bottom as well, to add some more nature feel to the whole thing. I used clear fishing line to hang the wreath, and wound the end of it around the hardware that holds the lid on. The trees aren't standing perfectly straight up, but they weren't actually perfect even before I glued them to the moss, so I figured it would just have to work as long as they don't actually tip over.

So, there you have it! One of several project ideas I had while at the craft store, and the only one that's actually come to fruition so far. But I do have some hope that I'll actually get the tree skirt done and get our mini tree put up...and maybe the stockings too.

Well, thanks for reading friends! Until next time, and hopefully it won't be so many months until the next post! I honestly think about it, and have written several draft posts about some more serious life topics, but haven't actually posted them publicly. Hopefully following this holiday season I can increase my post frequency for you three readers ;)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hemp Milk and Multicultural Curls

Well hello friends!

It's been a while since my last post and I think I have even skipped a month of Birchbox product reviews. Here's why: I haven't been all that impressed with Birchbox lately. I love the idea. But my products started getting uninteresting to me. So I logged in and updated my preferences and profile, and I hope by next month I start getting products that I'm more interested in. I was getting too many hair products and body products that I don't use a whole lot, so I just sort of lost interest for a bit. 

This month's box came last week, here's a pic: 

The theme was travel or something, so there was this passport thingy with a little quiz and info on how to enter a drawing for a travel certificate. Anyway, I'm going to quickly talk about a couple of the product samples. 

The benefit They're Real! mascara is great - I've used it before, so this wasn't a new thing for me. I don't like the ingredients, but as a mascara in general, it's AMAZING. It defines individual lashes, makes them look like twice as long, and lasts all day and into the night. It will come off with lots of regular eye makeup remover, just be patient and switch to a new cotton ball when one is saturated. It literally makes your natural lashes look like you're wearing falsies, which you don't have to do with this mascara. That being said - I have pretty long and full eyelashes already, so I would be interested to hear from someone who has thinner and less full lashes. 

The lotion: 

The smell was nice without overpowering, not a horrible ingredients list, and it was nice and thick without feeling greasy. I think I got about three evenings of use out of the sample size, applying to hands and arms and legs and shoulders. It was about the size of a hotel lotion sample. Pretty good. 

The hair product:

At first I was like "hmm, ok, I don't really have 'multicultural' hair," whatever it was referring to. I'm pretty darn white. With pretty darn white-girl hair. THIS IS THE BEST HAIR-SCRUNCHING PRODUCT EVER. No lie. This is amazing. Use a quarter size amount for almost-shoulder-length damp hair, let dry. This is fabulous. I've tried fancy scrunching creams, cheap scrunching sprays and all variety of styling mousses. This is the best. Whether I have "multicultural" hair or not, (and I know the package says it's really for all textures) I am seriously considering purchasing this product. I haven't worn my short hair in scrunched curls very often because I couldn't find a product that was sufficient in terms of weight, texture, doing what it says it does, holding curls all day, etc. Love this product. Buy it; I'm about to. Oh, and the size of the sample is HUGE! I thought I'd have to use a lot of the product, but I didn't, so now I've used it like four times and have at least enough for four more uses probably. Amazing. 

As far as the other two products:
One is a shower gel, smells nice but I prefer Dr. Bronner's Castile soap. The sample size was really nice too, a little jogger than standard hotel sample size. 
The last item, the tiniest little tube in the photo of my whole box, is some wrinkle serum or something. I've used it but cannot speak to it's efficacy as the size of the sample is too small and I always forget to use it consistently. It's really smooth and doesn't smell bad or anything, both characteristics are sometimes hard to find. 

HEMP MILK. I am loving it. I use a brand called Tempt, unsweetened and without added flavor like vanilla or anything. I needed something to put in my tea when I worked one of the public health clinics last week, and I had a bunch of almond milk at home already so I thought I'd try hemp milk. I like this brand because, unlike every other brand of hemp milk, it does NOT have carageenan. Hemp milk is a bit thicker than almond milk (a huge plus for me, because my tea additive of choice is still heavy cream!) and tastes a but more earthy. Oh, and the reason I don't just use heavy cream is because I am doing the Whole30 for the month of June. So that means no dairy. 

So the other day I tried making my own little "creamer" by mixing half almond milk and half hemp milk, and have been trying it in a few different teas that I drink. It's working quite nicely as a universal dairy- and chemical-free creamer. 

There you have it! Thanks for reading, and until next time - make sure to schedule at least one weekend this summer where you can unplug. As soon as this post goes live, I'm off until Sunday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kickstarter: Barbell Apparel

Hey all of you three readers, I've got something I just HAVE to share with you. THESE JEANS. Barbell Apparel looks pretty stinking awesome, if you ask me.

I think most of us will readily admit to despising that event that must happen every couple of years...jeans shopping. Find your new favorite pair, buy two or three or eight of them, and then one day after you've started your new fitness regimen or had a baby or changed jobs or ate four bites of cake...BAM, your faves no longer fit. Better yet, you think they fit, and then you reach down to pet the dog and you hear that ominous "rrrriiiiiipppppppp." Threads shredding, splitting open the crotch or backside or even the knee. Then you spend a half hour changing your outfit to go with yoga pants instead of jeans just so you can go to the mall and curse at every single pair of jeans you try on. Best. Day. Ever. NOT.

For those of us who aren't built like toothpicks but aren't thick-boned know, the sucks. I'm sure it can suck for either end of the spectrum as well, but seriously, how many women are ACTUALLY the exact same pants size between their waist and their hips? My guess: not very many.

I found a great pair of Levi's at Costco once. It was great, they fit perfectly for like five years, and after I wore them for the first week I went back to buy another pair. They were less than $20, which, for favorite jeans, is unheard of. Recently I have tried on every single pair of Sevens and Levi's that Costco has had over the last year, and NONE OF THEM fit right. Banana Republic and Ann Taylor usually have pants that fit me pretty nicely, but jeans? Forget it. Paige Denim makes a pretty nice pair for curvy girls, but they're over $150 a pair, so that's kind of like saying, "hey, you're average so we're going to charge a premium because we can." And that's annoyingly expensive. I have a pair of them, but I definitely do not plan on buying a second pair, at least not for a very long time.

About a year ago I started really lifting - I mean, increasing my personal records by leaps and bounds, getting way stronger. Not just toned, actually making strength progress. I'm talking about going from squatting barely 45 lbs (on a "strong" day) to squatting my body weight plus 10 lbs, on a regular basis. Bench pressing, dead lifting, etc, all hitting personal records.

So, what happens when you really drop it like a squat?! It shows. Mostly in your butt. And you split the crotch of almost every pair of jeans you own, unless they're super stretchy or way too big to begin with. Which, I suppose, is entirely possible, because you will definitely reduce your pants size if/when you start lifting - and that's a promise. [Suggested reading: 10 Pounds Down (And Counting). Side note: Jen Sinkler is fantastic.]

The problem is, when your waist starts shrinking and you lose a bunch of body fat from lifting, usually your butt stays about the same, or gets a little bigger - only this time around, it's getting super muscular in addition to storing some necessary body fat (because that's just where women store it). So your pants don't fit anymore. Your waist is smaller, but you can't get those size 4s past your mid-thigh because you're strong. Your muscles are going to split those pants. Damn it. So you try the next size up, and a 6 snugly fits up around those thighs and booty, but then you get a nice big gap at your lower back and you're showing everyone your plummer's crack. And belts just end up looking stupid at that point, because they just make your pants bunch up all over the place and then you're not comfortable anyway.

The solution: Barbell Apparel's jeans.

I'm so stoked to try these jeans!!! The Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday the 25th, so if you are so inclined you better become a backer SOON! I chose the two-pair plus t-shirt option, because I wanted both the women's skinny and the women's bootcut pairs. They don't ship until July, and just thinking about waiting any longer is killing me. I have one pair of jeans that sort of fits and doesn't have a rip in it. I need to expand my casual wardrobe options, people.

I need these jeans. And I bet you or someone you know could love these jeans as well.

Happy jeans shopping, friends! (Ha, ha, ha) I'm really hoping the Barbell Apparel jeans will be the end of my jeans-shopping misery!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Baby Shower Forecast

Nope, not MY baby shower (and none of that for me for a while!!), but one for a friend from dental school. Super cute. I wish I had taken photos of all the cute decor and cakes/cupcakes and games.

The hostess did a great job, and even admitted most of her ideas came from Pinterest - good news for all of us, haha, because basically it means we don't have to reinvent the wheel to host a great event - just follow tutorials and use printables and everything we can find on Pinterest.

The cake was super cute; I'll just have to describe it: three tiers, match the invitations. Theme was "You Are My Sunshine," so the top tier of the cake was red velvet cake covered in blue fondant with clouds on it. The middle tier was chocolate cake with white fondant and gray chevron stripes, and a little cutout paper attached that said "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray." The bottom tier was confetti cake with blue fondant with raindrops and an umbrella. I'm pretty sure there was a sun on there somewhere, but I can't remember. SO CUTE.

All of the cupcake toppers, activity sheets (bingo sheets, baby shower mad libs, and "wishes for baby" paper ornaments to hang on some branches) and invitations all matched and it was all so so cute!!

I got her several gift items, as usually happens with baby showers, and I wanted to avoid the giant gift bag because they're like $5-10 and what can you really do with them besides have the gift recipient use it again for the next baby shower they go to? So I prefer baskets or bins, and wanted to sort of match the theme a little bit as well.

Related tangent-rant: does anyone else absolutely hate going into Babies 'R Us? I literally cringe when I think about walking into that store and printing out a registry and trying to find the things on it. Awful. Horrible experiences, every time. I spend entirely too much time in that stupid store, and the things I end up buying are like alternative versions of the items on the registry because none of the stores EVER have the exact same items EVER. Ugh. Okay, done.

Anyway, they don't know the sex of the baby so everything was super neutral. I got them a set of washcloths with hooded towels, some rubber duckies for bathtime, Butt Paste (I buy this for literally every baby shower I go to), the book "I Love You Stinky Face" (another one I regularly give for baby shower gifts and first birthdays, etc), and a couple of those dangly plush toys that hang from the carseat handle.

So...with a random grouping of items that would have been difficult to wrap in paper (not to mention I can't stand wrapping paper...), and not wanting to buy a gift bag, I opted for one of those cloth bins from Target! I found the perfect neutral color, too - yellow! And it had a little circle window in one of the sides of it, so I decided, hey, I'm going to use those little yellow duckies as decoration!

Here's the finished product:

I'm not super great at making tissue paper look all good and cute, but this turned out pretty okay!

I made the card, but totally copied it from one I saw at Target that had buttons floating around in the little umbrella on the front. It was more than $4, and I thought that just asinine, so I decided to make my own. I used an exacto-knife to cut out an umbrella shape from a white piece of cardstock, then glued that to a seafoam green/blue paper with white polka dots, then glued that to the front of a white blank card. The front says "Baby shower forecast..." and the inside says (wait for it...wait for's SO CUTE!!!) "Showers of love with a 100% chance of joy!"

So stinkin' cute, I thought. Maybe you don't think it's as cute as I think it is, but that's ok, haha!

Anyway, that's my latest miniature craft project and event. Hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading, and until next time - ciao!

This Is Important

This is important.

I have to warn you that this post is going to be a bit rant-y and probably a bit depressing. I just HAVE to share this podcast with you all, because to me, the message it sends is SO SO important. This has nothing to do with the fact that I belong to this "paleo" or "primal" community; this has everything to do with the fact that the guest on this particular episode of my favorite podcast has done so much work to get the information he has uncovered, and I NEED to share this. I am so passionate about REAL and accessible information, that I feel it would be borderline criminal to have listened to this podcast and not share it with people.

Just a quick note: it's going to sound like I'm on some sort of soap box and think that I'm perfect and I've found the answer to amazing health and all of that...I have NOT, and do not think anything about me or my choices is perfect; we all have our vices and adjustments we've made in our own lives to make our own lifestyles work, one way or the other. This is in no way meant to insult anyone or their choices; my main concern here is sharing this information. As if I have enough followers to reach anyone, haha, but hey...this is the internet. Endless possibilities, right? Haha. The main thing I want is to SHARE THIS PODCAST with anyone and everyone who might consider listening. Here we go...

So a lot of the episode is about running and metabolic damage. If you are an avid runner or are totally set in your belief that running is THE WAY to get healthy...maybe you shouldn't listen to that part. Actually, maybe you should. But running is so ingrained as "the American way" to get healthy, and we believe so deeply that cardio is the only way to lose weight and burn fat and all of these things...this message is going to be hard to swallow. It took me over a year to wrap my brain around the fact that this is metabolically damaging, and to this day I struggle to get the thoughts OUT of my head that tell me I should do a 5k or go to a spin class four or five days a week, or whatever.

Moving on...the conversation is great leading up to all of that, and immediately following they start talking about the health care system and the money behind prevention versus treatment of conditions we bring upon ourselves due to lifestyle, etc. Tidbits on how expensive this all is, information that just isn't getting out to the general public, things we want to deny and just pretend aren't there, etc. Talking about trying to affect change, trying to positively help people change for the better, etc...I mean, what does it take to convince someone to change their LIFESTYLE? For so many people, a pill from Big Pharma is the answer they're looking for. And then everything gets more expensive for everyone. Literally, everyone pays for this. Okay, moving on again...

The part that really started getting to me was when they started the discussion about cancer.


It's the word that we're all afraid of. I think it would be pretty safe to say that the vast majority of us have known at least one person who has had some form of cancer.

Cancer is a metabolic disease. It does not matter what form of cancer we are talking about - it is, at its basis, cells behaving inappropriately. The normal metabolic behavior of cells has been destroyed. Mitochondrial function, cell replication, and the genetic implications of all of that have resulted in whatever form of cancer we're talking about. Of course, there is a lot of information about cancer and different types of cancer that I'm not going to talk about here, because let's be honest - I'm pretty sure none of you three readers are going to want to read it, and there is simply entirely too much information for me to ever even read and understand myself. So I leave that up to Kiefer and Jason Seib and Robb Wolf.

Back to the conversation in the podcast, and the underlying theme of the conversation about cancer - it's carbohydrates, guys. Sugar. In whatever form you want it, carbs are the most important factor in cancer. James Watson, anyone? 20 years of cancer research, and he's not the only one who came to this conclusion. As a metabolic disease, cancer literally cannot live without carbs. In fact, it shrinks and even dies without carbs. Humans can live in ketosis, meaning our normal metabolism can function and even thrive without (or with very little) carbs.

I'm not going to get into how vegetables are carbs (wanna compare carb content in two cups of broccoli versus two slices of bread?) or how this or that or the other thing is "protective" against cancer (think: tomatoes, red wine, whatever else). There are plenty of links in the right hand module to the websites I follow, so you can go read about that yourselves.

My recommendations, if you want to read about the metabolic effects of high carbohydrate foods, etc, are Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser. Use the search features on their websites. Also, Kiefer's website is full of additional information as well. Another source of a wealth of information is Loren Cordain.

That's going to be the end of this post, because I don't want to keep ranting about the whole thing - the podcast does an awesome job of addressing attempts to get this information out there, touches on some great information in general, and puts the idea into our heads about what we are doing to ourselves and how we've become so brainwashed into believing that what the government and mainstream health education tells us is "healthy."

My point is that, while we may not have a cure for cancer, we have SO MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT CANCER that we are not using. And we aren't sharing it with anyone, either. Mainstream treatment for most cancers is: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. And yet things continue to get worse on the cancer front.


But seriously, listen. It's so, so, so important. I know women who have had breast cancer. My FIL had colon cancer that metastasized to his lungs, pancreas, and bone. My dad's best friend had some form of bone cancer with all sorts of metastases, my friend's brother had osteosarcoma. A family member has a rare invasive tumor inside the head. A close friend had testicular cancer. I'm not trying to one-up your personal experiences with cancer, I'm saying WE ALL KNOW SOMEONE.

So please. Listen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cleansers and Masks and Moisturizers, Oh My!

I'm off work today. In fact, I'm off for the rest of this week. Pretty sweet after poor doggy girl was stuck in her crate for 13 hours yesterday since Husband is out of town and Tuesdays are my longest work days EVER. So exhausting. At least I got a fifteen minute walk in the sun over my lunch break...? 

I'm so sore from Monday's Warrior Woman session! WOW. Oh hey, butt and thighs, haven't done that in a while, have we? Maxed out squats (135 lbs) and bench press (85 lbs). Not horrible for feeling super weak since I haven't been to a Warrior Woman class in almost a whole month. I tell you, though, going up and down stairs and trying to get up from chairs right now...haha. It's intense. Hurts so good.

Let's move on, shall we? I've been promising a post about non-Birchbox beauty products for a looooong while now, and finally have decided to sit down to do it! Here we go! I'm going to start with skin care products:

 I have used Mary Kay skin care products literally since I was 12. It was the first brand I used when I started washing my face with something other than water. I always resisted it, because I thought it was for old ladies and my mom was a consultant and so I thought I'd be rebellious and make her buy me Clean & Clear (the absolute WORST kind of thing to do to your skin, ever...ugh so dry and bad...). So once I realized what that crap was doing to my skin, of course I switched to Mary Kay's teen skin care line, Velocity. Then I moved on to the TimeWise 3-in-1 cleanser and moisturizer. Both of those systems are really good for what their purpose is - I didn't use the TimeWise Day and Night Solutions religiously, just sometimes, but they were good additions to the cleanser and moisturizer. I like it because it's relatively gentle, doesn't make your face feel all tight and dry after washing and rinsing, and the moisturizers are soft and work well.

When Mary Kay came out with this TimeWise Repair Volu-Firm Set a couple years ago, I had to try it. The cleanser was even better than the regular TimeWise cleanser I was using before, and I loved the Volu-Firm Lifting Serum - super smooth and silky, and made my skin feel new. Then there was the day cream with sunscreen, which was not my favorite. Felt like it sort of just sat on top of my skin rather than soaking in, and actually would sort of pill up underneath my makeup as I was putting foundation on, so I ended up flaking a lot of it off - at least that's what it seemed like. Does that make sense? The night treatment with retinol was pretty great though, thick but not oily or greasy, felt like it was really doing a nice job of moisturizing my skin. The dispensers for both the day and night creams were pretty annoying. There was also the eye renewal cream, supposedly to reduce the crow's feet lines in the outer corners of the skin around the eyes, and boost firmness in all the delicate and thin skin around the eyes in general. This felt nice, but I don't know that I have an opinion about how well it actually works.

Overall, I liked this system of skin care. I never felt like my skin was dry, but always felt that the cleanser removed my makeup effectively. The different creams and serums didn't really take any longer than my normal cleanser and moisturizer plus face cream routine, so that was definitely a plus. For the record, I have stopped using this in favor of trying different systems that contain less chemicals and preservatives.

I got these samples at one of my trips to Sephora. There is a facial mask and an eye mask. The facial mask felt pretty good, my face felt super clean and exfoliated and new after I used it. It did feel slightly harsh, but I used some pretty great moisturizer afterwards (can't remember exactly which one I used now, but it was probably one of the Birchbox ones I liked so much). The eye mask...ouch. I'm not actually sure what it was supposed to be doing, but it did not feel awesome on that delicate around-the-eye skin. Kind of stung actually. I don't think I left it on as long as it said to, because I didn't want to be hurting that skin without a proper moisturizer to use afterwards.

This was another sample from Sephora. Actually, this might have been the one I used after the GlamGlow face mask above...but I can't remember. It wasn't too thick, nice and smooth, but nothing to write home about. There are plenty of nice moisturizers out there, including plain old coconut oil, which is what I'm moving more towards now.

However, I will tell you what did NOT work with my skin: Josie Maran Argan Oil. Talk about some serious clogged pores and break outs. It felt super nice, but it definitely made my problem skin WORSE. I gave it a few weeks, too, and it was not good. Maybe when my hormones are more under control I will try it again because it does feel AWESOME, but definitely not again anytime soon.

These were on clearance at Target (I think) a couple months ago, so I figured I'd try them. I like cleansing cloths for taking camping, especially when we go someplace hot in the summer that requires multiple sunscreen applications throughout the day, because I just cannot wait to get that GUNK off my face at the end of the day! And let's face it, toiletries requiring some form of water or wet washcloth or something are really annoying on a camping trip. These are good for that purpose. In general, facial cleansing towelettes (both Burt's Bees and the Mary Kay ones I have) leave my face more dry than I like it, but bringing my regular moisturizer or coconut oil on a camping trip isn't a big deal for me since I usually need some lotion on the rest of my body as well.

This is my newest adventure in varieties of skin care: DeVita Natural Skin Care Aloe Vera Moisture Cleanser. I found it at Pharmaca, and it's paraben-free and safe for gluten-sensitive skin (which mine definitely is - as evidenced by my itchy eczema break outs after eating just about any form of gluten in an amount larger than two or three bites). The ingredients list is mostly essential oils and extracts, and it's touted as being 100% vegan (which I don't actually care about, but likely ensures higher quality sourced ingredients than larger brands laden with chemicals). I've been using it for three days, and last night I used ONLY this cleanser and plain coconut oil to follow, and this morning woke to find my recently very problematic skin looking and healing significantly better than it was just last weekend. So, good news for this brand so far. It's super gentle, doesn't foam much but that's not a huge deal to me. It's also not a cream, but again, doesn't matter much to me. My skin feels clean afterward without feeling dry or taught.

A few notes to add:
I previously have used Mary Kay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover EXCLUSIVELY since...literally since I started wearing mascara, so probably since I was about 14. Even if I didn't wear eyeshadow or eyeliner, I usually wore mascara and would need eye makeup remover, and the MK was THE PRODUCT. I still recommend it to anyone and everyone who doesn't like their current eye makeup remover, and even to those of you who think you like yours. The MK one is great. I have tried several other brands, both expensive and relatively cheap, and none of them compares. Until I started using just coconut oil. Yup, plain old coconut oil; put a little bit on my finger, smear all over my eyelid, above and below, and get it on my lashes, and then wipe it all off with a cotton ball. It's AMAZING, you guys. Seriously. Looks like it makes a mess, but comes off SO nice and clean in the end, especially after rinsing or cleansing as well. Pretty awesome.

Like I said, I've switched to almost exclusively coconut oil as a moisturizer, too. Super awesome for any skin on the body, non comedogenic, safe around eyes, smells nice, and just all around great.

So, since I started with skin care in this post, the next one will include some makeup products I've tried recently. Might be up later today, or might not be up til tomorrow. We'll see.

It's time for me to get outside and take Tiny Girl out for her walk! She's getting antsy, and I am too.

Until next time, y'all, thanks for reading!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Crafty Afternoons and Cinnamon Butter Popcorn

Happy spring, lovelies! I haven't posted a non-Birchbox/beauty product-related entry in a while, so HERE WE GO! Finally.

Setting aside time for myself is a huge part of stress management for me, but just setting that time aside isn't good enough. I have to seriously be involved ONLY in that activity for that time, whatever I've allotted that time for. I have a hard time just thinking about the activity I'm doing, and engrossing myself in it without feeling guilty about the business- or dentistry-oriented activities I could be doing otherwise. Unfortunately, that just adds to the cycle of poor stress management, and makes things that much worse.

Fortunately, I finally decided to begin organizing fairly regular group crafting events. I know, I know...add another responsibility, and surely stress levels will go up. Well, yes, there is the time spent trying to organize a date and time that will work for a small group of busy women, and then there is the decision about what project to do, and maybe stopping by the craft store to get a few things, but overall it's been great for me so far. I've only held two events, but they have literally made the difference in starting the following week off with a more positive attitude. It really helps to have at least one other person there enjoying the allotted time with me, it keeps everyone on track and adds a social component to the dedicated time.

The first crafty afternoon was back in March, and we had several girls show up - one I graduated high school with, the rest I went to elementary and middle school with, and one girl brought her sister in law. My mom was also there, since it was at her house. It was a great afternoon! I decided to kind of copy a piece of art I saw on Pinterest, except instead of making it a graphic print I did it all by hand in watercolor paint. I found a Google image of the Seattle skyline that I liked, used it as a silhouette, traced it onto watercolor paper (same method as my previous watercolor project with the posterized photos of the kids), freehand sketched the umbrella and letters, then painted. The whole project, I knew there was something about the quote that was SO familiar, I could almost hear the song in my head, and then a friend reminded me it was Shirley Manson from Garbage :) Perfect! Below is my finished project, unframed still because I don't actually have a place to hang it in my apartment right now...

I shared the photo on Facebook and a friend was so excited about it that I painted another one and sent it to him as a surprise! Truly Seattle, skyline and umbrella and rain reference, plus the fact that it's a total grunge reference too! Still love this, even though I can't take credit for the design idea. Just made it custom for myself, what with watercolor and all.

When I was shopping for some random project ideas and supplies for that craft party, I came across a couple cute home decor things at Big Lots. Now, I've said this before, but no matter how cheap a cute thing is, I always look at it and think "can I make that? I think I probably can, so I can't justify buying it..." Hahaha, SO, that's what happened at Big Lots. Below left is the photo of the thing from Big Lots, and below right is the one I made myself and filled with a bunch of shells I had in a shoebox from years ago. I currently have the jar's original lid on, and my ultimate goal for that is to drill a hole in the middle of the lid, paint it ocean blue, and attach a fun drawer pull knob to the top so it's all cute. I love PNW-themed things and anything beach or ocean related - so naturally, this piece of decor HAD to find a place in my home somehow. And I made it for free, because who doesn't have an extra jar, I had a thing of jute already, plus a ton of shells I've collected over the years from beach combing.

From Big Lots, $6 or $8, I can't remember.
DIY, free!

The second crafty afternoon I had was just over a week ago, and only one other lady could come, but we both worked on similar projects. She was reorganizing a ton of photos from her year in the Peace Corps for a big digital scrapbook, and I was working on my Ireland/Scotland scrapbook with photos and journaling from a trip I took almost NINE years So behind on these things...but hey, I got a couple of page spreads done in a few hours, and the other girl and I took advantage of catching up with each other (hadn't seen each other since college!) and thoroughly enjoyed each others' company.

So, planning craft parties is one of the ways I've been working on stress management - incorporating time for crafting, because I do love being creative in those ways.

A couple months ago I had also started yoga at the gym I go to, once a week. I'm most definitely NOT a yoga person - I think the way we've made it almost competitive and impossible for the average person here in America is just ridiculous. Whatever happened to listening to your body, doing the moves that are comfortable for your body and modifying as necessary, and MEDITATION? I mean, isn't that the whole point of yoga in the first place? Anyway, the yoga instructor at our gym is fantastic, but unfortunately a few weeks after I started the classes I had to quit because I see patients until an hour prior to the start of the class, and have to finish charts after that, plus commute there isn't really a way for me to get there ever. Fabulous. But on the bright side, I have a consistent part time job now!! Definitely helps with the financial stress we've been under since we moved back to Seattle. Direct deposit every two weeks is a beautiful thing.

Speaking of my consistent part time job ruining my gym schedule, it really screwed up my Warrior Woman (strength training) schedule too! So not utilizing my gym membership to its potential in addition to seeing my gym performance decline slightly, was another stressor. So, I sat down with the owner of the gym and figured out another way - AND, they are adding another Warrior Woman series to the schedule so I will be able to join that one. I also added boxing into my training regimen. Love it. 

So, I've done some really effective things as far as stress management over the last few months. Other minor things I've added in are: more walking around the neighborhood (more walking in general - even at the grocery store I park about as far away as possible and take the stairs most of the time for everything), more reading books before bed, decluttered our apartment a bit more (it's definitely a work in progress, but it's getting there), cuddling the dog more, and saying "no" to more things. 

Last week, I also was quite aggressive in an email to a company I rely on for web development and marketing for my business. They are pretty expensive, but the first live version they posted was a JOKE - I'm not even kidding, from some minor spelling and grammar errors, to NOT even posting my business phone number and address - with multiple email attempts at getting some of those issues corrected and seeing NO changes in three days, I finally went ahead and made a shared Google doc with all of my issues, drafted a very brief and sharp email attached to it, sent it to five people instead of just my main project manager at the company, and low and behold - within two hours of me sending that email they had held a meeting specifically for MY project, and fixed several issues already. The rest of that day was spent addressing other issues and continuing work on the subpage content. I have a phone conference with them later this week to review other recent updates and go over what comes next, and hopefully they'll start the tutorial on my dashboard site so that I can review ROI for the webpage and everything. 

In addition, I am finally on track with a graphic designer and should therefore have a logo and all my print products (stationary, etc.) really soon. Just in time for my Valpak to hit mailboxes.

Summary of the previous two paragraphs: being passive-aggressive as is very typical of almost any PNW-er does NOT bode well for stress management. I organized my concerns, was extremely firm in presenting those concerns, and followed through. This resulted in better efficiency and productivity, and therefore decreased my stress that much more. It was awesome.

Now, if only that would actually affect my skin health in a positive way too. Ugh. I still think my lady hormones are all sorts of screwed up, and am trying my best with sleep management and eating clean, but I still have just AWFUL break outs about the same time every month. Driving me crazy. I'm currently in the process of changing cleansers for good, and moisturizer as well, so hopefully that will help reduce some of the surface inflammation that's contributing to it. But I know I need better hormone regulation from the inside as well. Lots of experimenting still to do.

On that note, the next post will be about some products that I have tried outside of my Birchbox subscription (i.e. some of my favorite Mary Kay products, coconut oil, various gift sets and trial sizes of things on sale at Sephora and others, etc.).

OH, but I almost forgot - I made delicious stovetop popcorn while Husband was gone a couple weeks ago, and made it again yesterday. A quick how-to:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp grass-fed butter
4 handfuls popping corn
salt and cinnamon to taste
stovetop popcorn popper thing
Put the oil and butter in the pot and let it start to melt, then add the popping corn and salt and cinnamon. Once it starts to pop, start rotating the handle of the pot so none of it sticks to the bottom and burns. Once popping decreases to about a single pop per two or three seconds, it's about ready. Dump in a giant bowl and EAT ALL OF IT BECAUSE IT IS SO GOOD.

I enjoyed some yesterday with my afternoon (iced) tea. While cuddling with the dog on a giant blanket on the floor. It was great. I hope you do the same!

Hope you are all well, thanks for reading, and get ready for some more beauty products next time!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Birchbox Product Reviews and Google Drive

Hi everyone, so great news - I have discovered Google Drive. Hahahaha, I know, right?!

I went to download the iOS update for my phone, and of course there wasn't enough room on my phone for it, so I had to delete like half my photos (but I definitely uploaded them into iPhoto first...). Then, after uploading to my computer, my computer needed to be updated also, and then it started really screwing up and telling me there wasn't enough room on my startup disk and that it's running out of room to run things from and all of that - so I needed someplace to store all my photos that I don't have hard copies of yet...which is, like, almost all of them, haha. Lots of my photos I can delete after I use them, like the ones I take for the blog, and I obviously make CDs of the catalogues of photos from huge life events like graduation and wedding candids and stuff like that, but I had about a gazillion other photos that I couldn't bear to delete forever but also haven't found a "home" for yet. So I asked some friends what they recommend, and ended up trying out Google Drive. I installed in on my computer, and on my phone, so hopefully when I move photos into those folders they are stored someplace that's NOT my computer disk or my phone...right? Please, someone techy and smart out there, please please confirm this for me? I know I'm not tech savvy, but seriously I should at least be able to figure out if they're still taking up a bunch of disk space on my computer...right?

Anyway, I'm excited to have some form of cloud storage for all my photos because they sure do take up a LOT of memory on these new fangled tech gadgets we all have. Holy cannoli.

I'm assuming you probably didn't come here to read about my adventures with Google Drive, so I'll get to the reviews of my March Birchbox products. Below is a photo of my March Bb:

1. Air Repair Rescue Balm
2. COOLA Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face
3. Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper
4. Vasanti Cosmetics BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator
5. Mighty Leaf Tea Pouches (Organic Earl Grey, Green Tea Tropical, Chamomile Citrus)
BONUS! A treat from Ghirardelli: Cherry Tango Intense Dark Chocolate square

1. Air Repair Rescue Balm: "Balms away! This all-natural salve repairs dry, cracked skin anywhere on the body. Dab onto chapped lips, cuticles, hands, elbows, and knees."


This product feels really smooth and moisturizing, not too heavy although does feel like it can heal super dry areas. I used it on my cuticles and a couple areas on my face that had some dry patches forming. I did not use it on my lips because it's kind of funny smelling and I didn't want to have it right under my nose to have to smell it. I have only used it before going to bed because it doesn't really soak in like a lotion would, it's definitely a healing balm similar to Vaseline or something like that. I do like how it works, but I don't think it necessarily works BETTER than other similar products. I think I prefer Mary Kay's Extra Emollient Night Cream, it smells nicer and does the same thing.

2. COOLA Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face: "Organic tinted moisturizer with lasting sun protection that evens tone and masks flaws. Smooth a thin layer onto clean skin."

When this first came, I totally thought it would be a horrible color because I'm SO fair. I don't use sunscreen a whole lot anymore because I really need the vitamin D for my mood and mental health (more on that in another post on stress management), so I kind of wish this was SPF 15 instead of 30 because I will more than likely be using up this whole thing in the next couple of weeks. It's super super light, has just enough tint to even my skin tone so it's not so pink-splotchy, and it doesn't smell funny like a lot of sunscreens do. It's touted as organic, and sure it has some organic ingredients, but let's be clear - chemical sunscreens are not exactly good for our bodies - there is evidence that these chemicals easily travel transdermally and can affect our endocrine systems (think: hormones...not something I want to screw with anymore). So, whether "organic" or not, I'm not a fan of sunscreens in general anymore. I do, however, need some sort of protection from long periods in the sun, because I am so fair and a bad sunburn is worse than the bad things about sunscreen, in my opinion. Anyway, I was pretty surprised this product doesn't feel greasy at all and it feels like it just soaks into the skin, leaving a very-well-blended, more even tone. It doesn't smear funny or anything either, which is great - it spreads out really nicely.

3. Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper: "This water-based, weightless styling lotion keeps curls shiny, defined, and frizz-free. Comb through wet hair from roots to ends."

This sample was HUGE...a tiny tiny bit of this serum goes a LONG way. I'll probably get at least 6 uses out of it, I've only used it twice so far and it still feels almost full. That said, I don't think this is like a super awesome product. It's just sort of...meh. Maybe it's meant for super curly hair that is frizzy, to help hold tighter curls in place without reacting to humidity; my hair isn't super curly but has some significant waves. It does tend to frizz a little bit, but maybe not enough to notice the effects of this product? I dunno, I'm not that impressed. Today I used it in combination with my Beauty Protect spray in conditioner (from my December Birchbox), and I'm pretty sure my hair only really feels the effects of the conditioner. Curly Hair Solutions: not for me.

4. Vasanti Cosmetics BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator: "This powerful exfoliator mimics the results of professional microdermabrasion, minus the potential for redness and sensitivity. Three to five times a week, wet your face and massage a pea-sized amount into skin; rinse off."

I used to use the Mary Kay TimeWise Microdermabrasion set that had two steps: the microderm scrub, followed by the replenishing moisturizer designed to help skin heal from the microderm. Let's be real here, microdermabrasion is designed to remove the top layer of the skin, which is dead skin cells anyway, BUT they are protective. When we remove them, skin can be easily irritated. Yes, it makes your skin look new and fresh, but the potential for irritation is high. The Vasanti BrightenUp! is pretty great in my opinion. It's not as harsh as the Mary Kay MDA, but it also didn't come with a post-MDA moisturizer like MK does, so I still need to apply my normal moisturizer after using it. (They may make a moisturizer to use afterwards, I just don't have it since it didn't come in my Birchbox.) I use it in the shower so I'm not tempted to scrub harder by using a washcloth over the sink. My skin doesn't get as irritated with this as it used to with too-frequent of use of the Mary Kay kind. The Vasanti also smells pretty good. For a MDA product, I like this quite a bit.

5. Mighty Leaf Tea Pouches (Organic Earl Grey, Green Tea Tropical, Chamomile Citrus)

Mighty Leaf is pretty much whole leaf tea in separate bags so you don't need your own tea-steeping filter thing. I have only tried the Earl Grey so far, but it was pretty darn good. I like tea quite a bit, but I'm usually not a fan of Earl Grey. I prefer Irish Breakfast, Chai, or other black breakfast teas - normally Earl Grey doesn't brew strong enough for me. Mighty Leaf, though, was really delicious. I used a single teabag to brew my entire normal tea pot worth of tea, and I enjoyed it all morning with my half-almond-milk-half-heavy-cream mixture (I know, I'm weird about that, but it's how I like it). I'm looking forward to trying the energizing Green Tea Tropical and relaxing Chamomile Citrus flavors, given that I know they will brew nice and strong and flavorful. I may enjoy Mighty Leaf quite a bit, but on the Birchbox website this tea is $9.95 for only 15 teabags...!!! For those of you who know me, that's much too expensive when I can enjoy my standard Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast Tea for the discount price of $3 for 80 teabags...just saying. My other fave Irish Breakfast Tea is Barry's (actually an Irish company, makes it all that much better, too), which I believe is about $10 for 80 teabags on Amazon...? Also not a bad price considering it's ACTUALLY IRISH!

BONUS! A treat from Ghirardelli: Cherry Tango Intense Dark Chocolate square

This little morsel was delicious! The "intense dark" was the best part, I think, because it made it not too sweet, so it was definitely enjoyable with wine - those of you who have been to wine tastings or dinners with my mom, you'll know she LOVES to bring up the fact that wine and chocolate don't actually go together unless you've got either a SUPER sweet wine (generally not all that great...) or a VERY dark (and therefore, bitter) chocolate. This chocolate flavor was just the right amount of bitter to pair with the wine I happened to have open, and the sweetness I felt really just came from the bits of cherry, so it still went well with the wine. Pretty fantastic. The ingredients list was short and not full of chemicals, too, so yes, I might be inclined to purchase a box of these sometime in the future for a party or hostess gift. Probably not from Birchbox because let's face it, Target carries Ghirardelli and who can resist a trip to Target? NOT THIS GIRL!

Alright, so there you have it: my March Birchbox products and a little blurb about computer troubles, haha! Next up will be a discussion of some other products that I acquired via Sephora samplers and some other products I have used in the past. Also coming up: new job, less stress, managing stress, etc etc etc. Wow, so many changes have occurred in the last month or so, and they have been GREAT. So, my stress level has fallen SHARPLY. Always good. More on that in future posts!

Until then, friends, be well and take care! Oh, and feel free to share any info on your own Birchbox products, and check out my girl over at I'm Better In Real Life for some additional product reviews and general life banter that is fun to read!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

February Birchbox and Some Housekeeping/Announcements

Happy Sunday to you all! It has been a while since my last post, and also a while since I actually received my February Birchbox, but I couldn't write any reviews until I had actually used all the products, so here we are.

A few things to note/upcoming posts/random thoughts before I jump into Feb's Bb.
1.  I have managed to collect a bunch of additional cosmetics/skin care items that I've started trying in addition to my Bb stuff, and I will be reviewing several items in a couple more posts. I'm excited to share some great products I've found and my experience with a bunch of new products!
2.  I do have every intention of continuing posts about other things in life also, I just have been SUPER busy getting an additional part-time job! Woop! Predictable income that will help me fund my own slowly growing practice, and participate more predictably in funding our household as well. FINALLY something consistent.
3.  These next couple of weeks are going to be super crazy with starting the new consistent part-time job, so bear with me - I'll have some updates on stress management and how it's been affecting me.
4.  Speaking of stress management, other topics I'll be discussing in the near future include: sleep, acne, performance at the gym, food experiments, and some amazing podcasts I've been listening to lately - so, basically, my lifestyle, what I've been doing to try to improve it, and some good resources for you if you are so inclined to check them out.
5.  Also related to stress, I have gone to yoga several times in the last two months (if you know me, I'm NOT a yoga person at all, so this is a big deal), and it's been pretty awesome. I'll have a tidbit about that as well, if not on its own then with the stress management stuff.

I think that's about all of the random things I needed to say...without making this post FOREVER long, let's get to the Birchbox products!!! (below photo pulled from Birchbox)

The items I received were:
1.  Beauty Protector Protect & Oil hair oil
2.  Cynthia Rowley Liquid Eyeliner in Black Ink
3.  Harvey Prince Hello fragrance
4.  Previse HydroMilk moisturizer
5.  Ruby Wing Color Changing Nail Polish in Ride 'Em Cowgirl

1.  Beauty Protector hair oil: "This just-for-you hair oil defends against UV rays, heat, and breakage. Work 1-3 drops into damp hair, or to the ends of dry hair. Perfect for all hair types."

If you read the review of my December Birchbox items, you will know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Beauty Protector products - my December box had the spray-in conditioner in the red bottle, and it's amazing. I still love it, though I have found I use significantly less than I did the first time I used it - I need my hair to go at least two days in between washings, so more than three spritzes of the conditioner was weighing my hair down too much. Anyway, this oil is pretty fantastic as well. It makes my hair feel awesomely soft and healthy. I like that a little bit goes a long way; I don't think I would purchase this product simply because I already have the spray-in conditioner which, as an added bonus, is actually a detangler, I prefer products that detangle in addition to protecting and making my hair feel soft and great. Beauty Protector products are reasonably priced in the $20-30 range depending on the product; if I did not already have the spray-in conditioner, $21.95 for this hair oil would not be unreasonable to me.

2.  Cynthia Rowley Liquid Eyeliner in Black Ink: "Ultraprecise, smudgeproof liner from the designer's just-launched makeup line. Gently trace upper lash line from inner to outer corner. Lightly stipple bottom lash line."

The texture (is that the right word) of this eyeliner is pretty great. It goes on really smooth, I wasn't fighting for the color to be consistent when I was making the line on my eyelid, like some pencils can be, and I wasn't really struggling much with the fact that it was liquid either - I'm notorious for sucking at applying liquid eyeliner. What I didn't really like so much about this was the applicator itself - did your mom ever have those, like, feather tipped markers to use on rubber stamps to color the stamp different colors before stamping on a card or whatever? Do you know what I'm talking about? Haha, anyway, the tip applicator for this eyeliner is really long and feather-like, so I had a hard time using it because it was too flimsy at the very end. Maybe if you're a pro at using liquid liner, you wouldn't have this problem. I am still searching for an eyeliner that is super easy to use (pencil OR liquid, don't care), doesn't smear all over my eyelid as soon as I open my eye, and doesn't scratch my eyelid during application (some of my pencils do that, and it's bugging me). Also, I'm moving more towards products without parabens and phthalates anyway, and this does not fall into that category. This product was "meh" for me, and not worth the $18 for a full sized package.

3.  Harvey Prince Hello fragrance: "Best-selling spritz that mingles cheerful citrus with floral notes. Well, hello there!"

Sorry the photo quality of this is not awesome (this goes for all the photos taken in my bathroom, actually...). So, this fragrance is pretty great! I like how it smells on me, it's citrus-y AND floral, without being sweet or overpowering, and the price for a full-sized bottle is really reasonable! Just $55. I likely won't be purchasing the full sized bottle, just because I have about a million fragrances (sample sized and full sized), so I don't see a need to additional bottles to continue cluttering my bathroom, but I do recommend this scent if these notes work well with your own skin. Unlike the sample I got in December's box, which was $180 for the full size bottle, and in my opinion wasn't even that awesome to begin with, this Harvey Prince option is pretty fantastic.

4.  Previse HydroMilk: "Lightweight hydrator that floods skin with antioxidants - but zero parabens or synthetics. Twice daily, smooth over clean face. The nongreasy formula is perfect for all skin types."

This is a very lightweight moisturizer, I like how it makes my skin feel. My skin is very easily irritated, and I have had some serious breakouts lately (will go into more detail on that, including products I have tried, dietary modifications I have tried, etc, in my post on stress management), and this product did NOT make things worse at all - in fact, I think it may be contributing to healing my painful, irritated, dry and cracked patches. I know that sounds graphic and horrible - it's not as visibly bad as it sounds, but it HURTS and ITCHES. So this product has been quite soothing, dare I say successful at helping along the healing process. I LOVE that it's paraben-free, because parabens in skin care and cosmetic products have been shown to affect hormone regulation (endocrine system), and acne/problem skin is, at its core, a hormone problem. More on that later in my stress management post...

So anyway, I quite enjoy this moisturizer. Although I'm not entirely sure if it's 100% free of the ingredients I'm trying to avoid in my daily routine, it IS proving to treat my skin very nicely. If you all remember my rave review for the Embryolisse 24-Hour Miracle Cream back from December, I think this Previse cream might be even better - it feels more lightweight, and the ingredients are pretty clean as well. What I don't like about the Previse, is that the full-size is $48 for 60ml...!!! Woa. I mean, I know it's important to invest in quality products for use on skin, but that's a bit much. The Embryolisse is $28 for 75ml.

I'm sure I'll come back to these reviews if in the future I need to purchase a new moisturizer from Birchbox rather than Sephora or Nordstrom, so hopefully this review will help jog my memory - Previse is so smooth and light; Embryolisse feels amazing but is a bit thicker on the skin.

5.  Red Wing Color Changing Nail Polish: "This color-changing polish morphs from a gold glitter into a sparkly berry hue in the sun."

In the photo, the cap for the bottle of polish shows gold glitter on one half ("inside"), and red glitter on the other half ("outside"). My first thought was, "ya right, this doesn't work." I did mention previously that I like Birchbox nail polish samples because the bottles are a reasonable size for a nail polish - who uses a whole bottle of nail polish before it gets all goopy?! Not I like the size of the bottle, and the fact that it's free, so I can try different colors and stuff and not worry about buying a full size bottle for $8 or $10 and then never using the entire bottle, ever (the full sized bottle of this polish happens to be $10).

So, I tried this polish out. I painted two layers - the glitter flakes are kind of big so instead of thinning the applicator brush of the polish, I found myself trying to keep as much polish on the brush as possible to make sure I had a fairly even amount of glitter on my nails. The polish itself is clear with gold glitter. Because the glitter was kind of large, I followed my manicure with a nice coat of the Orly No-Chip clear top coat to fill in the uneven surface of the glitter polish. Some of the Birchbox reviewers complained about the finished uneven surface of glitter polish. The way I feel about it is: if it's got glitter in it, of course it's going to be uneven. Be realistic. Plus, in my opinion, you should always apply a top coat of some sort after a manicure. Just saying. Anyway, even after I had set the bottle of polish on my west-facing windowsill and held my hand up to the window, my polish didn't change color. I thought that, if it was going to change color at all, it would surely happen if it was on the windowsill, right? Wrong...sort of.

BUT! Then I was walking outside the day after I did my manicure, AND IT CHANGED COLOR! The glitter stayed gold, but the clear polish TURNED PINK. To say "berry" colored would be accurate, like the description from Birchbox. So, what I'm thinking is that the color shift only really occurs when exposed to direct sunlight for a sufficient length of time. It's not particularly fast, and it does require a pretty good dose of UV, but it happens. And it looks cool! While I don't ultimately care whether my manicure changes colors, it was neat to see it actually happen. This polish is true to its claims.

Here's probably the best part about this some of the reviews on Birchbox said that it was hard to remove with nail polish remover, because the glitter shreds cotton balls and it's hard to really get all the glitter flakes off...about five days after I initially did this manicure, I noticed a chip on my pointer fingernail, so I sort of slipped another fingernail under the corner of the rest of it just to see if it was likely to keep chipping, and THE ENTIRE NAIL POLISH CAME OFF IN ONE PIECE! One whole flake, and my fingernail was bare again. So, to remove it, I didn't even both making a shredded-cotton mess and stinking up the bathroom with my acetone - I just slipped my fingernail under an edge of each painted nail, and the polish just flaked off in one piece, off of every single fingernail. It was awesome.

What's next?
After Christmas, I bought a couple of gift sets on sale at Sephora (bareMinerals and Urban Decay products) to try out, got several samples from them as well, and have since also acquired some Tarte products and even more samples of random products. I have also gone back to using some of the Mary Kay products I have used in the past, since I actually still have them in my closet and I'm not selling anymore - I figure I might as well use it because I like it and I already have it. However, keep in mind that this does not follow with my goal of "cleaning up" the products I use by avoiding certain ingredients - MK definitely contains ingredients that I ultimately am going to be avoiding in the future. However, MK products do work well with my skin (for the most part, with the exception of two specific products), and like I said, they're already in my closet. So, they will get used.

I'll be writing a few more posts that will have multiple product reviews in them, to get through the new products I've tried and some of the products I was already using and have gone back to using, too. Just to give you TONS of info about what's out there!

In addition, I'll be addressing stress management, sleep, my attempts at yoga, some of our recent happenings (dance lessons and date nights at local restaurants), and whatever other topics I decide to discuss on tangents :)

Thanks for reading today, I hope you'll come back next time! If you haven't already, check out I'm Better in Real Life's review of her February Birchbox, and note that she's going to be doing a GIVEAWAY later on as well. If you get Birchbox, and got different products than me, PLEASE SHARE!! I'd love to hear about YOUR products, and I'd also love to hear whether you have a different opinion on products we both got in our Birchboxes :)

If you don't get Birchbox, but would like to start, click here to check it out!!!

Enjoy your Sunday, friends!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Birchbox!

Man, I just LOVE Birchbox. This was just my second month, but I was just as excited for this one as I was for December's. Maybe even more so! Let's jump right in, shall we?! Here's the photo of what was in my box, the photo is from the Birchbox website:

I have to also say that I absolutely LOVE that it comes in that little brown box - it's SO cute, and just the right size to use for a small gift for a friend or something. I love stuff that I can reuse with little to no effort involved, and this box is just perfect.

So, here's what was inside! (clockwise starting from the mint colored bottle on the left)
~ Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser with muslin cloth
~ Camille Beckman Body Butter in Morelia Monarch scent
~ Coastal Scents Revealed eyeshadow palette (the full size has 20 colors, the trial size had 4)
~ Under Armour Braided Mini Headband
~ Omnipotent Duosity Hair Treatment

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser:
At first I thought, "I haven't used a washcloth in years. Literally, probably not since I was like 8. Why would I need a washcloth...?" Well, let me just tell you, I washed my face this morning with my normal cleanser after using the Liz Earle one the last few days, and I was missing Liz Earle and the muslin cloth. The cleanser itself is awesome. It doesn't foam or even lather at all, and it's meant to be used without water first. So, squirt some on the hand, massage onto dry face, then use the muslin cloth with nice hot water to wipe everything away. The ingredients list for this product is surprisingly SHORT, always a good thing, and most of it is plant oils. It's safe for use around eyes, which is always important to me since the skin around the eyes is SO delicate and sensitive, and yet we plaster on so much eye makeup and make it so difficult to remove...this cleanser removes it. I still really like my eye makeup remover (Mary Kay), and I have been using it even while I used this cleanser, but it does tend to leave a little bit of smudge underneath my eyes - this cleanser gets that smudge OFF! This cleanser feels super smooth, totally non irritating, and apparently has won over 90 beauty awards worldwide. There's a reason - it's great. The hot cloth wiping it all off at the end makes me feel like I'm in my own little spa for a couple of minutes. Feels great. I wish it had also come with the moisturizer that pairs with it; I would love to try the whole system together. There is also a toner solution that is sold separately, but I'm not a huge fan of toners in general. If one ever comes in my Birchbox though, I'll DEFINITELY try - I'm loving Liz Earle. When I run out of all of my Mary Kay cleanser, this is definitely a product I will consider buying to replace it.

Camille Beckman Body Butter in Morelia Monarch scent:
Body butters usually fall into one of two categories: soak in nicely and make skin soft, or don't soak in very well and make it impossible to do anything with your hands for an hour because it's too greasy. This one definitely falls into the first category; it's really thick but rubs in really nicely and makes the skin feel great. I used this mostly on the backs of my hands, my elbows, and my knees. I still have some of course, but I do have to admit that this is not one of those products that you can say a little bit goes a long way. I used a totally normal amount, maybe even a little bit more of it than my normal lotions. The scent is really subtle and nice. Overall, I really like this, but it's not something I will buy - I have about a million lotions and stuff that I don't use very often so they just last forever. I can't justify buying more when there's so many on my shelves and in my drawers.

Coastal Scents Revealed eyeshadow palette:
I'm not sure if all of the samples of these that were sent out this month were the same, but the colors I got were black, a light nude shimmer, brown shimmer, and a sort of greenish brown shimmer (sort of like weathered bronze maybe?). The reviews of these shadows tended to say that it didn't have much staying power and would crease on the eyelids throughout the day as it wore off a bit. I haven't had that same experience, but I also use a primer first so that's probably why. (Side note: I LOVE the primer I use; I ordered a couple of gift sets for myself in the post-Christmas Sephora sale, and this primer came in the bareMinerals set - it's called Prime Time in Rose Nectar, a light shimmery pink color.) Back to the Coastal Scents Revealed shadows...I like the colors, they are similar to ones I already use regularly, although I have been trying to reduce the amount of shimmer in my life lately - without success, obviously. But that's ok. I don't really have that much to say about these eyeshadows; I have about a million shadows in all sorts of brands: Clinique, Mary Kay, Urban Decay, and now Coastal Scents. Eyeshadow is something that I don't normally buy because I always get them as gifts with purchase or in a gift set or something like that, so as long as they're fairly neutral in color (i.e. various shades of browns) and not bright blue or something, I'll wear them daily. I save the fun colors for rare occasions of summer parties or concerts or something. So, I am very indifferent about this product, sorry.

Under Armour Braided Mini Headband:
Mine is not multicolored like the one in the photo, it is one color - neon coral. I really like this headband. I like headbands in general, but don't wear them very often because the ones that wrap all the way around the back of my head ALWAYS slip back and fall off. I must have the wrong shape of head for these kinds of headbands, because this is literally the only one I have ever found that lasted through a workout - and I did have to adjust it once still. It grips like nobody's business, and it's TIGHT, which definitely helps. I like this headband a lot and will definitely use it when I remember to. I don't think I'll need to actually buy any of these though, one is probably enough until it wears out or the grippy stuff gets too dirty to do its job or something. So I guess I may end up buying one at some point in the future, but not anytime soon.

Omnipotent Duosity Hair Treatment:
I really really wanted to give this product a RAVE review. I mean, it's gluten- and paraben-free!! Which, don't get me wrong, is awesome. But the truth is that, while it's nice and I like it, I don't feel like I really CARE about it. So, here goes: it's designed in such a way that it's actually two products, stored separately in their compartments, and then you dispense it in relatively equal amounts and rub it together. It foams/lathers really nicely on the hands, and then put it in your hair focusing on the ends - it's basically a conditioner that's supposed to do a bunch of healing things to your hair. Which I'm sure it does, but quite honestly I don't feel THAT much of a difference once my hair is dried. When I rinsed it out in my shower, though - WOW, so so so so soft. The first time I tried it, I was worried that it wasn't rinsed out all the way because my hair was SO silky. I expected my hair to feel weighed down after I dried it, but that wasn't the case. I used this product again yesterday, and didn't use any of my normal after-shower hair products, so I'd have a better perspective on this particular product - and my hair feels really nice still today. Not greasy or weighed down, the ends are soft and nice. So, I suppose it does live up to its claims. The thing is, I don't really care. Haha. Maybe that's because I absolutely love the Beauty Protect leave-in conditioner I got in last month's box, so I just spritz a bit of that before blow-drying. The Duosity does smell really good though, and I am pretty shocked at just HOW silky my hair feels in the shower after it's all been rinsed out. It's nice, for sure. Probably not something I will spend money on, but I might reconsider when I run out of the shampoos and conditioners I already have.

Well, that's all for now friends! Thanks for reading, and any of you who got different items in your Birchboxes or have opinions on the above products, I'd love to hear all about it! Also, my friend over at I'm Better in Real Life wrote her review of her January Birchbox, and I'm sure she'd love for you to take a look!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Homeschooling Makes Me Happy: Logan LaPlante at TEDx

If you have a spare 12 minutes, or even if you don't (MAKE the time) - watch this: Logan LaPlante at TEDx with accompanying article.

I haven't really confided in many people lately, but suffice it to say the last few days have been REALLY weird. This whole week, actually. WEIRD. Not at all how I was picturing a new year to go. Even with my gung-ho attitude in my last post, somehow things weren't really coming together like I expected them to after I'd completed several things that needed attention and followed my schedule and to-do list ALMOST to a T (exactly to a T? This girl isn't known for that, let's try with baby steps here...)

A friend posted the above link to Facebook earlier today, and I watched the video twice. In a row. This 13 year old kid is pretty amazing. A major takeaway (for me) from the talk was the following:

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs): 8 practices that make people happy and healthy (Dr. Roger Walsh):
1. Exercise
2. Diet and Nutrition
3. Time in Nature
4. Contribution and Service to Others
5. Relationships
6. Recreation
7. Relaxation and Stress Management
8. Religious and Spritual

The above list is exactly what I have been wanting to integrate, and with a new year I was contemplating exactly HOW to integrate it - because when there are multiple facets to your goals (i.e. the more and more complicated things are), the less likely things are going to go as desired. This was the sentiment I was trying to articulate in the last post, though I'm not sure I did such a great job. Instead I just ranted about new year's resolutions, haha!

Anyway, as I listened to this kid's talk twice in a row, I decided that the way to implement these changes into my life, and make it really simple so I can stick with it and reap the benefits of all of it, is to just focus on one of these changes per week, in a rotating fashion. So it would take two months to get through the whole list technically, but I think integrating one thing at a time, a week at a time, could be a great way to start building each as a HABIT, so those things just actually happen naturally after a while. So, I'm going to make myself a little calendar series that's JUST my TLCs so I know what's going on that week and also so I can see it every day and do just one little thing to achieve that particular TLC on each day.

So, that's what I'm going to do. Another thing I really wanted to do, after reading friends posts at the new year such as Buffalo Writes and I'm Better in Real Life, was set aside two hours on one day - JUST ONE DAY and ONLY TWO HOURS - for crafting. I know that sounds like something I really should not be focusing on at this point in my life and career, but that's the thing - I literally go insane when I don't feel like I have time to make a project I've been wanting to make. I lose sleep over wanting to do something that I didn't have time to do that day. It makes me upset when I see my half-finished ear-warmer headband on my nightstand shelf...and it's been unfinished for TWO YEARS. And I refuse to buy one because, as one of my previous posts discussed, I know how to make those. I simply cannot bring myself to spend the $15 or $20 when a ball of yarn costs $5 or less and I can make it exactly how I want it, and I get pleasure out of making it. Retail therapy doesn't last all that long, but knowing that I made something that I enjoy wearing or looking at often - that's DOING SOMETHING, like my last post referred to.

Also, Buffalo Writes has a thing called First Friday Happy Hour every month with a group of her friends from elementary school, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of this regular event. I want to do something like this. There are people I see frequently enough, and there are people I love to death but never get to see - and why? Because we all have excuses, and unfortunately a lot of them are legit - since we're responsible adults now. Everyone's schedule is either super super hectic or so organized that there is literally no wiggle room - so I want to establish a gathering for a group or maybe even a couple different groups of people I would love to see more regularly. Each of these wouldn't need to be once a month - that gets to be like one thing per week, and that's too much for me! But maybe every other month. Six times a year sounds like a pretty good frequency for our totally nutso adult lives. First things first, figure out who's interested. That's something I'll tackle when I'm feeling ambitious. Haha.

On to the next part of my discussion about Logan's TEDx talk:

"Much of education is oriented toward making a living rather than making a LIFE." - Dr. Walsh

Now, husband and I have discussed the topic of homeschooling a lot. Not just had long discussions about it, but frequent discussions. Our own public and private school educations were great, but we see a lot of problems in the changes that have since occurred, and seeing various school environments as adults we have decided that when the time comes - our kids are going to get at least the first 13 years of their educations at home. Come high school, we will more than likely put them in a traditional classroom, especially if they are girls - because we all know my girls are going to be graduates from my alma mater! Fifth generation! (That is, if we even have any girls...) We've done some poking around on the Internets at various homeschooling curriculums, and I've learned that Washington is a pretty easy state in which to homeschool. And at least one of the Internet communities we follow has some good resources from all over the place for homeschooling, and the more we listen to our podcasts and everything, the more we really don't think we want our kids in the current school system.

We know there will be backlash, it will be hard, and our friends and family will criticize. We will be the weird ones. Our kids will be the weird ones. I cannot and will not judge anyone whose children go to traditional school, whether public or private, or whatever. Every family dynamic is different. We just happen to consider it feasible to do this at home, not anytime soon, but by the time any future children will be old enough for a structured education. But I get it - it's not for everyone.

Anyway, TED talks have some AMAZING talks regarding education...actually, regarding just about anything and everything. There have only been a couple of TED talks I didn't like; the vast majority of them really light fires under my booty and are totally inspiring.

Well friends, thanks for reading, and until next time - be inspired! And inspire others! Haha, easier said than done, right? Ready...GO!