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!