Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August FOTM: Smashbox Camera Ready BB {Guest Post}



As it turns out, there are too many foundations to try and too little time! My friend Erin, who blogs over at The Law School Transplant, has been raving about the Smashbox Camera Ready BB all summer.  When I realized I wouldn't get to test it out as a Foundation of the Month, I asked her to do a guest post since it sounds like EXACTLY the kind of product I'm looking for (and, thankfully, she obliged).

Walk this way to check out Erin's (glowing) review of Smashbox Camera Ready BB!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

July FOTM: Dr. Jart


My quest for the "perfect" foundation continues! In case you missed it, I'm searching for a great medium+ coverage foundation that will hold up in the Southern humidity - particularly on my oily chin - without breaking me out, but it can't be too fussy to apply & has to come in under $40.  I'm not asking for much, right?

Over the summer I've been focusing on BB & CC Creams and allowing them a layer of BareMinerals on top to achieve the medium- to full-coverage I'm after.

($33 for 1.5 fl. oz.)

Arguably, this is the BB that started it all.  Originated in Korea for patients post-cosmetic surgery, it was designed to nourish as well as conceal (the Beauty Mama says it's improved her skin over time, too!)  The Dr. Jart is free of parabens and sulfates, and is supposed to be great on acne-prone skin (that's me!).  I've been dying to try this one for ages (this was on my original FOTM list back in January)!

My Day 1 discovery says it all: I didn't need mineral foundation on top!!!

Ok, I'll back up.  Dr. Jart dispenses easily from a pump tube (or squeeze tube if you've been lucky enough to find the 0.66 oz size for $18).  It applies easily with fingers, provided that you do it in stages.  What do I mean by that? The cream begins to thicken up and set pretty quickly, so unlike the em CC that you could put a whole face-worth in your hand and apply like lotion, I usually dispensed and applied 2-3 smaller amounts.  Because of the way it sets, I usually had to dig out a blending sponge to clean things up around my eyebrows and hairline, but even then it was only a five-second detour. 

But once it sets, oh my goodness, how gorgeous! The slightly yellow undertones cancelled out all the redness and completely hid the spots on my skin.  It set without settling, leaving me looking poreless and wrinkle-free.  

Overall grade: A.  I mean, really, who could ask for more? I was sad to move on when August 1st came and I'm eager to stock my makeup bag with a full size bottle.  The only drawback I can imagine is that it only comes in a single shade.  Having a Snow White complexion pays off here, as I had no trouble matching, but if the product doesn't magically color match as well as it claims, it could be a problem for women with darker skin.

Monday, July 14, 2014

On Being Paleo In the South {Broccoli Salad Recipe}


There's no point in mincing words: eating healthy in the South is difficult, regardless of how you define "healthy". When I moved to Georgia in 2001, I was a vegetarian and was shocked to discover that the seemingly safe-to-my-lifestyle "veggie plate" was comprised almost entirely of veggies which had been cooked with some kind of animal fat!

I find myself in a similar conundrum lately as I settle in to a Paleo lifestyle.  This time, it isn't the animal fat that bothers me, though.  Rather, it is the hidden carbs (must we bread everything?), incessant sweetening (you've heard of Sweet Tea, right?), and cheesy-creaminess of a huge majority of traditional Southern dishes.  Couple that with the inescapable family clan dynamic that still exists (it's like peer pressure, only worse), and it's starts to feel impossible to navigate the food table at the innumerable barbecues, holiday celebrations, and family reunions.

Enter my summer savoir: broccoli salad.  Broccoli salad is one of Daddy M's favorite traditional dishes.  I developed his perfect broccoli salad in time for his 30th birthday party and it has become my go-to take-along to every summer gathering we host or attend (usually I get conned into making a second batch to hide in the fridge for Daddy M to snack on during the following week because we never, ever bring home leftovers).  My challenge at Fourth of July was creating a Paleo version to match the popularity of the original.

Thankfully, this was already a no-grain, no dairy recipe.  I substituted homemade Paleo mayo for the traditional Kraft mayo in the original recipe and palm sugar to replace the refined sugar.  I served both versions (labeled) side-by-side on the Fourth and the resounding verdict was that they tasted exactly the same! Victory!

Broccoli salad is a great accompaniment to hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill or, as I discovered with some precious leftovers, chicken thighs (the ones in the photo are the amazing Honey Mustard Thighs from The Paleo Kitchen cookbook, as shared on Nom Nom Paleo).  A few forkfuls are also delightful with a boiled egg for breakfast on the fly.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Paleo mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • Scant 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • 1 head of broccoli or even better, 1 bag of broccoli florets, trimmed to bite-sized pieces
  • 8 pieces of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped 
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup green onions (white and green parts), chopped - this usually works out to be two whole green onions
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces, chopped (it honestly doesn't matter if they're toasted - being in the dressing will soften them again; if you're desperate for crunchy pecans, use toasted and add just before serving)

Method
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar and sugar.  Stir in the broccoli and toss to coat. Gently stir in bacon, raisins, onions and pecans.  Yep, it's that easy.

This is best made the night before or first thing in the morning if you will be serving in the afternoon or evening to give the flavors a chance to get to know each other before you devour them.  You will want to give the whole salad a good stir again just before serving - because the palm sugar doesn't dissolve in the mayo as well as the white sugar, the dressing remains a little runny and tends to settle at the bottom.

What's your go-to summer recipe for gatherings?


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: The Perfume Collector



I love to read.  You probably can't tell from any of my recent posts (I think the last time I mentioned a book was my review of Lean In last September), but its true.  This doesn't mean I haven't read anything since then.  But very few books survived the hundred page rule, especially because I've been pretty wiped out tired lately.

However, within the last month I took a sabbatical from my (two) book clubs and gave myself license to read any old thing I wanted! (Gasp!)

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro was the first thing that caught my eye at Target after announcing my sabbatical, and I gleefully breezed through it in under a week! (Although I bought it in paperback, at the time I hit publish on this review, the Kindle version of The Perfume Collector was only $1.99 on Amazon!)

Tessaro weaves the story of Grace, a London socialite in the 1950's who receives an unexpected inheritance and sets off to discover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.  Her search takes her to Paris, and vicariously to New York City in the 1920s, as she learns her benefactor, Eva's story and how it ties in with her own (albeit somewhat predictably in the end).

Throughout the novel, scent and sensory memory play a significant role.  Different cultural approaches to the role of perfume also feature without derailing the story with a heavy philosophical discussion.  For example, a Russian perfumer whose work Eve inspires scoffs at the growing Anglo-American idea of having a signature scent, preferring instead an arsenal of varied fragrances to suit different moods.

(Are you a signature-scent wearer, or do you go with your mood? I'm a signature-scent gal myself - I've worn Burberry Classic since 1999.)

This was the perfect summer read for a history- and culture-loving girly girl who wants an adventurous European vacation but won't get one anytime soon!  Tessaro's descriptions of stylish Paris and sparkling Cannes supplied plenty of daydream fodder.

Highly recommended classy chick lit!

Disclosure: this post contains an Amazon affiliate link.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Paleoversery Favorites


Six months ago yesterday, on almost a whim, I started my first Whole 30.  In some ways, I can't believe it's been half a year already since I "went Paleo": I still feel like a newbie on a lot of days.  But the changes in food choices - not just the eliminations but the increase of nutrient dense foods - have admittedly worked their way into habits and I've never felt better.

So in honor of my 6 month Paleoversery, I'm sharing some of my Paleo favorites (so far):
Favorite Breakfast: Danielle Walker's Smoky Sweet Potato Hash.  This is so easy to make, so delicious, and so filling!  It also stores well and reheats in seconds.  If you don't like heat first thing in the morning, try substituting cinnamon for the chili powder and paprika for the cayenne (this is Mouse's preferred variation).
Favorite Lunch: Chicken or Tuna Salad of almost any kind, but especially my Buffalo Chicken Salad or this Sweet Potato Tuna Salad from Eating Bird Food (made with Paleo mayo in place of hummus)
(I wanted to include a favorite dinner but I've honestly loved everything I've made and can't pick.  My Paleo Pinterest boards will give you an idea of some of the wonderful dinners I've made.) 
Pot-Luck Winner: Garlic Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" by Nom Nom Paleo.  If I were still a California girl, I may never have tried this recipe.  But marrying Daddy M over a dozen years ago forced me to rethink the food I bring to gatherings.  The basic rules in the South are that if it can't be served in a 9x13 it is probably not worth having, and lots of butter and/or cheese is required.  I took this to Easter with the fam and it was a huge hit! (Trick: if you're going to double or triple the batch like I did, save yourself some time and $$ and use frozen cauliflower - 1 bag = about 1 head.)
Surprise Favorite: Michelle Tam's Stir Fried Kale with Bacon.  I mean, everything is better with bacon, so this should not have been a surprise.  But I was not a major kale fan (and neither was the family) until I tried this recipe.  Now I always have to plan on sharing! (And, yes, that's leftovers with an egg for breakfast in the photo. I sometimes wake up craving kale, if you can believe that!)
Favorite Website: There are so many great ones out there (and I'm still discovering new ones daily!) that I didn't actually start buying cookbooks until a month ago.  Going by most-used, my favorites would have to be Nom Nom Paleo and Against All Grain.
I'm always up for trying something new - what are your Paleo favorites?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fitness Friday: Working Out With RA


The last few months have been relatively fitness-less for me.  In March I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  In a nutshell, RA is an autoimmune disease in which your body thinks the connective tissue in your joints is foreign or harmful and begins attacking it.  The result is swelling and painful joints and, frequently, lots and lots of fatigue.

In educating myself about RA, I've been pleased to read so many stories of athletes keeping up with an ambitious training schedule despite their RA.  It gives me hope that, once my rheumatologist and I find a treatment combination that works for me (in conjunction with making permanent my Paleo lifestyle), I'll be back to running or P90X or another new challenge.

In the meantime, it has been frustrating to keep moving (which RA patients are told is important both to maintain mobility as well as to avoid weight gain, which further stresses the joints) while perpetually exhausted and in (sometimes excruciating) pain. Particularly as a relatively active, young person (I'll be 35 later this year), and even though you know I'm not opposed to modifyingit has been difficult to find exercise guides that don't go too easy: a lot of "exercise for arthritis" resources are geared toward the elderly.

All of this is why I'm sharing today some of the exercises I've found helpful and do-able lately and some tips and tricks that are working for me.  I'm by no means a medical doctor, so listen to your own body and talk to your doctor before you dive in.  My hope in sharing is that there will be something helpful out there for the next thirty-something (or twenty-something or forty-something) who is out searching for ways to stay fit and have fun while waiting to get their RA under control.

WARM UP!
I mean this in both a literal and workout sense.  RA joints are better with heat.  Ideally, as an RA patient, I'd work out at about 2 p.m. when I'd been awake and moving long enough to be warm naturally, but before fatigue from the day set in.  Realistically though, 5:30 a.m. is still where its at in my world.  If I wake up especially stiff, I will run my hands in the hottest water I can stand or use warm compresses to get my joints moving.

It also helps to gently stretch before diving into a workout.  This five-minute routine from Tara Stiles is enough to get me going without cutting too much into my workout time.



GEAR UP!
Good shoes are important for anyone and everyone when it comes to exercise.  But they're critical when your feet and ankles are tender.  Be open to the idea of having more than one pair, too - not just a running shoe and a training shoe, but different sizes depending on where you are with inflammation.  I keep both 9.5 and 10 on hand.  Oh, and when you find one you love (it took me 7) buy multiples! The big brands love to change their styles every year and you don't want to have to test drive every time you need shoes.

I've also been experimenting with wrist wraps to give me a little extra support for yoga, planks and (modified) push-ups.  I've been using them for about a week now and I notice a positive difference, especially in the duration I'm able to stay on my wrists.

GET YOUR SWEAT ON!
I'm assuming if you're reading this, you have a pretty good fitness base and, like me, you still want a good sweat and burn but you're temporarily limited by pain and inflammation.  With that in mind, here are some of my favorite workouts lately.

Jessica Smith's Low Impact HIIT - When you want to move beyond walking and get your heart rate up, this is a great cardio segment that doesn't involve any jumping at all!  While its not full-length, try doing it multiple times between weight segments as a sort of DIY circuit.



Tone It Up's Bikini Body 2 - There isn't anything magical about this workout in particular - but the reason it works for me is that, unlike a lot of strength circuits, it doesn't involve getting up and down and up and down from the floor (something my wrists, knees and ankles are pretty whiny about lately): the warm-up and first circuit (which is done twice) is done standing; and the second circuit (also done twice) is done on a flat back on the floor.  Because it is high-rep (about 15 repetitions per exercise), I can get some muscle burn going with a relatively light weight (helpful when my fingers can't close tightly enough to safely use a heavier dumbbell).



Barre3 Standing Slim DVD - This workout is my go-to when I feel like I can't possibly manage anything else.  Barre workouts in general are billed as being good for folks with joint difficulties because they are (as a group) low impact.  The problem comes in (for me) with the amount of work that takes place in plank - bearing weight on the wrists.  As the name of this workout implies, the entire routine is done standing with little or no weight-bearing on the hands.  If you're pinched for pennies (who wouldn't be if Celebrex is part of your early treatment!) and don't want to splurge on the DVD version, the original YouTube version is also good.  Just be warned that there are some wall push-ups in the beginning that put minimal pressure on the wrists and shoulders.



When you get frustrated (and if you don't, please tell me what you're doing, because I still do!), remember, it's only temporary.  Unlike so many diseases and chronic illnesses RA is controllable (yay!).  As my rheumatologist reminded me, the jogging stroller will still be there for me once we get things under control.

If you've battled RA, what tips or favorite routines would you suggest to someone just starting their journey?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June FOTM: em CC


With summer's real arrival in June, I continued my ideal foundation quest with another CC cream.  My goal over the course of the year is to find my "perfect" foundation - one that is long wearing (particularly on my oily skin) without breaking me out, not too fussy to apply and under $40.  I'm not expecting a BB or CC alone to provide the medium- to full-coverage I was seeking so I'm pairing the BB and CC creams I'm testing with Bare Minerals over top.

($23 for 1.0 fl oz)

Since I loved the em cosmetics foundation I tested in February, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon when em came out with a CC cream.  This one is billed as a 3-in-1 that will "conceal, correct and protect" as well as moisturize.  

The consistency of the em CC is liquidy like a typical BB/CC or indeed a moisturizer.  It dispenses easily (a little too easily if you've stored the tube cap-down), applies easily with fingers, and provides a very natural look.

On the first day (with Bare Minerals) I noticed some shininess around my nose and chin by 11:00 a.m.  With the addition of my favorite MAC t-zone primer underneath and Stay Matte finishing powder, the look held up.

No problems at all washing off with the day was done.

Overall grade: B.  Why a B and not an A (and why the relatively bland review)? While the em CC met all my requirements, it was really no different (at least on my skin) from the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB that has become such a drugstore darling - for less than half the price.  Don't get me wrong, em has put together a solidly good CC.  But I've become spoiled by some of the other higher-end BB/CCs I've tested and, if I'm going to spend a little more, I expect great.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mouse's DIY Dinnertime Tantrum Tamer



Last night Mouse invented a brilliant dinnertime game to amuse herself during the interminable wait until the noodles finished boiling. Since I can't take credit, I'll describe the activity set-up from her POV.
Wait until Mom has her hands full. Then seek out a convenient basket or bin (Mom wouldn't have left it there if she didn't want me to play with it!). Then pull the contents of the basket out one item at a time, proclaiming the item's name and description loudly so Mom can fully appreciate my brilliance. Repeat until the basket is empty. Then shove everything back in the basket and start over again.
You can tell by my cheekiness that I was initially not enthused by this activity (yet another mess to clean!). Then I realized:

  1. No damage was being done and she was completely safe (within sight and, while making a mess, not playing with anything harmful).
  2. The basket she'd chosen was filled with new (i.e. impossible to open) Play-Doh cans, which she was stacking as she unloaded them (motor skill development!).
  3. In an effort to get my attention, she was calling out the color of the lids (color recognition!).
  4. She wasn't underfoot in the main kitchen area (like her brother always was at this age).
So I embraced her game, which kept her playing it until dinner was ready, and kept me from losing my sanity.  

Have your kid(s) ever invented a "game" that turned out to be a diamond in the rough?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May FOTM: it Cosmetics CC+

May continued my BB/CC detour in the Foundation of the Month series.  I'm still looking for the same things in an "ideal" foundation - long wearing (particularly on my peskily oily chin) without breaking me out, not too fussy to apply, and under $40.  I wasn't expecting a BB or CC to provide the medium- to full-coverage I was seeking so my plan was to pair each BB/CC with Bare Minerals on top.

("YSBB CC+" - $38)

I was unfamiliar with the it Cosmetics line until makeup guru Tiffany D raved about their YSBB CC+ in December of last year.  What really caught my attention was that Tiffany agreed with the brand's product description that this CC provides full coverage in addition to brightening, anti-aging, pore minimizing, sun protecting and priming.  So YSBB CC+ was one of the first foundations on my to-test list when I began my FOTM project.

I'll go ahead and issue the spoiler alert now: the YSBB CC+ delivered as promised!

The pump tube made for easy dispensing (about 2 pumps to cover my face). Like the pur CC I reviewed last month, the YSBB CC+ comes out thicker than a typical moisturizer (and thicker than other BBs I've tried fleetingly), however it softens easily - so well, in fact that I applied it easily with my fingers all month long!

This product wears naturally, does not settle into lines or pores, and lasts the day without any additional primer.  While my initial plan was to wear it as a base for Bare Minerals, the coverage was so excellent (a solid medium coverage, comparable to the "Love Me For Me" foundation I tested - and loved - in February) and durable that I found myself skipping the Bare Minerals and just finishing with my favorite Rimmel Stay Matte powder.  And at the end of the day, it washed off easily with no additional steps.

Overall grade: A! Who could ask for more? While YSBB CC+ was at the upper end of my price range, the fact that it allowed me to skip moisturizer and primer and didn't need mineral makeup on top to create a business-ready look that lasted the day made it worth every penny.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want



Moose is having a hard time getting used to the idea that, just because you say please doesn't mean you get what you've asked for. And when I say hard time, I mean sometimes an all out tantrum ensues. When I'm on my game, I try to diffuse the situation with a goofy song. It helps me keep my cool, it's a pressure release on my snark-o-meter, and it often distracts him enough that we can move past whatever has gotten him riled.

Sometimes I sing "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M. Recently I've turned to the Rolling Stones classic "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Today the universe sang it back to me.

Mouse is struggling with a bout of something that may or may not turn out to be asthma. After her second dose of oral steroid last night, she became a fussy, fidgety monster and, ultimately, I did not finally get to sleep until after 1:00 this morning. Up again around 5:00. Up for good with Moose at 7:00, with the added challenge of joints that had locked up during what felt like an all-too-brief period of inactivity.

No doubt about it: I was a cranky puss this morning.

As I made the bed, I grumbled some half-intelligible prayer asking that, at least for today, could my hands please loosen up before noon. I started a pot of coffee and sent a vague, pitty-me text to a friend about how I hated prednisone even more than albutrerol (which I never thought possible).

About 30 seconds later my phone rang.

It was my friend. From nearly 700 miles away. Who I haven't seen since October. Who I last texted with from a physical therapy session in March.

And I got what I needed.

Sympathy. Understanding (her son suffers from asthma). Connection. Distraction (she just planted some wisteria). Perspective (she sees the hematologist today to find out if she has to stay on blood thinners post-PE last autumn).

I drafted this post from my phone at the park in bits and pieces between pushing Mouse on the swing, catching Mouse on the slide, saving Moose from a bumblebee.  My hands were still stiff and tender. I was fighting yawns.

I did not get what I asked for.

But I got what I needed (and it was even better).

When was the last time you got what you needed, even if it wasn't what you asked for or thought you wanted?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day Hangover

My school-made card from Moose, who apparently thinks I'm underage and as big as a small elephant.
Apparently my kids missed the memo that Sunday was Mother's Day.  While my Facebook feed filled with gushing accounts of others' Mother's Day pampering and texts poured in wishing me a day of luxury, my kids were fighting (literally) in a shopping cart at the grocery store (Moose bonks Mouse over the head while I'm looking at lettuce; Mouse scratches Moose in the checkout line, etc.).

The thing is, I generally don't mind about Mothers' Day.  I grew up in a family that expressed their love and appreciation for each other often and didn't feel the need to make a big hoo-ha about the official days for moms and dads.

If I lived in a bubble, it wouldn't have gotten to me a bit.  It was a very ordinary Sunday for us: laundry, yard work, preparing for the week.  And, let's be honest, my kids frequently squabble in the cart at the grocery store.

But the comparison monster got me.

I'm not telling the other moms not to share.  I'm delighted that you had an amazing day!

But I get the sneaky suspicion that I'm not the only one who didn't get fireworks and diamonds.  Like so many things in our social media-driven world, reporting is disproportionate and skewed.  Which is to say, I think the fireworks and diamonds got tweeted and favorited, and the grocery cart boxing matches did not.

So today I pay tribute to all the other mothers whose "Day" was ordinary rather than extraordinary (or even a gargantuan flop).  And I wish you many Mother's Moments that happen without fanfare when it is least expected.

What's the best Mother's Moment you've had so far this week?

Friday, May 2, 2014

April FOTM: pur CC



If you've been following along with my Foundation of the Month series, you already know that I'm diligently testing twelve foundations in 2014 in an attempt to find my "perfect" foundation.  My goals/parameters for an "ideal" foundation are that it be long-wearing (especially on my peskily-oily chin) but not break me out.  It must not be too fussy to apply.  And it must come in under $40.  

Prior to this year, I exclusively wore Bare Minerals makeup, which I loved when I started wearing it in my mid-20's, but as the years passed, I found myself wanting more coverage and longer wearability.  One of the first things I tried was putting tinted moisturizer under the Bare Minerals and liked the results - especially during the summer months when I like less coverage anyway.  I also found it wonderfully easy to apply the tinted moisturizer in place of regular moisturizer and top off with Bare Minerals.  All of this means that we are going to take a BB/CC detour during the warmer months.  The goals will still be the same, but with the understanding that I'll be judging the overall result based on the BB/CC plus Bare Minerals.


Like March's FOTM, this product was not on my radar when I began making a list of foundations to test.  I went to Ulta in search of the itCosmetics CC (stay tuned, I'm currently testing it as May's FOTM!) and one of the consultants raved about the pur CC and I caved.

According to the purminerals website, this product is a "multitasking moisturizer, brightener, primer, concealer and SPF foundation."  It sounded like everything I was looking for to boost my Bare Minerals.

Sadly, the pur CC is better described as a light coverage foundation than a CC.  

While this CC dispenses easily from the pump tube, the consistency is very dense and cannot be applied well with fingers alone.  Once on, the initial look was lovely, but without an additional primer in the T-zone, it started fading after lunch, even with the mineral makeup on top.  

This product wins back some points for providing a natural look (no color match problems here), washing off easily, and being kind to my skin (no breakouts).

Overall Grade: C.  At $38, pur CC was already at the high end of my price range and ultimately not what I was looking for.  If you're looking for a light coverage foundation that you treat as foundation, this might be a winner for you.  But for me, looking for an easily-applied undercoat for mineral makeup, it was too fussy to be worth the price tag.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quick Greens + Protein Bowl


When you're aiming to eat healthy, salads become a mainstay.  Most of the time, that's fine by me - there are so many options when putting a salad together that it's easy to stave off boredom.  But every once in awhile, I just want a hot lunch.

In my pre-Paleo days, Quinoa was my quick, throw-together, healthy and hot go-to.  I'm happy to share that I've come up with a new, Paleo-friendly hot meal that you can have on the table in no time with food you probably already have in your freezer.

Greens + Protein Bowl (Choose Your Own Adventure)
(Makes 1-2 servings)
  • Generous 1 Tbsp. cooking fat of choice (I used clarified butter/ghee)
  • 1-2c protein of choice, cubed or shredded (I used some leftover roasted chicken breast)
  • 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or the lazy, pre-diced garlic that comes in a jar)
  • ~4c greens of choice, rinsed, drained & torn (I used some gorgeous rainbow chard from last week's CSA basket, larger ribs removed)
  • Freshly ground salt
  • EVOO
  • Hot sauce of choice (optional, kind of*) (I used Frank's Red Hot)
  1. Heat cooking fat of choice in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add protein, onion, & garlic.  Season to taste with salt, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the onion just starts to become soft and translucent.  
  2. Add greens and continue cooking until they are wilted (my chard took longer than spinach would have - just keep an eye on it).
  3. Before serving drizzle with EVOO and hot sauce to taste.
  4. Enjoy!
(*I say the hot sauce is optional, but unless you truly can't tolerate it on your palate or are avoiding as part of an Autoimmune Protocol, I highly, highly recommend at least a few drops.  It does something special and magical with the greens and absolutely makes this meal pop!)

What's your go-to meal when you're craving a hot lunch?


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March FOTM: Rimmel Stay Matte

If you're new to my Foundation of the Month (FOTM) series, here's the scoop: I'm on a quest in 2014 to find my perfect foundation.  What do I consider "perfect"?  My goals/parameters for an "ideal" foundation are that it be long-wearing (especially on my peskily-oily chin) but not break me out.  It must not be too fussy to apply.  And it must come in under $40.  

March's Foundation: Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse

I originally planned to try out the much-adored Rimmel Match Perfection in March.  Then the Rimmel Stay Matte foundation hit the shelves to some initially good reviews (and a great sale at Walgreens), and since you already know that the Rimmel Stay Matte Powder is my go-to, I decided to give it a try, and who wouldn't with a description like this?
A feather light, oil free formula with an airy mousse texture that won’t feel heavy or greasy. Delivers all day shine control and blends flawlessly for a natural looking matte finish. Minimizes the appearance of pores. The weight is over – finally, shine has met its matte.
Before you get too excited, this one was a fail.  So much so that I abandoned it by mid-month and reverted to using to February's FOTM.

While the initial look is indeed beautifully matte, it did not hold up without a primer.  On a cold day (high of 42) in early March, I already had some slippage around my nose and on my chin by 1:00 in the afternoon. Additionally, the parts of my face that did stay matte took on a cakey appearance throughout the day as it settled into my lines (which are thankfully not numerous, as of yet - I'm 34 - but definitely noticeable).  This effect was even worse in subsequent days when I used a primer underneath.

Some other, more general, cons:
This foundation is a mousse texture and as such, does not apply well with a sponge.  It didn't apply all that great with a regular foundation brush, either.  I finally had the best results applying with a stippling makeup brush.

Because the packaging is a non-translucent tube, there is no way to gauge what shade you should buy.  This did not concern me initially.  Since I'm pretty consistently the "fairest of them all", I bought Fair Porcelain, It was much too pink and much too pale to be a usable match.  I had to use bronzer just to make it wearable for the day (bronzer is typically discretionary for me).  I went back and purchased the next shade up - Light Ivory - better but still a bit too light (and at a time of year that many are beginning the transition to a darker shade).  I finally found a match with my third try: Ivory.  But ultimately, for a foundation I couldn't try-before-buy, it was very inconvenient.

I found this foundation to be fussy in the way that it plays (or doesn't) with other products.  I typically apply concealer immediately following foundation without any kind of a waiting period and without any problems.  However, when I went to blend in my usual Maybelline Age Rewind concealer, the foundation underneath smeared completely off the under-eye area (I did not have this problem using the same concealer with the Revlon and em cosmetics foundations I tested in January and February).  I had to pair it with the Rimmel Match Perfection Concealer in order to get a wearable look.  (Ultimately, I'm not too sad to have been forced to try this new-to-me concealer - I've been very happy with the coverage, brightness, and longevity, and it looks like it might be a great bargain dupe for the legendary YSL Touche Eclat - but am still taking points off of the Stay Matte foundation for being fussy: I shouldn't have had to use a new concealer to make this foundation work for me.)

Overall grade: F. This foundation was too high-maintenance all around without the payoff of a great look.  It may work well for someone younger, completely devoid of fine lines, and with more time to baby it during application, but if you're time-crunched and over the age of 30, skip this one.




Friday, March 7, 2014

Fitness Friday: Refuel



There are a million theories out there on the best way to refuel after a workout.  Since my Whole 30 I've continued to eat a more Paleo diet and have been on the lookout for smoothies that fit those parameters (even though smoothies themselves are considered by many to be un-Paleo), since smoothies are my favorite form of post-workout fuel.

I created this Chocolate Banana Recovery Smoothie very loosely based on this banana split smoothie recipe I saw over at Well + Good last weekend, and it hit the spot after my Sunday run.
Ingredients
  • 1 banana - ideally frozen, but I always forget; fresh is fine
  • 2 TBSP flax seeds
  • 1 cup almond milk - or other milk, dairy or non-, of your choice
  • 2 dates, chopped or 1TBSP of honey - I do NOT have a fancy blender that could pulverize the dates, so honey is the better option for me
  • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ice cubes - you may need less if you planned ahead with that frozen banana
Simply blend and enjoy!

What is your favorite way to refuel after getting your sweat on?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Welcome Lent {2014}


It sounds strange to say that I look forward to Lent, but the truth is that I do.  This year I'd been running around hurry-scurry so much that I didn't get much time to prepare for the season until yesterday.

I am, however, happy with the intentions I've made for this Lenten season, so I thought I'd share a few of the resources that I bumped into yesterday that really spoke to me, just in case there's anyone out there still searching for a little direction for the next six weeks.

  • Megan Tietz over at Sorta Crunchy started a new series - Waiting Tables - focusing on fostering a servant's heart.  The series, like Megan's blog, promises to be inspiring while down-to-earth.
  • Kate Wicker's post yesterday on not choosing one's sacrifice struck a particular chord with me as I continue to work through physical therapy (and the increasing likelihood that there is something more systemic going on with my body that is slowing me down).  (If you click over to Kate's, she also has a MUCH longer Lenten resource list you may want to check out.)
  • If you're looking for a broader template, this short thesis on Lenten Observances from Fr. Charles is compact but meaty.  
  • The Magnificat publication is always a wonderful resource, and their Lent edition is no exception.  The print version is sold out, but Moose's Godmother generously gifted me the app.  While I don't always embrace the move to digital and I would prefer quiet contemplative time with a tome, there is something to be said for accessibility - my morning prayers got said over a pot of eggs I was waiting to boil.
Do you have any hints, tips, or resources that help you get into the Lenten spirit?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February FOTM: em cosmetics "love me for me"

Welcome to the second installment of FOTM: Foundation of the Month!  If you missed the launch to this series, you can catch up here.

The Reader's Digest version is that I am spending 2014 searching for my perfect foundation by intensively testing one foundation per month. My goals/parameters for an "ideal" foundation are that it be long-wearing (especially on my peskily oily chin) but not break me out.  It must not be too fussy to apply.  And it must come in under $40.

February's Foundation: em cosmetics "love me for me"

This foundation wasn't even on my radar when the year began.  I decided to take the leap after watching Michelle Phan's #NoFilter tutorial - her result was beautiful and, the foundation was FREE with purchase of the "love me for me" powder compact.  (Note: As of 3/1/2014 it appears that this deal is still in effect; if you add the powder compact to your cart, the foundation will appear at no cost in your cart; however, it also appears that the foundation is not available separately for purchase.)  As it currently stands, you can get BOTH the foundation and powder for $25 - an absolute bargain! 

No bones about it: I love this foundation! I've never worn a foundation before that looked so incredibly natural! It fulfilled all the marketing slogans I've ever read promising a product that is "you only better".  My office mates commented on the very first day how much they loved the look (we're all closet beauty junkies).

"love me for me" scores huge points for ease of use.  It comes in a mess-free pump container, and a little bit goes a very long way (a pump and a half easily gets the job done).  It applies and blends easily with pretty much every method you might use.   I treated myself to the pointed foundation brush from em cosmetics and utterly loved it.  I dutifully tested with my makeup sponge and fingers as well, and it was virtually impossible to mess it up.

I tested this foundation over unprimed skin, with the t-zone primed with MAC primer, and also experimented with a new L'Oreal primer/pore reducer (that broke me out - argh!).  I had the best results with the MAC primer.  I generally paired it with the matching powder but tested it with my typical Rimmel one with comparably flawless results. 

Overall the coverage is slightly less than I thought I wanted: in my mind, my long-wearing requirement seemed to assume full coverage as well.  However, I learned that it's not necessarily the case!  Love me for me is a beautiful medium-coverage foundation that stands up all day without needing extraordinary measures to remove it at bedtime.

My biggest trepidation - and the only way I figure someone could go wrong with this foundation - was choosing a shade. The em cosmetics website offers 24 photographs of real women's faces with the idea being that you chose the shade corresponding with the woman whose face best resembles yours.  I was very nervous not to order the lightest shade (I ended up with bare 04), but went with my gut and ended up with a winner.

Overall grade: A! With extra credit for giving me a fuller coverage powder to dust on over BB Cream on the weekend!

Oh, and this foundation officially replaces the Cover Girl Outlast as my fallback foundation as my FOTM experiment continues . . .

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February Shareworthy




I discovered a new-to-me vocal artist that I'm really loving.  I was watching a beauty tutorial by Samantha Schuerman and heard Mindy Gledhill for the first time.  I've had this song on replay ever since! Click PLAY while you read on!

For Your Reading Pleasure . . .
I've been loving The Deliberate Reader blog (I wish I could give credit to how I found her, but I already can't remember).  This latest review, of Women Heroes of World War II sounds intriguing (and in small, bedtime-accessible chunks - mommy bonus!).

This post by Jen Fulwiler on the Courage to Rest has given me a lot of food for thought (especially with Lent fast approaching).

If you're a casual (or not so casual) Kate Middleton follower, and you haven't discovered What Would Kate Do?, it's time to become acquainted!

For Your Eating Pleasure . . .
I'm looking forward to trying out some of these Paleo slow cooker recipes!  I already tested the roast chicken and gravy from Nom Nom Paleo and it was a winner - quick, easy, delicious and healthy - whether you follow a Paleo diet or not! (I used the leftovers in my Buffalo Chicken Salad!)

This Paleo-friendly green smoothie (I know, in some folks' books that's a contradiction in terms) was delicious and made a nice on-the-go meal that didn't involve a boiled egg.

This Paleo banana pudding hit the spot when I needed a sweet treat. My second batch was even better with a tablespoon of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips thrown in!

On the nutritionally naughty end of the spectrum, Daddy M and I enjoyed this classic (and so easy!) margarita recipe on National Margarita Day (February 22nd).

Pure Girly Pleasure . . .
I'm always on the lookout for a good make-up tutorial to achieve a Kate Middleton/Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge look.  This one won big points from me for achieving Kate's cool, smoky eye without going too smoky (as many do).  The natural pink lip is also spot on (and uses a very-affordable Rimmel lipstick!).

If you love Downton Abbey like I do, you MUST see Michelle Dockery's {spoof} new series preview on Funny or Die!

For the Kiddos' Pleasure . . .
We've started planning a playroom for our as-yet-nonexistent new house.  I love this wall decorating idea from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy. I'm also in love with the idea of a tent/nest/book nook like this one or this one.

I've been ogling Olliblocks for months and months and haven't gotten my act together enough to purchase the materials to make a set for Moose and Mouse.  Happily, they've recently come out with four pre-made block sets called Mixmates!  I ordered the Animals and Careers sets to surprise Moose and Mouse on a plane trip we're taking in April.

Disclosure: The Amazon links contained in this post are affiliate links.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Five Minute Paleo Buffalo Chicken Salad

Our backyard in snow ~ February 13, 2014
With the next wave of the Polar Vortex due to hit this week, I thought I'd share a recipe that kept me warm on the inside during the last wave.

If you hadn't figured it out from my wingapalooza a few weeks ago, I adore buffalo chicken! I also love chicken salad (and since my Whole 30 adventure, I don't feel nearly as guilty about making it a frequent feature at lunchtime).  I threw together this easy peasy Five Minute Paleo Buffalo Chicken Salad while snowed/iced in at home.
Ingredients- 1/2lb cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
- 1/4c Paleo mayo (or regular mayo if you're not Paleo-inclined)
- 1Tbsp Franks Red Sauce (or your favorite hot pepper sauce), or adjust to your tastes
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green onion, chopped  
Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!  Whether this makes one or two servings depends on what the rest of your meal looks like.  When I eat this over salad greens, this makes one serving.  However, accompanied by some heartier vegetables, this could easily feed two. 
What's your favorite way to make chicken salad?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Whole 30 Wrap-Up


Today marks a week since the 30th day of my Whole 30.  If I had written this post last Wednesday, the big bold headline would have been I LOST 13.6 POUNDS!  But having had the opportunity to ponder the other aspects of my Whole 30 experience, I've achieved so much more than just weight loss.

There is a whole list over at Whole30.com of possible benefits a graduate of the Whole 30 may have seen (174,203, to be exact).  Of all of these, here are my highlights:

  • Yes: amazing weight loss! To be fair, weight loss was one of the biggest reasons I decided to tackle the Whole 30.  As I've shared before, due to a foot injury, my ability to exercise declined dramatically in 2013 and although I still ate fairly "healthy", the number on the scale caught up to me.  Although I'm rehabbing my foot (successfully but slowly), the intensity level of my workouts is still lower than I'd like it to be.  This makes the weight loss even more amazing: I did not have to kill myself with crazy workouts to see these results.  Moreover, if Daddy M is to be believed, the weight fell off all the "right" places.  Unlike other rapid weight loss experiences I've had in the past, based on how I look and how clothes fit, it appears that the weight loss was actual fat loss!
  • Healthier skin and nails.  Another major motivator for me was the desire to improve my skin.  I continually battle adult acne - particularly around my jawline and chin.  Although my skin is not 100% clear as I write this overall, I've noticed clearer skin. Furthermore, my nails are rock solid (despite the total absence of dairy over the last month)! 
  • I've kicked the cravings! This is the BIG one.  The biggest surprise.  The most amazing change. The change with lasting, sustaining potential! I'm not craving the "junk" - even the "healthy junk".  When Day 31 came, I didn't want to go crazy.  I started the day with this Paleo-friendly smoothie from Danielle Walker of Against All Grain (the only non-Whole 30 ingredient was a touch of honey).  Then I made a tweaked, Whole 30-compliant version of this sweet potato tuna salad (using Paleo mayo in place of the hummus) from Brittany Mullins of Eating Bird Food.  In the days that followed, the non-Whole 30 foods I did try didn't tantalize me or suck me in to falling off the wagon.  

So where to go from here? My current plan is to keep going! I'm going to relax the sugar restrictions a bit (a touch of honey or natural sweetener here or there).  I plan to let myself do some occasional dietary "off-roading" for special events.  One thing is sure: I have no desire to go back to the way things were!  Fortunately for me (and my family), Daddy M and the kids have LOVED the recipes I tried out during my Whole 30 (if you missed them and area looking for some foodspiration, here are my recaps for Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4).  I'm looking forward to continuing to explore new recipes, as well as evaluate how I can modify some of our favorite recipes to make them work with this new nutritional focus.

Thanks so much for letting me share! Have you completed a Whole 30? What surprised you the most?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fitness Friday: Music to Move You (Home Edition)


(A 30 min. YouTube playlist I created to work out to - some pop, some alternative, a little rap, and a lot of beat!)

Having a goal is a great way to kickstart an exercise program: an upcoming wedding or vacation, the desire to lose a few pounds, or a race you're doing with a friend in a few month's time.  But how do you get motivated to actually tackle that workout on a daily basis when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. or you drag yourself through the front door at the end of a long day?

MUSIC!

The best classes I've taken and videos I own have awesome music!  But there are times that you want or need to supply your own grooves - maybe you're running on the treadmill or doing a routine from a printable, magazine, or book.  There are a lot of great FREE or low cost resources to find yourself some music to move to, and today we're going to talk about using music resources you can access so long as you have a browser nearby (a laptop, home theater computer, or browser on a tablet) while you're getting your sweat on.

If you're simply looking for music to get you out of the gate, pick something you like with a good beat and go for it! The above is a YouTube playlist (exactly 30 min. in duration) that I put together somewhere late in my 2011 P90X journey when I got tired of the repeat banter in the videos.  I've also created a couple Pandora stations that I enjoy when I'm working out.  This one (originally based on Britney Spears but tweaked over time) is the one I like to listen to while I'm doing one of my favorite Blogilates HIIT printable workouts.  Both of these options do have the downside of the occasional ad, but I use it as an excuse for a water break.      

If you're looking for a little guidance, some fitness instructors with an online presence put out a playlist.  For example, the Tone it Up gals put out a Love Your Body Playlist in January (which plays through a free spotify account; there are a few additional songs in the playlist that require a paid account).  I used to subscribe to the Pure Barre newsletter (when my feet used to allow me to do barre workouts) and they sent a recommended playlist each month which could be purchased through your preferred mp3 outlet.  If you're out in left field when it comes to picking music for your workout, some curated tunes can be a great investment.

If you want to get really technical, some music services with a fitness focus have playlists available by the BPM (or beats per minute) of the music and can tell you which is better depending on the type of activity you're planning: cardio, running, weight training, etc.  I recently discovered Motion Traxx and they have a ton of FREE playlists searchable by music genre, BPM, and type of activity.

I'm testing out some music app options for an upcoming Mobile Edition to this subject, but in the meantime what's your favorite way to add music to your workout and keep it fresh?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Whole 30: Week 4 - The Home Stretch & Adventures With Wings


The home stretch!  The snow and ice storm of doom that hit Atlanta on Tuesday made a mess of a lot of my meal plans.  Thankfully, I've learned over the last few weeks to keep some spare cooked chicken breast and veggies around and my ability to make pinch hit, hodge-podge meals has improved dramatically!

Breakfasts

This week's egg cups used prosciutto and sun-dried tomato - a nice shake-up!

Lunches

With three extra lunches snow/iced in at home, lunches were mostly hodge-podge.

Dinners

We started the week with chicken "Parmesan", breaded with almond meal.  Daddy M and I both loved it, but the breading was much too peppery for Moose and Mouse.  I substituted chicken broth for the wine in the sauce, and it still had great flavor.  We had ours with steamed zucchini one day, and the leftovers with sauteed zucchini, just to keep things interesting.

I pulled out a favorite South Beach recipe for Marinated London Broil and substituted red wine vinegar in lieu of the wine in the marinade.  We made it a real comfort meal with baked sweet potatoes - I've been using this method from the Eating Bird Food blog to make a big batch of sweet spuds each week and it works perfectly every time!

Wing-a-palooza! One of the things I've missed most about my usual Saturday "cheat day" while I've been on the Whole 30 is wings.  So on Saturday, inspired by Danielle Walker's new recipe over at Against All Grain, I decided to try my hand at making my own.  All told, I made four flavors: ranch (for Daddy M, using packaged ranch seasoning), lemon pepper, Danielle's Buffalo, and a "dry rub" of my own concoction (see below).
Paleo Dry Rub Wings
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp salt (sea salt or kosher)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
6-12 Chicken wings (1/2 to 1lb), drumlettes and flats separated, skin on
Preheat oven to 400F and prepare a cookie sheet with a wire cooling rack over top.  Mix first six ingredients together in a prep bowl or small bowl.  Toss wings with mixture (in a larger mixing bowl or zip-top baggie) and space evenly on prepared pan.  Bake for 40 minutes, pausing to flip the wings over after 20 minutes. These are mild enough to eat without any ranch dressing but still flavorful.
I made my own ranch using this recipe but Danielle's dressing mixing proportions (1/2 instead of 1/3c of Paleo mayo).  All in all, it was a delicious, guilt-free treat!  That said, I spent about 4 hours in the kitchen. Next time I'll stick to one or two flavors to cut down both prep and clean-up time.  I was so disappointed that I forgot to take a picture of all my hard work, but by the time I remembered, all that was left to show were bones . . .

Finally, this is how I survived the Super Bowl party we attended on Sunday:
Yes, I totally missed not having an Irish Car Bomb with the rest of the wives.  I did treat myself with a few spoonfuls of coconut milk when I got home as a reward.

What food(s) do you miss the most when you're eating clean?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Introducing FOTM: Foundation of the Month


Until last year, I was a devout Bare Minerals user.  However, I reached a point where I found myself wanting a little more coverage and, after years off the foundation market, started the hunt for the perfect foundation.

The road was rocky to say the least.  I fell in love with the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Even-Finish foundation, but I couldn't maintain the $48 price tag on a consistent basis.

I bought, tried, kept some, tossed several YouTube-recommended drugstore foundations, and at some point it dawned on my OCD self that I was not being very organized about my experimenting.  Different days can be different, different primers, different finishing powders can all impact the end result.  So to be fair to each, I thought I would spend 2014 really trying out 12 well-researched foundations for a month apiece.

I am allowing a lifeline - if I truly discovered I hated one of the foundations, or had a rushed morning where I didn't want to pay as close attention to application, I could default to the Cover Girl Outlast Stay Fabulous that was the unofficial "winner" of my very disorganized 2013 testing.

My goals/parameters for an "ideal" foundation are that it be long-wearing (especially on my peskily oily chin) but not break out my oily skin.  It must not be too fussy to apply.  And it must come in under $40.

January's Foundation: Revlon ColorStay

I wore this the first day with no primer and was already impressed.  The second day, I wore it with MAC primer over my t-zone, and was really impressed.  I played around with application throughout the month and had the best results with a beauty sponge (I use the Sonia Kashuk one from Target).  I also played around with different finishing powders and had the best results with my Rimmel Stay Matte powder.

I had one or two days where it oxidized in a random spot, but overall the coverage and color were consistent and, most importantly, it lasted!  I found myself checking the mirror less frequently as I dashed out the door to lunch or into a client meeting.  Coverage like that for a $9.99 price tag can't be beat (I got mine at Target)!  

Overall, I only had two major gripes:

First, the difficulty in removing this foundation is a bit hard to get past. The first day I used my usual Michael Todd True Organics face wash on my Clarisonic, and it very nearly killed that brush.  Moreover, I had to use several rounds of toner to finish the job.  Thereafter, I prewashed with LUSH Fresh Farmacy and followed with my MTTO cleanser (with Clarisonic) and a quick swipe of toner.  In the long run, no breakouts.  However, I found myself dreading my evening routine as the month wore on and even opted to wear my fallback foundation a few days at the office when I didn't have as many client meetings.  On the day it snowed in ATL and it took Daddy M 10.5 hours to get home (after walking the last 8 miles!), I completely forgot to wash by the time we fell into bed, and paid for it with a few spots the next day.

Second, the packaging.  This foundation comes in a traditional glass bottle that you have to tip out onto your finger.  I had many a day where I took too much or two little.  I guess I've gotten spoiled by pumps and tubes, and the return to the mess and imprecision of the bottle was unwelcome.

I would definitely purchase this foundation again, but in the future I expect I will use it on days when I know I need my look to last longer or have a special event.

Overall grade: B+