Thoughts on weight and such...

I remember being 17, on the pep squad, putting hot rollers in my ponytail in preparation for the homecoming game and worrying about how big my thighs were and wearing my skirt in front of the crowd. I was 5'4" and 94 lbs, worried about thunder thighs. I came across this e-card online and thought, "RIGHT?!"

I remember a co-worker pulling me aside at my first full-time job, and asking if I was ok, because I "looked like I'd gained weight" and was normally "so thin" and my face was "puffy and round now." I tried to "appreciate" his concern, but was secretly devastated. I'd started birth control (the depo shot) to regulate my periods shortly before his comment, and didn't think I'd gained that much weight, I was probably 115 pounds at that time. However, within a span of about 3 months, (the time one shot is effective for) I ended up gaining about 25 pounds. For the first time in my life, I knew I genuinely needed to lose weight. I could hear my grandmother's words echoing from my childhood, "She'll never have to worry about her weight! Look at how thin she is!" How wrong she had been, I thought.

A few years later, I'd evened out a bit, was down about ten pounds (and on the good old low dose pill instead), happily married and in a stable job - starting to think about having kids. A few months later, I was pregnant, and after delivery my husband and I were lucky enough to have sitters (my parents - thank you!) willing to watch our extremely fussy infant long enough for us to enjoy an anniversary dinner to out. Just a few weeks post-partum, feeling remarkably thinner than I had in recent months (obvs!) and rather proud that I didn't look at big as I thought I would at that point in time - I put on my best fitting "date night" attire and actually felt somewhat pretty -- until we ran into a former co-worker of mine outside my favorite restaurant, "Oh, wow, I almost didn't recognize you -- you've gained quite a bit of weight!" she exclaimed. I quickly stammered something about having had a baby 3 weeks prior and went on to only pick at the meal we ordered that night -- any hopes that my post-partum self looked halfway nice, defeated.

Fast-forward to the not so distant past - I'd buckled down, worked out very regularly, used Weight Watchers online and dropped 30 lbs in time for my 10 year high school reunion. I was in good shape, feeling great and happily in a single digit size and nearing the next lower. I relaxed a little bit, and never did see that next size - but, I felt ok in my clothes, continued to work out and even completed the 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels (on my tv that is) despite my love-hate relationship with her. I was looking toned for the first time in my life (I'd been thin, but never toned), when I became pregnant with baby #2.

Those of you who've read my blog for awhile now know, baby #2 never came to term and after two miscarriages in short succession (the second requiring a D&C, followed by a severe post-op infection/complication) I was right back up in weight in no time. SO frustrating. To top it off, two weeks later I was benched from exercising all together when I was hit by a red light runner and sustained pretty significant injuries to my neck. (Four bulging discs we'd later find out -- which are still bulging now as I write.)

FAT NAT. That's what I felt like. That's who I saw in the mirror. It's who I still see. I worry about running into people in stores that I went to school with, because I don't want to be that person who makes them think, "Wow, she got fat." Funny - all the things I've accomplished since high school (graduating college, being happily married going on 12 years, having a happy, well-adjusted kid who I've so far done a decent job of keeping alive, being gainfully employed) those all pale in my head and all I can think about is being "the girl that got fat." I even imagine thoughts about me for strangers walking near me in a store, "Yeah girl, you should be looking in the workout clothes area - maybe buy something and actually wear it to work out for a change," I imagine two men thinking as they walk behind me in Target.

What a WASTE of space in my head. What a frustrating thought. How frustrating for a girl who sells wonderful and amazing health products she genuinely LOVES and has researched to the nth degree to worry that someone might think, "those products must not work if she's not a stick yet." Nope - not a stick. But that has nothing to do with the products (which work amazingly, truly - and work even better when paired with healthy habits). You know why? I'm why! I am inconsistent. I take my supplements, then forget them in another purse. I eat healthy for 3 days, don't lose half a pound, then wallow in a bowl of chips with melted cheese to deal with the disappointment. It's time to stop that, for good.

So, I figured what better way to do that, than to hold myself publicly accountable, in front of a group of others wanting to make a change for the better, for I know public failure is just about the greatest threat imaginable for me. And so, the #90dayfitclub was born. Myself and 55 (and counting) others are embarking on a 90 challenge to get healthy for the summer ahead. We're 7 days in now, and I haven't been inconsistent so far - not once! I am hopeful I can lead by example and help others meet the goals that have alluded them as well. And most of all, I'm going to learn to tell that negative voice I've been hearing for far too long now to shut UP. She's not welcome anymore.

This is one of those posts where every part of me wants to delete it, instead of hit the publish button, but because I know I'm probably not alone in this... I'll hit publish anyway, in hopes it will strike a cord in someone else and maybe convince them not to have "you're fat" pow-wows with their coworkers. Or maybe it will convince someone else to say, "I'm over this, I'm moving forward, I'm going to be consistent and tell the negative voice to shut up." If so, it's worth hitting publish. Here goes nothing...

*If you're interested in joining the #90dayfitclub, where we set personal goals for improving our health depending upon our desired outcomes, support each other in a private Facebook group, complete accountability challenges and have access to the amazing It Works! health products at wholesale price - please, email me at thethinkingblonde (at) I'd love to meet our goals together.

All about hosting a favorite things party!

Q. What is a favorite things party?

A. A favorite things party is a very low maintenance, yet highly entertaining party in which people get together and share their favorite things with one another. Each guest brings a set number of wrapped gifts that represent things they absolutely love and would recommend to others. They also bring a favorite food or drink to share. Everyone goes home with gifts and a full stomach and a few new friends!

Q. So, how do I set it up?

A. I invited friends from several different circles like moms from my son's school, friends from childhood, family, work friends - all kinds of nice people who I thought could have a great time with one another, even if they didn't know each other coming into the party. On the invite, I asked everyone to choose 3 items they love in the price range of $5-$30, and wrap them so someone looking at the package couldn't tell what's inside. I also asked everyone to bring a finger food or drink. (Most of the drinks were wine at our party.)

To prepare the house, I set up two long tables for the gifts and cut out little slips of paper equal to the number of guests attending, times three so that we could draw a number representative of each gift. I purchased some cute plates and cups, put out napkins and utensils, and sticky labels and a sharpie so guests could make name tags and that was about it!

Q. What do you do when everyone arrives?

Ask everyone to make a name tag and place their gifts on the gift table and potluck items in the kitchen. Everyone fills a plate and mingles while all guests arrive. Once everyone has arrived, we count the total # of gifts and write numbers 1 - (whatever the number of gifts is) on the little slips of paper and put them in a bowl.

Q. How does the gift exchange work?

A. Each person draws three numbers from the bowl. The person who draws number one chooses a gift and opens it. The person who brought the gift shares why they love that item. Then, person two may steal person one's gift or choose a new gift. This continues all the way through the highest number, just like the white elephant game. We play so that each gift can be stolen twice, then it is "frozen." The stealing is what makes the game the most fun!

Q. What details should I know to ensure a successful party?

A. Make sure your guests know to bring items they genuinely love. (This is not the time to regift granny's unwanted Christmas gift.) Limit the number of guests to what can fit comfortable in your house and allow everyone to see each other open the gifts and hear the explanations. Suggest favorite foods and wines be brought for the potluck vs. wrapped as gifts, as food tastes vary widely and not everyone drinks alcohol. Allow your guests to invite a friend so you can make new friends at the party. Afterwards, if guests are on Facebook, it's fun to start a thread to share photos of the party loot so everyone can remember who ended up with what and what the items they liked, but didn't end up with looked like, in case they'd like to buy them themselves.

Q. What kind of items do people bring that go over really well?

A. Scarves, earrings, kitchen gadgets, cleaning tools, perfume, body wash, candles, nail polish, dry shampoo, fuzzy socks, a robe, yoga and Bar Method class gift certificates, mugs and coffee/tea, mascaras/cosmetics, home decor, baking items, Ulta gift cards and more!

Q. Should I host my own party?

A. If you like having fun with friends, eating yummy food and presents, YES. As soon as possible! Have fun!

So, what's up with Fresh & Easy anyway?

Background: Why I care so much about a grocery store
If you've followed my blog or social media feeds for some time, you're likely well aware of my love affair with Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets. When the stores first opened in my area, I blogged about my very pleasant experience shopping there for the first time, and pretty much shopped there every week after that. Fresh & Easy's representatives noticed my happy reaction and because of that I was lucky enough to be a part of their "blogger circle" (my nickname for it, not theirs) and have had the opportunity to participate in neat things such as store grand opening events, tastings of their new food and wine offerings (and the hubs enjoyed a few beer tastings as well). .

Beyond my blogger relationship to the store, I was a very satisfied shopper of the store. Biggest reasons? Incredibly convenient and fast (I can shop for an entire week in about 20 minutes and find almost everything I need in one place), pleasant atmosphere, quality foods and organics at prices within my reach and of course, like everyone else who shopped there and had email - the insanely valuable store coupons. I'd use coupons to the tune of $25/week on average, which had a major effect on my grocery spending.

After a year and many months of happy shopping - I heard the news that Fresh & Easy was possibly closing or being sold, as their British parent company, Tesco, had decided to pull out of the Fresh & Easy stores as they were losing a lot of money. Fresh & Easy's concept seemed to work well in the UK, but didn't translate to American shopping. A buyer came through for the F&E stores, and while some stores did close, many remained open and have kept the F&E name and appearance.

My neighborhood store (luckily) was one that remained, however, I of course wondered what to expect with the new ownership in place. The first thing I noticed (along with many other loyal shoppers) was that we no longer were receiving coupons in our weekly email. I was admittedly pretty bummed. Those coupons saved us quite a bit of money. So, I decided to see what my other (tolerable) grocery options were.

Shopping Experiments
After shopping at F&E EVERY week since they opened (and spending on average $79 per week for groceries there), I tried buying all of my groceries at Target for a few weeks. Here's what I found:
  • Target:  Too many non-grocery temptations. I didn't need a clearance pair of pants for my munchkin, 2 for 1 self-tanner or a scented candle to make meals for the week - but they were THERE while I was grocery shopping in that huge store, and I threw them into my cart with my groceries. Result: 1 week's groceries = $150
  • Trader Joe's: So many yummy specialty foods that I didn't really need... like a toy store but for food. Having to shop on weekends also meant a crowded parking lot and crowded store. Their produce is of good quality, but to buy it in larger quantities is pricey at TJ's. Result: 1 week's groceries = $180 (oops)
  • Costco: SO many yummy things, and I'll have plenty of bread for several weeks, and plenty of bell peppers too - but, when you spend $150 for 12-15 total types of items, your recipe capability gets limited. Result = fresh, high quality food, but few items in a large quantity and $150 spent.
So... I went back to F&E without coupons. I bought what I'd normally buy and ended up with a total of $100. I also was in and out of the store in about 20 minutes. After digesting this, I realized that though I spent more than I did with the coupons, I still had food that was really fresh and of really good quality for less than I'd spent elsewhere AND I had more of my precious weekend time left. (Time to shop my list in Target averaged over an hour for me.)

If you're thinking, "I thought you had some info about what's happening with the stores now?"
Yes! Today, a couple of F&E's company representatives traveled to Fresno to tour my neighborhood store with me, and discuss the changes that are taking place under the new ownership/leadership. I got to ask questions too. I tried to think of as many of my friend's questions that I'd overheard or seen posted on social media to get those answered as well. Here's what I found out.
  • The high value store coupons are gone, and won't be back. The store was essentially paying people to shop, which isn't a feasible business plan - especially for a company trying to become profitable after taking huge losses.
  • F&E isn't against manufacturer coupons, and may consider accepting them in the future. The reason they don't accept them now has more to do with their register technology and systems, not a stance against them.
  • The store is focusing on being fresher - produce, meats, grab and go meals - their dates are all being shortened and products are on display for 1-2 days vs. several days. The stores are receiving daily deliveries and their in-store bakeries are baking everything in-house, twice daily.
    Yummy baked goods, fresh baked today
    I think people may be under the impression smaller stores = slim selection. But, I had great luck in finding even exotic produce there myself! (Today, I noticed they started carrying won ton wrappers- I have some Pinterest recipes to try!)
  • They're also focusing on being easier - all of the grab and go meals have been moved to the front of the store (not just the sandwiches and salads, but the dinner type meals as well) so people in a hurry or not wanting to cook can save time and get high quality food. 
    New labels tell you which day the food was meant to be enjoyed AND when it officially expires
  • The old F&E was run from one location, and all stores pretty much carried the exact same products. As you could imagine, when it comes to foods - tastes can vary widely by region! This resulted in unsold product and waste and customers not finding exactly what they were looking for. Soon, local store managers will be in charge of their own ordering and be able to carry items that are wanted by their local shoppers and ditch those that just take up valuable shelf space. 
  • All items in each store are being individually evaluated for competitive pricing and demand. Yes, some lesser-purchased products may leave the shelves (apparently, I need to stock up on my favorite Thai Curry Simmer Sauce) but they'll make room for products that are in high demand. 
  • Pricing will move from a "high-low" model (an item is either on sale, and at rock bottom prices that actually cause a loss for the store, but bring people in - or they're higher than other stores if not on sale) to a more evened out model which allows F&E to stabilize at competitive prices.
  • Wild Oats is a company owned by the same parent company the bought F&E and focuses on organic, healthy and very fresh foods. One item I noticed in the store was their line of eggs. There was a little card near them that explained that conventional egg suppliers provide eggs that may have been laid up to 6 weeks prior to when you get the carton home (yuck). But, the Wild Oats eggs get to the store within 3 days of being laid and each EGG is stamped with the date it was laid. Seems like there will be quite a few more Wild Oats items popping up in F&E stores, and I'm definitely curious to try them. 

*Note: I'm a huge fan of buying local and supporting local businesses. My friend Hannah (and her sister Holly) have an amazing ranch that produces delicious, freshly laid eggs every day - if you have access to them - BUY THEM, they're wonderful! But, if for some reason you can't get some (or they're sold out), at least now you have a backup.

Final thoughts
F&E is working to find a balance between offering very high quality foods and very low prices. Before, they tried to offer the lowest prices on the highest quality foods, but unfortunately, that's not a sustainable business model (read: losing lots and lots of money). So, the store is going to continue to focus on high-quality foods and will be offering competitive, stable prices. Will they be the cheapest? Probably not - but, they will definitely be competitive and certainly not the most expensive either.

If you value high-quality foods and saving your precious free time enough to spend a little more than you would at say, Winco or Foodsco (which is the boat I'm in, since most of the food I buy is fresh produce, meats and such and I am unhappy with what I've found at the discount stores), I think you'll really enjoy F&E, especially as they continue to adapt. Futhermore, the reps I spent the afternoon with seemed to really emphasize the nimbleness and flexibility of the company as decisions continue to be made - so if there's something you'd really like to see happening in stores, I'd encourage you to share your constructive ideas and thoughts with F&E via their Facebook, Twitter or Contact Page. If they're willing to travel all the way to me to chat about their plans, I'm pretty sure they're more than open to hearing your ideas.

Disclosure: I have not been paid for my opinions in any way, nor was I even asked to blog about this. My opinions are my own. Everyone's entitled to theirs as well, however due to rude comments and the fact that this is my blog and I don't have to deal with that - I'm turning off comments now. If you prefer a different store - by all means, shop there. There's no reason to attack anyone for their own preferences. Have a nice day.

5 Tips for Finding the Best in Bargain Beauty

Maybe you're just getting into cosmetics and you're building your collection. Or, perhaps you are bored with what you have or want to update your cosmetics for spring. Either way, most likely your beauty funds aren't infinite and it would be beneficial to know what cosmetics items are worth splurging on and what you can find of fantastic quality, but at drug store prices.

Today's post is all about how to find the best of bargain beauty products and save money overall when adding to your cosmetics collection. I have 5 tips that I believe you'll be able to put to use right away - that I use when shopping for cosmetics myself. Here we go!

1. Don't scrimp when it comes to your skin
Color products such as eye shadow, blush and lipstick can be purchased inexpensively and look beautiful with a great base beneath them. Find products that work for your skin type and give you the smoothest, most even & clear skin tone and stick with them. Inexpensive face products may work, but are often short-wearing. If you have to reapply multiple times a day, you may not actually be saving money. If you're going to splurge somewhere, my personal opinion is that it is most worth it to do so on skin care, foundation and a good concealer.

2. Shop at the right places
When shopping for a product you've never tried before, stick to Ulta, CVS or Walgreens. All three stores will allow you to return open cosmetics items for any reason - including "the color just didn't work for me." However, when shopping for products you KNOW you love, stick to places you can get the best deal or use coupons. Target, Ulta, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid all allow you to use a manufacturers coupon in addition to a store coupon or promotion.
3. Shop with your smart phone

If you can't open and test a product you are debating purchasing try Google image searching "Swatches of {product}{shade}" and see if others have posted photos that may help you. If you find multiple images by multiple people, search for the one who's skin most closely matches your own to ensure the color is a fit for you. Download the app and sign up for a free Make Up Alley account. Make Up Alley (MUA) offers 1,000s of reviews for beauty products - most often I look for the overall rating regarding whether people would repurchase a product when making my purchase decisions.

4. Consult the beauty gurus
Check out YouTube for informative videos created by Beauty Vloggers who happily go out and purchase just about every new item that comes out so they can test it and review it for you! These gurus discuss all elements from value (price/oz), packaging durability, product longevity, texture, color payoff, fragrance and more. Two great ones to start with are Emily of the Beauty Broadcast and Beauty Broadcast Express and Tati from Glam Life Guru.

5. Test for yourself
Once you have your products, look for products that offer a high color payoff, smooth, consistent texture and powders that are finely milled. Products that don't transfer much color with one to two swipes are usually high in fillers, low in pigmentation. They're worse for your skin and will require you to use a LOT more product to get the desired result (therefore, not really saving you money). Coarse powders will cause fall-out and cause under-eye areas to get dark and raccoon like.

As a starting point, the following products have proven themselves worthy, at least in my personal experience.
  • Milani Baked Blushes and Eye Tech Extreme Eyeliner
  • Revlon Photo Ready shadows, blushes and bronzers
  • Wet n' Wild shadows in Comfort Zone (8 pan palette) & Walking on Eggshells (color trio)
  • Maybelline Age Rewind Under Eye Concealer (I like the Neutralizer shade)
  • Maybelline mascaras, especially "The Falsies" and "Great Lash - Lots of Lashes" formulas
  • Hard Candy baked shadow duos
  • NYX Stay Matte Not Flat powder foundation
  • Maybelline Master Glaze blush sticks
  • ELF HD Cream Blushes (apply with their awesome $3 small stipple brush)
Watch my segment on this topic from March 13th's episode of Central Valley Today here.

The greatest challenge of being 32.

We spend most of our early adulthood preparing and eagerly anticipating the next step. We get good grades and take the SAT to prepare for college. We go to college to prepare for our careers and eventually provide for our families. We date to find our spouse. We marry to become a family. We have children to grow our family. We save for our first home. We move in.

But what happens then? What happens once we have the jobs and the cars and the house and the kid(s) and when we stop being so preoccupied with the next step that we are left in the middle of the lives we carefully planned for ourselves... now what?

I think that's the challenge of being 32.

I realize not everyone follows the same path, some do it earlier or later - but eventually, I think many of us hit this point - whether it's at 32 or 52 or 72, the point where you have to look long and hard at the life you worked to set up and LIVE it.

I've spent so much time constantly running at 90 miles an hour preparing for what's next that I don't know how to enjoy what's here. How many of us do that?

I read a quote (and I'm bummed because I can't seem to find where I read it for the life of me) that said something like, "One day, you'll look back on this time and realize THESE were the days of your life. These were the good old days." Just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes. I am so used to trying to find the next thing to strive for, I still seek to do it. I am constantly missing the present in searching for my next step.

When my son was a baby, I yearned for a full night's sleep. When he was a toddler, I kept hoping for the days he could fully communicate why he was upset. When he was in preschool, I looked forward to his "real" school days and walking him to the elementary school down the street. On the weekends, I'm working on the house, the shopping list, projects, my business so that later I can "really" relax and enjoy spending time with my family. But, how many weekends will that take? How many months? Years? Decades? When will later be now?

Last weekend, I decided it was later. I did what needed to be done on Saturday, but then the hubby, kiddo and I piled into the car and drove two and a half hours to the coast. We ate fish and chips in Morro Bay, we visited the Shell Shop and fed sea lions. We beach combed and hiked around. We sat and soaked in the sun and sea and air. For once I didn't stress about what time we'd leave on our trip or what time we'd get back. What I'd make for dinner. We just went.

And, it was amazing.

I refuse to look back and realize I squandered the best days of our lives worrying about the rest of the days.

My favorite staple beauty products and... I joined YouTube (gulp!)

Hiya! Little announcement for you, I've decided to get past my insecurity about being on video and join the YouTube Beauty Vlogger world. I know I'm not a makeup artist or expert, but I'm a true enthusiast and I love watching the videos of other vloggers and it just looked like so much fun!

I don't really have a clue what I'm doing yet, so hopefully YouTube will go easy on me, though, I don't expect that... I guess we'll just wait and see!

For my first video (click here to watch), I wanted to share my favorite staple products. These are the beauty products I've repurchased or definitely will repurchase, use time and time again and feel they justify their cost.

If you've come over to my blog from YouTube, welcome! :-)

My Beauty Staples List:

Face Products:
  • Great matte coverage
  • Comparable to MAC Mineral Skinfinish (in my opinion)
  • Great for all skin types
  • Doesn't oxidize during the day
  • Less than $10
  • Lasts 15 hours
  • Doesn't crease
  • Great, full coverage
  • Pump bottle (yay!)
  • Pick a shade lighter than your foundation
  • Dense, soft bristles
  • Gives an airbrushed finish
  • Wears well, very little bristle fall out
  • Washes up easily with warm water and soap (I use a little eye makeup removed first to loosen up the foundation)
  • $21, but will last forever
  • Gorgeous, finely milled matte powder
  • Not orangey at all
  • Great for contouring on fair skin
  • Easy to blend
  • A little goes a long way, lasts about a year
Eye Products:
  • Lasts all day, pretty sweat-proof
  • Great shades, goes on easily
  • Not waxy
  • Fine precision point
  • Con: You can't tell when you're about to run out - buy two so you have a backup!
  • Awesome everyday mascara
  • 2-sided - one for volumized top lashes, one for well-defined lower lashes
  • Pigmented, non-flakey
  • Lasts all day
  • Not sticky, few clumps
Shroom (Satin) - gorgeous slightly pink white tone, blends with almost anything, great brow highlight
Naked Lunch (Satin) - perfect pale peachy-pink lid shade, blends well with browns, pinks, warm tones, purples

Bronze (Frost) - shimmery bronze, warm and looks great offsetting light eyes
Satin Taupe (Frost) - beautiful purple-y medium shimmery taupe

I've got the back to school blues.

My little man, who I swore was just wearing diapers about 2 weeks ago, is starting the first grade on Monday. (He was potty trained at 2, don't worry - he didn't wear diapers this summer for real!)

There was a bit of drama when it came to finding out which class he'd be in and which teacher he'd have, as he received welcome letters last week from TWO first grade teachers at his school. We had to wait 5 tenuous days to for the class lists to be posted in the school windows to find out whether he would be with his close friends, or separated in a different class. Both teachers are fantastic from what I hear, so I wasn't so much worried about which teacher he'd have, but I was concerned about how difficult it might be getting him off to school each morning without his best buds in class with him.

Thankfully, all worked out perfectly (prayers work!) and he is with a wonderful teacher and his friends. I'm a happy mama and he's a happy kid.

I've been doing as much pre-prep as I can...

I bought Keegan a little parsons desk at Target last week, (only $39!) an upon assembling it, decided to rearrange our front room. Now his desk and mine face one another and we have a nice little home office area - I rather like it!

Keegan's desk
Our new front room arrangement
All set for anything his homework assignments require (I think?)...

I found him a lunchbox that he liked, and some good bento-style containers that fit inside. He likes finger foods anyway, so I think he'll get better nutrition if I pack his lunch in that style.

He didn't want a new backpack this year. While we were school shopping at Target he simply said, "My backpack from last year is still good mom!"He's perfectly right. (Duh mom!) Waste not, want not.

And though he did decline a first day of school "outfit" he chose a new shirt for the first day (on sale for only $7 too, nice work son!) Oh, and I gave up on the whole "no character shirts!" battle - I'm choosing my battles, and that one? So not worth it ;-) I'm sure there will be much more important things to argue about as he grows.

I hear about Minecraft all. the. stinkin. time.
On Friday, hubby got to take Keegan to meet his teacher and tour his classroom. Since then, Keegan's been going on and on about how great his teacher is and how happy she is to have him in class and (I quote here) "She really appreciates me!" Whatever she did on Friday? It really was great in his eyes! Fine by me!

Keegan and his new teacher
So, here I am, writing this post and trying to enjoy the last weekend before school starts, but I've got to admit - as much as Keegan seems ready, I am so not! I'm not ready for the stress of trying hard to get him out the door on time and looking nice (let me be real here, when my sweet family and friends were caring for him while I worked this summer, let's just say I don't think I fixed his hair properly more then 5 times... whoops!) trying to get him to eat a decent breakfast in under 94 minutes, and navigating the school traffic (though we walk Keegan to school due to our very close proximity, getting through the traffic to leave for work after is a considerably time consuming part of my morning commute). Also, and this is so selfish folks, I'll admit it - but if I want to grab a coffee at the Dutch Bros drive through on the way to work? It's NOT going to happen. When school's in session, I'm pretty sure every parent who doesn't have to go straight to work after heads straight to the drive through line there, and well, with 20 cars waiting, there is no way I'm getting a coffee in time to also get to work.

I am also not ready for packing lunches and snacks and homework stress.

But, I know that's just my resistance to changing back to having a bit more regimented mornings and evenings. I know in the end, I'm lucky as heck to have this great little human that I get to help get an education. I'm also so glad he's eager to learn and excited about returning to school. I am also excited as this is my first school year as a part-time working mama! I will be working 5 days a week again now (as opposed to staying home Mondays during the summer) BUT I'll be off early enough to pick up my rugrat from school 3 days a week! I am THRILLED about this change - couldn't be more grateful!

So, I'm going to suck it up and get back on the routine train. Once I get in the groove, I'm sure it will be fine - but right now, I'm having a hard time relaxing this weekend and mentally planning bento box lunch ingredients...

Enjoy that extra video game time kiddo, that's about to change!

Five Faves for August!

Yup, it's another makeup post! Truth is, I haven't been feeling super creative in the kitchen lately, and cooking and makeup are my favorite forms of "art." I like how I can combine ingredients in the kitchen to create something really cool, and I also like combining products to find a combination that makes eyes pop or cheeks glow. It's my attempt at art. A fun challenge and a hobby.

So, here are some things I really liked using in the past month that I think you might enjoy too!

1. E.L.F. Mineral Face Primer
image credit:
 Here's the official product description: "Transform your face into a flawless and smooth canvas with the Mineral Infused Face Primer. Developed to combat against excess oil, flaky dryness, enlarged pores and fine lines. This clear multipurpose skin primer will prepare your skin so makeup goes on evenly for a long lasting satin finish."

I tried this primer because I was out of primer at home and at Target. I didn't feel like driving across the street to Ulta (I know, lazy, but it had been a long day) and I've had good luck with E.L.F. in the past. The primer was only $6, so I figured worst case scenario it sucked, I would only be out $6.

Guess what? It's awesome. I like it as much as Smashbox or Tarte's primers (which I really like too) and it's ONLY SIX BUCKS! Buy it. Seriously. Great stuff! The official description? It's right on. This stuff is all that, just not a bag of chips ;-)

2. MAC Skin Finish Mineral Bronzer in "Give Me Sun"
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This is such a warm, glowy shade! I LOVE my Benefit Hoola Bronzer but I feel like it's better for contouring and Give Me Sun is better for warming up the skin tone and giving a "fresh out of the sun" look on my pale-ish skin. The pigmentation is great, not crazy dark, easily build-able and the powder is fine and light. I know MAC isn't as affordable as drug store brands ($30), but most of my MAC products last YEARS because they are SO pigmented, you just need a touch to do the job. (I have some shadows in my collection that I bought when I was 18! And, I'm well... on my 4th 29th birthday ;-)) I'm quite certain this bronzer could get you through two summers, easy.

3. NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Powder Foundation in 04 Creamy Natural
image credit: beautyjoint
I picked this up at Ulta last weekend (when I wasn't too lazy to drive there ;-)) when they were having a buy one get one 50% off sale on all NYX cosmetics. I was actually looking for a highlighter/luminizer but all the options I saw from NYX seemed too pink for what I wanted - a nice brightened appearance under my eyes, above and down my nose for contouring. So, I looked at the Stay Matte HD powders, and chose this shade because it appeared to be a few shades lighter than my skin tone and was really light and fine. It turned out to be a great choice - in fact, I think it might even be great as a powder foundation too, but it's working fabulously as my highlight right now. After I run out of my current powder foundation (currently using MAC Skin Finish Natural in Medium) I may by a darker shade of this and give it a whirl, since it's a reasonable $9.50.

4. MAC Eyeshadow in Soft Brown
image credit: indyabeauty

This shadow is one I've heard many beauty vloggers talk about and use, but I'd never purchased it before. When I went to MAC and asked them to help me find Soft Brown from amongst the sea of shadows, I was surprised to see it look quite a bit more orangey/pink than I anticipated, seeing as it is called, well, brown! But, what's cool about it, is that it really warms up any shadow look you've got going and helps brighten eyes (blue eyes especially) when blended lightly above the crease. Since I purchased this, I've used it almost everyday and now I understand why it's so talked about. Very pretty used with the following other MAC shadows: Ricepaper, Brown Script, Handwritten, Saddle, Espresso, Naked Lunch. MAC shadows in their pots run $15. (Again though, as I said before they last FOREVER.)

5. Mary Kay True Dimensions Lipstick in Pink Cherie
image credit: marykay

I actually received this lipstick as part of a VoxBox from Influenster. I hadn't tried a Mary Kay product in YEARS (after being practically stalked by a woman who's party I went to once for like, um, 2 years! If I want to buy something, I'll let you know, honest!) but I have to admit, this lipstick was pretty dang awesome. It feels like a Revlon Lip Butter, but better. Smooth, super moisturizing, but not super sheer - it provides great color too! The color I received was Pink Cherie, and though it's brighter than what I normally wear, after trying it on, I decided it was really fun and definitely a keeper. I plan to order additional shades as well because it feels fantastic on! Exactly how I'd want lipstick to feel. Oh, and the packaging? It's pretty cool too. ($18)

I'm wearing Pink Cherie in this photo.

Summer Cosmetic Favorites

I can't call this a Five Faves post, because quite frankly, I can't narrow this group down to five because there are six. So, I'm sorry, but not sorry. ;-)

Here are some products I am really loving right now, from various sources and at various price points. I'd love to hear what you're loving now too, please feel free to share!

This is MAC eyeshadow in Yogurt. When I went to visit the MAC counter recently, the woman who helped me had very pretty eyeshadow (at MAC, shocker, I know) and I asked what she was wearing as her base shade and this was it. It's a pale, matte pink that just brightens the eye. She had it paired with a shimmery grey. I've played with it with warm browns and purples and it seems to be good friends with all of 'em. I've put this in my "frequent use" selection of shadows. ($15)

*Note: I realize MAC shadows aren't necessarily in the "affordable" range, however, for what it's worth I've been collecting them since I was 18, and I've only run out of a shadow ONCE. They last FOREVER. Yes, partly because I don't use the same thing every day, but also partially because they are SUPER pigmented and require very little product to make an impact. If MAC is just out of the question price-wise check out Makeup Geek's shadow pans and magnetic palettes - also highly pigmented, but only $5.99 per shadow.

I discovered Hawaiian Tropic's new Island Radiance Creme self-tanner at Ulta. This product comes in two shades, medium and dark. I purchased medium, which claims a tan two shades darker than your natural skin color. What I love about this, is how silky and moisturizing the lotion is. It's like a whipped, super creamy lotion. The smell is totally non-offensive as far as self-tanners go, and while I feel like my skin is hydrated, I don't feel greasy after using it. The color given is not orangey, but more of a true brown and it goes on evenly without streaking. Ulta currently has all Hawaiian Tropic products on sale, buy one, get one half-off, so maybe snag this and a sunscreen or after-sun lotion!  ($10.99)

Wet n'Wild - nope, it's not how you remember it from junior high! It's actually pretty awesome. At least, a number of products I've purchased in the past year or so have been. Coloricon in "Reserve Your Cabana" is classified as a bronzer by W&W, but really, it's more like a highlighter. This stuff is great for blending and highlighting if you're trying to pull off the whole HAC (highlighting and contouring) thing. If your bronzer turns into more of a streak than a desirable shadow, this stuff quickly blends out any harsh lines or edges. It's ever so slightly shimmery, but not obnoxiously so and I think it would be useful for pretty much any skin-tone as a highlight. ($3.99)

My eyebrows suuuuuuuuuuck. Like, really. They're horrible. If I could change one thing about my appearance once and for all, it would be to have actual, nice eyebrows. I over-plucked ONCE in 8th grade and they NEVER came back. Yes, I have tried to let them grow. No, nothing happens. It is very hard to make your brows look pretty and filled in and to any degree natural looking when you have only have of an actual brow on each side, and you have blonde hair. My brows have always been darker than my hair, even before I ever dyed my hair (I am naturally blonde, and light blonde at that, but my shade is ashier than I prefer, so I dye it to brighten the tone). Anastasia's Brow Pen in Universal Light is the only thing I've found that allows me to actually draw on an eyebrow, with clean edges (I still fill in with a brow powder after). Pencils smudge too much, or aren't precise enough to actually draw a brow where one does not exist, and other pens I've tried just drip down my forehead if I sweat. This one is the most summer-proof for those of us who are sadly barren in the brow. Yes, the darn thing is expensive, but on the bright side, it lasts me six months. ($21)

Milani's Baked  Powder Blush in Luminoso is gorgeous. Just gorgeous. It looks a little bright in the container, but don't be turned away. It is a gorgeous peachy shade that looks fantastic on and is every bit as pretty as it's pricier competitor, MAC's Mineralize Skin Finish. ($6.37)

I saved the best for last. Most recently, I told you Estee Lauder's Double Wear liquid foundation was the end all be all of foundations. It lasts all day and you can even swim with it on, and it still stays put. I love the product, but hate the price tag ($36!). Guess what? I found something every bit as good, for less than 1/3 the cost! Revlon Colorstay Whipped foundation comes in a jar, goes on flawlessly, and lasts (through heat AND humidity) for 24 hours. This stuff is amazeballs. Seriously. The hardest thing, is figuring out what color you need. What surprised me, is that I didn't need one of the first 1-2 shades (the fairest) but in fast, shade 320 (warm golden) was a great match for me and had enough of a yellow tone to work perfectly. If you know your MAC shade, if that gives you a frame of reference, I'm an NC-25, and in Double Wear I wore Dawn. I recommend buying it somewhere like CVS, where you can return it if it isn't a good match for you so you can find the right shade. It's worth it! ($11.49)

So, those are my six favorites for the time being - your turn! :-)

State of the Summer

Sometimes it feels like it takes me the entire rest of winter and spring to regain a sense of normalcy after the holiday season. From the holidays to the end of spring, it feels like a slippery slope of failures for a person like me, who suffers from being type AAAAA to tell the type AAAAA to calm the heck down and be a normal type Aer and enjoy life a bit more. The holidays are filled with, "prepare the desserts!" "wrap the gifts!" "buy the gifts!" "buy more gifts for the people you didn't think were going to buy us gifts!" "cook the food!" "clean the house for the party!" Then comes the "attempt to organize the (only grandchild in the family) kiddo's pile o'stuff so you can once again find the carpet" phase, followed closely by the New Year's Resolution "get skinny and organize your house" phase. Once you realized you've gotten a bit skinnier, but your house is still a disorganized mess, you say "I'm going to do a major Spring Cleaning! I'll get it all then!" But, due to the "must make the 15,935 little holidays between February and May seem thrilling and Pinterest-worthy" phase, it doesn't happen. Add to it starting my own business (BEST BEST BEST thing I've done for in a long time - wouldn't change it for the world) and you've got a scattered working mama who can't seem to squeeze in blogging.

But, the light at the end of the tunnel has shown through! After six months at my new business, I now am part-time at my day job, which means more time with my munchkin, more time for projects, and more time for blogging. The new business has also afforded me the opportunity to invest in something SO worth every penny (which I used to mock, thinking "why can't people clean their own stuff?!") - bi-weekly deep cleaning for the house. Instead of a constant running to-do list of all the things I have to clean when the weekend finally arrives, I can actually enjoy my family and spend time doing the organizing projects. I get it now. Is it a luxury? Absolutely, but I consider the luxury more related to the time I get back, and the end of arguing over who's cleaning highly worthwhile expense. To those of you who made that decision years ago (which, after crowd sourcing for recommendations on Facebook, I found out there are a LOT of you!) WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME SOONER? (kidding! I don't actually blame you... much ;-))

So onward we go, because if I don't blog now, who knows when I will (because after all, we're already passed the halfway point to Christmas! Dear heavens, hold me.) so I hope you're still around and will continue to be my bloggy-friend and bond with me over random recipes, makeup, family stuff and whatever else floats inside my brain. (Good luck with that.)

To do: Write a blog post - check!

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