Ten Fantastic Beauty Finds Under $10

I have the bad habit of getting super excited about makeup, then passing that excitement along to friends and unintentionally being the source of them overspending at Ulta. (Oops!)

So, I thought that today I'd share with you 10 absolutely fantastic beauty finds, all under $10 each! That way you'll feel glamorous and you and your checking account will still be on speaking terms.

In no particular order, here are ten products I adore, that I'm willing to bet all my mascara that you'll love too!

Body Lotion: Suave Moroccan Infusion (under $5 at Target)
I tried this when samples were being given at the entrance to Target one weekend, thinking it wouldn't be life changing, buuuuut my hands were dry so why not? Turns out it is life changing! This lotion absorbs super quickly, making it fast to apply and it spreads really well - 6 pumps takes care of my entire body after a morning shower. (2 for each leg, 1 for each arm, 1 for my neck and shoulders and 1 for stomach and back) And, the best part? My skin still feels silky and soft late at night when I'm getting ready for bed.

Eyeliner: NYX Super Skinny Marker ($9 at Target)
This felt tip marker style liquid liner is easy to apply, even if you struggle a bit with lining your eyes because it's point it very small and precise, making it easy to control. The liner itself is super black and dries matte (I have black eyeliner that dries shiny personally) and it stays put without smudging all day long.

Mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational ($6 at Target)
This stuff is such a win for me! (Yes, I talked about it in my recent post about fab new finds as well - but it's definitely sticking around as a major favorite!) Volume, length, definition and a curved brush all in one product? Finally, my holy grail mascara has been found! Just buy it. Seriously.

Lipstick: Lippie Stix from Colour Pop ($5 online, Colour Pop)
Colour Pop is a relative newcomer to the cosmetics scene, but they're making a major impression with their gorgeous "powder-gel" Super Shock eyeshadows and gorgeous lip sticks and liners. Their "Lippie Stix" come in a slender white tube and the product comes out in a slender stick as well, allowing for a nice, precise application. Their satin and glossy formulas feel amazing on the lips and look fantastic, too! Their wide color range makes it easy to find a favorite and the low price makes it possible to purchase a few.

Eyeshadow: Makeup Geek Single Pan Shadows ($5.99-$9 online, Makeup Geek)
Self-confessed Makeup Geek and YouTube beauty guru Marlena offers one of the most fantastic lines of eyeshadows out there. Each comes in its own magnetized pan, making it easy to place into your own palette. (Z-palettes are a great option for creating custom palettes for your favorite shades). Marlena's entire line offers shades every bit as stunning and varied as MAC Cosmetics for a lower price and contain quality ingredients with minimal fillers (more fillers = less pigmentation). My favorite shades are Peach Smoothie (the ideal blending, crease shade) and Grandstand (from the Foiled shadow collection) which is a gorgeous bronzy rose metallic which looks beautiful all over the lid.

Blushes: Milani Matte Baked Blushes ($7 at CVS)
So far the matte baked blushes are only available in two shades, but both are phenomenal! The brighter, bubble gum pink shade looks beautifully sheer on and the deeper shade would be amazing on medium to deep skin tones.

Hair Product: TRESemme Tres 2 ($4-$6 at Target or CVS)
This is the only hairspray that tames flyaways, helps support curls in typically stick-straight hair and doesn't leave your style looking stiff, dried out and like a helmet. It's fine spray preserves volume and softness. HIGHLY recommend. End of story - it's fantastic!

Nail Product: Essie Good to Go ($8 at Target)
If you find yourself putting off painting your nails because they take so long to dry and you hate being paralyzed for an hour after you do it, you'll love Good to Go! You can literally layer on two coats of your favorite nail color, then paint on Good to Go and your nails will be dry and shiny as a gel manicure in 2 minutes. It's an absolutely fantastic product that I no longer ever paint my nails without.

Lipgloss: NYX Butter Glosses ($5 at CVS, Target and Ulta)
These glosses feel as smooth as... well, butter! And the shade range is beautiful! There lightly fruity-vanilla fragrance adds to how pleasant they are to apply and the comfort in wearing them takes the cake. They have become a staple item for most of my makeup loving friends.

Soap: Dove original beauty bar ($4 for 2 bars at Target)
Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of Dove soap. It works miracles! It is amazing not just for the body, but for the face. Breaking out? Use Dove. Dry skin? Use Dove. Sensitive skin? Use Dove. It is a powerhouse in a palm-sized package. It's the gold standard in my house and has been for years. My husband won't even use anything other than Dove.

My Favorite Beauty Products of 2014

First of all, I know it's almost February, and I probably should have completed this post sooner. But, on the other hand - hey, January is still hanging on by a thread while I write this so it could have been worse! :-)

For my favorite products of 2014, I decided not to choose one product for every single type (i.e. primer, moisturizer, BB cream, liquid foundation, etc. etc.) but instead I chose the products that I picked up time and time again throughout the year (or constantly once I purchased them if later in the year) and that I know I would repurchase. A good way to determine how much you love something is to ask yourself if you'd replace it if you lost it - I learned that from my organization and decluttering mentor, Ashley, and I think it's such a great rule of thumb!

So, for 2014 these are the items I would have definitely and immediately replaced if I lost them:

1. Hoola Bronzer by Benefit (Macy's, Sephora, Ulta, Benefit online, $28)
Hoola is my ride-or-die, tried and true favorite bronzer. It's deep enough for skin tones darker than my own, but natural enough for fair skin. It's not too warm, so it never turns orange-y and it doesn't have any obnoxious glitter or frost to it. I used to think the brush that came with it was useless, but the more I learn about contouring and highlighting, the more I realize it's actually quite cool. Though Hoola isn't the cheapest product, I find that it lasts me a solid year or more, even with very frequent use. It's finely milled, pigmented but blendable formula makes me always come back to it, no matter what other bronzers I test during the year.

2. Good to Go Fast Drying Topcoat by Essie (Target, Ulta $8)
This was a new-to-me product in 2014, and ohmygosh did it change my life. What's amazing about it, is that you can literally slap on two coats of your favorite nail polish, then add a coat of Good to Go and your nails will be completely dry in less than five minutes. We're talking pull clothes out of the dryer, change the sheets dry. And that's dry people! Not to mention I find the shine to be fantastic and to give a nearly gel-like appearance to my manicure and chipping has also been minimized. Gone are the evenings where I had to set aside a solid hour to paint my nails and let each coat dry for what felt like ages in between, thanks to this magic stuff. Plus, I've recommended it to a minimum of ten people who've tried it, and they all are just as in love with it as I am it seems.

3. Maybelline Lash Sensational (Drugstores/Target, under $7)

I believe this mascara came out in mid-fall but I fell hard and fast for it. I'm always a fan of a curved brush, I feel like it's just easier to work with and build length with, and this curved, rubber bristled brush is fantastic in my opinion. The top bristles are long, and I use them to build up my top lashes and also lengthen them, whereas the bottom bristles are shorter, making it easy to dab them on shorter, bottom lashes without making a mess on the skin beneath the eyes. I have not had flaking or smudging with this mascara, and it comes off relatively easily with soap and water. This mascara gives volume, length AND definition (the nearly impossible lash trifecta!) and the black is deep and rich. This has become my #1 mascara, even surpassing Urban Decay's Perversion (though that is still a top three runner-up, along with Milani Runway Eyes and Almay Triple Effect).

 4. Mac Mineralize Lipstick in Dreaminess (Macy's, Mac stores or online, $22)
This lipstick is my favorite. It's just so very lovely. I in fact did lose it, and did buy a replacement, but shortly after found the first one and was still happy to have two. At $22 it is a splurge, so I don't use it every day - but whenever I'm feeling a little blah or want to just grab something I know will work for me, this is a sure bet. The formula is very creamy and soft and the opacity is medium to medium-heavy, so if you are like me and want your lips to actually appear the color of your lipstick vs. a skin + lipstick mish-mash, you'll like this formula. Dreaminess is a perfect mix of pink, with hints of purple and nude. Not too light, but definitely not dark, it's just fantastic.

5. Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette (Ulta, Sephora, Too Face Cosmetics online, $50ish)
If I had to choose one eyeshadow palette and that's all I could use for my eyes each day, this would be the one. First of all, it's infused with real cocoa powder, so it smells amazingly like chocolate cake and that's just a delicious experience in and of itself - but besides that, this palette's mix of neutral mattes and metallics range from pale highlights to perfect mid-toned blending shades and deep liner-worthy colors are just endlessly versatile and universally flattering. My only complaint about this palette is that the names of the colors were printed on the plastic insert that came with the product, but not on the permanent product package - and that would have made referencing shades used in tutorials a bit easier.

6. It Cosmetics Your Brows But Better (YBB) Retractable Pencil (Ulta, $20)
I have almost no eyebrows of my own, so brow products are super important for my daily routine. When you literally have to create an eyebrow each day, you worry a lot about things like sweating, the summer, Zumba, swimming, and oh yeah - not looking like you drew your eyebrows on with a Sharpie. Though it was a close match between this YBB pencil and Anastasia's Brow Wiz, ultimately, I feel the YBB wins by a hair (pun intended) because it stays put better when exposed to water/sweat. Both have fine tips that allow you to draw small, hair-like lines precisely and though YBB comes in just one universal shade, I find that it works just fine for me.

7. It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye Concealer (Ulta, $24)
This is something I discovered through my monthly Ipsy subscription (if you're not familiar, Ipsy sends you a cosmetic bag filled with 5 beauty/hair/skin products once a month for just $10, and the products always well exceed the $10 you spend) and instantly fell in love with. You only need the teeniest, tiniest dab of this product that melts between your fingertips and erases away under eye circles and imperfections immediately. This concealer lasts all day, is waterproof and won't sink into fine lines - in fact, it has anti-aging ingredients, too. Seriously, it's simply a stellar product.

8. Gerard Cosmetics Lip Gloss in Sugar Mama (Gerard Cosmetics online, $24)
Oh how I adore the Gerard Cosmetics glosses! They're really more of a shiny, liquid lipstick than a gloss and they are incredibly creamy, pigmented and opaque. A tad bit sticky (if you can't handle a MAC Lipglass, these may bug you a little bit) but in my experience if you want a long-wearing color, you have to put up with a tiny bit of stickiness. Honestly though, it's not that bad (if it were, these wouldn't be my favorite gloss formula on the market, and they definitely are) and the color range is just amazing! Sugar Mama is my favorite pink lipstick topper. It's pale and almost completely opaque, so it lightens and brightens anything it's layered with. I just reordered this for the first time and I used the first tube almost daily for a solid 9 months - that speaks to the pigmentation of the product because you literally just need a tiny bit for each application.

9. NYX Butter Glosses (My favorite shade is Eclair, available at Ulta, CVS & Target, $5)
I think I own 6 if not 8 of these in different colors, but Eclair is my favorite. If you can't handle any stickiness in your gloss, you'll love the Butter Glosses. Not sticky at all, just creamy and beautiful the Butter Glosses offer medium to sheer opacity (mostly medium) and a wide range of flattering colors. So comfortable to wear and delicious-smelling, you'll look forward to applying these pretty lippies.

Mac Dreaminess, NYX Eclair, Gerard Sugar Mama (left to right)

10. MAC Powder Blush in Coppering (Macy's, MAC stores, $22)
Though Coppering is not my first MAC blush, it quickly became a most-reached-for shade throughout the year, especially in summer and fall. Coppering doesn't look exceptional in the packaging, but on it is just so amazingly flattering and pretty. It's almost a warm peach with a hint of rose, but it seems to make everyone look fresh, healthy and a little tanned. MAC blushes last forever, too, which is nice. (Though I use them almost daily, I've still yet to repurchase any because there's tons of product left.)

Now, it's your turn! I'm dying to know, so please do share... what were your favorite products of 2014? (If you have a post about them, please comment with your link, too!)

Stitch Fix Reveal: January 2014

This month's box was my favorite to date! So much fun to open and try on. I was instantly excited to see navy peeking out of the box, and happy to find gold-toned jewelry as well. I have requested Michelle as my stylist for the last several boxes, and I'm really pleased with her taste overall. I can't wait to share these items with you - so here we go!

Item #1: Aleah Heathered V-Neck Dolman Top by Market and Spruce

I wasn't sure if I'd like this top, as it's very drapey on top, with a wide v-neck, but when I tried it on, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fitted sleeves and waist made it quite flattering, yet still very comfortable. The deep teal blue color is very nice and the fabric is lightweight so this can easily transition to spring and even summer for days spent inside the office. (Maybe with crisp white pants or capris?) Verdict: Kept it.

Item #2: Benetton Striped Cardigan by Renee C

 This is a little bulkier than what I typically like to wear, seeing as I'm slimmer up top than below - so I like to keep tops and sweaters sleek and feminine - but, this sweater is actually really cozy and it's navy and white - a favorite color combo. I thought it would be cute to throw on with a white tee, jeans and boots for those cold early spring baseball games I'll be watching my son play. Verdict: A little bit of a style stretch for me, but kept!

Item #3: Kristan Ruffle Knit Blazer by Market and Spruce

So... this is totally my all-time, hands-down favorite Stitch Fix treasure yet. I am SO in love with this adorable blazer! First of all - though it looks structured and nice enough for meetings at work, it's made from a silky smooth, stretchy navy knit making it crazy comfortable! The chiffon ruffle detailing on the back of the blazer stretches down to cover my behind a bit, which is very nice - and the ruffle is flat, so it doesn't add poof back there (Lord knows I don't need any more poof there). I'm pretty sure I'm going to wearing this a LOT. In fact, I've already worn it once this week and I just got my box on Tuesday! ;-) Verdict: KEPT.

Item #4: Phelan Abstract Chevron Print Short-Sleeve Blouse by Collective Concepts

I typically love black and white clothing, and I love chevron, but to be honest I'm not totally in love with this broken chevron pattern. It seems a little busy to me. I like the pleats down the center of the top, the sleeves aren't too snug, they actually fit well - and the v-neck is nice. Unfortunately, the waist hem of the blouse is a bit snug on the hips (like most non-stretchy blouses on me) and I'm just not in love with the silhouette of it. Verdict: Sent back.

Item #5: Leighton Metal Bauble Necklace by Pixley

When I first saw this necklace in its box, I wasn't sure if it was going to feel cheap - judging by the texture of the gold discs, but when I took it out - I realized the necklace was nicely weighted and well made. The length (which is adjustable, too) is very nice at all points, making the necklace versatile for many different top styles and necklines. Verdict: Kept.

So there you have it - my favorite Fix yet! If you receive fixes and blog/Instagram/share them online somewhere - please link me in the comments, I love seeing what other people get!

If you haven't tried Stitch Fix yet - you totally should! It's SO fun! I look forward to it every month, like Christmas morning 12 times a year. :-) You can do a one-time fix too, you don't have to commit to monthly fixes and YOU set the price range for each item. Ready to try it? It's just $20 to have your Fix personally selected for your taste, and you can use that $20 towards any item(s) you decide to keep. I'd be ever-so-grateful if you'd use my referral link (box below) to get started. Thank you from the bottom of my clothes-loving-heart! :-)

Click below to get your own Fix!

Word of the Year: 2015

A little over 3 years ago now, I went through the toughest year of my life. If you read my blog back then, you likely remember most of the major details. If not, I'll recap with great brevity: I lost two pregnancies, one that resulted in a required surgery that resulted in a post-op infection and sepsis, followed by hospitalization. 2 weeks later, I was hit by a red light runner at 55mph, sustained injuries and my car was totaled. During this time, my mortgage suddenly rose without explanation and we felt we had no choice but to move. A few short months later, the company I had worked for for the last 5 years was to be dissolved. This period of time felt like an endless pattern of left hooks and gut punches, and each time I thought they'd take me down and I'd stop getting back up. I wanted to stay in my bed and hide, but as a mom and person who still (at that point) had a job to do, that of course wasn't an option. I found the quote, that has since become my favorite: "In the midst of winter I found in me an endless summer." I decided I would grit my teeth and just bear out the rest of the year, bracing myself and aiming straight ahead. Grit and survival were my only real focus.

The following year, I was able to begin to breath again. Life evened out a bit - my car of course was replaced, thanks to insurance. We moved into a home that I now love far more than I ever loved our first (and at a far more affordable price). I found a new job, which I've grown into rather well I think, and I can use my strengths in. But, I still lived in fear. For every good thing that happened, I expected the next thing to be bad. I couldn't accept that more than one good thing could happen in a row. It was too scary to assume things were really better. So, I decided to adopt a new motto: Grace. If I was still on this Earth, despite the two chances I'd had to leave it the previous year - I'd better be a bit more gracious with others. Less impatience. Less judgment. Less attempting to convince others that I'm right and they're not. So I worked on that all year, and my relationships with others seemed to really grow. Family relationships and friendships strengthened. After all, flowers grow where they are watered.

Last year, life continued to feel good. Steady. Even. Calm. Good things happened. I had developed strong bonds with friends and close family. I began to believe that perhaps it was ok to believe life was in fact good again. I decided to focus on gratitude, and I truly did. I was grateful each day to wake up. Grateful for each person in my life. Grateful for my job. Grateful for a reliable car. All the things you count on - being reliable - I was so grateful, I'd cry like a baby over it in my car alone sometimes. I finally felt like I was really alive again and maybe deserved to be.

That brings me to this year. This year I want to recognize how quickly time passes and simply enjoy my life. There are people close to me who are going through their grit year right now. (Or grit couple of years). I want to be there for them, while also recognizing that this is thankfully not my grit year (so far), so I have to be thankful for this happy phase of my life and truly enjoy it, because if I don't stop to do that, I could miss it! I don't want to waste the best days of my life worrying. So this year, I'm going to focus on enjoying all of the good moments and being fully present in them. I'm going to seek out opportunities to feel alive and joyful and bring joy to others and be a support to those struggling to find joy in their own lives.

 And, one thing I really enjoy is blogging for me, on my personal blog - so I'm going to be doing that more this year, too.

Stitch Fix Reveal: December 2014

Whew, the holidays - what a fun couple of weeks! But, they put me behind in blogging my latest Fix. Aaaaand the present wrapping hubbub left my spare bedroom a disaster area, leading to not so clean photos this time, so I beg your forgiveness. It shall not happen again. (Eh, it might... )

My December Fix came in several days early, as it wasn't due until 12/29, but came before Christmas - so that was a very nice surprise! (I assume the stylists wanted to take the holidays off of work too, and worked hard to get the scheduled Fixes out early.) But, enough yammering on my part - you want to see what was in the box, duh Nat - move on!

This month, I received:
1 top
1 scarf
1 open smooth knit cardigan
1 bag
1 pair of skinny, ankle length jeans

The top: Cassandra Cut Out Detail Sleeveless Blouse

I love the raspberry color and simple, straight cut of this top. The cut out details are very pretty and feminine, and I'm sure I'll love that aspect when it's hot this summer. For now, the top makes a great layering piece for winter. The cut and fit worked perfectly, it was a keeper.

The scarf: Tina Checkered Infinity Scarf

I love this scarf. Very soft, very warm and super cute and versatile. I have worn it probably 7 if not 10 times already (when I get something new that I love I tend to wear it a LOT initially, judge me if you must). I even wore it on Christmas Eve when we walked the neighborhood after dinner to admire the luminaries lit up and down the street. Another keeper (obvs).

The cardi: Sherwood Faux Leather Detailed Cardigan
Cute cardi? (Nevermind the blanket I had hiding kiddo's Christmas gifts)

Manly shoulders cardi?
 This was a tougher call for me. On the one hand, the fabric was so, so soft and silky. It felt amazing on my skin and had a nice weight and warmth to it without being the slightest bit heavy. On the other hand, I felt kind of boxy and manly, as the leather shoulder detailing seemed to come across like shoulder pads (a look that really never works for me). It might have worked better had it been a size smaller, because then the shoulder detail might have been a little more snug to the shoulder and sat higher. I finally asked my husband, who said, "It's not you, and it's too big." So, it went back.

The bag: Kristine Woven Tassel Satchel

I had asked for a winter and/or black purse and received this silver satchel in my Fix. I immediately thought, "Silver. That's nice and totally neutral and perfect for winter. Duh. Why didn't I think of that?" I love the bag. It has a "cell phone pocket" on the outside for easy access, inner pockets for my business cards and makeup and a big inner compartment for whatever junk I throw in there and forget to take out for weeks. Gym lock, apple or stun gun anyone? Totally kept.

The jeans: Level 99 Ankle Skinny Jean (not pictured)
On the card that came with my fix, my stylist described these pants as a trouser fit, which the waist definitely was. The snug legs and ankles however were too clingy and the ankle length hem stopped a full 3 inches above my ankle (funny, seeing as I've got short legs). I've actually put in my notes to the stylists that we should give pants/bottoms a rest for a bit, as I just don't have much luck there - and this time my stylist noted she just really wanted to find me a good jean. I have this hunch there is a bet riding at Stitch Fix headquarters as to which stylist can send a pair of pants I actually keep. Ha, probably not. That's pretty egocentric. But, funny thought. I think I'll just change my profile to state I do not want pants at all. It's not that I really need them anyway. I have jeans I like, I just bought them at a store instead of in a Fix. The pants went back.

I hope you enjoyed this month's Fix reveal. If you're receiving fixes as well, and posting them online somewhere, leave me a link in the comments - I'd love to see what you got and what you think! If you're ready to try your own fix, I'd be so very grateful if you'd use my referral link, so thank you so much in advance! Simply click the link in the box below to get started. Until next time... ! :-)

Three healthy snack ideas kids will love

My son is a fruit-a-holic. He's always down to inhale as much fruit as I'll let him. Sometimes he's not so great about eating from other food groups. Also, with school just about to start back up after winter break, I wanted to be prepared with really easy, fast snack ideas for when the after-school STARVATION hits. Yes, starvation had to be in all caps to fully emphasize the drama that goes on in my house immediately after school surrounding an intense and urgent need for snacks.

So, I perused my trusty online 2nd home (Pinterest, of course) and found 3 recipes that incorporated fruit, but also whole grains and some protein that I thought my son would love and we put them to the test. All three turned out to be winners for both of us. (My criteria was ease of preparation and relative healthfulness, his strictly taste) I thought other moms might enjoy these easy recipes as well, so I'm sharing them here on the blog as well as on KSEE's Central Valley Today on 1/8 at 3pm (will post link once it airs).

Items needed:
Whole wheat tortillas
Nutella (could sub out for peanut butter or peanut butter and honey)

What to do:
Spread Nutella on a whole wheat tortilla (1.5 tbsp should do it, watch portion control if you want to keep it healthy) using a small spatula. Peel a banana and place on one edge of the tortilla. Roll the banana up like a burrito. Use a knife to cut into half dollar slices and serve.

Original recipe created by Fun Mums (linked above), thank you Fun Mums for the great idea!

Graham Cracker Strawberry "Cheesecakes"

Items needed:
Graham crackers
Whipped cream cheese
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp honey

What to do:
Mix the honey and vanilla in the cream cheese (to taste). Thinly slice the strawberries. Spread the cream cheese mixture (about a tbsp) on each graham cracker and top with strawberries.

Adapted from Parents magazine.

I'm linking you straight to her perfectly written and demonstrated recipe. Enjoy!

**Photos are my own, all recipes inspired by the superior creativity of those credited above**

Outside the Box Gift Ideas for Kids

Thanks for stopping by! Check out my post on FresYes.com with 5 great gift ideas for the kids in your life, that they may not have already thought of. Merry Christmas!

How to host a stress-free holiday

Check out all my tips including all of my favorite tried and true recipes for your Thanksgiving meal on FresYes Families!

Stitch Fix Reveal: November 2014

My latest fix arrived this past Friday, and as always, I was very excited to come home to see that cute box on my front porch!

This month's fix gave me an opportunity to re-learn one important thing when it comes to building a wardrobe: You just won't know unless you try it on! I think that's one of the best things about Stitch Fix. There are many times when I receive an item in a fix in which I initially feel like, had I seen that item on a hanger in a store - I would have walked right past it. I would have thought - that's not for me or that's won't flatter me. But, when you have 5 items right there, in your home, you may as well try them all on - I mean, they literally came to you! And that's when the magic happens.

In this month's fix, I received 3 tops, 1 accessory and 1 pair of jeans. I kept two items and three are being returned.

Item #1: Breanne V-Neck Cotton Cardigan in Grey by Mak 

I had requested a longer length, light weight knit cardigan in my fix, and to be honest, I'd pictured a color or maybe a pattern - so when I saw that they had sent one as I was unpacking the box, I was a little disappointed that it was grey. But... then I tried it on. And then I looked in my closet. And I realized not only does it fit exactly like a want a cardigan to fit, it also could go with so. many. things in my closet. It looked like a ho-hum sweater in the box, but on - it fit like a glove and I absolutely love it. Verdict: Keep! New favorite staple piece. 

Item #2: Brixon Ivy Adrian Plaid and Lacy Blouse

In addition to the cardigan, I had requested a cute flannel for fall. I think maybe this top was a loose interpretation of that request, but for me, it fell flat. The type of plaid (which I think may actually be more a tartan) just screams school and teacher and uniform to me, and the lace on top is saying "date night attire!" and I feel like the two together just don't jive. Also, since the lace is see-through on top, it makes bra pairing and hiding a bit tricky. I will say, the fabric felt really nice on my skin, but overall I did not love this top. Verdict: Sent back.

Item #3: Collective Concepts Zooey Mixed Material Watercolor Print Top

This top was another great lesson for me in "you have to try it on" only in the opposite way as I described above. In the box, I thought I was going to love this top! The printed part was silky and soft, the solid was a smooth, stretchy knit. 3/4 sleeves (which I love) and colors I had requested - this should have been a slam dunk. But... it wasn't. Why? Well - I'll have to show you in the pictures. Ultimately, I tried this on and asked my husband what he thought. He said, "I like it. I think. Well... except for how it's sewn together. What's happening on the side there? It looks like maybe a bib. Or a smock. You know, like when you paint in kindergarten!" Errrrrrrt! Boom. Can you hear the brakes slamming on right there? Yeah. Me too. Any top that has an oddity pronounced enough for my husband to take notice of it has a legit oddity. He was right.

Had the front piece simply met the top straight down the side, all the way down it would have looked great. But, the way it is - it's totally a smock + top. Verdict: It went back.

Item #4: Bay to Baubles Evelina Stone Chandelier Earrings

When I first saw these earrings in the box - I thought they were pretty, but looked far too big for my typical taste and that maybe they'd have a cheaper feel when I handled them - lightweight, plastic-y, you know the type. But, when I took them out of the box and tried them on, I immediately loved them. Their length was actually perfect and I liked how the clear stones and gold contrasted with my (recently made darker) hair color. They are well made and substantial, not plastic-y at all. I actually love them and wore them out running errands today and felt extra fancy :). Verdict: Kept!

Item #5: Kut from the Kloth Denna Skinny Jean
Sigh. This is the item in my box that just baffled me. I've specifically said in my style profile before - I do not like skinny jeans, they're not right for my body type - I'm a slim-straight or slim-bootcut girl maybe, but not a skinny jean or denim legging girl. It just doesn't work. The size I was sent was upsized generously and way too big. I just felt like having them in my box was a waste of a potentially awesome 5th item. Sorry, I didn't take a photo of them on myself because they were just waaaaay too big around the waist and looked silly. Verdict: Definitely sent back. I'm going to change my style profile to simply avoid bottoms altogether for now. I love me some shirts and accessories!

I hope you enjoyed my review of this fix. Please excuse my freaky vacant stare in the earring picture - I never know where to look! lol! If you're considering scheduling your own fix, I'd be so very appreciative if you used my referral link to sign up. Thank you! :-)

My Top 10 Favorite Cooking Tools: Making meal prep easier

When I first started to dive into meal planning and cooking more elaborate dinners (i.e. meals that weren't just soup can casserole recipes), I found that investing in a new kitchen tool that made a task easier or more fun inspired a slew of creativity and fun in the kitchen. A new knife meant pouring over recipes that used lots of fresh vegetables I could chop up. A hand mixer tempted me to try to make perfectly whipped mashed potatoes. My love for a great tool has remained, and I've determined the ten tools that made cooking simpler, easier and more enjoyable in my kitchen. This is not a definitive list - there are certainly many other useful items in my kitchen (pots, pans, bowls, plates!) but these are things that are a little less common, but that I think others would enjoy as much as I do.

1. Kuhn Rikon Flexible Spatula Knife
I use this little thing all the time. Not for what you might think though, not chopping veggies - but for cutting flat things with ease. Quesadillas, waffles, pancakes, pizza, paninis - anything you want to cut easily, even with a crusty bottom is a breeze with this because of the curved edge and wide blade. I would say I use this at least every other day if not daily. Love it!

2. A Cookie Scoop w/ Dough Release
Before I got this, I would always roll cookie dough in my hands and that was time consuming, messy and didn't feel so sanitary to me. A cookie scoop cuts down on cooking making time (and face it, anything that gets cookies into your mouth faster is a win) and eliminates inconsistently sized cookies. I like making cookies so much more now that I have one (I also highly recommend those silicone baking mats - life changing if you're guilty of burnt bottom cookies typically).

3. A Measuring Glass
This glass measures tablespoons and ounces and comes in really handy when I'm doing anything with multiple liquid ingredients. I also use it frequently to melt butter when recipes call for a few tablespoons of melted butter, as its microwavable. Easy peasy!

4. Pampered Chef Mini Whipper
If you make any type of drink that involves mixing powder into liquid (protein powder, hot cocoa or cider packets, instant coffee, etc.) or like the froth milk for your coffee beverages - you'll love this little looped whisk! No clumps of powder remain, just a perfect drink.

5. Citrus Ream w/ Measuring Cup
So many recipes call for a few tablespoons of lemon or lime juice and this little two piece contraption is incredibly useful and quick to bust out of the drawer and put to work without getting lemon juice all over your hands (if you have dry skin like I do, that BURNS!) It catches all the pips perfectly too and you can just toss it in the dishwasher to clean.

6. Mesh Strainer with Handle
This comes in really handy if you frequently boil things (ravioli, larger pieces of pasta, vegetables) and want to be able to quickly transfer the boiled items to another pan on the stove (this happens frequently when you're making sauces and Italian dishes). This is also helpful for the obvious (frying) uses, but I call it my ravioli scoop because that's what I end up using it most often for.

7. Silicone Garlic Peeler
Yes, I can smash garlic cloves with a knife to peel them, but this is a lot easier! Just stick the clove in the little sleeve and roll the sleeve on a flat service and your garlic is peeled. Presto!

8. Stainless Steel Garlic Rocker
Place your freshly peeled garlic clove under the cutting area and simply rock back and forth to instantly mince garlic. Even better, the stainless steel keeps your hands from smelling like garlic for the rest of the day, as it absorbs garlic smells. Awesome, right?

9. Wusthof Santoku Knife
When it comes to knives, if you want one really good one, this is the Holy Grail, in my personal opinion. Since receiving it for Christmas more than 5 years ago, I've received several other high-end knives as Christmas or birthday gifts, (I always feel funny asking my mom or hubby for sharp knives as gifts, lol!) but this one is the one I end up reaching for constantly. It's SO reliable. So sharp. So easy to work with and works for almost every cutting need I have. Fileting chicken breasts, chopping carrots and potatoes, slicing onions - it simply is an all star. Unlike the other items in my list here, this one isn't cheap (you can sometimes find it on sale for $89 around the holidays) but it is SO worth the money and you really could get away with just this one, good knife if you invested in it.

10. Microplane Fine Grater
This grater is so very useful and makes such quick work of zesting citrus or grating hard cheeses - sometimes I even use it on garlic if my rocker is in the dishwasher. Be careful, it's super sharp - but you'll love how easy it makes fine grating tasks!

Ok, now it's your turn! School me on what lives in your kitchen that I simply must try! I can't wait to hear!
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