Beauty Best Bets for Fall 2014

I know it doesn't feel like fall in Fresno yet, but that doesn't mean a girl can't use, "getting ready for fall!" as an excuse to add a few new, fun friends to her beauty toolbox, right? Right! (I knew you'd be with me!)

I gathered a few of my favorite items that I think will carry very well into fall, that you may also enjoy. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Mac Tinted Lipglass in Pure Fiction
It looks like the Radiant Orchid trend is going to continue to influence things throughout fall, as there are many purple-hued lip products coming out right now. Pure Fiction has enough pink to it, that it doesn't look odd on the lips, but enough purple that it doesn't look light a mega-bright summer shade. It's classy, shiny and long-wearing. Pure Fiction is from Mac's limited edition "A Novel Romance" collection, so if you want this shade, snatch it up quick!

2. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Berry Haute
If you're open to a bit bolder purple, check out this affordable berry lipstick from Revlon that looks great on almost all skin tones. It goes on creamy, is long-wearing and doesn't bleed. I purchased this color last winter, and plan to wear it again this fall.

3. Lorac Pro 2 and Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palettes
I couldn't choose just one of these palettes - I'm sorry, but you can't make me! Both are simply stunning and lend to the creation of SO many looks from day and work appropriate to super smoky for a night out. The Lorac Pro overall is a bit cooler in tone, and the shadows are extremely silky and soft. The metallic shades in the palette feature shimmer that is so fine, it can be used even on mature skin. The shade "beige" in that palette is one I've been turning to as a lid shade almost every day. The Chocolate Bar palette offers some of the most gorgeous warm browns and golds I've ever seen, as well as a few pops of color (purple!) and um IT SMELLS LIKE CHOCOLATE. Yup. Either palette is a total win and would get you through fall even with no other shadows to supplement.

4. Cover Girl Outlast Stay Fabulous 3 in 1 Foundation
I've recently discovered this foundation to be all that and a bag of chips! In all seriousness, this foundation claims to be primer, concealer and foundation in one - and what I see is just fantastic, long-wearing coverage.  I would even go so far as to say this gives my LONG time favorite Estee Lauder Double Wear a run for its money (and at almost 1/3 the cost!). If you like a non-cakey, full coverage, long-wearing foundation - run, don't walk to your nearest Target and pick this stuff up.

5. Benefit's Rockateur Blush
Can I just say, right off the bat - I LOVE the way Benefit's boxed blushes and bronzers smell? Such a pretty, light fragrance... Beyond that though, Rockateur is SUCH a gorgeous color for fall! A plummy rose gold with just a HINT of sheen that keeps your face looking glowing (not shiny - I didn't say shiny, calm down) this color is just perfect with any fall eye or lip look. Benefit's blushes aren't cheap, but they'll last you YEARS. Worth the money, I promise!

6. Mac Mineralize Eye Shadow Duo in Ever Amethyst
This purple shadow duo is just a tad on the maroon side, so it will help light eyes pop when applied with the dark color closer to the lashes and the light in the crease. The mineralize shadows are easy to blend and almost foolproof and will last a long, long time. You can also apply this duo with a wet brush for a more intense look.

7. St. Ives Timeless Skin Moisturizer
This $5 jar of face moisturizer is so amazing, absorbs so well and moisturizes so thoroughly that sometimes I cheat and slather it on my legs too. You may have to hunt for it - it's usually on the very bottom shelf at Target, but it's worth the trouble. This is a cult favorite and really seems to firm and plump the skin. As the summer starts to wane, skin will need more moisture to avoid looking flaky by winter, so don't neglect your skincare routine!

8. Laura Mercier Foundation Primer in Radiance Bronze
Ok, so this isn't the cheapest product at $33, but, as far as primers go, you get SO much more in quantity than other brands that you'd pay the same price for - so I'm still saying there's somewhat of a value happening here. Beyond that though, this primer makes your skin look fresh and though it's glowing from the inside out. You're going to need something to ease you from your summer tan to your paler, cooler weather self and using this primer either before or mixed with your foundation will keep you looking healthy and lightly sun-kissed.

9. Urban Decay's Perversion Mascara
Holy moly I have saved the best for last. (Let's just get past the oddity of feeling like we're calling our eyelashes perverts, ok?) This mascara has become my HOLY GRAIL mascara over the last month. DARK, dark black lashes that instantly build up on the very first coat both in length and volume. It doesn't flake, it doesn't smudge and it holds a curl. The wand is large, but easy to maneuver and packs a lot of product to make your work quick. If you buy this at Sephora you'll also receive a free deluxe trial of the Subversion primer. I don't feel the primer is necessary myself, but hey - if you can try it free, why not, right? Seriously, if you love giant lashes but hate applying falsies, you'll LOVE this mascara.

I hope you enjoyed my list of favorites for fall - I'd love to hear yours! Give me something to go and try - feed the makeup beast! lol! <3>

Heatproof cosmetics to love!

Get ready with a few easy to apply, tough to sweat off products that will give you a great summer glow!

Check out my full post on!

Or, watch my segment featuring these products on Central Valley Today on KSEE 8/1 at 3pm!
(I'll post the link here once it's up)

Enjoy a beautiful summer weekend friends! :)

Monthly Subscription Boxes: Insight from an addict

Remember back when you were a kid, and someone would deliver a package to your house? Remember the anticipation and the "what's in the box!?" moment? Now, with the popularity of online shopping, the receiving of packages is a little more common place, but if you're like me, even if you know darn well what's in the box, because you ordered it yourself online, it's still a little exciting to see the UPS truck driving up your street.

I think monthly subscription boxes were invented for and made wildly popular by the masses of people who are like me - people who love getting a box in the mail, and even better, a box that may have an element of surprise of mystery about it.

I have tried four different box subscriptions so far, and have close friends who've tried a few others I have not. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on those I've tried, in case you too may enjoy them (or wish to stay clear of them) and I also thought I'd point you in the direction of a few others* you may enjoy that I haven't yet tried. (*Which will be coming in a second post shortly, as this one is already a bit lengthy!)

Ipsy (aka Ipsy Glam Bag)
What it is: Each month subscribers receive a themed cosmetic bag filled with 4-6 deluxe sample or full-sized cosmetic, skin or hair products. Brands range from drugstore (NYX, Jessie's Girl) to mid-range (Pixi, Laneige) and high-end (Benefit). The bag itself is a cute, reusable zippered pouch with a new design each month. The subscription is an ongoing one, so if you subscribe, you'll receive a bag each month until you cancel.

Pros: The cost of this subscription is just $10 (free shipping, local tax if applicable) and of the subscriptions I've tried offers the most bang for your buck. The products included are frequently full-sized and the total value always exceeds the cost, usually 3-5 times over. When you subscribe, you take a survey about your likes, coloring, favorite products and dislikes, and Ipsy tries to customize the items you receive to your tastes. There are a finite number of items selected to include in each month's themed bag, so if you and a few friends subscribe, there's likely to be a few items you receive in common.

Cons: This subscription is very popular so there is a waitlist for new subscribers. I believe I initially waited about a month, though I believe now there are some things you can do (share about Ipsy on social media is one I think) to help shorten your wait and get a little advantage. Another downside to Ipsy's popularity is that so far, Ipsy subscriptions are not available for purchase as gifts for others.

Final verdict: I love my Ipsy subscription and am unlikely to cancel anytime in the near future. I love some items I receive, am so-so on others, but for the most part, there are at least a few great items in each bag. For $10, you really can't go to wrong with Ipsy, unless of course you don't like beauty products. ;-)

A few of my past Ipsy bags...

Stitch Fix
What it is: A relatively affordable personal styling service that sends you five customized clothing or accessory pieces selected just for your body type, personal style and likes once a month (or whenever you schedule a "fix", no monthly subscription is required). The styling fee is $20 (doesn't charge you until your first fix ships), and that amount is deducted from your purchase price on the items you choose to keep. You get three days to try on the five items and decide what you want to  keep and what's going back, then you simply place anything you don't want in a prepaid envelope and send it back to Stitch Fix. If you keep all five items, Stitch Fix gives you 25% off the purchase price too.

Pros: This service is so great for a number of reasons. Personally, I get frustrated shopping locally at times, and have some issues with my weight/body type, so it can be hard to find a style that I not only like, but that also fits and flatters me. Stitch Fix's stylists don't seem to struggle with that much when choosing items for me - they really seem to know how to choose pieces that will flatter. The style profile questionnaire is very specific and you can add specific notes just before a fix if you need something specific for that month (e.g. "Looking for a cocktail dress for a wedding." "No pants this month, just skirts and tops please." "Going on a vacation to the beach - need some beach wear.") You also can control the price range of items sent by type of item. (e.g. for Accessories, send me items as cheap as possible, but for outerwear, $50-100 is ok). I think the thing I love most about Stitch Fix is that it opens my mind to new possibilities. So many times they've sent me something I thought I would never have tried on if I saw it at a store - but then when I try it on, I fall in love with it! Did I mention the stylists will send you styling tips for what to pair each item with and keep track of what they've sent in the past, so they can reference it if it goes well with another item? ("Wear this with the blue cardigan we sent last month for a great weekend outfit.")

Oh -- yet another great thing: For each person who signs up for the service by going to the site through your link, you receive $25 in credit towards your next purchase! (If you're learning about Stitch Fix through me, and decide to try it, I'd be so grateful if you used my link, seriously, huge thanks! :-))

Cons: Stitch Fix is also pretty popular, so occasionally you may have to wait a few weeks for your first fix. I find it's easier to stay on a monthly subscription and just skip a box than to try to wait through a waiting list again and not do monthly fixes. If you're used to very inexpensive clothing (everything under $20), this may be a bit pricier, but I find most of the pieces to be of great quality, so I look to keep those that have classic/timeless designs that I can wear for a long time and consider them an investment. Sometimes, you'll get a fix that you're just not in love with - and it helps to re-do your profile and be more specific. I've tweaked my profile a couple of times and have been really happy with what I've received overall, but there have been 1-2 boxes I was "meh" on. Stitch Fix is definitely my most anticipated subscription and I really love it.

Final Verdict: Stitch Fix is hands down the most exciting box to receive for me personally, and it really is convenient, whether you're typically a shopper or you hate shopping. I'm hoping they'll make a men's version soon, because my husband really hates shopping! ;-)

 A few of my "fixes"
(can you tell I told them mint is my favorite color? hehe)

What it is: Birchbox is a monthly beauty subscription also, however the products tend towards high-end more often than Ipsy and also include lesser-known, up and coming luxury brands. Products range from deluxe sample to full-sized, but typically lean toward deluxe sample. Subscribers receive 4-5 items in each box.

Pros: Birchbox tends to allow a bit more customization of items, as it allows you to lean certain ways in your product preferences, such as enjoying trendsetting options vs. classic choices or preferring organic/natural beauty products. Matching Ipsy in price at just $10 a month, Birchbox is still a good value overall and can also be gifted. Of note, Birchbox also offers a Men's Birchbox subscription.

Cons: My personal experience with Birchbox was a little lackluster. In more than one box, I received a protein bar (organic Lara Bar) and while that's nice and all, I wanted you know, um, beauty products. (Also, I am allergic to several nuts, and the bars were fruit and nut bars) Many of the items I received were from natural lines, which is nice... so long as the quality is there too. Pigmentation in color products from most of these lines was lacking. I did receive a few high-quality skincare items, but, the price of a full-sized replacement of these items was so high, I wouldn't consider purchasing once my sample ran out. ($85 for stretch mark cream? Pass.) The final straw with Birchbox for me, was when I gifted a subscription to my child-less sister, and they sent her nipple cream for mothers in her first box. Mind you, I know that makes great lip balm too, but she didn't know that and they certainly didn't explain it. I'm not sure how that jived with her personal profile other than I don't think it did at all.

Final verdict: Birchbox is affordable, at least the subscription is, and if you like discovering products and brands you maybe didn't know about or lean towards natural products, you may enjoy this subscription. Would I resubscribe? Probably not.
via women2

Julep Maven
What it is: Julep is a nail polish company that has branched out into other cosmetics items. It's most popular monthly subscription box is $24.99 a month and includes two of their luxury nail colors and a third item of your choosing.

Pros: You can usually find a code to try Julep for free online for the first month (you still pay shipping) and your initial box often contains five items. You have control over what comes in your box. You can view the options at a set time during the month and make swaps as you like, or you can take the luck of the draw based on your style type (something you select at sign up). The colors are unique, many have beautiful finishes with metallics so fine they're similar to high-end car paints.

Cons: That first trial box you get, the one that comes with five items? Well, it sets your excitement pretty high. But, they when you get charged the $24.99 + tax (over $27 in the end) for your second box, and you only receive three items, and two of which are polishes that comes in quantities smaller than most polishes you can buy at the drugstore, it's a little bit of a letdown.

Final Verdict: This box is fun, but at more than $25 a box, it's just not something I wanted to continue. I've tried a few items other than nail polish from Julep and so far they've been so-so, but not stellar. I typically only buy $8+ nail polish every once in a blue moon, so spending that much on multiple polishes every month just feels a little wasteful to me.

My Julep intro box

Free and Low-Cost Family Fun for Summer!

Welcome to the summer friends! (Ok, so I know I'm like a tiny bit early... but hey, kids are out of school and it's warm so... close enough!)

With all of the lazy days of summer still ahead of us, I thought it'd be a great time to put together a little list of free and low-cost activities for families to enjoy. So give it a look-see, check out the links for additional details and have a blast while saving a buck or twenty!

1. Enjoy a meal, and your kids get one FREE at the following places:
IHOP (Mon-Wed, 4-8pm)
Chevy's (Tuesdays, all day)
Denny's (4-10pm, Tuesdays)
Marie Callendars (Tuesdays)
Famous Dave's (Tuesdays)
(All require a paid adult entree be purchased for each free child's meal, participating locations, you may wish to call to verify your location is participating prior to going._

2. Go bowling!
AMF (Locally, Sierra Lanes on Blackstone and Sierra) offers kids up to three free games each weekday during the summer! Register here to take advantage of this awesome opportunity.
(Shoe rental cost not included)

3. Go see a movie!

Regal Cinemas offers kids' movies that begin at 10am for just $1 all summer long! For a list of movies playing and locations near you, visit their site here. Be sure to arrive early - these showings tend to fill up quick!
If you're local, enjoy a movie outdoors in Eaton Plaza in the heart of Downtown Fresno. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs to sit on and the movie is completely free every Friday night, all summer long. Food and other items available for purchase, but not required. For additional info including the movie list, visit the City of Fresno's web page here.

4. Take your wild animals to see the real wild animals!
Image via The Examiner
Visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo on the first Wednesday of the month, absolutely free! (This is a year-round offer, and is sponsored by Wells Fargo bank). For more info on the zoo, visit their website here.

5. Participate in the library's summer reading program
Image via Valcom News
Kids who complete the library's summer reading log by reading ten books between June 14th and August 3rd can show their log to their librarian to earn special prizes as well as an entry to win a Kindle Fire. Stop by any Fresno County Library to pick up a reading log, as well as a schedule of the fun and educational activities scheduled at your favorite library branch including visits from Clifford, the Big Red Dog, reptile presentations, magicians, crafts and more! For a full list of Fresno County Library locations and hours, click here.

If you know of additional free or very low-cost fun, family-friendly activities for summer, please share them in the comments section! I will happily edit and expand upon this list! Have fun and stay cool!

Father's Day Gifts: What should we really get for dads?

My Dad is the world's best sport. When I was 5, I put a handful of my hair clips in his hair, and he went to work wearing them. He didn't know it... but, hey... details, schmetails. When my sister and I were little, we always wanted to play Barbies, and we always wanted my Dad to play the role of Ken. He obliged. Most of the time, Ken showed off his Kung Fu moves to Barbie, Skipper and her friends, but he was always animated. When we played whiffle ball in the backyard against him, Dad only got one out and us girls still got all three. (He won most the time anyway.)

My Dad has always been a good sport about the gifts we gave him too. Like the ties we picked for him for work, when he no longer had a tie-wearing type of job. I feel like we once made him a horribly gaudy tie-tac too, but part of me is wondering if that was actually something I'm remembering from a Full House episode, and not our actual childhood...(Full House and our childhood kind of blur together, we were kids of the 80's after all). One gift I'm sure he was a very good sport about however, was this sweatshirt:

This photo was taken tonight, when I asked my mom to please go to Dad's closet, take a picture of the handprint sweatshirt and text it to me.

Let's let that sink in for a minute shall we?

I'm pretty sure the orange hands on the bottom are my sister's at two, which would make me 6 when we made this "gift". I'm 32 now... my Dad not only wore this sweatshirt (with the heart 'o' and the puffy once-neon yellow and orange paint) but he STILL has it - 26 years later.

So, in honor of my Dad, the greatest sport (possibly of all time) I thought I'd dedicate a post to compiling a little list of gift ideas the Dads in your life might actually really enjoy (fake-smile free).

1. A home beer brewing kit ($40)
If your Dad (or your kids' Dad, if that's who you're shopping for) likes to do hands-on project and enjoys a good microbrew (or in this case, nanobrew) a home brew kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop might be just the ticket. These awesome kits come with everything Dad needs to brew his own batch of beer at home, and you can choose from a variety of kits. I've purchased this for my own husband, and it received rave reviews. The grapefruit honey-ale was particularly tasty! 

2.  Dollar Shave Club subscription (varying price levels)

My husband has been a DSC subscriber since we first saw their brilliant marketing video. The concept is simple: choose a razor and blade type, and get fresh blade refills delivered monthly so you never have to shave with a dull blade again. Plus, it's really affordable -- as little as $1 a month for a dual bladed razor to $9 for the luxury 6-blade version. DSC also offers shave butter and post shave products. Prior to DSC, the hubs used pricey razors like Mach 3 and others of the like. He has sensitive skin and was skeptical he'd do well with a cheaper blade. He just gets the $1 blade, and he actually says it does a great job. In fact, I may have used it on my legs tonight (don't judge me, he's got a whole pack of fresh blades ready to go) and I have to admit, my legs feel awesome!

3. Tickets to a sporting event he enjoys
In my days of helping to run another website, we did a poll amongst men on what gifts are pretty much always a hit - and this one came up more than anything else! The respondents said they often enjoy fun experiences even more than tangible gifts, and tickets to a game with you are pretty much always a hit. It shows you cared to think about their interests and if you go to the game and maybe even make a snack run or two, that you care to make it a fun day for him - so this might be a great way to go for either your own father or the hubs.

4. His all-time favorite show, on DVD
DVD box sets have become quite affordable, and most people have at least one show they just love. acquiring a season or series of Dad's favorite show, and tossing it in a little cooler filled with his favorite snack foods (spring for the good snacks you know he loves, but probably rarely has around) and his favorite beverage and he'll have a great, relaxing Father's Day activity ahead. (If you're doing this for your husband, be sure to plan some kid-free time so he can enjoy this gift).

5. A Man Crate (varying prices)

Man Crate is a company dedicated to sending fill-free kick-booty crates filled with gifts for all kinds of men. You can search by category of man to determine the best crates (snack lovers, survivalists, gamers, beer lovers, etc.).  The description from their site sums it up better than I probably can, so I'm just going to go ahead and quote them:

We say 'no' to ugly neckties, cologne samplers and executive trinkets. We don't save wrapping paper, we don't do ribbons. We ship bragworthy gifts for guys. Gifts that you can't wait to arrive because you know the recipient will love opening them. Gifts that people gather round at the office, people following the sounds of wood being torn from wood by the included, laser-engraved crowbar.
We are Man Crates, and we deliver awesome gifts for men.
6.  Corkcicle Chillsners ($26.99)
Back to the whole "if Dad likes a cold brew" thing - this icicle shaped chillers fit right into a bottle of brewski and chill it perfectly in a matter of minutes. Pretty cool! (This is one of those brilliant inventions that makes you wonder, "Why the heck didn't I think of this?")

Dad - I promise, no puffy paint sweatshirts this year. Cross my heart. Kids and wives out there - I hope my list gave you a few creative or new ideas to choose from. Regardless, just don't buy Dad a tie, ok? If they smile, I promise you it's forced! ;-)

Happy Early Father's Day to all the great sport dads out there! You rock.

*Note: This is not a sponsored post. These are gift ideas I just really think are great.

Why I like my thirties (so far).

In the past, I've read that when you're in your twenties, you're still figuring out who you are - and you don't really know who you are and what you stand for until you're in your thirties. I think I both agree and disagree with that. I'm pretty sure I've been the person I am, at my core, most of my life. But, I also believe that I wasn't always brave enough to outwardly be that person for fear of what others thought. I wanted everyone to like me, find me to be agreeable, approve of me. And while I of course still crave approval to some degree, I've reached this level of acceptance where I've realized some people will relate to me more than others and I to them. Some people are just mean, and no matter how hard I try to win them over, it just won't happen - I can't control that any more than I can the weather.

I've also endured challenges in my recent years far tougher than anything I experienced in my twenties. I thought marrying young and being flat broke, scraping by was tough. In comparison though, those were fun times and we learned to get creative with finances (and how to pay off credit cards, even if slowly, ha!).

They say you don't know how tough you are until you have no other choice - I think that's a very true statement. Through the challenges I've faced in the first couple years of my thirties, I learned to be tougher and to speak up for myself. And, I think when you go through things that test your very ability to press on, thoughts like "does that person I met twice, who's a friend of so-and-so like me?" or "does that guy who told me hell no when I asked him to Sadie Hawkins in high school, that's on my Facebook now think I'm acceptable?" seem very unimportant.

The truths of who I really am and how I really feel are varied, but I'm learning to be ok with them outwardly in addition to inwardly - and when the outside and inside versions of me match, and people still want to hang out with me (no, not all of the people, and that's OK!) I am HAPPY. Like, truly happy.

The things I can openly think and feel, now that I'm in my thirties...
(in no logical order whatsoever)
Thoughts about sports...
I don't care for sports. I don't really enjoy watching or going to games, I don't care to spend money on tickets (I'd rather put it to other uses), I watch the clock when I'm at or watching a game. I think this partially stems from not really understanding the rules and fouls and finer points of most sports, so scoring and not scoring doesn't really make sense to me. My P.E. teachers didn't explain rules too much (that I can recall) and when I asked for clarification, I was the only kid who still seemed in the dark and that kind of explanation was too time consuming. Most my classmates had been playing sports for years by the time I played soccer for the first time (freshman year). It just wasn't something I did or understood well growing up, so it's kind of lost on me.

I also just can't get past the logic of it - I don't want to sit and watch someone play a game of sport any more than I want to watch someone else play Super Mario Brothers without giving me a turn, or watch two people play a game of chess. There are two exceptions to this rule: 1. Baseball - I kept score for high school baseball and I understand the rules. If I were to choose to watch a game, it would definitely be baseball, and I'd probably enjoy it, too. 2. My son's games. Whatever he wants to play, I'm there. Just because I didn't do the whole sports thing growing up, doesn't mean I want him to miss out on that experience and the opportunity to love and play sports.

My politics...
I was raised in a conservative Christian household. Until recently, I'm pretty sure my beliefs better reflected my parents' or friends opinions than my own. I was uneducated on issues, candidates, policies, so I went along with what they thought. I was a registered Republican until about 4 years ago, when I switched to being an independent. Truth is, I absorb as much information as I'm able to (trying my best to find unbiased sources), then mentally do my best to play devil's advocate to both sides and motivations behind something. "Why would people want that? Who will it affect? How will it affect them? What costs will come into play? What are the consequences if it doesn't happen? Is it progress?" and then I have to decide based upon the issue. I can't side with either party all of the time or even most of the time, and despite my upbringing, I try really hard to separate church and state when I'm having these internal debates because I respect my own faith, and should it stop being the most common faith in the country, I wouldn't want to be forced to observe laws based on a faith I didn't have, so I can't believe in that for others either.

My parenting...
I'm not a perfect mom. I'm so far from perfect, I can't even see it in the rear view. But, I'm a loving mom. I have NO doubt that my kid knows I love him. I also know he's safe, happy, confident, healthy and has all of his basic needs met. I didn't make anything I found on Pinterest for his birthday party. I don't make home cooked breakfasts on weekdays (and when I do on weekends, usually he or the hubs complains about it anyway!) and he's perfectly happy with cereal and fruit or yogurt and Eggos. He even likes the healthy cereals you guys! I must be doing something right, right? (Kix and PLAIN Cheerios?! Who is this kid?) On the weekends, he probably has too much screen time. He's been playing with an iPhone since he was 2 and I'm pretty sure learned most of his letters and shapes from the apps I downloaded onto it for him. If knowing letters and shapes at two is wrong simply because it was delivered via screen - I don't need to be right. I love my kid so much, and even though I'm not the crafty mom, the on-time mom (hardly ever, sorry world), the perfectly-themed-handmade-holiday-class-treats mom (though I know her, she's my friend and she's ah-maaaaaazing),  I've learned to accept that and be happy being the cuddly, snuggly mom who plays Wii and splits Icees and popcorn on Target runs.

Establishing boundaries...
When your goal is to please everyone, you always put yourself last. You don't value your free time, you feel like it's something you only "deserve" when everyone else has everything from you that you can give first. You can't say "no I can't" to a commitment, you find a way, even if it means giving up your last free weekend hour after working all week long.

I can't do this anymore!

EVERYONE deserves a chance to just BE. To decompress. To spend time alone, or with their immediate family or a couple close friends. Saying no sometimes is ok! I've learned that I need to value my time as much if not more than I value money (and I am good at being frugal and paying attention to my spending there...). I can't help but fixate on the thought that these are the "good old days" and I don't want to miss the fun times playing with my son, or chatting with my husband or being with friends who bring so much to my life. So, I've been working on passing on things and saying no for a change. It feels surprisingly good.

I'm really girly...
I used to think that admittedly enjoying makeup and shopping made me shallow. It made me high-maintenance or vain, so I'd try to downplay it. Then, I met a friend who loved those things as much as I did, and was totally open about it. Her fun blog posts about these things made me feel more normal for really liking them too. I love makeup because it's my creative outlet! I'm not good at crafts or sewing and I usually get tired of painting things halfway into the first coat - but with makeup, I get to experiment with color and shadows and light and accentuate the positive. When I apply it on someone else, I get to help them feel more beautiful than they typically see themselves. I get to mix and match and change looks each day. It's FUN to me.

I like shopping because the thrill of a bargain drives me. Finding something that is unique and beautiful in color, texture, pattern is like a treasure hunt. Liking these things doesn't make me shallow. They're just things I like - hobbies! Yay for hobbies!

 * * * * * * *

So... that felt good! I got to be honest here, in my little space of the web. I really like my thirties so far - and I hope this post will encourage others to embrace their truths and voices, maybe even sooner than I did! ;-)

Grocery shopping on a budget: No extreme couponing required!

I don't think it's just me who feels like the cost of food is going up, up, up these days. Lately, my family has been eating really healthy too, which isn't always budget friendly either. But, I've managed to find some ways to keep costs down and within reason and I wanted to share them here in hopes that it will help other families stay within their grocery budgets as well.

Tip 1:Take the time to make a wise list
I have a calendar that hangs in the kitchen and each week, I take it down and determine how many nights we'll be eating dinner at home. You'll want to take into account things like baseball games, PTA meetings, church nights, etc. whatever you and your family may do during the week, and plan for how many meals you'll actually need to cook. If you know you usually grab Chipotle on baseball nights (ding ding ding! that's us.) and you plan a meal for the night, you may end up wasting food and money.

image via: momables
Before you plan out your meals, take a visual inventory of things you have on hand both in the fridge and pantry. Determine the fresh items you have from the previous week that are still good and plan to use them early in the upcoming week. (Example, this week I had baby squash from the previous week that didn't get used, so I planned to make it Sunday night, the first night of my new grocery week - saves me from buying another vegetable and puts to use what I have on hand.) Look at what you have in the freezer and pantry. Frozen chicken breasts? Great. Pasta sauce? Awesome. Plan on meals that can incorporate as many of the key ingredients that you already have on hand so you're not buying as much.

As you plan each meal, write a list of the items you don't already have that you need to buy. Think about breakfast, lunches and snacks too. (Those are usually quicker, easy to grab items in my house at least during the week: sandwich stuff, salad stuff, Amy's Organic frozen lunches, Gogurt, etc. so I don't write them on the calendar.)

Finally, walk through your house and see what other items need replenishing. Toilet paper? Shampoo? Windex? Sunblock? Dog food? Add those items to your list. A walk through will save you additional trips to the store for the 2 items you didn't know you needed. That will save you gas money AND an additional opportunity to be in a store, buying more than you actually needed.

Sort your list so you can get in and out of the stores your frequent quickly. I sort mine into sections: produce, meat/cheese, dairy, dry goods, frozen and other.

Tip 2: Find stores that work for your needs
You'll waste a lot of gas trying to drive to every store that has an item on your list, on sale. Find a couple of stores that can meet most of your needs and then find a specialty store or two that you can hit once or twice a month.

For my family, we like to eat a lot of fresh produce. Like, a lot. But, high-quality, fresh produce in large quantities can get pricey. For produce, I recommend shopping Costco or your local farmer's market for items you use a lot of. In my house those are: lettuce, strawberries, bananas, peaches, bell peppers, spinach. The quality and taste is exceptional and the cost for the amount you get is the lowest I have been able to find.

image via: sfgate Don't lie, you know you love the samples at Costco too.
Beyond produce, I find that I can stretch my dollar further buying certain other items in bulk at Costco. The cost of the following items, based on my experience, is lowest per item when purchased in bulk: frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, lean ground beef, bread, paper towels, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner*. (*if you are someone who hasn't found a favorite shampoo and conditioner and ends up buying different formulas often because you get tired of one, don't buy 'em in bulk ;-))

Target or Fresh & Easy
I usually buy the majority of my other items at either Target or Fresh & Easy. If it's a week where my list is heavy in household needs, I'll likely shop Target. If it's heavy in food items, with very little household, I'll shop Fresh & Easy. In general, household and toiletry items tend to be marked up at grocery stores where food is lower in price. Those items typically cost less at discount chains like Target or Wal Mart.

Trader Joe's and Grocery Outlet
These are my two favorite "specialty stores." I consider them both kind of like the equivalent of a toy store but for food. I usually go to one of these stores about once a month, as my first stop on days that I either have the extra time to make an additional stop or when I'm tired of the same 'ol same 'ol foods I always tend to buy and want to try something new. I'll still use my list as a guide, but if I've done well overall on my grocery budget that month, and come in under budget, I allow a few splurges at these stores.

Trader Joe's has some really unique snacks, salads and lunches (both frozen and fresh) that I LOVE and they are typically healthier in that they use whole food ingredients, limit high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners and offer a lot of organics at very reasonable prices. Also, I love their cheese and wine selections. MMMMM!

Grocery Outlet has different things each time you go. They're like the TJ Maxx of food. Their products are typically over-produced products, package mistakes/past promotions and test market flavors. But, they're totally within dates and you can often find really yummy things there (including organics and lots of great nitrate free meats) for insanely affordable prices. Their cheese, wine and snack sections are AWESOME and always changing and offering new things. Last time I went, I got jalapeno string cheese. It was so delicious! Probably a test flavor, because I can't find it anywhere else. Another awesome thing about Grocery Outlet is their health and beauty section. AMAZING drug store brands at crazy low prices. My last trip? Nivea lip balms in a three pack for the cost of one at Target and a Revlon lipstick for $1.99.

image via: eastvilliagesandiego, Grocery Outlet store interior
I'm pretty excited because a new Grocery Outlet store is opening near my office this week. Their grand opening is this Saturday, May 24th. There will be awesome activities for families to enjoy, giveaways, and a brand new fully stocked store to enjoy. If you're in the Fresno area, you should definitely go by on Saturday and check it out! The store will be located on the SE corner of Tulare and R streets in Downtown Fresno. (Keep reading for a chance to win a $25 gift card to Grocery Outlet to spend at this new store or your local store!)

Tip 3: Gather your coupons
I don't go coupon crazy. The vast majority of the time, the coupons that are widely available are for brand names (I often buy generic, Up & Up at Target is a-ok with me on 99% of things and still cheaper than the name brand with a coupon) or highly processed foods (no thank you). But, I do pay attention to the specific deals offered by the stores I'm shopping that week.

I look at the Costco app to see what instant coupons are available, and if I'm trying to decide to get an item at Costco or elsewhere, a coupon can sway my decision. (Costco doesn't require physical coupons, they instantly reduce the price at the register)

image via: mojosavings
I also look through the Cartwheel Mobile App for Target and see if anything on my list is on Cartwheel. I find Carthweel better than most cut out coupons because they give discounts on things like milk and produce vs. only brand new items.

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT look at coupons before you make your list. It is NOT a deal to save 25% on something you did not need to buy in the first place. A $10 item for $7.50 that isn't something you actually need is $7.50 more than you need to spend.

Tip 4: Minimize the potential for disaster
Try to shop when you can be focused, stick to your list and get in and out of the store easily. If you can shop alone, you're likely to spend less. If you can't shop without littles in tow, be sure to bring toys or items to keep them entertained or involve them in the shopping process ("can you find mommy the brightest red apples?" "Can you point to where the broccoli is?" "Can you please get a loaf of bread from that table and place it gently in the cart?").

Whatever you do, do NOT shop hungry or with hungry kids. If at all possible, shop right after eating. If you think it's a myth the shopping hungry costs more, save your receipts and test it. I promise you though, hungry shopping is expensive shopping! EVERYTHING looks good and like a must have when you're starving! Also, use the restroom before you go to the store (same goes for kiddos). Distracted, frustrated or hurried shopping leads to impulse buys and the grabbing of items as a reward or comfort ("I deserve this chocolate bar for schlepping three kids to the Target bathroom 4 times in one trip!")

Tip 5: The golden rule - stick to the list
If it's not on your list (or an insanely good deal on something you will definitely NEED soon) do NOT buy it! This will save you more money than almost any other thing you do. Really. Going in without a plan is a recipe for overspending. Creating a good list takes a little bit of effort, but that time will pay you back in the money that you save. Really!

{THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED} My winners: comments #1 & 3 - Miranda and Elena! Congratulations! I will email you! :-)

I will choose two winners using on Wednesday, May 28th. Good luck!

{Gift cards provided compliments of Grocery Outlet, opinions and content however are entirely my own and I frequent Grocery Outlet stores because they really do have awesome finds and treasures!}

Five Fun Family Activities to Enjoy this Spring

If you're anything like me, chances are you find yourself sometimes stuck between really wanting to spend quality time with your child(ren) and being dragged into the 12th round of a made up game in which the rules change each time, but only your kids ever score - despite you duplicating exactly what they did to earn said scores. (That happened last week. It involved a game of "foursquare" that didn't involve a ball. Your guess is as good as mine.)

So, as simple as it may seem, I thought it might be fun to chat about five, fun family activities that kids and parents can enjoy together. Here goes!

1. Scavenger Hunt Walks
This one is great because the whole family can get some healthy exercise, a little breathe of fresh air and kids can have fun while focusing on an objective. Everyone heads out of the house together on a walk, but before you go, mom or dad makes a list of 10-20 items for kids to find on the walk. No need to bring anything but the list, because the items don't have to actually be collected, just found. Parents should consider things they might see on the anticipated walking path. Examples of items to search for could include: something hard, something soft, a pretty leaf, a red building, an interesting insect, a pretty bird, a pet, a puddle, a cloud that looks like an animal, etc. etc. Try to check off all of the items before heading back for home.

2. Nerf Hide-n-Seek
For this game, everyone needs some sort of Nerf "weapon" or toy ball shooter or something of the like. The "seeker" closes their eyes and counts while everyone else hides somewhere in the house. When it's time for the seeker to find the rest of the family, the game is on. The seeker makes their way through the house trying to catch the hiding family members with a Nerf dart before the family catches them. This one often turns into a massive unloading of foam darts in the living room, but it never fails - we always have fun!

3. Lego Challenges
Most households with school aged children I know of have a plethora of Legos or similar building toys lying around. My son is pretty particular about the Lego sets that he's put together, and doesn't allow them to be dismantled once they are complete. However, even so, there's usually a pile of unused pieces that grows over time and those, along with basic, non-themed Legos allow for some really great creativity. Family members gather around the pile of Legos at the table and take turns naming a theme for everyone else to build on. (Examples: farm, house, spaceship, animals) Each person uses their imagination to build a creation that reflects the theme. For added fun, you can do it in a set time period with a timer.

4. Seek and Find

Our family recently was gifted a really fun game called "Seek and Find." Seek and Find is different from many board games in that there is no board, and the whole family can play together and find it equally challenging. Seek and Find has a big, black pouch with arm holes coming from all sides. A set of animal figures of different sizes, shapes and textures are placed into the pouch. A single card with a picture of an animal is flipped face up and everyone must reach into the pouch and using only their sense of touch, find the correct animal before anyone else does. My son begs to play this ALL. THE. TIME. and we're happy to say "yes!" because it's actually a ton of fun and challenging for us grown ups too. 

As luck would have it, I happened to meet the game creator's son, and he was kind enough to get a discount code for me to provide for you, my awesome readers, if you'd like to purchase the game for $10 off! To check out the game, visit and if you click the "code" tab and enter the code 323504JR you can score the game for only $19.99 instead of the usual $29.99 retail price!

5. Geocaching
image via:
Like a big game of outdoor hide and seek with players joining you from around the world, Geocaching is super fun! A "cache" is a hidden container that can be found in just about any city and many, many countries even! Geocachers are people who hunt for caches that have been hidden by others and registered through geocaching websites. Geocachers can get online and look up the GPS coordinates of caches or even easier - download a geocaching app that will alert seekers as to when they are getting close to finding a cache, the approximate distance to the cache and any clues the "hiders" registered when they first placed it. 

Caches vary in size and contents from micro (very tiny containers about the size of your thumbnail to large (small chests and trunks) and contain logs you sign, trinkets you may take or trade for or even a geocoin, that may have travelled from other caches around the country! Geocaching requires you to think outside the box and get creative, and it's a really fun way to spend a weekend afternoon, wherever you are. For more info, visit my favorite site/app:, which says: "Geocaching is the real-world treasure hunt that's happening right now, all around you. There are 2,383,769 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide." SO. COOL!

I hope you enjoyed this little gathering of activities, and even more, I'd love it if you shared some of your family's favorites with me! Please feel free to leave me a comment or link to your own blog in which you've shared some of your family favorites!

April Beauty Favorites!

Hello lovely people! If you are a makeup lover like I am, you may enjoy my latest YouTube video sharing my April product faves! There is a good mix of drugstore and high end products this month... in fact, I think the selection leans more towards drugstore products overall! I hope you enjoy the video and I'd love to learn about your favorite products too - leave me a comment or link to your own videos/blog posts!

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.
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