Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January Budget

As I'm looking at the list of things I bought this month, I'm realizing that I don't think I've ever loved a month of products like I love this January's.  Seriously, everything on this list has been worn at least twice a week since I got it, and I don't see that changing any time soon. The Bobeau cardigans are my new obsession.  To be honest, I tipsy ordered them on New Year's Eve and was for-sure going to return at least one when the order came in. But then they came, and I tried them on and loved them both so much that I had a Sophie's choice moment in my closet before deciding to keep them.  The one I'll likely get in more colors is number 4 - the inside feels like baby chinchillas, even though I don't actually know what a baby chinchilla feels like...  

1 // Old Navy Leggings - $8
2 // Old Navy Leggings - $10
3 // BP Scarf - $11
4 // Bobeau Cardigan (Mink) - $40
5 // Bobeau Cardigan (Heather Gray) - $40
6 // Easy Spirit Boots - $47

January total // $156
Quarterly Budget // $500 - $156 = $344 left for February and March

Notes - Everything fits TTS.  I prefer the ON leggings in a medium, because I prefer for them to be a tight fit, but a large would probably work fine.  I got both Bobeau cardigans in a large and find them both very comfortable.  Number 5 is much thinner and made of a ribbed knit, while 4 is thicker and fleecy.  I prefer 4 for winter, but think that 5 will be handy in the spring.  The Easy Spirit boots are super comfy and fit beautifully.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Favorite Face Masks

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As someone committed to an almost obsessive pursuit of the best skin possible, and as a gatherer of many beauty products, my face mask collection is, in a word, aggressive. Sephora does all these great kits of many mini face masks, and I can't help myself trying them out.  Typically, I do at least one mask a week, often two (sometimes two at a time, like a nut!), and I switch up the products based on what my skin needs. Here are my favorites!

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For when my skin is congested // I look for ingredients like clay, charcoal, salicylic acid and willow herb.

Origins Clear Improvement - This mask has a nearly cult following, and for good reason.  I spread a thickish (opaque, but not gloopy) layer on the parts of my face that get congested (forehead, nose, chin) and leave until it dries out.  Afterwards, I typically see a reduction in pimple size, and if anything was brewing, it calms down.  Results typically last a couple of days for me, especially if I follow up with my BHA after. If I have a particularly stubborn blemish, I'll sometimes spot treat with it by putting a bit on and sleeping in it.

Formula 10.0.4 Deep Down Detox Ultra-Cleansing Mud Mask - Though not as effective as the Origins, I do love this mask for times when my skin is congested but not actually spotty.  I throw a thick layer on and let it dry for 30 minutes or so. When I take it off, my skin is generally clearer and happier without getting dried out.

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For when my skin is dry // Key ingredients are hyaluronic acid, natural oils and whatever made up ingredient Sephora tells me is good

Origins Drink Up Intensive - There are 300+ reviews of this mask at Sephora, and the overall rating is 4.7.  Soooooo, it's good. Really good. This is an overnight mask that I use in place of my night-moisturizer once or twice a week (often after a different mask).  I use a thin layer and let it dry down a bit before actually going to sleep, so the mask ends up on my face instead of my pillow.  When I wake up and wash it off, my skin is super smooth and plump.  Of all the masks in this list, it makes the biggest immediate difference.

Peter Thomas Roth Blue Marine Algae - This mask has the coolest texture.  It's like a cross between jello and aloe.  In terms of immediate effect, my skin feels immediately cooler and more calm (perfect for after getting some sun).  I typically leave it on until I remember to take it off (20-40 minutes), and my skin is definitely more hydrated afterwards. Because it's clear and relatively unnoticeable when it dries, it's my favorite mask to take on long flights. It does an excellent job protecting my skin from the nasty plane air.

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For when my skin is dull // Again, hyaluronic acid is key, plus acids - fruit, salicylic, glycolic, whatever

Boscia Luminizing Black Mask - I honestly sometimes just put on this mask for the sheer joy of peeling it off.  God, I just love it.  It also doesn't hurt that, once I get it off, my skin looks firmer and more radiant.  I've actually had students ask me what I did to my face after doing this mask, and if it's good enough to penetrate the teenage narcissism, it's good enough for me. Note - because of the peeling/radiance boosting, I would be careful about using this if you have sensitive skin.

Algenist Algae Brightening Mask - Another mask with new perfect reviews. I absolutely adore the results this mask gives me, but find the application a pain in the butt.  The formula has little bits of algae in it that make application choppy, and the mud texture dries out really quickly in the tub. I've found that my best applications require my face to be a little damp (I get a face cloth wet with hot water, then lay it on for a few seconds) and my fingers to be wet too.  I honestly wouldn't go through the hassle if it didn't make my skin look so damn good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lust List // Luggage

As someone who travels quite a bit, my luggage situation is in need of an upgrade.  Last year, I bought this bag, which I adore for solo/adventure traveling and worked beautifully for Ireland last year, but my other options are LL Bean duffles I've had since 8th grade.  Not great.  I've decided to use a part of this year's tax refund to buy a set.  In general, I want a hard sided set, with at least one piece carry-on size. It needs to be dark enough to not show a ton of wear and high enough quality to last a while.  Here are the contenders.

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Diane Von Furstenberg // Delsey // Travelers Choice // IT Luggage

I'm still debating, but I love the looks of the DvF and the Delsey - super classic, but a little different. Any one ever used either/heard about either brand?

Monday, January 18, 2016

African Peanut Stew

I first made this recipe last winter, and was expecting it to last a week.  Lolz, it was gone in 3 days.  One of my favorite food bloggers, Budget Bytes, came up with the original recipe, and I tweaked it to be a little more my own.  It's a piece of cake to put together - one pot, no fancy techniques, mostly ingredients you have on hand anyway, but it looks beautiful and tastes incredible. Perfect once it's done cooking and just as delicious the next few days.

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5 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger (or a tablespoon of dried)
1 sweet potato
4 carrots
1 onion
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup peanut butter
6 cups vegetable broth
1 box spinach

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Dice the garlic and microplane the ginger. Saute over medium heat for 1-2 minutes

Add the diced onion, sliced sweet potatoes and sliced carrots. I prefer a rough chop of the vegetables, so that some get super cooked through and fall apart, while other stay a little crisp. Saute for a few more minutes.

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Add the spices

Add the tomato paste and peanut butter, do your best to combine, but it'll look mad weird

Add the vegetable broth, cover and turn the heat up to high

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Once the soup reaches a boil, add the spinach and allow to cook for another 30 or so minutes on low without the lid on

Serve with lime and/or cilantro

Notes //  The vegetables are up to you - I prefer to jam as many into the soup as I can, so I go a little overboard, but feel free to monkey with it.  The sweet potatoes are non-negotiable though. They go so well, it's crazy.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book Review // Cinder, Between the World and Me, Paper Towns, Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Starting this year off strong in terms of books.  I read 68 last year, and am hoping for 70 in 2016.  So far, I've only read 2 in 2 weeks, so I'm going to need to commit a little harder. Anyway, here's what I've read in the last little bit.


Cinder // A friend recommended this series to me, and I'd never heard of it before.  It's kind of a funny combination of fairy tales, cyborgs and the plague.  I didn't love it as much as I've enjoyed other YA series, but I'm still planning on reading the other 3 books. The story is pretty engaging, and while the character development gets a little bogged down in the layered tropes, it's not unenjoyable.  It's a quick read, and I'd do pick it up if you tend to enjoy YA otherwise.

Between the World and Me // And now for something completely different!  I think pretty much everyone read this book in 2015, and for good reason. The book tackles a lot of issues related to race in America.  The author isn't attempting to present an unbiased view, but he does succeed at showing his point without being too preachy/angry.  I thought it was beautifully written and a captivating read.

Paper Towns // I honestly can't believe I hadn't read this yet. John Green is one of my favorite authors, and I appreciated that this was his least tragic novel.  The story is pretty interesting and creative, even though I 100% hated the main character girl.  By the end, I had diagnosed her with like 23 different psych issues because she was the worst. The rest of the characters, great.  The plot, the timeline, the ending, all good. Just hated that one girl.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest // Just go buy it. Or get it from the library. Whatever, just go. I absolutely devoured this book and loved every second.  The story follows a family, very loosely.  Basically, every chapter involves a recipe and has a central character, who is somehow connected to the person from the previous chapter. The book is also chronological, and covers about 35 years.  The plot flows beautifully, every character is relatable in different ways and I loved the food theme. Nomnomnom.

Monday, January 11, 2016

101 in 1001 Update

A little less than a year ago, I started my 101 in 1001 and I still have about 18 months to go.  As it's been a while since I mentioned anything about it, I figured a little update was in order.

Total completed // 39
Left to complete // 62
Planned to complete soon // 5

All in all, I feel like I'm making really good progress. It's funny, looking at the numbers I feel both like that's a ton of things I've done and there's still a lot to do.  In terms of things that I have plans to complete soon, I've been vegan and tracking my calories this month, haven't been drinking much coffee/any creamer and am headed to Africa for work next month.


So far, I think my favorite accomplished goal has been the NFL game. My parents got me tickets for my birthday, and I got to go with some favorite family friends.  It was so, so cool to see the Patriots in real life, and it was extra awesome that we won

In terms of challenge, I think unplugging for the weekend was the hardest, but definitely worth it.  The first few hours were fine, but I found myself looking for my phone out of sheer boredom. At the end of the weekend, I had accomplished more than I ever had in two days and was very grateful to reunite with instagram.

So far, I am absolute loving the 101 in 1001. It's really helped me clarify what I want to be focusing on.  I am hoping to go to Harry Potter world next February, the west coast next summer (maybe Portland?) and road trip to Montreal at some point this year.  The list has definitely forced me to challenge myself, which I'm loving.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Goals

Like everyone else, I cannot believe that 2016 is here. This year has the potential to be great, and I'm so excited about all to come.  To help myself start the year off with some focus, I've set myself three big goals, detailed below!

Image result for 2016

Personal // For the past few years, I've dealt with some pretty big swings in my weight - some healthy, some not at all healthy.  Right now, I feel more confident in my body than I ever have, and I'm hoping to continue that. While losing weight is a part of my goal, my focus is on getting more exercise and building some muscle.  I've been loving my online fitness classes and am working on getting on a regular schedule with them, at least 3 times a week

Travel // Last year, I got to travel a ton - Ireland, England, Chicago, Miami, Chicago again. It was amazing, and I definitely want to keep it up.  So far next year, I have two trips to Nashville booked (February for fun, May for brother's graduation) and a trip to London (!!!!!!!!) in August.  My goal for this year is to add in at least two more trips - one to Canada and one to a state I've never visited.

Financial //  Generally, I'm pretty good with money.  I don't spend what I don't have, and my debts are limited to the unavoidable - car and student loans.  The last 3 or so months of 2015, however, I started to feel like my spending wasn't really lining up with my goals, and that I could be a lot smarter about where my money was going.  After crunching some numbers, I realized that I could be debt-free in less than 3 years, if I stopped spending so much at J Crew...  This year, I am limiting clothing etc shopping to 500 dollars every 3 months (so 2000 per year) and starting to ramp up payments on my student loans.