Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Function of Beauty Review

Facebook marketing is going to kill me/my wallet.  About 4 months ago, I fell prey, once again, to repeat sidebar ads and bought into Function of Beauty, a customized shampoo/conditioner company.  I'm pretty sure I filled out the quiz at like 11pm on a bus back from a softball game, so I should probably stop carrying my credit card with me...

How it Works // FoB is a company that lets you personalize your hair care products, to an impressive level of detail. The quiz you take is pretty in-depth, and allowed me to address some of my unique hair needs (super thick, straight-ish hair that I need to volumize). I liked that I could choose up to 5 goals, but didn't need to, I really felt like they were listening to what I wanted.  

And obviously, I liked that I could make it ridiculous colors and choose my scent (grapefruit hibiscus)

What I Thought // I have pretty easy-to-manage hair, so I didn't have high hopes for this stuff.  Almost anything can clean my hair well enough, so it's hard to impress me.  This stuff, however, did.  My hair is volumized and soft, and my clean hair lasts longer (2-3 days, instead of 1-2). The only additional product I use is this, and I have consistent, easy good hair days.  I travelled recently and brought samples of other shampoos, and I really regretted it, my hair didn't look nearly as good.

Overall, I am thrilled.  It's definitely worth paying a little extra for me, considering the rest of my hair care routine is very low maintenance, and I love that I can buy more shampoo than conditioner, because now I run out at the same time.  If you're interested in trying it out, 5 dollars off here

Monday, July 24, 2017

What I Would Buy At the Anniversary Sale if I Wanted to be Destitute

Probably a more eloquent way of putting that, but here we are.  This year, I'm not planning on actually shopping the hallowed Anniversary sale at all - I don't really need anything and doing some crazy travel this summer (cross country road trip and safari), so it doesn't make sense.  That being said, if you are in need of some stuff for your closet, now is absolutely the time to shop.  In case a sugar daddy materializes in the next few weeks, here are my picks -

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review

I haven't written one of these since February, and have read 20 books since then, so we're going to do a greatest hits.  Including one of my top 5 favorite books ever.

Exit West // As previously noted, the Amazon Best Books of the Month is my literary north star (and you, mother).  Exit West received rave reviews and made it onto their Best of 2017 so far list, so it was a must for me.  I, unfortunately, thought it fell flat.  The basic plot is that the world falls apart (not too much of a stretch, tbh) and magic-ish doors start popping up, allowing people to travel to different locations by stepping through them.  I was expecting adventure and intrigue, and instead, spent a whole bunch of time marooned in a London mansion.  Beautifully written and an interesting concept, I didn't fall in love the way the rest of the world did.

Killers of the Flower Moon // Add this to the list of books interesting to people with forming inane and deep knowledge.  I LOVED this book, but wouldn't say it's a literary masterstroke.  If, however, you are interest in the FBI, or in Native American history (white people suck), I couldn't recommend it more highly.  Basically, the Osage were treated unbelievably cruelly by their white neighbors, which eventually escalated to a rash of murders, which was solved by the early FBI.  The history is incredibly detailed and interesting, but this is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone expecting a John Grisham adventure.

The Hate U Give // Required reading, in my opinion.  Told from the perspective of a black teenage girl in New Jersey (I think, it's unclear) who witnesses police violence on her black friend, I was so impressed by the authors ability to connect with her teenage protagonist, make a strong stand on police violence, and tell a mesmerizing story at once.  The author does a beautiful job of helping the reader both understand white privilege and what it feels like to not benefit from it.  Far from a angry/preachy dialogue, I felt like her combination of stark criticism of our current social situation and humor (these families are just families who love each other) made an enormous impact.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine // Spoiler alert, Eleanor is not fine. She is, however, witty, delightfully odd and a deliciously flawed main character. I had a tough time in the very beginning, in that I didn't immediately connect with her. Eventually, though, she wore me down, and I devoured the rest of the book.  Light on plot, the character development is superb, and I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns, and by the ending.  I would definitely recommend it.

Beartown // The aforementioned new favorite book.  I started it on the bus ride back from a softball game and stayed up to an unprecedented 2 am to finish it. Guys, it's so good and so hard and so lovely.  It's not a feel good story, but I think Fredrik Backman tells a better story than almost anyone else. It's about a hockey-obsessed town moving through the end of a phenomenal season, told from the point of view of the players, their coaches and other people in their orbit.  There is a sexual assault story line, as a warning, but it that doesn't deter you, I couldn't recommend it more highly.

Monday, July 17, 2017

FabFitFun Review

Hellloooooo from the other sideeeeeee. Guys, this spring kicked my butt. And also, I didn't feel like blogging.  This summer has been all about getting myself back on track, which included rekindling the writing flame, so here we are. With a riveting review of a subscription service. Woot.

I subscribed to FabFitFun in a moment of instragram induced weakness.  My least favorite thing about the service is that everyone and their mother promotes them (not me, fwiw), which means that I am inundated with pictures of the boxes. It did, however, work.  I bought in on the month that one of my favorite skincare products (this) was in it, and cost more than the subscription did, figuring that even if I hated the rest of the box, I got a thing I knew I would like for cheaper than it retailed for.

In the boxes since, I have been impressed with the variety of high quality products that get sent.  It is a deeply random assortment, but it feels a bit like getting a Christmas stocking once a season, and I do love stockings.  So far, there have been no products that I chuck outright, knowing I won't use them, and there have been several that I have repurchased (including gummy vitamins I ate like they were fruit snacks).  I really appreciate that the samples are 'real' products - I've heard of the brands, and it doesn't feel like items that were leftover in some warehouse for years until they decided to send them to us (cough*birchbox*cough).  Winners from the pictured box were the BKR water bottle I've been lusting after for years and a favorite sunscreen.

Overall, it's a fun investment for me.  The box is more expensive, around 50 dollars, but only comes  out 4 times a year, and the value is off the charts.  I would definitely recommend it as a fun treat for yourself.

Purchase here, with 10 dollars off

Monday, April 10, 2017

Roomba Review

At Christmas, my little family grew by 1.  Tallulah and I were thrilled to welcome Ben, an 11.8 pound, 13.4 inch robot vacuum.  He has settled in beautifully with our family, and improved my life immeasurably, though I still can't get my dog to ride him.

But seriously, my Roomba has changed my life, which is a little bit hyperbole, but also kind of true.  Getting him set up and ready to go was a piece of cake - plug in, charge, vacuum. I use it two or three times a week, and it makes me insanely happy every time I hit the clean button and leave the house, knowing it will be sparkly when I get back.  I have almost exclusively hardwood floors, which are completely pet hair free by the time Roomba is done.  Most impressive for me is the vacuum's ability to get the gunk out of the tricky spots (against door jambs, corners).  Cleaning him out after the job is done is about as easy as possible, and I love that the brushes pop out, so that I can go to town on them.

So far, the only con is that Ben doesn't always make it home to his base.  Sometimes that's user error; I do some basic pre-cleaning for him, picking up Tally's toys, moving some furniture, but sometimes it's his.  There are a few high doorways in my apartment, and he'll get stuck if he doesn't approach at the right angle.  I don't love playing the where-is-Ben game, but he makes it back to his base 9 times out of 10, so it could be worse. I also do not take advantage of the scheduled clean function, mostly because of that dog poop disaster story, so I can't really comment on how well it works.

Will happen at the next party

To be honest, I think everyone deserves a robot vacuum, even if they are an investment.  The ease of pushing a button and having clean floors is happiness on the same level as baby elephant videos and that first really good spring day.  Treat yo self.

Buy here

Monday, February 27, 2017

February Budget

Light shopping month!  Not really intentionally, but there's that. I actually didn't end up ordering a piece from Brass, which leaves me with an extra code that I can use later (I'm doing the Edit, which gets me a piece a month for 6 months).  If you've never ordered from them, they are doing 25 dollars off here, I can't recommend them enough!

Both pairs of shoes are delightful. Sneakers fit true to size, the heels are comfy enough that they lasted me 6+ hours of making some weird choices!  I wore the AT top for Valentine's Day and got all the compliments, the draping is gorgeous!

Ann Taylor Blouse // $14
Target heels // $35
Disney Sneakers // $18

Linking up with Fran

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review

Okay, well, it's been 6 months since my last book review, so that's realllllll embarrassing.  I have read books in between then and now, though not nearly as many as I would have liked.  Over Christmas, I read about 3 books and bought 8 more, but have barely touched them since.  Part of it was that I started Swing Time and never got into it, but also felt like I couldn't give up on it (so much love for it!) so I basically just ignored books altogether... And then last night I read all of Commonwealth in one sitting, so lets hope there's some traction.

Commonwealth // Ann Patchett is a forever favorite, and Commonwealth is no different.  The characters and detail are so engrossing, it's a book that can make you forget where you are.  Again, I read it cover to cover in one night, not on purpose, but because I got stuck in the one more chapter/one more chapter/one more chapter cycle.  Following the lives of two families that come together in an unexpected way, it's a beautiful book for just about everyone - just real enough, without being a huge downer, plus some exceptionally funny moments.

The Sun is Also a Star // Young adult fiction is one of my favorite ways to get back into reading if I've taken an unexpected hiatus, and this novel was the perfect thing over Christmas.  A story told over a single day, it's definitely YA romance, but also a lovely story with interesting characters.  I found the premise (deportation imminent, girl and boy wander around NYC together) a bit trite, but loved the variety of view points, especially the secretary of the immigration attorney. It never got sappy, but this is absolutely a John Green style book.

The Underground Railroad // I had a bit of an existential crisis after reading this book, which presents the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad under the ground.  I might have spent some time googling, just to make quite sure that was a metaphorical railroad, not an actual one.  Apart from that tiny breakdown, this book is extraordinary.  It's not exactly enjoyable - any book that tells a story about slavery with this level of detail and rawness isn't going to be, but the writing is transportive and the characters are presented in such a way that they seemed three dimensional.  I was floored by this, just like literally everyone else.

Lily and the Octopus // Do not read this book is ASPCA commercials are too much for you.  Lily and the Octopus is a beautiful examination of the relationships we have with our pets, and I absolutely tried to force my dog to cuddle me for a while after I finished it.  One of my favorite aspects of this novel is Lily's voice - literally and figuratively. She is smart and delightful, and her relationship with her human is lovely. The story moves quickly, and the ending was about as good as it gets.

A Torch Against the Night // The second in the Ember in the Ashes series, I loved this book just as much as it's predecessor, which I read like a crazy person, wandering through an airport.  Part fantasy, part adventure, part romance, this is not an adult book, but that's cool.  What it is interesting, many layered, frequently unexpected and exceptionally well-written.  The plot moves very quickly, but balances a number of story lines very well.  A perfect option for Game of Thrones fans sick of George R R Martin's shit.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vegan Tortilla Soup

Recipe adapted from Thug Kitchen

I feel like it's been weeks since I've had a normal enough weekend/week to justify cooking, and to be fair, I'm actually not sure if this soup is going to get eaten.  What I am sure of is that it's delicious, and because it's vegan, will freeze beautifully.  The recipe is from Thug Kitchen, with a few shifts due to personal preferences.  It's a piece of cake, but the flavor is insanely delicious, and with almost no weird ingredients.  Cause really, who knows where liquid smoke exists in the grocery store!?

Ingredients //

2 small/1 large onions
4 carrots
1 or 2 jalapeños (I did 2, the soup is spicy without being overwhelming, but I like it hot)
4 cloves garlic
2.5 teaspoons cumin, oregano and chili powder
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 lime worth of juice
6 small corn tortillas
1 can black beans
Olive oil and salt

Instructions // 

1 // Chop the onion, carrots, jalapeño and garlic up real small

2 // Saute the onion in olive oil over medium for 2 ish minutes, add the carrots and cook for 3 more minutes, then add the jalapeño, garlic and spices and cook for 30 seconds or so

3 // Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, then the broth. Stir and bring to a simmer

4 // Add the tortilla bits (diced up real little) and lime juice, then let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes

5 // Either use the immersion blender or regular blender to smooth the whole thing out (bought an immersion blender mid-recipe cause gosh darn is it a huge pain in the butt using the magic bullet for this)

6 // Add the can of black beans to the soup once it's blended

7 // Serve with cilantro/avocado/quesadilla/whatever your sweet heart desires

PS I bet corn would be dope in this.  I am regretting the choice to exclude it. Rookie mistake.

Serves 4
Calories per serving // 324
Total fat // 9g
Sodium // 505 mg (depends on broth/beans/tomatoes)
Potassium // 840 mg
Fiber // 13g
Sugars // 12g
Protein // 10G

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Badass Women Supplies

On my drive down to the Women's March, I bought a sweatshirt that says Girl Almighty. Which I basically haven't taken off.  Since then, I've also bough quote prints (pretty much my love language), a tee for me mom and a mug, but I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of my purchasing power, so I pulled together some of my favorites, all of which (minus the phone case) come from hand made, feminist artisans, many of whom make donations to lovely organizations with every purchase. If, like me, you want your entire life to radiate positivity and girl power, these are good places to start.

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12 // 13 // 14 // 15

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trader Joe Favorites Pt 2

In these times of political upheaval and a pavlovian response to alerts on my phone that takes several minutes to calm down from, isn't it nice to just focus on some delicious stuff?  Trader Joe's continues to reign supreme in provider of my favorite foods, and I've found a few new loves since my first post.

Garlic fries // Relatively new to my life, the garlic fries have changed me.  The fries themselves are delightful, but then you get this garlicky buttery stuff that you pour on and it's heaven.

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups // I am the last person to get on this bandwagon, but if you have't tried the delicious-ness, hop on it.

Swirly cheese // I had not idea what this cheese was called, which made google image searching it hard (trader joes swirly cheese, trader joes brie that tastes pointy, trader joes softish cheese).  Not exclusive to TJ's, this cheese is soft like brie, but the taste is more interesting, like a softer blue.

Soft pretzel stick // The perfect addition to any soup meal, and flawless when made into a grilled cheese, or just eaten out of the bag on the ride home like an animal.

Parmesan crisps // The other perfect addition to soup.  Buy tomato soup, add these to the top, bask in the glory.  Also, caesar salad.

Narwhal tea // Confusing, cause the narwhal is on the inside, but that's what I call it.  It's minty and light and delicious. I bought a record 9 boxes during this holiday season and have finished half of them.

GIANT CORN // If you are into salty, crunchy snacks, these will be perfect for you.  It's basically like crunchier popcorn, with lots of salt and a bit more flavor.  I actually have to portion out the bag when I get home, otherwise I will eat the entire thing in a sitting and hate myself.

Shredded 3 cheese blend // I find most shredded cheese disappointingly flavorless, but not this stuff.  It's bananas delicious and the best egg cheese I've ever found.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Damn Good Skincare Review

About a year ago, the etsy shop Damn Good came across my radar, though I cannot for the life of me remember how.  In my quest to be a little more ethical/sustainable, and support as many local businesses/badass ladies as I can, I ordered a set (face wash, toner, oil), figuring that even if I didn't love it, I felt good about where the money was going. Except I did love it, and have ordered three more.

The Details

In her etsy shop, Kate sells skincare products for your face and body, as well as man stuff, as she calls it.  You can buy each product individually, or in sets designed to complete your skincare routine. There are 3 kinds of toner and face wash, designed for sensitive, oily and combination skins, plus 5 different oil blends, so you can get a bit more specific.  Each product has a very detailed description, so I found it really easy to figure out which formula would work best for me (The Works).

Why I Love It

Supporting a badass lady // Kate, the woman who owns Damn Good, is a mom, wife and RN who makes the products in her home.  She lives in the US and sources almost everything locally, plus her husband looks like Khal Drogo and her kids are adorbs. 10/10 recommend.

Ethical ingredients // All of the ingredients used in Damn Good products are natural and preservative free, and almost everything comes from a local-to-Kate co-op.  Nothing gross, no chemicals, nothing you can't pronounce.

My skin is better // This is (obviously) the best part. Since I started using The Works face wash and toner, plus The Very Best and The Works facial oils, my skin has been pretty bomb.  The face wash is coconut oil based, but has baking soda and tea tree oil in it, so it's moisturizing, but also helps clear off dead skin and treat acne.  The toner and oil have also helped me balance my skin out. I still get hormonal breakouts, but the rest of the month, my skin is clear.

Overall, I've been loving my experience with my Damn Good products.  The prices are reasonable for what the products are.  I wish the containers were a bit more travel friendly, though I appreciate that glass is the right choice (preferable to plastic, certainly).  I love these products and will absolutely buy more

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Introverts and Involvement

Typically, this blog has been pretty fluffy. To be honest, I like it that way - my job is hard, adulting is hard, the world is increasingly hard, so having an outlet dedicated to recipes and shopping and home decor has been really nice. I don't intend to change that, but also, hi, the world is kind of ending.  Hopefully not really, but I, for the first time in my life, have started actively participating in politics.  It's necessary, but it's also really freaking hard.  Making my voice heard does not come easily to me - I'm an introvert, I have social anxiety. I can barely get through dinner with friends without feeling weird, never mind a phone call with a stranger.  But it's happening, and I've learned a few tips along the way, which might make it easier for you too.

Be Knowledgable // This has helped me the most overall.  Feeling confident in my understanding of situations makes speaking about them with people wayyyyy easier. My favorite sources of knowledge are The Skimm, New York Times Morning Briefing and twitter (especially Maggie Haberman)

Pick What You're Passionate About // I don't mean ignore the other stuff, I just mean that committing to engaging with an issue is way easier to do if the issue means a lot to you.  I am heartbroken about the immigration ban and genuinely terrified of Steve Bannon, but the deVos nomination has been my main priority (for now).  I work in education and couldn't imagine a worse choice for Secretary of Ed.  Making calls and speaking out against her appointment hasn't felt as scary, because the alternative is worse.

Schedule It // Commit to a time and a place where you'll make calls, write a post, go to a march.  Bring a buddy, figure out a reward, whatever it takes.  I have a friend with similar social issues, we check in before and after (but can't be in the same room together, we both get embarrassed).  The accountability has been key.  I absolutely wouldn't have managed the Women's March if my mom wasn't going with me (or I would have gone and hidden in Starbucks)

5 Calls // Practically, this website is what gets me to do the actual phoning.  They give you people, phone numbers and a script, which I practice several times before jumping in.  They make it exceptionally easy to do the hard work, and I always feel better when I've done it.

Choose Where Your Money Goes // As consumers, everyone has a lot of power in terms of supporting businesses that uphold your values.  Even if you don't have extra income to donate, choosing to shop at companies that match your beliefs sends an overall message about the American people.  After the Super Bowl ads, I feel good about giving my money to AirBnb, Audi, and Budweiser (won't drink the beer, will support their company).  Just being cognizant of the power of consumerism is the first step, and really can make an impact, without you needing to leave your house or talk to people.

These steps might seen small, but, in the words of my favorite anthologist, Margaret Mead, "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January Small Goals

Yay, start of the new year!! Though I've been shying away from resolutions, I thought getting back into small goals for the month would work. Every year, I give something up in January, so that's a goal (going well so far) and I'm also looking ahead to my second favorite season, award shows (football is first, duh).

1 Watch all the Oscar Best Picture nominations // This will bleed into February too, but it's my goal (from my 101 in 1001 list) to get all of the Best Pictures seen. I attempted it last year, but balked at The Revenant, so fingers crossed there are no aggressive bear movie nods this year

2 No sugar // 11 days in and I haven't touched pastries, ice cream, cookies or candy.  I was very murdery around day 5, but am feeling pretty good. Actually turned down an ice cream sundae recently, which I expected to trigger the end of the world, but I'm evidently not that powerful.

3 Tone It Up 5 Moves // My favorite fitness ladies put out 5 toning moves every day, and you're meant to complete 42 reps.  Other than the day they told me to do burpees, I've been doing well with it and hope to continue!

4 Read 2 books // Good lord, I am out of practice with reading, and it's driving me a bit nutty. I'm hoping to get through Single Ladies and something else before the end of the month.  So far, 15 minutes before bed has been working, especially if I plug my phone in out of reach.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 - "Resolutions" and Looking Back

Long time, no see, little blog. Nice to be back after theeeeeee best Christmas/New Years ever.  It was amazing to spend so much time not at work and so much time with family.  And now it's 2017, which promises to be a big and hard and great year.


Buy clothes that fit me - I've thought a lot about how I want to treat myself this year.  It felt easy to make lose weight/no sugar/workout all the time resolutions, but those aren't true to where I'm at.  For January, I'm not eating sugar and trying to track my calories every day, but I don't really need to do that all year. Instead, I'm going to focus on buying clothes that fit me 100 percent, not just kind of.  I'd like to feel more confident in the body that I have, rather than focusing on changing it.

Renegotiate my contract - In the next month or so, we're going to start rewriting contracts at my job, and I am hoping for some major changes to mine.  I still love my job, but am trying to do more of what I love and less of what I don't, which will (hopefully!) changes things significantly. 

Apply to graduate school - Yay!  I'm planning on entering graduate school to get my Masters in Social Work in 2018, so will start visiting/applying/interviewing over the course of 2017.  I'm really excited, but definitely anxious about the next steps.

Looking Back

2016 was rough on a lot of fronts (lets all forget November), but also pretty incredible. I'm grateful for a lot of things, including incredible trips and some new favorites.

Africa - Added a new continent!! Though it was a work trip, it was incredible to go to Ghana and Nigeria. They were really interesting places, and I was grateful that I got to meet so many people there.

Cooking - I've found a few new favorite recipes (tomato salad, African peanut soup, tomatillo salsa) and have really enjoyed learning some new things in the kitchen.  I've gotten into a good groove with meal planning, which has helped a lot.

London - Cursed Child. My favorite city. My favorite people. Yup.

Natural Skincare - Early in the year, I discovered Think Dirty, an app that helps you figure out how harmful the chemicals in makeup/skincare/household supplies are.  I sort of scared the crap out of myself with it at first, but have made a few changes that I really loved.  I started using Damn Good products and have LOVED them (review coming soon!).