Blog Archives

My top 5 beauty products.

I’m obsessed with beauty products!

I don’t know if you know this about me but I LOVE beauty products – skin care, makeup (!), self-tanners, cellulite creams, hair treatments… you name it, I probably have 4 bottles of it in my cabinet. It’s a bad addiction, but it’s a fun one.

I’ve been trying to find a way to share more of my favorite products (or even the things that are NOT my favorite) without it being a giant sales-pitch (I am not sponsored by anyone). The thing is, I’m always trying new things. Even if I like a product, I’m still open to trying other brands just to see what’s out there.

But, when I started writing about all of the cosmetic primers I’ve tried, a reader wanted to know about other products I’ve tried. It’s taken me awhile, but this is my START. I’m very critical – so right now I’ve got five products that I love and have even bought multiple times… as in, I’m sold, I’m not trying other brands. Done. So here they are!

  1. Impress Manicure – When I agreed to get my Invisalign, I knew it would be an extra monthly expense for a little bit (I’m paying for it myself). To help, I vowed to give up professional  manicures. Instead, I started buying press-on nails to keep my nails looking nice without the cost. After trying several brands, the Impress Manicure continues to WIN – big time. These nails are a natural, short length and they require no glue. One set lasts about 10 days, and it costs around $5-$8! I’ve found them at Walgreens, and the grocery store, but you can also get them online. I swear by these!
  2. Essence Forbidden Volume False Lash Mascara Top Coat – This is a top coat you can add on top of any mascara and it has the little fibers that extend each lash. This stuff makes for a pop! I add it to all of my mascaras and I love it – plus, it’s $4. I got mine at Ulta, but I’m sure you can find it other places where Essence makeup is sold.
  3. Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment – I love finding bargains and cheaper solutions when necessary, but I also have come to realize that sometimes, it’s just worth it to shell out the cash for seriously AWESOME products. So far, all of the Glamglow products I’ve tried have blown my mind and I’ve even gotten comments on how fresh my skin looks – given my sleep regimen, this is a miracle! The Thirstymud treatment is a like a thick moisturizer, it smells like coconut, and you basically put it on before bed and wakeup to smooth skin. After trying a sample of it in my Birchbox, I bought the entire kit: the face wash, a blackhead mask, and the full size jar of Thirstymud. Complete GAME CHANGER.
  4. Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Body Wash & Foam Bath – I hadn’t been inside a Bath & Body works in at least 6 years when I randomly wandered into the one at the outlet mall a few months ago. They were having a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” sale, plus an additional 25% off, so I caved and bought three bottles of this stuff (in three different scents: Happiness, Stress Relief, & Sleep) and all of them smell so good. But what I love most about them is how much they foam up! I use them as bubble bath and on my loofah during a shower. It’s fantastic and now I’m always watching for the next big sale to restock.
  5. Sei Bella 3-in-1 Eyebrow Pencil by Melaleuca – Melaleuca products are made of only the good stuff, which means no parabens, no chemicals, no carcinogens… all of my household cleaners are from Melaleuca and I try their beauty products all the time. So far, my favorite product is their eyebrow pencil – it has a brush, a pencil, and a blender all in the same place! It goes on so easy, it self-sharpens, and it’s affordable at $15 (for members).

And there you have it! What products are you swearing by lately? As I get more “favorites”, I’ll report back!

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Five Days at Memorial’.

Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).

I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.

I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.

So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.

It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?

The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?

But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.

This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!

Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!

Bring on the cookie exchange!

Cookies for Santa!

I just searched through the blog because I was certain I wrote about baking Christmas cookies every year and didn’t want to bore you all with another one… but there wasn’t one for a long time! So, here I am, about to bake lots and lots of goodies for the season.

I have very fond memories of baking Christmas cookies as a child, so as I’ve gotten older, I always have the craving to do a bakeoff of my own. But every year, I get about 1/3 of the way into my baking and wonder WHY did I do this to myself?

It’s about that time I realize that my dad probably did most of the actual work when I was a kid, and also, I think we used pre-made dough (obviously, smart).

But I never truly learn, because then each year, I made a ridiculously long list of cookie and treat ideas, and half of them are intricate (peppermint snowflake cookies are never happening AGAIN) and just piss me off.

I was baking a pie last month for Friendsgiving when I came across the vast collection of Christmas cookie cutters I had in my cabinet – most of which were purchased last year. “What the hell was i thinking?!” I literally asked myself out loud.

Last year, I remember baking quite a bit, although I mailed most of the treats to other states. My friend Matt, along with his wife, were baking up some goodies last year when we decided to mail each other holiday treats.

They completely spoiled me and I was eating ALL of it during the season. It was fantastic. So, when Matt asked me if I wanted to participate again this year, I jumped at it.

I’m also having guests for a little party next weekend, so I’ll need cookies for that, right? And probably just some… to have… or to share at work? See? This is how this gets started…

However, I’ve vowed to myself to make nothing too complicated. No cookie cutter cookies!

I went through my Instagram and Pinterest accounts to see what recipes I might want to try this year, and I’ve come up with a tentative list. I won’t know which ones I’m making until I really get in there and see how difficult it might be, and even then I am guessing I’ll have some issues… but here are my ideas so far:

And while we’re on the topic of baking, I have been eyeing these recipes for Christmas Day:

And one MORE thing before I go! As you may know (if you’re following me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7), I’ve been using Blue Apron meal delivery (in addition to Green Chef) and I have SIX boxes of freeeeee food to give away!

If you want to try it, there’s no obligation to keep it – simply get the free box and try three recipes (two meals each) and see what you think. The holidays are a perfect time to try it since you’ll be able to skip the grocery store! If you’d like to get one of my free boxes, simply shoot me your email and the first six people will get a message from Blue Apron!

Just want some of the goodies I listed above? Hey, fill out the form, too and let’s see what we can do – I’m all about spreading some Christmas cheer this year!

Want to see how I do with the baking this weekend? Keep your eyes on my Instagram stories – I’ll likely start shopping on Friday and the bakeoff goes DOWN on Sunday! Wish me luck 🙂

Watching: ‘Floribama Shore’.

The cast of MTV’s “Floribama Shore”.

I know I’m probably one of ten people still watching reruns of “Jersey Shore”… so, when MTV announced an answer to our prayers for new material, I was pretty excited! That answer is none other than “Floribama Shore”.

“Floribama Shore” is supposed to be similar to “Jersey Shore” in that cast members are filling up a single house in Panama City Beach, Florida, but are locals from the Floribama Coast.

Having been to Floribama a handful of times, I can testify that its known for its uncanny ability to embrace the tacky side of Americana, while also celebrating the fruits of summer and beach life in the form of denim cutoffs, cold bear at any hour, and bare feet at all times.

And so, MTV has rounded up a cast of locals to celebrate this portion of the country and likely, humiliate them and everyone they know for our complete enjoyment. Here’s how MTV describes the show:

Set in the Florida Panhandle along the beach that stretches all the way to Alabama, Floribama Shore is the story of eight young adults who come to spend the summer in the hottest beach town on the Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach, to party it up and put the real world on hold for just a little bit longer. But each is armed with incredible life experiences and standing at a crossroads, whether it’s ending a relationship, tasting independence for the first time, or trying to escape the past.This coming of age story captures the very real thrill and angst of being young and trying to figure out the future with a group of people you’ll come to call family.

So, the cast!

There’s Aimee, who might be my favorite so far. She’s from Alabama, admits to always going barefoot and never getting a pedicure, and she is NOT going to play games. She’s a spitfire and I’d imagine we’ll see a fight with her at some point this season.

There’s Candace, who, so far, is pretty quiet. She seems to be the old soul of the bunch, but I’m not counting her out of any shenanigans just yet. Next is Codi, who has been quiet so far… And then there’s Gus, who is pret-ty full of himself, and I don’t think he’s ever been rejected. This is already causing drama in the house.

Okay… Jeremiah. He’s the pretty boy, and although a few of the ladies love his looks, his attitude is not attractive. I’m not a fan of him as a person, but his douche-baggery is much-needed for a show like this.

Kirk has yet to say much, so we’ll see what happens with him. But finally, there’s Kortni and Nilsa, who are friends and both Panama City Beach locals. Kortni fires off episode one by pissing the bed, and Nilsa is a flirtacious force to be reckoned with!

So far, there’s been two episodes of the show, which airs Mondays at 10/9 central (although they aired one episode on Sunday night…).

It’s good stuff, y’all!

BBC: ‘The Hot One’.

Howdy! Even after taking Monday off work to recover from my holiday travels, this week was a bit of a struggle – am I alone here? Yikes! I think this weekend is my last one that’s sort of empty (as far as plans go) before all of the holiday parties and activities go into full swing, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that.

I’m planning on taking a few dance classes (naturally), getting lots of reading done (I currently have three books checked out from the library and they’re due next weekend), and I’m headed to the Drafthouse to see “Christmas Vacation” for the zillionth time!

Last year, they hosted a cheese pizza party with a viewing of “Home Alone”, which was a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to whatever surprises they have in store for this holiday favorite.

Anyway, let’s jump into this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick. Boy, that title just makes you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it? Here’s the description from Amazon:

A gripping memoir of friendship with a tragic twist—two childhood best friends diverge as young adults, one woman is brutally murdered and the other is determined to uncover the truth about her wild and seductive friend.

As girls growing up in rural New Jersey in the late 1980s, Ashley and Carolyn had everything in common: two outsiders who loved spending afternoons exploring the woods. Only when the girls attended different high schools did they begin to grow apart. While Carolyn struggled to fit in, Ashley quickly became a hot girl: popular, extroverted, and sexually precocious.

After high school, Carolyn entered college in New York City and Ashley ended up in Los Angeles, where she quit school to work as a stripper and an escort, dating actors and older men, and experimenting with drugs. The last time Ashley visited New York, Carolyn was shocked by how the two friends had grown apart. One year later, Ashley was stabbed to death at age twenty-two in her Hollywood home.

The man who may have murdered Ashley—an alleged serial killer—now faces trial in Los Angeles. Carolyn Murnick traveled across the country to cover the case and learn more about her magnetic and tragic friend. Part coming-of-age story, part true-crime mystery, The Hot One is a behind-the-scenes look at the drama of a trial and the poignancy of searching for the truth about a friend’s truly horrifying murder.

…ok. So, I have to admit that I found this book on a book list (probably off Pinterest), and it sounded good, so I placed it on reserve. I clearly wasn’t paying too much attention because I didn’t realize it was a true story until I started reading it. Duh.

But yes, it’s a true story and even has an odd little twist involving Ashton Kutcher (as in pre-trucker hat), but still. It was an interesting, and downright creepy read, but I know there’s some true-crime lovin’ readers out there, and this one’s definitely for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink.

After totally pigging out during Thanksgiving, I was really happy to get back into my vegan lifestyle this week, and I made two new recipes, Cincinnati chili over whole wheat spaghetti and “chick”-en nuggets made from bread crumbs and pureed chickpeas! I served it with mixed veggies and sweet potato tots and it was delish. I’ll be whipping up two more new recipes this weekend and I’m pretty pumped about it.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

BBC: 2017 Holiday Reading Guide.

Cozy up with a holiday read!

Well, Thanksgiving is over and it’s officially the holiday season! I have always wanted to read a Christmas-themed book during this time of year, but have never gotten my life together in time to do so… until THIS YEAR! Over the weekend, I picked up my first holiday book (a pick from last year’s holiday reading guide), “Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand. I read a book of her’s earlier this year, and I absolutely loved it – plus, I found out that “Winter Street” is actually the first book in a mini-series, so if I like it, there’s three more books for my list (I put the sequel in this year’s list). So, here goes:

“The Christmas Town” by Donna VanLiere 

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

“The Mistletoe Inn” by Richard Paul Evans 

Signing up for a writing retreat to assuage a broken heart after one too many romantic disappointments, 32-year-old Kimberly Rossetti looks forward to meeting a favorite writer and bonds with a fellow aspirant who gives her insight into her writing while gradually revealing his dark past.

“Winter Stroll” by Elin Hilderbrand 

The Quinn family celebrates their most dramatic Christmas yet in this enchanting sequel to Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling Winter Street. 

Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn and his family busily preparing for the holiday season. Though the year has brought tragedy, the Quinns have much to celebrate: Kelley has reunited with his first wife Margaret, Kevin and Isabelle have a new baby; and Ava is finally dating a nice guy. But when Kelley’s wife Mitzi shows up on the island, along with Kevin’s devious ex-wife Norah and a dangerously irresistible old fling of Ava’s, the Inn is suddenly overrun with romantic feuds, not to mention guests. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns–and the Inn–through the holidays intact.

For readers of Richard Paul Evans and Greg Kincaid comes The 13th Gift, a heartwarming Christmas story about how a random act of kindness transformed one of the bleakest moments in a family’s history into a time of strength and love.

After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children—especially with the holiday season approaching. But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their “True Friends.” As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family. This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart, a beautiful reminder of the miracles of Christmas and the gift of family during the holiday season.

“Christmas at Little Beach Street” by Jenny Colgan 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months. – In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold. – Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve. – But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday. – Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

“Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

…Ta-da! There are SO many books out there with Christmas plots at the center. Got one that’s not listed? I’d love to hear about it (although I may not get to it until next year…). I hope your holiday reading is festive this year!

Black Friday: SALE in my Etsy Shop!

Check out the sale!

That’s right, I’ve having a 3-day sale in my Etsy shop! Today is the biggest discount at 20% off, Saturday is 15% off, and Sunday is 10% off – and all items get shipped for FREE! You can’t beat that!

Plus, I have some gorgeous, hand-painted ornaments with gold leaf detail, and the price is perfect, especially with the sale. You should definitely check them out!

It’s a one-stop shop for gifts, jewelry, ornaments, home decor, stocking stuffers, and a super-cute fox cozy for your coffee or tea mug!

Hope to see you in The Bitter Lemon Shop!

BBC: ‘Landline’.

If you’re still at work today, hang in there – Thanksgiving is riiiight around the corner! I’m traveling today, which is a relief, because I always feel like the the days leading up to traveling are so hectic and crazy and then when I finally get on that plane, I can take a nap.

But anyway, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past — all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.

And hope he picks up.

Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over …

Does Georgie want to start over?

From Rainbow Rowell, the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park andFangirl, comes this heart-wrenching – and hilarious – take on fate, time, television and true love.

Landline asks if two people are ever truly on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway, no matter where you end up.

This book had me at “TV writer”, so I was in pretty quick. But I also really liked the concept of this plot, primarily because I think cell phones have ruined us in ways we can’t get back, and I still wish landlines and answering machines were a thing. I hate being “available” 24/7.

But anyway… this is a fun read. It feels like a true story, minus the whole “magic telephone” thing, which even that doesn’t seem so crazy (oddly enough). The book takes a rather common problem: a longtime marriage beginning to fall apart, and adds a twist: the ability to time-travel via landline.

What happens is obviously up to the characters… and fate.

I read this book pretty quickly, and I liked it so much that I’ll definitely be reading some of Rowell’s other books: “Fangirl”, “Carry On”, “Attachments”, and “Eleanor & Park” – they all seem to have that slight, fantasy twist. And let’s face facts, I think we could all use a little break from reality every now and then.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick.

Have a great Thanksgiving y’all! Tune in on Friday for a fun surprise 🙂

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

Watching: ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

Just saw this movie!

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a movie I’ve been eyeing for awhile, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson.

“Three Billboards” is the story of Mildred (McDormand), a passionate mother who is trying to push the local police to continue working on her daughter’s murder case. To spark their interest, Mildred pays rent on three billboards along a seldom-used country road to advertise her case.

The words she plots on the billboards puts Ebbing, Missouri into a tailspin – to say the least. But although what she’s doing is not illegal, the police are willing to do anything (and everything) they can to get her to shut up and remove the billboards.

Although it’s not directly related, Mildred and her billboards highlight the systematic racism within the town of Ebbing, solidified by the police force and their brutal actions (not to mention the words they say).

This movie was very dark, and although their were parts that made me laugh – I felt like the audience was constantly nervous-laughing, because it was so dark, and it was difficult to tell exactly what was going to happen next.

It’s obvious Mildred has never quite fit in, in Ebbing, and the brutal murder of her daughter seemed to harden her even more, creating an even greater distance between her and the town. The conclusion of the film (no spoilers) wraps this up nicely.

Although it was difficult to pinpoint exactly when this film took place, it has a timeless sensibility to it. After all, it’s not a recent problem for missing girls to be found murdered, have their killers on the loose, and for a police department to pick and choose who they go after based on race and/or relationships.

I cannot close this blog post without saying that parts of this movie were very difficult to watch. I had my hands over my face for probably 1/4 of it, and was on the verge of tears for at least half. It’s gut-wrenching.

But, it was well-done, and very unique. A recommendation for crime and mystery lovers.

Naturally, I saw this movie at the Drafthouse, so I treated myself to some fries and a salted caramel shake. YUM.

I was happy to go home afterward and make Christmas ornaments though, and get my mind out of such a dark place.

BBC: ‘The Art of Crash Landing’.

I hate being this person, but can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! Yikes! I actually have a Friendsgiving to attend tomorrow, so I’ll get an even earlier start on my turkey + cranberry only diet this holiday season (just kidding, vegan Gods).

Regardless, the holidays are always hit or miss for me, but I’m thinking this year is gonna be a pret-ty good time. More on this at a later date. Anyway, this weekend, I’ve got a few things to do in my Etsy shop (there’s several new items in there already if you haven’t looked lately), I’m going to see a movie, and I think I’ll treat myself to a pedicure while I’m out!

Meanwhile, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa Dicarlo. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I came across this book. I’m pretty sure it was the image of this woman putting everything she owns into trash bags that got me hooked, though. And once I started reading, it was an interesting story that almost seemed like a piece of non-fiction. It was oddly relatable and very visual, which is really what makes me like a book.

This one is for fans of unique, non-cookie-cutter stories! The next book we’ll be reading for the book club is “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Have a good weekend y’all – stay warm (the “cold front” is bringing us 80 degree weather…)!

Dining at Uchiko!

The fantastic Uchiko!

Ugh, I’m mad at myself for not posting this earlier, but a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off yet ANOTHER experience from my Austin Bucket List: dining at Uchiko!

I discovered Uchiko, after seeing the original “Uchi” on an episode of “Food Porn” right when I moved to Austin and I hoped that one day, I’d get the chance to devour some of their top-notch sushi. Austin is home to Uchi and Uchiko.

Well, fate was on my side because… you may recall a few months ago when my friend Corey and I WON a “Saved By The Bell” trivia contest. Part of our prize was a giftcard to… *drumroll* …Uchiko!

It was meant to be!

Uchiko is a farmhouse restaurant, and they focus on using fresh ingredients – flying in seafood everyday from Eukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan.

Naturally, I was too busy enjoying the food to recall everything we ate, but here’s some of the things we had:

  • Yokai Berry: Scottish salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian kale, yuzu
  • Coffee Bacon: peach, apricot, onion
  • Ham & Eggs: katsu pork belly, yolk custard, espelette
  • Brussels Sprouts: fish caramel, lemon, chili
  • Kokumostu: toasted and fried milk, cereal, chocolate mousse
  • Seasonal Ice Cream: I believe we had cinnamon… it was so yummy!

We had at least three other items… but I probably had too many glasses of wine to recall their names. I DO know that everything was fresh, delicious, and impeccably presented. It was really a fantastic experience!

Tyson Cole is a partner and the chef of both Uchi and Uchiko – here’s his story from the Uchiko website:

Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation 2011
One of the few American sushi masters, James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition. Having trained for more than 10 years in Tokyo, New York, and Austin under two different sushi masters, he continues his path of study and experimentation each day at the restaurants in the Hai Hospitality family. Employing classical cooking techniques with a Pacific Rim perspective, Cole marries global ingredients with traditional Japanese flavors, resulting in inspired combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique, and style.

Cole became fascinated with sushi in his early twenties while working at an Austin Japanese restaurant and quickly dedicated himself to learning every aspect of the cuisine. Working his way up from dishwasher to head sushi chef, his dexterity with the knife led him to Austin’s top sushi restaurant Musashino. During an intensive traditional apprenticeship under owner Takehiko Fuse, Cole traveled to Japan to experience the cuisine firsthand while gaining technical skill.

Challenged by Fuse to learn the Japanese language, Cole moved on to train at Bond Street, one of the busiest sushi restaurants in New York City. In his last year at Musashino, Cole ran the restaurant in Fuse’s absence and began experimenting with new flavor ideas, influences, and ingredients. Opening Uchi in 2003 as executive chef and co-owner, Cole quickly garnered national attention, most notably a coveted spot on Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005 list; a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2011; and a James Beard Foundation semifinalist spot for “Outstanding Chef” in 2016 among many other accolades.

Citing the newly easy accessibility of ingredients and flavors from across the globe, Cole continues to push the envelope with every bite, stating, “The cuisine I create is playfully multi-cultural, mixing the Japanese tradition with tastes that inspire me.”

Impressive, right?

The even COOLER part is – Corey and I still have two more giftcard to burn as part of our prize. Doesn’t get better than that!

Invisalign: Two weeks in!

My first 2 weeks using Invisalign!

Okay, I’m about two days shy of the three-week mark using Invisalign, but this will just have to do! I have been curious about Invisalign for the last year for a few reasons.

For starters, I’ve never had traditional braces and I cannot TELL you how many times my dentist has asked me if I’m interested in braces. No, no, and no… until I was.

My teeth aren’t that crooked. Instead, they are very crowded on the bottom and a little angled up top. It has never bothered me until recently. In fact, I often prided myself on the fact that I’d made it this far without orthodontic work.

But the truth is, I take a lot of care in the way I look. I’m not vain or superficial, but I do like to take care of myself, and I also like to experiment with new beauty trends (I just Derma-rolled for the second time ever last night), and I have a bucket of makeup and a tiny collection of face masks to prove it.

I wear makeup on most days – mostly to express myself and help boost my confidence. That’s all great, but I started to feel like my look was incomplete with my teeth. Sure, my nails look great, contour is on-point, lipliner looking fresh… but my teeth?

So, when I switched dentists because of insurance, I specifically looked for one that offered Invisalign. I asked about it immediately, slapped down the down-payment, and they got to work.

The first step was to have impressions taken of my teeth. These impressions were sent off to Invisalign and they made a computer simulation of the changes my teeth would go through from start to finish.

My dentist also took tons of pictures of my teeth, and of my face – she said I would see a slight change in my profile.

Once I approved of the way my teeth would look (according to the simulation), my dentist was able to tell me that my “treatment” would be six months, which is the minimum amount of time for Invisalign.

At my next appointment, my dentist applied some “buttons” onto my teeth – basically they are small raised pieces that help “lock” the Invisalign in place, and they help the teeth move a little faster.

She then had to shave down the sides of some of my teeth since they were so crowded – the shaving involved her flossing my teeth with sandpaper. Literally. It was an interesting and awkward experience.

Before she handed me my first set of trays, she told me I had to wear the trays at least 22 hours each day: sleep in them, only drink clear liquids with them in, and take them out to eat. I was instructed to brush my teeth before putting the trays back in.

She broke two pieces of bad news to me at that point: 1. The first two days of each tray are painful, and 2. My coffee intake would likely be reduced given that I couldn’t drink it with the Invisalign in.

Ohhhhh… I was visibly upset over this coffee news. You see, I usually sip on coffee from the time I wake up (6:30 or so) until around 10. But if I did that, I’d already be breaking the 22-hour rule with Invisalign.

“It’s only for six months,” she said. She didn’t GET IT.

But anyway, I snapped in my first trays and was on my way. And she was right, it HURT. That night, I had so much trouble getting the trays out, I skipped dinner.

Since then, though, it stopped hurting, and it’s very easy to get the trays in and out.

On my two-week mark, I put in a new set of trays, and it hurt some (I took one dose of pain killers), but not as bad as the first one, leading me to believe the “shaving” was actually the issue.

I have 14 trays total, so I’ll be getting new ones about every two weeks. I expect to be putting in tray no. 3 on Thanksgiving Eve… which will make for an interesting Turkey Day.

So far, it’s been okay. It is a little annoying to have to take the trays in and out so much – I feel like I’ve cut down on snacking because it just isn’t worth the time and effort (in case you wondered just how lazy I was).

On the upside, I can already see the progress my teeth are making – and it looks great, even this early in the game! I also started using a whitening toothpaste in hopes of getting a bit of a brighter smile along the way!

I’ll keep you posted…

Thriving at ‘The Aftermath’.

We killed it!

Over the weekend, I performed in my 4th showcase that Dance Austin Studio hosts. After each performance, I’ve written about how I’ve felt and I realize what an important place dance has in my life.

This time was no different, in fact, I realized just how much I need dance and those I dance with to fulfill my life.

I started dancing in 6th grade, taking a jazz class at a small gym with one of my friends. We performed a few times, and I still recall flopping when we had to pull red boas from our partners’ leotards. It was cringe-worthy!

A year later, I tried out for the dance squad at my middle school – I didn’t make it, but made it the following year after practicing my smile and wearing lots of body glitter. I continued dancing throughout high school, I served as captain of a team, competed across the state of Indiana, and even choreographed a piece for my senior project.

And then I stopped dancing. I used writing as my form of expression, and while obviously I still am (and will always be) a writer, I started dancing again when I moved to Austin two years ago.

I feel like I’m really lucky that I ended up at THE best studio in the city – or maybe that’s all the proof I need that fate is real. Dance Austin Studio has challenged me physically and emotionally, and I’ve done things I never thought I would get to do: audition, perform on stage, and most importantly, learn from some of the best dancers in the industry on a regular basis.

Over the last two months, my life has suffered a whirlwind of changes. Many of my readers know that among the general hectic nature of my life, I recently went through a family emergency that flipped my world completely. There were days I was barely going through the motions of life, and I forced myself to dance.

I may not remember a single thing I thing I learned during those classes, but I know my classmates were there for me – even if they didn’t know it.

That’s the other thing about Dance Austin; it has truly become my family. While I had acquaintances at the studio last year, some of the ladies have really embraced me, invited me into their homes, and even included me in dance pieces of their own. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in without these people, these experiences.

For this showcase, “The Aftermath”, I performed in a Broadway Jazz piece. I have always had a secret wish that one day, I’d wake up and my life would be a musical – very much like the blue bird scene from “500 Days of Summer”. Taking broadway jazz was pretty much that dream, realized, and then I got to be a KILLER stepford wife on stage.

It didn’t happen without hours of practice in and outside of the studio; many nights I practiced in my living room wearing slippers while my cat watched with wide eyes.

I was also asked to perform in a contemporary piece with a message of women’s empowerment. It was very powerful and a true honor to get to dance in it!

This was my first time doing jazz in (obviously) several years; first time doing any “dressography”, and my first time performing two routines, plus in both shows! Whew!

But as we probably all know, the more challenges thrown at you, the more you conquer, and the more you ultimately learn about yourself. This weekend, I can say I learned that I CAN DO IT. I can learn something completely new amidst chaos, and smile through it.

So I owe a big thank you to all the ladies that danced with me, a thank you to Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio, a thank you to Caitlyn – my instructor and insanely talented choreographer who put up with me being zombified for six weeks, and a thank you to the Ultraviolets for inviting me to share the stage with you as part of such an incredible piece.

February showcase, I’m coming for you!

Comparing cosmetic primers, II.

Happy Halloween! I am pretty excited for today – oddly – mostly because this means I can take a break from mass-producing Holly Golightly sleep masks for seasonal costumes, and because I love hearing “Thriller” on the radio constantly.

Several months ago, I posted short reviews about cosmetic primers I’ve tried. I got such good advice on new ones to try, that here I am, back after trying FOUR new primers! I’m curious to see what you guys think of this batch.

If you aren’t big on makeup or haven’t tried a primer, it is usually worn under makeup (particularly foundation) and provides a smooth base that helps the makeup stay on longer and look flawless. A primer can come in the form of a gel, spray, powder, cream, oil… it just depends on what type of product you like.

NYX Shine Killer

I love NYX products because they are so affordable, it makes it easy to try new things. The Shine Killer primer is a clear gel and I found it really helped control my shine throughout the day (I did use it along with the NYX matte setting spray).

Details:

  • Foundation primer that prepares skin for silky smooth makeup application
  • Lightweight, colorless gel creates an invisible layer that acts as a buffer to the outside elements
  • Helps makeup stay fresh and color-true for hours, lasting all day and well into the night
  • Moisturize your skin with a daily dosage of Vitamin E
  • Prep your face with this foundation primer before applying face makeup
  • Maintain a matte and fresh face all day

$13.99 for .67 ounces

Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Make-up Primer

Over the last year, I have been trying bits and pieces of Laura Geller’s collection and her products are wonderful! This Spackle (in “Champagne”) came in a gift set I got, which are always such great deals. It has a slight glow to it, so it’s perfect to wear under makeup or alone for a dewy look.

Details:

Revive and re-texturize your skin to achieve a flawlessly smooth finish with my Spackle® Tinted Under Make-up Primer in Champagne. This formula has the same features and benefits as the revolutionary best-selling Spackle®, but it shimmers with a champagne glow!

Made with natural plant extracts and the powerful anti-oxidants, White Tea and Centella Asiatica. These ingredients protect the skin along with Aloe Vera Gel. Spackle also helps the skin retain moisture, feel softer and look smoother. It is lush, incredibly lightweight and suitable for all skin types.

$32 for 2 ounces

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Pore Minimizing

I got a sample of this in one of my Birchboxs a few months ago and have been using it over the last few weeks. I love that it has a light tint to it – my skin has some redness (which I’m currently trying to derma-roll out), so I am always looking for FULL coverage products. I also liked the texture of this – it goes on smooth and has a dry, matte finish.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Foundation Primer is an Allure Best of Beauty winner. It works for all skin types but is ideal for oily and combination skin. It pairs best with liquid or cream foundation. This primer is non-acnegenic and ophthalmologist tested.

Benefits:

  • Dramatically reduces the look of pores
  • Mattifies shine and controls oil all day
  • Smoothes and preps skin for makeup
  • Won’t clog pores or cause breakouts
  • Water-resistant, smooth-glide texture
  • Leaves a soft, even finish
  • Cruelty-free

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

$39 for 1 ounce

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil

I got this as a sample from the Company Cosmetics Store (I. Love. That. Place!) after buying a Smashbox set that had all sorts of goodies in it. This was my first time trying the oil, and frankly, I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. It definitely does not leave an oily finish, but I might save the rest of it to use during the colder months (like, in December maybe? #Texas) when my skin is dry.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer Oil is non-acnegenic and dermatologist-tested. Morning and evening application adds increased moisture in just four weeks. Not ideal for oily skin.

Benefits:

  • Preps skin for makeup
  • Moisturizes for seamless makeup application
  • Instantly absorbs and adds radiance
  • Reduces the appearance of dry fine lines
  • Blended with 15 lipid-rich plant extracts and essential oils including moisturizing jojoba + calming chamomile
  • Strengthens the skin’s barrier

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

What primers are you using? I am always looking to try new products!

Before I sign off, be sure to check out my Etsy SALE – today only – and you can get 15% off all items in honor of Halloween (and the Great Pumpkin, of course)! As always, there is free shipping on domestic orders.

Have a fun day, y’all!