Blog Archives

The Bitter Lemon Shop!

Beads, beads everywhere!

I know I’ve talked a little bit about my recently-opened Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop, but I wanted to dedicate a post about it. I didn’t really intend to open the shop and fill it with so much STUFF, but it happened that way – once you start creating, I guess I can’t stop!

At first, I just wanted to make some DIY earrings I’d saved on Pinterest. I have always toyed with the idea of having an Etsy shop, because I really like to make cards and have always liked to make beaded jewelry.

But when I made the earrings, they turned out so cute I thought other people might like them. So, I took pictures of them (although I don’t really know if the photos do them justice) and opened my shop. At first, it was a struggle to get 10 listings – but 31 listings later, here I am, with a ton of ideas!

Currently, the shop is mostly bracelets and earrings – I am really into tassel jewelry right now, so there’s lots of those happening. The bracelets are all beaded so far – I am having so much fun with all of the great beads out there!

One thing I think is important to note is that everything I’ve made is something I would wear (and actually have been wearing); I wouldn’t put out a product that I didn’t like myself.

I am also naming each piece after a place, or a thing that is really special to me. As I write this, I’m wearing the “Back to Black” beaded tassel necklace as a tribute to Amy Winehouse; my sisterhood bracelet (sorority vibes), my Charleston bracelet (s/o South Carolina summers), and my “Saints & Sinners” bracelet as a call to New Orleans.

There’s also a keychain and an essential oil blend roller in the shop – keep your eye out for many more of these to come! I’m thinking a sleep blend, focus blend, an immunity blend, and something for allergies. I also have ideas for costumes, clothing, and of course, more jewelry!

It’s not like I all of the sudden have so much time on my hands, but I’ve found that just sitting and watching TV (or rather, listening to it) while I make jewelry is pretty relaxing. I think it’s an easy way to escape – and I like trying to figure out how to make things or how to fix something. And then at the end, I have something cool to wear!

Blanche is also partaking in the shop, of course. I cleaned out my linen closet and set up a table with my printer, along with a little shelf. I organized my beads and put all of my shipping supplies in a handy container. I even have a few pieces of “Bitter Lemon” wall art along with a scented candle to make my craft area fun. The table is big enough for my supplies, but anytime I’m in the “craft closet”, Blanche scrambles to the table and takes a giant nap – and she takes up at least half the table. So, there I am, stringing beads using a small corner of my table.

I’ve had 11 sales so far, after being open for about three weeks, and it’s cool to think that people in other states are wearing things I made.

If you have ideas of things you’d like me to (attempt) to make, I’m always willing to try. Take a look at the shop, ask me questions, or shop awaaaaay! Visit the shop here and let me know what you think!

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Creating style while approaching 32.

Dream life.

Since the start of 2017, I have slowly been going through my closet, getting rid of items that don’t belong anymore. But it’s not just about the items that I haven’t worn, it’s more about the ones that don’t fit, and those that I just should NOT wear.

In general, it has taken me years to figure out what my style is, and when I can’t afford that look verbatim, how to look for pieces that I can afford and get good wear out of. But many of those pieces are now old, and they’re showing it in the form of underarm stains, tiny holes, missing buttons, and those annoying little balls of thread or fuzz.

As of now, I have two brown grocery bags full of items to get rid of – which I know doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. When I moved to Austin at the end of 2015, I got rid of many of my “professional” clothing items since my job attire was very casual. Since then, though, I filled my closet with more casual clothes. But as I look through my closet, I find I wear the same type of thing all the time – and rarely am I excited to get dressed in the morning.

Love this denim + heels combo.

So, as I take inventory, it’s not just pulling out one item of clothing and deciding right then and there, I have actually been wearing some of the items in my “maybe” pile, and seeing how they fit throughout my day. I added a shirt last week after wearing it to work and realizing it was uncomfortably short (it was also a shirt I bought almost 10 years ago, FYI). As I write this, I’m wearing a grey pencil skirt that’s going directly into my brown bags – it’s too tight; so tight I couldn’t get the top button into the loop and compromised with a long tank top. See what I mean?

As I get rid of items, I have slowly started to buy new things that are (hopefully) a better fit to my current body, and my current style. But, as I’ve been shopping, I’ve realized two things: 1. I think I’m smaller than I actually am, and 2. I have a habit of buying things that aren’t perfect.

That’s right, I have body dysmorphia in the backward way – I actually think I’m smaller than I am, which is great for my self-esteem, but bad for shopping. On Sunday, I spent three hours in ONE store, trying a pile of clothes on – most of which were too small. Why?

Honestly, I shopped a lot when I was in high school, probably because I had much more of a disposable income then (plus money from my parents). After that, I hit a long period where I didn’t have money to shop at all, and also went through some weight fluctuation. It’s very likely that I straight up do not know what size I am, and just go for what I know, which is often too small. It doesn’t help that the sizing charts for companies vary; I’m a medium in some brands and a small in others, and when it comes to swimsuits, I’m an XL (we’ll touch on this later).

I have always loved K-Cav’s effortless style.

As I was trying on item after item on Sunday, I would tell myself, “Oh I could get this, but I’ll have to resew the button”, or, “this needs to be hemmed”… and I finally just said no, I’m not buying it unless I can wear it as-is right after I walk out of this store. That meant out of the 20 items I tried on, I bought four, but they were four items that I am really excited to wear, so I’m happy I was picky.

Another truth is that as I get older, I’m trying to find out what types of things I should wear. Yes, I know, we should all just wear whatever we want, but, I want to look my best and flatter my body as best possible. I’m not 25 anymore, and I can’t wear the same types of things I did then – and I’m okay with this, but it means looking a little more.

For example, shoes. Summers for me have always meant flip-flops – not anything remotely expensive or nice; I’m talking shower shoes from the Dollar Tree. But… I don’t have cute feet; and I’ve also spent all this time crafting the perfect outfit, do I really want to slap on the flip-flops? No. So, I’m currently on a hunt for cute, flat sandals that will flatter my feet: maybe some metallic, strappy ones.

Another example is swimsuits. I used to live by Target-brand string bikinis… in my twenties. While they looked cute then, I just don’t have that body anymore. It doesn’t matter how many vegan meals I eat, dance classes I slay, or bottles of water I guzzle, a woman’s body changes, and mine certainly has. I have tried to always embrace my curves, and hunting for the right swimsuit has certainly been a challenge. I need underwires and significant straps to support my bust, and I need full coverage for my butt. No “cheeky” bottoms for this girl! I recently ordered a cute, patterned one-piece from Old Navy that has underwires, adjustable straps, and a full-coverage bottom that looks promising. We’ll see!

Love this look for summer!

If you follow me on Pinterest (which you should), you may have noticed that my general style is a little bit of boho, a little bit of sparkle, and a little mix of feminine with masculine – I love mixing a boy blazer with red lipstick or boyfriend jeans with high heels. I also have an affinity for jackets & scarves.

Speaking of accessories, that’s another thing I’ve been taking inventory of. I used to pride myself on my collection of jewelry… but it was jewelry from Charlotte Russe and Charming Charlie’s. While I certainly loved some of those pieces, they have overstayed their welcome and are either highly off-trend or tarnished. New note to self, spend a little more cash on timeless pieces that will last.

I’ve started to replace some of my jewelry pieces, and wow, it’s way more overwhelming than I recall. I don’t even know where to begin with the statement necklaces and all the earring options and have since decided that it’s probably best just to buy jewelry for specific outfits.

So, yes, I may be a little late to the fashion-in-your-thirties-game (I’d love to hear how you all are tackling it), but I’m learning that it’s constant upkeep. No wonder people are shopping all the time, right? I hope this post doesn’t come across as superficial; but it has always been important to me to look presentable, and to be able to express myself through clothes that make me feel confident, no matter what day it is or where I’m going.

I’ll continue to keep you posted on my fashion and style journey – until then, I’ll be scouring the sales racks and trying on piles and piles of clothes!

Hello, vegan food.

Plant-based and delishhh.

Plant-based and delishhh.

Okay, so I’m not going totally vegan, but I’ve been incorporating much more vegan meals into my life than ever before. I’ve been eating on a pretty strict diet for the last five weeks, plus prancing around the dance studio nearly every day, and I’m finally starting to see some results.

I didn’t make a conscious choice to start eating vegan, but rather, I found a ton of delicious-looking recipes to try and they have been actually REALLY delish. I started pretty simple, with the homemade brown rice veggie sushi, and graduated to the red pepper Buddah bowl. I’m not a fan of anything too complicated, or any of the cashew-based “cheese” products.

Despite all of the restrictions of eating vegan, I’ve managed to find a lot of recipes that are easy, and affordable (and tasty). I thought I’d post them for you, because you just never know…

Vegan Chocolate Pudding – I saw this posted by Whole Foods as a quick video, which made me see how easy it was to make. It’s just dates, vanilla, banana, avocado, and unsweetened cocoa powder, blended and chilled… and it’s legit. It is very fudgy and cures my sweet tooth. I have been enjoying it with unsweetended coconut sprinkled on top. I bought ingredients to make a second batch, and I think I will blend in some PB2 powder for a peanut buttery taste. Yum! Get the full recipe here.

Vegan Roasted Brussels Sprout and CousCous Salad – Since I liked the Buddah bowl so much, I was looking for recipes that would be similar, but with new flavors. I saw this bowl stuffed with greens, avocado, couscous, and topped with hummus and was SOLD. I like eating these things for dinner for two reasons: 1. I’m usually starving because it’s after dance rehearsal and this is very filling, and 2. since it’s a mix of cold and hot ingredients, it gets too complicated to pack for lunch. Get the entire recipe here.

Vegan Lentil Mushroom Tacos with Mango Salsa – I love tacos and have always loved finding ways to make them healthier. I’ve replaced the ground beef with ground turkey or chicken… but this?! This recipe uses lentils and chopped mushrooms as the “meat” portion, and tops it with sweet and spicy mango salsa. I honestly didn’t even notice the fact that there was no cheese. I served it with another batch of my favorite thing: Chrissy Teigen’s coconut rice. Omigod. These tacos were honestly better than any meat taco I’ve had. I will for sure be making these again. Get the full recipe here.

I’ve also saved several additional vegan recipes I’m looking forward to trying (all of which you can find on my Pinterest board) including Balsamic Garlic Grilled Mushrooms, Quinoa and Kale Protein Power Salad, and Eggplant Parmesan.

Now, I know I said I’m not going full vegan, but I have been reducing my meat intake greatly, and when it just takes a small tweak to go vegan, I’ll do it. Why? Because there are SO many health benefits to eating vegan. Some of the health benefits are (but not limited to) reduced saturated fats, reduced chance of getting colon cancer, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a lower body mass index, healthy hair and nails, longer life, and allergy relief – among many others!

If you’ve got any good vegan, or even vegetarian recipes you’d like to share, feel free to put them in the comments – I’m always looking for new foods to keep the variety going!

Things I’ve tried on Pinterest.

It’s been around a month since I resurrected my Pinterest account. I started back on this social channel for several reasons: 1. because I’m really trying to tighten up my diet and I wanted a place to keep track of all the cool recipes I come across and want to try (outside of my several binders on my pantry shelf), 2. I always have ideas swirling around for the blog or for crafts I want to make, and Pinterest helps me organize them.

In the last month, I’ve tried only a small portion of the recipes I’ve saved. I have purchased items to make a few essential oil roll-ons, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with anything other than food. But the food items I’ve tried have really excited me, as I started with the Veggie Brown Rice Sushi from the Minimalist Baker, which was easy and so freaking YUMMY.

Orange Chicken – This recipe was part of an article listing out easy ways to use your crockpot. It listed this orange chicken recipe that was four ingredients, and looked totally yummy. How healthy was it? It probably wouldn’t be approved by any nutritionists, but I paired it with steamed rice, edamame, and steamed Asian veggies to help even things out. It was so good, and very easy.

Cherry Almond Granola – I’m not a huge granola lover, but when I find a good one that’s decently healthy, I love eating it with yogurt. This one looked easy to make, and actually pretty healthy. So I whipped it right up on Saturday night (aren’t I so cool) while listening to podcasts. I ate some the next morning with almond milk and it was yummy. I also bought some plain greek yogurt that I might eat it with. To boot, making this granola made my house smell awesome.

Cinnamon Sugar Protein Donuts – I got a donut pan for Christmas and I cannot get enough recipes to make all kinds of donuts. I had success with regular, powdered-sugar donuts, so I tried my hand at “Protein” donuts… and not only was this a massive fail, as in, it didn’t really bake or look like a donut, but it just tasted like shit. Yuck. If you’ve had a successful try with protein donuts, let me know!

Vegan Buddah Bowl – From what I understand, a Buddah Bowl is anything that you can just eat a giant helping of so your belly resembles a Buddah’s. I’m trying to avoid that altogether, but what I love about food this healthy is that you can eat a good portion and not feel guilty. I whipped up all of the ingredients for this bowl on Sunday and am eating them for dinner this week – it’s full of new flavors for me and is filling and so yummy.

BBQ Chicken Chopped SaladThis pin was advertised as a copycat from a salad at California Pizza Kitchen, and I used to live within a block of a CPK, so I totally get the obsession (hello, mango margaritaaass). I made 7 lunch-sized versions of these salads and have been packing them in my lunchbox and they are very filling and tasty.

Weight Watchers Cookies – This came up on my feed as a suggestion, and I’m always down to make something that’s going to taste decadent but not make me feel guilty. These seemed a little too good to be true – as the recipe contained two tubs of Cool Whip – but I made them and the batter was amazing… but they were just flat and rubbery-like. No thanks. #FAIL

What are some things you’ve tried on Pinterest that worked, or hey, even ones that didn’t. I’m always looking for new ideas!

What’s cooking.

In these last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun cooking at home. Don’t get me wrong, I usually cook my own meals, but of course, as everything, it goes in waves. Sometimes I’m really excited to cook and I look up recipes, sometimes I just get chicken and veggies and eat it until I can’t anymore, and other times, well I skip the grocery altogether and order Green Chef for weeks on end.

Right now, I’m really trying to eat healthier meals at home, and instead of eating out, I am attempting to make more fun meals at home that I look forward to eating. I’m on a mission to feel better, look better, all by eating better, and of course, dancing my butt off.

So, I’ll share some recipes I’ve been living off of lately, most of them are from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings“, and one is from “What’s Gaby Cooking” – one of my favorite food bloggers as of late.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I got my first apartment as a single woman in Baton Rouge, I lived within blocks of a P.F. Chang’s. I ordered takeout probably once a week, and I usually got their chicken lettuce wraps. I also gained weight, because even though they looked healthy, they were NOT.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw a very similar-looking recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. I made them, and packed them in my lunch right alongside coconut rice (recipe below) and it was to DIE for.

INGREDIENTS

  • Sauce
    3 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
    3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
    3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
    2 Tbsp. Sriracha
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    1½ Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
    2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • Filling
    1 lb. ground chicken
    3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    8 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens kept separate
    1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
    ½ pound white mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, and finely chopped
    ½ cup finely diced canned water chestnuts
    1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
    2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated

DIRECTIONS

    1. Make the sauce: In a bowl, combine the chili sauce, hoisin, soy sauce, Sriracha, vegetable oil, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, and ginger.
    2. In a bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. of the sauce into the ground chicken.
    3. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering-hot, add the chicken and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.
    4. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the skillet, then add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
    5. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then add the water chestnuts, bell pepper, and the rest of the sauce and cook, stirring, until cooked through and the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the scallion greens.
    6. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set out with the lettuce leaves.

Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice

…I mean the name pretty much says it all, but this shit is so good, and shockingly pretty guilt-free. I made the first batch of this for the chicken lettuce wraps, and then and second batch to go with a recipe I found on Pinterest (I’ll talk more on this next week). I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this rice – yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

DIRECTIONS 

  1. In a dry saucepan, toast the coconut flakes for a few minutes until they brown.
  2. Place toasted coconut to the side.
  3. Add full can of coconut milk, 1 can full of water, sugar, rice and salt to saucepan.
  4. Stir and bring to low boil.
  5. Cover and cook just like you would any other rice. Once done, fluff and add toasted coconut to the top. Serve!

Sweet Chili and Mustard-Glazed Salmon Fillets

It’s been a long time since I’ve treated myself to homemade salmon; it’s always kind of expensive, but it’s really healthy and filling. Since I have been doing so well not eating out, I decided to put my extra dollars toward the good stuff, and it was well-worth it. I’ve been eating it for dinner this week with brown rice and broccoli and am loving it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (6 ounces ) skin-on center cut salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 2/3 cup of Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbs sambal oelek (I couldn’t find this in my usual grocery store, so I skipped it)
  • 2 tbs large grain mustard

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position rack 4-6 inches from the heating element and preheat the broiler.
  2. Season salmon all over with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl stir together the Thai sweet chili sauce, sambal oelek, and mustard.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large cast-iron skillet. Set skillet over medium-high heat until the mixture boils.
  4. Lay the salmon skin side up, in the sauce. Cook the salmon until it turns pale pink about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin gets crispy about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce from the skillet onto the salmon. Serve immediately.
Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from 'What's Gaby Cooking'.

Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’.

Healthy Loaded [Southwestern] Sweet Potatoes

As I mentioned earlier, Gaby, from “What’s Gaby Cooking?” is one of my favorite food bloggers. One thing I really love about her is that she hosts weekly Snapisodes on her SnapChat @WhatsGabyCookin and she presents a yummy recipe step-by-step.

She is also completely available to ask questions! I’ve sent her countless cooking questions via SnapChat, and she always helps me out. I try to pay her back by sending her snaps of all of her recipes I’m making!

Anyway, she made this recipe on a Snapisode a few weeks ago, and it looked so easy and yummy, I added it to my list of things to try. Here’s what you’ll need:

INGREDIENTS

    • 4 California Sweetpotatoes
    • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 cup frozen charred corn (I used canned ‘Mexicorn’)
    • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/3 cup salsa (any variety will work)
    • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
    • 3 tablespoons chopped chives (I used red onion)
    • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Optional Garnishes:
  • Finely chopped red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour Cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Using a knife or a fork, carefully poke holes all over the sweet potatoes. Place the California sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet and transfer to the heated oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Remove the California sweetpotatoes from the oven and slice them open. Scoop out a bit of the inside to make room for the stuffing.
  4. Season the interior with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. In a medium bow, combine the corn, black beans, cheese, salsa, chives and cilantro and toss to combine.
  6. Using a spoon, stuff each sweetpotato with equal parts of the mixture until overflowing. Add extra cheese on top if desired.
  7. Transfer the stuffed sweetpotatoes back into the oven and let bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.
  8. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with optional garnishes. Serve immediately.

See? So easy! And you can pretty much put anything you want on it. I kept it meatless, but you could add shredded chicken or taco meat… whatever! I’m no expert on kids, but I think this would be a good way to get them to eat veggies. I made five of these potatoes and have been packing one to eat for lunch each day, along with 1/2 an avocado that I mash on top. It’s divine!

Get (p)interested.

Well, I succumbed to the peer pressure and joined Pinterest.

If you haven’t heard yet, Pinterest is basically a collection of virtual bulletin boards where you can post pictures, clippings, ideas, etc onto them just as you would a real bulletin board.

I have several friends who’ve been on this for months and have told me, “You just HAVE to get on it!”

Really, I don’t have to do anything. When I heard about Pinterest, I was just confused. Is this the first time anyone has ever thought of keeping pictures they like, article clippings, and recipes?

Not to sound silly, but I’ve been doing that for years. I keep tubs of binders filled with inspiration for writing, fashion, and cooking. Not to mention my office walls are covered with actual(!) bulletin boards.

Sure, I get that now we are exposed to more crafts and recipe and party ideas using Pinterest. But sometimes I just wonder, did you really need the picture of the candy cane straw to think of it?

And then there’s the flip side: Pinterest demeans our creativity. Call me crazy, but I’m a creative soul, and when I think of something cool, I don’t need someone saying, “OH, well she just found it on Pinterest.”

Nonetheless, I joined the damn thing. I only have a few things pinned, but I’d love for you to follow me. Frankly, I can’t figure out how to find anyone on there.