Where Are You Summer?

I love many things about living in Chicago but, as you all know, the weather is just simply not one of those things. Today it’s about 52 degrees, cloudy and windy, which is horrible considering that yesterday it was 79 and sunny. This teaser summer weather is really starting to get on my nerves!

In order to really get myself psyched for the awesome weather that *surely* lies ahead, I purchased this punchy, lemonade-colored blazer from Zara today:

2465231300_1_1_1I’m fairly certain if this doesn’t get me in the spirit for Spring/Summer, then really nothing will do the trick. I was inspired by blogger Mimi Ikonn to get on this bright-colored bandwagon. I’m hoping this will only be the beginning of a long and lasting relationship between me and eye-grabbing shades and prints. I’m thinking something coral next…

What gets you guys inspired for the season? Comment below and let me know!

5 Beauty Products Review- Too Faced, Benefit, MAC, YSL and e.l.f.

Aloha from sunny Chicago!

I decided to do a video in lieu of a post today to kick-start my blog posting after over a month hiatus. I’m focusing on a review of a handful of beauty products which I’ve loved or which have gotten lots of hype and I wasn’t impressed by. Let me know if you guys have tested these out and have thoughts or questions!

Here’s what I reviewed

1. Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette

2. Benefit Erase Paste

3. Mac Prolongwear Concealer

4. YSL Babydoll mascara

5. e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen

Thinking About Inspiration

Isn’t half the battle in life getting inspired to do something? I’d say it’s about 90% of the battle in my case. Inspiration is intoxicating, too. In the internet age, we spend so much time browsing: looking at Pinterest, Polyvore, Facebook, looking for things that will move us. Entertain us, too but, above all, add meaning to our lives.

Every day we should strive to do this: to invoke our inner creativity, our voice, and our passions. How do I break out of a funk and what really helps to bring back my inspiration? Here are a few things that work for me and might work for you

1. Invest in a really nice, visually pleasing planner. You can find these in bookstore, stationery stores, office supply stores or my personal favorite, Amazon. Get one that is colorful and has detailed time slots to include all the small tasks you need/want to get done throughout the week. Buy a nice pen to go with it.

This is the planner I use.

2. Try to work and live in a place with TONS of light. Stay away from courtyard-facing apartments or rooms with dark paint. Open the window once in a while and let the air circulate.

Bright-Living-Room-Design-Ideas-with-Fascinating-Retro-Furniture-900x595

3. Keep color around you. Make decorating your space a priority and choose decorations painted in a color that is motivating. For me it’s blue, pink or green. This could be a plant, a picture frame, a flower-pot that doubles as a pencil/pen holder, a vase, a lamp, a throw pillow, you get the idea.

Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens

4. Schedule in a five-minute meditative walk in the morning or afternoon. Imagine that those five minutes don’t exist in time and that there are no other tradeoffs for that time. All you can do is just walk for those five minutes, and be present. Use the Breathe app’s guided meditation for walking, if you’re having trouble keeping your mind focused on being present.

Breathe App

5. Keep your body feeling well, hydrated and energized by drinking an herbal tea that you love. At the moment I’m really enjoying Chamomile Citrus by Mighty Leaf, but I also love their African Nectar and any tea with citrus flavors.

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6. Remove clutter. It is distracting and anxiety-producing. Streamline your work space.

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7. Visualize your future. Close your eyes and imagine who you want to be in 5 years. Where are you? What do you look like? How do you feel? Look at pictures of people who are doing what you aspire to. Then write down one thing you can do every day to reach that goal. Put it in your shiny new planner.

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The path forward

What inspires you? Comment below, I’d love to know.

Favorite Craving Buster

Nutritionists say that often when we feel hungry we’re probably just thirsty. Or that we have an oral fixation–wait, that might be what Freudian psychiatrists say…I digress. Really what I’m getting at is: I think I’ve found a way to give in to my need to snack by turning instead to a trusty and tasty beverage-

LaCroix Sparkling Water!

These are just a few of my favorite flavors:

Coconut flavor
Grapefruit
Orange

Runners up include Lime, Passionfruit, and Lemon. I drink them with fun straws for an added layer of awesomeness.

They even make great cocktail mixers! Try the Coconut flavor with rum or the Lime flavor with vodka or gin. Go crazy! Can you tell I can’t wait for summer to be here?🙂

Favorite (Easy) Paleo Recipes of the Moment

I have to be real for a second: there’s no way on Earth that I could ever be a strict Paleo eater. Why?

-I love whiskey. There, I said it. This is reason number one.

-I refuse to be too obsessive about diets. This is especially because of the vast amounts of pseudo-scientific truisms that most diet “experts” live and die by, with scant long-term evidentiary support. Sigh.

-I’m lazy.

That being said, I do believe in the basic tenets of Paleo eating. I try to abide by them (especially cutting out the grains and legumes) as much as possible. This has been a guiding principle in creating my weekly meal plans. I sit there on a Sunday and basically browse the maaaany Paleo blogs out there hoping for some inspiration. I’ve resolved to make at least one new recipe per week, and 3 or 4 tried and true ones that are on my regular rotation. I try to make large batches, too, but my husband has a big appetite so I end up having to cook (or he cooks) most nights.

I came up with a little list of hits that have made it on the regular rotation, or that I really like to treat myself too once in a while. Here goes!

Paleo Pizza Crust from My Heart Beets

My Heart Beets Paleo Pizza Crust

Just top this crust off with your favorite sauce and toppings (I love mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and Parmesano-Reggiano) and HEAVEN! Just one tip: don’t cook the crust with the toppings on it or else you will end up with soggy pizza. First pan-fry and then bake the crust as instructed, then add your sauce and toppings and finish in the oven. Don’t forget to use your cast iron pizza pan!
PaleOMG’s Crockpot Ropa Vieja with Cuban-style Rice

Ropa Vieja from PaleOMG

This is one recipe that actually does make quite a large batch and lasts for a couple of dinners, which I love. It’s savory and satisfying and super simple to make. Chances are you already have many of the ingredients in your pantry to make this.

Food and Wine’s Provencal Lamb Stew with Basil

Photo Credit: Flying Fourchette

I’ve been to Provence and did not have the opportunity to savor their heartier dishes since I visited during the Summer. I imagine they would taste exactly like this. This recipe makes a decent-sized batch and of course just gets more delicious the longer it sits. My mouth waters just writing about it now. Mmmmmmm.
PaleOMG’s Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie

PaleOMG’s Pizza Spaghetti Pie

Do I sense a theme here? Yep. I love PaleOMG’s recipes. And I love Italian food–which sucks on Paleo, but not when you have recipes like this. Absolutely delicious, and makes the spaghetti squash taste a million times better.

The Food Lab’s method for cooking salmon

Photo Credit: The Food Lab

I know this isn’t an actual recipe but cooking salmon this way means that you don’t really need to bother with any sauces or seasonings; the delicious buttery flavor of the salmon itself shines through. And the trick is to not skimp when purchasing the fish- go for the wild caught, fresh Alaskan salmon, nothing frozen or fish-farmed. Serve with a side of salad, cauliflower rice or your favorite subtle side (don’t choose something too salty that will overpower the flavors!) and enjoy.

Wine pairings optional but strongly recommended.

My 10-minute Makeup Daytime Look for the Busy Office Gal

 

I was talking to my friend at a holiday party she hosted (which was adorbs, by the way! She’s the one that came up with the signature drink recipe souvenirs). We were talking about makeup (shocker, I know) and she told me that it was frustrating that after all the money she spent not only on the right makeup at Sephora but also in having purchased a duplicate set for travel, she still could not crack the secret of a quick and dirty, but awesome, makeup routine. I told her part of it was practice: after having done my makeup like a bajillion times, it really all just came second nature to me and I had it down in 10 minutes flat. But, it did occur to me that part of it is just getting the right routine down pat from the outset, eliminating the superfluous items you don’t need, and making one product work for multiple applications.

So that’s when I decided to tackle the task that Amelia challenged me with: create the perfect 10-minute makeup routine for the girl on the go. I’d say this would need to be customized for your own skin needs and level of skill (not much really), but overall this should work for the average woman.

I’m going to break it down into five main steps
1. Primer
2. Eyes/Concealer
3. Mascara and Foundation (Optional)
4. Bronzer/blush/finish
5. Lips

Primer

Add your favorite moisturizer to your skin to ensure sun coverage and to give your makeup something to hang on to so it doesn’t smear or budge throughout the day.

Try not to apply too much on your eyes as it can mess with the eyelid primer, which we will discuss next. You may be wondering, why not combine Primer/Foundation steps together? Truth is, I haven’t been able to find a BB Cream, CC Cream or tinted moisturizer that I’ve been happy with. They mostly looked too cakey or did not help me achieve the flawless, even coverage I wanted.

Eyes/Concealer

Always do eyes first. Except for mascara, which we will discuss separately. You don’t want to apply your foundation and concealer, then when you apply all your eye makeup have that fall onto the sticky, creamy concealer- it’s going to be tough to get that out. So here is my best advice:

    • Prime: Apply primer of your choice all over your lids and under eye area. Apply an even layer and don’t go overboard!
      • Products: Too Faced Shadow Insurance or Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Potion (as I mentioned in my previous post) or any drugstore primer is fine. Nothing fancy here is necessary.
      • Tools: Fingers.
    • Highlight your brow/lids: you can use concealer (see below) here to create a base for your eye shadow. Just apply liberally along the brow area, and very lightly on your lids if you have reddish eyelids (like I do) or other discoloration.
      • Products: your concealer or you can also use the High Brow pencil from Benefit for a more dramatic look.
      • Tools: Fingers or small concealer brush
    • Eye shadow: Since this is a day look, probably for the office, just go with matte shades. If it’s the holidays maybe you can get fancy with a little shimmer, but I usually try to stick to neutral colors that complement my eyes. Everyone’s eyes are complemented by earthy neutrals though, so you can’t go wrong with a palette that includes these (below, I reference shades from the Naked Basics palette, but you can use any basic palette. The brushes I am referring to can be found in the Coastal Scents Smokey Eyes Brush Set, linked below).
        1. Apply a light highlighting color, like Venus in the Naked Basics palette, all over your brow area using a large shadow brush.
        2. With a medium shadow brush, choose a medium colored shade to blend into your crease line, like Naked 2 or Faint.
        3. Use a big fluffy blender blush to blend that all out if you got a little too crazy with the color.
        4. Go over your lid with another light color like W.O.S. to make sure you aren’t getting raccoon-y eyes.
        5. Line the upper lash line with a darker color using an angled liner brush. If Crave is too dark for you, just choose any shade deeper than the one you used on your crease, or you can just skip this step altogether.
        6. Finally, highlight the inner corner of your eye with a light color like Venus using a pencil tipped brush or your finger. You can also use the High Brow pencil from Benefit.
      • Products: An easy palette with some basic neutrals is the Naked Basics palette, and its compact size also makes it great for travel. I also love the Chocolate Bar palette from Too Faced if you are looking for something more playful and with more variety.
      • Tools: If you want a set with some solid brushes that are easy to take on the go, affordable, and effective, go with Coastal Scent’s Smoky Eyes Brush Set.
    • Eyebrows: Use your angled liner to shape and fill as needed, using the color of shadow on your eyeshadow palette that most closely resembles your eyebrow color, but don’t go too dark. Alternatively, you can purchase the Anastasia Brow Powder Duo that best matches your brows.
    • Concealer: I use this primarily in my under eye area, since I tend to have dark circles, but others might not need that much coverage. Choose a concealer that is right for you. My dark circles call for a color correcting concealer, but if you have redness you will need to use a concealer with green undertones to cover problem spots. If you don’t share either of these concerns, you can simply use a highlighting concealer or illuminator, like Dior Skinflash, to accentuate your eyes. If you are concealing, whether under the eyes or blemishes, take a bit ofconcealer, place it in on the back of your hand and dab it around to soften it up a bit, then pat it under your eyes (or the problem area) with your finger and blend. For a look that’s1000xs better, use a damp beauty blender sponge to blend that all in but, on-the-fly, your finger will do.

Mascara/Foundation

  • Mascara: The reason why mascara goes after your concealer is that, while you do risk having the mascara flake off and fall on your concealer, this probably will not happen if 1) you’re careful and 2) you use the little business card I mentioned before, only this time you can cover your under eye area while you applymascara. Mostly importantly, I find that I usually smudge my lower-lashmascara when I applyconcealer after I put mymascara on. So, save this step for last, IMO.
  • Foundation: It’s important to choose a foundation that really gives you even coverage and color correction, but won’t make you lookcakey. This depends heavily on your skin type, of course. Once you’ve found your favorite, place a little on the back if your hand and work it in with a flat buffer brush.
    • Products: L’Oreal True Match. I think this stuff is great, reasonably priced, and works with many skin types.
    • Tools: Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki brush. If you are going to wear liquid foundation, a good brush is necessary for even application.

Bronzer/Blush/Finish

  • Bronzer: take a small face brush and applybronzer from the part of your cheek that lines up with the top of your ear, at an angle down towards the side of your mouth. Bronze from your temples up around your hairline and also lightly around your jaw if you have a sharp jaw.
    • Products: Too Faced Chocolate Soleil
    • Tools: Small contour brush like Sigma’s F05
  • Blush: apply to the apples of cheeks, but not too close to your nose, or else it will look like you over-did it. Powder slightly on nose, chin and forehead.
  • Finish: if you end up with somedewyness and want to set yourconcealer, apply a tiny bit of powder using a highlighting or setting brush.

Lips

Here, I like to keep it simple. I usually am good with just applying chapstick and generally making sure that I have no stray foundation on my lips. However, if you are pale-lipped and are looking for a little punch, Beautypedia has a few suggestions that you might consider checking out, while you make your way out the door looking fabulously polished.

Like I mentioned, a big part of this is also practice, practice. This should be enough to get you on your way. Go forth, and master the art of beauty in a New York minute, young grasshopper.

Sick Days

It’s a rare occasion that I get really sick. Sometimes I’ll feel slightly under the weather, and it only happens about once or twice a year. Well, today I woke up with a mean throat ache and some congestion. Not enough to totally wipe me out, but enough to keep me from attempting a commute in -4 F (-22 F with windchill) weather.

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Chilly view from my balcony.

Instead I chose to stay home with these snuggle bugs:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd eat a hearty breakfast

2 farm eggs, chicken sausage and Paleo bread.
2 farm eggs, chicken sausage and Paleo bread.

There’s no better remedy than eggs and puppy love to nurse me back to health. In spite of the fact that now I have to get up every 4 hours to take Skye out for a potty break. It’s a struggle every time– she hates the cold– and she often ends up going in forbidden places (like the lobby). She’s adjusting to winter here and I totally feel her pain.

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This was taken even before the dip below zero degrees, but still pretty cold.

When I moved to Chicago from L.A. about 5 years ago, I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. I didn’t have a winter jacket and I wore rain boots because I had no snow boots. I was freezing half the time and thought I’d never survive.

Then I learned it’s all about the layers, hats, gloves, scarves and, of course, a decent down jacket.

No need for expensive North Face craziness. Macy’s and other department stores have a respectable assortment of down jackets that will do just fine. I’ve had my Calvin Klein and DKNY jackets since my first winter (I purchased them as soon as I realized what I had gotten myself into). They were about a third of the price of a North Face jacket and are still going strong, and, of course, are suuuuper warm.

My Calvin Klein one kind of looks like this. Since I bought mine so long ago, it’s probably no longer for sale, but there are tons of similar styles.

My boots: the classic Sorel Tofino boots:

Gotta go all out with the shoes, but never forget a good pair of thick wool socks!

Luckily, today I get to sit around in my robe all day and not worry about winter. Until tomorrow.

Meal Planning This Week and Testing out a New App- MealBoard

This week, I tackled the task of optimizing my meal planning strategy. True story– this is what approaching 30 looks like. It’s also a sign of the times that I’m actually not ashamed, heck, even proud! of this project.

I used to use ZipList to plan meals, and then it became so buggy that it was simply unusable. This was incredibly frustrating since I had invested a ton of time uploading all my recipes to my ZipList account and then it lost most mobile functionality. I tried using Menu Planner and didn’t like the interface; same story with Pepper Plate.

It’s unfortunate that Alex and I both have different phones (he has a Windows phone and I have an iPhone), so syncing across platforms was always going to be a tough hurdle for us. Keeping that in mind, and previous negative experiences, I decided I would focus on finding a planning app that contained specific characteristics:

  • Stable platform
  • Easy, drag-and-drop meal functions
  • Easy recipe creating and uploading from the web
  • Pleasing interface (it needs to be pretty!)
  • Intuitive to use
  • Creates a grocery list that I can later transfer to Wunderlist (which is the list app that my husband and I share)

I think I have finally found what I’ve been looking for: meet MealBoard.

It’s $4 at the app store. Not bad, and well worth it in my opinion (so far). Like any meal planning app, you’re going to spend a lot of time uploading your recipes. You won’t, however, spend a lot of time figuring out how it works since it’s super user-friendly.

You can also upload a ton of recipes from the web (including PaleOMG!), making it even easier to get your repertoire of dishes set up. I like that you can easily move meals around from day to day, in case Tuesday rolls around and you decide fish isn’t really what you’re digging anymore or you decided to dine out that night. There’s also a Pantry feature that lets you see what you already have in stock, a categorizing function for your meals (salads, appetizers, seafood, etc) and tons of other shiny bells and whistles.

I must say, thus far, I’m pretty impressed. First on the meal plan: paleo breadSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOm nom nom nom.

Pittsburgh stroll

The day after Christmas Alex and I took a stroll down downtown Pittsburgh. Alex had to exchange a jacket at a local shop, so we decided to make an afternoon of it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPeople were outside enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures. We drove around looking for fun shops but things were mostly closed. Still, we had a great time, although I wouldn’t recommend the new Starbucks Chestnut Praline Latte on the seasonal menu. It was like drinking bread; I didn’t really dig it.