Daily Style – Peplum Empire

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IMG_4714 Peplum empire top – Anthropologie, Fishing line pants – Anthropologie, Fringe bag – Nordstrom for $28(!), Shoes – old ShoeMint but similar here & here, Lip color – Beautycounter Lip Sheer in Twig
IMG_4716 You may have caught notice on Instagram that it was my birthday this past Friday, and I entered my last year in my thirties. I whined quite a bit about this turn of events, and proclaimed how old I felt several times throughout the weekend, and it got to the point that my sweet husband very kindly told me to shut up. While I know age is just a number and blah blah blah, and I do in fact feel like life is just really getting started, I also can’t help but notice the subtleties of age creeping in. Too much wine affects my sleep, too late of a night renders me useless the next day, I wake with back aches that need to be worked out with some “morning stretching” and each day more and more gray hairs seem to pop up. When added up, they don’t really mean much, I know this, but they are just reminders that I am of course aging. And even as I type this out, it all sounds so ridiculous, I know. So ridiculous in fact that I’m just going to stop right here and move on.

I may have been busy feeling sorry for myself on Friday, I did however, manage to find some time to partake in a little retail therapy. On Friday morning I woke to the loveliest email from Anthropologie, titled “A gift for you!” My mother and mother in law had both bought me gift certificates, so I carted all three kids down to the mall, shoved some electronic devices in their hands and browsed for as long as they allowed. An hour later, I had scoured the store and tried on about 30 pieces, leaving with these 2 favorites, and a couple more which I’ll share later.

I made sure to try on these pants with several different tops to make ensure they’d work with things I already had in my wardrobe. I did the same for the blouse, pairing it back to boyfriend jeans, shorts and even a wide leather belt. Both looked fabulous and I left there feeling giddy. The blouse will especially be in heavy rotation, as I love a crisp white blouse. This one though feels both dressy and casual at the same time, making it perfect for just about any occasion. Seriously, if you want a great white blouse to add to your wardrobe, this one is PERFECT in all sorts of ways.

I wore this outfit exactly as styled to my birthday dinner Friday night, and got compliments all around. I can’t remember the last time I shopped full price at Anthropologie, usually I only allow myself to scour the sale racks, but it was a fun indulgence considering my birthday discount and gift certificates, and I can’t wait to wear these pieces in many different ways in the year ahead. Here’s to birthday indulgences, and feeling great at any age. The more I say it, the more I’ll believe it ha!
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Food Processor vs Blender, Which One Is Better?

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FTLO-44 The question has been raised  many times on Instagram, as to whether a Vitamix, or some other type of powerful blender like a Blendtec, can truly replace several other gadgets in your kitchen, including a juicer and Cuisinart food processor. With some fussing and straining, you can sorta get the same juice experience with a blender as you can with an actual juicer, but after many attempts, my verdict is that a blender can in no way replace the awesomeness of a food processor. Here’s my verdict on the food processor vs blender conundrum.

I didn’t start religiously using a food processor until very recently, and after my first experience using one I quickly begged the question, “How did I live without one for so long?!” I have a pretty basic Cuisinart and it has proven itself so useful that it secured itself a permanent place on the kitchen counter.

Here are just a few ways I use my Cuisinart food processor on a weekly basis:

  • Shredding a block of cheese for taco night or lasagna (block cheese is cheaper than shredded so I usually skip on the pre-shredded packages unless I’m in a real hurry, and go for the block instead).
  • Slicing potatoes for potato nachos or to make baked sweet potato fries.
  • Shredding raw veggies like beets and carrots for beautiful and colorful, salad bar worthy salads.
  • Chopping up veggies for braises.
  • Chopping up cauliflower to make cauliflower rice.
  • Grinding nuts, nut butters and dates to make everything from cashew cream to macaroon balls.
  • I could go on but I’ll stop now.

slicing-in-the-food-processor The slicing blade makes quick work of slicing veggies into thin slices, not paper thin like a mandolin, but much thinner and more consistent than you’d be able to slicing on your own. shreddiing-in-the-food-processor The shredding disc allows you to shred just about any fruit or veggie, and even cheese. I love raw beet shreds for salad toppings by the way. making-cauliflower-rice-in-the-food-processor And of course the standard chopping blade is what will quickly chop up any number of foods and make quick purees as well.

So you see, I use my food processor a lot. And I’ve gotten so accustomed to using it that I make quick work of the set up and clean up, and usually just throw all the parts in the dishwasher on the top rack for easy clean up. In fact a couple of weeks back when my mom was over to help prep our St. Patrick’s Day dinner, I encouraged her to use the food processor to shred the cabbage, instead of shredding it by hand with the damn cheese grater. She was stubborn and refused, saying it would lead to more clean up. Well, 25 minutes later when she was still shredding cabbage by hand, I pointed out to her that she could have had the cabbage shredded and the processor cleaned up by now. She shot me daggers.

How does this all relate to a blender you ask? Well, one of the main selling points that the charismatic Vitamix dude at Costco sold me on, was that this powerful blender could do the work of several other kitchen appliances, including a food processor. Having never used a food processor before, I naively believed him, and $500 poorer, took my Vitamix home. It wasn’t until I visited a friend and actually got to see a food processor in action, that I realized I had been sold a bill of goods. FTLO-84 FTLO-86

The Vitamix can indeed chop and puree things very well, but it cannot slice or shred. And unless what you’re pureeing is of a somewhat liquid consistency, it does a very inefficient job. You see, a good portion of what you puree, from dips to gooey power balls, gets trapped in the bottom of the Vitamix and is extremely hard to get out from between the blades, especially since the bottom is not removable.  You will find yourself wasting many precious minutes in the kitchen trying to scrape out every last bit while avoiding the sharp blades. FTLO-87

As you can see, you have to wedge your hand in the bottom there and try to scoop out as much as possible from between the blades, but a good amount inevitably gets left behind. This isn’t only annoying and a waste of time, but costly, especially when you’re using high priced ingredients like organic raw cashews. With a food processor, you can easily scrape the bowl clean and get out every precious last crumb.

I love my Vitamix and don’t have a single regret with my purchase. I just wish I would have known that it wasn’t as “all-purpose” as it’s often made out to be. I also wish some cookbooks, including It’s All Good, would stop implying that a “high power blender” can do the job of a food processor just as well. I continually read recipes instruct cooks to make everything from nut butters to dense dips in a blender, when they should really be made in a food processor. For smoothies, pureed soups and even frozen desserts, it does an incredible job, but its longevity stops there. Trying to use it for sticky, gooey, dense jobs in the kitchen will waste your time and leave you frustrated.

Bottom line, if you’re an avid cook, you probably already have a food processor and know the full extent of its usefulness in the kitchen. But if you’re like me and are still fine tuning your home cooking skills and looking to expand your kitchen tools, you may be wondering what you should buy first, or if you can skip the food processor and just buy the fancy blender.

My answer is, you’ll eventually want both, and what comes first is up to you.

If you have a growing family and they all enjoy smoothies on an almost daily basis, by all means go with the Vitamix. You can sneak in an unusually high amount of healthy veggies in a smoothie made in a Vitamix because it blends everything up so well.

If you don’t think you’ll make smoothies more than once or twice a week, but cook almost every day, then go with the food processor.

I hope this helps, and clears up any questions about which appliance is more useful. In our house, they’re both very useful, but they each have their own separate, unique purpose.

 



Daily Style – Scarf Print Maxi

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IMG_4281 Dress – Eliza J via Nordstrom, Wedges – old ShoeMint but similarly cute and affordable pairs here and here, Ruffle Leather Clutch – old St. John

IMG_4291 IMG_4329 IMG_4324 IMG_4277 IMG_4302 I picked up this dress a few weeks back, knowing I’d get a ton of wear out of it over the spring and summer months, and I broke it in for Easter Sunday. It makes a bold statement and moves in the prettiest of ways, especially when you’re standing in a wind tunnel like the photos above. While it may appear to just be another ol’ maxi dress, the defined waist, flowy skirt and cut-in top make it really flattering on as well. While I was originally afraid it may be a lot of fabric for warmer days, I quickly found out yesterday that it breathes really well and in fact, I had to change into something warmer when we got home from church. I love the heck out of this dress and I’ll surely be wearing it quite a bit in the coming months ahead.

Hoping you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, whether you celebrate it or not. We hosted brunch for my family and I shared most of the menu on Instagram, including the cutest strawberry shortcake desserts for the kids, and a grapefruit sage mimosa for the grown ups. Have a good week friends!



Finding Success on Instagram

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Growing-a-successful-Instagram-Account-2 It’s almost the two year anniversary of the inception of Gwyneth Made Me Do It, and it’s strange to think I started the account on a silly whim, never thinking it would grow to what it has become. Sure, at close to 14,000 followers, I’m nowhere near the chart topping success of many other accounts which feature everything from cute dogs to hot workout girls, but for a side project that was mainly tongue in cheek from the very beginning, I’m proud of the success and opportunities I’ve found through it.

But what exactly are the gauges of success for the various forms of social media? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but a few of the notable ways I’ve defined success for myself and the growth of Gwyneth Made Me Do It, are as follows:

  • Engaged and genuine following: for the most part, I can post on almost any particular subject in the scope of food and wellness, and I can expect genuine interaction from those who follow along. I can ask a question, pose an alternate point of view, or even question the relevance of certain issues, and I’m blown away by the great feedback and true sense of community that certain discussions can invoke. Conversely, I sometimes wonder why certain subjects, like baby carrots, can get folks so riled up, but in the end, it’s all good and it’s the most important mark of success I can recite. Also, when the great Instagram rapture occurred a few months back, I lost about 30 followers, whereas some lost thousands, therefore my follows were real and genuine.
  • Employment opportunities: alternately, we can label this category “financial” success, but bottom line, through the early success and growth of GMMDI, I was able to secure steady and consistent work (my Babble column), as well as land a few freelance and sponsored opps. For some, this would be the number 1 gauge of success, but among the hundreds of thousands of IG food accounts, I believe my engaged following is what helped set me apart from the very beginning, eventually leading to some sort of financial success.
  • Positive influence: Many of the changes in my own life have undoubtedly been a result of the upkeep of the account, since in some strange way, it has held me accountable. I often said in that first year of changing our eating habits, if I wasn’t sort of “documenting” it for all to see, I may have reverted into our old ways long, long ago. Alternately, I know through many emails and comments left on the over 2000 posts now, that the account and some of the things I post has helped make a positive change in other people’s lives as well. This is pretty freaking gratifying, and is another priceless measurement of success. IMG_1854

So now that you are familiar with how I define success for myself, let’s talk a bit about how I got here. In the beginning, I had no expectations for this account, and never set out to make it “popular” or even surpass the following of my existing account (which it did in just a couple of months), so I wasn’t too focused on creating the “perfect shot” or pining after followers. I literally just posted our journey and the inevitable ups and downs that came along with overhauling our whole family’s diet. I was brutally honest and humble, and from the get go, it seemed to work. People appreciated my honesty and alternate voice in the all too often perfect world of healthy eating. So let me lay out a few bullet points for you, in no particular order of importance.

  • Be honest, open and humble. While this approach may not work for every niche out there, for instance getting really raw and honest about a pair of jeans just seems silly, but when it comes to food and the incredible importance it plays in our lives and culture, it worked. I posted plenty of recipe fails, but also posted about the genuine successes I experienced, where the family unexpectedly loved a super healthy meal or when I physically felt better shortly after changing my diet. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, so I think our success stories were then more believable. Don’t try to be perfect, don’t attest to knowing it all, and don’t apply a glossy filter to everything, hiding the fails and mess, only to let the perfectness shine through. I think the current catch phrase that’s become sorely overused is, “be authentic.”
  • Have an opinion. Being opinionated on everything gets tiresome for you and the reader, but on key subjects, it’s important to stand for something, or as the saying goes, fall for everything. Speaking your mind and inviting discussion and even criticism, allows your followers to get to know you better, and in turn allows your posts to get some pretty engaging commentary going. While it’s vital that this interaction and engagement be truly genuine, as a positive aside, it’s also worth noting that the more people who interact on your post thread, the more likely your account is to get noticed in the “following” activity section. I always notice a nice bump in followers after I post on an engaging or even controversial topic that elicits a lot of interaction.
  • Do your research and offer your knowledge. There’s a lot of confusing subject matters out there, but none so overwhelming as how to feed your family right. People get bogged down in the conflicting nature of online reporting and the minutia of healthy eating. I know because I was in the same exact boat. Thanks in part to a paying job which allowed me to spend a bit more time on the subject, I did a lot of research from the very beginning, and then regurgitated my findings to my followers, something many appreciated a lot, a lot 😉 I never claimed to be an expert and in many areas I’m still a novice and would never feel comfortable guiding people down a certain path, but in many, many areas of health and nutrition, the information is out there for the taking and is relatively easy to understand, if you just take the time to dig around. My followers appreciated that in many areas, I had done the leg work for them.
  • Be a voice of reason, not of extremism. There are a lot of bloggers and Instagrammers out there that will freak you the hell out and make you scared to eat just about everything you haven’t grown, harvested and made yourself. Fortunately for my family, I’m not one of those people. Again, it’s been one of the things most noted that my followers appreciate about my account.
  • Keep it fresh and always try new things. My account would get pretty stale if I always made the same 5 meals week after week, so in order to keep it fresh and engaging, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and techniques to try, new avenues to explore.
  • Post genuine product feedback. You want your audience to trust you, so with that in mind, be careful and considerate when posting product reviews. Be upfront when the post is sponsored or if you were gifted it so the readers know the distinction, and only post products you either purchase yourself and truly love, or would use regardless of receiving it for free. Trust is key here.
  • Be consistent about something so you can be known for something. Yes, my account is a food account, but in the last few months one new addition that has helped my audience grow, is my daily lunch posts. Now, when other people ask for kid’s lunch ideas or accounts to follow for healthy school lunches, my account is often referred. Pick one or two things that set may set you apart in a sea of millions of users.
  • Offer something of value. Whether it be quick and easy recipes or mini DIY tutorials or tips on styling your hair or great beauty products, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with your followers right there on your account. If you are a blogger or sell a product, the end goal is to get people to your site or blog, but by offering valuable information right there on IG, you create a reason and almost a need for followers to keep on following, and for new followers to find you, especially when you give followers a reason to tag you on posts. Of course you don’t want to only post your best content directly on IG, you still want to give them a reason to come to your site, but offering tidbits of info in the convenient form of IG, you keep followers engaged and attract new ones.
  • But what about pictures??? Yes, beautiful pictures are a definite plus, but realize that they aren’t everything. Don’t be afraid to post an ugly picture every now and then if it tells an important story or is an important piece of your journey. But overall, you do want to focus on posting decent looking pictures, the prettier the better. But this isn’t really a post about how to take and style the perfect Instagram (because I’m far from the expert IG’er),  rather a study in the many other factors that play into Instagram success that allow your pictures, pretty or not, to stand out among the rest.
  • Get familiar with and use hashtags, but don’t live and breathe by them. At least 70% of the time I don’t post a grouping of keyword hashtags in my pictures, and it’s something I could definitely improve on, yet I’ve still experienced a modicum of success despite my laziness. With that being said though, they do help so post them as often as you can, or as often as you remember to.
  • Timing and frequency matter. I notice the most engagement when I post in the evening, as folks are winding down and scrolling through their phone. I’ve never gotten too caught up in collecting likes, but if that sort of thing is important to you, then late afternoons and evenings are prime time for IG, just like Facebook. Weekend are hit and miss for me, but Saturday mornings always do pretty well. And whether you track number of likes or not, it is important to note that timing and likes is an indication of how many active eyes you have on your posts, and the more active eyes you have, the better chance those eyes will transfer to your blog post or website. Frequency is important too, and I try to not post more than 3-4 times throughout the day, unless I’m at a really key event that I know my followers are interested in, or I have something really important to share.

So that’s about all I have to say on the matter of Instagram. Again, I’m not claiming to be some outrageously huge IG success, but I think I’ve done pretty well considering the account was a complete departure from what I had been writing about for years (DIY and personal style). While some of my bits of advice were specific to food writing, I hope much of the information is practical enough it can crossover and be meaningful in a wide range of niches. Please let me know if you have any questions! Peace out and happy gramming!

 



Daily Style – Light Spring Layers

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IMG_4165 Jacket – Trouve via Nordstrom; Camisole – Nordstrom; Dark Wash Skinnies – Paige Denim; Shoes – ShoeMint (old); Clutch – St. John (old)

I picked up this lightweight layering jacket before I headed to Expo West, with the intent of wearing it to interview Tyler Florence at Expo West. At the last minute though, I changed into this vest combo with the best tank ever, knowing from experience that the convention center gets HOT with 50,000+ people inside, so I didn’t want to have to worry about messing up this jacket by lugging it around in my bag all day. The vest look worked out great and I felt perfectly dressed for the weather and the occasion. But I couldn’t let go of this little jacket, loving the color, lightweight feel of it, and of course the asymmetrical detail. IMG_4163  I originally went in with the intent of trying on this oversized moto jacket, but when the salesgirl showed me this option, I loved it much more because it was cheaper and it just fit better. You can zip it up and the lines get straight and even, but I’m loving the diagonal look lately, as last seen here and here. IMG_4185

IMG_4186  It works great to a lightweight cami, but I’ve also worn it over a simple shift dress to go to church, although the kids said I looked like I was very professional that way. Definitely not a bad thing, making this a great option for work wear because of its versatility.

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And I’m still loving my Paige jeans. I hadn’t really invested in a new pair of higher end denim since well before Hayden was born, wanting to wait till I was steady at my post-baby body. Feeling good and happy about where I’m out, so I decided now was the time to invest in a pair that would stand up to multiple wears and washings. I love my LOFT jeans, but I wanted a really dark rich rinse, and I also wanted a quality pair that wouldn’t bag and stretch out after just a couple of wears. So far these are fitting the bill perfectly and I’ve been wearing them a ton of different ways. I think it may be time to update one of my most popular posts and do a new review on Skinny Jeans for Women?

Happy Monday all, and hoping your weekend was wonderful!

 



Leek, White Bean & Tuna Spring Salad

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leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad7 We have Taylor to thank for this salad. Last week when she made this dinner, she added it to the menu at the last minute and it may have been my favorite part of the whole meal, I loved it so much I practically licked the bowl clean. The original recipe is from The Silver Spoon for Children cookbook, and I adapted it just a bit because the only thing lacking in this salad were some salty kalamata olives, which I remedied with this version.
leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad2 What I love most about this cookbook is the use of simple yet ingenious techniques that children can fully complete, which yield great results. Case in point being the way the dressing comes together; by rubbing the salad bowl in garlic, then adding the olive oil to the bottom along with the pine nuts, and then adding all other ingredients on top. So simple, yet something I had never thought of.  leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad4 Another great technique they have the kids use is for de-seeding tomatoes. Simple cut in half and scoop out with a teaspoon. I’ve been using that great little tip everyday since learning it; and to think I’ve taken several fancy cooking classes and never once learned to de-seed a tomato that way.
leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad5 Raw leeks may seem like an odd addition for a child friendly salad, but I can assure you they’re on the super mild side, and are much less pungent than standard onions, and even small green onions. They really add an unexpected hint of sweetness. leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad9 Once all your ingredients are placed in the bowl, you simply squeeze your lemon juice on top, and then toss to combine. Believe it or not, but you definitely get a hint of garlic. leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad The leeks add the prettiest bit of interest to the plate when tossed and separated all about, almost like teeny tiny onion rings. And the tuna is an easy and affordable way to add in protein, allowing this salad main dish status when eating in its entirety, or serves as a satisfying appetizer when divided into smaller portions.   leek-white-bean-and-tuna-spring-salad8 I couldn’t think of a tastier way to welcome the arrival of Spring, and the wonderful bounty we have to look forward to in the coming months. Enjoy, and as always, please let me know if you give this a try. Print out the recipe below.

Leek, White Bean & Tuna Spring Salad
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A refreshing yet satisfying salad to welcome in Spring. Adapted from The Silver Spoon for Children cookbook
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Serves: 1-2
Ingredients
  • 1 small head of baby lettuce like bib or green leaf, shredded
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced white part only
  • 1 can of tuna packed in water, drained and broken in chunks
  • 1 Roma tomato de-seeded and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup cannelini beans or great northern beans
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of ½-1 lemon, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rub garlic all along sides and bottom of salad bowl.
  2. Pour olive oil and pine nuts in bottom of salad bowl and toss to combine
  3. Place all other ingredients in the salad bowl, and squeeze lemon juice on top, and toss to combine.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

 



Daily Style – Vested Interest

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IMG_0624 Vest – Halogen from Nordstrom; Tank – Free People from Nordstrom; Jeans – Paige Denim; Booties – Sole Society; Clutch – DIY by me

I’ve loved the look of vests ever since I was in junior high and Molly Ringwald wore one in half the scenes of Pretty In Pink. I had a whole collection of them back then, most of them oversized menswear vests I thrifted from the local Salvation Army. Now, only a couple of basic vests in pinstripe and black linen hang in my closet, so I was thrilled to find this updated longer basic black vest to add to my collection.

The longer length and simple lapel collar make it a classic that will remain in style, even when vests themselves seem to go in and out of fashion. The fabric is dark and rich, and works well back to a simple pair of black denim. While it would look good back to a simple collared blouse for office wear, I love it as is with the tank, or also a simple white tee.  IMG_0617

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You probably recognize the tank as the one I’ve been going on and on about. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve worn it almost nonstop for the past two weeks. Nordstrom also had it on sale for 20% off this past weekend, so I picked it up in army green and black. That’s me giving you fare warning that you’ll be seeing a lot more of this tank in the upcoming months.

It does have a slight racerback, so I don’t like wearing it with a regular bra with wider straps. Worn with a thin strapped bralette though, and it looks fine and the stripes don’t bother me. But that racerback, along with the cut in arms and high neck are what make it so flattering, especially in the arm and shoulder area. And the trapeze style which flares at the waist also makes it a lot more forging in the midsection area. With a permanent mom pooch, I always hate super tight tanks that just accentuate that area, so this one is perfect in that it just floats right over the tummy.   IMG_0656

IMG_0678 Hoping you all had a wonderful weekend and are gearing up for a good week ahead. This is our  last week of school before our 2 week spring break, and we all can’t wait! Have a great week all. XO

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Week In Review – Must Have Tank & Weekly Meal Plan

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2A6A1177-copy                                               photo credit Wildflowers Blog

It’s been a good and busy week around here, and between a Jason Mraz concert, a trip to see Cinderella at the El Capitan theater, and two St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in a row, I’m pooped. The good news though is my Calm PRT and TravaCor supplement routine each night has been helping me sleep better than I have in awhile, and my new coffee shop writing routine is helping me be the most productive I’ve been in quite some time. So I may be tired, but I have some solid work and a few good times with family and friends to show for it, so I’ll take it.

We’re looking forward to our school’s fundraiser night, where the theme is diamonds and denim. I think I much preferred last year’s 80’s theme, and think I’ll skip on the cowboy boots. What are you all up to this weekend? How was your week? I hope it was good, and if not, I hope it looks up just in time for the weekend. Have a good one y’all, and I’ll leave you with some good little morsels of this and that.

Current Obsessions:

Trust me, this Free People Long Beach tank is the tank you’ll want to wear all day everyday, and for $20, you can pick it up in a few different colors. IMG_1790

We went on a double date with my friend Mary and her husband, and she was carrying the most adorable fringe crossbody purse from Nordstrom. Turns out it’s another winner from the Brass Plum department and although currently sold out at my local store and online, it’s coming back in stock the first week of April, so place an order and soon you’ll be the owner of this stupendously cute $28 purse.

Hey oh Kate Spade Saturday is really getting down to brass tacks and everything is now 50% off (and final sale). There’s still some letters of the alphabet left in that cute initial sweatshirt.

Currently In the Kitchen:

I made my own gummies yesterday and I can’t get over how dang easy they were to make! I ordered the Great Lakes Unflavored Beef Gelatin (buy the red, not the green, as the green doesn’t gel up), and it arrived in the mail Thursday afternoon at about 3:30. By 4 pm I had already made a batch of perfectly gelled up heart shaped orange gummies. The recipe couldn’t be easier: 10 tbsp citrus juice of some kind – orange, lemon, grapefruit + 3 tbsp honey + 3 tbsp Great Lakes gelatin. Whisk together in a small sauce pan on low heat until combined. Pour into molds and freeze for 15 minutes. Remove from the molds and enjoy. Store in an airtight container/bag in the fridge. Taylor and I were already discussing future flavor combinations and I’m planning on buying all of the cute molds on Amazon, including this Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Mold set.homemade-gummies (buy the red, not the green, as the green doesn’t gel up), and it arrived in the mail Thursday afternoon at about 3:30. By 4 pm I had already made a batch of perfectly gelled up heart shaped orange gummies. The recipe couldn’t be easier: 10 tbsp citrus juice of some kind – orange, lemon, grapefruit + 3 tbsp honey + 3 tbsp Great Lakes gelatin. Whisk together in a small sauce pan on low heat until combined. Pour into molds and freeze for 15 minutes. Remove from the molds and enjoy. Store in an airtight container/bag in the fridge. Taylor and I were already discussing future flavor combinations and I’m planning on buying all of the cute molds on Amazon, including this Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Mold set.

After all that gummy making we’ll surely do this weekend, I’m thinking this grapefruit sage mimosa will be a nice way to unwind.

Current Good Reads:

Diet doesn’t cure disease, and it’s irresponsible to say otherwise. All the yeses. Diet can help manage disease, but it does not cure terminal diseases like cancer or autoimmune diseases like T1 diabetes. Essential oils don’t cure diseases either, but surely you’ve gotta know that someone suggested to my friend Sara that she may want to consider using some to help cure her son of T1D. SMH.

I have to admit I have become freakishly transfixed by this crazy mess that is Belle Gibson, and my only consolation for not feeling like a complete moron for buying into her bullshit lies (I purchased the app, said a prayer for her when she was diagnosed with multiple cancers), is that without question, the geniuses at Apple did too. How the hell did this happen though? Is it because she was young and pretty? This piece brings up some good points, and as an aside, doesn’t even touch on the whole “lying about charitable donations” part of the story too, which is almost as disturbing as “lying about having cancer.”

Annoyed with the recent changes in your Pinterest feed and all the “picked for you” pins automatically populating your feed? Here’s a great article from Cool Mom Picks with tips on how to fix your feed.

Do you have any of these 12 Empowering Children’s Books on your little girls bookshelf?

Speaking of good kids books, the reviews on Wonder are off the charts. Any of your children read it yet?

Finally finished All the Light We Cannot See and I give it a 4 stars. Did you read it?

Oh! I finally joined goodreads and I’m still figuring out how it all works. Any suggestions on navigating that place and my email subscriptions? So far I’ve made friends with a few contacts I didn’t know I had on my contact list and I got a weird email that said some strange liked my friendship??? What is that all about?!?

FTLO-7 Our meal plan for the week looked something like this:

Monday: Homemade corned beef & traditional colecannon, an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Recipe for corned beef is from America’s Test Kitchen. 

Tuesday: Baked potato bar with lots of good fixings including leftover corned beef, turkey bacon, steamed broccoli, sauteed mushrooms and cabbage, chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream and sauerkraut, plus a simple garden salad. 

Wednesday: Leftover baked potatoes, steamed broccoli on the side and Aidell’s chicken apple sausages.

Thursday: Meatloaf, leftover colecannon and steamed green beans. Basic meatloaf recipe from the Joy of Cooking.

Friday: Seafood kabobs with cod & shrimp, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, $1 oysters from Whole Foods and some simple steamed rice. Seafood kabob recipe via The Silver Spoon for Children, although no real recipe required, just slide on the seafood & veggies, brush with olive oil, lemon & salt and pepper, and grill up.

Saturday: Order in pizza or Chinese food for the kids; it’s our school’s fundraiser

Sunday: Chicken risotto with kale & mushrooms, plus a simple garden salad. Recipe is from Tyler Florence’s Start Fresh

For lunch, I of course ate this salad about three times over. 

You can see what the kids ate for lunch each day by following the #GMMDILunches tag on Instagram, and of course by following me on Instagram.

 

 



Moroccan Chicken Salad

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Loaded-Moroccan-Chicken-Salad California Pizza Kitchen is hands down, Syd’s favorite place to eat. The kid would be content to eat their mac n cheese every single day for the rest of his life. Or at least until his taste buds evolve a bit. My point being, whenever there’s a special occasion to celebrate and we leave the option up to Syd, we eat at CPK. Their food isn’t anything remarkable, but we all leave feeling full and happy because the kids love the food and we love how close it is to our house, and that the volume in there is always loud enough to mask our noisy kids. Their gluten free menu is decent, and I flip flop between ordering a certified gluten free pizza, and this Moroccan chicken salad. I love this salad so much that I had to recreate it myself at home, and I’m quite pleased to say my version is even better than the one they serve, thanks to a yummy garam masala blend coating the chicken, and a flavor packed dressing.
morroccan-chicken-salad3 Let’s be completely honest here, anyone else find salads to be a complete pain in the arse to put together? Sort of like sandwiches too, they seem to taste so much better when someone else is making them, but I promise that your return on investment here is plentiful. To make things a bit easier, I roasted the beets and butternut squash as well as the chicken all together on the same big roasting sheet, and while those things were roasting, I prepped the rest of my ingredients.
morroccan-chicken-salad2 You’ll want to roast 1 very large beet, 1 smaller butternut squash, and 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts. This will allow you to make a very large salad that will easily serve two as a main dish. My mom and I ate this for lunch the day I made it to shoot, but if you’re flying solo, go ahead and cut the quantities in half. If you don’t add all the dressing though, there’s no reason you can’t pack away the leftovers and enjoy this 2 days in a row. morroccan-chicken-salad-ingredients So that your beets don’t color the squash and chicken, keep all three items separated on the sheet pan, which should be no problem if you’re using a large pan. Because you roast the veggies at 400 for a good 30 minutes, but you don’t want to cook the chicken that high for that long for risk of drying it out, I went ahead and cooked the veggies solo at 400 for 20 minutes, then added the chicken breasts and continued cooking for another 10 minutes until the veggies were done. At that point I took out the veggies, lowered the heat to 350 and cooked the chicken for another 10-15 minutes or so. As I type this out, it seems rather complicated but I swear it was easy in the moment. If you don’t want to keep track of pulling things in and out of the oven or adjusting oven temps, say to hell with my method and just cook the veggies and chicken separately. By the way, one of the best parts of this salad is the flavorful chicken, which I achieved by rubbing the breasts in some olive oil, a store bought garam masala blend, and to add more flavor and color, 1/4 tsp of turmeric. You can find premade garam masala at most grocery stores, or if you have a well-stocked spice rack, you can make your own blend. You can of course leave your breasts plain, but why would you want to?

There are so many beautiful and delicious fixings in this salad that you may be wondering if they’re all completely necessary. I’d say of course not and would let you off the hook if you’re missing a thing or two, but I will assert that besides the essential chicken, beets and squash, you won’t want to skimp on the almonds for some crunch (use standard almonds if you can’t find Marcona), and the dates for some sweetness. The addition of the craisins, carrots and maybe even the egg aren’t completely crucial, but of course each adds their own depth of flavor. Being from California and all, I’d have to say that the creaminess from the avocado is also non-negotiable.  moroccan-chicken-salad You’ll find that your salad may become quite beet and squash heavy if you add the whole thing, so just go ahead and add about a cup of each and reserve leftovers for another day and another use, you should have no problem making good use of both. If all else fails and you’re feeling lazy the next day after throwing together this monumental salad, just pop them in your mouth one by one and consider that your lunch. However, if you have feta or goat cheese on hand, combine the leftover veggies with a bit of cheese and maybe even some simple spinach leaves and you have a more dignified lunch.

You may recognize the dressing from the Harvest Carrot Quinoa Salad of last year, and comes together quite quickly and easily. You won’t have any leftovers of the dressing, so I suggest making a double batch and storing it in an airtight container in your fridge, it’s that good and wonderful to have on hand always. This particular dressing by the way really elevates the flavor of the salad and is one of the main reasons why this version is better than the restaurant version. morroccan-chicken-salad1 Once you’ve peeled and chopped and sliced and roasted all your ingredients, you’re finally able to put them all together and enjoy the fruits of your labor. I promise this salad is worth the extra effort and it will quickly become a favorite I’m sure. Find the printable recipe below, and of course please let me know if you make this lovely dish and how you liked it.

Moroccan Chicken Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This satisfying main dish salad is loaded with flavor, texture, nutrients and plenty of protein.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish Salad
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce or romaine hearts, chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, roasted
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • 1 large beet, peeled, cubed and roasted
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • ¼ cup Marcona or plain almonds
  • ¼ cup dates, chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 6 tbsp divided in thirds olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp each coriander and cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala blend
  • ¼ tsp powdered turmeric
Instructions
  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 400 and preparing your squash and beets to roast by tossing them each separately in 2 tbsp of olive oil and a tsp of maple syrup. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on a roasting or sheet pan, and roast for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Lower heat of oven to 350 and season your chicken breasts in 2 tbsp of olive oil, the garam masala and turmeric. Toss to coat and place on a sheet pan and cook for 20-30 minutes. Cut in slices when cool enough to handle.
  3. See note in post if you'd like to cook your chicken with your vegetables.
  4. As your veggies and chicken cook, prepare the rest of your ingredients by slicing egg, chopping up dates, cubing the avocado and shredding the carrots.
  5. To make dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and cumin & coriander.
  6. Assemble salad ingredients and toss in dressing to coat. Serve immediately and chow down!

 



My Revamped Safe & Carefree Makeup Collection

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safe-and-carefree-makeup-collection                                               acrylic countertop makeup tray by Caboodle

I’ve been slowly working on revamping my makeup collection for the last year, and after making a few more purchases in the last few weeks, I’ve finally arrived at an assortment I feel good about. To be clear and transparent, this is an assortment of products that I feel good about, and while some may not view them all as safe or clean enough, I am really proud of the progress I’ve made in this department. I am always striving for progress, not perfection, and so in a year this assortment may look a bit or a lot different, but for now this is where I am, and I love each and every one of these products.

After revamping what I put in my body with a food overhaul, an overhaul of what I put on my body was a natural progression. While I at first didn’t give it much thought, when I eventually began looking into the cosmetics industry and the ingredient listing of the many products I was using on a daily basis, I was more than a bit disappointed. Here’s a few key takeaways in case you’re wondering why you may want to revamp some or all of your own routine, to products which contain no harmful ingredients.

  • The United States has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients in personal care products since 1938.
  • The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) includes 112 pages of standards for food and drugs, but just a single page for cosmetics.
  • Of the 10,000+ ingredients used in personal care products, only about 10% of them have safety data.
  • In the absence of government authority, the safety of personal care product ingredients is evaluated through a voluntary industry program known as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review process. Not only is this program run by the very industry it is intended to oversee, but compliance with CIR recommendations is totally voluntary.
  • Many ingredients commonly used in personal care products have been found to be carcinogenic, cause reproductive issues, and skin irritations. To see a list of the most commonly used ingredients to avoid, view this list of Chemicals of Concern, or print out Beautycounter’s “The Never List.”

Now enough with the bad news, let’s get into the fun stuff. Note that in determining the safety of each of these products, I referred to both the Environmental Working Group’s site Skin Deep as well as Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Think Dirty App. Because I found conflicting ratings for some products, I’m not going to include ratings for each item, but in general my max threshold rating is a 4 for Skin Deep, and a 5 for Think Dirty. All of these products rate somewhere between 1-4 or 5. If the product was not found on either site, I referred to the ingredients and cross referenced to the never list, so none of these contain the big bad ingredients that commonly make headlines; parabens, phthalates, resorcinol, mineral oil, BHA/BHT, etc. Phew, all that to say, I think I’ve done the best I can with my limited knowledge and resources. I will never claim to be an expert “green chemist” so pardon any mistakes, and as always I encourage you to do your own research and proceed in a way you feel most comfortable.

safe-&-carefree-beauty-products3 Face:
Beautycounter Tint Skin Linen – I replaced my Shiseido BB cream for this product and don’t have a single regret. The best sort of tinted moisturizer I’ve ever used, although they don’t necessarily call it a tinted moisturizer, I love that I can apply a single coat for fresh and light coverage, or can add a second application for coverage you’d expect from a foundation. I know it doesn’t have SPF in it, but since I already use a daily SPF moisturizer, I’m not concerned.

Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer (I also used the Tarte Colored Clay CC Undereye Corrector and liked that as well) – I can’t really say I have a favorite between Tarte’s concealer or corrector, and really just tried out this concealer because they were out of the other product. Great coverage without being drying or cakey.

Tarte Clean Slate Smoothing Primer – full disclosure here, I got this as a gift with purchase and so far I like it a lot, although since I try to keep my routine as simple as possible these days, not sure I’ll continue using it after this full sized sample runs out. Great product however, if you do find the need for an all over primer under your foundation.

Beautycounter Retractable Complexion Coverage Brush & Flat Complexion Brush  – I’m going to go ahead and embarrass myself by saying that this little round complexion brush is the bomb! It applies the Tint Skin evenly and quickly since it’s so large, and the flat brush is great for applying a second layer to achieve full foundation coverage. Having used a flat brush for years, I’d say right now I’m preferring the big round brush, but both are fantastic.
safe-&-carefree-beauty-products4 Cheeks:
Beautycounter Color Sweep Blush Duo in Tawny/Whisper – A nice color duo for the coming spring and summer months, I use the darker bronze color to contour my cheeks and jaw line, and apply the lighter rose color on my cheeks. I do love the Bloom/Tulip color duo as well though and think I’ll eventually add that for some variety.

Beautycounter Angled Brush & Powder Brush – I use the angle brush for contouring and the powder brush for all over color. If you’re in need of new brushes, may as well buy the set. You can’t go wrong, these brushes are top notch. safe-&-carefree-beauty-products-5
Eyes:
Tarte Volumizing Brow Powder – after years of using eyeshadow to fill in my brows, I finally purchased actual brow powder and not a day goes by that I haven’t used this stuff and loved my brows because of it. Goes on easily, but even better, blends in so it looks completely natural and flawless.

Beautycounter Color Shade Eye Duos in Oyster/Amethyst and Pearl/Champagne – great basic colors, I apply the pearl/champagne all over my lid, and then the amethyst in the crease, and the oyster pink on my inner lid. Love how fresh and natural my eyes look with these colors.

Tarte Gifted Smart Mascara – I’ve been using Tarte’s Lights Camera Lashes for the past 4 months or so, and when I recently ran out I decided to give the Gifted tube a try. I love both equally as much, only discerning factor, if it’s important to you, is Gifted rates a notch better in safety, than Lights Camera Lashes.

Tarte SmolderEYES Waterproof Liner in Moonstone Brown – I have to say I haven’t found a liner I love as much as my old Lancome standby, but this will do alright for now. Goes on really creamy and blends well, only problem is it’s so soft that the sharpener never makes a fine edge, so I never get a thin and defined line. Great for a thicker, and/or smudgier eye though.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Eden – just can’t give this stuff up, I tried to switch brands but ended up returning both products and went back to this. Rates a 4 on Skin Deep and Urban Decay is strongly committed to being cruelty free, so why bother switching? Just because a company doesn’t overtly advertise or claim to be “natural” or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Something to keep in mind.

Beautycounter All Over Eye Brush & Crease Eye Brush – great brushes for all over and crease application.

MAC contour shadow brush (very old) – I’ve had this brush for about 15 years, I don’t think they even sell it anymore, but it is the best for heavy color application in the crease, and so I will hold onto it forever.

Anastasia Dual Eyebrow Brush – this brush, along with the brow powder, is one hell of a dynamic duo. Apply with the angle side, and blend with the round bristly side, this brush is all sorts of amazing. Love, love, love it!

safe-&-carefree-beauty-products It Cosmetics Naturally Pretty Eye Palette – there is very limited information on It Cosmetics, but they are cruelty free and the ingredient listing read okay, nothing on the never list, so I went with this beautiful assortment of colors and can’t rave about it enough. The pearl color in the lower right corner gives any of the matte colors a pearlescent sheen. By the way, I technically didn’t get rid of my NAKED palette picutred above, as it rates okay on Skin Deep and like I said, Urban Decay is crueltry free. I just needed a break from the shimmery tonal colors, after using that palette for over 2 years straight. It was time to give it a break, and so it sits in my cupboard for the time being.   safe-&-carefree-beauty-products-2
Lips:
The Honest Company Organic Lip Balm in lavender mint – this lip balm is creamy and totally moisturizing, and tastes good too.

Beautycounter Lip Shine – this is a great lip gloss on its own, or to apply over the lip sheers to enhance and deepen the colors.

Beautycounter Lip Sheers in Plum, Twig & Scarlet – it was hard to choose just a few to start with, but these colors are a great assortment, with Twig being a perfect minimal daytime color, and Plum and Scarlet being a bit more intense and bold.

Beautycounter Lip Conditioner in Peppermint – I love how thinly this goes on, but still provides ample moisture. I put this on my lips under the lip sheers to achieve a more sheer color tone. Also great on its own of course.

Tarte lipcolors from left to right – Plummy Rose, Blushing Bride, Warm Golden Pink, Lively & Fiery – these all have a bit of a different texture, something you may find great or confusing about Tarte’s lip color assortment in general. Plummy Rose goes on super creamy, the gloss is of course a gloss, and the Warm Golden Pink is also very creamy. Lively and Fiery are from their matte collection, therefore go on with a lot of saturation and almost stain the lip, so very long lasting. May at times feel drying though.

Tarte Universal Lip Liner – a great liner for a wide range of colors, the only one it hasn’t worked with so far is my Scarlet lip sheer.

Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons in Hawaiian Smolder & Carolina Coast – most likely because these crayons are still so new, they weren’t found in either of the databases, But since most of their lip colors rate fairly well and safe, I’m taking a leap of faith that these will too when they’re eventually rated.

You probably noticed that the vast majority of the selection is Tarte and Beautycounter. This is sort of on accident, but also on purpose. I didn’t set out to solely use these two brands, it just sort of happened that way after using multiple products. I love that Tarte is so widely available, from Amazon to Sephora to Ulta, which is within walking distance to my house. And after hearing so many good things about Beautycounter over the last year, I decided to finally give them a try. After all I love their advocacy mission and the fact that they’ve taken the legwork out of finding safe products thanks to their strict ingredient safety standards. In the short 4 weeks since I began using their products, I’ve quickly become hooked to many of them (FYI, their shampoo and conditioner are INCREDIBLE!). I’m always open to trying other brands both small and large, so don’t be surprised as my assortment will eventually evolve I’m sure. This is pretty much a minimalist assortment for me after all.

And if you’re concerned about ordering cosmetics sight unseen online from Beautycounter, don’t fret because they have a 30 day no questions asked return policy, so you can try out a product and easily return it if you don’t love it. So far I’ve only had to return the Tint Skin in a wrong color. If you think you may want to try a few of their products, I suggest becoming a member of the Beautycounter Band of Beauty – you pay a $25 annual fee, $10 of which is allocated to one of their nonprofits. In return you receive $25 in reward money for every $300 purchase, free shipping on orders over $100, and special pricing on one of their most popular packages. Or you can join as a consultant, which is what I did. The cost is $85 and you get a discount on all products, and the ability to sell your favorite products to friends and family. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go with the “socials” concept, but I do love the added perks. Let me know if you have questions about either program.

Okay, I think I’ve covered everything! Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I’ll soon be covering my updated skin and beauty routine as well, so stay tuned.