PROMPTuesday #227: Fall Favorites

My guilty pleasure is reading what other people use and love, pretending I can buy everything they recommend, adding it all to my virtual shopping cart, leaving it there, and then suffering through endless reminder emails like, “San Diego Momma! We noticed that everything Sephora sells is still waiting for checkout” and “This is Anthropologie. Are you planning to buy the $500 Aphrodite Parisian poncho that’s been in your cart since September?” Although I cannot truthfully say I haven’t run out to order something that looked great on someone else, put it on, and thought, “Maybe I should have noticed they were a size 2 when I am a size 2 on Mars where there is no gravity.” But still, it’s good to dream. And remember those Tory Burch boots that’ve languished in my Nordstrom fake shopping cart since late 2012.

 

Either way, I’ve decided that I’d make my own “favorites” list because there are some things I truly do love and didn’t copy from someone else and perhaps you’ll want to add them to your own imaginary shopping cart in the sky.

 

Here’s what I’ve used and dug in the last few months:

 

 

Christine Shampoo and Conditioner


About a year ago I decided to ditch all sulfates in my shampoos. My hair is as thin as the day is full of 24 hours and responds poorly to drying, stripping ingredients. In fact, I couldn’t get my hair to grow past my chin without breaking into a million little pieces, and I resigned myself to living with hair that looked like Dolly Parton’s under the wig. Then, I tried an argan oil-based, sulfate-free shampoo and noticed my hair had some life in it after all. It felt moisturized but not heavy and better yet, it grew, which when you have thin hair is akin to saying you just lost 20 pound in your sleep.
About six months ago, I began trying the Christine line of sulfate-free products and my hair literally bounced. BOUNCED. Which if you have thin hair, is akin to saying Anthropologie called and wants to give you all the stuff you fake-placed in your daydream shopping cart. I especially love the Christine conditioner and have found that even if I have to resort to the subpar shampoo I make my kids use, the conditioner erases all its effects and makes my hair still look fluffy in the good way.

 

 

 

 

Illuminare Mattifying (Ultimate All Day) Mineral Foundation

Disclaimer: I’m the sort of person who likes to cover her skin because: oily, adult acne, and uneven tone. In high school, I used this medicine that was flesh-colored and smelled like sulfur and applied it to every square inch of my face, making me look like I had just pulled panty hose over my head. I’ve since moved on, and now use actual foundation instead of benzoyl peroxide as makeup.

 

I love Illuminare because it goes on fluidly, gives great coverage, and keeps me shine-free all day (a feat, I swear). It also is mineral-based, so I don’t break out while using it and it provides natural sunscreen, which is nice because I usually forget to apply actual sunscreen.

 

 

Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go

 

Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go

Last weekend, I decided to maybe go paleo. The problem is, I really dislike meat, but I’m sure I’ll find a workaround. I tend to be quite a healthy eater and love my beans and quinoas and raw soups, but have noticed lately that my system seems to be reacting to something. In fact, the big toe on my right foot is tender and painful, my gastrointestinal track has been uppity and crampy, and I feel nauseas more often than is preferable. My doctor suggested I go off gluten (which I have tried before to no result) because that dietary change could reduce my obvious inflammatory response. (Aside: I’ve tested positive for lupus twice with an ANA test, but further testing has been negative.) On Saturday, I decided to stop with the gluten again and can tell you I noticed an immediate difference – although I know it doesn’t work that quickly – right? Regardless, I’ve felt better and so decided to possibly try the paleo way of eating for 30 days to see if that makes a further difference. I spent a lot of time browsing the cookbook above and found the recipes to be approachable and easy. Most call for less than 10 ingredients and there are plenty of vegetables I can incorporate to throw off the taste of meat. That said, I ate 12 pieces of bacon yesterday, so the meat dislike comes and goes. (The 12 pieces of bacon is not my typical hyperbole and comic exaggeration and can be independently verified by my children who witnessed me baking the entire package and giving them one piece each while I dispatched the rest.)

 

My Crock Pot

I’ve been making several meals a week with my crock pot and it is a lifesaver in the evenings when I’m in no mood to prepare a real dinner after homework battles, practices, and freelancing. I don’t enjoy my crock pot per se and need a new one, but crock pot cooking in general is easier and tastier than traditional cooking for me. Many days, I throw frozen chicken thighs in the crock, pour over a sauce (Cost Plus has some great simmer sauces), and leave it all to cook for hours. Then I cook up some rice (or most often, don’t) and serve it up. I made the below crock pot pea soup last week and even the kids liked it:

 

1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed

 

2 medium carrots, peeled and medium dice

 

2 medium celery stalks, medium dice

 

1/2 medium yellow onion, medium dice

 

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

 

2 fresh Italian parsley sprigs

 

1 bay leaf

 

1 meaty smoked ham bone or 2 ham hocks (about 1 pound)

 

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 quart)

 

2 cups water

 

Kosher salt

 

Freshly ground black pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Arrange the split peas in the slow cooker in an even layer. Arrange the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, and bay leaf over the peas in one even layer. Place the ham bone or hocks on top of the vegetables. (At this point you can remove the insert from the slow cooker, cover, and refrigerate up to 12 hours until ready to continue.)

 

Pour the chicken broth and water into the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the peas are very soft and the meat is falling off the bone, on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours.

 

Remove the ham bone or hocks to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, place the meat back in the soup (discard the skin and bones), and stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.

 

 

Bio K

 

Bio K

When I was feeling especially gastro-intestiney last week, someone recommended I take some Bio K to load my system with probiotics. I did, and after about an hour, my system settled down. This is dairy-based, so won’t be a part of my perhaps-paleo diet, but it did the trick when I needed it. I plan to give this to my kids if they start feeling sick because probiotics strengthen the immune system. (I got it at Sprouts.)

 

Now you! What are you loving? Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

(I was provided with Christine shampoo and conditioner and the paleo cookbook. Please note there are NO affiliate links in this post. This is all stuff I really dig and write about because I like giving you something to dig, too.) 

 

PROMPTuesday #226: The Thank-You List

You may know the “thank-you list” as “giving gratitude” and it is exactly what you think: writing down the people, places, and things you are grateful to have in your life. Gurus (and Oprah) advise that speaking your gratitude to the universe is a powerful exercise that enacts a simple but fundamental shift in thinking from negative to positive, and while I haven’t ever fully committed to a daily list, I’m sure they’re right.

 

So that’s what I want us to do today: write our gratitude on paper. However, I’d love more than a list. I’d like a brief explanation of why you’re thankful for what you’ve committed to paper. I’ll start the prompt:

 

I’m grateful for:

 

1) The journey: I’m constantly traveling in the soul, and it’s not always light and wonder. In fact, I’ve learned some pretty hard lessons about myself and get into some pretty sad places ruminating over them. In the end, I’d rather discover who I am and change the energy-sapping, not-so-good parts then go with the status quo. Right now, I’m in self-assessment mode and it’s been tough, but at least I’m moving forward in stops and starts. I’m thankful for the moving.

 

2) Keeping on trying: This may seem a lot like the journey, but it’s not the road itself, it’s the deciding to stay on it. This applies to a lot of life areas for me, but most recently, I was very upset with my husband because I felt like he was always criticizing or instructing me. I told him that it seems like when I’m “always” in a courtroom, school, or workplace” when he’s around and that I want a marriage, I JUST WANT A MARRIAGE! WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME? (My drama is epic.) Yesterday, I was especially upset so I went upstairs to work and responded in monosyllables when he talked to me. Then, I imagined my single-person condo that I keep behind my brain for marital emergencies. (I’ll never make dinner! I’ll watch Lifetime all night! I won’t have to keep a husband caddy by the front door so he can pile all his bills, glasses, newspaper clippings, workout recovery supplements, and Father’s Day gift minutiae in it!). And finally, I woke up this morning to a gesture of kindness and a note. So it’s those keeping on trying things I appreciate – and need to do more of myself.

 

 

3) Coffee in the morning: Once I was very sad and my brother happened to call right in the middle of a emotional breakdown. He listened patiently and sympathetically, then told me, “You’ll get through this day and then you’ll wake up tomorrow and have your cup of coffee and begin again.” Ever since, my morning cup of coffee has symbolized a new beginning, a chance to change things, a fresh perspective.

 

4) My kids becoming: You know when your children are young? And it feels like energy is constantly going out and you are ever impressing upon them: it’s time to nap, drink this milk, go to bed? There’s so many rules to be established and so much of you goes into setting up a safe border of “be who you want, but don’t do this.” As my kids grow older, they are impressing upon me. They’ve developed personalities, bloomed world observations, and become people. That process teaches parents a lot about themselves and is one of the greatest gifts: watching your children be who they will be regardless of you.

 

5) Music: Hearing another person’s soul in the air is something I’ll never get over.

 

 

Now you! Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

 

Skin Authority Review

If you’re a friend or family member, you know that my search for good skincare products is legend. I’ve really and truly tried almost everything, but find that only a small portion of potions I’ve applied to my face don’t make me break out or manage my skin conditions (i.e. oiliness but dryness, clogged pores, sagging, and general sallowness). I’ve taken to asking for samples for everything I’m hoping will transform my visage, because I know from experience that after one or two applications of anything, I usually wake up with a nose zit or depletion of all hope that my skin will ever be “normal.”

 

My mom had the same issues, and one of my childhood memories is her surveying her skin in the mirror and then covering it inch by inch with foundations and concealers and primers and correctors. I used to search through her bathroom drawers and dream of all the makeup I could have one day – for fun not for function; and certainly not to hide myself. The irony of all this is that I found my mom beautiful. Her imperfect skin didn’t once cross my mind. But you know how it is when you actually OWN the skin: every little problem is magnified beyond all that’s reasonable.

 

All this is to say, my skin haunts me. I remember once going to a plastic surgeon just to hear my options, and him getting really close to my face and saying, “Yes, I see. You’re worried you’ll be talking to someone and they’ll be looking at THIS” as he pointed to my large-pored nose. Years later, I had a chemical peel to get rid of my bothersome skin once and for all, but the results were not as stellar as I’d hoped (because my expectation was that I’d suddenly have someone else’s skin or at least, not my own anymore).

 

Because I’ve written periodically about my skin woes over the year, a few people have reached out to ask me to try their products; and I have, and some really did just fine, and I was happy for a time, but eager to see if something else could transform my complexion like BAM. Perhaps there was something else out there? Something I hadn’t tried and that wouldn’t make me feel bad about my nose?

 

Then, last July, a Skin Authority representative contacted me and offered a treatment at one of its offices using Skin Authority products. I accepted because MAYBE THIS COULD BE THE THING! Also, I was very intrigued by the fact that the products “resurface” and”reprogram” the skin to generate new cells and push them to the surface so your tired old cells have to find somewhere else to live.

 

I went to my appointment with a skip in my walk and oil in my pores. After my makeup was removed, my skin glycolized and assessed, I spent a lot of time speaking with my skin coach. She asked deep questions about everything from my behavior to smoking habits (I don’t! Wine on the other hand…) and from my answers, devised a regimen focused on brightening and improving skin tone. She even handed me some topical vitamin D because I have a diagnosed deficiency, and threw in some dramatic eye lift. She told me to use the products faithfully day and night and to keep at it (a problem I have).

 

That was two months ago.

 

 

I’ve since used my products as instructed MANY DAYS IN A ROW and never once fell asleep without washing my face (a problem I have) or went to school drop-off with last night’s makeup on (another problem). The first several weeks, I noticed some “turbulent” skin with tiny whiteheads and blackheads popping up, and after reaching out to my skin coach was told new cells pushing to the surface and taking a lot of gunk with them – in effect – clearing out my congested skin.

 

I liked the sound of that.

I kept going and began to notice that my skin felt moisturized all the time and not dry around the mouth and nose like is my thing. My skin tone seemed to even out and my cheeks looked plumper (in a good way).

 

THEN when I was getting a pedicure, the nail tech said, “You have pretty skin.” SHE SAID I HAD PRETTY SKIN. Do you know that I’ve never even once heard that from anyone, ever? I couldn’t believe it nor could I accept the compliment gracefully. I kept asking, “Are you talking to me?” and “Are you suffering from drug addiction or eye blindness?” and “That person over there has nice skin. Were you maybe talking to her?”

 

Yet, I had to admit that my skin did indeed look good, plus it felt good. And I’m going to show you, too, but first a few things:

 

Please know that I am currently undergoing a PMS attack of epic proportions. What that means for me is red, inflamed skin and more zits than open letters to Miley Cyrus. What I want you to focus on is the improved tone of my skin because that’s what I’ve noticed most. My skin feels like it’s achieved just the right moisture balance and suppleness level. All my dry patches have disappeared and while I still get oily, it’s not the slick-on-the-forehead kind. Also you may notice that my crow’s feet have softened:

 

 

I’m sorry for the magnified nose and assorted objects springing out of my face, but you see skin perkiness, right?

 

I imagine that whatever is in Skin Authority products indeed regenerated my skin. I’ve done a lot of research on product ingredients and such, but the science always goes over my head, I just know that when something works it works, and when it doesn’t, someone must die. According to its website, Skin Authority products are free of irritants and unnatural crud like dyes, added fragrances, and parabens, but its “technologies” are what really make the difference. Glycolic is in several of the products I have, and that’s a very good thing for sloughing off old cells. Also, the Vitamin C serum must contain virgin blood because it is hands down the best I’ve used as far as brightening and firming go (and do I need to remind you all that I’ve used everything)?

 

(Here’s a photo before PMS stole my glow. See the glow? Also I’m pictured here with my friend Lori. Which reminds me, I really need to ask her if I can perpetuate her image across the Internet…) 

 

I will tell you that the products aren’t inexpensive (at least for me), and the retail price of the kit I used is $379. But it contains a cleanser, hydroquinone treatment, vitamin A cream, the Super C serum, a night revitalizer and sunscreen. I began using the products on July 26, and I’m nowhere near being even halfway through with any of it – except the cleanser. I expect the products will last another two to three months, so amortized over time (like I’m a financial analyst), that’s not a bad investment.

 

There’s plenty more Skin Authority products I’m anxious to try next, like the Deep Detox Ritual Mask, and the Calming Mask for when PMS drags me into its monster cave. I have to say that after searching for so long, I think I may have finally found something that doesn’t clog my pores, treats all my problem areas, and addresses my sagging wrinkles ALL IN ONE.

 

The only thing missing is a “nose diminisher,” but I bet the Skin Authority folks could totally make that happen.

 

(Skin Authority provided me with a Bright Skin Kit, a VitaD Fortified Illuminating Duo, and a Dramatic Eye Lift serum. This entire review is without bias and based on personal experience. The after photo is unretouched (BUT I REALLY WANTED TO TOUCH IT), and all results have been verified by my nail technician.)

 

PROMPTuesday #225: Write a Review

Well there. I gave it all away in the title. But yes, lately I’m obsessed with reviews from real people who’ve used the real things and can tell me whether or not whatever it is turned out to be a good purchase, read, or visit.

 

And for some super clothes coveting fun, read all the Anthropologie reviews.

 

Meanwhile for today, I’d love to read your reviews. What have you read and loved lately? What song makes you sweat (or more likely, swoon)? What have you used and loved?

 

For a few examples, here’s a review of Loving Frank (back from the days when I wrote here regularly), and here’s a review of a workout (loosely), and here’s a review of a “personal device” in video, which really gives you the chance to gaze deeply into my skin folds.

 

Now you! Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments. You do can do your review in video or words or song.

 

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.