Sunday, February 27, 2011

For Budget-Minded Beauties

I'm not a label whore.  I don't put a lot of emphasis on what name my clothes carry; it's not mine, so it doesn't really matter.  I feel that beauty is more about what makes YOU comfortable and classy; not what you spend or what label it is.  Much of what others see isn't your clothing, it's your confidence.  So own your look, regardless of where you bought it!

That said, I'd like to share some of the bargain sites I frequent:

Variety of Items

This site requires membership, but it's free!  Once you're a member, you have access to rotating sales for various brand name clothing, shoes, cosmetics, jewelry, home decor, etc.  The sales are usually 50-80% off the retail prices.  The only con is that shipping can take weeks.  Don't expect to receive your purchases quickly as with other online shopping. 

Examples of my purchases:
  • Lorac Eyeshadows
  • Urban Decay Lip Gloss
  • NYX Cosmetics
  • Body Shop Shopping Pass (worth $50; paid $29)
  • 4-in-1 Serving Tray (fruit tray/punch bowl/pie plate/lid)
The name says it all - everything on this site is $15!  I have found numerous cute tops, pants, sweaters, etc.  I usually go to this site more for clothes.  I've made few shoe or accessory purchases.  Another plus - free shipping when you spend $100.

Urban Original
This is a site I go to for affordable AND adorable shoes; from pumps to knee-highs to booties to thigh-highs.  They also have clothes, accessories, swim wear, etc.  Free shipping on orders of $50 or more.

I've been satisfied with all the products (makeup and brushes) I've purchased here, and they are super cheap!

NYX Cosmetics
Love their makeup!

Other Favs (online and/or in-store)

New York & Company
Ann Taylor Loft
TJ Maxx

Tips to Save $$
  • Sign up for email lists on your favorite sites!!  They will send you discount codes, special notices, etc.  
  • Groupon - Sign up to receive daily deals in your area.
Happy Shopping and Saving!  :)

Another Food Blog!!

Who doesn't love food?  It's one of the few things in life that brings us happiness, so why not enjoy it?  I like to blog about things I make, but also things I eat when I travel.  In fact, just last week, I pulled my camera out of my handbag in a dimly lit restaurant and blinded everyone with the flash just so I could capture a memory...a memory of steak and shrimp that I ate while looking upon the Pacific Ocean.  My dad rolled his eyes and told me I was strange, but he just doesn't understand the power of blogging.  At least that's my theory.  Anyway, my memory is below, along with a beautiful ocean pic! 

Quite honestly, it wasn't the best steak I've ever had, and when I saw that it came with shrimp for a price of $25, I was really excited.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed when there were only 3 on my plate :(.  And, it didn't taste any fresher than the shrimp I get when I'm 1,500 miles away from an ocean.

Another one of my food love affairs is Asian food.  I sometimes have a hard time eating Asian in restaurants because of the old myths about it being cat or dog.  But, I absolutely LOVE cooking Asian food at home (at least then I know what meat I'm putting into it).   A couple weeks ago, my Aunt asked me to teach her how to make crispy pork wontons and spicy beef stir-fry. 

Here's the end product of all our hard work, along with a quick run down of how we made em!

I found this recipe online.  However, I didn't completely follow it.  I tend to use recipes more as suggestions and then mix it up in a way I think would taste good.

So, I used ground pork instead of pork loin.  I omitted the lime juice and sesame oil.  And, I substituted vegetable oil for the peanut oil it called for. 

I also decided to brown the pork mixture in a pan before wrapping it in the wonton wrappers.  In theory, the hot oil you fry them in should thoroughly cook the pork, but I don't trust that it will (and I'm afraid of getting worms). 

Sweet & Sour Sauce
You can buy some in the stores, or find a recipe online.  I couldn't remember the recipe I used last, so I just through some ketchup, rice vinegar, sugar and red chile flakes in a bowl until it tasted good to me.  
First, prep work is a good idea.  Cut up all the veggies and meat prior to getting started.  You can add whichever veggies you like and you also have the option of using frozen veggies if you're in more of a time crunch.  I usually like lots of broccoli, sugar snap peas, green peppers, and carrots.  But, feel free to add or delete from that list. 
Once the prep work is done, I heat some oil in a frying pan or wok and add the meat to get it browned and cooked all the way.  Then, remove the meat and drain any grease.  Set the meat aside.  Heat some more oil and then add your veggies and some onions (I use green onions).  Cook that til they become a little more flexible.  Then, reintroduce your meat.  

While those cook together, get a small bowl or a measuring cup and make your stir-fry sauce.  There are numerous recipes online, but I've made my own:

Equal parts soy sauce & rice vinegar (about 1/4 C each)
About 1/2 C water
Fresh ginger (or ground will work also)
Red chile flakes (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
A couple cloves of garlic, minced
Couple tbs cornstarch to thicken sauce
Poor this concoction over your stir-fry and let it thicken before serving over brown or white steamed rice.  It would also be good over noodles or quinoa as alternatives to rice.  


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Makeup Organization

I have a small bathroom and counter space is really limited, as you can see from photo.  I don't have a lot of room for my makeup and it was becoming problematic for me.  I couldn't find the eyeshadows I wanted because they were so disorganized in my old makeup bag.  I also had a few casualties earlier this month when I was cleaning and they fell to the floor.  It was then I decided I needed to reorganize!

I found a crafts organizer at Wal-Mart for less than $20 and thought it would work out perfectly (which it did!).  I don't have SO much makeup that I need a huge organizer, but I have enough that the many compartments on the organizer allowed me to really get my makeup in order. 

I used the outside compartments mostly for the makeup brushes, and some other things like mascara, eyeliner and concealer.  The inside is filled with the eyeshadows, blushes and miscellaneous items like eyebrow powder and cream & liquid eyeliners.  So far, it's worked out really well.  My Milabugs seems to like it too, but then again, she tries to get comfy in anything that resembles a basket. :)

Happy organizing everyone!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Love of Lyrics

I set out on the road at 5:30 AM today.  I gripped my mug of coffee and looked toward the long, lonely stretch of road that I would see for the next 4 hours.  Being that I was not in my own car, I wasn't able to listen to any of my own CDs.  Instead, I had to find radio stations that would provide something lively enough to keep me awake for the drive.

I first tuned into a few familiar stations, where they play a mix of modern rock and hip-hop/r&b.  But, if you've ever driven in a rural state, you know that you lose stations once you're out of range from their headquarters and have to frequently scan the area's available stations.  So, in what I expected to be a mind-numbing drive, I was actually enlightened and found a renewed appreciation for the art of real music.

First, let me share the definition of music:
"an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color."

It is my opinion that much of mainstream music (using the term loosely), such as Wiz Khalifa - Black & Yellow, does not meet this definition.  Furthermore, it makes me feel like my IQ is steadily dropping with each passing second.  I have a deep admiration and love for music that is actually meaningful and provokes emotion.  Even though I'm not the music lover that can name artists and the year in which a song was released (without Google), I do have a deep love for lyrics that speak to my soul in some way.  I don't identify my taste in music solely through genre, but rather, I love almost any genre with thought, heart, and/or creativity behind the words.  I value artists who utilize their talent to tell a story. 

So, in the total 8 hours I spent in the car today, with nothing but the radio to keep me sane, here's a few of the songs that spoke to me:

Christina Perri - Jar of Hearts
The Script - For the First Time
JJ Heller - What Love Really Means
JJ Heller - Your Hands
Diddy Dirty Money f/ Skylar Grey - Coming Home

I hope you'll listen and enjoy like I did!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Today's Healthy Eats

After having stuffed my face with a 6-piece chicken tender kid's meal AND a cheeseburger from Burger King last night, I thought today it would be best to eat healthy.  I generally try to make healthy choices any way, but today was not just about making healthy choices - it was about redeeming myself for last night.  It was about negating the poor choice I made yesterday by making better choices today. 

This rationale is absurd, and I know it, but it's just how my brain justifies my actions.  And, it occurs not just when it comes to food choices, but pretty much any other choice I make in my life.  For every bad, there must be a good I can do to counteract it's effect, right?

Anyway, on the point of this blog.  I wanted to share my menu today.  Perhaps it will provide ideas for making better choices while still enjoying food.  Too often we think healthy means boring or bland.  Food is one of my greatest pleasures in life so I'd never advocate for restricting yourself in way that robs you of this happiness!  Read on for my meals today. 

  • Giant mug of coffee (is it possible to start your day without this?)
  • Small bag of almonds
  • Some baby carrots
I know this random combination of food doesn't scream breakfast, but who says you have to have oatmeal?  Eat whatever healthy items you enjoy.

  • Large salad (no egg or cheese) - half the salad I used raspberry vinaigrette  and the other half I used french.  I couldn't decide between the two, so why not have both?
  • Marinated grilled chicken sandwich (no mayo) - I hesitantly skipped the fries, but it was filling without the guilt of eating those too.  I also didn't finish the entire bun.  Mostly, I only ate the parts of the bun that were toasted and still maintained some crunch.  
  • Serving of fruit - pineapple, cantaloupe and honey dew.
After grocery shopping on an empty-stomach (not recommended), I came home and made:

  • Brown rice (with soy sauce)
  • Spinach & onions 

This isn't really dessert, but it's sweet and I like it.  It's an amaretto liqueur and orange juice in an 8 oz glass. 

Please drink responsibly and do not drink and drive!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Independent Women: Is it an over-rated title?

"Oooh there's something about the kind of woman that can do for herself...something oh so sexy about the kind of woman that don't even need my help...she work like a boss, play like a boss, car and her crib she's 'bout to pay em both off and her bills are paid on time." - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo's song, "Miss Independent," sends a message that not only is an independent woman respected by her male counterparts, but also sexy and desirable.  While this may be true for some men, women have also had to battle with the opposite message that men are intimidated by smart, successful women.

Regardless of the mixed messages we receive, what does it mean to be an independent woman from the woman's vantage point? 

There's definitely a sense of pride when you know you don't have to depend on someone else financially.  It's a freedom that enables you to really enjoy what you've earned.  When I bought my house I knew it was my hard work that that landed me there - not someone else's.  When my car is paid off in the near future, it will be an accomplishment I've worked hard toward and have made sacrifices for. 

But on the flip side of this coin is the fact that I only have my income to rely on.  That usually means having to sacrifice the makeup I want (but don't actually need) so I can make sure there's enough $ to cover the electric or water bill.  It means I have to really prioritize and plan for the things I want.  For example, I'm planning on getting Lasik this Spring.  It's not cheap and my goal is to finance as little as possible.  So until then, I'm saving for my "down payment."  I can't tell you how many adorable cardigans or handbags I've had to rip myself away from in order to stick to my goals.  And discretionary funds for entertainment and fun or for trips to the salon?  Pretty hard to come by. I've had to become a master DIY beautician (see my healthy shiny hair blog!). 

Another issue I've run into is home renovation.  When I first moved in, I had the most disgusting carpet in the KITCHEN.  Who the hell is the genius that decided carpet in a kitchen was even remotely sane?  I'd like to throw dead bunnies at him/her.  I hated that baby blue, stained-with-chocolate-pudding carpet with a passion and knew it had to go.  But who's going to help me get rid of it and replace it with something else?  I certainly don't have the skills or attention span required to lay down new flooring.  Insert my dad.  I thank God he's always been willing (and able) to help me with my home projects because if it weren't for him, I'd still be vacuuming in my kitchen!  Not only did he help with the big projects like kitchen flooring, counter top shopping and bathroom remodeling, he also comes over when I'm crying because I broke the window tract when I was trying to clean it and it's 30 degrees and I'm freezing and I don't know how the hell to fix it!  He comes over when my bathroom sink is clogged, only to ask me if it had crossed my mind to use a plunger.  Which of course, it hadn't.  He comes over when my laundry room wash bins are clogged because I had forgotten my Shop Vac had dust, dirt and other large particles in it when I vacuumed the water spill caused by my faulty washer set up.  When I dumped the water into the wash bin, I realized all the other junk was now lodged in the drain.  This is a typical scene where tears are shed. 

Sometimes, I get sick of my own company and would like someone else around to entertain me.  I'm amused easily so this isn't too hard to do.  I'm taking applications. 

I'd also like help bringing in groceries - especially when it's freezing outside.  Since I'm left on my own to do this, I've gotten pretty good at piling bag after bag on each of my arms while balancing myself in heels on the small journey to the front door.  I usually only need 2 or 3 trips now since I'm usually up to my neck (literally) in grocery bags.

Lastly, I never realized that the term "work" in yard work actually meant physical work.  Me and the outdoors have never really been friends.  I enjoy it when mother nature is not on her period and provides me with sunshine and warmth, but it's usually one sided relationship.  I generally don't like having to give back by watering her plants and flowers or mowing her grass.  I guess this is why she's a bitch to me in the winter, blasting my face with painful wind and exhausting me with large stretches of sidewalk shoveling whenever the snow falls.  I would much rather be mowing the grass in 90 degree weather than shoveling in -24, but either way it's a lot of work and I've run into almost as many mishaps outside the house as inside. 

So, I guess being independent can be over rated when you look at all you have to learn to do on your own.  All the hard work it requires sometimes makes gold-digging look like a reasonable alternative profession.  But then again, who would I be if I wasn't satisfied with learning how to fix the things I break?  Who would I be if I didn't have my attitude of defiance toward total dependence on another for my basic needs?  Who would I be if I couldn't be a resource to other women in my life about how to get shiny hair or create at-home facial masks?  What parts of my personality would I miss if this hadn't been my life?  I'm not willing to find out.