Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fluff Up That Down!

Down jackets, throws and comforters are so wonderful at keeping us warm but sometimes can be a bit tricky when it comes to laundering them.  So, as I threw my down jacket and blanket in the washing machine today, I thought I'd pass on a little tip.

After washing your down jacket, throw or comforter (most are machine washable but double check the label to be sure), put the item(s) in the dryer along with 2-3 clean tennis balls.  Yes, that's right!  Good ole "Wilson Tennis Balls"!  As the balls bounce around in the dryer, they help fluff up those feathers inside, preventing them from bunching in one spot and speeding up drying time.  You can also do this when your down blanket or comforter just needs a little extra "fluff".


Friday, November 4, 2011

BEST Queso Ever!

As I was walking the aisles of Walmart the other day, I got a craving for cheese dip.  There were several new brands on the shelf so I started reading ingredients and decided to try On the Border's Creamy Monterey Jack Queso.  There's no MSG, it's gluten-free and it's made with 3 all natural cheeses.  And, at only 45 calories per 2 tablespoons, I felt I could eat it without feeling too guilty.

When I got home, I promptly did a taste test and fell in love!  It is SO yummy!  The queso has a bit of a kick (might be too much if you can only handle extra mild salsa), but it doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the cheeses, and there's no weird tangy taste, like some cheese dips have.  Just to be sure it wasn't just my tastebuds being thrilled, I had my husband sample it a few moments ago and he completely agreed with me....this is the BEST queso dip ever!  In fact I think it's so good that I want to figure out how to turn it into a soup so I can eat it by the spoonful :-)   I'll let you know if I figure out how to do that.  In the mean time, pick up a jar and a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and get dipping!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Share Your Opinion & Get Rewarded!

Remember the days when you answered the phone and an operator would "ask" you to take a "brief" survey?   They were so persistant, I did cave in to the pressure a few times but I found it was never a brief survey...15 minutes later I would practically have to hang up to get them off the phone.   Nowadays, most companies are now asking you to fill out surveys on-line.  I guess they learned that people are more apt to fill out a survey on their own time and they might be persuaded if you dangle some kind of incentive like being entered to win a gift card, etc.

Well, I'll admit....I like earning gift cards!  But I'm terribly unlucky when it comes to "winning" prizes!  So, until recently, I pretty much ignored the bottom of my store receipts requesting my opinion.  However, after these 3 experiences, I have become very interested in the writing at the bottom of my receipts!

1) This past summer, my husband and I ate at the Cheesecake Factory.  When the waitress brought us our check, she said if we filled out a brief survey online, we would receive a $10 gift card.  It wasn't a contest that I'd be entered into....I would get the card if I simply filled out the survey.  When I got home, I filled out the online survey, which took all of about 3-5 minutes.  Then I was told my gift card would be mailed to me in about 6 weeks.  I was a little skeptical that it would actually come, but, lo and behold, about 5 weeks later, my $10 gift card to the Cheesecake Factory arrived.

2) Two weeks ago, I ate at Chick-fil-a.  On the bottom of their receipt was an offer for a free sandwich if you filled out a survey online.  I know Panda Express also makes a similar offer...fill out a survey and receive a free entree or eggrolls or something like that.

3) This final experience has been the most rewarding for me as I've earned three $25 gift cards to Macy's and am close to earning a fourth.  I've earned these gift cards by taking mulitple online surveys through a company called "e-rewards".  Each week they send me 3-5 surveys on everything from healthcare to technology purchases.  Basically, how it works is each survey asks a few preliminary questions to see if you fit the profile of the people they want to survey.  If so, you get to complete the survey and earn reward money.  Then you can redeem your reward dollars for various travel miles, gift cards, etc.  Now, in order to get signed up as a survey taker with e-rewards, you have to be invited to do so by one of their partners.  I was invited to join through Macy's.  I'm not exactly sure why Macy's selected me but I did fill out 1-2 surveys after making purchases in their store.

So start paying attention to the survey offers on the bottom of your receipt...your opinions could earn you some great rewards!

Happy Surveying!



Friday, October 7, 2011

Let's Talk Seriously About Skin!

As I was removing the outer bandage over my incision today, I thought it would be good if I could spare anyone else from having to experience what I did this past week.

About 9 years ago, I decided to go see the dermatologist and have my moles checked.  I'd never been a huge "sun worshipper" but I did spend a fare amount of summers poolside in my teenage years and then did a few rounds in the tanning beds.  I know that probably wasn't the best decision but I was young, wanted to look tan and convinced myself that a little bit wouldn't hurt. 

On my first trip to the dermatologist, she identified two "suspicious" looking moles and removed them.  Some "a-typical" cells were identified (basically that means cells that are on their way to becoming melanoma) so I returned again to have a little more tissue removed to make sure all these bad cells were gone. 

Well, as the years passed, I got a little lazy and only went once to see the dermatologist.  About 2 years ago, I noticed some changes on a mole but kept procrastinating on making the appointment with the dermatologist until this fall.  When the doctor said she wanted to remove that funny looking mole, I thought, "been there, done that, no big deal".  As with the first time, I received a call that they found "a-typical" cells but this time I would need to go in for "general surgery" to have more tissue removed.

Although the word "surgery" sounded very serious, I was glad that there wasn't any melanoma found and I kept telling myself it was probably just like before.....but boy was I ever wrong!  From the moment the doctor told me I would have about a 1 1/2 inch scar to the 30 seconds of having to endure the probing of the needle while he numbed the area to the smell of burning flesh, I knew this was far more serious than the previous experience.  The doctor felt that they were able to get all of those "transitional (a/k/a "a-typical") cells" but he cautioned me to make sure I wear sunscreen and be extremely cautious about sun exposure and be sure to follow up regularly with my dermatologist.

Now I know there is a LOT of controversy about sunscreen...from the chemicals found in some sunscreens to whether or not there really is such a thing as spf 100, etc.  There is also great debate about whether or not sun exposure is the main/leading cause of skin cancer.  In my case, 2 of the 3 problem spots were not areas that have seen a lot of sun.  So, while I plan to be extra cautious about time in the sun that is not the main thrust of this article.  My goal with this article is simply this...

If you have ANY moles, go see the dermatologist and get checked.  Pay attention to your skin and if any moles change or new ones appear, have them checked out again.  Don't procrastinate like I did!  Trust me, it's much better to have tiny little incisions vs having to smell burning flesh and end up with a long row of stitches!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

As you read the title, you probably started humming the tune along with Julie Andrews and the Van Trapp children as they sang "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with strings, These are a few of my favorite things."  Yes, I'll admit I've seen that movie a few dozen times :-)  One day that song popped into my head and suddenly I was inspired to write about my favorite things. 

As the song says, these are a FEW of my favorite things...that is true for me too.  Once I started writing the list, all kinds of things popped into my head.  So to keep this blog from becoming a novel, I decided to make this a monthly blog topic and write about 10 of my favorite things each time.  Without further ado, here's the first list in no particular order:
1)Aussie Freeze Hair Spray - This has been a favorite for years!  Holds your hair in place all day (without feeling crunchy or helmet-like) but washes out easily with your favorite shampoo.

2)Blue Agave Nectar - This is an all natural sweetener that is very similar to honey in color, calories and taste but is a little less sticky.  It's considered a low glycemic sweetener, as it will not cause your blood sugar to spike.  I love using it in plain yogurt & to sweeten tea.

3)Knudsen Sour Cream Dips - These are relatively new and come in 3 flavors:  Southwestern, French Onion & Ranch.  They are all natural and super yummy!

4)Frozen Grapes - Not only are these a wonderful cool treat on hot summer days, but they also help kick my sweet tooth and slow me down on my calorie intake when I'm on a snacking binge!  I used to think green grapes were best frozen but now I think the red grapes are the best (thank you Annie!).

5)Vinca - This is a type of flower that is considered an "annual"; however, for the last 3 years, mine have come back every summer.  What I love about this flower is that it's drought tolerant and VERY forgiving....my thumb is rather "black" when it comes to gardening but this is one that I can keep alive, even in our 105+ degree heat :-)  It's also self-flowering (no trimming of spent blooms to keep it blooming) and grows & multiplies quickly.  Here are a few pictures:




6)Freeman Cucumber Melon Face Peel - When it comes to masques and peels, I've been "around the block" a few dozen times.  When I first saw this, I didn't have real high hopes but thought it was worth a try, especially since it was under $4.  After one use, I was sold!  This helps clean out impurities and peels off dead skin.  The cucumber leaves your face feeling super refreshed and the pores are tightened.  And, one of the best parts is the peeling off of the mask is NOT painful!!  I purchased this at Winco but have also seen it in Walmart.

Cucumber Facial Peel-Off Mask photo
7) Neutrogena Eye Makeup Remover - This has been a long time favorite!  It's a non-oil base so it doesn't create that awful film on the eye and it removes every trace of makeup!

8)Anastasia Brow Tint Gel - I'm thankful I at least have eyebrows...however mine are so light, I always have to add color to them.  While I still use a powder to help fill in some bare spots, this gel colors the individual hairs, making my brows looking "naturally" dark.


Tinted Brow Gel
9)Bare Escentuals Flawless Definition Mascara - Love, love, love this mascara!  The brush helps clearly define & lengthen every lash, there's no flaking or smudging and it's super gentle on the eyes.

10)Interchangeable Jewelry - I just love the versatility available with my interchangeable necklaces and earrings.  I usually have 10 seconds to accessorize my outfit before I dash out the door.  My collection of interchangeable pendants, chains & earrings takes the guesswork out of accessorizing and allows me to wear something different almost every day of the week.

So there you have it...a few of my favorite things.  Stay tuned to see what makes the list next month!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The secret to longer, fuller-looking eye lashes? Underwear!

Some of you may be hesitant to even read this blog for fear that the subject is "underwear".  Well, don't worry. . . it's not that kind of underwear. . .it's Underwear for Lashes! 

Over 10 years ago, I discovered this product, made by Origins.  It was one of the first eyelash "primers" on the market and when I saw how full it made my lashes appear, I became a huge fan.  I always like to try new mascaras (shocking I know:-) but as long as I use this underneath my mascara, I get nice, long, full-looking lashes.  Of course, there are certain mascara formulas that work better than others but that's a topic for another day. 

Anyway, after several years of "Underwear" use, I was doing some budget trimming and thought this would be a product that was merely a luxury and I could easily do without it as long as I had a good mascara.  Well, I did survive for a couple of years without it but decided a year and a half ago to try it again.  What came as a surprise to me is that I noticed I wasn't losing nearly as many eye lashes when I removed my makeup at night.  Not only does it help you use less mascara and make your lashes look longer and fuller, it also has a great benefit of adding to the "lifespan" of your lashes.

To purchase this product, you can find it at the Origins counter at your department store (Macy's, Nordstroms, Dillards), at the Origins store or online via their website.  The cost is $15 - this may seem like a lot but one tube usually lasts me about 3 months and I use it every day. 

To use, simply apply a coat to clean eye lashes (don't worry if it's not evenly distributed or looks a bit clumpy in areas as your mascara will fix that) then immediately apply mascara on top of it.  Tips:  Don't allow it to dry before applying mascara as it won't bond properly with your mascara. Since you are applying the mascara over the Underwear before it's dry, I recommend timing the start of a new tube of "Underwear for Lashes" with the start of a new tube of mascara.  This will help your mascara last longer.

Give this underwear a try!  Your eye lashes will thank you :-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Origins VitaZing = Fabulous, Glowing Skin

I heard about this product first on a makeup tutorial on youtube.  Then my best friend gave it a try and told me how fabulous it made her skin look, so I decided to give it a try.  Let me say I am very impressed!

As some of you may know, I have struggled with difficult skin for years!  Thank goodness it's not as bad as it use to be but my skin is still far from flawless.  Without makeup, my skin tone is quite uneven, a bit blotchy and is also on the sensitive side.  Therefore, there are very few products that I can use on a regular basis that don't make me break out in a rash or that actually work on my skin. 

I was therefore blown away when I tried VitaZing!  It is not a tinted moisturizer but after applying it on my face, it almost looks like I have applied a tinted moisturizer.  It does an amazing job of evening out the skintone and providing the perfect amount of moisturizer without making my skin feel greasy.   According to the Origins website, it "gives skin the refreshing zing of antioxidant-rich Mangosteen. And adds a healthy hit of radiance that mimics the glow you get from a week's vacation. All in 10 seconds max.  Slip it on first thing tomorrow - you'll look like you eat right, sleep tight & don't have a worry in sight."  Sounds pretty great, huh?!

It also has the added benefit of SPF 15 so it's added protection against the sun!  For those of you with great skin that don't like to wear foundation everyday or simply don't have time to apply it, this is a great product that will provide the protection & moisturization you need and also make it look like you've applied foundation.

Cost:  $35 ~ a bit expensive but it should last about 3 months & I think the benefits outweigh the cost!

How I use it: 
In the morning, after cleansing and toning, I apply a pea-sized amount (in place of my regular moisturizer) and then apply my primer and foundation.

Where to buy: 
Macy's Department store at the Origins makeup counter
Origins Website

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cookie Cravings That Can Be Good For You

Ten or eleven years ago, I was introduced to Erin Baker's Breakfast Cookies.  These cookies are made with all natural ingredients and are just scrumptious!!!  I hadn't ordered any for quite awhile but just received an order yesterday and let me tell you how I've missed them! 

They are made with whole grains which make them very filling but also help satisfy that craving for something sweet.  There are several flavors that are available all the time and others that are just available seasonally.  This time I ordered "Morning Glory", "Peanut Butter", "Double Chocolate Chunk" and "Oatmeal Raisin".  The regular size cookies are HUGE so I usually only eat a half at a time.  However, they do have several flavors now available in "mini" size which make them great for snacking.  

If you are tired of eating granola bars or just want to eat a healthy cookie, give these a try!   You can purchase them online at www.bbcookies.com or there is a package of 2 flavors available now at Costco.  The shipping costs are the only draw back to these cookies so I would recommend ordering with a friend to save $$ or place a good size order . . . the cookies freeze really well!  Awaken the Cookie Monster in you! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabulous Bare Escentuals Sale - TODAY ONLY!

Today is one of those amazing makeup deal days!  Bare Escentuals has a number of great eye shadow, lip gloss and blush kits at 30% off.  The sale ends at 9:00pm (Pacific).   Don't miss out!  Here's the link:  30% off Bare Escentuals Sale
If you are seeing this blog post after the sale has ended, go to the Bare Escentuals site and sign up to receive their newsletter.  Then you will be notified the next time they have an amazing sale.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does a high-quality makeup brush make a difference?

For years, I assumed that "a brush was a brush".  They were all made from similar materials and it was absurd to pay lots of money for something to apply my makeup.  Then I started using Bare Escentuals foundation and found out quickly that a good brush was essential for applying that and thankfully their starter kits usually come with a couple of free brushes.  But I still wasn't convinced that I needed to spend lots of money on fancy brushes to apply eye shadow, liner, etc.  Then I was introduced by my dear friend to two brush companies that sell professional grade brushes on-line at fabulous prices.

I ordered several brushes from both companies and noticed an immediate difference in how my makeup went on and how the brushes have held up over time.  What a difference a good brush can make! 

So if you find yourself in need of some new brushes and/or you've always wanted to try some nice brushes but didn't want to spend the money, check out the brushes these two companies have to offer.  You can purchase complete brush sets or individual brushes from both companies.  Crown Brush does have a $25 minimum purchase requirement. 


Friday, February 4, 2011

Favorite Snack Under 100 Calories

Whether you are counting calories or not, snack time can quickly become boring or dangerous!  There are some days when fresh carrot chips sound fine and others when I need something more tasty and filling.  So, when I put together this scrumptious snack and realized it was only 95 calories, I was hooked!

All you need are Orowheat Double Fiber English Muffins and Laughing Cow Light Cheese wedges.  Lightly toast one half of an english muffin (60 calories) and spread one wedge of cheese (35 calories) and viola!  A nutritious and delicious snack!  The Laughing Cow cheese wedges are great because they are individually wrapped so you don't have to worry about using up the container quickly like you do with cream cheese.  Plus, it comes in a variety of flavors . . . my favorite right now is French Onion.  It's usually found in the deli area and not with the rest of the cheeses.  Happy snacking!
 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pompla who?

There was a Hyundai commercial that ran on TV this past December.  It featured quircky videography and a catchy version of a Christmas song.  I know many of you have DVRs and no longer have to watch commercials.  However, if you are still in the dark ages like we are, you probably saw it and couldn't help but be drawn in by it's quirky, unique sound and video.  My husband decided to find out more about it and discovered a group called "Pomplamoose".

It's a two person band, Jack & Natalie, and they have recorded many songs, most of which you can see on youtube.  There are several that I love . . . "Mr. Sandman", "Beat it", "September". . . but one song in particular has become a favorite and it's "Lady Gaga's Telephone".  As a musician, I am completely blown away by their creativity and ability to combine an old time organ sound, with a kids piano and xylophone along with an array of other instruments and somehow make it all work!  Plus the vocals are spot on . . . tight harmony. . . fabulous!  And, rest assured, it's not just all smoke and mirrors and trick photography.  According to Jack, he says that their videos mostly take the form of "VideoSongs", a medium he defines with two rules:
  1. What you see is what you hear. (No lip-syncing for instruments or voice)
  2. If you hear it, at some point you see it. (No hidden sounds)
So, whether you've had a "Monday" or just want to watch some amazing musicians perform, this youtube video is sure to make you smile.  Enjoy!
Pomplamoose - Lady Gaga Telephone

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What to do when the pants get tight...

Last November, as the weather turned cold and I started wearing my jeans and corduroy pants, I started noticing an alarming trend. . . they were tight!  As every woman does in these types of situations, I blamed the dryer on shrinking my pants and made sure to air dry them the next laundry day.  The results?  Yep, still tight.  Was I gaining weight?  The scale at the gym seemed to think so . . . but those always weigh "heavy" don't they?  After a few weeks of denial, I finally decided that it was time for me to face reality and get a handle on what was going on.

I decided to measure and calculate calories for everything I was eating and started keeping a journal.  If you've never done this before, it can be quite a shock.  I was able to see all of the areas that I was loading on the calories without realizing it and decided to take action to drop a few pounds. 

My plan consisted of something I had heard Jillian Michaels recommend. . . eat strictly 2 days, moderately 2-3 days and whatever you want the last 2 days.  Now I didn't eliminate all carbs or sugar, nor did I measure fat, fiber, etc.  I simply counted my calories, allowing myself just 1000 calories the first two days, 1200 calories the next 2-3 days and then didn't count at all on the weekends.  I continued my regular exercise regime but opted for 20 minutes on the eliptical instead of lunges and the rest of my leg workout.  The result?  No more tight pants, even when they accidentally get thrown in the dryer.

So if any of you made goals or resolutions this year regarding your weight and aren't sure how to go about attaining those goals, perhaps this plan will work for you!  There are some great applications out there to help you track your calories.   One that I downloaded to my smartphone is called "My Fitness Pal".  It's really simple to use and even charts a course for you to lose the weight you want in the timeframe you want. 

In the forth coming blogs, I will share some WONDERFUL low calorie snacks that are much more satisfying than nibbling on carrots and celery.  
Stay tuned!