Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Try it Tuesday: Sugar & Oil Lip Scrub


I don't know if it's because I have big lips or just a tendency to have dry skin, but chapped lips are a huge issue with me. It doesn't matter how much chapstick I wear: within the hour, I have flakey skin.


A makeup artist I worked with recently gave me this little trick, and I'm honestly in love. It's as simple as equal parts oil olive and sugar. I keep the mixture in a small snap-lock container and stored in the fridge.


The sugar exfoliates; the oil moisturizes. The only hard part is wiping off the lip treatment (instead of just licking it off -- oil and sugar has no right to be as delicious as it is!)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Friday: The Lowell Esplanade

Now that we're finally thawing out, I figure I should dust off a second folder of old pictures. These are from October, when I decided to hang out on the Lowell Esplanade.








Saturday, April 12, 2014

Olive Garden at Home: Homemade Zuppa Toscana & Garlic Bread


The Olive Garden has a special place in my heart, the heart of my husband, and the heart of my in-laws. Going to the Olive Garden means tomfoolery and cheese chicken and enough laughs to last a year. The food itself is a huge guilty pleasure of mine: yes, it's about as authentically Italian as Taco Bell is authentically Mexican, but damn is it good (sidenote: I also love Taco Bell). But unfortunately, Olive Garden, much like Taco Bell, isn't exactly good for you. Like, not by a longshot is it even remotely good for you. Thankfully, I found a few zuppa toscana recipes and, after a little bit of tweaking on my end (read: tweaking, not twerking), I'm in love:


FOR THE SOUP You will need:
16 ounces chicken broth
1 1/3 cups water
1 pound sausage (I'm partial to Jimmy Dean's Hot Breakfast Sausage, but, really, go with your preference)
3-5 medium-sized russet potatoes
1/4 cup bacon bits
5 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups kale, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper as needed


Fully cook the sausage. While it's sizzling in its pan, cut the potatoes into quarter slices. You want to keep these slices fairly thin. The easiest way to get these shapes is to make two perpendicular cuts lengthwise down the potato before slicing it up.



In the crockpot, mix in: chicken broth, water, sausage, potatoes, bacon bits, and garlic. Set the crockpot to "high" for 4 hours (or "low" for 8 if you want to prepare this before you leave for the day).



After four hours, add the kale and return the lid for 5-8 minutes. If you prefer a slight crunch to your kale (or if you are using a less-crunchy green), set the slow cooker to low when adding the kale. Mix in the whipping cream and enjoy! Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese for that extra kick.


--


FOR THE BREAD You will need:
1 Package of Focaccia Breadsticks (Or, if you're so up to it, make it yourself. But don't look to me for that recipe! My Betty Crocker abilities only go so far)
Butter
Powdered Garlic
Salt


This bread is incredible. It's nothing too special: you should be able to find it at the bakery section of any grocery store. Ten minutes in the oven and you have delicious break-apart bread.



This is so simple, it almost hurts: slice lots of thin butter pieces, cut said slices up, place it on the bread, and sprinkle as much (or as little) garlic and salt as you'd like. My husband and I have an unhealthy (literally unhealthy; be still my arteries...) obsession with garlic butter, so our bread got a nice dusting of garlic and salt. Place them in the oven for however long the bread package requires.



Add in a simple house salad and you've got your Soup, Salad, & Breadsticks meal right here. And you don't have to risk running into us smacking each other over the head with breadsticks and refusing to say, "when," when they grate Parmesan cheese on our meal.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Me? Write a book? Surely you jest!


IT'S HERE. It's here, it's here, it's finally here. After essentially keeping mum about this project since November (only to slowly unravel and let the cat out of the bag in 2014) it is finally here. My essay collection has hit the (e)shelves thanks to the wonderful people at Thought Catalog.


What is this collection of essays about, you may be asking. It's about 100 pages long *badumching*.


No, but, seriously: I'm Just Here for the Free Scrutiny details some of the more absurd, silly, and downright heartbreaking moments in my modeling career. From the time I found myself essentially auditioning for a role in a commercial that was two steps away from being a sex phone operator to my lucrative career as a pseudo-mom and child bride. From the time I bombed my first movie audition to my experiences with the infamous Runway Moms. Be ready to laugh, to cry, to reevaluate your entire stance on life.


Or something.


If you're curious about one of the more serious essays, you can check out the freebie excerpt here. If you're curious about my writing through Thought Catalog in general, you can go here.


Go to the Thought Catalog page for all the various places you can download it. Have a Kindle? Download my book from Amazon! Own an iPad? Get that shit on iTunes! Android user? Google play, bitches! Have a Nook? Well, you can sod off for now. But only for now: I'm Just Here for the Free Scrutiny will be available at the Barnes & Noble website in a few weeks.


In the words of Georges St. Pierre: Buy it. With your money.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Photo Friday: Abandoned R&R

The coolest thing about being barely a 10-minute drive from the tiny, tiny towns of New Hampshire is that you can easily find some really interesting ghost areas. Places that have gone out of business upwards of a decade ago, leaving everything to slowly decompose. (To digress: there's a collapsed farm about a half hour from my house that I'm just itching to photograph.)


This place used to be a convenience store, once upon a time. The problem is, with a tiny town like Candia, "convenience" isn't exactly a high priority. I took these pictures sometime in November, before the majority of America went into the Deep Freeze. I figured it's time to finally wipe the dust off this folder and pick a few to share with you guys:






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Try It Tuesday: Water Difficult Plants with the Steam Iron's Refill Cup

Truth be told: I didn't even realize that irons came with this little cup until after I moved in with my husband and I watched him refill the water section of his steam iron.  All this time, I was awkwardly putting my iron under the kitchen faucet!


Aside from cutting time (and frustration) of out refilling an iron, this little cup has proven super useful for watering other not-easily-waterable things. We got this adorable bamboo plant as a present during our housewarming party and, while it adds some green to the house (which is needed during these nasty winter months), it's not exactly easy to water.  But, with the refill cup that came with our iron, I can water it in seconds -- and without water getting everywhere.


This is also good for any small house plant. I use it for those green onions I have growing in old tea cups. Basically any place where a watering can would prove inefficient is perfect for this little cup.


Who would've thought that the item that I didn't even know existed could prove to be so useful?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

DIY Laptop Case from an Old Blanket


I had leftover fabric from my T-shirt quilt, so I decided to make a quickie laptop bag.


This is so simple it hurts: all you need is fabric that is at least 38" long and 18" wide (or vice versa) and sewing equipment.



Fold the fabric in half so that your laptop could be placed on top of it with about .5" of room to spare on three of the edges. For me, I had to fold my fabric horizontally, as the remaining fabric was a long strip. Trim the fabric .5" from the laptop and sew two of the loose edges up, leaving the top, long part open.



Flip your bag inside out and slip your laptop in. You want enough wiggle room that you could pinch the fabric with the laptop still in, but nothing more.



With the bag still right-side-out, cut a piece of fabric to roughly the same dimensions as one side of the laptop back. With the "right" side of the fabric facing the bad (and the "wrong"/inside side of the fabric facing up), and the inside edge of the fabric against the top of the bag, pin it to the top portion of the bag and sew in place.


This is perfect for when I slip my laptop in the laptop bag I use for travel. I tend to put books and notebooks in the laptop bag as well (gotta be efficient when you're only allowed one bag on board!), so this will protect my laptop from any rough edges or metallic spirals.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Trial & Error Fitness: 5 Yoga Poses that Will Change Your Life



I've already talked about how I downright meandered into yoga. In the beginning, there were few things as daunting as a full hour-long class at a yoga studio. Yesterday, I came back from a "Master Your Practice" class, which is a once-a-month, two-hour-long class that all yoga teacher training students need to take in order to graduate. It's hard to believe that just three or so years ago, I was sweating buckets over a 30-minute class. It's even harder to believe that, before that, I was in agony over completing a 10-minute yoga session from an app on my phone.


Yoga unfortunately can be incredibly intimidating at first. Which is why I made a list of five (relatively) simple poses that will change your life. These are the poses that I always have when constructing my own sequences -- and the poses I pray other teachers will have in their class as well:


1. Standing Half-Moon.

source: Bikram Yoga River North (click the link for another description of the pose)
When it comes to limbering up, lateral stretches tend to get ignored. It's why it almost feels like we're turning a set of rusty gears when we do it. There are a ton of modifications: you can clasp your hands, grab a wrist, or place a hand on your hip for extra support. The key here is to press your hips in the direction opposite of your bend and keep you back as sagittally straight as possible (that's just a fancy word for no hunching forward or bending backwards). Imagine that there are two plains of glass -- one in front of you and one in back of you -- and your goal is to keep yourself within those confines.

You can stay in this pose for a few moments, or follow your breath as you inhale your body back up into a standing position and exhale to one or the other side. This pose can be done at any time -- even as you sit at your desk (hey, you're just stretching; tell your co-workers to quit it with the side-eye).


2. Standing Forward Bend with Elbows Clasped.

Source: More.com
I love this pose so much, I have it in every warm-up for my tai chi class. The elbow clasping is twofold: one, it removes the expectation that you can touch your feet, your toes, the floor, etc. Two, that extra bit of shifted weight works with gravity to help stretch out your hamstrings. Tight hamstrings is the bane of most of our existences, and a simple stretch like this every day can change that.
Plus, a simple (quasi) toe-touch is actually a great way to calm an overworked mind. Great thing to do with a hyperactive child as well!


3. Seated Twist

Source: Simple Nourished Living
Seated Twists can be done a million different ways: legs crossed, knees to chest, one leg bent with the foot over the straight leg, etc, etc, etc. You can even do the twist sitting in the chair. The biggest challenge, however, is twisting without force. We are not here to press our hands into the floor, our knees, or the chair, and hope we can get a pop. Instead, we are finding length in our spine before using our abs and back muscles to turn our torso. This pose was impossible for me in the beginning, purely because I want to push my hands into the floor and force the twist until I heard a pop.
But try it: sit on the floor (or a chair), inhale and imagine someone is lifting you up by the base of your neck, and, on an exhale, slowly twist to the left or right. Maybe even lift up your hands at first to avoid that temptation. Stay here for as long as it feels right before returning to center, inhaling for length again, and repeating the process on the other side.


4.Downward-Facing Dog.

Source: Active
I saved down dog for the near-end because, while it's one of the most common yoga poses, it can be the hardest to master. Much like our hamstrings, our calf muscles are usually pretty tight. When done correctly, downward dog can stretch your glutes, your hamstrings, as well as your calf muscles. The key is in engaging your core and rotating your hips towards the ceiling (or, "sticking your butt out" if you were standing). The other key is in not getting discourages when you find your hands slipping off the mat. That is super common and there are towels and gloves to counteract that. You can also try doing downward-facing dog on hardwood floors.
And, much like the standing forward bend, this is a great pose to calm your mind.


5. Child's Pose.

Source: Kim Fisch Yoga
Or, as Max Strom calls it, "Warrior Four Pose". Why? Because he considers it the most difficult of all asanas: it requires you to cast aside your ego and listen to your body. Sometimes you just need a pose to retreat to, be it after a grueling workout or because of a sudden influx of stress. It also stretches your arms and shoulders (and, depending on how you do child's pose, your hips as well), but the importance is on the resting qualities. This is your refresh button. Your moment to recognize that you need a moment to catch your breath (literally or figuratively) before going on again. You'll be amazed at what more you can accomplish if you give yourself that moment.


And, again, much like anything in yoga, don't do whatever doesn't feel right. It's okay to be challenged, but anything that brings pain is not worth it. There are so many different poses that, if these don't work for you, there are others that will (some runner's up for me included: cat/cow pose, triangle pose, supine twist, and so on, but your list will always be a little different). Never feel like there's anything you "have" to do in yoga. That's a good way to burn out and turn your back on such a great (but misunderstood) practice.


Remember: yoga is exactly what you make of it, and exactly what you need it to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Greetings from Florida!

The winter blahs finally got the best of my husband and me and we packed our bags and jetted of to Fort Lauderdale, with a few brief excursions to Miami and Central Florida.

It's been a much-needed change of pace and it's hard to believe that vacation is already winding down.  I checked the weather for New England: more snow is on the way.

On second thought, maybe I'll be looking into property on the Florida coast.

Monday, March 3, 2014

100,000 Views!





This blog has been relatively slower going than I'd like, but that didn't stop me from finally hitting 100,000 views. I can't even pretend: I get a little giddy rush of joy every time someone repins a craft or photo from this site. And while my manic crafting has definitely slowed down a little, I still love this blog and can't wait to share more projects with everyone.


It's been a busy year for me. Yoga teacher training has kicked into high gear, which means I spend every single day with my nose in an anatomy textbook, my nose in a spirituality textbook, or my nose very close to a mat as I slowly decode the elusive yoga sequence. My tai chi class is slowly growing, and I'm slowly figuring out how to brand myself (ah, the joys of freelancing). I also submitted my very first manuscript to Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award. I was getting zero luck hawking it to literary agents -- let alone publishing houses -- so I've decided to go the Patrick Rothfuss route (and practically the route of every new writer out there) and try my hand at a contest. This meant removing said nose from textbooks/mat and placing it squarely on the grindstone as I re-edited my novel from cover to cover multiple times in the span of three months. I didn't realize how exhausting that overhaul would be until I finally submitted my work and was too exhausted to even properly write in my 365 Project.


Although thankfully that project is still underway, and I'm already on the final laps (only 155 posts to go!). It has been super useful in getting my ideas out on paper. I have been using these free-writes as a foundation for a whole slew of essays. I was originally writing for Thought Catalog almost exclusively, but I've decided to venture off and see what other platforms might be interested in my work (with a toe or two still in the Thought Catalog world, especially regarding a major project that I'm crossing my fingers and toes and eyes about, but that's for another day).


So a huge, "thank you" for everyone who comes onto this little corner of the vast internet world. It's not the snazziest blog in the world, but it's my blog, and I'm happy to call it home.
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