Birchbox Review: February

2.28.2015


This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

One of the subscriptions that I use and find extremely convenient is Birchbox. For only $10 a month I receive 5 new samples of beauty products that I would have probably never tried on my own. The sad part is when I use up my samples!

My February box had a lot of fun goodies so let’s take a look...


1. Parlor Sea Salt Spray
This was a fun product to try because I have heard SO much about sea salt sprays being the latest trend for those beach waves. Now that my hair has grown out a bit, this product was fun to try. I love how ‘tousled looks’ are the best excuse for bed head ;)

Full-size: $24

2. Sumbody Salt Scrub
I love a good exfoliator and this salt scrub is the answer to my skin needs. It smells fresh and keep me feeling soft after each use.

Full-size: $13.50

3. theBalm 'Read My Lips' Lip Gloss
I’m more of a natural palate type of girl when it comes to makeup so I was a bit nervous about this lip gloss. However, it’s not as bright as you would think looking at it in the tube. It gives my lips a nice rosy tint and shine.

Full-size: $15

4. amika Nourishing Mask
I was introduced to the amika brand from a previous Birchbox (here) and its become one of my favorites. So, I was very excited to see yet another product in this month’s box. Because I process my hair constantly through dye, blowdrying, and sometimes flat ironing, it’s important that I take care of my hair. This nourishing mask is the perfect solution as it conditions and repairs. Another plus is that it smells really good!

Full-size: $28

5. BeeKind Shampoo
Shampoo is a touchy subject for me only because within the last few years I realized that not all shampoos are created equal. I have fine hair and, like I mentioned before, I process mine so finding a nourishing shampoo has been a bit difficult. I love that BeeKind’s shampoo is soft on my hair but also uses natural ingredients such as honey.

Full-size: $16


Birchbox Rewards:
Within this post I do use Birchbox referral links. I receive 50 Birchbox points for each referral, which goes towards purchases within their shop. Another way I earn points is by posting product reviews on their website. Sound pretty easy, right? It truly is...and you don’t even need a blog to do so.

If you’re looking for an easy, and affordable, beauty subscription service this is it. For $10 a month you receive 5 different samples each month to try and KEEP! No sending back what you don’t use and by taking a moment to post a review on birchbox.com, you too can earn points that can be used like cash in their shop. 

Do you Birchbox? Ipsy? 
Or another fabulous subscription I haven’t discovered yet?


Check out this month’s sponsor:
Forever Ashley

Hair Inspirations

2.27.2015

Today I am so excited. What for? It’s my religious every-eight-week hair cut appointment with the fabulous Chelsea from Matiz Salon. I don’t know what it is, but it’s almost an art form to find your perfect hair stylist. You know, the one where she/he gets it exactly right every time, the not having to mess with correct it once you get home, and best of all, no second hair appointment with a different stylist to fix the first cut.

Another reason I’m so excited is that getting my hair done is the one thing I do for myself. Due to budgeting and trying to save, I’ve cut the fun little expenses like getting my nails done and going shopping for new clothes every other weekend. However, carving out a little bit of ‘me time’ is just what I need to reset. It’s funny how those little things make the biggest difference in your attitude and confidence...

Having the appointment is the easy part. What’s difficult is figuring out what I’m in the mood to do with my hair. A lot of styles have come and gone in 2015 and it’s only February, which leaves me with some choices. I’ve had everything from a pixie cut to long and lush and I constantly battle the urge to cut it all off or to continue growing it out. Right now I’m almost to a ‘lob’ and am looking to change things up.

Here are my hair style inspirations:



Who knows what I’ll walk out with but I’m excited about what we’ll come up with! Follow me on Instagram to see what I get! What style do you recommend??


Before you leave...
Forever Ashley
I wanted to introduce you to Ashley of the Atlanta based lifestyle blog Forever Ashley. I met her through The Peony Project community and I am so glad I did. She offers wonderful blog advice, food for thought posts, and I just love her witty writing style. Want yet another fabulous blog to follow and connect with? Be sure to check her out here!

The Guy Behind the Blog

2.26.2015


Not too often does my guy get much attention on my blog. For the most part it’s due to the fact that he probably doesn’t read it to begin with and pretty much I am ok with saying that this little corner of mine is, well, mine. With that being said, the lovely Betsy over at Heavens to Betsy has created this fun linkup just for those guys behind our blogs.


This handsome guy is my husband, Philip, and he will be taking over the blog today sharing his thoughts on these six questions:

1. If you could write a book, what would you write about and why?
Traveling and drinking.  As cliche as it sounds, kinda like Hemingway - part fiction, part real life experiences.  I doubt anyone would read it, but it would give me even more of a reason to travel and document my life.

2. What is the one thing on your bucket list, or one thing you’d like to do or accomplish?
Break the sound barrier.  But since that isn't as feasible as it may have been previously, I would like to attend a Formula 1 race in Europe somewhere.

3. If you could look out your window and only see one view for the rest of your life what would you want to see?
Our babies playing on the beach with our dog, Murphy.

4. Imagine you’re opening a shop. What are you selling?
Wine.

5. If you could have 50 lbs of anything other than money, what would it be?
Blank airline tickets - fully paid round trip to anywhere in the world for my wife and I (obviously it'd be a lot of tickets).

6. Time to brag on your girl...tell us one thing that makes you proud of your wife.
Honestly, it's difficult to narrow it down.  I could talk about her beauty or how intelligent she is, but I think it's her uncanny ability to read my mind.  She almost always knows what I'm thinking, how I'm feeling and how to cheer me up when I'm down.  Plus, she knows how to check me when I'm getting worked up, which isn't all that astonishing, but what is - I actually listen to her.  And she'll tell you I never listen to a woman.  Does that come off as sexist? You betcha.  But does that show how awesome she is?  You're damn right.

What I Wore 2.25

2.25.2015



This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated for any purchases using these links.

Today was yet another gorgeous day and I still can’t believe it’s February! Tonight I am sharing my love of scarves, my green vest, and my ability to now wear my hair in a mini-ponytail!

I’ve come to learn the art of layering while out here in sunny California and investing in vests (see what I did there?) is the trick to staying comfortable all day. I received this green quilted gem in one of my Stitch Fixes and it was the perfect addition to my growing collection. Today’s outfit was inspired by neutrals, navy blue, and, of course, my green vest.

...and look who came to visit.


Be sure to link up with these lovely blogs and share what you’re wearing today!

DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT ENTERING MY MINTED CREDIT GIVEAWAY! Ends 2/28

Beef Shank & Horseradish Crumbs

2.23.2015


One of the best magazine subscriptions I have invested in has to be Bon Appetit. Each month new and intriguing meals grace the cover and once again I am inspired to recreate these recipes myself in my little kitchen at home. March’s issue is all about “The New Rules of Pasta” in which the often traditional pasta dish gets revamped by using different, more exotic, ingredients.

via

Even though I cannot take the cooking credit this time around (that goes to my husband) I just HAD to share this one particular recipe that has now become one of our favorites thus far: Strozzapreti with Oxtail Ragu and Horseradish Crumbs. Now, I’m sure you’ll notice that we swapped the oxtail for beef shank and that simply came down to the fact that Whole Foods was out when we went grocery shopping last weekend. No worries though, we grabbed some marrow-in bones and used beef shank, which provided a similar taste and texture.

Get the original Bon Appetit recipe here.




Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

2.22.2015


One of my favorite meals has to be hands down a pulled fill-in-the-blank-meat sandwich. Seasoning and sauce gives whatever meat your using the flavor to carry the sandwich on its own without the use of a lot of toppings, and might I add, calories. Using a slow cooker infuses your meat with these flavors for hours at a time without leaving your meat dry or rubbery.

Today I wanted to share my husband’s recipe for pulled chicken sandwiches. It’s simple, only uses a few ingredients, and is damn delicious #imnotbiased.

Ingredients:
4 Chicken Thighs (bone in, skinless)
Trader Joe’s BBQ Sauce (enough to cover chicken)
Salt & Pepper
Garlic Powder
Paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Brown Sugar
1/4 c water
1 Jalapeno, halved (optional)
Pickled Red Onion (for garnish)
Trader Joe’s Hamburger Buns

Directions:

  1. For the best chicken flavor, preseason the chicken thighs (or breasts if you’re using) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. It’s difficult to mess up the seasoning so use each spice to your taste but no more than a teaspoon of each.
  2. After seasoning your chicken thighs, place in slow cooker and add your jalapeño halves, BBQ sauce, and water and allow to cook on the high setting for approx. 2-3 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, simply cut the meat from the bone (most of it will fall off just nicely) and place on toasted hamburger buns. Garnish with your own pickled red onion and done (see recipe here).
**The jalapeño adds a nice flavor to the sauce but isn’t overpowering.






Blistered Shishito Peppers

2.21.2015

original photo via
My first shishito pepper experience was at Estadio, a beautiful contemporary Spanish eatery back in Washington, D.C. My husband took me quite often when we were dating and it still remains one of our favorite places and will always on our list of restaurants to go when we visit the east coast.

This dish is beautifully simplistic and you can imagine just how excited my husband and I were when we saw that Trader Joe’s now carries this coveted Japanese pepper! We stock up (at least four bags!) on every trip to the grocery store and now we can enjoy this dish at home.

How do you make blistered shishito peppers? Easy!


Directions:
1. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet until hot. Add peppers and continuously toss until the outside is blistered to your likeness. As they cook, it tends to smoke quite a bit so I recommend doing this in a well-ventilated kitchen or turn down the heat.

2. Simply toss and serve by topping with sea salt or you can even use them to dip in soy sauce.

I hope you enjoy and if you haven’t yet tasted the deliciousness that is the shishito pepper, find your local Trader Joe’s and discover it for yourself!

Getting Excited Over Furniture

2.19.2015

You know you’re an adult when you get excited over your most recent furniture purchase. 

After grabbing lunch at our favorite Thai place, we decided to hit up a local independent furniture retailer For Your Home that’s right down the street from our place. We had been before and fell in love with all different kinds of pieces and it was hard to walk out with nothing. But, this time was different. We have been on the lookout for a coffee table and we found the perfect one!

**I should mention that since our move to CA we sold or purged a lot of our furniture and in a way are starting over. I wish I had a million dollars to completely decorate our home but alas we are working our way room by room and piece by piece.

When it comes to living my husband is a minimalist and I’m, well, not. One thing we do agree on is usefulness and investing in things with multiple purposes. This folding coffee table was the perfect find that satisfies both of our approaches to living.

Here’s a peek at our awesome new coffee table!



We love that it has a retractible top because it allows us to use it as a desk AND dining table!

Next our list is another sectional for our living room and finally a bedroom dresser to help with storage since our place doesn’t offer too much in that department.

What furniture are you falling in love with?


ALSO! Don’t miss out on my giveaway for free Minted credit! 
Click on the banner for details on how to enter. Giveaway ends 2/28.

Wedding Preparation 101 + Minted Credit Giveaway

2.18.2015


Although it may not feel like it back on the east coast, spring is right around the corner and that typically means weddings, everything babies, graduations, and so on. This time last year I was knee deep in wedding planning and was attempting to pull this off in a six month time frame. I should also mention that I was teaching full time and juggling both responsibilities, which wasn’t an easy task.

Wedding Preparation 101: Save the Dates, Invitations, and other important prints

Let me set the scene...
My husband and I got engaged last October and were looking to have a June 2014 wedding in Las Vegas. We chose Vegas early on in our relationship as the perfect destination for our hypothetical wedding and were so excited to actually be planning it.

So, not only was this wedding date approaching quickly, it was also a destination wedding. This meant that we had to have our save the dates, official invitations, ceremony programs, and thank you cards ready to go meanwhile staying within our set budget.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

How did we manage to get all of those equally important tasks done in enough time? Minted.

My husband let me take control over these details because he was busy calling the wedding salon in Vegas and making other big decisions such as our ceremony and music requests, choice of flowers, organizing the restaurant details, etc. You know, no big deal. Besides, creating these cards were effortless since Minted features many talented independent artists whose creations are exclusive to Minted.

Better yet, Minted provides you with FREE, yes free, recipient address printing, which I cannot even begin to describe how much time it saves. So, not only do you get the convenience of shopping online, but you also get professional quality prints for a great price.

If you’re one of the thousands of ladies preparing for your upcoming wedding this year I highly recommend using Minted for your all of your wedding print needs.

Here’s a peek at the newest wedding collections at Minted!

There are so many unique designs to choose from!


I’m loving their newest foil-pressed prints!

And for good measure, check out the Minted blog, julep, for cute DIY inspiration for your wedding!


A HUGE thank you to Minted for providing this giveaway! Here’s how you can enter and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Blog Design: Simplicity Is Key

2.17.2015


Notice something new around here? Well, I hope so! I am just in love with my newest look for the blog and I hope you love it too. Very simple, clean, and classic. At least that was the feel I was going for.

The template I chose to spruce up my blog is made by Lynsey over at Shiny Magic Designs and is my third template to date of hers (can you tell I’m in love with her designs?!). She offers both Wordpress and Blogger templates for an easy $30 at her Etsy shop. Once you’ve downloaded your files the self-installation process is even easier (especially with the use of her helpful tips that are also included) or she offers to install it for you for an additional $15. Before you know it your new blog design is up and running and looking fabulous! Thanks Lynsey!

One thing that I’ve learned over the course of the last few months as a new lifestyle blogger is the importance of your blog design. Just checking out the millions of other lifestyle bloggers out there I’ve come to notice one thing they all have in common: simplicity. Simple and clean blog designs are more appealing to the eye and direct your focus on the posts and photos being featured.

When I first began this blog I thought I needed to flood my sidebar with anything and everything that could tell my readers more about me and my interests. When in fact, less is more and organization is key. With my new design I decided to clean up my page and begin organizing my posts so they’re easy to find! Well, at least I hope so ;)

So, if I could pass on any tips to fellow newbie bloggers out there here’s a few:
-keep your blog design simple. Opt for cleaner and easy to read templates instead of busy, colorful, pattern-filled templates. It’s too busy for the eyes and detracts from the substance in your posts.
-consider using a page break in your posts. This helps the reader see a snapshot of your post and decide if they want to continue reading instead of being flooded with words on the screen.
-use photo headers for your posts. This simple step draws the attention of your reader and not to mention it’s great for those who want to pin and share your post with others.
-don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune on a blog design. There are SO many talented blog designers out there and if you want a super customized design be prepared to pay up. Stick to beautiful and simplistic designs that range between $30-$50.
-keep your sidebar relevant. Don’t do what I did at first and feel like you need every widget and button on earth on the side of your blog. Clean it out and only keep items that are relevant to you as a blogger.
-have other bloggers give you feedback about your blog. I love the community over at The Peony Project because these ladies give wonderful and constructive feedback about anything blog related- because we’re all bloggers! Don’t hesitate to get the opinions of other bloggers to help you navigate the usefulness of the look you’re going for. Your readers will thank you for it!

Those are just a few things I’ve just recently learned along the way and hope you find them to be helpful too. Do you have any other tips or tricks for blog designs? Let’s catch up in the comments :)

Keeping The Romance Alive

2.13.2015


Valentine’s Day (or otherwise known as Singles Awareness Day) stirs all kinds of opinions and emotions depending on who you talk to. You might have that single and loving it friend, a friend who is single and doesn’t love it and therefore is that black rain cloud on anything related to Valentine’s Day, and then there’s people who are in happy relationships and already have their DIY/Pinterest inspired presents and cards ready to go.

For the longest time I floated between the last two descriptions until I met my husband. As a young adult navigating the last years of high school and college (and being in and out of bad relationships) it  was a difficult day, that pesky February 14th, when everything and everyone is celebrating love, which was something I couldn’t participate in. It’s not a fun feeling and you can help but feel depressed (insert a copious amount of pity chocolate and queue up the Netflix!).

However, currently being in a healthy and happy relationship with my husband, despite those difficult and painful past relationships, I’ve come to realize the importance of keeping the love and romance alive not just on Valentine’s Day, but rather in every day of your relationship.

Dear Kelly...

2.11.2015

THE CIRCLE LINK-UP
Over at The Circle, Februrary’s linkup topic is all about writing a letter to your past self. It’s an interesting topic and one that I enjoyed writing about (much more than I thought). I decided to write to my high school self because that was a time when I was still in my bubble and had a lot to learn about what we call “the real world.” I don’t regret anything from my past, however, I wish I could have had this conversation with myself - it would have been interesting to see if anything would have been altered if I had this kind of awareness of the future.

Dear Kelly,

It gets better. Those three words will have more meaning for you in the next few years and will impact you in more than one way. Right now you’re experiencing what (almost) every young girl goes through in high school and you will figure it out. Relationships, friendships, responsibility, self-worth, etc. You will also find that the people you know right at this moment will evolve, shift, and change in the coming years...and that’s not entirely a bad thing. You, yourself will do the same and you’ll be better because of it.

Friendships. They will come and go but remember to keep hold of the ones that matter. True friendships are with people who will stand by you no matter the circumstance or convenience to them. They are people you can share your complete self with and they are people who will not disappear from your life. You will be this friend and never compromise your values for a friendship. You will have chapters throughout your life and be comfortable that certain people will transcend to that next chapter and some will not. Appreciate the time and experiences you had/have with those people an accept their place in your story.

Relationships. You’ll have many before meeting the right one and he will completely knock you off your feet. He will be your foundation and your rock. He will help navigate you through life and will give you the space you need to continue evolving. He will love you for who you are and where you’ve come from. He’ll be worth the tears and pain you will experience because you will become stronger for it. You’ll have your heart broken many times before meeting him, but the crazy thing about life is that you need these heartbreaks to truly appreciate him when he arrives. It gets better.

God. He will be there waiting for you as He always has done. You will find Him exactly when you need to and it will be a glorious feeling to know Him. Your relationship with Him will change as you figure out the true meaning of giving up control so that His plan can set you straight. You will feel unbelievable closeness and comfort but you will also experience distance in times of personal struggle. He will always be waiting for you and you will find His comfort again.

By no means will you have everything figured out but that’s almost the fun of being alive. You will continue to face struggles and they’ll appear in all different forms, but know that you are smart, strong, and able to overcome any obstacle that lay in front of you. Your story is still being written and although we can’t change or take back anything from our past, we can learn to appreciate how it’s shaped us now into the person we are and how we carry ourselves into the future.

Love,
Your Future Self

Thanks to Kiki for hosting this lovely linkup! I look forward to reading the letters to others’ past selves.

Valentine’s Day with Stella & Dot

2.06.2015

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase using my links.

Valentine’s Day may be a made up holiday by Hallmark just to make a profit off our emotions, but nonetheless it’s fun to celebrate a day of full of love and spending quality time with the people important in our lives. Every now and again it’s nice to have that friendly reminder because too often does life tend to get in the way and we miss opportunities where we can just be two people spending time together.

This V Day the hubs and I are heading up to Santa Barbara for a nice dinner and evening away from home. We are actually celebrating on Friday instead of Saturday because apparently it’s difficult to get a reservation (that was a fail on our part). But, there’s something nice about celebrating early and not getting caught up in the hoop-lah of it all on the day of. Plus we’ll probably spend the day adventuring and quietly spending time at home with our pup and a great bottle of wine.

 
Nonetheless, I’m excited to look my best for the occasion and today I wanted to share my top Valentine’s Day picks featuring pieces from Stella & Dot

February Goals

2.03.2015


So January just kinda came and went and behold we’re officially kicking off February. I’ve always enjoyed the month of February for many reasons: love is in the air, eating copious amounts of chocolate is socially acceptable, and it’s the shortest month of the year which means March is next and so is my birthday!

But, with all of that being said, February marks another moment where I can begin to plan and make reasonable goals for the month to better myself. Setting smaller, more meaningful goals, at a time helps me accomplish more than my previous NY Resolutions ever would. See my post about prioritizing and setting meaningful goals here.

But onto my current February goals:
-get my bootie to the gym 3x a week. doing ok with this goal but deserves to still be on my list.
-be consistent in my reading of the best yes. life can get in the way and this book is perfect for helping me prioritize my time.
-save more. this is a no brainer and just all around good thing to do.
-set my outfits out the night before. hitting the snooze button will be so much easier if i could do one thing to prepare for the next day.
-try a new recipe. i love adding to my recipe book and am always on the hunt for yummy meals. lately i’ve been into tofu!
-begin a more organized approach to blog posts. sometimes i find myself with a lack of inspiration on what to write but if i just get those initial thoughts down and save it as a draft, i believe i’ll be more likely to find inspiration later when i return to my original thought.


What are some of the goals you have for February?