Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Favorites - Haircare

I thought we should take some time to talk about one of the most crucial issues of our time: my hair.

Kidding, of course. But my hair should be put under a microscope and studied. For realz. It's oily at the roots, dry and stringy at the ends, sorta curly in the front, stick straight in the back….. It's exhausting, actually. And humidity? Fogetaboutit!!



Obviously this photo was on a day I forgot to focus on my hair and add some product in there. With this southern humidity, it just grew bigger & bigger {not in a southern gal teased up cute way. It was actually frightening!} Don't be like me. Hair is important. It can totally be your worst enemy, or it can be your best accessory.

I thought I would take the time to round up some of my favorite hair products that help my tame my crazy mane. I have not been asked to review any of these and I have not been compensated in any way. The opinions are entirely my own.


ONE. John Frieda Frizz Ease Expert Finish Polishing Serum. My word is this thing a miracle! Just a couple drops on wet or dry hair will tame flyways and frizz like none other. A word of caution: a dab'll do ya, so don't go crazy using a ton or you'll need to get back in the shower. I also apply this only to my ends. No roots or bangs!
TWO. AMIKA Perk Up Dry Shampoo. My roots and bangs can get greasy just from taking a nap. This stuff rocks my world! Truly. There are so many times when I shampoo in the morning and need an afternoon refresher for my bangs and I just really don't want to go through the process of drying and styling twice in one day. I've tried all the dry shampoos out there and they all have turned my roots white. It was just trading one problem for another because I didn't want to look like I needed a dye job! Especially when I don't have gray hair to begin with! I know this stuff is expensive, and my husband would say "What is in there?! Liquid gold?!" And I would reply with a "Yes." Worth. Every. Penny.
THREE. The Wet Hair Brush. This product was designed detangle wet hair without breakage. Need I say more?
FOUR. I've tried lots of curling irons from the Walmart cheapies to one sold to me in one of those mall kiosks that I {way} overpaid for. This one is the only one I'll ever use from here on out! It heats up to 430 degrees very fast, and it holds the curl better than some others I've tried. It also has a kink resistant cord which may not sound like a big deal but any time you can avoid fumbling around with an object that can burn you, I'll calling that a win. The only negative is that it doesn't automatically shut off so you have to be careful to turn it off or unplug every time you use it. I know a lot of folks would call that a deal breaker, but I've acclimated to unplugging the same way I have to buckling a seat belt. I don't even think about it anymore.
FIVE. John Frieda Precision Foam Hair Color. As much as I would love going to the salon to get my hair colored, I just don't have time or money to maintain it. Well, I just would rather spend those hundreds on necklaces and kitchen tools, if we're being honest. I know you can think of other ways to spend it as well. Or just be responsible and save it. Your call. Again, I've used many boxed hair colors {on me and on my friends}. And this one is the cream of the crop! It's not drippy, which my bathroom floors thank me for. But more importantly than that, it coats every single strand so you never have to worry about missing a chunk when you're doing it yourself. I was a little skeptical that a foam could work so well and keep my hair in good condition, but my doubts were proven wrong. Plus, the after-conditioner is large enough for multiple applications. AND it includes a serum for locking in color. Winner winner chicken dinner!
SIX. In my opinion, more than any other product, hair spray matters. It holds in your style, but if it holds so hard you end up with a helmet for hair, then what's the point?! Hard holding hairsprays tend to freeze every single flyaway in place and dull the shine. Not this one! I searched for a long time before I found my one true love in a hairspray. This one holds fantastically without any of the nasty side effects. Not to mention that it smells FAN-FLIPPIN'-TASTIC! I tend to always find a good sale price on it somewhere too, so I really never pay the full $19.
SEVEN. There aren't a ton of products I'll pay top dollar for. This one is a must have for me. It's number seven on this list, but number one in my heart. I saw Kate over at The Small Things Blog rave endlessly about it, so I bought a sample size bottle on eBay to try it out. And then we lived happily ever after. As frizzy as my hair can get, it's actually kind of flat. And I do like some volume. After all, the bigger your hair, the closer you are to God. This product gives me non frizzy volume and it makes my hair so much easier to manage. This item is number seven on this list, but it's number one in my heart. Learn how Kate uses it here. Sidenote: I don't love using this product in my bangs like she does. Just a personal preference.
EIGHT. OK, I've been talked into buying a lot of salon products that I've returned or just thrown in the trash. Just because it has a salon name brand on it, doesn't mean it's a better product. And likewise, just because it has a drugstore name brand on it, doesn't mean it isn't fabulous. This is one of those times. I LOVE this shampoo! It cleanses without stripping my hair and it smells SO. DANG. GOOD. It's sulfate free so it probably doesn't lather like you're used to, so don't expect a lot of foam while you're shampooing. But it'll be clean anyway.
NINE. More so than the shampoo, I LOOOOOVE this conditioner. I bought it on sale on a whim and I am forever thankful. I put it in my hand when I was half asleep in the shower and did a double take just because of how creamy it felt in my hand. I just knew it was going to be a winner. It conditions my stringy hair so wonderfully without weighing it down. And again…. It smells SO. DANG. GOOD. Seriously. Amazing. Just go buy a bottle today!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuna Farro Salad

I love salads because you get all the nutrition, color, and flavor you want all in one bowl. I will support any recipe that results in less dirty dishes.

I also love making homemade dressings because they taste so much better than anything that comes out of a bottle. And they're cheaper. And they they don't take up fridge door space--just make as much as you need and that's it. DON'T be scared by the idea of making your own dressing! It's super easy. If you can whisk, you can make dressing.





Favorite salad. I say that all the time.

I typically find a new combination that is my favorite… and it'll be my favorite for about 10 minutes.

….I have a lot of favorites.





Salads don't have to be boring. They don't even have to contain lettuce. Like my current favorite. This one! Tuna farro salad with green olives and onions. It sounded like a weird combo to me too. But it WORKS!



I just know you'll love it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lessons from Ashley Madison

Welcome to the digital age. After the hack of Ashley Madison {and subsequent release of information}, we now know that we leave a digital footprint now matter where we go, and that no one is safe from having their information compromised. Ashley Madison is a website that markets a "dating service" to married people. No, not a dating service for spouses to interact with each other. As a matter of fact, their slogan is "Life is short, have an affair." 

Photo courtesy ashleymadison.com






So far, thousands of people have been exposed as being unfaithful to their spouses via this site. And a handful of them have been celebrities. There have been two suicides. There will be an unforeseen number of divorces. 

Naturally, a story like this has captured media headlines. It's juicy. It's controversial. It's scandalous. And mostly, bad news just travels fast. We live in a world where pointing out people's flaws seems like our purpose for living. From suburban moms that gossip about the latest divorce drama going with the family down the block to fashion gurus issuing worst dressed lists, people LOVE to talk trash about one another. {I'm not innocent of this. I watch every season of the Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise and live tweet my thoughts--good and bad--on the subject. And I've said less than favorable things about this whole Ashley Madison situation.} 

America LOVES to hate on one another. Republicans hate democrats and vice versa. Christians hate on other religions and vice versa. Heck, Christians love to hate on one another. We have our ideological hatred, and our moral hatred, and our hatred for entertainment value like The Bachelor and all its spinoffs. In fact, the Kardashians have built an entire empire on being the family America loves to hate. So when a story like this breaks, of course the story flies off the shelves.

Predictably, public Christian figures were outed in this Ashley Madison hack. The biggest scandal like this includes 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar. I, along with America, read about his sexual preferences included on the site. And my heart BROKE for his wife. She likely read these things about her husband along with the rest of us. My heart breaks for her having to endure something like that in such a public way. But then I got to thinking, this hack is not just about the Duggar family. Sure, tabloids are probably profiting the most off of their part in it, but there are so many lessons to be learned here about people in general.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Losing My Religion

Every normal/healthy family unit {religious and not religious alike} want to raise children that are moral citizens who make a positive contribution to society. We want them to turn out "right". So we set goals and rules for behavior. This is not wrong. After all, children should learn to be moral as children so they grow into moral adults. But are we teaching our kids to be good because it is the "right thing to do"? Because that's an easy message to pass along while we're in this hustle and bustle we call parenting.

If we're Christians, though, and this is all we do for our kids, we're completely missing the point. We're raising a generation that mixes up the American Dream and a conduct code with the Gospel so much that it's impossible to see the difference.




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apologies

I have done a great deal of thinking {and praying} about apologies. I am still learning how to apologize better through apologies I wish I were getting from other people. Or apologies I never got, but so desperately want.



In a perfect world, when someone was wronged, the person who hurt them would immediately "get it", apologize, and it would be over. But that's not how it usually works, is it?

Great apologies need {at least} 6 parts:

1) Making a genuine effort to listen and understand.
2) Acknowledging pain in the person who was wronged.
3) Accepting responsibility in causing the pain.
4) Expressing genuine regret.
5) Making it right.
6) An immediate change in behavior moving forward.

Instead, we can receive a grade-school-level "sorry" with a crinkled brow that lets the hurt party know that the other party isn't sorry for what they did at all. They're sorry they got caught. Or they're sorry they have to be apologizing.

Sometimes we get what sounds like a sincere apology, but nothing changes.

Sometimes we get an "I'm sorry but you…" that sounds so little like an apology it's almost like it wasn't one {it wasn't, by the way.}

Sometimes we don't get an apology at all. We just get anger and defensiveness. We just get an "I'm not apologizing when I didn't do anything wrong."

Sometimes we get one of these sorry attempts for an apology and then we get a "What do you want from me?! I already apologized!"

Or sometimes, we just hear radio silence. Nothing. Nada.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

15-Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love food. I love cooking. I love choosing vegetables at the store. I find deglazing a pan therapeutic. I love the smell of garlic when it hits the pan. I love the crackling sound of a chicken roasting in the oven. Dinner feeds my family, but cooking it feeds my soul.

I even walk around Costco in this ensemble.



I know. I really need to get a life. But first, just gimme all the food.

As much as I do love cooking, sometimes I just don't have the time to whip up an 8 course meal. So I do have to gather some quick & easy recipes in my repertoire. This is a great one! It takes a whole 15 minutes to put together. Let freedom ring!

So for all you babes who have more interesting lives than mine, this one is for you!

I freaking love chicken tortilla soup. I could write it a creepier love letter than I did for cooking {above}. Of all the versions I've made, this one is the easiest with shortest shopping list.


I served it with my Mexican street corn, and it got nothing but rave reviews. I got all of it on the table in last than a half hour. The soup portion took about 15 minutes--but it tasted like it had been simmering all day. Splendid, I tell ya! Souper, in fact! {See what I did there.}

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mexican Street Corn

Just a disclaimer: I. HATE. MAYO. With gusto. Just the sound it makes when it comes out of the jar is enough to make me gag. There are two exceptions to this rule: 
  1. BLT sandwiches.
  2. Mexican street corn.
Have you ever had Mexican street corn? It's super trendy right now. It's turning up at food trucks & all over the blogosphere… and for good reason! They're basically just an ear of corn schmeared with a spiced mayo & sprinkled with herbs and cheese. You may raise your eyebrows at that, but good Lord they are #MFEO.

I don't know if they actually serve this corn on the streets of Mexico, but if they do, just book me a one way ticket. 

These beauties are showstoppers. They're big on both flavor & presentation. And they've just got to grace your table at your next get together. I'm obsessed. And your guests will be too. 





Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mushroom Chicken + Wine Pan Sauce

Can I just get really real with you for a sec? Aside from my family, I have three great loves in my life:

A) Food. Obvi.
2) Yoga pants.
D) White wine.

Sometimes, I enjoy drinking a glass two glasses as I cook/eat. It's one of life's simple pleasures.


No one judges you for drinking wine on a Tuesday in your yoga pants if you're making them dinner while you're drinking it. Fact.


I have two rules for cooking with wine:

1) It shouldn't be a crazy expensive bottle. Why would you spend $80 on wine you can't enjoy? Why would you spend $80 on wine anyway? No offense to you classy gals out there with a discerning palette for the absurdly expensive good stuff, but simple hicks like me can't taste a huge difference between the $7 bottle and the more expensive one.
B) I don't buy the two buck chuck either. If it's too gross to drink, you won't want that bitter flavor concentrated in your food.


Hello delicious skillet chicken! I shall sing your praises forever--not only because I cook you up whilst drinking wine in yoga pants… But also because your fantastic pan sauce practically BEGS for crusty bread dunked in it.







Edit: I forgot my fourth great love above: Carbs. More specifically, crusty carbs dipped in pan sauces. Why I wasn't born a French gal is beyond me. Except that they're way classier than me and they don't say y'all, but I digress.


This chicken is wonderful enough to serve to company but one-pan simple enough for a weeknight. Now that's what I call finger lickin' good! Except don't start licking your fingers in front of your fancy schmancy company. Because that's just creepy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I was loading my dishwasher the other day, and I got to thinking about how many of these kitchen doodads I couldn't live without! Now, don't get me wrong. My cabinets are too full of a bunch of stuff I probably don't need… But these are my essentials that help me get things done. If I had to downsize, these are the things you'd have to pry out of my hands over my dead body. {Sorry--was that too much? I've always had a flair for the dramatic}.

Anywho, here goes:

These bad boys save the world. Well, not really. But they save my world. Plastic spoons melt up against hot pans, and I'm just not a fan of cooking with metal spoons. They scratch up your teflon, and the metal-on-metal sound they make when they scrape up against my stainless steel pots and pans haunts my dreams.
OK, I gotta have a whisk. I went without one for 2 days and it's 1,000 wonders I didn't end up institutionalized. I now have a collection, of sorts. Of all my whisks, my flat whisk is by far my favorite {pictured on the bottom}. A flat whisk gets, well, flat {#spoileralert} up against the bottom of the pan. It's great for making gravies, deglazing pans, and scraping the sides/bottoms of pans/bowls.
GUUUUURL….. You gotta go get yourself a box grater if you don't have one. Pre-shredded cheeses are kind of against my religion. They are coated with anti clumping agents that are not only gross and creepy, but they prevent your cheese from fully melting together. If you bake a casserole with pre-shredded cheese on top, you'll see outlines of cheese shreds after being a 400 degree oven for half an hour. No, just no.
OK, so maybe this one isn't super essential, but your kiddos are guaranteed to eat more of their dinner if they can crank their own cheese on it.
You gotta have a rolling pin. They roll out pizza dough, pie crusts, and so many others. Why marble? It's heavier, so it's easier to mash everything out with less passes across. Plus, marble generally stays colder than wood, which is great for pastries. You really want all your pastry doughs to be cold when they go into a hot oven so the steam can create all those flaky layers you love.
If you don't have measuring scoops, and you say you can't bake, there's your trouble. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science. You've got to be exact and precise when you measure or your cookies will be dry hockey pucks and no one will invite you back to the barbecue next year. Unless you compensate with some really charming qualities… But just be safe and buy these things, k?
FULL STOP. WHERE. HAVE. THESE. BEEN. MY. WHOLE. LIFE?! Not only are they easy pour, but you can see the measurements from the top. So you're not filling and squatting down to look from the side. Genius!

You don't need a whole knife block. Don't me wrong, I have one and I love it, but if I only had to choose one do-it-all knife it would be a santoku knife. My preference is for the 5" one because it's small enough to mince garlic but big & sharp enough to slice up flank steak. Plus, santoku is just super fun to say.
You've gotta have something to cut on. And I don't care what Pinterest says. Don't cut on your countertops. It'll scratch up formica and a solid surface like granite or quartz will just dull your knives. I have plenty of more expensive cutting boards I'm eyeing, but for right now this one will do the trick. So grab one and chop it like it's hot.


So there ya have it. My unofficial & hypothetical if-I could-only-keep-9-kitchen-tools-$25-and-under list.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sanity Savers for Busy Gals

Hey lovelies!

Do you ever feel like you're always catching up? Running on empty? There just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done! I've rounded up a fun little group of things to help us busy gals out. Best part? They're all $30 or less!



ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE

Monday, August 3, 2015

To My Son On the First Day of School

To My Dearest Little One,

Well, you're not so little anymore. You're a fourth grader this week! How did that happen? And how did it happen so quickly?! And how did this summer fly by so fast? We had a blast together this summer. We went to Disney. We hung out at the pool. We saw movies. We went to the library. We watched TV. We played with the water hose. We had a water fight washing dishes. We had sleepovers with your pals. We baked a lot of pies together. Looking back, I enjoyed all the moments with you. In every light. I enjoyed your loudness. Your funniness. Your friends. Your uncanny ability to wake me up 20 minutes before my alarm is set to go off.

It seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital. All 4 pounds of you.






And then we sent you off to Kindergarten.



And look at you now!



LITERALLY. CAN'T. DEAL. You're so big! And so cute! {Wait--you set me straight on this last week. Being cute is apparently for little kids now.} You're handsome!

I will miss having so much time with you every day, but you're on your way to learning and growing this school year. And I pray for the teacher that will walk you through this process during each school day.

I remember what each year of returning to school was like for me. It was equal parts dread and excitement. I was dreading doing homework, but I was excited to see my friends I had missed all summer. I was dreading the possibility that my new teacher would be a mean one, but I was excited at the possibility that he/she may be an excellent one. I was dreading waking up so early, but I was excited about showing off my back to school outfit. {OK, you may not be excited about that last one, because as it turns out, boys don't give two hoots about what they wear--EVER.}

But with school starting, I want you to know a few things that are on my heart for you on your first day back this year:

Dealing with Toxic People


Toxic. We hear this word thrown around a lot to describe difficult people or difficult situations. IE: 'my mother in law is toxic', 'they're in a toxic relationship', or 'it's just really a toxic environment'. But what does that word really mean? Personally, I think this word is overused. People use it when they talk about people who are annoying or who have different beliefs. After all, we all fall short of the glory of God, right? No one is perfect. We all have our crosses to bear; our sins we struggle with. But someone who is growing has remorse, they reflect, they repent, and they make changes {or at least attempt to}. So toxicity, in my mind, doesn't apply to these people who struggle but continue to try.

When I think about what makes a person truly toxic, I think of someone who feels completely righteous in the destruction they cause. THEY AREN'T WRESTLING WITH ANYTHING. Why? They see nothing wrong in what they're doing, so they continue to cause crisis and devastation and blame everyone but themselves. They're prideful. They have it all figured out, and everyone else just needs to fall in line. They're impossible. They're exhausting. They're downright delusional. And whenever you're connected to one of these people, ALL of the fault lays on your shoulders. Even though you're the one catching all their anger… and yet you're always forgiving them and working towards maintaining a relationship. They forgive you for nothing. 

For reasons unknown to me, I have have had to deal with more toxic people in my life than others. And what I find is that underneath all that anger and rage, they are PROFOUNDLY unhappy. They're unhappy in their circumstances. In their finances. In their relationships. And ultimately, they're unhappy in themselves. So they draw their self worth from others. And no one can ever fill that void except for The Lord Almighty. So the "toxic" person has placed the burden of their happiness at  someone else's doorstep. That 'someone else' is responsible for making an unhappy person happy--they must meet their elevated {and unrealistic} expectations. Even if you manage to meet that toxic person's needs, in the next moment, hour, day, or week, you'll be back to failing them. Those desires to be made happy are insatiable. They grow. And it's like chasing the wind. Therefore, BOTH PARTIES are fighting a losing battle. 

I have met two kinds of toxic people. The first is the known toxic person. The second is the private toxic person. 

The known toxic person is a hot mess in just about every relationship they have. They make friends for a short time, but it's only a matter of time before everyone in their life catches on to the crazy they're dealing with. No one wants to be involved with them. Everyone walks on eggshells around them. Everyone is afraid of what they'll do next. 

The private toxic person is, in my opinion, SO. MUCH. HARDER. to deal with. Everyone from their friends to the mail lady loves them. They seem so sweet. They're overly kind and generous publicly. They're at every social event. They have a huge circle of friends. But those friendships are typically very shallow. People can even be envious of their lives. And behind closed doors with people they live with or people they build deep connections with, they create unspeakable turmoil. The toughest part about dealing with this type is that if you have problems with them, everyone {and I do mean EVERYONE} will come to their defense. They work hard at getting people to side with them. And you'll get upset {or even angry} and defensive when people confront you about the situation. And you'll be made out to be the villain. This toxic person manipulates public opinion to get you to cater to their every whim because it's almost easier to deal with the drama than have your reputation soiled with everyone you know.

Both types of toxic people find drama pleasurable. They find joy in creating chaos. Even when they're losing people in their lives, they're WINNING by creating a dramatic story to tell. They feed and thrive on pain and drama. They suck the life and joy out of people around them. And when you're that unlucky person responsible for making your toxic person happy, they breathe in oxygen from making you fulfill their needs, and all you get is their carbon dioxide they breathe out.

As Christians, we read pieces of scripture telling us to 'turn the other cheek' and twist it into the belief that we should take whatever abuse is dished out to us. Through a LOT of soul searching and prayer, I do not believe this is so. After all, He came so that we may have life--not death! Joy, not misery! I have been in relationships with toxic people, and the one thing that is abundantly clear to me is that my relationship with my Heavenly Father ALWAYS suffers.