August 2014 Favorites

Let's take a look back at favorites for August. 

Favorite Instagram feed is littleredbowtique. Besides the play on words with "bow" I love, Marlyn posts beautiful landscapes, cute dresses, and polka dots. She's been a favorite for some time and so happy to share her feed. 

Favorite purchase was the subscription to Hatchery. I've been eating clean lately and Hatchery offers artisan cooking ingredients like healthy oils, spices, condiments like gourmet mustard (if you know me, I LOVE anything with mustard seeds), and sauces. The bottles last enough for a few uses and make a cheap meal like rice and beans taste gourmet. 

Favorite TV Show was X-Files. With a broken ankle, I've been hanging out in bed watching the creepy show. It adds a little bit of excitement to my slow day. Plus if you miss Breaking Bad, this show is a great alternative because Vince Gilligan was a head writer. All season are currently streaming on Netflix. 

Favorite moment was doing an outfit post. It was out of my comfort zone but I loved it! Even if it wasn't I would normally wear, dressing up is something I'm doing to take care of myself.  And for the record, the TOMS shoes I was wearing did NOT make me fall. It was just my clumsy self. I love those shoes so much, they add the right height without making me feel like I'm wearing heels. 

Here's to September 2014! Check out other favorites for this year here

Dressed Up for The ER

I’ve been wanting to do outfit posts for awhile now, but I always believed I had to be skinnier, more charming, more graceful, less awkward, less this, more that. It turned out, I had to be less myself. I was starting to wonder why I wanted to do them. I get a lot of of “where did you get that?” questions, so I figured, okay! Plus when the internet witnessed my complete breakdown this year, there is not much else to hold back. I was even a little skeptical of showing off my legs since I have scars from skateboarding accidents, a Birkenstock tan, and pregnancy gave me varicose veins, or as Ruthie calls them, "nature's typography tattoos". 

Photos of myself are out of my comfort zone so I may as well start with an outfit out of my comfort zone. I normally don't wear color but I love the cut of this dress. As for the ER visit, moments after these photos were taken, I fell and sprained my ankle. It's not broken thankfully, but I was told the damage was bad enough it would take as long as 12 weeks to heal. I wish I could say I was doing an awesome slam dunk during basketball and landed but nope, I was simply walking and my foot got caught on a cement crevice, and I tripped. I guess I won't be posting many outfit posts for awhile but this was fun! 

 

Plated

I wanted to try Plated's service to deliver fresh food to your doorstep with the recipes. All you have to do is cook it! The basics are required like salt, pepper and olive oil. When logged in, you get to choose the date and the recipe, and they offer vegetarian. I chose a beet pita dish, and I can say it's one of the best things I've made, I made sure to save the recipe. It's a spiced deekuh beets with watercress on a greek yogurt with feta on a grilled pita. The photo below is what came with plated, along with the recipe. 

I love Plated and I will use it again for special occasions like when I'm having people over or even when I know I'm going to have a crazy week and eating out isn't an option for me. They offer gourmet recipes but the prices are about $15 a plate, $12 with membership. I thought Plated would be great for a couple like Scott and I but for a large family on a budget, Plated isn't for every day meals- but then I added it up. By the time I go out to a restaurant (not fast food), with tip, pay for gas, it's the same price as going out. If you appreciate fresh food from local food sources for your family, this is a great option. Sign up here

Grow Part 2

We have tomatoes! They were planted in spring, along with other veggies and fruits, and they are growing faster than we can eat them. Each day we pick a handful. Thankfully I love tomatoes, and my favorite way to eat them is just plain with some kosher salt and pepper. I'll admit food tastes better when you grow it yourself. Maybe it's the humble brag that gives it that extra flavor. Seriously though, gardening has saved my sanity, the more each plant bears veggie or fruits, the more I can see my heart bearing a little more hope. Yes, this post came with extra cheese apparently. 


Nicely Worn

I have my “nice” outfits and I have my everyday leggings-and-t shirts-outfits. The days I go out and wear my nicer outfits were few and far between. My husband and I work from home. I’ve been at home more wearing faded black leggings than I am wearing a fitted silk dress and red lipstick (also, that’s a terrible combo in retrospect because have you ever tried getting red lipstick out of silk? It’s my white whale of stains). I would walk by my “nice” things- the finer plates in the kitchen cupboard, the designer dresses in the closet, and the fancy makeup in the (unused) vanity. I was jealous of my own things. The things I owned but didn’t wear because I was waiting. And waiting. 

Moments to use our nice things won’t come as often and when they do, they will probably be a little disappointing. Waiting to wear nice heels only to notice they’re not as comfortable or they don’t make you as tall as you thought they would. Or the dinner party you waited for to use the nice plates aren’t as fabulous because guests didn’t comment on your fancy plates or someone drops a salad plate and your set is no longer a set. 

I have so many “nice” things, I rarely wore them in hopes I will look taller, smarter, thinner, more this, less that, but most likely those promises won’t be met. 

I’m tired of waiting for “nice” moments because right now, this minute is when it’s the moment to celebrate, with no expectation. Don’t wait for “date night” for those heels, a job interview for that dress, a party for those plates. Don’t wait for nice moments. Go to that nice restaurant to celebrate a Tuesday, use those fancy plates for the kids mac and cheese and the peanut butter sandwiches for Mondays. Wear that silk dress to do your laundry, or my personal favorite- wear that expensive lipstick to go running. Yeah, it looks ridiculous but so do the plates collecting dust in the cupboard, or the lonely dress hanging in the back of your closet, or that lipstick shoved in the drawer. Don’t let nice collect dust and time. Nice is right now.

Waiting For Nice.jpg

My Summer Beauty Essentials

This post contains personally recommended affiliate links. Affiliate links help me put a little money back from my blog. Thanks for your support! 

I am so excited to share what items are going to get the most use this summer. 

+ Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12 and Dipbrow Pomade- We're past the TMI part of this blog, right? Ok. I sweat. A lot. So much, my eyeliner and eyebrows are gone by the end of the day. Dipbrow has stayed in tact. I've tested this at Disneyland, in the heat, during workouts and many teary nights. I use the brush to apply it to my brows and use it as gel eyeliner. 

+ Nail X Formula in Turbo. This nail polish means business. It's bright, lasts for a long time, and it can be applied with multiple coats to add more color. I've only finished one polish before, and I think I'll be finishing this one, too. 

+ Supergoop Sunscreen Eyecream. Just because I wear glasses and shield my eyes doesn't mean I shouldn't miss that part of my face for sunscreen. It's an anti-aging eye cream without the heavy paragons, sulfates, phthalates, safe for sensitive skin, and has stayed put. So on those days I decide to wear contacts, it doesn't burn my eyes. What I love best is it's surprisingly priced for an anti aging cream that actually works, under $50. 

+ Cover FX Natural Foundation. I recently switched foundations and there's no looking back. This foundation stays put, has less chemicals than the previous one I used, it's water resistant, anti-inflammatory, calms my redness, it's vegan, fragrance-free, and it's so much gentler on my sensitive skin but still covers my rosacea. A little goes a long way, too. It's thick but blends well. 

+ Marc Jacobs Beauty Lip Vinyl Gloss. This is the first lip gloss I've loved, I'll admit. I'll always go for the lipstick before I bother with lip gloss. Long hair and lip gloss are the worst combo, it gets stuck to my lips and rubs off on my face. Marc Jacobs Beauty has developed a lip gloss that avoids that color drag, my lips are in tact and there is no strange wine colored streak across my cheeks. 

+ Davines Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner. There's a reason "miracle" is in the name of this conditioner. A little goes a long way, my favorite part. My long thicker hair sucks up conditioner and it's constantly on my shopping list. This conditioner not only saves me money, but it works. I use it a deep conditioner by adding a cotton hot damp towel wrapped around my hair for a few minutes. I found it for $1 cheaper here

+ Sunscreen Bands. I'm recommending this product hoping the reader already uses sunblock. (My favorite is Alba's brand) When applying sunblock, rub a little on the band, wear it when you're out in the sun and when it's time to re-apply, it'll change colors to remind you. Unless you remember to always apply, these bands aren't needed. I get lost in time and end up with minor sunburns even when I apply sunblock. Plus, I paid $$$$ for my tattoos, I don't want to lose the color simply because I forgot to reapply. This is a great investment not just for your health. 

+ Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. Ok, so this is where things are getting real TMI. I'm totally comfortable in my sweat. However, I'm not comfortable around other people smelling it. This is an aluminum-free, organic, non-animal tested, vegan thick cream applied to your underarms instead of the conventional deodorant stick. Plus the idea of a chemical making you stop sweating completely, something our bodies are meant to do, sounds grosser to me than a smelly person. It's been tested under stress, the sun, heavy workouts, worn with black outfits and it doesn't rub off and you don't have to wait for it to dry unlike other natural deodorants. 

So those are my beauty summer essentials! If there's something I missed you can't live without, email me and let me know. I'd love to try it out. 

Healthy Eating + Snapchat

I know everyone has a different opinion for weight loss but I'm just sharing what I like so far. I should also clarify the obvious- I'm not a doctor, or a nutritionist, my snapchats aren't a weight loss program.

snapchat'ing my way to weight loss on ourcitylights.jpg

I love my body, I'm not ashamed of it but I want to lose the weight because I gained it when I carried a baby full term, my body is just another reminder and I'd love to move forward. I was inspired by my favorite Instagram foodie accounts- @eating_whole, @sometimessweaty, @livylovestorun, and @karalinaluna to name a few. I would love to do Instagram but I don't have time to keep up with another account. Snapchat is easy for me because I don't have to style a photo, there are no filters, no edits, just basic pure healthy food. I hope just like other's have inspired me it's inspired you. So far I've lost 7 lbs in one week. It's not just snapping a photo, it's an accountability for myself. With the mix of my new treadmill desk and doing Pure Barre 3x a week, I'm happy with the results so far. Some people just eat their food, I like to snapchat it! Find me under "ourcitylights". See you there! 

New (Makeshift) Treadmill Desk

It felt good taking almost a month off from blogging, I really missed it! It wasn't intentional- I got sick for a couple weeks, then I left a week for Palm Springs. Then I came home and my stepdad had a massive heart attack. He's fine, thankfully, and he's getting surgery. Please send good thoughts for a healthy recovery! Between taking care of my family, being away from home and prepping for weddings, and trying to take care of myself, something had to go and that was blogging.

I'm back now! And I'm blogging from my treadmill. Yep, a treadmill. I read this article it's been on my mind for some time. I've read hundreds of articles and endless info graphics on the dangers of sitting too much. Instead of buying an actual treadmill desk, I just went to Home Depot after I measured the size I needed, asked for a finished piece of wood. It's not secure, but since I'm not using it for sprinting or anything, it's secure enough to not fall over. I plan on using for running still and I want the option to take out the wood. Plus I don't want to drill anything in the treadmill. I'm sure I can tie something around it and drill holes in the wood, but I think it works great now. 

Also- I'm short. This size works for me. I think a regular sized treadmill desk would actually be too tall for me but this is perfect. I also got the Polar Watch with training data on it and I'll be updating how it's going. 

This is the perfect time to start walking and working, along with Pure Barre classes. When you watch one of your parents almost die from their poor eating habits, it makes me strive to be a better example to my family. 

Aline in Wonderland - An Alice in Wonderland Themed Bridal Party

Aline had her bridal shower and it was appropriately themed Alice in Wonderland or what we called it, Aline in Wonderland! 

There were mixed tea sets and tea pots, with different version of Lewis Carroll's book as decorations and there were tiny "drink me" notes tied to each cup, just to name a few of the details. The decorations were so well thought out, they were amazing and you can see them throughout the photos. The tassel was made by Tissue Paper Party on Etsy.

Grow

We're growing our own organic garden this year and hoping it'll cut back on our grocery bill next spring. The herbs and romaine I planted last year can't stop growing and are giving me so much, I've made herbs de provence with almost every dinner, and it's saved me money on my daily GG smoothies. So far we have mint, thyme, cilantro, rosemary, sage, and tarragon. I placed a couple of the herbs in their containers and kept forgetting to plant them but overtime, they grew roots on their own, and broke through the bottom of the container. In our dirt pods, we've planted cucumber, spinach, corn, beets, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, and goji berries. We have a greenhouse (a small one we found on amazon and it works great), some dirt, seeds, and a little time and motivation, and we're hoping to reap the benefits next year. 


Unplugged for 40 Days

I don’t want the title to be misleading- I gave up TV for lent, not for good, and I still spent hours on the internet. I’m not scolding anyone for watching TV, just listing how awesome it was from my own personal experience. 

I've never participated in it but I didn’t know lent was something talked about until I read Jen's post. I thought it was like tithing- it’s personal. I wanted to share this because unlike tithing, something required, lent was a choice. I chose to challenge myself. The whole point of lent is to substitute whatever you're giving up to replace with acts of worship or something to get closer to God. I decided on TV because I love TV. I've never loved TV so much than I have at this moment of my life. I find comfort in it, I find humor in it, I find inspiration from it. If I want to tune out sad feelings, watching TV is a great alternative to feeling them. So I gave up the one thing I didn't want to give up. I decided to replace with worship music, and I made a playlist. The first hour was good, I felt inspired and ready to take on the next days. However, I barely made it through the first day. I had no idea how much terrible worship music was out there and it took me weeks to find something good. Once I got over my music tastes, I found out giving up TV was one of the better things I’ve ever done for myself- 

I ate cleaner. I didn’t watch commercials for food, or cooking or baking shows. I really believe in the out of sight, out of mind meaning. I didn’t see sweets or fatty foods, I didin’t crave them.

I moved more. I get bored. I get antsy. If I was sitting at my computer too long without the tv on, I got up, left the house, walked to the grocery store out of boredom, ran on the treadmill to listen to more music. 

Combine those both, and I lost weight. It was a mix of moving more, and eating better

I tweeted less. I didn’t realize how many tv-related tweets I had. Plus I didn’t want to read spoilers. 

I slept more. I didn’t have HGTV on at midnight. As soon as I was in bed, I was asleep a minute later. I’ve never experienced 8 hours of sleep since high school and according to my fitbit, I hit 7-8 hours every night. 

Less triggers. No baby commercials! To clarify, babies are NOT triggers for me (half my Instagram feed are babies, and I love and celebrate each one) but if I'm staring off into the TV, my mind goes into dark terrible places.  

I discovered new and loved music. I love music but over the years I’ve stopped listening to it as much because of TV. I pulled out old vinyl, and listened to over a hundred albums on my queue in rdio.  

Surprisingly I didn’t read much. I was in the middle of reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker, but I didn’t want to be influenced by her experience, I wanted to have my own so I put it down for lent. I read my Bible more, I felt more inspired without images, I blogged more, I had a cleaner home, we took up gardening to name a few. I dealt with issues that made a big step in going forward in my grief.  When we finally did watch TV, we weren't that impressed. Our DVR was filled and by the time lent was over, we had less than 2 hours of recording space. Today we just got rid of premium cable, deleted a bunch of TV shows, and are contemplating canceling netflix. I know it's only less than $10 a month but that money seems to steal me away from what I loved experiencing most- life! Like I mentioned, I loved TV more than most people and everything works in moderation, but there was no such thing for me. I hope this helps someone out there contemplating giving up TV, or even less of it. 

Turntable Kitchen!

Every year I get Ashley's birthday gift from Sephora, she's the beauty queen after all. I never expect anything in return, but this year, she outdid me by not only buying me a gift I love, but an experience! She introduced me to Turntable Kitchen with a one month gift subscription. Before you roll your eyes at another subscription box, this one is different. Turntable Kitchen has been a blog bringing together music and recipes. They were so successful at it, they introduced their blog to your doorstep, The Pairings Box. It's three recipes with a main ingredient and comes with a limited edition 7" vinyl from an up and coming indie band. Mine was turmeric as the main ingredient and I got IYES 7" with a limited edition cover of Beyonce's Crazy in Love with less than 150 copies made of the type of vinyl I got. 

I love cooking and always having music going, it seemed like such a natural concept and it's been executed beautifully. I cooked a turmeric chicken with mint orange salad, and served it with their jalapeño agave lemonade (I added mint to mine). I played it on my portable turntable and it's small enough to fit in the kitchen. The recipe cards come on high quality card stock, so if you get it a little messy, they'll survive. TK also carries a wooden box for their vinyls and recipe cards. The whole gift was wonderful- the discovery of new music on vinyl (it always sounds better on vinyl), the recipes, which were healthy and can easily be substituted if needed, and the discovery of new food, and my growing love for cooking. Thank you Ashley! Obviously I sent the thank you card too soon! Check out Turntable Kitchen and their subscriptions

March 2014 Favorites

Let's take a look back at favorites for March 2014

Favorite Instagram feed is brandivannevel. Brandi's photos are simple. They don't need much editing, and there are no heavy filtered photos to distract you from the photo. In the middle of a adorable baby photos, cute selfies, sophisticated florals and stylish OOTD's, Brandi's peaceful photo pop ups and it's like you're on a mini-vacation with her. 

Favorite purchase would be our vacation. Okay, so we get free hotel nights with points on our only credit card but they are worth saving up for. We splurged on healthier meal options at Whole Foods by our hotels instead of cheaper fast food. It was more romantic having a picnic on the beach than coming back to our hotel room bloated and moody. I also have a new appreciation for California, the beaches it has, and sunsets it offers.

Favorite moment was my birthday week. It was one big moment of awesome. I loved the surprises, whether it was the sunrise from a California beach (I'm a big cheese ball but so true), or flowers from Kaelah, texts from unexpected and long lost friends, to Instagram comments, I seriously took them all in and enjoyed them. Even those moments of sadness, I didn't take any tears for granted. 

Favorite book was re-reading The Outsiders. It's one of my favorite books. After this huge life changing moment I experienced, everything is seen with a new set of eyes, including books. I discovered what I loved about it all over again and caught new words formed together I believe SE Hinton wrote for just for me.

Favorite music is a tie between Twin Forks and Allison Weiss. Twin Forks is Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba's new project. When I listen to it, it sounds like Chris Carrabba grew up with his fans. While we all swooned with him over ex's, now we're singing about stable marriages and families. The music is indie, with kick-drum folky tune to it. Allison Weiss is a younger, newer (2009-ish) artist but just because she's newer doesn't mean she can't keep up with her own written indie music. I love pop-punk and with Allison's female vocals to lead the catchy music, it works. Listen to Allison Weiss on rdio or spotify. Listen to Twin Forks on rdio or spotify. 

Honorable mention- Favorite pinnner would be Vanessa Joie. Some people have a talent for knowing what’s going to be big and Vanessa has a great eye for this. Her taste is fun and her creative mind leaks through curated pins. 

Here's to April 2014! 

Birthday: In Context

I remember reading this article (NSFW) on the truth behind Instagram photos and while it was funny, it reminded us our life can't be judged in snapshots. Brandy, one of my favorite Canadians and bloggers, recently posted on what's the reality behind each snapshot. While I make it very clear my life isn't perfect on my blog, ultimately, people don't know the whole story. I thought I'd have fun with the idea and tell what the reality is behind these shots for my birthday. 

I'm in this weird dress size- not back to my old dress size but I'm swimming in my maternity clothes. It took me four dresses from Nordstrom and Amazon to find one. The day before, Janelle, a friend who doesn't have a Facebook, blog, Twitter, etc (bless you, Janelle) sent me this perfectly matching Betsey Johnson clutch not knowing the color I chose. 

We went to Lemonade for a light lunch. I looked so touristy taking a million shots on my DSLR. 

How meta is it to wear the sunglasses named after you? I'm out of my element here because I'm wearing pink and contacts. I also had no idea how awesome sunglasses were. They hide all the tears while still looking fab. 

Birthday scarf! I was a little bummed the salesgirl at Nordstrom totally dragged this on the way to the counter like a wet towel. 

After walking around Fashion Island, I went home to change. Pink is my favorite color but surprisingly that's the only pink pieces of clothing I own and I was so uncomfortable. I went back home to change and added my Audrey sunglasses before heading to Disney California Adventure. 

We went to Carthay Circle. The sodas were ROSE PETAL sodas. I love roses but not in my drink.

Birthday Disneyland Frap! I'm lactose intolerant so I don't have to tell you what happens behind this photo. 

I came home to a custom birthday cake. I loved it so much, I took a million shots of it and everyone was annoyed at how long I was taking. They don't understand the life of a blogger :P It was so beautiful, I'm devoting a full post to it later. 

Overall my birthday was great.  As I was doing these "in context" photos, I had a hard time finding the negative in them. When I post photos, even if they are styled, there's not much behind them. I see the positivity and beauty in my own real life, I don't think the life I display on my blog or Instagram is that much different. My life isn't perfect, but it's simple and what others would call boring. And that, for me, makes it perfect.

Pause

This week's Friday Darling's won't be going up, partially because I'm limited on wifi while I'm away and I had such a crazy fun birthday week, I completely forgot to organize a post for today.  For fun links, I recommend the following blogs

+ Sometimes Sweet

+ Aspen Summit

+ Chocolate Cream and Cake

+ The Clueless Girl

+ Oh So Pretty

+ Lauren Conrad

I'm relaxing, celebrating life, unplugging this weekend, posting the occasionally pic on Instagram and editing photos with this view below. I mean, work is hard sometimes but can you see why I can't concentrate much? The view from my hotel is so ugly :P