Freckles in April

Friday, July 31, 2015

Easy Gift Idea | Color Coordinate!

I have a sweet friend who has brought me several gifts over the past couple years. Once for my birthday and other times just because she knew I needed a pick-me-up. Her gifts are always a random assortment of small, affordable items but the thing that makes her gifts so great is that she color coordinates them. I've gotten yellow, pink, and blue gifts from her and they have never failed to make my day!

I have started shamelessly copying her in my gift giving.

Pictured above is my sister's birthday gift from a few weeks ago. You can get a bunch of items like I did or, if you're on a smaller budget, 3 or 4 items of the same color grouped together still look great and pack a punch, especially if you can stick them in a colored gift bag or tie them up with a colored ribbon.

The other side of the tag says "that you're my sister!" Corny but true. I love that lady.


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Monday, July 27, 2015

I Used Retinol for 6 Months. And Now I'm Writing About It.

When I was pregnant with The Caboose my skin looked pretty darn good. The weight gain seemed to plump up and smooth out my fine lines and old acne scarring while the hormones were apparently at just the right levels to keep zits at bay.

And then post partum happened. 

The hormone drop caused crazy breakouts on my face and neck. As the weight started to come off, my facial lines and scars became prominent again and I started to look haggard (I'm sure the sleep deprivation didn't help anything). It wasn't pretty. I took passenger seat car selfies to prove it. You're welcome.

Haggard + scars.

Finally, at about three and a half months post partum I decided to invest in some grown-up skincare. I was closing in on 30 and it was time.

Haggard + blemishes + weird neck breakout you can't see behind my hair

I got a Clarisonic Mia (I had a regular Clarisonic a while back and quite liked it but I stopped using it for some reason and it no longer worked when I dug it up) and started researching various serums. I finally decided on Azure Naturals Retinol and Vitamin C serums. Based on my research I also decided that, short of an allergic reaction, I would commit to using the stuff for 6 months since that seems to be the magic point at which most people really see a difference.

Haggard + fine lines

Month 1

The first month was rough. Retinol likes to cause all your budding blemishes to come out at one time and party like it's 1999 (which, incidentally, was a terrible year for my poor teenage skin). It was miserable but at least I knew it was coming and didn't chicken out.

My skin tone is naturally fairly ruddy but I got REALLY red. I spent a few days wondering when I had been in the sun long enough to get that kind of sunburn before remembering that retinol can cause redness due to irritation. Color correcting primer became my new BFF.

Mercifully (and surprisingly) I did NOT dry out, which is a common side effect of retinol. I'm wondering if that's due to the non-prescription strength of my serum? No idea.

At the end of the first month I didn't see any visible difference but one night toward the end of the month as I put on my moisturizer I realized my skin felt crazy soft. I'll take it.

Month 2

I was still quite red this month, though I felt like it toned down a smidge. I broke out occasionally but I felt like any spots had an accelerated life cycle, which kind of makes sense since retinol helps your skin cells turn over more quickly, and they generally cleared up before I had the chance to get too annoyed.

Toward the end of the month I started pausing in front of mirrors to check if my lines and scars were starting to soften. It was subtle, but I thought that maaaybe they were starting to look better?

At this point I also added in some regular masks to help combat the breakouts. I started using my favorite bentonite clay mask much more frequently and occasionally did this pumpkin enzyme mask or this exfoliating peel. They're a bit pricey so I use them sparingly but I LOVE both masks.* When I wanted a gentler (and cheaper!) pick-me-up, I used a Que Bella Beauty mask.

*A note: my skin is NOT sensitive (an esthetician once compared it to rhino hide, so there's that) and can handle pretty heavy duty exfoliation along with retinol but not everyone's can. Proceed with caution when pairing retinol with anything.

Month 3

I started to get rather annoyed during month 3. More hormone fluctuations caused congestion and breakouts that made me really cranky plus my skin was still quite reddish. I felt like I looked really terrible when I didn't wear makeup (which was most days). I changed my birth control and briefly stepped back my use of retinol to every other night and added my old benzoyl peroxide cream on the nights inbetween. Within a couple weeks things seemed to be back under control and I went back to nightly retinol usage.

Sometime in the middle of the month I got really tired of the amount of TIME it took to do my whole routine at night. I'd use my clarisonic to wash and then maybe do a mask and then do my vitamin C serum and wait 15ish minutes for it to sink in and then do my retinol serum and then wait 15ish minutes for it to sink in and then do my moisturizer before I could finally go to bed. It was ridiculous.

I moved my vitamin C serum to the morning and, after washing, just mixed a pump of whichever serum with a fingertip full of my moisturizer, slathered it all over my face and neck and called it good. It was WAY faster and adding the lotion meant I was able to more easily stretch my serums onto my neck and decollete.

By the end of the month I really felt like my skin was noticeably improving. 

Month 4

One week into month 4 Aaron said, "I've noticed that your skin is looking REALLY good lately. Did you do something?" I started to explain what I changed but he glazed over. The important thing here is that he NOTICED.

Month 5

More skin compliments! I still felt like I needed my color correcting primer this month but my skin was not nearly so red. The only breakout I got was when I had to borrow sunscreen from a friend and my skin REALLY didn't like it. It cleared up quickly though, as my breakouts generally seem to do these days. It occurred to me about halfway through the month that I haven't seen a blackhead in ages. My forehead line has really faded.

Month 6

Woot, I made it through a full six months! I did have to step back my retinol usage a LOT this last month though since I've been on 3 trips that included a ton of sun exposure (retinol increases sun sensitivity so I was really careful to avoid using it when I knew I'd be in the sun more than usual). Still, I've used it almost nightly for the past 6 months so I feel like I can confidently say whether or not retinol is worth keeping in my routine.

Short answer: Yes, it's worth keeping.

Long answer: The one I got is fine but I think I'd like to try a bigger gun. I'm due for a dermatologist appointment anyway (family history of skin cancer and all. Gotta get looked over) and I'd like to talk about getting a prescription strength retinol. I definitely saw improvement but there's room for more and I'm not getting any younger. Worth a try, right?

And, since I gave you car selfie "befores", here are the car selfie "afters"-

Still a bit reddish but definitely better! PLUS no more weird neck breakouts.

What fine lines?

Not quite so haggard!
Also, for all the people who are like, "Freckles? You don't have any freckles!" See above.

Have you tried retinol? What were your thoughts? What are your favorite retinol and anti-aging products? Have you done prescription strength? Tell me allll about it please.


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Friday, July 24, 2015

From the Archives

Still as true today as it was in 2006.


My friends used to make fun of me because, when I read the comics, I often laugh out loud. I'm not sure why they thought this was strange (they're the COMICS for heaven's sake), but this morning one of my favorite comics, Zits, really had me going.


I love Jeremy, the main character. When I was a teenager I totally felt like Jeremy and I would be tight if he were a real person. My mom loved to send me the ones that reminded her of me. Which meant she was sending them to me all the time.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kids and Screens

Two weeks ago we had my sister's older two kids stay with us. I had 5 kids ages 7 and under for five days during a really hot week. Playing outside at the park was out of the question and I was having a beast of a time peeling them away from tablets and the tv. One afternoon I decided to take them to McDonald's for lunch. They could eat and then play to their hearts' content in the Play Place.


Apparently the McDonald's near our house has a tiny play area meant for ages 0-3 and computers for the older kids.

I'm a bit torn on this.

On the one hand, I understand that there are probably children in our area who don't have regular access to a computer and it's great that they have a chance to go to McDonald's and improve their computer literacy and play fun games.

On the other hand, I overheard 3 other moms while I was there complaining about the same thing I was: I did not bring my kids to McDonald's to have MORE SCREEN TIME.

How do you feel about the computers at some McDonald's locations? I talked to my neighbor about it and she said there's another location several miles further that does NOT have computers, but it means 10 minutes more drive time. Is it worth driving further to AVOID the computers? That feels silly but...maybe?


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Monday, July 20, 2015

20 Minute Skillet Lasagna in Honor of National Lasagna Day

We're getting into that phase of life where I am mostly a glorified taxi driver. My boys are involved in things and those things require me to chauffeur them all over town and then run home and try to scrape some semblance of dinner together in a very short period of time before they go to bed. It's not ideal but I've made my peace.

Meals that take 20 minutes or less have become my lifesaver. I enjoy cooking but many of my favorite meals take a lot more prep or cooking time than I have available most weeknights so I've been collecting quicker and easier options.

Today, in honor of National Lasagna Day (yes, really!) here's a super easy skillet lasagna I created when I REALLY wanted lasagna but didn't have the time or energy to make the real deal. My kids ate more of this than they do when I make regular lasagna, so I called it a winner and put it into our regular meal rotation.

Skillet Lasagna

8 oz shaped pasta (farfalle is pleasantly reminiscent of lasagna noodles but anything works)
1/2-1 lb ground beef or turkey, depending on your family's tastes and budget
1 24 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we like Rao's vodka sauce)
1 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c parmesan
Sliced fresh mozzarella
Chopped basil

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in an oven safe skillet* until no longer pink. Drain any fat and add pasta sauce. Heat through then stir in cooked, drained pasta until thoroughly combined. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta on top of pasta and use a spoon to swirl it through so you have ribbons of ricotta throughout. Sprinkle parmesan on top then add mozzarella slices.

Slide the skillet under the broiler until the mozzarella is bubbly and starting to brown. Remove from oven (carefully! I burned the snot out of my head) and top with chopped basil. Serve with garlic bread.

*Alternatively, you can dump the pasta and sauce mixture into an oven safe dish before adding the cheeses.


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