Freckles in April
Freckles in April is in semi-retirement. I've moved on to a new project- Lark Skirts. Check it out!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Things I Need to Tell You About

A nice thing about being a blogger is that you have this awesome platform anytime you stumble across a really great product and want to tell people about it. A bad thing about retiring from blogging is that you suddenly have no way to tell people about things and it is seriously painful. Like, I have a thing! It's a great thing! But how do I tell people about it?? I HAVE NOTHING. HELP.

The things I need to talk about are piling up so I'm giving in and writing a blog post. It has to be done, mostly so my brain can rest knowing I spread the word. And because you probably need these things in your lives. And apologies for the length- these should probably each be their own blog post but I can only commit to this one so I'm just going to type away until I'm done or until I run out of dried mango (see #4), whichever comes first.

1. Incoco Nail Polish Strips

Ages ago Janssen and I banded together to review a bunch of nail decals. We each tried a few, some were bad, some were good, none were truly great. And then I kind of lost interest and haven't touched a nail decal since.

And then, a couple months ago, I was walking through Wal Mart and saw a brand I hadn't seen before and I liked the packaging. The price was right (under $5) and I liked one of the designs so I gave them a whirl. And Holy Hannah they were freaking amazing.

If you have the misfortune to follow my Instagram stories then you saw pretty much daily updates where I was like THIS IS DAY 9 AND THEY STILL LOOK PERFECT WHAT IS HAPPENING.

So here's how I make mine last forever- I swipe my nails with rubbing alcohol before applying. Then, every few days, I lightly file the ends of my nails (because that's where my manicure tends to wear) and do a quick coat of clear polish. And that's it. They look amazing for longer than any polish I've ever tried.

The selection at Wal Mart is under $5 and really limited (though I got a preview of the upcoming winter stuff through a blogger friend and it looks like they're bringing a bunch more and also they're all amazing). They have way more options on the website. They cost a little more ($9ish, depending on the style). However, shipping is free so it didn't feel too painful to order a few (stocking stuffers! for myself!). They're also on Amazon but not Prime so I haven't bothered.

2. VS Raw Cut Hip Hugger

My BIL got married a couple weeks ago and the night before the wedding I went out with my sister-in-law-to-be and her sisters. They're French and apparently there are no Victoria's Secret stores in the land that originated the word "lingerie" so they were really excited to go. SILTB picked up a couple of these raw edged hiphuggers and I thought they were cute but we weren't there for me so I didn't make too much of an effort to find my size in the colors I wanted. But when we got to the register the clerk told us we could buy two for $22 OR we could get 5 for $27.50. We ran back and she grabbed another pair and I found two for me. And I love them. The raw edge means they're no-show, They're comfy and make my backside look fantastic and I will be buying more.

I'd share a picture but my booty is not a Thing I Need to Tell You About so here's a pic from the ring ceremony instead.

So perfect, right?

3. Wunderbrow

A while back I made an appointment for eyebrow microblading. That same week, Amazon started advertising Wunderbrow at me but I was like, "In a couple months I won't need it, suckas!" But then my BIL got engaged (see above) and we suddenly were going to spend *mumble mumble* dollars on an unexpected Hawaiian vacation so I canceled my microblading appointment and went back to my normal eyebrow routine.

Months later I found myself on Amazon spending an absurd amount of money on dried mangoes (see below) and I was like, "Eh, as long as I'm being spendy..." and I ordered some Wunderbrow.

I'm wearing a shirt, for the record.

Amazon reviews are pretty mixed but I looove it. I honestly don't even feel the need to do microblading now. I'm sure it would look awesome but a tube of Wunderbrow is $22 and microblading was going to be more than 10 times that much AND require a yearly touch-up. Wunderbrow takes me two minutes and lasts a couple days (it's waterproof...if I'm careful when I wash my face at night then I've still got eyebrows for the next day or two).

Here's a little video I sent my sister the first time I tried it. One brow is done, one is sad (I disowned my right eyebrow a long time ago. Weird, patchy traitor).

These days my basic makeup routine is just BB cream, Wunderbrow and an eyelash curler. It takes me less than 4 minutes and I feel "done." As someone who made a habit of wearing a full face of makeup for many years, it's kind of nice to be a little more low maintenance.

You have to work fairly quickly because you're committed once it dries, but I haven't had any trouble getting them the way I want in time. I put a small amount of product on the brush and carefully paint it onto one of my eyebrows. Then I use the included spoolie to brush them out and distribute the product more evenly and quickly use a q-tip to clean up around the edges of my eyebrow before it sets. Easy.

4. 7D Dried Mangoes

For our flight to Hawaii I was super prepared- I packed a healthy lunch for each of us plus snacks to get through the 6 1/2 hour flight. We ate almost all of it and arrived feeling pretty good.

For the flight home I was significantly less prepared. We barely made our flight thanks to insane security lines and I was starving. I had nothing in the way of snacks for the kids and no guarantee that anything on the plane would be to their liking. Aaron ran to buy some stuff from an airport shop while the kids and I waited in the line to board. Among the stuff he found were these mangoes. I ate almost the whole bag in the first hour of flight. They were, without exaggeration, the best dried mangoes I've ever had. I don't know if there's more sugar in there than usual or what but SO GOOD.

I actually tried another brand right after we got home and I only ate one piece. It didn't taste bad (at all!) but it just...wasn't as good.

I was worried they might be a Hawaii-only kind of thing but Amazon has them! With Prime! They're not exactly cheap- $33 for 6 bags of dried mangoes puts them firmly into "special treat" territory- but I ordered some and they really are just that good. They are currently fueling this post.

Me, working on this post (META)

5. Knock-off Rodan + Fields UNBLEMISH

I kept hearing about R+F and then I had this crazy breakout situation for a couple weeks and I was like, shrug, maybe I'll check it out. And THEN I saw the price point.

Sweet mother of all.

Each of their lines is between $180 and $200 for a 3 month supply. Per day that's about $2, which isn't terrible. And I'm sure it's totally worth it! But I just. couldn't. do it.

So I took a closer look at the active ingredients and they were all things I was familiar with and knew I could easily find in other (more budget friendly!) products. So, take this for what it's worth since I haven't tried Rodan + Fields and thus can't speak to just about anything about it except for the fact that these products share similar active ingredients. But my version has worked really well for me!

Cleanser: Sulfur Soap. Yes, sulfur. The soap itself just smells sort of earthy but, if you caught my Instagram story about this, it CAN make your face smell a bit like fart. Just a heads up.

Toner: Witch hazel and glycolic acid. You can also go super cheap and go with straight witch hazel- I got a bottle for less than $3 at the drug store and my skin loves it.

Acne Treatment: Benzoyl peroxide [Link fixed!]. The R+F version is way fancier with some kind of dual chambered pump thing but it's also $102 while the Clean and Clear version is $4.49. So.

Note: I use the benzoyl peroxide every other night. In between, I use my retinol serum. In the mornings I use my vitamin C serum. Because I am blessed with both acne AND wrinkles. Also, be aware that benzoyl peroxide will bleach the crap out of your towels and linens. 

Moisturizer: Oil Control with SPF. I'm SURE the R+F version is better because lotion quality really does vary with price but I was shocked at what a difference this made. I used to get really shiny partway through the day and now I don't. Oil control ftw!

Total cost: $41.63 if you get the fancier toner, $27.67 if you're lazy and just use witch hazel (which I had laying around anyway). Again- I'm sure R+F is way better but, for a quarter of the price, I'm pretty happy with my knockoff version.

6. Diastasis Recti 

I heard of diastasis recti (ab muscle separation after you have babies) at some point between my first two kids but I did the test for it and mine was super minimal/borderline nonexistent so I never worried about it. But I've always had a mom pooch- even before I had kids, my mom reminded me a while back, I complained to her about my fluffy lower belly. I finally just decided it must be my body type or something.

Obligatory gym selfie

Then a couple months ago I saw this article from Babble on my FB feed and decided to add the exercises into my regular gym time. I've been working out fairly consistently for like six months now but I didn't really see major changes until I added those exercises. From my very unscientific Googling it looks like it engages deep core muscles and apparently mine were pretty crummy because tightening them up has made a huge difference and my belly has gone down significantly. At last measure I'd lost an inch and a half from my waist, which I think is just because those muscles are all pulled in tighter now (my weight is the same as 6 months ago, though I hope there's been some fat loss and muscle gain in there). They're pretty easy exercises- sometimes it feels sort of anticlimactic to go from squats and dead lifts to laying down on a mat and doing these fairly gentle core exercises but they've been good to me.

7. Recipes I Need to Tell You About

Chicken Fajitas - I often make these for company because they're so good. The leftovers reheat pretty well too, which I love because feeding myself lunch is ridiculously difficult.

Chili Garlic Chicken Skewers - These are actually borderline too spicy for me but I eat them anyway because they're delicious enough to be worth the pain.

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rosemary - I've been saying for years that I don't like goat cheese but turns out I DO like long as it's a really subtle flavor like in this mac and cheese. This is a holy grail recipe for me- super fast and easy (if you use a deli rotisserie chicken, which I always do) AND my whole family devours it. I usually halve the recipe and we eat all of it.

Tandoori Chicken- not fast or easy and my kids won't touch it but Aaron and I freaking love it and I make it semi-regularly.

And yes, we eat a lot of chicken. Protein! Or something.

8. Books I Need to Tell You About

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Yes it's been out for like 2 1/2 decades but I just read it for the second time and was reminded how much I really love it. The first one is the best (MO) out of the 5 that I've read but I love the whole series. Also, the newish show is excellent, if you're not too offended by naughty scenes.

Let's just say I'm not too bothered.

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi. Fascinating look into the loss of genetic diversity in the foods we eat and what we can do to help (hint: buy fancy chocolate from small growers. I've tried so much good chocolate since reading this book).

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. If you enjoyed Twilight but wished it was'll love this one. Similar idea, much better execution with depth of idea and backstory. Plus it's a trilogy, which is nice if you find you aren't ready to say goodbye to the characters after the first book.

Aaaand I'm out of mango so that's it for me. Miss you, blog friends! What have you been up to? Anything you need to tell ME about?


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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lark Skirts

Oh hey there, long time no talk. If you've visited my blog any time in the past 10 months you'll have maybe seen a note at the top saying I was enjoying my time at home with my sweet baby while exploring other projects.

Definitely enjoying the baby part. She's so adorable, I just die.

As for the "other projects" part? Well, let me tell you about Lark.

If you've been around for a bit you know I'm a skirt person. One spring I sewed myself a ton of skirts and blogged them. A lot of my outfits include skirts. I like skirts of all kinds but what I've really been wanting is an everyday type skirt with pockets. You know, the kind of skirt you can wear with a t-shirt and flip flops and feel pulled together but not overly fancy.

Right about the time I decided I needed to retire from blogging I made a couple sketches of what I wanted from a skirt. Roomy pockets with plenty of room for my iPhone. A flat front waistband so I could tuck in my shirt and not look like a 5-year-old but elastic in back so I could eat a burrito in comfort. Knee-length so I could sit on the floor with my kiddos. Pretty patterns that would hide graham cracker shmutz and boogers.

Next thing I knew I was registering for a domain name and ordering fabric. Which makes it sound a lot easier than it really was (so many months and lots of road blocks. I get why more people don't do this). But this morning, Lark Skirts officially launched! My little dream is officially a little reality!

I carry two pocket styles- patch and inset- and they're both great for carrying everything you need. I have 6 different fabrics and they're all super pretty. The whole thing is exciting and terrifying and I'd love if you'd hop over and pay a visit to Lark's website (that I built myself! Look at me go!).

You can also follow Lark on Instagram, twitter, or FB.

I miss you guys and your comments! I hope you're all having a lovely summer and life is treating you well.


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Friday, December 4, 2015

That One Time We Were on Good Morning America

On Tuesday morning I got a tweet from a girl who said she was a producer for ABC news and asked me to give her a call. I was skeptical...she only had a few followers and her profile picture seemed too pretty for a news producer...seemed scammy. I tweeted back asking for more information and she told me they were doing a segment on holiday gift giving and wanted to chat with me. As a blogger I sometimes get approached about stuff like that so I told her I'd call her soon.

I didn't get a chance to call her until noon while driving to meet a friend for lunch. She told me she was a producer for Good Morning America, she had seen my tweet about my husband buying me a paper shredder for Christmas a while back, they wanted to include us in a segment about gift giving and were we available to film that afternoon?

Uh wha?

Surprisingly, Aaron was down with it and a few hours later a film crew showed up at our house and took over the rest of our day AND our next morning. The piece morphed over the day until they had us Skyping in at 6:15 on Wednesday morning so I could open a gift on air (NO PRESSURE).

And so it was that we were on GMA this week with an announcer asking if my husband might be "the worst gift giver in America" (he's not, by the way. He's given some pretty terrible gifts but he's also given me some awesome stuff. That part of my interview unsurprisingly didn't make it in).

Note: the video doesn't seem to be showing up in some feed readers but it's embedded in my blog so hop on over if you'd like to see our segment.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

I'd like to disclaim that they couldn't get permission to film in a bunch of stores so he was totally stuck when it came to picking out my on-air gift. He was pretty embarrassed by it but he legitimately did well- the body lotion was unscented because he knows I'm crazy sensitive about my body products being perfumed and the candles were a nod to the fact that I burn candles like crazy this time of year and I was just complaining that I'm going to have to go get another batch. He was as thoughtful as he could be within the very limited scope he was given! I was impressed.


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Friday, September 11, 2015

A Week of Helping to Make the World a Better Place - First Responders, Soliders and Veterans

From our trip to Fort McHenry in June

I feel like, for me, anything related to September 11 will always be "too soon."

Like that 2010 film Remember Me with a surprisingly not wooden Robert Pattinson and the lovely Emilie de Ravin where (SPOILER) he dies in the attacks at the end. I was on board with the movie until that point and then I had to turn it off. "Too soon," I said.

Today my 2nd grader brought home an I SURVIVED book about the September 11th attacks. I shook my head, "Too soon."

But it's been 14 years. I guess, for some people, it's not too soon?

Anyway, as I've been reflecting today and seeing other people's thoughts on social media I've run across a few charities I wanted to highlight.

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation | A charity devoted to remembering fallen firefighters and providing resources to those they left behind.

Fisher House Foundation | Among other things, you can donate your airline miles to bring family members to the side of injured or ill service members.

Wounded Warrior Project | Helping wounded service members find education and employment, among other services.

Operation Gratitude | Today would be a great day to write a letter to a man or woman serving our country.

Various 9/11 Charities | A great list of charities doing good for or in behalf of those affected most by the attacks.


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Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Week of Helping to Make the World a Better Place - Climate Change

Another Aaron snap from our road trip

Climate change is one of those things that I was relatively unconcerned about until recently. When I lost my religion I started thinking about all the various post-mortal options now open for my consideration, including reincarnation. When I thought about that one I had an immediate negative reaction. "Oh I sure hope not," I thought, "It's only going to get more polluted and melty around here."

That was a big lightbulb moment for me.

Even if reincarnation is not a thing, we should still be treating the earth as though we have to come back to it in 60 years. Because no one wants to live on a planet that's polluted and melty.

Once I realized that I actually AM concerned about climate change I had a " what?" moment. I'm not a big factory. I don't dump chemicals down storm drains. Aaron works from home and my boys take the bus to school so we don't drive much. What can I, suburban housewife in Mesa Arizona, do to help climate change? I need a list!

So I googled. And I made a list.

Turn off lights. You've heard this one before (and so have I) but sometimes I need a reminder. I stopped in the middle of typing that sentence and went to turn off three lights. It's really easy to just forget but it's also easy to get back in the habit of turning off lights when you leave the room. I've heard of parents charging their kids for electricity when they forget to turn off a light, which I think is a genius way to help them realize that they are consuming something of value and they need to be mindful of that.

Replace your bulbs with energy efficient ones. Not all at once or anything, but as they burn out just start to replace them. You'd be putting in new bulbs anyway so you may as well put in ones that help cut your energy costs and aren't so hard on the environment.

Recycle, reduce, reuse. We were visiting friends at some point in the past year and their city didn't recycle. That blows my mind a little. Recycling isn't a perfect process but it's still a good way to reduce waste! Also, please enjoy this Recycle Rex video.

Recycling is important but I think reducing and reusing might be even more so. Be mindful about what you spend money on. Think about the energy and environmental cost. A more minimalist life makes for a cleaner house, a happy budget and less pollution and waste.

Compost. We had a compost bin in our last house and I loved taking all our vegetable peelings and stuff out there. Time to get another one! Our city will drop a compost bin off at your house for $5 (which is refundable when you give the bin back). Your city might have a similar program- call and ask!

Be smart about your transportation. If you live in a city with awesome public transportation, great! Use it! If not, carpool whenever possible. Or ride a bike! It makes a difference. When the weather is nice here we like to walk or ride bikes to visit friends. Exercise + environmentally friendly!

Eat less red meat. Last year The Guardian wrote an article about how giving up red meat would be better for reducing carbon emissions than giving up your car. The environmental cost of raising cattle for meat is staggering! It's also a change that's not too difficult to make. I need my car to function but I do NOT need red meat. We eat it once a month, if that, and we don't particularly miss it.

Be conscious in your food choices. Organic, local produce can be hard to find (I feel you) but the environmental impact is way lower. As demand grows, so do the options! Ask your local grocery store to carry more organic options. Shop at farmer's markets for local produce. If you're in the Phoenix area, check out Backyard Farmer! Fresh, local, seasonal produce delivered to your door by the people who grew it. It's phenomenal.

If you have the budget, take a look at your house. Did you know that you can use a blower to shoot more insulation into your walls and attic if there isn't much in there? You can also switch out windows for more energy efficient ones. It will help reduce heating and cooling costs AND energy loss.

Pick up garbage. Last year my neighbor friend and I gave our kids some plastic grocery bags and latex gloves and took them around the neighborhood to pick up garbage. We talked to them about being community helpers and helping the earth. They had a great time, the neighborhood got cleaned up, and our kids got to do a good service. It's a good way to get your kiddos involved! Just watch out for broken glass- it's freaking everywhere.

What are you doing to try to lessen climate change? Anything you'd add to the list?


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