Saturday, May 22, 2010

the earth laughs in flowers

A second visit to Penn State's Arboretum yielded new, exciting blooms to photograph. The rose garden looks amazing!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

tgif links

It's the weekend! Do something fun!

Recycle old magazines into coasters
at How About Orange

Bust out your sewing machine & make a floor pouf
at Design*Sponge

DIY design: create your own ruffled pillows
at Tidytipsy

Reuse jelly jars to make your own tea light lanterns at Recaptured Charm

Supplement a high-intensity workout with protein pancakes
at The Fitnessista

Whip up a delicious strawberry sheet cake
at Homesick Texan

Cool down with the Magic Juice cocktail at Design*Sponge

Use a little Jane Austen design inspiration
at Design*Sponge

Find the perfect mint green nail polish at Vampy Varnish

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

my current writing playlist

I can write anytime, anywhere, but I really love writing while listening to music. My playlist right now is pretty somber, but what I'm writing right now is pretty somber material. It's mostly folk rock and haunting, moody music.

  • How It Ends - Devotchka
  • Play With Fire - The Rolling Stones
  • Play Crack The Sky - Brand New
  • Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis - Brand New
  • Jesus Christ - Brand New
  • The Wind - Cat Stevens
  • Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
  • Come As You Are - Nirvana
  • Where Do You Go To My Lovely? - Peter Sarstedt
  • Every You Every Me - Placebo
  • Set The Fire To The Third Bar - Snow Patrol
  • Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
  • Enjoy The Silence - Depeche Mode
  • Alive - Pearl Jam
  • My Father's Gun - Elton John
  • Something I Can Never Have - Nine Inch Nails
  • Schubert's Piano Trio in E Flat - Stuttgart Piano Trio
  • Martha - Tom Waits
  • Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying - Belle & Sebastian
  • House By The Sea - Iron & Wine
  • Where Is My Mind - Pixies
  • God Of Wine - Third Eye Blind
  • Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell
  • Rain - Breaking Benjamin
  • Breath - Breaking Benjamin

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a website recommendation

I have an addiction to beauty products. I have so many that often end up going unused: glosses, eyeshadows, hair products, perfumes, lotions, face scrubs. It's a good thing I'm poor or I'm sure it would be so much worse.

My little problem has somewhat improved since I discovered the website Make-Up Alley. It is ingenious. See a commercial for an awesome new lip gloss? Log on to Make-Up Alley, type it into the search, and BAM! You will find ratings and reviews for pretty much any beauty product you could ever imagine. In addition, each review is accompanied by the reviewer's skin tone, type, hair type, and eye color, giving you the chance to see how a specific product works for someone with features like you.

You can also submit your own ratings and comments. I absolutely love a lavender L'Occitane soap I picked up in France, so I gave the product my own glowing review.

Now I never purchase a beauty product without consulting Make-Up Alley. It has saved me a lot of heartache...and money.

Check it out for yourself: Make-Up Alley

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

a rainy day in my "garden"

My garden is really just a bunch of pots. I like it that way; they are portable and can be taken inside when the weather turns bad. This year I've found that I have somewhat of a green thumb. I love planting things and watching them grow! In addition to what I have, I want to plant some eggplant, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs (rosemary, basil, Thai basil, Italian parsley, chives, cilantro).

Last summer some wild strawberries popped up in our flower beds. They came back this spring and have completely taken over everything!

My Swedish ivy is looking very sad and neglected. I'm nursing this back to health.

Iceland poppies are so beautiful, and like the pansies, these are thriving in the weather. They've already bloomed once and they're set to bloom again soon.

My grandma had a pot of donkey tail in her front yard. I loved it as a kid; it was huge, very mature, and they looked like little green bananas. Mine is still very young, but has grown a lot.

I'm not sure what species of succulent this is, but I like it. It's really grown since I first got it in September. I want to get an aloe vera plant as well.

My sad pot of lavender is dying/already dead. I'm trying to nurse it back to health, but if all else fails, I can pick up another plant from Lowe's.

This is a cactus kit, but nothing exciting has yet happened. Cactus can take over a hundred days to germinate, so there's still time.

I found this hot pepper kit at Lowe's. The ones on the left are Portugal Hots and the ones on the right are Cayenne. The center pots are Santiago. No movement from them yet, but I'm still holding out hope.

This pot of pansies was a surprise from my step-mother. They have been thriving in this rainy, cool weather.

My mom's strawberry pot just bloomed! I can see tiny little green berries in the center of the flowers.

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products I love: food

I can't sleep, so naturally here are some of my favorite food products.

Blue Bell Ice Cream
This is one of my favorite brands of ice cream, but it's only available in the South (and Arizona, oddly enough). I love the Rocky Road and Cookies n' Cream, and it looks like they've got some great newer flavors. I loved their Bullets and Mooo pops when I was younger.

Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds
I love the spiciness of these almonds. They're one of my favorite snacks.

Amy's Indian Palak Paneer
Amy's Kitchen makes a lot of decent frozen TV dinners (decent as far as frozen meals go). I really like the Indian ones they make, but the Palak Paneer is my favorite because it's one of my favorite Indian dishes. You can generally find these in the organic section of your supermarket.

Diet Dr. Pepper
The best diet coke ever, and possibly the best non-diet coke. It's a Southern staple. There is nothing like a cold DDP on a hot, humid day.

Laughing Cow Cheese
Laughing Cow is like the Cheez Whiz of France...only a hundred times better and luckily available in the U.S., though not under the cool name "La Veche Qui Rit". It is so creamy and delicious. I can eat it plain, but it's even better on a crepe or hunk of baguette.

Southwestern Egg Beaters
I generally really dislike eggs. I think it's the yolks. I have been known to enjoy an omelet or scrambled eggs doused in hot sauce, but if I'm going to do the egg thing, I try to do Egg Beaters. I can tolerate them and sometimes even crave them. But the Southwestern style? Yum. I love to scramble them up and toss them with hot sauce. One of my favorite breakfasts.

Nestle Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate
Mexican hot chocolate is a favorite from my childhood, though I always wondered why there was a very WASP-y grandma on the packaging. It is seriously SO delicious. You melt the hunks of cinnamon-laced chocolate in milk and whip it until it's frothy. This can be found at any supermarket in the international foods section.

Tazo Green Ginger Tea
Tazo makes some excellent tea, but their Green Ginger is my favorite. It's great by itself or sublime with a little honey added.

I first tried this amazing coke when I went to Scotland. It is everywhere and is said to be more popular than Coca-Cola in Scotland. I hear it makes a great hangover cure, but have yet to try it. It is bright orange and has a delicious bubble gum/orange flavor. It's hard to describe, but really yummy. It was banned in the U.S. for a long time, but is now available. I found it in the international foods section.

Fage Greek Yogurt with Cherry
Greek yogurt is thick, creamy, rich, and positively delicious. Fage makes Greek yogurt with different fruits to stir in. The cherry is my favorite, but they also have peach, strawberry, and honey.

Walker's Shortbread Fingers
Sometimes there is nothing better than a rich, warm, buttery shortbread finger. Walker's makes the best you can buy in a box, containing simply flour, butter, sugar and salt. No preservatives, no dyes, just pure delicious cookie. They aren't as good as the warm chocolate chip shortbread I had in Scotland at Marks & Spencers, but a perfectly suitable substitute (especially if you warm them in the oven).

Peanut Patch Green Boiled Peanuts
Some of my fondest memories as a child are driving through the deep South on the way to Florida. There are stands all across the South selling delicious peanut products. I can remember stopping and getting bags of hot, salty boiled peanuts and crispy peanut brittle. Good luck finding a peanut stand in Pennsylvania. They have these in the international foods section at my local Wegman's--I guess Southern food is a truly foreign food to Northerners. I can't describe how yummy these are. They are salty, nutty, and melt in your mouth. I love slurping the brine out of the shells.

Lawry's Seasoned Salt
I often use this as a replacement for regular table salt. I don't know quite what they put in here, but it makes everything delicious.

Rotel is what makes chili so damn delicious, but it enhances so many other foods: nachos, beans, enchiladas, queso, salsa, chicken, macaroni & cheese, burritos, quesadillas, etc. We always have stacks of Rotel in our pantry.

Carroll Shelby's Texas Chili Kit
A good chili kit, like this one, is another of my secrets for making really good chili. It makes the whole process foolproof.

Pirate's Booty
Like cheese popcorn, but fluffier and yummier...and healthier!

Tabasco Sauce
My life would not be complete without Tabasco. I put it on EVERYTHING.

Penzeys Spices
Penzeys makes very high quality spices and spice blends. They have hundreds to choose from and every one I have tried has been excellent and fresh. I like the Sandwich Sprinkle, Herbes de Provence, Lemon-Pepper, Tuscan Sunset, and Barbecue. I haven't tried the above pictured Sunny Paris, but it sounds delicious. You can order them online or from their catalog (which usually has some good recipes).

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Sriracha is so deliciously spicy and a great accompaniment to Thai and Vietnamese food. It's a sweeter, hotter version of American hot sauces. I love it in noodles and especially Pho soup. If I have a cold, I love to stir in a teaspoon or so into my chicken noodle soup.

Thai Kitchen Spring Onion Rice Noodle Bowl
This is one of my favorite soups. The broth is so delicious and light. It's very low in fat, but unfortunately high in sodium. It's so worth it, though. Don't get the Roasted Garlic or Hot & Sour version--stick with the Spring Onion. And of course, stir in a little Sriracha.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

products I love: bath & beauty

These are some of my very favorite bath and beauty products. Unfortunately, some tend to be on the pricier side. In general, I tend to believe that you get what you pay for. For that reason, I haven't been able to purchase most of these in the past year since I've been living on my own. You make sacrifices. But now that I'm back at home, hopefully I can start building up my arsenal again.

I whole-heartedly recommend each of these products. They have all been wonderful to me in numerous ways.

E.L.F. Cosmetic Brushes
E.L.F. is a "dollar store" make-up retailer. I haven't tried any of their cosmetics, but awhile ago, I bought their 12-piece brushes set per InStyle's recommendation. How could I refuse? $12 for an entire brush set? The brushes are decent and durable, with soft bristles. They aren't professional brushes by any means, but comparable to ones you buy at drugstores and for a WHOLE lot cheaper. They've held up for me, but even if they didn't, they cost $1 each!

Tarte Cheek Stain
I found Tarte's Cheek Stains while on the search for the perfect blush. I tried powder blush and cream blush, but found that Tarte's unique water-based gel worked best for me. They are oil-free and contain only natural ingredients. A great product for those who wish to use eco-friendly products! They smell great, glide on smoothly, and blend like a dream. The application is very easy, much better than using a brush & powder. They are pricey ($30), but will last a long time. All the colors are natural and give you a dewy, young appearance.

Oil Of Olay Complete Ageless Rejuvenating Lathering Cleanser
I've found that for my skin cream or bar cleansers work best. I use this everyday to wash and exfoliate. It has a fine grain that cleans my pores really well without rubbing my skin raw. The cream cleanser doesn't dry my skin and it has a light, pleasant scent. I'm trying to move away from using face washes with salicylic acid, since I use a toner and blemish lotion as well.

Cargo Plant Love Lipstick
This lipstick is fantastic and a great gift for your eco-friendly friends! The packaging is completely biodegradable. The tube is made from corn and the box is made from recycled paper and dotted with flower seeds so you can plant it in your garden! I have the color Killarney, which is a light, shimmery coral pink. It looks great layered under my YSL gloss. Even better, they are on sale at Sephora for only $5! I paid $30 when it first came out...

Guerlain Angelique Noire
This perfume was originally made just for sale at Guerlain's Champs-Elysees store in Paris. We all know how I love all things French! My dad brought this home for me when he was on a business trip to Paris, but it's now available anywhere you can buy Guerlain. It has a spicy, slightly musky, vanilla scent. It's a very mature and sophisticated scent, but not grandma-ish or outdated. This is my very special perfume and I only wear it for special occasions. It's not much of a daytime perfume, it's definitely one for the nightlife.

Ralph by Ralph Lauren
This maybe a "younger" perfume, but I love it anyway. It's such a pleasant, light scent that sticks with you all day. I wore it all through high school, but I still love it.

Neutrogena SkinClearing Makeup
This is a great foundation, especially for those who have acne-prone skin. It does have salicylic acid, but it's not drying at all. It gives more of a sheer coverage, which I favor for a more natural look. It's oil-free and doesn't clog my pores, even on those nights when I forget to wash my face. I wouldn't say it's necessarily "skin clearing", but it doesn't cause breakouts.

CND SolarOil
If you buy any product for your nails, make it this one! It's great for dry cuticles and brittle nails. But even better, if you apply it to an ingrown nail (which I seem to get a lot), this stuff will clear it up in a day or two! It has a nice almond smell and soaks right into your skin and nails. I try and use this once a day at least!

Bath & Body Works Shower Gel in Dancing Waters
I'm not going to lie, I still enjoy Bath & Body Works. This is my go-to shower gel. I love the scent, it's a real fresh, clean one. The formula is basic, but it doesn't seem to dry my skin or irritate it.


Bumble and bumble Tonic Lotion
This is the BEST hair product I have ever owned. It moisturizes your scalp without causing buildup or grease in your hair. It detangles, nourishes, and smooths your hair. It's full of great vitamins and tea tree oil. The best thing is the minty, herby scent. When you spray it on your scalp, it tingles so you can tell it really works. If you have tendency towards dandruff or buildup, get this stuff!

Yves Saint Laurent Lip Twins
As previously stated, I love all things French. I got this on my first trip to France in the airport's duty-free shop. I had a handful of euros left that I didn't want to exchange back into dollars. I purchased this because it was YSL, pretty and gimmicky (I love gimmicks). It comes with two lip products, a shimmery gloss and a satiny lipstick, in coordinating shades. You twist the tube to rotate through the two colors and a mirror. The logo on top pulls out to reveal a handy lip brush. The scents are great, the formulas creamy and smooth. I love this stuff so much!

Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand Soap & Body Wash
This stuff smells so amazingly delicious and leaves your hands so soft. Buy this stuff at once!

OPI Nail Lacquer in Lucky Lucky Lavender
OPI is my favorite brand of nail polish, and they have SO many great colors, but I love this one from the new Hong Kong line. It's flattering on fair-skinned girls, like myself. It's a great spring/summer shade.

Dior DiorShow Mascara
This is a very trendy mascara right now, but for good reason! It has the best brush and gives you dramatic, glamorous lashes. It has a very nice formula and even smells somewhat good. Since when does mascara smell good? It is expensive, but worth every penny.

Bumble and bumble Seaweed Shampoo & Conditioner
This is the best shampoo I've ever used! It's a great everyday shampoo, causing no buildup. It keeps your hair shiny, soft, and moisturized. It contains seaweed, kelp, and spirulina. It is best for those with fine or normal hair. I wouldn't recommend it for extremely thick, curly hair as it is a very mild formula. It doesn't have an extremely "wow" scent, but has a decent, light cucumber-type smell. It cleans your hair extremely well.

Smith's Rosebud Salve
This product has a huge cult following. The rose scent may be unpleasant for some, but I love it! It's also available in a strawberry scent for those who prefer fruits to florals. This stuff is a great lip balm, and also handy for dry cuticles and skin irritations. It's not sticky or waxy, but smooth and glossy. I absolutely LOVE the vintage tin. It's a decent size and will last you for awhile.

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