Month: May 2013

Blog every day in May x2: Day 13

Talk about being green, eco-friendly or ethical. What do you do to make a difference?
You guys already know from reading my blog that I try to stick to the most natural and cruelty-free foods, cosmetics and other household products that I can find. I also try to recycle as much as possible.

I think eco-friendly shopping gets a lot of press but ethical shopping doesn’t get nearly enough attention. When you’re buying certain items like coffee or chocolate, look for fair-trade options so the local farmers get a fair share of the profits from the item. There are lots of awesome fair-trade little gift items like candles, jewelry and cloth handbags that support artisans in third-world countries who use the money from their sales to better their villages with basic things like clean water and schooling for their children.
And think about the clothing you buy. My dad recently told me about a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline, which highlights the twin problems of cheap clothing: garment factories which exploit workers for low pay, and all that “disposable” clothing that we wear a couple of times and then throw away. Obviously for those of us buying on a budget and looking for cheap chic clothing, we are not going to be able to ensure that every item we buy is made of organic material and produced in the USA; I’m pretty sure most of the stuff in my closet was manufactured in China. It’s kind of hard to find stuff that isn’t made in China. 

However, I think there are three things you can do to make sure your financial footprint is as small as possible:
  • Buy fair-trade or USA-produced when possible. It takes some digging but if the option is there, I’ll take it. I’m trying to research this more this summer so I’ll share what I find with you guys on the blog!
  • Shop less. I still like to buy new clothes but lately I’ve been trying to limit how much money I spend at cheap-chic shops. The less money you pour into cheap retail the better, right?
  • Thrift and re-fashion. It’s probably the best way to be eco-conscious and ethical, and it saves you money, too.

Do you have any tips for me for living a more “green” life?

Issue a public apology. This can be as funny or as serious or as creative as you want it to be.

Dear husband,

I’m sorry for all of my well-intentioned healthy cooking experiments gone wrong. I’m sorry for thinking that spaghetti squash could indeed taste just like pasta and for torturing you with spinach-covered pizza. I’m especially sorry for all of the watery sugar-free desserts I’ve tried to make over the years. You’re right, the slashed calorie count is not worth it.

I’m especially sorry for getting the bright idea to try my hand at egg-free brownies (for the first time!) a mere three hours before we had to be at the park for our post-wedding party. It was poorly conceived and poorly timed, so thank you for not laughing at the gooey mess that resulted. And thank you for running to the store at the last minute to pick up Oreos (in two flavors, no less) so we would have some sort of finger dessert to put on the table at the party.

(On a separate note, I’m sorry that I managed to book the park on the one day in August that it decided to rain, but after three straight weeks of dry weather can you really blame me?)

I’m sorry for all the times you’ve come home from work to find the house in shambles because I got the bug to clean and redecorate an entire room and, well, the madness spread from there. I’m sorry for rearranging the furniture a dozen times before I’m happy with it and for inadvertently hiding your stuff from you in the process.

I’m sorry for thinking that a hike to the beach was just the thing we needed on a hot summer day. I swear I had no idea we would get turned around in the woods and end up hiking for four hours to reach the water. It’s no wonder your old football injury acts up every time I announce I want to go hiking.

I’m sorry that the cats sleep on your homework, step on your face when you’re sleeping and run off into the bushes at night when you try to corral them into the house. I’m very, very sorry for the times they’ve thrown up on your work clothes…while you were wearing them. We all love you to pieces. Thank goodness you’re patient with us.

I’m sorry for that time I wore new heels to go to a movie and we ended up parking several blocks away and having to slowly shamble walk to the theater with me cringing in pain from the blisters. I do know better, I promise.

I’m sorry that I freeze up around new people and offend them in the process with my silence and/or sarcasm. I’m glad you can finally look back on my meeting with your stepmother and laugh. In all fairness, I don’t think people shouldn’t ask questions if they don’t want to hear honest answers. And I thought at the time that “leave them at the fire station” was a perfectly acceptable response to her persistent nagging question of “But what if you DO have children? What will you do with them?”

Lastly, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve said I’ll be done with the computer “shortly” and then lost myself in Pinterest for an hour. Did I mention how glad I am of your patience?

Love, your well-meaning and overly ambitious wife

Product review: Own Skin Health Lifting Eye Cream

Disclosure: free product was sent for consideration, however the free product does not affect my honest review in any way and all opinions are my own. As always I do my best to provide you with a complete and honest review!

When I was younger I didn’t realize that slapping makeup on when you haven’t been taking care of your skin serves no purpose at all. I thought the solution to dullness, dryness, dark circles and all other assortment of skin maladies was different makeup. Now that I’m a bit older and wiser I’ve realized that I’m better off spending my money on quality products to take care of my skin, and that in doing so I’ll end up needing less makeup overall. Win-win!

The main problems I run into when shopping for skincare products are:

  • Not vegetarian-friendly
  • Packed full of chemicals
  • Way too expensive
  • Irritates my sensitive skin

So with those concerns in mind, I was super happy when IFabbo and Own Skin Health sent me this sample tube of the Own Skin Health Lifting Eye Cream to try out. (I say “sample” because that is how IFabbo refers to it, but judging by the size of the tube and the website info this is a full-sized product, which made me do a little jig of surprised happiness.)

This product is vegan, Leaping Bunny certified, free of retinol and other harsh ingredients, and priced comparable to drugstore lines like Olay and L’Oreal.

The product: Own Skin Health Lifting Eye Cream; $23.99/0.5 oz.; available online through

The claim: Formulated to lift and smooth wrinkles while brightening skin with clinically proven CLA technology. In eight weeks, reduce the appearance of crow’s feet by 61% and the total number of wrinkles around the eye area by 30%. Free of retinol, fragrances, parabens, and sulfates.

I tried it: I received my tube of eye cream at the beginning of April, so I’ve had ample time to test it out and see how it works! I apply it twice daily, in the mornings and evenings after I’ve washed my face and applied my regular face cream. You need only the tiniest dab–think the size of a grain of rice–for both eyes. I just tap it lightly into place around the eye as with any eye cream. (Jasmine at Green Eyed Monster has a great illustrated tutorial on eye cream application here.)

I feel like this stuff absorbs very well and is non-greasy, but remains hydrating. It has a very light and pleasant silky texture. If you had very dry or mature skin you might wish for something more moisturizing, but I felt like this was really hydrating even after a long day. And since you only need to use such a tiny amount, I know this little tube is going to last forever. I feel like I’ve barely made a dent in it in the six weeks that I’ve been testing it!

Having noted the hydration level, I must also note that this eye cream wasn’t too slippery to wear under my makeup. I have very dark undereye circles and need heavy-duty concealer to hide them; that “sheer coverage” nonsense just does not cut it with me. The trouble with heavy-coverage concealers is that they have a tendency to settle into the fine lines around the eyes and highlight them, which just defeats the purpose of trying to look fresh and rested! The solution is to wear an eye cream under your concealer, but some are so slick that your concealer just melts right off. I felt like this Own eye cream struck the perfect balance between hydration and staying power; I layered it over my moisturizer and under a primer and concealer, and my concealer’s normal wear time was not affected at all. My fine lines, on the other hand, were much less noticeable.

Now, let’s talk about using the eye cream without other products. This cream has an immediate yet subtle firming effect around my eyes, which helps disguise my bags and lines on the days I really don’t have time for makeup. I feel like this eye cream does help me look more well-rested. As far as the long-term anti-aging properties, I do feel there’s been a noticeable decrease in the number of fine lines around my eyes.

Finally, I have to point out that my skin is fickle: it handles some products with aplomb and others not at all. Many mainstream skin care products are full of chemicals that are not only icky but can also irritate sensitive skin, retinol being one of the most potent, so I’m really happy that this product is plant-based and didn’t sting my skin in the least. It also doesn’t have a strong “skin care” smell, if you know what I mean!

Here’s the ingredients list (from the Own Skin Health website), just in case you’re interested: Water, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oleosomes, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Conjugated Linoleic Acid*, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Olivate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Coco-Caprylate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Tocopherol, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Olivate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Germ Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

My verdict: I love this stuff! I’m normally very skeptical of products that claim to improve your skin by such-and-such percentage so I was very happy to see such good results from this product. I’m so pleased to find a vegan Leaping Bunny-approved product at a mass retail price that works so well for me, and I will definitely consider purchasing other Own Skin Health products in the future!

If you’d like to try this product for yourself, Own and IFabbo have a special coupon code for you to use! Check out through the Own Skin Health website here and use coupon code “CLAIFABBO1” to get 30% off your first purchase of Own Skin Health products.

 Disclosure: free product was sent for consideration, however the free product does not affect my honest review in any way and all opinions are my own. As always I do my best to provide you with a complete and honest review!

Blog every day in May x2: Day 12

Are you a collector? Maybe a bit of a hoarder? Tell us about something you like to collect. Or if you favor minimalism, perhaps tell us why? 

Oscar Wilde said you could never be overdressed or overeducated, and I obviously concur, because I collect clothes and books like crazy! In fact, my birthday present to myself this year will be more clothes and another bookshelf for the living room, so I can continue buying books–even though I weed out the “meh” titles as I read through them, I’m still running out of room! 

Other things I could be said to collect: nail polish, Asian decor, coffee mugs, and penguin-themed Christmas decorations.

What do you miss? (a person, a thing, a place, a time of your life…) 

Sometimes I miss the freedom and flexibility of the schedule I had before I had before I got married and had my “kids” (cats). Don’t get me wrong, I miss NOTHING else about that time–not my run-down apartment, or my crappy roommates, or being broke all the time because I was young and just getting started in life. I wasn’t a big dater and I didn’t get into the party scene, so I don’t miss any of that. I’m not one of those people who longs for the single life.

But my husband and I work opposite shifts (and may have opposite days off very soon), so we can’t just spontaneously go out on a date or meet up with friends. We have to plan our “couple” time carefully to make it mesh with all of our individual responsibilities and schedule demands.

Also, having pets means I can’t just take off for a weekend if I’d like–I have to think of who will feed the kitties, change the litter box, play with them, etc. And since Max is an insulin-dependent diabetic, I even have to keep tabs on my daily schedule to ensure I’m home at the right time to feed him and give him his shots. Staying out all evening and night isn’t an option unless I make a pit stop back at the house to take care of him.

So, while I love my life as it is and wouldn’t change it for the world, and obviously I love my husband and cats more than anything–I do occasionally miss the days when I could throw my things in the car and take off for the day without thinking about taking care of the “kids” or whether making plans for the weekend would mean not spending time with the hubby. I don’t understand people who gripe about being single and are in a hurry to settle down–you have so much more freedom of time when you’re single, so don’t waste it! Use it to enjoy doing all of the things you want to do, like traveling or getting an education, before you’re juggling schedules with a partner and possibly tossing kids or pets into the mix.

I think there’s also a large implicit lesson to be had here: enjoy every time of your life as it comes along, because someday, even if you don’t think you ever will miss it–you will! So don’t waste your days wishing for something different. Something different will arrive in due time. :)

Blog every day in May: Day 11

 Tell us about your favorite book. Or maybe give us a top 5 of the books that changed your life.

It’s really hard to pick out just a few books out of the many I’ve enjoyed, but here are my current “top 5” that I would recommend:

  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Yay for a female heroine like Katniss, who isn’t obsessed with boys or her weight but with basically starting a revolution and toppling a dictatorship.
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. Well, really, anything by Bryson is good; he meshes memoir, travel and humor together in a way that has both made me laugh and taught me a great deal about framing stories.
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. I love this story, partly because I love historical fiction, partly because of the adventure and humor, but also because Jamie and Claire’s love story is such an imperfect one. They have their share of squabbles but work through them nonetheless.
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Can’t make the list without this one! Easily still the best romance ever, and I love the BBC miniseries adaptation.
  • James Herriot’s books on life as a vet in rural England (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.) I read these as a kid and if you love animals, I really recommend you pick one up and flip through it. From the hilarious to the heart-warming, his stories are wonderful.

Sell yourself in 10 words or less

Intelligent, open-minded, quick-witted, hard-working, funny, fierce. Am I bragging? I think I’m bragging.

Inspiration Saturdays: a little home improvement

So I told you guys earlier this week that I had done a DIY makeover on my deck, and now I have the pictures for you! I have seen so many other bloggers getting started on outdoor yard and/or garden projects that it really got me itching to do something about our neglected deck area.

Here’s what my deck looked like before and after. The carpet was dirty and all I had up there for planters was a line of $5 grey plastic totes whose plants had long since died. I did go to the Home Depot two years ago and buy pipes and fixtures to create a raised run on the porch to hold the planters but that was all the work I had put into this area.

I wanted to give this area a makeover for about $100, so let’s see how I did.

I started by cleaning up the carpet, then taking apart all of the piping and refitting it in an “L” shape in the corner. Then I used cans of brown and “stone” look spray paint to give the tubs a facelift. I used two cans of brown spray paint specifically meant for use on plastics as a primer/opaque base, then two cans of the textured paint over the top; this was enough to cover all five tubs. Total cost to revamp the tubs: about $20.

The tubs get lots of sun, so I found some sun-loving perennials including columbine and a bleeding heart. The solar lights were picked up on clearance at Walmart a few years ago. I also have some chives from a friend, plus Cosmos seeds from my mom that I threw in the tubs and a mixed flower seed packet that should yield hollyhocks, echinacea, daisies, some ornamental grass, and one other type of flower (sorry, I can’t remember!).

It’s true that it’s cheaper to just plant seeds than to buy live plants, but I didn’t want the deck to be totally barren, so I went ahead and splurged on a few plants just to get started. Total cost of plants and seeds: $20.

Here’s the biggest part of my project: the privacy screen. There is nothing to block the line of sight from my neighbor’s deck to mine, and the lack of privacy really bugs me. I like to be able to enjoy dinner or a book on the deck without feeling like someone can see everything I’m doing!

Building the screen was simple in theory, less so in practice. I needed to go to Lowe’s for lumber and lattice. Unfortunately, while they did cut the strips of lumber to size, I was informed that they would not cut the lattice, which left me with two options: walk away empty-handed, or tie the eight-foot long sheet of lattice to the roof of my car and pray I made it home.

Did I mention how flexible and floppy these lattice sheets are? There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than driving home with a stack of lattice sheets slapping merrily against the rear window of the car with every tap of the brakes. I don’t blame the many drivers who sped up to pass me!

Once I got home I just had to cut the lattice down to the correct length with a hand saw, spray-paint the lumber strips, nail them into a frame, and attach the lattice to the back with 3/4″ screws. Then I added hinges to create a pair of two-panel screens. Total cost: about $65.

I wanted a rug for the porch but since I’d maxed out my budget at this point, I just grabbed an older throw rug from the kitchen. The table and chairs were a housewarming gift from my mom when we first moved into this house two years ago, and they haven’t seen nearly enough use up until now because the deck just wasn’t an enjoyable place to hang out. Not any more! Now we can enjoy an evening dinner on our lovely deck.

Blog every day in May x2: Days 9 & 10

Day #9 prompt: Are you a Twitter-lover? Or maybe you can’t get enough of Pinterest? Do you need to share every meal on Instagram? Do you waste away the hours watching YouTube? Or Facebook is your comfort zone? Tell us about your favorite social media channel and why.

I’m addicted to Pinterest–anyone who has read my blog for a while knows this–but other than that I don’t really get into social media on a hardcore level. I have fun chatting with people via Twitter or Facebook now and then, but I don’t really get into them like some people do. And since I am such a lame-o, I don’t even have Instagram. :P

Day #10 prompt: If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be?

New Zealand. I have wanted to go there for years. I think it’s a beautiful country!

Day #9 prompt: A moment in your day (this can be just a photo or both a photo and words)
Dinner on the newly made over deck! Fresh cantaloupe, mango and kiwi, deviled eggs (the husband’s favorite), a turkey and cheese sub for him and a roll for me. And lots of ice water–it’s been nearly 90 degrees every day this week!

Day #10 prompt: Most embarrassing moment (s). Spill.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in saying that I try to block out the memories of any embarrassing moments. But I can think of a few off the top of my head:

  • The time I called my boss by the wrong name.
  • The time I tripped over my own two feet in front of a crush and ended up tripping him, too. 
  • The time I went out on errands in my grungy sweats and ran into a girl I hadn’t seen since high school…looking much better than me, natch.
  • The time I slept right through my alarm and missed my doctor’s appointment. Luckily they were super-gracious when I called to apologize!
  • Any time I’ve almost fallen in heels.
  • The time I went to the dentist for aftercare due to having my wisdom teeth out the previous day (all four at once–but that’s a story for another post) and all her talk of needles and whatnot made me so woozy I almost passed out. While I was sitting down. She told me it was because I hadn’t eaten that day. Yes ma’am, I believe I’ll just file that in the “no shit Sherlock” section right next to “just had four of my teeth ripped out at the roots”.

Random Thursday: Confessional: Tell a secret

I sometimes go weeks without wearing makeup.
I know this is nothing particularly shocking or juicy. For some women this would be a big deal in and of itself, for some it wouldn’t be anything unusual. But since I blog about beauty and style, most people assume I must wear at least some makeup every day. 
It’s not that I don’t like makeup, and I do feel like I look better with it. But when I don’t feel good, or I’m super-busy, or in the summer when it’s like 90 degrees in the shade–I can’t be bothered. I rub in my moisturizer and slick on some lip balm and run out the door.
What’s your secret? Tell me in the comments or leave me a link to your own RT post so I can come visit your blog!

Blog every day in May x2: Days 7 and 8

Well hello! Can you believe I didn’t log onto the Internet even once yesterday? That’s unheard of for me! I spent twelve hours working outside to make over my porch, which involved a lot of work and multiple trips to the Home Depot but ultimately gave me a lovely outdoor living space for the summer, and I’m so pleased with it. (Sore and tired, but pleased.) I’m going to post pictures of everything later this week so you guys can see what I did!

Also, I know I haven’t done very many beauty or fashion posts lately–Blogger STILL refuses to upload my photos via Mozilla. :( I can use old photos that were already uploaded from prior posts, but I can’t add any new ones. I’ve had a bunch of new photos edited and stored on the computer for so long now, and I’m getting sick of this nonsense, so I’m going to switch browsers this week to upload my photos and then hopefully I can post my reviews and other stuff for you! 

In the mean time I missed out entirely on my daily blog challenges, so I’m going to get back on track with those today.

Prompt for day #7: Tell us all about your pets, past and/or present.

You guys are constantly hearing about Max and Jiao! My cats were both rescues. 

Max wandered into my yard one day, scruffy, underweight, and scared. He was trying to eat some Cheetos that my neighbor had spilled on the sidewalk but there were too many ants on them. He wouldn’t come near me but when I put food and water out on the porch he came and ate them. Little by little I gained his trust until I was able to bathe him and take him to the vet. He gradually got healthy and put on weight and now he rules the roost. Last summer he developed diabetes so he has to have twice daily insulin shots and a special diet, but he is worth it! I think he’s about 6-8 years old.

Jiao was a 4-6 month old kitten dumped at the local Walmart. One of my friends brought a raccoon trap to the store to catch her and oh my, how she howled! I think torties are naturally high-strung because it took her forever to calm down. She only weighed about five pounds and all of her ribs were showing, but otherwise she was okay. She clung to me like Velcro for days on end. She’s about a year and half old now and as wired as ever; she’s very talkative and spooks easily so she can usually be found racing around the house chattering to herself. She loves Max, but he isn’t so fond of her–she’s too hyper for his tastes!

Prompt for day #8: Tell us about your first job. Did you love it or was it horrendous?

My first job was a cashier at a fast food restaurant, and I loved and hated it by equal turns. I worked with a bunch of other high school kids so we had fun chatting, joking around and listening to the radio while cleaning. But it was soooooo hot in there in the summer (remember, the kitchen is full of fryers!) and very dirty and greasy. Also, the customers could be horribly rude. To this day when I go somewhere to eat, whether it’s the Panda Express drive-thru or a nice restaurant with fancy lighting, I try to be patient and polite to the servers, even if it seems like there’s no reason for the service to be slow. You don’t always know when all hell is breaking loose behind the scenes in the kitchen and it isn’t the server’s fault!

Prompt for day #7: The thing(s) you’re most afraid of.

Water, bugs, the dark, heights. These are my phobias. Worse than all of those is the fear of losing the people I care about most, or something happening to one of them and me being unable to help them. You know those newspaper stories about a parent finding their child trapped under a car or in a burning house, and they get that adrenaline rush and do something really superhuman to save them? I totally get that. When you really love someone you just get this protective instinct that propels you through anything. I can imagine few things worse than seeing someone you love in a situation where you literally could do nothing, like having cancer, because you’d have to just sit helplessly by while they suffered.

Prompt for day #8: A piece of advice you have for others. Anything at all.

Always listen to your heart. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but you have a voice inside of you that tells you what is most important to you, what feels right or wrong, what will make you happy or unhappy, and when to walk away from something. Some people call it a gut instinct. LISTEN TO IT! Whether it’s something relatively small like knowing a color is not “you” no matter how many people say you should wear it…or something big like a gut distrust of a person…or a personal moral conviction…or a decision you want to make…listen to your heart. 

Don’t let other people override you, don’t change your mind just to make someone else happy, don’t ignore your inner voice because it doesn’t make sense. Every time I have ignored that knot in my stomach or that pull in my heart that tries to take me in one direction, I’ve regretted it. I’ve learned that over time your “sixth sense” as it were becomes more and more-fine-tuned and those little tugs you feel are there for a reason. So listen to your heart, trust your instincts, and don’t stray from your path.