December 16, 2014

Merry Music

I believe I've mentioned my love of Christmas music here, here and here. I am a traditionalist for the most part and so the oldies by original artists tend to be my favorites. Here they all are for posterity:

White Christmas - Bing Crosby
No one does it better than Bing and according to Wikipedia/Guinness it's the best selling single of all time

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams
Top 3 fave ... Andy's the original, but I will also accept Johnny Mathis or Amy Grant

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
From the 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, enough said

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
This is a much covered holiday ditty, but Brenda is the orginal and there is no substitute in my humble opinion

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
Nat first recorded in 1946, but it is the 1961 version with the iconic string entrance that has my heart

Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Another much covered song where the original recording artist has the definitive though LeeAnn Rimes' version is a distant seccond

Christmas Time Is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
I love Jazz so this is in my top 5 for sure ... originally from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the choir version is my personal favorite

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
From the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis"

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas - Perry Como or Johnny Mathis
This song always puts me in the holiday mood

Silver Bells - Anne Murray
I'm not sure why I like it ... I think my mom sung it when I was little, or was that "Till There Was You"? Either way 'bells' are involved.

Home for the Holidays - The Carpenters
No Christmas song playlist would be complete without The Carpenters

Winter Wonderland - Dean Martin or Amy Grant
Happy, cheerful and sweet

Sleigh Ride - Johnny Mathis or Amy Grant
Johnny and Amy give it the perfect light, not too kitschy vibe

Silent Night - Martina McBride or Celine Dion
As traditional as it gets and the more powerful the voice the better

All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
A modern classic ... I have the CD along with most of the free world. Did you know Mariah cowrote the song?!

Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
I have the CD by the same name and it's awesome

Do You Hear What I Hear - Carrie Underwood
Did you know this was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis?!

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
This is the only Christmas song permanently on my iPod ... one of my dearest friends LOVES it when I sing the round part aloud in the car during our carpools

Baby It's Cold Outside - Idina Menzel & Michael Buble or Dean Martin & Martina McBride
A new old favorite thanks to current version by Idina & Michael 

December 14, 2014

Creative Juices

If idle hands are the devil's work, then I am a saint! We all know that isn't true, but suffice to say I've been busy.

I made more cookies - PB Blossoms, Pecan Teacakes, Pistachio-Cranberry Sugar and Candy Cane Mint Blossoms. The Mint Blossoms were fussy - add the Kiss too soon and they melted A LOT, too late and they didn't stick. I found with both type of Blossoms that a great hack is Betty Crocker cookie mix - super easy and tastes great. I will never make dough from scratch for these again.

 
I also made those blasted Strawberry Christmas Tree Brownie Bites Sassy saw on Pinterest. Note Sassy was not involved ... strep throat last weekend so banned from the kitchen, studying for finals this week with a lovely disposition this week. The concept was simple - bake mini brownie bites, hull strawberries and "glue" upside down to brownies with frosting, then frost with star tip to look like a fir tree. I found a great hack here as well, Betty Crocker Cupcake Frosting in a can with assorted tips!

The first one ended up looking like a landscape bush vs. a Christmas Tree. I found the right technique was to twirl the brownie around while applying even pressure to the frosting, working my way up to the top. Small strawberries were required for this project so there were a lot of left over brownies - these were frosted with twirl technique and look darn cute as well.
 

In non-Betty related news, I also made Paperwhites in Mason Jars for coworker gifts. I'm calling this a huge success - simple, sweet and cheap. Wonder how many odd looks I'll get for carrying flowers in a wine bottle box into the office tomorrow?

December 10, 2014

Favorite Things

I am doing my best to get into the spirit of the season. The tree is up. Evergreen swags are hung outside. Pandora's Traditional Christmas channel is on rotation in the house and the local oldies channel is playing Christmas music for my daily commute. I did some baking last weekend ... peanut butter blossoms, biscotti, mini brownies (prep for overachieving Pinterest creation) and pumpkin cinnamon rolls. More next weekend ... sugar cookies, pb blossoms again to replace the ones we've already eaten and pistachio/cranberry white chocolate cookies. I'm 99% done with gift purchases but nothing wrapped. I have a mini Avon Advent Christmas tree on my work credenza that my mother bought me in 1996.. you take a little ornament out of a numbered drawer each day. Awww, the cuteness. I even thought far enough in advance to make a couple of paperwhites in mason jar gifts for coworkers. Still not feeling it though.

So I will share a few things I'm obsessed with at the moment.

The quest for a face cleanser that does it all. I cannot be bothered to use a cleanser and toner and eye makeup remover. I barely have patience for the cleanser and if it weren't for the fact that I'd have pimples galore I'd skip it altogether. I have been remiss in using my Clarisonic which I'm ashamed of - it really works and my skin thanks me every time I use it. I've been loyal to Philosophy's Purity cleanser for years but my last batch wasn't up to snuff ... not sure if they changed the formula or if I've changed. Ah, maturity you wicked bitch. So I tried Peter Thomas Roth'a anti-aging gel cleanser because I was channel surfing one day and QVC sucked me into its vortex. I liked it okay and was thinking of reordering until Nordstrom happened. My mom and I went shopping and each bought an eyeliner from separate lines. She got a gift with purchase from Lancome and re-gifted it to me. I tried the mini cleanser while on mini vacation at my BFFs (who might as well be mini she's gotten so tiny) and really liked it. It's one of those formulas that foams/mousses when mixed with water. It smells super clean and removes everything with one application. SCORE!

I'm a creature of routine and was in need of a do-it-all makeup kit. This one from Bobbi Brown fit the bill. It's a little pricey and no mascara included (that mini tube from Lancome is about to dry up), but Bobbi's foundation in Sand is my skin's love language and the Black Chocolate eye pencil may be the best I've ever had. The shadow colors probably don't look too exciting but they work well with my skin tone and the shimmers are fun to use for evening looks (at least on the two occasions I have had to go out after dark in the past few months).

I have a dirty little secret. Every once in a blue moon I buy something 'on speculation'. This means I probably do not intend to keep it yet enjoy using it right up to the return deadline. Please note that I don't do this with clothing - it either works or goes back immediately I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now. The vortex channel has an extended return policy during the holidays so ... say hello to my friend the Vitamix professional blender. If I only made Baked Potato Soup with this magical instrument I think it would be worth it. That soup is delish and ready in 15 minutes including the time it takes to bake potatoes in the microwave (whole potatoes go in, skin and all y'all) and fry up some onions!!! I'm going to try smoothies and chopping next.

I'll throw in a non-QVC reference for good measure. I bought this scarf in gray leopard for a little bit of nothing a couple of months ago to go with my short gray coat AND my long black down coat. It has totally saved me this winter - I look cute and stay warm. ARCTIC BONUS!

In closing, I love me some Burl Ives but his "southern" version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town ... "Santa Claus is a-comin to town" ... is making me want to step away from the Pandora.

October 26, 2014

Wino

I'm a white wine fan, Riesling or Moscato in particular, but this article may make me a convert to reds. And I need to up my game as I only drink maybe once every two weeks.

October 12, 2014

Big IS Beautiful

I stumbled upon this article recently. I stop short of saying I've been the subject of discrimination because I'm "big". I have no idea what it feels like to be humiliated and shamed for something I cannot change. I do believe society's judgment for size is harsh - you should be able to control your weight and it's your own fault you are considered less beautiful. I think money spends the same no matter what your size, skin color, ethnicity or orientation.

October 3, 2014

Mea culpa

me·a cul·pa | noun |an acknowledgment of one's fault or error

Has anyone else noticed a trend in lack of apologizing? I think a good, old-fashioned apology is called for in many instances. It's a nice thing to do. Is it just me? An apology can be a flat out, I'm sorry or I'm sorry that happened or even I'm sorry you feel that way. I am definitely not talking about the the hollow, false I'm sorry followed by but .... You're not actually sorry, you just want to soften another blow or prove your point with sarcasm.

An apology extends an olive branch, acknowledging that someone was hurt by what you said and/or did and that you wish they hadn't been. Sometimes it isn't what you said or did, it's HOW that dealt the hurtful blow. I have a lot of pride ... too much at times. When I see that I'm being prideful, that's when I realize an apology is just what the doctor ordered. Softening someone's heart softens mine in turn, helps build (or repair) a connection and provides the basis for being able to clear the air and move on. Often people will accept the apology and be ready to forgive and forget. Other times rehashing the situation or going deep is called for. It's situational - depends on the people, relationship, circumstances, etc. 

A lot of people cling to the actual words and won't ever forgive or move on without hearing an outright apology. That seems self righteous. I do think apologies can take different forms - an act of kindness, an expression of love or gratitude. Again, it's situational and I'd like to think I'm capable of hearing and accepting an apology without hearing the actual words. I was crafting this post in my head when I came upon this from one my favorite bloggers - 

This gives a good perspective on the concept. On one hand it's taking the high road - giving the benefit of the doubt and letting yourself move on. On the other hand, it doesn't honor the [powerful] connection that may occur when openly and physically demonstrating regret, remorse or intent for the person to avoid the misstep in the future. 

I think what I struggle with most in lack of ability or willingness to apologize is not accepting accountability or showing empathy and humility. It also signals immaturity - incapacity of growth and understanding others' perspectives. We all fail, we all fall and we all have moments of insanity. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and confessional, we demonstrate our humanity. We're all human (though I have apologized to my dog as well). I'd bet 90% of the time the other party flashes to a time when they were sorry and apologized (or wished they had) as well.

September 8, 2014

Review

It's been awhile since I've done a "favorite things" post ... just under 5 years. Time flies when you're having fun!

I have good genes in the skin department (not so much in the body type department, but that's another post) but time is not my friend when it comes to aging so I invest skin care. I've tried all kinds of lotions, potions and serums thanks to Birchbox but keep going back to two mainstays - Philosophy and Meaningful Beauty. I'm currently using MB and say what you will about Ms. Crawford, she has amazing skin. I like that I can mix-and-match my auto ship order to try new products ... the only thing that stays constant is cleanser ... otherwise, I might have a firming serum with intensive night cream one day and a glowing serum with regular moisturizer the next. I use the weather and the way my skin looks/feels to determine what I need daily. Or more likely than not it depends on what I remember to do that day.

I don't always use a daily moisturizer on weekdays because I use a BB cream for foundation. Moisturizer in addition tends to be too much (aka oily) unless we're in the middle of a deep freeze here in the arctic (aka January - March). I am loving Bobbi Brown BB cream ... just right coverage, good skin color match and all important SPF. 

Dry shampoos are all the rage and I am on the bandwagon. Go ahead and judge but I wash my hair every other day - every day would dry it out and day two hair has a good texture for holding curl or a low key updo. I've tried a couple of expensive dry shampoos (thank you again Birchbox) and have found that drug store brands - Suave or Tresemme - work just as well and are much easier on the wallet.

My hair is an enigma ... fine but lots of it, dry on day one and oily by end of day two. I'm constantly changing hairstyles - cut it short and flip up the ends then grow it long so I can put it up. I envy women who have a "signature" style that suits them and doesn't change much. I'm never satisfied. Ugh! I stumbled upon Wen Replenish Mist last summer and found it to be a great boost to my day one hair - use in the am to condition and add texture and use in the pm before bed to prep for day two. It's also a good light skin moisturizer, especially in the winter months. I spritz on (when I think of it) just out of the shower and don't feel so scaly. I gave the one I started with to my mom to try and found I missed it more than I thought so just reordered. It's worth the splurge - only used my first bottle six months and had at least one-third left.

Another rage is contouring and highlighting. There are million tutorials thanks to Pinterest and in theory it seems like a great idea but I can't be bothered to spend that much time or use that many products every day. My cheater product is a crayon concealer in a shade just a bit lighter than my skin color. I swipe under the eyes, down the center of my nose and around nostrils, above the lip bow, middle of the chin and a small triangle between the brows and up the forehead. Then I blend the heck out of it. I've thought of shading with a darker shade as well but haven't tried it yet. Baby steps.

I keep all my makeup organized in this adorable "bento" box - best $7 ever!

And finally a non-beauty product for good measure -
I frequently have only a few moments for lunch and eat at my desk so convenience is key. I'm also trying to watch my spending so have been forgoing the cafeteria at work and eating out only once a week. My current favorite lunch is pita chips and or veggies with hummus. I love hummus and am not picky about it at all, hence I haven't made it from scratch as I'll buy any brand available at Target (aka my home away from home when not at work). There are a wide array of flavors available these days, but the one I only just discovered two weeks ago and have bought three times is Sabra Olive Tapenade... olives + hummus = AMAZING!

I'm praying none of these go the way of the salad mist - it disappeared forever within months of my extolling its virtues.