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I Quit Sugar | Week 6

6 Feb

” This is not a mean diet. It’s an experiment.”

-Sarah Wilson, I Quit Sugar

The six week mark means only two weeks left to go and I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. This week’s directive is to “play with some sweetness,” meaning that we can allow some treats so that we don’t feel like we’re depriving ourselves. The real test here is whether we, the people not eating sugar, can add it in moderation or whether it’s all or nothing.

I’m a little scared to try. I’ve been dreaming of macarons (my monday obsession) for weeks now, and I’ve “cheated” by having a diet drink and not watching the “incidentals” as much as I should (still using tomato sauce, although low sugar tomato sauce…). I’ve also been drinking 2% milk and eating bread.

On the flip side I have successfully eliminated all sugary drinks, chocolate, fruit, sauces, most processed foods, and sweets, along with reading labels like a maniac and avoiding incidental sugars whenever I can.

Now that I’ve reached sugar-free capability I need to really decide what I want out of this and where I want to go long term as far as health and diet.

So far I know that I’ll go back to sugar but I feel like I want to be more aware of what I’m putting in my body from here on. Limiting sauces, sugary drinks, processed foods, and high-fructose fruit/juice would be both sustainable and pretty easy at this point.

Also, no more soda. Period. It’s just unholy bad for you.

I’ll write comprehensively upon completion of the program including pros and cons and overall impressions, but I’m feeling good about making it this far. It’s been a challenge…

So on to conquering Week 6… I think I’ll get some low-fructose fruit, maybe starting with some of the lowest fructose/sucrose combined fruits like strawberries and grapefruit. Maybe some blueberries. And a piece of dark chocolate at some point because I deserve it!

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Gifts For Your Valentine | The Manly Edition

3 Feb

 Now it’s time to address what to get the men in our lives… And I have to say, Valentine’s Day gifts for men usually requires some very creative interpretation if you’re trying to give him something “romantic.” Chocolate and flowers don’t usually produce the same response in their case… I say choose being awesome over being romantic – it’ll be less embarrassing for everyone involved. ha.

Since my significant other sometimes reads my blog, I don’t really want to feature his potential Valentine’s gifts. Instead, here’s a few V-For-Victory Day principles I try to live by:

Get him something he actually likes, as opposed to what you want him to like.

While you might be able to convince him to get rid of those mustard yellow grandaddy corduroys from Goodwill without a fight, the odds of him giving up his nerdier hobbies aren’t as good. Besides, they’ve always been part of his charm.

So, if he’s into video games, seize this opportunity to buy him a game that doesn’t involve violence against women or terrible bloodcurdling screams every two seconds. If he’s really into vintage tees, get him a bunch of cool ones so he stops wearing the one where Jesus is giving people the finger. And so on.

The bottom line is that he’s not going to stop liking things just because you don’t (just as the vice versa is true), but that doesn’t mean you can’t both make an effort to make them more amenable for you both.

 Don’t try to change his “design scheme” too drastically.

Not only will he resent you forever, but you will lose respect for him in his pink socks and tank top and mesh top and capris. It’s just too much. The same rule applies to buying him pastel bathroom decor, knitting him legwarmers, changing his shampoo and conditioner to something from Aveda, or buying him a sweatshirt for the rival team… Valentine’s Day should be a time for you to show him that you know, love, and appreciate him the way he is.Love and food go hand in hand so do your relationship a favor and be cool with whatever happens with the whole dinner thing.

There’s a lot of pressure to have these perfect Valentine’s dates and the truth is, perfection is usually in the unexpected and therefore totally unpredictable. What is predictable is that spending a million dollars on dinner at a crowded restaurant is often a recipe for disaster. The food takes forever and costs a fortune and then somebody next to you proposes or gets massive jewelry and then how do you top that? Any other night you couldn’t care less about these things, but this is the night he’s showing the world how he feels about you!

Not really but it can feel that way on V-Day.

Consider going somewhere fancy the weekend before or trying to put a new spin on an evening at home. Send your kid away, get a nice bottle of wine and some candles, and order some delicious takeout. The importance is in creating a ritual to show appreciation for your mate and you don’t have to spend loads of money to make it nice, or conform to everybody else’s expectations to make it legitimate.

And lastly…Go ahead and be real clear about your Valentine’s expectations in advance.

Whether or not we like to admit it, we ladies are brainwashed from birth to read too far into Valentine’s Day. One year my flowers were wilting as he handed them to me and I was convinced it was proof he didn’t care about me. Truth is, I had actually told him that I thought red roses were cliche and carnations were death flowers so he went all over the DC Metro area looking for something else.  I didn’t communicate very well (I just really wanted flowers that time), and it definitely started the night off on the wrong foot.

Things is, if you really love each other you spend all the other days of the year helping run a household or taking care of them in one way or another. On the other hand, giving someone jewelry on February 14th doesn’t mean you’re treating them well the rest of the time.

In the end, while V-Day is an opportunity to show appreciation for your partner (or a good friend or whomever you wish), it is not by necessity the defining calendar day of your relationship. And it can totally be fun and enjoyable if you remember what’s important.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Gifts For Your Valentine | The Ladies Edition

2 Feb

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare 

I think we all probably have complex feelings about Valentine’s Day these days… There’s something robotic about the whole roses-and-chocolate dance, but try a Valentine’s without gifts and see if you’re not mad at your significant other for weeks afterward!

Instead of the fail-fail scenario, maybe we’ll try something new this year: Sweet gifts that differ from the usual fare. Here’s a few ideas for items that will make your otherhalf swoon with amore… and tomorrow, the maskaline version.

Vintage Royal Albert Teacup and Saucer, $32. Because tea should be consumed with dramatic flair, especially when you’re not allowing yourself to drink Russian Hot Chocolate for the next however many bazillion weeks…Oh man. Visions of a 24-piece macaron gift box are dancing in my head right now… Forgo the Walmart mixed chocolates and have some delicious macarons delivered to your doorstep your Valentine’s doorstep instead. I happen to be able to vouch for Lette’s macarons in L.A. Turns out they deliver, and they also sell aprons in fuchsia, chartreuse and violet (ahem violet) for $25. The combination of the two would blow the top off any mixed box of chocolates any day, guaranteed.  Maybe your favorite chef is a little salty, or maybe they’ve always loved knuckle tattoos… Regardless, these witty mitts are just the thing to get you out of a knuckle sandwich on V-Day. Here and here You know what’s super cute without being nauseating? Miniature paintings. This shop on Etsy has almost thirty different ones, all of which are, er, precious for $22 each. But this one’s my favorite…it’s called “Complicated Feelings.”  This print just drips of good will, don’t you think? Extra points for framing it and placing it in the night…! $18 at this Etsy shopKey to successful Valentine’s gifts: Give them something that will serve as a daily reminder of your affection. This omigawdiloveit adorable bento box is way too cute to leave at home, so you’d be softly encouraging them to eat well, too, which is an expression of love on its own. $39.99. Bento boxes also come in other colors and styles.

Tune in tomorrow for some ideas about gifts for the manly man type figure.

Places and Spaces | Tackling Black

25 Jan

This may surprise you, but I’m very particular about color. While I love the dramatic and organizational impact black can have in a room, especially with framed photos/prints, I am rarely if ever really attracted to rooms with a lot of black. They usually look garish and jarring to me, especially in the following (and most common!) combinations: Hot pink and black, zebra print in pretty much any form, and damask designs.

Here’s the classiest example I could find of the combo I’m talking about, which, in my humble opinion, still looks like someone having a mid-life crisis albeit a somewhat restrained one…

In fact, this is about as much zebra as I can stand in one room: So my challenge was to find soft interiors that utilize black in a non-garish way without looking too cold, masculine, or modern. As it turns out, it can be done… All these stripes could be overwhelming but the antique paintings, photos and furniture really pull it back from the brink and warm the room up a little…The lace is really feminine without being expected or overly frilly…I would pretty much murder for this couch, and I like the way that black is used as a pop of drama in the room as opposed to an assault.You pretty much need a black couch with this girly wallpaper! It totally works.Now this room looks very French and restrained-but-feminine to me. The black and white balance each other without competing.A black accent wall goes a long way and doesn’t weigh the space down. I also like the faded black furniture… It’s black but not harsh…This is how to work in animal print without looking like a teenage drama queen. The french blue color is amazing here.I would pretty much make out with this espresso machine any time. Wow. This space is really classy and clean looking – the ideal coffee spot, totally calm and restful.Since they used these bold stripes the natural accents really tone down the drama. A super girly space with a tech of black. I love the wallpaper collage, what a great idea… This I love. Clean lines and restrained color, but still playful and warm.

So, which side of the argument are you on? Are you into bold dramatic POW! or the occasional hint of assertion…?

Beautify | NARS

24 Jan

I read about beauty products A LOT. And sooner or later, when the pros are discussing their beauty staples, NARS always comes up. In fact, this lady actually said “I worship the God of NARS.” If that’s not an awesome recommendation, I don’t know what is, and there are a certain few products that apparently everybody who’s anybody who knows anything about makeup has, namely, the following two items:

(1). The Dragon Girl Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, $24, and… (2). Orgasm Blush, $27. This particular shade was named “Top 25 Beauty Hall of Fame” 2010 Elle; “Best Blush for Light Skin” 2010 & 2011 InStyle “Best Beauty Buys”; “Best Blush for Fair Skin” 2011 InStyle “Best Beauty Buys.”

They will both most assuredly join my beauty collection one day, but I currently have a sufficient supply of red lips and pale pink cheeks, so I wanted to branch a little farther with my intro to NARS products.

So for Christmas, I asked for and received the incredibly brashly-named “Super Orgasm” gift set, $39, complete with blush, lip gloss, and nail polish, all in a gold-shimmer pleasantly peachy shade. Which is loverly. The blush goes on sheerly and smoothly, with a smidge of a flashy-but-not-flashy golden glimmer. The shade is very flattering and subtle. I love the color and intensity of the lip gloss, but the consistency is a little gooey/tacky, and frankly smells weird. The nail polish is a perfect shade darker than my skin color and the flecks of gold are just fabulous. Love love love the color. But it chipped like crazy, despite a heavy topcoat. I’d still buy it, though, because the color is so great. My second foray into NARS awesomeness is the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil in Happy Days, $24. It is FANTASTIC. I was looking for a peachy but not-too-sheer, not-too-solid lip color, preferably in stick form, that wasn’t too cakey or greasy. Man… this one is just perfection. I tried a few Yves St. Laurent colors (I will definitely be going back to that brand, the pigment and textures are divine) but they didn’t quite have what I wanted and at their asking price of $34 the shade had better be perfect. And then I tried this one and 30 seconds later I was in line… It’s buttery but not greasy, highly pigmented but still a little sheer, not too glossy or tacky, and doesn’t smell awful!

Another good thing to know about their brand is that they do not test on animals, have replaced the majority of animal derived ingredients with plant-derived ingredients, and are gluten free. They do use parabens “to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination.” Meh.

My overall NARS rating is an 8 out of 10 because of their range of colors and pigments, purtiness of shading, care of ingredients, and frankly, they get a couple points just for being so highly rated and regarded. I am deducting a point because of the tackiness of that lipgloss and the fact that even $6 L’Oreal lipsticks manage to have a classy rose scent, and another point for the embarrassment of having to tell people the name of the shade I’m wearing. I’m all for being a modern, sassy woman, but I don’t feel the need to get all Eve Ensler about my cosmetics.

Life | New Year’s Resolutions

20 Jan

As you can see, my resolutions didn’t include deciding on resolutions before I was darn well ready to. Ha. But it’s still January, and I still want to write about them so that I can look back next year and see how I’ve done. I kept journals like a maniac as a kid but now I really just blog…

RESOLUTION #1To be more mindful of what I put in and on my body. 

The past few months have involved various intentional eating pattern adjustments like going gluten-free for a month and now doing this I Quit Sugar program. While accompanying weight-loss is a goal for most honest folk, myself and my husband included, for us these eating adjustments are more directly focused on overall health and being better consumers. Documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Supersize Me, Food Inc, and Fast Food Nation have really served to inform and generally shock me into caring about what I put in my body: It’s just plain unhealthy what we’re actually eating these days. 

(This awesome chick is Iris Apfel, who seems to be the funnest, craziest old woman and I want to age just like her – having fun and being colorful.)

The flip side of the coin is what I put on my body, and trying to look and feel my best. I’m going to use skin products that are amazing, wear quality makeup that doesn’t spark allergic reactions, and buy lovely clothes that I can hang onto for a few years, now that I’m pretty sure a punk phase won’t roll around again. (But if it does, I’ll be ready for it with some bright lipstick!) Because in the end, shopping for quantity over quality causes me to end up consuming/spending more and never really loving any of it or feeling good about myself and the way I look.

 

RESOLUTION #2: To try to live more in the moment rather than being overly cautious. 

(Yes, this includes taking a pause from the incessant Facebooking. It’s great catching up with everybody, but ten times a day every day is just too much reading, not enough doing.)

I want to do exciting things, travel, take chances, go out on a limb… The past several years of my life have been a series of very measured attempts, many of which have been linearly unsuccessful (aka have ended), but have also been honest attempts at finding happiness. So I can’t discount them, and wonderful things have happened along the way.

This year I want to be a little less calculating and be a little more open to trying things that might not make all the sense in the world. Call it “following my heart, not just my head” if you will. I feel strongly that this is going to be a big year for me and as I start feeling older I want to remember and look forward to new adventures, rather than focusing on the few years of my life when I was a little cra-cra.

 

RESOLUTION #3: I am going to Paris. It is more than a little upsetting to say that I have never been to Paris. But there you go. I’ve been all over Europe and America, Japan, England and Ireland, and even Russia for the love of Pete, but never to Paris! Well, this year I’m going. I’m going to eat macarons and baguettes with cheese and butter and drink cafe cremes and buy flowers and stroll L’Avenue des Champs Elysées and buy facial creams in pharmacies and take Le Metro and Le Glare at everyone in a very French way. All the while dressed like Audrey Hepburn and taking photographs of everything. Mark my words.

So what are you committed to doing differently this year? I think sharing your resolutions with others can help keep you accountable, so feel free to post yours in the comments so we can all look back together!

Style | Bangs Bangs Bangs

16 Jan

Oh yes, this is going to be about what you think it’s about. I chopped my hair today!!!

Let me explain, I have been growing it out for about a year now, minus a trim or two. I’ve also been growing out my bangs for a few months, which is just murder. And lastly, I’ve been working on ombre-ing my hair again, god help me. I went in to the Ulta salon the other day to get a wee tiny trim and the haircut I emerged with, while not a lot shorter, just looked horrible and raggedy and plain-jane bob. In a bad way.

So today I’m like, can’t stand it another second. Not one. I still want to grow it out but I can’t bear the atrocity of it in its present state. I decided the only way to fix the even more mushroomed effect was to go for a DIY razory “I cut it myself” shaggy bob look. ha. Here’s a few photo inspirations: 
And here’s what I’ve ended up with: I look kind of crazy but I had to use the darn flash. I love the girl’s hair in the second photos so if I need to go shorter in a month (if I fry my ends) I’m totally going for that look. I also love the super crazy baby bang in the third shot… How can I work that one in…?

I feel better now, let’s just hope the husband doesn’t freak out when he gets home…

Interiors | Freshen Up Your Space

12 Jan

This time of year there’s one thing constantly on my mind: CHANGE. Without the Christmas tree taking up the entire living room I’m suddenly irritated with the layout, my bedroom needs a feng shui alteration, the guest room has turned into holiday storage… You get the idea. Think of it as pre-spring fever.

If you’ve got the sickness as well, here’s a few ideas and links to help you tweak your space (physical and mental) a little without painting an entire wall navy blue chalkboard or just flat out moving. Ha.

Use this Color Palette Generator found via Creature Comforts to dissect your favorite photos for color inspiration (before you slap that navy paint down). I read somewhere that people like to surround themselves with colors they like to wear (i.e. look good in), so ponder on that as well – maybe your space doesn’t feel right because orange isn’t your color! And yes, I wear a lot of grey. Scour Shelterness for cool DIY projects you can use to revamp the things you already have, like vintage teacups, random garage sale finds, cool new ways to display your jewelry and more. I like this site a lot because they do a lot of IKEA revamps… Feverishly turn the pages of these fabulous online design magazines for ideas and inspiration. They left out one of my favorites, though: AnthologyGet a Pinterest account and start pinning!!! Everything that makes you happy – colors, themes, rooms, recipes… It’s a great way to get your thoughts organized and you can just follow other people’s links down the rabbit hole until you feel sufficiently inspired. And when you’re done with all that looking at awesome scenery and cabinetry you don’t have and have little hope of getting any time soon, re-arrange your living room furniture and settle in for a winter marathon! You can spend the next few winter months vacationing in the islands, caught up in the advertising world of the 1950s and 1960s; traversing the fantastical land of Coeur de Coeur, being a bit ahemaheamahem at the manor, exercising some gorgeously flagrant vocabulary out West, traveling with the freakshow in the dustbowl, laughing at Tine Fey’s hilarious oddity, learning about the streets of Baltimore, or rumbling in the Bronx (okay, Jersey), all from the comfort of your own home. And some of that is even on Netflix instant view.

Life | I Quit Sugar Update

11 Jan

I thought I’d check in for Week 2 of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar Experiment…

Week 1’s goal was to  start cutting back (although I just went off it entirely, cold turkey, which was a good jumpstart for me). I stopped drinking coffee and any combination thereof to help wean myself off *Starbucks, and stayed away from sauces, processed foods, high glycemic index veggies, fruit, and of course chocolate.

*My standard fall Starbucks drink is a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, which has approx. 16 teaspoons of sugar in it!!! *GASP*

Week 2 is referred to as “Operation Eat Fat,” and I ate almost an entire block of havarti with dill yesterday. So I’d call that a success. ha. Not as successful was my carving into a delicious grapefruit. Which tasted amazing. But, as far as sweet fruit go, is pretty low on the list so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Just hopping back on the wagon like it never happened.

So this week I’m supposed to eat 5-6 times a day, small meals with fat and protein. Dairy, meat, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oil… I bought some Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pita Bread to eat sandwiches on, and have been drinking mint tea/tea lattes like they’re going out of style. I’m going to have a salad for lunch with Annie’s Lemon and Chive gluten, dairy, vinegar and sugar-free dressing, and try to just keep getting closer to not thinking about sugar all the time.

I lost a few pounds after the first week but it may all be back due to the amount of cheese I consumed yesterday. Ha. But I’ll keep on keeping on — only 6.5 weeks to go!

Next week is the official Quit Week, which means for real y’all, and while it won’t be as drastic since I’m pretty much doing it already, the biggie is going to be avoiding carbs as much as possible…

‘Till then, I’ll be enjoying the fresh pasta sauce I rustled up the other day with roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions, fresh thyme, and truffle oil. Bet it would make an amazing eggplant parmesan sauce…

Obsession | All About Poppy.

10 Jan

As I’ve stated before, my favorite color is grey. I told this to a shop attendant in Little India about a month ago and she admonished me for being boring, but what she failed to understand was that grey is the perfect accompanying color for any and all of my color obsessions: Soothing ocean colors, “fifties green,” chartreuse, coral… But right now, I’m all about warm, the orangey-red goodness of Poppy. It started with Pushing Daisies, and then the orangey-red lipstick the ladies all wear in Mad Men. Then, this summer’s ultimate makeup trend was all about that lipstick: It was in every fashion magazine, on every perfect pout, and of course then the Kardashians tried to claim it and that’s how we know this trend is officially major. Ha.

And then JCrew has this iconic shade they blend on-set for their models on set and somebody, namely Poppy King (best name ever) decided to do something about it. So she created a very particular shade of papaya that I’ma have to have. When it’s not sold out any more. 

Poppy Madness has been going on for months… But I ultimately blame Jenna Lyons and the darn JCrew Christmas catalogue for accelerating my obsession to its current state. Jenna Lyons is the woman behind the past few years’ resurgence of JCrew. (We should also take a moment to recognize Michelle Obama…) As the creative director, she’s the style setter, the trend forecaster, the genius of aesthetic. She loves stripes, so those cute stripes we’ve all been wearing for the past few years…? Jenna Lyons. The daytime sequins trend? Jenna Lyons. The nudes, socks with heels, rolled up pant cuffs, and brunette ombre hair? Jenna Lyons. (You may also know her as the woman who painted her son’s toenails pink.) She’s the girl crush of the fashion world right now. And the Christmas catalogue was so full of cheery, fun color combinations (and POPPY!) that I couldn’t put it down…As far as it translating into home decor, I think if you’ve got a neutral color scheme you can always use a few pops of color…  Or maybe just go all out in one room… So what do you think? Do you love this shade as much as I do? Would you wear it on your face, body, or put it in your home? I think it’s just so cheerful it’s gotta happen.