Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Highlights (and Lowlights) of 2013

So, if any of you have been following me for a while, you'll know that this has been a crazy year for our family.. I've experienced joy and extreme sadness. I've developed a closer relationship with my son. I've also developed a greater appreciation for my relationship with God. I've received support from multiple friends and family members, realizing who has truly been there for me during hard times. I've learned how to give and receive the power of forgiveness. But anyways, that is all wayyy too serious for me. Let's focus on highlights from my blog!

--I celebrated my year-long success of fitness and weight loss.
--I took FOUR airplane rides alone with a toddler to Sacramento, San Diego, and Salt Lake.
--My life was turned upside down by some very heartbreaking revelations from my husband.
--I tried an awesome internet service called Stitch Fix for the first, second, and third time.
--I picked up new hobbies: makeup and nails.
--We celebrated Carter's 3rd birthday.
--I had an unforgettable experience on a beach.
--We made the Christmas season magical.
--I ended a 7+ year streak of no vomiting.
--Graham learned an important lesson about attraction.
--My husband returned home after being separated for almost 8 months.
--AND, I got hit on by a male co-worker.

Anyways, hope you all had a great year. I pray that 2014 cannot be any worse than 2013.. It can only get better from here, right?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Advent Calendar Ideas for Toddlers

Growing up, my parents would buy one of those cheap advent calendars that had a piece of chocolate in each day.. which I loved, but there were five kids in our family, and only ONE chocolate per day. 5 kids.. 1 chocolate--> family fights over a tiny piece of crappy chocolate. I did like opening the tiny little doors every day, though.
                                                                   

So, I decided to do an activity-based permanent advent calendar for Carter this year. I thought that Carter is old enough to understand and enjoy the Christmas-related activities. I researched calendars from Pottery Barn Kids (I thought about making one myself, but let's face it.. I'm not crafty), and my mom ended up surprising us with a personalized one with our last name on it (I blacked the part out).


I looked up some activity ideas on various blogs via Pinterest, and I picked the most applicable ones for our family and Carter's age. If you've been following me on Instagram or Facebook, you likely have noticed I've been posting lots of pictures of our activities. I made sure to include Christ-related activities, such as telling the Nativity story, reading passages from Luke 2 telling the story of Christ's birth, or providing service to others. Some days in the calendar only held a small piece of candy (I used Dove's dark chocolate peppermint bark, which is fantastic), and some days had an activity and a piece of chocolate. Here are a list of our activities:

1) Read Luke 2:1-21 (we read this, and also did the story using an LDS felt story board)
2) Read Christmas books by the Christmas tree
3) Watch the Polar Express movie
4) Ride the Polar Express train
5) Make paper snowflakes
6) Make salt dough ornaments
7) Paint the ornaments
8) Make popcorn balls
9) Make reindeer food
10) Make chocolate dipped Oreo treats (I used candy cane Oreos with candy cane/peppermint candy melts--this didn't melt very smoothly and was pretty thick, so I was definitely use almond bark next time).
11) Go caroling and give Oreo cookie treats (we visited some single or widowed elderly ladies that we knew from church)
12) Go drive and see Christmas lights
13) Open 1 present early (this will be a Christmas story or Christmas pajamas)
14) See the movie Frozen in the theater
15) Make cookies for Santa
16) Read The Night Before Christmas
17) Play "guess the toy in the stocking"
18) Eat a picnic breakfast by the Christmas tree
19) Watch "Mr. Krueger's Christmas"
20) Fly to California (obviously this is specific to our Christmas vacation)
21) Decorate the Christmas tree
22) Make a gingerbread house
23) Call/Skype the grandparents and sing "Jingle Bells" with bells (they LOVED this)
24) Drink hot chocolate after dinner

Doing this calendar has absolutely made this time of the year magical for me (and Carter). I've loved doing these little projects and seeing Carter's face light up with all of the possibilities. Carter has LOVED doing this, and has asked to do the "Chwistmas cawenduh" every morning! I will definitely be doing this every year from now on, although I'll probably be changing some of the activities as Carter gets older.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Everyday Girl's Guide with YouTube Tutorials of Urban Decay's Naked 3 Palette

So, I'm doing something slightly different today. I'm giving a review for the new Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette. If you're not a makeup junkie like me, you may not be familiar with the big fuss over this palette. They've previously released two hugely popular palettes, which I've purchased over the past year, and this one recently came out in November. The 1st palette was bronze neutral shades, the 2nd was taupe cool-toned neutral shades, and the 3rd features rose-gold neutral shades. I know, I know.. like I need another eyeshadow, but these looked amazing. They said these shades would like good on a fair-skinned, blue-eyed gal like myself, so I went ahead and bought it for myself for my birthday. Sure, the price may seem high, but for 12 higher-end eyeshadows, the cost for each one ends up being $4.33 per eyeshadow, which is a great price for great quality (and long lasting--I've had the original Naked palette for almost a year, and I haven't even come close to using up to half of any shadow).

Disclaimer: I am no makeup expert. I do love everything related to beauty, especially makeup. I own several brands of makeup (MAC, Stila, Nars, Urban Decay, Tarte, Fresh, Bare Minerals, Benefit, Smashbox, etc), and I tend to buy more than I actually use. I am also not a creative person, so I rely on the creativity and expertise of others to help me out. So, that's why this is a guide for the everyday makeup girl like me.

This is what the palette looks like:

(I decided to use a stock photo from Sephora because my own swatches and photos turned out badly.)
                                              naked_3.jpg       

Some of my favorite shades include:

Liar:
Beautiful mauve-gold. Blends great and looks multi-dimensional.

Darkside:
This is a great rose-y taupe color. It blends amazingly and can help make a dramatic or more everyday look.

Blackheart:
This is a dramatic black matte with red sparkle. It helps make a gorgeous smokey eye. However, you must use this with a very light hand as the pigmentation is deep and the color will be placed where you put your brush. So, be careful when you use this and be ready to blend, blend, blend!

Some of my least favorite shades include:

Burnout
This one was a major disappointment for me. It's a great rose-champagne shimmery color. It looks beautiful in the pan and when swatched on my skin. However, the color payoff on my eyelid was not so great. I had to really pack it on to even get close to showing up. Also, it ended up looking a little orange-y on my lid. I've been trying a million different looks with this palette (everyone else on YouTube seems to love this shadow!), and I've been getting really frustrated when I have to use this shadow.. that's how much I dislike this shadow.

Buzz:
This is another great pink-rose color with glitter. However, it's not all it seems. Not only is there fallout from the glitter, but the color payoff isn't great on the eyelid. Check out my tips below for better application and color.

Dust:
A beautiful, light pink that is packed with chunky glitter. I don't mind glitter on my eyelids if it stays there. Chunky glitter on my face? Don't like that at all.

Pros to the Naked 3 palette: 

You can easily make a beautiful and soft work-appropriate look with these shades. The looks you can make can be very feminine and pretty. In my opinion, the Naked 2 palette smokey-eye looks can sometimes end up being a little aggressive or harsh. The shadows blend well and you can easily build up the color and intensity. They have included a couple of matte shadows (nooner and limit) that really help build dimension and depth of your eyes. The colors can also be appropriate for cool or warm skin. I've seen it described as both, depending on which shadows you use.

Cons to the Naked 3 palette:

Some of the colors I listed above didn't show up well on my lid. Also, depending on what colors you use and how you blend them, the eyelid can end up looking muddy without much defined color. The rose golds may also not look great on certain skin tones.

Some tips/tools I've been using to maximize the palette:

For Dust, the most glittery eyeshadow, I use Sephora's 12-hr waterproof jumbo liner in White as a base. When I apply Dust under my brow or in the inner corner, I apply some as a base, and it really picks up and emphasizes the light pink color and helps the glitter stick to my lid and inner corner.
                                                     SEPHORA COLLECTION - Jumbo Liner 12HR Wear Waterproof

Urban Decay's glittery eyeshadows often have a lot of fallout on my cheeks (I'm calling you out Sidecar, Toasted and Chopper in the Naked palettes, with Buzz and Dust from Naked 3), so I invested in a glitter eyeshadow primer from Too Faced to help them stick to my lids. I usually brush on my crease color, then apply this lightly to my lid if I'm using a glittery eyeshadow to the lid.

                                                    Too Faced - Shadow Insurance Glitter Glue Glitter Bonding Eye Shadow Primer

I've also been trying out applying eyeshadows wet on the lid, using MAC's Fix+. I get a little eyeshadow on a flat brush, spray Fix on my hand, then I dab the brush on the liquid. Then, I apply it to my lid. I find that this helps increase the color payout with lighter colors, especially with the shade Buzz.
                                                         Fix +

The eyeliners that I am partial to with these looks include:

Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Zero
Bare Mineral's Round the Clock Waterproof Eyeliner in Midnight and 8 PM
MAC's Eye Pencil in Coffee
Stila's Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Black
*You can also easily use Blackheart eyeshadow as liner.
*Urban Decay also offers a double ended liner made specifically for each Naked palette in Darkside and Blackheart, but I haven't tried it.

Tutorials:

So, I've been searching out tutorials in blogs and YouTube videos, and writing down the shadows they use, where and how they apply the shadows, and their methods. I've decided to put them all in one place for easy access. Plus, there's a million of them available, and some of the tutorials online don't produce very good looks (trust me--I've tried a good number). I've also separated them by daytime and night-time looks. Just an FYI, I sometimes wear more dramatic looks for work that some people may not be comfortable wearing in the day. I am not one for the "no makeup look". I figure, why the heck am I putting on eyeshadow to make it look like I'm not wearing anything? I've also personally tested all of these looks and liked them enough to share. I've weeded through these as well, and didn't post the tutorials that had nearly identical looks. I will continue adding more of the links to tutorials as I keep finding and testing out more looks!

These are my favorite daytime look tutorials using the Naked 3 palette:

Soft and Smokey by MakeupByTiffanyD
Daytime Smokey Eye by Megan McTaggart (this may be more dramatic for some of you)
Easy Eye by Urban Decay
Bright and Smoked Eyes by Sona Gasparian
Soft Rose Day Look by xsparkage
Bright Look by sarahsloveaffair (this is one my favorites--really pretty and brightens your eyes!)
Simple, Coppery Eye by metaldiamondsfur (this is for those days when you don't have a lot of time to blend)
Day-to-Night Look by pursebuzz
Soft, Shimmery Look by GlammyMommy89
Everyday Smokey Rose Look by Buttaripple
Winter Spice Look by FromInsideMyCloset
Matte Eyes by Megan McTaggart
Soft and Flirty by ShadesofKassie
Romantic Rose Gold Eyes by hubombshell254
Daytime Romance by HeatherReallyHearts

These are my favorite night-time dramatic look tutorials using the Naked 3 palette:

Blackheart Look by Phyrra
Dark, Smokey Eye by Keiko Lynn
Winged Rose-Gold Eye by GlamJackie (you obviously wouldn't have to wing it out as much)
Black and Taupe Smokey Eye by CoffeeBreakwithDani
Dramatic, Holiday Look by Megan McTaggart
Rose-bronze Smokey Eye by Amber Cherie
Soft and Smokey Eye by Tarababyz
Valentine's Day Eye by macshadowcombos (my new favorite--it's even appropriate for day)


I plan on typing up a step-by-step list of every single look using these tutorials, like I previously did with the 1st and 2nd palettes, but I'm trying every single one of the looks that I've recorded, so it may take me a couple of weeks until I've tried all of the looks. Plus, there are new tutorials posted daily on YouTube using this palette, so I'll be struggling to keep up. I've even been putting on eyeshadow before bed so I can try out all of the looks. I did such a terrible one last night that I removed it immediately after. Let's just say that glittery shades are not meant to be blended people. And, don't trust every makeup "guru" on YouTube. That's why I've put together this guide for people like you (and me) who aren't possibly creative enough to think of a million different ways to wear eyeshadow, but want to try new and fun looks that have been tried and tested by a non-professional (i.e. me).

**UPDATE**

I now have Word files available with 24 different looks using each of the three Naked palettes. Please leave a comment below with your e-mail or e-mail me at shewi128 (at) hotmail (dot) com for a copy of any of the three.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time to turn the page..

So, this single mom, married but separated, chapter of my life is over.

Graham is moving back tomorrow.

He is enrolled back in school up here. He is looking for full and/or part-time work in the evenings or nights. Carter will only be going to daycare part-time (about 2.5 hours per day for preschool) and will be staying with Graham for the rest of the time. This will help us save money, especially if Graham is able to work in the evenings.

I am excited to move on to the next stage of my life. I am apprehensive and a little scared, but prepared for the worst (and the best).

I have learned so much about myself in the past 7.5 months. Apparently, I am much stronger than I know (and many people have told me or my family how strong they've always known me to be). I also have learned to be more patient and more selfless. When you have no other parent to cover for you, everything becomes about your child(ren).. I mean, assuming you're a good parent. I learned to quiet my own frustration and anger within myself, especially when Carter gets upset. I've learned how to have faith in a higher power (more so than I've ever had). I've learned how to pray with sincerity. I've learned to care less about what people think (this is a hard one to learn). I've learned that forgiveness is the greatest gift we have been given: from God for our own sins, a gift we give to others for offenses they've have committed against us, and to ourselves when we learn to let things so. And, I've learned that life often doesn't go the way you want it to. Life throws you curveballs sometimes, and you just have to learn how to deal with that.

Anyways, we are moving on.. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cook's Country Flavored Popcorn

So, I've taken some time off blogging, and now I'm randomly coming back with a popcorn recipe.. Yep, that is my life. I have hardly logged on to the computer at home over the past month, so that is my excuse. I even had a whole week to myself last week, where Carter was with Graham and his family in Portland.. and I still didn't even blog. I was feeling pretty lazy, I guess.

Anyways, I receive the Cook's Country magazines at home, because they have the recipes produced by America's Test Kitchen that I'd be most likely to use. In October, I received the issue that had the recipes and techniques for perfect stove-top popcorn. I stopped making microwaved popcorn a while ago, because I kept thinking about the chemicals in the bags. The old method I was using was kind of annoying, where I had to shake a large Dutch Oven over a burner until the popcorn was popped. This didn't guarantee that all of the kernels were popped, and some of them did burn at the bottom of the pan. So, I'd been looking for a better method to cook fresh popcorn with better results. This recipe performed amazingly, and the taste of the cinnamon one was enough to make us fight for popcorn out of the bowl. I just had to post the recipe because I'd feel ungrateful if I didn't.

Buttered Popcorn 

(Otherwise known as perfect stovetop popcorn)

Makes 14 cups

3 TB vegetable oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp salt

1.       Heat oil and 3 kernels in large saucepan over medium-high heat until kernels pop. Remove pan from heat, add remaining kernels, cover, and let sit for 30 seconds.
2.      Return pan to medium-high heat. Continue to cook with lid slightly ajar until popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops. Transfer popcorn to large bowl. Add melted butter and toss to coat popcorn. Add salt and toss to combine. Serve.

Buttermilk Ranch Popcorn

Add 1 TB buttermilk powder, 1 TB chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tsp dried dill,1/4 tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp onion powder to salt.

Cinnamon-Malt Popcorn

Add 2 TB malted milk powder, 2 TB packed brown sugar, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon to salt.

Parmesan-Pepper Popcorn


Add ½ cup grated Parmesan and 2 tsp pepper to salt.

So far, our favorite was the cinnamon popcorn. Don't worry if you don't have the malted milk powder. We still ate it like candy.

Here's the pictures:

 Here are the 3 kernels starting out in the oil.

Here's the perfectly cooked popcorn.


Evidence that no kernels were left unpopped or burned.

                                                 
 The buttermilk ranch popcorn pre-chowdown. I used buttermilk powder and a dried ranch seasoning mix I made myself.


The good, the bad, and the ugly..

One thing Graham and I always ask each other on our conversations.. what do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news? We almo...