Friday Five: #soBlessed

Friday Five Blessed

Welcome, friends, to our weekly installment of Friday Five. This week I was a bit inspired by that post that’s making its rounds on Facebook- you know the one, asking women to post five photos that make them feel beautiful? I’m not above feeling beautiful, by any means, but I wanted to move in a slightly different direction.

#soBlessedToday, I’m posting five photos that represent some of the many blessings that make my life beautiful. Cheesy, for sure, but that’s how we roll around here- gratefully 🙂

#soBlessed Chixxx

  1. Friends! Where would we be without our family of friends,amiright? Somehow, I found an amazingly diverse, talented, witty and all around awesome group ofladies before I even went to college, and I couldn’t be more thankful for our friendships. And that’s to say nothing of the friends that I made in college or as an adult. We had our undergrad reunion weekend last month, and our group of about a dozen people realized that we still keep so well in touch, we don’t really even need an organizedweekend- we see other so often anyway! Friends, man.#soBlessed Family
  2. These guys. After a brunch on Father’s Day, one of my sisters and I asked our grandparentsto be in their firstselfie- I die at this result. Beyond my adorable grandparents, though, I’ve been pretty blessed with an awesome family. Though we have our differences (hello, who doesn’t?) it’s so nice to come from such a supportive, happy, welcomingplace- I really dig my family.#soBlessed Egypt
  3. I truly believe that travel has played a huge role in shaping my life. I spent eighteen years living in Midwest USA, then took a semester in Hawaii, a semester in Egypt, travelled a bit of the Mideast and haven’t stopped exploring since then. When we travel, I like to choose destinations that make me atiny bit uncomfortable; after all, how can you grow unless you constantly test the bounds of your comfort zone? I’m constantly thankful to have the resources in my life to enable this exploration.#soBlessed Howie
  4. My sweet Howard Winston. Though Howie looks relatively low key in this photo, he has personality to spare. This is a dog that is a little irritated when you wake him up in the morning and asks to climb back under your covers and sleep some more. He doesn’t like to give you the satisfaction of eating his treats when you give them, but prefers to hide them around the house to discover later. He is a master of judgmental glances, but adores being dressed in jammies. He also likes to participate in yoga, by either taking over the mat, or climbing up to your face when you’re in tricky poses. In short, Howie is puppy perfection.

    1-#soBlessed Wedding
  5. And finally- this guy. This marriage, maybe. I am so grateful for the relationship that Evan and I have built over the last six years. Respectful, supportive, hardworking, hilarious- I won’t go on, but I think it’s clear how much I appreciate Evan. What a great man 🙂

    So, what makes your life beautiful? Promise, I won’t judge you if your answer includes coffee or ice cream!

July Review: Birchbox, ipsy, and Sample Society

I know, I know- I’m so late to the subscription box party! I’ve been subscribing to Birchbox for a little over a year now, and have enjoyed most of what they sent me. I’ve gotten a few lackluster boxes recently, though, and decided to see what else the work of beauty subscriptions had to offer. The verdict is still out on ipsy…I’ve had two boxes now that haven’t wow-ed me. I just got my first Sample Society box, though, and love it! Check out my reviews for this month, and tell me about your subscription experiences!

Birchbox Review

Birchbox
Monthly delivery for $10/month
Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included a Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream, Cynthia Rowley Lip Stain, Marcelle 8-in-1 Power Serum, 100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel, Harvey Hello Body Cream, and a free year subscription to Women’s Health Magazine. Birchbox is kind of hit or miss for me, but this month was really a hit! Travel size shaving cream is perfect, because I can never pack it when I’m flying, and I think the magazine subscription is great. I don’t love getting foil packets, but I’m sure that I’ll use all of the samples, so I’m pretty satisfied with Birchbox this month.

Ipsy Review

Ipsy
Monthly delivery for $10/month
Includes 4-5 full sized or deluxe sample products, flus a makeup bag

This month my box included Clear Clinic Laboratories Clear Spot Treatment, bareMinerals 5-in-1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow, POP Beauty Sunkissed Bronzer, Pixi Beauty Tinted Brilliance Lip Balm, Pur-lisse Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, and the pink cosmetics bag pictured here. I’ve heard so many good things about ispy, but haven’t really been wow-ed- last month I receive a full sized mascara that was unusable, due to its incredibly potent chemical small. This month, I don’t love the tiniest eyeshadow, or the tinted balm that actually doesn’t have any color. I suspect that the Spot Treatment is mostly alcohol, and it really dried out my face; on the other hand, since it was so liquid (texture of water) it went under makeup well. I am, however, happy to see a full sized bronzer, and I love having purse sunscreen. So, again, I’m not wow-ed, but not upset…I think that if my box is equally underwhelming next month, I’ll probably cancel.

Sample Society Review

Allure Sample Society
Monthly Delivery for $15/month
Includes 4-5 Full sized and deluxe beauty and makeup samples

Apparently, this subscription was only recently re-launched, and is new and improved. I can’t compare to the old version, since I just started subscribing this month, but I’m really impressed! This month I received a Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris Aqua Universalis Eau de Toilette sample, Laura Mercier Highlighter Powder, L’Oreal Paris Colour Riche Liquid Lipcolor, Fekkai Intense Fortifying Masque, and Butter London Nail Lacquer. I could do without the perfume sample, and I didn’t love the L’Oreal color that I received, but the full sized nail polish more than made up for both of those! Also, the highlighter is a pretty substantial size, and I’m really excited to try to hair masque- my hair seems to love Fekkai products. Overall, I’m more than satisfied with this subscription so far- hopefully they keep including awesome products in generous sizes.

So- tell me about your subscription experiences! Amazing, awful, or somewhere in between? Or, is there an amazing box I need to try?

Friday Five: Acts of Self Kindness

A few weeks ago (actually, ten weeks ago, if we’re being honest) I attending a multi-day seminar called the Corporate Athlete. The very, very basic premise of the workshop was that people who work in corporate America are constantly on, between the enormous number of hours that we’re actually in the office, to the extra hours we spend on email and being remotely available and the generally ongoing brainstorming and working through problems in our off time. For all that time that we spend on the job, we generally don’t take care of our bodies, which makes you wonder- how long can you ignor your personal wellness, and still be the most effective version of yourself?

Friday Five Kindness

To cut down on a very long story, I’ve finally gotten around to taking a strong inventory of all four spheres of my wellness (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual)…and there’s some room for improvement in my life. I’d bet that there’s definitely some room for improvement in all of our lives, don’t you think? So this week’s five is all about taking care of yourself- and here are five of my ideas for Ways to Be Kind to Yourself.

  1. Movement. I’m no athlete, and you won’t find me running a half marathon any time soon. I’ve dabbled a lot, though, in many activities and there’s never been a time when I wished I would not have done something physical. Maybe you talk a long stroll with yourself or someone whose company you enjoy, maybe you take a soothing yoga class, or maybe surprise yourself with a kickboxing class, or one of the new dance classes that are popping up everywhere. Whatever you choose, getting physical is kindness to your heart, your muscles, and usually your psyche. (I finally found Yoga With Adriene, and her yoga videos are changing my life…seriously.)

  2. Self-expression. Maybe you want to literally journal, or maybe you want to vent your thoughts in the car on the way to work (I love to talk to myself in the car) or maybe art is your self-expression. However you choose, think about spending time at the end of each day getting your thoughts out. This will allow you to purge yourself of toxic internal dialogue, see what’s really floating around in there, and maybe help you find a bit of peace before you go to sleep. (I started using Emily Ley’s Simplified Journal some nights before bed, and it’s amazing how fast I can go from mind racing to perfectly calm, with the help of a complete brain dump.)
  3. Pamper yourself. I don’t know what your pampering looks like, or your budget for that matter. Maybe you need a spa day, okay, but my version of pampering usually involves finding a really indulgent beverage (today I’m looking at you, peanut butter milkshake) and giving myself a few hours to read. That’s all, really. Reading a book when there’s so much else that can be done feels like such an indulgence to me, so when I do settle down with a book, I banish any nagging feelings and just relax. It’s me time!
    Good things
  4. Affirmations. It feels cheesy, yes, but sometimes you just need to review the good things in your life. When I get down on my body, I take a stock of some of my good features (I have very pale skin, but it’s also incredibly soft. As is my stomach area J but I have surprisingly lovely feet). Or sometimes I get jealous of something happening in one of my friends’ life, and when I take a minute to list my many blessings, I realize that my life is pretty good, too. In a world that’s so full of carefully curated social media messaging, it can be really easy to compare yourself to others and come up lacking. I say, choose to see the good in yourself, and acknowledge what’s awesome. (My friend Sara, on Fit for a Bride, posted that quote last week, and I really love the sentiment!)
  5. Dream. Dream as big as you possibly can. This is the hardest idea for me to embrace- I hate to fail, but more than that I hate to fail publicly. Therefore, I usually keep my dreams small, and only share my accomplishments, and not my goals. This makes it harder for me to accomplish what I want to, because I don’t have a support system in place to help me succeed. The moment I put any of my dreams out into the world, though, people step up and make suggestions and offer resources and provide guidance, and I can accomplish anything more easily and more efficiently. So this is what I am striving for- to set goals for myself, enormous goals, and put them out into the world, and see what the world has in mind for me. Try it out…I think you will find that the world has so much support to offer, if only you reach out!
    Kind

Tell me about your acts of self kindness- what have you been doing to improve your life, lately? Or what do you want to do in the future?

What I Read This Spring, Part 2

We’re back, with the second half of what I read over the past few months. As ever, these are my real reactions to what I’ve been reading, so feel free to disregard whatever you don’t agree with 🙂

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book, my friends, is well worth the time that it takes to read it (which is not inconsiderable, considering that it’s over 700 pages long). The book starts out with really heartbreaking story of a terrorist plot that left Theo without a mother. The rest of the book chronicles the various stages of his life that follow: temporarily living with a classmate’s family, moving to his Dad’s in Vegas, leaving Vegas, and then life as an adult. Each section of Theo’s life is a story unto itself, and is relatively engaging. There were a few portions that I sort of zoned out in, but in a book this long, I wasn’t particularly surprised or upset. Overall, I absolutely loved it, and really felt that Donna Tartt did Theo’s life story justice- the length allowed her to tell an entire story, and I really appreciate that in a book.

Eleanor and ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. You know, this was a sweet book, but I think that I’m about over my YA fiction phase. I dipped back into YA for the Hunger Games, and kept reading because of the Fault in Our Stars, but this book let me know that it’s just about time to move on to other genres again. Eleanor and Park is the story of two teenagers who don’t fit in particularly well. They grow together in their ‘outcast’ status, and fall in love. Eleanor comes from a rough family situation, which provides most of the conflict in the story, and is endearingly melodramatic in her feelings for Park: “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together.” The end was pretty abrupt and unsatisfying. Many people like this book, and I’ll probably read something else by the author, but I didn’t love it.

Labor DayLabor Day by Joyce Maynard. I just found out this is going to be a movie, and I’m actually really looking forward to seeing it- I think the story will lend itself really well to film! So as not to ruin anything for anyone, I won’t go into the plot, but will say that I enjoyed the book and, even if it weren’t gaining popularity, would recommend it to others. There were several parts of the book where my loyalty was torn between two characters, and I was really rooting for everyone. I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, but I was satisfied with the sense of closure. Overall, a great read, and I highly recommend that you read it before you see the movie!

SisterlandSisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sisterland is the story of two sisters with ESP, so it had the potential to be very mystical, but chose not to take that direction. Rather, Sittenfeld really just told the story of twin sisters who took very different paths in life, and how their relationship fared through various life changes. I really enjoy reading Curtis Sittenfeld, and this book was no exception. This is a book about women, about sisters, about their lives and real choices that each made and how they coped with them. The plot line is well woven into these themes, and I think it was a great read- I highly recommend it.

Life as we knew itLife as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Yep, we’re keeping it real with these recaps: Life as We Knew It was the final nail in the YA coffin for me. The idea of the book is interesting- there’s a meteor that knocks to moon out of alignment, causing a number of catastrophic changes in nature, and eventually leads to the downfall of a good portion of the population. I’m not much for doomsday stories, but it was an interesting premise. The problem is that the book is written largely as a diary of a girl who might be fifteen…and I found the immature voice of the narrator to be less than engaging. On the other hand, as YA fiction, this is geared towards young adults- and I’m sure that it’s perfect for that audience! Just maybe not for me, for right now. So, take that as you will.

Flat water TuesdayFlat Water Tuesday, by Ron Irwin. My sister recommended this book to me, but I feel like it came completely out of nowhere- I’d never heard to title or the author, and it was just something she picked up by chance. What a serendipitous choice, because I adored this book! Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I rowed in college, so the subject matter was already endeared to me, but I had a hard time putting this book down. Flat Water Tuesday is the story of Rob, a young guy who kind of taught himself to row, and was on scholarship with a boarding school. He struggled to fit in, both with the school culture and with the rowing team, but earned a spot on the prestigious ‘God Four’. I’ll let you read for itself, but this was a great story of growing and adapting, embracing challenges, and of devastating tragedy. The last quarter of the book was awkward, but in an interesting way. Overall, it’s a highly recommended book on my part- I’ll probably read it again in the winter, and several more times beyond that.

I know I asked for recommendations in my recaps last week, but I’ll still take any new title or author suggestions- I need to fill up my Over Drive queue for the rest of the summer!

Friday Five: Small Bathroom Inspiration

Here’s something I’ve recently been thinking about- Evan and I moved into our home almost three years ago, and we have never showered in our master bathroom. The thing is, our house had wallpaper in nearly every room, including the master bath. We removed it and painted most rooms, but we never go around to repainting the bath. It’s just the two of us (three while Shannon lived here) and we have another full bath, and we just used that.

Friday Five BathroomWell, the time has come, my friends! In my Summer Bucket List, I declared that some sort of home improvement was in order, and it’s going to be a renovation of the master bath. I’ll share photos and specific inspiration as we get more into it, but for now I’m using my Friday Five to showcase some of my favorite small bathroom ideas.

  1. Strategic shelving and storage. Our bathroom istiny- like, I can touchall of the walls (well, three walls and the shower door) standing in one place. There’s absolutely no space to store anything, especially once we install a pedestal sink (to be fair, our current vanity is 18” wide, soits not like we’re eliminating a ton of storage anyway). I love the idea of wall shelving, but worry that it will really clutter up the space. So, I’m proposing glass shelves, which look less bulky, and utilizing baskets to corral our junk.

  2. Towel solutions. TOWELS TAKE UP SO MUCH SPACE! And there really is no space for them, especially the fluffy oversized towels I love so much. So I have a fewideas- first, a series of towel bars (maybe three) spaced vertically on the call outside the shower, like the pic above. Or, maybe two rows of hooks…I really think hooks are more efficient in drying towels anyway. Or, maybe a shelf situation like you see in hotels, so we can stack clean towels on top, and hang damp towels to dry below. Any of these would be fine, but I’m very serious about dedicating asignificant amount of our limited wall real estate to housing our towels.

  3. Art. I love seeing art in thebathroom- it makes it feel more relaxing and welcoming. We have a window that takes up a fair amount of our wall space, but I’d love to somehow include some framed prints. Maybe, if we do shelves above the toilet, we could make some space for photos there? Or a plant?

  4. Alternative medicine cabinets. Our housewas built in the 60s, and the bathroom features agood sized medicine cabinet, but it’s insanely shallow and doesn’t hold things the way I’d like while also allowing the door to close, and the items that it does hold come tumbling out, because it’s so shallow. I hate it.Pinterest, however, has suggested that maybe I remove the door, re-space the shelves, and use glass ones, and use the same (or similar) tile as we use in the shower for the back of the cabinet. This is an idea I call really getbehind- the tile would be so pretty, and without the door, I can use small baskets/jars/containers to hold the essentials.Perrrrfect.

    Subway Tile

    Image Source via Pinterest

  5. Subway tiled showers. Ok, this might be trendy, but I really love glass subwaytile- I think it’s beautiful and reflects light so well.  I’ve been afraid to find pricing so far, but I would really like to use white, or grey, or light teal glass tile for the shower, and take it all the way to the ceiling. It’s the one aspect of the room that I’m really set on…and I think it will look lovely reflected in the new door free cabinet space.

What do you think? Any advice, suggestions, or guidance from anyone that has already renovated a tiny bathroom? Or, are there other awesome bathroom ideas out there that I haven’t found yet? We’ll take any and all input as we move forward with this!

Fourth of July weekend

This weekend, man! I don’t know about you all, but somehow, my weekend turned into something very similar to Thanksgiving, where we had to visit every single person that we know in three days. We were super busy, but it was so much fun to get to see everyone!BirthdayFirst, it was my sister’s birthday. I have two sisters, and we decided to head up to a state park in Erie to relax, hand out, and maybe visit the beach. It ended up being about 65 degrees out, so the beach didn’t happen, but we still managed to pack in a ton of fun…and food.

Cake

Cake 2My youngest sister was in charge of the birthday cake, and make this amazing éclair cake. I’m sure you’ve seen it around Pinterest- it’s super delicious, and incredibly easy. I’ll definitely be tinkering with this in the future.PizzaMy middle sister, the birthday girl, brought the ingredients for fruit pizzas (we’re a sisterhood of eaters in our family). She frosted sugar cookies with fruit dip, then artfully arranged chopped fruit on top. They’re really pretty, and we like to pretend that they’re healthy since a) they aren’t made of chocolate, b) they aren’t ice cream, and c) fruit! Fruit makes it healthy.Fireworks 2That evening, we drove into New York to watch fireworks on Lake Findley. They did this gorgeous thing where all of the residences around the lake like flares, and each boat on the water had one…it was so pretty! We also somehow lucked out by getting the best seats in the house. Since our location strategy was just to get away from the crowd, this seemed pretty fortuitous- a birthday miracle!Picnic 2The next day, we drove down to our parents’ house for our 4th of July picnic. My mom, as usual, made as many sides as there were people, and at least half that many desserts. Suffice it to say, no one starved.DogsHowie, obviously, was thrilled to spend some time with his new bestie. After playing non-stop for six or so hours, he slept the entire drive home, slept in the next day, and spent most of the following day resting. And, of course, now we’re wondering if we should expand our family, so he always has a friend to play with.

GrillingWe’ve been in a pattern of going home for every celebration possible this year, and we always plan a meal and invite all of my siblings and grandparents. It’s been nice to see them so frequently, and kind of makes up for the fact that we have to rush into and out of events during Thanksgiving/Christmas.

AnnabelleAfter a picnic with my family, Ev and I made the journey back home so we could see his family and spend some time with this angel baby. She’s so darling, and she seriously never cries. I know she’s only six weeks old, but I was under the impression that babies cry for more than 30 seconds at a time. Not this one 🙂BirdsAnd finally. Yesterday I was finally getting around to weeding the back yard, since I couldn’t watch Howie through the dining window any more (why yes, our weeds were that bad). I was trimming before I pulled everything, so I could see what was what, and one time I trimmed away a patch of weeds and revealed these four babes in a nest. When I found them, their tiny triangle beaks were wide open, waiting for some dinner. I quietly took a few photos, then left them alone for the rest of the day. I was really heartbroken to not be able to weed any more (sure) but I actually also felt terrible that I disturbed them, so figured it would be best to steer clear of that area for a while. Fortunately, I can definitely see that nest through the dining room window (now that I know its there) so I’m excited to watch these tiny birds grow!           Fireworks      Whew! So our weekend was packed. What about everyone else? A whirlwind of activity, or did you get some R and R?

Friday Five: the news

Happy Friday! I hope that you’re able to celebrate the Fourth of July in some way today, or at least appreciate the start of the holiday weekend. Even though it’s a federal holiday, this blog brakes for nothing during a challenge, so I have a new Friday Five for you.

newsToday’s theme is controversial articles/commercials/stories. I am a voracious reader, and I love to take in new information nearly constantly, largely through news channels but also plenty of other sources. Most of it I sort through and process on my own, but some things really stick with me, which I take home for discussion with Evan. This week was apparently a very healthy week for controversy, because Evan and I spent an irregular amount of time discussing, debating, arguing and considering the stories below. It’s funny- we tend to have very different politics and, just when I think that we’ll be on the same side about something, one of us unpredictably switches, leaving us with opposing views as ever. This is sometimes a struggle, but I think that we occasionally situate ourselves this way purposefully- it’s not that we prefer to disagree, but listening to someone you respect rationally explaining the opposing viewpoint has a tendency make you step back from your perspective, and try on a different viewpoint.

Anyway, end novel. Here what we’ve been delving into around our dinner table (coffee table. Like every other twenty something, we eat at the coffee table. No shame in our game!).

  1. “Girl-positive” ad campaigns. First it was this ‘not sorry’ ad by Pantene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzL-vdQ3ObA Then, Always released a ‘like a girl’ ad. If you haven’t watched either, please check them out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs
    Both ads have a pretty strong girl power message, and it’s hard to oppose that. On the other hand, some of the uses of ‘I’m sorry’ in the Pantene add just seem like having manners- I know plenty of men who will interrupt with an apology. Also, beyond the actual verbiage of these messages, some concern has been raised about whether these companies are just using a trendy topic (can you call feminism trendy?) to create a viral campaign- what do these commercials have to do with the products that they’re pushing? All perspectives here have provided food for thought, and plenty of debate.
  1. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. I am not kidding when I say that, in one night, we had a lively dinner conversation regarding the commercials, then segued into bed-time preparation while we discussed the Hobby Lobby verdict. It was an intense evening. For the sake of self-education, check out the actual text of the opinion here, written by Judge Alito.
    The argument is being made that the owner of Hobby Lobby is having his religious freedom quashed by being forced to pay for certain contraceptives (two types of plan B, and two types of IUDs). The counter argument is that Hobby Lobby is imposing its own religious views on the women it employs, by not providing coverage for birth control. Supports of the first argument contend that women are a) still able to purchase these items, but they won’t be subsidized, and b) not being forced to work for HL, and can get another job. They would suggest that the women have choices, but the owner does not. The opposing argument is that coverage is coverage, and there are no drugs that are specifically formulated for men that are exempted, and that this is yet another case where women are ruled second class citizens. Also, what will prevent this from additional companies making additional religious claims about things like transfusions, and vaccinations? There’s plenty more up for discussion, but this is where Evan and I focused. Stay tuned, I guess.
  1. And then….there’s the Texas Tech cheerleader who is also a big game hunter. There are a few levels of controversy here- first, society seems really into latching on to one person and attacking them viciously for a few days. Is this a new trend? Second, refocussing to this girl- however anyone feels about her hobby, it’s hard to get over to gruesome photos of a person holding up the head of an animal they killed. It’s disconcerting to me when classmates do it to deer they’ve hunted and will eat, and it’s disconcerting to me when this girl holds up a leopard. So…that’s also happening.
  2. This was actually last week’s news, but Evan and I are still talking about Egypt’s conviction of three journalists, without evidence, for at least seven years in prison. This was, obviously, stunning, and the US clearly expressed its negative reaction, but Egypt basically said, sorry not sorry. Media freedom is so, so important, especially during revolutions, protests and elections, and Egypt is sending a clear message that this freedom will not be honored, with its own journalists of foreign press. The reality of the situation is that some places are dangerous for everyone, including journalists. When their journalistic integrity leads them to reporting in these locations, it’s simultaneously stunning and not very surprising when there are negative consequences. This isn’t ideal, obviously, but this seems to be the reality.
  3. We’re very interested in the stores that are requesting that patrons keep them ‘gun free’. Starbucks and Chipotle have asked that consumers refrain from carrying guns on their premises, and now Target has, as well. From a policy standpoint, this is a pretty interesting development- the government wasn’t having much success in developing official gun control policy, so the movement has flowed into the private sector. A lot of this, though, seems to be coming from open carry movements, where gun owners are visibly carrying their weapons around town and into these establishments. This is legal (and sometimes surprisingly so) in many communities, but can usually be shut down, with accusations of public menacing, or inciting a panic. What is still a bit unclear, to Evan and I at least, is whether these are really just stated preferences, or whether people or legally prohibited from carrying guns into these facilities, even when they are concealed legally.

    So, this is what we’ve been talking about. What news has been feeding the conversations in your life?

Patriotic Burlap Wreath

What a great day it is, just before a long weekend! You know, having a Friday off is really so much nicer than having a Mondayoff- either way, it makes for afour day week, but I think Friday vacations feel like a reward for completing the week.

Patriotic Wreath 4
Today I have a quick post to show you the burlap wreath that Shannon and I made the other evening while we were watching TV. You’ve probably seen a few of these on Pinterest, and I’m here to tell you that they’re super easy, took maybe thirty minutes, and turned out great (in my opinion).
Patriotic Wreath 3
This post has some photos of the process, but the technique is simple: you push loops of burlap through the gaps in a wire wreath frame. (It’s only in the past year that I’ve learned that burlap comes in rolls, and colors…apparently I don’t frequent the craft stores as often as I ought to.) I was a little hesitant about how to start, so I just left about six inches of burlap hanging. When I got to the end of the color, I just tucked the end in on itself where, due to the coarse texture, it stayed. To do the red and white part, I just alternated between a row of red and a row of white loops, and didn’t cut anything until the end.
Patriotic Wreath 2
The wreath was lovely with just burlap, but I wanted some stars to finish it. I picked up a small package of dye-cut wooden stars for less than five dollars, stained them with some left over stain, and used hot glue to attach them. I think they could use a little sparkle, but I haven’t committed to anything yet- I might touch them up with some gold paint in the future.
Patriotic Wreath
Anyway, that’s the extent of our patriotic decorations so far- what do you think? Also, are you all decorating your homes for the holiday? Inside, or just outside? I know that Pinterest has tons of idea, but I like to know what real people are doing, too!

Plate Review, update

Today I’m back with a second plated review- I posted a review of my first delivery, and wanted to be sure to post a follow-up. As a reminder, Plated is a food delivery service that will send a box of fresh ingredients to your door, so that you can create two delicious meals. I got a free subscription for signing up as a new member, so my meals are $12/serving, for a total of $48/box, including ingredients and delivery.

Plated review 2The first meal I chose for this delivery was Fattoush Salad, with grilled Haloumi cheese. I was introduced to Fattosh when I lived in Cairo, and ate it nearly every day (once I got over the idea that lettuce in a foreign country would kill me), so I was thrilled to see it on the menu. In practice, this might not have been the best choice for a delivery service- my tomatoes weren’t bright red, the lettuce was pretty sad and wilted, and the halloumi was dry. Beyond the ingredients, though, I didn’t love the dressing, either- there just wasn’t a ton of flavor. Bonus points for using an unusual ingredient like sumac, but over all this meal was a dud for me.

Plated reviewThe second meal included in my delivery was Butter Basted Steak with Hasselback Potatoes. I’d been wanting to try this potato technique since I’ve seen it all over pinterest, so I was fully on board! On the positive side, this recipe introduced me to hanger steak- I never really know what cut of beef to buy when I’m standing at the meat case, so this was a helpful bit of knowledge. On the negative side, everything else. I baked the potatoes for well over the 25 minutes called for, and they were still crunchy. The thin mushrooms were a) terrible with lemon zest and b) overcooking while roasting with asparagus that was pretty thick. The steak was overpowered by the thyme and butter. Overall, this meal was actually kind of awful- I felt sick and weighed down after a few bites.

Based on my experience with these two boxes, I will say that I don’t think Plated is a service that Evan and I will continue to use. It is amazingly convenient, for which I was very grateful. However, often the meals didn’t fit our lifestyle (heavy, not enough veggies, wrong flavors/cooking techniques) and I had to make adjustments with additional groceries anyway. I would say that for people who don’t regularly cook and are looking to get into the habit, this might be perfect! For people that do cook regularly, though, and have clearly established dietary preference, this might not be the best option. Instead, I’ll probably redirect my efforts to more careful advanced meal planning and shopping, so we can be sure that our needs are met. I’m definitely glad that I tried it, though!

Has anyone else used Plated, or another meal service? If so, what did you think? Will you stick with it, or did you go back to shopping and cooking?