Thursday, February 11, 2016

Skincare situation


I have skincare confusion. Ever since I turned thirty I've been feeling like I should have a more strategic skincare system. But figuring it out felt like such a barrier that I managed to put it off for over two years. My skin is fine. It's dry but not particularly sensitive and for years I've just been washing it with Philosophy's Purity face wash and then using a lotion with SPF during the day and a thicker lotion at night. I'm definitely noticing more lines and dark spots as I get older and this fall, in a fit of good intentions, I buckled down and read a bunch of articles online and then came up with my own plan. I researched options, loaded up my various online carts* and bit the bullet (wincing at the cost - apparently looking ageless comes at a price, which isn't really surprising).

I stuck with my little routine religiously for two months, but when I started running out of stuff I just switched over to slathering coconut oil on my face twice a day and you know what? Works just as well, as far as I can tell, except that it does a better job moisturizing and a $5 jar will last me an entire year, probably.

I now wash my face nightly with Purity, then put on a generous layer of coconut oil and let it sit while I brush my teeth, etc. I wipe off the excess gently with a washcloth before I go to bed, but only because I have bangs and prefer not to saturate them with oil while I'm sleeping. I don't soap my face in the morning, but I do wipe it down well with cold water, then rub in a thin layer of coconut oil and let it sit before putting on my moisturizer with SPF (still using that Aveeno stuff pictured above although I might go back to Neutrogena Healthy Defense once it's out).

Once a week I use the Microdelivery Peel system from Philosophy (I've actually been in love with this product for years but was never consistent about using it before) and follow it up immediately with a thick layer of coconut oil.

I was afraid initially that straight oil might clog my pores but I haven't had any issues with it and it's been three months now. Of course, your mileage may vary. As I mentioned, my skin isn't sensitive or prone to break outs, but it is extremely dry. Yay for cheap solutions!

I'm still open to suggestions, though, if you have anything you couldn't live without ...

* If you're curious, here's what was on my shopping list, what I ended up purchasing, and how I liked it:

A serum (with vitamin C, which is supposed to help with dark spots) - I picked Philosophy's When Hope is Not Enough serum and then bought their Vitamin C powder that you can mix in. Verdict - I went through the entire bottle of this and didn't notice any difference. Bummer, because I normally love their stuff, obvs.

A daytime lotion with brightening agents (vitamin C or soy) - I got Aveeno Positively Radiant in SPF 30. Verdict - it's fine, although I think I had an adjustment period where this made my face slightly red immediately after application (it would calm down within 20 minutes or so). I don't think this is the most moisturizing option, but when I'm pairing it with the oil it's fine. I haven't noticed the brightening effect, though.

A nighttime lotion with retinol (for fine lines) to use a few times a week - Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair. Verdict - I used this for a while several years ago and definitely noticed that my skin looked brighter and tighter, so it was a no brainer for me to go back to it. I haven't been great about using it the last few months because it's been so dry that I'm reluctant to risk making my skin any drier. I also don't love the feel or the smell, but as soon as the weather calms down I'm going to suck it up and try again.

An eye cream with retinol (ditto) - RoC Retinol Correxion, based on online reviews. Verdict - I've been inconsistent with this for the same reason as the lotion. It feels fine, though, so I'm more likely to use it nightly.

Weekly facial peel - I've been using Philosophy's Microdelivery peel every once in a while for years and looove it, so I stuck with it and just resolved to do it weekly and not feel guilty about it. Previously I was hoarding it but it's easier to justify the ridiculous expense when my other main facial product is coconut oil.

Not originally on my list, but I got it with my Sephora points at checkout and it turned out to be a lifesaver - Josie Maran's argan oil. Verdict - amazing, but the insane cost per ounce is what pushed me to give the coconut oil a try. I honestly don't find there to be a huge difference between the argan oil and the coconut oil in terms of outcome. The argan oil absorbs more quickly and you use less of it, but they ultimately moisturize equally well for me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The weekend, briefly

It's been a while since I did one of these posts!


sunday cooking




We're still getting settled into the new place, and I'm deep in nesting mode, but we're really loving it. We haven't had much time to explore the neighborhood yet, but we took a walk on Saturday and then I went for a run with a friend on Sunday. My favorite way to check out any new place is on foot, of course. I also got a lot of kitchen time in, which was lovely (feels nice to get back to a full size oven). I treated myself to flowers and then got a ton of meal prep done for the week. Which I ended up being very grateful for when the week got off to a crazy start and left me feeling frazzled. Life, right?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Once a month meal planning - February

And on to February! I planned this out super early because I knew that the last thing I'd want to do the weekend we were moving was handle a massive grocery list. I did, however, manage to convince myself to hit the grocery store on February 1st for our big shop and I was pretty impressed with myself because what I wanted to do was lie in bed and order take out (full disclosure - we did go out with friends on Monday and then order take out with them on Tuesday, so we're not exactly starting this month off strong but when your dear friend is only in town for a few days, you take advantage).


I stuck with my basic formula for this month, with weekly lentils and crock pot meals and I'm still hitting the sweet potato bolognese pretty hard. I keep thinking one week I'll realize I'm sick of it but it hasn't happened yet.

Recipes for this month:

Lentil and garlic sausage cassoulet - new to me recipe, only making a 1/2 batch because otherwise we'd be eating it forever. I couldn't find slab bacon so I got a small piece of pork belly instead. Maybe that's the same thing, now that I think about it?

Cashew nut chicken - Using the other half of the sauce that I froze last month (next time I might make a triple batch of sauce - it was so lovely to just dump everything together in the morning).

Spiced butternut squash, lentil and goat cheese salad - new to me, looks so good.

Crockpot beef stew - just realized I don't have the recipe for this posted anywhere. My mom always made it growing up and it's super easy. 1 lb beef stew meat, a couple potatoes, some carrots, some celery, all roughly chunked, 1 can of V8, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2 tbsp minute tapioca, ~ 2 tsp salt, cooked in the crockpot on low for 8 hours. I always consider looking for a fancier recipe, but this one never fails and it is so easy.

Canal house lentils - new to me, looks simple and delicious. Skeptical about the eight servings, though. In my experience, a cup of dried lentils usually equals four servings. Maybe it's meant to be a side dish?

Chicken enchilada soup - always.

Black lentils with caramelized onions - but just once this month.

Sweet potato and black bean chili - again, using up the odds and ends of the spiralized sweet potatoes. Last month I couldn't find ground chipotle so I just used some canned chipotles in adobo sauce (not a whole can! they are spicy) and it was delicious. I froze the other half of the can so I can do it again this time around.

Sweet potato bolognese - again, no real recipe. It's just 1/2 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb hot sausage, 1 jar marinara and 2 large sweet potatoes that have been spiralized. (spiralizer post is here).


The worst part of this for me is figuring out the grocery list with this many meals in the mix, but I assume I'll get better with that. I just jot down the ingredients for every meal, then consolidate them on a single page, keeping them roughly divided into categories (produce, meat, canned goods, etc). I check the pantry to see what I have and cross those things off. I usually then split the list into what I need from each store, but this month I lost energy at that point and it was fairly well divided anyways. I get my produce from Jons (best produce prices + selection around here) or the farmer's market, meat from Whole Foods, odds and ends from TJs or the regular grocery store. What surprises me is that once I get it all boiled down and consolidated, the major shopping trip really isn't that huge or that expensive! With perishable produce I also note down the week I need it (and make a note on my actual meal planning sheet), so that I can just get it that week.

I don't know - is my scribbled out grocery list the weirdest thing I've ever posted? Maybe next month I'll remember to take a picture before I write all over it and wad it up in my bag to take it out to multiple stores.

Previous once a month meal planning posts - January planning and January execution.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Once a month meal planning - January revisited

You guys, I loved having all my meals planned for the month. Looooved it. Front loading the "real" cooking on M/T/W worked really well for us because it left us a lot of flexibility at the end of the week but ensured that we always had enough leftovers to take to work for lunches. Grocery shopping was super minimal week to week, which makes me happy. We also came in below our usual grocery budget, which is probably because we weren't at the store as often and there was almost no food waste, which makes me happy (totally guilty of being overly optimistic while shopping and buying more produce, etc, than we can actually use - I've been working hard to improve this).


I did adjust as necessary (see all my scribbles - I was trying to keep track of how it played out) and we almost never needed our Th/F quick meals because we usually had leftovers. But it worked out well to have the ingredients because we used them for weekend meals and ate out less.

Even with the move thrown in there things didn't get too hectic. I just cooked as scheduled M/T/W and then as soon as I was done cooking on Wednesday I cleaned up and packed our entire kitchen other than the bare essentials (two bowls, two plates, two cups, a skillet and a smattering of utensils). I knew we'd have enough leftovers to get us through the rest of the week so we'd basically just be microwaving and cooking eggs.

I was so excited about this system that I got my February meals planned well ahead of time so that I'd be all ready to jump in on week one despite our move. Those will be up tomorrow! Fair warning - it will be almost as boring as this month.

Which leads me to this question - did we get bored? Nope! I was afraid we would, but it turns out we're just really hungry when we sit down for dinner and the fact that we ate something two weeks ago doesn't even register. I'm relieved because am I the only one who sees those fancy meal plans and thinks people are crazy for being willing to make a different breakfast, lunch and dinner every day? I love the idea of that much variety but in practice it is way too much work for me. That said, I did search for a few new lentil recipes to try out in February because I don't want to push my luck.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


We survived, by the skin of our teeth. Neither of us could take any time off work and we had a very quick turn around. We were moving out of our little house on Saturday and the new tenant was moving in on Sunday. Since she's a friend of a friend we wanted to leave everything perfect, so I literally mopped my way out of the house and then left the keys with our friends and said a tearful goodbye (we're only moving four miles away, so it's not like we won't be seeing them, but it still feels sad!).




We hired movers, which was a life saver. They ended up running a couple hours early which threw off our schedule. I was literally just throwing things into boxes as they carried stuff out of the house. It wasn't my finest hour. Moving brings out the worst in me anyways because I get a little panicky seeing all our stuff gathered in one place. What is all this stuff and why do we own it? Should we consider giving up all our hobbies and just watching TV instead? Think of the space savings! It would be so much easier to move if we weren't also hauling around my sewing, baking, crocheting, macrame and paper goods supplies, along with D's ceramics and woodworking tools and bikes and surfboards and our camping equipment and our books, etc, etc, etc.

We didn't accumulate anything new this year other than a camping tent, which means that everything we owned (and more! we pared down when we moved last year) used to fit perfectly well in our old 600 sf apartment, but you wouldn't have known that if you saw the insane pile of boxes in our new house.

I could barely sleep on Saturday night because I was so wired from the day. I was up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and unpacking. I was a beast. I didn't stop until all the boxes were emptied and I paid for it the next day when every single muscle in my body rebelled.

But we're in! We still have some work to do but it feels so good. More pictures to come, as soon as I'm actually home while it's light outside and can take some. I'm also busy rearranging everything in the kitchen over and over again, so we'll have to see how that settles out. Those cabinets though!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Best biscuits

I woke up a few weeks ago dreaming of biscuits, so I spent an inordinate amount of time searching the internet for recipes. I have a biscuit recipe from Tassajara that I've used quite a few times and it's pretty good but I don't believe in being 100% faithful to recipes, even my tried and true ones. Sometimes it pays to stray.

best biscuits

I am so, so glad I cheated.

I stumbled on this Alton Brown recipe that uses buttermilk (vs. the cream the Tassajara recipe calls for). I almost never have buttermilk on hand, but I always have full fat Greek yogurt, so I mixed a couple tablespoons into regular milk and it worked just fine. I also used all butter, rather than butter/shortening. I'm sure that if you have all the correct ingredients it's even more delicious, but considering the fact that I made these twice in a one week period, I don't think it's critical.

I also love that the recipe is very easily halved, so I can easily make a small batch (although you can always freeze unbaked biscuits and bake them later). The recipe below is how I made a small batch.

Best buttermilk biscuits (my adapted recipe for a mini batch, makes 4 - 6 biscuits, depending on how big you go, original recipe from here)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional - I like a little bit of sugar in my biscuits)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbsp Greek yogurt + milk to 1/2 cup, whisk well)

:: Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
:: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
:: Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, the food processor, or your hands (as long as you don't run hot - warm hands ruin pastry). The mixture should look like crumbs, with small pieces of butter intact.
:: Pour in the "buttermilk" and stir until the dough just comes together (I always use a rubber spatula for this).
:: Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat into a rectangle, then gently fold the dough over on itself 5 - 6 times (you're creating layers here - if you haven't done this before watch the video in the original recipe for a demonstration).
:: Pat down into a rectangle at least 1" high and then cut into 4 (or 6) squarish pieces. You can also opt to make circles and then re-roll the scraps, but the second pass won't be as tender, so I go with squares and save myself the trouble.

Add some egg, cheese and bacon and these make the ultimate breakfast sandwiches.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sizing up

We move in one week (I had a minor heart attack when I realized this - we've known for months so how could it sneak up like this?) and I'm not at all prepared right now. We'll get there.

I am dreading the entire moving process, and already shedding a few tears at the thought of leaving our good friends/landlords/neighbors, but I am also so! damn! excited! at the thought of being reunited with some of my kitchen things.

I half-heartedly did the whole Marie Kondo bit last year but didn't fully buy into it. But then we moved into our little cottage and had no choice but to suddenly simplify. Paring down for several months was a great exercise. We tried our best to guess what we would use and what we wouldn't as we packed, and anything that didn't fit was either donated or put into storage. I think we did a pretty good job. We took advantage of every little nook in our mini kitchen, and it was completely functional. We could probably continue to live with just what we have right now and it would be fine.


I've been dreaming of those storage boxes as our move approaches. Our wedding china, our wine glasses, our serving platters, my ridiculous collection of cake stands, full size baking sheets, our DINING ROOM TABLE! I'm embarrassed to admit that my heart jumps a little each time I think of them. Apparently all these things spark joy, because I can't wait to see them each day, to pull them out and use them.

Ten months of living in a small space taught me that I am not a minimalist about some things and that's okay with me. I can happily live with one set of sheets and just half a closet of clothes, but I feel deprived if I don't have five different tablecloth options. Pick your poison, I guess. I liked not having too much clutter around in our little place, though. As I start packing up I'm going to be extra conscious of what we used and what we didn't. If there's anything we haven't used since we moved in, it's not coming with us.

In the meantime, I'll be right here, just trolling through my own photos and staring at my stuff like a creepy stalker.

the table, set

plates, waiting

cake stands!