Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream

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I’ve been using Burt’s Bees cuticle cream for about four years now and while I always found it nice (especially the fresh scent!) and hydrating, I never really thought twice about using it – that is, until this summer. I spent most of July traveling or staying at my parents’ house, and though I did my best to keep taking care of myself, some things fell by the wayside – namely, my skin was dry af. I may or may not have gotten a little bit too much sun while I was at the beach, and most of my time spent moisturizing was focused on my sad, peeling legs and shoulders. After a couple of weeks, I noticed that my cuticles were dry, the skin around my fingernails was starting to peel, and I was getting more hangnails than usual. It was more than a simple cosmetic issue – the dry skin stung and hurt every day, and unfortunately my regular moisturizer was not helping. Luckily this was right around when I came back to my own house, where I remembered that I had a tin of BB cuticle cream in my nightstand. Three nights of using it before bed and my skin was healthy and back to normal! Burt is officially a miracle worker, and I’ll definitely be bringing my cuticle cream with me when I travel in the future.

If you have sad dry skin all year ’round like me, definitely look for a tin of this stuff. It’s usually about $5, and I’ve found it at Walmart, Target, and CVS.

Five Things

on my mind lately…

  1. My family and I came home recently from spending an amazing week at the beach in North Carolina – I wish we could spend more time there and especially with our cousins who we vacation with every year.
  2. I am officially addicted to Pokémon Go. Team Blue/Mystic forever.
  3. Jim surprised me with this 🌸 cute lil babe 🌸 that he thinks even I should be able to keep alive. It may or may not be a test.
    Jim surprised me with this cute lil babe the other day and I’m going to try my hardest to actually keep it alive. If anyone has any tips for kalanchoe care, let me know!
  4. As I continue to learn to like my body & myself and continue to work towards a healthier lifestyle with better food and more exercise, I’ve found myself incorporating more and more tee shirt & shift dresses into my wardrobe. They’re some of my comfiest items of clothing and they’re perfect for days when I want to look nice with low effort. As they’re not always extremely flattering from certain angles, I definitely wouldn’t have worn them in the past – now I say I love them and I love me and I don’t care what anyone else thinks!
  5. I just found out about Aly & Aj Michalka (some of my favorites from the end of my Radio Disney & Disney Channel days) are in a new movie called Weepah Way for Now that looks really cool and is definitely a few steps away from Cow Belles. According to the website it’s only going to be screened in LA, which is about as far as you can get from Maryland without crossing borders, so all I can do for now is keep my fingers crossed that it’ll become more readily available over the next year or so, but I can’t wait to see it!

Style Inspo: Begin Again

I just watched the 2014 film Begin Again for the first time this week and oh man, I’m in love. Keira Knightley has been my favorite actress since I was about 13 years old, and her first singing role in Begin Again absolutely kills it in my book. I was so happy by the end of the movie that she and Mark Ruffalo never kissed – it’s a great story that shows that yes, men and women can, in fact, be “just friends”.

To get to the real point of this post, I would die to have most of the wardrobe pieces that KK wears in the movie. The outfits are casual yet so put together, and I’ll definitely be using them as inspiration as I put together my closet for the oncoming summer.

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Europe 2015: Paris

Paris: the City of Light, the City of Love, the City of Crepes!

June, 2015 was my first – and hopefully not only! – visit to France. After spending two days in London we took a bus to Dover, boarded the ferry to Calais, and then hopped on another bus to Paris. The whole trip took about 13 hours and I couldn’t help thinking about when we read A Tale of Two Cities in high school. We got caught in rush hour traffic on our way into the city – seems like no matter where you go, you can never escape rush hour traffic – and quickly checked into our hotel before rushing back out into the city for a group dinner at a bistro. The food was great and I enjoyed the intimate setting as an opportunity to get to know some of my traveling companions better.

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the cliffs of Dover!!

Our second day included a tour of the Fragonard perfume museum, a bus tour of the city with a hilariously sarcastic British guide, a trip to Versailles, and a river cruise on the Seine. We caught lunch near the Eiffel Tower and while much of the group disappeared into cafes, a few of us just got hotdogs from a corner stand. They had bright red casings and were served on baguettes – not your typical American hot dog stand fare! We only had about an hour free when we got to Versailles and there was a huge line to get into the palace so a few of us just went through the gardens instead. I wrote a note down that day after we left, “it’s hard to believe that people actually lived there, but not so hard to believe that they were killed for their opulence”.

That evening we had our river cruise and then after dinner a few of us just went back to the hotel instead of going out clubbing. I successfully got our group onto the metro going the right direction – it wasn’t difficult to just follow the map, but it still felt pretty cool to be traveling unguided in a foreign city.

Day two was a completely free day that we could use to do whatever we wanted. My group left the hotel at 8am and didn’t get back until past midnight – we walked 17 miles that day!  We went to the Eiffel Tower first thing in the morning, and I couldn’t believe the view from the top. I never realized how sprawling Paris was until then – every picture you seem to see of the city is from right in the heart with the Eiffel Tower looming close in the window in the background. After the ET we went and got in line to go through the catacombs. The line stretched all the way around the block, so we took turns going into a small cafe to grab lunch. I was so proud of myself for being able to get through the entire order and transaction completely in French – my high school knowledge actually came in handy!

Going through the catacombs was a pretty solemn experience once we actually got down around the bones, and I had to keep reminding myself that they weren’t actually the result of some crazy tragedy – the city just ran out of room in its cemeteries. It’s still pretty creepy to be walking around the remains of 6 million people though, tragedy or not. We went to the Louvre next to lighten our spirits and we gave ourselves a one-hour time limit – just enough time to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, grab a water, and get back out onto the streets. I got some cool street art and we stopped at the love lock bridge on our way to Notre Dame, but we got to the square only five minutes after they stopped admitting members of the public, so unfortunately I didn’t get to look for Quasimodo.

We crossed town to see the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and it was absolutely breathtaking – and not just because we had to climb 150 steps to get there. The basilica is all white stone and has huge domes and a beautiful view of Paris. Later back at the Champs Elysées we used our museum passes to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, then had a late dinner at a cafe before returning to the hotel to get a quick night’s sleep before leaving for Amsterdam the next morning.

I was really struck by the people in Paris, in so many different ways. The traffic in Paris was insane – in a lot of areas you couldn’t even tell where the lanes were, and mopeds were constantly weaving in and out around the cars. I couldn’t imagine ever driving there without having grown up used to it. I loved the juxtaposition of antique and modern in Paris as well, in a totally different way than I noticed it in London. The architecture in Paris is beautiful and the buildings look old and perfectly stylized, but as soon as you get down to the street level you’re hit immediately with a modern vibe amid millions of people rushing between the hustle & bustle of traffic, corner convenience stores, and avenues of designer shops. Everything, even statues and monuments, was covered in graffiti, and I never noticed how clean London (and even some US cities) was until I got to Paris. The people there all looked so glamorously dressed compared to what I’m used to seeing, and they all looked so comfortable in their skin and in their city. If London reminded me of D.C., Paris was the NYC of my trip, and I can’t wait until I can go back.

 

What I Read: 2015

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be an adult because I could just read as much as I wanted and I would never have to worry about if I wasn’t doing homework or if I wasn’t in bed by 10 o’clock because I wanted to finish a particularly good chapter. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my priorities have shifted a bit. I still love reading as much as ever, but I definitely don’t spend as much time doing it as when I was younger. 2015 particularly wasn’t a huge year of reading for me, and I only made it through 19 books between January and December. I have a huge to-read list piled up in my room though so here’s hoping I get through more in 2016!

What I read in 2015:

  1. May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Holmes
  2. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  3. Horns – Joe Hill
  4. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
  5. Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen
  6. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  7. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
  8. The Shell Seekers – Rosamunde Pilcher
  9. Empire Falls – Richard Russo
  10. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
  11. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – Frederik Backman
  12. One Thousand White Women – Jim Fergus
  13. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  14. The Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs
  15. Sleeping Beauties – Susanna Moore
  16. The Aviator’s Wife – Melanie Benjamin
  17. Grace’s Guide – Grace Helbig
  18. You Deserve a Drink – Mamrie Hart
  19. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

Top 5: Stardust, Horns, Fangirl, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and The Glass Castle.

Honorable mentions: May We Be ForgivenYou Deserve a Drink, and Go Set a Watchman

Wouldn’t read again: One Thousand White Women

Let me know if you read anything especially good in 2015 that I should check out!

What I Ate: Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust

I love pizza. It’s an eat-it-everyday, shout-it-from-the-rooftops kind of love, one that I hold close to my heart through every meal. Pizza is amazingly versatile; you could eat it every day for a year and have a different kind every single day. Greasy and thin, hand-tossed and fluffy, meaty or vegetarian or just plain cheese, pizza is the end-all, be-all for food options in my book. The only problem with pizza is that unfortunately, it doesn’t tend to be very healthy. That’s where spaghetti squash comes in.

If you’ve never had spaghetti squash, you should know that it’s a yellow squash, roughly the size of a cantaloupe, that pulls apart in strings after it’s been cooked. If you have had it before, you already know that it’s pretty delicious and makes a great starch substitute – it’s especially helpful if you’re gluten-free!

To make spaghetti squash pizza crust, you will need:
1 spaghetti squash
1 egg
a pinch of flour (not strictly necessary, I just like it to thicken the mix a bit)
olive oil (or other cooking oil)
salt
pepper
garlic salt/powder
oregano
pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings – all according to your own liking! (this crust makes for a pretty good white pizza if I do say so myself)

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Before you turn it into a crust, first you have to cook the spaghetti squash.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Pierce the rind of the squash with a fork a few times for ventilation.
3. Put the squash in the microwave for 2 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes.
4. Cut off the stem end, and cut the squash in half.
5. Scoop out the seeds and guts – just like before carving a pumpkin!
6. Drizzle some olive oil over the inside of the squash (I never measure it, I just pour a little bit and then put the halves back together and sort of turn them over to try to get an even coating), then add some salt and pepper.
7. Bake the squash halves for 25 minutes (I usually take them out and turn them over halfway through).

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Now you’re ready to make the crust.
1. Leave the oven still set to 400 degrees when you take the squash out.
2. After taking the squash out of the oven, use a fork to pull the stringy insides apart and out of the rind.
3. In a large bowl, mix the cooked squash with 1 egg and a pinch of flour.
4. Add garlic and oregano to your liking (I never measure them, and I’m usually pretty heavy handed according to my own personal taste).
5. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (not 100% required but it makes it easier to get the pizza off the pan later and I think it helps to cook more evenly) and spread the squash evenly to form a thin layer. You shouldn’t be able to see the pan through the squash, but you still want it to bake all the way through. Make sure it’s just thick enough to hold sauce, cheese, and toppings!
6. Bake 20-25 minutes until edges are browning (In the past I’ve usually taken it out around the 20 minute mark and at this point it’s usually still kind of soft and requires a fork to eat, but doesn’t completely fall apart – in the future I’m going to leave it in for longer).

Once you’ve baked your crust, it’s pizza time! Use your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings to make the pizza of your dreams. Put the pizza back in the oven for 6-10 minutes to let the cheese melt, then enjoy!

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Spaghetti squash crust has been my godsend for making healthy pizza at home, and I hope you love it as much as I do! Let me know how it goes for you if you try it out!

I adapted my recipe from the girls over at A Beautiful Mess.

What I Read – July 2015

“I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember” – A true statement. “Studying English in college means I still read more books than I can count” – Not so much.

Just because I spent four years studying literature doesn’t mean that I read 3, 4, or 5 books a month (or even the ones that I was supposed to be reading for class – sorry Professor Coletti!). And even though I don’t read many books in a row anymore doesn’t mean that I don’t want to – it just means that sometimes life gets in the way. College was a very busy time, as I’m sure many of you know, and there just always seemed to be so many other things to do (studying, attending student org meetings, watching Netflix…)!

Cue Summer, the happy season in which I always seem to do the most of my reading. Free time, especially time spent on vacation, always passes so much quicker during the summer, and I’m happy to say that I do spend a lot of it catching up on my “to-read” list. This July was busier than others, spent recovering from my trip to Europe, going to the beach with my family, and moving into a new house, but I did get through two books while I was on vacation.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is about a Chinese-American man, Henry Lee, who was a child in Seattle during WWII. Ford uses a mix of flashbacks and present-day (well, 1986) narration to show both Lee’s experiences as an Asian-American during the time of prejudice against Japanese-Americans and how those experiences still affected his life as an adult. Lee befriends a Japanese-American classmate just as the US is beginning to set up camps for Japanese-Americans during the war, and he faces criticism from society and his family as he tries to sort out his own confused feelings.
My mom had wanted me to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for months, so I thought it would be the perfect book to take with us to the beach, and I loved it! I’m a sucker for historical novels anyway (especially anything involving WWII or the Civil War) and I think that HotCoBaS gives an interesting view of how Chinese-America, especially those on the West coast, dealt with racial prejudice as a result of the war.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher was also a suggestion from my mom, and it was a great beach read. It follows Penelope Keeling and her relationship with her three adult children as they each try to tell her what to do with her prized possession, a painting by her father worth thousands of dollars. I loved the use of flashbacks (also during WWII – apparently this was a theme for me this July?) to give context to their relationships and how the text explored how family members can hate and love each other at the same time. I also personally agree whole heartedly with what Penelope eventually decided to do with the painting (and was pleased to have guessed it before it actually happened!).

I would definitely recommend both of these novels to anyone looking for a good read – neither text was difficult to get through at all, and I think they both tackled emotion very well and gave a good look into how people function as individuals within relationships.

What’s your favorite book that you’ve read so far this summer?