25,000 Mornings

morning lightI read this blog post the other day on making the most of your mornings. I’ve been trying to become a more productive person around the clock, but mornings I especially struggle with. The author’s mention of how we’ll wake up roughly 25,000 mornings in our adult life, and not wasting a single one, really resonated with me. Since then I’ve been pretty quick to hop out of bed and get my day going, and I’ve been enjoying the added benefit of being the first one up with a little peace to myself, before the commotion and responsibilities of the day begin.

photo via nanagyei on flickr

Buy This, Not That: Highlighter Dupe

the balm mary-lou manizer vs wet n wild reserve your cabanaAnyone who is a fan of makeup is probably into highlighters. I don’t use one everyday, but on special occasions or when you want to feel extra pretty, they work wonders for highlighting your cheekbones, defining your upper lip, and just making your face more dimensional and glowy. Recently I received a highlighter pencil in my Ipsy bag, but usually I use Wet n Wild’s bronzer in Reserve Your Cabana (don’t know why they call it a bronzer, it’s really a highlight). It costs around $4 at the drugstore, and gives the same effect as TheBalm’s Mary-Lou Manizer (which I swatched in a store to test out). It’s a $20 difference for a product which is really the same thing, plus Reserve Your Cabana comes in a huge pan, so you get a ton out of it. The only time I would recommend buying the Mary-Lou Manizer is if you’re giving it as a gift, as the packing and brand make it feel fancier.

Top 10 Summer Reads for Thinkers, Dreamers, and Fans of Wit and Charm

reading in a meadowNow that summer is officially here (yay!) it’s time to get serious about our reading lists for the next few months. There is a certain feeling to summer which makes it seem appropriate from any type of read, and I find it best for going from one genre to the next. One summer I decided to read the entire series of Harry Potter, and while I was happy to finally get through the entire series, it took an enormous amount of time (4,100 pages! I’d read it again though). So, this list is composed of a variety of reads, all of which I’ve read sometime in the last 5 or so years, and every one of which I highly recommend. Bonus! None of these are new releases, so they’re all reasonably priced (I’ve been waiting for Gone Girl to go on sale forever!).

The Firm, John Grisham

john grisham the firmThe Firm is the first John Grisham book I read and it remains my favorite. He always writes about crime/scandals… the type of book that leads you guessing what will happen until the end, and always throws a few wrenches along the way. I read this before I even realized there was a movie (and now apparently a TV show), and I’m glad I did because I much preferred the book (don’t we always?) even though the movie starred Tom Cruise and I am a fan of him.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

george orwell animal farmAnimal Farm is one of those classic books, it will always apply to society and will forever impart its timeless lessons. Told through a story of animals on a farm, of which several of them come to power, and what it means for the other animals who are mere cogs in the wheel. I read this about 5 years ago and I still think about it all the time. Short but very powerful.

The Sunday List of Dreams, Kris Radish

the sunday list of dreams, kris radishThe Sunday List of Dreams is a much more light-hearted read than the two above, and probably meant for someone who is middle-age/mid-life crisis era (what does that mean anyway… I don’t believe in age) vs myself as a 20-something. It’s the story of a woman who is always creating lists for her life (something I always do), and how she discovers herself through finding out about her daughters secret sex shop in NYC. It’s a good read about family and finding yourself. I’m certain my Mom and sister read this one as well.

The Richest Man in Babylon, George S. Clason

the richest man in babylon, george s clasonThe Richest Man in Babylon is a book about money, and it is the one book on my bookshelf I can see myself reading over and over. Told over the course of 7 or 8 chapters, I find this book is best read by reading one chapter a night, and taking the time to digest each lesson after reading. It’s kind of like the adult version of a fable. You will get a lot out of it and will likely rethink how you handle your money and how you want to grow your wealth.

Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult

plain truth, jodi picoultI know Jodi Picoult is a huge deal. Every time she does an author reading in my area, people show up in hoards, however this is the only book I’ve read of hers. I’m not sure why, because it is excellent. (Other Jodi Picoult book recommendations, anyone?). Plain Truth takes place in Amish country, surrounding the mysterious appearance of a newborn who was found dead, and the young girl who is believed to be the mother, and person responsible. Really well-written, and definitely a book you will recommend to fellow bookworms.

The Dead Don’t Dance, Charles Martin

the dead don't dance, charles martinInterestingly, I read The Dead Don’t Dance around the same time as the above, and it also involves a baby. I remember it as being haunting and mysterious, two things I like in a book. I recommended it to my sister, and she barreled quickly through reading it as well.

Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins

still life with woodpecker, tom robbinsTom Robbins is one of my favorite authors of all time. Still Life With Woodpecker is the first book of his I read, and I think I’m due another reading this summer. His writing is quirky and strange, I associate it with being a woman, connecting with the moon, the feelings of childhood and adulthood, love, finding yourself, and feeling like another version of a human.

Naked, David Sedaris

naked, david sedarisIf you haven’t read anything by David Sedaris, you are really missing out. He possesses a great wit and talent for retelling stories, comes across as charming and will definitely make you want to be friends with him. Naked is a series of essays and is the perfect summer read. If you want to try before you buy, check out this article he wrote for The New Yorker recently.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

the hunger games, suzanne collinsObviously you know about The Hunger Games, but have you read the books? I made a point to read the trilogy before seeing the first movie in theaters last year, and I’m glad I did. There was so much missing from the story! Gah – I hate that. The Hunger Games sort of feels like a futuristic Animal Farm now that I think of it. Many lessons to be learned. (For the record, I liked the movie too, and I’m looking forward to the next two). Also, this book is on sale for $2.45 right now! (say what?!)

Bossypants, Tina Fey

bossypants, tina feyFinally, for some good laughs care of our favorite high-profile bitch, read Bossypants. Tina is so relatable in a way that others who’ve made it big are not. She recounts stories of growing up, and all the awkward, funny in retrospect moments that go along with it. Bossypants is Liz Lemon in book form. (Don’t you relate to her weirdness? I do.)

What are your favorite summer reads? I’m always on the hunt for the next book to add to my stack!

photo of girl reading in a meadow via sxc.hu

My Secret Recipe for the BEST Salsa Ever

fresh salsa recipe gluten dairy freeThis might just be the best recipe you’ll ever get your hands on. It’s the one I make every time I’m required to bring something to a potluck, and it always steals the show with lots of fanfare. On top of that it’s fresh, can be served with chicken or fish, and is dairy and gluten free. Everyone loves it.

My family has been making this for as long as I can remember (fairly sure it came from a neighbor from many years ago). The ingredients are super interchangeable, so if you like a hotter salsa (I do!) add an extra jalapeño pepper. Only have one tomato on hand? It’s all good, you can use two next time. Basically it’s the perfect thing to throw together any old time. I can even eat it with a spoon.

Making the salsa can be a bit time consuming, but if you’re willing to spend an hour chopping, the result is beautiful. If you’re not planning on showing it off and the batch is just for you, you can definitely make it with a blender or food processer. I have a Vitamix which is awesome in more ways than I can count, but if you’re looking for something not so heavy duty, this food processor from Black and Decker is super affordable and has great reviews.
fresh salsa recipe gluten dairy free

Secret Weapon Salsa

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red onion. peeled and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I like to use red, orange or yellow to add some color!)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (2 if you want hotter salsa), remove pith but save and finely chop seeds and pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

I tend to add the last three ingredients based on taste. Usually I just pour the red wine vinegar until I see a pool in the bottom of the bowl, and then stir everything before tasting. I almost always add another splash after that. Same goes for the salt – I tend to throw some extra in after tasting.

fresh salsa recipe gluten dairy free
Photos by Taylor!

Make The Switch from Google Reader

bloglovinWith less than 2 weeks left until Google Reader is no more, it’s time to get serious about a new feed reader. If you’re not already in the know, a feed reader is a way to follow a number of blogs all in one place, which magically updates when there’s a new post. It’s super convenient and saves a ton of time (and also makes it possible to follow 100+ blogs). Since Google is pulling the rug from their reader on July 1 (which I have been using for years, sob), finding a new reader is the most important thing in my life. One option is Bloglovin’, which has the added bonus of being much prettier than Google Reader ever was. You can even import your feed from Google Reader here. And if you’re feeling friendly, follow Estate!

Girl Secrets: Mix & Match Mascara

mix and match mascara tubes and brushesHow many times have you purchased a new product and ended up not liking it? It doesn’t happen to me often because I read reviews like a madwoman, but when it does, I hate it. I cannot waste anything, and have been known to eat the food off other people’s plates so it doesn’t get thrown away (crazy much?).

So when I bought a handful of mascaras on sale one day, I should have known there would be at least one that didn’t work for me. That one was Maybelline Lots of Lashes. I didn’t love it because the wand made my lashes too thick and clumpy, which I know some women love (if you’re going for the spider eyes look, This Is The Mascara For You!). So when my favorite mascara, Maybelline The Falsies ran out, I washed the wand and stuck it in the Lots of Lashes Tube. And… now I use the mascara! It’s not quite the same as The Falsies, due to the formula being a bit different, but it makes applying a mascara I don’t love so much easier, and now I’m actually able to get my money’s worth out of it! Mascara tubes are generally all the same width where the wand screws into the tube, which means mixing and matching options are endless!

Which two mascaras would you put together?