Colors of the Wind

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Work has been... stressful lately, so my motivation to come home and get on the computer and write more is at an all-time low.  Consequently, I'm resorting to entertaining you with pictorials of my most recent creative outlets.  I promise I'll be back with stories and adventures soon!  I just need another few days to get my head back in the game.

The Ps had a baby girl last August and L asked me to make a stool for her.  Usually I try to make these things match room decor, but there wasn't really much of a theme for this little chica's room (think custom, gender-neutral bedding in greens, blues, and khakis with pops of pink and other colors).  Since the Ps live in Austin, I had to go off of pictures that Mrs. P posted on Facebook to get an idea for color schemes.  One thing I don't trust: my monitor's ability to show colors true to life.  I mean it looks fine on my screen, but who knows!  Those blues could have more yellow to them or something.  So I was left to blaze my own trail and hope it didn't look like a seventh grader made it at the end.  Here's the finished product:

The colors look better in person; the green is way less split pea soup and more minty.  And the pink monogram is easier to see, too.

Side #1.

Side #2.

All in all, not my best work.  It was hard to get inspired by a room I'd never seen.  But apparently the Ps liked it.  I wasn't there to give it in person, but that's the word on the street.

This next one is one of my favorites!  I don't know if I just like making stools for boys or if it's the parents that made this one so fun, but even though I was in the same situation with this stool as I was for Baby P (never met the bambino, never seen the room), I had an idea to use as inspiration.  The goal was fun without being too babyish.  This was the end result:

Baby Jake's theme is clearly safari/jungle.  I had fun learning how to make different types of animal prints.

Side #1.

Side #2.

Maybe it's the color scheme or maybe it's the minimalism of it, but this is one of my favorites I've done to date.  L and I had so much fun meeting Jake and seeing his parents when we were in Austin over Thanksgiving.  Yea for special friends and their babies!!

I've Got You Under My Skin

Monday, January 23, 2012

I've been on a hunt for new, amazing beauty products for about the last five
months or so.  I've been to Sephora countless times for samples (which are
amazingly convenient for traveling instead of taking full-size containers of
moisturizer, cleanser, etc.).  I thought I'd share results thus far of the fruits of my labor.

Beauty Products I liked

I'll break these out by brand.

Perricone MD.  I LOVED all three Perricone MD products I tried.  I stumbled upon
them randomly and tried the moisturizer first on a whim. Then I found
I liked it a lot so I went back to try other products and the product rep
happened to be in Sephora that day, so he suggested I try the cold
plasma.  I thought the pore minimizer sounded intriguing and that was
the closest thing they had to a toner that day, so I got a sample of that,
too.  The products I tried had a very light rosy scent, which is not usually
my favorite, but it's not bad! 

Kiehl's. This moisturizer is great!  No frills, but just a solid product.  Not too
heavy, not too light, not much of a scent.  This is good stuff. 

Urban Decay.  Stepping away from the cleansers and moisturizers, I tried
Urban Decay's Primer Potion at Mrs. FBI's suggestion and I love it!  I actually
bought a tube of it and I think it might last me the rest of my life.  It's one of
those "you only need the tiniest dot..." products.  Totally helps make the eye
make up stay fresh and vibrant all day and into the evening. 

Bliss.  Just like with Perricone MD, I loved all the Bliss products I tried. 
They all have a light, fresh, citrus-y scent and they all left my face feeling
soft and clean.  I'd totally buy all of these if I wasn't on a budget right now.

and then the flip side...

What I didn't love

Ugh, where to start... Well, I tried the Boscia Black Mask at the suggestion
of a friend and I just wasn't a fan.  It's supposed to detoxify, purify, and
brighten.  I have no proof that it does either of the first two and I just don't
understand what exactly "brightening" means (seriously, can someone
please give me a real definition of what this means and what to look for? 
It just seems like total BS to me).  If it means make your face red like you
have Rosasia, then I will give it an A+.  But somehow that's just not what
I'm looking for in a product.  You have to apply it in very thick quantities if
you want it to come off easily.  Even so, it irritated my skin when I would peel it
off and leave me with an incredibly red face for about 12 hours.  I didn't notice
much of a difference between before and after.  Therefore, I couldn't justify
spending $35 for a tube. 

Philosophy. Oh good lord.  I read reviews of this for a long time on various
blogs and it was supposed to be a miracle product.  I had $55 of credit on
HauteLook so when they ran a Philosophy boutique one day back in
October, I opted for a gift box of products.  EXTREME disappointment. 
Hope in a Jar is supposed to "smooth your complexion while reducing the
appearance of wrinkles and discoloration.  Originally created for the medical
market, this expert essential delivers soft, healthy, glowing results."  Perhaps
I don't have enough wrinkles and discoloration yet.  Perhaps my expectations
were too high.  I find the "souffle" texture to be odd (it's like it dissolves
into water) and the scent abominable.  L cannot stand it when I get in bed
after having used this.  At first I thought it was just me that disliked the
scent but then L started making comments about it after a couple of days. 
He thinks it smells like citrus (now when he gets a whiff, the reaction is
always, "UGH, THE CITRUS!"  I don't think it smells like citrus, though. 
I can't tell you what it smells like but I can tell you that whatever it is, it
smells bad to me.  I also thought it might just by MY jar, but I've sniffed
jars at Sephora since I started using this and that's just how the product
smells.  I can't wait to finish this so I can get something I like.
Murad.  Mrs. FBI was getting samples of these one day so I asked for
the clerk to make some for me as well.  The eye serum was too strong
for me and stung my eyes.  I just wanted to involuntarily cry for about a
half hour every time I used it (which was like four times before I realized
this was going to happen every time and then I threw the rest away). 
The face wash actually wasn't bad, but I'm looping it in here because
of how much I disliked the eye serum.  Guilt by association.  Sorry.

Kiehl's.  I bought the creamy eye treatment with avocado a while back
and at first I really liked it.  Then it started making the crease of my right
eye do weird things (basically it got red and irritated).  Yes, just the right
eye had problems.  I don't get it.  But now I only use this if I'm out of my
regular eye moisturizer.  It's fine for a couple of uses, but more than that
and my right eye crease starts getting irritated.

So there you have it.  Take my opinions for what you will.  Just thought I'd
share.  If anyone has any amazing products I should try, let me know and I'll
run right out and get samples on my way home from work! 

Mileage update:
YTD = 19
Today = 3

Walking on a Dream

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The last year I lived in Austin, I lived within walking distance of most things I needed on a daily basis.  I had two grocery stores nearby, a dry cleaner, my gym, a few restaurants, a RedBox, a Target, a couple of places to shop, and even my office.  Although in the two years I lived around the corner from my office (there was literally a fence that divided the property of my office building and my apartment complex), I only tried walking to work one time, and unfortunately that one time was a hot summer in July when I chose to wear a very tall pair of heels.  You know what I don't like?  Being sweaty at 9:00 a.m. when I get to work.  So that is why that never happened again.

Anyway, I walked all over the place except to work as long as it wasn't cold outside.  And one warm, spring afternoon I got it in my head that I wanted to take "the long way" to HEB (which was across the street from the main entrance to my complex) by walking through a residential neighborhood that my complex backed up to.  I estimated that it would probably take me about 30 minutes at a decent pace.  I'd driven the route before about a year prior but I was pretty sure I knew where it would spit me out, so I grabbed my wallet, a couple of reusable bags, and my iPod and set off.  And I walked... and walked... and walked.  Up hills, down hills, and still I didn't come upon the street I knew I needed to turn down.  There's one particularly steep hill that almost did me in.  I seriously thought about sitting down in a random yard.  I mean I'd intended for this to be a nice, short walk.  If I'd had my phone with me, I might have called a friend to come get me, except I wasn't totally sure where I was.  I knew the general location, but not the specifics.  The one thing I knew for sure was that I was walking in a giant circle (intentionally) and there was no way to cut through the center of it and shorten my route.  I was not prepared for the ridiculously long or intense hills on which my journey took me.  Four miles and an hour and a half later, I finally got to HEB, did my shopping, and headed home, where I showered, drank about a gallon of water, and passed out.  I wish so much I had pictures to post of this route because when I drove L and my sister through the whole loop, they both were dying laughing at how hard it must have been to silly little me with my shopping bags.  But really, pictures couldn't do those hills justice.  Or where this the lovely hairpin curve has no sidewalk.  Or the part where I walked on a golf course.  Good times!!

I swore at first that I would NEVER do that walk again, but then the more I thought about it, the more I liked the challenge of making the loop and building up my endurance.  I started alternating my gym workouts and pilates every other day with walking my 4 mile loop.  Results: toned legs, slimmer physique, and a better knowledge of my neighborhood.  Plus, I enjoy being outside, so it was a good excuse to do that.  The only times I'd skip my walk were if it was raining or extra hot outside.

I thought maybe I could continue that routine here in Virginia, but aside from the fact that we had so much cold weather and snow my first few months here, my neighborhood makes it complicated because even though we're in a residential area, our particular little subset of it is very small and bound in on all sides by very busy streets that I don't like crossing when it's dark.  So instead, I just hit the gym or do 30 Day Shred. 
I was reading through blogs the other day and I came across a post where a young woman was discussing her goal of walking 500 miles in 2012.  I am back on a fitness/healthy life kick.  L is, too, but pretty much so far only through guilt by association. Which is okay. All this is to say that the 500 miles in 2012 goal has been rolling around in my head for several days and I think I'm going to bandwagon on.  The girl on the blog is trying to lose a LOT of weight; I'm just looking to tone my legs up again and not be the fattest bridesmaid in Nolly's wedding in June.  I'm thinking I may do a weekly update on my mileage to keep myself accountable.  So here's my progress so far, according to the treadmill*:

Last week's mileage: 6

This week's mileage: 7.5

Total YTD: 13.5

*I feel I should point out that while I walk at a brisk pace on the treadmills at my gym, I do not have a death grip on the machine. I also do not swing my arms with such force that I would bruise or severly injure anyone that might get in the way of my flailing arms.  I cannot say the same for other patrons of my gym.

Safe and Sound

Monday, January 16, 2012

I love reading.  I finished Catching Fire Friday afternoon

and immediately started Mockingjay that evening. 

I read a couple hours on Friday, most of Saturday afternoon, and finished it early Sunday morning.  If you haven't started reading The Hunger Games trilogy, start it RIGHTNOW.  I totally didn't think I'd like it after reading the synopsis on the back of the first book so I put off reading it, but when my brother-in-law finished the first book, read the entire second book, and started the third during the three and a half days I saw him at Thanksgiving (which prompted my sister to spontaneously pick up the first one, finish it, and start the second one during the same time span and then loan the first one to L, who read all three in the week after Thanksgiving), I figured it needed to get moved up on my list.  L has now read the first two twice and was going to start the third but I needed it so I could read it for the first time.  I read all seven of the Harry Potter books (which are great) and the entire Twilight saga (which I finished, but somewhat begrudgingly so), so it would stand to reason I'd probably like The Hunger Games, but I have to say I was shocked that L read them all and 2/3 of them twice because L doesn't usually care to read fiction, and certainly not YA fiction.  Go buy all three and start reading them.  Especially if you're off today.  You can have the first book finished by dinner if you start before noon. 

It goes without saying that I'm psyched to see the movie.  Good thing I only have about 9 weeks left to wait!  And I do love the song Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars collaborated on for the movie.  I played it for L tonight and he thought it was fantastic.  Beautiful, but slightly haunting... it's perfect.

I'm on to The Night Circus now.  I'm about 40 pages in and so far I have mixed feelings about it.  I mean, it's no The Hunger Games, but then, there are also at least twice as many words per page and where TGH is written at probably a 6th grade level, The Night Circus is definitely for the AP English crowd.  Probably it wouldn't seem so advanced had I not just come from three YA novels.  The stimulation is kind of nice, though.  Refreshing.  Now if only it will hook me into the story sometime in the next few chapters...

Those Sweet Words

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just following suit on this one.  A run-down of books I read in 2011 that are worth sharing.  No order of importance; just the random order in which I read them:

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Bossypants by Tina Fey

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

One Day by Dan Nicholls

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Not exactly a stellar list in terms of quantity (although I did read a few more that I didn't include on here, either because they were re-reads or because they weren't worth mentioning), but I do feel the need to point out that Gone With the Wind is more than 1,000 pages.  In terms of quantity, it's a GREAT list.  I absolutely recommend any of these.  Goal for 2012: read more.  I'm already working on this one.

Here Comes a Regular

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We rang in the new year with some repeat visitors. The Gamblor, Frohn Dancis, and their girlfriends flew in on Friday and stayed til the following Tuesday.  I'll be honest - I was a little nervous about how this would all go because I'd only met both girlfriends once.  Frohn Dancis and The Redhead visited last spring, so I'd spent a weekend with her and knew we'd get along just fine.  But I'd only met The Gamblor's girlfriend at our friend Thanksgiving fiesta in Austin back in November, so it wasn't like I'd actually gotten to really know her.  In the end, everything worked out fine but I was glad I'd spent time planning for the weekend instead of just leaving things open. 

Our whirlwind weekend of activities included
drinks at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel,

dinner at H Street Country Club where they feature an indoor miniature golf course, although we didn't play... here's a glimpse at the rules:

I particularly love the first rule - don't drive the ball.  You know there's a rule because at least one person tried it.  Inside.  In a restaurant.  I can only imagine the chaos that ensued.  This was our first time dining at H Street and I have to say, it was really, really good!  Service was horrible (not the server so much as the pace) and we were sitting right by the door on a very cold night and they don't have two sets of doors or a curtain or anything to keep the cold air out, so that was also a downer, but the food was so fresh and bright.  If it were more convenient for us to get to, I think we'd go back a llot.  Anyway, after dinner, we headed down the street for more drinks and a little booty shaking at Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar on Friday.

Saturday included lunch, shopping, and a viewing of the TAMU bowl game in Georgetown.  We capped off our Georgetown afternoon excursion with frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity.

I'd been wanting to hit up Serendipity ever since it opened last summer but had yet to find time or a reason to get L over to Georgetown (he hates the traffic).  No one else in the group had ever been to any of the Serendipity locations in NYC or Vegas, so it was a fun trip for all.  Each couple split a frozen hot chocolate and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.  That night, we ate a fabulous NYE dinner at La Tasca and partied and danced the night away at Whitlow's with several other friends of ours.

We were all a bit tired on Sunday, so we spent the day at our house watching movies and football and making lots and lots of food.  Like, completely way too much food.  Our spread:

What you see above, clockwise from the top: bread, buns, fish (under the foil, for The Gamblor's vegetarian lady, who I shall henceforth refer to as Platinum), ribs (yes, the smoker was busted out on Sunday), salad, homemade macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and brisket.  What you don't see is the queso and what I refer to as Angie's Salsa that I made for apps and the dessert (chocolate chunk bread pudding).  Here's a visual of the salsa:

How pretty is that???  I love that it's so fresh and colorful.  And delicious.  I could eat it with a spoon.  Yum.

Despite the fact that everyone had been to DC before, The Gamblor and Frohn hadn't done the whole monument/memorial thing.  Platinum and The Redhead had, but it had been many years and no one (including me and L) had seen the MLK memorial.  We spent about 3 hours working our usual circuit and managed to see them all.  Thank goodness the sun was out because it was quite chilly and VERY windy, and The Gamblor didn't think to bring a coat or any cold weather gear with him, although we happily loaded him up with a scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  But he still froze the whole time.  We had mid-afternoon snacks at Old Ebbitt and then strolled passed the White House on our way to happy hour at Elephant and Castle, where we warmed up and watched more bowl games.  Then it was off to dinner at our favorite, Founding Farmers.  The Gamblor and Frohn were particularly excited to eat here again; The Gamblor didn't feel so hot when we took him there on his last visit and Frohn had buyer's remorse when he and The Redhead ate lunch there on their last visit (he enjoyed his fish and chips that day but wished he'd ordered chicken and waffles when he saw an order served to another diner).  We all had a fantastic meal.  It's just so hard not to there, especially when you get an awesome server like we had.  If anyone reading this is planning on eating there soon, ask to sit in Bernard's section.  I wanted to shrink that guy and put him in my pocket so I could take him everywhere with me.

Platinum and I headed home after dinner (I had to get up early and go to work the next morning; Platinum felt she'd had enough for one day) and the rest of the group went out for more football watching and imbibing. 

All in all, a great trip!  We love when friends visit.  The one down side: such a long visit with so much non-stop action so soon after our trip to Texas ended up taking it out of me.  I took my first sick day in about a year and a half last Thursday.  Bleh.  Luckily, a day of sleeping and hydration did the trick and I've been on the mend ever since.
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