Beauty on the Cheap

This afternoon sparked some interesting questions that I would now like to answer.  I posted a silly photo of myself on social media looking paranoid because of the messages I keep receiving on my phone.  Messages asking if I would like to rate the store that I was just in.  It’s kind of creepy right?  Technology that we pay a pretty penny for, becoming our own personal spies?  It’s the stuff of a Twilight Zone episode.  Anyway, I digress.  Right after posting the photo, friends were commenting on my skin, and asking what makeup I am currently using.  So I thought I would do a fun, lighthearted little article about my interesting new finds.  Here, for your enjoyment is that ridiculous picture.


Currently wearing AOA’s BB Cream, and liquid lipstick and liner in Doll.

Yes, I know.  I’m ridiculous.

I had recently been really adventurous and decided to jump in and try makeup from a company that I had seen online.  Yes, online.  This means guessing at the colors and how well they are going to work with your skin tone.  It’s a little bit of a stretch right?  I am used to going into a store and swiping samples of each color on my skin before purchasing.  But here what made me take the leap. . . the products are one dollar.

Now you are paying attention.  Yes, I said, “one dollar”.  The Shop is called  Here are some of my favorite finds.  First, AOA Studio Wonder Matte and Wonder Metal liquid lipsticks. I had only tried two or three liquid lipsticks before this, so I didn’t have a lot of colors in my collection.  Needless to say, I went crazy.  Here are some of the colors I am now using.

AOA Wonder Metal

AOA Wonder Metals Liquid Lipsticks

AOA Wonder Mattes

AOA Wonder Matte Liquid Lipsticks

I am really loving this BB Cream, and the beauty blender that I purchased to apply it with.  (The super soft beauty blender has gone up in price to $1.55, but I don’t think that is going to break the bank.) I also purchased a beauty blender holder which is amazing, because then you don’t end up laying it down, on a counter where it might pick up bacteria.  I also purchased a makeup brush cleaning egg.  This little device makes it easy to clean your makeup brushes more thoroughly than with a cleaning spray alone.  The BB Cream seems to make my skin look better than most of the high end products that I had previously used.  Everything else seems to settle into my wrinkles and make me look even older than I am.  And since I am currently enjoying the last few months before I turn 45, I just don’t need that nonsense.  At one dollar each, I decided to purchase three of the BB Creams.  I have one that is perfect for right now, a lighter shade for winter, and a darker shade for the later summer, since I tan easily.

AOA BB Cream on marble

AOA Wonder Skin Primers, Fan Brush, and Perfect BB Creams.

AOA Tools 2

Lip Makeup Remover Pads, Black beauty blender holder, Makeup Cleansing Wipes in Rosewater, and Black brush cleaning egg.

I should warn you now.  The site is quite expansive. They also offer jewelry, belts, canvas bags, sunglasses, phone accessories, false eyelashes, hair accessories, scarves, stationary, makeup brushes, should I go on?  All at the ridiculous price of one dollar.  They also have products from A20 Lab.  These items are higher in price, but still amazingly priced for what they are.  This line includes makeup palettes, individual pan shadows, blushes, and highlighters. So far I love the three shadows that I purchased from A20 Lab (colors: L6, L8, and  P7 ).  These were priced at $2.50 each, and have high pigment and low fall out.  I also purchased a lovely golden highlighter called Galaxy.

AOA shadows 2

Individual eyeshadow and highlighter pans from A20.

AOA Jewelry

Shop Miss A necklaces and ring.

As I said it is hard to purchase just one item.  But the good news is that if you are purchasing in bulk, you get free shipping at a $35 purchase price.  That means that each item is actually costing one dollar.  I like to slowly make my cart list with makeup items I would like to try, jewelry, key chains and stickers for the kids, extra tools that we need around the house like tweezers, etc. then I make my purchase when my list gets to 35 items.

AOA Lip Pencils

AOA Wonder lipliners.

Makeup is not necessary.  Right?  It is not one of the essential needs in life.  I have lots of days that I don’t even open a makeup drawer.  Because I am busy with, well, life.  But it is art.  And having an artist’s palette of many colors right at your fingertips is just fun.  Especially when it is at an affordable price.  Happy Shopping!


Parenting Well in a Performance Based Society: Raising Baby


Let’s face it, our Western Society has set us all up for failure.  Or at least a lot of comparative fussing.  Your child’s life will probably start out with people asking their birth weight and length, then when or if they have started walking and potty training, only to be followed by where they are attending college or what job they landed.  Why?  Why is our society so consumed with all of these things?  I honestly don’t remember my children’s weight and length at birth or when exactly they started doing everything else.  Some would consider this bad parenting and be shocked that I haven’t burned these things into my memory.  I choose to believe it is because they are not that important in the scheme of life.  Maybe you are a new parent who’s baby is just getting ready for some milestones or maybe baby is very happy with where they are at.  One thing that you will figure out, if you haven’t already is that babies, just like adults are individuals.  And no two individuals will do things in exactly the same way or at the same time.  Parenting is an area in life that you need extreme confidence.  And if you reach down deep inside you’ll find that you have the knowledge you need for that confidence to grow.  You have an advantage!  You brought this little human into the world and you know them, better than anyone else!  You sense when they are overwhelmed, you know when they are tired, or sad.   With all of this “inside information” about this amazing person, your only job now is to protect their rights as an individual in this world.  And it is your job to protect that child.  Whether little or big, that child will need protection, truth, and love.  Parenting is no place for our own insecurities to be fixed.  And this seems to be a difficult area for a lot of parents to see.  Parenting is for your child’s needs, not the place to meet your own.  Many parents feel uncomfortable if their child is not crawling, speaking, walking, or potty training when someone else’s child is.  Why?  Your baby is not ashamed, then why should you be?  Allowing your baby to develop at their own speed is actually harder for the parent than the child, because of societal pressures.  But guess what?  Baby doesn’t know about those things yet.  And I believe that practicing patience with yourself in these early years will help you to support the individual that this child will one day become.  Through rushing our babies out of infancy, and our children out of childhood, we are involuntarily teaching lessons like “We just do this now because everyone else does this”, or “because this is what people expect of you.”  This is the foundation for a very week willed adult.  I don’t know about you, but I want to raise strong individuals who aren’t afraid to stand up when something is wrong.  I want my children to be confident in who they are and what they believe.

So let our babies be babies and lets let our kids be kids.  More on this conversation to come. . .

Gourmet your Pizza

    In an ideal world, you would have just pulled a hand rolled crust pizza out of your own brick oven.  But life and time constraints sometimes get in the way of good cooking.  And there are other factors.  Maybe you love a trip to the gourmet pizza shop but your child wants plain old pepperoni, or worse just cheese.  Today I’m going to give you a few tips to turn a plain $5 pepperoni pizza from down the street into a masterpiece.

My husband and I fell in love with a brave new pizza topping. . . peanut butter.  At a wonderful gourmet pizza shop that we like, they make a lovely. . . (you guessed it) . . . peanut butter pizza.  So, I thought one night,  “Why not?”  and covered my five dollar pizza with peanut butter.  Topped with a few hot pepper flakes and some thinly sliced red onion, and you have “Amazing!”  Plus, when you add peanut butter, you add protein.  And for hypoglycemics like myself this is a welcome addition.  So, maybe peanut butter pizza is not your cup of tea.  Here are a few other ideas:  Smoked gouda and cashews,  roasted garlic and imported olives.  Don’t be afraid.  Be creative!  Remember, just because your kids may be stuck in pepperoni heaven, doesn’t mean that you have to give up on good taste.  Another little tip:  make a mixture of olive oil, crushed garlic, and parmesan to brush over the crust.  Mmmmm

Spring Veggie Soup

Image  May is the sort of month where you never know what kind of weather you are going to get.  It was boiling hot in California a few days ago, then pouring rain in LA the day after that.  Today was lovely.  The kind of day that stays cool and sends you home in the evening wanting nothing but a bowl of hot soup.  So this is my kitchen invention of the day:  Spring Veggie Soup.  It is a vibrant green, light soup that pairs well with cheese and crusty bread.  The magic of this dish is that it would be divine chilled on a warm spring evening.  Here are the ingredients you will need:

3 handfulls of fresh spinach leaves

5 cloves of garlic chopped into fourths

1 bag frozen zucchini (or fresh if you have it on hand)

4 large fresh basil leaves

1/2 a small onion chopped into large sections

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of broth (chicken or vegi)

a pinch of cayenne pepper

Creamy Toscano cheese soaked in Syrah



(This amount will serve 2)

Start with a large soup pan.  Pour in the olive oil and warm it lightly.  Add your garlic, and onions and let them warm until the onion starts to turn translucent.  While this part is cooking you will want to rinse the frozen zucchini in a sieve.  Run warm water over the zucchini until they separate and don’t feel icy.  Then add them to the pan.  Next you will add the broth and then cover the mixture to let it cook for about 10 minutes.  Your next step will be to add your spinach and basil leaves.  They will wilt quickly from the steam from the other veggies.  As they are wilting you can add a shake of cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Then stir.  Turn off the heat and pour your mixture into a blender.  Blend until the soup looks very creamy.  Pour into soup bowls and top with a little crumble of Toscano cheese.  Trader Joe’s sells three versions of this cheese: Syrah, Espresso, and Black Pepper.  Any of these three would be fine.  The soup will have a bright basil note that works well the complexity of the cheese.  May you soon enjoy a warm cup of soup on a cool spring night.


Fingertip Caviar

caviar-dark-beads-03-04-122-1024x682  This post is not about food.  Really.  It’s about one of my favorite new beauty trends and how to get the look for dirt cheep.  The look is called “Caviar.”  It is a fun new way to do nails with tiny little beads across the top of the nail.  The look pictured above is one of my favorites, but to my disappointment this set had already been discontinued at Sephora.  The caviar sets are usually around $25.00.  They consist of a polish, beads, funnel, and a top coat.  If you are trying to find a discontinued look, like I was, you will be able to find them.  They sell on Ebay and various sites, but the price may run around $57.00!  So, what is a girl to do?  Well, the answer is to be creative!  I was shopping at one of my favorite craft supply stores in California called Michaels, when I saw the answer to my problem. . . mircrobeads!!!  Microbeads are tiny little beads that come in a variety of colors.  And in my opinion, look the same size as Ciate’s beads that are currently selling at Sephora.  The beads at Michaels are under the name “Recollections.”  You can buy a bottle with one color of bead, or a collection that contains six bottles.  I purchased a set containing: clear, copper, silver, champagne, ebony, and antique copper.  And the price?  Only $7.99!!!  And the great thing is that Michaels gives you a %40 off coupon with your purchase!  So next I will be buying the multicolor set, and for even less!!

Let me tell you how to do the beading process.  First you decide on a base color.  The base does not have to match the color of microbead, so have fun here and be creative.  You also don’t have to “caviar” every nail.  You can do every other nail, just one nail, or even just the tips of your nails.  For my first try I chose to start off easy.  I painted all of my nails (except for my ring fingers) a deep wine red.  After letting them dry a little, I painted one ring finger nail a pearly white.  While the polish was wet I sprinkled the clear microbeads onto the nail.  (It is great that the bottles come with a shaker option on the top, so this part is fairly easy)  Next I repeated this process on my other ring finger.  And the last step,  I applied a thick layer of top coat over the beads.  The effect looked like snow!  It lasted for about four days, before I removed them and tried a different look.  If you want to keep the caviar look longer, I would recommend putting on another layer of top coat every other day.  The beads are also easy to remove.  You can use a regular nail polish remover.  This will break the seal between the top and bottom coat of polish and the beads just fall off.  The great thing here is that the options are endless!  You can mix two or more colors of microbead and come up with so many possibilities!  And for less than $15.00 for 12 bottles of gorgeous colors, I think this trend is one that’s worth trying!

Gourmet your Popcorn

It’s that time of year again, where everywhere you go there are large beautiful tins filled with gourmet popcorn.  They are so tempting.  But everyone knows popcorn is best served hot.  So here is a simple tip to put some festivity into that late night wrapping party.  All you need is a bag of microwave popcorn, some cinnamon, and some sugar.  Pop the popcorn, and then pour half into a large bowl.  Sprinkle with half a tablespoon of cinnamon, and half a tablespoon of sugar, then give it a good stir.  Pour on the other half of the bag and repeat with the cinnamon and sugar, then stir again.  The flavor is sweet, savory, and a little salty.  I made it for my five year old and I the other day for a quick treat.  We both loved it!   Okay, so I will admit that this will probably be the easiest tip that I give you.  But my son wanted me to post this, so I hope you enjoy.     Mmmmmmmm  mmmmmmmmm!

Drain No

        You know the story.  You wash your hands and then stare as the sink fills up with water that just won’t seem to go back down.  What to do?  Another trip to the store?  Are you doomed to fill your sink and your breathing space with harsh chemicals?  Trust me, I’ve been there many times.  Our Renew Home is a 1912 Craftsman, and let’s just say, the plumbing and I have not always got along.  I wanted a simple cure and a natural cure.  And, being someone with asthma, I  needed it to be a remedy that was harsh on pipes and gentle on my lungs.  There is an alternative to the chemical drain declogger.  It doesn’t involve fumes, and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.  Here is my simple recipe to unclog that drain.


Boiling water

1/2 cup Baking soda

1 cup Vinegar

1 plastic drain cleaner

Here’s what to do for a slow drain:  First you fill a tea kettle with water and turn on the fire.  When it is boiling, you remove it from the stove and (carefully) take it to your poor clogged sink.  Pour the water into the sink and wait about 5 minutes.  Next pour the baking soda into the sink and let it sit another 5 minutes.  Pour in the vinegar and watch the exciting fizzing reaction that is going to clear your drain.  After 5 more minutes, let the hot water run in the sink to help clear out any loose particles.

If your sink is filled with water and not draining at all, I would like to recommend one more item.   You’ll need this great little tool called a drain cleaner.  They look like a long piece of plastic with jagged edges.  This item can be purchased at your local dollar store.  After pouring in the boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar, if your sink is not yet drained, use this little tool to loosen up any stubborn debris.  You push it down along the side of the drain and pull back out.  If there is anything larger, it will pull back out attached  the drain cleaner.  This will make the sink completely drain.  Then run the hot water.  My sink was filled with water yesterday, so I used the drain cleaner along with the recipe.  Now it is clear and draining well, with no plumber needed.

Fume free, easy, and inexpensive.  You’re welcome.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with fried sage leaves

I love Fall and all the flavors that it reminds us of.  This is my favorite time of the year to cook, and this is my idea of comfort food.  It’s quick, delicious, and has all the flavors of Fall packed into one little pasta dish.  It’s vegetarian and in our home, baby approved.  Best of all, if you are in a hurry, this little meal will be one of your best friends.  It will take you longer to boil the water than to make this entire dish!

What you’ll need:

~1 package of Butternut Squash ravioli  (These can now be found in most markets in the cold pasta section.  Trader Joe’s, Fresh and Easy, and even Costo carry them.)

~5 Tbsp. of butter or margarine

~15 sage leaves

~1/4 tsp. nutmeg

~1/2 tsp. cinnamon

You’ll start by boiling a large pot of water (with a pinch of salt) for the pasta.  Once it comes to a boil, drop in the butternut squash ravioli.  Follow the cooking time on the package and set your timer.  You now have the rest of this time to make the sauce.  (The kind I buy take only three minutes to fully cook.)

Next you put the butter in a large saucepan and warm it until melted.  Then you add the nutmeg and cinnamon, stirring well.  Let the butter brown a little.

The next step is “frying” the sage leaves.  I put mine in a small dry saucepan on medium heat and let them crisp a little.

As soon as your timer goes off, remove ravioli from the water.  Place them into the pan with the butter sauce and toss very gently.  Plate them and top with the fried sage leaves.   Fall, I mean dinner, is served_

Bath Time for Baby

I will admit that with my first son I may have gone a little overboard.  His bath times may have even rivaled an adult trip to the spa.  His evenings were met with soft candlelight and bubbles, then followed by an aromatherapy massage.  But, why not?  Babies deserved to be spoiled a little right?  To be honest, even with baby number three, not much has changed around here.  The only thing that has been dropped in order to save a little time has been the candlelight.

In my opinion evening is the ideal time for baby’s bath.  For some babies the tub is soothing and relaxing.  For others it is an exciting party.  No matter how your baby views the tub, it still is the gateway to a good night’s sleep.  Either they will be soothed by the warm water, or wear themselves out with all that splashing.

Here are some tips for a wonderful bath time:

1  The correct tub.  We have had several baby tubs throughout the years,  but my vote is for a tub that has a seat.  A friend gave us a whale shaped tub by Fisher Price, and it has been amazing.  No more bracing a baby who’s sliding around with one arm, while trying to wash with the other.  This one has a nice ridge that helps baby stay put and makes bathing easier on mom or dad.

2  Water temperature.  An adult’s perception of a nice warm bath is typically too warm for baby’s delicate skin.  To check the water temperature, scoop a little into your hand and then let it run down to the inner part of your elbow.  The water should not feel hot to you on this more sensitive part of your arm.  It should feel luke warm.  If you are still feeling unsure about your bath temperature testing skills,  you can purchase a baby bath thermometer.  They usually look like a little toy turtle or duck that floats in the water.  After a minute or two they give you an accurate temperature reading, and even a red warning light if the water is too hot.

3  The bubbles.  I love “California Baby” brand.  Their aromatherapy line is amazing.  They make wonderful bubble bathes with names like “Overtired and Cranky” and “Calming”  They smell great and come equipped with a bubble wand to blow bubbles for baby.  They even have a eucalyptus “Cold and Flus” bath to help unstuff baby’s nose.

4  Hair and Body Washes.  California Baby offers a great selection, but my new love is  this great lavender baby body wash and shampoo by BabyGanics.  It is made with real lavender, not the imitation lavender scent that a lot of commercial brands are using.  This is the real deal.  It smells amazing and comes out in a foam.  The foam aspect makes it very easy to use.  Even with a wiggly baby, the foam is able to stay put a little longer and not just run off into the tub.

After bath:

One key is to keep baby comfortable.  I like to bundle our little bundles with two towels.  Especially in winter, keeping baby’s head covered after coming out of a warm bath is important.  Babies hair is usually fine enough to give just a little rub to dry.  And this is the perfect time (if you have the time) to give baby a nice massage.  But, more on that next time. .

Happy bathing___

Bedtime for Baby

It’s true,  everyone loves baby, (especially when they’re sleeping.)  But sometimes getting baby to bed seems like a challenge.  I have had three little one’s now, and I would love to share with you some of my getting baby to bed sleep tips.  They are pretty simple to implement.  And should leave you with some lovely time on your hands.  Maybe to even get some sleep yourself.

1  Staying on a basic feeding schedule.  Baby should wake up, eat, play, sleep, and then repeat.  That’s it!!  It’s so easy, and yet if you switch any of those to a different order, you end up with disaster!!  If you stay consistent with this feeding pattern, baby will be sleeping through the night by eight weeks!  For more detailed information on how to implement this schedule at all ages and phases check out “Babywise” by Gary Ezzo M.A. and Robert Bucknam M.D.  They have been a life saver to this mom of three.  And yes, all of my children were sleeping through the night at eight weeks!

2 Aromatherapy.  You know that aromatherapy works when it works on someone who has no knowledge of what the scent is supposed to do.  I made a very basic mist for my first little boy to mist his crib and nursery for bedtime.  In a small spray bottle I would take a few drops of lavender oil and a few drops of orange oil and add a little water.  Shake it up and spray.  I have since started a line of bath products.  This scent is now know as my “Serenity” scent.

3 Cures for Upset Tummies.   If baby’s tummy isn’t happy, no one is going to be happy.  A couple of life saving tummy cures that I love are:  Hyland’s colic tablets and Gripe Water by Baby Bliss.  The colic tablets are made of chamomile and wild yam.  They are homeopathic and work by placing under baby’s tongue.  Gripe water is made of ginger and fennel and is placed in baby’s mouth using a dropper.  In my experience gripe water usually works a little quicker and baby can be ready to go back to sleep in about five minutes.  Amazing!  These both relive gassy tummies and baby will be able to relax again.  When I don’t have either of these on hand, or if baby is just restless, I make my own cure.  I brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, then pour it over ice, and give it to baby in a bottle.  This can relieve tummy upset or restlessness.  It works like a charm!

Here’s to a peaceful night’s sleep for both of you.