Friday, April 28, 2017

Measuring Success - 4/28/17 - A Good Place

I think I can finally say that I've found the good place in this journey of mine. Or at least the first big one. I weighed myself once this entire month. It was this past Tuesday just to make sure I hadn't gained like 10 pounds in a month. I actually didn't gain any. Other than that, I really didn't think about it and it was glorious. When I told Aaron that I hadn't weighed myself all month, he told me he felt like I was in a good place. That it wasn't necessarily about the numbers anymore, but how I felt. And I thought about it all week and it's true. I'm in a darn good place.

Normally this post would talk about changes in my weight and my measurements. But today, this time, we're going to talk about the good place. Cause in your journey this is where you want to be.

I'm happier with my body than I have been in years. I don't hate watching myself in the mirror in the gym. I actually like it. I can see my muscles moving and working. I look strong and healthy. It's also really cool to know that I did that. I, with the help of others, transformed my body. That's awesome when you think about it.

I can consistently touch my knee to my elbow in yoga. If you haven't tried to do that, you might think that's nothing. This is huge for me. Some things are just physically not going to happen when you have a large chest, some extra baggage in the tummy and large thighs. But you also can't let that be your excuse. I started taking a Tuesday night yoga class with the owner of my gym. She teaches a yoga class that is basic in moves but anything but basic in strength. I lovingly call it yoga boot camp. I honestly burn more calories in that yoga class than most of my other high-cardio classes. But she pushes you and gives you space to push yourself and play. We've been working on chin stands, among other things. I'm nowhere near a chin stand, but I'm super proud that I can touch my elbow with my knee. It's no joke. And I've started being able to shift my weight forward so that one day (soon, hopefully), I can fly.

Top and bottoms from Fabletics
My skin and makeup are on point. I have finally figured out how to keep eyeliner on all through the day. I have a skin care routine and my skin loves it. My skin was never bad, it's always been great actually, and now it's better.

I still love food, but it doesn't rule me. I'm not tied to eating a certain amount of calories. I know when I've eaten like crap during a week and I make slight adjustments, like getting a salad for a working lunch instead of a sandwich and potato salad. I have better choices in my house. I make better choices when I cook. I still eat Cookout, sweet tea and queso and that will never change. Sorry not sorry.

I'm fitting in clothes I haven't seen in years! It's like shopping in your own closet. And I'm fitting in shirts that I bought as motivation. Like this bra top from Athleta. Let me tell you, in a studio gym full of Lululemon and Athleta wearing girls sporting strappy sports bras and back-bearing tops, I have longed for the day to wear one of those fun tops. They aren't really practical with a larger chest and aren't attractive if you have back fat. I bought this blue top from Athleta probably six months ago thinking "oh, it's a large, it'll fit" Yeah, no. It did fit, but I didn't feel comfortable in it.

Now I do. It's actually really supportive, even in spin. Not sure it's up for a boot camp class, but that's okay. My back is pretty awesome these days, so I'm happy to show it off some. Mostly, I just think it's cool that I can now wear some of those trendy tops like the other girls.

Mostly, though, I'm just comfortable in my own skin. I'm not posting any measurements this month. I haven't taken them and I'm okay with it. Plus, I feel like that would ruin this post, which is about everything but my numbers. I will post a comparison shot.

February 2016 and April 2017. And my new awesome top!
If you're on your journey, I hope you get to this point. Where the scale still matters, but doesn't rule you. Where you can truly look back and be darn proud of everything that you've done, no matter how far you still have to go. That, my friends, is the good place.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sarah Gets a Regimen: My Quick and Easy Skin Care Routine

Last week I did a post reviewing my Origins Voxbox (read about it here).  That was a jumping off point for me in trying to figure out my own skin care regimen. If you're anything like me, you have at least 10 friends that are trying to sell you Rodan + Fields. Add to that the fact that I'm no longer a baby and I sweat like a pig five days a week. So I've actually been thinking about my skin, which is weird for me. I don't want to improve it, it's pretty awesome, but I do want to keep it awesome. So I did some research and came up with my own regimen.

Up until now, my regimen was a face wipe. I have friends and a sister-in-law that probably want to hurt me for that statement.  While I have been blessed with my mother's genes, I also know it's time to start taking care of what God gave me.

My research method was pretty simple: I used samples I had on hand. I didn't do a lot of research and I didn't buy a lot of products. There are probably plenty of products out there that are better, but these are what I tried. Remember, I'm just getting past a face wipe here! I used my Origins samples, some samples Sephora sent me and a Rodan + Fields mini facial my friend gave me at least a year ago (sorry Bridget!).  

Here is what I know to be true about me and skin care for it to work:
  • It can't take me long in the morning
  • It can't be complicated
  • It shouldn't be a ton of products. I have shoes and clothes to buy.

Products I Tried Out

  • Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash
  • Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Melt Away
  • Origins A Perfect World Antioxidant Moisturizer with White Tea
  • Origins High Potency Night-a-Mins
  • Origins Ginzing Energy Boosting Moisturizer
  • Rodan and Fields Night Renewing Serum
Eye Cream 
  • Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream
  • Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream 
  • Origins Active Charcoal Mask
  • Origins Original Skin Mask 
  • Rodan and Fields Microderm Abrasion Paste

I've tried cleansers before. And I've always been terrible at them. I've used Mary Kay before, when my mom sold it, and I've tried and really liked the Boots No. 7 line that you can find at Target and Ulta. But most cleaners aren't as easy as I would prefer (hi - I'm lazy) and they tend to leave my skin sticky feeling. Hence why the past few years I've just done face wipes. They're also a lot cheaper! I actually loved both of the cleansers that I tried and have bought both full size! I use the Frothy Face wash in the morning. I use it in the shower and then put on moisturizer.  I use the makeup melt away at night to take off my makeup. Which, by the way, works like a dream. It's $34, which is steep, but it's a bigger tub so I'm hoping it lasts a while! Both routines take me less than 5 minutes, so I can deal. The Frothy Face Wash also doesn't leave my skin sticky. Win win!

Whew! There were so many good moisturizers to choose from! I tried the Night-a-Mins and the Ginzing Moisturizers before I attended the A Perfect World event at Origins in Southpoint Mall. I loved them both, but, let's be real. I'm not going to use a thousand products. I don't even use a thousand makeup products, I just own them. While I was at the event, I spoke with one of the sales ladies that recommended the A Perfect World moisturizer. I can use it at night or in the morning and it's great for normal skin, like mine. So I bought that one. And so far, I love it.

I also love the Night-a-Mins. I've been using my sample size of that at night after I take off my make-up. It's a little heavier for night, which I like. I would honestly consider buying it for night-time use once I know that I'm going to keep up a routine. The Ginzing was great, nice and light and smelled heavenly. Like a super light citrus smell. I think it would be great during the summer or months when I don't wear as much makeup. The Rodan and Fields Night Serum was okay. I'm not a fan of serums. I feel like I need a moisturizer with them and that breaks my rules of being complicated. 

Eye Cream
I'm going to be real honest: I don't get eye cream. Maybe it's because I have the face of a teenager. Maybe it's because I have deep set eyes and you don't really see them anyway. Whatever it is, eye cream seems like a waste to me. I tried both the Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream and the Clinique Pep-start Eye Cream. I could tell a little bit of a difference in my eyes/skin under my eyes with the Clinique Pepstart Eye Cream, but I also don't know if that's because I was looking for it or because it was actually there. Here are three comparison shots. First is no eye cream, second is with the Ginzing and third is with Clinique. I honestly can't tell a difference.

This one slightly goes against my "it can't be complicated" rule. But I tried out three masks. I love the charcoal mask! It doesn't peel (thank you sweet baby Jesus), but rinses off. I've been doing it after my classes on Saturday. The Original Skin mask is nice, but I don't love it as much as the charcoal mask. Plus, I tried it during a mini facial and they used a bunch of other products with it. Daunting. Finally, the Microderm Abrasion from R+F. I liked it. I did. But I'm going to be totally real and say that R+F is outside of my price range. Maybe later when I'm trying to reverse aging and all that. Maybe if I had skin care issues. But now? Nah. Like I said earlier - I have shoes and clothes to buy. And a new car.

The Winners!
Drumroll.....the winners are!

  • Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash (Morning Cleanser)
  • Origins A Perfect World Moisturizer (Morning and Night moisturizer)
  • Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway (Nighttime cleanser)
  • Origins Active Charcoal Mask (once a week)
It's still pretty basic. It's definitely more expensive than face wipes once a day, but I can already tell that my skin is happier. I have less bumps and red areas on my face. Like I said, I don't need much. But I feel like I've grown up a little today. I have a skin care regimen. Like an adult. Woo!

What's your skin care regimen? What are your favorite skin care products?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Life Lately

Guys! It's Tuesday. This week is nutty for us. The week before was nutty, too. But I figure most people's lives are nutty. I attended a blogger event this past week and I was talking with another blogger (Mary Leigh over at Live Well Play Together) about how we tend to show our best selves on social media, our blogs, etc. So today, you get a real live "this is how it goes down in the Zinn life" post. 

One of my favorite parts about being a blogger is the blogger community in the Triangle. I have met some amazing bloggers through our local group, TriFabb.  We have meet-ups every month where we do fun things and hang out with each other. This month we did a sneak peek at the Southern Women's show! We did a scavenger hunt for our free swag. I left loaded down with free stuff and scored a cute top from Interact of Wake County, a local non-profit that works with women fleeing domestic abuse. We also got free tickets to the show, which I used on Saturday!

My free stuff! Not shown - gigantic beach mat from Ovi Hydration! I am super excited about that map!
This past Friday we mulched our yard. By we, I mean Aaron with some help from his friend Josh. I'm going to give Aaron some big kudos for this because this was all him! Last week, he worked a couple of night shifts (4 pm to midnight) and even pulled a double one night (2nd and 3rd shift). He worked last weekend, so he already had Thursday and Friday off. We've been talking for awhile about mulching our beds. The builder just used pine straw. We also talked about connecting our beds, because frankly the way they landscaped was a little strange. Aaron came up with this idea, mapped it out and did about 90% of the work. And it looks amazing!

Here are some before photos of the yard. 

Side angle of the house with the pine straw

You can see in the photos above and in the one below that we had two separate beds. Aaron's idea was to connect the two. He used our water hose to outline the new bed. Then he spent most of Friday removing the sod.

Planned bed
And here's the after! I love the red mulch! Looks so good with the colors on the house and the stone!

Finished product!
On Saturday, my friend Jess came up. We did some bridal registry stuff for her wedding. I have a confession - I LOVE china. If I had all the money and the storage in the world, I swear I would have like ten different sets of china. Alas, I do not and have plenty of china of my own, so now I just offer my services in helping others register for their own china, ha! After that we took advantage of my free show tickets and hit up the Southern Women's show!

I had never been to the Southern Women's Show. To be honest, it didn't sound like something I would enjoy. I was wrong! It's a lot like the Holly Day Fair that my mom and I religiously attend in Fayetteville - a bunch of vendors, but with more of a focus on women. There were make-up counters galore, every networking marketing business known to man, clothing, and food! I really loved how many local vendors there were! There was even an Etsy shop. 

I didn't come home with any clothes, but I did come home with some home decor! I found this gorgeous wood sign that I fell in love with and bought immediately from AR Workshop in Raleigh. It's going on my big wall in my living room. 

Ignore the yellow lighting. It's been raining for two days and natural light wasn't my friend!
At the end of the show, I was dragging from carrying my gorgeous sign and some cute guy with a golf cart offered to take us to our cars. We obliged, naturally.

Jess got a makeover at Dior at the show. She probably won't be doing that again!
Sunday we spent with Aaron's family. We missed Easter with them since he had to work, so we did our Easter this weekend. We had lunch and played Pandemic. We died. We always die. Then we did some shopping for workout clothes for Aaron and groceries. I was done by that point. I was peopled out! We got some Chinese for dinner and called it a night. 

This week, Aaron's in wastewater class all week. I've got a class Wednesday night and an appointment on Thursday and we leave Friday for a friend's wedding in New Bern. This weekend starts the madness of three weddings in a month. Thankfully, I've got some Amy's Chili Mac (seriously, amazing) and a crock pot to help me survive this week.

In the interest of full-disclosure and real-real life posts, I might have gotten Little Caesar's last night instead of cooking. Almost running out of gas due to stupid traffic and flooding roads is traumatic. And cooking was just not going to happen after that.  

How's your life going? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Homemade Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Growing up, we didn't eat fettuccine alfredo at home. It's one of my favorite dishes and we would always get it out at restaurants, but we didn't make it at home. When I started doing my own cooking, I would try and make it with jarred alfredo sauce and it never tasted right! It wasn't until I learned how to make a roux and how to make pan gravy that I finally learned how to make fettuccine alfredo at home. And now, I'm going to share with you how I make it!

Because this is what the leftovers look like!
You're going to need two pots and a pan for this recipe. I don't know how to make it using less pots and pans than that. One pot for the pasta (I like to use my 3.5 quart Analon straining pot so I don't have to use a colander), one smaller pot for the broccoli (I use my 2 quart Calphalon Unison pot) and a large pan for the sauce and chicken (I use my 4 qt Calphalon Unison Saute Pan). You'll also need a slotted spoon, a spatula, and a whisk or wooden spoon for the sauce. I promise it is worth all these dishes!

Start by dicing the chicken. I use whatever chicken or meat is in the house. This time, I used two Italian seasoned Perdue Perfect Portion chicken breasts. Regular chicken breasts, chicken thighs, and shrimp are also great in this.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in your saute pan and then dump the chicken in and heat at medium-high heat. I like to let them lay in the butter and not move them around so they get an awesome brown crust. After about two to three minutes, flip them to the other side. After two minutes on that side, stir them around in the pan to make sure all sides are browned and chicken is cooked through. Remove to a plate, cover and set aside.

At this point, start boiling the water for your pasta. I waited too long to do that and then my sauce was ready way before my pasta. So start the boiling now! I used fettuccine, but really any pasta works. This is one of my favorite clean out your pantry/freezer recipes, in case you couldn't tell. Just use what you have!

To make the roux, in the same pan that you browned the chicken in, melt two tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted (make sure not to burn it), sprinkle three teaspoons of flour on top. Now, if you're me, you will eyeball all of this. I hardly measure any of this anymore. Stir the flour and butter mixture to make a paste that easily leaves the pan when you stir it. If it's not making a paste, add more flour. If it's too much of a paste (like straight up flour), add some more butter. It's all about fat versus flour.

Since you browned the meat in butter, your sauce isn't going to be a creamy, white sauce. It's probably going to be a little brown. But for flavor wise, I prefer that. If you want a clean, white sauce, use a different pan for the meat. But you'll miss all the amazing flavor! Anyways, once the flour butter paste is made, add in the milk and half and half mixture. Stir around with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken, about three minutes. Add in the parmesan cheese and stir some more. Remove from heat and set aside or move to a keep warm eye on the stove, if you have one.

This is the consistency I like my sauce to be with the parmesan added. 
At this point, start boiling the water for the broccoli. You want it at a full rolling boil. You're going to blanch the broccoli. I used to cook the broccoli with the chicken, but then it got soggy in the sauce. Blanching is a technique where you flash cook a fruit or vegetable, preserving it's color and texture. I do this a lot in canning, so it made sense to try it in this recipe and it works! To blanch the broccoli, put about half the broccoli in the pot (or all if you're using a larger pot). Cook for one minute once it starts to boil again. At the end of the minute, pull the pieces out with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the remaining broccoli.

Blanching broccoli
Set the broccoli aside in a separate dish and cover until ready to add. Finish up the pasta.

Blanched broccoli. Look how green it is!
At this point, if your alfredo sauce looks like a nasty paste like this, no worries. This is what happens when you make your sauce before you boil the pasta, haha.

There's this magical thing called pasta water.  Once the pasta is done, add about 3/4 cup or a ladle spoon of pasta water to the sauce. Stir it around to mix in. You should now have a nice, creamy sauce that isn't too thick or too runny.

Drain the pasta. Add in the broccoli and chicken and serve.

Your sauce will stick to the noodles. Your chicken will be brown, beautiful and flavorful. And your broccoli will be bright green with the right crispness. It's a masterpiece and worth every stinkin' piece of dish you have to wash.

To reheat, because we live off of leftovers in this house, cook in the microwave at 70% power for 3 minutes. The sauce will have separated some, but not too much, and the broccoli will still be crisp (that's why you blanch!).  The recipe without all my rambling is below. Also, fun fact, once you get a roux down, you're 80% of the way to making pan sausage gravy, which is the holy grail of food to cook in my book.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

2 crowns of broccoli, cut up and stems removed
1 lb of chicken, cut up
fettuccine noodles (I use about half a 1 lb box)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup half and half
3 tsp flour
3/4 cup parmesan cheese.

1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter. Brown the chicken. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Prepare the pasta using directions on the box.
3. Melt 2 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle 3 tsp of flour over the butter and mix with a wooden spoon into a paste.
4. Start boiling water to blanch the broccoli. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add in half the broccoli. Once the water begins to boil again, boil for one minute and remove. Continue with the rest of the broccoli.
5. Add in the milk and half and half. Stir until thickened, about three minutes.
6. Add in the parmesan cheese and stir.
7. Add in the browned chicken and broccoli. Stir and serve!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bathings Suits I Don't Hate

Other bloggers might have titled this, "My Favorite Bathing Suits!" but let's be real, I hate them. I hate shopping for them. I hate that dread of pulling dozens of suits just to find one that you don't feel like a fat whale in. Or, worse, to not find one at all. I've had both happen. So, for me, Bathing Suits I Don't Hate is just a more fitting title.

As much as I hate buying bathing suits, I end up buying a new one, or part of one, every year. This year, I had to buy a new one because I needed to size down. I have suits that fit on the bottom, but now the smaller ones don't fit on top.

For years, Target was one of my go-to stores for bathing suits. They are decent quality and not ridiculously expensive. I stopped shopping there for suits, though, when I, um, outgrew the tops. This year, they have a new brand called Shade and Shore that has cra cup sizing. And all the girls over a C-cup rejoiced! I picked up this cute halter top. No added padding, and it ties in the back so your band size can be adjustable if needed.

Shade and Shore Halter Bikini Top
This is the first year in a long time that I actually feel comfortable in a bikini. Am I the smallest? Nope. But do I hate how I look? Nope. And I'm good with that! I was actually pretty surprised when I tried this on and liked it. I'm pairing it with some of my older bottoms that are hot pink and another pair that is black with a fold-down band with bright colors.

If you aren't a fan of the bikini, then you should try my favorite tankini top. Anne Cole became my go-to bathing suit brand when my boobs didn't fit in the Target bathing suits and I needed bra cup sizing.

Anne Cole Bandeau Tankini Top
I literally have this top in two sizes I love it that much. It's ruched on the sides, which helps camouflage any areas you aren't too comfortable with and the sweetheart neckline is super flattering. It comes with a detachable strap that you can wear to make it into a halter. This top also comes in a ton of different colors and prints, not just this one.  Sometimes, you can find them cheaper on Zulily. Or just wait for a sale at Macy's.

Athleta now also carries bra top swimsuits. I haven't tried their suits yet, but those that have love them!

The bottoms to this tankini are also some of my favorites. The bikini bottoms with the fold-down band I mentioned above are like these.

Anne Cole Foldover Bikini Bottoms
In case you can't tell, I'm weird and don't buy bathing suits together. I don't love Target's bottoms and Anne Cole is expensive and I can't afford to buy both the tops and bottoms together. I'm also a big fan of buying black or navy bottoms and lots of fun tops. Victoria's Secret had my favorite bikini bottoms, but then they stopped selling bathing suits. Weirdos. Old Navy was my second favorite and is back to the top spot in the world of bathing suit bottoms. They have great plain bikini bottoms and they aren't expensive.

Old Navy Bikini Bottoms
There is nothing super exciting about them. They aren't fancy, but they are great basics. 

In my many years of body-hating-swim-suit-shopping, this is what I have learned about bathing suit shopping when you aren't small:
  • Less is more. I'm not saying wear a string bikini, but I'm also saying that a regular bikini bottom is going to more flattering on you than high waisted bottoms (at least in my experience)
  • Straps are your friend. This is more for girls with bigger girls. That mess gets heavy. Also, straps reduce the possibility of your girls exiting the top during waves. That is all.
  • If you have a larger bottom/thighs, dark solid colors are your friends. I have gigantic thunder thighs. I can tone them and they have actually gotten smaller, but they're still thunder thighs. Thanks, Dad. A dark, solid bottom is going to draw less attention to that area. I like to wear dark solid bottoms with bright tops. Brings the eye up to your face, away from problem areas. You can also reverse it if you want to detract attention from your top and you like your bottom half better. 
  • Tie closures all day long. They make things adjustable. On your bottoms, they allow to adjust the fit without having to go up a size. Same thing for tops. The bikini top above is great because it has a substantial band, which you need for support, but then has the tie in the back for adjustment.
  • Be nice to yourself. It's just a bathing suit. It's not the end of the world. And in the wise, wise words of my mother, "There are going to be people that look better than you and people that look worse. Find the ones that look worse and sit beside them." Just kidding, kind of. Find something that you feel comfortable in and go on with life. The summer is just around the corner and life is too short to not have fun because of a stupid bathing suit. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Green Skin Care: Origins Voxbox Review!

Let's start this off by saying that I am the least skin caring person known to man. Except maybe my friend Sarah, but not the Sarah that stopped eating dairy for her skin. She's the most skin caring person known to me. I have too many Sarahs. I digress. For most of my adult life my skin care regimen has been a face wipe. Not even at night, just in the morning before I put new makeup on. Terrible. I know. I figured that now that I'm not in my 20s and I'm exposing my face to ridiculous amounts of sweat most days, I should probably do more. Then Influenster chose me (and a bunch of other people) to get an Origins Voxbox. Perfect timing!

In case you aren't familiar with Influenster, it's a company that works with people that like to try free products. They send complimentary products for you to try out and then give your review.  The larger the social media presence you have, the more likely you are to receive the products. It's totally free. This is my second voxbox and I love getting them. Who doesn't love trying free products?

The voxbox came with five samples:
  • Origins Ginzing Energizing Moisturizer
  • Origins High Potency Night-a-Mins Moisturizer
  • Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash
  • Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream
  • Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask
I've been using the products for the past two weeks. Some much more than others. 

Origins Ginzing Energizing Moisturizer
This is a light moisturizer. It's not as heavy as their Perfect World moisturizer. I think it would be great during the summer when I don't wear as much makeup or do much to my face period. The one thing that I truly love about both moisturizers in this box is their smell. It's a very light citrus fragrance. It's not knock-you-in-the-face strong, but just a nice whiff as you're putting it on. I haven't decided if I love this enough to buy full size, mostly because it's not something I would wear year round.

Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins Moisturizer
Night-A-Mins might be my favorite product in this box. Again, the smell is fabulous. I've been using this at night for about two weeks. I love that it's a heavier moisturizer, perfect for nighttime. I take my makeup off first, then put this on before heading to bed. In the morning, my skin isn't dry and angry, which is used to be once in a while. Not often, just sometimes. I have noticed that sometimes my eyes water at night when I put this on. At first I thought it was the cleansing balm I was using, but when I use my other moisturizer with the same cleansing balm, they don't water. I still love the product, though, and how it makes my skin feel. 

Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash
This is probably my second favorite product. I've also been using this for two weeks. I use it in the shower every morning. I started out using it after my shower, decided that was too much effort and annoying, and took it in the shower. A little bit goes a long way with this cleanser. Just put a little dab in your hand, mix in some hot water and then put on your face. I let it sit for a few minutes before washing off. That's usually during my "wake up the brain cells" time anyway. I like that it doesn't leave my face feeling sticky, which other face washes have done in the past. 

Origins Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream
I don't get eye cream. Maybe it's because I've been blessed with my mom's genes and still look like I'm in college, but eye cream is lost on me. I tried it though! Twice! I put this on after my moisturizer (I put it on, go eat breakfast, and then go get ready) and before my primer. I guess that's what you're supposed to do? My face didn't look any different. I really wasn't expecting it to, though. Again, it's got a really nice smell to it. Past that, though, there isn't much I can tell you. Sorry. 

Origins Clear Improvements Active Charcoal Mask
Funny story - when I first got this, Aaron was super excited thinking that this was the peeling charcoal mask that's been making its way around the internet. When I attended the Origins event, he encouraged me to buy a full size, so I did. I didn't tell him that it wasn't the peeling kind because when else does your husband say, "Go, buy this product!" Never, people. Never. I haven't used this product as much, mostly because you aren't supposed to use it every day. I've only used it once, actually. I used it after a workout, when my face was most disgusting. I followed the directions, used a hot wash cloth to open my pores and then smeared it on.

I didn't do above my lips because I've been super sneezy lately and didn't want to chance it!
I've never really done a mask, so I'm sure I didn't do it as thoroughly as others might have. That's okay. I personally appreciated that it wasn't a peel off mask. I've watched enough of those videos with women screaming "Jesus take the wheel" and other entertaining remarks that I really don't feel the need to do it myself. I preferred just rinsing it off. Much better!

Oh look, I can move my face to smile now!
I loved how my skin felt after! So soft and smooth. It's a good thing I like it because I already own a full size!

This voxbox was fun! I loved getting to try all these products and attending the Origins event at Southpoint mall. I even had my tea leaf reading. I don't really believe in that stuff, but it was fun! And I will say that she was on point, I was surprised. My favorite part was when she told me I was surrounded by angels and had lots of people watching over me. All the feels.

Back to the topic. Of the five products, the Frothy Face Wash, Night-A-Mins and the Charcoal mask are the products I'm most likely to buy. I decided to take this opportunity to try out these products along with some other sample skin care items to decide what my new regimen would be. That's another post, though! I'm almost through most of them and am pretty close to deciding my favorites and my new regimen!

I'm going to close this out by saying that while I love the products, I also think Origins as a company is really cool. Going to the event allowed me to spend time inside, talk to some of the sales ladies and see what they are all about. I love that they use natural ingredients and they recycle cosmetic bottles. From anywhere! They'll even give you points towards products for bringing in the recyclables. That's just kind of cool. You can also get mini facials each month. Yes, please.  Definitely check them out if you haven't. 

Have you tried Origins? If so, what are your favorites?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I Wish 23 Me Knew

Do you ever look back at photos of yourself and wonder what if you knew then what you know now? I don't very often, but sometimes I do.

I think back to 23 year old me. That might seem like a weird number to you, but it was a big year for me, whether I knew then or not. It was a year after I moved to Raleigh for a job. I didn't hardly know anyone in and had to start all over with friends. It was the year I met my husband, though I thought he was the most obnoxious person I had ever met. That year was the beginning.

At 23, I couldn't know what life  (up until now) would entail. I don't even know what it has for me in the future. It's kinda magical that way. Who could guess that I would fall in love with the most obnoxious person on the face of the planet? That we would try and kill each other, break up and get back together and never look back. I couldn't know that the job that moved me to Raleigh would become my career.

There are things I wish I could tell myself.

That there are better men out there. In fact, you've already found him, so leave the crappy ones alone. And try not to kill the obnoxious one. He grows on you.

That life will get hard. You'll work some crazy hours, deal with some crazy people, but will learn more in those 7 years than most learn in a lifetime. And will get some pretty amazing friends out of it.

That life isn't always hard. Sometimes you go through the hard things to appreciate the good ones.

That weight you lost in college? It comes back with a vengeance. It's probably going to be your fight the rest of your life. But you'll be stronger for it.

That the scale is just a number. It will go up, it'll come down. But you won't feel any better until you're stronger. Until you believe in you.

That you'll start graduate school. And love it and hate it and all the things in between.  But you'll never regret it.

Mostly, I think I would just tell me to love me. That's been the biggest lesson of all - to love me. To give me grace and accept me as I am. We want it from others, but rarely do we do it for ourselves.  What would you tell yourself?

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Better than Starbucks: Guide to At Home Coffee

Today, I'm talking one of my favorite subjects: coffee.

Some might say that I have a problem. There is an entire section of my kitchen counter devoted to our coffee. The coffee love is strong and true in my world. I have co-workers, past and present, that don't talk to me before coffee. I'm not mean, just not very smart. Or not as smart. Either way, I'm better with coffee. I just love it.

Zinn Coffee Bar!
The past two years have been a journey in finding coffees I could make myself. I used to have Starbucks and coffee shops all around me when I lived in Cary. Then I moved. I moved jobs and neighborhoods. Now the closest Starbucks is ten minutes from my house in the opposite direction of my office. While it's great for my bank account,that just doesn't work for me. So I found my own.

Today, I'm sharing with you my favorite make at home (or desk) coffees.  I'll even tell you the various coffee machines I use! True story - I have three coffee machines between my house and my office. I've got cold, hot, espresso, bottled, keurig and regular old joe for you on this list! Let's get to it!

1. Bottled Iced Coffee - Califia Iced Coffee
Bottled iced coffee has been a long experiment in my world. I love iced coffee more than any other coffee. The obsession first started with International Delight's Iced Coffee.  It was one of the first bottled iced coffees to be sold in grocery stores (at least near me). Then I found Starbucks' bottled iced coffee. It was better than the International Delight and it sufficed for my coffee needs. I drank it for years. The Skinny Caramel Macchiato and Peppermint Mocha were my favorite.  Then came Whole 30 and messed up my whole coffee and milk drinking world.

And I found Califia. It's carrageenan, soy and lactose free. It's 80 calories a cup. And it's amazing.

First it was the XX Espresso, which is one of my favorites. Then we discovered the Salted Caramel, which I've only found at Target! It's made with almond milk instead of cow milk. Aaron even drinks it now, so we buy 3 bottles a week. Pretty sure I help keep them in business!

2. Homemade Lattes (Iced and Regular)
I am not a fan of plain coffee. I like it strong (think espresso) and I like it sweet. When we got married, we registered for an espresso machine. It's not the most convenient thing in the world (it makes one cup at a time), but it has gotten the job done for over 3 years!

Found at Bed Bath and Beyond
It's only $200, a bargain compared to other espresso machines, and does milk frothing and makes espresso, cappuccinos and lattes. Win!

Here's my favorite recipe for a latte at home:

  • Double shot of Espresso (I use Starbucks)
  • 1 pump of Torani Sugar Free Raspberry Syrup
  • 1 pump of Torani Sugar Free White Chocolate Syrup
  • 1/2 cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Ice cubes
Brew a double shot of espresso directly into glass.
Add the pumps of syrup into the espresso.
Add milk to fill glass half way (using a 12-oz glass)
Fill the rest of the way with ice.

  • Double shot of espresso
  • 1 pump of Torani Sugar Free Peppermint Syrup
  • 2 pumps of Torani Sugar Free White Chocolate Syrup
  • 1/2 cup of milk (cow milk froths better than almond milk)
Brew a double shot of espresso.
If you are using a two in one (frother and espresso), fill the milk up as much as you want (I do about a 1/2 cup). The machine will add the milk and froth once the espresso brews.  If you are doing your milk yourself, then froth the milk and then add to the cup. 
Add the pumps of syrup and stir. 

3. Keurig Lattes
In case you haven't figured it out, I like special coffees. Lattes to be specific. When I started my current job, the lack of coffee near me was not conducive to my productivity. So I bought myself a single serve coffee machine that does regular coffee and K-cups. 
Bella Double Brew
My favorite K-cups were Donut Shop Iced Coffee. I haven't found them in a while, I guess it's a seasonal product? I've since found two varieties that taste like a fancy latte while never leaving my office: Starbucks Mocha Caffe Latte and Gevalia Caramel Macchiato.  They both have milk packets that you dump in the cup first and then the pod that you brew. 

4. Regular Joe
Aaron still drinks regular coffee. When we registered for our Mr. Coffee Espresso machine, he laughed at me for keeping our regular coffee machine. Yet he still uses it. I normally buy him whatever coffee is on sale, mostly sticking to Dunkin Donuts, Seattle's Best and Folgers brands. We normally add sugar and milk, but I've recently found a flavor that almost needs nothing: Folgers Mocha Swirl. So good!

What are some of your favorite at-home coffee drinks?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Blogging and Real Life: 5 Ways to Keep Sane

Back in August of 2016, I decided to be for real about my blog. It's been a little over six months now of what I call for-real-blogging (super scientific term there). I blogged on and off for a few years, starting blogs, then leaving them, then coming back to them, sometimes even starting a new one. I never made a real hard go at one and I decided that it was time to do a blog! I attended a blogging class, learned some valuable tips and, voila, The Zinn Life was born! I'm no expert, but for the first time in years, I've actually stuck with this!

The two things that keep me sane: my planner and my laptop!
But I still have a life. I don't plan to blog full-time. I still have a full time day job and I'm the Secretary/Treasurer for my professional association. And I live at my gym. I don't say that to brag or complain, but to say that anything worth doing requires some planning. Blogging is no different. Here's how I help myself stay sane. And really, I think these tips can be useful for any hobby that you have!

1. Buy a Planner!

A planner is your bestest friend at any point in time, but especially if you're blogging. I get my planners on Etsy from Plum Paper Designs. I found them when I was doing Jamberry because they have a direct sales insert. Turns out they also have a blog planning insert! There are pages to plan out your months (goals, posts, giveaways, etc), views tracking page, income/expenses tracking, and advertising and sponsors. This has seriously been a great tool to help me manage my blog.

My planner is the fitness planner, meaning that I have extra room to set my fitness goals, track calories and workouts on my regular calendar pages. It's been one of my favorite investments and I already have it marked when I need to replace it!

Fitness pages make tracking your goals and calories super easy!

2. Brainstorm time!

When I first started getting serious about blogging, I took a beginner blogger class. It was such valuable information from one of my favorite bloggers! One of the things the blogger recommended was to sit down and brainstorm ideas. Blogging can be hard, especially when blogging multiple times a week, and having a list of ideas that you can work off can be a lifesaver.  I've started doing big brainstorms once every other month. I am super high tech about it - I take four pieces of printer paper and give each a title of my core topics (food, fitness, fashion, and other). I try to come up with enough content to cover my blogs for 2 months. I like to leave the papers around for a few days before settling on my topics. Sometimes topics change, sometimes I nix them all together.  You could do the same for any side projects you might want to take on.

3. Plan Your Time.

Wanna know when I write? Sundays and on my lunch hours. I don't do it everyday and I try to mostly stick to the weekends, but sometimes it has to happen during the week. Since those are really my only free times, Sundays and lunch hours it is! Whatever works for you, make it a point to reserve that time. If you don't make time for it, it won't happen.

4. Realistic Schedule

Another great idea from the class I took was to set a schedule for yourself. I haven't kept this religiously, but I post Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I like Tuesday instead of Monday because if I didn't have time that weekend, I can get a post done before Tuesday. Sometimes I miss a Wednesday post. Sometimes life happens. Fridays are always pretty easy. Five days a week seemed too much for me and one day a week wasn't enough. I like 3 days a week. It's enough to be challenging, yet still realistic.

5. Good equipment (aka - a good laptop!)

For my birthday/Christmas this past year, we replaced my dinosaur of a Mac. It was a college graduation present from my family. We had a love/hate relationship, to say the least. When I first started my blog, the Mac was running super slow. It was old and loaded down with music and photos. It also wasn't very portable. I started traveling more for work and it just didn't work for me anymore.

So we researched. And researched. And finally landed on doing a 2-in-1 laptop. I didn't really want another Mac. Even though I have an iPhone, iPad, and iPod, I just didn't want a Mac. Most of my work is done on PCs and I wanted my laptop to be blogger and work friendly. So we settled on the 14" Lenovo Yoga 710. I love it. I can put it in my purse and cart it to meetings like it's another case file. I can switch to tablet mode when I want to zone out and play solitaire. I never truly realized how slow the Mac was until I got my new laptop.

I've really enjoyed these past months of blogging. It's been a fun challenge for me and I love that people continue to read. I've had over 8,000 views since I started The Zinn Life. For some bloggers that is nothing, but for someone like me that does it on the side? That's pretty cool.