Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No-Bake Brownies with Medjool Dates

Let me start with this...as soon as the first taste hit my tongue, I went bonkers! I know I have a winner when I belt out joyous words alone in the kitchen! :) My inspiration (the recipe is almost identical to theirs) is found over at A Couple Cooks. Also, take a look at their original source, My New Roots.

Ingredient List
     1 cup walnuts
     1/2 cup raw almonds
     1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Moonstruck)
     ~13 Medjool dates
     1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzeys Spices)
     pinch of salt

Grind the walnuts and raw almonds in the food processor. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse once or twice. Add the dates last, one at a time with the processor on. After all the dates are in, keep the processor going until a ball begins to form. Transfer the mixture onto a non-stick surface and form as desired. I used a glass dish lined with non-stick foil and pressed down to my desired thickness, 1/2 inch. Refrigerate.

Sonja and Alex over at A Couple Cooks have a lot of recipes right up my alley. Two more of their creations are on the menu for this week: Smoky Mac and Cheese with Squash and Spinach served alongside baked salmon tonight. Tomorrow's meal will be inspired by the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas recipe.

Hope everyone has a fun New Year's Eve! NYE of '99 was the first night Jon and I met. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Ethics I Expect in Clothing Manufacturers

This year has definitely been an eye opener for me. Ignorance is bliss, and once realization hit me, there was no turning back. Blind purchases are no longer allowed. By that, I mean that I must first research a company before buying. If they meet the ethics I expect, they are added to my shopping suggestions. Here are my current rules when scoping out a company (this is a starting point, I welcome any additional thoughts or information):

    - Transparency. The company should provide sufficient information about their products from start to finish. Otherwise, I am left thinking they have something to hide.
    - Since Patagonia says it so well, I will quote them: "There’s no excuse...for exploitation of the labor of poor people to make nice things for the better off." 1
    - Clear efforts being made to lessen their environmental impact.

I have to be honest, I know little about animal use in the fashion industry. It does concern me. Again, please share any insight you have on this topic. Here is a scenario from last night of how I approached this:

"I 'need' (would like) more warm clothes for Oregon."

After searching the usual suspects on my shopping suggestions page, I ended up really liking the Patagonia Ranchito Hoodie on Nordstrom's site. Free shipping (to arrive on or before the 24!!) and returns was appealing. But as I looked at the contents of the hoodie, I was curious how the wool was sourced. All it took was a quick search to find Where Our Wool Comes From on Pataognia's blog. Satisfied with what I read, I made the purchase.

If you are interested in the hoodie, it looks like I bought the last one available through Nordstrom. However, it is still available for free shipping and returns through Zappos in other colors. You can also purchase directly through Patagonia, however, available colors and sizes are limited.

1 FAQs at patagonia.com
images via Nordstrom.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Taaluma Totes: Carry a Country

The recipe for a Taaluma Tote pairs an ethnic print with recycled burlap coffee bags to create a limited edition backpack. The piece is constructed in a Virginia factory that provides opportunities for adults with disabilities. When the bag is purchased, a portion of the sale "provides a loan to a person in THAT tote’s country" 1 using Kiva.

"They had a vision of an apparel company that wouldn’t just try to make money, but would do so in a responsible way." 2

The kind hearts behind this business are Alley and Jack. They are a couple, Virginia Tech engineering grads, and lovers of travel. They took a risk and started their own company. Watch their video below and read Backpacks that give back to learn more about this duo.

browse the totes

I decided to purchase the Ghana tote in orange, blue, and green for future hiking trips with Jon. We are always drawn to this color combination, so it was an easy choice. I have admittedly been very lazy these last couple years. Being in a new environment will definitely get me out and exploring. Plus, carrying a unique backpack thoughtfully made will put some extra oomph in my steps. Sounds cheesy, but it is true. I feel so much happier supporting a company like this than I would running out to find one at the mall. Besides hikes, it will be great for air travel back to Vegas and drives up to Seattle (can't wait for baseball season!!).

Disclosure: I learned about Taaluma Totes through Alley. She noticed my interested in ethnic prints and reached out via email. I received wristbands for spreading the word. You can also get wristbands, find out how.

1 Kiva
2 The Roanoke Times
Find more links to what others are saying about Taaluma Totes on the press page

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life Update

Hello!! Wanted to post another life update. I will return to reviews and brand highlights soon. :)

Jon and I took our first drive to Seattle to meet up with his family for Thanksgiving. There was a really cool thick fog over the city all day.

A couple days later we flew to Maui to be with his family again. It is very difficult being away from them, so this trip was extra special. :) Plus, the week after Thanksgiving is great because not as many people travel around that time...makes the kiddie pool much more tolerable!

We are calling the newest one "Lil Tiny"..."Lil" must be said with a slur. She makes cooking interesting. There is a nice window perch above the sink, so she loves to bat at green beans or plan out how she will steal the raw chicken from the other side of the counter. She is also a pain in the butt when it is meal time, because she gobbles everything down so fast and proceeds to steal everyone's food. And, she still is of the mindset that I need to give her unending attention really, really early in the morning. Being in Maui for that week only exacerbated this! By the way (mostly so you do not think we are cruel!), I found a great pet sitter to check in on them daily while we were gone.

And...our house in Vegas is "sale pending"! We listed it on a Sunday and it received multiple offers within less than a week. It will be sad signing it over to the new owners. It was the first house we bought together. We were also the first homeowners. It has the feeling of being ours.

As usual...I am looking forward to catching up with everyone. :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hello From Oregon!

Just a quick hello from Oregon! :) We spent this weekend exploring potential areas to settle. We are currently in a 6 month lease close to Jon's work, but we would like to buy a home further out. So far, our favorite place is Lake Oswego. The picture above is me at George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego with the Willamette River behind me.

My most used items so far...the boots and purse pictured above. Going on a year with these boots now. They are great for Vegas or Oregon. You can wear these in the snow (proof and review) or just on a cold day. As for the purse, if you missed my review on the company and product, you can find it here.

I hope all is well with everyone! :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving to Oregon!!

A great career opportunity arose for Jon in the Portland area, and it did not take long for us to say "yes". The last month has been surreal as we plan, pack, and say our goodbyes. Jon and I have both been here since we were twelve. Our immediate families are here. I was fortunate to have taught at a great school since 2005. Plus, I had an amazing group of students this year that I will miss so much! I would have probably ended the year thinking, "This was the best group ever!" My mom insists we will hate it up there. "It rains all the time. You will never see the sun." Despite the criticisms to get us to stay, I am pretty confident that this is a change we will absolutely love.

So, the blogging hiatus continues!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Introducing Our Newest Family Member

Jon and I went to the vet to pick up the family dogs, but ended up getting suckered in by a kitty up for adoption. She is adjusting very well (not once has she tried to hide). The other cats accepted her pretty quickly. Initially, Padre was the most averse, but now they love to chase each other around. She also loves to cuddle! Unfortunately, she seems to think that 4:00-5:00 am is when we should get up. :/ As for her name, still figuring that one out. It will most likely come down to Hana Hou (Hawaiian for "do it again") or Stevie.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Quick Hello

Just a quick hello. I also wanted to say thank you once again to everyone who offered their condolences recently, in both public and private messages. It was an unfortunate way to end my summer break.

Thankfully, my mind has been somewhat distracted by school. I am finishing up my third week with my new students. Things are going very well, especially since I spent a decent chunk of my summer revamping my lesson plans. I am also taking online courses to fulfill my license renewal. In the process, I have stumbled upon a program offered through my school district that may help me become online certified. I enjoy my current school (I was even a student there back in the 90s), but when we eventually move, I would entertain the idea of online teaching. So, the above picture was taken for a class assignment. We had to post a picture of ourselves on the class discussion board that depicts our personality, hobby, and what is important to us. We were not allowed to use words, just the picture.

Also keeping me busy is our kitchen project. Here is the progress so far, with all credit going to my husband. For reference, here is what it used to look like. Up next will be a white tile backsplash with some glass tile accents to match the specks in the granite. However, we will probably hold off for a month or two before going down more uncharted territory.

I will probably be absent for a little while longer, but I look forward to chatting with everyone soon. :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Losing a Cat to FIP & Knowing When to Say Goodbye

Jon and I recently lost our Orange to a disease called FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). It was heartbreaking and sudden. I hope none of you ever hear your vet utter that acronym. After online research (links provided at end of post) and conferencing with our vet, we have learned that FIP is a rare mutation of a common cat virus, but the mutation mostly occurs in kittens. It is currently viewed as untreatable, with life expectancy of only days to weeks after symptoms occur.

In mid-July we noticed the following changes in Orange: she appeared to have lost weight, she was hiding out more under the bed, and she was sluggish. Our vet did a check-up and found a filled anal gland, which was easily released. Our vet was confident that Orange was healthy but had been experiencing discomfort due to her anal gland. She suggested the procedure be done every couple months. But just to be sure nothing else was going on, blood was also drawn. The results showed a seemingly healthy cat. Last week brought drastic weight loss and another appointment with her vet. This time, the vet noticed Orange was sensitive in her abdomen, so she was taken out of the room for an x-ray. The vet returned with an x-ray image of unrecognizable intestines and yellowish fluid that she had extracted from Orange, all indicative of something I had never heard of before, FIP. We were informed that the next step was giving Orange the best we could during her last days.

When pets are faced with a terminal illness, it is important that we remind ourselves to be selfless in our approach. It helps to establish a "When is it time?" moment. Our vet advised us that we would know that moment when Orange stopped enjoying her favorite activities. Orange was less agile, but still cuddled with me and kneaded on her favorite cat bed. But every day brought more and more weakness due to her loss of appetite. Since she was not eating much on her own, I gave her watered down high calorie food using a syringe. By Monday, it felt selfish keeping her alive. I saw Orange do the usual walk to the cat room, but then squat just feet away from the litter box. I called my husband knowing the final conclusion. It was time to take her in that day.

She loved to cuddle with Squeeze.

In the end, I find it helpful to reflect on how much Orange enjoyed life with us and our family of cats. She started out as an abandoned kitten in a cardboard box at a Wal-Mart (said the foster parent). We first saw her in 2010 at an adoption event at the Town Square Mall. At the time, we already had Chooch, Kunu, and Squeeze. Adding a fourth cat to the mix seemed crazy. But months later we saw her again at another adoption event. After holding the purring cat in my lap, we knew we wanted to share our home with her.

My crazy cat lady side is about to show...the cats hang out with us during dinner. As I walk up the stairs with my dinner plate, Padre bolts in front of me and takes my seat (which I gladly share). Orange was usually already lounged on the table patiently waiting for whatever treat I had for them that night.

Many blog posts have been written with the companionship of Orange. Whenever I sat down at the computer, the pitter-patter of her feet would soon approach. Next came the I'm here meow, followed by a quick and considerate investigation to make sure I was not barelegged, and then the leap onto my lap. Much purring and head rubbing ensued.

Thank you for taking the time to read my lament-laden post. For those that found this post because your cat has FIP, I am deeply sorry. These are some trustworthy sources I would like to pass along to you:

     Information from the veterinary schools of Cornell & UC Davis
     Sock it to FIP - a UC Davis group looking to spread awareness
     FIP Mutation - possible hope for the future

Monday, August 5, 2013

Roberta Oaks Bathing Suit Pieces Marked Down to $14.99 at NGG

bikini top, one size / bottom, S

The Roberta Oaks line is an amazing deal right now at Nancy's Gone Green. Pieces were originally priced at $52, but most are down to $14.99 (the halter style is $16.99). Also, do not forget that price is dropped more if you use code fitting15 for 15% off. It is a great item to add to your order if you are trying to hit the $100 free shipping mark. In preparation for a potential Maui trip this fall, I purchased the double halter bikini top and the side tie bottom in black stripe.

My initial reaction when trying on these pieces was relief that everything fit. I also felt a little self-conscious in the bikini bottoms, as they hit lower than all my other bathing suits (being properly maintained for these is a must) and revealed more in the back than I usually expose. Overall, I would say both pieces are a yes for me. I hope to be wearing them while doused in sunscreen and drinking a Mai Tai poolside in Maui.

(click for more color options)
double halter, beads and strings, halter

Also, a big congratulations to the ladies at Nancy's Gone Green who are in the running for Green America's People and Planet Award. Your vote can help them win a $5,000 grant.

Take 15% off your order through August 10 with code fitting15
Free shipping to the U.S. and Canada on orders of $100 or more

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Style Linkup: Thursday Night Out

Recent Items: J. Crew dress (review) & purse (review), Neuaura sandals (review), NGG bracelet (review), Ray-Ban sunglasses

I am happily a hermit on most weekdays, but this evening I got out of the house for dinner and a Target run (the paper towel roll was down to two pieces). Next on the agenda is actually painting the cabinets tonight! The prep work has been taking us so long.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

J. Crew Reviews: Thistle Print Top, T-Shirt Dress, Keeper Chambray

Items tend to pop back up on J. Crew's site, so I figured I would post a few pictures of the items from my most recent sale order. The measurements provided are before washing.

thistle print top, navy, 0 (more colors here)

Measurements: 23.25" front length, 24" sleeve length, 14" shoulder to shoulder, 17.5" bust, 19" bottom width
Labeled navy, but it appears black. Thanks to Gigi (here and here) and other JCA's for their helpful reviews, which suggested sizing up. The image at left shows a little bit of tugging at the bust. A camisole will help solve this problem.

t-shirt dress in oversize paisley, xxs

Measurements: 33.5" front length, 14" shoulder to shoulder, 19" bust
Like Sydney stated in a previous comment, the material of this dress is thin. This dress does not work as is, requiring some adjustments. I made it shorter and shaplier by belting it for a casual look (original inspiration goes to Jean). To make it work appropriate, my solution is layering with a skirt. Close up images of the fabric can be found here: 1, 2, 3. See this same dress on Jean in the seahorse print.

keeper chambray shirt, 00

Measurements: 23.25" front length, 23.5" sleeve length, 14.25" shoulder to shoulder, 17" bust, 18" bottom width
The above images are from 2012 when I first tried it on. More pictures from the fitting room can be found here. For a more accurate view of the "afternoon sky" color, click here.

chambray on sale: camp popover, faded popover, selvedge shirt, striped popover

I also see that the toothpick jean that I previously reviewed is marked down.

If you are looking for more reviews, check out the weekly J.Crew Reviews {straight from the JCAs!} over at J. Crew Aficionada. I also suggest visiting Amber and Gigi.

Take 40% off final sale through 8/4 with code STYLE40

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Outfit Featuring Reneu Naiya Flats Review + Extended 15% Off Code

Free People tee (review), dress as skirt (seen here), J. Crew purse, Tory Burch bracelet (review), Reneu flats

Last year my black reva flats went out of commission due to the elastic backing on one becoming stretched out. I recently purchased a replacement pair, the naiya comfort flats by Reneu. According to Nancy's Gone Green:

Launched in Spring 2012, Reneu is a line of fashion footwear made with lycra-covered memory foam insoles and consists of eco-friendly upper materials such as hemp, recycled polyester, eco-friendly ultrasuede, and other eco-friendly materials. Reneu shoes provide comfort for the feet and leave minimal impact on our planet. The shoes are 100% animal free and produced in a small production center in China according to fair labor standards.

Using this sizing method from about.com, I found my shoe size is a 7.5, average width. I can range anywhere from a 6.5-7.5. Since Reneu shoes are only offered in full sizes, I did some debating over what size to order. Eventually a 7 was decided upon, but I am finding I may have been safe with a size 8. With only a few hours of wear around the house and a dinner out (outfit above), my only concern is that the shoe might cause my feet to feel a bit scrunched over the course of a more intense work day. If you have narrow feet, you should have no problems. To combat the possibility of initial discomfort, I plan to continue wearing these on more sedentary days at first. From there I can gauge if these are ready to hold up to a typical day of teaching. If being a workhorse does not work out, they will get plenty of use with casual outfits.

Here are more Reneu options offered at Nancy's Gone Green. The zaria and bela have additional colors to view.

zaria memory foam, naiya comfort, bela comfort

Take 15% off your order extended through August 10 with code fitting15
Free shipping to the U.S. and Canada for orders of $100+

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Outfit Featuring Ethos Paris Dress & Neuaura Luna T-Strap Sandals

save 15% off on the dress (review) and sandals with code fitting 15

Since receiving this dress, it has been worn every week (sometimes twice), and I never tire of it. I know the word gets a lot of use, but "versatile" pops into my mind. Pairing it with different accessories makes it feel new again.

Like the dress, the sandals have become a summer favorite. I have used them for various occasions, ranging from trips to the grocery store to an outdoor wedding in Washington. Mine are a size 6 (I am typically a 7-7.5). The heel to longest point measures approximately 9.5", and the widest part is 3.5". I am especially happy to report that I did not experience any blisters.

seneca organic cotton dress styles still available in xs, more by ethos paris

luna t-strap sandals, more styles by Neuaura

Take 15% off your order through July 31 with code fitting15
Free shipping to the U.S. and Canada for orders of $100+

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Mango Tree - 50% Off Select Items + Free Shipping

Woohoo! I have been waiting for the little bottles twisted hobo (see my review and company spotlight here) to go on sale. It is that special to me that I want a duplicate, just in case. The free shipping deal lasts until Thursday, August 1. Check out the sale selection here. The twisted hobos are marked down to $14.

little bottles, magenta sun, olive, square dance

Aside from the hobo, I also ordered the dolman dress in xs. I have not tried their clothing items yet, so I am excited to see how this works out. I noticed there is a free exchange shipping policy, another way to ease our online shopping hesitations.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

J. Crew Sale & Social Responsibility

I re-visited an old favorite to fulfill some back to school wants. As you have probably already heard, J. Crew is having a 40% off final sale + free shipping deal today. Use code STYLE40.

Does J. Crew align with my new shopping habits? They seem to be making an effort to avoid unfair labor practices (check out their social responsibility info), so unless I learn otherwise, I will continue to be a customer. I hope additional major retailers expose this type of information to their customers. I understand that companies want to make a large profit. However, I have a much greater respect for businesses that accumulate wealth and attempt to decrease their negative impact on society.

So with a $100 gift card courtesy of my mom and dad (a thank you for watching their cats while out of town...they have 4), here is what I picked up for myself:

collarless shirt in thistle print, t-shirt dress in oversize paisley, keeper chambray shirt

Interestingly the keeper chambray (see my review here) was on sale last night, but is back to full price today. Also, it was not marked final sale on my receipt.

A note regarding the sizing of the thistle print top...with the help of reviews from J. Crew Aficionada and Gigi (here and here), I decided on a size 0. The overall consensus was to size up.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Washington Pics + New Hair Color

I have been in Washington for a family trip. It was relaxing being a good distance away from the city. The fresh air and rustling of the trees was so peaceful. One of these days I hope to live there (or Maui!).

One of my favorite parts of the trip was riding around on a moped (pic of my first moped experience here). Despite the pic, my husband did all the driving.

Below are some of my favorite scenic views from the trip:

Current items pictured: Marine Layer striped top (xs), Lagos owl necklace, Sperry boat shoe (review), Ray-Ban polarized aviators

Friday, July 12, 2013

Acai Stretch Bracelet and More Jewelry at Nancy's Gone Green

Another piece from my first Nancy's Gone Green order was the acai stretch bracelet. It is cute solo or with other bracelets. The owners of Nancy's Gone Green make these to measure around seven inches. You can also send the ladies an email to request less or additional beads. Check out more jewelry offered at their online boutique below:

The newest collection are bamboo pieces from Molly M Designs of San Francisco:

bamboo cattail, bamboo pith, bamboo petiole cattail

Hannah Naomi crafts unique pieces from scrap metal:

stacking, infinity knot, pebble, spiral, linear

The pieces by Jaszy are handmade in the U.S. using ethically sourced and recycled materials:

star leaf charm, circle pearl, starfish charm, fantasia

Use code fitting15 for 15% off
Free shipping to the U.S. and Canada for orders of $100+

Disclosure This is not a paid advertisement. I agree with the ethics of Nancy's Gone Green and want to give them exposure.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July Outfit and Kitchen Remodel

pinkerton dress, lagos chain from this necklace with lagos pendant, ariella puzzle and skull bracelets, havaianas flip flops

Above is what I wore for an evening BBQ over at my sister-in-law's house. Prior to that Jon and I took advantage of his day off by getting deeper into the kitchen prep work for our painting project. The plan is to paint the cabinets white. We have already researched and bought an air compressor, spray gun, and paint. Here is a look at the prep work so far:

It is too hot to paint in our garage, so we are using the front room. Originally we were going to cover the walls with plastic sheets, but our brother-in-law had the idea to create a tent. So last week my husband nailed wood poles to a square wood base to create four posts.

Yesterday my husband removed the cabinets. I had fun labeling the baggies that housed the hardware. :) I also got started removing items from the cupboards.

As you can see, still lots more to be done!

And in the spirit of the Fourth of July, below is a music video that I love sharing with my students when we learn about the Declaration of Independence. It is so well done, it actually gives me the chills. The official site can be found here. You might also enjoy Bad Romance, which I use when we learn about women's suffrage.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My 30th Birthday

mink pink dress, J. Crew purse (review), ann taylor heels, necklace from grandma's jewelry box

Saturday marked my 30th. It all started with Melting Pot on Friday night with my husband. I was happy to find out that the flowers at the table were for me to keep. :)

ethos paris dress (review), lagos necklace (b-day present), judith jack bracelet (b-day present)

Then over to my parents on Saturday afternoon. It was cute that my dad got a little goofy with the decorations. I especially loved my floating Snoopy.

At left: red velvet cake at my parent's. At right: white chocolate raspberry at my sister-in-law's.

Later that night we went to my sister-in-law's for a Hawaii-themed party. Thanks to my brother-in-law, there was a Mai Tai waiting for me when I arrived.

Also wanted to share these old pics of my 21st birthday with you. My first drink at a restaurant was at Z'Tejas. I was probably holding a Baskin Robbins pralines and cream cake.

This post is linked up to Tara's Summer Style series.

Happy Fourth to those celebrating! :)

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