Add Some Spice to Your Life

I’ve never been a fan of spicy or hot foods. I never was big on Thai or Mexican cuisine simply because I always feared the food would be too spicy for me to handle. I remember growing up thinking my dad was a total weirdo for going to Kansas City and trying the hottest barbecue sauce that he could find, to the point where there would be tears coming from his eyes. Now that I’ve had time for my pallet to grow and I’ve expanded my cooking skills beyond the basic American diet, I’m starting to really enjoy a good kick in a lot of my foods. I know I’m not breaking any new ground by sharing my favorite ways to add some spice to my meals, but this is a new experience for me! I actually crave something hot and spicy to the point where that’s what I’ll tell Jake that’s what I want for dinner. Yes, my hormones are totally normal so please don’t jump to any conclusions.

Jake always makes fun of me and my “sauce collection” going on in the fridge, but I’ve finally discover sriracha and I need it in my life. Also, it’s cousin sriracha mayo – so good on tacos! I had some tofu tacos a few months back when we had a food truck at work and my coworker highly encouraged me to add sriracha mayo on for a little something, something. I’m blaming this new found addition on her. After that I made tacos at home just so I could buy sriracha mayo for my “sauce collection”. It’s great on top of normal tacos, fish tacos, tofu tacos, or these sweet potato and black bean slow cooker tacos. We made this recipe two weeks in a row at home and it’s a perfect dinner dish for fall! And it’s a slow cooker recipe, so it can’t get much easier – I highly recommend trying it. Adding a little sriracha or taco sauce on scrambled eggs or a breakfast sandwich will also fulfill my cravings as they come along.

Another great recipe for a little spice, and also so easy to make, is this easy lo mein dish from Damn Delicious. I added in a tablespoon of sriracha and omitted the sugar, and it turns out perfect. Like I said, this recipe is super easy to make and takes nearly no time to cook it. Jake and I are pretty busy and also work opposite schedules, so I don’t like taking a lot of time to make the meals we get to eat together. Another sriracha inspired meal is this 20-minute spicy ramen. I even did the poached eggs and ate it with chop sticks. I’d love to try out some more homemade ramen recipes for the winter months, so please leave suggestions if you have them!

I’m finally figuring out what I’ve been missing out on all this time. I want to go out and try some authentic Thai or Indian cuisine, play around with their spice levels. Maybe some good, authentic Mexican food too. I’ve already been trying out some new salsas to see how much I can handle; I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew – for now.

April Favorites

I’m trying to get into monthly favorites posts. Mine will include a bit of everything, beauty, fitness, lifestyle, foods, and whatever I’m loving. Let’s get into it!

Beauty

Argan Magic Defining Curl Cream
I have been lurking on Reddit a lot the past month, and one day in the Curly Hair thread I found a post talking about this product and immediately ran out to purchase it. Unfortunately, I think this product has been discontinued as I found mine at Marshalls and TJ Maxx at 50% off the original retail price. It can found on Amazon, but at a inflated price. I’m not sure I would pay the inflated price, but at retail price and especially the $9.99 I purchased my three bottles at, I would recommend it to those with curly hair. It currently on Hautelook* this week, along with some other Argan Magic products. I have 3B curly hair, that needs a lot of moisture and high hold to control frizz. I stocked up on this stuff and will be using it until I’m out (like I said, three eight-ounce bottles with pumps!) then I will likely go back to my Curly Sexy Hair Curling Cream that I’ve been devoted to for the past two years.

Essie Madison Ave-hue
I got this polish during a present exchange at work two Christmases, but unfortunately it was limited edition. I finally used it on my toe nails at the beginning of April when the weather started warming up, and loved it! I repainted my toe nails with the color and painted my nails with it. I’m really enjoying it, which is surprising for a pink! I usually shy away from pinks on my nails, particularly my finger nails, but this color has a hue of mauve, as the name would suggest. There’s also the tiniest bit of shimmer in this color, which I don’t mind. I used to strictly be a cream finish nail polish girl, but the shimmer looks nice in the sunlight and is hardly noticeable the rest of the time. It’s just enough. Edit: My nails ends up chipping so fast, not even two days in. Just a fair warning about Essie nail polish.

Maybelline Bad to the Bronze
This is an oldie, but a goodie. I’ve owned this cream eye shadow for a while, but mine was so dried it that it just didn’t perform the way it was supposed to. So I repurchased it and I’ve been using as my eye shadow base or alone every day since repurchasing it.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer – Custard and Ginger
I didn’t want to like this concealer. I didn’t want to like it so much that it took me a year to admit that I like it. It gives great coverage for my acne scars, any discoloration on my skin, and works under my eyes. I recently purchased the color ginger, medium 2, to mix with custard, medium 1, because last summer I wasn’t able wear the custard shade because it way too light after I got a little sun. I think the custard matches me more-so than ginger, but I’ll work with both to get the perfect shade! Next, I’d love to try the NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer!

OGX Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment
Holy moly, this is my new holy grail deep conditioner! For a long time my holy grail was the Macademia Deep Repair Masque, which is a pretty penny as it’s a salon brand. I had tried the OGX Hydrating Macademia Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment assuming that it woud be a dupe for the Macademia deep conditioner, but I wasn’t impressed. I had heard good things about the Renewing Morccan Argan Oil treatment, but put off trying because I enjoyed the L’Oreal EverCreme enough to repurchase it on Amazon. This stuff though, is way better than the L’Oreal deep conditioner, even better than the Macademia deep conditioner. It leaves my hair so moisturized, soft, and manageable. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes when I use a deep conditioner my hair doesn’t work well with my styling products, but this product is the exception to the rule. I will keep repurchasing this product for the foreseeable future and I highly suggest trying it out if you have drier or curly hair. If you have hair on the thin side, this product may be a bit too much, but you’ll never now until you try. I’m planning on trying the regular conditioner from this line and I have high hopes for it.

Contouring
Side note: not Kim K contouring. Light handed, soft contouring with powder bronzer. I forced myself to take the time to contour and bronze the past few weeks, and it’s finally something I appreciate in my makeup routine. I don’t have a favorite bronzer or brush I can recommend at the moment, but I’ll keep working on my technique throughout the summer.

Lifestyle

Declutter Videos
Jessica Murphy has a good playlist of her declutter videos and I know there’s other gurus that have been doing it for a while, but I feel like it took off in 2015 as lot of peoples’ New Year’s resolutions. I’m moving in a few months and I need to downsize so decluttering my makeup and beauty collection is proving a challenge. I threw away a lot of nail polish right away as I came to the conclusion that I use the same five colors in rotation year round, despite what season it is. I also tossed a ton of lip gloss and lip sticks away as a lot were, frankly, expired or never used. I decided I’m never buying lip gloss again as I literally never use it; I hate it.

Fitness and Food

I started my spring fitness routine back in the first week of March, which was high reps/low weight during gym time and an extremely clean eating diet. I don’t mind the weight lifting part so much, it’s the eating clean that’s hard. I wasn’t doing very well with my clean eating, ended up going out for dinner and drinks with coworkers and friends plus date night with Jake at a few restaurants, and a few weeks ago I decided to put an end to that. No more random dinners out for pizza and no more drinks just because. Jake and I did get sushi for date night this week, but I don’t consider that to be so unhealthy as most other restaurants. It’s been two since I re-evaluated my clean eating and I have to say I’m very proud of myself and the results so far are impressive. I’ve lost a pound, which is a lot for my size and frame, but I would like to point out that it’s not really my goal to lose weight, but trim some fat off.

My breakfast has been a protein shake every morning, with almond milk and half a banana. I eat the other half of the banana for a snack after a few hours at work. Lunch has been salads, with many vegetables and fruits, or a prepared dish that consists of broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes, and brown rice. Dinner has been more random, sometimes salads with a side of soup, frozen “chicken” nuggets with a side of vegetables, or cottage cheese with vegetables and fruit. Of course, I slip up and have some peanut butter or pretzels. The real secret to all of this is water. Water. And more water. I drink so much of it, not in an unhealthy amount, but I’m very conscious of being sure I am getting enough to feel full when I may otherwise want to snack. Anyways, I’m loving the healthy eating kick that I’m on and really hope I can stick to it for another month or so for summer.

*Post contains affiliate/referral links

Life Update – Where Have I Been?

Not going to lie, I totally fell off my New Year’s Resolution of writing in my blog at least once a week. For a while, I was writing two posts a week. Then life happened and I just stopped writing. I’ve been a lot more busy than I anticipated I would be this time of year.  I work full-time at a 9 to 5 working on a computer all day, so coming home to just sit on my computer is not usually at the top of my list. I also spend a good amount of time commuting to and from work, which can get my gears grinding if traffic is really bad. I also work part-time on Saturday’s when a lot of people go out with friends or get their errands done. This leaves only Sunday to myself, which is usually my lazy, Netflix day.

In addition to my work responsibilities, I am fully committed to my fitness and healthy lifestyle often making it to the gym five days a week and preparing nearly all of my meals to keep to my diet. To many this is silly and I could easily stray away from this to make my meals quicker and leave more time for social life or just relaxation, but I am committed to bikini season which is less than two months away! I also have a boyfriend, who is often with me while I’m at the gym, but sometimes we venture out for date night. Date night does not consist of me typing at my blog or playing around on my phone since it’s time I like to cherish, since our schedules are sometimes conflicting.

Then last week I had to be around because my dad had some surgery (he’s doing well) and that also meant I had to be around this weekend to drive him to the store and help him out as needed. In between all of these, I spent a weekend out with a good friend, hitting up bars like I used to in my college years. Jake and I went to a movie, in a theater, something that I haven’t done in years. It was actually the first time Jake and I went to a new release in theaters. We saw Furious 7, not an Oscar winner, but still very fun to watch! Would recommend if you’ve seen any of the other Fast and the Furious movies.

Long story short, I’ve just been busy with real life, and that’s not a bad thing. We spend so much time invested in Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, other social websites and virtual reality, that we forget to live life outside of all the technology. The computer will still be there after all the craziness calms down and I can always come back to writing.

Major Budgeting

Well unfortunately, I was in a car accident this past week.  I am a-OK, minor sores from the seat belt and jolt, but I am alive and well.  The car on the other hand, is not doing too great.  The car went into the ditch and is well totaled, but what can you do.  I saw the accident happening before I could do anything so I relaxed, grabbed the wheel, and closed my eyes.  I was the most worried about what my mom would think as it was her car.  Sadly, she passed away about a year and half ago and I know she would be happy I’m in one piece, but I did feel bad for a minute.  These things happen and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  I’m thankful to be alive, unharmed, and have the means to purchase a new car so I can continue to work and make up for what has been lost.

So now that I’ve purchased a new car and I’m back to a major budget, what do I do with my healthy eating habits?  I’m currently on Pinterest looking for some healthy, vegetarian friendly meals.  I purchased a new programmable Crock Pot a few weekends ago and I’d love to use it more for weekly evening meals since it turns over to warm after a set time.  And with slower cooker meals, there’s always left overs for lunch.  Lunch meals are always my main point of concern because I’m the most hungry then.  My dinners tend to be lighter and packed with smaller portions of healthy options, such as cottage cheese, frozen veggies on the side, pretzels, and small leftover.  Often, I run after work and I’m not home until about 6:30 p.m., eating around 7:00 p.m.  I know that doesn’t sound very late, but I’m usually settled around 9:00 p.m. and in bed by 10:25 p.m., right after the weather reports.  Now I want to budget all my meals and say goodbye to any social life for a few weeks.

I have shopped at Aldi’s many times in the past two years, and I honestly enjoy it quite a bit.  I’ve read reviews online that talk pretty poorly of the store, but if you go in with a level head and keep your eye on the good stuff, you can come out with a lower grocery bill.  I will admit, that if you purchase the more processed, sugar, or carb foods your bill will be lower than what I generally pay, but don’t get pulled in by it.  You can get healthy food options at a fair price at Aldi’s.  For me it’s worth it to go and get the basics: eggs, almond milk (unsweetened even!), cottage cheese, quick oats, salad, brown rice, frozen veggies, and fresh fruits and veggies when they’re in season.  You’ll have to “splurge” a bit on frozen salmon, shrimp, or chicken breast (for Jake), but it’s a few dollars cheaper than the big box grocery stores; still worth it!  I can’t speak for the fresh meats as I don’t buy them, but do check it out and see if the price is worth buying.  It can be difficult to purchase the more specifics foods, like certain vegetables, quinoa, healthy dips, vegetable broth at time, and canned soups.  A lot of stock at Aldi is dependent on their weekly shipments and often, popular food sell fast.  The best time to go is right away when the store opens, even if it’s a weekend.  Because the store is smaller than most, you’ll be through within a half an hour for week of groceries.

Learning the skill of basic cooking will go far when you’re on a budget.  I couldn’t do more than scrambled eggs when I moved out, but my ability to look at a recipe and feel confident in making the recipe and have it turn out tasty has gone through the roof.  Even Jake has taken a notice to my cooking skills, and he worked in a restaurant kitchen year ago.  I’d like give my cooking skills a go with hosting a small gathering in the coming year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For now, I’m budgeting, meal planning, and keeping my neck and hip relaxed with a heating pad.  Please don’t be fooled by all of this talk of healthy eating and gym time, I do indulge in chocolate or sweets if I crave them, but I do try very hard to eat as healthy as possible.  I’ll be sure to update in a few weeks on my budget and meals.  Remember cutting season is nearly upon us!  And with it, spring which brings safer driving conditions.  Everyone be safe!

Our Iceland Trip!

I’ve been home for one week now and I just want to go back. Vacation was way too short and vacation from work was definitely way too short.  After a couple of flights we made it our destination at the Keflavik International Airport which is the main way travelers visit Iceland.  The airport is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik which was where our hotel was.  Our trip home had a little bit more drama, but we survived and made it in one piece.

Jake and I flew Air Canada to our connection in Toronto for a flight via Icelandair.  Icelandair was amazing, the  flight attendants were very friendly, the plane had a blanket and pillow with an Icelandic lullaby on it.  Our experience with Air Canada was sub par, however.  When we checked in at Minneapolis St. Paul International airport, the airport employee informed us that we were going to have to claim our checked luggage, move it ourselves to be connected to a new terminal, and then move terminals ourselves.  Upon landing in Toronto after a delayed flight our baggage never showed up.  After arguing with the Air Canada attendants and Canada’s security we found out Air Canada had moved our luggage and didn’t inform us of it.  Our luggage barely made it onto the Icelandair flight thanks to Air Canada’s miss-communication.  Then coming home we almost missed our flight because we had to move our luggage ourselves and Air Canada did not have nearly enough employees working to make it worth the time we had.  Then our luggage was lost for two days.  Aside from the drama with the airliner, our trip was amazing!

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We stayed at the Reykjavik Light Hotel about 15 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, by bus.  Once we arrived, we napped for a few hours before walking around through the neighborhood and grabbing a late lunch.  The weather was a balmy 38 degrees almost everyday when we there and there was rain and snow everyday, but honestly the weather didn’t bother me.  Jake and I picked a good week to leave Minnesota as it was 10 degree below zero almost the entire week we were gone.  Funny story, our first day in the hotel we saw Minnesota on a the only English speaking TV station we received and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was being interviewed from Minneapolis.
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Our Northern Lights tour was cancelled Tuesday (and Wednesday) night due to inclement weather, so we relaxed in our hotel room the first night. Wednesday was our trip to the Blue Lagoon and it was easily the highlight of our trip.  When we arrived around 11 a.m. there was some light, but it had just started raining.  We were given writstbands which are for your locker and any charges at the cafe during your visit.  The Blue Lagoon is salt water so it dries out your hair quite a bit so it is recommended that your condition your hair before and after entering the pool.  Again, it was about 38 degrees that day and the water was around 100 degrees causing steam to rise from the pool and spray in the patrons faces.  I had purchased a waterproof camera case hoping to get some pictures of us in the water, but it was so windy that it wasn’t worth the hassle.  I used some of the clay provided around the perimeter of the pool on my face and upper body then purchased hot chocolate before the sun came out for the last 15 minutes we spent in the water.  I was hoping to take a tour of the location, but the time we wanted was booked full.  If you want to take the tour, I would suggest emailing the Blue Lagoon to book your tour in advanced or ask right away when you enter the building.  But because all the Icelanders were so nice, one of the Blue Lagoon’s employees let us walk up to the viewing area so that we could take some photos before leaving a little after 1 p.m.  The photos of the water turned out so much better in print than on a screen.

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The next day we went to the Saga Museum in downtown Reykjavik down by the bay.  The museum has guided tours of Iceland’s history with wax sculptures of the figures of the country’s history, including some Vikings.  After we went through the guided tour, the museum has Vikings clothing and replica weapons and accessories that you can dress up in.  We spent some more time down by the bay walking around to find the parliament building.  During the hunt we found Reykjavik’s city hall and cathedral.  The parliament building was not open to the public, but Jake was happy that we got to see it.  We ate lunch at a cute café across from the parliament building, Café Paris.  The food in Iceland was mostly the same that you could get in America except there seemed to be no chain restaurants or stores.  A few dishes at all the restaurants we ate at had a few dishes that had Icelandic spins on them and all the food was more flavorful and fresh than what you would get in most American restaurants.  I was reading about Iceland’s agriculture industry before we left for the trip and most of their food is grown and raised within their country.  The prices were a bit higher than in America, but it was worth it for the quality of food we were eating.

That night we went on our Northern Lights tour which was guided and included about 700 tourists.  If I had to do it again, I would look for a smaller company offering the tour because the amount of people using cameras and capturing the moment was overwhelming.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Northern Lights because of the cloudy weather, but the company offered us a two year voucher to go on the tour again if we visit Iceland again.  I’m not sure if we’ll travel there again within two years, but at least we have the vouchers if some friends visit the country.  Despite not seeing the Northern Lights, I enjoyed our tour guide and learned more about Iceland’s culture.  In Iceland, no one changes their last names upon marriage and children are allowed to chose whether they want to take their mother’s or father’s last name as they grow up.  I think this is amazing and the way it should be everywhere, but that’s another post for another day.  We drove by the only prison in Iceland and the Skyr production building, the manufacturer of Iceland’s famous yogurt.  Skyr is compared to Greek yogurt, but I would say it has more of a consistency of normal American style yogurt though a bit more firm.  I quite enjoyed it and it has a lot of protein in it, which is always a plus in my book.  Finally, our tour guide sang us an Icelandic lullaby on journey back to our hotel.

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I loved visiting Iceland.  The people were beyond nice and helpful.  I would definitely suggest visiting if you’re into outdoor activities and outdoor site-seeing during your travels.  I do wish we could have stayed longer, maybe a full five days.  The flight from Toronto was about five and half to six hours and the weather was reasonably even though it’s the middle of winter.  I would invest in a good weatherproof coat, gloves, and bring an umbrella, even though I didn’t see anyone using one, it’s still a good back-up.  Wear a good pair of shoes or boots if you visit in winter months.  Getting around by public transportation was easy and everyone spoke English on some level so communicating wasn’t a problem.  If anyone has ever visited Iceland or is interested, leave comments below and I’ll get back to you.