Oh She Glows Classic Green Monster

Remember when I posted about losing weight and advocated eating a lot of fruits and vegetables? Well I thought I would offer you my little secret for sneaking those veggies in regularly if you aren’t used to incorporating them into your meals often (like me, circa January 2011).

Oh She Glows Classic Green Monster Recipe:

Classic Green Monster in my Christmas Mug

This little protein shake looks intimidating. I mean, it’s greenBut it tastes exactly like cake batter while managing to sneak in more than 2 cups of fresh spinach and over 30g of protein. Just one shake gives you three of your five servings of fruits and vegetables for the day (win!).

Mmm, delicious and healthy!

If you haven’t discovered Oh She Glows yet, take a look around, even if protein shakes aren’t your thing. Angela, the blog owner of Oh She Glows, has the most fantastic collection of easy, healthy vegan meals. Another of my favorite recipes from Oh She Glows it the Back on Track Wheat Berry and Bean Salad which is absolutely delicious! I make it at least once a month to have on hand for a small snack or quick dinner.

What is your secret healthy recipe?

Ashley

A Book Worth Reading: Heinlein’s The Moon is A Harsh Mistress

Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Remember when I made a resolution to read in 2012? Well, last week I finished my first book of the year and it was, in a word, unforgettable. I read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (and got to check it off my Bucket List).

I have long been a fan of Robert Heinlein. He has an incredible ability to write ‘science fiction’ that is a ‘genre-free’ (technical term I just made-up) social, philosophical and physical commentary on humanity. If you haven’t read Heinlein before, I would suggest starting with Stranger in a Strange Land (yes, the one that influenced the ‘hippie generation’). My father had really enjoyed the book and so I read it on his recommendation. Stranger also happens to be the book that really brought Ian and I together.

When Ian read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress he sold it to me as “even better than Stranger“. Hard for me to believe, but I took a leap of faith and put reading Harsh Mistress on my Bucket List. The story is one of revolution and bureaucracy: Remarkably appropriate considering all of the unrest and protests we’ve seen here in Chicago.

My favorite quote:

“Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow … was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them ‘for their own good’ — not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.”

Though I think Stranger is still my favorite Heinlein, Harsh Mistress comes in as a close second. If you are looking for a book to move you and to challenge the way you view society and intelligence, give Harsh Mistress a shot.

What life-changing books have you read recently?

Ashley

Supplemental Reading:

Quotes from Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Discovering Your Signature Scent

There is something so intimate and personal about finding your “scent”. For a while I went through a phase where I only wore Chanel Chance, then only Calvin Klein Euphoria. And while I think these scents are fabulous, I always felt like I had never found my “scent”.

Luckily, one weekend my mother and I were running some errands in Nordstroms and I happened upon the Jo Malone fragrance counter. I remembered loving Jo Malone when I smelt it in London back in August but didn’t actually purchase anything. After a few moments playing around at the counter, we learned that you can combine Jo Malone scents to make your own ‘scent’ – there’s even a combining menu online (http://www.jomalone.com/FragranceCombining/index.tmpl?CATEGORY_ID=CATEGORY22654 so fun)!

My fragrance combination:

Vintage Gardenia and Orange Blossom – sweet yet sophisticated, understated but still powerful.

I loved all the boxes my bottles were wrapped in too (and if you buy on Jo Malone, they do free shipping… I am a sucker for free shipping). I’ve placed my two bottles on a shelf in the bedroom with a childhood pictures of my dad and they look so sophisticated. And wasn’t my dad a little charmer with his patterned bow-tie?

But all said and done, it is very exciting to have discovered a scent I feel is truly me.

What’s your signature scent?

Ashley

What’s in My Make-Up Bag

Seeing what a woman keeps in her make-up bag is like being let into a secret back room of her personality. It’s the invisible arsenal she depends on to present her image of herself to the world. Sydney, over at The Daybook, just did this (http://www.thedaybookblog.com/2012/01/mama-beauty.html) and I couldn’t help but be inspired to do my own version.

My kit is the result of a long journey involving years of poor decisions (I used to have a thing for bronze eyeliner, oh the shame) which taught me the golden rule: less is more. Generally, I focus on highlighting one feature – either my eyes or lips and keep the rest as simple and natural as possible.

My favorite products have evolved over the years but I feel I have finally found a core set of cosmetics which I can turn to everyday. Typically I turn to products which multi-task the most and that can be layered to create a dramatic look if necessary.

Starting at the top and then moving clockwise:

1:: Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder in Pale Yellow ($35 at bobbibrowncosmetics.com). This is the best loose powder I have ever found – it helps my make-up stay put for hours and is very sheer and clean-feeling.

2:: a generic Eyebrown brush (usually under $1 at most Walgreens). Even though I have very thin and light eyebrows, I still need to keep them groomed. This little brush works like magic after I apply my eyebrow mascara – just wait a minute for the mascara to set and then swipe it through your eyebrows to soften and polish the look.

3:: blinc Mascara in Black ($24 at birchbox.com). This is the most expensive mascara I have ever tried but I really love it. All of the blinc mascaras have ‘tube technology’ which coats your lashed in a tube and which come off in the shower with a little soap and water. It’s so much less messy than normal mascara (and less harsh than waterproof mascaras) and it’s actually fun to slide off your mascara at night. Weird but worth a try if you’re looking for an innovative beauty splurge.

4:: Cargo Eyeliner in black. This isn’t actually made anymore as far as I can tell but any well-formulate black eyeliner can really emphasize your eyes. I love a demure cat-eye for work – it looks wonderful and still professional.

5:: Bobbi Brown Eyebrow Mascara in Brown. This, unfortunately, is also no longer available but a good eyebrow mascara can help you shape your brows and fill in sparse spaces without looking theatrical.

6:: Physician’s Formula Gentle Cover Concealer Stick in Fair ($6 at the Physcian’s Formula website). This concealer is a fabulous all-purpose which swipes on cleanly. I always blend this in around my under-eye area with my ring finger (gives the least amount of pressure) and it stays on all day. And let’s be honest – you can’t beat the price!

7:: Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush in a shade no longer available but very similar to the #25 Pink Frosting shade (about $7 at Walgreens). A bright pink shade in a sheer formula looks so flattering on every skin-type and this formula is easy to use and blend.

8:: Pür Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Foundation with SPF 15 in Light ($25 at birchbox.com). I received a sample of this in my July Birchbox and have been obsessed since. This sheer formula have be built-up to cover just about anything and it lasts all day (not to mention the added SPF protection).

What do you keep in your make-up bag?

Ashley

Apollo, King of McQueen

My McQueen scarf finally came in the mail! However, Apollo seems to want to keep it all to himself so I have dubbed him Apollo, King of McQueen (and possibly McQueen’s first pug model).

He enjoyed modeling the scarf until he got himself all tangled up (look at those sad eyes)…

Ashley

P.s. Do not attempt this shoot yourself unless you want your lovely new silk scarf covered in pug fur.

Losing Weight & My AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

AeroPilates 4 Corded Home Studio Rebounder, available on QVC.com

Since it is the start of 2012, I have been thinking about getting healthy quite a bit. Last January, I weighed my heaviest ever as a result of lots of unhealthy eating and drinking after my father passed away. When I stepped on the scale I remember thinking that I would never be able to overcome the weight gain. But, luckily, I decided to try to get healthy and lose some weight despite my skepticism and I am soooo glad that I did. In 2011, I dropped two dress sizes and over 15 lbs, I ran my first 5K and my BMI dropped down from ‘overweight’ to ‘normal’. I actually weigh less now than I did when I was 13.

For those of you out there who are starting a weight loss journey – stick with it! Reaching a healthy goal weight is one of the most satisfying lifevestments you can do for yourself. That said, it is important to reach your goals in a healthy and sustainable way. I had a goal of losing 1 lb every two weeks – I didn’t reach that goal last year but as your body fat percentage drops, losing more weight gets more difficult.

While my regime was a mixture of both exercise and nutrition, I found that my body responded much more to nutrition changes than any amount of exercise.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Eating Healthy

1. Drink LOTS of water. This is key! I carry a re-useable water bottle with me everywhere.

2. Eat your fruits & vegetables. For those of you who aren’t used to incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet 5 times a day, start by setting smaller goals. Last January I had a goal of two servings of fruits and vegetables a day, then in February I upped this to three servings and in March, four servings per day. This may sound slow but it gave me time to plan and adjust to my new lifestyle.

3. Make sure you eat lean protein. I find that the more protein I incorporate into my diet, the better I feel. Lean cuts of protein and seafood are all healthy sources of protein that you should incorporate into every meal. If you are a vegetarian incorporate lots of legumes and soy into your diet.

4. Drink tea. I have an enormous sweet tooth… or I did until last year. If you have one too, the best practice I found was to pause before grabbing a sweet and instead drink a cup of tea. If I still wanted the sweet after the tea, then I ate it but often I found that the tea filled me up and I no longer wanted that piece of chocolate.

5. Experiment. Healthy websites everywhere tell you to eat a large breakfast. While I agree with eating breakfast everyday, I often consume most of my daily calories at dinner when we go out with friends so I had to adjust this advice. I find if I have a small-ish breakfast and lunch, it helps me off-set the slightly unhealthy but realistic habit I have of going out for dinner or snacking after work. So my advice: experiment with what works for you and your lifestyle. I did everything healthy websites told me to do such as eat five meals a day, eat a big breakfast, etc but once I found what worked for me, the weight came off much easier.

The AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

But that said, nutrition is only half the battle. Losing weight will happen faster and show more if you tone and exercise your body properly. When I was young, I was extremely inflexible – though I was in gymnastics for three years, I was never able to do the splits. As I got older, my breast grew in and my posture started to worsen. Last January I decided that a good exercise regime for me would be to work on increasing my core strength (with additional leg and arm workouts) so I did some research and discovered pilates. Pilates is extremely useful for increasing core strength and also helps with flexibility and all-over toning. My mother had purchased an Aeropilates rebounder on QVC a few months earlier so I decided to give it a try. After one workout I was completely hooked! You can get a full-body workout with the potential to up the resistance with the tension cords. After using this machine a month, I was able to touch my toes for the first time in over a decade and I started to see some ab definition. A plus: the workouts are about stretching and resistance so I hardly even sweat but still get a killer workout.

Currently QVC has the 4-cord home studio pilates rebounder priced on clearance at $333.36 but the great thing about QVC is that they offer easy-pay and you can get the rebounder for 4-payment installations of $84.34. It sounds like a lot, but it’s less than the annual price of most gyms (at least here in Chicago) and mine has lasted through countless uses. My mom’s has lasted over two years now without any problems too.

The videos that come with the AeroPilates are good but are taped with a weird pace. What I do is watch the workouts until I have them memorized and now I can do my full workout at my own pace (with higher resistance) without the videos. The nice thing is that AeroPilates makes several levels of tapes so once you have worked through the Level 1 workout enough, you can buy Level 2 and Level 3 DVDs which change-up the workout and increase the intensity.

What are your tips and tricks for getting healthy in the new year?

Ashley