Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Under the Sephora Spell

I used the exact same beauty products all throughout High School and College: any foundation, concealer, bronzer, blush and mascara brands you could buy at any drugstore (I still wear by Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume mascara… I swear by it!). One day I looked at my makeup drawer and realized there were dozens of products in there that I didn’t use. Tons of foundations, bronzers, under eye makeup, complexion evening powder, you name it. There were countless products that I bought but then never used. Either the color wasn’t right, it looking to caked on, it didn’t cover enough, etc etc. Nothing was right and nothing worked for my skin.

Enter Sephora (which FINALLY opened a store in Grand Rapids a couple of years ago). I knew about Sephora long ago, but it was always that unattainable store that you would have to travel to Chicago and beyond to visit. Not ideal.

Since Sephora has finally graced it’s presence in my life, I have slowly started to incorporate nicer brands into my makeup mix and now have completely (almost) transformed my routine into Sephora only products. Sometimes I wish this wasn’t the case (it’s costly), but once you’re used to one product that is more designer level quality, it’s hard not to slowly invest in others. While chatting about my makeup woes over coffee with a co-worker, she suggested a couple of brands to check out. Off to Sephora I went, where they let you test out all products before purchasing, and fell in love on site. To ensure I wasn’t making the decision to quickly I spoke with one of the consultants, tried on some other brands, and ended up landing on a different one that worked better with my skin type. 

The rest is history…

With that being said, here are the products I use on a daily basis:

Foundation - Smashbox Studio Skin (3.1)
Bronzer - Tarte Mineral Powder (Park Avenue Princess)
Blush - Tarte Amazonian Clay (Dollface)
Finishing Powder - Make-Up Forever High Definition Powder
Mascara - Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume (Very Black)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's Carnival Season!

Mardi Gras (aka: Fat Tuesday) is exactly 2 weeks from today. 

The date it falls on varies from year to year because it's based upon the season of lent. 

Fat Tuesday is the last day you can gorge yourself on life's guilty pleasures before sacrificing said sins until Easter. 

Hell, I'm just in it for the colorful parades & drinking. 

This year will mark my 5th Mardi Gras, and my husband's 6th.  It's quite different from what one would expect watching YouTube videos & movies or listening to rumors from drunks reminiscing. 
Overall, the season is pretty family-oriented and drenched in history.

More on that later. 

Today I'll simply give a glimpse of how the city transforms to prepare for the biggest event of the year. 

Beads, beads everywhere! 
On people, on animals, on trees & on homes. 

Be careful, because you might even trip over beads on the sidewalk!

Locals search for months trying to find the perfect 
wigs, masks & costumes to wear 
to the parades--whether they're riding on a float 
or just  spectators. 

King Cake. 
A ring of cinnamon bread doused with icing & 
a ridiculous amount of colored sugar.  

This sinful pastry can be found in classrooms on a daily basis 
from now until the holiday. 

At my desk. Case in point.

And again, at a dinner party we went to this past weekend. 
The temptation never ends.

Hmmm...maybe mixed into Diet Coke

Ice cream?! Seriously?! Hubby & I simply couldn't refuse. 
Of course it tastes amAzing.

A fence outside my neighbor's house. Ours will look like this before long.

Simple & elegant
This family is smart. 
They've put up fences so drunks can't invade their property. This house is right on St. Charles, one of the main parade routes, 
therefore extremely busy for the next few weeks.

 The Superdome even gets in the spirit!

Can't have a carnival without a food truck!
This is one of DOZENS that line the streets.

Platforms are set up outside of popular restaurants 
along the parade route.

This sets me up for the next installment of the Mardi Gras Coverage: 

The Parades

I hope to include not only pictures of the stunning floats, 
but videos as well. 
The whole thing is madness, really.

In the meantime, try to find something purple or green
 to wear, because...


Monday, January 28, 2013

DIY – My Magazine “Bible”

I have a subscription to SELF magazine. I love everything about this magazine, including the recipes, music suggestions, fashion, various beauty product recommendations, etc (oh yeah, and the fitness info is cool too J). Whenever I receive SELF in the mail I make it a point to read it from cover to cover within the next few days.

With that being said, I hate clutter and between my SELF, US Weekly and In Style subscriptions (not to mention Max’s Bon Appetit and our combined MSU Alum magazines), things tend to pile up. I have no problem recycling US Weekly but find it hard to part with other magazines that provide such great information and helpful tips. So I decided to create a binder that combines what I love from all of the above (kind of like Pinterest but a printed version). This puts everything in one place and is user friendly and organized enough to flip through for inspiration whenever the mood strikes! I have organized this binder in 7 categories (and growing): 

1)       Workouts – actual tear-outs from magazines, kept in nice shape in individual clear envelopes
2)       Fitness – all other workout related articles I deem worthy of the “bible”
3)       Yoga Love – fun articles or different information related to yoga
4)       Foodies – recipes, information on best foods for skin type, “beating the bloat” , etc
5)       Musical Inspiration – great workout playlists, celebrity top picks and everything in between
6)       Fashion – documenting latest trends and fashion forward articles/pictures (my own look-book)
7)       Beauty – makeup, hair & skin tips… best products to use
8)       Miscellaneous – anything else I want to hang on to J

One day I’ll consider this to be a waste of space, but until then, it’s like an adult scrapbook. As the binder reaches its capacity, I’ll most likely re-assess its contents and clean out accordingly (or just get a larger binder?). It’s going to be an ever changing “bible” but one that will keep me motivated and inspired in many aspects of my life for the foreseeable future. 

{Nina Dobrev = inspiration}

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Five!

                           {engagement roses – beautifully dried and resting in a mason jar}

Oh Friday. How I love you so!

To sum up this week, all I have to say is “Brrrr it’s COLD in here”! I think I’ve used that phrase more times this week than anything else (I believe it even beat out “I love you”, which is ludicrous). Even though it’s winter, I’ve grown quite accustomed to LOWS in the high 30’s and sunshine-y weekends. Given that the last 2 winter seasons have panned out this way, between the arctic blast of wind chills in the negative double digits and blizzard-like white out conditions, this week has quite literally taken my breathe away. I get ready with my space heater in the morning, sleep with my heating pad at night and witnessed Max turn up the heat in our apartment for, possibly, the first time ever! Looking cute this week has not been a priority, it’s been making sure you walk outside and limbs don’t completely fall off!

Also, I didn’t’ make the best life decision this week… I decided it was ok to drive the 45 minutes to Kalamazoo for a hair appointment with my favorite colorist, Dodi. While the drive there (in the daylight) was fine, the drive home (not in the daylight) was a nightmare! I NEVER want to experience that prolonged terror again! P.S. When temperatures are that low, the de-icing salt on the road does not work… lovely! 

Even though, the conditions this week have been less than ideal, I must say I’m a little giddy that we finally have snow to play in (NOT DRIVE IN!!). This weekend we were supposed to head to Bay City for ice fishing (the boys; the girls would go shopping), but the lake conditions aren’t exactly cooperating. So instead we’re spending a relaxing weekend at home, going back and forth between sledding (Max can’t wait to pull me behind a 4-wheeler… crossing my fingers I walk away with no broken bones!) and bundling up by the fireplace, or holed up in our local watering hole watching the Winter X-Games, a sporting event I look forward to every year. Hopefully all of this will be able to fit into our Winter Wonderland weekend (with spiked hot chocolate? mmmmmm).

Friday Forte: Takeit Easy – Surfer Blood (this song totally makes me wish it was summer time or I was back in Mexico!)

Here are some things that made me happy this week:

{crisp new blazer that I’m already envisioning with three or more outfits}

{loving my office even more with a different chair – Max and I did a swap-a-roo and even though it doesn’t exactly match the light colored theme, it’s covered nicely with my favorite blanket from my soon to be brother and sister-in-law}

{fun bowl to keep my engagement ring in when I’m not wearing it (which is not often)}

{“trash can” soup that I’ve been eating every night out of my mustache mug; literally everything is thrown in this! Delicious!! – add a dollop of mashed potatoes… why not?!}

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Circuit Training – Session 1

Every lunch hour (or whenever we can squeeze it in) a group of co-workers and I get our sweat on in the basement of our awesome new headquarters, which we lovingly refer to as “The Dungeon”. It started out as P90X and Insanity workouts only, strengthening different muscle groups every day. I loved these different workouts so much that I made a copy of each DVD so I could do them at home (and get Max and me into wedding shape!).

Tuesdays and Thursdays are cardio days in the Dungeon. I HATE cardio (and that’s no secret as mentioned here), so during these workouts, I want to collapse. Since the founder of our little group is currently training for a triathlon, the past few weeks we’ve been transforming pure cardio workouts into circuit training or “cross-fit”, which alternates strength training and endurance. This I LOVE and hate (but love to hate?). I haven’t done workouts like this since my gymnastics training days and forgot how fun they can be (with the right playlist and attitude).  

 Below are details on my favorite circuit to date:

1) Standing Press (10)

2) Overhead weight air squat (10)

3) Mason Twist (40)

4) Incline Push-ups (10)

5) Stairs (2 flights)

6) Level 2 Drills (8 pushups, 8 mountain climbers, jump, REPEAT)

7) Jump Rope (50 rotations)

8) Hydrate (not a lot)

** Repeat whole cycle as many times as you can for 30 minutes **

Note: For all moves requiring weights, I have yet to go above 5lb dumbbells because I want to get LEAN, not bulky and after enough cycles 5lbs is PLENTY (and anything heavier makes my elbows pop)!

Brought to you by: 
Threshold Multi-Sport (support my bud Frank and LIKE on Facebook) 

Monday, January 21, 2013

I love Mondays!

Okay, not usually. 
Seriously, unless you're on vacation, how many Mondays do you wake up early and excited to start the day...ready to take on the next 5 days until the weekend returns?

Well, today I was lucky enough to LOVE that it was Monday because my husband and I had the day off of work for MLK's birthday. 

In the spirit of Meg's "Friday Five", I'd like to share the highlights of my marvelous Monday...

Started the day with an early morning snuggle with my girl. 

Finished an organizing project I've been putting off.

Looked outside at the sunny, 60 degree air and laced up for a 7 mile run.

The halfway mark was a loop around Audubon Park. 
As you can see, I wasn't the only one enjoying the day. 

Feeling refreshed from my run, I got caught up on a LOT of work while listening to the 90's Alternative Rock station on Pandora. 

During that time, I reconnected with an old friend. 

Watched our President begin his second term in office. 

Hoping to finish my book this evening... I can start my next one

This week I'll be looking for recipes to make a 
cake for my (almost) 4 year-old little boy! Birthday is this Friday! 
I'll also have to find some sort of outfit that doesn't freak him out. 

Have a great week! 

Heavenly Mashed Potatoes

I’ve always loved mashes potatoes. Since I was a kid they were my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Plain & simple. I love(d?) them as is.  Enter Max. He’s taught me that mashed potatoes can be so much more than a creamy, buttery side dish (which is still AMAZING, don’t get me wrong). Mashed potatoes are becoming a staple around the Stites-Maxey home. Ever since I was introduced to horseradish, a titch of ranch and green onions added to somewhat lumpy (my preference) mashed potatoes, I’ve been in heaven. These things are so chock-full of flavor and so deliciously satisfying, it’s no wonder they haven’t replaced my addiction to chips. I must say, these bad boys don’t last very long when there’s a full container in the fridge.

You can follow this recipe here for instructions, but for the heavenly kick we love add 1/3 - 1/2 cup your choice of ranch dressing, sauteed onions (or green onions, we only had regular on hand) and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder. 

P.S. Some of the pictures include a slight topping of leftover chili that we had. I must say that was an interesting and DELICIOUS addition to an already hearty meal. 


Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's in Courtney's BACKPACK?

Growing up in southwest Michigan, it was called a backpack
Here in New Orleans, kids call it a booksack
When I taught in Chicago, they said, bookbag

No matter the term, it's my bag of choice Monday through Friday (and when I travel). I've tried carrying cool big purses, but no matter what, I always end up going back to my backpack, because for the amount of things I take with me to and from work, in addition to the type of quick (sometimes lengthy) movement required of me, this is just the most practical choice for me. 

So, to follow my sister's lead, here's a peek into the sacred, private world of my bag...

The piece I use the most.  My MacBook Air is more critical in my life than my phone--no joke. I got this adorable little brown & turquoise case from the Apple store last summer...keeps the other items in my backpack from scratching my prized possession. 

The Uncalendar is a thing of genius. I'm obsessed with this thing and, for people who need to write things down, despite the electronic shortcuts available to us, these planners are perfection.  
They come in red, black or navy. 

Not designed specifically for one profession, these planners come blank so you can use it any way that works for you.  

Plastic paper divider for lesson plans, student rosters, data reports and notes.  I also do have business cards, which I've found to be excessive. The charter school network I work for felt they were necessary. I rarely use them.
Teaching--well, any work with hundreds of dirty, hyper children--makes it hard to stay clean and fresh feeling all day.  Then, consider the days when you've got to look presentable for parent conferences, leadership meetings or school board presentations...basic personal hygiene products and makeup basics are a must. 

Meggie gave me this purse for my birthday a few years back. 
Love. It. 

This "wallet" is actually a business card holder that belonged to my dad. 
It's very small, very simple and is not even close to being a real wallet, but it is extremely special to me. I've used this for about 7 years now. 

Beauty basics in my purse: contact solution, comb, Chapstick & lip gloss, blonde bobby pins, and blush. 

Yup. All of that fits in here. I adore this bag, but the side pockets aren't quite big enough for my current coffee thermos...espcially not the new one I've got my eyes on.