Winter Skin Refresh

Dry, cold Winter weather is harsh on skin.   This Winter, it seemed that I need to  slather on lotion every 30 minutes!  But, my skin still felt dry and almost like sandpaper at all times.  Attempting to get away from some of the chemicals and other irritants in store-bought cleansers, lotions and other beauty products, I tried out a few skin care remedies using a more natural approach.  After using these moisturizers for a few weeks, I’m ready to share the results.  

Most of these all-natural beauty remedies are under $10 and can be purchased from your local health food store or vitamin supplement store.  As always, try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.  

For the Face: RoseWater
Rosewater is a naturally occurring byproduct of distillation of essential oil of rose petals.  Packed full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and antioxidants, rosewater hydrates and rejuvenates the complexion.  Rosewater has many beneficial properties when applied to the skin, including:

  • maintains the pH balance of skin (controls both oily and dry skin and soothes many types of dermatitis)
  • prevents wrinkles and tightens pores
  • mild antiseptic properties (good for acne)
  • calms reddened or inflamed skin
  • helps to heal or prevent scars
  • stimulates circulation in the blood vessels beneath the skin (reduces the appearance of broken capillaries)

Regular use of rosewater has been shown to reduce and prevent dermatitis and eczema and soothe the skin when those irritations do occur.  Rosewater can also be used for aromatherapy.

Rosewater
For my face, I have been using Heritage Rosewater & Glycerin Spray as my moisturizer.  I absolutely LOVE it!  The added vegetable glycerin acts as a mild astringent, while the rosewater hydrates and tightens pores.   I have combination skin and was really suffering from dry skin in some areas.  After just a couple of days, I was noticing a major improvement in the appearance of my skin!  I have heard great things about Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Toner for a cleanser, as well.   I like that this toner was alcohol-free, to avoid further irritation to the skin.

For the Body: Coconut Oil & Vitamin E 
Jillian has already talked about some of the benefits of using coconut oil.  Vitamin E oil can also work wonders for your skin and is included in many skin care products.  Packed full of moisture and antioxidants, the benefits of Vitamin E oil include:

  • maintains the elasticity of skin (anti-aging)
  • promoting new skin cell growth and healing scars
  • moisturizes and soothes dry skin
  • prevents and repairs free radical damage (sun spots)

For the rest of my body, I made a batch of whipped coconut oil and vitamin E lotion.  It was as simple as tossing the two ingredients in the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, turn it on and watch the oil churn into a whipped body butter.  

To make the whipped coconut oil and vitamin E lotion, you will need the following:  

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Yep, just coconut oil and vitamin E oil!  Make sure your coconut oil is organic, unrefined and for medium heat.  The unrefined coconut oil will whip up nicely and stay in a lotion consistency much better than the refined coconut oil.   Because Vitamin E oil is heavy and can difficult for the skin to absorb, it should be used in small amounts.  I used one teaspoon of vitamin E oil per cup of coconut oil.  Add the ingredients to the bowl of the mixer, turn it on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes or until you reach the desired consistency.  Be sure to store the whipped lotion in an clean, airtight container.  I used a lidded canning jar, which can be purchased at any grocery store, Walmart, Target or even Michaels craft store.

Coconut Vitamin E Lotion

A word of caution – this lotion takes longer to absorb than your typical drug store lotions.  Much like a shea body butter, it is thick and takes some time to soak in.  So, don’t slather this on right before you need to get dressed.  I have been loving the whipped coconut and vitamin E lotion!  It works wonders for hydrating the skin and the faint scent of coconut is delightful.

For the Lips: Exfoliation & Natural/Organic Lip Balm
Your lips are just as susceptible to the Winter elements.  To refresh chapped lips, start by exfoliating to remove dead skin.  You can make a simple at-home exfoliant by mixing together equal amounts of brown sugar, honey and olive oil.  Gently rub the brown sugar scrub on your lips and rinse with warm water.  To rehydrate your lips and keep the skin looking fresh, choose a lip balm that contains natural ingredients such as shea butter,  beeswax and vitamin E.  With all its skin rejuvenation and hydration benefits, it is no wonder that most lip balms contain a dose of Vitamin E oil.   Also make sure that your lip balm does not contain alcohol, dyes or fragrances, as these will dry out the skin.  A couple of my favorite lip balms are Burt’s Bees and Desert Essence Lip Rescue.  Although I have not tried them yet, I have been hearing great things about these cute Eos lip balms, which are 100% natural and 95% organic.

lip balms

Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist and am not qualified to give advice on skin issues.  I am simply sharing what has worked well for me.  If you have any skin issues or a form of dermatitis, make sure you consult a dermatologist before changing your skin care regimen.  It is always wise to test a small, inconspicuous area of skin for a reaction, before slathering these skin care remedies all over your body.

– Brittany

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Black Eyed Pea Dip

Oh you are going to LOVE this one…prepare to resist the urge to run immediately to the grocery store to grab all the fixins’ and throw this super duper easy recipe together to enjoy!!  I actually stumbled on this one while on a hunt for a fun and easy dip for a small New year’s party.  Rumor has it that black eyed peas are good luck to eat on New Year’s so when i found this guy I knew i had a winner.  Well a double batch, 8 adults and 5 kids later and the bowl was EMPTY!  It is so delicious, a healthy snack and clearly a BIG hit with the masses!

blackeyed pea dip copy(Recipe & Image from the oh so lovely Gina at Skinny Taste!)

Black Eyed Pea Dip

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz canned black eye peas (I like to double the amount and use 2 cans)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch crushed red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked corn (eye ball this one…and feel free to dump in more if you like!)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (same goes for these…i LOVE em so i add more!)
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion (I go light on these to protect one’s breath at parties)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded & diced (optional – go light on this or replace with green chilies if you aren’t a fan of the heat)
  • 1 medium avocado, diced

Directions

  • Rinse and drain the black eyed peas.
  • In a large bowl combine garlic, lime juice, oil, cumin, crushed pepper, and salt; Mix well.
  • Add black eyed peas, corn, tomato, red onion, jalapeños and cilantro; Mix well.
  • Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  • Add the avocado when ready to serve.

My favorite way to eat this is served with Sweet potato chips (try Garden of Eden brand) but its also great served with rice or quinoa as a main course!!  

Yumm-O
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: relax

I don’t know about you but sometimes Monday’s require a little extra amount of inspiration!!  We had a fabulous weekend of sunny weather and catching up on life’s to-do list.  Those kinds of weekends are so nice to sprinkle into the hectic days we’ve been experiencing lately…It does make it hard to kick yourself back into gear though!!  Slowing down for a split second reminds us to relax…breathe and let life show us what is up ahead.

“You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner.
So relax, breathe and be patient”

breathe

Have a happy happy monday and remember to breathe!
~ Jillian

Thrifty Finds: Curvy End Table

I’m excited to share the latest of my Thrifty Finds!  There has not been much time to get out and hunt for bargains, between the end of year holiday season and then back-to-back weeks of atypical wintry weather in Atlanta.   But, I finally had the opportunity to go to a local antique market.

Atlanta locals, have you been to the Lakewood 400 Antique Market?  In my opinion, it is a smaller and much closer (for those on the northside) version of Scott’s Antique Market.  The venue has both outdoor and indoor areas, with vendors ranging from antique dealers to those offloading garage sale wares.  It is open only one weekend per month, so you’ll need to check the online calendar before heading over.  I have been to Lakewood 400 a couple of times in the past, but scored a major find on my last visit…
CurvyEndTable

I spotted this gorgeous curvy table and nearly knocked my mother down to get to it!  I adore the ornate base and little caster wheels!  When the seller asked $50, I knew it had to come home with me.  After a thorough cleaning, I decided to use it as a bedside table.  Although I have not altered it yet, I would like to do something with the tabletop.  The painted finish is chipped in a few places.

What do you think I should do?  Sand it down and try to stain the tabletop, or paint it another color?

– Brittany

Turkey Spanikopita Burgers

My husband and I love Greek and Mediterranean food, making this recipe one of our favorites for a quick weeknight meal.  These burgers are outstanding, with many layers of flavor and a unique spin on an American classic.
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The original recipe, by Rachel Ray, was passed along by a good friend who also loves to cook.  I have made a few adaptations to the recipe, including combining steps, eliminating some ingredients and adding others, replacing the roasted pepper and olive tapenade with a quick homemade tzatziki sauce and replacing the side of fries with a healthier salad.  The burger patties can be assembled up to a day ahead of time, to save yourself a few minutes in the evening.  Just be sure to keep the raw burger patties refrigerated in a sealed container until ready to cook.

Turkey Spanikopita Burgers
Prep Time: 20 min., Cook Time: 12-15 min.
Yields: 6 burgers

Ingredients:
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 red onion, diced
– 1 box frozen spinach (10 ounces), defrosted and drained
– 2 teaspoons dried oregano
– 4 oz. feta crumbles
– 1 lb ground turkey
– 1 tablespoon steak grill seasoning
– Salt and pepper, to taste
– 6 hamburger buns or split sandwich rolls

Tzatziki sauce:
– 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
– 1/2 lemon, juiced
– 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon dried dill
– Salt, to taste

Optional Toppings:
– English (seedless) cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
– Tomatoes, thinly sliced
– Leaf lettuce or arugula
– Red onion, sliced

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the pan. Add the minced garlic and diced red onion and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Stir often, to avoid burning the garlic.  Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl to cool.

Wring the defrosted spinach dry in a paper towel or in a fine mesh sieve.  Place the spinach into a food processor, then add the cooled onions and garlic and two teaspoons of oregano. Pulse the mixture a few times, to break up the spinach.  Add in feta crumbles and pulse a few more times to incorporate the feta.  Transfer the spinach-onion-feta mixture into a large bowl with the ground turkey, grill seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil.  Mix and form into six uniform patties. Return the skillet to the stove on medium-high heat. Add burger patties and cook six minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

While the burgers are cooking, make the Tzatziki sauce.  In a small bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic and dried dill.  You can also add diced cucumber to the sauce, but I prefer to leave it out for the burgers.  Season with salt and additional dried dill, if necessary.

Toast hamburger buns/rolls, if you prefer.

Place cooked burgers on roll bottoms. Top the burgers with a dollop of the tzatzitki sauce, sliced cucumber, tomato, and red onions, arugula and any other desired toppings. Serve with a side salad.

Bon Appetit!

– Brittany

Monday Mantra: Cards

Monday Monday Monday!  They just keep coming around and after the crazy couple of weeks we’ve had here in Georgia, it’s almost hard to imagine a full week of work ahead of us!!  Thankfully the universe smiled on us this weekend and brought us some warmer temperatures and lots and lots of SUNSHINE!  We had a great weekend spending time together, time with sweet friends and time working on long overdue projects around the house!!  (Let’s just say our ridiculously ignored mess of a garage got a little extra attention now that its warm enough to spend more then 2 minutes out there without your fingers freezing off)  It’s so nice to have slightly less crazy weekends every now and then to give us the chance to get stuff done, but also to allow us time to reflect on how things are going in our lives (and in the lives of our loved ones).  We are so blessed and thankful for the opportunities that have opened up in our lives and know that although sometimes the crazy days and busy life can be stressful in the end it is so so worth it!

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

chooseLOVE
Choose Joy
~ Jillian

It’s Time for Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!!  A day that for most is about romance and spending time with your special person, has changed for me in recent years and become more of a day of reflection.  A day to look back over the past year and think about all that we have experienced; but most importantly all of the times spent with the ones we love.  This day for me is about more then just showing love to my honey, its about celebrating family.  Remembering a very special lady and huge influence in my life, my Nana.  I know in my heart that she chose to leave the world on this day to remind us that although she is no longer here on earth with us, her love and spirit live on thru each one of us.  She is a constant force in my life reminding me to stay positive, SHARE JOY and to take full advantage of the time we have with the people we love!

nana 3

So on this day as we wade thru the insane amounts of jewelry commercials, endless aisles of candy and over abundance of cheesy valentine’s day cards – remember that at the heart of it all this day is about so much more.  While it is about sharing with that someone special in your life; more importantly it is a time to fill your heart with love for those around you.  A time to pause and think about the people that have influenced your life the most and to share as much positivity with those around you as you possibly can!

It’s time for love
Time to soak up the love around you
Time to embrace those that mean the most
Time to share the love in your soul with the universe
Time to choose joy
Time to focus on the positive
Time to give
Time to open your heart
It’s time for love

love clock

SO MUCH LOVE to you and yours on this special day.  Thank you for continuing to support and share your positive spirits with us!!

Happy Day of Love!
~ Jillian

True Love.

Last week, I stumbled across the below animated story of an elderly Brooklyn couple.  Their story is a testament to what real love should look like.  Danny and Annie have expressed their unabashed sentiments for one another to the world at large, through recorded interviews.  Throughout their marriage, they constantly expressed their love for each other.  Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of every year they were married.  In their voices, you can hear the love and admiration that they hold for each other.

 

Isn’t that what all of us strive for?  A love that lasts a lifetime.  To love with your whole heart and without reservation.  To be just as smitten at the end as we are in the beginning…

Remember, you are never too old to hold hands and now is always a good time to tell that special someone just how much you love them.  Make every day a day of love.

– Brittany

Think Outside the Curtain Section

I’ve had the hardest time finding pre-made curtains for my home.  By now, it should be fairly obvious that I love a good bargain.   I’m more than willing to pay for quality, but I think it is absurd to drop hundreds of dollars on curtains.   I have been looking at several ideas for DIY curtains over the last year, including stenciled drop cloth curtains, buying fabric online and sewing curtains (which I’ve done before) and even using sheets for curtains.  While browsing Target recently, I wandered through the bedding section, looking for some fun patterned sheets for potential curtains.  I happened to spot this duvet cover on clearance for $25.

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Jackpot!  I loved the pattern and colors and the price was too good to pass up.  A perk to using a duvet is that the curtains will be lined with no additional sewing.  Luckily, the pattern of this duvet was only on one side and a light cream/beige on the other side.  I snagged the duvet and brought it home to turn into curtains.

Using a duvet eliminated the stressful parts of making my own curtain panels – multiple fabric measurements and cuts, seam allowances, pinning, cursing frustration, etc. A duvet is like a giant pillowcase, with buttons along one side.  Most of the sewing has already been done for you!  Turning the duvet into a pair of curtains took just a few simple steps and required very little sewing.  

Step 1: Iron all of the wrinkles out of your duvet cover.  I laid the cover on the floor and ran the iron directly over it.

Step 2: Measure the width of the duvet and find the center point.  Do NOT trust the measurements on the duvet packaging!  These things are mass-produced and the measurements are typically off by at least an inch and as much as 3-4 inches.  Once you find the center point of the duvet, draw a straight line with a washable fabric pencil or lightly mark with a ball point pen.

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{Ignore the fact that my fabric is NOT ironed in this picture.  I was a little too excited and forgot to take one after I finished ironing.}

Step 3: Using scissors or a rotary cutter {over a mat}, cut the duvet cover in half along the line.  At this point, you will have two pieces of fabric that are sewn on all but the one side that you just cut.

Step 4: Turn the two halves inside out and smooth, aligning the two edges of the opening.  Sew along the cut edge of each half.

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NOTE: One of the halves will have the duvet button-closure opening.  For this half, simply sew a straight line along the entire length of the cut edge.  Once sewn, open the buttons to turn the fabric right side out.  For the other half of the duvet, you will sew about 3/4 of the length of the cut edge and stop.  By leaving an opening, you will be able to turn the fabric right side out.  Once turned right side out, close the hole by hand sewing a slip stitch.  Or, you could skip the sewing altogether and use heat bonding tape (Stitch Witchery or Heat N Bond) to close the openings on both panels.  I used the heat bonding tape, since this method is faster and my iron was already out.

Step 5:  Smooth fabric and iron again, if necessary.

Voila!  A pair of curtain panels in less than 30 minutes!

FinishedCurtains

Simple, right?!  Do you think you will try this easy curtain tutorial?  Have you made curtains for your home?

– Brittany

Recent Reads – January

One of my goals for 2014 is to read more frequently and outside of my typical choice of fiction novels.  So far, all the books have been fiction {go figure}, but I’m definitely reading more and loving it.  A quick recap of the books I read in January:  RecentReads1

Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson
Snow Falling on Cedars is centered around the 1954 San Piedro Island trial of a Japanese man, Kabuo, alleged to have murdered a fellow fisherman.  Although the death of the fisherman first appeared to be an accident, suspicions arise given circumstantial evidence and the bad history between the two men’s families.  A cultural divide still exists between the white and Japanese residents, after a temporary exile of the Japanese following the Pearl Harbor incident a few years prior.  As the trial proceeds, many twists and turns are presented along with a bombshell piece of evidence.  It took quite a while for me to become interested in this book.  It was well-written and descriptive, the plot unfolding from the perspective of the cast of characters through flashbacks.  However, I found the pace to be rather slow.  The author spent an extensive amount of time on character development and back stories that were not pertinent to the story.  Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable read, offering a good lesson on the importance of loyalty and forgiving others.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl had been on my to-read list for almost a year.  After several of recommendations, I finally purchased the eReader version during a great post-holiday sale.  This book was crazy and lived up to the hype.  Thirty pages in and I was already hooked.  Gone Girl has all the makings of a page turner – suspense, deceit and wild plot twists.   Nick and Amy were readying themselves to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing.  As the police investigates her disappearance, all evidence points to Nick being involved.  As the investigation continues, Nick’s dirty secrets are revealed and then, a twist that changes everything.  And then another, and another.  I couldn’t put this book down.  The author kept me guessing until the very end.  

The Fault In Our Stars, John Green
The Fault In Our Stars is an easy read {young adult novel} with a heavy topic.  Stricken with terminal thyroid cancer  at the age of 12, Hazel is not your typical teenage girl.  Living on borrowed time, Hazel avoids getting close to others in an attempt to avoid hurting anyone in her death.  Until she meets Augustus at a cancer support group meeting and her life changed.  Despite their tragic fate, I loved the characters and their story.  It made me laugh, it made me cry and made me stop and think about how precious life is and how quickly it could change.  The Fault In Our Stars is full of insightful quotes, witty conversation, and a healthy dose of heartbreak and young love.  While searching for a link to the book, I learned that The Fault In Our Stars has been made into a movie that will be released this summer.  The trailer had me nearly in tears again!

What have you been reading lately?  Any good recommendations?

– Brittany