Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


Here we are headed into a New Year. 2010. Wow! I remember watching the movie 2010: A Space Odyssey as a child and thinking 2010 was so far off.



A new project in 2010...each piece will be wrapped in pretty papers...




2009 has been a wonderful year. Yes, I had some health setbacks to throw me for a loop, but I honestly believe that it's been one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received. Not the part with shortness of breath and the chest pains I was having--those weren't the best gifts--but the part when it clicked in my head and heart that I have to live my life only one way. I cannot do things just to make others happy. I cannot do things that do not fill my heart with joy.




Part of the realization came to fruition when I majorly scaled back my business in September. It was such a painful, heartwrenching decision. I couldn't "break up" without coming back for just a little more--by opening up again for a week before Christmas. It was a good plan and people were happy. People other than moi. So, this New Year, I am leaving behind the idea of opening up seasonally.

Life is way too short to do things you no longer enjoy doing. When what you once loved feels like a chore, something you have to do...well, then it is time to cut the cord and have a clean break. I am not happy making creams anymore in quantities that involve gallons at a time. If I want to close for good, I have to close for good without regrets and on my own terms.

I took baby steps and I am now ready for that big jump off the cliff.


I've been working with these beads I've loved the looks of for so long to make some rings on antique brass and hair pins, too.


It's not all bad news or negativity right now if I am emitting that vibe somehow...please don't think that. I feel so free. What kind of, sort of worked for me by opening for that week in early December was the litmus test for me. I refuse to carry that baggage of a nagging feeling with me into this New Year. If you're a customer with a cream subscription, it will be honored until your term is up--no worries there. I am just choosing not to offer anything at all anymore online and if you know me, you will understand this decision.

I want to talk more about that creativity thing I enjoy so much...you know I am always painting something, reclaiming, redecorating, thrifting, looking for the potential beauty in otherwise not so great items, making cards and collages, etc.

Recently, I have even been making some jewelry--working with antique brass and experimenting with earrings, pendants, and brooches using cabochon flowers, old cameos, pieces from broken estate sale finds, etc. These are also eco-friendly because I'm turning what could be considered garbage into wearable lovelies!

I've been working on some collages and greeting cards, too. All fun. All different. All allowing me to express my creativity and be me. If you don't remember, I used to have a shop on Etsy offering greeting cards about 3 years back. If I can get busy, I can put it away and get back to it--you definitely cannot do that when you are watching a cream develop on the stove. Once you start, you're committed to the long process.

I gave myself a wonderful Christmas present--a rubber stamp set of 12 Parisian-themed stamps. I've been working with these and doing some altered art.

Since scaling back in September, I have again reclaimed much needed me time and have loved being able to create for fun.

I have an exciting project coming in 2010, most likely in early February. It's called Loubird Handmade. I plan to set up this fabulously chic little boutique filled with jewelry and notecards. Everything I have been making is very vintage-shabby chic-flapper girl all in one. It represents what I love and who I am. Best of all, I will only list what I have made and on my own terms so the burden will not be there.

So why the name? One of my Dad's closest friends called him "Lou Bird." A robin will be in my promotional materials and banner. Why a robin? A robin is said to symbolize growth, creative rebirth, clarity, hope and joy. I find this very fitting.



I've been using these lucite flowers for post earrings, rings, and pendants.


Getting back to a New Year, I do not make New Year's Resolutions. I really think it's important to live each day of my life with love, peace, positivity, integrity, joy, inner harmony and free of regrets. Not just in early January--but every single day. I've made decisions in 2009 that have helped me accomplish my mission, such as devoting more time to my writing through freelance work, this blog, and my pieces for Yankees Mix. The best decisions I have made in 2009 have come from my heart. I have woken up and have chosen to take care of my health and spend much more quality time with my family rather than focusing on a business I no longer enjoyed.

It is amazing how much happier and balanced I have become since listening to that inner voice.


Happy New Year to you, my friends!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best in Budget Beauty Awards: 2009

2009 is drawing to a close and it's time for my annual beauty awards! Everything here is budget friendly, well under $20 (under $10 in most cases) and really is great!

I begin with the best overall product of 2009 and it may surprise you:






BEST OVERALL PRODUCT OF 2009: Vinegar--I use vinegar all the time. Twice a week, I use apple cider vinegar diluted with water to remove styling buildup and add bounce and sheen to my hair. It doesn't have to be organic, although it really is better. You can get away with what you find at the grocery store.

Dryer sheets? Not here. I add distilled white vinegar to my rinse cycle and it softens my clothes, sheets, and towels while removing static.

I also use diluted white vinegar to clean the house--from countertops to bathroom tile to mirrors and windows...Apple cider vinegar, when it's diluted works well on wood floors, especially with a bit of essential oil added (I add orange and lavender, usually).

It can be used as a skin toner for oily skin--when diluted, of course.

Vinegar, when infused with herbs and properly diluted, can be made into a wonderful 100% natural aftershave for men.




BEST FACIAL CLEANSER: Aunt Nancy's Rose Clay Facial Bar is what I use. Since I stopped making cleansers, I have told all my customers about this as well. It is fantastic. I use it morning and night. It's so, so gentle and really just an exceptional product!





BEST EYE PRODUCT: An old favorite...Burt's Bees Royal Jelly Eye Creme is a balm, actually, and I used it for years before I created my line of skin care. It is really a lovely product.





BEST FACIAL MOISTURIZER: Nature's Gate Have a Vine Day Chardonnay Hydrator--I am very critical when I evaluate facial products. This one is a nice product. It's by Nature's Gate and can be found right in most Wegman's stores. It's available over the internet as well for $15-20. This one is chock full of natural oils and antioxidants, too.



BEST DRUGSTORE FACIAL SERUM: DermaE DMAE Alpha Lipoic C-Ester Serum is a really nice choice.





BEST SHAMPOO: Burt's Bees Color Keeper Green Tea & Fennel Seed Shampoo. By far the best out there, this smells fabulous, works like a dream, and is gentle. I recently bought this again and have to say that after comparing it to my other favorites, this one is my clear favorite. At $8 for a 12 ounce bottle, it's also the most economical of my favorites.

RUNNER UP: Get Lathered (formerly In a Lather) Solid Shampoo Bars. The Burt's is more wholesome and contains fewer chemicals, but this is the best handmade one on the market.




BEST OVERALL CONDITIONER: Burt's Bees More Moisture Raspberry Brazil Nut Conditioner--Again, this works like a charm. I actually like all of their conditioners, but love how this makes my hair feel after swimming. It smells comforting and warm--like a bakery treat. Again, at $8 for a large 12 ounce bottle, you cannot beat the price.

RUNNER UP: Get Lathered Conditioner That Rolls is a great solid conditioner and pairs well with the Get Lathered Shampoo That Rocks.





BEST OVERALL SUNSCREEN: Jason Natural SPF 15 Hand & Body Lotion: Sunscreen is one of the trickiest areas to find a truly natural AND effective AND non-greasy product. I have honestly not tried one I loved. Not yet...

I typically mix zinc oxide or a cocktail of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in my own facial cream. I have tried several "natural" sunscreens, though. The one I probably like best is marketed for hands and body (so it's a large bottle, unlike ones marketed as a facial SPF). I used this on my face successfully and without greasiness. I keep buying and trying, hoping to find a perfect one...






BEST CHILDREN'S SUNSCREEN: Jason Natural Sunbrellas Kids Waterproof Sunblock SPF 46--Again, it is not perfect. This is the best I have used on my boys, though. It's thick and smells nice...it worked like a charm all summer long.




BEST BAR OF SOAP: I have yet to find a decent drugstore or other commericial soap without palm oil. Even my favorite Burt's Bees is so disappointing with their palm oil usage... Never fear! The best soap on earth is still by my friend Nan Goodwin of Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps! No others are are good, and that's a promise!

RUNNER UP: Alchemic Muse is completely palm oil free and her soaps are gorgeous works of art.




BEST BODY WASH: Queen Helene Certified Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Butter Body Wash--A true bargain, too. I get this for $5.92 for a 16 ounce bottle at Lucky Vitamin! Nourishes, lathers nicely, and smells soft and comforting. No SLS or harsh chemicals. A real find!

RUNNER UP: Dr. Bronner's Shikakai Baby Soap was very close behind. Use it in your hair, on your face, as a handsoap, liquid body wash, etc...wonderful!



BEST BODY CREAM OR BODY BUTTER: Queen Helene Cocoa Butter Creme--Again, under $6 for this gem. It's a thick, emollient cream which is perfect for elbows, knees and feet. I use this when I want something other than straight coconut oil or shea butter. Smells fabulous! Nothing else I have tried in 2009 compares, so there isn't a runner up.




BEST BODY LOTION: JR Watkins Vanilla Hand & Body Lotion is divine and smells true. This is a neutral, realistic vanilla bean scent. This is a stellar alternative to the popular Avon Naturals (which is anything but) Body Lotion, which is known for its wonderful vanilla aroma. Best place to buy? Try it for $6.50 for 11 ounces from Enviroproducts World.

This one comes in several scents, all of which are wonderful and true! Try others such as lemon cream, lavender, green tea, and more.







BEST CONCEALER: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Fast Fix Concealer easily wins this competition. I first tried it a few weeks back and can tell you it works well. If you like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, but don't like the chemicals in it or the price tag, try this. It's a wonderful product--truly high end caliber at a low price.

RUNNER UP: Not nearly as good as the winner, Hard Candy Nobody's Perfect Concealer Palette is an affordably priced and quite decent product. (now at Walmart).




BEST LIQUID MAKEUP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Your Skin Makeup. It gives you a soft and sheer, yet buildable finish. It's luminous without being greasy. It lasts all day, too!

RUNNER UP: Ulta Fabulous Face SPF 15 Foundation -- I am not usually an ULTA brand fan. This one is stellar and paraben free. Try it if you cannot find the Carmindy in your shade.






BEST MINERAL POWDER FOUNDATION: Physicians Formula Organic Wear Loose Powder-- Some people buy this and think it's a finishing powder. It's actually a loose powder foundation. This is high-end caliber makeup found in the aisles of Target, Walmart, and the grocery store. This is a gem. Retails for $14, but with coupons from the Sunday paper and weekly drugstore sales, you'll find it all the time for $9 or so.

RUNNER UP: Everyday Minerals Intensive Foundation is a worthy contender with so many colors from which to choose that you cannot go wrong.





BEST FINISHING POWDER: Physicians Formula 100% Natural Pressed Powder wins this one. This is a GREAT powder. It last all day without looking chalky and the colors are natural. The one negative? The packaging on the paperboard compact is very flimsy and breaks easily, so be careful. Application tip: use a fluffy kabuki brush to apply. The brush included is not of the best quality.


RUNNER UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Truly Translucent Loose Powder is also a worthy choice.





BEST EYESHADOW: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Instant Definition Eye Shadow Palette. Run over to Ulta and pick up one of these. Silky soft with beautiful blendability, these are divine. My favorite color trio is called The Mountain, a palette of everyday neutrals.

RUNNER UP: Almay Pure Blends Eye Shadow was a very close second.

RUNNER UP: 100% Pure Lip Gloss--While not technically a drugstore find, this, until recently, was really the ONLY affordable and natural lip product worth writing about. Too many "natural" lip products contain a host of polymers and carmine as a colorant. This is a good pick. $13






BEST MASCARA: Physicians Formula Organic Wear. This replaced Tarte Lash Hugger as my all-time favorite mascara last year. Paraben free AND effective! Who could ask for more?

This used to be very hard to find, but I see it on nearly every visit to Ulta and most Target store these days.

RUNNER UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Lift & Define Mascara




BEST BLUSH: Sheerest Cream Blush by Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy.
I have this in both Beaming and Bloom and they are just absolutely wonderful. Second to none.

RUNNERS UP: Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy Powder Blush and Almay Pure Blends Blush.

Here are my picks for the very best in beauty and skin care products for 2009. While some stellar products are only available online, the rest can be found right in your local Target, Walmart, or grocery stores.








Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Etsy Love: Rochester Artisans

I adore the Artsy Chicas. This necklace is one of many beautiful items in their shop.
So lovely!
$38


These little clips would be great for people trying to grow out their bangs, Simple and elegant.



Paper & Tact offers some great ceramic coaster sets for $12.50.
These are just 1 of many lovely designs.


Ecofriendly personalized stationery set from Up Up Creative is so fresh and cheery.
$11.50


Vanilla Hazelnut soy candle from Soul Sisters sounds heavenly.
$16


Pillows by Tamilyn has created a lovely pillow called "Sisters." It's lovely.
$38


These handmade earrings from St. Joshua are just gorgeous.
$18


Not your 80s straw wreath--this is made of black feathers.


I would absolutely wear this vintage 20s cloche from Wildrose Primitives.
$55


Rochester's Jewelry by Jackie offers this lovely necklace.
$31


These onion briolettes from Estancia Designs are just lovely!
$32


Monday, December 28, 2009

C'est Tres Magnifique!


I ordered the items above this afternoon.


I am beyond excited right now because I was catching up on emails and received a notice that one of my most favorite Etsy stores has reopened!

Several months ago, The $5 French Market took an extended break and the shop was sorely missed by so many customers. They're open once again!

I first told you about this lovely shop last January after hearing about the store from my feisty friend in Texas, Trina. I ordered from the kind ladies behind the shop a handful of times and loved everything.

I went back to the shop today and placed another small order for hand towels and a journal. If you're looking for a reasonable priced birthday gift or treat for yourself, I recommend this shop.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings


When you have small children, Christmas is an especially magical time. The excitement in their eyes is just the best present on earth. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. While this time of year is difficult because I miss my dad so much, especially today, the joy I experience each day in my life with my husband and children is a true blessing.




Tom, my husband, is a last minute shopper. He took the boys out shopping the morning of Christmas Eve. They drove him batty--they kept touching fragile ornaments in Hallmark, then they were touching each other at Target. He ended up bringing them home while I was cleaning the house and went back out himself.





They were so wild--off the walls with anticipation. While this drove even this cool and collected mom a bit nuts, we still had a blast tracking Santa, watching A Christmas Story, baking sugar cookies for Santa, and taking a drive to look at the Christmas lights around our town.




It took a while to get Nick and Ben nestled all snug in their beds, but they are sleeping soundly. I am headed to bed with my iPod in my ears to help me fall asleep. The sooner I fall asleep, the sooner morning will come and I can see the excitement on their faces.



Merry Christmas to everyone. Have a wonderful day today and enjoy spending time with those you love.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Cheer


I wanted to share two favorite sites with you for this Christmas Eve.

First of all, you probably are already aware if you have little ones, but NORAD offers a Santa tracker. We've been tracking Santa Claus since he was in Australia. Last we checked, Santa was in Oman.

Another favorite site is Portable North Pole TV. The site has been iffy the past couple days, though, due to "extraordinarily high traffic." If you can get on, I promise you it is well worth it. It takes two minutes to answer questions and input info. Make sure you do not do this when your little ones are around. In a few clicks, Santa will email a personalized video to your children. This is magical for the kids. Santa told Ben he knows he is 4 and would like more trains and that he's well aware Nick is 6 with brown eyes and would like Transformers and books. His "naughty and nice" book also shows pictures of your child for Santa to look at. It's wonderful!



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas from Chic & Green!




It's been super busy at our house the past several days. I've been baking up a storm, making snack mixes, bark and fudge galore, and wrapping gifts. I'm almost ready to head out the door from Benjamin's preschool party this afternoon. Nick is having a party at school today, too. Today's the last day and then my wild ones will be home until after the New Year. I am looking forward to it. I apologize for not being here at Chic & Green with as much gusto these past few days, but my kiddos come first.

I'll be doing a couple of random posts here and there, but until 12/29 when my husband goes back to work, I will only be on sporadically. Look for my annual beauty awards, though! The 2009 Best in Budget Beauty Award winners will be announced in the next few days!

Merry Christmas to you, readers.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings

This is how it looks when you mix it all together.


The dumplings still have 2 hours to go. They will look (and feel) soggy at this point, but they will be done by dinner!


So I shared with you my marshmallow disaster from earlier. I'll also share my super easy, stress free dinner for tonight.


I use my crock pot so much in the winter for various dinners and desserts--at least once or twice a week. I love to be able to put ingredients in the pot and stir a couple time during the day. Or not. I can just leave it and know that in a few hours, there will be something delicious and warm on a cold night. I made vegetable beef soup last night in the slow cooker. It is such a crazy and busy week, that I don't want to think about meals since I'll be so busy from Thursday on in the kitchen.

Tonight we're having my version of Chicken & Dumplings. It's actually a bit of chicken pot pie meets chicken and biscuits meets chicken and dumplings. It is easy. Your kids will eat it right down and it is absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 cans Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 stalks diced celery
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 t. thyme
1/2 t. rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 package Pillsbury Grands Low Fat Buttermilk refrigerated biscuits
Fresh parsley to garnish on top

Put everything except for the biscuits into the crock pot and stir. Put the lid on. Cook for 3 1/2 hours on high. Break apart the biscuits into small pieces and add to crock pot, gently stirring. Cook for 2 1/2 more hours.

After a total of 6 hours, you're ready for dinner! Simply garnish with chopped, fresh parsley.

I always serve ours with a green salad. There are veggies and the biscuits/dumplings already for a bread, so it really is a one dish meal. If you eat fruit with your meals like we do, just serve with assorted fruits. Tonight is berry night for us, so there'll be a bowl with strawberries and blackberries in it.

Pretty in the Kitchen: Stand Mixers

Today I was making homemade vanilla marshmallows. Readers, they are so good. I make them every year at Christmastime. They are sticky and messy to make, but fluffy and delicious in the end. I dissolved my gelatin in water and let it stand. I was diligent about the candy thermometer getting to 244 degrees. I was 10 minutes into the 15 minutes required to mix on high and my stand mixer decided to die.

First of all, it started to smoke a bit. Then a spark. Then a weird "Bzzz" noise. Then kaput. Nothing more. I tried to fix it without success. It bit the dust and I was left with an incredibly sticky mess to pick up without the perk of knowing that I'd have delicious marshmallows tomorrow morning. They didn't expand enough to turn into the fluffy pillows I make each year.

Here I am looking online at stand mixers. I have quickly narrowed it down to two favorites. Good stand mixers are expensive. I rarely used a mixer when we first got married, so I never registered for one. I ended up buying a $60 Hamilton Beach one a couple years ago...and I only got a couple years out of it. If I buy a KitchenAid, it'll last years and years. That is important to me. Do you like these?



I confess...this one is my most favorite! I love everything about it. It's the KitchenAid from the Martha Stewart Blue Collection and it would be perfect in my kitchen.


If I buy this KitchenAid mixer, $50 will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.