Lay aside every weight (and the dairy too): My journey with meat and dairy free products…..

Growing up in Texas, anything containing beef and cheese was a-ok in my book! Nachos, burgers, chicken fried steak with cream gravy- ALL OF THAT was awesome! Yet as a kid, I would burn off those calories by simply running around on the playground. Fast forward to now- I have now realized that all of that meat and dairy aren’t the greatest for optimal health. While I haven’t totally eliminated these things from my diet, I will say that I strive to eat more-plant based foods daily. So…….here are my fave meat-free and dairy-free products:

Gardein– I have to admit, Gardein has consistently put out meat substitutes that are actually GOOD! From the beefless tips to the crabless cakes to the porkless bites (chuckles), I have managed to crank out some pretty tasty meals with their products.

Daiya– So far it is the best cheese substitute out there…..It stretches and melts beautifully. However, the taste is little “off”, but still works for me!

Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast– This stuff has become my best friend! It’s sodium free and helps with the cheesy cravings. It tastes pretty good on popcorn, too! Not to mention that it is absolutely wonderful as taco seasoning (see the pic below).

Earth Balance Buttery Spread– It’s like butter, and a step above regular margarine. I bake with it, scramble my eggs with it, and so on. My kids can’t tell the difference, so why spoil the fun?

Tofutti Vegan Sour Cream– Prior to buying this, I attempted to make vegan sour “cream” with tofu, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Of course, it was a culinary disaster, and I vowed to stick with the store-bought stuff. It makes my life easier.

This is just a tip of the vegan foodie iceberg……More to come!

‘Til next time!

Jamberry vs. Incoco: The nail battle is REAL (UPDATED!!)

(PREFACE: Yes, it has been a while since I posted anything. Instead of explaining my absence, I decided to just talk about anything, just to break the ice! Enjoy!)

Since I have increased my workouts and have now included using weights to battle that #fatdemon (thanks for that term Chrystal Evans Hurst), I have been concerned with the looks of my hair and……nails. Yes, NAILS. Working out is awesome for the body, but can wreak havoc on my ‘do and fingernails. Lately, I have been wanting my hands to look nice and well, feminine while lifting weights. So, I have been searching for something with easy application and requires virtually little to no drying time. Since I have small kiddos, no babysitter and on a tight budget I looked into the idea of trying Jamberry. For those who don’t recognize the brand, Jamberry is a direct sales company offering nail wraps and lacquer free of toxic chemicals. After hearing about the positive reviews, I decided to hunt up a local rep to try out the product. I ordered the french mani nail wraps from the website, which was very easy to navigate. With tax, shipping and handling, I shelled out roughly $22. According to the site, the wraps were good for 2 applications for fingers and toes- which equates to a month of usage. Not bad economically, considering that you can expect to pay $70 (and up) at the nail salon. After a mix up at the post office, my package arrived two weeks later than expected, but I wasn’t terribly hurt by the delay. However, my first application wasn’t as easy as hoped and the wraps actually slid off my fingers by the morning!!!!! Yet, two factors did play a major role: I didn’t prep my nails ( being wiping my nails down with rubbing alcohol to clean and remove excess oils) and using not enough heat to cause the wraps to better adhere to the natural nail. A week after the failure, I re-applied the wraps with much better success than the first go-around. Yet, I could not ignore the wrinkles on some of the nails that due to the limited flexibility of the wraps. ( I should tell you that the wraps are not 100% nail polish, but much like stickers. Stickers that need added heat to stay on the nails. AHEM. ) In all, the wraps lasted a week. By the end, my tips were looking pretty busted (see below in the pic). I mean, I do deal with babies, housework, and weights- SHEESH! But still….. At this point, I picked up Incoco nail polish wraps from Wal-Mart. I was already familiar with the product, but after the Jamberry issues I decided to give it a whirl, and at $4.97, I was on board! Application was a breeze! No wrinkles, enough stretch to go over all the nail- my nails looked fabulous!!!!! In fact, it is day 7 of wear and they still look pretty good! As much as I want to like Jamberry, I think that they should work on the wraps a bit more to make them more user friendly. However, their customer service is awesome…..I recently received a free pack of french mani wraps! Good way to make a gal happy 🙂

‘Til next time!

(UPDATE: So much for “next time”- try next 30 minutes after publishing this post! : My Jamberry rep Valencia assured me that Jamberry is actively working on improving their wraps, and they’re actually launching some new products in July! I cannot wait to get my little greedy hands on the product and do a review! Again, Jamberry’s customer service is stellar and check out my rep’s site if you’re interested: https://valenciavivaciousnails.jamberry.com/us/en/)

I tried it: Sonoma Chardonnay Iced Tea by Republic of Tea

I have a very interesting relationship with booze. Prior to kids, I could count on one hand the number of times that I actually drank – and even then it typically contained an embarrassingly low percentage of alcohol. Since giving birth twice (and subsequently breast fed each child), I have not touched the stuff! But, a FB friend tagged me recently in a pic showcasing this fascinating discovery: V20288 Immediately my interest was piqued! After an unfruitful search at various grocery stores in my area, I decided to order the tea from Amazon. When the first delivery attempt was literally squashed, the company apologized for the delay and shipped the tea ASAP. When I finally received the box, I could not wait to try it out! Upon opening the canister, I noticed a distinct grape-y, floral scent- not quite wine-y, since there was no fermentation (The tea used wine grape skins, bits of pineapple, and “natural wine flavor” for added pizzazz). I followed the brewing directions to a T, and sweetened the concoction with plain white sugar. The end result was decent. Yet I discovered a better way to brew and enjoy this tea. Using my measuring cup, for 2 cups of hot water, I used 2 tea bags, then place the entire thing in the fridge to brew. The stronger flavor came thru when I left the tea steep overnight. Then, as an added kick, I squeezed the juice of a fresh lemon and skipped the sugar altogether. The lemon added the right amount of acidity, while the absence of sugar allowed the tangy yet sweet aroma of pineapple, hints of green apple, and bright notes of the wine grapes to come thru strongly. So, to answer the million-dollar question: does it actually taste like wine? NO! Would I buy it again? ABSOLUTELY! It’s more refreshing than traditional sweet tea and pairs well with chicken and fish. However, it is pricey than the generic box of black tea at your local grocer, so it is definitely a splurge (well-deserved splurge, might I add, but still….). Here are the pics of the tea:

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Til’ next time!

Catch up time, AKA what I’ve been up to for the past 3 months…..

Time flies when you’re having fun- or something like that. Looking back over the past 3 months, it feels like that I have been operating in an underground bunker- hard at work, largely hidden away from the world, and connected to the outside solely by social media. Working from home has highlighted some cold, hard facts: 1.) Get social for the sake of your health; and 2.) Never feel that you can’t change your course/path while working from home. The first fact was of the upmost importance to me. By nature I tend to lean more so on the introverted side when left to my own devices ( hence my love of books, solitary time, writing, you get the idea). However, being a stay at home mom to two young children by day and working from home by night left me longing for some adult interaction besides chatting with my hubby and going to the grocery store. So, I did what any sane woman would do: I started Googling mom groups. I reached out to my local Mocha Moms group and scheduled a playdate for the first time in August, and it went very well! I met some great ladies, and my kids were entertained.

The second fact was one that I had to accept with some humility. Sustaining any kind of income by working from home takes determination (to finish work and make that money despite numerous distractions), focus ( begin with the end in mind), and honesty ( to objectively critique your progress, keep that which works for you and discard the things that do NOT work). I had to come to some tough conclusions about my journey. In short, I discovered that I needed more: more structure, more outside childcare, and last but not least- more opportunity for growth! Working for the world’s biggest e-retailer is great, but I need a set schedule in order to plan activities with my family. I’m not opposed to quality childcare, but great caregivers can be expensive….catch my drift? The initial reasons for working for them have changed. I simply need more in order to stay relevant and competitive in this economy. (I will talk more about this in future posts.) I will say this: working from home is still in the plan, perhaps just with a different employer!

Speaking of work, in September I parted ways with the direct sales company that I joined in December 2015, La Senorita Jolie- and a bit of relief. I wasn’t like I had invested several hundred dollars ( I joined the company with $6 bucks and monthly website maintenance was embarrassingly low). Here’s the take-away thing about marketing/selling certain products: consumable products (i.e. skincare and cosmetic) are easier to market to others than clothing. In other words, it’s easier and economical to spruce up a look or pamper yourself with a great red lipstick and a detox mask than to pay $135 for a jumpsuit. Being the frugal person that I have become, the company’s vision ultimately didn’t line up with mine (especially when you can achieve the minimalist look with items from Thred Up* at 1/3 of the cost). So, at this point, I liken the process of finding a great direct sales company to speed dating. And I am having a blast! I just joined two companies over this past weekend (Origami Owl for $2, and Thirty One Gifts for $1- in all $3 bucks), and I am an unashamed “kitnapper”! I am enjoying the process, getting a feel for each’s company culture, and meeting some great folks along the way.

So….this is my life at this current point. Til next time……..

P.S. A huge thank you for those that have subscribed to the madness that is my blog! I love you all.

*You can find some amazing finds on Thred UP. Here’s $10 dollars on me…..go and look for that perfect bag or dress using this code: http://www.thredup.com/r/UO6SGQ

Sanity savers for stay at home mom who also work from home

Being a stay at home mom by day/ work from home mom by night is NOT for the faint of heart. It takes prayer, discipline, diligence, and lots of caffeine to remain focused. Even then, you need some reinforcements! Let me share my list of sanity savers with you:

1. Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies – Between maintaining my marriage, raising kids, and being a productive worker, my spirit often needs to be fed to maintain its health. Being a Christian, maintaining my relationship with God is extremely important. While I make it a priority to attend worship services weekly, it is not always possible for me to attend Wednesday night prayer meeting. That’s where Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies comes into play! For 6 weeks at a time, I can join thousands of ladies online by immersing myself in a Bible study group, and reading the required material ( which is the Bible of course, and another book- typically a devotional). The Thursday Night Bible Study Live event on Facebook is legendary and encourages me to pursue deeper study of the Word. Check it out here: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/

2. Team Beachbody- When I consistently work out, I am more focused and energetic throughout the whole day. I decided to get back into the swing of things by doing a free trial of Team Beachbody. Now, I have access to popular workout plans such as CIZE, PBX90, and Insanity. In addition, I have my own personal fitness coach, and access to food plans to keep me on track. Find out more at http://www.teambeachbody.com/home

3. Apps such as Evernote and Keep- I discovered the power of apps thru the Working Motherhood podcast. Evernote is a great way to jot down your notes and various lists to stay on track. As for Keep (available in Google Play store), in my own opinion, it is just like Evernote and easily syncs from your computer to your smartphone.

4. Coffee- Hot or cold, Starbucks or Mickey D’s- it’s all good and oh-so-needed!

‘Til next time!

Is it worth buying?: Truffle mac n cheese

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I am a foodie, and that when it comes to cuisine I am willing to try almost anything! (I say ALMOST, because unlike Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern I draw the line at eating stuff such as animal testicles, intestines, brains and bugs.) With that said, as I was grocery shopping at my local ALDI, my little brown eye saw IT: a box of truffle macaroni and cheese!13613365_10104686030359630_2488337853857073116_o
I’m learning NOT to be an implusive shopper, so I left that little package on the shelf as I made my way to the checkout line. Yet, I wondered: “I wonder if that stuff is really good….hmmmmmm….” Two days later, I plunked down $1.80 for this product and couldn’t wait to head home to serve it up! The truffle mac and cheese is actually ALDI’s gourmet line, Carefully Selected (the same line that produced my fave ice cream flavor, Coffee Espresso Chip) and is quite easy to prepare. The shell pasta was parboiled so there was no long cooking time. I added hot water to the powdered cheese-truffle blend, but there was no gritty taste whatsoever. In 5-7 minutes, the dish was ready to serve and it did not disappoint. It was delightfully cheesy, with a lovely buttery finish that was only enhanced by the earthiness of the truffles. In short, it was decadently rich without breaking the bank. Final verdict: I wholeheartedly recommend this product!!

Til’ next time!!

Working your (side) money makers…….

In no way will these sites make one rich, but it gives you some options, especially if you’re a stay at home/work from home mom like me. These 3 sites have personally been very profitable for me, so I will pass them onto you!

Ebates- This has quickly turned in a fave of mine! I love to hunt for great deals online, and with Ebates you can actually earn some cash back. The checks are dispersed 4 times a year via an actual check or via PayPal. Click here to find out more info and to sign up: http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=fYhT73LN4UAp9S1VfMPVtA%3D%3D&eeid=28187

Swagbucks- Swagbucks is a fun way to earn gift cards to places like Wal-Mart, Target, Starbucks, Amazon, and so many others! To find out more about this innovative program, check out my referral link: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/MRSPHILLIPS1

Ibotta- New to the money maker game, Ibotta is an app placed on your smartphone, allowing you to unlock rebates for various grocery purchases. The minimum payout is $20, and you can have the funds sent to you via PayPal. For more information, go to https://ibotta.com/r/crktipm

Enjoy!