Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankfulness Thursday: Week 9 - Nerds

This is Week 9 of Thankfulness Thursdays.  Through Thanksgiving, I will be posting once a week about something/someone(s) I am thankful for.  This is a link-up with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista.


Today I am thankful I married a nerd, a geek, a computer guy.  Well, I'm always thankful I married a nerd.  I was never out to snag one, but when the man I fell in love with just happened to be one, I certainly didn't mind.

The "computer programmer" part comes in handy the most, I suppose.  Not too long after we started dating, my old and incredibly slow CPU died.  I did not have any back-up system and cried for hours over the loss of music, videos, pictures, and the like.  I also did not have the money to get a new computer.  This sweet guy I was dating managed to revive my computer and make it better.  Plus, he helped me back things up and teach me how to prevent crazy computer things from happening in the future.

I was smart enough to marry that sweet computer guy.  He's also responsible for getting me more involved in gaming, comics, and such.  We've been to PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, in Seattle a few times.  I usually feel a bit intimidated because I feel I lack a great deal of Nerd Cred, but we have so much fun checking out the new games together.  I even met Wil Wheaton!

We also share a love of Star Wars.  For his birthday a couple years ago, I threw him a Surprise Star Wars-themed birthday party!  It was so much fun!  I made up Star Wars-related names for all the party food, while my sister-in-law made a Yoda cake.

And he continues to help me up my Nerd Cred and brush up on my HTML skills.  I rock dual monitors for productivity.  He even upgraded me to a small CPU with 10 USB ports, 8 GB of RAM,  and a quad-core processor. OH YEAH!

Most of all, I love that we can share these fun activities and interests together.  We have so much fun just hanging out and being silly - "nerding it up", if you will.  And I love that he is patient enough to teach me about the things I don't know or don't understand.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Party Perfect Fruit Dip

Need a tasty fruit dip for a party or family get-together?  Then I have a treat for you!  This is an incredibly yummy dip for any combination of fruit you choose to use.  I made this for a party and received such wonderful compliments.  It went FAST!

Fruit Dip

1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of Cool Whip
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Pineapple juice for thinning down the dip (Hailey's Note: I didn't use a lot.  I advise putting it in a teaspoon to tablespoon at a time.)
(Hailey's Note: I didn't use quite as much powdered sugar or granulated sugar.  I maybe used half of each.)

Cream together the cream cheese and the powdered sugar until well-blended.  Add the granulated sugar and lemon zest and lemon juice.  Fold in the Cool Whip and use pineapple juice to thin it down to the desired consistency.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

This dip keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.

I served the dip with honeydew melon, cantaloupe, apple slices, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, orange slices, and mandarin orange pieces.  (If you want to use banana slices or apple slices, toss slices in lemon juice to keep them from browning.  If you are preparing for a party ahead of time, place slices in lemon water and drain before serving.)


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Q & A Monday: Fall Favorites

Hey, Y'all!!
How was your weekend?  I hope it was fantastic!
We had a pretty good time over the past two days.  On Saturday, we took Kiki in for his first grooming appointment.  He's been so frizzy and the hair all over his back end would get twisted up in these little dreadlocks that we could never get out of his fur.  We tried conditioners and brushing him with different types of brushes, but never got his hair undreaded.  Anyway, when we picked him up, he looked wonderful! They were able to make him fuzzy and non-dreadlocked!  Plus, they expressed his anal glands, clipped his nails, clipped his hair and paw pads, and cleaned his ears.

Also on Saturday (after we dropped Kiki off at the groomer's), we met up with my mother-in-law and headed to the Farmer's Market.  I don't think we've been able to go in a couple years, so it was quite fun.  I ate collard greens and shaved ice, bought some peaches and apples, and found some kalamata olive and chive hummus.  After the Farmer's Market, the three of us checked out a few houses on this home tour thing, shopped at Ulta and Pier 1, and ate dinner at Sweet Tomatoes.

It was an exhausting day, but very fun!

Chillin' was the theme for Sunday.  We washed Rusty and Pepper, did all the dog laundry, did some dishes, and then reserved the rest of the day for craft projects and video games.

It is time again for Friend Makin' Monday.  If you have a blog, I would like to invite you to answer the questions as well.  Leave me a comment here, so I know you are playing.  Then you can also leave a comment over at All The Weigh, so other folks can check out your answers as well.  It is a fun way to connect to other bloggers.

Fall Favorites 

1. What is your favorite thing about this time of year? 
I love the smell of the cool air, snuggling with the husband on the couch, catching all our television show premieres, etc.  Plus, I LOVE Halloween, everything pumpkin, comfort foods, soups, and all that good stuff.

2. What do you hope to do again before Summer is officially over?
We hit the Farmer's Market this past weekend, which I was wanting to do.  I suppose I would like to go to Saturday Market.  I don't foresee another trip to the beach any time soon.

3. When did you last go on a hay ride? 
Probably since I was a teenager....I think I did that a few times.

4. What is your favorite pumpkin dish? 
Oh gosh, I love everything pumpkin! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, Pumpkin ice cream, etc. etc etc!!

5. Do you decorate your home for fall? 
I do a little bit.  I do some general fall decor and then have some Halloween stuff I put out for October.  I suppose when we have a house that is truly "ours" I will decorate for each season.

6. Do you have any hobbies that are seasonally specific? If so, what are they? 
I bake more in the fall and winter.  I love making pumpkin bread and apple pie and other such yummy things.  I like to send them to work with my husband or give them away as gifts.  It rains here from October to May/June, so inside activities like crafting, gaming, and shopping are more suited to this time of year.

7. Apple cider or hot chocolate? 
I love both, but I usually prefer cider.  My husband makes a really great hot chocolate, so when he is making it I will definitely drink that!

8. Are you a fan of football?  If so, who is your team? 
Not really a fan, but I have been known to KICK ASS at Fantasy Football.  I would watch some of it just to know what was going on for Fantasy points.  With all the goings on this past year, we decided to take a break from Fantasy Football this year.  It's been kinda nice not having to deal with it at all.  As far as a favorite team goes, I root for the Green Bay Packers because that is my mother-in-law's team and my husband was born in they love the Packers.  I also root for the Saints because that is my Mamaw's team and I have fond memories of watching her watch games when we would visit for Thanksgiving.

9. Share a fond Fall memory. 
I loved trick-or-treating and deciding on my costume for the year.  When I lived in Georgia, we would go to this store called Fat Man's Forest that was primarily a Christmas/ornament store, with craft stuff and the like.  In the fall, they would have a costume/Halloween shop upstairs and a haunted house next door.  So we'd do the haunted house, go check out the store, and get a big bag of boiled peanuts.
I ALWAYS crave boiled peanuts in the fall. 

10. It’s not Fall until…
I second the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. lol  I would also say that it isn't truly fall here until the sun stops showing up.  We have some amazing weather coming up this week, so I hope to enjoy it before it starts raining.

Happy Monday!!  Remember to answer these on your blog (or here in the comments) and link up with Kenlie!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thankfulness Thursday: Week 8 - My Oldest Fur Son

 This is Week 8 of Thankfulness Thursdays.  Through Thanksgiving, I will be posting once a week about something/someone(s) I am thankful for.  This is a link-up with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista.

(This post is picture heavy because I just couldn't cut it down. I apologize.)

Meet Rusty.  He's a 15-year-old, long-haired chihuahua.  And he's my oldest fur kid.  I love him so much!  I'm so thankful that he is fairly healthy and that we've been able to have this much time with him so far.

Rusty in his Yogi Bear costume.

Rusty was born in Georgia in December of 1996.  He is AKC registered and born to be a show dog.  However, when he was born it was obvious he was going to be too big to show.  As a young boy, Rusty lived with my mom and stepdad, and two other dogs. (My dog brother, Beau, and dog sister, Ginger.   They were such amazing dogs and both passed away ten years ago.  I still miss them so much.)

In 1997, we moved from Georgia to Washington State, driving across the country.  My stepdad drove the pickup truck with my brother and some boxes.  My mom drove our station wagon, traveling with me and our dogs Beau, Ginger, Rusty, and Star. (And maybe Casey...I can't remember if he is from the South as well.)  So Rusty is well-traveled.  He's been through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Young Rusty with Casey, Pepper, and Ginger; Window watching; lawn sniffing; Cross country traveling; and posing for my senior photography project.

Rusty has always had a sweet and loving personality.  He's very well-behaved and mindful.  He gets along with all of the other dogs he's ever lived with. (and there have been many!)  He's the father of about fourteen kids, one of whom lives with us. (Kiki is Rusty's son.)  At some point in the early 2000s, Rusty's stud duties ended when he was neutered.  At the very same time, my mom gave him an atrocious buzz cut in an effort to keep him cool in the summer.  His haircut was awful and Rusty seemed to know it.

He was so depressed after losing his balls and his hair.  He retreated to the upstairs alcove and became very anti-social.  I would often visit with him and sit with him upstairs.  During this emotional period for him, he gained a lot of weight and my mom began calling him names.  I guess I feel really connected to him because I was going through my own emotional period, dealing with the death of my father.  I was also dodging all the negative bullets my mom (and sometimes my stepdad) would shoot at me.  I felt like I understood Rusty's depression and upset.  He was my buddy.

Halloween Time: Top stair: Pixie, Casey, Pepper, and Rusty.  Bottom stair: Oliver, Bambi, and Kiki.

Around this time, Beau and Ginger both died within a few months of each other.  They were both so special to me.  Beau had been with us since I was 10-years-old, and left us when I was 22.  Ginger had been with us just a few years less.  I was so devastated.  (My fur kid Miss P came to live with us in 1998 and was Ginger's favorite.  When Ginger died, I promised I would always take care of Miss P.  That is one of the reasons Miss P is still with me :-)

So Rusty and Pepper became my pals.  Eventually, I found a job, saved up some money, and got my own place.  My mom and stepdad were divorcing, so mom was trying to get rid of everything - fur kids included.  There was no way I was letting her toss them aside like that!  Rusty, Miss P, and our sweet old man Casey came to live with me.  Casey was quite vocal, resulting in his having to go back to live with my mom.  (She gave him away immediately and then lied to me for a few months about how he was doing, without letting me see him.  I'm still sad I never got to say goodbye.)

Rusty and Miss P - Forever Love.  Snuggling in 1998 and 2009.

Rusty loves to sun bathe and squint.  Plus, you can see his awful haircut there in the middle.

A few months after I moved into my apartment, the landlord changed - from a nice guy who was okay with me having pets to some horrible creature of a woman who hated animals.  I don't trust anyone who hates animals.  This woman told me I had to get rid of the dogs or get kicked out.  Again, I was devastated.  There was NO WAY I was giving up my fur kids.  I kept them in my apartment as long as I could.  During this time, I met my husband.  We were friends for a couple months before we started dating.  Around the time we began our relationship, I finally needed to find a place for the dogs to stay while I figured out what to do.  My husband is amazing, because he took Rusty and Miss P in without question.  I was still able to visit them a few times a week.  Plus, he took great care of them and enjoyed their company.

In less than a year, we all lived together!  Sean has been a great daddy to our precious fur kids.  We've had many laughs and adventures together.  Kiki came to live with us in 2007 after my mom decided to get rid of him too.  He was supposed to be mine since he was born, so I was so happy to have him back with me where he belongs.

The precious faces of Rusty

Rusty and his son Kiki

 Pepper and Rusty in one of our engagement photos

These days, 7-pound Rusty enjoys following me all around the house.  If I'm in the laundry room folding clothes, he sits at the doorway of the room and "doggy guards" me.  He lost most of his teeth in 2009, but still eats treats like there is no tomorrow.  He's always the first to finish his Greenie!  With the majority of his hearing and sight gone, we have to rely on talking loudly and making hand motions to get him going in the right direction.  He loves treats, chest rubs, snuggling, sleeping in our bed, car rides, and sniffing the fresh air.  And he's still a Southern gentleman, allowing Miss P to bully him out of a comfy bed.  When she gets vocal, he simply leaves the bed and lays on the floor.  He is just too sweet!

Car ride!!!

Rusty was so doped up after his tooth surgery; Sleeping in the hamper; and being even more precious.

Overall, his health is very good, so I enjoy each and every moment I have with him.  He will always be my fuzzy buddy and sweet furry son.

Rusty Photoshopped into our Wedding Table Number photos.

He's a good sport about wearing outfits in our Christmas card photos.

Birchbox Review: September 2012

If you don't know about Birchbox, it is a monthly subscription service.  For $10 a month, you get a box of 4 to 5 high-end skincare, makeup, and/or hair care products to sample.  Sometimes there are also "lifestyle samples", like an organic granola bar, tea, etc.  Some products are even full-size!

It is a really fun thing to get in the mail!  Plus, I am a product junkie and love being able to try all these different products.  Check out the website for more information!

This month's theme is: Fall 2012.

Birchbox September 2012

Products Included:

1. Color Club Birchbox Custom Polish - I like this nail polish.  It looks black, but is actually more of a dark matte navy color.

2. Nexxus Pro-Mend Split End Treatment System - I love Nexxus products.  Two of my favorite shampoo and conditioner products are by Nexxus. (The conditioning shampoo and conditioner are both fantastic.)  I have thick, mildly coarse hair and these work great for me, so give it a go.

3. Twistband Birchbox Custom Lace Hair Tie - The one I received was not lace, but just a solid teal color.  I have three more of these from previous Birchboxes and enjoy them.

4. Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator - This product has a nice, light smell.  I'm not sure about the brightening properties as I personally don't see much of a difference.  I still enjoyed using it though.

5. Youngblood Mineral Primer - I tend to swear by my Smashbox Photo Finish Light primer and hate to change it up.  I have tried this Youngblood Primer and really like it.  It doesn't make my face extra oily like some other primers I've used.  It is a light gel that leaves my skin soft and smooth.  My makeup still lasts a long time like it does when I wear my Smashbox primer.

Mighty Leaf Tea Company Teas - These teas are fantastic!  The Green Tea Tropical is my favorite so far.  They smell AMAZING and taste great. The tea leaves and such come in a silk sachet.  I highly recommend these.
Tristan Prettyman digital downloads -The two songs in the free download are "My Oh My" and "Quit You" from Prettyman's album Cedar+Gold.  I enjoyed the two songs.  Prettyman has a great voice and the songs are catchy.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Bulgur Wheat and Wheat Berry Salad

A couple months ago, I had dinner with family at one of our favorite local restaurants, Gustavs.  It is a German restaurant that we have been going to for quite some time.  In fact, my husband and I had dinner there on our first date.  :-)

One of their Summer Specials was this Bulgur Wheat and Wheat Berry salad.  I really had no idea what "wheat berry" was.  Intrigued, I ordered the special and was pleasantly surprised with the tastiness and texture of this salad.  Wheat berry is the whole kernel of wheat.  Basically, if you cooked it, dried it out, and pulsed it in the food processor, it would be bulgur wheat.

I've made it twice in order to work out the right tastes and replicate what I had at the restaurant.  I hope you enjoy it!  Please let me know if you make it and what you think.

Bulgur Wheat and Wheat Berry Salad

- 1/2 cup Bulgur Wheat
- 3/4 cup Wheat Berry (whole kernel of wheat)
- 8 oz container grape tomatoes, halved and/or quartered
- 3/4 of a brick of uncrumbled feta, like Athenos
- 9.5 oz jar of pitted, sliced kalamata olives (I used about 3/4 of the jar)
- Half of 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp Greek dressing
- The zest and juice of 4 large lemons
- Handful of chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- Mrs. Dash Chicken Seasoning

To cook the bulgur wheat, bring 1 1/4 cups of water to a boil.  Stir in 1/2 cup bulgur wheat and a few shakes of Mrs. Dash Chicken seasoning, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, drain off any extra water and set aside to cool.

To cook wheat berry, place the 3/4 cup of wheat berry in a pot (along with a few shakes of Mrs. Dash) and fill with water until water is about 2 inches above wheat berry.  (If wheat berry floats, just stir it up a little.  When it gets wet, it sinks down.)  Bring water to a boil, uncovered, and cook for 1 hour, or until tender.  Drain and set aside to cool.

You can cook both the bulgur wheat and wheat berry the night before, if need be.  The longer you are able to drain it and let it cool and dry out just a bit, the better.  I left mine out to cool for a few hours the night before and then added the fresh ingredients the next day.

In a large bowl, combine Greek dressing, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Stir in sliced tomatoes, olives, red onion, and parsley.  Add seasonings and stir in cooled bulgur wheat and wheat berry.

Sprinkle in feta crumbles and stir well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  This salad can be served cold, slightly warmed, as a side or main dish, even over lettuce. Enjoy!

(Photos are from the first time I made a batch, so it features thyme, rosemary, and chick peas along with the other ingredients.  The recipe listed above is the reworked version that I perfected and had friends taste-test before I posted this recipe.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Luster Premium White 1 Hour Tooth Whitening Kit

I am signed up with a website called BzzAgent that occasionally sends me products to try.  I really enjoy working as a BzzAgent and like to take the opportunity to tell you what I think of the products I am asked to review.

I received the Luster Premium White 1 Hour White Kit to try and review my experience with it.  The following review is my own opinion.  Aside from receiving the tooth whitening kit for free, I am not being compensated for this review.

I'm always skeptical about teeth whitening, especially at-home and relatively inexpensive options.  Aside from using Go Smile (which is expensive, but works), I haven't had very good results using any of the various at-home whitening kits you can find at the store.  And what's more, they would make my teeth and gums really sore.

When I received the Luster Premium White Kit, it promised no tooth sensitivity.  That promise alone made me want to give it a try.

The main Luster 1 Hour White kit includes the Accelerator Mouth Rinse, Super Whitener Gel, Activating Whitening Light, and batteries for the light.  It retails for about $32.99.

As part of my BzzAgent kit, I also received the Luster Power White Toothpaste and coupons for both the kit and toothpaste to give to people.  The toothpaste retails for about $6.99.

Now, I know the aspect of the light can seem a little intimidating, but it is definitely an easy system.  To use, you rinse with the mouthwash, brush the gel on your teeth, and point the light on your teeth for two minutes.  Ideally, you want to do this 10 to 20 times for big results.  You can break up these 10 to 20 treatments in increments of your liking for up to a week.  For example, you can do five treatments each day for four days, or you could do as many as you want in one day.  It's up to you.  They do advise that you not drink coffee/tea, wine, dark juice, eat berries, mustard, ketchup, or soy sauce, or use tobacco products for up to 24 hours after your last treatment.  Therefore, I broke my 10 treatments up over two days so I could still hit up Starbucks and have wine with friends over the weekend. :-)

To start, I brushed my teeth and flossed like usual.  I set up a mirror on my kitchen counter and laid out the rinse, gel, and light in order.  After the first run through, I realized I am one of the people with excessive saliva that they mention in the instruction booklet. lol  They recommend placing cotton balls or tissues under your tongue to collect saliva during the treatment process.  I gag easily, so I ended up taking sterile gauze pads (you can find them in the bandage section of your drugstore) and cut each pack in half.  I rolled a half gauze pad into a long tube and placed it slightly under my tongue.  I have a large tongue too, so it ended up pushing the gauze against the back of my teeth, which actually worked great.

Remember to breathe through your nose.

So then I did the process again.  Rinsed with the special mouthwash, placed gauze in my mouth, applied gel on each tooth, and activated the light.  The gel applicator is like a nail polish brush.  It goes on easy.  I made sure to apply a good amount to each tooth and kind of in between teeth as well.  Before activating the light, I placed the light between my lips and then pressed the button.  The light beeps when it starts the two minute process.  It beeps again when it turns off.  I then removed the light from my lips, pulled out the gauze, and rinsed with the special mouthwash.

It took me between 20 and 30 minutes to do five treatments.  This is definitely do-able if you are a busy person with not much time to spare, as you can do it while watching your favorite television program.

I did not have any teeth sensitivity in relation to the treatment.  However, I did get some gel on a certain area of my gums, which made that area sore for a couple days.

Now let's talk results!  The kit comes with this chart to help you determine your results. You hold it up to your teeth and decide what number represents your current tooth color.  I started at about a 10.

I did 10 treatments over 2 days and measured my success.  I ended up at about a 4.  It makes me want to do those other 10 treatments!  My Before and After photos are taken in the same room, with only slightly different lighting.  I tried my best to get the lighting the same.  But eh, I'm not a photographer.  And while I acknowledge that the results don't look much different via my photos, I can assure you that the results are noticeable to me when I look in the mirror.

Overall, I am very happy with the results and can verify the claims that it doesn't cause sensitivity like other whitening systems I have tried.  I will continue to use this for maintaining whiter teeth.  I have only been using the toothpaste for a few days, so I can't comment on its overall results.  It is a thicker toothpaste with a pleasant, minty flavor. I don't have any complaints about it thus far.

Have you used the Luster 1 Hour kit?  I would love to hear your opinions on it if you have.  And if you have any questions about this kit, I am more than happy to try and answer them for you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Q & A Monday: Blog Stuff

Hey, y'all!  How was your weekend?

I had a fantastic weekend; I really hope you did too!  I did an at-home teeth whitening thing at the end of last week. (I'll have a review of that up soon.) It worked pretty well and didn't make my teeth sore.  YAY!  On Saturday, Sean and I had a game night with some of our wonderful friends.  We ate Greek-themed food, drank wine, and played a rousing and offensive game of Cards Against Humanity!

Sean and I have both been feeling a little down and out-of-sorts, so he suggested some retail therapy for Sunday.  I spent some Real Women Dollars at Lane Bryant, sniffed a lot of candles at Bath and Body Works, and Sean stopped to look in Best Buy. (And we found this "Wide Retriever" jersey for Rusty!)

Then we had dinner with the mother-in-law, who brought all kinds of wonderful trinkets for me, to thank me for making the photo book and other picture-related materials for my father-in-law's memorial.  It was super sweet and unexpected of her!

It is time again for Friend Makin' Monday.  If you have a blog, I would like to invite you to answer the questions as well.  Leave me a comment here, so I know you are playing.  Then you can also leave a comment over at All The Weigh, so other folks can check out your answers as well.  It is a fun way to connect to other bloggers.

Blog Stuff

1.  Have you ever met anyone through your blog that led to an in-person friendship/relationship?
I have yet to meet anyone in person because of the blog, but there are a few people I have connected with via commenting or emails.  I look forward to meeting people in person that I've met through blogging.

2.  Most bloggers have a specific niche.  What would you discuss if it didn’t seem inappropriate on your blog?
I'd probably talk more about personal issues, like things from my past, what I have learned, etc.  I've started to lean towards that sometimes and may do it a little more often.  I find it very therapeutic.

3. If you could meet three bloggers, who would they be?
Oh wow.  This is a really difficult question. Hmmmm, I'd say Cora from Vintage or Tacky, Jessica Kane from Life and Style of Jessica (she only lives a few minutes from me and I have yet to run in to her!), and Aislynn from Couture for Curves because we have been email/Twitter pals this year.  But you know I can't just choose 3.  I'd also add Rebecca, Going Loopy, and Katie!

4. If you had to choose between Facebook or Twitter which one would you choose?
I'm on Facebook more and love to see pictures and such.  I think Twitter is great for keeping in better contact on a regular basis with other bloggers and readers.  Plus, I tend to be more relaxed on Twitter when I post random things from the day.  I want to be more active on both social sites.

5. Do you vlog (video blog?)
So far, I have done one vlog (a Birchbox review).  I had a really fun time and look forward to doing more.  I tried to do a video to add to my Kiyonna Luna Lace Dress review/post, but the wind was so bad that you couldn't hear me. :-/  I'll try again next time.

6. How many blogs do you read on an average day?
I have a LOT of blogs in my regular reading list.  I have been so busy lately and am way behind though.  I am slowly catching up to everything.  I'd say there are probably 5 or 6 that I check in on frequently because I follow those bloggers on Twitter.

7.  What is the coolest thing that you’ve seen online recently?
The internet is full of cool stuff! I wouldn't even know where to start on that.  Last week, I wrote a really personal blog post and was really nervous about posting it.  But what is cool to me, is that people left such wonderfully sweet and thoughtful comments on the post.  It has been really touching.

8. If you gave your blog a new name what would it be?
Hmmmm, I haven't really thought about that before.  I might simplify it to Divine Mrs. Diva to match most of my social media handles.  Picking a name that encompasses everything you want it to is such a daunting task.

9. Have you ever attended a blog conference like Fitbloggin?  If not, would you?
I haven't.  I'd really love to go to Full-Figured Fashion Week or BlogHer.  It always looks like such a fun time.

10. In the past I have asked why you blog.  Now I want to know why you read blogs?  What do you take from it? 
It truly does depend on the blog.  I follow a lot of fashion blogs that provide me with inspiration or just a connection to other fashionable plus size women.  Some blogs I follow for decorating or crafting ideas.  Some blogs allow me insight into someone's personality, thoughts, and life, which I find interesting. 

Now it's your turn! Answer on your blog or here in the comments.  I hope you all had a Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thankfulness Thursdays: Week 7 - Personal Growth

This is Week 7 of Thankfulness Thursdays.  Through Thanksgiving, I will be posting once a week about something/someone(s) I am thankful for.  This is a link-up with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista.

"You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you." - Brian Tracy

I've been putting off this post for a while, thinking and rethinking about writing it at all.  I've constantly second-guessed myself while staring at the computer screen.  But I want to be honest, and mostly open, about this topic without making it a scathing attack on anyone or even a negative critique.  Plus, it's for Thankfulness Thursday.  It's supposed to be a positive post about seeing the light in the dark. 

So this week, I'm thankful for self-awareness, or maybe personal growth, or maybe the knowledge to know better than my feelings.  All of the above.

My mom wasn't always the way she is now.  When my brother and I were little, I remember her presence with us during the day.  I remember playing on the trampoline, playing with our dog, going on outings to the beach or zoo or what not.  She'd make our costumes for Halloween or school performances.  She'd go all out as the Tooth Fairy, sparkling up dollar bills with glitter.  She did things like that when we were little and it was wonderful.  Those memories are some of my most positive childhood memories.  We moved around a lot and I was painfully shy, so it was hard for me to make friends.  I was always "The Fat Girl" and was made fun of constantly.  So the joy in my childhood memories comes from these special things my mom did for us, places we went, family get-togethers and holidays.

Then something changed.  Maybe it was that my parents' relationship got worse.  But long before the nightly fights started between them, my mom began to treat me differently.  She became a very angry and hateful person.  Suddenly, nothing I did was ever good enough.  The way I looked was suddenly disgusting to her.  She'd pick apart every aspect of my appearance.  Instead of looking in my eyes when we had a conversation, she'd be looking all over my face for imperfections: zits, blackheads, blemishes, stray hairs, etc.  I was constantly reminded of what she saw as imperfections and flaws when it came to me.  I don't know if she had planned to live vicariously through me since she didn't have a great childhood.  I always felt she wished I was this perfect, popular, beautiful daughter so she could feel better about herself.  When I turned out to be the fat, shy, smart-type, things just went downhill.

It was easier for me to stay hidden in my room instead of putting myself in the line of her constant insults.  Typically, my weight was the issue.  I was an "elephant, a pig, lumpy, slow, lazy, etc."  My childhood dreams of meeting the New Kids On The Block and moving to Boston were "pathetic ideas because no one cared about [me]" and "I would never make it to Boston".  (I did move to Boston on my own, but she never acknowledged that I made it happen for myself.  If you've followed me for a while you may also know that meeting the New Kids got checked off my list.)

In fact, many of the issues I have with my mom (and have tried on multiple occasions to talk about with her, to hash things out), she will deny.  She denies calling me names.  She calls me a liar when I tell her how things she said hurt my feelings.  I had regrets with things I didn't get to say to my dad because of all her manipulating of me not to talk to him.  When I found out he died, she said "Good riddance to bad rubbish" right in front of me.  She was mad I wanted to go to his funeral and told me the plane ticket was my "birthday present and graduation gift in one, so [I] better have fun."  She talked about how much she hated my dad and would then turn around and tell me that I reminded her of him.  How is one supposed to take that??  That kind of crap sticks with you no matter how hard you try to forget.

I have tried so hard to sort out our issues, but every time I am rejected and denied and called a liar, amongst other choice names.  The last time I tried to reason with her was last October.  I was so honest and open about things from the past that really hurt me.  I told her how much I wanted to work things out with her, that I wanted her in my life as my mother, that I needed her to understand my feelings and acknowledge these things.  I reminded her that she is my only living parent.  It was my sincere hope that spelling these things out to her and telling her exactly what I want from her (a loving relationship, a clean slate) would result in a long, heart-to-heart conversation that would end in tears and hugs and a renewed sense of hope.  You know, like in the movies.  lol

I spilled my guts to her about things I had been holding in for fear she would be mad at me.  I worked so hard on this email, to say things right and to get my point across.  These were tough subjects and none of it was to be taken lightly.  And she told me to "get over it" and then called me a liar and said it was all false.  Then she told me that I had my husband's parents to be around and she had no desire to be a part of my life.  And that was pretty much the last time I heard from her.  She lives about 40 minutes away, but refuses to call me or my brother.  She couldn't even be bothered to converse with me when I left her a voicemail that my father-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia.  She never bothered to say anything to us when he passed away either.

I don't always think about her or the things she has said to me when all is quiet.  I don't always stew on her harsh words or lack of love for me or my brother.  But now and then, I do think about it.  Sometimes it is a pity party because it is hard for me to mourn the loss of her when she is so close and just refuses to be a decent human being.  I think about what else I could say to make her understand, or what else I could do to change things.

But the thing that I've realized, the thing that I am thankful for finally figuring out, is that it isn't me.  It isn't anything in me that is inherently wrong or bad.  It isn't me that isn't good enough.  It isn't me that did anything wrong by merely existing or being a by-product of her relationship with my dad.  I've been fortunate enough to have wonderful friends and other family members around me who have helped me see all the good in me.  They have encouraged me and supported me when I needed it most.  They have helped heal my spirit when I was so beaten down and unhappy.

I've realized that my mother is a sad, hateful person. And mostly, she hates herself.  I may never know all the reasons, and at this point, I may never get answers or be able to help her.  But I know that her angst for me can't even come close to how bad she feels about herself.  It makes me sad.  It hurts my heart.  I just can't help her if she doesn't even want to help herself, or acknowledge reality.

I can't say I have overcome it all yet.  It is still a constant struggle to deal with the issues and feelings I have in regards to my relationship with my mom and how she has treated me.

Somehow, despite everything, I turned out to be a strong, intelligent woman who values myself.  I don't hinge my self-esteem on attention from the opposite sex.  I turned out to be someone that is open and honest.  I'm someone who helps people because it is the right thing to do, not because it will bring attention or fortune of some kind to me.  I'm not fickle, not hateful, and not miserable or jealous of the happiness of others.

Somehow I turned out to be the complete opposite of my mother.  And I'll always be thankful for that.

This is the last decent picture I have of my mom and I together.  It's from the summer of 2010.

A song that reminds me of this whole situation is "Not All Me" by Alanis Morissette. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Diva In The Kitchen: Sesame Soy Roasted Broccoli

This is a quick and simple recipe that will definitely make it into regular rotation in your kitchen.  I first tried this recipe because I found it on Pinterest and love roasted veggies.  I also love the flavor of sesame oil.  It just seemed like a great combination.

And let me tell you, it is!  I could eat the whole thing as is.  Serve it over rice or as a side and you are good to go.  Below I have copied the original recipe and linked back to it.  My addition of Chinese Five Spice is in italics.

Roasted Broccoli with Soy Sauce and Sesame Seeds

- 1 lb. fresh broccoli florets (see trimming instructions)
- 1 1/2 T olive oil
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 T sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice

Preheat oven to 450 F (or use 475 and shorten the cooking time slightly.)

(You can trim broccoli stems and roast them with the florets; peel and cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces if you're cooking the stems. I saved the stems to cook separately.)

Cut broccoli into pieces about 2 inches long. Then cut through stems just to where florets start, and break apart so broccoli is in same-sized pieces. (This method of cutting through the stems and then breaking the broccoli apart also eliminates the mess when you cut broccoli and small bits fall off.)

Place broccoli in plastic mixing bowl and toss well with olive oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. (And Chinese Five Spice) Arrange in single layer on baking sheet and roast 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir and continue roasting 5 minutes more, or until broccoli is tender-crisp and slightly browned on the edges.

While broccoli roasts, toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over very high heat for 30-60 seconds. When broccoli is done, put it back into plastic bowl, dump in sesame seeds, and toss again. Serve hot.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Labor Day Shopping Spree

There were some great sales around Labor Day!  As I really hate to pay full price for anything, I jump at the chance to check out sales and find good deals.

I just wanted to share my purchases with you.  I hope to be able to review all of these items on the blog when they arrive.

First up, a couple skincare items from The Body Shop.  I LOVE their Seaweed and Tea Tree Oil lines.  Ulta is on Day 10 of their 21 Days of Beauty.  Each day offers new deals, so I would advise checking it out just in case! (I'm excited for Day 20 when the Stila Jewel Eyeshadows are 50% off.)

(Update: I love the Seaweed Toner and have used it before.  This is my third purchase.  I like to use it in between uses of my astringent as it doesn't feel as harsh on my skin.

The Tea Tree Pore Minimizer is excellent!  I have yet to wear it under makeup, but when I am at home during the week I have worn it.  It keeps my skin matte most of the day.  I usually need to blot a couple hours after I wake up.  With this pore minimizer, I don't need to blot until the afternoon.  It is really fantastic!

I have yet to wear the lipcolors out, but I tried tried them on.  They are lovely red colors.  I'm really happy with the shades I chose.)

And last up, Lane Bryant finds.  I have a grey shirt from Avenue that I love because I can add whatever colors and accessories to it to jazz it up.  Soon it will need to be put down, so I was looking for an alternative.  Hopefully, one or both of these tops will work.  The Dolman sleeve top has a hood, which helps to protect my hair from the rain here in the Pacific Northwest.  I am looking forward to the Spa Wrap because I am getting sick of my giant, dumpy t-shirt I wear when I get ready.  And the sparkle denim pencil skirt...well, it SPARKLES! lol

(Update: I returned the Active Top and Pencil Skirt.  The Active top was very cute, but a little too fitted for my liking.  The pencil skirt fit well and was very cute and shiny, but it was about an inch or so too short for me.

The Dolman Hoodie isn't quite as slimming as the Active Top, but it is comfortable and cute.  It will serve its purpose for me because I wanted a comfortable casual top.  The Spa Wrap is so soft and cozy!  The Velcro closures are strong and secure.  I am very happy with it!)

Did you find any good deals over the holiday weekend?

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