As I prepare for warmer days

Although Spring isn’t officially over yet, and Lincoln weather has been akin to monsoon season the past few days, my mind is on sunshine. I’ve always had a special place in my soul for summer. Ice cream and pools, the smell of charcoal and sunscreen, I just can’t get enough. So it is no surprise that I have already begun my search of warm weather beauty staples.

Planning for this season is already proving to be easier than anticipated. While my decision to grow out my naturally curly hair means I could probably get away with wash & go’s, I’m still beholden to my straight hair. But with curly roots showing their wild ways, I wasn’t sure I could get away with my sleek office hair bun with the increased heat & humidity.

Enter Nubian Heritage Indian Hemp & Tamanu Grow & Strengthen Edge Taming Taffy. Not only is it chock full of nourishing & strengthening ingredients for my hair, this stuff also STAYS PUT! I don’t remember the last time I made it a whole day without fly always or my edges rebelling with any other edge tamer. Add in the fact that all the ingredients are natural and you have one happy Ashley.

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Another product sure to keep me smiling for the new few months is Revlon’s new(ish) Colorburst Laquer Balm. If I didn’t put it on myself, I’d think I was wearing lipstick. Thankfully this balm is super light, goes on smooth like a lipstick, yet lasts for hours like a lip stain. Finally the trifecta I’ve been looking for.

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I can’t decide if the best part about these two products are the products themselves, the fact that they are so affordable, or that I can buy them both at CVS and not have to wait days for a product I ordered online.

I’m excited to continue searching for more go to products as the weather keeps getting better, as well as testing these products out more as the heat rises.

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I’m wearing #130 Tame in this picture.

A new journey

Call it wanting to go back to my roots. Call it pure laziness. But I’ve decided to “go natural”. Natural as many of you may know is the process of going back to your natural hair texture. My curly hair was the bane of my existence as a child, mainly because my mother would never let me wear it down and I’ve never been a big fan of braids. As soon as she allowed I reached immediately for the “creamy crack” widely known as relaxer.

As of late, the arduous process of relaxing my hair, sometimes at the salon, but more often at home, became too much. I’d love to say I finally read all the literature about how terrible relaxers are for your hair, or that I yearned for my tangly curls again, but honestly? I just got lazy. Going natural was supposed to be the nice way to grow my hair out finally and stop spending money at salons.

How wrong I was. You never really think about how much shampoo & conditioner costs, especially when searching for “paraben & sulfate free” versions with mostly natural ingredients. And who knew one required so many hair products to get your naturally curly hair to curl the “right” way?

While this may be one of the biggest under takings as of late, I don’t regret a minute of it. Knowing what’s actually in everything I put on my hair is kind of exhilarating. Finding new uses for everyday items (like black tea and coconut oil) is akin to an extended science experiment. And I now get to watch YouTube tutorials all day and my hair smells fantastic.

So to everyone on the fence about going natural (or more accurately transitioning since I haven’t chopped off all my relaxed ends yet) I say go for it! May just be the best decision of your life. Or at least a nice pet project.

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(Greek) Bruschetta in a Bowl

Like most people I “hate” cooking on Friday or Saturday nights. After working and cooking all week the weekend is my downtime for everything. Fast food can get tiring though and restaurant eating adds up quickly. My compromise? Quick meals that take less than 15 minutes but are still nutritious.

My first foray into these “quickie” meals is my bruschetta in a bowl. Instead of the traditional bread I sub in pasta and give it a slight Greek twist.

First bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta until al dente (I used garden rotini, but any short pasta will do). Drain your pasta and allow to cool slightly while you dice one Roma tomato and two green onions.

Transfer your pasta to a bowl and toss with good olive oil (I eyeballed it). Add the tomatoes and onions and sprinkle generously with Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning. Toss well and finish off with a sprinkling of feta cheese and a dash or two (or three) of Cavender’s. A great vegetarian meal which can have grilled chicken added for all you carnivores.

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Weekend Reading | Self Inflicted Wounds

This weekend I took a television hiatus. No trash tv reruns, no movies and hardly any sports (with the exception of a Jayhawk game and the Broncos). I needed to refresh my mind a bit and reflect on some things that have overwhelmed me as of late. I needed to read about someone else’s life to take my mind off of my own.

Enter Aisha Tyler’s “Self Inflicted Wounds”. I love Tyler (she voices one of my favorite characters ever Lana on Archer and is just all around a badass) and reading a book full of tales of her “failings” seemed like a good distraction. But as I began to read I realized that this book was more a reflection of Aisha’s determination to win despite all the “wounds” (some real, some mental) and embarrassment she’s “brought on herself”.

She went to an Ivy League school (something I wished I had the balls to do, maybe not an Ivy, but at least leaving where I was comfortable to strike out on my own) but decided to pursue a career in comedy instead (relatable as I’ve decided to work in social media as opposed to a more stable tract like public relations or law school) not for the money but because it was something that made her feel good. She had the courage to leave her stable office job that seemed like a great fit on paper because she felt unfulfilled and exhausted and she did cool things I could have never done like asked a boy out for Chinese when she was still in grade school. Whether intentionally or not, she took the time to re live each of these moments just so people like me could be encouraged.

I know now that the marginal amount of “failing” I’ve felt the past few months is needed. I need these experiences to become better at my job. To develop a thicker skin and to truly feel what it’s like to succeed in a newer industry. So thank you Aisha for showing me how to be more fearless and to not worry so much about inflicting wounds on myself, real or imaginary.

And so I return…

Life has a way of really getting to you. Since my last post a number of things have changed in my life. I’ve gotten an awesome new job

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& went on a wonderful trip to Chicago for Social Media Week.

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Along the way I seem to have lost my way to my kitchen (Chicago just had so many good things to eat) and have been too tired to try new makeup.

Fortunately I am ready to dive back in. More recipes I love and new products I can’t live without are in store. Shall we begin?

Feeling Peachy

Yesterday I was in a rare mood to participate in Thirsty Thursday. In true Ashley style I decided to get ready last minute, but my peachy look did the trick. I’ve been playing around with drugstore lip colors lately and LOVE Revlon Super Lustrous Lipsticks! Great moisturizing formula, easy application and the color payoff is phenomenal.

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Face: Sephora Anti-Shine Primer, Tinted Moisturizer (Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion + Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow Foundation in “I’m so Glamber” + E.L.F. Shimmering Facial Whip in Toasted), Maybelline Fit Me! Concealer in Deep, Lorac Blush in Peach, L’Oréal Paris Translucide Loose Powder

Eyes: Maybelline Expertwear Emerald Smokes Eyeshadow Quad + Covergirl Coral Eyeshadow, E.L.F. Cream Eyeliner in Black, Benefit They’re Real! Mascara, Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel

Lips: Revlon Super Lustrous Matte Lipstick in Smoked Peach

Peach Upside Down Cake

Sundays are laundry days for the most part. As it is normally an all day ordeal and I’ve had to double my “keep the apartment clean” efforts since puppy’s arrival I decided to use my slow cooker for tonight’s dinner (ranch pork chops and potatoes).

Between folding and scrubbing I decided I wanted something sweet. I bought some white peaches last week and thought it would be best to utilize them before they became too ripe. Enter peach upside down cake.

recipe from userealbutter.com

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 large peaches, peeled and sliced thick (I kind of like the skin so I didn’t peel mine)

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Use either a 10 inch cast iron skillet or a 9 inch cake pan (as long as it isn’t a springform one or you’ll have a huge mess). Melt the butter and stir in the sugar until melted. When it begins to bubble remove from heat and cool. Lay peach slices in bottom of pan.

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you make the cake batter.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, room temp

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then one at a time, beat in eggs until smooth.

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In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in half the dry ingredients, followed by the milk. Once the batter is silky, add the remainder of the flour mixture and combine (don’t over mix!) Pour batter into pan covering the peaches and smoothing it into all the nooks and crannies.

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Bake 45-60 minutes or until the edges pull from the sides and the middle isn’t gooey. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Once cool flip onto a cake plate.

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Now enjoy. I tried it with both vanilla bean and cinnamon ice cream, both phenomenal choices.

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Keep It Simple Saturday

I tend to stay away from “cooking” Friday – Saturday. Partly because I’ve slaved away in my kitchen all week but mainly because I become a lazier form of myself when I don’t have a full day of work and meetings. Whatever the case I’m more likely to order a pizza or try a new restaurant than to cook shrimp a la mer and grits. On the occasion that I do cook it’s normally very simple or quick.

This Saturday I decided to try out two recipes that I found on Pinterest that seemed simple enough, Blackened Cumin – Cayenne Tilapia and Lemon Parmesan Broccoli.

First up: the tilapia. Preheat your broiler and rub olive oil over four tilapia fillets. Next, combine two teaspoons cumin, 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt, garlic powder and ground red pepper (I substituted crushed red pepper) and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

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Sprinkle the mixture over your tilapia (again I only used three pieces of fish so I had some spice mix left over, I also sprinkle both sides, most people only worry about one). Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray or put foil on a baking sheet and coat with spray. Lay fish down with enough room in between so each piece doesn’t touch.

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Place in the oven and broil for five minutes or until easily flaked with a fork.

Now for the lemon parm broccoli! In the spirit of keeping things simple I used a frozen broccoli steamer and microwaved according to directions. Normally I’d steam the broccoli in a pan for about four minutes or until crisp but tender. While the broccoli steams heat two tablespoons ev olive oil in a small skillet and sauté two minced garlic cloves.

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Place broccoli into a mixing bowl and add garlic oil, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind, one teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Lightly toss until each floret is coated and top with three tablespoons grated parmesan cheese.

Voilà! Now you can relax and watch all the things that have filled your DVR over the week.

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This week’s pick me up

Well friends this week has really been a roller coaster ride of sorts. My job situation has taken a turn southward and a few of my other obligations have left me quite stressed. The one bright spot this week is my Lorac package arriving yesterday!

Because of my current financial situation I have been staying away from my staple higher end beauty brands (Tarte, Benefit, Nars just to name a few) so I was elated to stumble upon the Lorac VIP Sale last week. Blushes, individual eye shadow pots and lip color all 50% off!

Now I’ve been on the hunt for a new peach blush, but the only one I found and loved was Tarte’s Airblush Maracuja Blush in shimmering peach. Fantastic blush …. not so fantastic price ($25) for my current budget.

In steps the VIP Sale over at Lorac, just in time! I was able to score a lovely peach powder blush for just $10. I have used their LORAC TANtalizer® Baked Bronzer before and loved it so I was excited to try out their blush for a reasonable price.

Yesterday my lovely package arrived
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It looked a bit “pinker” than I expected in the pot, but I figured for $10 it was worth the try, even if I ended up hating it.20130607-140317.jpg

Thankfully I loved it. The coverage is a little lighter than most of the blushes I routinely use, but the blush is very easily blended, making it perfect for my “fresh face” days sans tinted moisturizer or concealer.

20130607-140631.jpg Lorac Peach Blush with NYX Butter Gloss in Cherry Cheesecake

I will be testing it later this weekend to see if the color is buildable for a night out look but until then I’m enjoying the sun kissed effect it’s giving my cheeks so far.

Whipped Wednesday

One of my new favorite body care brands Whipped Body Goods restocks and introduces new product every Wednesday. Sadly I have paused my “natural hair journey” due to lack of patience (the extra hour a day just for hair care is not my idea of fun at the moment) but I still want to use all natural products to repair and restore so I still check the site periodical for good products to use. I love everything about this brand from the customer service, quality products/ingredients, and the reasonable price tag.

This morning I woke up to see two new products I just HAD to try out.

The first was African Black Soap

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My friends have raved about the wonders African Black Soap has done for them so I have been wanting to give this a spin for a while. I have been eyeing Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap bar at Walgreen’s for a while now (I love their Shea soap. It’s my go to gentle shower cleanser) but I am more of a liquid soap fan for my face. Whipped’s version seemed like the perfect compromise. Plus Whipped’s version includes Kentucky Mint, a bonus that is sure to wake me & my skin up every morning.

The second goodie was a bottle of monoï oil!

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I love coconut oil and all of its benefits. I use it in some form or another weekly, especially in my hair and body regime. Monoï oil is normally infused with gardenias for a wonderful fragrance addition but I’m not the biggest gardenia fan. Whipped’s version however is infused with vanilla beans! I have the brand’s Coco Mama butter in Bourbon Vanilla and I can’t get enough of it! The Monoï oil has come just in time for the warmer summer months. Reviews of both products will follow after they arrive. If you would like to purchase any Whipped products to test beforehand visit Whipped Body Goods today.