Friday, January 31, 2014

January Empties

I know it's Friday, but today I am going to forgo the Feature Friday for my January Empties. I love to read empties posts and watch empties videos, so naturally I like to do my own. It's the perfect time to show you what I've been using this month and also to give a mini review of the products that I have had plenty of time to make a solid opinion of. So, without further ado...I give you my January 2014 Empties!

Forest Essentials Luxurious Ayurveda Bath & Shower Oil in Madurai Jasmine & Morga
This is just a sample size that I've had in my bath stash for quite some time, but I'm so obsessed with Lush that I'm reluctant to try other bath products. I know, I'm a bit of a bath shoot me! But my skin has been super dry since the REALLY cold weather has set in and I needed to ramp up the moisture factor of my weekly baths. I found this and figured it was worth a try. It smells very nice. It's a light floral scent that goes with lots of the Lush Bath Bombs I also had on hand. It's not quite as moisturizing as I'd have liked, but it was a nice addition to my baths.

Fortune Cookie Soap Halloween Town Whipped Cream
Another FCS sample from the Winter Soap Box. This one smelled of bubble gum. You know the huge pink pieces of your childhood. I wasn't a huge fan of the scent, but I really enjoyed the texture of this one. In the past, my Whipped Cream's had had a strange texture that sort of balled up on my skin when rubbed in. This one did not do that. It was super rich and creamy and sunk into my skin like a dream!

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream
I used the last drop of this brightening eye cream this morning. I have been humming and hawing about repurchasing this. I really like it. It's moisturizing and it brightens my under eye area so that even on no makeup days my dark circles are hidden. But I just can't help thinking that there is another eye cream out there for me. There are so many options that I haven't even experienced yet, and I just can't make myself stick to just one! So, although I liked this eye cream a lot and I probably will repurchase it and keep it in my arsenal, I will most likely try something new. If you have any good recommendations for a daytime eye cream, let me have 'em!

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate
This stuff is amazing! I was scared to try this since I have always had combination skin, but when I started on Accutane (Claravis) last Summer I knew I'd be needing some extra help with hydration. I received this as a gift and saved it just for that occasion. I used this every night under my moisturizer. It has a super calming scent; kind of herbal with lavender which makes it great for using at bedtime. It lasted 7 months and was just what my skin needed! I'll definitely be repurchasing this to keep in my skincare stash.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Body Moisturizer
I won't talk too much about this body butter because I have already gone on and on about it (here and here), but it's my favorite body moisturizer at the moment. I have gone through 2 mini tubs and have another one waiting in the wings! The smell is amazing, like all Soap & Glory products, and the texture is just the best. If you haven't tried Soap & Glory products you should.

Pure Silk Rich & Luxurious Shave Cream in Cherry Blossom
I've used this brand before because I had a coupon for it, but I really don't care too much for it. I tried it again because I was sucked in by the Cherry Blossom scent...Fooled once, shame on them. Fooled twice, shame on you! This shave cream does the job, but you certainly get what you pay for. It's not  rich and luxurious as it says on the can...If you are looking for a thick moisturizing shave cream I'd not recommend this one, and I won't be repurchasing it again - even if I do have a coupon!

The Body Shop Shea Shower Cream
My Mom gave this to me knowing I was having some extremely dry skin issues. I'd never tried The Body Shop's Shower Cream before this, so I didn't know what to expect. I figured it would be creamy and hydrating based on the use of other body products from the, but I wasn't prepared for how much I'd like it. It feels like a thick shower lotion, but it is a pourable consistency and it lathers like you wouldn't believe! It left my skin feeling super hydrated with no need for a body lotion afterward. The scent was nice and could easily be used by a male or female, but I'd love to try other scents! I think this is going to be a regular product in my Winter shower.

Bath & Body Works Fresh Picked Heirloom Pear 3-Wick Candle
Who doesn't like the Bath & Body Works 3-Wick Candles? They are always on offer and the variety of scents means that anyone can find one that suits their taste. I was wandering around having a sniff of all the Winter scents a few months ago and this one caught my eye. I've never really been too into pear scented things, but this candle is different. It says it smells of pears, apples, and vanilla, but I think it just smells fresh. It's really hard to describe it. It has a slight fruity scent, but also a bit floral. I think it's a great candle to burn in the kitchen.

Wrigley's 5 Focus Gum
For some reason this has quickly become my favorite gum. I have a bit of an oral fixation, and although gum is not good for my TMJ problems, I just can't stay away from it completely. These are smaller pieces, which is better for me. Plus these come in this perfect little pouch that has a zip top. I think that is what sold me on it really...It's pretty intense gum though, so it's great for those after meal meetings that pop up out of nowhere!

Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea
Really...need I even say anything about this empty...It's my second bag of 50 sachets. I've already got a third on the go, and I will repurchase another as soon as I get near the end of this one. I do try other teas, but they are all from Harney & Sons and I really don't see that changing anytime soon. I'm in love with Royal Wedding Tea and I don't care who knows it!

What did you use up this month? Do you find that you are always wanting to try something new after you've finished a product, or do you like to repurchase? If it ain't broke, don't fix it?

PS - Let me know if you'd like to see monthly empties in video format down the road.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Healthy Lunch Ideas

We made it back safe from our travels over the weekend, but now it's time to get back to some normalcy in my eating habits.

I LOVE to travel, but I also HATE what traveling does to my diet! I always end up feeling a bit off by the time it's all over. Do you ever feel like that? Especially when it's a short trip and most of your time is spent on the road...Ugh.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite go to healthy lunches. These are generally things I always have on hand, and they are super quick and easy to put together. When you get back from a trip and you have nothing in your fridge, these things are still totally doable!

Here they are:

I always have bread and some sort of makings for a sandwich. Whether it is lunch meat, lettuce, and a bit of light mayo, egg salad, or half of a grilled cheese; I can generally count on some sort of sandwich being doable. I like to pair my sandwiches with some spicy bread and butter pickles and either some Trader Joe's White Cheddar Puffed Corn or a handful of pretzels - just something to satisfy that salty crunchy craving! You could do this lunch a thousand different ways depending on what you have lying around which makes it a good go to for me!

I like to have canned tuna on hand for those days when I want to change it up a bit. I don't eat it often, but it is a regular in my healthy lunch routine. I prefer plain Bumble Bee tuna in the can, but occasionally I try their flavored pouches. The one shown here is a Chipotle flavored one. They are super easy no matter if you work at home or in the office because you don't need a can opener, but I still prefer the canned version that I can flavor myself. When using the plain tuna fish, I add a bit of light mayo and sweet pickle relish. I can get 2 lunches out of each can. I pair it with a handful of crackers and there's lunch!

"Clean Out the Fridge"
This one I didn't have a picture of because it is dependent on what you have in your fridge obviously. But I hate waste and LOVE leftovers, so this is a natural for me! On days when I have things in the fridge that don't quite make a meal, I add them together for a healthy lunch! Sometimes it is tiny amounts of leftovers from the night before's dinner, or cut veggies with hummus, or apple with peanut butter or a bit of cheese. I just make sure I have some protein and either fruits or veggies and I'm set.

I don't tend to get too fancy with lunch. I like to "spend" my calories on breakfast and dinner each day. Lunch is just one of those bridge meals. It gets me through until dinner. And because I work from home, I don't like to waste too much of my time making it. I want to get up, grab lunch, and be back to work. But I want to be sure I am getting a balanced meal too so I'm not tempted to grab junk throughout the day.

What are your go to healthy lunch ideas? I'd love some new things to try!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What's In My Travel Beauty Bag

Sometimes plans change and when they do, you just have to roll with it.

We had to travel out of town this weekend and ended up getting snowed in at our destination! Now, I love snow, but the blog post I had planned for today depended on my being back home, and that obviously did not happen. So, I thought I would give you guys a sneaky peek into my travel cosmetic bag instead!

Without further ado, here is what I bring with me on a long weekend out of town:

The Body Shop Sweet Lemon Body Butter
I'd normally only bring a small sized body butter when traveling, but I really want to use this one up. I love the formula of the Body Shop Body Butters, and I love all things lemon, but I hate the smell of this! It does not smell like lemon at all. It has an almost plastic-y scent that I just can't stand. I've enlisted the help of the Mister, who isn't as picky as I am, to use this up so I can get on to my lovely Soap & Glory tubs!

Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser
My skin has been super dry lately, so I definitely wanted to bring a cleansing balm. This I have in a smaller, perfect for travel, size so it won the lottery. The good thing about balm cleansers is that they are great at melting makeup off your skin, so there is no need to pack extra makeup removing products. It's all about valuable real estate when on the go.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment
We came North so having a good lip balm is essential, and this is the best one in tube form if you ask me.

I normally use a battery powered toothbrush, but when I travel I always bring a manual one. This one happens to be by Collgate. I don't really have a preference. I just use those that my dentist gives me at each cleaning. 

Ren Bio Retinoid Anti-Ageing Concentrate
This is my current night time serum. I got this size in a Best of box set, and it's perfect for travel. It is on the thick side for facial serums/oils, but it feels good going on and it sinks in quick enough not to leave any residue on your pillow. I find the smell to be similar to the cult favorite Glycol Lactic Radience Renewal Mask. I don't think I've used it long enough for a full review, but it's nice - especially in the super dry climate I'm in at the moment!

Secret Outlast Invisible Solid Deodorant in Sport Fresh
Nothing exciting here...just your standard deodorant/antiperspirant. This brand just happens to be my favorite, and I always use the invisible solid version. Just a personal preference.

Gillette Fusion Razor
This is the razor I keep in my travel bag. I like men's razors better than the female versions. They tend to give me a closer shave, and isn't that what we all want!

Hair Pick
At home I use a Tangle Teezer, but I keep this pick in my travel bag. It's light and takes up little room. When I travel, I go as basic as I can, and it's just easier to use a pick when I wash my hair and skip brushes, blow driers, and flat irons.

Hair Band
I use this when I wash my face to keep my hair back, at the moment.

Hair Tie
These are essential. I found the one for the picture, but I'm sure there are at least 2 more hiding in the bags I brought.

Cetaphil Daily Moisturizer
My current daytime moisturizer. It's good because the Mister will use this one, and then we don't have to pack his saving us space!

Aqua di Gioia Roller Ball
A perfume is something I always travel with, but roller balls are the best for this purpose. I happen to have this one. It is lovely, fruity, and feminine. Maybe a little Springy, but I don't mind using it in the middle of a blizzard.

Clinique High Impact Mascara
I tend to bring whatever mascara I have in sample size when I travel. I have a few at the moment, but this one is really nice. It's perfect for a day to day mascara. It gives me lots of length and stays put!

Nivea A Kiss of Milk and Honey Lip Balm
A girl can never have too many lip I right?!

Just like with my toothbrush, I save the toothpaste samples from the dentist to use for travel. This one happens to be a Sensodyne one. I don't use it enough to give any review of whether it helps with tooth sensitivity, but it leaves my mouth feeling clean, and that's what you want!

Yeah, yeah...I've read the articles. I know Q-Tips are supposed to be bad for your ears, but I've always used them, and I just don't feel right without! Plus, Q-Tips can be used for many tasks. I bought a travel size container once, and now when they are gone I just refill from the big box I have at home. 

Shower Cap
I don't wash my hair everyday, so I keep cheap shower caps in my travel bag in the event that the place I'm staying doesn't provide them.

Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Body Butter
Yeah, so apparently I also need more then one body butter...This one is not quite what I'd call a body butter type consistency. It's kind of in between a lotion and a butter. It's very Summery smelling and uplifting.

Cover Girl Liquid Eyeliner in 800 Black
I'd normally pack a standard eye kohl, but I'm trying to learn to use liquid liner these days. What better way than immersion! If it's the only thing you have, you have to get it right...or go without...

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream
This is what I'm using as my daytime eye cream at the moment. It's great for minimum makeup days since it has a little color correcting pigment and light diffusing shimmer.

Origins Starting Over Age-Erasing Eye Cream with Mimosa
My nighttime eye cream, of the moment.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster
I've been using this as my daytime serum for a few weeks now, and really like it. It holds in moisture making it great for dry Wintery weather.

I hope you enjoyed this happy accident of a post. We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Wednesday!

What are your long weekend toiletry essentials?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Feature Friday: Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea

For my second installment of Feature Friday I had to go with Harney & Son's Royal Wedding Tea.

I know the requirement is that I love a product all week, but confession here...I've loved this tea since July 2013! I drink it EVERY single morning unless I am out and waiting for a new shipment to arrive. In which case I'm probably drinking some other Harney & Son's tea - *ahem* Paris. Each night I even find myself comforted by the thought that when I wake in the morning I get to have a cup of Royal Wedding. Yes, I am a strange bird. But it's THAT good!

I used to be a coffee/espresso drinker, exclusively. I was the type that liked her coffee hot and her tea cold. This was all changed when my sister gave me a sachet of Harney & Sons. I've been converted. But I guess I should talk about the tea and not just my love of it, eh?

According to the Harney & Son's website, this tea was commissioned by the Historic Royal Palaces organization and combines Chinese mutan white tea buds, almond, coconut, vanilla, and a floral abundance of pink rosebuds and petals.

Because it is a white tea, it is very mild. It does still have caffeine, but a lower amount than a black tea, which is fine with me. It has a warm almond-y vanilla flavor. I add a tiny bit of agave and unsweetened almond milk to my cup and it is perfect!

I won't drone on and on about this anymore because I have mentioned it a few times (here and here and I'm sure there are others)...but if you haven't tried anything from Harney & Sons, I suggest you do. I've never been disappointed. They have a good selection of flavored and traditional teas, they are at an excellent price point, and they come in the most beautiful tins!

Have you tried Royal Wedding Tea? What is your favorite tea brand?

What have you been loving this week?!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some of My Favorite iPhone Apps

I've had an iPhone 5 since October 2012, and in that time I have come across a few apps that are super helpful. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd let you know what a few are and what I use them for!

*Most are FREE - only a few have extra features worth gaining when you pay.

Yahoo! Weather
I do like the weather app that comes standard on the iPhone, but I wanted a little more information than it gives. I did some research to see what was the nicest, most informative FREE weather app, and this one seemed to get the highest ratings. I think it's a super nice looking app, and you don't just get the temperature. This app gives you the temperature, the 5 and 10 day forecast, the hourly forecast, a satellite map, precipitation details, wind and pressure details, and even sun and moon details. 

Photo Credit: Apple App Store

Google Maps
We all know the story of Apple Maps...when it was released on the iPhone, it wasn't exactly accurate. Maybe it's gotten better since then, but I just prefer Google Maps. It's easy to use, and if you look up directions while sitting at your desktop or laptop and know you will need them while on the road later, you can just save them to your Google account and pick them right up on the app! I just find this app to be exactly what I need.

I won't go into to how much I love this app, because I've already gone on and on about it here - so go check that out for more information. But I do freakin' love this app! I can set up as many lists covering as many subjects as I want or need. I can also share my lists with other Wunderlist users (Super Handy!).

Key Ring
This app...this speaks to my need of constant de-cluttering! I HATE clutter! It drives me nuts! And these days every store you go to has a rewards or discount card. I can't stand having 50 cards hanging from my key ring. If you are the like me, get this app! Do it! Right now! Just scan in the information from all of your many cards and keep it all in one place. Then you just hand over your phone to scan or type the member number from. It does take a little time to get all of your cards (depending on how many you have), but it just makes sense!

Photo Credit: Apple App Store

I'd been looking for an app for so long that would keep track of my time and mileage when I run. I don't really need coaching as much as I just wanted to know how long and how far I had gone. This app does it! No frills and FREE! You can use this app in conjunction with heart rate monitoring devices as well, but you don't have to. It gives you updates as you run, but doesn't bombard you with constant chatter. Plus, you can save your routes and see how you improve over time. And, if you are trying to be held accountable for your exercise, like we all are at this point in the year, it will even email you each week to let you know how much you have done and how many calories you've burned over the week. It definitely has a way of making you get back off that couch!

Pic Stitch
I find this to be the best photo collage app. You can get it for FREE or pay for some extra features. It does the job and there are so many options! I use this app for all photo collages I post to Instagram.

A Beautiful Mess
Another photo editing app that I love is this one. I generally make my collages in Pic Stitch (you can now make collages directly in ABM) and then embellish using A Beautiful Mess. I just really like the style you can create using it. I also use this app for most of my Instagram posts.

Photo Credit: Apple App Store

Simple Transfer
If you don't like to mess with cords and computers, or other card reader type devices - you will get use out of this app. I have this for my iPhone and my iPad. I find that if I want to get an image or video moved from one device to another (that is not in the Photo Stream or is too large to email) it makes it super easy! You just have to have the app on each of the devices (sending and receiving). You can even use a non-Apple device and open a one off URL given by the app to get the files in a web browser. Really useful, really easy, and really FREE!

Photo Credit: Apple App Store

Not much to say here. It's a FREE music app, and I prefer it to any other. You can also pay so that you don't have to listen to advertisements, but I don't find that they over do them.

Photo Credit: Apple App Store

This app, much like the website, has come in useful so many times! Standing in line at a store when I wanted to find a coupon to use - this app has saved me money! I love saving money! Who doesn't, really...I'm sure there are many apps like this, but I have used this one often with luck, so I'm sticking with it! So if you like saving money while in store or online, check this one out.

Do you have any must have apps you'd like to share? I'm always looking to make my life simpler!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

We all know the old adage, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". But how many of you struggle with putting together quick, easy, and - most of all, healthy meals before you dash out the door in the morning? I know I do!

I find breakfast to be the hardest meal of the day, actually. I very rarely used to eat it at all, let alone waste my energy trying to come up with something good and good for me. I tried the granola bar route, but I find...well I just don't like most that are on the market. I don't like cold cereal, so that's out. And quick frozen breakfast sandwiches are often half of your daily caloric intake! Yikes! So what to do...

About a year ago I found, when I ate breakfast in the morning *gasp* I felt better. I also found, like many have said, that it set me up to eat better on the whole for the day. These are all things that some way or another play into that whole getting healthy thing that most of us are trying to do this time of year. So I thought, if like me, you too struggle to figure out what to eat in the morning - why not share my go to breakfasts!?

Here they are:

Eggs are always a good choice in the morning. It is a quick way to get protein and you can do them a hundred different ways. I generally choose to have mine scrambled because it is quick, easy, and versatile. I always start the same way; 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, a splash of water, and a pinch of salt. Whip it all up and there's a really basic scramble for ya. I like to fill it out a bit more by adding baby spinach, salsa, mushrooms, or whatever other veggies I may have lying around. Sautée the veggies in the pan to heat through, through the egg mixture over the top and stir until cooked. Voila! Quick and mostly healthy breakfast.

If eggs aren't your thing, how about yogurt? It is another way to get some protein in the morning, and also calcium and probiotics! All good stuff in my book. You can have yours flavored, plain, or with fruit. My favorite way is to put some fruit into a bowl, scoop some low fat organic vanilla yogurt over, and top with my favorite granola (Trader Joe's Maple Pecan at the moment - it's AH.MAZING!). I've done it here with some huge blackberries; which I highly recommend!

Hot Cereal
Another go to for me is hot cereal. I prefer Cream of Wheat, but recently the Mister has been experimenting with Steel Cut Oats, and I must say, I approve. However, it isn't something I generally associate with "quick breakfast"...maybe one day. If you've not tried Cream of Wheat, you should! It takes 2 minutes to cook, it's filling, warms you up, and can be dressed up however you like! I'm a bit of a purist though, and I like to cook mine using unsweetened almond milk instead of water. This makes it super creamy. I pour it into a bowl, drizzle a teaspoon of agave over it and there ya go.

You will always see a big cup of Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea with a splash of almond milk and agave with whatever I choose to fill my belly with in the morning. I've been in love - yes, I said in love - with this tea ever since my sister sent me a sachet to try sometime last July, and I've rarely had a breakfast without it since!

I used to be addicted to espresso and coffee, but about 3 years ago I weened myself down to drinking decaf only. So the switch to tea was easy for me. And although white tea does still have some caffeine, it is much less than the high test I had been poisining my system with for so long. Now I have a cup of tea in the morning because I really enjoy it, and not because I get the withdrawl headache if I don't.

I'm always searching for good ideas to expand my regular offerings. Maybe we can help each other out! I've shared my favorites, and now you can tell me yours in the comments! I will go ahead and thank you now!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Feature Friday: Ole Henriksen Truth Serum™ Collagen Booster

Welcome to my first Feature Friday. This will be a weekly installation where I talk about whatever item that I have been loving during the week. It can be a beauty product, food, tech gadget, etc...The only requirement is that it must have been something I loved all week!

This week I've been loving the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum™ Collagen Booster as the newest addition to my morning skincare routine. I discovered it in my stash late last week and decided to give it a go. It is meant to be a facial serum that you put on before your moisturizer and claims to be a potent vitamin C antioxidant boost for your skin.

The Ole Henriksen website says that it smoothes and prevents lines and wrinkles, keeps skin nurtured with moisture-binding ingredients, and calms sensitive skin. It is oil free and contains no parabens, sulfates, or phthalates.

My take on this facial serum is that is smells amazing - like citrus fruit, and it sinks in almost instantaneously! I put 2 pumps onto my fingertips, swipe it over my face evenly, and then quickly but gently massage it into my skin. It doesn't take much work and then you are ready to move onto the next step of your skincare routine.

I've only been using the Truth Serum™ for a little over a week now, so I can't speak about long term effects, but what I do notice is that my skin doesn't get dry, tight, or itchy throughout the day as my moisturizer wears down. I'd normally get that tight feeling about halfway through the day, but after using this stuff that hasn't happened!

So far I'm really enjoying using this facial serum and I'm sure you will be seeing this pop up again in an empties post!

Have you tried the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum™ Collagen Booster? What has been your experience with it?

What have you been loving this week?!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Trader Joe's Haul

If you are like me, you wish you could see what Trader Joe's has in store by looking at their website. And also, if you are like me, you are mighty disappointed when you go to their website thinking that this time they may have added some new information...Nope!

I was heading to my local Trader Joe's the other day and I thought I'd check their website to see if they had anything showing what was new. Clicked on their Fearless Flyer, annnndddd...the date for the current edition was, and still is, December 2nd! Now my store did have some of these items, but there appeared to be some newer things that have not yet been mentioned online.

Now, I know they are trying to keep prices low, and I love them for this, but give us something! I never know when something new is in store until someone I know, that goes more frequently, sends me a text with something that I'd love. I get super excited to try it, and by the time I actually get to the store...they aren't stocking it anymore! *facepalm*

All this being said, I LOVE Trader Joe's! I really do! I wish I could shop there exclusively - but my closest store is 40 minutes away and of course, there are some things you just can't get there. But enough of my rambling...I managed to spend over $100 on my most recent trip and I thought I'd share some of my purchases with you in case you wondered what you might find in store.

Almond Croissants - $3.99
Out of the 3 types of croissants Trader Joe's carries (Chocolate, Pumpkin - seasonal, and Almond), these are my favorite! There is a sweet mildly almond-y filling and the top is sprinkled with slivered almonds. You get 4 to a box and the box may appear small, but once you let them sit out overnight and proof - they become massive pillows of croissant loveliness! A must try!

Mandarin Orange Chicken - $4.99
This is a repurchase every time I make a trip. Inside the bag you get the breaded chunks of chicken and a packet of sauce. You bake the chicken, microwave the sauce, mix the two together and voila! you have mandarin chicken! If you want to make a real meal out of this, make your preferred type of rice, and steam some broccoli - mix it together and you have a pretty good dinner. I've even been known to pair this with know, make a real "take-out" type experience right at home.

Instant Coffee Packets - $1.99
We've tried the Cold Brewed Coffee and found it to be really nice and not bitter. It was an easy thing for the Mister to make and get out of the door with in the mornings. The Cold Brewed Coffee does, however, have an expiration date. So if you are slow at getting through these things, you will likely waste money. So this time we decided to try the Instant Coffee Packets. I've gotten no complaints from him, and he seems to be getting through them, so another win from Trader Joe's!

Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans - $3.99
$3.99 for 2 whole, high quality, vanilla beans?! You may call me a liar if you've never seen them in your store, but this is seriously one of the best deals you will find at Trader Joe's. Williams Sonoma charges $15.00 for the same thing - albeit in a fancy glass jar. Don't expect to find them for too long though - they are a seasonal item...go figure!

Just the Clusters Maple Pecan Granola Cereal - $2.99
If you've tried the Maple Pecan Granola in the bags from Trader Joe's, you will definitely want to get your hands on this stuff! OMG, I need to hide the box from myself! THE.BEST.Granola out there! Get some!

Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds - $2.99
I'm not ashamed to say that this was a purchase totally enabled by Ingrid, or Missglamorazzi (watch the video here). What's not to love, chocolate and fruit. The fruit makes it healthy...right?! My only complaint...they make it just a little too easy to eat the whole box...

Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows - $2.99
In the same vein of the Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds...chocolate, marshmallows...they just make sense! And, they are just delicious!

Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows - $2.99
If you like the regular Chocolate Covered Marshmallows, and you happen to love mint - not to worry, they've made a mallow for you too! Even my kids love these, and they don't generally like mint flavored anything unless it is wrapped in silver and comes in patti form.

Cheddar Rocket Crackers - $2.49
And finally, I had to mention the Trader Joe Cheddar Rocket Crackers because my 3 year old ate a handful on the way home from the store and proclaimed them *ahem* "better than those fish"! Thank you very much. I personally think that testimonial speaks for itself, and you should get your behind right on over to your local store and buy at least 5 boxes! Or just one...whatevs...

So, those were some of my favorite purchases from my most recent trip to Trader Joe's. Have you tried any of these? Do you have any other recommendations for me? Inquiring minds NEED to know!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Time Management: Work At Home Mom's

We'd all like to be able to roll out of bed and into the "office" (ie. where ever our computer happens to be in our home), but not everyone is prepared for what "Working at Home (WAH)" really means. Take it from me, there are a few things you need to know BEFORE you make the decision to make the jump from office to home office.

I was sort of thrown into my WAH mom status unexpectedly about 4 years ago. I left work on Maternity Leave and about half way through was told that I wouldn't be able to come back. As you can imagine, I was totally blown! Here I now had 2 kids and a mortgage - not to mention all of the other bills. I had planned on going back to my job and that just wasn't an option anymore. I took this very hard, and really had to think about what it was that I was going to do to help support my family.

I had always planned to start my own freelance business, eventually, but it looked like that time was now. I reached out to some of my colleagues in the industry and gathered up some of my very first, and longest running, clients - and just got to work.

It took me a very long time; and I'm still working at it; to really get my time management down. Over the almost 4 years I've been working at home, I've also had a little boy to raise. At first it was VERY difficult to handle an infant and try to get anything done. Especially when mine had colic for the first 6 months! *eek* But over time, we developed a bit of a system that evolved with his growth, and now we can get through most days without any major derailments!

What is that system, you ask? Really it's just a group of tips that I've gathered from other WAH Mom's or just pieces of wisdom gained from doing it. Obviously, my system may not work for everyone, but it could serve as a guide while you work out your own!

Here are my tips for managing your time as a WAH Mom:

  1. Write it Down! - I am an inherent list maker. See here...So having a planner of some sort really helps to keep me on track. Over the years I've realized that if it's not on the list, it's not getting done! I spend the first part of my morning every day writing down what I really need to get done each day. I may not get to it all, but if I can see it written down, I am much more likely to prioritize and get things done. Also, when you have a toddler running around the house at the same time you are working, you need to write things down just to remember what you need to do period! It really helps me focus.
  2. Take Breaks! - This part has taken a lot of working for me. I'm the type that just sits at my desk and works. Once I get into a groove, I am very reluctant to get up. I've learned that is does no one any good. I started by carving out times during the day to sit and interact with my son. It doesn't have to be anything that takes loads of planning either. I have made an hour for breakfast and an hour for lunch mandatory each day. No matter what I have going on, I take those hours and sit with my son and eat. He enjoys the attention, and my body enjoys the break from the computer! Now, I have even gotten myself comfortable with taking even bigger breaks - I spend a few hours one day a week and take my son to story time at our local library. I have a very hard time justifying outings like this during the work day, but I've found that it does help with productivity. As long as you "schedule" this time in, you won't feel bad about taking the break.
  3. Keep Family Time Sacred! - Again, this took me a long time to come to grips with, but make sure you have a real work day. Whatever works for you and your family is fine, but pick your working hours and stick to them! I have found with taking my older son to school and school pickups that my best work day is from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Some days, when I don't have to do the school pickup, I can make it until 5:00 pm. But do what works for you. And once your "work day" is over, STOP WORKING!!! I can't stress this enough! When you have decided your day is over, get up from your desk. No more email or phone calls.Yes, it's hard and sometimes you have to break this rule, but for yours and your family's sanity, you have to draw a line in the sand. Finally, take your weekends. Yeah, every now and then you have to do a little work on the weekend, but on the whole, make that family time. You won't get burnt out and you will feel like a lot better about yourself.
  4. Socialize! - Now, I am not the poster child for this rule...I find myself getting cabin fever and more often than not, I talk to everyone like they are a 3 year old. This year I have vowed to make more of an effort to get myself actually dressed each day and to find more ways to get out of the house each week. Getting out to story time last year did make a difference, but you also need to schedule time for YOU to be YOU. Get out with friends. Get out with your significant other. Just get out by yourself! I even use Facetime a lot to have "face-to-face" conversations with other adults in my life. Trust me, you will feel SO much better when you make time to socialize with people your own age!
I know these things seem like they'd be standard and easy to work into your day, but when you try to work at home, raise kids, and take care of your home; you will find that it's a lot easier said that done! Some of these things have really taken me almost 4 years to put into place in my own time management scheme. Don't feel bad if you try and they don't work right away. Just keep at it and eventually something will just click for you.

Working at home AND raising kids AND taking care of your home can happen! Figure out what works best for you and run with it.

Do you work at home? What have you found to be the key rules of it working for you? I can definitely use more tips!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts on Weight Loss & Getting Healthy

Tis the season for losing weight and getting into the gym, but before you jump onto that bandwagon, stop and really think about what you hope to accomplish with your health and fitness goals. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to learn to make better food choices? Do you want to be healthier? Do you just want to get moving? All of these questions may seem like they are asking the same thing, but when you stop to think about your answers, you will find they are very different.

Not everyone cares to lose tons of weight, but better food choices and getting in motion can be on the top of just about anyone's to do list when trying to get healthy.

So, although I do hope to slim down a tad (we are just getting past the eating-est 3 holidays we celebrate, after all), my aim is more about having a healthier mindset when it comes to food and activities. I want to train myself to make better food choices on the regular, not just for the moment. And also to teach myself that when you are active you feel better! This could be a long process...

To give some scope, here is a bit of my background with healthy living...About 7 years ago I moved to a new state, on my own, with my then 2 year old son. My husband stayed behind to sell our house (I had gotten a job that required me to head out early.). I was traveling 2 hours round trip for work each day and handling drop offs and pick ups as well as the regular daily care of a toddler by myself. You can imagine I had ZERO time for exercise, and even less motivation for eating healthily. So I packed on a few, or 30, pounds...

Fast forward six months. We sold our house. My husband moved, and all was right with the world...almost. We still had the task of buying a new home in our new state. In the end, we decided to build a house...also not the best for the waistline *enter stress here*. About six months after that we moved into our new home and I dedicated myself to getting healthy. I joined Weight Watchers and started on their Point Program. I lost 43 pounds and felt amazing!

Weight Watchers is a great program. I really think everyone should be educated in their way of eating. Even if you aren't trying to lose weight, it teaches you HOW to eat. You really start to see how the foods you are putting into your body impact your health, and subsequently, your weight. I won't delve too much into this part because it's not the focus here, but it does play a part in my mentality so it is relevant.

I no longer rely on Weight Watchers to make me feel "safe" when I am trying to be healthy. For one, it is an expense I'd rather not have. But two, I've learned from my time on their program, and I feel confident in my ability to make good food choices on my own.

There is one piece, however, that I have continued to work into my routine, and that is the food journal. You hear people say it all the time; if you have to actually write out that you had a bag of M & M's, a 2 Liter of soda, and a bag of Pirate's Booty, you may think twice about eating those foods. It's true! I feel much more accountable when I am writing down what I put into my body. You can use anything from a daily planner, to a plain notebook, to an app on your phone. There is no right or wrong way to do a food journal.

However, I have found a way that beats them all in my book (pun intended) May Book from May Designs. I was turned onto this company by Fleur from Fleur de Force when she recommended a planner in her Stocking Fillers: The Under £15 Gift Guide! I fell in love with their style and went to check them out. Since I use my Filofax as my daily planner, I wanted to see if they had any other options. They did! I purchased their Calorie + Exercise Journal. (You can see some close up shots of the inside of it below and the cover can be seen here.)
You get to fill out the date, your calorie goal per day, and then write in what you actually ate. Now, if you choose not to fill in calories it is still a great journal. And if you are following a Weight Watchers plan, you could easily write in your Daily Points Goal and food points instead.

We all know we need to drink more water! Here you can keep track of the (8) 8oz. glasses you are supposed to get in. I use stickers to mark them off, but you could just check or X through them. Dressing it up may entice you to drink more though...Not a scientific fact, but it works for me!

There is even a place for you to write down what exercise you did that day. I love lists, so anything that gives me a place to write something specific makes me want to do it more just so I can write it down. *Geek*
Finally, at the end of the day you can write a little confessional or just a few thoughts about the day. And as an added incentive, you can check off whether you met your goals or not. Who doesn't want to check something off that says "Hooray!"?!

Seriously, this little journal is pretty thorough. Plus, it's just adorable to carry around with you. I love it, and I plan to use one* for all of 2014 as part of my resolution to get healthier. I know some of this seems silly; the prettier something is, the more I want to use it - but it's true! I am much more inclined to use something that makes me feel good about using it. Whatever works, right?

What is your favorite way to keep yourself accountable?

*You get a little over a month's worth of pages per book.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Obsession With Lists...Oh, and Notebooks

It's safe to say that I am a List Maker. I admit it. I know I have a problem. I actually write things down that I've already done, just so I can cross them off of my list! If this isn't the definition of a problem, I don't know what is. Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my favorite list making paraphernalia with you.

I've covered most budgets in my selection. So you should be able to find one that fits your needs. Here we go, in no particular order...

Wunderlist - iTunes App Store - FREE

I've used Wunderlist since I got my iPad last April. It is a FREE app that works on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, Android, Kindle Fire and the Web (according to their website). It is a super simple app, and I love it! The best use of Wunderlist, for me, has been for store lists. I find that it is really easy to add things to my grocery list, or Sam's Club list, or even my Target list when I run out of something or remember that I need to pick something up the next time I'm out. However, that's not the best part about this app...

The absolute BEST part is that you can SHARE your lists with other Wunderlist users!!! *insert Angel song here* If you don't know why this is an awesome feature, I will tell you. Should I tell you? I will! I got my husband to install this app on his iPhone and now whenever I don't feel like going out to the store, I send him a text and ask him (nicely, of course) if he would mind stopping by the grocery store to pick up a few things. And when he obliges (which he always does), all he need do is go on over to Wunderlist and take a look at the "G Sto" list I have shared with him and he knows everything I need!

I use this app ALL the time, and I will continue to use it, because it is just the best darn list app out there! End of story.

Filofax A5 Finsbury in Raspberry - $99.00
I did see it for $89.10 here. Which is where I ordered mine.

Ay Filofax is obviously the most expensive option out of the ones shown here, but you just can't beat these.  They have a number of styles and sizes to fit anyone's needs. And although they are expensive, the outer cover is made using really nice leather that will stand the test of time. If you ask me, the more loved these are, the better they look! But because the cover lasts forever, you can reuse this for the rest of your life - or however long you'd like...All you need to buy each year is the calendar inserts that you prefer (these are the Day per Page Business Style) which cost about $25.50. There are many different refill options though.

So, although very expensive, it is highly customizable and has many many different accessories that you can add to make sure it fits your needs to a T. And even in this tech filled world, it's still nice to have something to hold and to write in (and then cross off).

May Book in Polka Dot Mint from May Designs - $22.00
This has to be the most absolutely stunning option out of all of them! The price is amazing, the options for customization are endless, and the quality is like that of something much much more expensive. You can get these just lined for notes, or with the calendar pages, as a wedding planner, or with the food and exercise pages (shown here). Whatever your style, there is a design for you. You choose the print, the color, the nameplate, and font. The people over at May Designs are so lovely, and their Instagram is filled with tons of pretty photos (you should go follow them). I will definitely be ordering from them throughout the year. In fact, I already have - shh, it's a gift (Did I say, they make great gifts?)!

I've been using this since the first of the year for my food and exercise journaling, and I absolutely love it. If you have been looking for something like this, seriously, you MUST check this company out!

Finally, for the last of my options, I've been using just a 4"x6" Greenroom Eco notebook for all of 2013. You can get these at Target, but I don't think they have the same print shown in the first photo in this post (it's about 2 years old).

This morning when I opened it, the cover just came off in my hands - It's been well loved. The price is very budget friendly, and they have super pretty designs, but after getting my first May Book I think I am going to go pick up a Moleskine journal to replace my Blog notebook. You can also get these at Target, and they are well priced, but they are really good quality with a stitched binding. When you are going to be toting something around and opening and closing thousands of times, you want to make sure it will last.

So those are my picks for lists, notes, journaling, etc...What are your favorites? I'd love to know of new companies to check out. Like I said...I have a bit of a problem, but you can never have too many notebooks!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Favorite Beauty Finds of 2013

Here they are - my most used, most repurchased, and just plain most loved beauty products from 2013! Grab a snack and sit back, because it's a long one folks.

I apologize for the odd lighting...I'm figuring out my new camera.
Sigma Travel Kit in Make Me Blush - $75.00
I was given these Sigma brushes Christmas 2012, and I really got my use out of them in 2013. I took them every time I travelled and I also used them for regular makeup application at home. I was worried the shorter handles would be awkward, but they are super comfortable to use. The brushes are really soft, and they clean up really nicely too! I have plans to purchase more Sigma brushes this year.

TRESemme Platinum Strength Strengthening Shampoo - $5.79
I love this shampoo. I've repurchased this a few times now. It's affordable, it does the job, and it lasts for ages. It makes my hair soft, and I like the smell too. It's probably not the best shampoo for your hair, but you know what, I just like it. And because I only wash my hair every third day or so, I don't feel too bad.

Stella by Stella McCartney - $50.00
This could be my signature fragrance. I'm not normally a rose scent lover, but this fragrance is very grown up floral with a bit of muskiness. It's just very feminine and sexy and I love it!

Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash - $21.00
If you have combination, normal, or even dry skin I think this cleanser would work for you. It gets super foamy, so you only need a tiny amount each time, but it doesn't leave your skin feeling stripped and tight. I tend to use this as my night time cleanser on days when I've not worn makeup. I've already repurchased this one, and plan to keep it in my stash.

Dove Go Fresh Restore Body Wash in Blue Fig & Orange Blossom - $8.99
The formula of the Dove Body Washes is quite moisturizing for being a drugstore product, and most of the scents are lovely. This one has been my favorite lately. It's quite light and fresh. As far as drugstore body washes go, this one seems to be one of the best, and I've purchased quite a few bottles of it through the course of the year.

Chanel Vitalumière Aqua in 20 Beige - $45.00
I'm not a huge fan of the "makeup face" feeling of most foundations, so when I heard this one felt very lightweight, I wanted to give it a try. It's amazing! It is super lightweight, has the nice Chanel makeup scent (which I like), and it has a luminous finish without looking greasy. I'd say the coverage is medium, but buildable. But the best part is that it is an exact color match for my skin. (I was told I'm a NW20 at Mac, for reference, but I feel like that is too dark and muddy for me.) I plan to try out more Chanel face products!

Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm - $28.50
A close second to this cleansing balm is the Lush Ultrabland. I do really love it and still use it, but it's more expensive and it does tend to leave my wash cloths stained due to the high oil content. This Clinique won because of its super silky texture and the fact that it washes off your skin with absolutely no residue. It has no scent and no coloring in, so it is great for sensitive skins. It takes waterproof eye makeup off to, which is a nice bonus when you're naughty like me and never have eye makeup remover on hand.

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Flared Waterproof Mascara in Very Black - $7.49
Not much to say here. It's a waterproof mascara. It's super black. And it makes my lashes super long and not clumpy! I really like the extreme lash look, so anything that gives me amazing long lashes is a hit in my book. I did try the non-waterproof version too, but it did end up flaking on me throughout the day and I was not happy about that. So stick with the waterproof version!

Big Sexy Hair Powder Play Volumizing & Texturizing Powder - $16.95
I've really gotten into having big, messy, highly texturized hair lately. I realized my hair is just super flat and thin looking. This stuff is a powder that you tap into your roots and then kind of juzzh up. It doesn't take too much, hence why I am still using a sample size. I don't find that it makes my hair gray and powdery looking either. I have big plans for trying out other hair Volumizing products in 2014, but this one is the one I loved in 2013.

Lush Celestial Facial Moisturizer - $24.95
Yum! I couldn't pass up trying this Lush facial moisturizer when I found out it smelled of almonds. This stuff is seriously moisturizing without being greasy. It is pretty thick, so I use it as a night time moisturizer. But the smell is so relaxing and lovely. I wish they made a hand cream in this scent as well! Lush, get on that!

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment - $22.50
My favorite lip balm, period. Not much else to say. I've gone on and on about this stuff. It smells of lemons and vanilla, which I adore, and it feels amazing on the lips. It is quite expensive, but totally worth the splurge.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal (Brown, Purple, and Nude) - $4.49
A perfect dupe for the Urban Decay eye pencils, and so affordable you can afford to get the entire color range. These will continue to be a staple in my collection. I've swatched my 3 favorites below.

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream - $30.00
Nice and brightening for us girls with dark under eye circles, and plenty moisturizing enough as a day eye cream. I do love eye creams and I like trying new ones, but I can see this one being a mainstay for me.

Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter Body Butter - $20.00
The best body moisturizer in my book! It smells amazing, as all the Soap & Glory products do. It is thick and creamy, but it does sink in pretty quickly and leaves you with lovely soft skin. I tend to use this at night after my shower or bath and before bed. The smell makes me feel cozy and sleepy and ready for a night of sweet dreams. I have not tried the other body butters in the range, but I was given a few small sized tubs for Christmas which I'm sure will be well loved!

Maybelline EyeStudio Color Tattoo Metal 24hr Cream Gel Shadow in Barely Branded - $6.99
Maybelline EyeStudio Color Tattoo 24hr Eyeshadow in Bad to The Bronze - $6.99
Again, the formula of these cream eye shadows is just amazing! These two colors, particularly, make great bases or a single wash of color. They last absolutely ages too! When they say 24 hour, they mean it. I've swatched these two colors below.

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Cherry - $15.00
This is a recent find for me, but when I tried it, i fell in love. The formula is moisturizing like a balm and has a sheer color that you can slick on in a thin layer for a light color or build up for a lipstick type look. I think this is the only color they have in this formula, but it is a signature color for them, and it think it's gorgeous! I've swatched it below for you.

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat - $9.95
I know, I's not the greatest for you, but it is a amazing top coat and it dries so quickly! Since I discovered this, I've had far fewer screw ups after doing my nails. It gives the most beautiful high shine to your at home manicure.

Lush Bath Bombs, Bath Melts & Bubble Bars - Varied Price Range
Do you think I have a bit of an obsession? This basket holds all of my Lush Bath Bombs and Bubble Bars. Right now it's mostly Christmas Limited Releases, but there are a few permanent range items as well like my beloved Twilight Bath Bomb. Lush just does the best in bath products. I tend to stock up a few times a year when they release their holiday or seasonal items.

If you made it to the end of this mammoth post, you win the prize...a big hug from me! Those are all of my favs from 2013. What did you love last year?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Accutane Story

I was a 32 year old with is how I changed that (not the age part though).

I was not one of those kids that struggled with acne in high school. I was lucky in that respect, but in retrospect, I wish I HAD'VE had it then instead of what I DID get!

When I hit college, at 17 (I graduated a year early.) my skin started its slow progression to what I've been dealing with for the last 10 years. It didn't hit me all at once, but by the time I was 22 I had constant acne. It was never terribly eruptive - more on the cystic, super painful side. However, because I have a hyper pigmentation issue, every little spot turned into a bright red beacon that just never fully went away!

10 years ago I started with the dermatologist appointments, medications, creams, and treatments. I was given antibiotics of all kinds which only tended to give me lovely yeast infections - subsequently I was given more pills to combat that. Then I was given the creams (I can't even remember the names at this point.). The only joys that came from the creams were dry super sensitive spotty skin - not pretty! Finally, I was perscribed laser light treatments. This was a special type of torture where you went in for a number of treatments (the number was based on the severity of your skin), laid down on a bed, and had a nurse place this device on your face that felt like someone was snapping a rubber band on your bare skin repeatedly. This was all followed by a bag of ice to calm the redness...


Surprise, surprise - NONE of this worked!

I moved to a different state at this point and just never sought out a new dermatologist. In the meantime, I had 2 children (which did not clear up my skin). After my second son, almost 4 years ago, I decided enough was enough - I did not want to deal with the pain anymore. I found a dermatologist and went to see him. We discussed the things I had already tried and what my options were. He happened to be an advocate for Accutane - or the generic form of it anyway. At the time I was still considered a "pregnancy risk" and he steered me away from the drug for obvious reasons. However, I did have plans to have my tubes tied, so we decided to try a few milder treatments until I was prepared to start Accutane.

We tried the standard antibiotics again - no luck, same outcome as before. We tried the topical creams - again, no luck. Finally, I decided to give it up and just go ahead and get my tubes tied before I moved forward with anymore treatments. So in early May of 2013 I had my tubes tied and so started my journey to fix my skin!

Let me just say, having your tubes tied (as a female) is not necessary to get on Accutane. I already had that in my plans before Accutane was.

After my proceedure to render me sterile, I went for my first blood test to make sure I wasn't pregnant...Thankfully, and as I had expected, I was not. A month after the initial blood test, I had to have a second to be double sure I wasn't pregnant, then I could pick up the prescription for my first 30 days of Claravis (a generic form of Accutane) from my dermatologist. He started me on 40mg twice a day and that is what I stayed on for the entire 5 month cycle.

When you have gotten your first prescription, you and your doctor decide on your 2 forms of birth control and you take an online quiz to insure that you are well informed on all aspects of the drug you are about to take. Once you drop of your prescription to your authorized pharmacy, you have a small window to pick it up once it is filled. MAKE SURE YOU PICK IT UP WHEN IT IS READY!!! I can't stress this enough...If you do not, you will be stuck having to have ANOTHER blood test and waiting for your doctor to re-authorize a new prescription. (Yes, I had this happen once, and it was super annoying.)

I went through this process for each of the 5 months and also saw my dermatologist each month for a follow up. Your doctor may have a different process than mine, depending on where you are in the world. But if you are a male - you do not have to go through as much as us females do. Because you can't actually get pregnant - outside of some sort of crazy medical miracle, there isn't the risk of birth defects. Consider yourselves lucky gents!

Side effects - pretty much instantly my lips started to get dry. This continued until they felt like Spongebob looked when he travelled to Shell City in search of Neptune's Crown and got trapped in a gift shop...


The next side effect showed only in blood tests: high cholesterol. This is apparently a very common side effect that goes away promptly after you get off the medication. Following that, my skin got dry, my scalp got dry, my eyes got dry, my cuticles dried up and receded, I lost a TON of hair, and the inside of my nose dried up. Some of these dried areas turned out to be awesome, others...not so much. The final side effect I had, and the one that was the most severe was sore joints. Seriously, it took me about 10 minutes to get myself moving after any seated or lying down position, and first thing in the morning I needed a good half hour to feel like a person even close to my age. Otherwise, I was feeling like an Arthritic old woman. This side effect did go away almost immediately following my last dose of medication.

Note: Many younger people tend to experience mood changes while on this medication, but I didn't have any sort of mood change.

I was actually super happy with the dry scalp and dry cuticles. I only had to wash my hair about once a week. It was never so healthy! And my nails were amazing with no icky cuticles mucking things up. My nails weren't dry the whole time I was on the medicine, but the week after I took my last pill...that changed...and they are still peeling and splitting. Ugh!

I did have the initial breakout. That started in the first month. I didn't notice any sort of real difference in my skin until about day 70 of my treatment. At that point, my face looked like a different persons. I was amazed since I hadn't seen clear skin since my middle school years! I did have another round of a few active spots a few weeks after that, but I am pretty sure it was due to a specific moisturizer I tried to use and not the medication. I promptly threw that moisturizer out and the spots went away for good!

I am now just over 2 months post-Accutane and only one of the side effects is still hanging around. The inside of my nose is still very dry and crusty (TMI I know). Because of the dry nose, I did get quite a few bloody noses. That has gone away though. The hair loss is gone, the sore joints is gone, and my lips are no longer likened to the Sahara Desert! My skin is still dry, but nothing like it was and my scalp still hasn't gone back to its previous state, however, I'm fine with this. Other than the fact that my nails are a wreck, things are going very well.

My dermatologist has recommended that I get on and stay on Tretinoin (a generic form of Retin-A) for the rest of my life. I'm not a huge fan of being on a prescription gel for the rest of my life, so I have researched natural alternatives to this topical medication and plan to try that out instead. I did have the first prescription for the Tretinoin filled to have on hand, but my insurance company put up a huge fight, so beware of that.

All in all I am very happy with my decision to go on Claravis (Accutane). This medication definitely isn't for the faint of heart, but if you are like me and tired of the pain of constant cystic acne - I wouldn't write it off. I will be giving periodic updates on my progress Post-Claravis, but for now I'd direct you to watch the video slideshow of images at the top of this post. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.

Have any of you gone through this treatment? What were your results? Did you have the same side effects?

Thanks for sticking with me through this long rambly post! I hope it is helpful to any of you who are thinking about going on Accutane or if you are actually on it and would like to know what to expect.