The best part about summer vacation is the fact that the girls don't have to go to bed practically right after David gets home. After dinner they can go for a swim in the pool while listening to basketball or take a quick trip across the canal on the kayak. Nothing makes me happier than to see the three of them spend some quality time together. Often I tag along, but sometimes I take a step back and let him enjoy the time with his girls.
The girls had their last day of school on Thursday. So far, this is what summer looks like. Hanging out at home, playing hide-and-seek, watching movies...aren't summers the best? We had a slight hiccup yesterday when the upstairs air conditioner broke, which was quickly corrected by the trusty repairman. There are plenty of days for outings and activities, but I always like to begin our summers with some rest and relaxation.
Of course, there is always a bit of work thrown in the mix. The girls have already cleaned their upstairs, and we are going to be working on laundry as a group chore this summer. I'm going to tech Olivia how to operate the washer, and the three of us will be folding the clothes together. But this isn't exactly child labor...they are currently donning their swimsuits for a dip in the pool.
Over the past few years our moves have really taken a toll on my skin. We went from a relatively dry climate in Kansas with cold temperatures, to the humid, smoggy weather of Houston. Now here we are in the hot, humid coastal weather of Corpus Christi. Needless to say my skin was freaking out. On top of that, I am in my mid 30s...what worked in my early adulthood will not work now. I decided to get serious and really start focusing on my skin.
First, a disclaimer....I am not a Dermatologist or a professional skin consultant. What I am is an informed skincare and cosmetic enthusiast. I have tried all different products, from drugstore to high end. My other motto is research, research, research. Get to know what those ingredients are on the back of the box. Also, everyone's skin is different. What may work for some could be disastrous for others.
I have two skincare routines, morning and night. Both of these routines follow the same pattern, but with slightly different products. Before I explain my routines, let me give a bit of personal skin information. I am 36 years old with dehydrated, dry-combination skin that is also extremely sensitive and prone to breakouts. My concerns are hydration, wrinkle prevention, and scarring from acne.
Both my routines follow the same pattern: cleanse, tone, serum, moisturize.
Cleanse: I use balm or cream cleansers. They are the most gentle on skin, and yet effective at removing makeup. Stay away from all foam cleansers! They strip your skin.
Tone: I rotate between an exfoliating toner that uses glycolic acid to get rid of dry skin cells (an big cause of acne) and a gentle toner aimed at restoring the skin's natural Ph balance.
Serum: These get layered according to what I think I need at the time. Oil for extra moisture, serums high in hyaluronic acid to trap water in the skin, Retinols to help with skin texture.
Moisture: Obviously something to moisturize the skin. Cannot contain Mineral oil or shea butter, both of which are causes of acne.
Here are both of my routines right now:
Cleanse with Bobbi Brown Balm Rinse or CeraVe gentle cleanser and a wash cloth. Lots of people say no need to wash in the morning, but as soon as I started removing the "sleep" off of my face in the morning I noticed a dramatic reduction in acne. (also i now wash my pillowcase every 3 days.)
Tone with Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner using a cotton pad. This restores my skin's Ph and just makes it instantly feel calmer. I then spray my face with Aveda Botanical Kinetics Toning Mist. It contains things like witch hazel and sodium hyaluronate (attracts and traps water).
Serum- I don't always use a serum in the morning and go straight to spf or moisturizer.
Moisturizer- You may notice I didn't mention spf up there. That is because I don't apply an SPF every single day. I use makeup that contains physical spf. If I knew I was going to be outside that day I would at this time apply an spf made for the face. I really like the bobbi brown one. On a daily basis though I just apply my moisturizer. Currently I am using the Perricone MD Face Finishing Moisturizer. Something to keep in mind if you wear makeup- an oil based moisturizer is often difficult to wear under water based foundation. So, I keep my oils for night use and use a water-based moisturizer for the daytime.
Cleanse with the balm cleanser. I warm a small amount between my hands to warm up and then massage onto dry skin. I then clean off with a warm wash cloth.
Tone with Aveda Botanic Kinetic Exfoliant. This exfoliant contains glycolic and salicilic acids to eat away dead skin cells, which prompts cell turnover and prevents clogged pores. As soon as I started using a glycolic acid I noticed a marked difference in my skin. Stay away from scrubs! No apricot seeds on the skin. It's like putting tiny little cuts all over your face. Lactic acid will also exfoliate, but not to the degree as glycolics.
Serum- I switch between a retinol serum and a hydrating serum. For retinol serums, I look for retinol to be in the top of the ingredients list. For hydrating serums, I look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Right now I am using ROC Retinol Correction Deep Wrinkle Serum. I like it, but don't love it. I'll probably be shopping for a new one once this is used up. For hydration I have just recently ordered Caudelie SOS serum.
Oil- I then apply a small amount of facial oil all over my face. Yes, you can use oils with acne. I am using Clarins Blue Orchid face oil which is aimed at dehydrated skin (um, me). For some people this may be enough, but for my dry skin I need to then go on to a moisturizer.
To finish, I apply my Perricone MD moisturizer and go to bed. When I wake up my face feels so soft.
Now, I can already here a few voices. "I don't need all of that stuff." or "i only use natural products" or "it's too expensive." Ok. I hear all of this, but let me offer up some thoughts on each.
1. I don't need it. Well, if you have baby perfect skin with no blemishes or wrinkles...it's plump and hydrated with no pigmentation from pregnancy or sun damage, then you are awesome. I, like many women I imagine, am at an age where I am starting to see these things and want to do as much as possible to take care of this one face of mine. Since I started using glycolic acid and retinol I have seen a drastic decrease in my scarring. Also, I had pigmentation the size of a dime on my right cheek from being pregant with Olivia that has now completely faded. It may sound like a lot of steps, but really it takes me a total of maybe three minutes to complete.
2. I only use natural products. Ok. I undertand this one. I don't want to go around putting tons of harmful products on my face either. I am personally a fan of using the technology that science has given us, but if you really don't want to there are lots of great natural brands like Kate Sommerville. Just be aware of wording, because there is a big market for "all natural/ organic" nowadays. For instance willowbark and salicilic acid are the same thing. It may just say willowbark, but it is the same thing as that regular old salicilic acid. Hyaluronic acid is something found in the human body. Also, be aware that something can still cause reactions even though it's natural. Essential oils are effective because they are powerful. For instance, I cannot use large amounts of Lavendar oil (it irritates my skin). Olivia can't have any kind of cinnamon oil near her or she gets a skin rash. Many essential oils aren't recommended for children or pregnant women like peppermint and clove oil. I love using essential oils, but they are a potent ingredient just like any of these others. Treat them as a medicine. Other natural oils are brilliant period...Jojoba and apricot kernel oil for example.
3. It's too expensive. One of my go-to sources for skincare, Caroline Hirons, says to take a look at what you are willing to spend on that purse or those shoes. That should be your skincare budget. I think it is a good way to put things in perspective. If you would buy those $200 hasbeen clogs you should be willing to invest that money in taking care of your face. It's the only one you get. There are some terrific inexpensive products out there like the CeraVe cleanser and moisturizer. But other things are really worth the extra money and many of them will last six months to a year. I'm not saying go broke on skincare; I'm saying you are worth papering.
I hope this may have helped some of you who have found you are in need of a skincare refresh. If I were to list my most important factors they would be Hyaluronic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and Retinol and staying away from mineral oil and shea butter. Take care and have a terrific Thursday!
As many of you already know, David and I are on a pretty major health kick right now...emphasis on portion control and empty calories. What we aren't doing is punishing ourselves with flavorless meals. I've said it before- I don't believe in dieting. I think it makes a person too food obsessed. You limit yourself to such a degree that when you do have a treat you go completely overboard. I believe in learning how to eat meals that are appropriate in size for your body and cooking healthful foods.
That brings us to today's recipe, the pork lettuce wrap. Essentialy it is an asian flavored taco using lettuce instead of a bread. You could cut the calories even more by using a lean chicken (or tofu), but even with ground pork each wrap is 240 calories. I can eat two wraps and a bowl of miso soup for less than 600 calories. The other great thing about the lettuce wrap is you can customize it to any kind of flavor. You could use fajita meat and pico de gallo for mexican wraps, or chicken and a bit of caesar dressing...hamburger meat, tomato, and cheddar for a burger. The kids like building them, but even if they weren't a fan, you could easily give them a tortilla to use instead of lettuce. Now, the average corn tortilla has 70 calories. You might be prone to saying go ahead and use the tortilla. But I figure lettuce has basically no calories. That 140 calories I would have had in tortillas equals a snack of apples and cheese later, or maybe some popcorn, or a glass of wine.
Here's what you need:
ground pork- roughly 4oz. per person
green leaf lettuce
4 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 Tbs. peanut butter
chinese five spice
mirin or rice wine vinegar
1/4 c sugar
For the pickled carrots:
in a saucepan, combine 1/2 c white vinegar and 1/4 c sugar. Bring to a boil. Add carrot sticks. Cook 1 minute and turn off stove. Pour pickles carrots into container and chill.
For the pork:
Brown pork in a heavy pan. Drain off any fat. Add the chinese five spice, salt, and pepper. When almost finished pour in a bit of mirin to deglaze pan.
For the peanut sauce:
Combine peanut butter, 1/4 tsp soy sauce, and 1/4 c vinegar.
Let everyone make their own. Although you can wrap the lettuce, I found it was easiest to explain to the girls to eat them as they would a taco. Both girls devoured theirs. It also makes a great make-ahead meal since you could brown the meat and keep everything prepped in the fridge...great for a school night.
Yesterday when I looked around and realized my house had turned into a disaster zone I realized I needed to do some emergency cleaning. The things is though, I don't always have an entire day worth of time to spend cleaning. The following is the method I use for doing a blitz cleaning job. It's quick and extremely effective at getting my house back into order.
1. Get a trash sack. Walk around the house and empty all trash. All bathroom trashcans, all tags, tissues, scraps of paper laying around the house. All used matches and magazine tearouts. Large bits of trash left on the floor. Collect it all. The house should already feel 10x cleaner.
2. Make the bed.
3. Pick up all dirty clothes. Take to laundry room or laundry basket.
4. Get a basket. Put any of the kids' junk in this basket they've left laying around the house so they can put it all away later.
5. Go through mail quickly. Eliminate any recycling and trash. Make a neat stack of bills to take care of later. Put magazines in their proper place.
6. Fluff pillows and fold blankets in living rooms.
7. Collect all dishes around house.
8. empty dishwasher and reload. Comet the sink.
9. Clean kitchen counters, stove, and fridge.
At this point I would sweep and mop if time permitted. If not, do that job the next day. I can do all of this in my house in under an hour. The house may not be clean enough to eat off the floors yet, but I always feel like I have much more control of the situation. I do a mini version of this every single day and it really helps keep the house always feeling picked up. Getting a large basket for the staircase was such a huge help in keeping our public spaces clean. Now, I just pick up while the girls are at school and throw their junk in that basket. They know they have to empty the basket after school.
If, like us, your family has a tendency to accumulate stacks over the course of a week I highly recommend the basket method. Keep all those messes in a semblance of order by having baskets for them- if you know the bills and mail won't get dealt with until the end of the week then get a basket with a lid to keep them in during the week. You won't have to look at the mess, but it will all stay in one place. Same for shoes. We kick them off everywhere, so I bought a basket to keep by the front door. During the week I just want the shoes to at least end up in the basket. And when I'm cleaning I walk around to collect shoes and put them in the basket. I also keep a variety of baskets empty around the house so if one of us takes on a project of some kind we can grab a basket and throw the project inside when we're not working on it. I don't end up getting mad at the girls for that crazy yarn/duct tape production they have in the works if they can just throw it all into their basket when play time is over.
I'm not perfect at house work, but I have found using this method keeps my house in a state where someone could show up at any time and I wouldn't be embarassed of my mess. For me, that's a big success. Also, it keeps me from being that mom & wife who is constantly yelling in frustration about the mess in the house. A win win!
If you don't always know if you make much of a difference as a stay at home mom, my I suggest you stop doing anything around the house for two days straight. Our house is now a complete disaster. Ha!
Italian-style bossa nova is basically the best ambient music ever.
Second day hair always looks best. I should remember this when I have an event- fix hair the night before.
Big family dinners are not always necessary. Sometimes two can have leftovers, one tuna and crackers, and another a scrambled egg.
Exercise will become second nature if you do it often enough. I don't even think about it anymore. I just do it every day, sometimes I even look forward to it.
Same goes for portion control. One day you turn around and realize you are eating a fraction of what you used to without even thinking about it.
Flip flops are so much better than heels. And Havianas really are better than old navy flip flops.
In a world of electronics, paperback books still reign king for me.
Drop cloths make the best quick curtains.
Keeping the new car clean pays off when you hand it over to the valet without being embarassed by all the junk.
Loving the music of Janelle Monet. Her videos for Tightrope and Q.U.E.E.N. are so awesome. Also, I will never ever get tired of Eddie Vedder.
A trip to San Antonio this past weekend. Our oldest friend Matt is moving with his beautiful family to England. I've known this sweet man since I was sixteen years old, and it warms my heart to see him so happy. Since we were teenagers we have gotten together whenever we return home for the holidays. You can bet we have a European vacation in the works. We love you Uncle Matt!
The weekend also brought retirement parties, cousins, mexican food, and lots of laughing. For the first time in over a decade David and all his siblings live in Texas, which means big, loud get togethers. It was so much fun, and soon time to return home. Mother's Day consisted of naps and the Spurs game. Quiet, and lovely to be with my two perfect girls. Oh, and the best mother's day gift ever...Olivia got sick and David told me to go downstairs, he'd take care of it.
Sometimes I am stunned to think that I have been a mother for a decade now. Every year gets better than the last with these terrific girls. Zoe gave me a card and wrote me a beautiful letter. Olivia gave me a card that said the following:
Pessimist: Glass half empty
Optimist: Glass half full
A mother: Who left the glass on the counter?
The fact that it is finally May makes me so very excited. In four weeks school will be out and I'll have my kiddos back. We have a family vacation planned for June and I look forward to lazy mornings a lot like the ones we had this past weekend. Chatty breakfasts, walks on the beach, helpers in the kitchen, movies, made-up games, drawing, swimming...ahh, can you feel that summer sunshine yet?
Olivia threw her first real sleepover. Two girls from her class came over Saturday evening, and let me tell you fourth grade may just be the most awkward growth phase for kids. Just watching their gangly arms and legs, and those permanant teeth that are still a bit too big for their little faces...oh man, it's almost too cute to see. They fished and painted nails, watched movies, made pizzas (Olivia's is the olive-attack pizza, Zoe's the three-pepperoni special) and stayed up late...but not as late as they said they would. We got up Sunday morning and I made waffles. As much fun as they had I was definintely ready to see them all off around noon.
After a bit of an afternoon nap we took a walk down at the beach. For some reason Zoe always resists the beach walk. Honestly, I think it's just so she has something to complain about, because she eventually gives in. She found a little ladybug down by the water who then kept her company for the entirety of the walk. We decided his name was Little Tommy Ladybuggerson, and at the end of our walk he opened his wings and flew off. Olivia made herself dizzy doing cartwheels, and as usual I got left in the dust while taking photos. Some very large lady in a bikini was doing a hula dance. A father and sun were practicing with the ball and bat with some kind of heavy rubber ball that rolled to my feet, which I tossed back. Two little boys were playing in the water in their underoos. Teens stood in circles around their cars laughing and yelling. Two girls practiced their wakeboarding. A busy day at the beach...the best kind of people watching.