Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bookish Rambling from the South

There’s no disputing the fact that we are all born with DNA, and the instant we make our appearance in this world, we’re affected by the environment. There are some psychological experts who believe that our personalities are formed by the time we’re four years old. I’m not sure about that, but it sounds right.

You are You 

We are who we are who we are … Why do some people fight it? Are they ashamed or embarrassed by some part of themselves that will reveal a hidden secret that will make them seem less than desirable if people ever find out?

In my opinion, that’s just silly. It doesn’t change anything, and if someone thinks less of you for any part of you, that’s their problem, not yours.

Even though my dad was in the Air Force and I’ve moved all over—from Alaska to Hawaii and Japan to a bunch of places in between—deep down, I’m a southern woman since both of my parents were from Mississippi. I grew up saying, “y’all,” without thinking there was anything different about that. And I like a sushi appetizer before chowing down on fried chicken and turnip greens.

As an author, I enjoy writing stories set in the South because I can relate to the culture, the relationships, and the food. (I mean, it’s always about food, right?) I like to show that everyone has the same feelings and needs, regardless of where they come from.

Old Insecurities 

Something I've learned over the years is that everyone has insecurities. While some people may project an image of total self-confidence, somewhere beneath that veneer is a real person who has the same issues we all have. They might be concerned about what you think, wonder if they're actually as good as people think they are, or worry that people will think they're a fraud. That's normal.

My 3-book Class Reunion series has characters from all walks of southern life, and when they come back to this fictional town of Piney Point, Mississippi, for their 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year reunions, they resort to some of their old behavior until they realize a few things about themselves and their classmates. Some of them take a little longer, but they all eventually see the world through a more mature and developed viewpoint. I think the takeaway from this series is that everyone has insecurities, even those who seem to have all the confidence in the world.


Messed Up Family (Gotta Love 'Em)

Now I’m working on a 3-book Family Reunion series set in another fictional southern town—Pinewood, Mississippi. The people in these stories come from farming roots, and they find their way through life the best way they know how. Some start out as poor rednecks, strike oil, and become rich rednecks. Others work hard and find a way to accomplish their goals. All of this is done with southern sensibilities and of course plenty of food. I’ll let y’all know when these books are available. It should be sometime in 2017.

Friday, January 13, 2017

E.L.F. Cosmetics - Best Customer Service Ever!

Several weeks ago, after watching Jessica Braun’s video on YouTube—the one where she talked about her favorite E.L.F. Cosmetics products—I placed an order for some things that I thought I would like. They were running a great sale, so I expected a long wait. This morning I finally got an email from them stating that my order was being shipped today … and then a few hours later, I got an email that the entire amount of money I paid was being refunded.

That confused me, so I called to find out if there was a mix-up. There wasn’t. The customer service person said that they’re sending me the product for free to thank me for waiting so long.

I’ve received good customer service before but never like this. I’m stunned by the fact that I’ll still be getting the products I know I’ll enjoy, and I’m not having to pay a dime for them. Even at full price, E.L.F. isn’t expensive.

As soon as I receive the products, I’ll try them out and let y’all know my thoughts. You can pretty much count on a favorable review because I’ll be smiling as I apply them. And I’m sure I’ll be placing many more orders with them in the future.


Have you ever had great customer service?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 Things to do with Leftover Rotisserie Chicken

Not only is the deli at the grocery store a busy homemaker’s best friend, it can save time and money in the long run. If you are careful, you can stretch the rotisserie chicken to cover more than one meal and make it seem like a different dish each time you serve it.

After the first meal from the chicken, remove the remaining meat from the bone and either plan meals for the next couple of days or put it in freezer-safe bags for the future. You can even boil the bones and make nutritious chicken bone broth that provides extra protein, calcium, and collagen.

White Bean Chicken Chili 

One of my favorite things to do with leftover rotisserie chicken is to make white bean chicken chili. There are hundreds—maybe even thousands of recipes—online, so if you don’t like this one, do a search and find one that suits your family’s taste. This one uses prepared ingredients, so it’s super quick and easy.
Getting ready to dig in! Yum!


Ingredients:
  • 1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 bag frozen seasoning mix (onions and a variety of peppers)
  • 3 cans white kidney beans
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Drain the kidney beans.
  2. Remove 1 cup and put in a separate bowl.
  3. In a large soup pot, combine remaining beans, chopped chicken, seasoning mix, broth and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. While the mixture is boiling, add 1/2 cup water to the bowl of beans and mash with a potato masher.
  5. Pour the mashed beans into the pot. This will thicken the broth.
  6. Put the lid on the soup and turn down the heat. Simmer for at least an hour.
  7. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers. 

Chicken Salad 

Whether you want to make sandwiches or use this as a base to a dinner salad, chicken salad is another of my favorites.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional—chopped nuts, raisins, grapes, or seeds

Directions:
  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Chill until ready to serve.
  3. Serve on bread for a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce for a salad. Garnish with tomatoes, avocados, or anything else you like. 

Cajun Chicken and Rice Casserole

Here’s a one-dish meal that will be a hit with those who enjoy an extra dose of zing to their taste buds. Add more or less of the spices, according to what you like.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped chicken
  • 2/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning


Directions:
  1. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cover the bottom of the dish with uncooked rice.
  3. Layer the chicken over the rice and sprinkle the peas and carrots evenly around the dish.
  4. Mix the Cajun seasoning into the chicken broth and pour over the chicken, rice, and vegetables.
  5. Cover and bake at 350 F for approximately 35-40 minutes.

Chicken Enchiladas

You can make this with regular flour tortillas or do what I do and use corn tortillas if you need or want to serve a gluten-free meal. Remember that corn tortillas tend to crumble, so you’ll need to be extra careful when rolling the mixture into them. One trick to make it easier is to place a wet paper towel between several of them and microwave them on a plate for 30 seconds before using them.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded chicken
  • 1 large or 2 small cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional—chopped spinach and sautéed onions


Directions:
  1. Spray nonstick cooking spray in the bottom of a casserole dish or baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with 1/4 of the enchilada sauce.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine chicken and optional ingredients. Add 1/4 of the enchilada sauce to moisten the mixture.
  3. Spoon a line of chicken mixture into the tortillas and roll.
  4. Line up the rolled tortillas in the baking dish.
  5. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all of the rolled up tortillas.
  6. Cover and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the cover and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Chicken Noodle Soup 

I always use gluten-free noodles and sauces. My favorite noodles are rice or quinoa based, but you can use whatever you have in your pantry.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup shredded or chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 package of noodles (I use gluten-free)
  • Dash of Worcestershire or soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients except noodles in a large soup pot.
  2. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  3. Add noodles and continue to simmer until the noodles are done (al dente).
  4. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.
Now it's your turn. What do you do with leftover rotisserie chicken? 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Eating Out Gluten Free

I used to enjoy dining out, but not as much anymore. In fact, there are times that it's more trouble than it's worth because I have eliminated almost all gluten from my diet. Although some restaurants have gluten-free menus at the host stand, some servers have to go to the back to look for one.

Here's a list of the restaurants I've found to be the most accommodating:

  • Olive Garden
  • Red Robin (delicious gluten-free hamburger buns)
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Applebee's
  • Wendy's (not a specific menu but a list of allergens)
  • Chili's
  • P.F. Chang's
  • Mellow Mushroom
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Boston Market
  • Carrabba's

If you are eating in a restaurant that doesn't offer a gluten-free menu or guide, try putting together your own gluten-free meal with these tips:

  • Meat, produce, and dairy are naturally gluten-free.
  • Avoid processed foods because many of them have fillers with gluten.
  • Don't touch the breads, cakes, or pies.
  • You can have ice cream for dessert, but make sure it's one that doesn't have ingredients with gluten (cookie dough ice cream). You're probably safe with plain vanilla ice cream.

Remember that most restaurants can't guarantee that your meal will be 100 percent gluten-free if the food is cooked in the same kitchen as those with gluten. Cross contamination can happen, even when the kitchen staff has the best of intentions.

How to Get Ready for the Day in 10 Minutes

I don't know a single woman who isn't super busy, so I thought I'd share some secrets to getting ready in a hurry. Keep in mind that this is after the shower and doesn't involve blowing dry your hair. I chose not to add those things because everyone has different needs, depending on hair length, skin types, and whether or not you shave your legs that day.

Quick Makeup

I'm able to put my makeup on in 5 to 10 minutes, depending on where I'm going and the environment. During the hot summer months I typically wear less because I don't like the feeling of it dripping down my face. In the winter, I slather on a lot of moisturizer under my makeup.

I start with foundation, dot a few specks of concealer under my eyes, and smooth it out with a damp makeup sponge. I dust a little blush on my cheeks, line my eyes with a smudge liner, and then put on one or two coats of mascara. Since my eyebrows are so light, I lightly fill them in with eyebrow pencil and brush them out with an eyebrow brush that resembles a toothbrush (what I used before I found a good one for the brows). After I add my lipstick, I'm good to go for the day. For special occasions, I use eyeshadow and add another coat of mascara.

Super Simple and Quick Hair

Next thing I do is style my hair. Since my hair is so dry, I went from washing it daily to every three days. It took some getting used to, but I think it's healthier and much easier to style. I have shoulder-length hair that's long enough for a small ponytail because I think it's much easier to handle than uber-long hair or a super short cut. Most of the time I wear it down, unless I'll be outdoors in the blazing-hot sun for a while. Then up it goes. I get it trimmed every couple of months to prevent it from looking fried.

Quick Outfit

Getting dressed is always quick for me because I typically wear jeans and a casual top. However, if I have to get a little more dressed up, I choose my outfit (clothes, jewelry, and other accessories) the night before. That way I don't always feel as though I'm running behind.

If you've embraced the capsule wardrobe concept, you'll save even more time. I haven't gone that far with paring down my wardrobe yet, but maybe I will one of these days. Most people who embrace this minimalist trend stick to a couple of neutrals and a color so all the pieces go with each other.

Here are some pieces in a typical capsule wardrobe:

  • 2-3 pairs of slacks
  • 1-2 skirts
  • 1-2 dresses
  • 2-4 T-shirts
  • 1 white blouse
  • 1-2 jackets or blazers
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair neutral flats
  • 1 pair neutral pumps
  • 1 pair booties (ankle boots)
  • 1 pair warm winter boots for colder climates
  • 1 pair athletic shoes
There are other variations of the capsule wardrobe, depending on personal style and climate. The key is to have versatile pieces you can mix and match without having to constantly go out and buy something new. If you like this idea, make sure you purchase high-quality items that will last. You can also create more outfits if you enjoy accessories such as scarves and statement necklaces.

Organizing

The most important thing you can do to get ready quickly is to organize. Have your makeup organized so you can reach for what you need without having to search dig around items that you don't like or are out of date. You can find trays and cups for separating your eyeshadows from your lipsticks.

Whether you have a traditional or capsule wardrobe, have all of your clothes organized in the best way for you. I have all of my tops lined up according to color and style. Next are my pants, with the lightest color on the left and the darkest on the right. I use velvet-coated hangers to keep my slippery silks from falling to the floor.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Foundation for Mature Women

In my search for a healthy youthful glow, I've decided that there's nothing wrong with using makeup to enhance the good parts and hide what I don't want to show. So I'll be sharing some of what I've discovered along the way.

Gone are the "Naked-Face" Days


I’ll never forget the days when I could get away with wearing no makeup, with the exception of a light dusting of powder to keep the shine away, and maybe a little blush when I hadn’t been outdoors for a while. Those days are gone, and I find myself on a constant search for the perfect foundation that doesn’t settle into all the lines and creases that have found their way to my face and neck.

It’s really annoying, having to worry about my aging face, but I’m happy that YouTube has come to the rescue. I started out searching for some tips and tricks on applying makeup to “mature” faces, and now I’m subscribed to more than 30 different Youtubers (including some younger ones) who have taught me everything from how to apply primer to contouring to make the face look more lifted and alive.

Foundation Findings


Here are my thoughts on some of the foundations I’ve tried:

Clinique is my current favorite, specifically the Clinique Beyond Perfecting. I purchased it after seeing what it did for makeup artist Kandee Johnson. It covers most of my age spots, hides my pores, and doesn’t settle into the fine lines around my mouth and eyes. I can actually get away with not using powder, but I still like to do a light dusting before applying powder blush and bronzer. The lady at the Clinique counter said I don’t need to use concealer, but the circles under my eyes are so dark I like to anyway. This one has a doe-foot applicator.

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Estee Lauder comes in a close second. I’ve been using the Estee Lauder Double Wear, which has been a favorite high-end brand, for years. It provides decent coverage (although not quite as good as the Clinique), and it stays put throughout the day. It has a pour spout instead of an applicator. I generally apply it with a dense foundation brush, Beauty Blender, or Real Techniques sponge.


Smashbox is one of my least favorites of the high-end foundations, and I’m extremely disappointed that it didn’t work out for me.
I actually went into Ulta wanting to purchase the Urban Decay All Nighter foundation, but the saleslady who helped me recommended the Smashbox instead because of my dry skin. I still might give the UD All Nighter a try, but I need to work through the makeup I currently have. One thing I do like about the Smashbox is that it comes in a pump bottle. To apply, I put 2-3 squirts on the back of my hand and dip my foundation brush or damp Beauty Blender into it. The consistency is a tad watery, so on days when I have more redness on my face, I have to apply a second layer.

Maybelline Fit Me foundation from the drugstore is okay for everyday wear but never when I want to look my very best for a special occasion. It starts out providing medium coverage, but over the course of several hours, it fades in some spots around my cheeks and forehead. I like it okay, though, so I’ll continue to use it until I run out.

I’d like to try the Revlon Colorstay foundation. I’ve used the Colorstay lipsticks, and they last better than most drugstore lip products, so next time I make a run to the drugstore, I might try to find one that matches my skin. Some of the makeup artists have touted it as a dupe for Estee Lauder Double Wear. We’ll see.

I’ve watched Youtuber Jessica Braun’s video on E.L.F. Cosmetics products, and she recommends the ELF Flawless Finish foundation, so I’ll probably try that one too. She’s obviously quite a bit younger than me, but I’ve discovered many great products by paying attention to what the younger girls are doing.

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I’ve used some of the Lancome products, but I like L’Oreal just as much, and it’s quite a bit less expensive. Remember that price isn’t always an indicator of how well it will work on you. Everyone’s skin is different, so request a sample or purchase a trial size of the product before you commit to paying high prices for your makeup so you can see how it works for you.

Something I’ve found interesting is that so many of the lines are sisters (same parent company). For example, Clinique, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, and Mac are owned by Estee Lauder. I’ve heard rumors that they’ve recently purchased even more companies.

Your Favorite Foundations


If you have any suggestions for a foundation you think I should try, please let me know in the comments. I’m looking for something that goes on well, provides medium to full coverage, and doesn’t settle in the lines. A tall order, maybe, but I’m going to keep looking!