better-for-you beauty products, part 1

I wrote about my plan to transition to organic beauty products. I found that some products are impossible to find as fully organic because certain ingredients are difficult to source as fully organic. This is why you will see products as just partially organic or it may be better to go with a natural product because they may not be able to find organic ingredients that are effective. As I move through this journey, I will continue to share my findings with you in case you are interested in moving towards natural or organic beauty products.

1. DevaCurl AnGEL Light Hold Defining Gel: DevaCurl is 100% sulfate, paraben, and silicone free. The company does not test on animals or contain any animal products. I was nervous to switch back to a gel because I have found that, even with using just a little bit of product, gel has a tendency to give my hair that "crunchy" look. I was pleasantly surprised when this still left my curls touchable and soft. The reason for this is that the gel dissolves instantly when applied to wet hair. And if you have curls, you know how they need lots of care to keep them from drying out. As this product dries on your hair, it forms a protective shield around the curls to lock in moisture. My hair improved dramatically after I started using this. The price is also great - under $20 for a 12 ounce bottle and it lasts me over six months.
Would you recommend it to a friend? Absolutely! From someone who has spent years trying to find an affordable but effective product, I would highly recommend this to anyone with curly or wavy hair.
2. Organic Color Systems Status Quo Shampoo: This is made with certified organic extracts and organic oils. The company also has a strict environmental policy and does not test on animals. I started using this right before my wedding, when we added a little organic color to my hair to add a little shine and dimension. Regular shampoos will strip organic hair color but this helps protect it. I like that this is gentle on my hair and has helped keep it shiny.
Would you recommend it to a friend? Yes. Although I don't think it has done anything stunning for my hair, it has helped to keep it shiny and the price is right.
3. Colorscience Pro Sunforgettable Mineral Powder: The brand only uses minerals that are natural and does not have additives. The products are free of oils, perfumes, talcs, or alcohols and are animal and eco-friendly. I was a little skeptical at first. I just couldn't believe that this powder would protect me for a day at the pool. I applied it to my face and neck once and even got in the pool - I didn't get pink at all! What is really great is that it can go over make-up as well, great for a summer wedding where you will be outside. No more greasy summer face!
Would you recommend it to a friend? YES! I was a little hurt by the price - $50. But it lasts FOREVER and you can get refills which are $23. I haven't even put a dent in my first supply.
4. Éminence Organic Skin Care Tropical Vanilla Sun Cream: This was recommended to me because I wanted an organic moisturizer with SPF. When I first opened this up, my first thought was to eat it - it smells so yummy. I had a little trouble putting it on at first; it goes on thick, more like a sun screen. I learned that you had to put a lot less on and you can't smooth it around as easily as you do with a normal face moisturizer. But I have learned to really like it. The only downside is that the price is pretty steep - $67 - which is a little out of my budget so I am still on the lookout for a less expensive alternative.
Would you recommend it to a friend? Yes, as long as their budget can afford it.
5. Physicians Formula Organic Wear Mascara: This mascara is free of harsh chemicals and synthetic preservatives. I really love how this mascara goes on, smooth and clump free. But the wear is awful; I feel like I constantly have little black flakes on my face and by the end of the day I have black circles under my eyes. It really is too bad - you can find it at Target or Walmart and the price is right. I am still looking for the right mascara.
Would you recommend to a friend? No. What is the point if you can only wear it for an hour or two?

Any products you have found lately?


food porn: julia hoersch

If you are looking for a little food inspiration, perhaps for cooking or styling, look no further than Julia Hoersch's food portfolio. I came across her website a few months ago and I was instantly impressed by her versatility. Her photos aren't one style, they could be described in many ways: rustic, fresh, modern, whimsical, festive, and romantic - and that is just for the photos above. I hope that one day, with a lot of practice, I can have the eye and execution that produces food photos as beautiful as these.

Which photo is your favorite?


monday giveaway: blondies loft (NOW CLOSED)

Today's giveaway is from the Etsy shop, Blondies Loft, which has custom e-decorating services, shabby chic items for the home, and art photography prints. I love that you can choose what "type" of decorating service you want: seaside retreat, rustic marries modern, french country, Hollywood glam, and many others. What a unique concept!

Catz, the shop owner, says, "Interior design is personal to me. In fact, it's a spiritual journey not only for me, but for my clients as well. Here's why: our home is the one place in our lives where we can be our Authentic Self. It gives us the opportunity to broaden our perspectives in a safe place. It encourages us to dig deeper into our souls to express who we are. When our homes reflect our true selves, something wonderful happens; we relax and discover joy. That my friend is a God thing. I thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity to share this gift with you. Thanks so much for stopping by."

Catz is giving away one Custom Interior E-Decorating "Accessorize My Room" service to one very lucky reader. I really love the seaside retreat, you know, for my non-existent beach house.

To be eligible for this giveaway, you must be a follower of this blog so, if you aren't yet, be sure to sign up through either Google Friend Connect or Bloglovin'. And please let me know what name you are following with.

Ways to win:
1. Visit Blondies Loft and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item is.
2. Write about this giveaway on your blog and leave another comment below with a link to your post.
3. Follow me on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway, making sure to mention me in your tweet.

A winner will be chosen at random. This giveaway ends Wednesday, August 31st at 7 pm Eastern Time.


weekend: hurricane irene

wind and rain blowing outside . . . a little afternoon moscato to welcome irene . . . a battery-operated radio for power-outage-induced-dance parties . . . a wet pup . . . a walk for a dog (who thought we were crazy going out in that mess) . . . magazine reading by flashlight
a little inspiration for the coming week:

what a beautiful ad spot

how cool is this pet bed?

i want one

a little glee

what a pretty diy
Friday night, the Hubs and I tried the new Georgia House restaurant in Salisbury. I had been to one of the restos in Delaware but not to the one that just opened in Salisbury. I ate the best creamed spinach I have ever had - not too much cream and very fresh and crisp. And I think it is so cool that you can get pretzel salad as a side. Saturday was spent waiting for Irene, watching tv coverage, reading magazines, and indulging in our drinks of choice for the day. We only lost power for two hours so we were pretty lucky. I barely slept last night, though - the wind and rain were so loud and I was afraid the tall but skinny tree outside our window was going to fall. This morning I awoke at 6:30 to check to see if we still had power, which we did. I did a little quiet dance and went back to sleep. We lost power this morning, weirdly at 8 am. So we went out in search of breakfast and did some exploring. There were lots of trees down as well as some power lines but it was not nearly as bad as it could have been. When we got back our power was back. It was a surprisingly beautiful day considering what the start of the weekend was like and I spent the day cleaning and spending a little time outside reading.

How did you spend your weekend? I hope you stayed safe and dry.


fall inspired guest post over on the boot

In case you missed it, go check out my guest post from yesterday on Marissa's blog, the boot. I am so happy to share what I am most excited for this fall.


diy: fabric bunting

I want to share how I made the bunting for Ashley's shower. This was such an easy and quick project, I almost didn't think it was worth posting. The part of this that takes the longest is cutting out the triangles. But then I thought that some of you may not be so crafty so you might like an easy tutorial.

What you need:
heavy paper or card stock
scissors (for paper and fabric)
ironing board
double fold bias tape
sewing pins
sewing machine

First, you need figure out what size triangle you want. Use a ruler to draw your triangle on the paper. Cut it out.

Next, trace the triangle on the wrong side of the fabric (the side that won't be showing) in pencil. To use my fabric as wisely as possible, I traced each triangle right next to eachother, alternating the top and bottom.

Cut out your triangles and then iron them. Note: I used starch and got them nice and stiff but I will warn you: I didn't pack them well to travel for Ashley's shower and, because of the starch, a few of them got somewhat crinkled and the only way to flatten them was to iron them again when i got there.

Place the tops of the triangles in between the sides of the bias tape, spaced to your liking. Secure the triangles with sewing pins. Sew the triangles into place using a zig zag stitch.

Hang it up! This is great for a party but also fun to decorate a child's room or a craft room.

I didn't put exact spacing, measurements, and colors because all of that depends on what your preference is. Just use this as a guide and have fun! Except for the sewing part, I did most of this while watching The Kennedys miniseries.

What are you favorite party decorations?


touring america

Today's post is a short one - this week is super busy and it just got busier. I noticed the new OPI collection, touring america, over on the kate spade blog, and it makes me absolutely giddy for fall. The colors remind me of one of my favorites. Which one is your favorite? I think mine might be French Quarter.

{image from here}


dishing on ice cream

When thinking about items to put on our wedding registry, pretty much everyone (websites, family members, friends, random strangers) told us to be careful not to register for things we would never use. And we really didn't - one friend told us our registry was "very practical."

The only people who told us otherwise were those sales associates at the stores where we went to register because, of course, they wanted to sell you everything and anything.

Me: I don't think we need that. [FH nods in agreement.]

Sales Associate: But you would be surprised how often you will use this and how many people really want to get it for you.

Me: What is it?

SA: It is a thingamajoo.

Me: And what does that do exactly?

SA: Well no one really knows for sure but it is said to possess magical powers...

Ok, you get the idea. There was one item in particular that everyone said to cross of your list - an ice cream maker. The website or person normally said something like this, "Don't get an ice cream maker. It will be one of those items that you will NEVER use and it will sit in a closet and collect dust until you move and finally throw it out."

Since our wedding was in October, the months following our wedding, I thought I had made the right decision. But then summer came and I realized, "I wish I had a freaking ice cream machine." During the past three months I have probably thought about making my own ice cream at least 15 times. Granted, I could be a lot fatter if I had made my own ice cream but a) I prefer frozen yogurt and b) we have driven for late night cravings at least 7 times over the past few months. In other words, I wouldn't have gotten that fat and we could have saved a lot of money. Plus, I would have had about 15 times to screw up or learn something new.

I know you can make your own ice cream without a machine but it involves having a freezer that actually has some room in it. Since it is the end of the summer, I think it may be time to search for one on sale.

What do you guys think? Do you own an ice cream machine? Would you make your own ice cream? I would love to invent some new and wild flavors...

{image from here}


weekend: jc and nezia's wedding

a friday night dinner at negril with kathy and niki . . . the married couple with me, their sweaty photographer
a little inspiration for the coming week:

sun savvy clothing

i need to make a few of these before the summer is over

what a beautiful, wearable fall collection

i wish i could live here, if only for a weekend

obsessed with this photo
I spent Friday night eating way too much food and having a ridiculously long dinner with my friends, Kathy and Niki, in downtown Silver Spring. Saturday, I was up bright and early to drive down to St. Mary's to photograph my friend, Nezia's, wedding. I was so happy to be a part of her big day and they both looked so happy together. I am glad to finally be able to relax now that I have downloaded the photos to my computer. They turned out pretty well for my first time as a wedding photographer. *This is when I bow down to all professional wedding photographers. They don't just take pictures. They become time keepers, sun catchers, group coordinators, smile makers, and stress relievers.* This morning, I met Niki in College Park for breakfast and then came home very tired and with a painful lower back (which makes me wonder what positions I actually got into for pictures yesterday) to a tired Hubs who survived a bachelor party weekend. Also, we also have a leak in our ceiling. Ugh.

How was your weekend?


francophile friday: guest post from lauren from betterfly

For today's francophile friday, we have a guest post from Lauren Margolis, a contributing writer at Betterfly.com and one who is obsessed with French culture and food. When she's not testing out new recipes, she works on helping New Work makeup artists market themselves online.

If you’ve ever tasted a French macaroon, then you can understand the lure of Paris for a foodie. While many of us might dream of starting anew at some point in our life, famed pastry chef David Lebovitz actually did it. With thoughts of croissants and adventure in his head, Chef Lebovitz packed up his California life into three suitcases and moved to a tiny apartment in Paris. Perhaps what he didn’t expect was that the majority of his “adventures” would actually consist of simply trying to understand French norms; like why returning a broken battery to the department store should take up more than half his day, or how Parisians have come to dress in their Sunday best no matter the occasion (even just to pick up the morning newspaper!). Lebovitz’s cheeky memoir is passionate and fun, and you’ll soon be wanting to see the French phenomenon for yourself. Every chapter ends with one of Lebovitz’s mouthwatering recipes, like dulce de leche brownies or bacon and blue cheese cake. The memoir is down to earth and a quick read—perfect for relaxing outside with a nice glass of French wine. Amusez-vous bien!

{image from here}


help me mama

My friend, Ashley, is to term in less than two weeks. Her due date is September 21st. Ashley and Pat have decided not to find out the sex of the baby; they want to be surprised.

They have the name picked out if it is a boy. And they have about five different outfits they are choosing from to take the baby home in - if it's a boy. But they are still deciding on girl names and they can't seem to find a newborn girl outfit, either.

I told Ashley not to worry about it. I really think it is going to be a boy. It isn't a mother's instinct or anything, just a feeling. But she is worrying herself that if they have a girl she will have to take her home naked and nameless.

So, I thought, "Well, it can't be that hard to find a newborn outfit. I will give it a try." All the links I sent to Ash that were supposed to be clothes for newborns always ended up not having a newborn size. How is that? Apparently there are always a pleathora of newborn clothes for boys but not for girls - they are always out of stock. My theory: All those mothers and grandmothers that are invited to showers for a girl have way to much fun buying baby girl clothes.

So I thought I could ask you all, mothers or not: where is a place that has a good selection of newborn clothes for girls that are actually in stock?

And don't worry about the names. They pretty much have it narrowed down. I think they will know which one is right when they meet her. (But they aren't going to meet her because it is going to be a boy.)

{image from here}


ashley's owl shower

I thought I would share some pictures from my friend, Ashley's, baby shower. Ashley and her husband, Pat, have decided to be surprised when the baby arrives so the color scheme was a gender neutral yellow and green combo.

The party was held at Ashley's parent's house in Frederick, Maryland. Planning the shower was a group effort and I was really happy to be a part of it. I only have a few pictures that are worth showing - it was cloudy that day and lighting was terrible.

To accomodate the thirty people there, small card tables were set up on the ground floor. Ashley's MIL got pale green and yellow tableclothes to cover them. For centerpieces, Ashley's mom ordered flowers from Blossom and Basket Boutique in Mount Airy, Maryland. All floral arrangements had color combos of greens, yellows, and oranges. She also found really pretty baby blocks at the Pottery Barn outlet to stack up next to the flowers.

The drink table had mimosas, ice tea, and citrus water. We also decided on lemonade and lime sherbert punch to compliment our party colors. Ashley's mom also found cute yellow and green straws on Etsy (but she can't remember which shop.)

All the party planners brought a few things for the lunch table. Our menu consisted of chicken and shrimp salad on croissants, bok choy salad, pasta salad, cucumber sandwiches, watergate salad, and a fruit platter. Ashley's SIL wrapped the utensils in green napkins and tied them with a ribbon.

For favors, there was a candy bar. Ashley's mom ordered them online from Oh! Nuts and Candy Warehouse in corresponding colors. There were celophane bags and ribbons so guests could fill their own bags and picked what they liked. I made a few chalkboard frames for different signs around the house.

The dessert table had coffee, cupcakes, and cookies. The cupcakes were from Lilly Magilly's Cupcakery in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The owl cookies were from the Etsy shop, Truly Scrumptious Cookies.

A DIY post is coming for the bunting I made to decorate all around the house.


spicy skirt steak with cucumber salad

I love a meal that comes together quickly and easily, especially if it is healthy too. I am not normally one for red meat but I love hoisin sauce so I had to try this. This is a great summer meal: simple and one that doesn't involve too much heat in the kitchen.

serves 4
adapted from REAL SIMPLE, August 2011

1 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 c. salted roasted peanuts, chopped

1. Heat grill to medium high. In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce and 1 tsp. chili sauce. Brush the steak with mixture and grill, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
2. In a medium bowl, toss cucumber, scallions, vinegar, and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Add peanuts.
3. In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. hoisin and 1 tsp. chili sauce. Slice steak. Drizzle sauce over pieces. Serve with salad and rice.


weekend: rainy everyday

watching the rain from our bedroom . . . chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven
a little inspiration for the coming week:

these videos make me restless

such a cute gift for a child

i wish i was here

just my style

great video about anthro's fall collection
Friday night, the Hubs and I went out for Mexican and I ate so much I felt sick the rest of the night. I really need to learn to have more willpower. Saturday, we helped the SIL move into a new place. Luckily the rain held off until right after we finished moving everything inside. We drove back to Salisbury and had pizza with the in-laws who had been watching Peyton for a few days. Then we came home and watched Life As We Know It. Today we slept in - way in - until 9 50. I can't remember the last time I slept that late. We got up slowly, headed to the grocery store and then to lunch. Then we had a day in bed watching movies and listening the rain come down outside. I also finished The Help today. It is a really great book - you should check it out if you haven't already. I am excited to see the movie although I am sure I will be disappointed. The movie never seems to be as good as the book.

How was your weekend?


francophile friday: photos of paris

Just a few pictures of Paris today - you can see more on From Me To You.

Have you ever been to Paris? What was your favorite thing about it? If not, would you like to?


winner of the simply sleek giveaway!

The winner of the Simply Sleek giveaway is Jenna from Redshadow. Congrats Dawn! Please email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com with your information.

And special thanks to Leslie for sponsoring this giveaway!

{image via here}


the girls

I need a day with the girls. Not necessarily a wild night out; just a pretty, silly day with a lunch date, an impromptu adventure, and a lot of giggling.

I was never really a girls girl. I liked hanging with boys much better. But I was lucky to find a few really good girls in college (which I only found a few of before then.) We really weren't bitchy or catty. And I actually could stand being around them.

I remember in college crying one night of my senior year (or senior semester, I suppose.) I was graduating early, a semester before my friends. It was Halloween and I realized it would be our last Halloween in school. It also brought me one more milestone closer to mid-December when I would be finished.

So that night, I am not sure what started it, but I remember laying my head on my friend, Kathy's, lap, tears running down my face, crying, "I am going to have to live with a BOYYYYY!" That boy is now my husband but sometimes I still get that same feeling. I miss my people, my girls. (And yes, you too Brandon. Did you really think I was going to leave you out?)

It was funny, I was only going to post this picture today because it's pretty and I am super busy. But I couldn't help but feel a little homesick for my people (and yes that includes the Cockeysville, pre-college girls, as well.)

If you live with a boyfriend, fiancé, or husband, do you sometimes get the feeling you need a little girl time? What is your fave way to spend time with "your people?"

{image via my pinterest}


broccoli-orange salad

My friend, Tanya, made a great broccoli salad for our party a few weeks ago. The original recipe had mango but I didn't have one so I omitted it. This is a really great light salad and it is even better if it has a little time for the flavors to meld together. I would just add the cashews closer to when you are actually going to eat the salad, though.

serves 8 as a side dish

4 c. fresh broccoli, chopped
1/2 c. cashews
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
1/2 c. bottled buttermilk ranch dressing
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 11 oz. can mandarin orange sections, drained

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cashews, and onion. For dressing, stir together dressing, juice, and horseradish. Pour over broccoli mixture and toss to coat. Gently stir in mandarin orange sections. Cover and chill.



monday giveaway: simply sleek (NOW CLOSED)

Today's giveaway is from the Etsy shop, Simply Sleek, which has a beautiful selection of classic jewelry. I love all the wrapped crystal earrings. I think I may get a pair for the two weddings I have coming up.

Leslie, the shop owner, says, "My Etsy shop showcases quality semi-precious gemstones, swarovski crystals, and glass handcrafted jewelry. I love working with sterling silver, gold filled, and vermeil metals. My pieces are simple enough for everyday wear with an elegant touch that can follow you into the evening."

These earrings feature three glass pearls and dangle from sterling silver hand-forged ear wires. They are such a classic pair to add to your jewelry box.

To be eligible for this giveaway you must be a follower of this blog so, if you aren't yet, be sure to sign up through either Google Friend Connect or Bloglovin'. Be sure o let me know what name you are following with.

Ways to win:
1. Visit Simply Sleek and leave a comment below telling us what your favorite item is.
2. Write about this giveaway on your blog and leave a comment with a link to your post.
3. Follow me on twitter and tweet abut this giveaway, making sure to mention me in your tweet.

A winner will be chosen at random. This giveaway ends Wednesday, August 10th at 7 pm Eastern Time.


weekend: a baby shower

dinner at yoyo cafe in silver spring . . . ashley's baby shower
a little inspiration for the coming week:

newspaper nails

yup, i still want this bread book

paris photo diary
This weekend was a busy one and it isn't over yet. Friday, I drove to my dad's house and my brother and I went out to dinner. The next morning I got up bright and early and drove to Frederick to help set up for Ashley's baby shower. I will be sure to post pictures in the next week of everything. It turned out beautifully and was a lot of fun. Last night, the Hubs and I watched episodes of Mad Men and he finally convinced me to watch Boondock Saints. Today, I am driving to Gettysburg for a conference for work but I will back tomorrow night. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

How was your weekend?


sponsor post: vulcan alley crafts

I would like you to welcome our new sponsor, Vulcan Alley Crafts. This Etsy shop has a beautiful selection of girly jewelry. Here are some of my faves:

1. Bow Earrings: I am definitely a bow girl and these earrings are just so fun. I love the blue-green combo.
2. Pearl and Rose Earrings: I love the glass beads used in these earrings - so delicate and pretty.
3. Silver Star Necklace: This simple necklace can do with everything. It would be a perfect everyday necklace.

Please check out Vulcan Alley Crafts and let me know if you get anything - I would love to know what you chose. What is you fave item?