Everyday Inspirations

 
 

~ food ~


Picture
{angie}
Focaccia pizza with roasted tomato basil sauce, spicy pepperoni, grated mozzarella and Parmesan and fresh herbs--sounds so gourmet doesn't it? But honestly, the best part about this entree is how incredibly easy it is. Apart from the focaccia, these are all ingredients that I had right in my kitchen without an extra trip to the store. When you're craving pizza it's so easy to say, let's just order out, but this pizza may keep you in for the night.

Ingredients
One loaf focaccia bread (I used a sundried tomato loaf)
12 ounces tomato sauce (I like the Classico tomato basil available at Costco)
Spicy pepperoni
Grated mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Thyme, basil and oregano (I got mine fresh from my herb garden)

Add any additional ingredients you want or feel free to change. This would be fabulous with chicken, spinach and Alfredo sauce.

Directions
The directions are almost too simple to share. Spread the sauce, followed by cheese and other toppings. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cheese bubbles. Enjoy!
 

~ a better you ~


Picture
{ash}

A couple weeks ago, I decided to try an experiment. An experiment with money.

I've always had a good relationship with money. I pay bills, add to my savings account and allocate the remainder to day-to-day living. I feel good about my spending because I know I'm also putting away money for a rainy day. I remember sitting in a personal finance class my senior year of college, listening to my classmates say the only time they put money in savings is if they have any left over after paying bills and having fun with the extra.

Aaaand jaw drops.

That concept has always been alien to me, because I know the only way I can save is by taking money away from myself before I'm tempted by delicious weekend brunches, gorgeous new tops and purple eyeliner (not that I regret that purchase!). I also make sure I have money for my 401(k) pulled directly out of my check. As my professor said, "Pay yourself first," or you'll find unnecessary uses for your extra money. I don't know about you, but while I rarely touch my savings, boy, do I drain my pocket money. I'll admit that I love spending money.

And even though I'm responsible about money, I still sometimes experience The Guilt. You know what I mean. Every week or so, I'll pull a wad of receipts out of my wallet and start balancing the books. Ouch. Random magazine purchase here, unnecessary coffee there... pretty soon I feel sad for buying so many things I didn't need. For weeks, the idea of waste swims through my mind. I could have bought something lasting with that $20! I could have put it toward summer vacation money! I could have put it back in the bank!

After I spent more time than I care to admit worrying about that extra money, I finally decided to do something about it. I went on a cash-only trial run.

Why cash? Honestly, cash now seems like treasure to me. I can pull out my convenient little debit card at any time, swipe it and never realize how much money I've spent until I sit down and force myself to face reality. Whenever I actually have cash, I hoard it, only spending it when absolutely necessary. I love knowing I still have those crisp bills left in my wallet. I know this is going to sound silly, but holding on to cash makes me feel like I've won something. Or outsmarted the world.

On payday a few weeks ago, I made a trip to the bank and made myself deposit the amount of spending money I thought I was going to need for the next two weeks.

(Actually, I gave myself $50 less than I thought I'd need... just to see what would happen.)

The result? My spending changed. I guarded that money like it was my one duty in life. I still spent it, of course—still had fun going to dinner with Dan or congratulating myself for being so frugal by buying a latte. But I didn't have the desire to buy unnecessary things. Most exciting of all, I didn't feel like I was depriving myself of anything. I was simply more aware of and engaged in how I was spending my hard-earned money.

Needless to say, the experiment was a success. And that extra $50 I didn't pull out of my checking account? Savings! As far as my cash went, I actually had money left over. Extra money I could put toward something useful! I was incredibly proud.

Want to try out the cash-only lifestyle? Here are a few quick tips to get you going.
  • This may sound like a no-brainer, but never carry all your cash at once. After I've deposited the money from my checking account, I divide it up. (You'll feel much better if something happens and you were only carrying $20 or $50 instead of $100.) Because my money was to last me two weeks, I divided it in half and kept one of the halves safe at home. I didn't even carry all the week's money on me. I divided it into even smaller amounts based on what I'd be doing. 
  • Think ahead. Carrying cash forces you to plan for your week. If you know you need to pay your gym membership on Thursday, for example, you can pull out a twenty and leave it home until the day it's due. You won't accidentally spend it and have to make up the money somewhere else.
  • Don't fear the debit card. Nothing is wrong with still using your card for purchases. I allocated a small amount of money in my checking account for things like gas or the copay at my doctor's office. (Because, let's face it, sometimes it's easier to use the card.)
 

~ home ~


Picture
{angie}
Would I love to play interior designer in my house all the time? Yes. Can I afford it? Not so much. I have always had a constant thirst to change up my decor and surroundings. No joke. When I was little I would rearrange and redecorate my room in the middle of the night so my mom would wake up to a sleeping girl in a totally different room. Thought it was funny. Was it Mom? But there's something about it that just refreshes me. In my new house I find myself constantly fighting the battle between my creative side and my pocketbook. But...here is my latest peace treaty--my sunny, bold, statement-making place mats. I bought a set of eight for about $15 at HomeGoods, one of my absolute favorite home stores. It is such a minor change, but it totally livens up my whole living space (even my wallet agrees). Now my table is begging for sunshine blasting through the windows, grilled summer meals with fresh fruits and veggies, and lot of friends and family surrounding it.

And, of course, they will be a perfect backdrop for summer food photo shoots for EI. Make sure you check back for some fresh summer cooking! 
 

~ fashion ~


Picture
{ash}

If there's one makeup trend I'm crazy excited about right now, it's colored eyeliner. I love the idea of kicking up a look by lining your eyes with a color like turquoise or purple. And oh boy. The moment I saw photos of purple eyeliner, I knew I had to try it on myelf.

If you're a little hesitant about putting anything but a traditional color on your eyes (such as brown, black or gray) but still want to go for color, try this simple trick: Line your upper lid with your everyday eyeliner color (for me, that's an espresso brown). Smudge the line a bit and add shadow. Use the colored liner on your bottom lid, paying special attention to the corners of your eyes. Make sure you blend the fabulous new color liner with the liner on your upper lid.

You'll love how this simple, easy change to your makeup routine will make your eyes will pop.
 

~ how to ~


summer pedicure
{angie}
Warm weather is upon us and it's time to whip out the summer sandals. After all that winter, I'm feeling like it's definitely time to summerize my tooties with an at-home pedicure.

A few minutes of daily attention to your feet can help solve dry skin, cracked heels, and corns or calluses. If you're doing this for the first time this season, it's a good idea to soak your feet in warm water for at least 15 minutes. Coat a sturdy brush or pumice stone with soap and scrub over your feet. Use a pumice stone or file to smooth out any rough spots. Once your feet are dry, rub in some cream or lotion. While your nails are still soft, push back your cuticles, clean under the nails, and trim and file your nails. Then add your favorite summer colors. I personally love OPI nail products because they last longer, especially for toenails. Then, for some extra summer style, add some cute decals or rhinestones and cover with clear polish. 
 

~ small inspiration ~


{ash}

As I type, I'm watching the Civil Rights Game with Dan, who is a major Reds fan, and who happened to have this game on while we were eating dinner. I am blown away by the program. From lunch counter sit-in participants to men and women who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there is an incredible representation of those who have worked tirelessly to change this country forever.

Do we still have a long way to go? Of course. But tonight's post isn't about that. Tonight, I just enjoy being inspired by the brave people who stand up for what they believe and fight for what's right.

Because of them, our world is more beautiful.
 

~ our world ~


Picture
{angie}
Garden of the Gods is what it sounds—incredible. Gorgeous red rock formations surrounded by lush green and wildlife (especially when you are there a little later in the season than I was in early April). Locals walk their dogs through the park and the adventurous scale the sides of the rust-colored cliffs. It is great as a quick one-hour pit stop, but you could easily spend days hiking through the natural beauty. I was there with some of my girlfriends so of course we challenged ourselves with a little yoga on the rocks. Definitely a place of peace.
garden of the gods
 

~ food ~


Picture
{ash}

I need to eat breakfast, but I don't like having the same meal day after day. It's easy to mix it up on the weekends... not so much on weekdays. The answer? A parfait. It's simple, delicious and keeps me full until lunch. Plus, it doesn't take much more time to make than a bowl of oatmeal or toast.

In fact, the recipe for my parfait is so easy I almost feel bad calling it a recipe. Enjoy!

{simple parfait for one}

Ingredients
  • 1 container of yogurt, any flavor
  • 1 banana
  • Dry cereal or granola (I love using a mixture of a dry, crunchy cereal like Grape Nuts and a soft granola)
  1. Sprinkle dry cereal into the bottom of a cup. Spoon yogurt over the cereal.
  2. Cut banana into 1/4" thick pieces. Layer 3-4 slices on top of yogurt.
  3. Sprinkle more dry cereal. Continue building your parfait with these layers.
This recipes is obviously for one, but it's always fun to make it for two as an alternative to dessert (I like to use two different flavors of yogurt and alternate layers). You can also have fun experimenting with different types of fruit. Find your ideal combination and you'll always have a breakfast back-up.
 

~ a better you ~


Working out in front of the tv
{angie}
Don't worry Ash, it's a pun, not a typo. Don't waste your time watching TV, waist your time. It's that time of year where all your favorite shows are nearing their season finale and you're at the edge of your seat to see what happens. There's no way in hell you will miss an episode Grey's or Lost for this week's Pilates class at the gym. Sure, you could watch it later on your DVR or online, but you need to know NOW! But you know what else is coming? Summer. If your summer consists of anything in the range of swimsuits or shorts it's time to get that butt off the edge of your seat and onto the floor. This isn't a new idea, but how many of us do it? Here are some of my favorite TV watching exercises.

Twist Crunches
body parts: abs and back
Lay on your back with your feet bent at a 90 degree angle on the floor and your hands behind your head. Lift your right elbow to your left knee then reverse left elbow to right knee. Repeat 3 sets of 15 crunches each way. 

Leg Lifts
body parts: legs and love handles
Lay on your right side with your right hand cushioning your head and left hand on your hip. Bend your right leg while extending your left from the floor and lifting it sideways as high as you can hold the extension comfortably without rocking. Do 2 sets of 20 lifts on each side.
 
Extensions
body parts: legs, arms and butt
Kneel on your hands and knees with your body parallel to the floor. Extend you left arm in front of you and your right leg behind you parallel to the floor. Bend your arm and leg in toward you body (knee toward your tummy and arm toward your heart) and extend back out parallel. Repeat 2 sets of 15 on each side.
 
Leg Drops
body parts: lower abs, back and legs
Lay on your back and hold onto the edge of the couch. Lift your legs so they are straight up, perpendicular to the floor. Lower them down slow and controlled as far as you can go while keeping your back on the floor. Without letting them touch, raise them back up to a 90 degree angle. Repeat 2 sets of 10.

Tricep Lifts
body part: arms
Find the edge of your chair again and place both hands grabbing the edge back behind you. Walk your feet out and lower your body using your triceps. Repeat 3 sets of 10. 
 
 

~ home ~


Picture
{ash}

A coworker recently surprised me with some locally-made blackberry preserves. (Yes, the same coworker who also gave Ang these adorable bobby pins.) I was anxious to get it home and spread it on some warm toast since yesterday was gray and rainy. As expected, the preserve was as tasty and as comforting as I had hoped.

I love stocking my pantry with simple, delicious foods that make home sweet and cozy. (Also on my list: mint tea.) What do you need to have at home to make it the ultimate comfort zone for you?