DIY | Masquerade Mask

Even though I was born in New Orleans and practically all of my family lives there, I am embarrassed to say that I have never been to Mardi Gras.  While I have definitely visited the Crescent City many times, I’ve just never quite made it down there around the Fat Tuesday festivities.  Perhaps it is because I am a native, or that my roots run deep there, but I feel deeply connected to the area.  I must have been channeling my loved ones last week because I became inspired to make a masquerade mask to observe the holiday in my own way.  I have always found masquerade masks quite enchanting.  They are beautiful and mysterious at the same time, much like the state of Louisiana itself.  It is very beautiful and lush there and yet the swampy environment and mossy trees give it an almost haunted feel.

I find hand-made masks particularly interesting because each one is unique.  You can embellish them with so many different things:  glitter, sequins, feathers, jewels, beads, flowers, lace…so it’s super fun to express yourself with the items you select.  If you would like to know how I made mine, please continue reading:

I took a trip to Michael’s and picked up my materials.  Obviously you have to start out with a blank white mask, so I picked these up.   I also purchased glitter and sequin glue, glitter, sequins, feathers, and ribbon.  Again, as previously mentioned, you can use many different things to embellish your mask.  It was fun to pick out my materials especially when it came to the color combination.  I also picked up a beautiful turquoise pendant to use as well.

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First I spread some newspaper out on my kitchen table.  I spread the glitter and sequin glue out onto the blank white mask.  Note: Using a cheap paint brush to do this would be easiest, or use a glitter glue that comes with a brush.

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Then I sprinkled on my glitter.  It took a little patience to get the glitter crusted on there really well.  I just kept sprinkling it, and shaking of the excess until it looked the way I wanted.

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Next, I glued on the sequins.  I applied the glue to the areas I wanted to place them.  The glue stays wet for a while so you can take your time place on the sequins.

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I decided to use the sequins to outline the outside of the mask as well as the eye cutouts.

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Then I decided to place few more in the middle/forehead area.

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Next came the silver glitter glue.

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I just applied whimsical design to add interest to the mask.

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To make a handle, I took one of these wooden sticks and grabbed my purple ribbon.

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I wrapped the stick with the ribbon and glued each end with the sequin and glitter glue.

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Then I started attaching the feathers, again, with the sequin and glitter glue.

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I just added more and more…

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until I was satisfied with how it looked.

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I glued on some turquoise and purple ribbon to the back of each side of the mask.

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Next I glued on this beautiful turquoise jeweled pendant.  I really slathered on the glue because it dries clear, and I wanted to really secure the feathers on well.

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Then I allowed the mask to dry over night.  In the morning, I glued the stick to the back and allowed that to dry the rest of the day.

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And here is the finished product!

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And of course I had to do this…

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Laissez les bon temps roulez! <3

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DIY | Homemade Lollipops for Valentines Day

Valentines Day is not a gift giving holiday for me and mine, but I think it’s important to somehow make sure your loved ones feel special on this day.  I think making something homemade is a great way to do this because it shows that in addition to being thoughtful, you also put in some of your time to create something just for them!  For instance, these homemade lollipops were fun to make and so cute!  They are certain to bring a smile on the face of those you love.

First, I went to Michael’s and picked up a few supplies.  I purchased some lollipop molds, lollipop sticks, and  lollipop bags.

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I also picked up these pink Candy Melts…

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…and this strawberry flavoring.

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I emptied the candy melts into a plastic bag…

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…and nuked them for about 60 seconds.

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Then I added about a half a dram of the strawberry flavor.  I cut a hole in the bag and filled up my molds.

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I spread out the melted candy with a spoon to even it out.

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Then I let them set.

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I popped them out by pressing on the back of the mold…

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…and wrapped them up with the lollipop bags.  Here are the results!

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So pretty!

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So fun!

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Hope everyone has a Happy Valentines Day!! <3

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Bacon Wrapped Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

We had a very low key Superbowl gathering this year due to one of the largest winter storms Chicago has ever seen.  To be quite honest, our winter has been so mild compared to last year, I don’t think any of us really minded it all that much.  Fortunately I had picked up all of the ingredients for my Superbowl contribution at the grocery store prior to the bad weather.

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My step dad, Bill, makes these for holiday gatherings and my boyfriend, who has a very finicky palate, actually liked them!  So I figured they were a safe bet.  We so enjoy these rich, savory, delicious bites that make the perfect football food (if you’re in to football).  Here’s how I made them:

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Take twelve jalapenos and slice off the tops.  Then slice in half and remove the seeds and ribs.  Your jalapenos should look like this!

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Brown a pound of Jimmy Dean hot breakfast sausage.  You can use mild if you like, or you can even use Italian sausage if you prefer.

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Add in the cream cheese, garlic powder, and cheddar cheese and stir to combine.

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Stuff each jalapeno half with meat and cheese mixture.

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Wrap each jalapeno half with one slice of bacon and place in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes depending on desired crispiness.

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And there you have it!

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Crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside.  So delicious!  Here is the recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

12 jalapenos

1 lb Jimmy Dean hot breakfast sausage

1 8 oz. block cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

12 slices of bacon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse and dry your jalapenos.  Cut off the stems and cut them in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and ribs.  Meanwhile, brown the breakfast sausage in a skillet, drain fat, and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add in the block of cream cheese, garlic powder, and shredded cheddar.  Mix to combine.  Stuff each jalapeno half with cheese mixture and wrap each with one slice of bacon.  Place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before enjoying.  :)

Please note this is not my original recipe.  I retrieved it from the Hardly Housewives blog.  To view the recipe there, click here.

What were some of your favorite Superbowl goodies this year?

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7 Ways to Fight Age and Acne at the Same Time

I have always been blessed with clear skin throughout most of my adult life.  I struggled with acne as a teenager, but grew out of it and aside from an occasional hormonal breakout, I had been pretty lucky.  That was until the day I turned 38 when I literally got a zit for my birthday.  I’m not sure if it was a result of stress or hormonal changes, but I woke up to a very large and painful bump on my right cheek.  The next morning it seemed to have sprouted offspring because there was a cluster of bumps all in the same area and I began to panic that it was spreading.  I went to a dermatologist who prescribed some medication for me which contained a topical antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide.  My regimen at the time was using my anti-aging skin care products and spot treating my acne.  Sure, the treatment worked on the breakout but it didn’t stop them from coming.  As a result, fighting my acne became a never-ending every day struggle.

If you’re like me and are 40 years or over struggling with acne, I’m sure you can appreciate how frustrating it can be; desperately wanting to use products that fight the signs of aging, not harsh, drying products that fight acne.  Over the past two years through trial and error, I think I’ve finally come up with a regimen that works for me.  I thought I would share a few tips I’ve come up with for those of us in this predicament:

1)  Treat your entire face, not just the breakout:  I learned the hard way that spot treating acne won’t keep future breakouts from occurring.  I now use an acne fighting cleanser as well as a toner for my all over treatment.  I find this cleanser by Neutrogena extremely effective because it contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne bacteria.

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2)  Use an anti aging serum:  As much as I wanted to use my anti aging moisturizers and creams, I found that my skin was too oily and I continued to break out.  I now use Ceramide Capsules by Elizabeth Arden for my face and eye area.  It is a light serum that absorbs almost instantly and doesn’t clog pores.

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3)  Use both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide:  I have found that it’s important to use both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide for effective acne control.  The benzoyl peroxide is necessary to kill the bacteria and the salycilic acid is necessary for exfoliating dead skin cells that can clog pores and also helps reduce scarring.  These salicylic acid treatment pads from Neutrogena work perfectly and are also a great way to remove any excess dirt and make-up that cleansing may have left behind.

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4)  Use spot treatment and/or prescription medication sparingly:  I definitely recommend seeing a dermatologist for prescription strength medication.  I have found, however, that the medicine they prescribe can be severely drying to the skin to the point where it’s difficult to cover up the blemish.  I try to fight the urge to apply a large amount to the affected area.  Applying it sparingly still treats the problem without over drying.

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5)  Combine your anti aging products with your acne products:  If you are using an anti aging skin care system that seems to be breaking you out, try replacing one or two of your products with something that fights acne, versus giving up on it altogether.  Perhaps replace your cleanser or add in an acne fighting toner to your regimen.  This is my current skin care routine and order of application:

  • Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser:  Buy it here
  • Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads:  Buy it here
  • Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum:  Buy it here
  • Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Eye Serum:  Buy it here
  • Neutrogena Rapid Clear Acne Defense Lotion:  Buy it here
  • Mary Kay Timewise Age Fighting Eye Cream:  Buy it here
  • Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Day Cream with SPF 30:  Buy it here
  • Mac Prep and Prime Face Protect (if wearing make-up):  Buy it here
  • Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream:  Buy it here

6)  Use a make-up primer under your foundation:  Primer is a protective barrier between your skin and your make-up.  It also makes your make-up last longer and go on more smoothly.

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7)  Use a sonic cleansing brush such as Clarisonic.  I don’t know what I did before I bought my Clarisonic.  Not only does it deep clean your pores, if you use it with an acne fighting cleanser with benzoyl peroxide, it gets the medicine in there.  It also exfoliates which helps keep your pores clog free.

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Everyone’s skin is different and has different needs.  This is what worked for me, and let me tell you, I was in bad shape!  If you are struggling with controlling acne and fighting aging, I hope some of these ideas work for you.  If I could recommend one product, it would be the Clear Pore Cleansing Mask by Neutrogena, and the Clarisonic Facial Sonic Cleansing Brush.  Okay two products.  I think each of these were vital in improving my complexion.  If you are struggling with both acne and aging I hope these ideas have helped.  If you have any tips of your own you’d like to share, please leave a comment.  :)

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6 Ways to Cope When Life Gets Scary

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, and I know I’m not the only one on the planet who has had trials and tribulations, but the fact is I’ve been through some of the hardest, scariest times of my life over the past 12 years.  The situations I’ve encountered brought about in me some of the most intense negative emotions I’ve ever experienced including fear, anger, resentment, sorrow, loneliness, depression, and hopelessness to name a small handful.  In fact, I am still dealing with the aftershock of those feelings and have suffered from post traumatic stress and anxiety as a result.

I am sure there are many people who can relate to having some or all of these feelings.  In case anyone is out there looking for some kind of relief that doesn’t involve making a weekly visit to a shrink, I wanted to capture some of the things that helped me deal with these scary feelings as I was experiencing them and also afterwards as I’ve tried to heal my wounds.

1)  Pray.  It doesn’t matter what religion you practice or don’t practice.  Pray to your God, pray to your higher power, pray to the universe, or pray to yourself.  I think this is helpful for three reasons:  First, it allows you to confess your feelings and to get them out of your body.  Keeping negative feelings bottled up only makes them worse.  Secondly, I’ve experienced an indescribable sense of peace when I pray.  Perhaps God is really bringing me peace, or perhaps it brings about a sense that nothing is in my control and that it is useless to worry.  Third, while people have mixed feelings about prayer, what if it actually works?  If there’s a chance it does, why not go ahead and ask for the things you want?

2)  Listen to music.  There are many reasons why music is a great form of therapy.  It can take you on a journey so to speak and provide a temporary escape from life’s problems.  When I want to relax, I might light a few candles and listen to anything new age (Enya comes to mind) for an instant calm.  When I am angry, alternative metal does a great job of allowing me to vent my rage (Linkin Park’s “Break” is a great one).  Pop or Country instantly puts me in a better mood (how can you not smile when listening to Pocket Full of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield?).  Sometimes when I need encouragement or want to feel comforted I listen to or even sing hymns.

3)  Exercise.  Six years ago I joined the local gym and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I try to get there at least 3 or more times per week and try to get in 30 minutes of cardio each time.  Among its many benefits, cardiovascular activity is a great way to relieve the stress in your body and also the stress in your mind.  I find that I mentally process all sorts of things when I am on the treadmill or elliptical machine.  Since exercise makes you physically stronger, it can mentally make you feel more capable of dealing with life’s problems.  While sometimes I feel unmotivated and too exhausted to exercise, I find that when I push through it I sleep better and have more energy the following day.

4)  Pamper yourself.  Go ahead, get a manicure or pedicure, you deserve it!  One pampering ritual that I’ve come to really enjoy is taking a simple bath.  I turn on some spa music, light some candles, fill up the tub as high as it will go with super warm water, and sprinkle in some fragrant bath salts.  There is nothing like it.  Being enveloped in the warm water is particularly soothing and comforting when you are alone and don’t have anyone to hold you.  Those times when I longed to be in someone’s arms but had no one to comfort me were times I would draw myself a relaxing hot bath.

5)  Remember who you are.  When my daughter was a teenager and acting out, she loved to tell me I was a bad mother.  Her behavior had become out of control and I blamed myself and felt like a failure.  Our relationship had become so strained and the turmoil caused me to entertain the notion that perhaps she was right.  One day as I was talking with a friend feeling sorry for myself I received a good scolding.  She told me not to be ridiculous and proceeded to tell me all the reasons why I was a good mother.  From that moment on, when I started to feel bad about myself, I would repeat what she told me in my head.  I was indeed a good a mother.  If you are stuck in a situation that is making you feel bad about yourself, I encourage you to do some introspection and remember who you really are.

6)  Take one day at a time.  Life is a journey and in order to get to our destination we have to take one step at a time.  Sometimes they are painful steps, but the important thing is to keep moving.  Try not to focus on the past because it can’t be changed.  It is futile to worry about tomorrow because no one knows what the future holds. Focus on what you can do in the present to improve or change your situation.  Sometimes that means simply surviving and making it through another day.  Each day gets you one step closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet.

Whatever life has dealt you, remember that it will pass.  There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel and if you have not found comfort in any of the ideas I’ve shared, perhaps they will inspire you to find your own ways to comfort yourself during your storm.  In the meantime, here is a hug.

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Posted in My Life.

NAILS | Neutral Nails with Gold Accent

I’m back!  This is my first post in almost two years.  I have been distracted with other things including finishing my degree in business, which took a LOT of time and kept me from playing on my blog.  I wanted to start over when I had more time to dedicate to posting quality content.  So, here goes!

I almost always prefer a neutral manicure for many reasons.  First, my age.  I feel silly with bright colors and/or designs (although they have been growing on me lately).  Secondly, my job requires me to have a professional look and I just don’t want to risk looking overly gaudy.  However, I decided I would spice things up a little by incorporating a gold, sparkly, accent nail on my ring finger.  I also wanted to try the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel which promises to give you a no-chip like manicure that lasts 14 days.

Here is what I used:

  • Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Bare Dare, Game Charm, and Top Coat:  Buy it here
  • Sally Hansen Big Glitter Top Coat in Goldi Flecks (couldn’t find the Diamond Strength, but this is very similar):  Buy it here

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I used two coats of the Bare Dare on all my fingers except my ring finger.  I used Game Charm on my ring finger and then topped with the glitter polish.  Tip:  When applying the glitter, dab it on to spread the glitter out evenly, versus brushing it on.  Then I topped all fingers with the Miracle Gel Top Coat.  Here’s the end result:

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While I don’t feel the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is anything like a no chip manicure, I will say that it does last a bit longer than regular nail polish.  On me, regular nail polish begins to chip within 24 to 48 hours.  The Miracle Gel gives me a few extra days of wear.  I do like it for that reason and will likely purchase this product in more colors.

Hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for more posts.  Let me know if you liked this one or what you’d like to see more of in the comments below.

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