The Best Eye Makeup Product – Working Moms and Date Nights!

I am really starting to like the brand E.L.F. They are so cheap it’s ridiculous, but their products are super reliable; They work so well! And I think I’ve found a new favorite product. You know how magazines always have articles interviewing celebrities: “What’s the one beauty product you couldn’t live without?” Well I found mine.

When I was shopping for yet another awesome product of theirs (which I had used so much I went through it pretty quickly – review to come!), I found this gem for only $2!!

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E.L.F. Eyelid Primer

I figured, Eh, I’ll give it a try. If it doesn’t work, well it’s only $2.

Here’s proof I didn’t waste my money…
I’ve used this the past two nights before going to work.  Last night I worked 6 hours, and tonight about 6 1/2. Tonight I was working a banquet; I was running up and down the stairs to the kitchen and bar, serving a room full of adults and packed with jazz students doing a performance. When they all left we had to move these tall cocktail pub tables upstairs, put away a 5 piece makeshift “stage” (it’s really just heavy wood with thin carpeting stapled to it), and reset for the next night’s banquet.  I won’t sugar-coat it: There was sweat involved. 😉

But here are my eyes after that long and tiring 6 hour shift:

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Barely even a smudge!

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I mean,  REALLY! Not even any smudgy black shots below the eyes?! (I did put a thin layer of it underneath my lower lids.) It pretty much looks exactly perfect, the same way it did when I left the house.

The color said “pearl”, so there must be more than one color, but I like this one.  I usually prime my eyes with concealer and powder foundation already, and lately I’ve been putting a layer of off-white over my eyelids too, just to even everything out and start with a clean slate. This pearl color is exactly that: a pearly white.

When you open it, it almost looks like a lip gloss wand.
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Just use that to apply all over your eyelids up to your brow. Apply makeup as usual. Now I still did my concealer and a little powder, then used this. I used Almay eyeshadow, and the E.L.F. eyeliner pen in cocoa.

Then go work, or play, or maybe even swim – I believe in this stuff!

If you’re going to a wedding or special occasion, or if you just want to look good for the hubs tonight, grab you up some of this magic and fret not about your looks melting away 😉

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Baked Seasoned Chicken

This is the first meal in a meal plan of 3 different meals from one package of chicken. If you have a bigger family (or older kids who eat more!), bake 2 packages of chicken instead of 1, and double the recipes.

What we are Repurposing:
*You will need at least 2 breasts worth of chicken for the next meal, plus all the bones. We are also saving the stalks and leaves of the broccoli.

The week I made this chicken I was planning on making something a little fancier, but I wasn’t feeling too well. Instead I baked it very simply and served it with Mac n Cheese and steamed broccoli.

What I used:
1 package chicken breasts (4 breasts total), rib-in, skin removed
Paprika
Onion Salt
Garlic Powder
Pepper
Parsley
Lemon
1 package Fresh broccoli (choose one with heads and stalks)

Remove the skin by lifting with one hand wherever it naturally comes up, and using a knife to cut the rest off. Place in a baking dish sprayed with Pam, rib-side down. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the chicken. Sprinkle the seasonings over the chicken to taste. I went easiest on the pepper and onion salt, medium on the garlic powder and parsley, and heavy on the paprika.
Bake in a 350° oven for about 40 minutes or until chicken is firm, but not hard, to the touch.
In the meantime, cut the heads off the broccoli. Prepare a steamer, if you have one, or place a thin layer of water in the bottom of a pan or skillet with a lid. Place the heads of broccoli in the pan, cover, and steam over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The broccoli should get softer but remain bright green. Save the unused stalks and leaves in a gallon bag.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before you cut into it. (At this point if you need to check done-ness, the chicken should be white all the way through – no pink left.) Remove the chicken from the bone and slice. Set the bones aside (chicken meat attached is good) in a plastic gallon bag (different from the one the broccoli is in).
Squeeze more lemon juice in the pan if you’d like, to create a pan juice (au jus). You can spoon this over the chicken after it’s cut. (So good!)

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Simple right? Now save the leftovers – including the bones!  – for Second Meals of Nana’s (Healthier) Chicken Salad and Homemade Overnight Chicken Stock!

5 Tips to Offset the Price of Buying Organic & Natural

1. Know your budget. I almost forgot to include this; but being aware of and sticking to a predetermined budget is the first step to maximizing your savings. Having even an approximate amount in mind will keep you from overspending unnecessarily.

2. Plan your meals based on sales. Most grocery stores put out a weekly ad – even the more popular produce stores, like Whole Foods or Mariano’s – and if you don’t get it in the mail, you can view it easily online. I usually base dinners around a protein, and buy the family size packs so I can either separate into 2 meals or make a Second Meal from the leftovers. The protein (fish, poultry, pork, beef, etc.) will usually be most expensive, so consider this first before looking at other specials. Then check out the produce sales. We shop at Meijer, and their store brand organic often goes on sale. This is how I decide what to buy that week. Same goes for their Meijer Naturals grocery products. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, check out the Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen lists. If you’re only buying a few items organic, you might want to choose items on the Dirty Dozen list to reduce the chance of pesticides.
*Note: If you’re just starting out, it might take awhile to understand what a good sale price is. Don’t stress. Just do the best you can for now, and eventually it’ll be second nature to know when an item is overpriced, when it’s an average buy, and when it’s at a DEEP discount price.

3. Make a list and stick to it. Write down everything you plan to buy based on the ad. Double check your meal plan for the week, cross check your pantry, and add any missing ingredients to your list if necessary. If you’re on a really tight budget, estimate the cost of each item and get an approximate total, adjusting your list if necessary.
Then, when you get to the store, STICK TO YOUR LIST. I know the lure of the produce section… you suddenly get the urge to try a blood orange for the first time… or to buy an exotic root vegetable you’ve never used before. THIS. IS. BAD. Not only will it put you over your carefully constructed budget, but if you don’t have a recipe or specific use in mind for that item, chances are you will end up tossing it anyway, or wasting another item you bought. Reducing your waste (Read: the stuff you throw away because it’s gone bad) is a huge way to save money. If you were really deliberate about your list, you should have just enough produce to make it through each meal of each day for the week. Resist the urge to impulse buy; if you see something new you want to try, make a note of it, search recipes when you get home, and put it on the list for next week.

4. Check for coupons before you go. Part of the reason I love Meijer is because of their mPerks. Not only are there coupons for name brand products, but also for their store brand – which as I said, has great organic and natural products. So when I find a coupon that matches with a weekly sale, it’s a home run! or a 3 pointer! or a touchdown! (insert your favorite sport term here.) So check your favorite grocery store’s website for store coupons on generic items, including produce. Some stores have rewards programs; others have digital coupons you can load to a loyalty card. A little research goes a long way.
And if you are buying a specific brand name, check your local newspaper inserts. In our area, the best website for this is www.coupontom.com. It references an extensive catalog of all the current paper and printable coupons. When you search an item (by brand name or item name) it will pull up any coupons available and where to find them.

5. Enroll in rewards programs. As I said earlier, research if your favorite store(s) has a rewards program. A lot of stores have a point system connected to a loyalty card – and the points can then be converted to savings later. Some stores have a quantity requirement program (Buy 10, get the 11th free). Other stores give stickers based on your total spent within a qualifying time period, which can be returned at the end for products. Meijer has a great one they’ve recently instituted – you choose one reward in each of three categories. (For example, Spend $60 in produce, Get $5 off.) This is cumulative for the entire month. Once you reach the goal amount, you can ‘clip’ your reward to your mPerks account, and it is applied toward your total basket on your next trip. You can work towards 3 different rewards at a time, and if you finish a goal before the end of the month, you can choose another one. Again, check your favorite store’s website, or ask an associate next time you’re in store.

By investing a little time and research, buying healthier, natural, and organic food can be realistic for even the smallest budgets!

$1 E.L.F. Products & Review

I was out of eyeliner. I knew I should at least look when I went to Meijer for groceries, or I might not have time to make a separate trip. I checked all my coupons but didn’t see anything fantastic.

I took a few extra minutes in the cosmetics aisle, and am so glad I did! Instead of paying $6-$10 for an eyeliner, I came across this awesome find. (Well, at the time I was taking a risk as I’d never used these products before, but it paid off.)
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There was a small section for E.L.F. products (Eye, Lip, Face) and towards the very bottom there were products for $1!! One was -you guessed it- a sparkly black eyeliner equipped with a sharpener. I usually don’t use real pencils (I like the ones you can turn at the bottom, because they are softer and tend to apply more easily), but again, for $1 I couldn’t pass it up. Right next to that was a $1 eye shadow brush. I guess I didn’t really NEED another brush, but the ones I have are at least 6 years old, so I justified spending an extra dollar on one.

To my surprise they both are great! I love the shape of the eye shadow brush. The eyeliner glides on smoothly and has lasted without smudging so far. Plus I love the shimmer in it, and the ease of use of the sharpener (it’s right there on the cap! Genius).

So, if you need a good product on a budget, I dare you to give these a try 🙂

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

The smell of fish cooking reminds me of vacations in Florida visiting my grandparents. My grandpa out on the screened-in porch grilling, maybe simultaneously smoking a cigar, while Mom and Grandma chatting away while prepping a side dish or two in the kitchen. And us helping set the dining table.

These are the memories that flooded my head as I grilled up some Mahi Mahi yesterday night – indoors, on my grill pan, while outside the window there was gray 40Âș weather. Different setting altogether. But I could care less, because the memories and that SMELL transported me and made me so happy!

This is one of those meals, because of those early marriage cooking days, that I look at and think, “Did I do that?!”

I usually pull from a recipe but adjust it a little. In this case I pulled from multiple recipes, so contrary to my normal posts, I will be including the actual recipe for you.

Let’s start with the salsa, because that’s what I prepped ahead of time.
SALSA
1 mango, chopped
1/4 diced red onion
4-5 strips of red pepper, diced
1/4 cup or so cooked sweet corn (I used the microwavable frozen kind –OHI– but I’m sure fresh off the cob would be even better)
Juice from half a lime
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and stir. Adjust to taste. Easy! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except…
Well, here’s an opportunity to explain my view of kid-friendly. To me, kid-friendly means the meal is prepared in bite-size, easy to eat portions. It can also mean adjusting to their spice tolerance. Next time, per my daughter’s request, I will add yellow and orange peppers. Maybe even omit the red, or just use less, because as she pointed out, the yellow and orange are sweeter. Another change I might make: substituting yellow or white onion, and maybe even lightly sautĂ©ing them with the peppers before adding to the salsa. But for adults, this original recipe was PERFECT.
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‘Blackened’ spices for Mahi Mahi
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lite coconut milk

Again, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and make a paste. Just before using, add the coconut milk. It will look like a vinaigrette.
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You can use a pastry brush to spread this on your fish (1.25 lbs Mahi Mahi). I dipped the first piece and then just used my finger to spread it. That’s how we do in my kitchen 😉

Now I have to make a side note. I opened the package from the meat counter and realized I forgot to ask them to take the skin off the Mahi. AHHHHHH! I don’t have a filet knife. I’ve never really even learned how to de-skin a fish. (Is that even the right term? I’m sure there’s a more professional culinary term for this but it escapes me at the moment.) Did I panic with the clock tick tick ticking away the time until dinner? Mm. I chose to keep my head and just do it myself. So out came my raw meats cutting board and my paring knife (the best substitution I had). I tried to remember what I’ve ever seen of someone de-skinning a fish on TV. I put one hand on top of the skin and wiggled the knife underneath, to the point of being afraid I was going to slice my upper hand open. Once I had a good portion of the skin off, I started to pull it up so I had a better view underneath it.  Amazingly, I didn’t cut myself at all, the whole time. And I didn’t even butcher them too badly. (I SWEAR, no pun intended. I literally thought this last night when I stood back and surveyed my work.)
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So! Now for the cooking. Heat your grill pan over medium high heat. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. **One thing I’ve learned from watching cooking show after cooking show is when you are using a grill pan, MAKE SURE IT’S PIPING HOT before you put anything on it, otherwise your stuff will stick. You’ve been warned.**  Place your fish on the grill and cook for “approximately 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.” That’s what the recipe said that I based this on. It worked, the fish was SO DELICIOUS. My 5 year old daughter even said, “MOM! You’re right. I DO like this fish! The inside… it’s so moist … and juicy!”
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COCONUT RICE
2 cups dry brown Minute rice
1 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water

Soak your rice in water to remove some of the starchiness, if desired. (Again, this is what the recipe told me to do – but she was using long grain rice and I was using minute rice. I did do it, and I think it did actually help remove some of the dry starchiness, especially since I was using brown rice.) Put the coconut milk and water in your pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions. Actually, the package said to bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. I probably let it cook more like 7-10, let it stand, and then reheated it a teensy bit before I plated it. One thing: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS! Any time I’m boiling milk I pay extra attention, but last night was one of those times that couldn’t be helped… Some of the kids were arguing, or someone got hurt, and I swear even though I only walked away for 90 seconds, my pot was suddenly boiling over. Anyway just watch it, because I had to keep removing the lid to release some steam so it wouldn’t boil over again. (And that’s even using my awesome “sure simmer” function on my electric oven. Yes I love it.)

Guess what? I had the coconut milk, corn, and rice in my OHI, so all I paid for this dinner was probably $10-11. Score!

Now! Spoon some rice onto your plate, top it with a piece of Mahi, and spoon some salsa on top. Done! Now go feed your family some surprisingly easy, joyfully affordable, shockingly healthy, tantalizingly delicious and fresh food!
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