July Instagram Diary

July InstagramSharing my good hair day * Celebrating with coworkers* My dream home
Kitty kitty * Selfie with the pup * Many faces of Frieda
Breakfast sandwiches * My favorite kind of flower * Lipstick shopping

Just a small post today. As I’ve been getting more into blogging, I’m also making an effort to be more active on Instagram. My goal is to take about one photo a day, which can be challenging since I have a desk job in a more-or-less standard looking office.

One thing I’m really enjoying right now is how blogging has really brought me back to my photography roots. When I was in high school I was really passionate about photography, especially fashion photography. My best friend and I would get dressed up in our goth-y clothes and take her mom’s point-and-shoot camera out to a field and photograph each other. Eventually I saved up enough at my minimum-wage bookstore job to buy a Cannon Rebel DSLR, which to this day is one of the largest purchases I ever made (it was nearly 1k back then). Honestly, considering we were 16 years old, I don’t think we were half bad photographers. I even considered pursuing a photography major in college and then a career in photography, but eventually went back to my first and truest love, writing. I haven’t taken many photos in the last 8 years, but I am deeply enjoying this new bout of creativity now. There is something so deeply satisfying about taking photos, editing them, and then sharing them with you all on my blog.

If you want to see more of my photography, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

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Make Your Own Dog Collar at Paco Collars

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All of my friends will tell you I’m a little dog crazy. I don’t even know how that happened, because while I’ve always loved animals in general, I’ve always had a preference for cats. When I rescued Ru my entire life changed. She’s my best friend, constant companion, protector, “baby,” and the 40 pound planet my life revolves around.

When I heard about Paco Collars, a local custom dog collar company, I was immediately obsessed. They use high-quality leather, the same leather that horse tack is made from, built to with stand water and plenty of wear-and-tear, which is important for my tomboy girl. The collars come in a wide variety of styles and colors, and I spent several weeks scanning their website and saving up for one. I reassured my friends that despite the large price tag, it came with a lifetime warranty, which means I’d never need to buy another dog collar again. Six months later, I now have a grant total of three Paco collars for my one dog, so there goes that.

My friend Ellen and I actually met at the dog park when our dogs hit it off, and I think it’s safe to say her life revolves as much around her dog Layla as mine does around Ru. When I found out about Paco’s monthly workshop where you decorate your own dog collar, I thought it would be a fun activity for us to check out together. The class is expensive, but no more expensive than just buying a collar outright, and we made plans to fill our Klean Kanteens with beer and make class extra enjoyable.

It was our instructor Ali’s first time teaching the class, but she was a lot of fun and quick to help out whenever we asked. Building the collars was both easier and more difficult than I would have expected. The fundamental principles are pretty simple - plan out design, punch holes in leather in appropriate place, push studs or decorations through, and set in place. In practicality, it is massively time consuming and very detail oriented work. Because my design was very evenly spaced and I’m a little obsessive, I spent a good deal of time just measuring with a ruler and making sure things were immaculately placed around the collar.

The other women taking the class were chatty and social, and even though Ellen got a terrible headache halfway through, she was a trooper and managed to finish her gorgeous collar. I had gone into the class with a specific design in my head after spending a couple hours just scouting the site for ideas. Despite nearly changing it when I finally got ahold of all the decorations, I’m thrilled with how it turned out. It looks fantastic on Ru.

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If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and a crazy dog lady, or even just a crazy craft lady, consider signing up for one of Paco Collar’s monthly workshops. They also do a handful of traveling classes a year if you’re not nearby. If the classes aren’t your thing or aren’t an option, I highly recommend headed over to their online shop and browsing their stunning patterns and designs. (I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. I’m truly just obsessed with Paco Collars)  The first one I got for Ru is a Sybyl Lily Valentine Heart and then I got a Mesa Collar at one of their regular Facebook sales. I feel confident saying there will definitely be more Paco Collars in our future.

Do you like to spoil your pet as much as I like to spoil Ru?

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3 Best LUSH Cosmetics Face Masks

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So I definitely have what I would call “problem skin.” I’ve struggled with acne my whole life, and while it’s better now than it was in my teenage years, I have no shortage of scars, redness, and the more-than-occasional pimple. It sucks. There’s no other word for it. And while I would give anything to be one of those porcelain-skinned beauties who doesn’t even need to think about concealer, I do know a number of really great products that can help combat skin flare-ups when it’s a tough week. And three of those products are LUSH Cosmetic’s fresh face masks.

Face masks are awesome in general because a) they can transform your skin in 10 minutes and b) they feel like a true way pamper yourself. Certainly my true idea of spoiling myself is a night of ordering take-out, painting my nails, and putting on a face mask. LUSH’s fresh face masks are extra fabulous because they use freshly squeezed juices, extracts, or whole fruits and vegetables. Basically, it’s like putting a smoothie on your face. That means the masks need to be refrigerated and even still they only last about two weeks, but I don’t mind if it means I’m putting real ingredients on my skin. Here are the three LUSH face masks that have rocked my world:

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1. Catastrophe Cosmetic

My favorite LUSH face mask, the catastrophe cosmetic has two great things going for it. First, it’s incredible for skin redness. Blueberries, calamine, rose absolute, and chamomile blue oil calm your skin right down until you have an even tone. Second, it smells divine. Definitely the most luxurious mask and the one that truly has my heart. Any imperfections that you have are always better after using this puppy.

2. Cosmetic Warrior

If you have active acne, this is without a doubt the mask for you. It doesn’t smell particularly good… in fact, it reeks of garlic and tea tree oil. And it also has a less even consistency than the other masks with a more liquid base with chunks of “matter” spread throughout it. But that being said, after using this, your skin will look a whole lot more clear the next morning. The garlic and tea tree oil are both awesome for treating acne, plus egg whites and honey are used to tighten pores.

3. Love Lettuce

This LUSH’s best exfoliating mask. Ground almond shells give your face a gentle but through scrub, and I immediately have baby soft skin after using it. Lavender oil, seaweed, and honey provide a calming effect that also combats oily skin. This is a great general mask for people who lean towards oily and want to put a little pep in their skin.

Have you ever tried a LUSH fresh face mask before? Which one is your favorite?

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Weeknight Dinners: Vegetarian Tostadas

IMG_2121_Editedv2Vegetarian TostadasAs I was scrambling around for a dinner I could make tonight and share on my blog, it occurred to me that most of the recipes I’ve featured until now are larger, more involved meals. Some of those recipes are my specialties like chicken pot pie, so I’m thrilled to share them, but I admit they’re for those nights where you have more energy and time to put together a big thing. The truth is most nights I don’t cook like that, and instead I whip up some BBQ chicken in the oven or saute green beans or even make Trader Joe’s prepackaged beef and broccoli. So I’d like to start a new series dedicated exclusively to the sorts of dinners I like to throw together with the simple intention of being affordable and relatively easy. Let us begin!

I’ve mentioned before when I shared my chicken tortilla soup recipe that Mexican-style meals are definitely one of our go-tos. And while my soup is slightly more involved, vegetarian tostadas come together so quickly and can be made with a variety of different ingredients. Here’s a basic outline:

Vegetarian Tostadas

  • Tostadas shells
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vegetables like bell pepper, onion, lettuce, or zucchini (optional)
  • Tomatoes (optional)
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Refried beans (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Queso fresco, or if unavailable, another type of cheese (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)

As you can see, many ingredients on this list are optional, which makes it an excellent option for one of those “clean out the fridge” nights. It’s also easy to make this vegan if you or your guests prefer. My standard ingredients from the optional category are avocado, queso fresco, hot sauce, and typically at least one vegetable. This night I also made it with zucchini as well as tomato.

First, chop the potato into cubes that are approximately one centimeter square, but don’t worry if they’re perfect. Stir fry them with some oil over a medium-high flame until they have a good brown color and are cooked all the way through. A few minutes before they’re done, I toss in any veggies like bell pepper or zucchini to heat them up and give them some color without cooking them until they’ve lost their crunch. If you’re using beans, heat them up in a pot as well, and if you are unable to purchase tostadas shells, you can also do a quick fry of regular tortillas.

While those are are the stove, I prepare my other ingredients. While you could just dice the avocado and it on top, I like to mash it into a paste (pictured above) like a guacamole to put on the bottom of the tostadas. It acts like a gluing agent to keep the toppings on, although refried beans and sour cream would work well too.

Once the potatoes and beans are heated, pile everything on top of your tostadas! I like to do this order: tostadas, avocado/beans/sour cream, potatoes with vegetables, lettuce, tomato cheese, hot sauce. It is definitely a little bit of a balancing act to keep everything on top, but try not to stress too much if things fall back onto your plate or the tostadas breaks. Then your meal becomes a healthier version of nachos and you can use your tostadas shell to pick everything up.

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A Summer Dress for a Sunny Day

Blue DressBlue DressBlue DressReg and I dove a couple of hours north this weekend to his hometown for his father’s wedding reception. The ceremony had been a couple of months before and was a small, personal affair, but the reception was full of friends and family. It was held at the old one-room-school-house turned community center (it’s really is a small town) and was so much fun other than my dog running away. Reg’s dad, Big Reg, and his new wife Rebekah are so sweet and have the biggest hearts, and it’s so wonderful to see them so happy together. (Side note: They met when Big Reg hired Rebekah as his fiddle teacher. How romantic and adorable is that?)

Since the reception was extremely casual as well as hot, I decided it was okay if I rocked a summer dress and my cowgirl boots. I had just found this dress a few days before for half off at Francesca’s and decided it would be perfect for the occasion. Even though I paired it with a thick belt here, it’s synched at the waist and doesn’t require one, which I love for work days when I’m sitting anyways. I found these cowgirl boots at specialized Western/South-West second hand shop in Oakland. They’re gorgeous and comfortable, made with real, thick leather that means they’ll probably last longer than anything else in my closet.

Getting these photos was truly frustrating. Reg was a good sport about taking them even though it was a busy day, but I didn’t realize the camera settings had gotten changed and very few turned out focused. We actually did three or four rounds of photoshoots before I figured out why all the photos were blurry, and I’m still kicking myself over it. Fortunately I was able to scrape together enough for this post, and with any luck, the next shoot will go a little more smoothly!

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