For most of my life, I’ll admit I wasn’t that concerned about the ingredients of my skincare products or makeup. In general, I would swing through Walgreens and grab my bottle of Neutrogena face wash and a CoverGirl powder compact without thinking twice. As I got older, I started investing more in my makeup, but I was motivated more by a search for quality than a concern for safety.
As an adult, I starting being more aware of the ingredients in my food or how the animals I was eating had been treated and making better choices in that respect. But while I was paying a lot of attention to what was going in my body, I still hadn’t caught on that what went on it could be just as damaging.
Suddenly, my body wasn’t simply my own and what I exposed myself to I was also exposing my baby to. That’s a lot of pressure. It didn’t help that I was reading scores of disagreeing articles about the potential dangers of some of the most common beauty treatments. With the idea of “better safe than sorry,” I started looking for simple swaps I could make to safer products, for my baby as well as my own health.
I wasn’t alone in that goal. My friend Madison was experiencing a similar drive to make better choices about what she put on her skin, especially after experiencing two miscarriages before getting pregnant with her daughter, Ainsley. I remember reading Madison’s blog during her pregnancy (especially after I knew I was also pregnant but hadn’t announced it yet) and soaking up her advice and recommendations for safer or less chemical-laden products. Then, after her daughter was born, Madison was looking for more flexible work options and became a consultant for a brand called Beautycounter.
Beautycounter is a skincare and beauty company founded by a woman named Gregg Renfrew. She started the brand after realizing that so many personal care products are not as regulated as many people think — in fact, many use products linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption, all without ever informing consumers. Unlike the FDA, Beautycounter has banned more than 1,500 unsafe ingredients (many of which are banned by the European Union), creating one of the highest standards in the beauty industry.
They also rigorously screen all of their ingredients, working with scientists and industry leaders to reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals and develop safer alternatives. They also choose ingredients that are over 80 percent organic, natural, or plant-derived, and that are sourced responsibly. Oh, and they also don’t test on animals. And just in case you needed one more reason to trust the products, they don’t hide anything nasty under the guise of “fragrance,” “flavors,” or “preservatives” either.
Like I said, they really take this whole “safe skincare thing” seriously.
As I’ve watched Madison climb the ranks from a consultant to a director within the company, I was always curious to know more about the products. Madison obviously couldn’t say enough good things about them, so when she put out a post on Facebook asking if any of her friends would be interested in hosting a Beautycounter social, I reached out and told her I was interested.
So, what is a Beautycounter social? It’s a little bit of education, a little bit of shopping, and a little bit of having snacks and drinks with your girlfriends. Basically, a trifecta of my favorite things. I told Madison I wanted to host a physical social, but also that I wanted to have a blog component to share with anyone who couldn’t attend. After getting to try out more of the products, I’m really pleased with not only the way the products are made but also how they perform.
So! What do you need to know if you want to host your own social? Here’s a peek at what I did:
What We Ate
Is it just me, or is a party really only as good as the snacks? (I’m kidding.)(Kind of.) Because Beautycounter is all about making healthier choices for your body, I decided to put together a menu that featured a lot of fresh, healthy ingredients…along with a few more decadent treats.
Rather than an official main course, I opted to create a few heavier appetizers. I put together cucumber bites with a cream cheese-dill sauce (recipe here) and crisps with goat cheese, blackberries, and honey (recipe here).
I also made a bruschetta and turkey meatballs.
SIMPLE HOMEMADE BRUSCHETTA
1 container grape tomatoes, quartered
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
3-4 T fresh basil, chopped
3 T olive oil or avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and let sit for 1 hour to overnight to let flavors mingle. Serve with crusty or toasted slices of French bread.
CROCKPOT TURKEY MEATBALLS
1 jar marinara sauce (I used the bottled kind, but feel free to get fancy with something homemade. You’ll need about 4-6 cups.)
2 lbs 98% lean ground turkey meat
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
4 T fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 T oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pour the sauce into the crock pot.
2. Combine all of the meatball ingredients with a big spoon or your fingers.
3. Using your hands, roll the meatballs using about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Don’t pack too tightly.
4. Place the rolled meatballs into the sauce in the crockpot in a single layer.
5. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with bread for dipping in the sauce.
I also made mini fruit pizzas for dessert, but like a dummy completely forgot to take photos. Or, rather, like an animal who couldn’t wait to wolf down her mini fruit pizza. Whoops. I used this recipe to make them and topped each pizza with strawberries, raspberries, and a few pomegranate seeds.
For drinks, we had my summer drink of choices, rosé.
What We Did
The social started out with everyone having something to eat and drink and generally getting comfortable. My friends were good sports about letting me take pictures of them. (Thank you again, lovely ladies!)
Once everyone was settled, I played a video message from Madison explaining how we knew each other, how she got involved with the brand, and just what she loved about many of Beautycounter’s most popular items. It was so helpful hearing from someone who actually uses so many of them on a regular basis, and we pretty much spent the whole video saying, “Ooh, I want that!” and “Man, Madison is seriously adorable.” (We also agreed you have the best hair and skin, M! But I digress…)
Then, it was time for the fun part: playing with the products! Madison had sent me several sample packs and full-sized products for my guests to test, and it was so helpful to be able to actually feel, smell, and see what we were looking at.
I also loved being able to send each guest home with a little something from the line. Each person got one of the sampler packs I mentioned, and I also divided up a Charcoal Cleansing Bar so everyone could take a piece home to try out. (I’ve been using mine once a day since the social!)
All in all, it was a super simple event to plan. Madison was extremely helpful in answering any questions I had and even offered to answer any questions online in real time if necessary.
Now for the fun part! You don’t have to have been at the physical party to shop the brand. Click my social host link here to see everything that Beautycounter has to offer, from naturally beautiful cosmetics to super safe skin care. I’ve been really loving the Protect All Over Sunscreen (it’s safe to use on Vivi and blends in way better than the other baby sunscreens I’ve tried without any chalky residue), the Rejuvenating Eye Cream (because thirty is right on the horizon, yo), the Charcoal Cleansing Bar (it sells out quickly whenever it’s in stock, so jump on that!) and the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (the perfect lightweight coverage). I’m planning to get one of the Lip Sheers and the new Purifying Charcoal Mask as well, and I can’t wait to try them out. Just be sure to use my link so Madison gets credit for the sales
Have any other questions about the brand or want to host your own social? Let me know or reach out to Madison directly — she’s seriously the best to work with.
I like to work out.
I know, you might like me a little bit less now. I know that the main struggle most people have with working out is that they simply dread it, but honestly, that hasn’t been me for many, many moons.
But don’t despair, dear reader; I still have my own struggles. For me, the challenge to working out is lack of time and, more recently, a redistribution of funds. That is to say, I’m working part-time now and because the money I make goes toward, you know, food and pants and junk, there’s not a lot left for fancy-shmance gyms and such.
Don’t get me wrong. I love those fancy-shmance gyms. I love spin. I love pilates. I love bootcamps. I just love affording food and car payments and trying to save money all while staying home with le bebe more.
But because I’m me, it was never an option to completely cut fitness out of my life. I love working out, remember? And not just because I like fitting into my clothes (although I do), but also because working out makes me feel more like me. Which is important when you change virtually everything about your life by doing something like, oh, I don’t know…having a baby. But you already knew all this. What I want to talk about today is how I manage to get in challenging, effective workouts without spending a dime — and often without leaving my living room.
To be totally honest, for much of my life I’ve thrown a mean side-eye at home workouts. I had a hard time believing that I could ever get the same results that I could at a gym or a studio because, well, I never felt like I worked out as hard at home. Or I always felt like the workout videos I would try would leave something to be desired. (And there’s nothing worse than working out enough to need to wash your hair but not enough to feel like you made any kind of impact in your overall strength or fitness.)
Fortunately, in the last few months I’ve found several online options that are not only totally free but also leave me feeling sore the next day. So, to save you the struggle of the lame at-home workout, I’m sharing my favorite free options here. Happy sweating!
Side note: I’m not even going to mention running because I feel like it’s too obvious, but running is obviously a big one for me. Totally free and I can bring the Viv in the jogging stroller. We go 2-3 times per week, and it’s awesome. (But you can’t do it in your living room, so maybe not as awesome as these other options.)
1. Jillian Michaels (literally anything she does)
I first fell in love with Jillian when pretty much everyone did — when she was a coach/trainer on The Biggest Loser. I always admired the tough-yet-fair way she worked with her team, and, as a sort of exercise masochist, I secretly dreamed that one day she would scream at me to keep going unless I fainted, puked, or died. (I know, I’m sick.) The point is, when Jillian left the show (and especially when she explained that she left due to the less-than-healthy practices that often went on behind the scenes), I was sad to say good-bye to my favorite celebrity trainer.
And then I found out she had workout videos. And her videos were actually the first at-home workouts EVER to give me legitimately sore muscles the next day. I was an instant convert.
I actually own a couple of her DVDs, but it’s super convenient for me to pull up her YouTube videos on our Roku. And, let me tell you, no trainer’s workouts get me more sore the next day than Jillian’s. She’s a beast. Bonus: I love her affirmations at the end of each video. Because I did work hard, and I should be proud of myself, Jillian!
2. Tone it Up
Speaking of girl crushes, I’m a little bit in love with Karena and Katrina. Not only do they have sick bodies, but they are both sweet, bubbly, encouraging, and incredibly fun to work out “with.”
Also, as the mom of an increasingly mobile little girl, I really appreciate that the videos are mostly less than ten minutes long. I typically do 2-3 videos at a time, but if Vivi is having a bad day, it’s easy to squeeze in an 8-minute workout while she plays in the morning and another 15-minute session when she naps in the afternoon. And since the gals are so entertaining, I’m usually actually enjoying the workout too much to realize how hard I’m working. (That is, until I can barely lower myself to sit down the next day.)
Oh, Christine. You could most definitely snap me over your knee like a twig. And I love you for it.
Christine Khuri’s workouts are probably the most old-school of the bunch, but you know what? Squats, curls, and lunges are staples for a reason. And when I have the time to fit in a solid strength workout, this woman knows what she’s talking about.
I was a little apprehensive when Christine’s videos first popped up in my recommended list, but I figured there is no way she could be so jacked without knowing a thing or two. And given the fact that I could barely raise my arms to wash my hair the next day (from an at-home workout, folks), I would have to say my suspicions were correct. And don’t feel like you have to be a fitness pro to do her workouts — you can always modify your weights, and everything she does is super accessible.
For all you work-out-at-home warriors, I want to know: What are your favorite free workouts?
I really could not be more excited that summer is finally here. It’s not that we had a particularly difficult winter (we didn’t, fortunately for this stay-at-home momma), but there’s something about not having to bundle up myself and a baby anymore that sounds especially appealing.
Speaking of not bundling up, Viv and I are especially excited to spend the summer in the water, whether that be in her baby pool, in a real pool, or at the beach. I’ve been a water baby since before I can even remember (my mom once had a dream when my sister and I were little that she found gills behind our ears while giving us a bath), and I’m extremely excited to pass on that legacy to Vivi.
But what is a water baby without a great swimsuit?
When searching for a swimsuit for Vivi, I was somewhat surprised at the limited selection available for babies less than a year old. Sure, you can find a handful at the usual stand-by places (lookin’ at you, Target), but I wasn’t seeing anything I thought was a) cute, b) not too babyish, and c) something I thought she would actually wear and be happy in.
Then I learned about Red Dolly Swimwear. Red Dolly is a vintage-inspired swimwear line designed by California-based designer Heather Stepanik. She started out making suits for adults in cute, vintage styles (think high-waisted and flattering one-pieces), but she has since expanded the line to include baby items and accessories.
I totally fell for the line when I saw it, and I was thrilled when Heather offered to send me a couple suits to try.
Side note: It didn’t occur to me until later that by agreeing to review a swimsuit, I was agreeing to post photos of myself in a swimsuit here. Clearly, I was just so excited about the baby suit I wasn’t thinking clearly. Be kind.
Fortunately for me, Red Dolly Swimwear is actually super post-maternity friendly. I had never worn a high-waisted swimsuit before, but turns out it actually covers all those areas you might be self-conscious about after growing a human in your body for nine months.
The suits are also incredibly comfortable and great for chasing around that same tiny human once they’ve, I don’t know, started crawling around at lightning speed. After all, as another mom friend said to me recently, my days of relaxing at the beach are over for about the next ten years. That little stinker can move.
And, like you needed me to tell you this, the baby suits are even BETTER. Is there anything better than a bikini and a baby belly together? I don’t think so.
Vivi loves her suit and has already worn it about three times in the first week since it arrived. I was a little nervous she wouldn’t want to keep it on, but the soft, stretchy material is extremely comfortable and easy for her to move in. Win-win.
**Suits provided by Red Dolly Swimwear, opinions my own.
I won’t lie to you — one of the best parts of having a daughter is getting dressed up.
I wasn’t super girlie growing up, but I’ve definitely embraced all things dresses, makeup, and accessories in my adult years. Fortunately for me, my little lady seems to already have gained an appreciation for most things pretty and sparkly.
And there’s nothing like a tea party to bring out all the girlie goodness. (That sounds dirty? It’s not…moving on.)
Recently, we were invited to attend my friend Cynthia’s annual tea party. (You might remember her last one here.) This year, I was super excited to be able to bring Vivi to her first high tea — and even more excited to dress her up for it.
Per usual, Cynthia’s hosting was superb. We ate a combination of finger sandwiches, blueberry scones, and four different types of cookies with our tea and champagne. I love how Cynthia always uses a mix of pottery and flatware to give the whole event an Alice in Wonderland effect.
Now for the style! My favorite part of the tea party is that we all wear some kind of hat. Last time, I wore a fascinator. But this time, I borrowed a pretty striped sun hat to go with my white sheath. (My dress is from LOFT two years ago, but similar styles here, here, and here.)
Blah blah blah. Honestly, the only thing I want to talk about is Vivi’s outfit!
I mean, come ON. As soon as I knew Vivi needed a hat, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I have been eyeing these glittery gold crowns from Peekabloom Baby for months now, and I was so thrilled to have the occasion to get one.
The crowns are lined with felt (either pink or mint) and held on with a matching elastic strap. I was a little nervous that Viv would rip hers off as soon as it went on, but she actually didn’t touch it the entire afternoon. The strap is a little long on her now, so I was able to tie it to a comfortable size.
The crown itself is just as adorable in person as it looks in photos. It’s super well made and can even stand up to a bit of baby-style handling. I’m planning to reuse it for the next photo shoot we do with my sister. Plus, Alysse, the fabulous crown maker, is offering my readers a 20 percent off discount code! Just use SUNNY20 at checkout. (She also has a whole collection of adorable bows that can stick on even the baldest baby’s head — they’re almost magic.)
Thank you again for having us, Cyndy! Everything was perfect!
It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.
A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.
For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.
Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.
That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.
But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.
So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.
But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.
Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:
If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.
A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.
I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.
And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.
The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.
You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?
I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.
If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.
But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.
Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.
I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.
Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.
At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.
Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.
But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).
You live and you learn, right?
I haven’t done a product round-up in ages, and I always love peeking into people’s makeup bags, so I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite cosmetics and tools for flawless skin. Or, you know, as flawless as one can get without the team of Beyonce behind them. (Sorry, dude readers, this post is probably not going to be your favorite.)
Like most things in my life, I try to make health-conscious choices about what I put on my skin, but I’m also balanced. (Or maybe just a bit lazy. But “balanced” makes me sound reasonable, doesn’t it?)
What I’m saying is, that my makeup bag, like so much of my life, is the perfect picture of a high-low collection. In general, I tend to invest in the products that go directly on my skin (as in concealers, foundations, tinted moisturizers, etc.), but for everything else, I’m perfectly comfortable prowling my local drugstore’s cosmetics department.
In today’s round-up, I’m focusing on the items I use to create an “everyday” face. Also known as the “non-makeup makeup.”
If there are still any dude readers hanging on, what I’m saying is that these are the products girls will use and you will think they’re not wearing makeup. We ladies are wizards, I tell you.
Of course, they can also be supplemented with a heavier regime of mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick…the list goes on. But a good face needs a good foundation, you know? Let’s begin.
1. Velvet 59 Contour is a Girl’s Best Friend – $45
Pretty much everyone with skin this side of the wester hemisphere is familiar with the concept of contouring these days. What started out as a Kardashian’s right of passage has quickly been embraced — and finessed — by the masses. This pretty contour palette was actually developed by someone I know, and what I love most about it is how easy it makes it to bring a subtle contour into the real world. The cream-to-powder finish feels silky on skin and blends easily, meaning the definition can be subtle or dramatic, depending on your mood or occasion. Plus, all of Velvet 59’s products are cruelty-free, which means you can feel good about your newly defined cheek bones.
2. Maybelline Master Fix Setting + Perfecting Loose Powder – $10
Remember what I was saying about high and low? This translucent powder is available at your local Walgreens, but I think the finish is just as quality as anything you could shell out big bucks for. I don’t use setting powder all over my face every day, but I haven’t found anything that sets under eye concealer quite so well. (Because creasing is real, folks.)
3. bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation – $30
There’s no way to say this without sounding slightly brag-y, but I don’t need (or want) to use a heavy foundation. For most of my life, I’ve used a tinted moisturizer and called it good. (Because while my skin is mostly even, it could always use a little more evening, ya know?) In the past, I had actually steered clear of bareMinerals products because I felt like they had a cake-y, heavy finish that left me looking overly done. And then I discovered they had a liquid line. And, you guys? This serum foundation has the silkiest feel of any foundation-like product I have ever used. It’s super light, and you only need a few drops to cover your whole face. The end result is dewy without looking slick, and, the more I use it, the more I feel like it actually makes my skin look better. Win-win!
4. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer – $36
I’ll be honest: I’ve never actually purchased this product. I received this tiny sample version for free. But actually, that’s one of the pros: This tiny bottle has lasted for weeks because you only need a little drop for your whole face. And the result? A smooth, flawless palette for your makeup — and matte skin for hours and hours, which is really saying something when you’ve got a slick T-zone like I do.
5. Real Techniques by Sam & Nic Chapman Stippling Brush – $10
Before buying this brush, I had been using a more paintbrush-like foundation brush to apply foundation. Then a girlfriend told me about stippling brushes and promised it would change the way I used makeup. She didn’t overstate this. Whereas the paintbrush tended to smear the foundation more (at least in my experience), the stippling brush made it easier to swirl on the product, resulting in more even coverage. I know there are better quality brushes out there, but, honestly, this brush works just fine for me. And $10? Can’t beat that.
6. beautyblender Original – $20
Speaking of pricier makeup applicators…the beautyblender gets a lot of hype. But, I have to level with you: I really think it lives up to it. Not only is the material perfect for applying almost anything to your skin, from contour to concealer to powder, the shape makes it possible to perfectly apply to every surface of your face. (Looking at you, tricky corner-of-eyes area.) If you’re not sure how to use one, I highly recommend this tutorial from The Beauty Department. The only edit I would make to that article is how to clean your beautyblender. They recommend glycerin soap, which might be fine, but I’ve had great success with castile soap. Apply a few drops directly to the blender, and then use your fingers to work the soap through the sponge. Rinse thoroughly for a pink-like-new result.
7. Maybelline Eye Studio Brow Precise Shaping Pencil – $7
Like contouring, eyebrow products are really having a moment. For the last year, I used a pricier version of a brow pencil that I got for a dollar at a work beauty sale, but when it ran out, I decided to see if I could get a similar result with a drugstore product. I liked that this Maybelline pencil has a similar shape the the version I used before with a brush on one end, and I actually think it shapes my brows better than the pricier option. I’m fortunate that my eyebrows don’t need a ton of help (the shape is decent and they are thick enough not to warrant any strange stares)(brag-y)(sort of), but I’m always impressed how a little bit of eyebrow maintenance can make my whole face look more defined and pulled together without a lot of other products. And for $7? What’s not to like?
Have your own favorite drugstore products? Is there a high-end item you think is totally worth the price? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!