Quick Hit #1 – Love this? Try that! – Teeth Whitening Lipgloss

A few months ago, I succumbed to all the positive pub surrounding the It Cosmetics News Anchor Blue Vitality Lip Flush Butter Gloss ($24). This gloss is marketed as shimmery gloss with blue tint to help make teeth look whiter and to enhance the whites of your eyes. What a great idea!

The gloss itself is fairly sticky and, for some reason, seems to make lips feel drier, even crackly when it wore off. I can’t say the product wowed me but the blue shimmer seems like an interesting novelty and has some minimal teeth whitening effect, especially applied over a blue-based pink or red lipstick.

But, $24 is a pretty steep price for a 0.11oz novelty lipgloss, particularly since my all-time favorite lip gloss ( Clinique Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss ($16) ) is a full $8 cheaper and provides nearly 5 X the product (at 0.5oz.).

Still, what if I want/need that quick brightening effect? Enter the big find, quick hit:
NYX The Blue Lip Gloss Smile Brightener ($4.50)

At less than $5 for 0.31oz., this little baby is the perfect wise alternative. You get plenty of product and far less lip-drying side-effects. I encourage you to pick up this gloss at your local NYX retailer. It may not be your everyday, all-day gloss (heck, maybe it will be). But it’s a great option for that finishing touch to make your smile extra bright and pretty. Enjoy!

Curious about how the two products compare side-by-side, check out the pics below:

Special savings - I purchased a two-pack of NYX blue and mood glosses for only $3 during Christmas shopping blitz

Special savings – I purchased a two-pack of NYX blue and mood glosses for only $3 during Christmas shopping blitz

Take a look at the It Vitality Gloss bottle. It's cracked. So often you're paying for the packaging (not the actual ingredients) with "higher end" products. Imagine the disappointment when the cap cracks. Ugh!

Take a look at the It Vitality Gloss bottle. It’s cracked. So often you’re paying for the packaging (not the actual ingredients) with “higher end” products. Imagine the disappointment when the cap cracks. Ugh!

De-stress Quickly

These days, we all have stress (or more accurately we all struggle with “stressors,” daily life events that cause anxiety, confusion or fear). Researchers tell us that chronic stress (again more accurately, chronic stress defined as “an inability to manage, resolve and appropriately deal with stressors in an efficient manner”). The experience of stress is literally caused by having more life stressors than you have strategies to manage without allowing stressful circumstances to impact your health, mood and activities or relationships) speeds up the aging process, is strongly related to common diseases of civilization – like heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Plus chronic, unmanaged stress accelerates the age process (Need proof? Check out this link: Stress Aging Connection at Prevention.com). Plus, feeling constantly stressed out is just REALLY uncomfortable.

So we all need to beef up our stress management strategies. Fortunately, scientists are also motivated to find stress tonics that provide relief quickly. Check out the list below from Stop Stress Now – Web MD and the added links to help you out along the mindfulness journey.

10 Ways to Stop Stress in Its Tracks

1. Put Stress in Its Place
How you handle stress makes a big difference in how you feel. It might even help your blood pressure, blood sugar level, and the rest of you. Use these calming strategies to stop stress ASAP.

2. Break Out the Bubble Gum
Next time you’re at the end of your rope, unwrap a stick of gum. According to studies, chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. Some researchers think the rhythmic act of chewing may improve blood flow to your brain, while others believe the smell and taste help you relax.

3. Go Outside
Spending time outdoors, even close to home, is linked to better well-being. You’re in a natural setting, and you’re usually doing something active, like walking or hiking. Even a few minutes can make a difference in how you feel.

4. Smile Like You Mean It
Don’t roll your eyes the next time someone advises you to “grin and bear it.” In times of tension, keeping a smile on your face – especially a genuine smile that’s formed by the muscles around your eyes as well as your mouth – reduces your body’s stress responses, even if you don’t feel happy. Smiling also helps lower heart rates faster once your stressful situation ends.

5. Sniff Some Lavender
Certain scents like lavender may soothe. In one study, nurses who pinned small vials of lavender oil to their clothes felt their stress ease, while nurses who didn’t felt more stressed. Lavender may intensify the effect of some painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, so if you’re taking either, check with your doctor before use. (I love lavender essential oils which are reasonably priced at Amazon.com ).

6. Tune In
Heading into a stressful situation? Music can help you calm down. In one study, people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they listened to a recording of Latin choral music before doing something stressful (like doing math out loud or giving a speech) than when they listened to a recording of rippling water.

7. Reboot Your Breath
Feeling less stressed is as close as your next breath. Focusing on your breath curbs your body’s “fight or flight” reaction to pressure or fear, and it pulls your attention away from negative thoughts. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting your chest and lower belly rise and your abdomen expand. Breathe out just as slowly, repeating a word or phrase that helps you relax. To reap benefits, practice abdominal breathing for at least 10 minutes per day. Need help getting started? Check out this list of best smart phone apps: Best Cell Phone Apps for Meditation & Mindfulness or invest in the amazingly fabulous Heart Math cell phone attachment. Link: Inner Balance from Heath Math (P.S. health professionals receive discounted prices on starter packages).

8. Be Kind to Yourself
We all have a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads, and sometimes what we tell ourselves isn’t so nice. Staying positive and using compassionate self-talk will help you calm down and get a better grip on the situation. Talk to yourself in the same gentle, encouraging way you’d help a friend in need. “Everything will be OK,” for instance, or “I’ll figure out how to handle this.”

9. Write Your Stress Away
Jotting down your thoughts can be a great emotional outlet. Once they’re on paper, you can start working out a plan to resolve them. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer pen and notebook, a phone app, or a file on your laptop. The important thing is that you’re honest about your feelings.

10. Tell a Friend
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out the company of a friend or loved one. Have a friend who’s dealing with the same worries as you? Even more reason to open up. You’ll both feel less alone. (Feeling some sort of way about laying your fears and stressors on a friend at 3 o’clock in the morning? Check out this super cool site which allows you to vent anonymously online to a caring and supportive stranger for FREE: Blah Therapy ).


Wishing you peace, joy and happy stress management my lovelies!



Learn the Basics about Non-surgical Cosmetic Procedures

After 35, looking good takes some effort, and sometimes … it requires a little help. Whether you are just beginning to contemplate Botox, Sculptra etc. or are a long-time injectable connoisseur, I encourage you to check out this fair, unbiased and informative article before scheduling your first or next appointment.

Non-surgical Cosmetic Treatments

As always, a great article from the incomparable Paula Begoun!

Enjoy in peace  and love,
~ KarenGinHD

Sweet Potato Soufflé, Revamped

IMG_0088My family is suffering from a post-holiday food hangover. Fortunately, this year, I was able to substitute some healthy and yummy recipe makeovers for the standard holiday fare, helping us avoid that dreaded “I’m as bloated and rancid week-old stuffed sausage” feeling that we all know and loathe.

Sadly, I couldn’t find a recipe for my favorite sweet potato casserole which is an absolute must-have item at any good Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. So what follows is the original recipe and my own revision along with a few pics of the finished product.

I must admit that I’ve made and served the original recipe over the years. Each time, the original has garnered rave reviews. But beware – it is frankly unhealthy – chocked full of fat, sugar and animal products. If those ingredients work for you and your family, go for it. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. But understand, I’ve served the revamped version to family and friends over the last few years. Vegetarians, Vegan and omnivores alike love it, and most are unaware of its vegan status.

You can even “tweak” the revamp recipe to accommodate Paleo/Cross Fit types. You would just want to use two whole, beaten eggs (as in original recipe) or 3 whole egg whites instead of egg replacer. Then replace the flour and rolled oats with ½ cup each almond (or other nut) flour and coconut flour. Hard core Paleo types would also appreciate you using extra-virgin coconut oil in place of butter or margarine. Your call. Coconut has a very recognizable flavor. I love it. Some people detest coconut, so just be mindful of your audience. ☺

Original Recipe Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe makes ~6 (1-cup) servings
For Souffle:
• 4 cups sweet potato, cubed
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Topping:
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Transfer mixture to a 9×13” baking dish. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

Sweet Potato Soufflé Updated
This recipe makes ~8-10 servings
For Souffle:
• 4 large (or 5 medium) sweet potato, peeled and roughly cut into 6-8 chunks
• ¼ cup maple syrup
• ¼ cup coconut sugar
• ½ cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
• 1 Tbsp. vegan egg replacer, mixed with ¼ cup filtered water
• 2 Tbsp. flax seed meal
• ½ tsp. salt
• 3 Tbsp. vegan butter-replacement (I prefer Earth Balance sticks), softened
• 2/3 – ¾ cup almond, coconut, rice or soy milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice mixture (I like McCormick’s brand)
• 1 small box sugar-free vanilla pudding mix (unprepared)

For Topping:
• ¼ cup coconut sugar
• ¼ cup all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
• ½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
• 1/3 tsp. salt
• 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
• 2 Tbsp. vegan butter-replacement (like Earth Balance)
• ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
• ½ tsp. maple, butter or butternut flavoring
• Dash almond, coconut, rice or soy milk
• McCormick’s Kettle Corn flavored popcorn salt

Place peeled and cut sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Cook , covered over medium high heat until tender. While sweet potatoes cook, lightly spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray I like Pam Coconut Oil spray). Pour pumpkin into prepared casserole dish. Mix together egg replacer, water and flax seeds in a large (2-cup measure cup). Set aside and allow mixture to thicken (about 5-10 minutes). When the egg replacer/flax seed mixture has become thick, stir in the milk, flavorings and pudding mix.

When sweet potatoes are soft to fork, drain and pour hot potatoes into casserole dish with pumpkin. Preheat oven to 375(F). Add butter to hot sweet potato and pumpkin mixture. Using a potato masher or pastry cutter, mash sweet potatoes and pumpkin together until smooth. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and stir to combine. Next add the milk mixture and stir thoroughly to combine. You may add more milk if the consistency is too thick.

In medium bowl, stir together the sugar, oats, chia seeds and flour. When combined, sprinkle mixture with flavorings. Stir to combine. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Lastly, stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture. Then lightly sprinkle prepared soufflé with popcorn salt. Next, cover casserole with tin foil. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 40 minutes.

After casserole has been baking for 40 minutes, remove casserole from oven and take off the tin foil. Then return to oven and bake 20 more minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

30 minutes
60 minutes
: 1 ½ hours
SERVINGS: About 6 servings, original recipe. About 8-10 servings for Revamp.



A couple of shots of the revised recipe as served during this year's holiday celebrations.

A couple of shots of the revised recipe as served during this year’s holiday celebrations.

Fantastic Money-saving Tips from Angie of Hot & Flashy

How to Remove Hard Film from Powder Foundation, Blush or Bronzer

This is a terrific video for anyone who has thrown away a half-used powder foundation compact, or for those who (like me) have 2 or 3 such compacts stashed around the bathroom because you just can’t bring yourself to toss them. I hate that! For some reason I’ve encountered this a few times with Pur Minerals powders.
That can be such a fantastic all-in-one product and is virtually allergen free. For fuller coverage, I especially love this powder over a good, high SPF tinted moisturizer or BB/CC cream. But when that slick, shiny film forms atop the powder – it’s practically unusable. Still, at nearly $30 each, the prospect of throwing away 2/3 of the product is not okay with me.

Enjoy this quick process comparison and be sure to let us know your experiences if you try out one of these options.

Wishing you grace & peace in 2015!

~ KarenGinHD

Sausage & Apple Stuffing Redo

This recipe will fool your omnivorous friends and family!

This recipe will fool your omnivorous friends and family!

I cherish memories of holidays past. Among my favorite memories are Thanksgiving Reunion celebrations spent with grandmother’s extended family. Every year dozens of people would gather at a lovely campground outside of Gainesville, FL (my hometown) and each family brought one or more dishes. My cousins and I had a great time exploring and playing. There were tons of things to do at this place – horseback riding, canoeing and even a zoo right on site.

But the best part of all was the amazing foods. My grandmother’s family can really cook…and bake…and eat! Since even as a kid, I never liked meat, I avoided some of the offerings (like sausage and squash casserole, anything with beef, etc.). But I always loved stuffing, or dressing depending on geographic region of origin.

Now, as an adult vegan, I wanted to find ways of revamping my cherished childhood indulgences. I’m very satisfied with this stuffing recipe, and my mother and husband (both non-veg) have given it rave reviews as well. Listed first below is the original (full-fat, full of animal-protein) recipe. My updated recipe follows. I’ll also attach a photo of the ready to serve recipe shortly.
ORIGINAL Recipe: Makes 10 servings

1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread
3 3/4 cups cubed white bread
1 pound ground turkey sausage
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1cooked turkey liver, finely chopped
3/4 cup turkey stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

REVISED Recipe: Makes at least 10 servings
(hint: tastes even better on days 2 & 3)

1 ½ loaves gluten free whole grain bread, cubed
1 roll vegan Gimme Lean sausage
½ large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced (I like tons of celery in mine but it’s up to your tastes)
2-3 organic sweet apples peeled [or not I prefer mine with peel] and diced
½ cup dried sweetened cranberries
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pecans OR walnuts, chopped
1 – 1 ½ cups vegetable stock (to taste)
1-2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

Optional Add-ins:
12 ounces sliced portabella mushrooms. If using, be sure to brown mushrooms first to avoid overly wet stuffing/dressing
May use golden raisins or currants instead of cranberries if preferred
1 bag dried, peeled chestnuts, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary
You can also replace up to ½ loaf of bread with cooked wild rice. (Makes a nice final texture)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. (NOTE since I used gluten free bread, which tends to be drier, I just cubed the bread and left in a bowl in refrigerator overnight.) Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.
2.Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons butter spread. Crumble Gimme Lean sausage into pan and add diced onion and mushrooms is using.
3. Cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery and spices as desired. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
NOTE: I really like sweet and salty flavors so I add some extra salt here, up to 1 teaspoon depending on the brand and saltiness of broth you are using.
4. Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl.
5. Allow mixture to sit/rest while peeling and/or dicing apples.
6. Add chopped apples, dried cranberries to sausage and bread mixture. Stir to combine.
6. Drizzle with stock and mix lightly. Stir in pecans or walnuts. Mix well.
NOTE: I like to add enough broth for the mixture to remain just a bit soupy after stirring to combine. The I allow the mixture to rest again for moisture absorption. Allow me to judge if more broth is needed.

Bake for 45 min to 1 hour covered in 350 oven. Then remove foil or cover and brown for 10 min at same temperature. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Please post you own experiences making one of these recipes and your family’s response. Enjoy!

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