Best Beauty Buys of 2017: Perfect Stocking Stuffers

I’ve tried my fair share of beauty products this year. Some were duds and some were game changers for me. So I thought I would share all my favorites because these are perfect ideas for stocking stuffers!

Rubber Facial Scrubbers– I have debated for a seriously long time on getting a clarisonic. Done a ton of research and watched a ton of reviews. But I came across some of these little silicone scrubbers at TJ MAXX one time and decided to give them a try. For starters these are much more sanitary for your skin than a brush scrubber. They are also much more affordable and much easier to clean. I love these and they are available at Wal-Mart for under $3.00! These get a really good clean on your skin and I like to think this has helped with my occasional break out.

Outer Space Flexible Hair Spray– Yes I still use hair spray. Got to keep that hair looking fresh to death all day! And this is my absolute favorite. Like I had a meltdown when I ran out and wouldn’t be able to get more for a few days. The hold and the flexibility of this hairspray is unlike any other. It just does it’s job without being crunchy or sticky. And the smell is out of this world. A+ for the packaging as well.

Gimme Brow– Okay, I hate to admit this, but I’ve never done anything to my eyebrows before this year. Just tweezed and that’s that. Why? Because no company makes a good brow product for gingers. There was nothing light enough to make it not look like I was wearing clown makeup. Sure I could go through the trouble of finding a match in an eyeshadow and making it work, but let’s be honest, that’s too much work. This year Benefit Cosmetics came out with a new color for their brow products. And it works amazing for people with the lightest shade of eyebrows. I love this product, like seriously it’s made a difference. My brows aren’t overly dramatic but at least I feel like they are more “on fleek” now.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel– I started getting gel nail manicures this year. I hadn’t had a manicure in ages and loved the long wear of the polish since I work with my hands a lot. But that got extremely pricey. Seriously mad props to all you ladies who do this on a regular basis and have the cutest designs. I would just rather spend that money on tacos or a new bag. So I started looking for at home polishes that would have a long result. So I tried a bunch. Had some real failures. Enter Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. Lots of color options, long lasting and work tested. Plus much safer and affordable.

Aveda Volumizing Tonic– I have been testing all kinds of products to get some great volume in my hair for that messy chic look. This bottle of amazingness is my ticket for fresh washed hair and getting all the oomph I need. The only downfall with this product is the smell isn’t great. But it seriously helps me achieve that blow out volume look I have been aiming for.

Dry Bar Round Brush– So I have changed my hair big time. Last year I did a huge chop and have been playing around with the actual cut ever since. After lots of practice, watching videos and talking with stylist, I have finally figured out how to blow dry my hair properly and to get the style and volume I want. So I decided to invest in a good round brush. This brush might be a little more pricey than what you would consider, but it really does make a world of difference.

Kat Von D Eyeshadow Quad– I have purchased this before, but re-purchased. You know that’s when you love something, right? The formula is just the best on these eyeshadows. So creamy and so easy to blend. If you aren’t a pro with eye makeup, this is a great brand to try. It’s pretty much fool proof. That’s how creamy and well these blend. To be honest I’m still probably blending wrong but it looks fine!

Rootfoot Rose Water– I have been taking my skin care very seriously this year. Maybe it’s because I’m getting closer to middle age but oh well. This spray is soothing, calming and even moisturizing. This saved my skin during the summer. Any time I was in the sun, afterwards I would use this. I didn’t peel the entire season. This never happens. I’m also noticing with cooler weather and dry heat from the car, work and home I have been using this more and more for a skin drink.

 

 

Your Guide To A Carefree Holiday Season

I don’t know about all of y’all but I can’t believe that it is already November. Christmas is in full swing at stores, media and I suppose here on 30 Shades of Stephanie. The holidays can be the most stressful time of the year, but only if you let it. A few years ago, the holiday season became too much for me and it was miserable. I’ve never hated the holiday season as much as that year and I knew something had to give in order for me to enjoy my favorite time of the year, so the following year I made a few changes that immensely helped. So here are a few things I do in order to actually enjoy the holiday season and make the best of it.

Plan Holiday Travels, Outings and Make Reservations 

Now is the time to book your plane tickets and hotel rooms. It will be much cheaper now and you will actually be able to get a flight or room. Since it is November you can now start making reservations for any holiday dinners out especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because those reservations tend to fill up fast. Living in a tourist town, trust me, book any December special event dinners now. Also go ahead and try to buy tickets now to any holiday events like the ballet, concerts or light festivals. You can generally get them cheaper now, get better times or seats and of course they aren’t sold out yet!

Make Your Christmas Cards

I don’t know how many times I have planned to take the perfect Christmas card photo and make those cute custom photo Christmas cards or buy the perfect witty and festive card to tuck the photos inside. I either never have enough time to take the photos, let alone make the cute photo cards or buy cards. Don’t even get me started on the actual mailing of the cards. Sometimes they get sent a few days before Christmas or they don’t get sent at all. Right now is the perfect time to get on the ball with this. Plenty of time to take the pictures and get the perfect picture picked out. Plenty of time to make those cheesy custom cards or buy cards and print out the photos. Plus if you by now you don’t have to be left with the unwanted card selections! Also now is the time to make sure you have everyone’s correct addresses and make a list of all the people you want to send cards to. You don’t want to leave anyone out. And last but not least, buy your stamps now. The lines aren’t as long and you can easily slip them in to your mailbox once you have everything filled out. Now who doesn’t love some snail mail, especially festive snail mail?!

Start Thinking About Meal Planning

So not only do you have to plan for Thanksgiving meals and Christmas meals but you are going to be busy, busy during the holiday season. I know I tend to work longer days and have more social events filling my free time that the last thing I want to think about is making dinner. I like to start looking for easy and quick recipes that are perfect for the long days I seem to have during the holiday season. I like to look for crock-pot recipes and one pan dishes on Pinterest and make note of those recipes for the season. But I have also recently discovered Seeds of Change thanks to Influenster, which makes dinners at home a breeze. Seeds of Change offers rices and sauce packs that are not only healthy but extremely easy. Win, win. I received a complimentary Sweet and Sour sauce pack and made an awesome stir fry packed with veggies and protein. The best part, it took hardly no time to make. I stir fried garlic, mushrooms, onions, green beans, asparagus, chicken and the sweet and sour sauce and served over rice. It was a hit in my house and I will be purchasing more of these sauce packets to make during the busy season. The full range of Seeds of Change products are available at Target!

****This product was sent to me to test and review. All thoughts and ideas are my own.****

Start Planning Now 

One of the things I learned from the year I knew I was starting to despise Christmas was because I wasn’t using a calendar or planner. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me it’s a huge deal and it is for a lot of people. For me, if it isn’t written down or planned in advance it generally isn’t happening. I remember that year I lost the holiday spirit, the biggest bummer was double planning two events in one night (twice). One was an early Christmas present (the ballet, which I hadn’t seen since I was a child) and then a social media event. I got a message on the way to the ballet asking where I was for something I was supposed to be co-hosting. I remember yelling, crying, making up an excuse and not paying attention during the ballet worried I had let a few people down. Ohhhh and something similar happened the following week. Now I write down everything. Work, social events, blog post and social media schedules, dinners, freelance meetings and even when I am wanting to go and do certain Christmas events. I also like to write down a list of things I want to do like going to the ballet, seeing Christmas lights, Christmas at Biltmore,  the gingerbread competition at the Grove Park Inn or art events so I can prioritize and plan out those “Christmas Bucket List” things so I can actually do them. I’m telling you it makes a world of difference. So use the calendar on your phone, a standard calendar or a full blown planner to get it together. Plus you won’t miss out on the things you really want to do if you plan accordingly.

I have recently found this little holiday planner from One Swell Studio which is adorable for the holidays and perfect for keeping it together. The design is so chic and I love the large daily layout. It doesn’t start until December but perfect for the craziest month. This one is super unique because it acts as a keepsake of the holiday as well. Not only does it have a to do list for every day, but also spots for special moments from the day and a spot to write what you are thankful for. It also includes portions for budgeting, spending and gift tracking. I will use this in conjunction with my regular planner, this one as my to-do list and holiday memory keeper. How cute would it be to add a Polaroid picture to each page for each day?! Seriously considering this.

Block Off Downtime and Be Okay With Doing Less

Though I like to plan hardcore for the holidays I have also started to make sure that I have time where I haven’t packed the entire day with festive activities. During the holiday season you really need to focus on self-care more to avoid getting depressed or despising the holiday. Also if you can’t do everything, that’s ok. It’s fine to not do every festive activity in your town or go to every social event. If it doesn’t all get done, everyone around you and yourself will be fine. I like to pick a few days where I just do things I like, generally by myself, like getting my nails done or getting a massage. You deserve it girlfriend! Plus I will be sharing tons of self-care ideas here on the blog and on Instagram throughout the holiday season.

 

 

Two Affordable Restaurants in Asheville For Rent Week

It’s creeping around the weekend, rent is coming due. And if you live in Asheville you know how much of a stress giver, headache and drain on your bank account that can be. It also sucks even more if you are like me and most of my bills are due the last week and first week of the month. A fun two weeks of paying bills, paying bills. Whether you have a roommate, live with a SO or by yourself I know it’s hard and I understand the hustle. But we still got to eat. Sure there are some great affordable finds at Trader Joe’s and Aldi; and there are some great recipes for serious budgets, but sometimes you have to go out to keep your sanity in this dog eat dog world. Even if you are broke. So I’ve come up with two restaurants in Asheville that have an entire full affordable menu perfect for solo meals, splitting meals, date night or the just I’m tired of eating ramen meal!

 

DEL VECCHIOS

Del Vecchios is a newer Italian eatery in Asheville and really new to me. It’s a smaller restaurant on Merrimon Avenue with major cafe vibes, it’s small and quaint so perfect for solo dining when you don’t want to cook or perfect for a date or even a meal with your girlfriends. Offering pizzas, subs, salads and these delicious fries it earns the spot in one of my two affordable restaurants. All of their sandwiches and pasta dishes are under $10.00 and large enough portions to share or eat half there and half for left overs. Ohhhh and these garlic Parmesan fries are to die for and you get a huge serving for $5.99. Two people dined here both with entrees and these fries, plus tip for $30.00; plus we both had lunch for the next day. For Asheville this is a cheap meal. We could have gotten out cheaper because we had never eaten there before and could have shared. Ohhhh and did I mention the service is absolutely amazing! And I’ve heard their pizza is off the chain!

 

TAQUERIA MUNOZ

Taqueria Munoz is one of my favorite affordable Asheville eats. Literally everything on the menu is under $7.50 and who doesn’t love a good taco shop. This place is authentic and worth the trek to West Asheville. The tacos are huge portions and you can get anything from tongue meat to pork or chicken. And the best part is each taco is $2.50. And it’s no lie when I say I can’t eat two full tacos. There is that much meat on there. But they also serve other yumminess like tortas, soups and meals. I have only braved to try the tacos and tortas because when I say it’s authentic, it’s legit. I have gotten enough courage to try tongue and head meat tacos. Too good. And don’t judge it before you try. Budget friendly and leaving me in a food coma. Count me in! But take cash, because that’s all they accept there.

 

Ladies and Gents, it’s tough out there and rent is due on Monday! Let’s make the most out of living in our crazy over priced town!

The “Everything” Dress

Dress // Clutch // Sandals

I’ve been looking for a dress that I can just about wear to anything. And I do mean anything. Cook outs, date night, showers, celebrations or even just running errands. And I’m pretty sure I found just the right one. Luckily I don’t have to attend any weddings, but a wedding celebration, so nothing overly fancy was needed. I have been searching and searching. Everything is just overload on floral and a lot of bright yellow. Neither I am extremely fond of. But I did find this dress, with a floral print, but not overly floral. Plus the base of the dress is black, making it extremely versatile.

The fit of this dress is what drew me in. I’m not the biggest fan of the straps, but could easily put a vest or cardigan over it. The rouging under the bust gives a nice silhouette and the flare helps cover up any unwanted attention to the mid section and the hips. The length is perfect. It’s not too short and not too long.

I paired the dress with some strappy sandals and this amazing clutch in the perfect Spring neutral for a fun night of patio dining. But the dress would go great with sneakers and denim, cardigans and booties, blazer and heels or just worn with casual sandals. The possibilities for styling and what to wear it for are endless.

Have you found your go to dress yet this season?

 

Valentine’s Day Adventures For Your Guy

Valentine’s Day is a little under a month away and let’s face it, guys don’t like it as much as we do. Guys can’t easily be excited by the thoughts of jewelry, chocolates, fancy dinners and Instagram worthy floral arrangements. So what do they really want? I asked Andrew what they really want and his answer was super complex. Adventures and spending time with you. That’s right ladies. Pretty simple if you really think about it. So since Valentine’s Day will be more about you and falls on a week day, I’ve come up with some fun activities to celebrate the man in your life the weekend before or after, because love doesn’t have to shown on the exact day.

  1. If you have the means to plan a weekend getaway, that’s perfect. If you live in Asheville there are so many places that are within a few hours drive for any person. Beaches are close; we are partial to Hilton Head Island; Atlanta is close, Charlotte is close, Gatlinburg is close. So many options at this point for a romantic getaway. Plus if you are traveling to the beach, it’s a little cheaper right now than visiting in a Spring or Summer weekend.

2. Plan a brewery tour. Here in Asheville we have a ton and the options are endless. Maybe learning about hops isn’t your thing; most tours are actually pretty neat, plus there is food and beer afterwards.

3. Plan a day of activities he actually likes. And maybe it’s something you don’t like the greatest. Reserve him a tee time, plan a skiing day, go visit a car museum, rock climbing or hit up an arcade (even cooler if it’s a retro arcade); whatever his interests are take that and run with it.

4. Get out and adventure together. Take a ride to a neighboring town and try something new. Go on a hike. Go chase waterfalls and views. Take a picnic or scope out a cute little spot for lunch to visit where you are traveling through.

5. Cook him a fancy dinner at home. Instead of him grilling, make sure you do the cooking, unless both of you want to cook together. On the romantic side, it’s a little more fun when both of you are in the kitchen. This surf and turf recipe is a winner, plus there is this recipe, this recipe and this one.

 

Gift Guide: For The Homebody

Gift Guide: For The Homebody

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 (can find at any lawn and garden store)// 6 // 7

We all have that one friend, family member or coworker who likes to stay home a majority of the time. Cough, cough, cough; me! These people may be a little hard to shop for, especially if you want your gift to be unique. I’ve rounded up my favorite items for the home that are drool worthy, Instagram worthy and under $75.00. These are gifts your homebody is sure to love. From unique cookbooks, to art (yay to shopping small), funky dishes in the most popular print this year and items to make the home cozy!

 

Leggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe Giveaway

Leggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe GiveawayLeggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe GiveawayLeggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe GiveawayLeggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe GiveawayLeggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe GiveawayLeggings ARE Pants + LuLaRoe Giveaway

Let me just start by saying; I have a new obsession. The obsession is real, it’s turned in to a love affair really. And it’s name is LuLaRoe. Seriously I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with a clothing brand this much. And everyone else I have come across who has owned anything LuLaRoe can back up my statement.

A few months back I came in contact with Cara, a consultant for LuLaRoe, and had just been turned on to the line. I did some serious research before I met with her and about 95% off the feedback, reviews, posts and #ootd’s were all great. Almost fan girly. After I met with Cara and tried on my first piece, I knew what all the hype was about. I was in love.

I shared the black and white polka dot Amelia  because I just couldn’t wait to share it with you. I thought this dress was heavenly, that was until I really wore the leggings and the Irma. I could honestly live in the Irma (striped top pictured above) and leggings.

The leggings are like butter. No, like a second skin actually. I don’t want to take them off. I’m sad I didn’t snag a solid black pair. (But I will). I was very skeptical of the sizing (they come in OS and TC) but the Tall and Curvy fit great. The sizing chart can be found here. Also, I wanted to branch out with this brand and go for leggings I normally wouldn’t gravitate towards (all my leggings are dark). Now I understand why women want them all. I am a firm believer that leggings can be worn as pants (I do very frequently) as long as your lady bits are covered, both front and back. And these leggings honestly make me want to never wear denim or any other type of pants again. Now you may say, that’s a bold statement. But have you put a pair of these on? You’ll understand once you have them on. Heavenly. That’s all I can really say!

I’m a fan girl. I want some solid black leggings, some more Irmas and I’m dying to try the Julia. I’m also really excited to see the prints they release for Fall. On Tuesday I will be showing you how I styled my Cassie three different ways.

And you can too! You can get in contact with Cara on her Facebook group, you can shop some of Cara’s inventory at A Touch of Cass in Burnsville, NC, you can host a pop up with Cara and thanks to Cara one of you will have the chance to win your own pair of leggings!

Yes! Thanks to Cara I am giving away a pair of LuLaRoe leggings to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter to win is follow the instructions below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My Depression

How Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My DepressionHow Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My DepressionHow Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My DepressionHow Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My DepressionHow Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My DepressionHow Nature, Hiking and Chasing Waterfalls Have Helped With My Depression

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love getting outside and exploring nature. But not many people know the reason why I love it so much. May was mental health awareness month so I did a little research on nature and depression. Nature and mental illness in general.

I have battled with depression for as long as I can remember. For the longest time, it wasn’t brought to light because it wasn’t something you talked about. It was something you dealt with on your own. Family, friends or anyone I was around never knew what I really dealt with. But in college it got bad. Really bad. I needed help. Which I got. Then about 5 years ago I started dealing with anxiety really bad. Anxiety and depression mixed is the worst. When I went back to college recently, the anxiety got worse. The depression got worse. It seemed no matter how many hours I spent in a therapists office or how many different medicines I tried, nothing was working. I felt like I was dying inside and it actually began to show. One visit with my therapist changed everything.

She mentioned alternative healing. A way to absolutely disconnect from everything, even the people around me. She suggest spending more time in nature. Now at the time I was already exploring out in nature but generally just for photo opportunities. I wasn’t actually connecting.

So I started hiking, sitting, exploring and relaxing out in nature. Attempting to go once a week. Attempting to take the time to sit outside once a day with absolutely no distractions around me. It started to work. I feel better, I feel more at ease, I feel happier. I feel at peace. Nothing can make me more at peace than feeling the soil beneath your feet so far out in nature you can’t hear the sounds of town, having my hands void of technology (only to snap a few pics at the end of the journey), breathing fresh air and only having my mind focus on the task of making it to the destination whether it be a waterfall or the top of the mountain. Out in nature, the mind can’t focus on the every day thoughts. It has to focus on survival and feats. And that is much more refreshing than focusing on reports, time, likes and followers.

It is not a scientifically proven that nature is linked to the healing of mental illness, but is beginning to be looked at due to the way our mind and bodies work when in a natural habitat setting. It may not be a prescription, but for me it is working. And like a pill, each week I try to take my dosage.

The Buddha Bowl

The Buddha BowlThe Buddha BowlThe Buddha Bowl

Buddha Bowls are currently all the rage! The perfectly placed foods in a circular pattern in a bright crisp bowl are perfect for #foodie pictures are Instagram; but these bowls pack a punch of yumminess and healthiness. Essentially you just create a bowl full of veggies, a meat if you eat it and a grain. Put it all together. And, BOOM, you have a meal. But this was a little more complicated than I had expected. You have to pick combos that go together and taste good together. I finally came up with a combination I enjoyed. Baked brussel sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, sauteed garlic mushrooms, brown rice and an avocado cilantro cream. One day for lunch I even added grilled chicken breast seasoned with Italian spices. Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Prettttyyyy Good.

It’s Friday and I hope all of you have a great kick start to the weekend!

Friendly Reminders:

Enter to win a $50.00 Amazon gift card here! Last day to enter is tomorrow.

Enter to win this awesome mint necklace from Noonday Collection here. Last day to enter is tomorrow.

The Perfect Spring Salad

The Perfect Spring SaladThe Perfect Spring SaladThe Perfect Spring SaladThe Perfect Spring Salad

I always signify Spring finally being here when Easter arrives (even though yesterday was cold,damp and dreary) and with Spring comes lighter dishes for dinner. I was raised a true Southerner so in the fall and winter you eat warm, hearty meals and in the Spring and Summer you eat light, chilled food unless it comes from a grill or smoker. And a southern staple is a salad of some sort. I love chicken Caesar salads and I love pasta salad; so it only seems natural to combine the two (but without the Duke’s mayo). I’ve had a chicken Caesar pasta salad before but decided to make my own little version of the Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, with a slightly healthier  take.

Ingredients:

  • chicken breasts
  • romaine lettuce
  • vegetable pasta (I found mine at Ingles)
  • whole wheat croutons
  • Parmesan cheese
  • lite Italian dressing
  • lite Caesar dressing

Directions:

  • Cut chicken breasts so that they are thin,
  • Either soak the chicken in the Italian dressing and grill it or put the chicken in a pan with the Italian season and sautee until the chicken is done.
  • Once the chicken is fully cooked, place in the fridge to chill.
  • Cook pasta according to package. After the pasta is drained place in the fridge to chill.
  • Cut up the chicken in whatever way you would like,
  • Prep your lettuce and cheese.
  • Once pasta and chicken is chilled mix the chicken, pasta and lettuce in a bowl.
  • Add the Caesar dressing to the mixture. Add as little or as much as you would like.
  • Top with cheese and croutons.