Wednesday, March 21, 2012

WIWW: VS Dresses on a Regular Old Imperfectly Perfect Body (Yes, Gertrude, It CAN Be Done.)

It's warm!  Do you call it Indian Summer when it happens in March?  

Whatever you call it, I love it.

Do you ever look through Victoria's Secret clothes catalogs and kinda want to order one of those BODIES to stick your head on?  Yeah, me too.  

I have a love/hate relationship with VS.  I love some of their clothes (the more modest ones, typically) and hate with the fire of 100 Mexican suns their TV commercials and catalogs that parade all of those skinny bodies in front of my eyes and those of my sweet, darling husband (who always looks away out of politeness, even screwing his face into a sneer of disgust, God love him) who loves and appreciates my sturdy but somewhat threadbare little 40 sumpm body and doesn't need to be reminded of what else is out there.

VS does have some cute things, and occasionally after careful and exhaustive research and critical analysis, I get brave and buy a thing or two.  The two dresses I'm showing below are purchases from this season and last season, and both are still available.  I'm a size 4/6 (We'll call it "top/bottom proportion diversity" ... smile.) and I'm wearing a size M.  Sizes run small, and what's really weird to me is that I mostly have to buy the size M to accommodate "the girls."  

Now why would a company whose marketing entire marketing/advertising strategy revolves around flashing ample bosoms in our faces and sell clothes designed for the membership if the IBTC?  That's a bit of a mystery to me.  

I'm okay with it though because buying a medium for the ladies leaves ample room for the hippos.  
Um, I mean hips

Tuesday outfit of the day - VS beach dress and Guess sandals.  In March'

Sandals - Guess via DSW
Necklace - Lia Sophia


Jacket - Michael Kohrs (thrifted)
Bucks - Bass (boys' department)
Necklace - LOFT

The outfit below is what I'm wearing today, and has nothing at all to do with VS dresses. (Was a disclaimer necessary? )  

This adorable eyelet skirt is from Target, and although it does have a slightly annoying large elastic band around the waist, it is otherwise very well constructed (fully lined), long enough for a woman in her 40s to wear without feeling utterly ridiculous (tough find in a flirty skirt these days!), and just a really neat little piece for spring/summer.  I am going to love wearing this one all season long, with everything from casual chambray to elegant silk.  I ordered mine in a Small, because it's cut full that enough I didn't need to fret over that whole "extra room in the seat" thing.  

I'm sorry the pic doesn't reveal the detailing of the eyelet for you, but if you click on the link below, Targets photos do a better job of that.

Felt pretty conspicuous in this at the bus stop with all the other moms and dads in running shorts and trainers.  Target eyelet skirt, Old Navy striped tank ($8 bogo this week!), Polo boys' gingham shirt and b.o.c red sandals.

Eyelet skirt - Target (Also in stores now!)
Striped tank - Old Navy ($8 bogo this week in store! Many colors and patterns to choose from.  Caution: They run very small.)
Blue/white gingham shirt - Polo boys' department via Marshall's
Red sandal - b-o-c via DSW

As is always the case, I'm linking up today's daily style post at What I Wore Wednesday.

Have you tried catalog store shopping and been surprised to find things you love on-line?  Or do you have a super new piece that you know is going to be a major underpinning for your warmer weather wardrobe?  Oh please, do share!  

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

5 Great Grilling Ideas to Fan Your Outdoor-Cooking Flame

I'd prefer to be outside these gorgeous afternoons we're having of late, not only because I love to feel the fresh breeze on my lily-white limbs and soak up the newly-lingering hours of sunlight but also because it's easier to drag my children inside when they're bone tired and scrunchingly hungry than when they're still knee-deep in the joys of friends and fun.

 Staying outside later in the evening translates to either picking up take-out food or cooking outside while I supervise, so yesterday I fired up my grill for the first time since last September and cooked some gorgeous Chicken Kebobs with large hunks of chicken breast red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash and red onion, all marinated for about an hour in simple blend of 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar,  a half teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of salt-free Greek seasoning (I use Cavendar's).  I just skewer the chicken and veggies separately on metal skewers (in case one cooks faster than the other) and then grill them over medium heat for 7-9 minutes on each side.  Bang!  Dinner that smells good enough to tempt my stubbornest holder-outer inside to the table.

I usually serve my Kebobs with whole wheat couscous.  The stuff cooks in 5 minutes!  I mix about 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest and a handful of chopped green onion tops into the cooked couscous at the last minute to give it a fresh, lively flavor.

1. Easy Chicken Kebobs


Tonight Al's going to grill up some salmon using a recipe he discovered last year. This is easily the best salmon I've ever eaten. He uses a simple little smoke box when he grills the fish that makes the dish taste like it came out of a wood-fired oven. FANTASTIC.  I'll mix up some skin-on mashed potatoes (made with plain yogurt) and roast some fresh asparagus to go with the fish.

2. Perfect Grilled Salmon

Perfect Grilled Salmon


1 1/2 pounds salmon filets
Black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
lemon pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
salt to taste
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup beer
1/4 cup olive oil


Season salmon filets with black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, beer, and olive oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat grill for medium heat, include smoker box with mesquite wood chips.
Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

I checked in with some good bloggy friends this week to see if they'd share some additional tried-and-true and out-of-the-ordinary grilling recipes to get my grillin' juices flowing, and they didn't disappoint! I got some really fun new ideas to test out along with my family's current faves.

3. Grilled Pizza

Kristin Potler of LoveFeast Table says Grilled Pizza makes her family's favorite list. I can see the FriedOkra family trying this tomorrow night for sure. Just grab some Trader Joe's pizza dough, add your favorite toppings, grill and gobble. I'm totally trying it Saturday night. My kids will think they've died on gone to heaven.

4. Lemon Garlic Chicken

Joy Bennett of Joy in This Journey grills up a delicious Lemon Garlic Chicken to pair with pesta pasta for her family. Just toss up a green salad, and a sunny Sunday dinner's on the table in 30 minutes or less. Miraculous!

5. Grilled Shrimp Salad in Grilled Bell Peppers

And finally, for something super healthy and a bit out-of-the-box, I turned to my old pal Megan Tietz of SortaCrunchy, who packs a mouthwatering Shrimp Salad in Grilled Bell Peppers.   Next week's seafood entree?  Checkity check and check!

Have you fired up the grill yet?  What are some of your favorite grilled go-to meals?

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feedhere.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Skin Care for Women Over 40 - 7 Healthy, Inexpensive Products to Clean, Moisturize, and Protect


Skin care and skin care products fascinate me, and they pretty much always have. Even as a fairly young girl, I spent hours pouring over the vast (then, and much more so now!) array of soaps and creams and pastes and goos and their packaging and promises in the back corner aisle of the local drug store.  I have less time to spend researching and pondering such things these days, but I still dabble and test and experiment with new products to see what they'll do.

Now that I'm into my forties, I'm finding that gentle, nourishing skin care has become pretty much mandatory if I want to look my best. I'm actually amazed how quickly my skin is changing in this decade - sagging a bit (mostly on my neck) and developing fine lines around my eyes and mouth. I'll chalk some of the seeming haste of this transition up to hormonal adjustments. I had a baby at 40 and nursed him until I was 42 and I think pregnancy and nursing definitely slowed the aging process in my case, as in those years my skin was fairly oily and teen-agery. (It bugged me at the time, but looking back, I think that may have been a good thing.)  And now, I just think since my hormone levels have returned to a more normal level for a woman of my age, my skin is playing catch-up.

So as I said, I'm 44 now, and my skin is just now getting so it's a little bit dry at times, but still produces enough oil to make me need to blot or powder my nose in the late afternoon. Unlike in my 30s though, it does need a gentle cleanser (not soap) and plenty of moisturizer to stay looking fresh and healthy and unflaky.

Here are the products I'm using, and how I'm using them, to care for my aging skin.

Source: via Megan on Pinterest

I use this scrub one morning a week (once a week, is what I'm saying) in the shower. I just wet my face and then very gently (The key is to let the scrub do the work, not to bore into your skin by bearing down hard. This will abrade your skin and cause broken capillaries that cause redness.) rub about a quarter sized dollop all over my face and neck, avoiding the very delicate skin around my eyes, and concentrating on my t-zone, where my pores still tend to get clogged if I don't keep them clear of dull, dead skin cells. In the spring and summer, when I'll be wearing clothes that show my chest, shoulders and arms and upper back, I take another dab and scrub those areas as well, paying extra attention to my elbows. Then I rinse with warm, clean water. On the day I use this scrub, I don't follow-up with any other cleansers. The scrub works well enough to lightly wash away overnight oils.

Source: via Megan on Pinterest

All other mornings I use this Cetaphil cleanser for normal to oily skin on my face in the shower. I also keep their cleanser for all skin types, which is formulated to be a bit gentler, on hand, and will use that one in the morning when I notice my skin drying a bit, which is generally in the deep winter months. I wet my face, rub a few pumps of the cleanser between my hands, and then thoroughly wash my entire face, neck and chest, really massaging it in and around with my fingertips. Then I rinse well with warm water.

I use the normal to oily version of this cleanser at night before bed as well. It does a great job of removing my make-up without leaving my skin feeling stripped or tight, and with Cetaphil I don't need or use a separate eye make-up remover (I don't wear water-proof mascara). The Cetaphil for all skin types doesn't get all of my make-up off, so it's strictly a morning choice for me.

This is my daily moisturizer, Osea Atmosphere Protection Cream, which I use after washing and drying my face with a clean towel. Osea is all natural, formulated with sea algae and proteins to help protect skin from damage caused by "the elements," dehydration and pollutants. I love how it smells (very spa-like and relaxing) and how light and non-greasy it feels under my make-up. My only issue with this moisturizer is that it doesn't have any SPF, so if I'm not planning on wearing foundation (my foundation has SPF 30), I either have to use it in combination with a sunscreen (my favorite is below) or skip it entirely.

I'm currently using this Ultra Lift Deep Wrinkle night creme from Garnier.  I did notice a reduction in the number and depth of the lines around my eyes and lips within a week after I'd started using it.  I love that I can really slather this wonderfully creamy, fluffy, lovely-smelling cream on my whole face at night and it feels really nice and emollient but not at all sticky or slimy.  And it doesn't break me out at all.  It's nice to have finally found a night cream that that didn't eventually cause a pimple or two or a bunch of clogged up pores.   YUCK.

Osea also makes this Lip & Eye moisturizer for smoothing and toning these very delicate and line/wrinkle-prone areas. I dab a tiny bit of this around my eyes, avoiding my brows and lashes (because my make-up would slide off I put it there), and around my mouth/on my lips. It is VERY healing for my lips, which get dry and flaky often, and I use it very liberally there at night when I need to and wake up with my lips greatly improved. If I never used it again around my eyes, I might never notice, but I'm a little bit addicted to how it loves my lips.

Source: via Megan on Pinterest

On days when I don't wear foundation (sometimes I can get away with just a dab of powder over my moisturizer) or if I feel like I need extra protection against the sun (like at the beach, or when I'm outside all day), I use this Eucerin facial moisturizer with SPF 30 for Extra Sensitive Skin. Again, it's the first product of the sort that doesn't leave me feeling slimy and cause me to break out. It does impart a bit of a shine after application, so powder is necessary, and I have to keep it away from my eye area because it stings and makes my mascara and eyeliner fade and run. But I wear sunglasses when I'm in the sun, so I think I'm okay. I totally slather my ears (and my neck and chest) with this stuff when I'm going to be outside for awhile, because there is NOTHING I detest more than having sunburned ears, and the full-body sunscreen I used on the rest of me makes my ears (neck and chest) break out.

And that's it. It looks like a lot, or does it? But really, no matter which products I use, I can have my face washed and moisturized and ready for sleep or the day in less than five minutes.

Have any skin care tips or products you'd recommend? I'm all (un-sunburned) ears!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Simplest Chore Chart Ever

One of the simplest, most effective things I've done as a Mama to date?

I finally tossed out all the complicated sticker charts/online systems/nag-nag-nagging and got myself a plastic sleeve and a couple of dry erase markers.


We worked on the paper lists inside the plastic sleeve together, Bean and I, so she could help me determine what chores need to be done morning, afternoon and night, and in what order. She very enthusiastically chose her own font and colors. (I bet you couldn't tell!)

Our rule is that each chore/routine list has to be complete before she can play, watch TV, read or have computer time. If she doesn't complete her chores on time (before the bus comes, before dinner time, or before bed time), she knows she'll have to finish them in the next chore time PLUS do another chore of my choosing. Bing, bang, boom, that's the deal.

Why I Love This Method of Chore Charting

Clear expectations make for a happier kid and Mama. She knows what she needs to do, and I know where to point her when she's dawdling or wondering what's next. We've agreed upon a standard, and it's solid -- not vague or confusing. And she knows what happens if she doesn't get her things done, so she mostly gets them done. Plus, I get to save my voice for telling her how awesome she is. (And for calling her little brother down from the top shelf of the pantry.)

This version personalizes and adapts so easily. Afternoon chores change daily, so the blank lines come in handy. As I notice or think of things she needs to do, I just write them in. And await that afternoon's dose of grumbling. (Seven is a very grumbly age, apparently.) We can reprint and replace the whole inner sheet as seasons or schedules or expectations change. I saved the basic template so now it's just a matter of updating as needed. You could easily substitute pictures in place of words for your pre-schooler, too. That would be really fun. (Maybe I'll try it with Peabody when he finally comes down from the top shelf of the pantry.)

This chart is portable so I no longer have to follow her around reminding, reminding, reminding. And Bean doesn't have waste time and energy and lose focus runing back and forth checking her list. Plus, she gets to feel in-charge and independent, which satisfies her seven-ness very deeply. She just takes the whole thing with her and checks off items as she completes them in different areas of the house.

We start over fresh every day. Bad day? Forgotten in the quick stroke of a paper towel. Every morning we begin with a clean slate, in every sense of the word. New beginnings are what learning and life as a family is all about, and I love how this method keeps no record of the past and doesn't hold tomorrow looming over us as we try to DO this day.

Have you found a great chore charting method for your kid(s)? Tell me about it!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dog Years Translated


Three year old boy - Wakes up at 6 and goes all day.
Three year old dog - Would've slept until 10, gotten up to pee, and gone back to bed.
Three year old boy - Couldn't wait to turn on "Wonder Pets."
Three year old dog - Thinks the Wonder Pets are a bunch of whiny animals with God complexes and speech impediments.

(They both want to sit on my lap and lick my face, though.)

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Can't Keep Good Stuff to Myself: Humans of New York, Blog and Facebook Page

My favorite Facebook follow of the week?

Humans of New York

Photographer Brandon Stanton captures the unique people and stories of NYC in his own remarkably touching, gentle, humorous, positive way. If you love photography, faces, or laughter, or if you just think you might enjoy checking the vibrant pulse of America's most colorful city from afar a few times a day (never occurred to me that I might, but I totally do!), follow HoNY on Facebook, and check out Brandon's blog, Humans of New York.

OHMYGRANNY. I'm totally smitten, and not just a little bit addicted. And the comments and responses on Facebook often fascinate and tickle me almost as much as Brandon's original photos and words.

Here are a few samples of Brandon's amazing work.

(Photo credits Brandon Staton - Humans of New York.)

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Get Out.

The iTunes on my Mac spontaneously woke up and blared Steve Winwood's "Wake Me Up on Judgment Day" all over the house this morning at 3:33 AM.

When Al crawled back in bed after traipsing down to the office to turn it off, I said, "So I guess you'll be moving out in the morning?"

"Too bad we can't stay, baby," he answered.

(This is Eddie Murphy. He likes The Effer. Turn your sound way, way down.)

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy March: Spring Mantle Ideas

Phew! March is finally here. February may've only had one extra day this year, but it felt to me like an extra YEAR for some reason. Probably because I have NEVER been looking so forward to spring as I am this year. Having a crazy three-year-old boy cooped up in the house all day will do that to a Mama.

It was high time -- both by the calendar and by my nerves' dwindling ability to deal with Peabody stacking books, toys and boxes of cereal in order to create a makeshift ladder on which he could stand and thus reach the glass candy jar of chocolate kisses thereupon -- to get rid of the Valentine mantle display and replace it with something more springy and less hazardous to my family's health and my sanity.

And so as I am wont, I looked to Pinterest for some ideas on what to do to capture the essence of early spring in my family room.

Source: via Megan on Pinterest

Loved the touches of red in this one, as my fall and winter family room decor includes loads of red.  I also smiled at the somewhat subtle nod to Easter with the inclusion of a rabbit and the eggs.

Source: via Megan on Pinterest

White with greens and blues - just so fresh and clean.  I love stacks of books on mantles, too.

Again, white and green, and again, subtle inclusion of eggs (in the jars, with Spanish moss.)

I combined the themes and some of ideas from all three of these examples, and using what I had on hand (okaaaaaaaaay, I made one trip to Homegoods, too) I came up with this for our mantle:


A little red, a little rabbit, a BIG egg, and ta-daaaaa ... early springiness! I even got to leave some of the Valentine's Day stuff up there. I wasn't quite ready to part with the love birds yet. Awww...


I used to hate silk flowers, but when you live up here where the flowers don't start blooming until April, you kinda gotta budge on your LIVE PLANTS ONLY rule, or else have a green thumb indoors, and all of my indoor fingers? Are black.


It doesn't look THAT fake, does it?

As I pushed my cart around Homegoods, I ran across this guy, who wanted to go home with me. He was on the CLEARANCE rack. I got all Velveteenish inside and while I knew Al would think I'd lost my mind, I also knew two kids who would LOVE him, so I did indeed bring him home. By way of the preschool, where I picked up Peabody.

The bunny was sitting in Bean's car seat when I bought Peabody out of the school to put him in his own seat. Needless to say, the moment he looked over and saw the big giant bunny on his sister's side of the car will not soon be forgotten by either of us.


And now he's home and rockin' our kitchen counter top.  I left some barren Christmas dogwood sticks beside him for a touch of irony.  (The real bunnies in our back yard LOVE to chew these shrubs down to nubs every year.)

Happy March, ya hare?

What are you doing to liven things up in your neck of the woods as spring marches in?

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.