Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Product Review: Salon Style Nail Polish Strips

  Of all the big trends these days, a notable one is the "zero dry time" nail polish strips. Almost every beauty brand carries their own version (different colors, designs, etc.)...& most are priced at a range around $12-$25, which can be pretty steep for the "money conscious" shopper.
   I, myself, used the Sally Hansen nail polish strips once or twice before...but I normally don't consider buying them unless I'm able to find them on clearance somewhere. Now, waiting for those times means that I can get them for $4.99 instead of the normal $9...but this also means they're usually the "undesirables"- the weird random neon color, or the design that just wouldn't sell. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the Sally Hansen nail polish strips...but budgeting for myself means I now see that $9 as lunch at Panera/Chipotle, or 3 gallons of gas in my car. Not a huge deal for many, but I'd like to save some of my hard-earned money.
  A few days ago I stopped at Dots with a friend, so she could find some fun new clothes to go with her fun new job. Holding my post outside the dressing room, I started browsing the accessory display nearby...when, buried under some tangled web of tacky chain jewelry, I saw these Salon Style Nail Polish Strips. Initially I was pretty skeptical...not to be "snooty" but, from my experience, beauty items there always seem to be a little similar to Claire's: slightly tacky & lower quality. I was pretty surprised to discover the $3.50 price sticker on the back of the package. Surely this must be an indication that the product isn't that great, right?
   Wrong. I decided that $3.50 was worth the gamble, took them home/tried them out, & (2 days later) I'm pretty impressed at how they're holding up. Given that I'm pretty rough on my hands, thanks to both jobs (food/drink oriented), it's no surprise that the tips have worn off a bit...but these babies seem to be holding down the fort pretty well. The other thing that I liked was that, having petite hands (& therefore petite fingernails), I didn't have to try to resize the strips to fit my nails. They also are actual "strips", not the stickers that some places (ahem *$12 at Sephora*) sell that end up ruining your nails. While I'm not completely sure just how many designs they have (as I only saw a few), I imagine it wouldn't be terribly hard to find them (online or in-store, they aren't on the Dots website).

The strips I chose - cute, eh?

Have you tried nail polish strips? Do you have a favorite (or even least favorite) brand?
Let me know what your experience with them has been!

Today's Lunch: A Spring(ish) Salad

   Today had quite an early start...a 5A wake-up call, a 40-minute drive, & a 6:30A opening shift at my second job left me pretty pooped. (Granted, a few shots of espresso later my energy shifted back into gear & I was able to get a 2 hour workout in.) Getting back home, I realized I was incredibly hungry (& that I needed to get something other than coffee in my system). Being a later time in the afternoon, I didn't want to get anything too heavy (or too crazy to put together). Enter: Spring Salad.

- A handful of "Spring Mix" Salad Mix
- Strawberries (Sliced)
- Blueberries
- Edamame (Shelled)
- Poppyseed Salad Dressing

  Pretty simple, really. Just mix it all up (in whatever portions you prefer) & enjoy. While I don't have an exact calorie count or anything (for those of you concerned with all that), this is a relatively healthy/filling salad that I fancy quite a bit. If you try it (or make your own version of it), let me know what you think!

Happy eats!
- Alyssa Marie

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Eat With Caution: 6 Not So "Healthy" Foods

 These days, it seems like anything that doesn't flat out kill you can be considered "healthy"...& reading labels? That can be like trying to decipher a foreign language to some. Here are six (seemingly "good-for-you") foods that diet specialists are pretty wary of.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Sometimes taking all that fat out can mean putting a bunch of artificial sweeteners back in. Deciding on this (instead of regular peanut butter) will only save you a measly 0.5g of fat & 10 calories per serving...but is the funky flavor (& aftertaste) really worth it?

Frozen Yogurt
Not all brands have the same quantities of probiotic bacteria that are a part of fro yo's appeal. Finding it in a self-serve shop could also make it easier to overdo your portions, pile on toppings, & rack up calories.

High-Fiber & Whole-Grain Cereal & Bread
Good ideas? Yes, but watch out...unless you buy these from an actual health-food store, you may be getting added sweeteners & carmel coloring. (And not all the whole grains are actually whole.)

Low-Fat Yogurt
Much like it's frozen cousin, low-fat yogurt starts off fine...but then high-fructose corn syrup & artificial flavorings/colorings add a lot of calories (& a bit of luckiness). Avoid fruity kinds & stick with plain.

Gluten-Free Foods
For people who are gluten-sensitive or who have celiac disease (an auto-immune condition), these are a must. For everyone else? Nothing more than a silly food fad...that often comes with extra sugar, saturated fats & preservatives.

Processed Soy Products
Processed soy products are often linked to hormone imbalances in some people. The problem here is the processing part...which removes healthy carbs, fat & fiber & leaves only the protein isolate.

My Recent Thrifting "Haul"

 Thanks to that last post of thrifting tips, I felt that "urge" to share with you all the things I picked up on my most recent thrifting adventure. Taking advantage of a "discount day" at a certain thrift store, I'm pretty sure I made out like a bandit (despite only picking up a few things).

- This (absolutely gorgeous) green lace dress from Banana Republic, in great condition w/original tag.

- A pair of sexy printed heels (that "coincidentally" go great with the dress).

- This (beyond adorable) Swedish "fancy" teapot with a flower design on both sides.

(I was also lucky enough to find a great pair of my favorite Forever 21 jeans)

All this, & I only spent $23.13.
Oh, yea. Totally awesome.

Any great thrift store finds you'd like to share with me?
Email them to  OneToSpare@gmail.com !

Tips For Thrifting

   Type "thrift shopping" into any search engine & you'll be shown pages (upon pages) of results...places to go thrifting at in your local area (or any other "local" area across the country/globe), reviews of specific merchants, or basic styling tips from "serious thrifters." While I do not consider myself to be one of those "serious" thrifters, I have definitely come to know the art of thrifting fairly well. And yes, kids, it IS an art.
   I've grown to appreciate the Mid-West/East Coast thrifting...considering the fact that most West Coast thrifting is labeled "vintage shopping" (& priced much higher due to this). After many thrift shop "attempts" in San Diego & Los Angeles, I've learned that unless you visit those "vintage" stores you're left with (mostly) damaged goods. And not in the "hey, I can fix that & make it pretty awesome" sort of way. Let's be honest...I don't want to pay $50 for a ratty t-shirt (that's mostly holes) just because you call it "vintage."
Here are a few guidelines I follow, these days, when I go thrift shopping....

1. Much like you might for the grocery store, make a list!
I try to restrict my trip buys to things I can use for potential (current) projects - pictured above is a list similar to one I used recently. To keep myself "on task" I list items by type (i.e. "clothes", "jewelry", etc.) & write sub points to keep in mind with each category (i.e. "look for: print pants to turn into shorts", etc.).
2. Know the thrift store you're shopping at!
There are a few thrift stores in Cincinnati that I've been going to off & on over the last few years. Being somewhat of a regular, I've seen the changes in people, merchandise, & even store methods/policies. At one particular store I frequent, when they first opened they held specific specials each day...green tags meant 15% off on Tuesdays, red tags meant 20% off on Thursdays..you get the idea. After their own "trails & tribulations," the current discount they offer is a 25% off discount on Mondays (& the occasional $5 off coupon in the local paper). To take advantage of this, I try to limit my trips to this location to Mondays...&, since I know a lot of people have the same "discount day" idea, I make sure that (if I go) I'm able to go as close to their opening time as possible.
3. Know your prices!
Yes, contrary to popular belief, it is possible for your thrift store haul to be completely overpriced. Thrift store shopping is meant to be a great resource for saving money on finds you normally wouldn't...& it's still possible for thrift stores to use pricing ploys to make you think you're getting a deal, while getting more money out of you than you realize. There's no reason to be paying $45 for a fake Gucci purse at a thrift store. There's also no reason to pay $30 for a single pair of shoes that are pretty beaten up, just because the shoes could be found at DSW. Unless there is an original sales tag on the item (for the store it originally came from) showing a good discount, don't take the thrift store's word for it. Always take into account the current condition (& lasting ability) of the item you're looking at. Another big example is dishes...people usually end up donating their dishes to thrift stores when the pieces to their sets break. And a thrift store doesn't think twice about turning a 24-dish fancy tea/luncheon set into 6 separate 4-piece sets priced at $5-$7 each. (I've seen it happen plenty of times.)
4. Set a budget!
Even though we all know that plenty of people who "don't need to thrift" do, that doesn't mean that you have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on everything just because you might be getting a "good deal." I know that, at times, it's pretty easy to get a little carried away if you're lucky enough to have a "good find day"...but this is exactly where the previous planning helps your budget. Making sure you only buy what you need/will definitely use helps keep your tally in check...& ensures you won't tack an extra $20 on because of last minute temptations. Just as an example, (the last time I went thrifting) I set a limit of $25 for myself. When I found an item that would've pushed me over my limit by $6, I negotiated with myself: you could get this/this/this/this, & probably not use the last "this" despite it's epic cuteness...or get this/this/this & save that extra money for lunch. (Needless to say, lunch won.)

5. Be reasonable!
One of my favorite things to do (when thrift shopping) is to find items I can alter into something else. I love being able to change things I can't use into things I can...& when I complete such a task, it's a pretty confidence boost. The thing is...I tend to take on a bunch of projects all at once, which monopolizes my time for each individual project I'm attempting. My personal motto when thrifting is "S.C.A.B."
As unappealing as it sounds, trust me, it's not meant to be some gross thing.
"S.C.A.B." stands for:
Be reasonable
"Sew/Cut/Alter" is my reminder to not be afraid of a potential project. "Be reasonable" is my reminder to be realistic about any of those potential projects...especially the likelihood of actually doing that project.

Either way, we all get something different out of the thrifting experience...& I won't be one to "poo-poo" on yours. These are a few tips I use to get a better experience...& hopefully they'll help yours, too.

Any other tips? Email them to me at  OneToSpare@gmail.com  & I'll share them.

Happy thrifting!
-  Alyssa Marie

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Recipe: Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine Alfredo

I can now call myself brave enough to have entered the world of Tofu noodles!
(Okay, so maybe it's not that scary...but any person new to the smell would probably hesitate.)

Years ago an old roommate of mine went on a major health kick & our fridge was always stocked with these things. I was never brave enough to try any, because (as I mentioned before) they have quite a "authentic" aroma...among the first directions on the packaging, they even give the "method" for lessening it.  Another deterrent for me was the thought of regular tofu...which, for the record, I have tried & liked but "have to be in the mood for." I was always hesitant about the taste tofu noodles might have. Seeing them at the store, I decided to pick some up & try my luck...they couldn't be that terrible, right? Right!

The taste isn't too bad, & the texture didn't really bother me. After playing around with a recipe or two, this one came about....a quick, relatively easy alternative to a heaping pot full of carbs & sauce.

To make things even easier for myself (as this is a "single-serving" recipe), I used a small tupperware container to hold the portions. I frequently use this (2 cup/16oz) circular one, as it makes it even simpler to prep meals ahead of time & pack them in my bag (if I need to).

New ("healthier") recipe of the moment:
Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine Alfredo   (Single serving)
Approximately 95 calories, 2g fat

- 1 package Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine Shaped Noodle Substitute
- 2 Tbsp fat free cream cheese
- 1 Tsp fat free sour cream
- 2 Tsp reduced fat Parmesan grated topping
- Salt & pepper to taste, if desired (I didn't use any)


- Cut open the package, then use a strainer to drain & rinse the noodles thoroughly.

- Put noodles in bowl/container (don't close lid), & microwave for 3 minutes to cook (& reduce aroma).

- Pour noodles back into strainer, then put the noodles onto a paper towel & pat them dry.

 - Add cream cheese & sour cream into bowl/container.

- Pour warm noodles on top, then mix well. 

- Add parmesan & salt/pepper to taste (if desired). 

If you want to warm it up a little more, microwave for 1 additional minute, then mix again.

Happy eats!

- Alyssa Marie