Saturday, March 11, 2017

How I Get Healthy, Shiny Hair in My 40s

I'm turning 48 in March, and if there is one thing I do not want to go wrong at this stage in the game, it's my hair. Throughout my life I've had my fair share of bad hair days/months/years. I used to tightly perm my hair in the 80's and 90's (WHY???) even though it looked terrible on me. I have asked stylists to whack my hair off in a whimsical (or desperate) moment of utter cluelessness about what length of hair or cut best flatters my face. And, of course, I have tried to cut my own bangs multiple times with unattractive results.

Finally, I reached age 40, and I started wising up. I got real about how I really like to wear my hair (long, no perm, no bangs,) and I now know what to say/do when it's time for a cut. I figured out what products to use to keep my hair from looking dry and dull (a serious problem for most women after age 40, including me.) I also figured out what to spend big $$$ on and what products don't need to cost a fortune for me to have great hair.

Everyone's hair is different, and you have to do some experimentation to figure out what works best for your hair type, your skin/eye/hair color combination, your own personal style, and what you can work with in terms of styling technique. I'll share here what works for me, in hopes that you can get some ideas and inspiration (and probably save a little money too.)

My Basic Hair Care Routine

1. I always wash my hair with "damage repair shampoo" even though my hair isn't really damaged. My current go-to is L'oreal Total Repair Extreme Reconstructing Shampoo and Conditioner, although their Total Repair 5 is very similar and works well too. (I give these links so you can see the exact products I'm talking about--I don't have any affiliate relationships with any companies or with Amazon at the moment!) These shampoos and conditioners are usually less than $10 a bottle at drugstores and supermarkets. I have spent tons of money on expensive shampoos at salons and beauty supply stores, and trust me, L'oreal's Repair line is way better than anything else I've tried, for way less cash.

2. I use a lot of conditioner. I comb it through my hair in the shower and let it marinate for 3-5 minutes while I wash my face, shave my legs, etc.

3. I gently wrap and twist my hair in a towel when I get out of the shower. I do not "scrub" my hair dry or rub it between my hands with a towel.

4. I use about a quarter-size drop of Argan oil (Organix makes an inexpensive one that I like, under $10 at Walgreens, and I am also liking Garnier Fructis' Shine and Sleek, which I think I only paid $5 for at Albertson's last week) and run it through my wet hair with my fingers.

5. I blow-dry my hair while combing it with a wide-tooth comb, about 25 strokes on each side of my head (not the top - save that for upside down drying for volume,) and then I flip it over to finish drying it upside down.

6. I either a) straighten my hair with an expensive ceramic flat iron, or b) spray on some heat protector (right now I'm using Chi heat protector, which I really like) and curl my hair with a cheap Walmart curling iron, being careful not to hold the curling iron on my hair longer than 3-5 seconds at a time. (Besides trying not to fry my ends, my hair takes curl easily, and I don't want my curls to be too tight.)

I don't use the Chi heat protector when I straighten my hair because the guy who sold me this $195 iron swore to me this iron would not, could not damage my hair. He demo'd that by lighting a flame, laying a strand of my hair on the ceramic, and then showing me you couldn't burn the hair even with a flame against the ceramic. True story. Also, when I use heat protector with this iron, I don't like the texture/shine level I end up with as much as without.)

7. I don't brush my hair out after I style it. Wide-tooth comb or fingers only, until next wash, or if I'm putting it up.

8. I use very minimal (or no) hairspray. I am pretty devoted to Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play, although the nozzle clogs like crazy here in Colorado and it will spray in all different directions (your face, the ceiling) unless you pick at it with your fingernail pretty much every time you use it.

9. I put my hair up in a large fluffy scrunchie for sleep, directly on top of my head, looping the scrunchie only twice so it doesn't leave marks. I make sure that loose bun is lying on the pillow, not under my head while I sleep. I take it down in the morning and I have good volume on top as well as well-preserved style. This works well for me whether I straightened my hair or curled it.

10. I don't wash my hair again until it is absolutely necessary, usually 3-4 days here in Colorado where the climate is so dry.

My Color and Cut

I use inexpensive box color to do my own brown and cover gray roots, but I get professional highlights at a salon (AL.KA.LI in Santa Ana, California, with Audrey Taylor, to be exact :).

1. I LOVE Clairol Age Defy box color in Medium Brown 5. This shade matches my natural color very closely, and it's the perfect mixture of shine + gray coverage + moisturizing. I'm getting a fair amount of gray coming in nowadays, so I have to color my roots every 4-5 weeks. I only put brown color on the rest of my hair the month before I get new highlights.

A close second for me is L'oreal Excellence Creme in Medium Brown 5. I like the Age Defy better mostly for the color--Excellence Creme comes out a little darker than I like.

2. I get professional highlights done once a year, at the beginning of summer. I usually ask for blond highlights, and they will usually vary between a dark blond to a light caramel on top of my brown box color. I let these highlights grow out all year, into a kind of balayage look. (In the photos above and below, my highlights are 9 months old.)

3. To get a good cut, I almost always ask for a "slight trim" at the stylist and I say "I want to keep the length." I say, "I like face-framing layers around the front, but not bangs," and "I want my hair to look smooth and shapely when I flat-iron it." You have to specifically say aloud what you want, and even if I've been going to the same person for a long time, I don't assume they can remember exactly what I want from amongst all their clients and/or can read my mind. I spend $$$ on hair cuts because I think a good cut is tantamount to beautiful hair, but I only need them about 3-4 times per year so I don't mind the splurge.

Hair selfie.

So to sum up, I spend a little extra money on certain things (cuts, highlights, that damn $195 flat iron, Big Sexy Hairspray, Chi heat protectant) and I save money on others (shampoo, conditioner, argan oil, box color for roots/base.) I don't skimp on products just to save money though--I buy what works. And the boost of confidence it gives me to still get compliments on my hair at the age of almost-48...is totally worth it!



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kiss of the Assassin Sequel In The Works! + Teaser Excerpt

The original "Omaja Stone" cover had both twins on it, wearing armor (one of them is in shadow over the shoulder here.) 
Oh, by the way...I started writing a sequel to Kiss of the Assassin February 14th. It's the story of Yavi and Graciella, about six years later, as the Y Twins (now 30 years old) and Jiandra (now 28) are struggling to get Nandala back on its feet again as a nation. Gracie's just turned 20, so she is old enough for her own romance novel. (Rafe is now fourteen and still under the care and training of the monks in the Tylvan monastery north of Darpan, Nandala - I plan to give him his own book at some point, when he is old enough to be the hero.)

I don't know the title yet, so my working title is KA2 (Kiss of the Assassin 2) at the moment. I'm not plotting this one out like I did Sweet Barbarian. I feel that I write better twists and turns when I don't have overly detailed preconceived notions about where a storyline is going, and even though I love SB, it doesn't have the same level of action and adventure as my other two novels, and I feel it has suffered a little in the reviews because of it. (Caribbean Jewel and Kiss never get deemed "boring," at least not in the Amazon reviews.) The advantage of plotting everything out in advance, for SB, was speed and ease in writing. I wrote the first draft in four weeks. (And I can't really complain about how things turned out, because SB is by far my best selling novel at the moment; it has remained on the Bestsellers list for Time Travel Romances on Amazon for two months now, ever since it came out December 23rd.) But I just know how my mind works, and I know that my creativity is at its best when I don't know what is going to happen next.

So far, I've written 15,000 words (three chapters) in less than 2 weeks in KA2, and it has flowed much easier than I expected since the only plotting I started with was "Yavi and Graciella fall in love in this one." I've never written a sequel to anything, so I guess I didn't realize that with the world and the characters already built, you can just jump in and start writing. "Seeing" all the familiar faces has been a blast. As soon as I wrote the first sentence for the novel, which describes Yavi rappelling down from a window in the White Palace in Darpan in the middle of the night to go on some mission, I was like, why hello, Yavi, my old friend. It's been a while. :)

[You can see my Pinterest Board for KA2 Inspirations here!]

Here is a teaser excerpt from chapter 3 of KA2, the last scene I wrote last night:

Yavi killed the remaining bandit, slicing through his chest with his scimitars, and tossed the body into the nearby ditch. He strode over to the coach and pulled back the curtain, but the inside of the carriage appeared to be empty. He grabbed the torch from the driver’s seat, held it up to see inside better.
              Luminous light hazel eyes stared back at him, and a full, soft pink mouth parted in surprise. Dark, shiny hair was piled loosely on top of her head, and her sweetly rounded breasts heaved a little with shortness of breath.
              “Graciella?” he rasped, in disbelief that the beautiful woman inside the coach was really her. She was definitely not as he remembered her from six years earlier.
              “Are…are you Yavi, or Yajna?”
              “Yavi. Are you all right?”
              She clutched her chest, offering him a wry smile. “I will be, as soon as I can breathe again.”
              He turned to retrieve her dagger from the side of the road, where the bandit she’d stabbed in the throat had left it. He cleaned the unusually dark-looking blood off on the shirt of one of the fallen mercenaries, then handed it to her by the blade. “You’d better keep this wherever you had it. It seems to have come in handy.”
              “Yes.” She raised the hem of her skirt a bit and bent forward to tuck the small dagger into her boot. Her breasts pressed together inside her neckline, jiggling a bit with the movement. “I thank you.”
              Yavi stood frozen at the doorway, catching himself glancing down at the creamy smoothness of her leg just before she let the hem of her skirt back down. He looked up and cleared his throat. “Well, so much for a warm welcome into Nandala. I’d best get you to the palace before the others realize I’m gone and start to worry.”
              She nodded, swallowing. “Do you want me to—to stay in here?”
              “Yes. I’ll drive the coach. Let me get my horse tied to it, and we’ll be off.” He closed the door, then reopened it and held up the torch again to see her face. “Do you need anything? Sure you’re all right?”
              “I’m fine.”
              “Call to me out the window if you need anything before we arrive.”
              “Okay.” She smiled then, a fetching grin that lit up her lovely face and showed off a row of pearly white teeth.
              Yavi cleared his throat again, shut the door, and went to get Sikar.
              The bandit she’d stabbed had survived and escaped, but Yavi didn’t want to waste time chasing him down at the moment. His sole mission now was the safe delivery of Graciella to the palace.
              Kitchen help, his arse. If he had his way, the beautiful creature inside that coach would never dirty her delicate little hands in his kitchen.

Okay, back to writing, because I really want to know what happens next. <3

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vegan Penne Alfredo With Sautéed Mushrooms

Yes, this tastes as good as it looks. Shown here with gluten-free brown rice penne from Trader Joe's.

I'm committed to eating a vegan diet because I love how I feel when I don't eat dairy--or meat of course (but meat's not a temptation for me.) Doing without Alfredo sauce, however, is a bit of a sacrifice. Or was, until I modified a sauce recipe I found on Simpleveganblog.com and came up with the creamiest, most Alfredo-like dish I could have ever hoped for.

I haven't had dairy since June 2015, but to my palate this is so close to how I remember mushroom Alfredo I am in heaven every time I make it (about once a week at the moment.) Browned garlic, steamed cauliflower, and creamy canned coconut milk combine to make a dreamy delicious white sauce that sets off the earthy caramelized mushrooms and will have you going back for more. Go ahead and indulge--you're basically eating vegetables with a splash of coconut milk over a bed of brown rice.


Vegan Penne Alfredo With Sautéed Mushrooms


Mushrooms

1 TBS olive oil
8 oz sliced baby portobello (cremini) mushrooms
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of salt

Pasta

1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta (for gluten-free, I highly recommend Trader Joe's Brown Rice Pasta in this dish. I'm not 100% gluten-free, but I'm white-flour free, so I use this pasta a lot.)

Sauce

1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower chunks
3/4 cup canned coconut milk (shake the can to mix the solids with the water, or mix well with a fork after you open it. Don't just use the water alone.)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste (I use 1 tsp salt)
1 TBS nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 TBS fresh squeeze lemon juice

Optional - fresh or dried parsley, to garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms in hot olive oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the thyme and salt while the mushrooms cook, and let them sit without over-stirring if you want them to get really caramelized and brown around the edges. Set aside.

Sauté the garlic in olive oil until browned (I brown it pretty dark because it really adds that pungent cheesy flavor to the blended sauce.) Turn down the heat a little and pour in your coconut milk (fast because it will sputter in the hot oil worse if you pour slowly,) bring it to a boil, then add the cauliflower chunks. Add the salt and pepper and simmer gently with the lid on for 7 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is steamed through and soft.

Transfer the hot mixture to a high-speed blender, and add the nutritional yeast flakes and the lemon juice. Blend on high for 30 seconds to one minute, then check the creaminess level. Keep blending 20-30 seconds at a time until it's perfectly silky and smooth. (In my Vitamix, it only takes about 30 seconds to perfection.) If it's your first time making this sauce, you might want to taste it for salt level as well and adjust that before you take it out of the blender.

Other delicious additions/variations with this sauce: a swirl of vegan pesto, sauteéd asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes...oh Lord, the possibilities are endless. :-)

Pour the sauce over the pasta, top with the mushrooms and a generous sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. Garnish with parsley if desired, and enjoy!

If you make this dish, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Vegan Sugar Free, Caffeine Free Blender Latte



Craving a delicious guilt-free latte but don't have an espresso machine (or have time to use it every morning?) You can make delicious frothy lattes with a high-speed blender in seconds (once your coffee or coffee substitute is brewed.)

I invented this recipe while trying to make a coffee free vegan version of Dave Asprey's "bulletproof coffee."

For a caffeine-free blender latte, first brew 2 cups of coffee substitute. (I like Teeccino's Mocha, Chocolate, or French Roast for this.) When the coffee beverage is ready, pour it into your high-speed blender along with a tablespoon of coconut oil and alternative milk to taste (I use about a quarter cup of coconut-almond milk, Califia brand because it's sweetened with natural Monk fruit and is zero-glycemic.) You can further sweeten the latte with sweetener of choice, and of course real sugar if you are not sugar-free. I find that the natural sweetness in coconut oil as well as the coconut almond milk is enough sweetness for me.

Now you can add some optional ingredients: a bit of cinnamon, some carob or cacao powder, nutmeg, vanilla, etc.

Blend on the highest speed for about 30 seconds, and then check to see if it has frothed up like a latte. If not, blend another 20 seconds and check. Once you see frothy bubbles on top, the latte is ready to pour into your mug and enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vegan Broccoli-Tomato Frittata

Lust for eggs no longer. This vegan, veggie frittata made with garbanzo bean flour tastes amazing.

During all those years I was vegetarian (starting in 2004,) I didn't crave eggs as much as I thought I would, but every so often I'd come across an omelet or frittata recipe that I just had to make. Then, in the summer of 2015, I decided to shift to a vegan diet (mostly to work on some minor health issues that had started to crop up,) so eggs were no longer on the shopping list. No biggie; I had other vegan breakfast items to eat--I mostly relied on hot cereals like brown rice farina, oatmeal, and buckwheat, and would occasionally make vegan scones, biscuits, or muffins. Only problem is, it's hard to feel like you're having a weekend "brunch" with only hot cereals and vegan baked goodies.

So, a few months ago, I started experimenting with using garbanzo bean flour, turmeric, and veggie broth to make eggless scrambles. The scrambles were delicious, but at best I'd only have three servings total (two leftovers,) which didn't give me very many weekdays' worth of easy, pop-it-in-the-toaster-oven breakfasts. I tried just making bigger scrambles, but they would take forever to cook in my iron skillet due to not having enough contact with the bottom of the pan. So, I decided to try making a frittata instead, since it could bake in the oven as one big piece rather than me having to stir, wait, and turn it over and over to get all the batter to cook.

This frittata is easy to make, provides me with at least 6 slices which store great in baggies in the fridge and reheat deliciously wrapped in foil in the toaster oven (I heat one slice at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.) I like to make it with broccoli and tomatoes, and I usually add yellow squash or zucchini, but you could use almost any combination of veggies and have a delicious brunch dish that won't leave you wishing for eggs. Also, if you haven't found a vegan cheese you like, no worries. This frittata is equally delicious without it. I also love to serve it with a side of chopped fresh tomato and/or avocado.

Vegan Broccoli-Tomato Frittata

Vegan, gluten free, sugar free

Ingredients:
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 TBS olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 small tomato, quartered and sliced
1 cup small-diced zucchini or yellow squash (optional - you can also just add more broccoli, or use other vegetables you have on hand)
Chopped fresh or dried parsley, sliced tomato, and vegan cheese (I use Daiya mozzarella) for toppings (optional)

Batter:
2 cups garbanzo bean flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
2 cups veggie broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 TBS olive oil in iron skillet (or other oven-proof skillet. If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, make sure you have a greased pie pan or baking dish you can use to put the frittata in the oven.) Saute the garlic slices until golden brown around the edges. Add the broccoli and red pepper flakes and saute for 1 minute. Pour in 2 TBS water, cover, and steam it 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue cooking another couple of minutes, then add the sliced tomato. Cook this down until the tomato starts to break up and become saucy, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

For the batter, combine the dry ingredients, then whisk in the veggie broth until smooth. Pour the sauteed veggies into the batter and stir to combine (you can also just pour the batter over the veggies in the iron skillet; just know that the veggies will form a layer on the bottom of the frittata. Still tastes great!) Heat the other TBS of olive oil in the iron skillet and pour in the frittata mixture. Garnish the top with parsley, sliced tomato, and a small handful of vegan cheese, if desired. Cook over medium heat until set around the edge (it will start to look dry as it cooks.) If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, you might want to skip this edge-cooking step, place the frittata mixture directly in your pie pan, and just cook it longer in the oven.

Transfer the iron skillet to the heated oven and bake the frittata until the center is set, about 15 minutes. Let rest about 5 minutes before serving, and enjoy!

Sunday brunch featuring my broccoli-tomato frittata along with buckwheat pancakes, cranberry compote, and fried potatoes...yum!



Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Weekend Morning Routine + 3 Beauty Products I'm Loving Right Now

Wake up and be awesome.
I'm a fan of morning routines. If I don't establish and follow a morning routine, I can end up frittering the day away, not really accomplishing anything, forgetting to exercise (then becoming too busy/tired/unmotivated later,) and just generally wasting time.

Don't get me wrong--some weekends, you need to just lie in bed until whenever, lounge around in pajamas until 2:00, and do anything you want (or nothing at all.) I get it, and I do it. But if I do that every weekend all weekend long, I inevitably feel unproductive, angry at myself for not making better use of my time, and rushed all the next week because I didn't do anything to prepare for the week ahead (like a load of laundry, making a big pot of soup for leftovers during the week, cleaning at least one thing in the house.) Also, during the school year, the weekends are my biggest chunk of time for writing, so I generally try to get organized enough to spend at least a few hours at my computer.

So here's my current weekend morning routine. It's basically the same as my weekday morning routine, except I get up earlier on weekdays, and I don't have time to cook a full breakfast (so I try to bulk-cook my breakfasts--eggless frittatas, scrambles, potato hashes, pancakes, and/or scones--on the weekends, wrap individual servings in foil and refrigerate, and then just pop them in the toaster oven to reheat while I take vitamins and journal.)

1. Do 15 Minutes of Yoga + Essential Oils & Breathing

My yoga set-up.

First thing when I get out of bed (usually 7:30 on weekends,) I sip some water and roll out my yoga mat. You don't really need a yoga mat on carpet, but it helps me align my body, I "stick" to the mat better than to carpet (for more stability,) and it just feels official.

(If my room feels chilly, I turn on my little space heater and let the warm air blow on my face while I get started with my breathing/yoga routine.)

I have a set of essential oils that I rub on the soles of my feet and inhale (Young Living's Valor II, Aroma Siez, Peppermint, En-r-gee, and Dragon Time) while I do my deep breathing and 15-minute yoga set. I sip water throughout as well to rehydrate, and I play my daily affirmations, healing prayers, creative visualizations, etc. that I have recorded on the "Voice Memo" app on my iPhone. Sometimes I just listen to the recordings and meditate, and sometimes I repeat after myself out loud.

I love morning yoga for three big reasons:
  • - It opens up my airways, gets me breathing, calm, yet energized
  • - It stretches stiff muscles and opens up my joints (I have back and neck issues, and this really, really helps with stiffness, pain, and alignment first thing in the morning)
  • - It is a quick, easy, yet productive exercise routine I can do without getting out of my pajamas or going anywhere
I do yoga when I first get out of bed because later in the day I'm usually too busy or unmotivated to do it.

2. Take Vitamins and Supplements

My morning line-up.
Yes, I'm kind of a vitamin freak. But, I only take the supplements and vitamins that really make a difference, and I test things to see if there is any difference when I stop.

I take Femenessence MacaLife and Black Cohosh to aid with menopausal symptoms (the over-40 struggle is real, people,) Vitanica Uplift and Country Life Stress Shield for mood, Vitamin C for immune system support, probiotics for digestive health, Hallelujah Diet BarleyMax in water plus a drop of Iodine for energy and metabolism, Vitamin B complex (B-Stress) for energy and metabolism, Vitamin D-3 for bones and whatever else D3 does, and a Fiber supplement to keep things regular.

Like I said, on weekdays, I might pop my foil-packet of breakfast in the toaster oven to reheat while I'm taking all these pills and powders, depending upon how well I'm running on schedule (or not.) If I'm ahead of schedule, I can wait until after the massive Vitamin Bonanza to start heating breakfast, and let it heat while I journal.

3. Brew Some Coffee (or Teeccino) and Journal

Really kind of into Teeccino's "Chocolaté" blend for drip coffee at the moment.

I love the sound of coffee percolating in the morning, but since I quit coffee two years ago, I've switched to Teeccino. (I don't work for them, but I should, because I'm a huge fan.)

Perfect journaling spot.

When my Teeccino is ready, I snuggle into the cushions on my sofa with my laptop, and journal for at least 10-15 minutes, longer if I have time. I have journaled for years and years because it helps me work through my thoughts, issues, dreams, and goals. In my journal, I often write prayers, listen for and write down answers to them, plan my day, plan my year, do check-ins with myself emotionally, etc.

4. Make Breakfast

Sauteeing veggies for a vegan quiche.
On weekends, I cook a lot, and not just breakfast. But for breakfast, I try to make extra so I'll have leftovers for the week ahead. Some good recipes for leftovers are eggless scrambles, quiches, and frittatas (made with either garbanzo bean flour or tofu,) potato hashes (or as my family called them, "fried taters," whole-grain and/or gluten free scones, muffins, coffee cakes, and pancakes.

5. Get Freshened Up and Dressed For the Day

Then, before I go on with my day, I'll go freshen up (brush teeth, etc.) and put on some comfy weekend wear like yoga pants and a sweatshirt.

Some affordable beauty products I'm really into at the moment.
And last but not least, I wanted to share with you guys a few inexpensive bath/beauty items I've found recently that are making my life happier.

1. Ulta's Foaming Fresh Hand Soap in Verbena Bergamot. Ulta's hand soaps are usually $6 a bottle or less, and they are almost always running a "Buy so many, get 1 free" promotion on them. Every single fragrance I've tried (about 5 different ones now) smells amazing. Highly recommend.

2. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads and Nip + Fab Hydrate Dragon's Blood Plumping Serum. The cleansing pads are refreshing and exfoliating, plus they save me a lot of time and hassle in washing my face in the morning (splashing water everywhere, getting it on your sleeves...you know.) And the serum purports itself as "plumping," which I do believe it does. It's super hydrating going on my skin, and for the price--an amazing value. I paid $10 for 60 cleansing pads and $15 for the serum on Amazon. (Ulta is selling the pads right now for $13 and the serum at $20 but they are running a 40% off the 2nd item.)

3. Wet 'n Wild Wildshine Nail Color and Clear Nail Protector. Okay, true story. While I was in Huntington Beach a couple of weeks ago, wearing my Uggs boots to my chiropractor appointments, one of my chiropractors (four total in the office I go to) was teasing me for being overdressed for the sunny weather. I did bring a pair of knock-off Birkenstocks with me, but I didn't want to wear them out of the hotel room because my last pedicure was in October, and I had been just letting the polish grow off, and it looked terrible. I didn't want to spend a ton of money on my toenails just for a few days' vacation, so I stopped in and looked for the cheapest nail polish in Walgreen's on my way back to my hotel. Wet 'n Wild had two colors on clearance, a shimmery light blue and this frosty jade color (483D Be More Pacific,) so I nabbed the jade one for 79 cents, bought a travel pack of nail polish remover pads, and set to work on my toes back in my hotel room. The jade color went on way more smoothly than I expected for a 79c bottle of polish, so on my next pass by that Walgreen's, I stopped in to buy a bottle of Wet n Wild Clear Nail Protector ($1.29 I think?) to protect the color and make it shinier. Two weeks later, my toenails still actually look great, with no chips or peeling even though I've been wearing socks and boots since I've been back in Colorado. I'm very impressed!

All right, time to go have a productive, relaxing weekend.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How To Organize a Tiny Bathroom

No drawers, no counter space, and no floor space? No problem.

I have a teeny bathroom in my house, and I'm not exactly a low-maintenance girl who gets by on one all-purpose moisturizer and a swipe of lip gloss.


I have two different skin care lines I use, a ton of makeup, lots of hair care items and accessories, and a complicated dental routine involving both an electric toothbrush and a waterpik. I want my bathroom to be utilitarian as well as a soothing, spa-like place to be, with all my bath essentials within easy reach. I have no counter space, barely any cabinet space, no drawers, and no floor space for an extra piece of furniture like a cabinet or shelving unit.

I'm about to reveal to you how I organize and store all my stuff in this itty bitty space, in the hopes that if you too live with a minuscule-sized bathroom, you can make it work better for you.

The Organizers

If you have no floor space, you have to use your walls to your advantage. I have a cheap over-the-toilet cabinet that I got at either Walmart, Target, or Bed Bath and Beyond years ago. It has three open shelves if you count the top as a shelf (which I do) and two little doors that I can hide random bottles and miscellaneous behind.

My over-the-toilet cabinet.
This thing is a workhorse. It holds my hair products, my basket of washcloths, some of my skin care, my perfumes, my hair accessories and brush, my Q-tips and cotton pads, my deodorants, clippers, medicines and lotions, nail polish remover, Bag Balm container (for my lips,) and Lord knows what else behind the little doors.

Cabinet with doors open. Do I really need 4 deodorants? Apparently I do.
I also use it to hold my hot roller hair clips, which I attach to the sides of the cabinet.

When you mount this cabinet on the wall, you want to leave enough space between it and the toilet to be able to place a basket or container of some sort on top of the toilet lid. That basket is where I keep my makeup.

Makeup basket closeup.
I got this rectangular basket at Walmart years ago in their bathroom accessories section, where you get shower curtains, matching trash cans, toothbrush holders, soap dishes, etc. I think it was less than $10. Then I filled it with little boxes, plastic pencil cups, and a tea tin to organize my compacts and brushes. I literally just scavenged around the house for whatever I could find that would hold makeup and placed it in this basket like a Tetris puzzle. Most of the little boxes are small gift boxes and lids, like for jewelry and such.

When I get ready in the morning, I move this basket to the sink and prop it on the right side of my non-existent counter space, use the items I need, then stash it back onto the toilet lid out of the way.

My washcloth basket.

The basket on top of my cabinet that I store clean washcloths in is technically a bread basket (like for a loaf of french bread) and came with a gift in it years ago. Like most of my baskets, it was just one I had lying around the house. If you don't have any lying-around-the-house baskets, you can find inexpensive ones of all different shapes and sizes at places like Hobby Lobby or Big Lots.
Yet another basket, this one for hair accessories and my brush.
I use another couple of random, lying-around-the-house containers to hold my Q-tips, cotton pads, and hair clips and bobby pins. The purple ceramic one was a lidded container I impulse-bought at a craft and art show years ago and never really knew what to do with, and the black lacquer container was something I bought to decorate my apartment years ago when I was into Asian-looking decor.

Q-tips, cotton pads, and hair clips.
The point is, scavenge around your house for decorative knickknacks and baskets that have no purpose and are probably collecting dust, fill them with the bathroom items you use every day, and store them on the cabinet shelves over the toilet.

Now For the Sink

If you have no counter space, what you need here is a small shelf with 3-4 hooks underneath that you can mount on the wall beside the sink. I got this one at Big Lots years ago for around $10 as I recall.

Literally no space on that counter for anything. Must use wall!
I always keep my daily/nightly skin care collection on this shelf, within easy grabbing reach. I also have my eye drops, the two essential oils I put on my wrists every morning, a couple pairs of stud earrings, and my electric toothbrush (because the Waterpik takes up what little precious real estate I have on the counter by the outlet.)

This is my grab-and-go section.
On the hooks below, I always cut a hole in my handtowels so I can hang them on the first hook (yes, they fray a little around this hole, but the towel holds together and still hangs great for years and years.) I use the other hooks for a mirror, a comb, and my blowdryer.

Left side, under my sink. More baskets.
If it's a Style-Hair Day, then I grab my straightening iron or curling iron from this basket under the sink and plug it in. (I keep my hot rollers on a closet shelf right around the corner, although I don't know why, because looking at this photo, there is plenty of room for them to sit on top of the stuff in these baskets.)

Those baskets in the back hold extra Q-tips, cotton pads, a makeup bag full of makeup that I'm not using right now but don't want to throw away, other body care and health care things I don't use that often, razors, band-aids, and all those little tubes of special conditioner that comes with my hair coloring kits. (Love those conditioners, and try to make them last!)

Under my sink, right side. Just more bathroom stuff.

And To Grab a Little More Space for Organizing, on the Floor

I'm not done with baskets. I also have one on the floor beside my tub. This basket holds my feminine supplies (in the pink makeup bag,) my battery-powered face scrubber and its attachments (in the blue/black/pink/white makeup bag,) air freshener, a couple of recent gifts (the Burt's Bees hand care set and a fancy wrapped bar of soap,) plus my exfoliating mitt and my packaged face masks that I always stock up on at the Daiso $1.50 Japanese Store when I travel to Huntington Beach.

More bath stuff.

Last But Not Least, the Shower Caddy

I know everybody has a shower caddy, but for an organized small bathroom, I recommend you keep it cleaned out and minimal, stocked with only the products you are currently using.

My shower caddy. Yes, there is another comb in here so I can comb conditioner through my hair when I'm not feeling too rushed or lazy to do so.
You don't have to throw things away that you aren't currently using. Keep them in the baskets under the sink or in a basket in a linen closet, if you have one. I cycle out body washes and shampoos I'm tired of when I get a new one I want to use instead, and then go back and use the rest of the old ones when I run out.

So that's it! My teeny tiny bathroom and the multitude of items it stores. If you have a large bathroom with plenty of counter space, lucky you, but if not, I wish you lots of luck in organizing your tiny space. Let me know how it goes in the comments!

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