Maybe Matilda

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Favorite Hair Products for a Pixie Cut

I'll occasionally get questions here or on Instagram about what products I use on my short hair, and I'm happy to share what has worked best for me! It definitely takes some trial and error to figure out what products will give the best results, but I've found some products I really enjoy and I'm happy to pass them along.

Of course, the products that are great for me might not be good for you, and vice versa. I have what my stylist has described as "a medium amount of very fine hair," so these products are mainly geared toward adding volume and texture, and preventing flyaways.

6 awesome products to help style a pixie cut (fine hair)

*affiliate links ahead!

1. Wella Enrich Shampoo and Conditioner :: This shampoo and conditioner duo is a rather recent purchase for me, so I've only been using them a few weeks. But I've been really happy with them--they add lots of softness and shine, and aren't heavy at all.

2. Aquage Uplifting Foam :: This has been a repeat purchase of mine for quite a few years now. It has the consistency of a thin mousse, and is meant to be sprayed right into the roots to give volume and lift. It is a bit pricey, but I love it and it lasts me a long time (I repurchase it probably once a year).

3. John Frieda Full Repair Elixir Oil :: I bought this as a replacement for Moroccan Oil, which is wonderful but expensive. I've been using it for quite a while (probably a year or more), and I've been happy with it. I use 1 pump in my palms, then work it into my hair, focusing on the ends. I think it helps to smooth my hair, protect it from blow dryer heat, and give it some shine. I'll sometimes add a few more drops to dry hair to add shine.

Not pictured, because I honestly can't tell whether this is doing anything: Generic Value Products Shine Spray from Sally's Beauty Supply. I truly can't tell if it makes any difference for me, but I figured I'd mention it because I do, in fact, use it after every blow dry, despite not being able to tell if it makes a difference. 

4. Beyond the Zone Rock On Volumizing Powder :: If I were forced to pick just ONE product to use on my hair every day, it would be this. (I should point out that I've tried a few different texture/volumizing powders and honestly haven't noticed a huge difference between them, so my loyalty isn't necessarily to this particular powder, but just to a texture powder in general.)

I'll warn you that these powders feel gross. They are chalky and sticky and make your hair feel dirty and nasty. But I'm willing to deal with that unpleasant side effect because it adds so much texture and grip to my hair, which is very fine with zero natural texture. I shake some powder into my roots at the crown of my head and along my part, then use my fingers to shake and rough it up. It gives great lift and texture that you can leave as is, or tease over, and it will actually hold. (If you have very fine hair like I do, you've probably gotten frustrated that no amount of teasing makes any difference! If you use some of this first and then tease your hair, it'll hold great.)

5. Ion Pomade Wax :: I use a small amount of this on my fingertips and use it to stick down any frizzies and flyaways, smooth the bangs out a bit, piece out some sections across the top and sides, and smooth the back down.

6. Kenra 25 Hairspray :: Full disclosure: this is not my current hairspray. But I have used and loved it in the past, and eagerly look forward to my current crappy can of hairspray running out so I can purchase this again. It gives awesome hold, and really helps volume to stick around all day! I can never bring myself to toss out products I'm not loving before they've run out, so I'm forcing myself to finish my current can of hairspray before buying this one again. I've used it off and on for years, and always regret it when I decide to try a different kind.

If you have any hair products you just LOVE, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 MMD Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I'm sorry to say that I barely limped across the finish line in finishing my 2015 reading challenge with Modern Mrs. Darcy, and only if we count one book for 2 separate categories, and kind of twist another category to make a book fit. 

Committing to do better with her 2016 challenge (as well as participating in my friend Cami's challenge at Worthington Ave.!). 

2015 reading challenge wrap-up

Check mark symbol1) A book you’ve been meaning to read: Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell). I read this in high school, but have been meaning to re-read it for years. I reread it in 2015 and loved it. I’m not sure I actually remembered anything about it from my initial read-- it felt brand new. See my review HERE.
Check mark symbol2) A book published this year: First Frost (Sarah Addison Allen) I generally don’t keep up with new releases (too overwhelmed by my current to-read list to keep an eye out for new ones!), but I loved Garden Spells and have been excitedly waiting for a sequel. I reviewed First Frost HERE.

Check mark symbol3) A book in a genre you don’t typically read: The Devil in the White City (Erik Larson) I think it’s safe to say that historical non-fiction is entirely out of my typical reading zone. I read this for a book club and loved it. I reviewed it HERE.
Check mark symbol 4) A book from your childhood: Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) Anne was a huge part of my childhood, but mainly in movie form--I watched the movies dozens (if not hundreds!) of times as a kid (and asked for them for Christmas this year so my kids can grow up with Anne, too). Sadly, I had never read the book until this year, so I'm glad to check this one off my list. My review is HERE, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.
Check mark symbol 5) A book your mom loves: My plan was to reread To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) or The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett). I didn't get to either of them, so I can only check this category off if I count Anne of Green Gables again (which is definitely a favorite of my mom's).
Check mark symbol6) A book that was originally written in a different language: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne) I struggled to find a book to fit this category, then it fell into my lap as a book club selection. Buuuut I did not care for it at all.

Check mark symbol7) A book ‘everyone’ has read but you: The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown) I saw this book reviewed and recommended over and over again on blogs and from friends, and I felt like I must be the last person to pick it up! I thought it was a great book with lots of amazing insight, although it left me feeling a little lost—like all my issues had been spread out on the table for me to analyze and fret over, but I wasn’t sure what to do to fix them. I think I need therapy. Full book review HERE.
Check mark symbol 8) A book you chose because of the cover: Five Quarters of the Orange (Joanne Harris) jumped out at me from a used bookstore shelf, and I absolutely loved it.  I reviewed it HERE.
Check mark symbol9) A book by a favorite author: Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood) I’ve loved Margaret Atwood since being bowled over by The Handmaid’s Tale in high school (and again more recently!), and have read quite a few of her novels (some with greater success than others). I had mixed feelings about Alias Grace—you can see my review HERE.
Check mark symbol10) A book recommended by someone with great taste: Summers at Castle Auburn (Sharon Shinn) Two of my very well-read cousins gave this book great reviews on Goodreads, which made it a perfect fit for this category. With a little magic, a little romance, and a little castle intrigue, it was right up my alley. See my review HERE.
Check mark symbol11) A book you should have read in high school: Here is my second 'cheater' category. I didn't specifically read a book to fit this category (unsurprising, since it was the category I was least excited about. But I can kind of check it off if we count Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen), which seems like it could be a high school English class read, or Wonder (R.J. Palacio), which would probably be more of a middle grade reading assignment. Not sure I can totally check this category off the list, but I guess I came close.
Check mark symbol12) A book that’s currently on the bestseller list: The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) Reminiscent of Gone Girl (but with significantly less stick-with-you creep factor), this was fast and exciting and hard to put down. See my review HERE.

If you're interested in participating in Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2016 reading challenge, you can find all the details HERE. And for more fun categories, check out my friend Cami's 2016 reading challenge at Worthington Ave!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

This post is sponsored by ConAgra Foods.

We've officially hit that point in winter where I just want to curl up on the couch with a bowl of something hot and delicious, and binge-watch Netflix until spring. Please don't make me get up or go outside. I'm in full-blown hibernation mode now. Bring on the comfort food and reruns!

As far as I'm concerned, nothing beats a hot, creamy bowl of soup for winter hibernation food. This soup fit the bill so nicely: rich and creamy with a delicious tomato base, plus cheesy tortellini and sausage. Look, I even tossed some spinach in, to make my mother proud!

creamy tomato tortellini soup

This hearty tomato goodness is so incredibly yummy, and perfect for a chilly winter night. I happen to think it is best enjoyed with reruns of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," a mug of hot chocolate, and the company of someone who finds Andy Samberg just as hilarious as you do. Bonus points if that someone won't make fun of you if you laugh too hard and spill soup on your pajama pants.

You'll start off by cooking some onion, garlic, and smoked sausage together. Then add Hunt's petite diced tomatoes (my favorite because they are so juicy and taste so fresh), tomato sauce, and a bit of water. Bring to a boil and stir in your tortellini, then add some fresh chopped spinach. A stir of cream and you're good to go.

creamy tomato tortellini soup

creamy tomato tortellini soup

creamy tomato tortellini soup

creamy tomato tortellini soup

This soup comes together so quickly and tastes just incredible. I love how thick and creamy it is. If you're concerned about calories, feel free to use half-and-half instead of the heavy cream to lighten it up a bit. But I say, hey, we're in the thick of winter. It's cream all the way from here until May.

creamy tomato tortellini soup

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
13 oz. smoked sausage, halved and sliced
2 14-oz. cans Hunt's Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 19-oz. package frozen cheese tortellini
3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

Pour olive oil into a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and sausage, and saute until onion is translucent and sausage is browned. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and spices. Heat and stir until simmering, then add frozen tortellini. When tortellini is cooked through, stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Add cream and stir to heat through; do not boil. Remove from heat and serve.

ConAgra Foods products can be found in 99 percent of American households, and include many iconic brands such as Hunt's, Hebrew National, Swiss Miss, Manwich, PAM Cooking Spray, and many more. Whether on their own or as part of a delicious recipe, ConAgra Foods brands are perfect for nearly any eating or entertaining occasion.
What's your perfect recipe for winter hibernation? Any favorite comfort food and TV pairings that help get you through the winter?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favorite Books of 2015

I'm very pleased to say that I knocked my 2015 book goal out of the water. I set a goal to read 60 books this year, and as of today, I have read 73. (I'm pretty surprised by this, since I've averaged about 50 books a year for the past few years.)

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite books of 2015.

best favorite books of the year 2015 reading

Note: when I say favorites of 2015, I only mean that I read them this year; no correlation to the year they were published. Also, I'll be using affiliate links in this post.

five quarters of the orange
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

I picked this book up on a whim from a used bookstore, purely because I thought the cover was nice, and heck, it was only $1, so what did I have to lose? I'm glad I followed my gut here, because this was one of my favorites of the year, if not ever. A small town in France, a dark family secret, a WWII setting, a cranky old lady, and lots and lots of amazing food: that's like all my favorite things.

the rose garden
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

I'm beginning to feel like a broken record here--I've mentioned this novel so many times. I've read many of Susanna Kearsley's novels, but this one is definitely my favorite: the story of a young woman reeling after the loss of her sister who finds herself unexpectedly transported centuries back in time, and falling in love with a man born hundreds of years before her. (An honorable mention goes to my second favorite Kearsley novel, also read in 2015, Mariana.)

gone with the wind
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I read this book in high school but could remember almost nothing about it, so I figured it was time for a re-read. And I absolutely loved it. It's a long haul, but don't let that scare you. It's a classic for very good reason. I'd recommend reading it as an e-book if you can, since many hard copies are so thick but also really short and squat, making them nearly impossible to hold open.

Also, if we ever have another baby boy, we might need to name him Rhett.

leaving time
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I'll admit, I have always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder in regards to Jodi Picoult. I had never read one of her novels until this year, but for some reason I thought of them as being corny and poorly written. I'm glad I gave her a chance, though, because this novel was nearly impossible to put down. It follows a young girl's journey to find her mother, an elephant researcher who disappeared under mysterious circumstances a decade before. It's engaging and exciting and so hard to put down--I stayed up way too late a few nights in a row while reading this.

the reapers are the angels
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

I just finished this book a few days ago, so it hasn't found its way into one of my monthly reading recaps yet. This book was super weird and dark and scary and unpredictable, but also pretty damn awesome. Temple is a 15-year old girl who has only known a world infested with zombies. But this definitely isn't a typical zombie book--it's strangely lovely (even spiritual, which is kind of bizarre given the subject matter), and even though it is full of death and danger and destruction, it's also thoughtful and beautifully written. I read it aloud to Jeff, and we both loved it.
as you wish
As You Wish by Cary Elwes

On a much lighter note, Cary Elwes' memoir of the making of The Princess Bride is pure fun. I listened to the audio, which I would highly recommend, as he reads it himself, and fellow actors in the movie join in periodically to read some of their memories and stories. If you love The Princess Bride, I think you'll enjoy this a lot.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

There's a certain type of book I almost always enjoy, and I don't know what I'd call it . . . rural frontier family coming-of-age novel? Can that count as a genre?

Whatever you'd call it, that's what this novel is, and I really loved it. It follows a family in the badlands of Ontario who undergo a family tragedy that shapes the children's futures. I thought it read a lot like Peace Like a River, which is one of my all-time favorites that I am always recommending, so if you enjoyed Peace, I'll bet you'll love this, too.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene

I don't buy books terribly often, but I ordered a copy of this novel the second I finished reading my library copy. This novel is told by a few different characters, all interwoven and spanning generations in Appalachia from the Great Depression to the present. There's a touch of magical realism, which I love if it is done well . . . and it is done very, very well here. I've been trying to get my hands on Greene's other novel, Long Man, and haven't been able to find it at any local libraries yet, sadly. If you've read it, though, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Stiff by Mary Roach 

Another title I've mentioned probably half a dozen times on the blog. If you've ever wondered what will happen to your body after you die, or what they do with bodies donated to science, or how plastic surgeons practice new techniques, or how police learn about how bodies decompose in various locations or circumstances . . . Mary Roach has got your back. So incredibly interesting. And also gross.

Spoiler alert: there is literally NO APPEALING OPTION for your body after you die.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2015?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Forrest's New Favorite App: Curious World

This post was sponsored on behalf of Curious World via One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve shared our favorite educational apps, and there’s a reason that I haven’t had any new app recommendations to share . . . we had a long streak of struggling to find great new ones! My kids (especially Forrest) love playing on tablets, and I am happy to indulge that love, especially if the games and apps they use have some sort of educational benefit.

But it can be really difficult to find great learning apps that you, as a parent, will feel really comfortable letting your kids use.

Today, I want to share our experience with a new educational app called Curious World.

curious world app

The short story: Forrest absolutely loves this app and actually has not wanted to play with any other apps on our iPad since downloading this one. I’m so happy with it and am thrilled that he wants to play with it so much, since I think it is fantastic.

The longer story: Curious World has a huge library of early learning activities specifically tailored to kids ages 3-7. The content is tailored to your child’s age, so you know everything they see will be age-appropriate for them. It can be used on iPads and iPhones, and offers a wonderful variety of games, videos, and books.

No big surprise what my favorite feature is, right? THE BOOKS. The app lets him choose from an
awesome library of books (some older favorites, such as Curious George classics, and plenty of great
newer releases, too!), and it reads aloud to him as he flips through the pages. Honestly, I would get the app for this feature alone!

I love that it reads aloud to him, but we also have the option to turn off the audio and read books together. There are recent books on here that I’ve been trying to track down at our local libraries and haven’t been able to find, so I’m really excited that it has such an amazing selection.

curious world app

There are also all kinds of wonderful games that teach letters and spelling, language skills, math, animals, science, and more. Many of the games feature Curious George, which is a major bonus for my kids, since they are both obsessed with George.

One of Forrest’s favorite features, and the one I see him exploring most, is the video section. Curious World has all sorts of awesome kid-friendly videos about everything under the sun: stories, crafts and experiments kids can do at home, National Geographic features on cool animals like stingrays and tigers, simple explanations of scientific ideas like weather, animal habitats, and evaporation, plus exercises kids can do at home . . . there are so many videos on such a huge variety of topics, and Forrest loves watching them.

One video Forrest particularly loved was all about making DIY shadow puppets at home.

curious world app

I saw him watch it a few times in a row, then he came to me and listed out everything he’d need to make them himself, and explained to me how to do it. He was so excited to make his own shadow puppets and put on a puppet show. We made these puppets together based on the video.

curious world app

Awkward smile, because he was so excited to play with them and didn’t want to stop for a picture!

diy shadow puppets

I never would have thought of making shadow puppets together, but he was really eager to make them
after watching the video. As I’m typing this up, he and Darcy have been putting on shadow puppet shows for over an hour. OVER. AN. HOUR. This is awesome. Not only does the app entertain him and teach him new ideas and skills, but it prompted him to do a creative activity we wouldn’t have done on our own, and he’s having an awesome time imagining stories to act out with his shadow puppets.

For those of you with kids in the 3-7 age range who are interested in a really extensive educational app for your kids, I totally recommend Curious World. It is a subscription service, but you can sign up for a 30-day free trial if you want to check it out before you commit! There are no advertisements at all, so you don’t have to worry about kids clicking something that will charge you extra, or take them to another site or app. Download in the App Store today! The collection of videos, games, and books is curated by global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and new content is added weekly, so there’s always something new to check out. And there’s even a dashboard for parents so you can see what your content your child is accessing the most (like if they’re avoiding math activities and focusing on reading, or if they prefer books over games, etc).

I have been so, so happy with the app, and Forrest has, too. Gotta love an app that he is crazy about, and doesn’t even realize that he’s learning.
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