Monday, June 30, 2014

Bath Time


Last week we had bath-time for my little ragamuffins. Because I could not contain myself - can I ever with them? - I took pawparazzi pictures. Peaches moves around way too much for me to photograph her in the tub, but Amara tends to stand there, frozen, and occasionally huff at me. (Hence the slightly-out-of-focus pictures.)
Both Amara and Peaches tend to be a bit confused about bath time. They always seem to love the idea of it - until they get wet. In the morning when I go to wash my own hair and they hear the rush of water, they come running, begging to be put in the tub. Peaches'll half sit-half stand there, crying, wiggling her bum so fast that she could propel herself across the house with it. Meanwhile, Amara bounces around my feet like an unmanned pogo stick.

"Water? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Bath. We want a bath! Take us with you! Can we come? Please, oh please, please, please let us bathe."

Then comes the actual bath time.

Maybe something gets lost in translation.

Maybe they forget that bath time means the water has to go on them.

Whatever it is, I am not their best friend. Peaches gives a dirty stare (which, given her gentle nature is humorous) as if cursing my existence. I can practically hear her grumble: "This is not what I signed on for."  Amara widens her eyes
, the epitome of puppy-dog eyes, and stares up at me, pleadingly: "But-but-but can't I come out now?"
"Mom. Mom, I'm wet. There is water on me.
I am standing in dampness. Mom.
Do something about this."

When it is all over, though, they both look up at me with such excitement. First, they deem me crazy for such torture. They return the favor by
soaking me shaking off their excess water. They zip around the bathroom celebrating their freedom - because, goodness knows, they almost drown in that prison filled with an inch of bath water. And then, finally, when they've completed their ritual they stare expectantly at me. Just like this.

"Treat time?"

Got her edgy chick look goin' on. I think she's adorable.
I need a picture.  She's wondering why I haven't gotten her food yet.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bring Reading Rainbow Back, Everywhere: Kickstarter

Source: Reading Rainbow Kickstarter
This is not a sponsored post, just a labor of love.

Who wasn't in love with Reading Rainbow?

Reading is magic. Albeit, reading is a learned passion which must be nurtured to develop; once the passion develops, a spark is ignited that can never be quenched. I cannot remember the precise moment when my addiction started. Perhaps it was the first time dad cracked open a Sesame Street book as a bedtime story, Grover-voice and all. Or maybe the first mystery Nancy Drew took me on. Whenever it happened, the important part was that it did. I am lucky. Not only do I know how to read, I love reading.

For many - 1 in every 4 kids in the United States - growing up illiterate is the reality. (source:Reading Rainbow Kickstarter or here if you’re on mobile) That statistic is a disturbing, saddening reality. No child should have to face illiteracy in this modern age. No Child Left Behind was supposed to fix this problem by pushing to increase literacy.

  If you’re wondering what happened to Reading Rainbow? LeVar Burton explained it here. It wasn’t cancelled because it was not popular or had outlived its usefulness. (I know that I, for one, was glued to the screen when it played. When it ended, I was crushed. What about having it for my kids?!) It was taken off the air largely because of the change in education as a result of No Child Left Behind. The shift in education went to teaching kids how to read, the rudiments of reading, and away from teaching kids to love to read. (Which as a short-term goal makes sense: literacy is hugely important in our society, plus it is difficult to love something if you do not know how to do it.) Fostering a love of reading went to the wayside, no finances in the budget left for that. A love of reading became a luxury, not an education. Burton and the Reading Rainbow team know education does not have to an either/or kind situation. Choosing the rudiments over love of reading rather than inextricably link the two together is the definition of insanity. The truly radical notion would be to teach the rudiments of reading while fostering a love of it.

According to the statistics listed on Reading Rainbow’s kickstarter (more information to come) “numerous studies reveal that children who can't read at grade level by the 4th grade are 400% more likely to drop out of high school.” Additionally: “as of 2011, America was the only free-market country where the current generation was less well educated than the one before.”  Clearly, although it has made a difference, No Child Left Behind hasn’t gone as well as planned.

When I look back on my high school career, it is little surprise.  I could count on my hands the number of kids in my large class rooms that loved reading enough to enjoy the learning that went along with it. The majority of them hated it. Despised it. The current education model had so many kids hating reading. It feels like work - painful, awful, and boring. They didn’t care to expand their vocabulary because they didn’t want to read. Poor vocabulary made reading more difficult, but they didn’t want to attempt to understand what they had difficulty with because they hated reading, so they just didn’t read. They didn’t read so their reading grade levels went down. Teachers got mad at students for not trying and goofing off. Students wanted to read less. And so it started all over again. It was a vicious cycle. Motivation and curiosity for learning went out the window.

A love of learning is a love of reading. A love of reading fosters a love of learning. They are hand in hand.

tion is the key to everything, Albert Einstein knew that.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
" – Albert Einstein

That imagination, that creativity, is what our current school system model is missing. We sacrificed imagination
and creativity for the rudiments, the equally important groundwork. These two factors, however, need to be used in balance and compliment; not sacrificing one for the other. Grammar, vocabulary, punctuation – it is impossible to move up in society or career field without this ground work. They are important components of education and communication. Yet, without that imagination, there is no advancement in our society. Inventions, innovations – the internet, the cars we drive, the ways in which we clean up natural disasters and oil spills – are all made possible through imagination and creativity. Before inventing into reality, someone had to imagine the invention. Rip away a love of reading, stifle creativity, and we lose that innovation. Lose grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation and lose the ability to communicate these creations into reality. Passion without means has nowhere to go. Teaching reading is as important as teaching a love of reading and vice-versa. How does one both educate a child to be literate and have fun?

Enter Reading Rainbow.

(I listened to that song the entire time I wrote this post. No shame!)

Reading Rainbow is not just about fostering a love of reading – but a love of learning. The video adventures, such as the classic episodes featuring trips to china town to be introduced to Chinese cooking or to warehouses to see how a product is manufactured, teach children. Books are related to life; they are a doorway to knowledge, adventure, and fun. They teach us about life - problem solving, relationships, sharing. It is not just knowing how a sentence is put together or what it means, but knowing why the sentence is important. When a child is excited about something, loves something, and finds joy in it, they do it. Reading Rainbow got kids excited about reading.

? How about gets kids excited about reading.

First the app
, now everywhere! The amazing Reading Rainbow team wants to bring back the beloved education show for children everywhere - not only to people with tablet access. Best of all, they want to make this web-accessed Reading Rainbow free for schools in need. This is an amazing opportunity for families and educators who are always on the lookout for ways to better children’s education but do not always have the means. The idea is simple: if kids love reading, kids will read. If kids have access to reading and are taught how to read, they will read. LeVar, Mark Wolf, and their team want to help with both of these factors. By being accessible to schools for free, Reading Rainbow would supplement the rudiments of reading.

In only 24 hours, the Reading Rainbow campaign raised $1 Million Dollars.
With that $1 Million Dollars Reading Rainbow will be able to reach everywhere (households) via the web and every child will have access in 1500 classrooms. This is a huge opportunity! 10 days until the end of their campaign and they are at $3, 919, 839 but still not as close to the $5 Mil stretch goal.  $5 Mill will enable Reading Rainbow to supply 7500 classrooms for free and supply Mobile, Android, Consoles, and OTT Boxes. Every dollar still counts. Every dollar enables Reading Rainbow to reach more children, more schools, and do more to make this the best and most educational program possible.  There all kinds of ideas out there for if they reach past the $5 Million mark in the next 10 days (library access included!).

Helping out with the cause is easy: spread the word, share the kickstarter, encourage others to donate, and, if you can, donate. The donation options run from $1-on up. I am going to donation again now! Every small donate counts, just as much as the large ones. However, the larger the donations you give, the cooler the gifts. (College student here, so I’m sticking to the $1-$10 donations) Trekkies should definitely check it out! There are tons of prizes for Star Trek fans listed in the Updates section.

o donate to support, share the kickstarter, or to go to Youtube watch the funny kickstarter video over and over again, getting just as excited as I did - here are the links.

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter Video

Also, go on over and check out
the very first page of the Update section (now roughly page 4) on the Kickstarter where you can see an emotional and exciting reaction to the team hitting the $1 Million thresh hold. If nothing else gets your heart beating for this project, that video will.

A love of reading is the basis for
an education that can bring a child anywhere. The opportunities are endless.

Look next week for what Reading Rainbow meant to me, the impact it made on my education, and how it impacted - and continues to impact - others.
In the meantime, donate & spread the word!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Sweetness: Baked Strawberry Shortcake Guest Post

Happy Father’s day!

This past week has been one of the craziest weeks I have had all summer – I have barely slowed down! Between Father's Day shenanigans, exams, weddings, pet sitting, house sitting, and prepping for a fun blogger meet-up next week, I’ve barely been able to keep up. I have a lot of future blog posts in the works, stuck in my back pocket for days where I have a few short hours to spare. This week, though, I knew that getting a post out would be just impossible so I begged and pleaded for help. And it came!

The wonderful Olivia over at LivLoveLaugh is guest posting for me this week as a scramble around, trying to keep my head attached to my body. (Ah!) I’m uber (uberuberuber) grateful for her help. She is a wonderful young woman, a great writer – and I was super excited to see she was a fellow homeschooler! Olivia and I have a lot in common, between that, a lot of writing, photographing every bit of everyday life, being college students, and, of course, the most important: giving our pets adorable nicknames. I love her posts, particularly her Tuesday Loves posts, Blogger University posts, and her lists posts (such as this gem here on five garage sale items you never have to buy retail…this yard-sale gal loved that one!). Please check out her page, I know she’d love the love – and I’d love to give back to her for helping out!

You can find her at her blog as well as on Twitter and Instagram @livlivinglife, and on FB @livlovelaughblog

Since it is a special holiday, it’s only fitting we have a little something sweet! Olivia is about to show as a delicious, simple and quick strawberry shortcake that will satisfy that craving. Keep reading to see it - but, be warned, you might want to make sure you have strawberries on hand! Her pictures will leave you wanting for some of your own. 
- - - - - - -

Strawberry shortcake is a dessert that just screams summer to me.

After a long day at my internship, I’m not usually in the mood to cook anything special. That’s where this dessert comes in: it’s easy, quick, and delicious.

First, let’s bake the strawberries. This is a technique that seems to have gotten popular on Pinterest lately, so I looked at a few recipes and decided to try it.

            Strawberries: however many you’d like! I used one quart.
            Sugar (optional): a couple of tablespoons
            Vanilla extract (optional): two or three teaspoons

This actually couldn’t be easier. Take a carton of strawberries—they were on sale at our grocery store this week for half off!—rinse them, and cut them up. You can slice them, but I decided to go with the quick and dirty quarters.

Strawberries, quick & dirty quarter style - Katie

If you want them to be a little more flavorful and bring out the natural sweetness, put them in a bowl and let them marinate with a little sugar and some vanilla extract for about half an hour. I did this while I cooked the rest of my dinner.
Vanilla & sugar

Giving the strawberries a little soak so that their
personality will make more of a punch ;).
- Katie
Then, spread the berries on a baking sheet and stick them in a 350-degree oven for roughly twenty minutes. They’ll get a deeper red, juicy and extra sweet, even more delicious than fresh berries!

Since it’s probably warm outside (I know it’s warm in my apartment!) making a quick shortcake and baking it at the same time as the strawberries means having the oven on for less time so you can stay cool! You could always buy shortcake, but it tastes so much better homemade and takes only basic ingredients. I used this recipe you pretty much just cut the butter into flour and sugar, add milk, stir and bake.

To assemble:
Layer shortcake, baked strawberries, and whipped cream. Drizzle the strawberry juice on top.

The finished product -- it just makes you want to
eat it up right now. Where's my fork?! - Katie

Voila! An easy, fresh, delicious summer dessert.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Makeup Loves

This post is not sponsored. It comes to you from a very enthusiastic makeup-lover

Over the next few weeks I have had a couple weddings to attend (OOTD to come soon!). This means organizing outfits, shoes, makeup - everything. As this final wedding draws near, I noticed a trend in my makeup. While I was looking through my makeup yesterday, looking for my missing Burt's Bees lip balm (oh, what else is new? I'm always misplacing that thing), I noticed something that I never had before: I have a love affair with Physicians Formula and Mineral Fusion makeup.

If I were to pluck out the majority of my most-used products these two companies would be center stage. If that doesn't constitute a love-affair, I don't know what does. In honor of this, I thought I'd talk about my beloved products. I have very sensitive skin and none of these products bother me; I honestly could not rave about them enough.

Physicians Formula's Organic Wear Natural Lash Boosting Mascara ($9.95)

**Not tested on animals**

70% of this product comes from organic farming! Just that fact alone makes me want to happy dance. (This information comes from the product's page, go here to read more.)

Buying more natural products is not always the most cost effective for people. What I love about both this Physicians Formula Organic Wear mascara and the Mineral Fusion one I have listed next are that they are more affordable than other natural or organic product lines I have come across. Also, neither is tested on animals!

When it comes to this Physicians Formula mascara, I love it because the brush separates my lashes well. They look more numerous, thicker, longer, and stand out. (I was not one blessed with long, large, lushes eye lashes so, for me, this is a huge A+ in a product!) It also is not waterproof, so it is super easy for me to take off at night. The downside is that if I cry or sweat, off it comes. While I used to hate this I now prefer it. Taking off my eye make up is now gentler on delicate eye skin and muscles. All it takes is a little water on a wash cloth and a 1-2-3 swipe! It's really gentle and easy to clean off. Also, non-waterproof mascara has less chemicals in it than waterproof mascara, which is another huge A+ in my book.

Mineral Fusion's Lengthening Mascara ($14.99)

**Never tested on animals**

This mascara makes my eye lashes appear longer and much, much thicker. I've used this product for awhile now and am always pleased with it. I do find it smudges less than the Physician's Formula product, but the brush also does not separate my lashes as well as the Physicians Formula mascara. Because of their opposing pros and cons, I often go between the two depending on what effect I want. I love them both equally!

Just as with the Physicians Formula mascara, this Mineral Fusion product is not waterproof.

For more important info on why I love Mineral Fusion, check out the foundation product listed towards the end of this post!

Physicians Formula's Shimmer Strips: Custom Eye Enhancing Shadow & Liner - Nude Collection ($11.95)

Custom Eye Enhancing Shadow & Liner Nude Collection - See more at:
Custom Eye Enhancing Shadow & Liner Nude Collection - See more at:
**Not tested on animals**

Now, this product isn't organic or overly healthy or anything like that. I have had this for years. I think this might even be high school-years old. But let me tell you: it is one of my favorite products. I have received countless compliments on how well-blended, natural, and stunning my eye makeup has been while where this product. It is incredibly versatile! With the variety of nudes it is easy to get a well-blended day look. Come night it is easy to transition to a more smoky, sultry eye. If you have never gotten yourself a good nude product, go do it. It is one of the best tools you can have your beauty care setup.

Mineral Fusion's Concealer ($24.99)

**Never tested on animals**

This is my favorite concealer ever. I have gone through a lot of them. A lot. Having two shades to work with allows me to use one underneath to fight the scarring, redness, or blemishes and the other on top to seal-the-deal. It covers so well and the color I use blends into my skin so well that I have even worn it without foundation before, on days I just want to cover up and go out. This product also lasts a really long time. A little goes a long way. I have had my container of concealer since December and it is still going strong! I won't have to re-buy until just before school starts.

For more info on why I love Mineral Fusion, check out the next product!

Mineral Fusion's Pressed Powder Foundation ($29.99)

** Never tested on animals**

This product isn't cheap by any means. As a college student forking out money to pay for classes, commuting costs, and other expenses I know how important it is to stay on budget. However, I also know how important it is to have good products. The further I travel on my path towards being a Naturopath, the more important it becomes that I stand by my resolve to put the least harmful products on my body that I can. This does not mean that I think Mineral Fusion is the best company out there. But I do know, health-wise, it is better than a lot of others. The benefit to my health, to knowing what I am putting on my skin is not overtly harmful, means a lot to me. As Mineral Fusion puts on their About Us page, they aim to really care for skin. This means no "gluten, parabens, talc, artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, SLS, and phthalates." (All of this information is on the About Us page.) And for the vegetarians out there, the product is 100% vegetarian with a large percentage also being 100% vegan. In their product descriptions they call this "formula purity."

Also, as an eco-lover and tree-hugger, it makes me happy to know that the company is "committed to sustainability and utilize wind power, soy inks, packaging from recycled materials and packaging that is recyclable." (All of this information is on the About Us page.)  Plus the company has a lot of other great missions - like raising awareness of domestic violence and showing support to battered women.

Beyond these factors, which although a significant enough, when I pay $30 for a product, I want it to work and work well. So, let me tell you: it works. This make up gives me one of the most flawless looks I have ever achieved with a make up. And, if I want an extra oomph (say on a day I am super self-conscious) I layered the make up like this: BB cream, concealer, foundation. I take a lot of pictures because I am big on memories and moments. Whenever I use this product and especially when I layer, I never have a problem. My skin always looks flawless, uniform in color, healthy, and youthful. It is so lightweight that I often forget I am wearing anything. It is like a second layer of skin.

And, the big plus for me: this stuff lasts forever. I use this foundation nearly every day. I bought the one I am using now in December (and that was only because I misplaced my old one in luggage) is now June. Six month's later and my make up is as full as the first day I bought it.  Because of the coverage quality I use 1/2 of the make up I normally would. When I break it down, even though $30 feels like a lot when I buy it, it really ends up being pennies in the bucket since it lasts so long.

Physicians Formula's Gentle Wear 100% Natural Origin 2-in-1 Bronzer & Blush ($13.95)
**Not tested on animals**

Another more natural product from Physicians Formula (paraben-free!), this 2-in-1 Bronzer & Blush has been my favorite blush for a really long time. The color is smooth, soft, and natural. It can be applied lightly to add a healthy glow during the daytime or darker at night, to accentuate cheekbones. This Bronzer & Blush is lightweight. Just as with my foundation I forget I am wearing it!

Mineral Fusion Lipstick ($14.99)

(No photo available, because I seem to have misplaced it. Oh no!)

**Never tested on animals**

This is my newest buy. As I slowly move away from more chemical-laden brands into more natural, and even organic products, in my beauty care, my next swap out is lipstick. I have been needing to do this for awhile. Most of my products are old. Knowing that most of the lipsticks available to us in America are lead-laden, I've been wanting to find a more reliable source. The more I can decrease exposure to environmental toxins like lead, the better. Even in natural products, this is becoming an issue. (Burt's Bees, a favorite product of mine, has been labeled as having an acceptable level of lead for consumer use by law, but consumer questioning of the high levels has led to the company looking at ways to reduce lead contamination. Yay!)

Mineral fusion aims to have as little lead in their products as possible. These two articles here and here discuss their process.

I am happy and proud to say that I love this lipstick. It is soft and smooth, not at all drying. The colors are rich and stunning. I have definitely found my new lipstick!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guesting on Wandering Forevermore

Hello Doodles! Today I'm guest posting over at Wandering Forevermore. Wandering Forevermore is a diverse blog, from fitness to DIY, food, fashion, and a dash of lifestyle. After meeting Beth through HCBN and getting to know her better, I've learned we have quite a bit in common and that she has fantastic taste in, well, just about everything. I'm so happy to be able to help her out and take over for the evening!

Go show her some love! <3

Check out my post here.
Check out her blog lovin' page here.
Check out her blog here.
Check her out on facebook here.

Go, go, go, go!