"I just blue myself"...the origin of my logo mark

This morning I logged into Facebook and got one of those "on this day, two years ago" reminders. The picture that showed up was one of my very favorite memories of my dearly-departed Lucille.

Two years ago, I walked back to my desk after a very long work meeting to discover that my dog had turned blue. After a little detective work, I discovered broken bits and pieces of a pen she'd apparently eaten. Nearly half a box of baby wipes later I still had a blue dog, so I took her outside for a "shame" picture. The ink on her fur faded within a week...but I think there's still some faint blue footprints on the carpet at the old Vérité building.

About a month after this incident, I found myself frantically trying to come up with some sort of logo for Nikki Makes Things that I could slap on some business cards for the upcoming Designer Vaca. Branding yourself is hard, and I spent hours trying to come up with something I liked. I don't know exactly what made me decide on my blue dog, maybe it was the desperation or lack of sleep....or maybe it was the fat idiot (a loving nickname we had for Lucille) snoozing at my feet that put the idea in my head. After an hour in Adobe Illustrator I had my new business card design, one that I actually quite liked! 

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Since printing those cards two years ago, I've taken my bulldog mark and completely run with it. I've had a lot of positive responses to the mark, I guess there's other crazy bulldog people out there like me! Sometime in the future I'll need to update the look and feel of my brand, hopefully my Lucille will still have a place in it.

Garlic & Rosemary Breakfast Potatoes

I think it could be universally agreed upon that the potato is the perfect food. You can boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew...they're amazing. About once every quarter, my boyfriend and I get blinded by hunger and decide it is a good idea to get the Costco-sized bag of red potatoes because they are "just such a good deal". The last time this happened was over Christmas break, which meant that we were tasked with the "chore" of having to cook a potato dish nearly every day. As a result, I got to develop a delicious, crunchy breakfast potato recipe that we enjoyed at least 4 times over the break. The real trick to this recipe is the ice bath, it helps suck out some of the potato starches, which lets the potatoes get fluffy and crunchy as they bake. Definitely don't skip this step.

Garlic & Rosemary Breakfast Potatoes

Makes 2 larger servings or 4 small ones

 

Ingredients:

Roughly 450g (or 1lb) of red potatoes

1 1/2 tbs rosemary

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil to coat the baking dish

 

Instructions:

1. Wash and quarter the potatoes, then place them in a bowl and cover with ice water for 20 minutes.

2. Pre-heat oven to 450º.

3. Drain and rinse the potatoes, then place back in the bowl.

4. Grind dry ingredients together (my magic bullet works wonderfully for this) and toss with the potatoes.

5. Arrange potatoes in a single layer in an oiled glass dish or oiled baking sheet.

6. Bake for 20 minutes then flip the potatoes and bake for an additional 20-25 till golden and crispy. The skins will be slightly puffy when the potatoes are ready.

8. Pair with your favorite breakfast items, on the day this picture was taken, I enjoyed my potatoes with turkey sausages and some delicious egg toast.

My #1 Weight-loss Tool

A few years ago I lost 30lbs and managed to keep it off.

Just over a year ago I went through some hard stuff and spent most of 2015 being indulgent and not really investing that much time and effort in my health. As a result, I gained back 20 of those 30lbs.

A month ago, I decided to gain back control over my body and that meant making a better effort to be active and to finally get back into diligently counting my calories and eating well. While exercise is great, calorie counting was the real key to my initial 30lb loss. When I tell people this they typically react badly, with comments like: "Oh, that just sounds like too much work" or "Who has time for that?!".

Enter, my no-fail weight-loss tool: The Food Scale

When I first began my health journey I was tracking my food by measuring cups and spoons...and it wasn't working very well. After reading through some online resources, I realized that the fix was to invest $15 in a digital kitchen scale. Once I started weighing my portions and tracking my calories accurately, the weight started coming off and I started to actually enjoy making meals. There are quite a few articles out there explaining the benefits of using a kitchen scale over measuring cups, the main reason being that there are simply to many variables in using cups to get an accurate measurement. Here are some examples of the difference below:

  1. Shredded Cheese: When shoved into a cup, the cheese came in at 36g, nearly a 30% increase.
  2. Kalamata Olives: The serving size on the bottle claims to be 2 olives (14g) every time I weigh them, it's 3 olives to get to 14g. I don't think anyone wants to miss out on a bonus olive.
  3. Pasta: With so many different pasta shapes, you can bet that throwing them in a cup will always yield different results. The cup method gave me 47g of pasta, 16% less than the 56g serving size.
  4. Potatoes: The most delicious of vegetables is the beloved potato, and is something I definitely don't want to be short-changed on. The bag claims 1 potato will make up the 148g serving size. Unsurprisingly, it took two of them.

The best part about using a food scale is that it trains you to be able to visualize serving sizes, thus improving your ability to make healthier eating choices. While it may not matter as much for healthy low-cal foods like vegetables, it makes a huge difference for more calorie-dense items like grains, dairy, and condiments.

Playing catchup

Whoa.

It's December and my last post was in April. Real talk, where has the time gone?

If I have to think back over the last almost 8 months, I'd like to say that nothing has changed....but that wouldn't be quite accurate. So let's do a quick little catchup, shall we?

Shortly after my last post I was perusing Utah Real Estate and noticed that a condo in the project I was renting in was for sale. The price was more than affordable and I had been worrying for a few months about the possibility of my rent increasing and thus, out-pricing me out of the neighborhood I've come to love. After a chat with the boyfriend where he helped me weigh the pros and cons, I decided to dial up my real estate agent to see what he thought. On May 27th I signed my life away and became the owner of a condo, with a mortgage and HOA fee that totaled only about $150 more than what I was paying in rent. Since the Sugarhouse area is growing so fast, I feel like I jumped into the "real estate game" at a great time. Within a few weeks both myself and my boyfriend (living together for the first time, eek!) were moved in to our new place. The first few months were kind of awful, with a drug-dealing, wife-beating renter living above us...however multiple calls to the police and a hardcore HOA board meant that they were evicted by the end of August. We still don't love our new upstairs neighbors (that's a whole other story) but they let us sleep at night, so I can't complain too much.

Aside from becoming a homeowner, the last 8 months have seen me get way into camping and I exhibited at my 3rd comic-con. The boyfriend and I went on several camping trips over the summer and it was SO FUN. I now find myself trolling Amazon in my spare time, looking wistfully at all the camp gear that I so desperately desire. My third comic-con happened back in September and I feel like Lindsey and I FINALLY have our booth setup down to a science. Although we didn't do as well as we'd hoped, we talked to a lot of fans and had so much fun over the three long days behind our booths. Since we apparently love torture, we've signed up for SLC's upcoming FanX in the spring, so come see us!

This concludes the highlights from the last 8 months, hopefully it won't be as long of a break between this post and the next. If I don't post before Christmas, then happy holidays to all!

The Honest Company Bundle Subscription Review

I first heard about The Honest Company probably 6 months ago on some blog. The writer had mentioned that for only $5 you could order a deluxe sampler of their products, so I decided to take the plunge. Something you should know about this $5 sampler that isn't very obvious on their site is that by signing up to receive it, you are also signing up to be part of their subscription bundle program, unless you cancel within a certain amount of days. Being the person I am, I didn't read the fine print and was a little peeved to find a $50 charge to my credit card a few weeks later. Lesson learned.

Despite this sort of rocky start, I have to say that I am overall very impressed with their products. As far as the "subscription" part of it goes, I've grown to like it. Instead of being committed to receiving the products monthly, they let you go into your account and pick a date when you want the next box to ship. So I can decide whether I want to re-stock in a month or a couple of months.  So far I've tried quite a few of them, which I will review individually below:

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Multi-Surface Cleaner

This stuff is definitely my favorite of all their cleaning products...it just smells SO GOOD. Instead of filling my kitchen with chemical smells when I clean, I'm left with fresh grapefruit filling the air. At first I was a little skeptic about the cleaning power of this stuff, but its been great.

Floor Cleaner

Just like the Multi-Surface Cleaner, this stuff smells great with a mix of rosemary and citrus. It does a great job of cutting through the grime without leaving a weird residue.

Bathroom Cleaner

This stuff reminds me of the Multi-Surface cleaner, but with a eucalyptus-mint scent that I don't especially love. I think once this bottle is used up I won't be buying again...especially since I prefer to use bleach products for most of my bathroom cleaning.

Hand Soap

These soaps smell lovely and don't leave my hands over-dried. While I was initially pretty stoked on them, I have found out that they are not anti-bacterial. They're great for ridding my hands of dirt, but I find myself reaching for Dawn dish-soap when dealing with food prep.

Fruit & Veg Wash

Truthfully, I cannot tell if this product really makes THAT big of a difference, compared to washing produce with plain water or a light vinegar bath. . I probably wont buy another bottle once it runs out.

Dishwasher Packets

This is the one product I really don't like. It seems to be leaving a light residue on my dishes and doesn't get everything clean, by the end of the cycle I can usually pull out 4-5 dishes that need more scrubbing. I will not be buying this again.

Stain Remover

I haven't had the opportunity to use this stuff a lot, but I with the little I have used it I can say that it works decently. It works well on fresh stains, but not so great on anything that has dried into the fabric. I'd say that Spray'n'Wash is still the go-to for really tough laundry stains.

Healing Balm

This stuff is super moisturizing, thick, and OILY. I prefer to use it after giving myself a manicure at a time when I can just sit and let it soak in. It's also great for dry feet, just make sure you cover them with socks so you're not having to track oil all over the floor!

Face + Body Lotion

The texture of the lotion is weird...almost slimy. That being said, it does moisturize well but isn't anything special. This is a product that is good, but didn't "wow" me enough to order it again.

 

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Shampoo + Body Wash

While I can't speak to the shampooing merits of this stuff (I'm too particular about my hair care!) I can say that it is pretty decent body wash. The smell is pleasant, light, and orangey. It didn't leave my skin too dry, which is pretty rare for this lizard-woman. That being said, I don't think I love it enough to order it again.

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Conditioner

The conditioner has a very similar texture to the lotion: slimy. The sliminess, however, leaves my hair soft enough, but not as soft as the Khiel's stuff I love. Lately I've been using it as a shaving cream, which it is awesome for! It leaves my body so silky and so smooth, and doesn't wash off easily in the shower like many other shaving creams. Once this bottle runs out I will probably buy another just for shaving.

Deodorant

I ordered a bottle of this stuff when Honest first launched it earlier this year. It was after my dear auntie was diagnosed with breast cancer (the 4th case of it in my immediate family) and it prompted me to start thinking about the small ways I could lessen my own cancer probability. I'd heard good things about going "natural" with deodorant, so I decided to try the Bergamot Sage scent. I'm not going to sugar-coat it, going off of chemical antiperspirant/deodorant is really rough for the first week or two. My body went through an adjustment period (which I've found out is normal) and I felt constantly sweaty/smelly. However, my body adjusted and I can now say that I LOVE this product. I can apply it once in the morning and be stink-free the rest of the day. Although it doesn't have any antiperspirant in it, I've found that I now sweat less than I did before. If you've ever thought about making the jump to natural, I highly recommend this stuff.

Overall, I've been pretty pleased with most of the products I've ordered from this company. They cost a little more than your average cleaning and beauty supplies, but I'm willing to throw a few extra dollars toward leading a healthier life.

Tell me, have any of you ever tried their products? What are you thoughts?