Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quinoa/Corn Pasta Healthy Stove Top Mac n' Cheese

Hi Shine and Sparkle Report Readers!

Today I have a super awesome and really healthy recipe I have adapted to make me feel much less guilty about one of my favorite foods.  Mac n' Cheese! Those of you who follow me on facebook/instagram/twitter will have seen these pictures before this recipe was up.  Oh, now you want to follow me on other social media? Go right ahead!

Quick Note: Quinoa/Corn Pasta (I use Ancient Harvest Elbows)* is great and won't leave you missing regular pasta at all!  Just make sure to only cook it for about 5 minutes (not the 6-8 recommended) or else your meal will be mush.

The "extras" in this picture of my Mac n' Cheese that is copyright of myself are all natural nitrate and preservative free ham and organic frozen peas.  If you'd like to use this image, please ask first.  Thanks!

Quinoa/Corn Pasta Healthy Stove Top Mac n' Cheese

1 pound Quinoa/Corn Pasta---This will be 2 boxes if you get the Ancient Harvest Elbows.
1 1/2 cups Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk---I use this because the Almond Breeze's Original Unsweetened Almond Milk, is only 30 calories a cup!
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour---I have not tried to substitute this, it's only 2 tbs.
2-3 cups Lite Cheese (shredded)---I suggest getting block lite sharp cheese in block form and shred it yourself.  The additives in shredded lite cheese are not so great.  Also, sharp cheese will pack more flavor for less cheese. My favorite is "Lite Celtic Sharp Cheddar" from Trader Joes.
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Pepper
Suggestion of Extras (cook before adding): ham, peas, broccoli, bacon, cayenne pepper for spice...anything!

1. Make Pasta--Prepare the pasta according to directions on box (only 5 minutes if using Ancient Harvest Elbows). When the pasta is done cooking, set it aside. Mini-Tip: It will not seem done at all.  Alternative pastas are very sensitive to heat, and the residual heat will finish cooking the pasta when you are making the sauce. 

2. Make Cheese Sauce--Begin by warming 1 cup of the milk in the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and the flour until there are no lumps (NO LUMPS IS KEY!) When you start to see steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-and-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens (about 3 minutes).

3. Add the Cheese--Turn the heat down to low (or completely off if you are using an electric stove) and begin mixing handfuls of cheese into the thickened milk. Stir in the salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir until all the cheese has melted. Adjust the seasonings to your taste buds.

4. Combine the Pasta, Extras, and Cheese Sauce: Combine the pasta, extras, and the cheese sauce. Stir until everything is well combined.

I hoped you enjoyed this easy and healthy comfort food recipe! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.  I'll impart any useful cooking tips you might need!

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, I'm not a professional chef, just a cooking enthusiast!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ulta Beauty Haul and Mini Reviews!

Yo what's up Shine and Sparkle Report Readers?

So I love to see what other people decide to spend their money on when it comes to beauty stuff.  I also like the mini-reviews that tend to go with the hauls. So since I know I like it, I thought you might as well.  Without further ado, lets get started!


Repurchases (I obviously LOVE them since I'm repurchasing right?):

-The Balm Cosmetics Enroot "Moisturize My Hair" Shampoo*  (see post on this product here)
-Bastiste Dry Shampoo in "Wild" and "Blush" Scents were buy one get one 50% off, had to get 2 right? (see post on this product here)
-Paul Mitchel Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner "Special/Tingle" version.  I had the "Lemon Sage Thickening" version before.  I also love this one for more problematic scalp issue.
-Ulta Exfoliating Cotton Rounds are by far my favorite cotton rounds.  I only need one to take off all my eye make-up.  I also use them to apply my toner.  They have exfoliating side and regular side, depending on on how you are feeling that day.  They also stand up to being wet very well and do not shed bits of cotton all over your face. Hooray!
-Simple Cleansing/Make-up Removing Wipes are really nice.  They do not sting my eyes and are good on light make-up days or to cleanse my face when I'm being really lazy.  Since they were on major sale with the Simple "Radiance" Cleansing/Make-up Removing Wipes for Sensitive Skin, I got those too.  However, I have not had a chance to try them yet.  Considering how gentle the regular ones are, I'm interested if the "sensitive skin" ones are just as good or sacrifice effectiveness.

New Products (I just can't resist trying something new!):

-Maybelline "Pumped Up Colossal" Mascara in Water Proof is just ok.  I get waterproof mascara for my upper lashes because it typically holds are curl better than non-waterproof versions.  However, this was a bit disappointing because it did not hold a curl very well.  The volume from this mascara was ok, but nothing compared to Maybelline's "The Rocket Volume" Mascara.  If you are not as concerned with holding a curl and want a more natural volume look, I suggest this.  But I probably will not repurchase and will stick to "The Rocket Volume".
-Maybelline "The Colossal" Mascara in Water Proof.  I'm waiting for some of my other mascara to dry-up or need replacing to try this one.  But since I love "The Rocket Volume" so much, it's going to be a tall order for this mascara to live up to.  Let me know in the comments if you want me to do a mascara post in the comments!
-Essence "Get Big" Mascara got great reviews online and only cost $3.  I had to try it.  I think it is ok.  It is good for those who want to have a very subtle and natural look.  Gives lashes a little oomph, does not clump at all and is very smooth/does not smudge.  Not quite enough drama for my puny lashes, but people who naturally have more lashes or just want to darken their existing lashes should definitely check this out!
-NYX Cream Stick Blush in "Water Lilly" is a beautiful deep mauve pink.  For the summer I wanted a longer lasting blush that can stand up to some heat and complement my tanner skin.  This was perfect! Not greasy and easy to blend out.  I have used this by blending with my fingers and applying with a stippling brush.  Both worked great!  Setting this cream stick blush with a powder blush over it makes my blush last twice as long.  I'm a huge fan of these and will be getting more colors.  $6 well spent!

I hope you enjoyed this new type of review post.  I know I've introduced some new ways of reviewing (like my Product Empties Series of posts).  Let me know if you like them!

As always,
Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Healthy Green Breakfast Smoothie Recipe

Rise and Shine & Sparkle Dear Readers!  (get it?)

I have been on a bit of a clean eating binge.  One of the big changes I have made is making myself eating breakfast before I go to work.  Considering that I like to sleep in until the very last possible second, my adult life has rarely involved getting food in my tummy before arriving at work.  I have been able to successfully change this thanks to my “Shine and Sparkle Green Breakfast Smoothie”.  I find that doing this really jump starts my metabolism and energy for the day.  This single serve smoothie is also fast to make.  I can add all the ingredients to my Magic Bullet* the night before, then just blend for 30 seconds in the morning.  I like to make it pretty liquid in viscosity (just slightly thicker than an Odwalla type juice).  This really helps me chug all the nutrition I need in the morning in less than 2 minutes and also has the benefit of hydrating my body. 

The smoothie is packed with vitamins, protein, and even has some whole grains to make it a really great and well rounded breakfast.  And trust me, it tastes like tropical heaven.  Don’t let the green color scare you!

The Shine and Sparkle Green Breakfast Smoothie Recipe:

1 cup Fresh Spinach
½ cup Non-fat Plain Greek or European Style Yogurt
¼ cup fresh or frozen banana (using frozen fruit gives it a nice texture in my opinion, but both work)
¼ cup fresh or frozen pineapple
¼ cup unsweetened vanilla or plain almond milk
¼ cup of classic rolled oats
Water (about ½ a cup is what I like, but more or less determines how thick the smoothie is).

1) Add ingredients to blender.  If storing overnight in a magic bullet cup, make sure the wet ingredients and oats are at the bottom of the cup. Then add the fruit and spinach on top.  This prevents the spinach from wilting and lets the oats absorb some of the liquid over night and get soft and easier to blend.  If making right away, just throw everything in a blender.

2) Blend.

3) Drink.

So simple right?  I’m very happy with this smoothie.  The oats provide a nutty taste, extra fiber, long lasting whole grain energy, and keep you from getting hungry before morning snack/lunch time.  The spinach and fruits provide great vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a great sweet taste.  The yogurt provides dairy calcium, probiotics, and protein.  When combined with almond milk, there is a lovely creamy element to the smoothie.  Winning!  The smoothie is also low in calories, so makes it a good option for those concerned about weight.  

Bonus:  Good nutrition not only keeps your body healthy, but it also helps promote beautiful hair, skin, and nails. Incorporating this kind of nutrition packed breakfast might just help improve your overall quality of life. 

Let me know if you try it, have suggestions of other yummy smoothies!

As Always,

Shine & Sparkle!

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Special Go-Fund Me Post

Hi Shine and Sparkle Report Readers!

I wanted to write a special post about my current Go-Fund Me campaign to Help Promote The Shine and Sparkle Report!

In April 2012, I started writing my first post on the Shine and Sparkle Report.  It has been an amazing experience so far.  I have gone from just a few friends coming through my blog, to people from around the world!  I started with one humble report a month to posting every Wednesday.  I have also received some amazing opportunities to review products.  I am so honored to have been accepted into the "Her Campus Blogger Network", where I connect with other beauty bloggers and continue to grow my audience.

I have embraced social media with a presence on Instagram, Twitter, Bloglovin', and Google+.  I even have business cards which I hand out like candy.  All of this has been working to build my viewership steadily every month.  In the almost 2.5 years of blogging, the site has seen a increase in monthly viewership every month.

After almost 2.5 years, I thought I'd take things to the next level and try and promote my blog by running an advertising Campaign.

This would be done through Facebook's paid advertising program.  Facebook allows me to promote my blog as well as my blog's facebook page.  My ideal scenario is to run a maximum-reach ad campaign (for both the facebook page as well as the blog) for 30 days.

If fully funded, this ad campaign can potentially draw:
1) A total of 540-1170 new clicks on my blog
2) A total of 540-2130 new "likes" on my facebook page

If over funded, this ad campaign can go on for more than 30 days!

The hope is that with the increase exposure, I can generate a larger repeat viewership and influence of my blog.

I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for donating!

Shine & Sparkle!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Spring Fling" Cult Blackbox Review

Hola Shine and Sparkle Report Readers!

Thank you for tuning into another edition of the Shine and Sparkle Report! Today I have another subscription box review. So lets jump right in shall we?  FYI I know it is not "spring" at all.  However, these colors are still sold on the Cult Website.  Also, I wanted you to know what I thought about this box from the subscription service.

Cult Black Boxes* Generally Have:
-2 Full Size Cult Nail Polishes
-1 Full Size Beauty Product
-Some Extras
All this for $9.99 (with intro deals you can get it for less than $9.99).  I don't think you will ever see it for the retail value of $40, so just think of it at $9.99

My "Spring Fling" Cult Black Box:

- Belmont Shore by CULT (0.5 oz, $12 value)
- Hollywood Forever by CULT (0.5 oz, $12 value)
- Makeup Brush set by CULT (set of 7)
- Eye Crayon Crystal by BH Cosmetics

The Good:
The packaging was lovely and high quality.  I liked the thank you card, free sticker and the box itself.  All the items were packaged very safety for shipping as well.  Their customer service is also fantastic.  Big kudos to them, see why below.

The Bad:
The products just were not that great. 
  • Belmont Shore: This pink color was very watery and hard to work with.  You need 3 coats at least.  Stick with very thin layers because any semblance of thickness will equal polish running all over your cuticles...and everywhere.  Also, while the bottle shapes are cute in your nail polish display, the square top is bulky and makes application somewhat awkward.
  • Hollywood Forever:  I originally thought this had been opened previously.  It was impossibly thick and nonfunctional.  As you can see in the opened-polish picture, there was a hair on it and lots of crusty nail polish around the opening.  Ew.  And despite being pretty in the bottle, completely useless.
  • Make Up Brushes: Meh.  The eyeliner and the blush brush were not too bad. The eyebrow brush/eyelash comb duo was also ok, but unremarkable.  The rest, hit the trash can.  I got a little roll to keep travel size brushes in, which was cool I guess
  • Eye Crayon:  Hit the trash after one attempt.  The swatch in the picture above is after tons of pressure and back and forth on my hand.  It still isn't very pigmented.  I also tugged on my eyelid for no color pay-off when I tried it on my eyes.  Lastly, the water proof part is a joke. Smudge city.  No thank you.
Needless to say based on the product reviews above, I called customer service to cancel.  They were truly fantastic.  A real person picked up immediately.  Also, they didn't argue or anything about canceling my subscription so I was obligation free in a flash.  Then the representative asked why I was canceling.  I explained "the bad" briefly.  She offered to send me a new "Hollywood Forever" at no cost, without a subscription (aka keeping my account canceled.)  Not one to say no to free stuff, I said sure and that I might re-subscribe if I got better results from it.

Ms. Sparkles got the new "Hollywood Forever" which was the same useless and thick polish.  Ms. Sparkles never resubscribed to Cult Black Box.  Ms. Sparkles did not recommend Cult Black Box to her readers.

Ms. Sparkles says,

Shine & Sparkle! 

P.S. What am I supposed to do with 3 polishes that I don't like =( I guess they will continue to just look cute in my nail polish display...

*I am not paid or contacted by any of the companies mentioned in this post.  These are my honest feelings and opinions. Also, like all my images, I'll gladly give someone credit for their image or take it down if someone throws a hissy fit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My 2014 Experience Flying United First Class (Domestic) & Breakfast Review

Hi Shine and Sparkle Report Readers,

This is early because of work.  It is also not about beauty.  Sorry (not really).  Regularly scheduled beauty tips next week!

I recently had the pleasure of being upgraded to First Class on a United flight from California to Washington DC.  Let’s forget the ungodly hour of 4:00am that I arrived at the airport for my  6:00am flight ok?  When I got upgraded, I looked into (and asked colleagues) what kinds of perks I could look forward to.  I know this isn’t very beauty related, but I thought I should document my experience since I thought that this information was pretty lacking in Google searches.   I figure, if I’m interested in what the experience of flying first class domestically on United is like (especially the food), then someone else out there probably does too!  If nothing else, maybe you’ll be inspired to check out my food reviewing on my yelp account *wink wink*.

More leg room is a big deal for those people who are pretty tall.  The extra personal space is great for anyone!  A nice big pocket in the back of the leather seats means that I could easily store my laptop, iPad, and phone in the seat in front of me.  The tray table came out of the arm rest and spanned the whole extra-wide seat.  The large table was great for working, drafting this post, and fitting the large tray my meal was served on.

The stewardess offered to take my coat and hang it up. OooohAhhh.   I also got a pre-flight drink (I chose hot tea) in a normal plastic cup. I enjoyed this while waiting for all the muggles in boarding groups 2-547 to board. 
In the Air:
I was offered my first round of beverages in REAL glass/ceramic cups.  Also, alcohol is complementary.  Did this mean I had another tea in a ceramic mug and a free bloody mary before 8am? Oh yeah.  I also got offered a hot towel.  I used this to clean my hands and then my personal space (an act inspired by the only other blog post I found about this on the internet).

I am old enough to remember sticking my nose in the air and snubbing “airplane food”.  It used to be slightly better than the stuff we got in the public school cafeteria line (which somehow always smelled the same no matter if it was pizza or chicken).  But now, free meals at all on planes is something that just doesn’t happen for 99% of us anymore.  The idea that someone brought me food that wasn’t shrink wrapped or preserved indefinitely was quite exciting.  Not paying for it could be classified as thrilling.  I was impressed that the food came nicely plated on REAL dishware.  I had a choice of cereal or eggs.  Hot breakfast seemed way more appealing (and posh) so I went with the eggs.  As you can see in the blog picture, I got the following items:

-Fruit Cup: Standard and fresh.  I liked the grapes and the pineapple was not too tart. The one strawberry was ok but not amazing. I dislike plain cantaloupe, so I can’t vouch for its goodness.
-Yoplait Greek Yogurt (Strawberry): I have never tried this yogurt before.  Since the ads on TV suggest that it is better the Chobani, I was game to test the theory.  Advertisements like people.  It was ok, but definitely not better than Chobani.  I like that the fruit was on the bottom…so I could avoid it.
-Egg Omelet:  I really enjoyed this simple egg omelets with some generic white maybe swiss cheese in the middle.  That being said, I kind of LOVE the texture of microwaved eggs.  Some people might hate this texture.  It made me very happy.  I really enjoyed this little egg and cheese thing.
-Broccoli and Potato Triangle:  I have no idea what else to call this.  Think slightly over cooked frozen broccoli that has been baked into rehydrated boxed-mashed potatoes.  It had an ok taste but the texture was quite gummy/paste-like.  It was not my favorite. However, eat a small triangle of this dense goo and it will keep you full for hours.  I will point out that it was surprisingly well seasoned, though I still question if it was potato or wall paper paste.
-Sausage Patty:  It was a bit chewy and lacked the normal punch of spices I normally associate with a sausage patty. It was also nearly as well seasoned as the rest of the hot items.  However, it seemed to pair ok with the egg omelet, but did nothing to improve my Broccoli and Potato Triangle.  What type of meat was in the sausage patty?  This mystery remains unsolved.
-Choice of Warm Croissant or Cinnamon Bun:  I opted for Croissant and was very pleasantly surprised.  It was light, crispy, and warm.  It had a good buttery taste without being greasy.  Good job on this one United!  It was especially good eaten in conjunction with the egg omelet, possibly a bite of sausage patty.
-Drinks: Free flowing, all the time anytime.  Boozy or not boozy.  I’ve never had to pee so much on a flight before. TMI? Sorry…

I found it quite fun to fly first class.  I think that while the idea of a free meal on the plane is exciting and novel, it is not necessarily 5 star food.  I’d give it about 2 stars actually.  That being said, it’s FREE!  If you want good food, I’d go with airport food in the terminal (which is getting surprisingly good even though it is expensive).  If you get upgraded for free to first class, I’d say go for saving $15-20 and eating your meal on the plane is a viable, yet less gourmet option.
I hope you enjoyed me chatting about my adventures in first class.  Next week we will be back to our regularly scheduled beauty posts.  Have you ever flown first class?  Did you like it?  Let me know in the comments!

As always, 

Shine and Sparkle

*I am not paid or sponsored by any of the products or entities mentioned in this post.  All were payed for with my own money.  These are my personal thoughts/opinions and recounting of events.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Emergency/DIY Deodorant

Hi Shine and Sparkle Report Readers!

I just wanted to give you a quick tip in case you find yourself without deodorant for some reason.  Let's face it, sometimes you need to stop smelling but don't have any real deodorant with you.  So what are your emergency options?

1) Anti-bacterial hand Sanitizer.  In a pinch, put some of this under your arms.  The alcohol will help kill the bacteria that cause underarm odor.  It's not a very long lasting solution, but in a pinch, it will serve you well.  If you don't carry hand sanitizer, lots of places have free hand sanitizer these days (grocery stores, drug stores, pet stores etc...)  so hunt around and you might just find some near by.

2) Lemon.  Starting to smell at the restaurant?  Grab a lemon slice from the bar or your ice-tea and sneak it into the bathroom.  Rub the lemon under your arms.  The juice will naturally cleanse and deodorize.  Plus, you will smell lemony fresh! I have never tried this with limes, but I assume it would work as well.

3) Alcohol.  So you might not have any lemons, you might not have any hand sanitizer.  Maybe you have vodka?  Or rubbing alcohol.  Either of these items should work to combat smelly arm pits.

4) Facial Toner.  Last but not least, if you use a toner in your skin care routine, it could also be used in a pinch as deodorant.  You also may be surprised to see how much your general smelly-ness level can decrease if you periodically use facial toner on your under arms after you get out of the shower.

Why do these emergency deodorant solutions work?  Did you know sweat is generally odorless? However, body odor results from bacteria that gather in specific types of sweat called "fatty" sweat that is found in areas such as your underarms.  When naturally occurring bacteria from your body starts breaking down the sweat, it produces body odor.  Anti-antiperspirants in deodorant stop you from sweating so that there is nothing for the bacteria to break down and produce smell. My emergency options pretty much combat any surface bacteria that is present at the time of application and dry up/remove existing sweat.  Because my options don't stop you from sweating all together, they are more emergency solutions rather than long lasting solutions.        

As Always,

Shine & Sparkle!