How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays in the Winter

How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays in the Winter | Writing Between Pauses

I recently partnered with Visionworks to promote the new location at the Valley River Mall in Eugene, Oregon. That’s my hometown mall! I’ve been going to Valley River Center for as long as I can remember and having a handy place for all my vision care needs, alongside all my other favorite places to shop, is a huge bonus.

I’ve needed glasses since I was about 12. When I first got them, I refused to wear them for nearly two years—until I started driving and my mom agreed I could wear contacts. I wore contacts until around 2015, when my eyes became more sensitive while I was pregnant. I wear glasses all the time now, so keeping my prescription up to date and my eyes healthy is really important to me. As well, as a chronic migraine sufferer, keeping an eye on my, well, eyes is also hugely importance; how my glasses fit, how the lenses reflect light from my computer, and how tight they are can have a huge impact on my migraines!

One important aspect of eye health that we often forget is protecting our eyes from UV rays. We tend to think of sunglasses purely in terms of fashion or helping us see. I always wear sunglasses when I’m driving in the summer, but during the winter, I definitely lapse in that habit. The days can be so dark, we forget that UV rays can still damage our eyes and our skin. (Which is why you should wear SPF every day!)

I wanted to share a few tips for protecting your eyes from UV rays in the winter!

  • Even on cloudy or hazy days, UV rays can damage your eyes. If you’re going to be outside, wear UV blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats (as well as SPF on your face and any visible skin).

  • Don’t forget your kids when wearing sunglasses and hats!

  • Snow and ice can reflect UV rays—which is why sometimes, even on cloudy days, it can still feel really bright! As well, these reflected UV rays can be even more harsh than usual. Wearing polarized sunglasses while driving in snowy & icy conditions, or while skiing or playing outside in the snow, can feel dangerous, but will help you protect your eyes and see more clearly.

You might be asking: why do my eyes need protection from UV rays? UV rays cause damage to your eye—just like your skin. This can cause cataracts to develop, as well as other degeneration issues.

And in terms of vanity, frequent squinting can contribute to both headaches and wrinkles. All that eye cream, just to squint while outside in the snow?!

Thankfully, there are lots of options for stylish and functional eyewear to protect your eyes. Different activities call for different protection. If you ski, a pair of polarized ski goggles can protect your eyes. If you travel frequently, a great pair of sunglasses fit the bill. Visit Visionworks to check out their selection—and visit your nearest location for an eye exam and to try on glasses and sunglasses!

Disclaimer: as indicated by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, this is a sponsored post with Visionworks. All opinions, however, remain my own. To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Is This the Perfect Autumn Palette? | TooFaced Gingerbread Spice Palette

Beauty Review: TooFaced Gingerbread Spice Palette | Writing Between Pauses

When the Gingerbread Spice palette was announced, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy it. I didn’t need it! I never buy holiday palettes! It probably wouldn’t be that good! I swore and swore to Danny that I wouldn’t get it. But then, I swatched it in Sephora a week ago and… I loved it. I loved it from the moment I saw the promo images, but I especially loved it when I swatched Gumdrop and Hot Toddy.

There was no way around it: I was getting this palette.

I’m a one-palette-a-year kind of girl. I don’t buy eyeshadow palettes super regularly, usually just as my favorites expire or as trends change. I might by some small single eyeshadows once and a while, but not super regularly. I’m not a makeup collector and I don’t want to be.

However, this is the first time I really spur of the moment decided to buy something. I had a 20% off prestige coupon for Ulta, as I mentioned in my Inspiration Sunday post, so I knew it was the ideal time to buy it.

Now, TooFaced has the reputation of making gorgeous palettes that can fall flat. A lot of people don’t love their eyeshadow formula. I own the Sweet Peach palette, as well as the Peach Velvet Mattes palette. I love both, but they are an eyeshadow formula that I like working with and that works for me.

So with that in mind (that makeup is a preference and what works for one person might not be what works for another), let’s jump into a review!

Gingerbread Spice Palette | Writing Between Pauses

First things first, yes I did accidentally stab Gingerbread Latte with my fingernail right off the bat!

How’s the matte formula?

The matte formula is almost exactly like the Peach Velvet Mattes palette. It is an easy-to-blend, slightly dry formula. This is the formula i prefer (as opposed to the very pigmented, almost buttery formula of something like Anastasia Beverly Hills) because you can easily build color. My favorite matte shades at Lookie At My Cookie, Gingerbread, and Gingerbread Latte; these are the 3 I can see myself using over and over throughout the fall and the holidays!

How are the shimmers?

There are almost two different styles of shimmer or glitter in this palette. Spiked Eggnog and Frostbite Me are more shimmery, whereas all the others are more thick with glitter. (Does that make sense?) Both Spiked Eggnog and Frostbite Me are lovely and very, very easy to use.

For me, the hit of this palette was Hot Toddy and then Bake It Till You Make It; both swatch beautifully, but on brushes, are difficult to apply. However, I found a spritz of setting spray or a just slightly moist brush made a huge difference. They also apply great using your fingers. For some people, that can be a major turnoff because they like to use brushes for everything. It’s not to me, as I find it easier to adapt my method depending on formula to get the best look! And almost everyone applying makeup has fingers.

How Wearable Are These Shadows?

This is the question I ask before I buy any new makeup: how wearable is this for every single day? If I’m buying a makeup palette, I want it to be something I use more than once a year.

Some of the shades are definitely less for everyday wear; the shimmers are so bold, they can be a bit overwhelming, but used sparingly, I think they can work. Most of the matte shades are perfect for everyday eye looks. The only shades I think are really more for special occasions, at least for me, are Gumdrop and Frostbite Me. Frostbite Me is so icy and shimmery, it is more for a standout look. And Gumdrop is gorgeous and so bright, but it’s not an everyday shadow for me. However, that’s only 2 out of 18 shadows.

What About the Scent?

One of my biggest critiques about both of TooFaced’s peach palettes (and honestly, most of TooFaced’s stuff) is the scent. The peach scent of the first Sweet Peach palette was extremely strong; the Velvet Mattes palette is better, but still quite strong. The Gingerbread Spice Palette is supposed to be scented, but I have trouble really… smelling it? It smells faintly sweet if I get really close, but it is not overwhelming like the peach scent is and I honestly can’t smell it unless I shove my nose in it. For me, that is a major improvement!

Is This Palette Worth It?

The cost of this palette is $49 at both Ulta and Sephora. I love this palette; I’ve used it every single day since I bought it. I’m on record saying I’m done with warm-toned shadows, but here I am, with warm-toned shadows again. But these are warm tones that work for me because they are brown-based (as opposed to orange- or pink-based).

However, is $49 really worth it? I think if you’re in the market for a palette like this for Autumn and Winter, absolutely, it’s worth it. It has a lot of product and you get a variety of shimmers and mattes. If you have that 20% Ulta coupon, it’s an even better deal.

Do you have the Gingerbread Spice palette? What do you think of it?

What's So Special About a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch?

What's So Special About a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch? | Writing Between Pauses

Every October, we do a traditional visit to the pumpkin patch with Danny’s parents. They only visit about twice a year, so this is a big occasion for us. Last year, Forrest could have easily spent about 2 or 3 hours in the pumpkin patch. This year, he wasn’t quite as obsessed with pumpkins, but he still had a lot of fun.

We went to Lone Pine Farms in Eugene, which is where we go every year. I suspect they did not have a great pumpkin harvest this year; a lot of the pumpkins were rotten, damaged, or just starting to turn already… and the patch has only been open 2 weeks! We still found quite a few great pumpkins, though, so we can’t complain.

Pumpkin Patch Visit
Say Pumpkins!
Batman and Pumpkins
Lone Pine Farms

It was one of those perfect Fall days that feels absolutely perfect. It wasn’t too hot (mid-60s, a little windy), but it was sunny. The patch was crowded, but not like last year, so crowded that it felt claustrophobic. There was room to take all the photos I wanted of Forrest. It was just a day that felt really perfect and special.

Some of my friends often ask why our trip to the pumpkin patch is such a big deal. Well, first of all, pumpkin patches are really only open for one month a year. October. That’s it! That’s all the pumpkin patch you get! As well, the farm stands attached to pumpkin patches really depend on the business, as they often close for the season on November 1, or shortly after. Visiting local farms during the summer to buy produce, and then buying pumpkins from them instead of from a grocery store, helps me to support a local business.

Second of all, pumpkin patches are fun. There is always a lot to do. Lone Pine even has a whole playground set up so kids can play for a little while as their parents pay or browse the farm stand. There are games. There are hayrides. A cow train. Horses and goats to pet and feed.

It’s a special trip we take every year and one we all look forward to. If you don’t regularly visit a local pumpkin patch, you’re really, really missing out on an opportunity to not just have fun, but support a local business.

Family Photo at Pumpkin Patch

What’s your October tradition?

What I Got for Christmas

What I Got For Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

A few days after Christmas, I ran a poll on Instagram about whether people like Christmas gift posts or not. The results were pretty much split in the middle: half said they hated them, half said they love them. I got quite a few messages asking that I still post. 

This is just going to be a fun little post, mostly a list. I'll be reviewing some of these things in separate posts, so if you see something you want more details either 1) let me know and 2) I'll either email you directly with info or tell you the date the post will be going up. See? Easy peasy! 

Let's get down to business! 

1. A fruit-themed box of Lush goodies

The gift set I got was the Bella Fruta, but from what I can tell, they change this set almost constantly. The set I got contains a Yuzu Bubbleroon, a Comforter Bubble bar, A Strawberry Feels Forever massage bar, an Avobath Bomb, Sympathy for the Skin lotion, and the Comforter shower cream. That's a lot of stuff! I was so excited to receive this because I've never really tried Lush products, but have always wanted to. And I love a nice, relaxing bath! 

2. A gift bag from Bath & Body Works

This is a gift I get regularly from my mother-in-law... it's one I come to expect and love! In this year's bag there was the bag itself (a large, sturdy tote), a Champagne Toast candle, a Winter Candy Apple hand sanitizer and lotion, a shea butter cream lotion in the Berry scent, an Aromatherapy Body Cream in Recharge (sage and mint), and an Aromatherapy Body Wash & Bubble Bath in Recharge. I've been obsessed with herb scents lately, so I'm very excited for the Aromatherapy products! 

3. More socks than I honestly know what to do with 

Last year while opening Christmas gifts, my husband and I had quite the crack up because everyone had gotten me socks. My mom got me socks; his mom got me socks; and Danny got me socks. In 2016, I got about 20 pairs of new socks alone. Danny was pretty worried that I would be mad because, seriously, who wants that many pairs of socks? But fortunately, I love socks. This year, he got me several pairs of new socks again (about 5 pairs) and I got two pairs from my mother in law... for a grand total of 7 pairs of socks. Needless to say, I have enough boot socks to last me an absolute lifetime. 

In case you think Danny only got me socks, he also got me a new heating pad (don't freak out, but I sleep with one) and a new pair of sweater leggings with pandas on them. 

4. Crossing a lot off my Christmas bucket list

I think the best gift I received (not to be an absolute cornball or anything) this year was the fact that I got to experience Christmas in a way I never have before. Going to Idaho to celebrate with Danny's family was hard because, obviously, I wish we could be with both our families every year! But it was really fun to have a new experience, something completely different, and to see how much fun Forrest had! As well, we had a white Christmas!! The first of my life! That's a great gift. 

What did you get for Christmas? 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! | Writing Between Pauses

I know most everyone will be too busy today, but it's the last official day of Blogmas and I needed to post something, surely! In terms of Christmas-y posts, I think I've written just about every type of post I've wanted to write for Christmas this month. Thank you all for following along. 

Christmas is such a special time of year. There is no month that captures the highs and lows of life quite like December: it feels like when things are good, they're extremely good; but when they're bad, they are devastatingly bad. I know many are having rough months so I want to take a moment, again, to say: it's easy for December to be a hard, dark month, where it's hard to feel joy, where you get bogged down.

You might be without family or away from family; you might have financial setbacks; you might not be able to do everything you've done before. But ultimately, Christmas is about what you make it. It doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive or like anyone else's Christmas. It can be a plain, simple Christmas, with the Santa Clause on Netflix and a box of pre-made cookies from the grocery store. It's what you want it to be. That's it. No need to get Christmas-y like everyone else. No need to do things you don't want to do. 

This is just a short way to say: Merry Christmas, thank you for following my blog, and if you need to chat, I'm always here. 

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

My Favorite Christmas Traditions | Writing Between Pauses

Christmas is my favorite time of year. 

Actually, scratch that: from October 1 to December 31 is my favorite time of year. Once January hits, I tend to fall into a bit of a... rut? Sadness rut? January and February are very difficult months for me, so it seems kind that I get my absolute favorite time of year right before that. 

I grew up with a lot of Christmas traditions that have fallen to the wayside. I think that is true of everyone's life: there are things you do as a kid that just aren't realistic for incorporating into your life as you get older. There are no more big family dinners on Christmas Eve; no more bright-and-early Christmas mornings (at least not until Forrest is able to get up on his own); and no more school programs or anything like that. 

No, there are other things that I associate with Christmas now. Things that I've done with Danny in the last 7 years (have we been together nearly 7 years now!?) that are special to us, that are our traditions, and things we are starting with Forrest to make into traditions of our own. 

I wanted to share some of my childhood traditions that I still keep up, some of our new traditions as a family, and a few things that we hope to incorporate into Christmas as the years go by. 

1. Baking Sugar Cookies

This is one of those traditions that everyone has. Almost everyone spends one day in December baking a ridiculous amount of sugar cookies--or maybe they're oatmeal cookies, or ginger cookies, or whatever cookie your family favors.

We make sugar cookies in my family; the recipe was my great-grandmother's, adapted from a recipe for Scottish shortbread (I think it's actually an Americanization, as my great-grandmother's side was Scottish). It's basically shortbread, plus eggs and baking powder and vanilla. That's it! They're delicious, easy to make, and so much fun.

I've been making these sugar cookies the exact same way with the exact same icing since I was little and whenever I make them for my office, everyone loves them. It's not Christmastime until I've made my sugar cookies!

2. Opening presents early

Danny and I have always been very bad at keeping secrets from each other. Mostly because I am incredibly intuitive and I know when Danny isn't telling me something. Presents are hard because, throughout the year, we save so much money that we rarely treat ourselves or each other to big purchases, so we tend to give each other gifts the moment we buy them. The last few years, we got into a bad habit of having most of our presents opened by Christmas day (oops). This year, we set a limit for ourselves: one present when Danny finished school for break and one before we left for Christmas. It worked marvelously. We got to enjoy our tradition of being absolutely cheeky about when we open presents, but we still have some to open with Forrest on Christmas morning. (And of course, like true parents, we're making Forrest wait until Christmas! Not that he knows the difference.) 

3. Watching Lord of the Rings

One of my favorite movies to watch around Christmas is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Don't ask me why, but they are Christmas movies. I will argue about it. Danny and I started doing this the year where he wasn't working and I had quit my job to switch to another (digression: that job switch was absolutely a mistake, but that's another blog post!). We had a lot of spare time around Christmas as a result, so we watched the extended edition of the Trilogy... and loved it. We started doing it every year! 

Recently, we added the Hobbit trilogy to it. Those movies are also Christmas movies, I will argue, and fit right in. With Forrest, we don't have the attention spans (or time) we used to, so we tend to stick to the Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring, our two favorites. 

4. Advent Calendars

Advent calendars are a relatively new phenomena in the United States. Well, not "new." When I was little, I had an Advent calendar once or twice, but they weren't very popular and I firmly believe that the traditional ones sold in the US were all made in the same year. (Really, they all have the same waxy chocolates and exact same look. Since at least 1992.) 

I know Advent calendars are super popular outside the U.S. though, of all varieties... much better varieties than mass produced, waxy milk chocolates and a vaguely religious poem behind each door! This year, I started noticing Advent calendars popping up everywhere: Ulta had one, Sephora had one. Europe is gradually forcing a trend on the U.S. and I am into it! I got myself an Advent calendar this year and Forrest one as well, and we both enjoyed it. This is definitely something I want to keep up because they are so fun! 

5. Making Family Ornaments

This year, I bought a few ornament picture frames to put on our tree: they have the year on them, so I put two photos from our family vacation in them. It got me thinking... how nice, when Forrest is 18, to be able to decorate the tree with these photos of us and him. It's not something I can see myself doing every single year (some years we probably won't vacation or get a good photo), but something I do want to keep up for a while! 

What are your Christmas traditions? Tell me about them in the comments!

3 Dinner Ideas for Before Christmas

3 Dinner Ideas for Before Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

It's that time of year. 

Yes, Christmas. But also, the season of food. Of eating. Of being invited to brunches, lunches, parties, and get togethers. 

Especially when you have kids, you still need to make dinner--and you want it to be something fast and reasonably healthy (considering you have at least a dozen cookies in your house at all times, as well as any number of snacks, cakes, leftovers, and more). 

The past week (and actually, this week as well), I've been really struggling with cooking dinners. We are exhausted after long days at work topped with getting ready for Christmas, visiting friends and family, and making dishes for pot lucks. But Forrest has a pretty set schedule for his meals and trust me, the kid knows how to read a clock. 

Here are 3 recipes I'm turning to this week and next to help us eat well on the lead up to Christmas. 

1. One Pot Chicken Pasta

This is one of my tried-and-true, if I make this everyone will eat it and enjoy it dinners. I usually make extra veggies to go alongside it (usually roasted carrots and Brussel sprouts), but even on it's own, it's extremely tasty. 

I actually no longer follow the recipe anymore because I customize it so much. I cut out the bacon, keep the chicken, use milk instead of cream and veggie stock instead of chicken, add broccoli, and add the parmesan at the end of cooking (instead of at the beginning--I have found it gets separated and weird if I put it in at the beginning). This would be a really easy recipe to make vegan: use veggie stock and replace the milk with either almond milk or soy milk; no chicken, but stir in beans at the end of cooking (or use vegan crumbles); use a cheese substitute or nutritional yeast. 

2. Taco Bake

This is my own personal recipe. It's incredibly easy and can be made ahead. I actually made a few trays of it recently and put them in the freezer for quick dinners through the winter. Here's what you'll need: 

  • 1 pound of ground beef (or chicken if you prefer) 
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning OR about 1/2 cup of salsa or enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of refried beans OR 1 can of black beans to make your own (just cook in a pan and mash as you do so, add a little salt and pepper) 
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Carrots, peppers, spinach, corn, and broccoli 
  • About 1 cup of leftover rice (or cooked fresh) 

Start by preparing a baking dish; I use a 9x9 square pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray, then put down a layer of tortillas. Cook your ground beef or chicken in a pan, adding the taco seasoning or salsa (whatever you've chosen to use). If you need to, start cooking your refried beans and rice. (If you're using leftovers, it cuts out that step!) In the oven, roast your veggies of choice, then add a few dashes of hot sauce as you mix them up. Once you have everything cooked, it's time to layer. I usually do a layer of refried beans onto the tortillas in the prepared dish, then meat, then veggies, then a light sprinkle of cheese. Layer tortillas again and repeat until you run out of everything. Top with cheese and bake for about 20 minutes. 

It's so good, so easy, and can be made using almost entirely leftovers. 

3. A Cheese Plate

If it's just you and your partner (or just yourself!), the simplest dinners are sometimes the best. Recently, Danny and I, after Forrest has gone to bed at 3:30 because he hadn't napped all day, had a cheese plate dinner. We sliced up some nice cheese, made a few slices of toast, made a chocolate sauce for some strawberries, peeled a few mandarin oranges, and opened a bottle of wine. It was simple and super satisfying. Next time, we want to make some bruschetta and toast, as well as cheese and strawberries, to enjoy. 

My 4 Favorite Christmas Movies

My 4 Favorite Christmas Movies | Writing Between Pauses

Last year, I wrote about the 5 Christmas movies that I have to watch every single year. Those 5 movies put me in the holiday spirit and I consider them absolute classics. 

I thought I'd share 4 new favorite Christmas movies to give you a little inspiration if you need something to watch as the holiday approaches. Forrest and I have been watching these on repeat, so they are kid- and mom-approved! 

1. Christmas Family Vacation

"You let a toddler watch this movie?" That's what you're probably asking yourself. Short answer, yes... the TV edited version that they play on Freeform at least. One day, Forrest was particularly sickly and bored, so I put on Freeform to this because I needed a little sanity. He really enjoyed it. And to be fair, I've been watching this movie since I was 6 or 7 and I'm totally fine. Mostly. 

It is absolutely a Christmas classic though, that kind of movie that is about how Christmas can go so, so wrong, but still be really fun. 

2. Elmo Saves Christmas

Do you have a toddler? Do you need to entertain them for, say, 90 minutes? 

Elmo Saves Christmas runs for 90 minutes--it's a full-length film! And it's not cobbled together Sesame Street segments, but an actual movie. It's also... really kind of good. I will absolutely sit and watch this with Forrest. It's that good. It's narrated by Maya Angelou as well, which is about as Sesame Street as it gets. 

3. Elf

Confession: it really pained me to put this on my list because, honestly, I find Will Ferrell to be so annoying. I used to not be able to stand Elf, it was one of the few movies that I would absolutely turn off and be mad about having seen even a few minutes of for a while. But it's really grown on in me in the last few weeks. Maybe because Forrest loves it (as I sigh thinking about what it teaches him about being a grown man) but maybe because, like the Grinch, my cold heart is melting a little bit. 

4. The Year Without Santa Claus

These claymation classics used to be on all the time when I was little, so I think of them as The Christmas Movies... but I feel like they're on so much less these days! The Year Without Santa Claus is basically the story of Santa taking a year off (because he has a cold) and the shenanigans that follow. It's cheery, Christmas-y, and totally a classic.