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You’ve probably heard about the “Chapstick conspiracy,” right? The idea that the more Chapstick you use, the more your lips need it? This is because the petroleum, glycerin and parabens found in many lip balms cause your lips to actually lose moisture rather than seal it in, ensuring that you’ll come back for more extra frequently. On the bright side, an increasing number of companies are valuing true lip health and using responsibly sourced ingredients. Here are a few of my all-time faves:

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1. Burt’s Bees’ Pomegranate Lip Balm

This one’s a no brainer. In fact, it’s at the top of many eco-conscious buyers’ lists for several reasons: it contains beeswax, vitamin E and peppermint oil and pomegranate oil (a majorly effective antioxidant!). Plus, at $3 per tube, it’s a steal!

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2. Savannah Bee’s Earl Grey Lip Balm 

In addition to the amazingly silky finish, my favorite thing about this balm is its scent. Thanks to a combination of natural bergamot and lemon oils, this soothing fragrance smells just like a floral cup of earl grey tea. Mmmmm.

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3. Eco Love Apothecary’s Lip Service Lip Balm

The quippy name isn’t the best thing about this new brand’s lip balm; it’s the luxe flavor and creamy texture. The mango butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil make me feel oh-so-pampered, and the SPF 30 makes me feel extra protected. Bonus points for the biodegradable and recyclable packaging!

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4. Eco Lips MONGO KISS Peppermint Lip Balm

Repeat after me: “Mon-gon-go oil.” I’m obsessed with this balm. For starters, the fact that I’ve mastered the pronunciation of the oil it’s made with makes me feel like part of some elite club. Secondly, the peppermint flavor is super refreshing. And lastly, the label has all sorts of important words on it, like “fair trade” and “organic” and “non-GMO.” So that’s good.

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5. Alaffia Purely Coconut Fair Trade Lip Balm 

This vegan lip balm really packs in the coconut. I mean, I’m sure you could guess that from the product’s name, but WOW. Between the virgin coconut oil, cocoa butter and pure coconut fruit extract, I feel like a tropical goddess when I’ve got this stuff on.

Did I miss any good all-natural lip balms? Let me know in the comments below!

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My boyfriend, Dash, is a total textbook contrarian. So the other morning, as I’m whipping up these easy-as-pie cookies, he walks in and asks what I’m making.

When I tell him they’re pumpkin snickerdoodles, he cringes and says, “I hate pumpkin. And snickerdoodles.”

What?!

ANYWHO, I continue going about my business and he forgets all about the cookies. Later that night, he goes hunting for a snack and emerges from the kitchen, munching on one of these little gems.

His eyes light up, and then it hits him: turns out he likes pumpkin. AND snickerdoodles.

**mic drop**

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Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For dipping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamondoughballs

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside.
  2. In a standing mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar until just combined (don’t overmix). With the mixer on low, add in the egg yolk, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Scrape down sides, and slowly add in the dry ingredients from the first bowl.
  3. Place dough in the refrigerator and chill for one hour. While dough chills, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Roll dough into 1 tbsp balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar topping.
  6. Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, remove them while they still look a teensy bit undercooked (they continue to bake even after being removed from the oven!)

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As someone who loves all things green and verdant, coming to terms with the fact that I’m not a natural gardener has been a tough reality to face.

Admitting my inability to care for plants was tough, but I’ve found solace in the fact that there are species I can’t very easily kill with my black thumb.

So, fellow accidental garden murderers out there: This roundup of no-fuss plants is for you.

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1. Jade Plants

A symbol of good luck, this easy-to-grow plant is known for its impressive lifespan. My boyfriend’s mother recently gave us a sprout of her 30-year-old jade plant and it’s been a total breeze to grow! I’m particularly fond of the plant’s waxy-smooth leaves and simple aesthetic.

Keep it… In a sunny space.

Water it… when the soil is just dry to the touch.

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2. Bromeliads

Did you know the beloved pineapple is a member of this low-maintenance plant family? It’s true! If you’re looking for a pop of color, this plant’s cone-like bloom is perfect for you.

Keep it… In a sunny window to produce many blooms, or in a slightly shaded area to produce thicker leaves

Water it… When the when the soil is nearly dry. Bromeliads prefer humidity, so occasional misting is a good idea, too.

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3. Snake Plants 

Here’s another plant I’m currently crushing on. The wavy, tentacle-like foliage of this tolerant houseplant is always a convo starter and I love how tall it gets! The sparse watering schedule is a plus, too!

Keep it… In indirect sunlight.

Water it… only when very dry. Once a week works well for mine!

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4. Pothos 

This undemanding plant’s cascading leaves make for such an eye-catching display. My favorite spot to display these little beauties is where their heart-shaped tendrils can drape, such as on a windowsill or mantle. The bathroom is also a great place to put it – Pothos appreciates relatively low light.

Keep it… In an office or slightly dim room, like a bathroom. (Keep out of reach of pets and children, though, as it can be toxic if ingested!)

Water it… Only when the soil is fully dry.

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5. Aloe

Not only is aloe pretty difficult to kill, it’s also incredibly useful to keep on hand. The double-duty plant’s spiny appearance is gorgeous, and its first aid properties are great for burns, cuts, and other minor wounds. You can even eat the stuff in smoothies and juices.

Keep it… In indirect sunlight, like in the kitchen or on a shelf of some sort.

Water it… Only when the soil is almost completely dry. Water even less in the winter.

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6. Chinese Evergreen

For shrubbery that thrives in low light AND looks like a million bucks, look no further than this stunning houseplant. The leathery leaves are variegated in shades of white, mint green and silver. Pick a leaf pattern you love, and watch this baby grow!

Keep it… Anywhere with indirect sunlight or low light. This plant can handle it all!

Water it… When the soil is almost fully dry.

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7. Parlor Palms

I love this one because its size makes it such a nice focal point. At about 4 feet tall, this gentle giant adds a decidedly tropical feel to any space, and with its no-fuss light requirements, it doesn’t need much attention. As an added bonus, this plant is a known air purifier.

Keep it… Anywhere the sun won’t bake it.

Water it… Freely when the weather is warmer, and less often in the winter. Parlor Palms prefer moist (not soggy!) soil.

Good luck with your easygoing plants! May we continue to just let our plants ~do their own thing~ without any altruistic yet destructive interference.

Have a favorite low-maintenance plant? Share in the comments!

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The other day, I was shopping for something cute and chic to display on my porch for fall.
I was thinking “Vogue,” but all the stores within my budget were clearly thinking “Classroom Halloween Party.”
Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed.

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But since I’m a DIY kind of girl, I figured I’d just spray paint some cheap foam pumpkins and embellish them myself. So, feeling self-sufficient and resourceful, I grabbed an armful of garishly bright foam pumpkins from the dollar store.

The next day, I set to work spray painting them. It was then that I learned something new:

Spray paint eats foam. FAST.

Back to the drawing board! After a quick trip to my local grocery store, I returned with real pumpkins that didn’t disintegrate when they came into contact with paint. And you know what? They cost only a few cents more than the crappy ones!

pumpkin-soloSo, if you’re like me and don’t want to spend a ton or embark on a pumpkin carving nightmare, this is a fabulous project to herald the new season.

Overall, this sweet array of pumpkins only cost me $9.50!

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Supplies:

  • 4 small pumpkins (called “pie pumpkins”) – $5.00
  • 1 marbled pumpkin from Target – $3.00
  • 1 mini can of Krylon gold spray paint – $1.50
  • A little leftover interior paint from my front door project

Instructions:

  1. Lay down a flattened trash bag in a well-ventilated area.
  2. Paint and spray pumpkins, picking up by the stem to cover the bottoms.
  3. Allow to dry completely, about 1-2 hours.
  4. Arrange your funky pumpkin patch as a centerpiece or porch decor!

How do y’all decorate YOUR pumpkins? I want to know!

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I love having a trusty arsenal of tricks when I get in the kitchen.

To be honest, most of what I know about cooking, food storage and technique comes from a combination of trial and error, and my allegiance to Martha Stewart and countless other all-knowing doyennes of daytime TV.

The rest of my culinary know-how comes from afternoons spent in my grandma’s humid kitchen, baking lemon pound cakes, frying okra, and peeling pears from my papa’s gardens and groves.

These experiences, along with my own work as a recipe developer, have been invaluable. I’ve cobbled together a list of tried-and-true tips I’ve learn from these varied sources, and I hope you’ll find them as helpful as I have!

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1. Put lavender oil or honey on your burns. The lavender oil prevents scarring, and the honey helps relieve the pain.

2. Soften butter quickly by putting it on a sunny windowsill. Or in your pockets, like my grandma did! (It probably sounds gross, but it was so endearing!)

3. Microwave lemons and limes if they become hard. Just because they’ve gotten super firm doesn’t mean they’ve gone bad! 10-15 seconds or so in the microwave will bring them back to life.

4. When baking, make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature. This includes eggs, butter, milk, everything! This allows for even baking.

5. Don’t salt your meat or marinade until it’s cooked. Unless you like it dry!

6. Store root veggies in brown paper sacks, not the plastic or net bags they come in. Plastic bags encourage mildew, but paper bags absorb moisture. And keep them out of the sun!

7. Don’t throw out your crystallized honey. Store it in a warm, sunny place and it will return to its liquid state. Honey never spoils.

8. Freeze your ginger. It makes it WAY easier to grate, plus it’ll last longer.

9. Never store your herbs and spices above the stove. The heat causes them to lose their flavor way more quickly.

10. After handling garlic, rub your hands on stainless steel. It works like a charm to remove the powerful smell!

Do you have any words of kitchen wisdom? I’m dying to know! Share them in the comments below.

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Cookies and milk – is there anything more inviting?
I don’t know about you, but it’s my favorite combination when I think about cozying up during a long binge of Netflix shows.

Unfortunately, I can’t justify spending money on a package of Oreos when I’ve got everything I need to make a MUCH yummier version right at home. (Hello, if I’m binge-watching Netflix, I’m probably not trying to be seen in public!) Besides, this recipe allows you to skip all the artificial flavors and weird chemicals found in store-bought snacks.

These cookies taste EXACTLY like Oreos. Don’t believe me? Try them for yourself!

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Ingredients:

Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cream Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Toss flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat butter on high speed until creamy. Switch to medium speed and beat in the sugar and brown sugar. Once combined, beat in the egg and vanilla extract, scraping sides as needed.
  3. Turn mixer on low speed and slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. Roll chilled cookie dough into quarter-sized balls, placing them on the baking sheet and limiting 12-16 cookies to each pan. Press each ball to flatten slightly. Bake for 6-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. As cookies finish cooling, make the cream filling. In a stand mixer, beat butter and shortening together on high speed. Once creamy, turn to lowest speed and add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Beat for 1 minute until creamy. Filling should be quite thick. (This filling may be made up to 2 days in advance, but be sure to bring filling to room temperature before spreading on cookies.)
  8. Once cookies are cooled, spread cream filling between two cooled chocolate cookies. Repeat for all cookies. Store cookies at room temperature for one week or frozen for up to 1 month.

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Tips: 

  • Create themed cookies for any occasion using food dye and/or sprinkles!
  • For a travel-friendly version of these sweet treats, try substituting marshmallow fluff for the cream filling. Ice cream is also a delicious substitute (but not so suitable for traveling– duh!).

Created and styled by Jess Brannen & photographed by Dash Coleman

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Y’all – I can’t say enough about this recipe. It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s easy to make. AND it’s pretty cheap.
It’s the grown-up version of dorm room “jungle juice.” And it’s just plain pretty. Next time you’ve got a gaggle of girlfriends over, try this out — you can thank me later. More

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When it comes to throwing any sort of shindig, the expectations are often incredibly high.
Truthfully, though, there’s no need to go broke or crazy while planning your soiree. With a few thoughtful touches and a little resourcefulness, you can throw the sweetest tea party to celebrate an engagement or birthday without completely losing it.More

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Entertaining guests at the last minute can be a total nightmare! There are just so many factors to consider: Will everyone get along? Will there be enough wine? What will I serve? Occasions like these merit an arsenal of simple, quick recipes that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice. Cue the Walnut, Goat Cheese and Honey Crostini.

This effortlessly elegant dish pairs perfectly with an arugula salad and plays well with a plethora of beverages, from Pinot Noir to a Manhattan. So next time you’re in need of last minute hors d’oeuvres, impress your guests with this simple treat!

What’s your go-to recipe for last-minute company?

1-walnut-crostini-3Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of artisanal bread (I used a 5-grain loaf)
  • 3oz log of goat cheese, near room temperature
  • Coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Wildflower honey
  • Fresh thyme

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut loaf of bread into thick slices and bake until very lightly toasted.
  2. Remove toasted bread and spread with goat cheese. Sprinkle with walnuts and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until walnuts look toasted.
  3. Plate the crostini and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle with fresh sprigs of thyme.

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Tips: 

  • Almost everything about this recipe is interchangeable. Try using different soft cheeses, nuts, and herbs for a season-appropriate finger food.
  • Cutting the crostini in half is a great idea if the gathering will be more conducive to eating while standing.