Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

Now that summer is in full swing, buying stone fruit by the case is cheaper than ever… but what to do with all that delicious tree-ripened treasure before it starts to spoil?? Try this EASY (and I mean EASY) clean-eating dessert that will impress everyone.

Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic



2-3 ripe nectarines, halved (this recipe also works well with peaches! Just wash well to remove the “fuzz” prior to grilling)
1-2 oz Goat Cheese/Chevre
Balsamic Glaze (this one is delicious, but here is a recipe if you want to make from scratch! I was not that ambitious)
Olive oil spray

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

First, preheat grill to high. Wash nectarines and cut them in half. To halve them, cut along the “seam” and then twist. The pit will be exposed, just pull it out. This is easy to do when the nectarine is ripe!

Next, spray lightly with olive oil. Also, it’s not a bad idea to brush the grill lightly with oil as well.

Apply the nectarines to the hot grill, cut side down. Grill for about 4 minutes. Flip with tongs, and grill another 2-3 minutes.

Add about 1/4-1/2 oz of goat cheese to the pit indent, and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Bon Appetit!

Healthy, #cleaneating dessert! Grilled Nectarines with Goat Cheese and Balsamic



Which DNA test is best?

Many of us hear from our parents and grandparents we’re maybe part German or 1/8 Native American with a little Irish or North African, but how can we be sure? Now you can, and it costs under $100! With the recent dramatic price decreases of autosomal DNA testing, these can be a fantastic out-of-the box gift idea for friends and loved ones (AWESOME baby shower gift, am I right?) With several major tests on the market which autosomal DNA test should you choose? Luckily, there isn’t a wrong answer, and all three tests provide a great and informative service and the same overall info- your likely genetic ancestry and connections with genetic relatives who have tested within approximately 5 generations. That said, if there is a specific reason that you or the recipient is looking to test, certain tests can be more suited to different goals. Here is a summary of each company as well as some pros and cons to each which might help you make your decision.

Please keep in mind this is solely based on my own experiences having had all three tests done, as well as utilizing the data through a few 3rd party sites.

23andMe
$99 (Saliva tube)
This company, backed by Google and founded in part by Anne Wojcicki (wife of Google Founder), has had a lot of marketing and visibility. Their radio and internet ads have brought a lot of attention to autosomal testing, as well being one of the first to aggressively drop prices making the tests more widely accessible. They also provided health data up until the FDA banned these reports in November of 2013 (although a 3rd party site will give the same info for $5)

Pros: Slick, user friendly interface. Interesting information such as percentage of Neandrethal DNA and DNA Haplogroup (not particularly useful, but it is considered a separate test through FamilyTreeDNA at an additional cost). Their ancestral breakdown is good and provides further information on the data you find. They also do health related surveys to try to progress genetic research for different ailments. While the health data through 23andMe is not currently available, they are working with the FDA to try and reach a solution to make the information available in the future.

Cons: If you are hoping to make connections with genetic relatives, 23andMe may not be your best choice. Users have to opt-in to the results, and will by default appear anonymously. You have to send a request to connect, and the response rate isn’t great. It seems like a lot of people purchase the tests for the ancestral information, then may not ever check the messages or connection requests. Also, this test is incompatible with data transfer to FamilyTreeDNA (more on this shortly). Matching is disclosed in arbitrary percentages rather than showing the actual amount of shared DNA. Internal messaging system is a bit slow and buggy. Also, although many people see this as medically beneficial to society as a whole, some users may take issue with the fact that 23andMe anonymously shares DNA data to pharmaceutical companies researching genetic medical issues.

FamilyTreeDNA
$99 (Cheek Swab)
Founded with genealogy in mind, this offers not only autosomal DNA testing, but also a bevvy of other more specific and thorough tests such as mtDNA, paternal Y-DNA testing, etc. They boast that they have the largest ancestry database with over 700,000 records, although not all of hose are autosomal.

Pros: Easy to use interface, and full access to information from matches such as name (although some people utilized aliases, it’s less common) and actual email address rather than relying on an internal messaging system. Full disclosure as to how much DNA you share with matches, and some really great comparison tools such as a visual chromosome browser and an easy ability to sort by common matches with anyone on your list. This company is also the only to allow you to import your data from another service (AncestryDNA specifically, as 23andMe’s new test as of 2014 is no longer compatible for import). This is a great way to get in two databases for a much lower cost, as a data transfer is only $39.

Cons: Their MyOrigins ancestral information seems slightly less robust and specific, although the results were largely consistent between competing tests.

AncestryDNA
$99 (Saliva tube)
Born through Ancestry.com, the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company. They have the largest database of records that can tie into the DNA testing experience, making it a great choice for genealogy and family history enthusiasts. You do not need a membership to Ancestry.com to do the test, however it is beneficial if you or your gift recipient plans to do any deeper family history research.

Pros: The ability to connect your DNA data to family trees makes for an interesting geneaological experience. The test can help confirm accuracy of your research and connect you with family members you probably didn’t know. Their ancestral data is good provides some interesting feedback. Having a membership to Ancestry, while not required, definitely gives an advantage when researching and growing your family trees. They have one of the best and easiest to use family tree creation interfaces, and the tree files can be saved in GEDCOM format and exported and used elsewhere if needed.

Cons: Many users use their ancestry username for contact info, and you rely on their internal messaging system for contact which can be unreliable at times. They do not provide the amount of DNA you actually match with a connection- just a very conservative range such as “3rd-5th cousin” or “4th to distant cousin” for example. They also give no comparison tools or chromosome browsers. You’ll have to contact matches and convince them to upload at GEDMatch for those types of tools, which people don’t always respond to or see the value.

In summary

Here is what I suggest for getting the most bang for your buck- sign up for ebates which offers a $10 rebate on the Ancestry test. Purchase the Ancestry test, and be sure to use the Ancestry Coupon Code FREESHIPDNA for free shipping. Once this test has been taken and you get your results, transfer your raw data from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA and use the coupon “FTDNA5″ for $5 off. This method will take your total cost from about $218 down to $123 for two tests. It’s almost like buying one and getting the second for $14 :) While there aren’t often any discounts for one single 23andMe kits, you get 20% each additional kit when more than one are purchased together.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ADOPTEES!

If you or your gift recipient is adopted and trying to seek family members or parents, it is ESSENTIAL that they test at all three companies, and upload their data at the 3rd party site GEDMatch. Matches only come from the sites that they’ve tested (23andMe matches will not appear on your AncestryDNA list, etc). Having your data in all three databases is extremely important for those seeking unknown relatives.

Click here for more information on 3rd party sites and interesting things you can do once you get your data! (coming soon)

Top 3 Fashion Apps

Maintaining Style in the Mobile Age
Some of the best fashion apps on the market

Fashion is a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. Because more than 72.5 million people own smartphones, lifestyle brands and retailers are diligently mastering the art of mobile marketing to catch customers’ attention and retain their loyalty.

The mobile market industry is a productive business and the mobile app industry is capitalizing on this fact. App revenues last year were estimated to be at $27 billion, and are expected to increase to at least $45 billion by 2015. A blog post hosted by AlchemyBet, the developers for the Pocket Fruity mobile casino, has revealed that we now use our phones everywhere from at church or a place of worship, at school and at work, while waiting for the bus, or even while on the bus. With billions of people using their smartphones regularly on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that app makers are finding ways to reach new customers wherever they are.

Here are some noteworthy apps for fashion enthusiasts:

Style.com

(iPhone, iPad, Nook, free)

This is the ultimate app for fashion mavens. It offers the most essential information from show reviews to the latest fashion trends. Style.com is great for checking out the best outfits in the world including street-style pieces.

Pose

(iPhone, iPad, Android, free)

Famous celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe is a great fan of Pose. It is a weather app integrated with the true reason fashionistas check the weather – to know what to wear. Pose verifies your location to determine the local weather forecast. It offers collections and pictures to inspire your outfit for the day. Selections can also be narrowed down by letting the app know whether you’re going to the gym or headed to the office.

Covet

(iPhone, iPad, Android, free)

Covet is the perfect app for trendy people who want to kill time by playing a fashion game. The mechanics are simple: rate fashion items that are hot or not. Earn tickets and cash by entering contests, and buy dresses, shoes, and accessories that are patterned after real brands for your very own online avatar.

There are more fashion apps in the market than you can imagine. Do you use fashion-related apps that are not mentioned above? Feel free to share them in the reply section below!

DIY Compost Bin for under $10

DIY Compost Bin

After purchasing a house this past spring with a modest little yard, I’ve been looking forward to setting up my very own, very first veggie garden. We’re a little soil-challenged here in Arizona, as our natural soil has a really high clay content. I’ve started with some raised beds and seed starters, but remembered back to my childhood always having a “compost pile” at my grandmother’s house. Food scraps went in one bin, garbage in another. I remember how their garden was beautiful and bountiful, with both flowers and vegetables.  Beyond the gardening benefit, I liked the logical appeal of composting- less waste, less taking the trash out, less STINKY trash (!!!) and much better for the environment.

My first step was a little online shopping which led me to a number of composters at hardware stores and nurseries, but they all rang in at over $50, for even the most basic models. Some were even over $200. Not quite an investment I’m ready for as a VERY entry level gardener. Of course, more digging around online led me to some awesome posts on making DIY composters. Some seriously on the cheap! Here’s how I put mine together, for under ten dollars.

I picked a Sterilite 120 quart plastic container from Target, which ran $9.50. They had ones a little smaller for $4, but I wanted to have enough room for a good supply of scraps and compost as I have one raised bed and several more planned. It’s by no means large, but I figure I can upgrade later if I find it’s not enough. I picked one that was not see through, as I wasn’t sure how the light penetration would effect the composting. Many people probably have one of these lying around anyway!

composter

Next, I took a 5/16″ drill bit and put some holes along all sides as well as the top and bottom. Oxygen is a key component to the process- the bacteria that breaks everything down into rich soil thrives in the presence of oxygen. Here’s a pic of the drill bit that worked well after trying a few others:

composter 1

I brought my bin outside and added some dead leaves I collected in my neighborhood for my “browns”. You can also use things like shredded newspaper, cardboard, wood chips, etc. Here is a great outline on what should and shouldn’t go in your compost bin. Also, please excuse my slippers :)

composter 2

Next, I added my “greens” which were my food scraps. Mine included some fruit rinds, egg shells, coffee grounds, loose leaf tea, and some old veggies and salad mix I didn’t get to in time before they started to spoil. Quite the colorful array! To finish, I topped with a little bit more leaves to keep the smell down.

composter 3

I drug the box over to a shady area over gravel so it easily drains. It just needs to be stirred every week or two, and in a few months you’ll have nutrient rich soil to help your garden grow! I’ll be sure to update as my compost progresses. Any awesome composting tips? Share in the comments and we’ll  feature them on the update post!

composter 4b

Pop Art Makeup Hack

Just a quick post of some awesome pop art makeup I did for my little sister for Halloween.

mylissa pop art makeup

After looking at a lot of others on pinterest and youtube, I concluded that the dots really make a big difference. They should be pretty even and consistent. My boyfriend found a great stencil that worked wonders, so if you’re trying to duplicate this look, it’s worth the few dollars and is washable and reusable. This truly made all the difference in the finished product!

mod podge dot stencil

 

 

6 Sneaky Ways to feel at Home in a Hotel

hotelhacks

This past year my job has kept me on the road more often than not. While frequent travel has its perks, it can also get lonely and make you miss the comforts of home. Here are six tricks I’ve picked up along the way to feel more at home when you’re away.

  1. Unpack.
    Whenever I know I will be staying for more than a night or two, I make it a point to unpack right away. I hang all my clothes, put my undergarments and accessories in the dresser and set out my hygiene and beauty products on the vanity. Picking my clothes for the day out of a closet instead of rustling through my suitcase not only feels more like home, it also cuts down on wrinkles and ironing. Also, these Eagle Creek Packing cubes have been a game changer for me when it comes to packing, and being able to fit everything in a carry-on bag.
  2. Slippers.
    I bring a pair of slippers with me wherever I go. They are not much bigger than a pair of socks, but are extremely cozy and make chilly hotel nights feel a lot more comfortable. I got mine at Target, but these are similar and about the same price. Plus, the hotel floors are sometimes a bit questionable. They’re also an easy pick when I want to sneak down to the dining area for breakfast before I get ready in the morning. These are also good to use on long flights if you don’t want to wear your sneakers or dress shoes. Pro tip: Please don’t go barefoot on a plane.
  3. Bath soak.
    Some people might balk at the idea of using a hotel bathtub, but personally I think they’re fantastic- and likely get cleaned more often than I clean my own at home. I have a sachet of aromatherapy bath salts in my personal care bag and it feels amazing to unwind after a long day of travel or a hectic day at a convention. Pair that hot, soothing bath with a glass of wine and you’re all set. This is my favorite one, and I usually pick them up at Whole Foods. Pro tip: Many hotels, especially extended stays, offer a complimentary “reception” each evening, usually from about 5-7pm and serve one free glass of wine or beer. I usually go and grab my free glass of wine and bring it up to enjoy later in the evening in the comfort of my own room.
  4. Coffee.
    It’s rare that the cheap hotel coffee that comes in your room is any good. In fact, you’re lucky if it tastes anything better than watered down shoe polish. I bring a few packets of instant coffee (My favorite: Starbucks Via) and I grab a cup of half and half from the breakfast area if I have a refrigerator. If I don’t have a fridge I just grab a few extra tubs of coffee creamer from the lobby since they usually only leave one or two with your terrible in-room coffee setup.
  5. Toilet Paper.
    Sounds silly, but if I stop at a store on my way to my hotel (which I usually do), I always grab a roll of nice toilet paper. It rarely costs more than about a dollar but it makes a world of difference in comfort compared to the scratchy one-ply TP that is usually standard in budget hotels. You’ll thank me later.
  6. Water.
    This is usually why I pop into a Walgreens or grocery store on my way to a check in. When you travel, you tend to get dehydrated which can lead to serious bloating. It’s never fun wriggling into an outfit you’ve planned only to end up feeling like a sausage in your normally perfectly fitting clothes. I make it a point to drink a gallon of water per day- at home or when traveling- to keep that bloating and water retention at bay.

Hope these tips help you feel more comfortable when you’re traveling- they make a world of difference for me!

Uber in Alaska

As an expat Alaskan I was super excited to see a tweet from @Uber_AK claiming that the first drivers were being dispatched in Anchorage! It always fills me with a little joy to see my home state get the same modern comforts I enjoy down here in the contiguous US.

uber alaska

I use Uber regularly and I can’t imagine travel and transport without it- they have really revolutionized the way I get around. It’s cost effective, quick, safe and reliable.

So Alaskan friends (or anyone else), sign up with this link and you’ll receive $30 off your first ride, which usually makes it free!

 

Drugstore Dupe for Benefit’s They’re REAL Mascara

Love Benefit’s iconic “They’re REAL” Mascara but hate the hefty $24 price tag? Me too. On a whim, I tried L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara and as it turns out, it is SO similar to They’re Real! I arguably like it even better, as it’s a teeny bit more volumizing. I got great length and volume, and the comb separates so no clumps. Give this one a try!

L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Butterfly Mascara, Blackest Black, 0.22 Ounces

mascara

6 Low Calorie Pumpkin Spice Treats

There’s something about September that suddenly causes me to don crocheted slipper boots and scarves, drink #PSL’s and become the most basic of white girls. I JUST LOVE FALL WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME. I mean, I know it’s still over 100 degrees outside, but the clock is ticking and this casual jacket wardrobe isn’t going to wear itself. Unfortunately the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte rings in at 380 calories and 52 carbs in the Grande with whip- how can we enjoy these treats through the fall season without sacrificing the hard work we’re putting in at the gym? Here’s how! Find a list of healthy, low calorie pumpkin spice treats below!

1. Extra Dessert Delights Pumpkin Spice GUM
I am a bona-fide gum fiend, especially the dessert varieties that I often use to satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. This is epic, and I plan to scour all the checkout lines in my grocery stores until I find it.

extra-pumpkin-spice-gum

2. Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt
For the protein conscious, Chobani released a “small batch” seasonal Pumpkin Spice blended greek yogurt flavor. Can’t wait to try! I can only imagine how good it would be with a graham cracker crumbled on top…

chobani_pumpkin-spice-yogurt

3. Pumpkin Spice Tea
Add a few drops of vanilla stevia and a table spoon of half and half for a low cal, low carb PSL! The Celestial Seasonings Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea has no calories, carbs or sugar!

pumpkin spice tea

4. Pumpkin Spice Whey Protein
I can’t believe more companies haven’t gotten on this bandwagon! I’m talking to you, Cellucor! Reviews on Amazon say the flavor is amazing.

pumpkin spice whey protein

5. Pumpkin Spice Muscle Egg
Not familiar with Muscle Egg? You should be! It’s flavored, pasturized egg whites! Imagine your protein waffles, pancakes, and smoothies with this delicious pumpkin flavored protein source.

pumpkin spice muscle egg

6. Pumpkin Spice Condoms
Okay, so these aren’t actually real, but I couldn’t resist.

pumpkin spice condom

Pumpkin Spice Protein Frappuccino

Pumpkin Spice Protein Frappuccino, my first installment of me putting pumpkin in everything that goes in my face until about January. Inspired by a recipe my mom sent me for a low-calorie pumpkin spice latte, BUT since Arizona doesn’t give a damn about fall and it’s still 108 degrees outside, a hot #PSL doesn’t sound too great. So iced and blended, it’s still amazing.

Macros for this sweet treat: 204 calories, 28g protein, 11g Carbs, 4.5g Fat, and 6g fiber!

pumpkin spice frappuccino

 

1 scoop vanilla protein (I used Dymatize ISO 100 Birthday Cake)
1/2c pumpkin purée (NOT pie filling) Note: I used frozen pumpkin I had leftover so if you use it right out of the can, add ice!
1/2tbsp pumpkin pie spice (more or less to taste)
1 packet Splenda or stevia
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup strong coffee (I used cold brewed so it didn’t get bitter- my awesome cold brew recipe here)
Add all ingredients to a blender or magic bullet, blend until smooth, top with a little reddiwhip and some cinnamon <3