ESPN’s 30 For 30 Documentaries Are My New Favorite Thing On Netflix

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I never thought I’d say this, but I’m totally hooked on ESPN lately.

Well, not ESPN per say, but ESPN content. Their 30 for 30 documentary series, to be specific. (THEY ARE SO GOOD!)

If you’re not familiar with this concept, ESPN worked with several great directors to compile a collection of sports-related documentaries. And the great news? They’re ALL available on Netflix now! (And there are more than 30, so get excited.)

Even though I’m not a sports person (I don’t follow sports, although I love going to live games), I do get a little obsessed with the Olympics, and I think I love these 30 for 30 documentaries for the same reason: the stories behind the sports. I LOVE learning about athletes’ families, their training routines, their struggles, etc., during Olympics coverage, and these documentaries scratch that same itch by giving insight into the “behind the scenes” stuff. They add dimension to stories we’ve heard before. They bring in elements that are seemingly unrelated. They connect the stories to larger societal themes in compelling ways. In short: I’m a fan.

I’m by no means a 30 for 30 expert at this point and have actually just watched four of the documentaries so far, but I’ve loved all of them so much that I feel confident making a blanket statement about the series as a whole.

Having viewed these four, I can wholeheartedly recommend:

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1. June 17, 1994: This film chronicles the day of O.J. Simpson’s famous car chase, telling the story not through interviews but through footage captured that day. I didn’t know that at the same time America’s eyes were glued to their TVs watching Simpson’s white Bronco cruise down the freeway there were also other major sports-related events going on (Arnold Palmer’s last round at a U.S. Open, the start of the World Cup in Chicago, the New York Rangers celebrated their Stanley Cup win, and the Knicks and Rockets faced off at the NBA finals). The movie weaves in footage from these events as well, showing how those commentators struggled to report on the sports events at hand but also keep viewers up to speed on the Simpson chase. Watch this ASAP — seriously.

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2. The Price of Gold: Tonya Harding was a disadvantaged kid from Portland who was hell bent on having her name go down in history in the ice skating world. She got her wish, but not nearly in the way she’d expected, and this film adds more perspective to Harding’s journey. (You probably won’t change your opinion on her association with the Nancy Kerrigan attack, but you’re guaranteed to come away with a more dimensional view of Harding and her career.)

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3. The Announcement: After watching this documentary last weekend, which highlights Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis and him telling the world about it, I am forever a Magic Johnson fan. (I wasn’t NOT a fan before, but this film gave me such insight into Johnson’s optimism and contagious charisma, and made me remarkably proud of him and the way he’d dealt with this life-changing news.)

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4. Broke: What happens when a kid just out of college who’s never had any money to speak of becomes a millionaire overnight? Shocker: They don’t tend to manage their money wisely. This heartbreaking documentary spotlights professional athletes who once had it all — until they spent every cent.

Is anyone else as into these 30 for 30 films as I am? Which should I watch next?

 

Lemon Almond Bread — A Perfect Easter Treat!

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I was trying to come up with something delicious* to bring to my sister and brother-in-law’s house this weekend since they’re hosting us for Easter at their place in Columbia, South Carolina, and when I stumbled upon this recipe the other day I knew I’d found a winner. The lemon just screams springtime, and I love the citrus/almond combo (it even has almond milk in it!). A little sweet/salty action happening (thanks to the sliced almonds on top) plus scurvy prevention? I’m in.

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(*I know you told us not to bring anything, Susan, but I just couldn’t help it!)

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Ingredients (for bread):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest (zest from roughly two lemons)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

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Ingredients (for glaze):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Sliced almonds for garnish

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Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray either one large loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix the sugar and lemon zest, using your fingers to combine until fragrant. Whisk sugar/lemon mixture into the flour mixture and set aside.
  • In a separate medium bowl, combine almond milk, oil, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and almond extract, mixing well.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan(s).
  • Bake until toothpick comes out clean (about 30 minutes if you’re using smaller pans, 55-60 for a larger pan).
  • Place loaf (still in the pan) on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes, then loosen the sides of the bread with a knife and carefully remove the bread from the pan. Cool completely.
  • While the bread is cooling, make the lemon glaze by combining powdered sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract in a small bowl, whisking until smooth. Drizzle the glaze on top of the bread and top with sliced almonds. Slice and ENJOY!

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Is anyone else cooking or baking something special for the holiday weekend? Please share any awesome recipes!

Toasted Curry Chickpeas: Quick, Easy, And Healthy Snack Recipe

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I learned something cool about protein recently that I hadn’t heard before: up to 30% of the calories in protein are burned during digestion. (Did you guys know this?) So essentially, if you eat 100 calories of protein, 30 of those calories are burned as the food is being processed by your body. Awesome, right? I always knew protein was great for you, but this fun fact has reinforced that for me.

So when I stumbled upon this recipe for toasted curry chickpeas — and realized that chickpeas are packed with 15 grams of protein per cup — I knew I had to give it a try. (Plus, I already had all the ingredients on hand. I love it when that happens.)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground curry
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until chickpeas are evenly coated.
  • Spread chickpeas across prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes (until crisp).
  • Allow chickpeas to cool completely before covering and storing. (They stay nice and crispy that way!)

And if you’re looking for other delightful and healthy snack ideas, check out the recipe I posted for Protein-Packed Almond Butter Balls (they are seriously SO GOOD — Kevin thinks they taste like Samoas!) and my list of fave work snacks.

 

Want Some Tax Day Freebies?

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I rarely feel as dumb as I do when trying to complete my taxes. Why do they make it sound so very confusing? I’m an educated person — I should be able to figure this out. (This is why Kevin and I had an accountant do our taxes this year. I feel much better — and smarter! — about the whole situation.)

Whatever your confidence level in relation to taxes is, I’d be willing to be that Tax Day isn’t all that fun for you either. However, select companies are aiming to make it a little less painful by giving out free stuff on April 15. I’m a fan of free (I like free WAY more than I like taxes), and thought some of you might be as well, so I wanted to pass these along:

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  • Cinnabon: If you’re in the mood for some cinnamon deliciousness tomorrow between 6 and 8 p.m., head over to Cinnabon for two free cinnamon bites!

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  • AMC Theaters: Checking out a flick tomorrow? Be sure to print out this coupon for a free small popcorn if you’re going to an AMC location.

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  • Great American Cookies: Should you find yourself in a shopping mall tomorrow, be sure to stop by the food court and get a free chocolate chip cookie!

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  • Papa Murphy’s: We weren’t familiar with Papa Murphy’s until moving to Winston, and now we LOVE them! Stop by tomorrow and score a large pepperoni pizza for just $5.

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Orange Leaf: Sadly, there isn’t an Orange Leaf in Winston-Salem (I do love me some fro-yo!), but if any of you are lucky enough to have one nearby, be sure to fill up a cup of of frozen yogurt tomorrow for just $4.15.

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And the BEST part about tomorrow? You’ll be DONE with taxes for a whole year. (Now THAT’S worth celebrating.)

It’s Almost Beach Season! That Means It’s Time For A Bathing Suit Wish List.

I’m so thankful that warmer weather has FINALLY come our way, and it’s made me excited for beach season to get underway. Kevin and I LOVE the beach, and head down to our favorite North Carolina spot (Oak Island) as many weekends as possible over the summer. It’s pretty much the best.

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And so, to ring in the 2014 beach season in style, I wanted to share a few lovely bathing suits (and cover-ups) I’ve had my eye on recently:

1. Goddess Bikini from Nordstrom

I’m digging the color and wrap-y (yes, “wrap-y” — that just seems like the right word) style of this suit:

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2. Victoria’s Secret has a cool new feature on their website: a BikiniMixer, where you can search for tops and bottoms separately (which I love, since I’m a big fan of mixing and matching bathing suits). Here are some of my top picks using that tool:

(Long Line Bandaeu top in White Lace and Ruched Hipkini bottoms in Antigua Multi):

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(Fringe Halter top in Neon Pink and Cheeky Hipkini bottom in Black Stripe):

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(Triangle top in Berry Bliss and Cheeky Low-Rise bottoms in White Splatter Foil):

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3. Textured Stripe Bikini from Asos

Simple, nautical, and fun. Sold:

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4. La Blanca Crochet Trim Cover-Up from Nordstrom

I love everything about this cover-up: the color, the length, the crochet — it’s lovely!:

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5. Tuxedo in Navy from Albion Fit

I’m always lusting after Albion Fit’s workout clothes, but their bathing suits are to die for, too!:

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6. Hit the Deck Hooded Cover-Up Tunic from Nordstrom

This looks like such a cozy, casual cover-up. I’m a fan!:

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What’s on your beach-ready wish list?

I Need A Hair Dryer Recommendation!

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So, here’s the thing.

I’m in the market for a new hair dryer. I want a good one. One that dries hair fast and leaves it smooth. And one that doesn’t cost a bazillion dollar bills.

Drying my hair is one of my very least favorite activities. (I think it’s because I really excel at multi-tasking, but drying my hair is one of the few things that requires complete concentration on that single task. Annoying.)

And so, blog readers, I need your advice and assistance, please. I’ve done a bit of research on the interwebs and have found a few options that were reviewed well, but am interested to know what suggestions you might have as well. Any thoughts? Words of wisdom? Please, please send them my way!

Here’s what I’ve found as far as top contenders go. (These are all budget-friendly and come well-reviewed!):

1. Babylis Pro BABTT5585 Tourmaline Titanium 3000 Dryer ($55.07 via Amazon)

This dryer promises to cut styling time in half. Great news to my ears!

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2. Solia 1875W Thermal Ionic Hair Dryer ($89.99 via Amazon)

This find is a salon-style hair dryer that’s priced much lower than its peers.

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3. Infiniti Pro by Conair 1875 Watt Salon Performance Folding Handle Hair Dryer ($39.99 via Ulta)

It’s quiet, efficient, and comes in hot pink. Sold.

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4. Elchim 2001 Professional Hair Dryer ($78.75 via Amazon)

This dryer’s equipped with seven switches to control speed and temperature.

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5. John Frieda Full Volume Ceramic Hair Dryer ($33.99 via Amazon)

I love John Frieda’s Frizz Ease products, so I’m digging this option, which comes with three heat settings, two speed settings, two snap-on concentrators, and ionic and ceramic technology.

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Do any of you lovely readers out there have recommendations to send my way? Any hair dryers you’ve loved? Any I should be sure to stay away from?

Bread Pudding: The New San Francisco Treat?

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While Kevin and I were out in San Francisco last week, we couldn’t help but notice something: bread pudding seemed to be a “thing.”

In fact, Schulzies — a spot just around the corner from our hotel — serves up exclusively bread pudding (chilled, since it’s in California). And though Kevin and I opted for a morning bun and croissant at Tartine, we noticed that we were surrounded by diners eating bread pudding — for breakfast!

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As a huge fan of bread pudding, I’m very okay with this.

We all know San Francisco is famous for their sourdough bread (it is amazing, by the way), so perhaps the emergence of bread pudding as a popular treat was destined to be a next step. Honestly, I don’t care all too much about what set this trend into motion — I’m just hoping it starts making its way over to the East coast. I mean, just listen to some of these bread pudding varieties available out in Cali: Butter Me Up Biscotti, Strawberry Brioche, Warm Black and White Chocolate, and Croissant and Custard. YUM! (If you’re in the Bay area and need a bread pudding recommendation, check out this round-up from Refinery 29.)

Slightly related story (in that it’s also about bread): Before heading out to California, Kevin and I were intrigued by another bread-related trend that’s been reported by John Gravois for Pacific StandardHe’d seen toast (just toast — buttered and such) become a common menu item at coffee shops around town and wondered was so special to warrant the fascination (and high price tag) associated with the simple food. Gravois initially assumed this was a run-of-the-mill overrated, hipster trend, but came to find out there was so much more to the story. (Unfortunately, we didn’t make it out to Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club during our visit — perhaps the only regret from our amazing trip.)

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But I digress. Let’s get back to bread pudding.

Lots of sources (from the Houston Chronicle to the Food Channel to Dolche and Gabana’s online magazine Swide) have tapped artisan bread — and its derivatives like bread pudding — as a 2014 trend, but San Francisco seems to be at the epicenter of the trend thanks to Schulzies (they just dove right in!) and other local establishments.

And to that I say, “Well done, San Francisco!” Way to embrace this new trend with such gusto and skill. (And hey — if Winston-Salem eateries wanted to get on the bread pudding band wagon, let’s just say you’d have at least one avid supporter.)

I Love You, California

So, as luck would have it, Kevin and I know LOTS of awesome people who live in (or very near) San Francisco. And so, when we were planning a very last minute trip (Kevin had a week off between ending a new job and starting a new one) San Fran seemed like the obvious choice.

It was a wonderful decision.

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We managed to cram a whole bunch of visiting and sightseeing into a few short days (neither of us had been to the Bay area since about middle school), and couldn’t have been happier with the way the trip netted out.

Here’s a quick overview by category (in no particular order):

Friends/Family:

  • The Hoffmans!: Kevin’s sister and her amazing family (April, Greg, Everett, Isaiah, and Lulu the dog) moved out to Pleasanton (a little outside of the city) from the Seattle area about two years ago and we hadn’t been out to see their California place until this trip. Their home is beautiful (no surprise there, with April at the helm) and we had a blast with them hiking, trampoline jumping at Rockin’ Jump, hanging out in the hot tub, having dance parties, eating delicious meals, and going wine tasting. I can’t believe I married into such a fun family!

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  • The Kellers: Speaking of wine tasting, we were joined by Kevin’s cousin, Eric, and his family on Saturday for a great day of vineyard hopping, picnic lunches, and conversation. (That is, Eric and Joey joined us for the outing and their sons Landon and Cole hung out at the Hoffman homestead with Everett and Isaiah, where we all ended up for some post-vineyard coffee and conversation.)

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  • Ezra and Sarah: These two were part of the Fulbright crew I taught English with in Malaysia way back in 2008, and we’ve loved staying in touch in the years since we’ve been back Stateside. The last time I saw Sarah and Ez in California was for their beautiful wedding in Sonoma in 2011, and now they’re about to be a family of three, so it was great to see Sarah with her adorable baby bump. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with Sarah and Ez and then explored their neighborhood, ending the night with gelato (YUM!).

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  • David and Devon: Kevin, Dave, and Devon go waaaaay back. They’re all Conyers friends, and I love hanging out with them and hearing stories from their Salem High School days. They live in Berkeley now, and met us for drinks in the city before taking us up to Twin Peaks for an incredible view (we lucked out with a clear night) and then across the bridge to check out the vantage point from Berkeley. We laughed a lot, filled up on Chicago-style pizza, and had the best time with these guys!

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  • Lauren Lavin: This was kind of a funny night, in a way. You see, Lauren and I had never met in person, but had become pen pals of sorts through our mutual friend Watson. We talk frequently (via email, text, and gchat), but had never met (for real, that is). Lauren moved out to San Fran about three months ago, and so we met up with her our first night in town for some authentic Mexican and bar hopping on Mission. Now we are OFFICIALLY friends!
  • Kevin Wakefield: Kevin and I used to work together here in Winston-Salem, and he’s since relocated to the Bay area for work. Kevin (Keller) and I caught up with him over lunch in Chinatown (at Great Eastern, Obama’s pick when he’s in town) and loved our time together.

Tourist-y Things:

  • The Cliff House/Sutro Baths: Okay — this place feels like a fairy tale. Sutro Baths used to be a bath house right on the water until it was destroyed by a fire, and now you can walk among the ruins and take in some breathtaking views of the water.

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  •  Grace Cathedral: An iconic church in the area, Grace Cathedral is a beautiful structure with an even more beautiful philosophy. The church is home to an Interfaith AIDS chapel and promotes a refreshingly inclusive atmosphere. The floors feature intricate inlaid labyrinths used for prayer and yoga, and the church currently houses a breathtaking exhibit of ribbons hanging from the ceiling called “Graced with Light.”

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Food & Drink:

We ate so much great food during our time in the city!:

  • The Grove: Recommended to us by a nearby boutique, this restaurant has a handful of locations, and we popped into the Hayes Valley spot for a quick snack the day we flew in. The restaurant’s cozy fireplace and modern-yet-comfy vibe was perfect for a rainy afternoon.
  • Taqueria Los Coyotes: This place was authentic and delicious — perfect for our California Mexican fix.
  • Elbo Room: We loved checking out this bar with Lavin!
  • Great Eastern: We knew this place was going to be a winner when we realized we were the only Caucasians in the restaurant, and sure enough we enjoyed awesome dim sum here for lunch one day.
  • Vesuvio Cafe: This renowned spot just next door to City Lights Bookstore was a favorite of literary types like Jack Kerouac (Kevin’s fave), so we were thrilled when Dave and Devon picked this spot for a pre-dinner drink.
  • Zachary’s Chicago Pizza: Getting Chicago-style pizza right is an art, but the folks at Zachary’s pull it off well.
  • Cafe DeLucchi: Sarah and Ez live near Little Italy, so Italian food was a must when we met them for dinner. Cafe DeLucchi did not disappoint, and Kevin and I LOVED our meals (we got pizza and gnocci).
  • Tartine: I wanted at least one good bakery experience while in San Fran, and Tartine was the perfect choice. Kevin and I popped in for breakfast one day and got a morning bun and croissant that were to DIE for.
  • Hayes Valley Bakeworks: This spot was just down the street from our hotel, and after reading about the bakery’s mission to provide marketable skills to people in need, I wanted to be sure to give them some business. I’m happy to report that not only is the heart of this business good, but so are its cookies (I got a Mexican chocolate snickerdoodle — YUM!).

Additional Notes:

  • Inn at the Opera: We lucked out with our hotel (located at 333 Fulton Street — easy for us to remember!) in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. There was wonderful shopping nearby (as well as great spots to eat and drink), and the location was perfect. The hotel felt European in the best way: small, yet absurdly comfortable with a kind staff and delicious (free!) breakfast (plus the price was right). We will absolutely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone traveling to San Francisco.
  • Lyft and Uber: These are the preferred ways to get around the city (as opposed to a standard cab), and Kevin and I enjoyed traveling around the city this way. Not only do you get where you need to go, chances are you’ll be driven by someone cool who has great recommendations on things to do.

Thanks to all our friends and family who made our time in the Bay area so much fun. We can’t wait to visit again soon!

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Springtime Nail Polish Picks

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As I’ve previously confessed, I’m a bit of a nail polish addict. (Okay, so maybe “bit of” can be removed from that sentence.) I’m straight up obsessed with painting my nails, and it’s pretty rare to find me without polish on.

So I thought I’d pass along some bright shades I’m loving as springtime (quickly? please be quickly!) approaches:

Essie’s Bikini So Teeny is a wonderfully fun shade of light blue that’s perfect as weather starts to get warmer:

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Since my polish-themed post last summer, I’ve discovered how wonderful Zoya* polish is, and their bright pink color Lara and purple Charisma are now two of my faves (and scream spring/summer):

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*Zoya’s nail polish remover also made my December 2013 list of Must-Have Beauty Products. That stuff is amazing!

Revlon’s Colorstay Longwear Nail Enamel has long been a top pick for me. These days, I’m especially digging Coastal Surf and Passionate Pink:

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What nail polish colors (and brands) are you loving lately?

 

 

Taco Bell Breakfast FTW

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You guys — Taco Bell is serving breakfast now! Exciting stuff, especially for Taco Bell fans like the Kellers.

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To celebrate this wonderful event, Kevin and I had a Taco Bell breakfast date today before work (yes, today’s the day the breakfast items launched and it may or may not have been on my calendar — don’t judge).

Kevin Keller has brought countless wonderful things into my life, and Taco Bell happens to be one of them. Admittedly, I didn’t have any love for Taco Bell until we started dating. And then I saw the light.

But back to breakfast. How was it? It was great. We had bacon breakfast burritos and a bacon waffle taco — both delish. (Coffee was decent, too!) Next trip we’ll have to try the A.M. Crunch Wrap.

With that, I leave you with a brief photo montage of our visit to Taco Bell this morning. (We were the only people in the restaurant, too, and the staff seemed to delight in our excitement over the breakfast. Our Taco Bell employees are so nice!):

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