It's FALL! + Defining Lifestlye with Ash

Today is the first official day of Fall! I don't know what else could make a Monday be awesome! I have been looking forward to Fall and this weekend we just had definitely did a good job with the Summer to Fall transition. We had nice temperatures in the high 70's and low 80's and then it rained and got a little windy Sunday night. I think mother nature got it right for once! (At least here in central NY).


We all have that question we are just DYING to answer, but it doesn't ever seem to come. My new series allows bloggers to submitted their own set of questions AND answers in effort to get some stuff out there that they normally aren't asked. If this doesn't define the lifestyle blogger, I don't know what does. So sit back, relax, and expect some fun over the next few weeks!

 Today I am welcoming Ash who blogs over at The Grits Blog. I love Ash because she comes up with some pretty fun topics and her design skills are AH-MAZING! Make sure you stop by and check her out. You won't be disappointed! 

(1) How did you come up with the name for your blog? 
Ash: I am from the south - specifically, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. For the record, my blog's name, The Grits Blog, doesn't stand for Girls Raised in the South.

Anyways, I picked grits to represent my blog because it's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of home, other than my family of course. It's what I think of when I think of the south - and it's one way to let people know something quickly about me. Clever right?? #notreally 

(2) What is the one thing you didn't expect to happen when you started blogging?
Ash: My obsession for designs! Since January I have changed my design about five times - FIVE TIMES! Crazy. Just crazy. I just finished a new one that I installed a few months ago - and I am already looking at designing another one. That being said, I will NOT install it until January - I am making myself live with this one for at least a few months.

(3) How did you get started with blog designing? 
Ash: Another designer burned me, not only on my design but money-wise too. After that I decided that I would never let someone else be in control of my blog design - and truth be told, I like it to change it wayyyy to much - i.e. see whiplash here. So I decided to learn how to do it on my own - this meant countless, painful hours of googling and figuring out photoshop.That being said, it was worth it. It's become one of my favorite things to do and my creative outlet!

(4) How did you gain traffic/followers? 
Ash: I think my biggest source of new readers has been due to two things: (1) advertisements and (2) decent content. I conducted a survey a few months ago and most of the people that found me were through my button being on someone else's sidebar or via guest post, then they stuck around because they like my blog. 

(5)  you could offer one piece of must-have advice to an aspiring blogger, what would it be? 
Ash: Don't worry about the stats. Build it and they will come! Meaning, focus on your content and focus on getting your name out there so that people can find you.

Image Map

There are no words for how I feel

I live 2 1/2 hours away from my family. I live 2 1/2 hours away from my closest friends. I am 2 1/2 hours away from a small community that I call home and today it has been approximately 144 hours that they have been living in fear.

Today I am angry. I am angry that a person decided to take someone else's life into his hands, not thinking about the consequences he was facing. I will not mention his name because quite frankly he does not deserve the limelight. He does not deserve people to be speaking about him in any way, except that he is a criminal. In case you aren't familiar with the story, last Friday night a man decided to take the life of a Pennsylvania state trooper and has left another in critical condition. He is believed to be armed and dangerous and has left a small community in shock and fear. This is not okay.

The world we live in today is a rough one. Many people know this. Systems are broken. Programs are being taken away, money is hard to come by. We may have to work a hell of a lot harder than anyone had to 20 years ago just to make ends meat, but that doesn't give any person the right to take another life because he is angry at the world. Violence does not solve problems. It makes them worse. Because of this act there are children afraid to go to school or go out and play with their friends. What are we teaching our youth with this? To live their lives in fear? Not cool.

Please say a prayer today for me. Please pray for the families who are suffering the loss of a loved one. Pray for the man who is in a hospital fighting for his life. Pray for the law enforcement who are out there day and night trying to make this community safe again. Pray for the folks who are living in fear because this man might be hiding in their neighborhood, like a coward.

I hope Friday is coming on a little bit nicer for you than it has for me today. Hope its a good one.

My skin routine

Normally I would not post a skin routine on here, but I really am in love with what I've been using lately! My skin is pretty stubborn, okay A LOT stubborn and it gets angry at me when I try new things most of the time. It never follows the rules. For example. everyone says Cetaphil is really good for sensitive skin and is really gentle and all that jazz. My skin HATES it. It breaks out and gets all red. (No bad blood Cetaphil, I'm sure you're great and live up to all the hype for all other skin.) My skin has issues. Nuff said.

A few weeks ago I was able to visit a Lush while I was out of town. I love Lush, but I don't have any local so I don't buy as often as I'd like. I had lots of time to spare so I sat down and had a demonstration with all these amazing products for the face. Lets just say I fell in love with A LOT of products. It was tough to make a decision on what to bring home with me, but I had to be reasonable and bought the ones that would really help my skin out.

First up is Herbalism. This stuff is AH-MAZ-ING. It is a clay based face and body cleanser. It has little bits of almond to help exfoliate the skin. I use this every night before I go to bed. It leaves my skin feeling smooth and squeaky clean! I recommend only using this once a day a night if you have sensitive skin like I do. Once at night seems to do the trick!
Good ol green Herbalism!
After using Herbalism I spritz my face with Tea Tree Water. My skin drinks this stuff right up. I use a cotton round to remove any excess which also gets rid of any leftover residue from the cleanser. In the mornings I do no cleanse my face with the Herbalism again, so I just spritz on the Tea Tree Water and use that as my cleanser. My skin was clean when I went to bed so all I need is to remove any residue that may have gotten on my skin while sleeping.

Tea Tree Water!
The last item I purchased and am in love with is Cupcake! This stuff smells like a minty chocolate cupcake. It is a thick brown mask that helps repair the skin and calms it. Like I mentioned up there, my skin is kind of a jerk. It flares up for any reason. I use this mask once a week and it has been keeping my skin happy. This stuff also needs to stay in the fridge because it is perishable.

Yummy Cupcake!
Lush has some pretty amazing products, and their holiday products are coming out soon! I always love to buy their holiday stuff for gifts. They come all gift wrapped and ready to roll. Some of the cleaners and masks come in little tubs that aren't normal recyclables so they ask that you bring them back for them to dispose of. For every 5 you bring back, you get a free mask! Pretty amazing deal! I love how eco-friendly they are and they never test on animals. Check them out if you get the chance cause again- LOVE!

This is not a sponsored post. I just simply love their products and decided to do a short review.

Do you shop at Lush? What are your favorite products? If you don't use Lush, what other brands do you use that are eco-friendly?

Wellness Wednesday: Smoothies

I am continuing my quest to "Win at life" and working on wellness options in my life. I started a 7 day life detox and one of the things I am doing daily is making a smoothie every morning. It is super easy to do and it keeps me full until lunch. There are so many combinations you can incorporate into your smoothies to customize a taste that works for you. Today I am going to share one of my favorite smoothie recipes, and hope it inspires you to play around until you find one you love!

I do not have a specific name for my smoothie, but it can be defined under the "green smoothie" category.

What you need:
1 Banana (the riper the better)
1 1/2 cups of Spinach or Kale
1/2 cup of Blueberries
1 cup Plain Almond Milk
1/2 cup of Water

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. If you like a thinker smoothie you can add 1/2 a cup of plain greek yogurt or a few ice cubes. This normally yields about 16 ounces. Sometimes I have more, sometimes less depending on if I measure my portions or not. I like to add lots of greens so my smoothies normally come out looking more green, but this particular smoothie I went lighter on the greens and it comes out a pretty purple :)

Do you like smoothies? What are some of your favorite blends? Share them below!

The story behind the photo

Some days I just don't feel like writing. I have a headache that won't go away, its cold out, and no amount of caffeine will keep my eyes open. Do you ever have one of those days? I figured instead of writing a whole blog about not wanting to write a blog, I would turn this into a positive post to get everyone through Tuesday. A few months ago I posted a photo with a quote in one of my inspirational posts, and thought today would be a good day to bring it back and talk about it a bit.

I took this photo one night when I was sitting on my balcony. It had just rained cats and dogs and then just like that, it cleared up. The sky was all kinds of pinks and purples. Absolutely stunning. It is days like this that reminds me; when the storm is over, the beauty will shine through. Turning this photo sideways and adding the quote really did it for me. It fit well with the words. If I had posted the photo how it was taken, it wouldn't have felt as significant.

Do you ever play around with photos you took? Create new ways to see the beauty in it? Tell me your stories behind the photos and make it a great day!