LETTER TO 2015

   
 Dear 2015,

Okay these letters are much easier to write to each month, rather than to an entire year. Reflecting is a lot more manageable in small doses for me. But, I’ll give it a shot. 

2015, I was expecting you to be a year of settling. Not settling in a bad way– settling into my career as a teacher, settling into life as a semi-adult, settling into living on my own, settling into life after college. After 2014 with graduating college, getting my first job, and attempting to survive my first semester as a teacher, I was very ready for a year of settling. 

Surprisingly, that was not at all what you gave me, 2015. As someone who loves routine, and finds so much comfort in it, I was pretty shocked to find that I got a little antsy when things were too settled. 

So, you pushed me to try new things. I started MountainGirlyGirl. I spent a week in Tahoe and went on my first backpacking trip. My mom got married. I took up fishing and eventually caught a fish. And as I looked back through my photos and posts I want to include about 537 pictures and link every post, but I will spare you all of that. Basically, 2015, you were full of some pretty awesome stuff. 

2015, you’re almost over and at this point in the year most people are already thinking ahead. They’re focusing on what they want to change for the next year. I’m even guilty of it. I’ve decided on a few definite resolutions for 2016 (bring on less ridiculous stress induced zits and more time outside!). 

But, sitting down to write this forces me to look back on everything I did this year. I mean, honestly, I didn’t remember you that fondly. You brought me some challenges, 2015. When I look at you more closely, though, you were pretty spectacular. 

Today I will celebrate you. I’ll save all of that resolution business and New Year high hopes for tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

POST HOLIDAYS GIVEAWAY

The holidays are starting to wrap up, but I’m just not ready for that yet. So, I have decided to keep them going for a little bit longer here on MountainGirlyGirl. 

  
Recently, I’ve had a lot more people asking me if the PopSugar Must Have subscription box is really worth it. I’m not shy about how much I love it (check out my last post on December’s box here).  But, spending almost $40 a month on a surprise gift to yourself can be a lot to wrap your head around. Really, I wasn’t convinced until I received my first box. 

Of course, I want to do that for you! For this giveaway I will be sending one lucky winner their very own December PopSugar Must Have box! (I’m not usually a big !!! user but this giveaway is just so stinkin’ exciting!)

How to enter:

  • Click that Subscribe link right on this page
  • Follow me (mountaingirlygirl) on Instagram
  • Like the Giveaway picture that I have posted on Instagram

Doing each one of these things counts as an entry. Which means you can enter this giveaway 3 times! 

I will randomly select a winner on January 3rd, and will contact you via email. 

I’m so not ready to end the holidays and I desperately want to share my subscription box obsession with you. 

Good luck and let’s ring in 2016 with a little giveaway love!

Thanks for reading, 

Sydney

DECEMBER POPSUGAR MUST HAVE

Another month, another phenomenal PopSugar Must Have subscription box!  I seriously love getting this little present to myself (sent from and bought for by myself, as well… but that’s beside the point) each month.

*Also, for last minute shoppers this (or any subscription box) is a great idea.  It’s super convenient, but it’s so much more personal than cash or a gift card.

IMG_3672 copy

Luv Aj The Rose Gold Ombre Bracelet ($65)

I’m not a big bracelet person.  In fact, I’m not a big jewelry person, in general.  But, I am so excited for this bracelet.  It has a mix of silver, gold, and rose gold.  I always see people who can stylishly mix gold and silver jewelry– and I definitely cannot.  So, this should be the perfect piece to help me achieve that goal (yes, it is a pretty lofty goal– my resolutions are starting at the bottom so I can work my way up).

Stowaway Cosmetics Creme Lipstick Trio ($30)

These are just the cutest little lipsticks!  The colors are all very easy to wear– nothing too crazy or bold.  Plus, the size is perfect.  I love to try different lip colors, but I very, very rarely use an entire lipstick before I use it all, or wash it, or lose it, or let it melt in the fun.  And they actually fit in my pockets (which the pockets on women’s pants are just insanely small and useless), so I don’t need to carry my entire purse to the bathroom to touch up.

My Cup of Cake Classic Belgian Chocolate ($6)

Cake that I can make in 3 minutes in a mug? Uh, yeah.  Count me in.  Added bonus: the ingredients are all natural so my wanna-be-naturalist-hippie desires are satisfied.

Meri Meri Silver Stars on White Glitter Tape ($4)

This is the ultimate in fancy, Instagram-worthy gift wrapping.  Admittedly, my wrapping abilities are not quite to that level, but I have seen other who use this tape in the planner or on their to-do lists.  And with my love for unnecessarily fancy items (printed tape? so unnecessary and so cool), coupled with my love for planning and making lists, I think that’s exactly how I’ll be using this tape.

Nima Oberoi Lunares Geo Stopper($24)

This wine stopper makes me want to become the kind of person who doesn’t finish the entire bottle of wine and actually needs to use a stopper.  The geometric shape on top is super trendy.  Plus, anything that saves me from wasting money and– more importantly– wine, sounds great to me.

Swing Design Nova Blue Mist Jewelry Box ($36)

This is yet another example of something that I normally wouldn’t buy for myself, but love having.  My jewelry tends to just be strewn about on top of my dresser.  So, this box will be put to good use.  And the adorable soft mint blue color doesn’t hurt either.  The only drawback is that this specific jewelry box doesn’t have an section dividers, so everything is stuck together.  Which usually means everything ends up hopelessly tangled, for me. But, I guess tangled-in-a-jewelry-box beats lost-behind-the-dresser.

Tiny Prints Gift Tag Stickers

Another item to help me up my gift-wrapping game.  My favorite part with these labels is that they work for any season or occasion; they aren’t Christmas specific.  I’m telling you, with all of these gift-wrapping accessories I’m just one sparkly pinecone and some twine away from being a real gift wrap queen.

***

This box had over $165 worth of products and I only spent $35.  It blows my mind.  I am completely obsessed with subscription boxes, and the value on this one is so hard to beat.

Hop on this if you need a last minute gift for someone on your list.  Be sure to enjoy the holidays and take some much needed time to relax.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

 

THE LITTLE THINGS

With holiday hustle and bustle in full-force (yes, the use of ‘force’ is a slight nod to the newest Star Wars premier), I thought it might be helpful to include a few of my favorite reminders to keep me from getting overwhelmed.

Things seem to be getting more and more hectic around here! And while I truly, love the holidays… I have to admit this time of year is absolutely the most stressful for me. And I know I’m not alone in that (well, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone—please let me know if you’re in the same boat!). But, this week I have had plenty of reminders that this season is all about the little things. Yes, this will be a Hallmark-movie-esque post, filled with clichés and heart-felt sentiments about the holidays. Feel free to roll your eyes—I’m going to embrace my cheesiness! But, I do think these reminders are helpful to all of those neurotic and self-induced-stress type people, like me, out there. And I’ll do my best to include some witty comments and keep things real, amongst all the cheesiness.

Have a Beer (or wine, or tea, or scotch, or whatever wets your whistle)

First things first: relax. Do whatever you need to do to wind down. Taking 15 minutes for yourself (alright, let’s say 22, because that’s about how long an episode from your favorite series on Netflix should last) will help keep you sane throughout all of pre-holiday prep work.

Avoid that ‘Perfect Gift’ Pressure

Ok, I am terrible at this. But, I’m trying to improve. Each year, I feel like the pressure to get everyone on my list the perfect gift gets higher and higher. The gift needs to be sentimental, and show that I spent time on it, but not be too sappy, yet still be useful, and should be of value, without being show-off-ish expensive. Then, find the gift, repeat that process for everyone on your list, and increase the stakes for next year.

Ridiculous.

Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Now, I’m not saying to buy everyone on your list a matching scarf and call it a day. But, take a step back and think about how you feel each time you receive a present. You feel loved because you know the person was thinking of you and either spent the time to fight the crowds and buy you this gift, or spent the time to utilize all of their crafting skills and make this gift. Chances are whoever you are getting gifts for feels the same way. And if they don’t—they are being a brat and don’t deserve the kitschy pair of socks you bought them in the first place.

Embrace being Unproductive

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am completely neurotic. Which may explain why I decided I wanted to start a blog during my first year of teaching… I feel this need to be productive or stressing about the need to be productive, at all times. I’m sure Brady would attest that it’s the most charming trait of mine.

However, I am trying to learn to embrace (or at least attempt to enjoy) being unproductive. There is a ridiculous amount of work that goes into the holidays. Especially if you are travelling and won’t be able to be at your own home for extended periods of time (shout out to the Christmas World Tour 2015—27 hours in the car, 12 days on the road, 3 families, and probably 4 times when I breakdown and cry from stress/lack of sleep/happiness/need to go to the bathroom). But, the whole go-go-go mentality that leads up to the holidays will inevitably lead to pre-holiday break-down.

So, take some time to watch your favorite movie, go to dinner with someone you love, lock yourself in the bathroom and watch The Mindy Project as you try every skin remedy possible to combat your stress blemishes—whatever you want for a few hours.

Then: throw on some tunes, wrap those presents, bake those cookies, pack those suitcases, and get some serious business done! (I mean you do still have responsibilities…)

Appreciate the Little Things

I do love the whole vibe that surrounds this time of year. Yes, I may be a crazy, over-emotional, stress case. But, there are so many people out there who aren’t. There are people who shovel their neighbor’s driveway. People who take the time to send you a Christmas card. People who hand out free hot cider samples as you shop. People who bake cookies to share (as opposed to my preferred method of making cookies to eat alone at home).

There’s so much good going on. Don’t get too busy to notice it.

Enjoy the holidays! And everything that leads up to them… stress blemishes and gift wrapping I-lost-the-scissors-tangled-the-tape-and-ripped-the-paper  breakdowns included. It’s all about balance.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

DELICIOUS, HOLIDAY WASSAIL

Tis’ the season for delicious drinks and fantastic smelling houses (and snow, and giving, and time with family, and Jesus’s birthday, and all that good stuff, too). Wassail is one of my absolute favorite holiday drinks. It’s like the fancier and classier older cousin to hot apple cider.

Below, I’ve included my favorite recipe for a big ol’ batch of Wassail. There are tons of different versions of this recipe and I’m sure there is some Wassail Historian out there who can tell me that this is not the original or traditional Wassail recipe. And maybe I should be more concerned about that… but, this tastes delicious and I’m pretty darn happy with it.

Now, this recipe does have a lot more ingredients and take a bit more time than I usually like to spend on my drinks.  I mean, grabbing a beer out of the fridge is a one step process. But, wassail is so seasonal and just makes your house smell like the holidays. Plus, Brady is starting to politely complain about all of the candles that I have going, so this is a nice compromise.

  Ingredients:

8 cups apple cider

1 ½ cups orange juice

¼ cup lemon juice

4 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground nutmeg (most recipes say to use fresh, but I’m a not to the level in life yet where I have whole nutmeg or something to grind it with)

*Optional- Cinnamon whiskey (I use about 1 cup, but change this to suit your taste)

Directions: (Pay close attention because this is super complicated)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot over medium low heat (except the whiskey).
  2. Stir until simmering. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes (add the whiskey about 5 minutes before serving).
  3. Ladle into mugs and enjoy!

If you have never ventured into the wonderful world of wassail you definitely need to try it out this holiday season.  You can make a massive batch to share and keep it warm in the crockpot.  Or you can just make a mug for yourself as the perfect night cap.

I know there have been a lot more lifestyle-ish and recipe posts lately. Believe me: I’ve been missing the adventures, too. But, I just need to survive this week and then I’ve got some exciting outdoors time planned (along with a decent amount of couch and Netflix time).

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

PATAGONIA DOWN SWEATER HOODY: WORTH THE SPLURGE?

Baby, it’s cold outside. More like: Baby, it’s absolutely freezing and will be until mid-April. So, today I thought it would be fitting to talk about one of my winter coats (yes, I have more than one winter coat because I live in Laramie, where we have 10 months of winter). It’s pretty, darn pricey—but, is it worth it?

DSC00224Now, it’s not really a secret that I love Patagonia. I mean, I have their hiking shoes, and pullovers, and hiking pants, and wading shorts, and linen pants (despite my brother claiming they are the worst pants ever invented), and sweaters, and it’s ridiculous—but, I love it.   Of course, it is called PataGUCCI for a reason. There are some seriously high prices on their gear.

This post is going to focus on my Women’s Down Sweater Hoody, specifically.

Price: This was my second Patagonia purchase once I left for school. Which means I had to buy it on my own.  Yeah, I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner last week, but I remember that insignificant detail. And I actually found it on eBay (new—with tags) for $215. But, it’s listed on the Patagonia site as $279. Prices will fluctuate depending on if you buy it in a certain store or need to pay shipping. Generally you can expect to pay well over $200, though.

Function: This coat works perfectly fine to keep me cozy and warm, during mild winter days. Typically, I use this for those sub-zero mornings, as I head to work and my car just can’t possibly get warm enough (yes, a sub-zero morning is mild for Laramie, if there’s not biting wind or snow up to my knees). And it absolutely makes those mornings bearable. I mean, between this coat and a massive mug of hot coffee I’m ready to take on the day. Maybe not “take it on,” but at least participate in the day with a happy heart.

However, on days where there is any prediction of heavy winds or any sort of precipitation, I choose to wear a different coat. According to the description of this product on the website: this coat is wind and water proof. However, according to my damp clothing and frozen limbs: this is completely false.

Style: In general, it’s nearly impossible to find and worth-while, winter coat that doesn’t make whoever is wearing it look like a Yeti. But, this coat does its best. True, I don’t exactly look run-way ready when I wear this. But, I don’t look like that kid from A Christmas Story either. And I call that a successfully styled winter look!

Despite being one of those wear-what-you-eat individuals, I decided to purchase this coat in white. I don’t believe Scandal was around yet, but I’m sure I was channeling my future, inner Olivia Pope. Except Olivia never spills on herself (no matter how much red wine she has), and I spill on myself at least every other day. So, white really isn’t a staple in my wardrobe.

Additionally, this coat zip up over your mouth to help keep your neck and face a bit warmer. Which I do appreciate. Of course, I also love bronzer… so every time I unzip the coat there’s a nice brownish hue all over the collar. Nothing says you’re a classy and put-together lady like bronzer stains all around your neck.

But, I have to say: this coat washes up absolutely beautifully! I have probably washed this coast once a week, for the entire winter season, every year since I bought it. Which I know is ridiculously hard on a coat like this. Still, it always comes out looking white as ever, and there hasn’t been any noticeable wear and tear.

Repurchase: Simply, no.

Now, I’m not unhappy that I have this coat. In fact, I wear it on a semi-regular basis. But, I really think that if I’m going to invest upwards of a couple hundred dollars into a coat, I want it to be absolutely wind and water impenetrable! Especially, given the amount of wind we get in Wyoming– about 174 times each winter season I express that I could easily handle the cold and snow if it weren’t for that (insert a fitting adjective of your choosing here) wind.

***

This post was absolutely, unnecessarily difficult for me to write. I love, love, love Patagonia. So many of their pieces I have had for years, and I’m weirdly attached to them. It almost feels like I’m betraying some unwritten bond with Patagonia by saying I wouldn’t purchase this one coat again.

Have I mentioned that I’m annoyingly over-sensitive about absurd things? Uh, yeah. I know this is a multi-million/billion/trillion dollar company (I’m not actually sure on the amount of money—but we can safely agree that it’s a lot), and my one non-repurchase is a miniscule drop in the bucket.

But, I just had to be honest with you. I like you guys more than Patagonia, which is a seriously big deal.

Personally, I would opt for a different Patagonia coat or even one from Arc’teryx, North Face, or any other of your favorite outdoor brands. Be sure you stay warm and dry all winter long!

Any suggestions for winter coats you swear will keep me from complaining about the Wyoming cold? Well, maybe just keep me from freezing my buns off—stopping all complaints is a pretty massive job for one coat.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

BEST WINTER FACE MASK

It’s winter in Wyoming! So, my face looks like the desert—dry and cracked.

Also, it’s the holidays! So, my face is breaking out due to eating all the foods I don’t normally have, and the stress of travelling.

Yes, the combo of flaky skin and zits is truly as attractive as it sounds.

Below I have included my recipe for my absolute favorite face mask that combats both of these problems. It’s truly been a life saver. Oh, and it’s super affordable. Which I love as a true blogger on a budget (I sincerely hope every time you see me write that you think of me as a balla’ on a budget, as well).

097Here’s what you need:

½ tsp Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

½ tsp Apple cider vinegar

½ tsp Honey

Here’s what you do:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a little bowl and then slather it all over your face. I prefer to apply it using an old foundation brush (it’s just less messy for me), but your fingers will work perfectly fine. You can leave this mask on anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. Then, rinse it off using warm water and apply your normal face moisturizer.

Here’s why I love it:

  • It clears up any zits I may have or any that are starting to form
  • It leaves my skin feeling hydrated, rather than stripped down
  • It isn’t runny on my face—once I’ve applied the mixture I can go about whatever chores or Netflix watching I want and it doesn’t get everywhere
  • The honey makes the apple cider vinegar smell much less in-your-face-disgusting
Here's the bog-ified version of my evening relaxing while using my face mask.
Here’s the bog-ified version of my evening relaxing while using my face mask.
Here's what I really did: watched Netflix, drank a beer, ate a cookie, and wrestled my blanket away from Teton.
Here’s what I really did: watched Netflix, drank a beer, ate a cookie, and wrestled my blanket away from Teton.

I use this mask at least once, sometimes twice, a week during the winter and I love it. Now, even if you don’t have the same particular skin issues or skin type as I do I highly recommend getting the Aztec Clay.

It’s super affordable (and I’m talking for real affordable—not fancy-shmancy skin care ‘affordable’—you get a whole pound tub of this stuff for about 8 bucks on Amazon). But, more importantly it’s super versatile. The most basic recipe mixes equal parts clay and water, which works well to clear off a little blemish. But, there are also tons and tons more recipes that are suited exactly for your skin type all over the internet. Personally, I used this mask without the honey for months, and while I still loved how it helped clear up my skin, I did notice I needed some serious, heavy-duty moisturizer afterwards. The honey was the game-changer for me. I’m sure there’s the perfect recipe out there for you, too.

Take some time to relax and treat yo’self during all of your holiday prep. I pop this mask on when I’m washing dishes from all my holiday baking, when I’m wrapping presents, when I’m online shopping, and of course when I’m watching the last season of Parks and Rec on Hulu.

Please let me know if you have any masks you swear by for that problem winter skin. I would love to add some new ones to my collection.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

DILL RANCH PRETZELS 

Time for a no-brainier, holiday treat that everyone loves.

 The holiday season is 100% and totally-in-your-face here. Now, I love the holidays (not in the whole ‘watch a Christmas movie each night and belt out Jingle Bells each morning in the shower’ way, but I participate in the general merriment), but I usually find I’m a bit behind with my cutesy holidays gifts. Which–by the way– I think is totally acceptable because there’s a lot of Pinterest-inspired pressure to make cute and heartfelt gifts for all 867 of your closest acquaintances.

So, this recipe has become my one-stop-shop for homemade gifts. These are still absolutely made with love, but they are way easy and affordable to make for your grandma’s neighbor’s nephew and your friend’s favorite pet-sitter and anyone else you may need a gift for.

Ingredients 

2 bags Rold Gold pretzels (my dad swears they HAVE to be Rold Gold)

2 gallon size Ziploc bags

12 oz Orville Redenbacher’s Popping and Topping Buttery Flavored Oil (I swear that this is the key– all the other similar recipes just use canola oil, but the buttery flavor is the best) *Sidenote: I hate when recipes use ounces instead of cups, but the bottle of oil I buy is 16 ounces, so I just use about 3/4 of it

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dill weed

Directions

  1. Pour each bag of pretzels into a separate Ziploc.
  2. Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Pour half of the seasoning mixture into one bag and the second half into the other. Be sure to shake the bags up so all the pretzels get coated.
  4. Lay the bags somewhere flat and flip them over every few hours. Now this takes serious self control, but this is one of those recipes that gets better the longer it sits, so try to leave it at least over night.

That’s it! Then, I ‘Pinterest it up’ by putting them in trendy, little mason jars. The real kicker is adding a holiday themed cupcake liner to the lid to write a cute note on. So stinkin’ festive.

Be sure to try this out and mix up the spices to suit your taste. Of course, I usually need a breath mint chaser with this version because I love me some serious garlic. But, you add whatever you want!

I would love more homemade, no-brainer gift ideas. Please, share some of your go-to items below.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

‘TIS THE SEASON TO LOOK FLAWLESS

The holidays are officially upon us! So, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite, and absolutely-necessary, products to keep you looking fresh at all times.

DSC00168For my family the holidays mean lots of extra bonding time. And pictures. Lots of early morning pictures: as we eat breakfast, open gifts, drink coffee, and really anything else that we may want to do before the crack of dawn. To top it off, my family has this lovely room where we like to blow these pictures up to the size of a poster for all to see.

That room and our photo albums are already chalk full of pictures of me from junior high and high school with bed-head, zits, bags under my eyes, and chapped winter lips. Which is just fantastic!… but now I’m over it.

Watch out Christmas 2015 photo album: Sydney is going to be looking fabulous! Or at least a lot less gross/dead-to-the-world.

Here’s what I’m going to slap on my face each morning this holiday break (it will literally take 2 minutes). Also, I’m hoping this routine will help me wake up a little bit before I’m expected to be my normal charming/witty self.

Of course, I will wash my face and brush my teeth first.

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer

Rudolph should be the only one with a red-nose at Christmas. But, I wake up with my nose glowing. And redness on my cheeks. And redness around any blemishes I may have.

Yeah, I’m looking pretty darn hot.

But, this lotion honestly makes a difference in reducing all of that discoloration. After washing my face and applying this lotion I look much more awake.

Maybelline Dream Pure BB Cream

My skin has really calmed down in the last year (with a few super-fun freak-outs mixed in to keep me from getting too big for my britches), but I do still have some acne scars and dark marks. I use just a bit of this BB cream to help even that out. It’s not full-coverage, by any means, so it doesn’t completely erase those marks. It just makes them much less noticeable.

I also like this BB cream in particular because it has salicylic acid in it– which my skin responds really well to if it is breaking out (as I tend to around the holidays with the stress and increased cookie/fudge/chip and dip/whatever-else-I-may-find-lying-around-to-eat consumption)—but, it does not dry your skin out.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

I live for Aquaphor in the winter. I don’t care if that sound dramatic; it’s absolutely necessary. Mostly, I use it around my cuticles where the weather can make my skin extra dry and painfully cracked. However, I also love this for a super-intensive lip balm.

This is so moisturizing on your lips (especially after sleeping all night with your mouth open because it’s freezing and you haven’t been able to breathe out of your nose for the past 6 weeks). Plus, it gives a nice shine—not quite like you are vain enough to apply lipgloss at 5 am, but like you are just blessed with incredibly moisturized and plump lips.

Maybelline Lash Sensational

This is actually a step I will not be doing every morning. Probably solely on those days where I don’t actually get ready at all, but need to start looking semi-presentable once dinner rolls around.

I love mascara. It’s the one make-up product I feel makes the most difference in my appearance. I gob it on like it’s going out of style. So, this absolutely had to make my list, even if it’s not a ‘first thing in the morning’ item.

This specific mascara is volumizing without being clumpy, and ridiculously black.  It’s my favorite right now, but whatever your favorite mascara is will do.

***

Of course, the holidays are about togetherness and getting to spend extra time with those that you love.  But, there is no shame in being the best looking one in the room while you’re doing it!

What are your tips, tricks, and products you use to look your best (but not like you’re trying too hard, of course) in those candid, early-morning holiday pictures?

Thanks for reading,

Sydney