Month: September 2014

Foray into photography — from Clematis Street to Worth Avenue

I finally caved in and purchased a 50mm 1.8 lens for my mom’s Nikon D90, which I’ve been using at the Zoo for several months. I’m more of a point-and-shoot, just-wanna-take-pretty-pictures kind of photographer, and so far I’ve been able to avoid having to understand f-stops and the ISO system. I’ve checked out books, read websites, asked photography friends and watched YouTube videos. Right now I’m reading Digital SLR Photography All-in-One For Dummies, which is somewhat of a beast at nearly 700 pages.

But everything started coming together in my head today, when the Zoo’s events manager explained, explained and explained again the correlations. There was a lot of bracketing going on (when you take several shots of the same subject using different camera settings), and it helped me to better understand how to achieve the look I want.

I sent myself on an excursion to the Palm Beach Photographic Centre to purchase a protective filter for my new-to-me 50mm lens, and I also enjoyed visiting the National Press Photographers Association’s BEST of PHOTOJOURNALISM 2014 exhibition. Those were some amazing photos on display! Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the pictures, but I highly recommend you check it out if you are in South Florida.

Here I’m sharing some photos of Clematis Street, which is billed as the “historic heart of West Palm Beach.”

 Who else loves the trolley busses decorated with marine life?
 ‘Cuz it’s my favorite… get that wheatgrass, y’all!
Next, I wanted to try some beach scenes, so I went to the extravagant, iconic Worth Avenue on Palm Beach. 
 Time for the beach shots!
Zippy is a happy beach car, and says “Thanks for stopping by this blog!”
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2-ingredient easy coconut cake! (4 ingredients iced)

I got on a horn and decided that, by golly, I was going to bake a cake. So I whipped open my cookbook from Our Lady of Fatima Church in Monroe, LA (where I used to be the organist) and consulted some recipes. 

Is it just me, or do church cookbooks have better recipes?! #SoCountry

The coconut cake recipe that I had all the ingredients for only called for four total ingredients, with just two for the cake itself. Sounded like it matched my level of culinary expertise.
Box of cake mix + can of coconut milk = cake
Container of Cool Whip + coconut flakes = frosting
Oh, and let us have a sad throwback shout-out to the coconuts left over from a friend’s brunch, when we all discovered that her backyard palm tree was overflowing with the goodies — too bad we’ve let them go to rot!
This is why we can’t have nice things

Anyway, forging ahead with my recipe… you blend a box of cake mix with a can of coconut milk. 
I can work that mixer, ya heard?!

Then you bake it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes… and out comes a delicious, perfect cake!
You’re supposed to let it fully cool, but unfortunately I was impatient and wanted to EAT IT. So I stuck it in the freezer, which helped but didn’t fully cool it since I only left it in there for 10 minutes. #TimeToFeedTheFatKid
 Top it with Cool Whip and coconut flakes to dress it up…

This is the easiest-ever coconut cake recipe! I ended up sharing mine with my neighbor Michelle. If you knew how much of this cake I ate by myself tonight… *shakes head* It’s bad juju. But the recipe is good!!! YUMMY!
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Feast of the Sea festival 2014

It was super-fun to enjoy time at the 2014 Feast of the Sea festival in downtown West Palm Beach this weekend! The first-ever event was well-attended, with more than 10,000 people turning out to enjoy the delicious offerings of dozens of vendors. Some rainfall didn’t stop the fun, either!

Tharrr be seafood!

We liked the different “continents” in the tents with corresponding themes of food. We ate our way through Asia with Asian Teriyaki Tuna, and also the Caribbean with Pan-Seared Mahi with coconut rice <– rice was YUM.

I also was happy to bump into my zookeeper friend Melissa, who was very insistent that we partake of the lobster roll. She said that it was the best one she had ever eaten in her life! But we had to leave before we got a chance to try that legendary lobster roll.  πŸ˜‰

Nathan, Tai, Melissa and me
Lots of local vendors touted their wares

Hip Hop Kids performing
Caribbean yumminess
The downtown waterfront is always so nice!
ONLI Beverages are made in West Palm Beach,
and they are DELICIOUS flavored sparkling water!
I love the hibiscus flavor

I hope we can make it out to next year’s festival… meantime, check out Feast of the Sea‘s Twitter feed to see all the fun shenanigans with the hashtag #FOTS14!  πŸ™‚ 
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Debt-Free with Dave Ramsey! 5 tips from the man himself

Today, I had the privilege of hearing “the” Dave Ramsey speak in person at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens. It was SO MOTIVATIONAL! He said everything we’ve already heard him say before, but hearing it in person is that much more inspirational. Dave is a financial author, radio host, TV personality and motivational speaker famous for helping countless people like us get debt-free. He not only preaches a message with a mission– he has actually lived it himself, after making millions and then losing it all and declaring bankruptcy. I am proud, and humbled, to say that we became “debt-free with Dave.”

Dave speaking at Christ Fellowship to a full house

When my husband Nathan and I got married, we were able to pay off $14,000 in a little more than half a year using Dave’s plan. We consulted with financial coach Kelly Brantley, who is one of the top three certified financial counselors through Dave’s team, and you can read about our success on her website here. Our testimonial of how we paid off our debt using the principles of Dave’s Total Money Makeover system will appear in her upcoming book, and we’re so excited to share our story to hopefully motivate others to get debt-free, as well! If it helps one person, then it’s worth it.

His speech was funny, heartfelt and compelling

My biggest struggle is that I LOVE TO SPEND. It’s an addiction! I tell myself that I work hard… and let’s face it, I am a workaholic, I enjoy working… so I “deserve” to treat myself. But that kind of thinking is what led to a maxed-out credit card, and the ensuing stress of feeling hopeless when I looked at the mountain of debt I had to climb. Thankfully, Nathan is more level-headed when it comes to finances, so he was very encouraging when we created and implemented a budget. 

Here are the five tips that Dave gave tonight:

1. Live on a written budget. Kelly and Dave always say, “Every dollar has a name” when you PLAN for the month ahead-of-time. My dad used to say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Put a budget on paper, and then stick with it. It’s making your money work for you! 

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, where he has enough to finish it?” Luke 14:20

2. Avoid debt. That’s the opposite of our current culture, which preaches that debt is good, debt is healthy, put it on the credit card, blah blah blah. Basically that’s just buying stuff that you can’t really afford. Dave is all about paying cash for everything. He even told us tonight that he hasn’t had a credit card in 25 years, and he pulled out cash from his wallet and said, “Imagine that– not having a credit card gives you money!” 

In his Total Money Makeover book, he writes there’s something psychological about spending cash that hurts us more than swiping a piece of plastic. So he encourages using the envelope system, where you put the amount of cash you budget into an envelope. When the cash is gone, it’s gone, so you have to stop spending. Simple, yet effective.

“The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

3. Foster high-quality relationships. I’ve heard before, and I believe, that your income is typically an average of your five closest friends. Dave was like, “You don’t need to go out and get a new set of friends,” but he did say that people who were high-quality individuals who made positive choices had a greater tendency for wealth building.

“Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

4. Save and invest. Dave mentioned if someone tucked away $100 a month in a Roth IRA starting at age 30 until they were 70, they would retire with more than $1 million. 

“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil. But a foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20

5. Be incredibly generous. He said, “I’m not just talking about your regular tithing, I’m talking about giving with a purpose. It is life-changing!” I have ALWAYS wanted to earn more so that I could give more– it feels so great to be generous and be able to share your wealth with others! I am blessed that I come from extremely generous parents and a very loving, giving family. It taught me early in life that it is far, far more blessed to give than receive, just like Jesus said. 

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctant or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

If you’re interested in getting debt-free, or changing your finances like we did, I encourage you to consider reading Dave’s book, taking a course of Financial Peace University or consulting with a certified financial coach like Kelly. Even if you have to do baby steps, you will eventually eliminate all of your debt, and it will feel so great when you do! Speaking from experience, you will get way more satisfaction from living debt-free.  πŸ™‚

Here’s to financial freedom! 

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Can you Kangoo?

Thanks to my zookeeper friend Melissa, Cheeky Fitness studio was on my radar because they offer a variety of cool, creative fitness classes (pole dancing, anyone?! LOL).

Ready to burn some calories!
The boots latch up like rollerblades
I think this class is not for the faint of heart, but the class leader Michelle said you can go at your own pace… just march in place if you’re a wimp like I am. I was like, “Everyone else knows *GASP* all the routines *GASP* already!” But some of the participants said you just have to start with one class, and work your way up to learning the movements. I kept telling myself that nobody was laughing at my beginner attempts to Kangoo.  πŸ™‚

The two things I liked best about the class: 
1. The music keeps it fun. It’s like a spin class– you feel the energy from the participants around you while you are all jumping around to the beat! 
2. Rebounding on these special boots absorbs the impact on your joints. Normally after I run, my left knee will bother me. That was not a problem at all with this class.

 Ponytails flying… and so are the kangoo’ers!
Not to be confused with kangaroos.

I went to the class to tag along with FOX 29’s Rachel Leigh, who did this awesome “Rock Solid” segment along with T.A. Walker from KOOL 105.5. 

Rather than explain what it’s like, I’ll let the video do the talking for me.

Notice how everyone is trim and toned.
Probably not a coincidence! This class WORKS YOU.

If you mention “Rock Solid” to Cheeky Fitness, you can take a complimentary Kangoo class there. Happy jumping!

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Three life lessons I learned from beauty pageants

I am unabashedly unashamed to admit that I was a “pageant girl” back in the day. It’s a joke between my friend and me that people didn’t take you seriously as a journalist if you had been a beauty queen… although you can just look around at all the former titleholders who turned into news anchors to see how far that rings true. 

I wasn’t the stereotypical Pageant Patty who wore more rhinestones than fabric and collected more crowns than friends, but I did invest TONS of time and energy into competing at one point in my life. There’s an understandable stigma of negativity surrounding beauty pageants these days, and I truly get it. Some people criticize them as placing too much emphasis on physical appearance (I don’t agree with that assessment for the Miss America system– and working in TV news could be worse, as far as being valued for appearance). Also, I admit that I personally experienced some pageant bullying first-hand! Nope, not saying names, although it would probably make this blog post a lot more interesting if I told those stories!!  πŸ˜‰  

But years later, looking back, I am SO GLAD that I participated in pageants because of the valuable benefits that I gained from them.

Smiling on the outside… on the inside, probably thinking “My feet hurt in these heels.”
There was a phase in my college years when every single weekend, I was competing in some different Miss Louisiana preliminary. I had it down to a science: packing, traveling, rehearsing for the competition, etc. I caught the pageant bug in high school, when I entered and won the first-ever beauty pageant at Ouachita Parish High School. I was “Miss Winter Wonderland,” although I am giggling just typing that.  πŸ™‚  I got a crown, $250 and eternal glory, LOL!  πŸ˜‰ 
All hail Miss OPHS Winter Wonderland! 
Those roses were almost dead by the time I got this photo made, haha
In college, I competed in the Miss ULM pageant three times. I was 2nd runner up, then 1st runner-up and 1st runner-up. Too bad I never won that one! But I did get a full year’s worth of tuition every time I was 1st RU. My first time to compete in Miss Louisiana, I remember how excited I was when I was named Miss Congeniality. That was a thrill!!

In my last-ever pageant, Miss Louisiana 2005, I enjoyed being interviewed by Rosie, a radio personality in England who chose me because I was the first Asian-American to participate in the state competition. She said the final broadcast would air on BBC Radio to more than 4 million listeners! I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of her statistics, but I do remember listening to the final product online. Not sure why I didn’t make a point to save that broadcast for posterity’s sake.

With my mom, sister and dad– shout out of appreciation to my mom,
for working nearly as hard as I did during my pageant days!

Enough rambling down memory lane… here are three lessons that I learned from competing in pageants:

1. Overcome a fear of being in front of a crowd by putting yourself out there, and JUST DOING IT. If you can walk on stage in a swimsuit and high heels, you can make a speech in front of thousands, or do a liveshot from a fresh crime scene in the pouring rain. Well, at least, that’s what I told myself. I felt like I can do ANYTHING after competing! 
Talent competition was my favorite
I wish you could see the electric blue satin under this train! 

2. Study the masters, and model yourself after them to succeed. This is something Napoleon Hill wrote about in the classic Think and Grow Rich. Someone ahead of you has already achieved greatness. If you desire the success they accomplished, study their habits and do what they did. I watched Miss America competition interviews over and over, and imagined that I was in those state titleholders’ shoes. I would practice saying their answers, and I felt so much more confident in interview competition because I knew how the previous winners responded. I wasn’t a parrot, just mindlessly repeating words others had spoken before me… I simply learned from their winning ways by modeling myself after them.
3. Hair and makeup skills can help you look more polished. Sorry if you were hoping for a deep piece of advice on this one.  πŸ™‚  But it’s true that the way you present and groom yourself affects how people perceive you. They always say “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” I’ve always enjoyed makeup and hair and everything girly, hence my CruzTube YouTube beauty channel… but the beauty tricks I learned in my pageant years has been helpful, especially since I don’t like to spend a long time getting ready. When you only have five minutes between competitions, and you have to redo your hairstyle and change clothes, you learn how to do the steps quickly! These days, I can get ready for work in less than 20 minutes with hair and makeup completed while coffee is brewing. 
My Fleur de Lis princess, Catherine, has grown up to look like a model!
Makes me feel old…

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my pageant experiences! Are you going to watch the Miss America competition this weekend? It’s like my Super Bowl.  πŸ™‚  #CheersToPageants 
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CruzTube video: Review & swatches of Maybelline’s “The Nudes” eyeshadow palette

Hey there, beauty junkies! I review and swatch Maybelline’s The Nudes palette in this new CruzTube video. The website dares you to go nude, with this reason:

Why You’ll Love It

Our first 12 shade collection curated to create infinite looks with bold beiges, sultry sands, brazen bronzes, and over the top taupes.

I purchased my palette for only $9.98 (not including tax) at Walmart, and I think that’s a STEAL! Watch the video for my full review.

I heart this palette for the price and compact size! The shades are buttery smooth, buildable and blendable. πŸ™‚ There’s also brilliance in the way the back of the packaging lists ways you can combine the shadows, so it’s great for beginners who are looking for easy eye combos and simple methods (the back also shows where to place the shadows on your eye).

It lacks a good champage-colored inner-eye highlighter color, in my opinion. The two lightest shimmery shades don’t show up enough on their own in my inner eye corner. That’s a minor flaw, one that I’m willing to give it a freebie pass on, since this palette gives you so much bang for your buck, it can’t be beat!

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My new favorite nail polish

L to R: Funtime Fuchsia, Caramel Cupcake, Instyle Coral

This is just a quick post to sing the praises of my new favorite nail polish: Rimmel London 60 Seconds Nail Polish. This line’s “Sweet Lavender” shade was one of Oprah’s 2014 Spring Makeup Awards winners. πŸ™‚ Very nice!

My go-to polish lately has been Caramel Cupcake, which has been a godsend for doing a quick “one and done” manicure. I just apply one coat, and I’m out the door in a minute! The polish truly does dry in 60 seconds, and this shade is a modern nude that I imagine would work with all skin tones.

This photo has no filter, so it shows the true color payoff you get. I did polish on two coats and a clear topcoat, but you can get away with one coat if you’re in a hurry. 

The only drawback to these types of polishes is that they tend to chip more quickly. That’s the price that you pay for a speedy manicure, I guess.

–Super-fast drying time
–The line offers so many shades, there’s a color for everyone
–Crazy-cheap! I get mine for $1.50 at Walmart, and sometimes you can find a $1-off coupon in the newspaper

–They chip quickly
–The bottles are small
–One coat is enough, but it looks infinitely better with two coats (I have that problem with a lot of polishes, though)
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CruzTube video – Review/Demo of BECCA Cosmetics The One Perfecting Brush

#ObsessionAlert — I am loving this brush, which has saved me so much time in my daily beauty routine. The more quickly I can get out of the door with a full face of makeup, the better! This brush truly helps with that. 

–Replaces multiple makeup brushes. It claims to replace up to nine brushes plus a beauty blender, but I use it mostly for foundation, powder, blush, contour and highlighter.
–Goat hair bristles (cashmere) are unique in that the products simply slide off the hair and you can transition seamlessly between cream to powder products, and vice versa!
–It’s so big, it puts the products on your face more quickly since it covers more surface area at once.
–The magic is that it gives you an airbrushed look!

–The price is higher than I’m accustomed to paying. I paid $49 without tax for this brush at Sephora, but I found it HERE ON QVC for $39! You also get a Shimmer Skin Perfector Deluxe Sample if you buy it there.
–The bristles come off regularly. A bit annoying, but nothing I can’t handle for the high-quality output of this bad boy!!

Products used in my review/demo:

Neutrogena Skin-Clearing Oil-Free Makeup in Fresh Beige and Natural Tan
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Eliminate acne naturally with wheatgrass juice!

I’ve been wanting to post about this topic for a long time… but I’ve always held back because I felt that it’s a personal topic. I didn’t figure anyone would want to hear about my struggles with bad skin! But I kept thinking that I have this system that really works for me, so why wouldn’t I share it??

I first heard about wheatgrass from my neighbor who suffered from severe back acne. Her mom read about wheatgrass and started growing it, and her back cleared up. I started growing and juicing it on my own, and my skin miraculously cleared as well. 

In the past, I’ve tried serious medications like Accutane. It worked, but had the negative side effects. Wheatgrass juice is the only thing that has consistently worked for me over the past decade, and I’m just glad I finally discovered it.

Here’s a great list of 50 reasons to drink wheatgrass juice every day. Quote from the post: “Wheatgrass juice cures acne and even help to remove scars after it has been ingested for seven to eight months. The diet, of course, must be improved at the same time.”

The “cheater’s way” to get your wheatgrass hit without having to grow it is to purchase the little pots of grass at the cash registers in Petco and/or Petsmart. You can chew it and extract the juice that way, but it tastes not-the-best. <–euphemism for nasty

Someone has already asked me if the powder or the pills work… they’re better than nothing, but I don’t think they will give you nearly the same results that the actual fresh juice will. 

You can find a health food cafe locally that sells wheatgrass shots, which can get expensive but WORTH IT. Here in West Palm Beach, I get mine at Field of Greens on Clematis Street.

My first way to grow wheatgrass was by using the Original Wheatgrass Kit at They also sell the legit juicers, but I have always done it my way blending the blades of grass in my Magic Bullet Blender. 
Here is a good kit to purchase, which has everything you need:
Below is my video showing how I drink my wheatgrass, with a ready chaser beverage. If you want to see how I sprout and grow my wheatgrass at home, let me know in the comments below. 

Happy juicing!
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