Four Hair Products Every Woman Needs To Own

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Regular, professional trims and deep conditioning treatments are a must. But in between salon visits, it's important to have an arsenal of hair care products that can fill in and perform a few tricks when you don't have the time (or money) for the salon.

Here are 4 products that every woman should keep on hand in her bathroom for quick spruce ups.

1. Dry Shampoo
Yes, there are days when all you can do is simply throw the hair into a ponytail. Before you do, give it a spray with some dry shampoo. It will help breathe life back into your hair between washes. It removes the natural oils and impurities to give you a fresher look.

The Splurge - Aveeno Active Naturals Pure Renewal Dry Shampoo, 4.8 Ounce $8.50/3.5 oz.

The Save -  Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo, 5 Ounce $2.88/5 oz.

2. Hair Mask
Hair masks are applied one time per week and will leave your hair moisturized, soft, and silky. The mask adds sheen and gloss that regular conditioner does not.

The Splurge - Creme De Coco Masque Unisex Masque by Bumble and Bumble, 5 Ounce $26.95/5 oz.

The Save - Salma Hayek's Nuance Hair Mask $9.99/8 oz.

3. Microfiber Hair Towel
I know, it sounds unnecessary. Why can't I just use an everyday bath towel, you ask? Microfiber towels absorb higher amounts of moisture than conventional towels. Microfiber towels dry hair faster and cut down on harmful blow-drying. Because they are gentler on hair than conventional towels, they reduce the risk of split ends and tearing your hair.

The Splurge - Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel, Celadon (19 x 39-Inches) $17.99/1 towel

The Save -  April Microfiber Hair Towel $1.00/1 towel

4. Leave-In Detangler
A few years ago my oldest daughter's hair was a tangled mess. I was at my wit's end with it, and the only option was to have it cut. When we got to the salon, my stylist recommended that instead of cutting out the tangles, we try a leave-in detangling product. It proved to be a lifesaver! These types of products not only remove tangles, but they also condition, add shine, control frizz and breakage, enhance natural body, and leave hair silky.

The Splurge -  It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Product 4 oz $12.50/4 fl. oz.

The Save - Pantene Pro-V Thick Hair Silkening Detangler, 8.5 oz $5.49/8.5 fl. oz.

In addition to the recommended products, regular trims are essential for a gorgeous head of hair. And a fresh, new haircut can change your entire look and outlook!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. However, it does contain affiliate links.

Major Milestone: Celebrating Six Months Soda-Free

Monday, July 22, 2013
In a few days, I'll be celebrating a major milestone. I'll be celebrating six months of drinking absolutely no soda. Not a drop. Not a sip. Nothing.

Now, for many of you this may not sound like a big deal. For others, you know that this is major. Like monumental. Like climbing Mount Everest monumental.

It all started when I was a kid. I grew up on Sprite. As a child of the 70s, soda was my parents' drink of choice. Soda was en vogue in the 70s. Coke and Sprite were ever-present in our refrigerator. And just as it was cool to lather baby oil all over your body and soak in the sun all day, it was equally cool to drink soda.

My high school and college years passed in this same vein. Our college dorm fridge was ALWAYS filled with cans of diet coke. My roommate's mom would buy it by the case at a ridiculously low price at Wal-Mart, and we would happily slurp it up.

During my post-college years when I was working at my first job, it seems my habit became worse. I was working for an electronic publisher and my strict deadlines forced me to pull many an all-nighter. Since I wasn't a coffee drinker, Diet Coke got me through my long nights. I'd often drink 5 or 6 cans per day.

Diet Coke was my comfort food. It tasted good, and it made me feel good.

When I became pregnant, I kicked the Diet Coke to the curb. It was purely a treat that I enjoyed once per month, at the most.

But of course, once I had my babies, the Diet Coke became a permanent fixture in the refrigerator once again. I wasn't overly concerned about my little ones seeing me drink soda. I'd explain it as a "grown up drink".

Four years ago when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, I embarked on a clean eating crusade. I cut all the junk food from my diet. It wasn't difficult. I knew I had to do it for my health. But the one thing I could not give up was my Diet Coke. My beloved Diet Coke.

It was my security blanket at a time when I was grappling with health and anxiety issues, not to mention parenting two young children. I needed my Diet Coke to get through these hard times. I was a junkie, and I needed my fix when times got tough.

And then Lent rolled around. What would I give up that was worthy of a true sacrifice?

Diet Coke.

For 40 days and 40 nights, no Diet Coke. Not a taste.

I got through it and did this for 3 straight Lenten seasons in a row. This past February was no exception. I stopped drinking Diet Coke on the first day of Lent. For the next 40 days and 40 nights, I continued.  I powered through each day without the help of my crutch.

And you know what I realized? I didn't miss it. I didn't need it. And, I felt better without it.

Today, almost 6 months after giving up Diet Coke, I still haven't had a drop. I am so far passed the point of no return now that I won't go back. I don't want it. I don't miss it. In fact, I am so aware of how bad soda is for my body that I have no desire to put it into my body.

I don't want this post to be about the dangers of drinking soda. I want readers to walk away inspired to make the change in their lives that they've always wanted to do. I want you to feel empowered to make a change, to make a positive impact on your life no matter how big or small.

If I can do it, you can do it too!


Menu Plan Monday ~ 7.15.2013

Monday, July 15, 2013
With the temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week, you can bet we'll be eating light. I downloaded a summer slow cooker ebook the other day, and I'm excited to try some of the recipes in the coming weeks.

MONDAY - We are going to a minor league baseball game tonight, so it'll be ballpark food for us!

TUESDAY - Caprese pasta (this is a favorite light, summer dinner)

WEDNESDAY - Super nachos (I've never tried this recipe, but it seemed like an easy thing to throw together since the girls have gymnastics from 6-7).

THURSDAY - Chicken and summer vegetable tostadas

FRIDAY - Dinner out

SATURDAY - Chicken kebabs from our local butcher with rice and a side salad.

SUNDAY - Ribs with Greek panzanella salad (I made this salad this past weekend, and the whole family loved it!)

What will you be munching on this week? For meal planning inspiration, visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday.

For additional inspiration, you can view all of my Meal Planning posts.

The Best Banana Pancakes

Sunday, July 14, 2013
I vividly remember the first time I had banana pancakes. I was in college and staying at a quaint little bed and breakfast in southern Rhode Island. As soon as I put the first bite in my mouth, I knew that I had to have these pancakes in my life on a regular basis.

I am hundreds of miles from that bed and breakfast now, but the banana pancakes aren't far away.

Since I don't return to Rhode Island very often, and I have no idea what the name of the B&B is, I decided to research some recipes and develop my very own recipe for banana pancakes.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter (the oil will create crunchy edges on the pancakes)
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 small ripe bananas (1/2 mashed, 1-1/2 sliced)
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
Butter for spreading
Maple syrup

1. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mash half of one of the bananas. Add the buttermilk and eggs to the mashed banana. Stir until well blended.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

4. Slice the remaining one and a half bananas into 1/4" thickness. Set aside.

5. Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Or if using a griddle, use a pastry brush to coat the griddle top.

6. To the hot griddle, measure 1/4 cup for each pancake, keeping pancakes about 2 inches apart.

7. Just as holes are starting to form, add a few sliced bananas.

8. Cook until holes form on the tops of the pancakes and the undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully slide a spatula under the pancakes and turn them over. Cook the other side until it has fluffed up and the bottom is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

9. Repeat until you've used all the pancake batter.

10. Top with butter and sliced bananas. Drizzle with warm maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

Tip: No buttermilk? No worries! Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a one cup measuring cup. Fill the measuring cup with milk. You've got buttermilk!

InstaFriday ~ 7.12.2013

Friday, July 12, 2013
This week we spent some time at the boardwalk in preparation for a Twitter party that I was co-paneling with a few other bloggers. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!

I took a lot of pictures to help promote the Twitter party and to promote Jenkinson's Boardwalk, and luckily, these pics are great keepsakes too!

To follow along on Instagram, I am sheilakhill. Come along for the ride, and I'll be sure to follow you as well.
I am currently working on a campaign with Influenster for Colgate Total. We are trying out the Colgate Total mouthwash. With Emma in braces, and my chronic plaque problem behind my lower front teeth, I'm excited to be trying this new product.

Before we hit the amusement rides, we visited Jenkinson's Aquarium. It was feeding time for the fish, and it was quite a frenzy.

I am captivated by the moon jelly. It practically glows in the dark. And it is so graceful. Just don't get near it tentacles.

After the aquarium, we hit the boardwalk for some fun and games. Life-sized Doodle Jump was a big hit!

For some reason on this particular day, my girls were enthralled by the little train that circles the amusement area. We rode it 5 times before I finally had to say "enough is enough".

Head over to Life Rearranged to check out more InstaFriday participants or to link up your own InstaFriday post.

Rock the Lunchbox ~ Back to School 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013
I have to admit. I enjoy the summertime break from packing daily lunches. My daughters never buy the school cafeteria food. And on top of that, they are extremely fussy lunch eaters. They don't eat sandwiches. They love fruit and veggies, but they need more than just that.

Packing lunches for two is a daily challenge for me. And to keep them healthy and balanced is an additional weight on my shoulders.

But I've become fairly adept at working with their preferences. But my biggest challenge is changing up what I give them. For example, if I give whole grain pretzels and cheese sticks more than 2 days in a row, they refuse to eat those food items anymore.

Constantly trying to change up what I include in the lunches can be exhausting, but I know that I have to do it to keep the girls interested in what they are eating.

So, over the years I've developed a list of items that I am constantly rotating in and out of the lunch boxes.

As a parent, I know first hand how tedious and monotonous packing lunches can become. As a Stonyfield Yo-Getter, I was invited to participate in the "Rock the Lunchbox" campaign. I received some product samples and/or coupons as part of my participation.

Annie's, Organic Valley, Honest Tea (makers of Honest Kids), and Stonyfield have partnered on a collaborative promotion to inspire parents to pack healthy, wholesome lunches that kids will look forward to eating day after day.

Here's what I typically pack for my 11 year old daughter. She doesn't eat sandwiches, and isn't a big meat eater. So, I have to be creative with her sources of protein.

What's in her lunchbox:

  • Pita bread
  • Cucumbers
  • Hummus (source of protein).
  • Annie's cheddar bunnies (salty snack)
  • Granola bar (sweet treat)
  • Stonyfield YoKids smoothie (her source of calcium)
  • Honest Kids pink lemonade

Sometimes she dips the pita and cukes into the hummus. Other times, she'll make a pita pocket and put the cukes and hummus inside. On occasion, I add a few jarred roasted red peppers.

My 7 year old daughter is a little less picky than her older sister. She likes more fruits than veggies in her lunches. She loves yogurt. It's easy to pop a YoKids Squeezer or a container of YoKids low fat yogurt into her lunch.

What's in her lunchbox:

  • YoKids blueberry yogurt with granola (main item)
  • Banana and apples which she dips into
  • Peanut butter (fruit and protein)
  • Annie's honey graham bunnies (sweet treat)
  • Annie's organic fruit snacks
  • Honest kids apple juice

I add a sweet twist on the apple slices by cutting out the core with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. This isn't something I do everyday, but occasionally I like to do it. It's a fun surprise when she opens up her lunch box.

I also use these Bento-style boxes for their lunches. Obviously, not all items fit into the box, but those that do are kept neatly organized and separated. For items that require more room or an ice pack, I place those into compartments in the kids' lunchboxes.

And there you have it! Two balanced and healthy lunches for two hungry girls.

I would love to hear what you pack for your children and the challenges that you encounter on a daily basis when packing lunches.


InstaFriday...on Saturday

Saturday, July 6, 2013
With the holiday this week, I didn't have a chance to get this InstaFriday post up yesterday. So I am jumping in today. And since I missed linking up last Friday, a few of these pictures are from 2 weeks ago.
One evening we took a stroll after dinner along the Manasquan Inlet. The sunset was spectacular. I couldn't help but to take a bunch of pictures. I'm posting only two here, but you can see so much more if you follow me on Instagram...I'm sheilakhill.

The following day we headed to the pool.

Later that night, Emma caught me taking a selfie. Lol

A shot of our cat. I loved the way this filter made her look blue.

I celebrated summer with some Prosecco with raspberries!

What's summer without a little night swimming?

We went out to dinner to one of our regular stops. The waitress was new. When the Hubs asked for a double espresso, she brought him two double espressos which he poured into one espresso cup. That's a lot of espresso!

On Tuesday of this week, we were on our way to our swim club when it started to rain cats and dogs out of the blue. So, we made a pit stop at Starbucks and hoped the rain would stop while we enjoyed our rainy day treats.

Are you on Instagram? Leave you user name in the comments so that I can be sure to follow you.

Also, why not share you photos by participating in InstaFriday at Life Rearranged?

Celebrate the Fourth of July with Patriotic Cocktails

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Celebrate our country's independence and your own personal freedom with a few patriotic cocktails that are perfect for any 4th of July gathering.

My rule of thumb is to create a signature cocktail for your gathering. Your guests will remember the drink long after the party has ended.

Here are few fabulous drinks to try.

Blue Crush

  • 1 cup Three Olives Loopy Vodka
  • 1/2 cup Blue Curacao
  • 1/2 cup Lemon Lime Soda
  • Splash of Sweet and Sour
Mix all in a shaker and stain over ice into a rocks glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

The Sparkler Martini

  • 1 oz. Three-O Pomegranate Vodka
  • 2 oz. Sparkling Wine
  • Splash Pomegranate Juice
Combine vodka and pomegranate juice in an ice-filled shaker.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Top with sparkling wine or champagne.
Garnish with a cherry.

Red, White, and Blue Sangria (This is so pretty!)

  • 2 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc wine or any other dry white wine
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • ½ cup Smirnoff Sorbet Light Raspberry Pomegranate Vodka or any raspberry or pomegranate flavored vodka
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup simple syrup
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 ½ cups hulled and sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 ½ cups pineapple chunks (cut in the shape of stars)

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl and stir well.
Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer
Serve well-chilled with a good scoop of fruit floating in each drink.

Whatever, you'll be drinking, have a wonderful 4th of July!

First Grade Authors & Awards Day

Monday, July 1, 2013
A few days before school ended, Harper's class celebrated with an Authors & Awards day. It was the cutest thing. The children were paired up with a classmate. They had to interview each other and write an "All About" story about their partners.

They read their stories into a microphone in front the class, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. It really was the sweetest thing.

Harper was paired with her friend Ben. Harper first met Ben in preschool. My girlfriend Nancy is best friends with Ben's mom, Michelle, and the both of them had met years earlier when their older children were together in preschool. We all became friends quickly. And we were thrilled to learn that Ben would be in class with Harper this year.

First Harper told everyone all about Ben.

And then it was Ben's turn to tell everyone about Harper.

I was amazed that these children weren't nervous to get up in front of a room packed full of people. We were so proud of Ben and Harper.

After all the stories were read, it was time to receive the awards.

Another school year gone but definitely not forgotten.

Menu Plan Monday ~ 7.1.2013

Well, last week was a bust. I blogged only once. The Hubs was travelling for work most of the week so I didn't bother to put together a meal plan. I never seem to stick to them when he's not home. It's was the first full week with the kids out of school, and I spent my time struggling to get into a rhythm.

Now that we've established one and the summer activities are starting, it's back to meal planning.

This week many of my recipes come from the June issue of Rachel Ray magazine. I scoured it from cover to cover one afternoon as I was sitting by the pool.

MONDAY - Buffalo corn chowder

TUESDAY - Assorted greens with steak using leftovers from Sunday's London broil.

WEDNESDAY - "Thai It" chicken noodles

THURSDAY - 4th of July barbecue. We'll be making spicy cheddar potato salad.

FRIDAY - Chicken gyros in lettuce or pita bread

SATURDAY - Hubs and I are going out to dinner for our anniversary.

What's on your plate this week? Make it easy on yourself! Visit I'm An Organizing Junkie's Meal Plan Monday to see what everyone else is eating.

To view my Meal Plan Monday posts, click here.