Less Than Challenge

Living life with less than…


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Quick Reads

In keeping with the new year theme that’s seemed to define my return to LTC thus far, I figured I’d share another of my New Year’s resolutions today: read more books.  According to my Goodreads profile, I finished 15 titles in 2013.  I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, but in any case, this year I’m aiming for 20.

While there are certainly some books that are worth relishing over a good, long period of time, I figure I’m going to need at least a few quick reads to achieve my goal.  Since lots of you may be looking to do something similar this year, I figured I’d share a few of my favorite quick reads (books I finished in less than a week) from my recent reading history.

Songs of Willow Frost1. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Admittedly, I read this book over the course of a short cross-country trip I had to take back in September, so I had lots of time for reading on planes.  That probably helped me finish this novel more quickly than usual, but I also stayed up late every night devouring as many pages as I could because Willow Frost was just so captivating.  This book told a story filled with emotion and developed so vividly that I can still picture each of the characters as I write this – months after actually reading it.

I’ve also heard great things about Jamie Ford‘s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, so I’m definitely planning to make that one of my twenty books in 2014.  If you’ve read his first bestseller and haven’t yet had a chance to pick up Songs of Willow Frost, I highly recommend that you do.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?2. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Ok, bear with me because the next two books are both by famous female television comedy writers/stars.  But they are really not the same, unless you count the fact that they are both hilarious.

I’m generally not a huge reader of non-fiction comedy, but Mindy Kaling‘s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? really turned me on to the world of books that are funny.  I am now entirely obsessed with Mindy, addicted to her show (The Mindy Project on FOX), and anticipating her next book like none other.  I am not lying when I tell you that every person I know who read her first book loved it, and this includes people with much different literary tastes than my own.

Furthermore, it’s on this short list because it was a quick, easy read, so you really have NO reason not to at least try it.  Please, I beg you, join my Mindy fan club.  You will not be sorry.

Bossypants3. Bossypants by Tina Fey

After learning to appreciate a good funny book thanks to Mindy Kaling (see above), I was really anxious to read Tina Fey‘s huge bestseller, Bossypants.  Lucky for me, an awesome coworker brought the book in as her gift in our office-wide holiday gift exchange, and I got to take it home just in time for Christmas vacation!

Bossypants is one of those books that’s super easy to read in teensy tiny snippets if you have to.  If you’re really looking for a book to fly through, look no further.  I read this book in less than 3 days, thanks in large part to the fact that I couldn’t resist reading a few pages absolutely every time I had a free minute.  I loved that it didn’t require a huge time commitment on my part to get plenty of laughs and entertainment.  Tina Fey is a very funny woman, and I really enjoyed this glimpse into her life beyond the few things I really knew about her before reading.

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So…based on my totally unscientific review of books I’ve read quickly in recent times, I’ve determined that funny books make for easy reads, and easy reads are going to be key to achieving my reading resolution this year.  Imagine my delight when, as I was writing this post, I discovered Thought Catalog’s list of 15 Must-Read Books to Satisfy Your Inner Comedy Nerd.  Turns out I’ve already read 3 of the 15 (I’m also a Chelsea Handler fan), so I’m thinking I’ll try to incorporate at least another 2 or 3 on this year’s reading list.

Any recommendations?  Be sure to share, and check back throughout the year (or follow me on Goodreads) for updates on my 20-book challenge!


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Winter Detox Recap

Like many people, I pretty much forget the meaning of “less than” at the holidays.  I overeat, overspend, oversleep…basically overindulge in every possible way.  So I tend to be big on New Year’s resolutions (which might be why I’m back here blogging, so let’s not knock the process entirely).

I know resolutions are typically total cliches – eat better, exercise more, do productive things, etc., etc.  But I love getting motivated by a brand new year.  And I have every intention of 2014 being the best it can be, since I’ll be tying the knot in six short months!!

If that’s not motivation to get in shape now, I don’t know what is.  And this year, I thought I better take it beyond just cutting a few calories and hitting the gym.  I wanted to truly reset my approach to food and start 2014 in a whole new way.

Enter, the HealthyMe Living “Holiday Healing Detox” – a health program that got me to cut grains, dairy, and all things processed from my diet for an entire week.  And that got me to try my first tastes of kale, cauliflower, almond milk, flax seeds, and apple cider vinegar.  (The vinegar was not my fave, but you can’t win them all, right?)

HealthyMe Living Holiday Healing Detox

Image from facebook.com/HealthyMeLiving

If you know me at all, you know that I do NOT eat like this.  I was in shock when I looked at my grocery cart full of produce at the start of the week, thinking there’s no way I will ever eat all of this.  But I did, and for the most part, I really enjoyed it!

More importantly, thanks to the detox experience, I feel totally inspired to live healthier in the year ahead.  I have been voraciously googling recipes for things I used to buy in a box, and I can’t wait to start cooking my own, un-processed versions of my favorite meals.  I feel adventurous and excited about trying new things.  I even ordered a cauliflower “steak” for lunch the other day (which my former self would certainly have scoffed at!).  Suffice it to say, I am proud of myself, and I truly believe this is the start of something more than your typical New Year’s resolution.

If you’ve ever thought about doing a detox (and here I mean a healthy, structured detox – not a crazy starvation diet), I would highly recommend it.  At best, it will change the way you think about yourself and the food you consume; at the very least, it should introduce you to some interesting new recipes.

Have questions about the experience?  Feel free to ask me.  I’m on a detox high and I’m happy to share!


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New Year, New Start

I have to admit, when I failed to keep the Less Than Challenge going after my summer vacation, I thought this blog had seen its final days.  But if ever there were a time to make a fresh start, it would be the beginning of a new year, right?

I’m sorry to have left my few loyal readers hanging without warning this summer.  I really hope I’ll be able to make it up to you with some fresh content in 2014!

I promise you that despite my lack of writing, I have still been trying to live the “less than” lifestyle on the regular.  In fact, I’ve taken “less than” eating to a whole new level, doing a healthy holiday detox last week that I can’t wait to tell you about!

So please, forgive my absence and know that I am very excited to be back!  While you (anxiously/eagerly/skeptically?) await my next post, feel free to catch up on some of my old favorites…

Oh, and one other thing.  I recently decided to stop tweeting as @LessThanGirl.  Rather than start again now, I’m simply turning my personal Twitter account into my everything Twitter account.  So if you aren’t already, start following me @ltc_kimmy to get LTC updates and a whole lot more.  🙂


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Makeup in Less Than a Minute

If you’re a regular visitor to the Less Than Challenge, you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting with my usual frequency this week. I have been working long hours in preparation for a highly anticipated, 12-day vacation I’m starting on Friday, so I’ve been crunched for time. But a simple summer change to my morning makeup routine is making it much easier for me to get out of the house every day, and I figured this was definitely worth sharing.

BB Cream & Baby Lips

BB Cream and Baby Lips…
simple as can be.

From what I’ve seen and heard, BB creams are the hot trend in makeup right now (though CC and DD creams are right on their heels, I guess). I’m already sort of a minimalist when it comes to makeup, especially during the summertime, so I was very intrigued by the prospect of a product that would provide coverage, moisture, and SPF protection all in one. I read bunches of reviews (like this one from The Budget Babe) and I talked it over with a friend who has much more cosmetic expertise than I do, and in the end, I decided to buy Rimmel’s 9-in-1 BB Cream in Medium.

Let me just say, I’ve been thrilled with it! I’ve been wearing it everyday and absolutely loving the simplicity it brings to my morning rituals. No more separate applications of moisturizer, concealer, foundation, etc. I now get it all in a single step. On the weekends, it’s the perfect amount of makeup for the light, casual look I’m going for.  And on work days, I’ve been dabbing a little powder over top, adding a quick bit of mascara and lip gloss, and…voila!  My face is ready for the day in less than a minute (maybe two if I’m being extra careful about the mascara).

Weekend Face: Nothing but BB Cream (and Baby Lips)

Weekend Face: Nothing but BB Cream (and Baby Lips)

If you’re interested in trying out this trend, but you want to check out some serious reviews first, I’d recommend looking here, here, or here.  I have been very happy with the Rimmel, which I picked up at Target for less than $7. Based on my limited knowledge, I’d say it’s a great option for a drugstore brand.  I liked that there were light, medium, and dark varieties and it’s got an SPF of 25. But there are certainly plenty of options on the market, so do your research and take your pick.  Whatever your preference, I’d love to hear some of your time-saving makeup tricks, too.

On an unrelated note…I’ll be sharing the highlights of an awesome day of garage sale-ing soon, so stay tuned!  Trust me, if you like awesome deals and huge “less than” successes, you won’t want to miss this one.


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Summer Salad Ingredients for Less Than $15

I had lunch last week with a couple of co-workers at the new Druthers Brewing Company in Saratoga, and coincidentally every one of us ordered some variation of their spinach salad. Check it out on their lunch menu and I think you’ll see why there was such an attraction.

I absolutely loved mine, and I was inspired to pick up some similar ingredients to make my own variation at home. Now that I’ve revisited the menu, I see there were some things I forgot about, and I also seem to have confused a few items with the Bruegger’s Blue Apple Salad I had last week as well.  Oops.

Strawberry Summer SaladIn any case, I decided on the following salad ingredients and got them all for less than $15:

  • Baby spinach – $2.99
  • Strawberries – $2.99
  • Crumbled goat cheese – $3.00
  • Chopped pecans – $2.49 (much cheaper than candied walnuts)
  • Light champagne vinaigrette – $2.79 (a mix up, but oh well)

Grand Total – $14.26

That gave me enough to make at least 4 or 5 salads, as opposed to spending $8 for one at a restaurant. So in terms of less than living, I call that a win.

Now that I’ve revisited the Druther’s menu, however, I realize that my homemade salad would be more authentic, and probably a lot better, with crispy onions and a white balsamic dressing. Maybe next time I’ll even splurge on the candied walnuts.

So tell me…would you try this salad, or do you have a favorite summer salad recipe of your own? I’m on a salad binge right now, so please share!


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What I’d Rent: Day-to-Night Designer Style for Less Than $80

About a week ago, I got an email from Rent the Runway offering me $50 off an order of $100 or more for my upcoming birthday. For those of you not familiar with Rent the Runway, it’s basically an online service that allows you to borrow pricey designer dresses and accessories for 4-8 days at a fraction of retail prices. I originally created my account when searching for a dress to wear to a fundraising gala, but to date, I’ve never actually rented anything.

It’s not looking like this is the moment to experiment with fashion rentals for the first time, since I don’t have a big celebration planned for this year’s birthday.  But just for fun, I’ve picked out three dresses (and coordinating accessories) that I would totally consider renting under different circumstances.  With all shipping, taxes, and insurance fees added in, and my $50 taken off, each one of these looks would cost less than $80 to rent for four days, compared to retail costs that reach upwards of $600!

OPTION 1: Bold & Bright

Option 1 Bold & Bright

Felana Dress by Tina Turk | Rental $50; Retail $248
Crystallized Salmon Drop Earrings by Kenneth Jay Lane | Rental: $15; Retail: $125
Keep  Your Cool Clutch by Rebecca Minkoff | Rental: $35; Retail: $325
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $698

OPTION 2: Color Blocks

Option 2 Color Blocks

Rhombus Shift Dress by Trina Turk | Rental: $50; Retail: $298
Gold Bangle Stack by AV Max | Rental: $15; Retail: $110
Clean Break Necklace by Kate Spade New York | Rental: $35; Retail: $228
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $636

OPTION 3: Perfect Print
(my personal fave)

Option 3 Perfect Print

Derek Dress by Slate & Willow | Rental $50; Retail $298
Keep  Your Cool Clutch by Rebecca Minkoff | Rental: $35; Retail: $325
Gwen Blue Agate Earrings by Kendra Scott | Rental: $15; Retail: $100
Total Rental Cost: $76.63 | Total Retail Cost: $723

I really love the dress in option 3, and I think Rent the Runway offers a cool concept that I’d love to try someday. But I don’t feel like my birthday is the right occasion to spend over $75 on an borrowed outfit – even if I were planning a huge soiree.

When the next gala on my schedule rolls around, or if I just can’t find a suitable wedding shower/bachelorette party/rehearsal dinner dress…well, that will be a different story.  🙂


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Weekend Recommendations

With all the heat we’ve been experiencing in Upstate New York over the last week, I’ve spent very little time at home (in my sweltering hot, attic level apartment) and thus I’ve had very little time to blog. But before this weekend comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to share a few of my favorite things of late. If you’re looking for something to watch, read, or listen to, these are my current recommendations.

(Readers beware, the songs and videos included below are not so family-friendly.)

WATCH: Orange is the New Black (brand new on Netflix)

If you take only one recommendation from this post, let it be this one. In the last week, I’ve watched all 13 episodes of this new Netflix show, and I have been completely captivated. It’s funny and sad and entertaining and surprising and thought-provoking all at the same time. Season 2 cannot come soon enough. I’m no TV critic so I’ll let a few reviews do the rest of the talking, but please, give this show a try.

The Great Orange Is the New Black Is Suddenly the Best Netflix Series Yet (Grantland)
Obsessed Report Card: Orange Is the New Black (Glamour)

LISTEN: Magna Carta Holy Grail – Jay-Z (listen for free on Spotify)
Not gonna lie…my interest was definitely piqued when Samsung and Jay-Z announced this new album during the NBA Finals. I had the good fortune to get my hands on a copy right after it came out, and while I can’t say I love every song, there are a few I’ve been playing over and over again on repeat. I’d recommend listening to it all at least once, but if you’d like to start with my favorite songs, try these:


Lean In

READ: Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg (get it at your local library, or on Amazon)

I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I am about a quarter of the way into this “feminist manifesto” by the COO of Facebook, and so far I’m very intrigued. While I don’t necessarily find myself agreeing with every point that Sandberg makes, a lot of what she says is very interesting. I do find myself thinking more deeply (if not any differently) about women and work as I read.  And with a book like this, isn’t that kind of the whole point?

Now that I’ve finished Orange is the New Black, I’m going to need some new things to keep me entertained until season 2 debuts. If you’ve got recommendations to share, be sure to leave them below!