Sunday, September 15, 2013

I must update my blog, I must update my blog...

Holy moley.

I am crap at keeping up with my blog.

I don't even know why - I LOVE talking to people and posting pictures on Instagram, and my new phone makes it super easy to post pictures and videos, so why am I not on here more?

Probably because I am obsessed that I'm going to mess up somehow, or that people won't like what I have to say.

It's silly.

I am going to do what I love and swatch my makeup collection and post about all of the awesome things I find.  I know I am interested in it so there has to be at least one other person out there who shares my obsession right?

Yep!  I'm right.  You don't even have to tell me.

Here is a couple of quick pics so I can get started posting and talking about things I love...

Like makeup..

And subscription boxes...

And my super cute dogs...

And flowers and beautiful things that I am instantly taken with...

And most of all funny things that seem to happen to me all the time..

I'll be back soon with some reviews and chit chat.  You won't have to wait forever this time, because I have a lot to say about.... everything!

Much love to you all.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Smiley360 Sleep Number Store experience (and a new bed for me - yay!)

My husband Andy and I visited the Sleep Number store in Hagerstown Maryland and met with Dave - a Sleep Number consultant who showed us the new DualTemp layer and the Sleep Number family of beds.

When I presented our consultant with the Smiley360 card he had never had a member visit on behalf of the program so I took a moment to talk with him about how Smiley360 empowers consumers by allowing their voice to be heard by brands and marketing companies in response to the products and opportunities we are given to test and respond to.  Within 20 minutes a second Smiley360 member visited the store with her family to try the DualTemp layer as well.  Dave was clearly excited by the opportunity to show us the Sleep Number products and let us test the dreamy, comfortable support of the 5" CoolFit Foam Contour pillow we would receive free from Smiley360 as an added mission bonus.  He said that the CoolFit pillow is what he sleeps on and what he would recommend to any guest of the store who was looking for a great night's sleep.

If you are interested in becoming a member of Smiley360 and getting to test awesome products and try new things that you often get to keep for free, click this link and sign up - I want to try Smiley360!

The bed on which the DualTemp layer was located was in the very front of the store, right in the window where anyone who was shopping in the mall could check it out.  It was a little intimidating to crawl into it, feeling like all eyes were on us, and I spent the first few minutes propped up in an awkward position while Dave adjusted each side of the DualTemp mattress pad's air flow and temperature to reflect our personal sleeping preference.  As my side began to warm up I relaxed a bit and just enjoyed the comfort of the warm air circulating beneath me and the added softness of the layer of comfort material built into the pad.

To learn more about it, you can check out the the DualTemp layer's information page here or by visiting a Sleep Number store for yourself.  If you're in the Hagerstown Maryland area, go see Dave for your own consultation - he was very helpful and gave us excellent product suggestions to get us the best deal on our new bedding.

My husband and I have vastly different preferences when it comes to sleep - I am under at least two layers of blankets all year long and love a soft pillowy mattress while he will kick off every layer even in the dead of winter and prefers a firm surface to sleep on.  For Andy's side he had cool air circulating (his side was accompanied by a special remote control to adjust the settings which was for demonstration purposes named "Sara") and mine which was being pumped with warm air (my control was named "Jason" although you can name your own remote when you purchase a DualTemp layer).  Dave also took the time to find our individual sleep numbers.  These numbers correspond to your preference of the firmness of the actual sleep number mattress.  A separate remote lets you customize the support of each side of your bed.  Andy was a 55 and I was a 45.

I was skeptical that there was a big difference between "his side" and "my side" so after several minutes we simply switched so we could see for ourselves.  Andy's side honestly felt like a totally different bed to me!  Even a ten point difference in firmness felt completely alien and he said that if his side of the bed were as warm as mine he wouldn't be able to take it for five minutes without running for the hills.

A nice thing about the DualTemp layer is that you can use it with your existing standard mattress system, and you don't need to purchase a sleep number bed if you don't wish to.  It is currently available in three sizes, extra long twin, queen and king.  My husband and I currently have a full size bed, but were so impressed with a different bed in the sleep number family that we chose to purchase it - a Flex Fit Plus model that has the capability of being adjustable and also has a massage feature.  Like our current full size mattress, the Flex Fit model we purchased wasn't compatible with the DualTemp layer although our consultant said that they may make them available in different sizes and also in a new design that are for the adjustable styles in the spring of next year.

Later on we transferred to a different bed that did not have a DualTemp layer and we saw through a video display how the variance in firmness of the mattress can help alleviate excessive pressure on your body that cause you to lose sleep.  Dave even sent us a snapshot of our pressure points taken as a "before and after"  with a special computer monitor.  It was easy to see how you could benefit by changing from a standard mattress to a Sleep Number system.

We were in the market for a new mattress and after experiencing the undeniable comfort that these beds provided and the ability to customize the firmness and also the position of the mattress we were hooked.  The model we ended up with - the P5 mattress in a queen size with a FlexFit Plus base - has a preset that is called "zero gravity" that we both loved and Andy was crazy about the fact that you could customize the mattress with targeted massage zones.  He will enjoy that immensely after a long day of standing on concrete.  He loved all of the beds we tried, but the P5 mattress was the first one where he was comfortable enough to close his eyes - I snapped a quick pic of him dreaming about his new bed...

We truly didn't expect to walk out of the store with a new bed purchase, but we had an amazing experience.  After posting a few pics of us on Instagram in the store on the mission I came to find that I have several friends and family members who are already loving their Sleep Number beds!  I can hardly wait for the two weeks it will take to be delivered and I do hope that someday I can add the comfort of the DualTemp layer to my new Sleep Number bed!

If you want to you can check out the Facebook pages of Smiley360 and Sleep Number because they often have offers available that you might want to check out.  You can follow them on Twitter at @SleepNumberSara @SleepNumberDeal or @SleepNumberGaby and @Smiley360.  They host great giveaways and have twitter parties and chats where you can learn even more about the brands you're trying and are interested in and they often have amazing prizes too.

Thanks for listening - hopefully this will be the last time I'm up posting at 2:00 in the morning instead of getting a good night's sleep!  Much love to everybody who is taking the time to read this and share my excitement - thanks!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Influenster Sugar and Spice Vox Box

Several weeks ago I received another AMAZING VoxBox from the Influenster program.  All of the products that I show in this blog entry were sent to me to sample test and review free of charge from the companies that produce the products through Influenster.  Although the items were free, the opinions are my own and even though I don't always love all of the products I adore trying new things and finding new "must-haves" for myself and my family.

This box was a little hit and miss for me.  Although there were some really fabulous finds and I did try everything out there were a few items I didn't care for.  I'm going to start with the things I thought were a bit of a dud and move through to my favorites - I'll save the best for last!  Here is a photo of the insert card that explains all of the goodies the box contained:

First up - the Nectresse sweetener packets.  Honestly I have tried this before and simply don't care for the taste.  I have spoken about it with other women and know that this is a widely liked product, but for me the monk fruit derived sugar substitute has an odd aftertaste that I can't get around.  I have tried other similar "naturally derived" sweeteners that were sourced from stevia and other plants like this one is but I don't enjoy them the way I do Splenda.  I often have a reaction to products containing saccharine which is another sugar substitute so I have to be extra careful when I am trying new sweeteners, but this one isn't my favorite.

Next - The Colgate Optic White family of products.  How wonderful to receive a whole tooth care regimen in the VoxBox!  I wanted to give this a shot although I normally use a natural toothpaste (Tom's of Maine) due to the fact that as I stated above I don't always do well with products containing saccharine and toothpaste and mouthwash seem to nearly always have it as a listed ingredient.  It has been a very long time since I have used a toothpaste that wasn't naturally derived and I forgot how incredibly sweet these toothpastes taste to me.  The mint flavor was super refreshing and tasted incredible, but after my first use I gave it to my husband to use.  I love the tingle of the mouthwash and I LOVED the toothpaste packaging.  Instead of a standard tube with a twist off cap it has a very neat and tidy flip cap.  I would love it if every toothpaste had this unique design.  I even loved how smooth and white my teeth looked, but I know that the ingredients tend to give me allergy related sinus headaches and sore throats so I'll let my husband enjoy these products.  The toothbrush is all mine though - it feels incredible.  I normally use a medium hard brush because I feel like they do a better job of cleaning my teeth, but this Colgate 360 brush has something called "whitening cups" which are curved silicone shapes that really felt good.  I also liked the textured back of the brush which you can use as a tongue scraper.  I will definitely repurchase this brush for myself and for my husband too.

I also received a package of Belvita breakfast biscuits in a new flavor I have never had before - Cinnamon Brown Sugar.  Yumm-o!  I regularly purchase these and take them to work as a snack.  I've had the Oats and Honey and Blueberry varieties but so far this is my favorite.  They are crunchy and not too sweet and they are very satisfying as a snack or as breakfast on the go.  I am happy to see that they have also added another new flavor - Chocolate!  I can't wait to try them!  They are pictured above with the Nectresse sweetener.

Last but not least there were two smashingly good beauty products in this box, the first I already owned and loved so I was thrilled to get some more and I am going to share them with a friend.  Those were the Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes.  I am prone to breakouts even though I have dry skin and these are wonderfully refreshing and help to clean and tighten pores without over drying and stripping moisture from my skin.  I also use Dickinson's Witch Hazel Toner (both Dickinson's products are pictured in my tote above).  I had won it as a free product from their line last year and after trying it once I was sold and have since repurchased it and picked up these wipes to try on that same trip.  I love to stash the wipes in the fridge to cool down after coming in from a hot summer day - they help to remove sunblock, sweat and makeup and cool sunburn too.  I love their products and I'm looking forward to using one of the enclosed $2 off coupons towards one of their cleansers.

The hands down best product in the box was the Vaseline Spray and Go Moisturizer.  I had been seeing the commercials for this where the girl sprays her body and then hops into jeans and I was like "yeah, sure!"  It just didn't seem possible but it made me want to try it.  I hadn't picked it up yet because I was skeptical and thought it was a little bit expensive for something that I couldn't imagine working the way they claimed it did.  When I saw I had the chance to try it for free I cracked it open immediately!  It REALLY DOES sink in that fast.  I sprayed it on my arm to show you the texture of the lotion.  All you have to do is rub it in for a second and it feels heavenly and dries super fast and without a trace of greasy residue or the filminess that many moisturizers leave behind.  Jumping into clothes quickly is definitely possible and I do it when I get ready for work in the mornings (since I wake up at 4 am to be at work by 5, anything that cuts time is precious to me).  The scent of the Total Moisture Pure Oat Extract variety I received is
super fresh and dissipates quickly so it won't clash with any perfume or cologne you have on.  I will repurchase this certainly - I would really like to try the cocoa butter variety and I have a feeling that it will be my go-to product for the rest of the spring and summer.

There you have it - My fab Influenster Sugar and Spice VoxBox for Spring 2013!  If you want to get in on the Influenster fun and try new products while engaging in a fun community of like minded girls click here and discover what this great program has to offer -  Thanks Influenster!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Little Black Bag - Pixi makeup swatches

So if you aren't in the know about Little Black Bag, it is a shopping website where you fill out a style profile and then shop from a gallery of handbags, jewelry, accessories and home goods that are for sale at bargain prices.  You choose an item and you can either buy it outright or choose to "bundle" it with stylist picks that remain a mystery to you until purchase your selection.  They give you an indication of what your picks might be by letting you know the category (jewelry or beauty etc) and the retail price of the mystery item that is added to your bag.  The items range in retail value from $12 to $200 or more but the price you pay is always at least 40% off.  When you make your purchase the real fun begins - trying to trade your stylist pick items (or even the item you chose to initially open your bag with but often think you want to keep) with other members to create a "bag" of selections that you love.  After 7 days of trading the "bag" of items (your first choice and the stylist picks or the items that you eventually swapped with other members for) is shipped to you.

Lots of times there are "extras" that the folks at LBB with throw in for free that add to the fun.  Most times you can trade those items as well - they might throw in a free chocolate bar with your order or a sample size beauty product.  Sometimes they have great promos like the one that's going on right now where you get full size products that are tradeable as part of your "bag" of goodies.  This month their free gift with purchase for their VIP members is a full size makeup product from the Pixi beauty line.

I have used Pixi makeup before - I have a Tinkerbell pallette that I picked up when it was on sale and also a primer that I got from a beauty subscription box.  I have two bags open right now (because the jewelry was super cute in this selection window and I needed a new wallet desperately) and the free Pixi item was a great attraction for me since I normally think their makeup items are a little too pricey.  The one thing about the Little Black Bag site that I think you really have to look out for is the fact that the pictures don't always look like the merchandise you receive in terms of color.  They seem to have REEEEALLY bright lighting in their photography studio and nearly everything looks lighter than I think it will look when it shows up in real life.  They have pretty good descriptions of the colors in the text below the images, but the items themselves have deceiving photographed depictions on occasion.

I started thinking about that in terms of the makeup pictures and then I realized that swatches of the makeup on someone would be super helpful in picking something that works with your skin tone.  I am very fair but I figure that you could at least get a sense of the colors if I swatched them for you.  So... I went to Target where they have testers of Pixi products and did just that.  There are three shots of each of the swatched products - the lighting in the store (florescent), the lighting in my house (incandescent) and in bright sunlight.  Not all of the products were available to swatch - there wasn't an eye bright primer or either of the lip and line pencils there, and one of the eyeliner pencils wasn't available - I ended up swatching several because I didn't remember seeing many as a choice on the site - I knew there wasn't a basic black or teal option so I skipped those but did the other six - only two were offered on LBB though.

 I hope that this helps you make some good choices as you swap and switch the items in your bags!

First up:  the Fairy Lights solo eye shadows: these are very sheer and the first two colors (French Lace and Champagne Glow) barely show up on me.  The center color (Cocoa Haze) is more of a matte finish but all of the others are very shimmery - best pictured in the bright sunshine shot.


I swatched all the colors they had available - On the bottom shot of the pans in the store the bottom row right are the Fairy Lights eye shadow singles in French Lace (the middle is just a white plastic disc) and the right is Sunshine Ray.  Top row left to right is Champagne Glow, Cocoa Haze and Boho Bronze.  They didn't have pans of Antique Gold, Alluring Apricot, Glided Olive or Bronze Beam.  I looked at the packages to match up the color swatches.  The shelf also said "Nude Nouveau" but I didn't see any boxed product in that color - I think it might have gone where the white disc is.

On my hand left to right is French Lace, Champagne Glow, Cocoa Haze, Boho Bronze and Sunshine Ray.

In all cases the top photos are in the store, next is at home, bottom is in bright sunlight.

Next are the Endless Silky eye pens, the Lid Last eye pens and the Lip Blushes.  All of the Lip Blushes are pictured, I swatched several eye liners but they didn't have the Cafe Gold in a tester and they did not have the Lip and Line products in testers at all, but they did have all the Lid Last eye shadow pens that LBB offers.

Top left is the Oyster glow Endless Silky Eye Pen and the far left is Deep Plum.  The others were Copper Glow, Black Cocoa, Sage Gold and Black Blue but they are not offered on LBB, and the Cafe Gold eyeliner that is offered wasn't available as a tester.

Middle left to right are the Lid Last Eye Pens in Peach Pave', Mocha Mauve, Bronze Brilliance, Brun Beam and Graphite Glint.  That is the way they are lying top to bottom in the above shot of the pans in the store.

Finally the lip blushes were the biggest surprise - I got Purity in my bag and I'm glad I didn't switch it for Youth because I wanted a shade that was more of a berry color.  From left to right is Youth (a very pale pink), Energy (a coral or salmon pink), Luck (a mauve with a bit of a brown or orchid hue) and Purity (a nice berry).  I love lip stains and I am thinking about trading my Lip and Line in Orchid Rose for another shade of lip blush but I'm on the fence about it!  What do you think?

If you're interested in opening a Little Black Bag this month (it is a monthly service - you can buy as much or as little as you like, but there is a 9.95 monthly fee which turns into a $10 credit on the site if you don't skip the month or cancel outright) you can use my referral link to give it a shot.  I know when I first tried it I couldn't decide which item I wanted to open with and I got a pop up box after I registered and completed my profile that offered me a free extra item to start.  They run promos all the time and there might be one for new members soon - check your email after you register for a special offer on your first bag.

Try Little Black Bag!

Here are a couple quick photo of some of the adorable bags and jewelry I've purchased and received as trades over the past several months on the site - I have scored some amazing deals, made some great swaps and made some friends along the way - (I'm talkin' about you All Things Tashia!)

Brown and burgundy doctor bag: Mellie Bianco. Pink "Kaley"quilted bag: Lionel.  Blue and white spectator satchel: Elise Hope. Silver and gold studded flap over satchel: Pink Cosmo.  Berry Sedona Satchel: Big Buddah.  Jewelry from 'ZAD, Vince Camuto, Catherine Stein, 1928, Mocha, CZ by Kenneth Jay Lane, R.J.  Graziano, Ben Amun, BCBGeneration, Flea Market Girl and probably others.

My favorite pieces are the Vince Camuto choker and bracelet (heavy silver and black mirrored squares), the BCBGeneration chain bangles (I got them in both gold and silver through trading although I never had them in my bag to begin with) the 'ZAD birds (pheasant necklace and owl stud earrings on the red box top) and the fab CZ by Kenneth Jay Lane earrings in the center - they look like they are on fire with sparkles.  I am so excited that I got the CZ by KJL bow earrings coming soon.  I had a very lucky and wildly popular (to everyone but me) necklace in my bag that I traded for them!  Yay!

I hope this helps the folks who are already LBB addicted and that the quality and value of lots of the things they offer is apparent.  I am going to do a more detailed entry later on with lots more pictures - even my husband loves the website.  He opened a bag so he could buy his Mom a birthday present of an Elise Hope purse and did all his trading himself.  The Mellie Bianco bag and the Vince Camuto bracelet were actually his choices/gifts to me - what a sweetheart!

Much love to y'all - happy trading!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sorry to have been out of the loop

Hey guys!

Sorry that I have been out of the loop for so long.  I love writing on my blog and it seems that when I get stressed out or I just have a lot on my mind that the things I like doing the best are the first ones to go by the wayside.  I wish that I could change that about myself, but so far I've only managed baby steps in the process.  That being said, I'm here and I have lots to chat about!

This is going to be a short entry because hopefully this week I am going to make up for the weeks I've been away by posting some fun beauty content.  I have my Influenster box to review - hopefully I will be chatting that up tomorrow or Tuesday.  I also hope that my Wantable boxes arrive by then so I can post some new videos.  In the meantime you can check out the ones I have posted on my YouTube channel.

Wantable is a subscription service that I pay for.  You fill out surveys that customize a box specifically for you and it is $36 per box each month.  Last month was my first time receiving the boxes, a jewelry box and a makeup box.  All the makeup items are full size and you get 4-6 in each box as well as the possibility of extra surprises (last month there was a bonus of an extra blush).  I also tried their jewelry box which has 4-6 pieces of new jewelry based on a style profile you fill out.  I was initially unhappy with the jewelry box but after emailing their customer service I was blown away by the attention they paid me and how they bent over backwards to not only keep me as a customer but to make my experience amazing.  Here are links to the three videos I posted on my YouTube channel - if you would like to check them out and subscribe to me there and also post a link to your own YouTube channels I would love to check them out!

Wantable March Makeup Box

Wantable March Jewelry Box

Wantable Fix-It Box from Customer Service!

I am also going to be posting a video for my newest GlossyBox in the next few days and I'm working on a post for my latest BzzAgent products too - the Playtex bra campaign (epic fail!) and the Lysol foaming hand soap (love it!) which I received for free to test out like I do with the Influenster boxes.

On a more personal note - A quick update on my folks - my Mom is deteriorating quickly from her Alzheimer's and unfortunately even though we just got her admitted to the same care facility that my father (who is also afflicted with Alzheimer's) she has been experiencing some very bad episodes that leave her confused and violent.  She has also tried to "break out" of the facility many times and because of this has to be placed in a special lock down unit where she won't interfere with my father's care.  It has been very difficult for me because I don't live close enough to home anymore to be there when my parents need me.  I don't know if any of you have ever experienced a similar situation but it is frustrating and scary and also very sad.  I would love to chat with any of you that have ever been in a similar situation with your parents or any family members.  I am the "baby" in our family and although I have four older siblings my brother (who is the nearest in age to me) is still eleven years older than I am.  I think that this is really effecting us all differently, but I am finding it very challenging to suddenly be without my parents in a way I have never been before.  They were always only a phone call away, and now I haven't been able to talk to them in months in a meaningful way.  It is depressing, and probably why I have been away from this for so long, so I apologize for that.

Even with all the things going on with my family I am very thankful to have my husband to lean on.  He has really helped me to sort out the things that are challenging me lately and helped me to realize the things I can change and the things I can't.  We did a fun thing this weekend and went through and weeded and put down new mulch in the flowerbeds at our home.  We are also working hard (he is doing the most part of the hard work!) on finishing our basement to make it into a rec room.

Here is a picture of part of the front and what we accomplished this weekend:

I hope you all have had a wonderful weekend and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.  Thanks for reading!  Much love to all of you

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hiding in Sunshine - A Novel by John and Caitlin Stuart

In the past I have explained a little about the company Influenster and how they occasionally send out boxes of products (VoxBoxes) to the folks who sign up for and use their website to discuss the products and review them. You can read all about it and find out how you can become an Influenster and try new and exciting products in this post - Influenster = Excitement!

 I was lucky enough to be selected for the recent Holiday VoxBox which was loaded with goodies from all kinds of companies like Goody, Kiss, NYC New York Color, Quaker and EBoost.  As an extra special item they sent some "bookworm" members out copies of a new book called "Hiding in Sunshine" written by a father daughter team - John and Caitlin Stuart and I was one of the lucky readers.  This is a quick review and a synopsis (without spoilers!) so you can see if you might like to read it too!

The book starts with an introduction to a young family - a father who is a computer tech genius and has made a very comfortable affluent life for his wife and two young daughters.  He is called upon by a large banking conglomerate to assist with their security systems as an analyst and he proves to them quickly that the money tied up in banks, credit cards and the virtual banking system is not as safe as it seems.  

A series of events leads the family to believe that someone may be trying to gain access to their home and also to the father's high tech computer equipment.  When it becomes apparent that a ring of dangerous foreign criminals have targeted the family and the father in particular as a person of interest to utilize in their plots against the U.S. government they go into hiding with the help of the FBI.  While deep undercover in a new life they have made for themselves the criminals take actions that terrorize the American public by rocking the country's banking industry through a multi-billion dollar heist.  The father and his family need to disappear even deeper into the country, living "off the grid" in the Montana wilderness and trying to piece his life back together without the aid of computers and the technology which had been his mainstay.  The story is about how the family sticks together through eleven years of "hiding in sunshine" - hoping that one day they can return to the happy life they led prior to the upheaval and constant turmoil that their day to day existence has become.  

Although the novel first focuses on the father, the older of the two daughters is also a central character.  As she grows and becomes curious why her parents aren't more like the traditional mothers and fathers she sees around her, she investigates and works out pieces of the puzzle of who she is and who she once was.  It is the daughter who really moves the story along, bringing new pieces of the puzzle to light as she examines them from a more innocent child's perspective and she is also the hope that runs through the story.

I liked this book, although I do admit there were many times when it I was frustrated with the pace of the storytelling.  There are many reports that are cited as letters to or from FBI agents, newspaper articles, segments of speeches and miscellany that are talking about the world outside that the family has no direct contact with.  I found myself skimming most of these sections, hoping there would be more of the interesting story line with the daughters or that they would revisit some other minor characters like the hesitant friends they make while in hiding.  There is a lot of information about banking and finance that the story is centered around and I wasn't as interested in it.  It is critical to the story but it is also stated repetitively and in great detail which I didn't find very interesting.

In all the story is wrapped very neatly with a detailed tying up of all the loose ends.  You get to find out the why behind a lot of details that happen very early in the novel and there were some exciting twists that I truly didn't see coming.  It was a satisfying ending and you really get to know and care about the characters so you go on the journey with them.

I would recommend this book.  I gave it a three out of five star ratings on the Goodreads website and also on  You can go here to the Goodreads website - GoodReads/ Hiding in Sunshine or to the Amazon page for the book if you are interested in purchasing it and giving it a go for yourself - Amazon/ Hiding in Sunshine also you can see what other Influensters have to say about it - it is a top product on the Influenster site and received an average review of A- Influenster/ Hiding in Sunshine reviews.

I was also fortunate to attend a Twitter party with the authors this week.  They said it took them two years to write the novel and that they researched it and wrote it together although it was originally Caitlin's idea.  I asked if writing as a father/teenage daughter was stressful and Caitlin replied "Yeah!  For sure!  But I know my Dad so much better now!"  I also spoke about how the book really sheds light on how much of our personal information is out there, vulnerable to attack from hackers, and how easy it would be for the country to fall into a economic collapse if the information were to get into the wrong hands and they said "we are trying to make as many folks aware as possible of this new reality".  After reading the novel you will be MUCH more aware of giving out your personal information and I did learn some really interesting things about the technology behind banking that I had no knowledge of.  

So there you are!  If you want to read it there are tons of links above to find out more and if you are local and would like to borrow my copy I would gladly loan it to you.  I hope you all had a great day today and that it was filled with moments of bliss.  I'll be back soon with some pictures of my new Kitchenaid mixer my husband got me for Valentine's day.  Some of you might not think that is romantic, but it makes me swoon!  Baked goods!  Awesomesauce!!! 

Much love to y'all!

Sorry for the delay...

So sorry I haven't been posting recently - I have been terribly sick and missed several days of work in the past two weeks and have been in a general slump as of late.  I have TONS of stuff that I want to write about but I've been lacking the energy to do it and letting myself get more than a little overwhelmed with everything.

I would like to make a quick thank you to Ashley A Blog in the life of a Jersey girl and Juliadee Field of Flowers - My Life in the Meadow who have both nominated me for a Leibster award which helps promote and celebrate new bloggers.  I am going to be working on an entry answering all of their questions and nominating some deserving fellow bloggers of my own tomorrow afternoon, so you can read all about it then!

Also I want to thank my sweet husband Andy for the wonderful Valentine's day gift he gave me - a candy apple red KitchenAid stand mixer!  The professional bowl lift model - this guy was not kidding around.  Here are a few pictures of it - if you look closely at the first my chihuahua Obi Wan is licking his lips at the thought of all the deliciousness to come.

When it first showed up I was terribly excited to make something with it but then I promptly came down with a cold that knocked me off my feet for what seemed like a year.  I promised Andy delicious goodies this weekend and I will deliver them and post some pics tomorrow.  In the meantime I hope you all are well, happy and not stuck under tons of snow!  Much love to everybody - I'll catch you tomorrow!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

tarte roundup

So I did Urban Decay a few days back and I thought I ought to do a tarte rundown as well because I have found lots of things to love about this brand.

The tarte LipSurgence natural lip luster, tint and matte lip tint products are currently my favorite of all the lip glosses and color I own.  That is saying something because I have an absolute obsession with lip products of all types.  I own stains, tints, glosses, balms, lipsticks, lacquers, and potions.  I keep some of them far too long (I'm looking at you L'Oreal James Bond collection Bond Bronze and Bond Bordeaux - I'm pretty sure Pierce Brosnan was Bond when you were originally purchased) and others I have barely even touched but felt I just had to have them.  Still the tarte collection of products have a great consistency, beautiful color and the bonus of a crisp minty flavor that I love.

I also am a huge fan of the tarte SmolderEYES eyeliners which I hope to add more of to my collection very soon.  They glide on and have a huge pop of color with a great line quality and a hint of sparkle.  They're easy to control and truly last all day - they're even nap proof.

I have swatched the tarte  LipSurgence and SmolderEYES below

From left to right:
Adored luster
Escape luster
Sweet luster
Enchanted tint
Elite tint
Exposed matte tint
Hope matte tint
QVC NBTT Blue (Navy?)

I also picked up a great new palette a few weeks back the "Rising Star Palette" - it was the last one they had in Sephora and I am happy I grabbed it because it has a lot of beautiful colors and was a good collection of neutrals and smokey eye colors.

Blush and powders left to right:

Amazonian Clay shimmer powder in Champagne

Amazonian Clay blush in Pouty

Amazonian Clay bronzer in Park Ave. Princess

Amazonian Clay blush in Ethereal

Shadows left to right

row 1: matte chai tea, shimmering citrine
           shimmering cocoa, burnished bronze

row 2: shimmering sienna, shimmering sage
           shimmering sunset gold, matte coffee liquor

row 3: shimmering platinum, matte light pink
           shimmering steel blue, shimmering smoke

The eye shadows aren't too glittery or super saturated and the powders have a great blendable texture.  The only real complaint I had about the set is that the small compartment that holds the double ended shadow brush and the blush brush isn't easily accessible and the blush brush is way too small and has really hard bristles.  I got rid of the blush brush and just used my own.  I find that several of the eye shadows go on better with a fingertip or a sponge applicator than the brush.  I haven't tried any of them wet yet but dry they have lots of possibilities.

I dyed my hair brown today and I'm liking the color change a lot.  I wish it pulled a little more red than it does but it was a really quick new foaming color from John Freida that went on fast and easy and seems to have a lot of shine and dimension.   I'm seriously considering getting a pixie cut.  I have been kind of obsessed with the idea since I started watching Once Upon a Time a few years back, and now that Anne Hathaway has jumped on the bandwagon it is going to happen soon.  I am wearing the blue smolderEYES liner, the blush in ethereal and the highlighter in champagne on my cheeks and brow bones.  I also have the matte chai tea shadow on the inner eye and outer corner and the shimmering steel blue lightly on the lid.  The lip color is the enchanted lip tint.  It looks a lot pinker here than it looks in person.

Two posts in one day?  It's a record for sure!  Hope you all have a day filled with excitement.

Fun stuff that arrived this week and links

I had forgotten about a few of these freebies that arrived, and others were unexpected delights.  There were quite a few things that showed up in my mailbox the past ten days or so and I thought I would share them with you.

I didn't take photos of all the sample packets and such - I get quite a few of them.  I probably wouldn't have to buy shampoo at all this year if I didn't hate those packets slipping around in the shower - I always seem to drop them and I never open them too well - I just get shampoo everywhere.  I did get some great things recently and I will tell you a bit about each and where the sample/gift came from.

Clockwise from top right.

I did take the L'Oreal Total Repair 5 photo because I am really interested in trying the repairing balm that came in this sample.  It was free from the Wal Mart sampling site and had 3 samples in the pack - shampoo, conditioner and the balm conditioning treatment.  I am thinking of dying my hair today so I will wait a few days to test it out.

The jar is the Legend BBQ Spice Rub from the Marlboro Flavor Makers page.  My husband smokes Marlboro exclusively, and I sign up to get things for him.  He doesn't have the time or the inclination to try for any of these things but Marlboro has given me some really awesome stuff in the past (a speaker for my iPod, a wide-angle lens for my cell phone camera, sunglasses, a Zippo lighter) and he spends tons of money with the company so they can afford to send me cool things every so often.  The spice rub was made by two celebrity chefs that formed the restaurant Animal in Los Angeles.  They were recently on Top Chef Seattle as judges on the Wolfgang Cluck fried chicken challenge episode.  You could get the spice rub by being one of the first 3000 to comment on their page.

The silver item in the box that looks like a lighter is called a Smoke Tin Tool and is also from Marlboro.  It is a portable ashtray which will be useful to Andy so he can pocket his cigarette butts until he can pitch them.  This is a huge pet peeve of mine since I worked in a summer theatre that was outdoors and we used to fine people for littering the mountain side.  It was available when you signed in and was totally free.

I must admit I am stupid excited about the coffee mug.  I love the brand that gave it to me - Nestle's Abuelita Hot Chocolate Mix.  It is a cinnamon spiced hot cocoa that you make by adding hot milk.  I use soy milk but it is just as delicious and I got hooked on it when I lived in Alabama.  I have just started to see it around here (Baltimore MD and Washington DC markets) so I was excited to find they had a Facebook page and even more excited when I was one of the first 200 one day in December to enter my email address and get a special holiday surprise.  It came with coupons and two packs of Abuelita too but they are already gone!  I happened onto the contest at the right moment - I hardly ever get in on those "be the first" contests but the timing was good. It was the same with the spice rub from Marlboro - I go to work very early in the morning and I saw the email at 6 am so it was easy to respond quickly while I was on break.  It doesn't happen often though.

The little pill box item is a ton of tiny gemstones that are for nail art.  I am a member of Crowdtap - a site where they send you free samples of products to try and you throw a party or hand them out to friends and get their opinions.  I have gotten quite a few things from them - Zicam cold medicine, McCormick spices, sauces and rubs for grilling, and very recently I was selected to host a "Sexplorers" party from Durex.  I have quite a few friends that I am comfortable around even though those things tend to embarrass me a bit and I think it will be really funny to see what they send.  I know that my friends will get a kick out of it and appreciate the samples they send too so it should be fun.  Anyway - the gemstones came from and they were purchased as part of a $50 credit I received by redeeming my Crowdtap points.  I also bought some bed pillows, other nail art items, a new waterproof case for my Kindle and a few odds and ends that ended up being within 10 cents of my gift card and I didn't have to pay any shipping so that was awesome!

The full size Sheer Blonde Everlasting Blonde Shampoo was an unexpected treat from the John Freida Elite club.  If you haven't signed up for their email list you can through their website.  They send out great coupons and the card that accompanied this simply said "Surprise!" and had instructions on how to leave a review of the new product on their website.  I am thinking of dying my hair brown, but it always fades back to blonde quickly and I change back and forth often so this will be great down the line.

The Align digestive supplement is a two week supply I received from Vocal Point.  Vocal Point always sends out some pretty great samples.  Recently I've received the new Pantene Pro-V silky whip mousse, some samples from Always and great coupons to try new food items on the cheap like the International Delight Coffees that launched last year.  A few weeks later they will send you a follow up email asking you how you liked it and you write a brief review.  I am always excited to try their samples although this one is something I have to research a bit more before I try it.

The Avery note tabs came from a company called Franklin Planner.  By signing up for their emails you got a random sample of an office supply that could be used with their day planners.  It was simple and they only send a few emails out.  If I were ever in the market for office supplies they do have some really good deals, but they are in higher quantities than what I would use at home, and the planners themselves are pretty pricey.  Still it was a great freebie and I appreciate their generosity.

Last but not least is the Dominoes Pizza gift card.  This is a $25 gift card that I won from the Coca Cola Merry Minutes of Winning contest on the My Coke Rewards website.  I always get wonderful things from the My Coke Rewards.  My husband teases me about the bottle caps that are all over the house.  I drink Coke occasionally and have friends that save their codes for me too and so it is easy for the points to add up.  I have gotten T-shirts, hats, free item coupons and my current subscription to Entertainment Weekly with my points.  This contest was completely free to enter and didn't cost any points at all - they often have free entries to their contests and you can enter up to five times a day on certain instant win games.  The gift card was a totally random win and will come in handy for dinner sometime soon.  I also won a free 12 pack of cans from this contest but that coupon hasn't arrived yet.  It is totally worth it to set up an account.  I played about 3 days before I won, and I won both prizes back to back on the same day.

Here are some links so you can find the same deals or some awesome new ones in the future:
Wal Mart Free Samples page (There aren't always samples here but there are often coupons)
Marlboro Sign Up (Many free offers available for smokers over 21)
Abuelita Facebook Page (They have contests with English translations and are owned by Nestle USA)
John Freida Elite club sign up (great coupons and content)
Vocal Point sign up (add their Facebook page to see when new offers show up)
Franklin Planner (they may offer the free sample with email sign up again in the future)
My Coke Rewards page (lots of opportunities for free points, free entries and cool stuff)
Crowdtap (this is my personal invite link!)

I hope you all find some delightful new things on your doorstep and that each day is filled with fun surprises.  Much joy to everyone!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

These are a few photos I took when we visited Washington DC last summer to visit the many memorials and the Smithsonian.  Much love to all of you today.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Urban Decay Haul

So you may or may not have heard of Ipsy (formerly known as MyGlam) - a beauty sample subscription box (bag really) that shows up in your mailbox once a month.  It is currently my favorite monthly beauty subscription although this month I've decided to try GlossyBox USA because I have heard some wonderful things about it and the Man Repeller box that's been curated for January which includes some of those new "sand" OPI shades, so the verdict is still out!  Anyway - December's Ipsy bag had a travel size Urban Decay 24/7 glide-on eye pencil in zero - a true black without sparkles.  It was a great find for me in an eyeliner because it was very no-fuss and it stayed on all day without moving the slightest bit.  Because I loved that pencil so much I splurged and ordered a bunch of random things from the Urban Decay website to try.  They were giving a bunch of free gifts at the time because they wouldn't resume shipping until after Christmas, and there was an additional gift from Ipsy that came in a code where you received a free travel bag of samples with your $25 purchase.  There was also a free shipping on $35 promo at the time and the shipping was nearly $8 anyway so I just threw a few extra products in my bag to meet the $35 minimum.  I also picked up a set of two travel size 24/7 eyeliners from Sephora that were on a $9 clearance sale, so what you see here is a little under $50 worth (purchase price) that retails for well over $120.  Some of the items were purchased in a set (a promo travel bag that was $16 and included a full size lip junkie gloss which retails for $19 by itself and other sample sized favorites as well as the double pack of liners from Sephora) and many were on a great sale.  I've place a star by anything that was a free sample, gift  or included in the Ipsy website promo bag for free.

Here is a breakdown of individual products:

Full size products:
Lip Love Honey Infused Lip Therapy in Stung
Deluxe Eye shadow in Shag
Eye Shadow in Midnight Cowgirl
Lipstick in Oil Slick
Lip Junkie Lip gloss in Naked

Travel size products:
24/7 Glide on pencils in Zero, Bourbon and Ransom
All Nighter makeup setting spray
TSA approved vinyl UD logo travel bags (2 - one for Ipsy promo, one for travel set)*

Deluxe Samples:
Lip Junkie Lip Gloss in Midnight Cowboy*
Naked Skin Beauty Balm*
24/7 Glide on Pencil in Corrupt*
24/7 Glide on Eye Shadow pencils in Delinquent* and Rehab*
Eye shadow primer potion*
Supercurl Curling Mascara (I received 3 of these, one in travel set the other in Ipsy and UD promos)*

Sample Cards:
Eyeshadow card with primer and shadow samples (although mine had no shadow on it - boo)*
Primer Potion sample cards (2)*
$5 Off your next purchase card

All in all this was a smashing and very exciting haul - I got some things I truly loved!
Here are swatches of most of the color cosmetics:

From left to right:
Oil slick lipstick, Stung Lip love balm, Naked Lip Junkie and Midnight Cowboy Lip Junkie

From top to bottom and left to right:
Shag deluxe shadow, Midnight Cowboy eye shadow, Ransom liner (purple), Zero liner (black), Bourbon liner (copper brown), Rehab shadow pencil (brown), Delinquent shadow pencil (purple), Corrupt liner (dark brown)

Kind of hard to see but I have Rehab eye shadow pencil on my lids and Midnight Cowboy eye shadow blended to the brow bone.  I'm also wearing the new Naked beauty balm, Supercurl Mascara in black and the 24/7 liner in Bourbon with the eye shadow primer as a base and the Lip Junkie gloss in Naked.  The only non UD makeup I have on is a bit of Philosophy blushing duo in Hugs and Kisses.

Here's a bit about my favorites:
Lip products - I have heard tons of good things about UD lippys but I can see what all the hype is about!  Although it is such an odd grey shade I have to say makeup lover in me can find endless possibilities in the grey Oil Slick lipstick.  It is sparkly and super blendable with other lip colors so I can use it to shift the shade of lots of reds and corals into something really cool and edgy.  I love the texture and would buy other lipsticks in everyday shades for sure.  The Lip Junkies feel really nice and have just a hint of mint.  They stay pretty glossy and are supposed to have a plumping effect but I didn't really see it.  The travel bag was a great purchase and I'm glad to add this to my everyday gloss collection.  It's a nice "not too pink" color.  The Lip Love Therapy was amazing.  It was actually my favorite product I purchased.  It tastes of honey and a subtle spice and I will need more in the future.  For $4 (sale price) or even $12 (regular price) I will repurchase it when I run out.

Eye products - Kind of on the fence about the shadow primer.  No one on the beauty blogs can stop talking about it but I found it pretty hard to blend the colors once they were on top of the primer.  It caused me to pull and tug at my lids to get the shadow where I wanted it to blend together and I wasn't really a fan but it definitely makes it stay in place.  The shadow pencils were super pigmented and the Midnight Cowgirl shadow was amazingly sparkly.  I have to buff off most of it to make it a wearable everyday shade but this would be lovely for a really dressy occasion or a party.  I just don't go to so many of those!  The liners all rock.  They are the reason I visited in the first place and the reason I'll return too.

Other stuff - The UD Naked Beauty Balm was a nice texture - it blended easily and smelled a little bit like Noxema.  At $34 in the full size I wouldn't rush out to buy it but if I heard that it was a free sample offering at Sephora or Ulta or on the UD site I wouldn't mind another one.  It was very light but I don't think it works as well as the Dr. Jart+ BB Cream I got from Birchbox.  I was amazed by that one and I purchased it in the full size because I couldn't believe how well it covered and blended.  Of all the BB creams I've tried (6 now? ) the UD Naked Balm would be my second choice.

All of the makeup in this haul was purchased from my own pocket and although the Ipsy promo was what got me interested I pay for that subscription too.  On a side note I did contact Urban Decay and asked about the missing eye shadows on the shadow card and also about the fact that although I had used an Ipsy code for the free travel bag of deluxe samples with purchase there was also a second offer on the UD site running at that time for a free travel bag with purchase and although the Ipsy bag, the UD promo offer and the travel bag I paid for all appeared in my cart I only received two of what I believed were three bags in my order.  In an email their customer service person offered to replace it only if I double checked my order to make sure I wasn't mistaken.  The packing list only listed 2 bags although my order and original cart showed three.  She said she would get a replacement out to me right away, but I have yet to hear from their CS again or see any replacement products.  I was a little bummed because I was really looking forward to the mini liners but I will update if they ever come through and send a replacement.

I hope you all have enjoyed my Urban Decay breakdown.  Much love to all of you - hope your day sparkles!