Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Color For Spring

If you know me at all it should come as no surprise that the thawing snow and daffodils that are popping up made me eager to try out something new.  I always tend to get bored with whatever hair color I've chosen after a few weeks, but usually I make it through a season in the same color family, a honey summer, an auburn fall, a chestnut brown winter, or a strawberry spring.  I decided to be a little more dramatic than usual this year.


I'm calling it pineapple because it isn't quite platinum!  I'm thinking about a pixie cut as well.  I swept all my hair back in the bottom pictures to try and get an idea how it would look.  What do you think?  Please weigh in on the "to cut or not to cut" conversation!

Hope y'all had a great weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Insurgent Tonight!

I am so excited that we got advance tickets to see Insurgent tonight!  Andy and I loved Divergent and I have yet to read the books but I'm thrilled to find out where Tris and Four are headed!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dermstore Mane Changers Grab Bag Breakdown!

I hunted and hunted for the contents of this particular Dermstore mystery bag and couldn't find a spoiler so for all of you that want to see what's inside here's a peek!

The Mane Changers Grab Bag is $40 on the Dermstore site.  It promises $190 worth of hair care and says it comes with 10 items.  I received 11 items (although admittedly a cosmetic bag is not a hair care item) and figured it had an approximate retail value of $197.38 (or $152.36 if you considered two items were discounted on the Dermstore website).

Here's a closer look at the products... First, the trial sizes.

I love the color of the inside of the bag - it matches the Deva Curl packaging.  Next are the full size products...

Here is a cost per item breakdown:

Please note that I paid for these products with my own money.  The prices I list were found on the Dermstore website and if there was no exact match I used an  approximate value based on the price per ounce (for the Deva Curl, Leonor Greyl and Fekkai products).  If there is a slash through the price and a second price written in pink it is the current sale price.  I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this post.  I am just posting it in the hopes that if you are on the fence about ordering this mystery grab bag you can see some spoilers before spending your cash!

 I have no idea if everyone will receive exactly the same items.  They may vary in brand or fragrance, but this should give you a good idea for figuring out if the $40 price point will be a good value for you.  I was thrilled with this box because it featured several products I've been dying to try, a few repeats that I was happy to see and new brands that are suitable for my hair type (super fine and color treated).  I had hoped for at least one Nick Chavez Beverly Hills product and was pleased as punch with two.  I have received them in sample subscription boxes before and I love the way they perform but was always reluctant to buy the full sizes in case they showed up in a Blush Mystery Beauty Box.  Now that the BMBB is the BeautyFIX by Dermstore box I'm unsure of what types of products they'ok send so I'm happy to have these.  This Klorane shampoo is my third bottle but I am almost finished with the first so I'm happy to have this one.  I love the fragrance and though I'd like to try a new variety this one works great for me so I have no complaints.

I also wanted to mention I bought a second kit at the same time that wasn't a mystery - it was called the Dermstore Volume Boosting Value set and was sold as a $57 value for 6 items.  The way I figured it the items came to about $54.66 and I was equally thrilled with this set.  Here is a quick pic of the contents...

Because my order was a qualifying amount (it was $59.99 but I don't know what the minimum qualifying amount was) I also received 2 magazine subscriptions - a two year subscription to Martha Stewart Living and a 1 year subscription to Time magazine.  I had subscribed to Time and had just cancelled it because it auto renewed at a really high rate and I was really excited that I had just gotten a $43 refund on the remaining issues and then got it for free.  It felt like I hit the jackpot and I will be glad to have both in my mailbox!  

If you picked up any of the other Dermstore grab bags please comment and let me know what you received.  I hope you love yours as much as I do!  I'm off to comb my hair with a $20 comb (this delights me as much as I find it silly that this item costs so much!) and if I tell you "sorry, I can't make it.  I have to wash my hair", you'll know I'm telling the truth and not just watching old Doris Day movies.

Have a lovely evening folks!

Monday, March 16, 2015

THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS by M.J. Rose - A Historical Fiction Novel, Out Today!

Howdy folks!  Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I'm very excited to participate in my first blog tour for the launch of THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS by M.J. Rose.  This is a historical romance novel with gothic intrigue, magic and suspense.  In other words, this book is right up my alley and might just be your cup of tea as well.  Look at this GORGEOUS COVER...

I admit that I shop for books in stores by looking for colors and images that speak to me.  If a book doesn't look beautiful I'm not as likely to pick it up off the shelf and read the back.  Everything about this cover sings to me.  The artfully draped curls, the hint of a shoulder about to be exposed, and the Eiffel Tower by moonlight?  Yes. Please!  If the beautiful cover art wasn't convincing enough, there's the lure of the synopsis:

 Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother's Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it's dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine's deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten--her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She's become possessed byLa Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine's "wild night of the soul," her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

Longing for more?  Me too!  I can't wait to read this book!  Here is a taste of what's to come we open the pages of THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS published today by Atria Books...

Four months ago I snuck into Paris on a wet, chilly January night like a criminal, hiding my face in my shawl, taking extra care to be sure I wasn’t followed.
I stood on the stoop of my grandmother’s house and lifted the hand-shaped bronze door knocker and let it drop. The sound of the metal echoed inside. Her home was on a lane blocked off from rue des Saints-Pères by wide wooden double doors. Maison de la Lune, as it was called, was one of a half dozen four-story mid-eighteenth- century stone houses that shared a courtyard that backed up onto rue du Dragon.
I let the door knocker fall again. Light from a street lamp glinted off the golden metal. It was a strange object. Usually on these things the bronze hand’s palm faced the door. But this one was palm out, almost warning the visitor to reconsider requesting entrance.
The knocker had obsessed me ten years before when I’d visited as a fifteen-year-old. The engravings on the finely modeled female palm included etched stars, phases of the moon, planets, and other archaic symbols. When I’d asked about it once, my grandmother had said it was older than the house, but she didn’t know how old exactly or what the ciphers meant. Where was the maid? Grand-mère, one of Paris’s celebrated courtesans, hosted lavish salons on Tuesday, Thursday, and many Saturday evenings, and at this time of day was usually upstairs, preparing her toilette: dusting poudre de riz on her face and décolletage, screwing in her opale de feu earrings, and wrapping her signature rope of the same blazing orange stones around her neck. The strand of opal beads was famous. It had belonged to a Russian empress and was known as Les Incendies. The stones were the same color as my grandmother’s hair and the high- lights in her topaz eyes. She was known by that name—L’Incendie, they called her, The Fire.
We had the same color eyes, but mine almost never flashed like hers. When I was growing up, I kept checking in the mirror, hoping the opal sparks that I only saw occasionally would intensify. I wanted to be just like her, but my father said it was just as well my eyes weren’t on fire because it wasn’t only her coloring that had inspired her name but also her temper, and that wasn’t a thing to covet.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen years old and witnessed it myself that I understood what he’d meant.
I let the hand of fate fall again. Even if Grand-mère was upstairs and couldn’t hear the knocking, the maid would be downstairs, organizing the refreshments for the evening. I’d seen her so many nights, polishing away last smudges on the silver, holding the Baccarat glasses over a pot of steaming water and then wiping them clean to make sure they gleamed.
Dusk had descended. The air had grown cold, and now it was beginning to rain. Fat, heavy drops dripped onto my hat and into my eyes. And I had no umbrella. That’s when I did what I should have done from the start—I stepped back and looked up at the house.
The darkened windows set into the limestone facade indicated there were no fires burning and no lamps lit inside. My grandmother was not in residence. And neither, it appeared, was her staff. I almost wished the concierge had needed to open the porte cochère for me; he might have been able to tell me where my grandmother was.
For days now I had managed to keep my sanity only by thinking of this moment. All I had to do, I kept telling myself, was find my way here, and then together, my grandmother and I could mourn my father and her son, and she would help me figure out what I should do now that I had run away from New York City.
If she wasn’t here, where was I to go? I had other family in Paris, but I had no idea where they lived. I’d only met them here, at my grandmother’s house, when I’d visited ten years previously. I had no friends in the city.
The rain was soaking through my clothes. I needed to find shelter.
But where? A restaurant or café? Was there one nearby? Or should I try and find a hotel? Which way should I go to get a carriage? Was it even safe to walk alone here at night?
What choice did I have?
Picking up my suitcase, I turned, but before I could even step into the courtyard, I saw an advancing figure. A bedraggled-looking man, wearing torn and filthy brown pants and an overcoat that had huge, bulging pockets, staggered toward me. Every step he took rang out on the stones.
He’s just a beggar who intends no harm, I told myself. He’s just look- ing for scraps of food, for a treasure in the garbage he’d be able to sell.
But what if I was wrong? Alone with him in the darkening court- yard, where could I go? In my skirt and heeled boots, could I even outrun him?

I love the imagery used in this passage - I can just see those fiery opals gleaming around Sandrine's grandmother's neck and I already want to know who the mysterious man advancing toward her is.  I love the hook of a good story - how it catches you and pulls you in to a world created by someone else's imaginings.  M.J. Rose has created quite an effective hook in this brief passage.  Here are some details about the author and where to find her and her book on social media...

New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother's favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice... books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.

Rose's work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors -

The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization's co-president.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

Want to know what people are saying about THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS?  Here is some advance praise for the book:

"Haunting tale of possession." —Publishers Weekly

"Rose's new series offers her specialty, a unique and captivating supernatural angle, set in an intriguing belle epoque Paris — lush descriptions, intricate plot and mesmerizing storytelling. Sensual, evocative, mysterious and haunting." —Kirkus

"Mixes reality and illusion, darkness and light, mystery and romance into an adult fairy tale. [Rose] stirs her readers curiosities and imaginations, opening their eyes to the cultural, intellectual and artistic excitement that marked the Belle Epoque period. Unforgettable, full-bodied characters and richly detailed narrative result in an entrancing read that will be long savored."—Library Journal (Starred Review)

Can't wait to get your hands on a copy?  Hardcover and e-book copies of THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS are available today!  Find the book at any of the links below:

Last but not least, the author is having a giveaway on her blog for a gorgeous "Daughter of La Lune" pendant.  You can enter to win it on M.J. Rose's site: WIN A DAUGHTER OF LA LUNE PENDANT

I'm happy to be a part of today's book launch through Ink Slinger PR - this is the first of what will hopefully be many introductions to new titles and authors I hope to help you discover!  Please let me know if you have read or are going to read THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS - I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book.  It's at the top of  my To Be Read list on Goodreads - I'd love it if you would friend me there - let's compare the books we love and chat about reading!

Have a lovely St. Patrick's Day - remember to wear some green so you don't get a pinch!

The Great Big Pressure Cooker Cookbook Review

Howdy folks!

I'd like to apologize for being so scare the last few weeks.  I needed a little time to regroup and figure out how to best focus my blog and my writing.  I have the need for a creative outlet and sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I have going on and I forget to focus on the things that make me happy.  Reading makes me happy.  Writing makes me happy.  Crafting, baking, doodling, watching "can't turn it off" television shows (Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Black Sails!), and just having a lovely evening hanging out with my husband and my crazy dogs are all things that make me happy.  I spent a couple of weeks relaxing, recharging and doing all those fun things so I could revamp and focus on how thankful I am that I have the time and ability to enjoy these daily gifts.  I'm not certain I will post every day going forward, but I will post most days, and boy do I have a ton of things to tell you about the last few weeks!

Today my topic is a new cookbook I was given the chance to review.  I am a huge fan of Food Network, The Cooking Channel and cooking shows in general, and although I am a novice cook, I love watching all of the fabulous dishes and delectable food that comes out of the kitchens on these shows.  Very often the chefs and cooks will turn to a piece of kitchen equipment that looks like something that would be fabulous to own and I assure myself that in owning said piece of equipment I would obviously create dishes worthy of a Michelin star or a James Beard award.  I know that this isn't the case and I'm pretty sure the accolades would only pour in after I dedicated myself to actually learning how to use the nifty gadget they're adept at, and that I'd be more likely to receive a thumbs up from the hubby or a tail wag from the pups.  Still, sometimes the allure of the sweet kitchen tool is too much and I bite.

My most recent "dang that would be handy"! purchase was a pressure cooker.

On Bravo's Top Chef I have seen dozens on instances where the cheftestants try to use a pressure cooker and fail.  They can't get the lid off or locked on or they waste valuable challenge time trying to beg the other folks for help because they've never used one.  I thought mastering this tool would save me time and money and make weeknight dinner more do-able, but I had (and if I'm being completely honest, still have) a tiny bit of fear that I wouldn't be able to figure it out.  Luckily, just after I purchased it I saw The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes For Every Machine, Both Stovetop and Electric by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough come up as an option on the Blogging for Books website.  Points for awesome timing!

The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book is more than just a cookbook.  It has tips, tricks, hints and trouble shooting methods to help anyone master this cooking tool.  I like that from the very beginning of the book they tell you that if you have a pressure cooker that came with an instruction book you need to read it and familiarize yourself with exactly how your model works.  If you are using the dinosaur you found in your Aunt Betty's attic, there are a bunch of general how-to notes and tips included to help you figure it out too.  The best part is that since there are several different types of pressure cookers (electric, stovetop, dinosaur Aunt Betty models) they have included the ratios of liquid and ingredients to add for each model and also have specific step-by-step instructions that at different points in the recipe that explain how to best accomplish the dish with the type you have.

There are several great suggestions for the skittish (me!!) and some really helpful tidbits that would've never occurred to me.  For example - I have a stovetop with electric burners and it reminds you that when you remove the cooker from the heat that it is important that you don't simply move it to a cool burner because the metal coils are insulated and will retain heat so the pressure won't fall the way you desire it to and you could end up overcooking your dish.  This helpful tip was put to immediate use in my kitchen even without using the pressure cooker and I've recently begun to transfer my pans onto a trivet.  It has saved a batch of rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and is a great tip.

The book includes 500 recipes with a gauge of effort from "not much" to "a lot" and has a truly amazing block of "tester's notes" for each recipe that can lend information that is funny, educational, and sometimes vital to the preparation so it's good to read them first.  Even before you make a single recipe there is a lot to absorb so read carefully before you begin.

There are a ton of recipes to try that run the gamut of "what? You can make THAT in a pressure cooker?" (cheesecake - woohoo! although you need a bit of additional equipment like a wire rack) to "why would I want to make this in a pressure cooker?" (oatmeal - I'm an "add boiling water to packet" kind of girl).  The soups, braises and time saving preparations of beans and grains are really the stars of the show though.  There are countless things I want to try and this weekend is going to be all about experimenting.  Actually last weekend was supposed to be about that, but there was a gardening show and a certain live action princess movie that had to be attended.  Priorities!

My only complaint is the lack of photographs.  There is a section in the center of the book with 32 pictures of the a sampling of the dishes in this book.  I love good food photography, and the pictures here are lovely but there isn't enough of them.  The recipes I am most excited by weren't chosen for a glamour shot and that was a little sad.  Still, the photos that are here are enough to make you want to get cooking and that is a very good thing.

The lovely folks at Blogging For Books were kind enough to provide me this cookbook for review.  Check out their site if you are a blogger who loves to read or eat or if you just want to see what folks like me have to say about a wide variety of titles that have recently hit bookshelves near you.  Thanks Blogging For Books!  Andy and the dogs thank you too!

Check back tomorrow to see an exciting new historical fiction novel THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS by M.J. Rose that will hit those very same shelves in the morning!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Julep Maven Subscription Box March 2015 - Beauty Lover Mystery Option

I'm excited that this month's Julep Maven selections included two different mystery boxes as options along with the standard profile choices.   There were several choices that I could've went with but I chose the Beauty Lover's Mystery Box.  It was promised to be a $70 value.  According to the full retail prices listed on their website, my box had a retail value of only $66, but it still had three products that I haven't had the chance to try yet and a good value for the $19.99 monthly subscription price.  I was glad to have an all beauty product option and very interested in the mystery products from previous boxes because I haven't purchased a Julep box in several months.  I was hoping for an oribital eye shadow or a highlighting powder, but I still  like what I received.

I received a Gel Eye Glider pencil in Olive which is the color I would've chosen for myself.  I love the Kajal liner from Julep, so I think this will be a win for me.  I also had a Plush Pout Lip Crayon in the color cardinal.  Although I wouldn't have chosen this color for myself it is a pretty red shade and the moisturizing core would  seem to make it very hydrating.  Finally the Night Shift Sleep Mask is a product I'm really excited about.  I love face masks in general and the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is at the top of my favorite products list right now, so I'm happy to have a new similar product to try.

There were also some Smarties candies.  Andy will happily eat them.

My mailman made me very happy today by telling me he was coming back with packages.  I was glad he made the trek in such good spirits - he said he had a good day despite the tons of snow and that he hadn't slipped on the ice.  I was happy he came because I had an email from UPS that the package I was expecting wouldn't be delivered today and I thought that the mail would have a harder time getting out than UPS would, but the post office is serious about the whole "neither rain nor snow" promise.

Thankfully I had the walk cleared for him!  I can't believe how tired I am from shoveling today though.  My wrists are aching terribly tonight after clearing the sidewalk, back porch and driveway twice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Target Clearance Steals!

I found some fabulous deals at Target today.  Going back into the store after not working there for over a year was strange.  I couldn't find the adult baby wedding gift wrap section which seems lost to additional party favors.  It was the best named aisle in the store so I was sad to see its demise.  There were a lot of things that were either recent Plano team resets or incredibly well zoned aisles.  I didn't see a ton of customers, but I did see lots of employees and they were all working on pulls so I guess that's a good thing.

 I went to buy a baby shower gift for my cousin and to check out the beauty clearance.  They had lots of 70% off things that haven't made it to the endcaps yet, and lots of what I picked up had previous markdown tickets on it but were actually lower than the marked ticket price.  I also got some great deals on Gilligan and O'Malley microfiber bikinis which rang up at regular price but had clearance tickets on them, so they were adjusted.  One two pack was $3.58, another 2 pack was $1.78 and a single pair rang up at $1.48.

Here are some the beauty section bargains:

The Clairol hair color was 30% off and was $7.68.  I think the inclusion of a free 3.9oz. bottle of shampoo with this makes it well worth it because I used this particular Age Defy color before in a different shade and loved the application.  It has a pre-treatment that makes your hair incredibly soft and shiny.  I would've bought another if they had one.

Two of the lipsticks are Maybelline Elixer lip products.  They had several shades on clearance but I haven't tried this formula yet so I just got two, Mandarin Rapture and Captivating Carnation.  They were only $2.08 each and that is a great "try me" price.

I have been waiting ages for them to get a Nyx section in our Target.  When I still worked there they taunted me by sending backer paper for it but no products.  It finally arrived without my notice at some point.  I wanted lots of things, but settled on a butter lipstick.  I would've bought several, but some loser twisted them into the caps and ruined all of the markdown ones but this.  I'm not sure I love the color, but for $1.78 BLS04 - a bright coral came home with me.

I've never tried the NYC Smooth Skin liquid makeup, but for $.98 I figured  it was worth a try.  It turned out to be a perfect match for my skin.  It has no fragrance and had enough coverage that it could work as a concealer for me.  I rarely wear foundation, but I will likely be trying this out to see how long it wears.

The best deal and my most exciting find was the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask.  The ticket said it was 30% off and $16.10.  I didn't really want to pay that, but this product is my favorite thing I've received in a subscription box last year and I am practically out of my sample which I've used sparingly since I loved it so much.  I noticed the brand's BB Cushions were 70% off so I was hoping this had missetha few markdowns and it had!  It was only $6.90.  I would've bought a few if they had them, because if they are discontinuing this product I will be really sad.  It is wonderfully hydrating and works as you sleep.  When you rinse your face in the morning it reactivates and boosts the moisture all over again.  It has made my dry winter skin so much better.  If they have some on clearance at a Target near you I would recommend it for over any other moisturizing treatment.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pinterest Fail!

So you know how you see those posts on Pinterest that say you can magically fix a smashed powder compact with alcohol?

Hmmm.  Not so much.

Thank goodness the nice folks at City Color Cosmetics reached out to me on Instagram and emailed to let me know they were sending me replacements for the ones that arrived damaged, because I made kind of a mess trying to perform the magic fix that everyone on the internet seems to have mastered.

The steps seem easy.  You take your pan filled with shards of powder, smash it up so it is even more powdery, then add a few drops of alcohol to it.  You supposedly mix it into a paste and then press it back into the pan with a paper towel which absorbs the alcohol and leaves a beautiful pattern behind.

Like hell you do.

The steps are more like this - try desperately to scrape the tons of powder from every surface of the compact that's not the pan, succeeding only in getting blush everywhere in creation.  Realize that you have accidentally added bristles from the blush brush and a piece of cellophane from the wrapper to the powder while trying to return as much of it as possible to the pan.  When you fish these out, accidentally flick the powder in your eye for good measure. In smashing the powder up, you'll notice you've once again gotten blush all over the surface of the compact which will need to be wiped off for the thirtieth time.  When you add the alcohol, one drop makes a difference between "not the least bit paste-like" and "blush soup", but you won't reallize this until at least three more drops have been added.  Finally, pressing down with the paper towel onto the soup causes it to squish out of the pan entirely and the soupy blush is not your friend because it makes everything slippery and orange and you drop the whole damn thing in the sink causing another square pan of the quad to crack and your husband to be supremely concerned when he finds you sitting on the floor exasperated and nearly in tears.

So, my advice is unless you have paid boocoodles of money for whatever you are trying to repair, cut your losses and add it to a sifter jar.  They sell them super cheap at Sally Beauty and you can just pretend it's bareMinerals.



Hrrrrm.  Still, they swatched super gorgeous because they're awesome.  I really love this company.


So pretty!