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Our Halloween parties have taken on sort of an epic life of their own. At random times during the year, people I do not even recognize will stop me in a store and ask if we’re having our party again this year. I’m not gonna lie, it makes me happy.

The parties are usually a two-part affair. Early in the evening we have everyone over to the house, which is decorated in it’s finest spookery, down to disembodied hands crawling their way out of the sinks beneath blood-soaked messages scrawled hastily on mirrors. Then we have the indoor games and activities, like face-painting, Fear Factor, costume judging, apple bobbing, fortune telling and the ouija board.

Once it’s fully dark and all the guests have arrived, we pile everyone into the back of the big truck, filled with stacks of hay. We pass out cozy blankets for the chilly, dark ride which winds through the woods as we tell ghost stories. The ride ends with a scary climb down a steep hill to our bonfire spot. Here we have benches in a circle around the roaring fire, where more stories can be told as marshmallows are roasted. We always have our pumpkin pinatas, which are real pumpkins we’ve hollowed out and filled with treats that the kids can take turns trying to smash with a baseball bat.

 

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Every year one of the crowd favorites are the Glow Stick Bracelets and other glow jewelry! We buy them in bulk- these ones come in tubes of 100, with a bag of connectors. The kids absolutely love stringing them together to make fun, outrageous jewelry.

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The hidden bonus for me is that it allows me to see where every kid is, even when they start to wander off and explore. This is extra important as we end the night with some friends who have remained hidden running down into the clearing in freaky masks to chase the kids. These bracelets are long-lasting and are usually still glowing during the ride back home. I would highly recommend them for any kid or teen event- we always have a wide range of ages and everyone seems to love them regardless of age!

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Nancy Drew is back! Or apparently, she never left. Nancy Drew: Labyrinth of Lies, out this month, is #31 in a series of PC games from Her Interactive based on the intrepid girl sleuth.

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The blurb describes the game, meant for ages ten to adult:

“Thread Your Way Through a Maze of Deceit in this Epic Greek Drama!

A museum curator hires you to assist with the most anticipated event of the year, but artifacts from the exhibit are mysteriously disappearing. Are these mishaps connected to the amphitheater’s upcoming performance? Or is an unseen villain pulling strings behind the scenes? Uncover the truth and recover the missing artifacts from the Labyrinth of Lies!”

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I personally found it refreshingly original and fun. The Greek settings were interestuing to explore and the puzzles presented were challenging enough to hold my attention. In video games I usually gravitate towards world-building of any kind. So honestly my favorite part was the ability to be the curator and organize the exhibits. If anything, I would just have liked there to be more- more depth, detail and options!

I also thought having Frank and Joe, The Hardy Boys, standing by to give game tips was a cute touch.

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Overall, I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery would really like this. It made me quite curious to explore the other games in the Nancy Drew line. This would probably be a good jumping-in point for a tween or teen unfamiliar with the series.

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The video game runs on both PCs and Macs, you can visit the site to find the exact computer specifications to check if yours is compatible.

If you think this sounds like it would be up your alley- or would make a nice Christmas gift for a young lady in your life- you’re in luck! Her Interactive has offered a physical copy of the game to one of my readers.

Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before someone new will be chosen. Sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of prizes. This giveaway is open to the US only.
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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

 

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I love the flickering, warm ambiance and delicious scents that candles bring to my home. Especially as the days turn darker and chillier, I consider them among the list of essential supplies to keep me cheerful. Fuzzy soft blankets, chunky knit sweaters, suede boots, velvety pillows, stacks of unread books, hearty soups and breads, a crackling fire, and the glow of candles. Sigh!

Also, living in the woods, candles often become a very real necessity when the e-l-e-c-t-r-i-c-i-t-y  decides to go out. (I prefer to spell it out in case some trickster god is listening and thinks it would be funny to turn it o-f-f for laughs!)

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These handmade candles from Old Factory are among my new favorites. First of all, I always enjoy a play on words, so the name is super cute. Secondly they’re hand-poured in the USA with natural soy wax, self-trimming wicks, and premium fragrance oils.

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For my review, I chose the Happy Holidays set- with Christmas rapidly approaching, it seemed appropriate. Each set includes three different 2 oz candles that burn clean for 20 hours. Mine included Gingerbread, Candy Cane and Christmas Tree.

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I found them to be highly scented enough that I could smell and identify each fragrance before even lighting them. They put me right into a holiday mood.

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One of the great things about these candles is the wide variety of scent choices. I know I had a hard time choosing! Their sets include Fall Harvest, another holiday themed pack called Winter Wonderland, Romance (with roses, champagne and dark chocolate), Fresh & Clean, Spa Day, Vacation, Coffee Shop, Man Cave (with straight razor, leather and mahogany- intriguing!), High as a Kite (no comment!), Newborn Baby and 50 Shades.

Happy Holidays Old Factory candles

Happy Holidays Old Factory candles

Old Factory has generously offered a set of candles to one of my readers! Yay!

Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before another person will be chosen. Sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes. This giveaway is open to the US only.

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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The summer here this year seemed chilly and much too fleeting, racing off into fall with only the barest kiss. You know I love autumn, but it left me a bit befuddled and longing for the warm caress of the sun on my bare skin.

This Asian Orchid & Coconut scent from the Vitabath In Bloom collection was like a sweet balm on my soul. It hits you like a warm breeze off the ocean and transports you to some exotic isle with rare orchid blossoms carpeting the path at your feet and tropical trees heavily laden with coconuts and pomegranates swaying overhead. I can easily imagine myself lounging by the sea, a crown of flowers in my hair, drinking a sugary sweet concoction from a freshly opened coconut, inviting blue waters lapping at my toes.

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I love that the whole collection contains skin enriching nutrients and an antioxidant rich super fruit blend: acai, goji, coffee, noni, pomegranate, green tea & mangosteen. So it not only smells heavenly, it’s also amazing for your skin!

The Body Mist goes on light as a petal and isn’t overpowering at all. This is also nice if you plan to use the whole set to layer your scent.

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The Body Lotion is rich and creamy without being too heavy or greasy.

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The Body Wash is lovely and sudsy, perfectly scented and nicely moisturizing as it cleans. It arrived with it’s own pretty matching scrubby poof.

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If you’re looking to pamper yourself like the stars, this collection is perfect! It was recently given out to VIP guests at the Mark & Estel event at New York Fashion Week. How cool is that?

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What I love about the HotelSpa® AquaCare Series Insta Mount towel ring is that you can instantly move and place it anywhere in your bathroom, shower, or pool/hot tub area, yet it’s heavy duty enough to hold even your biggest, fluffiest spa towel (it holds up to 10 lbs).

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It comes in a shiny chrome finish, which is ideal for most modern baths and kitchens. I found the towel ring quick and easy to install and remove using the dual-mount system that includes power-suction locks for smooth surfaces and silicone adhesive brackets for textured surfaces. It also features a patented 90-degree push-lock design for superior gripping power.

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This is extra nice in my bathroom, where it’s impossible to drill holes or mount any kind of hardware without ruining the walls. I also think it would be great if you happen to share a bathroom with your spouse or kids. Now, for instance, if you want to you can hang your towel conveniently right inside the tub, within easy reach when you stand up from your relaxing bath. While your hubby might not want the towel to get wet in the shower, so he can move it within grabbing distance right outside of the tub.

It would also be perfect for guests, to give them that truly special hotel-stay experience in your home. Of course, you may have to pry them out at the end of their visit!

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If you’re looking to spruce up your bathroom into a spa-like oasis, look no further. The sponsor has generously offered the same towel ring to one of my readers!

Enter using the easy Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be emailed an dhave 48 hours o respond before a new winner will be chosen. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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I’m kind of a smelly-good-stuff addict. From scented candles, rare perfumes, bubble baths down to even those cute little sachets you tuck into your drawers, being surrounded by sweet aromas is one of those small pleasures that just makes life a little more bearable even on the darkest days.

So I am a huge fan of the recent add-in laundry craze that has every brand offering their own twist on scent-boosters. If you haven’t encountered this trend, these are usually sprinkles or pacs of some kind that you toss in the washer and that leave your laundry highly scented for days or weeks afterward.

Purex Crystals Aromatherapy is one of my new favorites! Available starting this month, they come in three scents: Serenity, Well Being and Energy, each designed to uplift your mood and sooth your senses. They contain pure essential oils mixed with floral and citrus scents.

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With the crystals, unlike the pre-measured packets from competitors, you can choose to add as much or as little to each load of laundry as you like. That way if you have tougher jobs, like smelly, greasy work clothes or sports uniforms, it’s easy to boost the amount and help eliminate odors. My favorite thing to use these for is when doing blankets, bed linens and towels. It’s so nice to slip into a soft, scented oasis each night.

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I often get so busy during the week that the laundry builds up into a massive pile that must be tackled on the weekend. I found something funny- my dryer vents out beneath my wrap-around deck and after I’d spent all day catching up on the laundry while testing out the Purex crystals, when I stepped out onto the deck, my whole back yard smelled of oranges and flowers! :)

Purex has generously provided me with coupons so three of my readers can try the new Aromatherapy Crystals for free!

Use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I will choose someone new. This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Purex Insiders, but all opinions are always my own!

 

 

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It takes quite a bit to stand out among the current plethora of box subscription services. It seems like they’ve popped up for every possible niche you can think of- and many you’d never even knew existed. From the fun name onward, I feel like Surprise Ride might have what it takes to survive past the trend.

Surprise Ride is a subscription service that sends kids ages 6-11 fun and educational hands-on activities that foster creativity and imagination.  The company was started by two sisters Donna and Rosy, and they have been working hard to create a lasting impact on the lives of children, beyond the latest toys or technologies.

They were featured on Shark Tank in November. They also recently partnered with award-winning country music star Sara Evans and Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® to develop an activity box full of nutritious recipes and engaging crafts that makes it easier than ever to spend quality time with your kids.  This partnership was featured on The View this May.

The box arrived, fun and full of colorful confetti.

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This box features the beautifully illustrated book Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective: Bad Bugs Are My Business. The book is easy enough for newer readers to handle, with enough of a real storyline to keep older kids interested.

This was a summer box so it featured plants and gardening activities. Everything your child needs for each project is included. One project featured seeds, container and instruction booklet for your child to grow their own window sill herb garden. It even includes a metal spray bottle to mist your plants.

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There are two fun crafts projects: a plant man made of stocking with glue on features and grass hair. The other is a small windchime that comes with tons of plastic jewels to glue on in a mosaic pattern.

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The surprises just keep coming! We also got a cute solar-activated dancing plant to put on the window ledge AND a yummy bag of Plentils crunchy chips. What I love is that the box is not only fun, but comprehensively educational on a chosen subject. Kids are exposed to various aspects of how plants grow, how sunlight works, how wind works- and even the end result of plants, through the lentil chips.

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Surprise Ride has generously offered a free box to one of my readers! Yay! Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. Winner will have 24 hours to reply to my email before another will be chosen. Delivery of prize is the sole responsibility of the sponsor.

 

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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***I received the products mentioned for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

I’m already a fan of the comfort,  cost and quality of the contact lenses offered by Spooky Eyes! Some of you might remember my review of their Soft Natural Violet contacts from a few months ago. Since it is officially Halloween Month (the MOST important month of the year!) we were excited to try out their White Manson Contact Lenses.  These are reminiscent of the white-out contacts that Marilyn Manson often wears during his performances.

They came well-packaged, each lens in its own little bubble of solution, with instructions for use and care on the box. These are nice quality lenses that can last for up to a year once opened, if properly cared for. I’m not sure if these are slightly larger than the other lenses we tested, but we had a few initial problems inserting them- the lens would fold in half. After a few calming breaths, though, we managed to position them correctly. Afterward they were extremely comfortable, to the point of being totally unnoticeable from the wearer’s perspective.

They certainly weren’t unnoticeable from the viewer’s perspective though! The violet lenses we tested were much more subtle and natural. These White Contacts were more like KA-POW! Here I am! The effect is so spooky, cool and fun. We decided to put together two fun looks based around the lenses.

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The first was a sort of possessed geisha dolly girl, ready for a tea party where you might want to pour your tea out instead of drinking it..just in case. For this look I used a pink glitter-covered tiny tophat with her hair in loose buns on each side of her head. I braided light blue clip-in hair pieces and looped them around the buns, tying each one off with mismatched pink and lavender ribbon.

On her eyes, cheeks and hairline I used a combination of Hard Candy Crush on Pink, NYC Sparkle Eye Dust in Pink Topaz and a few Tarte colors from my peacock palette. I used Maybelline Volum’ Express The Mega Plush Mascara and Victoria’s Secret pink Sugar Lip Gloss. Two tiny pink jewels went under the outer edge of each eye, almost on the top of the cheekbone. A pink silk bubble scarf and Precious Moments crib cross on pink ribbon finished the look.

Untitled-19999For the second look I decided to go for a bold black and red color scheme, sort of a noir-ish 1920’s vampire.

We kept the same basic theme, this time wrapping the buns in red Mardi Gras beads and switching the hat for a slightly larger black felt with red ribbon roses and a black mini veil. We also kept the same mascara, adding a wide band of red across the eye area, with a bit of fake blood dripping down one cheek. A leather wrap bracelet and Swarovski crystal spider necklace in poisonous green finished things off.

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** I received the products mentioned in this post for free in exchange for my honest opinion, thanks to MomSelect and InTheRaw.

With a house full of growing young girls, I’m always on the lookout for nutritious ways to improve our eating habits and replace empty calories. I’ve seen a few In The Raw products advertised, but never tried them, so I was definitely curious to check them out.

According to my research, monk fruit was traditionally grown on steep forested mountains in small family orchards, so it was understandably scarce.  Legend says that monk fruit is named after the Buddhist monks who first cultivated it nearly 800 years ago. Though extremely sweet, it is also uniquely low-calorie- the perfect combination!

Monk Fruit In The Raw comes conveniently packaged in pre-measured packets- just one pack contains the sweetness of about two teaspoons of sugar. These are ideal for things like tea, cereal and smoothies. It also comes in baker’s bags which can be used to mix up sweet treats like cookies and brownies.

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They generously sent me a huge box of supplies to set up a fun tasting party, filled with samples, totes, coupons and more!

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They included some great recipes which I will probably try soon, but I decided to go my own way with a watermelon fruit bowl and fruity drink party! Everyone loved the fun bowls, which are super easy to make. You just slice in half several small, ripe watermelons. Remove the flesh from inside, trying to keep it as intact as possible and scraping any excess out with a spoon or small sharp knife. I then sliced the watermelon and used small star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes. I mixed these with peach slices and mandarin orange sections in the watermelon shells, sprinkling with Monk Fruit In The Raw to taste.

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Refreshing and delicious for the last hot days of our rapidly fading summer.

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They also included fun word games for us to play.

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Everyone seemed to agree that the Monk Fruit was super sweet and tasty. I personally am usually wary of artificial sweeteners because of the weird after-taste they leave. Though this doesn’t taste exactly like sugar, I didn’t find it to have an unpleasant after-taste and I was pleased that it is derived from a natural source.

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Take small mouthfuls of food, like a baby bird, and make sure to chew daintily with your mouth closed.

Emma Chapman’s How To Be A Good Wife, a tense, claustrophobic psychological thriller, is punctuated by such glimmering diamonds of 1950’s marital etiquette. I felt an instant kinship upon seeing this- I remember copying similar advice into the margins of feminist zines I wrote as a teenager, in my very best curly penmanship, with tiny stars and exclamation points for proper emphasis. On any topic, the advice always amounted to the same thing: shrink yourself. Quiet your voice to be pleasant to his ears, shrink your personality so as not to outshine his own, shrink your waistline, quell your desires, stop wanting, stop needing. Stop existing.

When we meet Marta Bjornstad, she has bought into the propaganda, fish hook and line, in her perfect gleaming home where nothing is ever out of place. But we quickly realize something is horribly amiss, the cracks in the veneer rapidly widening to show the rot beneath.

I don’t like to give spoilers in reviews, but I think with this book, the most fascinating aspects can’t be discussed without a bit of spoiling. At the same time, I feel like the “secret” at the heart of the book isn’t particularly meant to come as a huge revelation to anyone but the protagonist herself.

After twenty years lived behind a gentle, medicated fog, Marta stops taking her happy pills. From the first appearance of a young blonde girl in the flood of hallucinations and memories that follow, I think any savvy reader will begin to sense where this tale will lead. To a dark place beneath the doorstep, a tiny hidden room with the stench of desperation and the furniture nailed to the floor.

It’s a sparse, interesting study of captivity, and hits on the question often asked when children who have been taken are found years later, often fully acclimated to their new lives and even unaware that they had been kidnapped: Why didn’t they run away? From the psychological studies I’ve read, it’s shocking how little time it takes to completely strip a person of their identity, through isolation and fear.

So when someone such as Marta begins to emerge from this state, to try to find her way back to her true self, how difficult it must be to trust her own thoughts and emotions. How easily dismissed those same thoughts and memories would be by everyone around you.

In the end, the book is actually less about the salacious, television version of captivity and more about the strange sort of confinement that marriage and motherhood entail for all women. The sacrifices women make for the happiness of others. The way we are taught even now that indulgence and selfishness are sins, that we must care for the future and happiness of our families no matter what the cost to ourselves. That not existing is preferable to living too loudly or venturing onward and beginning again.

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Hopefully everyone had one, maybe around 4th or 5th grade in school: that one awesome teacher who understood stickery goodness. No mere wielder of the gold star or the handwritten “good job!”, this lady had a seemingly endless collection of the very coolest stickers locked away in her grading drawer. Two-inch dancing holographic skeletons, glitter-speckled kittens, Santas with puffy cloud beards. It made getting a good grade all the sweeter.

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Personally, my love of stickers never went away- it morphed into punk band logos and cutie kawaii collections. That’s why my inner child cheered with glee when I got the chance to check out StickerYou! Not only can you create your own stickers, now they have temporary tattoos as well.

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Their online design tools are pretty simple to navigate. You’re given a blank page to work with- you can choose the size and type. Then you’re given the choice to upload your own artwork and logos or to choose from their large gallery of ready-made art. They have categories and a handy search feature to help narrow down your choices. Then it’s a matter of dragging and dropping the pictures you want onto the page. You can move them around and resize them as you go. There’s also an easy text tool that allows you to add writing in a variety of fonts to any artwork. I took the opportunity to add a few Outspoken Yam designs.

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They have so many pictures available- some pf my favorites were the sugar skulls and the butterflies, which I thought would be really pretty fluttering down my arm.

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The only issue I had with the process is that it’s a little difficult to visualize exactly how big the finished tattoos or stickers will be. I left a lot of blank space that I would have filled with smaller designs if I’d realized they would print perfectly fine. I recommend taking the time to fill every inch of your page in order to get the best value for your money. The smaller designs will make cute accent pieces to your larger artwork.

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I also ended up ordering one page of tats and one of stickers because, after designing a whole page just as I wanted it, I couldn’t find a simple way to switch it from sticker mode to tattoo mode without losing my work. This worked out for the best in my case because I love both the bright, colorful tattoos – which are 100% non-toxic- and the beautifully rendered stickers.

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I could easily see using these to promote a business or charity fundraiser. They’d also be fun to order for a special party- the tattoos would be adorable for group pics and the stickers would make nice mementos.

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

This is what happens when all of the weirdness stored in my head collides.

I was on a windswept, moonlit beach at night. I think it was Norway. And apparently also on an episode of ANTM. Tyra Banks whips out this long piece of black glittering fabric and tells us our challenge is to create a bondage-inspired outfit using only this fabric and then pose provocatively with the sea as our Mistress.

So I take out my scissors and cut the fabric into tiny pieces and start throwing them at her. Tyra screams at me for ruining the challenge and expensive designer fabric. I’m standing by the ocean completely naked with little bits of sparkling black cloth swirling around me in the wind and I start explaining to Tyra why bondage fashion is another symptom of the way women have been brainwashed by the patriarchy to be weak and submissive and on display for the pleasure of men.

And then I laughed and ran into the freezing ocean where there were dolphins swimming, but not the rapey kind and also a polar bear.

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I work late at night yet still like to be up in the mornings to make breakfast, spend time with the baby and see the girls off to school (with all the FBI-level crisis negotiating skills that sometimes takes!). So my sleeping schedule is definitely not normal. Any time I do get to myself for restful bliss is extremely precious.

I’m also easily distracted from sleep, though. The sun glittering through my window is like a siren call, reminding me of neglected garden plants and yardwork and and and! Until my mind starts racing and trying to sleep becomes a useless endeavor.

That’s where my new love of sleep masks comes in. I honestly used to think they were sort of ridiculous and suffocating, but I’ve come to see just how useful they really are. So now of course I must find the perfect one. This week I’ve been trying out the The Dreamer Luxury Sleep Mask from Dream Essentials.

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The outer covering is a silky blue fabric, while the inside is a softer 100% cotton that feels like your favorite t-shirt. It secures onto your head with a wide Comfort Snug headband that really is much more comfy than the usual thin elastic strap (and doesn’t get tangled in your hair the way those thin straps often do). For me, it did a great job of blocking out all light and I found it super soft against my skin. I love that both the inner fabric and padding are pure cotton, which makes the mask breathable instead of hot and sweaty.

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The Dreamer also came with a few fun extras. First we have a small vial of Sleep Serum, which contains a mixture of essential oils of Lavender, Rose and Roman Chamomile in a Jojoba base. You just apply a few dabs behind your ears, on your temples and at the back of your neck right before sleeping. I am not sure if this helped me sleep better but it smells nice and soothing.

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The other useful extra was these Ear Plugs. They’re made of super-soft foam that conforms to your ear canal and they block out noise up to 32 decibels. With this whole kit, I feel fully armed and ready to take on any sleep situation!

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Dream Essentials wants one of my readers to experience the same sweet relaxation! They’ve generously offered to give away a The Dreamer sleep mask, along with Sleep Serum and Ear Plugs.

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Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. This giveaway is open to the US only. Winner will be emailed and have 48 hours to respond before I will have to choose someone new . The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

We are huge fans of the beautiful artwork of Eric Carle, so I couldn’t be more excited to hear about the Eric Carle Collection available at Gymboree!

If you’re not aware of his work, Eric Carle is the beloved illustrator of such children’s classics as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The partnership brings two iconic, parent-trusted brands together and builds on Gymboree’s rich heritage in colorful, quality sleepwear that parents love and children never want to change out of.

The clothing collection pulls from his artwork to bring the whimsical, fun feeling of his illustrations alive in a wearable form. If you missed Gymboree’s in-store events introducing the collection, parents can still visit the site to download fun coloring pages and activity sheets based on your children’s favorite books!

I’d love to hear which Eric Carle book is your family favorite or which piece you love from the new Gymboree collection!

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I know I’m not the only one this has ever happened to: no matter how many times you check your baby’s diaper before bedtime, some nights by the time they wake up they’re practically swimming in a wet, soggy mess. Not fun for mom and definitely not comfortable for your little love.

More often than not, the culprit is an inferior diaper. The store ran out of your favorite brand or you were tempted by a discount, thinking “Oh, it’s a diaper, how much difference can there really be??” Trust me on this one, there is a world of difference.

For us, a morning that starts out with a dry bottom always means a more cheerful baby and a less stressed out morning routine. This is the shining, curious, happy face I like to see when she wakes up:

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And for me, that means using brands I trust, like Pampers. They realize that a dry baby equals a happy baby and a happy baby? Equals a happy family!

Most mornings when she wakes up dry and well-rested, we put on some songs and she wanders around dancing, humming and generally rocking out in her own little world. Since there’s no chafing from wetness on her tender skin, she’s free and happy to move around. Here she is tapping her foot in her tutu and even busting out a few break dance moves on the bed!

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To celebrate happy dancing babies everywhere, Pampers is asking parents to show off their baby’s morning dance routine by uploading videos to Instagram and Facebook using hashtag #BabyGotMoves.  Uploaded videos have the chance to appear in a shareable compilation video created by Pampers at the close of the initiative.  How fun is that?

For even more fun, Pampers has generously offered to send an AMAZING prize pack to one of my readers! The ERV of the package is $100 and includes:

  • ·      Homedics Jam Plus Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
  • ·      Baby Einstein Octoplush
  • ·      Bright Starts Pretty In Pink Get Movin’ Music Player
  • ·      The Baby Hustle: An Interactive Book with Wiggles and Giggles!
  • ·      Pampers Sensitive Wipes
  •        Pampers Baby Dry Diapers

Woohoo, right? Here are some pics so you can see everything you’ll be getting!

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This giveaway is open to the US only. Winner will be emailed and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen. Sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

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This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Pampers. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% mine.

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I take my bubble bath time very seriously! Sometimes it’s the only time I have to myself during a hectic day and I think it’s so important for your sanity and creativity to have quiet moments that allow you to relax and regroup. Plus I really enjoy reading in the bath tub. I also have strict rules for what constitutes a perfect bathtime book- it can’t be too dry and scientific, but also not too light and fluffy. It has to have a certain substantial presence or I’m likely just to toss it on the floor, close my eyes and daydream. It seems the new wave of excellent YA novels often fit the bill precisely.

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Anyway! In my pursuit of the More Perfect Bubble Bath, I decided to test out this Bathtub Pillow. This particular one is orthopedic grade, eco-friendly, organic PU foam filled and 100% waterproof. These come in red, white or black. You kittens know me, all black e’erything.

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Upon first inspection, it kind of feels like a really plump bicycle seat, and the heart shape is adorable. It has a substantial weight to it and the surface is smooth and shiny.  I can tell it will be easy to rinse off after each use and keep nice and clean. There are suction cups on the back that make it easy to adhere to any bathtub- though this would also work great in a hot tub or spa setting.

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The heart shape isn’t just for cuteness. It cradles and supports your neck and head while helping to keep your back aligned in a corrective, comforting position. If you’re a tub-reader like me , it’s definitely nice to have a firm support in place instead of leaning your neck back against a hard, slippery surface. But even if you simply like to lie back and bask in the bubbly splendor, the pillow will help make your bath a more pleasant experience.

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The sponsor has generously offered to help one of my readers dream their cares away in spa bliss style! Just enter through the simple Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to the US only. The winner will be contacted and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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My dad has some kind of burning obsession with finding the holy grail of slicer-dicer-choppers. If you’ve as-seen-it-on-tv, it’s also probably seen the inside of his kitchen, and then MY kitchen when they invariably disappoint him and my mom foists them off on me. Me, I’m usually more of an old fashioned knife girl. Although I do have a crush on my mandolin slicer.

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However, when I saw this InstantVeg Spiralizer from Brieftons, I knew I had to give it a try. Twisty, curvy veggies in paper thin slices? Anything that makes vegetables more fun and appealing for the girls to eat sounds like a good idea to me.

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Right out of the box, I liked that the Spiralizer felt sturdy and substantial, not like it might collapse under the weight of a tomato. The device comes in several pieces but has an easy-to-follow instruction booklet for assembly. I admit I had a few “duh” moments trying to get the handle to fit on the wrong way. Probably actually reading the instructions would be a better plan!

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The concept is simple and the slicer is easy to use. You simply open the lid and secure your chosen firm vegetable with the adjustable spiked disc. This holds the vegetable in place when you close the lid. A handy container attaches to the bottom of the slicer to catch the finished veggies as they spiral out of the top. Once the veggie is in place, you just turn the handle on top and BOOM! It actually works! Long spiral strands emerge from the bottom. If you want, you can leave the container off and simply slice  your veggies right into a pan. No batteries or cords to deal with, it’s purely human-powered.

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I used a pretty small potato for my test run, so only the first strip really held together in a lengthy spiral. The pieces after that were sliced into super-thin wedge shapes. With a larger potato, you would get the full curly-fries effect. You can also adjust for the width of your slices depending on what you’re making.

Clean up was fairly simple. The whole device comes apart for washing. The package comes with a small bristly brush to help get into the nooks and crannies. This is great because the blades are seriously sharp- do not stick your fingers inside it while washing.

I can definitely see this becoming a staple in my kitchen and I may even have to break down and get one or my dad.

Brieftons wants you to experience the mealtime fun for yourself, so they’ve generously offered an InstantVeg Spiralizer to one of my readers! Woohoo!

Just enter through the simple Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to the US only. The winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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It’s no secret that I love ridiculously high heels, which can be hard on my feet. Combine that with constantly running around after the kids, the dogs, exercising at the gym– basically my feet could use some serious pampering by the end of any given day!

The Spongelle Pedi Buffer seemed like a good start toward soothing my aching tootsies. Made of all-natural beach grass and infused with extracts of arnica, sea kelp and peppermint, it even sounds soothing. Like a little mini ocean-side vacation for your toes.

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The sponge comes in a pretty blue box and has a textured side for scrubbing. This was absolutely perfect for rubbing away any rough, dry spots on my heels and I could tell it would be helpful with even more built-up calluses and dry skin on damaged feet. Each sponge is good for up to 30 uses, unlike some products that are just gross after the first use and you never want to touch again.

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My feet felt so touchably soft and smoothly sexy after even the very first use! I kept rubbing my soles against each other to marvel at just how soft they were.

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I know summer is coming to an end and some ladies tend to neglect their feet during the colder months just because they can hide them in clunky boots. As much as I love fall weather and the cozy fashions that come with it, I have to argue that this is no time to let those pretty peds go dormant. In fact, I think the chilly season is a great excuse to spend extra time pampering yourself with bubble baths and pedicures.

Spongelle thinks so too, and wants to give one of their awesome Beach Grass sponges to an Outspoken Yam reader! Yay! If you can’t wait to see who wins, they’re also offering an exclusive discount. Use the code PediBlog to take 20% off of all orders of $50 or more at Spongelle.com!

Just enter through the simple Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to the US only. The winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.
Shutterfly Photo Books 728x90

I’ve been a huge fan of Shutterfly for years- I have a whole shelf full of their beautiful photobooks and they’re often the first place I turn to when trying to think of a personalized gift for a friend. One of the best parts about Shutterfly and their sister brands is that they always have awesome deals and coupon codes available that make ordering even more fun.

This week Shutterfly is rolling out some seriously amazing deals. I’m personally going to be scrambling to find time to take advantage of them all! I’m keeping a list below, because I don’t want my sweet yams to miss out on anything. (I know I’m always kicking myself when I don’t hear about these codes until just after they’ve ended or a few minutes before they expire!)

Shutterfly:

ALL customers receive one free 20-page 8×8 hardcover photo book with promo code BOOK4FREE Dates: 9/4-9/11

ALL customers! Triple choice offer—choose between one free luggage tag, or one free 16×20 print, or a $10 off $10 discount with promo code YOUCHOOSE Dates: 9/6-9/7

All customers use promo code CARD4U to get a free card and try out any style you want Dates: Ongoing

NEW customers receive 101 free prints with promo code 101WOOT Dates: 9/4-9/11

Spend over $39+ and qualify for a free shipping upgrade by using promo code SHIP39

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I have to say this is one of the most fun items I’ve had the chance to review since starting this blog. As a child, the towering dinosaur skeletons on museum field trips left an indelible impression in my mind that led to a lifelong interest in palaeontology. While other girls would squeal in distaste at getting their clothes dirty, I was fascinated by the thought of these vast puzzle pieces, entire species, buried like treasure in the earth all around us.

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If I’d had this kit then  would have been in pure heaven. I’ve tried to instill the same sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural world in the girls, so I knew they  would love this too.

And by this, I mean the Ultimate Dinosaur Dig Kit from Discover With Dr. Cool. The kit contains three actual genuine dinosaur fossils along with the tools to allow your child to excavate them. Tell me your inner 7 year old didn’t just do a cartwheel in excitement!

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The fossils are buried in a brick with a T-rex skeleton imprinted on the front. Buried inside, your child can painstakingly uncover a real dinosaur tooth, a chunk of dinosaur bone and – the one I’m sure little boys specially are going to love- fossilized dinosaur poop. It’s strange how poo doesn’t cease to be gross and funny even after millions of years. There is also a a full miniature dinosaur skeleton for your child to assemble and display on the included stand with little printed feet.

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The include digging tool, brush and magnifying glass will make your child feel like a real scientific explorer.

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They’ve also including a guidebook with awesome pictures and facts about dinosaurs as well as an activity book containing puzzles and challenges to prolong the learning fun.

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This kit has won some impressive awards including Academics’ Choice – Brain Toy Award 2013, Preferred Choice Award – Creative Child Magazine 2013 and Brain Child Toy Award – Tillywig Toy Awards 2013, and I can see why. It leads your child through a hands-on learning experience that they will likely remember for the rest of their lives. And just personally I tend to believe that kids (and all people!) retain information better through doing instead of reading or watching.

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We personally absolutely loved the Dinosaur Dig Kit. I think a fun idea would be to purchase several and have them as focal point for a themed party. You could purchase cute fedoras in bulk from somewhere like Oriental Trading and serve dino-themed food and drinks. The kids could work in teams to excavate the fossils and solve the puzzles or play games to decide who will get to take each fossil or desk model home.

 

 

 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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You might remember Girls Crochet Headbands from an earlier post I did about their adorable lace jumpers. Little E. has worn her romper several more times, and it has stood the test of time and multiple washings.

I had already been checking out some of the cute headbands on their site, so I was thrilled to get the chance to review them. They sent a variety pack so we could test out several different styles. First of all, I have to mention how amazing the prices are. The headbands are individually priced at between .99 and $2.50- but the prices for everything from dresses to hats to photo props are unbelievably low. If I’d known about this place when E was first born she’d probably have all the dresses by now.

Anyway! On to the headbands. I found the quality to be consistently good among all of them. These aren’t going to fall apart the second you get them on your daughter’s head. All of the flower embellishments are firmly stitched into place.

This Pink Cherry Blossom headband is simple but a darling, perfect touch that isn’t too over-the-top. It has just a little bling with the jeweled center.

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The Black/Pink Floral Shabby Chic Headband is a fun take on a popular trend, with a flower made from a loosely woven, multi-colored fabric.

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One of our favorites was the Red Flapper Headband, featuring a gorgeous red feather and glittering pearlized accent.

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I also loved the Turquoise Rosette Bow headband, with the bow formed by sweet tiny roses.

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I think E.’s favorite is the Hot Pink Classy Headband, which matches a bunch of her dresses!

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Now for the fun part! GCH has generoulsy offered to give away a headband package to one of my readers. Yay!

Entering is super easy through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to the US only. I will email the winner and you will have 48 hours to respond before someone new will be drawn. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes. This giveaway is not associated with Twitter or Facebook and following me or sharing on those sites is not mandatory to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Two sweet friends of mine, Bob & Tearsa, recently spread their entrepreneurial wings and opened up a brand new burger place in Dallas, TX! Not only are they amazing people, but they have the skills to bring you the most delectable fast food you’ve ever eaten. Bob has been in the restaurant business with his family since he was six years old, when his mom would let him work the register.

Here’s their menu, and a napkin. Please do not drool on my blog!

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I’m personally dying to try those french fries and mayyybe a strawberry shake.

Like any new business, they’re trying to generate buzz- with the confidence that once you’ve walked through their doors, the delicious food and excellent customer service will speak for itself and keep you coming back.

To help get the word out, they’re having a giveaway over on Facebook. It is super easy to enter and the prize is a $25 Visa gift card. All you have to do is LIKE the main page Deep South Burger, then go to this post and like it as well. When their page reaches 200 followers, a winner will be chosen! What are you waiting for? Go, go, GO!

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Makeup that blends so perfectly with your skin that you hardly notice it’s there is always nice. Just a slightly more perfectly polished version of you. However, sometimes you don’t want to blend in. You want to stand out, bold and bright from the rest of the crowd.

This new Tropical Eyeshadow Palette from BA Star can certainly help you do just that. Even thought the summer will soon be fading, we still have a bit of time to embrace the balmy temperatures before the crisp crunch of autumn descends. This island-inspired palette seems perfect for beach-side preening and sweaty nights dancing in the club. The colors practically pop and sizzle- Lime, Turquoise, Purple, Hot Pink and Silver!

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BA Star is the pro makeup that’s the number one best seller used by cheerleaders and dancers, but now you can take advantage of their expertise! They also offer a tube of Glue Eyeshadow Base that works much like a primer to give you a perfect surface on which to apply the shadows, plus it helps keep the colors from smudging or smearing.

I found that the glue is a must if you want the colors to really show up brightly. If you’re after a more subtle, pastel look I would forgo the glue and just use the shadows directly on you skin.

Here is a swatch test of the palette on my arm in natural sunlight, with glue base underneath.  With the base, the colors hold very true to the shades you see in the palette.

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I found the pink and silver applied without base make a really pretty, subtle day look. My only issue is the brush- the palette comes with its own small two-sided brush. I recommend using your own set of good quality blending brushes to get the most from these shadows.

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I’ve also already started thinking about Halloween, and this would be a great palette to use through the spooky season. The professional quality ensures your costume makeup won’t melt halfway through the night, while the vivid colors can be used in a wide variety of creations.

I was drawn to the blue, so I did a theatrical mermaid eye. I used a combination of the blue, purple and a little pink with silver to highlight. Lots of blending. This is over the glue base and I used the glue to help adhere the little gems. I finished the look with Maybelline Volum’ Express Mega Plush Mascara.

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The shadows really do stay in place- I was walking around with slightly blue eyebrows after the first cleansing! But a second round with my FAB cleansing pads fixed that right up.

Now for the exciting part! BA Star has generously offered to give a Tropical Eyeshadow Palette plus a tube of Glue Eyeshadow Base to TWO of my awesome readers. How cool is that? I’d love to see the looks you create with these fun colors- whether you have a little cheerleader in your life, have a cute costume idea for Halloween or just want to go bold in your daily look.

Use the simple Rafflecopter form to enter below. This giveaway is open to the US only. The winners will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond before someone new will be drawn. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This has been a sponsored post powered by Brandbacker, but all opinions are always my own! Yams do not mess around when it comes to opinions.

 

 

 

AW6IUT9RXqyIPjnQZeg0_Makeup by 1D signed tin

If you’ve been following my One Direction posts, you know I’ve been awaiting the launch of their awesome new makeup line in great anticipation. Well, my little kittens, the wait is over! The Looks Collection by One Direction is now officially available at Macy’s.

If you’ve been on summer vacation on Mars or something and missed all the excitement, The Looks Collection includes three keepsake tins, each one with its own personality based on a different 1D album.

I’m going to recap my unboxing review of the tin I received and then at the bottom of the post I have another exciting announcement for you! Hold onto your bonnets, ladies.

The three tins available are “Take Me Home”, “Up All Night” and “Midnight Memories.” From sweet girl next door, to life of the party, to rock n’ roll rebel, there’s a choice here to express every girl’s personality.

 

MM Collection UAN Canister OpenI’m particularly smitten with the one I got to test out: Take Me Home. I love how it comes in a slip-cased collectable metal tin. It’s a beautiful case to keep your makeup in, but long after the makeup has been used it’s also a fantastic way to store your One Direction keepsakes and mementos.

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The inside of the lid features a cool diagram to give you ideas for some different eye looks to try out, complete with the name of each color to use and where.

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Speaking of which, the colors are gorgeous- from wild and glittery to more smoky and subtle, they give you a wide range of options. The eyeshadow compact comes with a little two-sided brush (one sponge side and one brushy side). Back For You is going to be the backup singer for most of your looks, it’s a pale fleshtone peach. Change my mind is one of my favorites, a  soft micro-glittery  peachy pink that just shimmers so prettily. C’mon C’mon is a medium grayish brown to help with those smoky looks I was talking about. Little Things is a darker, truer brown, good for definition. And Take Me Home, the center star, is a chunkier glitter in pure gold. That’s my other favorite, but you kittens know I’m a glitter fiend, so no one is surprised.

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The lipgloss, Kiss You is a glowing, glittery dreamsicle confection of orange and gold. This is definitely for the girl who doesn’t wanna take it slow. Only wear this if you want all his attention to be focused on your lips!

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The lipstick Last First Kiss is a still bold, but slightly more traditional dark bubble gum pink. You could try layering the lipgloss on top for some wild effects!

The wide-tipped eyepencil, I Wish, is a dark brown close to Little Things and will help you complete a nice smokey eyed look.

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Live While We’re Young is a disco-ball glitter explosion of gold with green and coppery highlights thrown in. Your nails are here to party while wearing this, there can be no doubt.

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One of the funnest parts of the kit are these stencils. You can let your creativity go wild while placing iconic 1D symbols anywhere you like!

All together, a pretty great collection. I’m so happy they didn’t skimp on quality or design- it would have been easy to just throw some crappy makeup in a box and count on their diehard fans to buy it anyway.

I know you’re dying to get your hot little hands on one of these boxes! They are currently available at Macy’s, Stage Stores, Dillards, Beauty Brands and Lord & Taylor. But even MORE exciting, my announcement! If you didn’t manage to snag one of these amazing collections in the first giveaway, Markwins is generously offering another fifty tins, this time signed by the band!! Yeah, you do not want to miss this.

Enter using the easy giveaway form below. Make sure to use  a valid email address because you will be contacted directly by the sponsor if you are a winner.

 

 

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***This is a sponsored post powered by BrandBacker, but all opinions and enthusiasm are purely my own!

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I am always in pursuit of the absolutely perfect lipgloss. Perhaps this is a vain pass-time, but honestly who among you hasn’t craved glisteningly ripe lips, soft as rose petals yet catching the light with a plumply polished gleam?

So when I got the chance to try out these FlowerColor Good For You Glosses from Eco Bella, I tried to play it cool but inside I’m like are you insane? Of course I want to try them. Get over here on my lips right now.

First of all, I have to note the packaging. Each tube of lipgloss comes with its own mirror on one side. If I were in charge of the world EVERY lipgloss, lipstick and mascara would have this feature. I feel like either a woman or one very smart guy who likes to wear makeup must have thought of this. Someone who has had the experience of forgetting their compact and searching desperately for any reflective surface in which to reapply their lipgloss- a wineglass, a spoon, the shiny expanse of their date’s bald head. It’s one of those seemingly tiny features that sets a brand apart from the rest in my mind.

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They sent me four shades to try: Peace, Pleasure, Power and Passion. These retail for $17.95 and two of the colors, Power and Peace, are fully vegan.

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These are the colors swatched on my pale skin in natural sunlight.

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Peace is a nude tan flesh color with a bit of a golden sheen, this is lighter than my naked lip color. A very quiet shade for when you want a natural, glowing look.

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Pleasure is medium pink that will probably have the widest appeal. I could see everyone from my young nieces to my mother wearing this color. Just a really pretty shimmering pink that is more natural than the two darker shades.

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Power is a dark purple-ish mauve that I wasn’t sure I’d like, but is actually quite nice once applied.

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Passion is a beautiful deep red that I would probably be more likely to wear over lip pencil or lipstick to make sure it stays in place.

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Each lipgloss has an angled foam tip applicator that makes precise application easy. They don’t have that tacky, sticky feeling that some glosses do and they seemed to have good staying power. I was having a long conversation and drinking a bottle of water while checking out the different shades and the glosses held up well. I didn’t end up with any on my teeth, which was easy to check with the handy mirror!

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

 

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Ever since a sweet friend of mine gifted her Glossybox subscription to me, they have been such a lovely treat each month. It’s a nice chance to try high-end beauty products without the full financial commitment. This month was no exception, bringing an awesome collection to soothe my beauty-junkie cravings!

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The packaging, as usual, was classic and stylish. These sturdy boxes are so handy for keepsakes and other treasures. This is the July box- the way their subscription works, you receive the previous month’s box at the beginning of the new month. Thus I got the July box in early August.

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First we have Mitchell and Peach English Growers Body Cream. This is light and silky to the touch. I’m used to more highly scented products, so while this is scented it is definitely a more passive, delicate fragrance that would easily blend with any perfume.  I love that it contains steam-distilled essential oils from their 5th generation estate in England. It’s nice to be able to feel the history contained in a product. It also contaisn English honey, organic cocoa and shea butter. The sample size is a generous 1.4 ounces, while the full 6.08 ounce size retails for $61.00.

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Next we have the Malin + Goetz Mojito Lip Balm, a super moisturizing gel with a sweet mojito flavor. It protects and softens while also adding a non-sticky, glossy shine! The lip balm sells for $12.00.

 

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This one looks like a party in a bottle- Skin Inc’s Custom Blended anti-aging Serum! This goes on under your moisturizer to help hydrate the skin with an antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, marine collagen and hyaluronic acid suspended in tiny capsules in the serum. This is a full sized sample at .34 oz, which retails for $45.00

 

 

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This is an interesting one- Philp B PH Restorative Detangling Mist. It works by adjusting the pH of tap water to seal the cuticle of your hair, leaving it shiny and frizz-free. You can leave this in your hair and spritz some on during the day to refresh your shine. The sample spray bottle is 2 oz. and the full-size .23 oz retails for $24.00.

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I like to save my favorites for last! This Glamglow Youthmud Tinglexfoliate Treatment is pretty awesome. This is a 10-minute mud mask containing French sea clay, volcanic pumice rock and pieces of green tea leaf. It seriously leaves your skin feeling so tingly and refreshed, visibly tightening pores and making you glow. The full-sized jar is 1.7 oz and retails for $69.00, which is pricey. But man, if you can afford it, this stuff is worth it.

See? Altogether a fantastic collection, and if you were a subscriber you’d by FAR be getting your money’s worth.

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Considering that the only other Christian documentary I’ve seen was Jesus Camp, which was so disturbing that I still keep it filed under “horror movies”, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Holy Ghost.

It’s an interesting concept: a filmmaker and his crew decide to make a film led entirely by the Holy Spirit. No script or plan, merely listening for the whims of divine intervention to shape their journey. In a world where movies are so overly processed, with every sentence audience-tested and rewritten until all sense of spontaneity or innovation is scrubbed clean, it’s a bold move.

I know the existence of the Holy Ghost is a controversial topic, even among Christians. Perhaps not in a Biblical sense, but in the sense of an actual force that still exists and has the power to act upon humanity and manifest.

I decided to meet the film on its own terms, without judgment, and try to take the journey it wanted to lead me on. I was pleasantly surprised. It did offer up some delightful and interesting moments and experiences. The excitement of the crew is palpable, like a band of little boys setting off on a high adventure in uncharted seas.

Part of it is the bold sense of bravery and discovery you feel when you decide to travel without a destination in mind. I’m not sure how many of you have tried this, but I highly suggest it. Call it fate, coincidence, synchronicity -or the Holy Spirit moving through you– but there always seem to be these moments of pure unlikely happenstance when seemingly disparate threads weave together to form a clear path at your feet.

There are many such moments in this film, from random destination changes that turn into golden opportunities, to different members of the crew being led to talk to total strangers who turn out to be exactly the person they needed to meet at that very moment.

One segment of the documentary features the metal band Korn, much reformed from their drugging days and now tatted up for Jesus. Possibly more shocking than finding out that Korn have become faith healers was the way they managed to walk out into the crowd of fans waiting to see their show and basically turn it into an old time religious revival without causing a stampede.

The film quality itself is great, especially for a documentary. Some of the fill/background shots they captured, particularly those in India, are absolutely gorgeous. There’s a kind of randomness to the editing that can be a little disconcerting. For instance, every so often Lenny Kravitz pops up, cool as ice behind sunglasses, rambling about the Holy Spirit and how he isn’t of the world, but he’s in the world and he loves the streets man, he loves the streets. And you suddenly feel like you stepped into the middle of an episode of the Boondocks where the aging Black musician loves Jesus but he’s keepin’ it reallll yo. Buy my next album.

Speaking of India, the segment of the film where they visit the “oldest city on earth”, was both the strongest and yet the one I had the most mixed feelings about. The vision of the singer walking through the narrow, twisting streets, voice echoing, stirring up throngs of locals by wielding his guitar like the Pied Piper, is a powerful one which will linger in my memory.

Their interactions with the local Hindu priests were more problematic for me. The filmmakers were welcomed into Hindu and Buddhist temples and allowed to pray, sing and invoke Jesus in ways that I have no doubt would never be reciprocated in American churches, if say a Hindu priest were to stop by and offer to pray to his Gods to open up the hearts and souls of that congregation. So while the crew talks about being afraid of the savagery of the Indian natives, they are actually met with nothing but kindness. And while they repeatedly state that they have no agenda, they’re also quite mocking and dismissive toward Hinduism, Buddhism and the beliefs of an entire country- beliefs that predate Christianity by thousands of years .

References to the”Monkey God Temple” like it’s the funniest joke they ever heard and a misguided attempt to minimize Shiva as merely some evil, destructive God- almost in exact opposition to the Christian God – were particularly grating. Even a cursory understanding of Shiva would show this to be ridiculous. As with any god, Shiva is complex and containing multitudes of attributes as both protector and punisher.

Still, it is definitely a film worth watching that will leave you with much to ponder.

If you’d like to win your own DVD copy, just use the easy Rafflecopter form below! This giveaway is open to the US and Canada.

Check out the official website here: http://holyghost.wpfilm.com

On September 6th, Wanderlust Productions will host the FREE worldwide premiere of the film at this site —> HolyGhostMovie.com

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Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

 

This is a shout-out to the mommies who decide to set their daughters’ molesters on fire. I’ve seen so much dithering, mush-mouthed nonsense on this subject over the last few days, I absolutely want to puke. You know what? Sometimes trying to be a paragon of fairness and rational thought just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes you truly need to choose a side.

And it’s funny how the same people who say we must be rational and fair and not jump to conclusions when it comes to subjects like RAPE and MOLESTATION and violence against women and girls have no problem forming strong opinions on any other topic. Ask them about Israel or Afghanistan or Korea, all which they probably can’t locate on a map, and they will angrily state their case. Facts generally don’t get in the way. Ask them anything: gay marriage, local politics, how to choose the best cantaloupe at the supermarket.

Just in case it isn’t clear where I stand, I will help you. Not on the side of the penis.

Let me just lay some painful facts out for you. Every 2 minutes just in America alone someone is sexually assaulted. 237,868 people every year. 60% of sexual assaults are never even reported and NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT OF RAPISTS WILL NEVER SPEND A DAY IN JAIL.  I know, oh god, numbers are hard, your eyes just glazed over. Tape your precious little eyelids open and stay with me here.

I would love for someone to name any other crime that is so widely under-reported and unpunished. You have  a higher chance of getting in trouble for jaywalking or littering. No wonder men are so sputteringly outraged when they get caught or charged. Everyone else gets away with it, it isn’t fairrrr.

Oh right, and that brings us back to my initial point. The mother in Washington state who recently set her husband on fire after he molested her 7-year-old daughter, afterward stating that she did it because shooting was “too nice” for him. There are a variety of responses, all amounting to the same thing.

“We mustn’t jump to conclusions! He hasn’t been convicted! We don’t know if she lied!” Now, aside from how nicely this plays into the sick patriarchal notion that women commonly lie about sexual assault to get back at a man who has scorned them or for attention or or or even if they were raped they were probably asking for it somehow, let me remind you that this particular victim was seven. years. old. Let me also just hit you with one more boring fact: the most recent studies show that the actual (instead of wildly inflated numbers that men’s rights activists would like you to believe) percentage of false sexual assault reporting hovers around just 2%. And of course he hasn’t been convicted. If we wait for rapists and molesters to be convicted before we call them what they are, there simply would never be any.

“I don’t blame the mom but she ruined her kid’s life! Now she’ll be in jail when her daughter needs her!” No. The man who touched that little girl attempted to ruin her life. You know what the mom did? She showed her child unequivocally that someone loved her enough to protect her, no matter the consequences. Whatever happens in that girl’s life from this point on, she will have that notion to hold in her heart and keep her strong.

“Violence is wrong! If something is wrong, then it’s always wrong regardless of the circumstances!” Again, no. You know why I keep driving home these statistics? Do you understand what their mere existence says about what we are willing to tolerate in this country, about what we find acceptable? One out of every six women in America has been sexually assaulted. Combine that with the 97% of rapists who will never go to jail. Now tell me that we don’t accept violence every single day without a blink. When the justice system provides no justice, there comes a time when you must rise up and demand it.

Maybe if more mommies set their daughters’ attackers on fire, men would have a reason to be afraid. Maybe if more women cut off their rapists’ penises, we’d have less rapes. At least these predators would have something to think about, since their current concern seems mainly to be developing a raw palm from their buddies aggressively high-fiving them for showing that slut her place and getting away with it.

Don’t mistakenly think that I’m saying the victim has some obligation to fight back, especially during the attack. This is another tactic used to shame women into keeping quiet- “Well you didn’t defend yourself! How was he supposed to know you didn’t want it?” First of all, yeah, the part where you were begging or crying or cursing or frozen in abject fear or asleep or passed out cold or basically not showing your consent in any way wasn’t enough to tip the poor dude off.  Men are easily confused. Hormones raging, y’know, blood rushing to places other than the brain. And secondly, yes, rape is the only crime where the victim is held to this ridiculous standard. Can you imagine if suddenly every crime reported by men was met with the same disdain and disbelief? “So your car was stolen. I see. Why aren’t your fingernails broken and bloody? Why aren’t you more beaten up? Think about what happened. Did you ever explicitly say ‘No you may not have my car sir but thanks for asking’?”

What I am saying is that if we as a society protected our children and women properly, it would go a long way towards stemming the tide of rapes and assaults. How do we do this? We teach little boys from the moment of birth that rape is unacceptable. That ever forcing yourself on another human being is utterly abhorrent. Teach them to respect women. Stop telling little girls that if they act or dress a certain way, they are sluts who deserve terrible things to happen to them. Stop teaching girls to tear each other down. Start making sure our current laws are enforced and hire officers who understand that rape is not some he-said/she-said game that women commonly stop by to report just for fun!

When society fails and a victim takes justice into her own hands, stop with the faux level-headed outrage. Look around you at the women and girls you love. Picture one out of every six of them being forced into sex against her will. I don’t know about you, but I’d be right there beside her filling up those gas cans. Save some of your outrage for the real moral travesty being wrought. Try to save up that outrage and hold onto it long enough to help make a real change in the world, instead of just long enough to switch to the next channel on tv.

 

 

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As I mentioned in my Stainless Steel Measuring Cup post, baking has a sort of magical sparkle and sheen in my mind. You can almost understand how storybook witches came to be connected with sweets, alchemists stirring and stirring their mysterious pots, creating confections to lead greedy little boys and girls astray!

Luckily no one will burn you at the stake these days for whipping up a delectable treat- though they might curse your name when trying to fit into those skinny jeans the next day.

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In continuation from my last post, I tested out these Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons from Natizo. These are heavy-duty, high quality spoons made of stainless steel which will never rust or tarnish. You can use them for both wet and dry ingredients.

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Each handle is engraved with both US and metric measurements. The engraving is such a nice touch and won’t wear off with use. The spoons nest together and are attached to a steel ring so they won’t get lost in a drawer.

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They also come with a lifetime money-back guarantee, which tells me the company really stands behind their products. I am totally pleased with these measuring spoons and look forward to many years of baking with them.

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Natizo wants one of my readers to have the same beautiful set of spoons. You kittens know where I live, bribes involving chocolate won’t help you win but they will make me love you even more.

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The giveaway is open to the US only. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be emailed and have 48 hours to contact me before a new person will be chosen. The sponsor is solely responsible for delivery of all prizes.

 

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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There’s something magical about baking, when you stop to consider it. How is it that these lowly ingredients- a cup of flower, a bit of sugar, a little butter, a nice fresh egg- all can be whisked together with slight variations, in endless combinations to make so very many delicious confections? It seems an impossible, alchemical feat.

And while my grandmother taught me the old-school method of baking, which was done largely by memory and feel- learning your ingredient so intimately that you know exactly how much is in a “pinch” or a “dusting” or a “handful”, it’s also nice to have shiny tools at your disposal. I know some people can find the mere thought of cooking from scratch highly intimidating. Having the proper tools to start with might go a good way toward eliminating their fears.

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These Stainless Steel Measuring Cups from KitchenMade are certainly an auspicious beginning to any baker’s path. They’re made of high quality polished stainless steel, which is immediately apparent when you lift them in your hand, They have the weighty feel of a well-made item.

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They are engraved on the handles and along the side of the cups, not just printing that would rub off over time. They also have a lip to help easily pour ingredients. One thing I love is that each cup features not only its own measurement but also has the next smallest size marked, so you don’t have to keep switching back and forth or dirty more dishes.

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This is just a beautiful, gleaming set that I can tell will hold up to a lifetime of use. Tools like these make it a real pleasure to spend time in the kitchen.

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KitchenMade generously offered to send the same lovely set of measuring cups to one of my readers! I expect to be bribed with cookies and cakes immediately!

To enter the giveaway, just use the simple Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway is open to the US only. One winner will be randomly drawn and have 48 hours to respond before I will draw a new name. Delivery of the prize is the sole responsibility of the sponsor.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Somehow I had never heard of these Liquid Chalk Markers, but you kittens know if there’s a new crafty product I’m going to try it out. I tested the 4 pack of white chalkers, but I see they also come in an array of pretty colors!

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These were super easy to use, you just shake it up like a paint marker, remove the cap and press the tip down several times until the liquid chalk starts to flow. They have a 6mm chiseled tip, which made it simple to write and draw with, and definitely gave more control than just a flat chalk.

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The white chalk is bold and bright, standing out nicely on dark backgrounds. It does look almost more like a liquid marker than a chalk. Sort of the same effect you get with wet-applied eyeshadow- the color is deeper and more saturated.

The best part is that unlike markers, these wipe right off with a damp cloth! You can use them on any non-porous surface including ceramics, glass, metal, mirrors, white boards, and chalkboards with non-wood backing.

I can think of tons of uses for these, but the one that sprang immediately to mind was parties. Think about it: the kids can go crazy decorating surfaces that normally could never hold writing or designs. Then after the party they can have fun polishing everything back to its normal state. I’m picturing huge window murals for holidays. Even a game where one child stands in front of the glass front door and the others draw mustaches and facial expressions and accessories “on” that child from the opposite side of the door. That would make such cute photographs to take home as party favors.

My mind lately has been on the rapidly approaching fall. Back-to-school time but also Halloween, falling leaves, crisp cold air and the warm hearty foods that come with it. I thought these chalkers would be perfect on my huge cobalt blue soup cups. The white stands out so beautifully! This would be great for a fall get-together when we’re all hanging out on the porch snuggled into bright tartan blankets and chunky knit sweaters. I could dish up bowls of delicious homemade soup or cups of hot chocolate with the fluffiest marshmallows and each person can have their personalized mug. I could see leaving a bowl of the markers on the table so everyone can draw on their own dishes. These whimsical little touches are what help make memories that will last forever.

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**I have received the products mentioned in this post in exchange for my honest opinion. I only recommend products to my readers that I truly like and enjoy using.

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Every generation seems to have their own reinvention of the friendship bracelet- from the 60’s endless strings of beads, the 70’s safety pin chains, the 80’s woven embroidery floss. My friends embraced their inner hippies with more intricate beaded versions to match the ragged bell-bottoms we dug out of our parents’ closets or unearthed at thrift stores. And the craze for this generation? Woven rubber band bracelets!

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It’s kind of genius, if you think about it. The bands are inherently stretchy, which makes sizing a breeze. Plus they’re inexpensive and readily available in an absolute rainbow of colors.

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My nieces are already total rubber band bracelet maniacs, so I jumped at the chance to check out this 7200 Band MEGA Refill Set from Rainbow Braid. We happened to have our own loom, but the looms are available with a starter kit for about $15.00.

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The refill kit is seriously amazing. My nieces couldn’t stop smiling and saying “Oh my GOSH, that’s so MANY!”. Just to break that down for you, the kit includes 24 colors with 300 bands each, 500 clips, plus a package of beads. The colors truly encompass the rainbow and contain a nice mix of solids/metallics, glitter, bolds, and glow in the dark!

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I recommend getting one of those plastic craft cases with individual compartments to sort and store these in, it makes organizing and planning your bracelets much easier.

The quality is great- all of the bands are uniform in size and strong enough not to break easily. My niece tells me that the best place to learn new bracelet-making techniques is by looking up how-to videos on Youtube. I’m impressed by how immersed she gets in learning intricate new patterns. I think it’s a great craft to teach kids patience and instruction-following as well as to help unleash their own creativity. Once they have the patterns memorized, the color design and layout are up to their imaginations.

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I would definitely buy this product as a gift in the future, though with “Oh my gosh, so MANY!” I won’t have to for quite a while!

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**I have received the products mentioned in this post in exchange for my honest opinion. I only recommend products to my readers that I truly like and enjoy using.

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I love the ritual of tea, perhaps more than I actually like tea itself. As a child, the brightly colored packets always spoke to me of far-flung foreign lands: London, Africa, Madagascar, India. Camel-driven caravans, high adventure, lace tablecloths and white gloves and flowery hats. Okay, yes. I spent most of my time in a dream world then much as now.

As I get older though, I appreciate the small ceremonies that bring time to a halt. Things that remind us that the world isn’t made up entirely of pixels and wires. So it was a distinct pleasure to review this variety pack from Prospect Tea. I think it’s a fun twist that these boxes truly are a variety- you don’t know til you open them how many of which teas are inside and no two boxes are alike unless by happenstance.

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The display box opens easily on one side for dispensing. Each box contains 40 pre-measured single serving cups for Keurig-type machines. (If you don’t have a Keurig yet, I’ve actually found it easy to use these cups to brew tea normally!).

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The boxes contain a wide variety of flavors and types- some caffeinated, some not: Duke Of Earl Grey, Golden Dragon, Chamomile Chill, Lemon Taxi, Graffiti Burst, Himalayan Spring, Peppermint Heights, Brooklyn Breakfast, Green Power, Prospect Park, White Bengal, Vanilla Chai.

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Some of my favorites were the Graffiti Burst, infused with delectable pomegranate flavor; the Lemon Taxi- bright and tart and cheerful; and the Peppermint Heights which would be a great tea for the holidays but I enjoyed the brisk, refreshing flavor right in the middle of summer. The artisinal brewed teas not only taste amazing, the each have a deliciously transportive scent.

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I haven’t had time to try each flavor yet, but just like in childhood, the exotic names are weaving stories in my head of adventures yet to be explored.

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I know you’re dying to try these for yourself, and you’re in luck! The awesome sponsor has generously offered to give one of my readers the same 40-count variety box of Prospect Teas! Yay.

Simply enter through the Rafflecopter form below. Do as many or as few entries as you like. The winner will be drawn randomly and will have 48 hours to respond to my email before another will be chosen. Delivery of all prizes is the sole responsibility of the sponsor.

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Many of you know I’m completely obsessed with costuming and unusual make-up. Thus I was beyond thrilled to have the chance to check out products from SpookyEyes! That’s somewhere on the list of my dream jobs next to “ice cream tester” and “Hugh Jackman’s personal bed warmer”. My nieces were super excited about it too I thought we might have a fist fight over who got to wear them.

We got to test the Dream Eyes lenses in Soft Natural Violet. They’re available for $27.95 with free shipping- which considering the quality is a great price. These contacts have a high water content, which is important for comfort and breath-ability. There was some slight itching experienced after insertion, but this went away after a few minutes. Afterward the contacts were very comfortable to the point of being able to forget they were in.

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I liked that the package included detailed instructions about disinfection and storage of the lenses, especially for those who’ve never used them before. Make sure you follow those instructions- never mess around with the health of your eyes!

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These SpookyEyes aren’t very spooky- they’re definitely a more natural, subtle look. The lines of definition are more feathered and dotted than in some bolder looks, helping them to blend more easily with your natural eye color. The violet color is so pretty, and though I’m not sure anyone would be convinced you actually have violet eyes, people will definitely be stealing a second or third glance. And if violet isn’t your speed, there are tons of colors and patterns available just in the Dream Eyes line.

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If you’re looking for something a little edgier and extreme, SpookyEyes certainly lives up to their name. I’m in love with their Silver Lenses, space age metallic and haunting. I’m also dying to try Black Out Lenses. How could those fail to send shivers up your spine? You kittens know Halloween is coming up and it is THE most important holiday of the year. Don’t dilly-dally, get those creative costume juices flowing now.

I received the products mentioned in this post for free in exchange for my honest opinion. I only promote products to my readers that I actually use myself.

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Lots of fun stuff in the mail lately! I know my kittens like to see presents and prizes so I #yam sharing with you.

First we have a bunch of salsa by Ernie’s, from a blog win. I think the Perfect Peach sounds delicious but they all look tempting!

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Then there was a package of new Crest Be flavors from BzzAgent. If you see me bzzzing about them, this would be why! I think I may not be adventurous enough to brush my teeth with chocolate, but the Vanilla Mint Spark was pretty good.

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Fancy sunscreen, for hosting their giveaway.

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Very cool Logitech Ultrathin Touch mouse, a Facebook win.

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A super cute makeup case with a Sephora makeup palette, Goody hair ties etc from Cystex on Facebook.

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Earrings from Outrage Fashion on Twitter.

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Mabel’s Labels. A sample for joining their affiliate program. These are adorable and well-made. They’re having back-to-school sales right now if you want to click on my link and browse! Mabel’s Labels Back-to-School Early Bird Pricing

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First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Overnight Mask. This was a blog win and I love, love, love this stuff! Plus the brand in general.

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Really nice free jet-flame lighter from Parliament.

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Delicate, pretty earrings from Live Wordly on twitter. I like that they donate a portion of each sale to a non-profit in the item’s country of origin.

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These gorgeous, ultrasoft Swankie Blankie pillowcases were some outrageously ridiculous price, but were marked down to normal human levels in Bergdorf Goodman’s recent sale. Anddd I snagged them for free with the gift card from the May GlossyBox. Yes.

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These nail polishes from Frakker Laquer were a cool blog win. First of all, anyone who sprinkles their packages with random candy gets a gold star in my book. Plus she has color lines themed after awesome shows like Game of Thrones! She rocks. I’m wearing a combination of Bad Wolf and Wedding Feast right now and I love it.

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Last but not even close to least, I got this sweet little package of items from FabulouslyFeminist. Check out her Etsy shop, she has super cute stuff with an important message! That little bird embroidered pin is so lovely and soft. And I adore the stickers. I feel like wearing the “if you are not angry, you are not paying attention” one on my forehead.

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I think that’s all for now but don’t worry! I’ll have more treats for you to drool over soon. <3

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This is my dream outfit for a late summer afternoon and evening, strolling along the warm sand, splashing in pristine blue water. The look centers around the gorgeously ethereal Roberto Cavalli Printed Silk-Chiffon Kaftan Top over shorts from Delia’s and a bikini top from Charlotte Russe. Makeup would be minimal but with playful pops of color by Essie and Shu Eumura!

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My friends and readers probably know by now, I’m a new bath product fiend. Just something about all those brightly colored bottles and jars of bubbly potions and lotions lining my shelves makes me feel happy and well-cared-for. But, you know, I’m also kind of spoiled by my holy grail trifecta: Philosophy, Lush and Bath & Body Works. It takes something special to edge out my favorites.

I feel like Dial and I are going to get along just fine, though. Just fine! According to the packaging: NEW Dial® Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash brings hydration to your body washing experience in a tropical fun new scent. I have to agree. The scent is delicious, like biting into a sun-ripened mango freshly picked from the tree.

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The body wash is a cool, watery blue that suds up into a rich lather and rinses away cleanly without any sticky residue. My skin felt soft and refreshed and the scent made my bathtime into a sweet island retreat.

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But you needn’t take my word for it! Dial has generously provided free coupons so three of my readers can try the new Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash. That’s right, join me on the sudsy tropical getaway.

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Just use the easy Rafflecopter form below to enter. This giveaway is open to the US only. The winners will be emailed and have 48 hours to respond before I will have to choose someone new.

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Though I have received items for review, all opinions are strictly my own. I never recommend products to my readers unless I truly like them. That’s what yams do!

 

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I’ll just get this out of the way right now: My name is Jenna and I’m a pillow addict. I know, I know. Go ahead and make your tsking noises while I hang my head in shame. I can’t help it. Nothing brightens up a room or brings together a decorating scheme like a well-placed throw pillow. Plus they’re an affordable luxury. While you may not be able to afford a plush velvet couch, a few beautiful ultra-soft chenille or hand-embroidered silk pillows may be well within your reach. Also, with the house full of the girls and their friends, there’s always an impromptu board game being played on the floor- and everyone wants their own cushion to grab and snuggle (or whappp each other with, when things get silly).

As you can imagine, I was so pleased  to be able to review these Indian Sari Cushion Covers. They were pretty on the website, but in person they are absolutely gorgeous!

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These poly-silk cushion covers are made from Indian Saris in Rajasthan, India. They have a slit opening in the back and slipped easily onto my pillow forms. The fabric feels substantial and silky to the touch and is edged with gold embroidery. The colors are rich and vibrant. I feel that with proper care, these well-made covers bring you years of use.

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I opted for the Kela red 24 x 24″ and Jazz blue 20 x 20″ to compliment my decor, but they’re also quite lovely out on the porch against the stark, bare wood. (These are indoor cushion covers, though, so if you use them outside make sure to bring them in with you!).

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The metallic threads in the pillow shimmer and glow like liquid gold in the sunlight.

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These cushion covers are very nicely priced, starting at only $15! The sponsor had generously offered my readers an additional 15% discount. Just use the coupon code INDIA15 at checkout.

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They carry an array of sizes, designs and colors to suit your needs.

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I have nothing negative to report, they’re just an absolutely beautiful addition to my home.

I know you’ll be excited to hear that the sponsor has also offered to give away two Indian Sari cushion covers to one of my readers! Yay! I wish I could give all of you fancy-schmancy pillows. And sconces! But this is a wonderful place to begin.

To enter the giveaway, simply follow the instruction sin the Rafflecopter form below. I will email the winner when the giveaway closes and you will have 48 hours to respond before I will have to draw a new winner. This giveaway is open to the US only. The sponsor is solely responsible for the delivery of your prizes.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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During the summer here, we’re always on the go- to the park, the lake, the library, picnics, playdates and parties! I like to keep an eye out for cute outfits that are a breeze to take on and off but don’t leave the girls looking like tiny mismatched homeless people.  That’s why I’m kind of in love with these Bubble Knicker Rompers for the little one.

They’re a simple one-piece so they require only seconds to slip on and off. Anyone who has tried to change the clothes of a squirming, wet kid in the not-so-sanitary outdoor changing rooms at a lake or pool will appreciate this! Plus they are completely adorable. The layers of lace give them a sweet, slightly Victorian glamour. And they come in so many choices of fabric or lace colors that everyone will find a favorite!

Their prices are pretty amazing too: at an average price of $7.99, you could easily snag a whole wardrobe full! To accessorize, the site also features a wide range of hats, hairbands, flower clips, necklaces and more.

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It was a hard choice, but I decided on the Deep Pink Lace Romper for review. The rompers feature simple lace-covered elastic straps and elastic around the top to keep them in place. The satin bow at the top is a lovely touch.

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The seem well-constructed, with tiers and tiers of lace. These are super stretchy. They have sizes from baby to toddler. And the large size stretches to fit anywhere from 12 months to a 4T.

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The lace continues down to the legs. I like that the rompers feature shorts instead of a skirt, less worries about modesty while your child is running around playing!

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The inside is a silky soft lining fabric, nice and cool against delicate young skin. The instructions are to hand wash and hang dry.

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Little E. loved her new outfit and ran all around the yard posing for me. I thought the elastic might dig in to her skin a bit and bug her, but she didn’t seem bothered by it at all. I would definitely recommend these and already have plans to pick up a few more for her- the problem is just deciding which ones!

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The sponsor has generously offered for one of my readers to win a Lace Romper or Bubble Knicker Romper of their choice! Yay!

To enter, simply use the easy Rafflecopter form below. Do as many or as few entries as you’d like. The winner will be announced on my blog and will be emailed. You will have 48 hours to respond before I will have to choose  another winner. This giveaway is open to the US only and delivery of prizes is the sole responsibility of the sponsor.

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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The strange weather continues here, it warmed up to muggy and hot for a bit but this week has an almost autumnal chill. It’s fair time here in Southern Ohio, so the cool air is actually a pleasure for walking around to see the sights and ride the rides. Even though it’s nice, I can’t shake the feeling of wrongness- I can’t remember a single fair season when the temperatures didn’t soar into the triple digits.

The weather oddness is still playing tricks in my garden. I’ve accepted that the endless winter brutalized my roses beyond repair. I was hopeful I could nurse a few of them back to health, but honestly there was barely anything left living to nurse. If I go to the expense of replacing them, it probably won’t be until next year.

Even my entire hillside full of blazing orange lilies barely showed their pretty faces this summer.

In the meantime, other flowers and vegetables are thriving. My cucumbers are thrilled with the weather and the rhododendron looks like it was hung with huge pink ornaments, a self-decorating Christmas tree in July!

Your fun fact for the day: The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal!

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My original Shark Tank giveaway was so successful that when the sponsor offered to give away another box of goodies to one of my readers, I jumped at the chance! For anyone new here, I will be recapping the original giveaway post below so you can hear about Shark Tank and find out what you’ll be getting if you win.

This time I will be ending the giveaway on August 10, which HAPPENS to be the day Shark Week begins on the Discovery Channel. Oh heck yes. That’s the third most important holiday of the year, after Halloween and the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale.

I always joke about being terrified of sharks, but I’m actually fascinated. I admit I sobbed through the brutal shark finning scenes in the documentary Sharkwater, where hundreds of sharks are corralled into an inlet, systematically stripped of their fins and left to drown and rot.

Plus, without Shark Week I would have no inspiration for my sharkcore band No Use For Limbs. Our 2012 debut Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun AHHHHHH! has been tragically delayed due to some issues with the Japanese mafia, which I’m not currently at liberty to discuss.

Anyway! If you’re nuts like me, you’ll be waiting in eager anticipation. In the meantime you can keep yourself entertained watching the human sharks every Tuesday night on CNBC!

 

Shark Tank is a reality competition show where entrepreneurs and inventors pitch their ideas and vie for the dollars of potential investors- hooking the sharks, so to speak. The show is a sometimes brutal but often fascinating look into what it takes to even begin the process of selling a winning product.

If you’ve never seen it, now is the perfect time to start watching. CNBC is now airing back-to-back episodes of Shark Tank on Tuesday nights at 8PM.

To celebrate this announcement, promoters of the show generously sent me a box of awesome Shark Tank swag. This cool collector box contains an a assortment of the winning products that have successfully launched from episodes of the show.

The products came packed in this neat show-branded box. The magnetic flap closure has a shark bite taken out of it.

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Inside the lid is a photograph of the shows stars.

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The products arrive nestled and lovingly displayed securely in foam.

 

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First off, we have the GOBIE filtered water bottle. This is a great idea. By re-using this bottle instead of buying pre-bottled water, the average person eliminates the disposal of nearly 1,000 plastic bottles each year. Just one filter is good for up to three months or 100 gallons of water. Plus this is much sturdier than a typical water bottle, and comes with it’s own cloth carrying bag.

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Next is the national award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce. Named Supreme Sauce by Cook’s Illustrated (a magazine I highly trust when it comes to food!) it is also all-natural, gluten- and hfcs-free.

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Then we have ReBoot Energy Liquid Dietary Supplement with Vitamin B-12. This is basically a caffeine spray that can go in a drink or be sprayed directly in your mouth for a quick boost of energy and vitamins.

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This one looks extra yummy. Nuts N’ More Chocolate Peanut Butter! All natural, with no sugar added and 14 grams of protein per serving, it sounds wonderfully healthy as well as delicious.

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I saved this for last because it’s just so cool. The OrigAudio Fold and Play Recycled Speaker. This pair of speakers is made from old newspapers, phone books and pizza boxes. They can be used with any audio device that has a headphone jack and they require no power source. See? I told you they were awesome.

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And the MOST awesome part of all of this- I also have one of these gift boxes full of Shark Tank swag to give away to one of my readers! Yay!

For your chance to win, simply follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below. Do as many or as few entries as you’d like. This giveaway will run until August 10, the beginning of Shark Week! Shortly afterward, a random winner will be chosen and announced. I will email the winner and you will have 48 hours to reply with your mailing address or a new winner will have to be chosen. You may want to add my email (Jenna@theoutspokenyam.com) to your trusted list. This giveaway is US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

While I received these products for free, all commentary and opinions are my own. The Outspoken Yam is not responsible for the delivery of your prize, it will be delivered directly by the sponsor.

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It’s hard to believe it’s already July! We’ve been busy swimming at the lake, working on the garden and having sleepovers. If the house isn’t constantly full of giggling herds of little girls, it just isn’t summer. Aside from the fact that I need to invest in a grocery store to keep the grazing horde satisfied, it makes me happy that my house is where all their friends prefer to hang out. For one thing it’s fun being the “cool” aunt, but mostly it keeps me from worrying. My little dolls are here, they’re safe, and they’re also occupied so I can work and get things done.

This time of year means huge patches of sour, delicious raspberries are ripening in the sun. They grow everywhere, from a few determined bushes in roadside ditches to entire hillsides covered with brambles weighed heavy with fruit. These are nothing like the sad, flavorless store-bought berries you may have encountered. These sparkle inside your mouth, like biting into pure sunshine

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Of course I couldn’t resist this bounty of temptation, so we went berry picking yesterday. It was sweltering hot, but kind of nice to be sweating after the long winter and cold spring. Plus the berries are worth every scratch and minor sunburn. We stumbled out of the briar patch hours later, exhausted but with smiling berry-stained lips (scientific testing is a very important aspect of berry-picking!) and clutching huge buckets of berries in our equally red hands.

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Many of the raspberries will be eaten fresh or frozen to use later in frosty cold smoothies, but I used the very first ones to make a pie.

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Ingredients:

For the crust:

This makes one crust, you will need two for each pie!

1 cup flour (plus a bit extra for rolling out the dough)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening (I used half shortening and half butter)
2-3 TBSP. ice water

For the filling:

5 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

If you’ve just picked the berries, make sure to thoroughly clean them, removing any bugs and stems. I do not recommend soaking them in water for very long, this removes so much of their flavor.

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Make one crust by whisking flour and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Use a fork or pastry blender to cut in shortening/butter. Mixture should have a crumbly texture. Do not overmix. Add in ice water one tablespoon at a time until your mixture is moist enough to form a dough.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out dough into an 8 inch circle. Place this circle of dough into the bottom of your pie plate, trimming any excess.

Repeat the above process to make a second circle of dough and set it aside.

For your filling, combine raspberries, flour and sugar in a large bowl, mixing thoroughly.

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Pour berry mixture into your dough-lined pie pan.

At this point you could just cover your pie with the top crust, pinch edges closed and trim any excess. I chose to cut out heart shapes for my top crust. I used a medium heart-shaped cookie cutter for the outer edges and a smaller cutter for the inside hearts. Cut out the hearts from your second round of dough. Cut them out as close together as possible. You don’t want to re-roll your dough, which can lead to a tough crust. Place the hearts in a circular pattern around the edges of your pie and place the smaller hearts in the center.

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Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees or until crust is golden brown.

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I received this awesome shipment of handmade chocolates by Kreations by Kris thanks to the sweet Twillypop! Her tiny chocolate robots and marshmallow-filled Lego blocks are unequivocally one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Everything came packed in pretty flowered tins. The moment I opened the first tin, the delectable aroma of high quality, pure chocolate went straight to my brain. I think I could easily become an addict, packing one of these tins around with me all day, just a quick sniff sending me to a place of total happiness.  She also sent a wide variety of yummy flavored truffles! I’d have to say the Lego blocks, with their sturdy solid chocolate outsides and gooey marshmallowy insides are my absolute favorite. Plus you know you’re just dying to build chocolate Lego fortresses so your cute chocolate robots can have wars. Okay. At least I am, maybe you’re not that weird. I’m just saying that all casualties will be eaten!

I’m just going to leave you now with gratuitous chocolate photos. You’re welcome!

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Yay! The June Glossybox is here! You might recall from last month, a dear friend of mine gifted me with a subscription to this awesome service. Partially to show her how much I appreciate it, and partially because I just like to share, I am reporting the unboxing here each month!

This is the special Stars & Stripes Edition for the Fourth of July holiday season. As with last month’s edition, the box itself is a sturdy and lovely keepsake- this time featuring a patriotic theme and filled with red crinkly paper shred, blue tissue paper and wrapped in a pretty red ribbon.

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First we have a full size Sumita Beauty Eye Shadow Pencil in Champagne. This is a golden color with a little bit of shimmer and seems good for a more subtle summer eye that won’t give you crazy raccoon eyes if it smears in the heat! This eye pencil has an $18 RV which is probably why I’ve never tried this brand. That’s one nice thing about subscription boxes, getting to try new high end products without as much financial risk.

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Next we have Strangebeautiful by Colorbloc, an exclusive color pairing for Glossybox. First of all, I love the name. Secondly this will be super cute for patriotic manicures . Two mini bottles are packed together but feature full coverage brushes. This is another $18 RV item.

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To keep your hands pretty and manicure-worthy, next up is Camille Beckman Platinum Gold Imperial Repair Hand Therapy. It has a sweet citrus scent featuring Lemongrass Vert & Sparkling Grapefruit.  I can tell this rich cream is deep-penetrating. It instantly softened my beach-and-garden-dried hands without feeling heavy or greasy. This product is $10 for a 1.35 oz. tube.

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Rusk is a brand I’ve used for a long time and love. Here we have their Texture Dry Finishing Spray which is talc-free to avoid any ugly flakes or residue while still providing hold and texture. This might be perfect for my sometimes crazy anime hairstyles! The box sample is 1.5 oz but the full size 8oz retails for $18.00.

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The next item sounds super luxurious and smells divine- Ayers Patagonia Body Butter.  It contains herbal extracts and vitamins and is scented with jasmine, rosemary, lavender, bergamot and fir. The included sample jar is 1 oz and the full size 6.7 oz retails for $28.00.

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Now, I’m not sure if every Glossybox includes a gift card but both of the ones I’ve received have and that is one of my favorite parts! This month includes a surprise card to CWonder, with an up to $500 value! The site happens to be down while I’m writing this so I can’t check my card value BUT I can hardly wait to find out.

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Not that I need any more bath products, but the recent amazing Bath & Body Works sale proved irresistible. I managed not to go too crazy and got all of this, with the sale and a coupon, for around $30!

I was apparently in the mood for summery scents, coconut oil soaked beaches, wildflowers and Coney Island. I grabbed one of their huge 3 wick candles in Summer Boardwalk, which sounded intriguingly nostalgic. I went for the fragrance mist and shower gel in Wild Honeysuckle. It just reminds me of walks in the woods, my best friend Angie showing us how to separate the honeysuckle flowers and find the sweetness with our tongues. Her unkempt halo of frizzy curls, wide smiling cheeks dusted with freckles, those memories all smell like Wild Honeysuckle to me.

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I decided not to get any lotions, I’m extremely overstocked. So I went a little nuts on shower gels instead. These work just as well for bubble baths and bubble baths happen to be one of my most important luxuries. Don’t judge me, okay!  A life without small luxuries is a sad thing indeed. I got Warm Vanilla Sugar, which is one of my favorite scents from BBW. Then I veered back to my summer theme with several new scents I haven’t tried! Wild Citrus Sunflower just sounded so sunny and bright I couldn’t resist. Then I apparently was having a coconut craving, I got Coconut Vanilla, Exotic Coconut AND Aruba Coconut. In my defense, Aruba Coconut is a divine shade of shocking blue which rendered me senseless and unable to resist.

Lastly I picked up two five-packs of these little PocketBac Sanitizers- I got the Sweet Shop and Hawaii collections. The girls absolutely love these to take to school in their backpacks, and it makes me happy to keep a few of the nasty school germs away!

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I could have gone on buying candles and trying new scents for days, but I managed to be a good girl and stop there. If anyone needs me I’ll be in my bubbly bath with a good book clutched in my pruny little fingers!

 

 

 

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I’ve been wanting a pretty wreath for my front door, but the prices are often dauntingly high. There’s also the problem that I’m not a huge fan of fake flowers. They so often scream tacky/funeral arrangement/old lady with plastic furniture covers, at least to me. I have flashbacks to a house I used to pass on my way to school. It was two doors down from a graveyard…and every inch of available space was “planted” with fake plastic flowers still clinging to the grave dirt they’d very obviously been plucked from. So maybe I just have stolen zombie grave flower PTSD.

Anyway! The best remedy, as always, seems to be making my own. I decided my first wreath should be based on one of my favorite flowers- the ranunculus. Perhaps a strangely named, old-fashioned choice but they are quite beautiful.

Materials needed:

  • 18″ wire wreath form
  • Glue gun and sticks
  • Small bird nest
  • Paper mache egg
  • Acrylic paints: Dark pink, light pink, golden yellow
  • Paintbrushes
  • Green floral tape
  • Light pink tulle
  • An assortment of large silk ranunculus blooms, smaller blooms and accent flowers
  • Scissors

 

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The supplies you find will likely not be exactly the same. I’m all about using or reusing what you have on hand so feel free to improvise. The main thing is to make something you find appealing and to have fun doing so! First I took three of the ranunculus blooms with stems still attached and wove them through the wire wreath form at about even intervals. These will be your anchor flowers. I left the wider space open on one side because I knew my bow would go there.

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Next I removed the rest of my blooms and leaves from their stems. I laid my wreath form flat and began placing leaves and blooms around the form, playing with placement until everything looked balanced. In the picture below, nothing is attached. At this stage you are merely deciding where everything will go.

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Now you can begin attaching items. Use the green floral tape and wrap securely. Start with background items like leaves, then move on to your smaller filler flowers. Your large blooms should be attached last. Carefully use your glue gun to adhere the blooms, nestling them in securely among the leaves. Remove any strings of glue. Give the wreath a few gentle shakes to make sure nothing needs extra securing.

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To paint the egg, I first gave it an over-all coat with the light pink. After drying I decided to do a textured look to make it more interesting. Pour small amounts of all three of your paint colors onto a palette or small dish. Using a swirling, stabbing motion and a medium sized brush, alternately apply each of the colors.

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Let the egg dry. Glue it securely into the nest. Cut a few yards of your pink tulle and form it into a bow. Glue the bow onto your wreath. Glue the nest directly on top of the bow.

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As promised, today I’m bringing you instructions for how to make your own patriotic USA pillow as featured in my Fabulous Fourth Table Setting. This is a quick and simple project, you could easily make several to toss around as accents at your 4th of July festivities.

I used a plain denim tote bag as my inspiration for this project. Between contests and shopping, I seem to have about a million tote bags lying around- far more than I could ever use. I thought “Ah-ha!” What an easy way to save sewing time and use up a plentiful resource by turning something I don’t really need into something useful and pretty!

Supplies:

One lightweight denim 13″x 13″ tote bag
Lightweight red canvas fabric
About 2 ft of 1-1/2″ wide dark blue satin ribbon
Sheet of flocked white 1-1/2″ high iron-on block letters
One 1-1/2 inch dark blue iron-on star and two 1-inch dark blue iron-on stars
Two 1-inch red buttons
Fiberfill stuffing
Dark blue and red thread
Sewing machine (optional)
Hand sewing needle
Scissors
Iron
Straight pins
Tape measure

Instructions:

1. Begin by carefully cutting the handles off of your tote bag. Discard them or save them for another project.  Measure and cut a 12″ x 12″ square of red canvas fabric. Choose a side of the tote bag to be the front of your pillow. On this side, center the red canvas square on top of your denim tote bag. Temporarily pin in the center to hold it in place as you work. Carefully fold each  raw edge of the red canvas under 1/2″, pinning as you go. Make sure the pins are only going through the canvas and the top layer of your tote bag. You will need to open the bag later to sew.

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2. Cut two 12″ lengths  of blue satin ribbon.  Lay one length of ribbon horizontally  across red canvas square, 1-1/4″ up from the bottom of the canvas.  Carefully pin the ribbon in place, once again making sure the pins only go through the top layer of denim tote. Fold 1/2″ of ribbon under the canvas on each side and pin. Repeat this process with your second length of ribbon, measuring 1-14″ up from the top of the first ribbon. laying the second ribbon horizontally and pinning in place to form your stripes.

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3. Using a straight stitch, 1/8″ from outer edge, topstitch with red thread all around the canvas square, removing pins as you go. I chose to use red thread for the ribbons too, because I liked the contrast, but you can switch to blue if you prefer. Stitch the ribbons into place, removing pins as you sew.

 

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4. Press entire front of tote with warm iron. Cut excess backing paper away from your letters and position them on the top left side of your red canvas square. Follow package instructions to heat transfer your letters onto the fabric, making sure to let paper cool completely before removing.

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5. Repeat process with the stars, positioning them to the top right of your canvas square and following package instructions to attach them to your pillow.

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6. Stuff the tote firmly- but not until it’s overstuffed -with fiberfill. Now use a whipstich or invisible stitch to close the top of your pillow. Sew one red button at each top corner.

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Options: For a no-sew pillow, you could use fusible webbing and an iron to secure your fabric layers.

 

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I decided to do a test run of my table setting for Independence Day. I thought I’d challenge myself by just gathering things from around the house to fit the theme instead of rushing out to buy more stuff. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in belongings, even while being grateful for the excess. It seems like one good way to celebrate my gratitude would be to actually dust some of it off and USE it instead of letting it hide in the corners prettily accumulating cobwebs.

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Part of my inspiration was this sweet package I received from Aaryne at the Make it or Buy it blog. She went out of her way to wrap everything so carefully and sweetly- in seasonally appropriate colors, even! She sent a box of the beautiful blue Heritage Ball canning jars, which I have been coveting for quite some time. She also sent a bag full of red and white party supplies- cute old fashioned straws, plastic cutlery, napkins and paper plates. I used most of this in my tablescape, and I loved her idea of  making place settings with the cutlery tucked inside the jars.

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Instead of struggling to fit one tablecloth around the center pole of my umbrella table, I decided to use two different scarves, one on each side. That’s right, I mixed stripes and plaid and I’m not ashamed. The large red metal stars were hanging in my bedroom. The black lantern, lighthouse oil lamp and blue star candle tin were found in various places around my deck.

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The blue and white pillow was nabbed from my kitchen. I made the USA pillow and will be posting the instructions  for you tomorrow, in case you want to make your own! I promise it is super simple, and I will even give you a no-sew option.

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I’ve had the cute little Winnie the Pooh Uncle Sam figurine for years. He was proud to be drafted into service once again! A few little extras like the Darice rusted star and handfuls of star confetti were nabbed from the craft room. All of the dishes and glassware were super cheap at Target.

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I may tweak a few things for the actual holiday, and of course we’ll need more tables than this. However, I ‘m pretty pleased with the result.

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wewereliars

I’ve been contemplating how to review We Were Liars without revealing its many secrets. I realize I don’t even want to review it. What I want is to hand it to a good friend who will tear through it just as I did, and at the end when they come up gasping for air, shaken and silent, they will come back to me. We’ll curl up together in a soft blanket on a warm night under the stars and we will discuss every subtlety and twist.

For now I will just follow the instructions written on the postcard found tucked inside my copy: “Jenna, please lie about this book.” And so I shall.

Imagine the most perfect American summer day that ever was. A childhood dream cast with diamond-bright clarity. Gentle ocean, dappled sunlight, lemons and sugar melting on your tongue, sky and blood the same shade of patrician blue. Sundresses and fresh berry pie topped with homemade ice cream and the kind of soul-binding friendships that only form in youth.

Imagine an island where all of this is possible, a utopia sheltered by old money where each summer shimmers with the fairytale glamour of a Ralph Lauren ad. Now imagine the island as viewed from beneath the water, tethered precariously to the earth by only a thin crust of rock. The relentless circling of sharks has nearly caused the island to come unmoored. The world is not as safe as it may seem from above. One wrong move, a strong gust of wind, the weight of too many thoughtless words, and we will all be eaten alive.

“Sharks?” you might ask. “Someone gets eaten by a shark?” But no, I’m lying. The only sharks here are human and it is hard to decide even weeks after finishing the book who the sharks were. Perhaps all of them. By them I mean the Sinclair family, to whom we are introduced by Cadence.

“..Dad announced he was leaving…Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my ribcage and down into a flower bed.”

Descriptions like this riddle the pages with hyperbolic glee and from the beginning it’s clear that there will be no firm ground on which to stand. Lockhart’s use of an unreliable narrator is brilliantly executed. The vast majority of literature has trained us to trust our narrator: the all-seeing oracle, the keeper of Story. How else would we make it through a tale? It’s part of the deal you make when engaging a book: I will suspend disbelief, I will follow where this voice is leading. But a narrator who can’t be trusted to tell or even know the truth is a topsy-turvy, unsettling proposition. We might follow her down a rabbit hole that never leads out into daylight, that only spirals down deeper, forever.

Some people hate this device, but I find it much truer to reality. Human experience is not linear. It is full of holes and missing time which we stitch together into the version of the truth our minds can endure. We are all unreliable narrators. Given the chance to tell our own tales, we are all a bunch of liars.

Yes, but what is the book about? Stop being dodgy! It’s the small tale of what happens over a handful of summers in the lives of one stunningly perfect, pathetically crumbling family. The casting off and clinging onto of artifice and greed. The complexity and simplicity of human interaction. Princes, princesses and a lonely old tyrant and castles that cannot stand. The blinding convictions of youth, immune to nuance and consequence.

I feel that’s all I can say without giving away too much. But for a book full of liars, there is a voice of such truth and brutal beauty to be found here. You should read it and then, well- and then I will make us a cozy spot beneath the vast sky and we will whisper lies about it together.

 

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My showy irises have made their appearance, spreading further this year.  I love the purple ones for their delicate, veiny tracework pattern of decoration, bleeding into saturated ink-stained pools at the end of each bottom petal.

The iris was named from the Greek word for rainbow, denoting the multitude of colors the flowers span. In Greek mythology, Iris was a goddess of the sea and sky, the special messenger of Hera the Queen Goddess. Rainbows were her pathway to carry messages between Heaven and earth. Another meaning for the name is ‘eye of Heaven’, and it is said that in the irises of our eyes, we always carry a piece of Heaven with us.

 

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bakedpotatoes1

These are a long-time family favorite, perfect as a side dish or vegetarian option at cookouts but also a comforting meal in colder seasons.  They’re a decadent treat that practically make a meal all alone. Meat-eaters can add crispy, crumbled bacon. For a lighter version you can use a low-calorie butter substitute and reduced fat cheese.  And for those who don’t like mushrooms, try replacing them with broccoli or another favorite vegetable! I’ve left quantities open in the recipe because they’re very dependent on the size of your potatoes and the number you plan to bake.

Ingredients:

Large baking potatoes
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Mushrooms
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Butter
Salt

Supplies:

Large, shallow baking dish
Mixing bowl
Foil
Knife
Fork
Optional: Hand mixer, ice cream scoop

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly scrub and rinse potatoes, leaving skin on. Pierce the potatoes through the center with knife and place in baking dish. Cover dish with foil and bake for one hour (longer depending on the size of potatoes- check for tenderness with a fork).

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When potatoes are tender, remove from oven and let cool. While you’re waiting you can prepare your ingredients.

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Once potatoes are cool enough to work with, use small sharp knife to slice an oval shape into top of each one. Use a spoon to scoop out the top and insides of each potato, leaving skin and enough flesh intact so that the potato forms a bowl. I’ve found that a small metal ice cream scoop is perfect for this job! As you work, save the insides of the potatoes in your mixing bowl.

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Mash the potatoes you’ve collected in your mixing bowl using a fork or your hand mixer. Slowly incorporate butter, mushrooms and cheeses as you work. Set aside enough cheese for topping.

When the potato mixture is ready, fill each potato shell with a heaping amount of mixture, adding a sprinkle of Parmesan and cheddar to top each one off. Cover with foil and return finished potatoes to oven for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately or keep in oven on warm until ready to eat. These can also easily be made the day before, stored in the refrigerator and the last step completed right before your meal.

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I was so happy that one of my favorite flowers, the Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), made it through the winter.

I’m always fascinated with myth and legend, folklore and fairytales. I love tracing the paths these tales take, the ways in which they transform and mutate with time and distance, the ways they’re still evolving even now. I thought I’d share with you the ancient Japanese legend of how the Bleeding Heart flower came to be. This story can be told as you delicately take apart the petals of the flower.

Once upon a time, a young man fell deeply in love with a beautiful and wealthy girl. To win her affection, he lavished her with rare and expensive gifts. First he brought her a pair of the softest, sweetest rabbits:

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She accepted his kind gift, but declared she did not love him. Undaunted he searched until he found the most exquisite silk slippers for her tiny feet:

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Still she rejected him, though keeping the lovely gift. His money dwindling away, the young man makes one last desperate attempt, seeking far and wide for the most gorgeous earrings he can afford:

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His last gift is again met with disdain. He finally realizes he will never win the heart of this woman. Having spent all of his savings and weeping with loneliness, the young man takes his knife and pierces his own heart.

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On the spot where his body fell, the first Bleeding Heart grew and flourished, a memorial of beauty and sadness to unrequited love.

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Spring in the woodlands of Ohio brings a rare treat: Fried Morel Mushrooms! The pioneer spirit lurking in the back of my brain, the one that wants to live self-sufficiently off the land, deeply connected with nature and the rhythms of our planet– that part of me rejoices at the thought of being able to spend a gorgeous spring day hiking through the forest surrounding my house, hunting for these treasures. When the conditions are just right- cool nights followed by rainy mornings and sun-soaked afternoons, and when luck and experience are on your side, you can easily come back laden with more wild mushrooms than any one person could eat.

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Before you go traipsing off through the woods all willy-nilly, it’s important to note that you should NEVER eat any wild mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of your identifications skills. There are plenty of guides that can help you hone this skill, but I’ve found that taking an experienced mushroom hunter with you the first time is the best way to learn. Plus they’re more likely to know the best areas for finding mushrooms.

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The main mushroom you might confuse with a morel is the poisonous false morel. While similar, there are several signs that make it easily distinguishable. A true morel has a honeycombed cap that attaches to the stem at the bottom of the cap, while a false morel has a larger, darker cap that attaches only at the top. False morels also contain a cotton-ball-like substance in the stems while true morel stems are hollow.

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One of my favorite aspects of the morel is how little it takes to prepare them to make them truly shine. This is the same reason I love fresh garden vegetables and fruits. Simplicity, to me, is often the key to true flavor and sophistication. You can use them in fancy, complicated dishes; however, I’ve found that a little salt, flour and oil are all that’s needed to bring out the most delectable flavor.

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To prepare freshly found morels, you must first clean them thoroughly. They’re probably still attached to some of the dirt or moss they were growing in, and tiny bugs may be making a home inside of them.  I like to clean them in the sink under running water. Rinse off any visible dirt on the outside, then slice them in half longways with a small sharp knife. Clean out the inside, slice off any parts that look bad or decayed and place them in a colander as you work. When all of the mushrooms are sliced and cleaned, it’s best to soak them overnight in a bowl of salt water in the refrigerator. This will draw out and kill any bugs that you missed or couldn’t see with the naked eye.

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Do not leave morels to soak longer than this or they will become mushy and lose their flavor. When you’re ready to cook them, drain them thoroughly in a colander. They should still be slightly damp to help the flour adhere. Prepare a bowl full of flour and a large skillet full of oil (cast iron is best). Dip the mushrooms one at a time into the flour, shaking off excess, and place them carefully into the hot oil. You can use tongs to help prevent burnt fingers. The mushrooms will shrivel and darken as they fry. They are perfectly done when the stem is crispy and the cap is crispy on the outside yet still chewy on the inside. As you remove them from the pan, place them on paper-towel-lined plates to drain off the excess oil. Salt to taste and serve immediately.

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The finished products may look a little strange, but trust me! Sometimes the most delicious treats come in humble packages. Even if you think you don’t like mushrooms, one taste of these and you will be dreaming of mushroom hunting season all year long.

 

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Surely I must soon grow sick of dystopian worlds and apocalyptic visions. Well, not as long as writers keep feeding my habit with books of this caliber. Why am I continuously drawn to stories involving the utter destruction or transformation of humanity? This phenomenon isn’t limited to the fantasies of misanthropic yams! Look around. Zombies have eaten your televisions and children battle to the death, future underfed gladiators, on your movie screens.

I think the allure isn’t in the gore of the undead or in the shock of watching child violence used as a marketing ploy. (Or in the irony of multimillion dollar films cashing in on children who kill each other – while teaching us a Very Important Lesson about a sick time to come in which corporations and the government cash in on….oh right.. children killing each other). Partially, it’s the transcendence and rebellion of saying to an always uncertain future: “Screw you, we will survive.” But mostly what keeps our imaginations sparkling with possibility is the idea of a future washed clean. A blank slate where what you now become is purely up to you. If you were a coward you may now be brave. If you were once poor, you can now live well, pillaging  what the former rich have left behind. Underachievers become leaders– and sometimes men who were once thought good show their true selves and get to live their deepest fantasies of becoming the villain. No one remembers you, and thus you are free of all expectation, or lack thereof, that once tethered you to the ground.

In Cured, the second book in a series by Bethany Wiggins, the world has grown silent with the death of the honeybees. I’m guessing all insects and other pollinators are included in this devastation, since the book is fairly lacking in explanation as to how we reached this point. I generally would not start reading partway through a series, but when I picked this up it was so compelling that I decided to continue. The lack of information doesn’t detract from the story, in fact it merely made me hungry to immediately find the first book and devour it.

From what I gather, a vaccination was given to children in the first book, which over time instead of helping them survive, turned them into hunger-crazed, cannibalistic beasts with super-human strength. I also see that the first book was written from the perspective of Fiona, while this book’s protagonist Jack was barely glimpsed.

Jack is a sixteen year old girl forced to further emaciate herself in an already starving world in order to pass as a 12 year old boy. Something I loved about this story: Jacqui was not some supermodel pretty, bad-ass chick with a bow or some Ellen Ripley mini-me when the world fell to pieces. She was a chubby little girl, content to bake bread and dream of her first kiss. The violation of Jacqui being stripped of her curves, her long locks, all of her soft girliness, is palpable.

I did have some issues with the storyline. The instant love-connection between Jack and Kevin was particularly bothersome. His character verged on stalker creepiness to me. Oh, all women are a precious commodity, therefore I must protect you by locking you here in my lair away from other men! Because those guys out there? Are just filthy rapists. While my burning passion to deflower you- that’s pure. The peril Jack puts herself and all of the group in at the end of the book could have so easily been avoided if Kevin had only treated Jack as an equal. Instead we get this silly paternalistic “don’t worry your pretty little head there darlin’, us menfolk will sort this out” nonsense.

Another issue I had was the seeming lack of homosexual relations in the future. It seemed laughable at best to me that a huge group of sex-starved outlaws would see a nubile young boy as dog food instead of a potential sex-toy. I’m willing to overlook this, however, considering the age range the book was written for- though the author had no qualms implying and  invoking heterosexual rape as the reason Jack must never be discovered as a girl.

These are small annoyances though, and only show that I was invested enough in the characters to care about their actions. On the whole, I found the  storyline captivating and was left wanting more.

 

 

 

 

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On Saturday, David Lamb of the folk band Brown Bird succumbed to leukemia in Providence, Rhode Island. He was only 35.

Their music has always seemed displaced in history to me, as if you would expect to see them in grainy black and white footage at some deep south dance hall, the roof and walls shaking in time to their irrepressible rhythms. Frail humans making thunder on earth for the gods to hear. The entranced audience would dance and twirl, the air growing dense and humid with gallons of sweat as the beat gets darker and the gravel in his voice unpaves every civilized road in your soul.

I guess all I missed was the old voodoo woman in the corner, rolling out the bones and seeing the years abruptly cut short each time. But his music will live on along with the beaming joy he took in performing.

…And by “gay” I mean oh so very happy. The controversy over hidden gay themes within this magical children’s cartoon? Not so much.

“Oh that silly yam!” you’re probably thinking to yourself. “That’s ridiculous! She’ll say anything for a laugh.” But no. In case you haven’t heard, last month radio talk show host Kevin Swanson declared that Satan is using this film “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.”

“If I was the Devil, what would I do to really foul up an entire social system and do something really, really, really evil to 5- and 6- and 7-year-olds in Christian families around America?”

“I would buy Disney. If I was the Devil, I would buy Disney in 1984, that’s what I would have done,” Swanson said, after promising that he’s no tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist. To which I can only reply: Oh cupcake, if the tinfoil hat fits, polish that sucker up and staple it to your head.

Apparently the themes of isolation, the idea of having to hide your true self away lest you be judged, Elsa’s lack of interest in finding her own prince, and even the movie’s hit song “Let it Go” are TOP SEKRIT MIND KONTROL TOOLS aimed at brain-washing your children into accepting and adopting a homosexual lifestyle. This must all be the wacko, anti-gay slobbering of one sad little mind, you might think. Again: no. Others, including far-right bloggers and film critics have espoused the same views. One critic, Steven Greydanus, went so far as to declare that the relationship between Kristoff and his reindeer Sven clearly promotes beastiality.

First of all, the island of conclusions- you have to jump to get there! Secondly, shame on you Disney! How dare you make a movie, especially in these times of rampant bullying and teen suicide, that promotes self-acceptance and acceptance of the differences of those around you. What a horribly, horribly anti-Christian notion. And last of all, I’m shocked they didn’t manage to work Olaf the snowman into this equation somehow. I personally found him to be a little swishy. In fact, all snowmen are slightly suspect, walking around waving those giant carrots all suggestively. You heard it here first: Frosty Was Gay Too!

Now it’s easy to be reactionary and angry, or to mock and point at these sadly close-minded fools who will say pretty much anything for ratings. However, I like to try to put myself in the shoes of these people (okay, not their actual shoes, they usually have terrible taste and my own shoes are much too fabulous to abandon, but go with me here!). I do have some ultra-religious conservative acquaintances and in general they are not Horrible Human Beings. They’ve just been taught that you must live and act a certain way in order to be eternally rewarded. And if you can’t actually live up to these lofty standards, at least have the good manners to hide who you really are, while feeling guilty, dirty and shameful.

They already feel that the tides of the world are turning against them, old beliefs being washed clean by the ice-cold waters of reason and logic. Time is wearing away at their special snowflake status. What if God really doesn’t care if two men love each other? What if it truly isn’t your place to judge? I know, dude, it’s rough. The idea of a bunch of homosexuals mucking up your perfectly good Heaven. Maybe they can have a segregated off-shoot Heaven with lots of rainbows amongst the clouds, and Gloria Gaynor playing on a perpetual loop, disco round.

Anyway. Already being on this slippery slope of love and acceptance, along comes this movie! For children! Or in the famous words of Hudsucker Proxy “You know, for kids.” This movie telling your babies that hey, maybe it’s okay to be the real you. Maybe you ain’t gotta hide. Maybe what’s sick and wrong is to band together like sheep in a group mindthink that keeps everyone assimilated and afraid. Perhaps your differences are what make you extraordinary and you should let them shine. Perhaps we are all snowflakes and there is room both in Heaven and on Earth for each and every one.

Change is scary, I get it. Having your entire worldview questioned is uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ll hold your hand, even if you hate me. Even if you fear me and see crazy agendas where there are none. I’ll hold your hand and yes we will build a snowman, and it will be the biggest, gayest snowman that ever was.

(Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links)

Otherwise known as a French bun, a chignon traditionally sits at the nape of the neck. In its loose, messy form it’s great for hiding bad hair days. In its smooth, polished form it’s perfect for a night of theater and fine dining.

Here’s our simple step-by-step tutorial for this versatile style–from the professionals on the Color Crew at Madison Reed!

Side Chignon Tutorial

1. Create a deep side-part, as clean or messy as you like.

2. Gather all hair behind opposite ear from part. Smooth with your favorite brush if desired, or leave messy.

3. Secure into a ponytail with a hair-tie.

4. Separate ponytail into three sections. Take bottom-most section and start twisting.

5. While twisting section, curl around base of ponytail. Secure to base of ponytail with pin.

6. Repeat with two remaining sections twisting into complimentary curls.

7. Pin the two remaining sections into place as you go.

8. Once a completed curled Chignon has been pinned into place, pull out small sections for a romantic feel, or smooth and perfect with a tail comb for a modern, clean result. Spray to hold.

Now is the perfect time to try Madison Reed’s healthier for you color! Happy October! Take $10 off your first purchase of Madison Reed hair color – just use the offer code OCTOBERLOVE at checkout.

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**Thanks to Cottonelle for sponsoring today’s discussion.

Mornings here are often a frantic rush of absolute crazed levels. With one child homeschooling, two that have to catch the bus and a toddler with more energy than a nuclear reactor in the mix, keeping everything organized and managed can be challenging to say the least.

I’ve developed a pretty workable system at this point, that lets me make it through the morning without too much panic. For instance, I think a great morning really starts the night before. I encourage the girls to pick out their school outfits in the evening and hang them on the back of their closets. I also make a quick sweep of the house to make sure nothing vital needs to go in the laundry for the next day.

We also have an organized backpack/homework area where each child has a hanging folder with their name on it. Each night, it’s their responsibility to put any papers that I need to read or sign in those folders. I check them and return everything to their school binders before bed.

All this preparation cuts way down on frantic searching and arguing when morning comes. Then it’s just a matter of prying each child out of bed, trying to make sure everyone has something nutritious to start the day- and then hopefully at some point getting myself clean and presentable!

Now here’s the thing about living with lots of females and not enough bathrooms to go around: not matter how well you plan, you’re always rushing someone out or being rushed out yourself. Especially with younger girls who can be a little flighty and careless, this can unfortunately lead to a not-so-clean bottom. Which can lead to embarrassment, bad smells, tears and messes that, trust me, you don’t have time to deal with in the morning.

Cottonelle Flushable Wipes and Clean Care

That’s why I was pleased to try out the wet & dry system from Cottonelle! The Flushable Cleansing Cloths are kind of amazing. If you’ve ever felt like dry toilet paper alone wasn’t quite enough- and honestly, who hasn’t had that icky sensation of being not 100 percent clean after a bathroom visit? – then you really should give these a try.

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I personally felt a million times more confident after using the cloths. I found that they do dry quickly, but it’s also nice to have the backup super soft Cottonelle Clean Care tissue paper for a quick dry swipe too. The sheets are extra wide and absorbent.

One other thing I love about teaching the toddler to use these- she’s currently mid-potty training and these are a nice transition from her diaper wipes. It’s much easier for her to get herself fully clean, which is important for her fiercely independent personality.

If you’d like to try them (and you should!), Rite-Aid is generously offering a $1.00 off coupon. Just click on the link below. You’ll be taken to a quick 30-second video, after which you’ll receive your coupon!

Click HERE for your coupon!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the wet + dry combo.

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