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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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HOCC contest

Pretty soon I will be bringing you a review of Peekapak, a subscription box service for young kids. In the meantime they’re having a giveaway and I didn’t want any of you to miss out!  They’re giving away October’s Special Edition Hero of Color City Peekapak. This contest runs until midnight on October 12th 2014. Simply go to their Facebook page, like them and join their newsletter by entering your info under the Win a free Peekapak tab.

(sponsored post)

Shop Craftsy’s Stash of Possibilities Sale starting now! Take advantage of up to 70% off ALL project kits, fabric, yarn and supplies. Shop now to save before popular products sell out! Hurry, offer expires September 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM MT. Shop Craftsy‘s Stash of Possibilities Sale and save big!

 

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Straws are always in hot demand around my house. I don’t know what it is that makes a drink more exciting, enticing, sophisticated or fun about slurping it through a round narrow tube, but somehow they’re just irresistible! The little boo is currently in one of those independent stages where everything is “NO! Me do!” Which means she wants to do everything by herself and make her own choices. I have a fliptop container with different colored straws on my counter, which is the source of much pondering and choosing (and often re-choosing mid-drink!).

All this straw madness leads to the inevitable horror of running out of straws. Or worse, trying to wash flimsy plastic straws and save them, discarding the most chewed-looking ones and wondering how sanitary this really is.

I knew there had to be a better way, and the lovely folks at Eco at Heart have found it: High quality stainless steel drinking straws! I know, right? It’s brilliant.

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These are perpetually, endlessly reusable which means you’ll never have to buy another package of plastic straws. This is fantastic for your wallet as well as the environment. Imagine the tons of waste that could be saved if everyone switched to these. It’s kind of mind-boggling.

Milkshake with a kiwi

They have a sleek, modern look that really fits with any table decor. I also love that they come with a slim cleaning brush to help keep them shiny clean on the inside.

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To help celebrate the launch of their new product, Eco at Heart are having a fun contest on Instagram. Go here to check out the details. They’re giving away two $50 Amazon.com gift cards for the most ‘liked’ Instagram post that uses their logo and the hashtag #ecoatheart…the more creative, the better. Plus they’re also randomly giving away one set of straws to 25 individual people who register for the competition by filling out their name and email and following them on IG @ecoatheart. One entry per person, the winners will be notified by email and will have 3 days to respond with their shipping details or they will re-draw if required.

So what are you waiting for? Kick back, make a drink (preferably with an Eco at Heart Straw!) and get those creative juices flowing.

 

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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.

Mabelscopy

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Get a sneak peek at Mabel’s Labels new Baby Combo before the official due date! This is an exclusive offer and the Baby Combo will not be released on the Mabel’s Labels site until 10/1. The combo is available in 40+ designs and includes 21 Tag Mates, 16 Skinny-Minis, 15 Sticky Labels and more! Be sure to check out this new combo and pre-order yours today! This offer ends on Tuesday, 9/30 at 11:59pm EST.

 

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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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**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

Your inspiration could be as simple as a little girl’s birthday party or as complex as a wine tasting, but whichever the affair, setting your table with Paris chic elevates any party into a soiree.

Set against a backdrop of classic black, playful polka dots and pretty pink details, the Paris Damask party theme from Birthday Express brings elegance and sophistication to the table, with a delightful European twist.

Food & Drink Ideas – Pink lemonade becomes instantly chic when poured into plastic champagne flutes tied with curling ribbon. Match your cupcakes to the decor with the Paris Damask Cupcake Wrapper Combo Kit which looks great when displayed on a pedestal lined with black and white Sixlets. A cookie decorating station will delight budding little French chefs.

Party Activities – Drape pink toile and feather boas about and then turn the accoutrements into an activity where little ladies dress up and pose for pictures as they walk down a faux Paris runway.

Party Decor – There are endless ways to bring flair to the table with all of the pieces in this Paris Damask collection, including Eiffel Tower centerpieces and damask decorated partyware.


Paris Damask Party in a Box – Basic – 8 Guests

Paris Damask Cupcake Wrapper Combo Kit

Paris Damask Centerpiece

For a full selection of Paris Damask party supplies, visit BirthdayExpress.com – where you can plan the perfect party from start to finish every time!

**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

 

Visit Shutterfly today to take advantage of these awesome free deals!

While it may seem a bit early to start planning for the holiday season, it’ll be here before you know it. Parking lot wars and Black Friday stampedes ring a bell? That’s where FREE4FALL comes into the picture—get a head start on prepping with easy gifts you can give to loved ones and friends. Best part? You get to choose 1 freebie out of 4 options. Using promo code FREE4FALL allows you to choose between 12 free 4×5 flat cards, 12 3×5 folded cards, one free customizable magnet, or one free customizable mouse pad. Offer expires September 21, 2014 (11:59 P.M. PT)

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

Want to go from Photo Mess to Photo Bliss? Have all your photos and videos in one place with ThisLife, and get a free photo book during this limited time promotion. Sign up for a Standard Plan for $59 per year (normally priced at $79), good for up to 25,000 of your photos and videos and get a free 20-page 8×8 photo book. Or, sign up for the Premium Plan for $139 per year (normally priced at $199), good for up to 100,000 photos and videos and get a free 20-page 12×12 photo book!

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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.

Mabelscopy

**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.

Mabel’s Labels is offering two great 50% off promotions! For today only, Mabel’s Labels is offering 50% off Pirate Ship or Skull ‘n’ Crossbones Sticky Labels in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Plus, on 9/20, Mabel’s Labels is offering 50% off Plane Sticky Labels for their second year of Talk Like a Pilot Day, created by Mabel’s Labels. Don’t miss your chance to shop these great offers!