Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favorite Beauty Products of 2015

Image: Women's Daily Magazine
I may no longer do monthly favorites but I did want to do a favorites for the year.  These babies are my 8 favorite products of 2015.  Some seem to appear on my favorites list year after year (Hey, 3 in 1 foundation), while others are new to my list life (lookin' at you, Tarte!)  I hope you all enjoy this quick read and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!








  • COVERGIRL Outlast Stay Fabulous 3 in 1 Foundation
    This has been my favorite foundation for years now.  My favorite before this...was a MAC foundation.  Yes, it beat MAC for me. 
  • Physicians Formula Super CC SPF 30
    This CC cream is more of a daily wear for me (Where as the CG 3 in 1 is typically what I use for a full face / dressy look.)  I love that its hypoallergenic, fragrance free, oil free, and still gives a great amount of coverage while looking natural.
  • MAC Mineralize Blush in Gleeful
    I have literally been searching for over 5 years... and I have not found a blush that I like more than this MAC blush.  Beautiful pigmentation, long lasting, blendable, and it doesn't make my skin break out.
  • Maybelline Volum' Express® the Mega Plush® Mascara
    Maybelline does an awesome job with mascaras generally.  But I can't get over the look of this Plush mascara.  Volume without being heavy or clumpy.  
  • MAC Eye Kohl in Teddy
    No other liner can make my eyes pop like this one.  Plus, it goes on so smoothly and easily.
  • Olay Professional Pro-X Wrinkle Smoothing Cream
    Keeps my skin looking energized even when I haven't had much sleep.  Moisturizing without being greasy and doesn't break out my acne prone skin. 
  • theBalm 'Nude 'Tude Eyeshadow Palette
    Still the palette I use the most. I love neutrals and this palette definitely has some of the prettiest neutrals I've seen.
  • Tarte Lipsurgence Lip Tints in Glaze and Emblaze
    A mix between a lip crayon, lip stick, and lip balm.  Love the texture, staying power, and easy, no mess application.  Glaze is an every day neutral lip color while Emblaze is a gorgeous pinky-red.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Want Designer Items for just $13.99? Find out how!

Image: Treat Angel
Was your holiday gift exchange a bust?  Or maybe your gift givers gave you the very useful gift of cash?  Or maybe you're even looking to continue the gift giving just a little bit longer?  Either way, a new subscription called Treat Angel may be for you.

I know there are a ton of different subscription options out there, but this is the first time I've seen something like this at such an affordable price.   This is how Treat Angel works: For $13.99 a month you get to choose one "treat" from the site.  There are home, women's fashion, men's fashion, beauty, and even kid's fashion products listed on the site.  All ranging in value from $25-$75.  Just pick the treat you want and it is shipped to your house. 






A few items currently listed on the site are

- A toddler Kate Spade Tank
- Pave Feather Stud Earrings by Juicy Couture
- Ted Baker Stud Earrings (Flat White Bow - pictured above)
- Men's Stretch Modal Lounge Pants by Boss
- Lancome Waterproof Eyeliner
- Men's Leather Gloves by Perry Ellis

And there's so much more!  Plus, items are updated and added frequently.  Check out Treat Angel for yourself!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Santa Story

Image: telegraph.co.uk
Everyone has that moment, right?  That moment when they learned *gasp* Santa may not be real.  Many were traumatized, but then there are others, like me, who don't even remember the moment at all.

My parents did tell my brothers and I the whole Santa Claus spiel.  We sat on Santa's lap every year.  And I remember playing along with the Santa gig for a long time; knowing very well my parents and family members were the ones supplying the gifts.  But I don't remember the moment of discovery.  The moment where I went from believing in Santa to knowing it was within my best interests to act like I still believed in Santa.

So, I asked my mom about this.  Why, oh why don't I have an earth shattering "Santa isn't real?!" memory like everyone else.  She told me she believes I figured it all out pretty early on.  Since, as she put it, I was "always a snooper." (I like to say "a natural investigator" but whatever.)  Apparently, I began finding hidden presents at a young age.  I also asked why the Santas we took pictures with all looked different (I do remember the "those aren't the real Santa.  They're just Santa's helpers because Santa is really busy getting toys right now" explanation. )  My mom also said she knew pretty early on I had stopped believing and was just going along with it.  Which was fine with her.  But my parents never had to tell my brothers or I "Santa isn't real."  I don't remember hearing the news at school and feeling shocked.

Now that I'm a parent, I notice there is a lot that my parents did (or didn't do) that may have prevented a feeling of complete betrayal when it came to Santa. (Whether it was intentional on their part or not.)

1. My mom also taught us the story of St. Nicholas and explained that Santa originated with St. Nicholas (and that's why he's referred to as St. Nick in Christmas songs)

2. We never wrote letters to Santa.  Not that I remember anyway.  We made Christmas Wish Lists, sure.  But we knew that list was for my parents. And if we had too many expensive items on the list, we were told to prioritize which ones we wanted the most.

3. Christmas wasn't all about Santa.  Whenever I take my son...well...anywhere this time of year, everyone asks him something related to Santa.  (There's a lot of Santa talk.) And this made me realize...  We don't talk about Santa much at home.  Not consciously... we just didn't in my household when we were little.  My parents focused on teaching us to give to the less fortunate and to be kind.  I remember learning about why we donate items, where they go, and why some people can't buy things they need.  Or why some children don't get presents on Christmas.  We learned about Jesus in our church's weekly classes.  Santa was there...but he wasn't the sole focus.  Or even a main focus.  He was apart of Christmas just like a Christmas tree or Christmas lights are.  I don't know how to describe this one accurately...but I never felt like Christmas rested on Santa. He was there as a fun accessory...but not totally necessary.

4. We got one gift from Santa.  One. It was no secret that the rest were from my parents and family.


This didn't make Christmas any less enjoyable or magical for me, though.  I loved Christmas as a kid and would lie awake with excitement every Christmas Eve.  We played the Santa game into my teens.  And even when I was in my late teens and not expected to believe in Santa, I still made my mom wait until we went to bed on Christmas Eve to put the presents under the tree.  The one year she tried to put the presents under the tree as she wrapped them ahead of time I remember saying to her in shock "What are you doing?!" It didn't matter that I knew there wasn't a Santa...playing the game was the fun part.

And, guess what. Those kids who did feel a shock when they learned the truth about Santa, they're fine. They made it through and now laugh about the experience. I'm choosing to follow the footsteps of my parents when it comes to Santa (I have a feeling my son is a "natural investigator" as well) but I have no problem or judgement for households where Santa is a large part of Christmas.  Its all in good fun.  Do whatever works for your family and enjoy the holidays together!


Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Beauty Queens

It's time for the post a lot of you have been waiting for - the beauty themed gift guide.  Because I am particularly interested in makeup, skincare, etc... this post always takes a little more time and love to put together!  But here it is!  I've broken it up into what we will call beauty genres: Skincare, lips, eyes, etc.  Take a look!

Skincare

Peter Thomas Roth - Mask-A-Holic Vault - $190 at Sephora.com (Online Only)

This one is a bit of a splurge... but if you've ever used Peter Thomas Roth's skincare products, you know its completely worth every penny.  This collection is great for that someone who religiously participates in #MaskMonday.  My personal favorite is the new Irish Moor Mud Mask. Its deep cleansing without dulling or drying out my skin.  I can't get enough of it!

Foreo Deep Cleansing Essentials with Turquoise LUNA mini - $139 at Sephora

I have written about the LUNA mini before.  I LOVE this little T-sonic scrubber! I saw instant results the first time I used and I've been hooked since.

Boscia - Japanese Favorites - $35 at Sephora

Don't let the price fool you.  Even though this is a much more affordable skincare set, this collection has so much to offer.  The Detoxifying Black Cleanser and Luminizing Black Mask are my favorites.

Lips


Tarte - Lips For Daze LipSurgence Set - $34 at Sephora

I can't say enough about this set!  Of course, if you're a lipstick/lip product addict you already know how amazing these are.  But I would also recommend them for anyone who isn't quite comfortable wearing lipstick often.  These little crayons are much easier to control for application and they have a smooth consistency that is a mix between a balm and a lipstick.

Make Up For Ever Artist Plexi-Gloss Collection - $150 at Sephora 

Know anyone that loves lippies?  This collection of long lasting, creamy, pigmented glosses is the perfect gift.

MAC Irresistably Charming Lip Gloss (Shown in Pink)  - Originally $35, Now on Sale for $26.25

I love MAC and I love their Holiday Collections this year.  The colors and sets are just gorgeous.  These glosses come in a cute, hard case - perfect for travel during the holidays.

Eyes

Sephora  Collection Color Wonderland Neutral & Vivid Eyeshadow Palette - $59 at Sephora

This beautifully big palette has every color imaginably.  I especially love the neutral side. 


Nails

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Simply quick Gel polish WITHOUT the UV light! Spice Age (above) is my new favorite nail color.

NYC In A Minute Quick Dry Polish

Seriously quick drying nail color.  Perfect for that beauty who is always on the go.





Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Coffee Lover - Touch T526S Brewer

Is everyone feeling the Holiday vibe?!  It's into December now, so if you're still looking for gifts for others, I've got you covered.   This product is one of my favorites (if not my favorite) out of all of the products in my Holiday Guides.  Why? Because it involves coffee.

The Touch T526S Brewer is my new go-to coffee provider.  It turns into the love of my life in the morning and is my savior for those late night/ way-too-early morning mom moments.  Because I have a deep love for coffee, I also have a keurig, a percolator, and a regular drip coffee machine at my house.  I prefer the Touch Brewer over all of the rest in my coffee army.  Why? I'll give you a brief list of my favorite features.





  1. It brews faster than any other machine I have; Beating out the former speed champion: the keurig.
  2. It can brew a multitude of sizes from a single cup of coffee to a  full (26oz) carafe (which is included with the brewer.)
  3. It can brew many different kinds of portion packs including k-cups and jumbo cups.
  4. It comes with a refillable jumbo cup. (Save money and fill with your own coffee instead of spending extra dollars on k-cups.)
  5. Its water tank holds 90oz. Less refilling!

So pretty much its everything I need in a coffee maker.  And, the coffee comes out strong.  Thank goodness!  (Whats the point if the coffee isn't potent, right?) So if you're still looking for that perfect gift for a fellow coffee addict lover, head on over to learn more about the Touch T526S Brewer here and see if its the perfect gift to give (or to put on your own list!)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: For the Dreamers & Doers - Passion Planner

It is finally that time of the year! Thanksgiving is over and we can now officially get ready for the holidays.  Now, I'm someone who LOVES gift giving.  For me, its fun to find the perfect gifts for loved ones.  I may even be more excited for them to open their gifts than I am for my own.  So, instead of having one post as a gift guide, I will be doing a gift guide series with several posts featuring gifts perfect for people with different interest.

This first one is a great gift for everyone.  Seriously.  The Passion Planner is great for those who have a busy schedule, are realizing their dreams, or who simply want to live a happier life.  Yes, it is a planner, so organization is of course one of the main objectives here. But this planner is so much more than a schedule and notes. I may be getting ahead of myself here... Let's start at the beginning.

This is the compact version of the planner.  I'm planning on giving this to my hubby and knowing him, he's going to want something that travels well.   There are a few features I noticed right from the beginning that I love: the built in band - you won't lose it this way, the built in book mark - great for finding your place in a hurry and... you won't lose it, the soft, beautiful cover - I love how it feels and that it has such a sophisticated look without seeming overly done.

Now lets take a look inside. For those who are used to a simple calendar planner, this one may seem like a lot at first.  But don't worry, Passion Planner has you covered.  Instructions, along with the story behind the planner, are included in the first couple of pages.  The next page is a road map of sorts.  Not just for the year's goals, but for your lifetime.  You then have your monthly calendar, followed by weekly pages in a vertical layout.  At the end of each month is a space for reflection.  I LOVE this part of the planner.  Here you can jot down memories, how far you've come, and even take time to figure out changes that need to be made for the next month.  This is a really unique feature that sets this planner apart from the rest.  Its no longer just an organizational tool, it becomes a better life tool.  Many, many graphed pages are included in the back of the planner for lists, doodles, charts, etc.

Another one of my favorite features?  Each week there is not only an inspirational quote, but a suggestion or activity to complete that week.  For example, one week the tip is "Everyday tell at least 5 people (preferably strangers) a genuine compliment and see how it brightens their day."  Just little things to make your daily life a little bit sweeter.

Its these small but really special features that turn this planner into a thoughtful gift that is appropriate for pretty much anyone and everyone.  For more information on the Passion Planner check them out at http://www.passionplanner.com.

MORE PICTURES HERE


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fall Favorites : Food G.H. Cretors Popped Corn

This is the last post of the Fall Favorites series.  And I definitely saved the best for last: FOOD!

Now, fall brings a whole set of comfort food into the picture.There's warm pumpkin pie, turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pie, hot chocolate; the list goes on and on.  Being the coffee lover addict that I am, one of my favorite treats of the season is the Pumpkin Spice Latte (especially since I now have my own PSL Crock Pot recipe.)  

So, of course, I was intrigued when I first learned of G.H. Cretors Limited Edition Popped Corn flavors.  The one I was most interested in? Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn, of course.  Now, to be honest, I didn't know quite how pumpkin spice popcorn was going to work out.  But I was super curious.  So I dove in and hoped for the best.

The results?  It was even better than I could have imagined.  Its sweet, with the flavors of fresh pumpkin spice, and crunchy with a variety of textures thanks to the roasted pumpkin seeds and walnuts mixed it. Honestly, its something you have to try for yourself!  While you're at it try the Orchard Apple Caramel Corn (sweet and tangy with pieces of dried apple) and the ultra rich Double Chocolate Caramel Corn (perfect for any choco-holic.) 

G.H. Cretors Popped Corn is sold in Target, Whole Foods, and local grocery store.  Check them out online here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fall Favorites: Beauty Edition Part 2 - STAR WARS & COVERGIRL

We all know I love beauty products.  So there is no way I could have just one beauty edition in my Fall Favorites.  And there is no way I could have a "favorites" without this next collection.  Are you ready for it?  COVERGIRL's Star Wars Collection!  Star Wars everything is the new pumpkin spice everything!  And, as much as I love pumpkin spice, I love Star Wars just a little bit more.

This collection is amazing because, not only are there the wonderful classic red lipsticks and burgundy nail lacquers perfect for daily use during the fall season, there are also Star Wars specific colors like the gold (C3PO) and silver (R2D2) lipsticks.  

If you're thinking you already have enough makeup stashed in your vanity, think of it this way:  The packaging on these products make them wonderful collectors' items for any Star Wars fan!  I especially love the movie quotes on the mascara.  Quality products, a limited edition collection, and Star Wars. What's not to love?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Favorites: Beauty (Part 1) - MACnificent Me - MAC

Are you all ready for my next installment of Fall Favorites?!  I know many of you beauty lovers out there have noticed my lack of MAC coverage lately.  No, I have not fallen out of love with lovely MAC Cosmetics.  I've simply gotten behind.  Whoopsie!  They come out with so many great products and collections, its hard to report on them all sometimes.  But, I am here to jump right back into their "MACnificent" world with one of their newest collections, "MACnificent Me."

"Well Behaved," "Simply Swinging," & "Nice Composure"
I love this collection because there is a little bit of everything.  You'll find bold, bright colors,  feminine, pale pinks, mod neutrals, and even smokey greys. The eye shadow in "Well Behaved" is the perfect example of bold.  A gorgeous reddish, orange color, this shadow is made to stand out.  It's color also makes it perfect for those who like to get festive for fall.  Of course, the product itself is highly pigmented and has a silky smooth consistency.  Staying power is MAC's game, and this eye shadow is no exception.  Expect the color to stay vibrant and crease free throughout the day.

"Self Aware"
The neutral seen in the amplified creme lipstick "Self Aware" is the perfect balance to the bold vibe achieved with "Well Behaved."  Nude in color, this lipstick is creamy and subtly modern.  Again, the MAC quality standards are high so you will find this lipstick goes on smoothly and stays put.

Perhaps one of my favorite products overall is the PatentPolish Lip Pencil.  You will find a feminine touch with the shade "Pleasure's All Mine."   It is described as a "pale warm nude" but also passes for a pale pink.  This is a perfect shade for adding a soft touch to an otherwise seductive look.

And where will you find seduction in this collection?  With the Pro Longwear paint pot in "Nice Composure," of course.  This creme shadow is a very, very cool grey; which is absolutely perfect for this season since grey is one of the biggest trends right now.  It's also a great product to use to achieve a mess free, smooth, smokey eye.

"Pleasure's All Mine"
So let's see.  We have lips... we have eyes... what are we missing?  Nails! "Simply Swinging" is this beautifully grey lilac shade that is modern, trendy, and still ladylike.  The color is perfect for those wanting more than just the standard pink or red nail, but still wanting a softer look. And for those who tend to stay away from the darker nail colors that appear with the cooler seasons?  This color is for you.  It's a great way to update your color for the season without having to opt for a dark red or blue.

And now you see why this collection is named "MACnificent Me."  While staying cohesive as a collection, it provides something for everyone and every look. Truly allowing you to customize your look to fit the one and only you!

For more information on the MACnificent Me collection visit you local MAC boutique or counter or go to www.maccosmetics.com.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fall Favorites: Fashion - Get This Look

Image: Fashionisers.com
As many of you may know, Fall is my favorite season.  I look forward to it every year, I get giddy once the weather starts to cool (that means anything below 80 in Florida terms), and I pull out my seasonal clothing way too soon.  But there is so much more to my love of this beautiful season than the cooler weather (although the break from the 6 month 90 degree sweat-a-thon is much appreciated).  And so I've decided to run a "Fall Favorites" series for the next few weeks.

This Fall favorite is probably about as exciting as it gets for Fashionistas: Looks straight from New York's Fashion Week. And although these looks are technically the Spring/Summer lines, you know us ladies (and gents) can't wait to try out new looks, trends, and styles.  This look is straight from the Derek Lam show in September: Brought to you by PHYTO, BaByliss, and stylist Orlando Pita.   I love the texture and effortless vibe of this hair style.  Love it, too?  Check out how you can get this look at home.  Instructions below.



GET THE LOOK:



  • Part the hair to the side (a bit off center or how the hair naturally falls).
  • To prep the hair, add 1-2 pumps of PHYTO PHYTOKeratine Extreme Exceptional Cream to hair. Blow dry with the new BaBylissPRO® Rapido. Do not brush. 
  • Straighten hair with BaBylissPRO® Nano Titanium™ 1” Ultra-Thin Flatiron.
  • Then, using the BaBylissPRO® Nano Titanium™ 1” Spring Curling Iron, wrap hair once around the barrel, then pull the iron down to create a wave without volume. Rake the hair back and create a top section with partings on either side.
  • Combine two oils: PHYTO Huile Supreme Rich Smoothing Oil and PHYTO Huile Soyeuse Lightweight Hydrating Oil. Twist hair into a bun at the crown. Let the hair set for ten minutes then un-do bun. Tousle and run fingers through hair to create a piecey, un-coiffed look. 
  • Finish with PHYTO Professional Phytolaque Soie Light Hold Hairspray for shine and control.  

 View the fashion show below


Monday, September 28, 2015

Coffee Day = Free Coffee! September 29th

September 29th is COFFEE DAY!  Ok, so this may not be a "real" holiday.  But you know I will be celebrating.  And thankfully so will these businesses!  Check out where you can get free coffee on September 29th! 


Krispy Kreme: Free small coffee and Original Glazed donut.

Dunkin' Donuts: Free medium cup of hot or iced Dark Roast coffee.

Coffee Culture Cafe: Free small coffee between 6 am and 11 am

La Mars Donuts: Free 12-oz. coffee

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paid Leave in the U.S. - An Ongoing Issue

I've debated doing a post on this subject for a while now.  I love to be a place for you all to come for lighthearted fun, great products, easy recipes, and helpful tips; so I wanted to figure out a way to write this post without it sounding...well, negative.  Ya see, I recognize all of the good that comes with growing up in the United States. Yeah, our country may have its faults, but I am grateful for the luxuries we have, and often take for granted: Like not having to worry about access to clean water (its FREE!)  But, like any citizen, I do recognize our faults.  And, honestly, prioritizing our health seems to be something our country has struggled with for awhile.  Now I'm not talking about fitness or obesity specifically.

Image:SLU.EDU
I'm talking about our entire country's focus on monetary "success" at the cost of our health.  How many times have you been afraid to take a sick day when you legitimately needed it, because either your boss would be upset, or you would fall behind on your work, or you wouldn't be paid for the day?  How many times do people imply someone is lazy (or "milking the system") for taking time off to care for themselves when they are legitimately ill.  Even if it is "just" a virus or bad cold.  Somewhere along the way, the land of opportunity seemed to forget that your HEALTH is the most important priority.  Because, after all,  without your health, nothing else matters.  All of that success, all of that recognition, that job title- it all means nothing once your health has severely deteriorated.

And even if health was a given, the corporate rat race should not be the main priority.  Now, yes, it is important to work hard, do a great job, and earn a living. I'm not saying having ambition or working hard is wrong. Not at all.  But, it should not take priority over all else in life.  You should not be expected to live for your job and only your job.  And you should not be expected to put your job  before your family's needs. But many are.

 Having time to spend with your family is important.  Many of us parents know that, but, in the U.S., more and more companies are failing to recognize that.  And its only making things harder and more stressful for not only parents, but for the next generations we are raising.  The generations who may not be getting the much needed guidance from their parents because the parents are simply expected to dedicate most of their lives to a job in order to be able to put food on the table.

Now there are many, many issues that stem from this over prioritization of monetary success and expectation of work as the number one priority.  All are important.  But in this post I will be focusing on one of the issues we are most behind in as a developed country. Paid Leave.  Specifically paid leave for both women and men who have recently had a child.

Image: Popsugar
Its hard to understand exactly how big of a deal it is until you are in the situation yourself.  I was lucky enough to have been working for a company that not only supplemented some of my income during my leave, but also offered Aflac insurance at a discounted rate.  (Neither of which they legally have to do. ) So, although I wasn't getting my full pay, I was getting something.  But then I hear about women going back to work before the 6 week mark - some even going back after just one week- (for those who don't know,  most women are not fully healed before 6 weeks.  And most likely are still experiencing a lot of bleeding), my heart aches for them.  I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must be.  Not only is your body still a wreck, your hormones are crazy, and you haven't had much time to bond with this human being you just spent 9 months making, but now you have to place the child in daycare, with people you do not know.  Having no choice but to do that as a parent - at 6 weeks - is excruciating.  Throw in post postpartum depression, and forget it.  Not to mention the health effects it may have on the child (being exposed to a daycare setting with many kids, instead of being at home, when the immune system is still pretty fragile.)

For many of us in the U.S., its the norm.  So to think of someone getting paid for maternity or paternity leave seems like people asking for handouts. Or like a huge luxury that should not be expected.  But the truth is, its an investment.  An investment in the well being of not only the parents, but the children that will soon be the ones running this country.  The generation that will be in charge of not only their own future, but eventually ours as well.  Its a cost, but a cost that is well worth it.  Just think about it.  We invest in public education.  But until 1918, not every state required children to attend elementary school.  And in 1920 only 30% of American teens attended high school.  What's my point? This country didn't always provide free public education.  It wasn't always prioritized. There was a time when many in the U.S. didn't even see a need for high school. And now how many of us depend on it? How many of us feel it is an absolute necessity?

 For those who are still skeptical, take a look below at some of the facts.  You may be surprised.   I love our, country, I do.  But investing in its people's health can prevent a heck of a lot of issues, violence, and future spending. I'm confident it is possible. The U.S. is known for being a "superpower" after all.

The facts below are from Women's Health magazine.  Be sure to pick up the October issue for more information, personal stories, and ways to take action.

"In a 2013 survey of 38 countries, America ranked dead last both in paid leave and protected leave—behind smaller (and poorer) nations such as Latvia, South Korea, and Mexico. Many of those regions give new moms a full salary, some for up to a year."

"...Out of 183 countries, the U.S. is one of only three that promises no paid leave whatsoever (even third-world Sudan and the Congo offer something)."

" 40 percent of workers aren’t even covered by FMLA" (The unpaid leave the US does offer)

"It takes about four weeks for the uterus to shrink from the size of a watermelon to the size of an apple, and six for vaginal tears or C-section incisions to heal."

"...Up to 19 percent of all new mothers will suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), one study revealed that those who clock 40 or more hours when their infants are 12 weeks old are 22 percent more likely to be depressed than moms who work less"

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Toddler Years Survival Kit

The toddler years!  So many precious new adventures. They walk, they talk.... they throw tantrums.  Its all part of the growing up process, right? We all know these years can be... a little tough.  But with the right tools and a positive mindset, we can all get through them with more smiles than tears, more sweet moments, and more unforgettable silly experiences(that you can later use to embarrass them when the teenage years hit. ... Just kidding... well, we'll see.)  Check out the products listed below.  They have been seriously useful in my experience, they may just help you out as well!

The First Years Take and Toss Sippy Cups

Oh. My. Goodness.  Before finding these,  I was so sick of spending money on sippy cups that leaked, easily harvested mold, or were just a pain in the bootay to clean!  Then one day I noticed these on a shelf at my grocery store.  Four plastic cups with lids (and one awesome cap to prevent leaks) for under $4.  Best of all, if one gets so worn that I have to toss it or if we leave it at a friends house/doctors office/etc its no big deal!  I was afraid they would be flimsy but they hold up pretty well (and my future athlete has a habit of throwing his sippies.)  They have been my son's everyday cups for awhile now and I haven't had to throw one out yet. Definitely worth the $4 and leap (ok, maybe baby step) of faith.  They also come in an assortment of Disney Character Designs (which usually run $1 more than the plain design) which make them just that much more fun!

Stride Rite Made 2 Play

Best shoes ever!  Especially if you have an active child. ...And live in an area where mud seems to be prevalent. Ok, let me back up and explain why I love these shoes.  They are machine washable. Yep.  No more tediously wiping down incredibly filthy shoes (while thinking "What IS that?!")   Just throw them in the wash.  I also throw mine in the dryer on medium heat and they come out looking brand new.  These are now the ONLY shoes I buy for my son.  Not only is Stride Rite a trusted brand but they have an AWESOME rewards program.  I get discount coupons after every purchase, emails about sales and additional discounts, free shipping, and $10 credits for every $75 spent.  AND on top of that the Made 2 Play line saves me so much time and hassle.  And I never have to worry about my son getting "too dirty" while playing again.

Diaper Clutch

Simply put, this nifty little pouch has the ability to turn any purse into a diaper bag.  I love how the wipes are so neatly contained and easily accessible. Its also a good idea to just leave this cutie in the trunk of your car for those unforeseen diaper (or pull up) emergencies.








Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jacket

Image: Stearns
There's a reason you see almost every child at the beach or swimming pool wearing a Stearn's Puddle Jumper; they work.  They help to keep your child afloat in an upright position, they're adorable, and easy to put on and take off. My son loves wearing his and I feel much better around bodies of water (there's a lot of that in Florida) when he has it on.

 





Safari Ltd Toob Toys

Image: Safari Ltd
One word.  Bribes. Or "rewards" if you prefer.  But that's what I use these detailed little figures for.  My son likes the animal sets so- an animal for going on the potty.  Or an animal for a great doctor's visit.  It works out pretty well for us!








Universal Stroller Organizer By Ethan & Emma

And last, but no where near least - the Universal Stroller Organizer Ethan & Emma.  This is one of the most clever, useful baby/toddler/parenting products I've seen in a long time.  This organizer easily attaches to any stroller and provides a ton more storage space than you would get with the standard stroller storage.  It's an awesome product to have for days spent at Walt Disney World (stopping in the middle of a theme park to dig around in your bag for a water or passes.  Not. Cute.) and for quick trips to the store or long walks around the neighborhood.  My husband loves it because his belonging are no longer wobbling in shallow cup holders; threatening to fall to the ground.  Instead, they are safely and securely tucked in one of the several pouches/pockets while still being within reach. More pictures below!





Large zippered pouch underneath attaches to legs




Thursday, September 3, 2015

Easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe #PSL

Yes, I am one of those women.  One that jumps in excitement once the Fall season even gets close to approaching.  And one that is all about the PSL.  Pumpkin. Spice. Latte.  (To be fair, I get equally - if not more- excited about the Peppermint Mocha.) But, now that I am no longer working a regular 9-5 just steps away from Starbucks (I KNOW! It was awesome. And expensive.),  I no longer get the chance to just pop in for my specialty latte.  And even if I have the time, is it really worth trying to keep my active toddler away from the (very breakable) displays?   So, when I came across this recipe, I was beyond ecstatic. So much so that I went out, bought the ingredients and tried the recipe the very next day.  And you know it was delish because I wouldn't even have started this post if it wasn't.  So without further ado, here is the Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe.  (Made with real pumpkin!)




Ingredients

6 cups of strongly brewed coffee
6 cups of milk (I used skim but whole may give it a richer consistency)
1/2 cup of sugar
8 teaspoons of Vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
3 cinnamon sticks

Instructions

Combine coffee and milk in slow cooker

In a medium size bowl mix pumpkin, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla until completely combined

Pour pumpkin mixture into slow cooker

Add cinnamon sticks to slow cooker

Cook on high for 2 hours

And done! Easy, delicious, and it makes your house smell so inviting!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Little Tikes Lil' Ocean Explorers Dunk 'n Juggle Seal Review

Ready for some more playtime with the help of Little Tikes?  My son sure is.  He is loving the Lil' Ocean Explorers line.  The friendly faces of these animated ocean friends seem to draw him into a world of creativity and imagination. 


The Lil' Ocean Explorers Dunk 'n Juggle Seal is a more compact option than the 3 in 1 Adventure Course, but still plenty interactive.  This seal is delightfully sweet with large "puppy dog eyes" and an adorable seal bark.  My son was determined to make the seal and octopus friends; having the two animals converse over and over.  After he felt the octopus and seal had been adequately introduced, he took the seal aside to figure out this whole ball toss business.  Apparently, the tune played by the seal is so catchy, it inspires a lovable toddler happy dance (See video.) He has even started carrying this playful blue seal around the house and introducing him to any friends or family that visit our home.

Our entire experience with the Lil Ocean Explorers line can be summed up with smiles, giggles, dancing, and lots of fun. These seemingly insignificant moments are the memories us parents cherish for a lifetime; Making playtime one of the best times for us too.


For more information go to the Little Tikes Website or check out Little Tikes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Little Tikes Lil' Ocean Explorers 3 in 1 Adventure Course Review

Playtime! Playtime is the best time!  Actually...if you're a parent, you're probably thinking naptime and bedtime are the best times. But! This post isn't about us, moms and dads.  This one is for the kiddies. And we all know playtime ranks pretty high on their list.  So who better to sponsor playtime than one of the most well known and reliable brands of baby, toddler, and children's toys?  Little Tikes.

Little Tikes is responsible for the timeless Cozy Coupe, adorable Playhouses, and now the irresistible Lil' Ocean Explorers line. This line brings the ocean to your little one with cute sea animal friends, vibrant colors, and interactive play.

The 3 in 1 Adventure Course has so much going on.  My son, who is already over 2 years old, was captivated by the Adventure Course's large, charming Octopus.  He crawled through the course, exploring each feature along the way, and ultimately spent over 20 minutes (remember, he's two!) engaging in pretend play while using the spinners, clicker knobs, and, his favorite, the ball drop.

The adventure course is definitely a toy that will stick around your house for awhile.  Parents, you know what I'm talking about: You buy a toy, your child is into it for two seconds (ok, maybe a few weeks) and then you're either trying to store it away (hoping you will use it again someday,) or its being plopped into a donation bin.  The Lil' Ocean Explorers 3 in 1 Adventure Course is a toy your child will grow with, especially if you purchase at the starting recommended age of 6 months.  Like I said, my son is over two and still completely fascinated with this course. He's made friends with the octopus and it doesn't look like he's going to let his new leggy companion leave our home anytime soon.


For more information go to the Little Tikes Website or check out Little Tikes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Continue along our Little Tikes Lil' Ocean Explorers adventure with us here!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Back to School Beauty

Love it or hate it; it's time to go back to school!  Whether you're a high school student, college lady, or mama looking to keep it together during this busy season, I've got some beauty products that will help you look put together fast!  Because let's face it, we would all much rather spend that extra 15 minutes sleeping instead of standing in front of a mirror trying to make it look like we get our full 8 hours every night.  So lets get to it!

Go back to class (or school drop off) with your skin still glowing from your warm Summer adventures.  Even if you didn't visit a tropical island, you can still have that subtle, natural glow thanks to COVERGIRL's Outlast Stay Luminous Foundation.  Full coverage with a tad more moisture than the Outlast Stay Fabulous 3 in 1, this foundation seems to add just a touch of warmth (don't worry, no orange oompa loompa look here) to your skin tone while leaving a natural finish.

Liquid liner has never been my friend.  I struggle with it wide awake in the middle of the afternoon.  So it is most definitely my nemesis first thing in the morning when I'm rushing out the door.  Cue COVERGIRL's Intensify Me! Liquid Liner.  Easily apply a thin or thick line with the control of a pencil and look of liquid.  This liner is one of my new favorite beauty time savers.

Lashes.  I like 'em bold and a little dramatic.  COVERGIRL's Super Sizer Mascara accomplishes that without the mess or time it takes to apply layer after layer. This little brush packs a lot of punch and I like it!

And last, but certainly not least, hair.  Hit the back to school scene with healthy, shiny hair by using Clairol's Hair Food Root Cleansing Shampoo.  This shampoo has a yummy scent and leaves hair vibrant, clean, and moisturized.

Now look at you, beauty queen!  You are ready to head back into the daily Fall routine!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

2 Ingredient Crock Pot Italian Chicken Recipe

If you're following me on Pinterest, you already know I'm crazy about Crock Pot/slow cooker recipes.   I tend to collect the recipes and try them when I get the chance or when the perfect opportunity arises.

I often forget to share some of my favorites on here, but I'm trying to be better about that! This 2 ingredient (plus any extras you want) Italian Chicken is a big hit in my house. Its super simple and equally delicious.  Check it out!

2 Ingredient Crock Pot Italian Chicken


Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of Italian dressing
  • Frozen (or fresh) boneless skinless chicken tenderloins 
  • Any extras you may want (I usually throw in a bag of frozen broccoli.  This time I used fresh mushrooms)

Directions
Place tenderloins in slow cooker
Pour in just enough dressing to submerge chicken
Add extras to slow cooker
Pour the rest of the dressing into the slow cooker.  Make sure the extras are at least mostly covered
Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours.






Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Erin Condren Planner & 10 Erin Condren Alternatives (Plus PPP Promo Code!)

Planners.  This is a hobby now!  To be honest, I'm pretty new to the "designer planner" trend that has become quite popular recently.  Growing up, I always loved picking out a new planner at the beginning of the school year.  I'd head to the book store (shout out to Barnes and Noble,) look through the different planner options for far too long, and purchase my pretty, usually girly, planner.  Not only did I enjoy looking through it from time to time,  I also enjoyed writing in it and planning my days/weeks/months out.  It was my jam.  I eventually got into scrap-booking and kept that up until my son was born.  Then the only hobby I could really keep up with was writing.  And I'm not even sure that really counts since it doubles as my job.

This entire time, however, I thought I was alone in my love for planners.  It wasn't until several months ago, when a friend (that's you, Amanda!) introduced me to the Erin Condren Life Planner, that I found out there were others like me!  Or at least, others who enjoyed pretty planners like me.  Since then I have found more and more planner options.  And ya see, I like to know my options.  So I figured I'd share my findings with you all.  Lets start with the product that reignited my planner passion - The Erin Condren Life Planner.


(Click each planner heading to go to the planner's photo page)

Erin Condren - $50 - $80

So lets get everything out on the table with Erin Condren.  If you're apart of the planner/paper products community, you know there have been rumblings about this company for the past couple of months.   First, let me start out by saying I love my Erin Condren Life Planner.  It arrived quickly and perfectly. I didn't have any problems with the product.  I should also point out that I purchased my planner a few months before the launch, when it was on sale for $30.

As a general rule, I don't order products during their "launch" period.  I feel its akin to shopping at a store during its busiest hour, on its busiest day.  Its going to take you longer to get what you came for.  And, statistically speaking, since there are more customers buying at the time you're buying, there is a greater chance for error when it comes to your purchase.

This seems to be what happened to Erin Condren during this year's launch.  I'm guessing they received more orders than they expected.  The popularity of their brand and products has exploded this past year; so it is understandable that this company may be experiencing "growing pains."  This rush of orders and new customers may have caused this year's launch issues; Some customers' orders arrived with mistakes and others are still waiting for their orders to arrive.  Still others have had...less than stellar encounters with EC's customer service.  All around it seems to be an issue of too many orders, not enough staff.

The other complaint going around the planner community is a bit more serious than an incorrect order.  Recently, many Erin Condren customers (including myself and two of my friends) have experienced credit card fraud in seemingly chronological order from when they made purchases from ErinCondren.com. And while I do find it concerning that so many of us EC fans have had similar fraudulent charges made on our cards in a span of a few months,  I can not say for 100% certainty that Erin Condren is the source. Unfortunately, credit card fraud can happen anywhere nowadays; making it difficult to correlate fraud to a direct source.

 I reached out to Erin Condren's public relations to see what was happening on the EC side of the equation.  As it turns out, Erin Condren has been taking precautions in securing their system.  Their statement is below.

"At ErinCondren.com (“EC”), our customers' privacy and security is our top priority. We take any and all security concerns seriously and investigate each one individually. We continually revamp all of our systems and security processes to ensure state of the art security and monitoring based on the latest technology available. We use industry leading platforms, including Amazon Web Services (http://aws.amazon.com/) for website hosting, Authorize.net (http:// www.authorize.net/) and PayPal (https://www.paypal.com/) for payment processing, and Alert Logic (https://www.alertlogic.com/) for network and traffic monitoring. We periodically regenerate all client-side SSL certificates which employ the latest encryption algorithms.

We have performed multiple full-site security audits through external security experts including Trustwave (https://www.trustwave.com/) and StratumPoint (http://www.stratumpoint.com/). There were no issues found related to payment processing or customer data. We have also done thorough reviews of all internal and external payment processes and have found no system or process issues. Our process leverages our trusted payment gateway partner, Authorize.net, to process all credit card transactions. When credit card information is entered on our payments page it is passed directly to Authorize.net through SSL encryption standards, and remains encrypted at all times. At no time do we have direct access to payment information and we do not store ANY customer credit card information on our servers or on any EC databases.

We are committed to continuing to improve the customer experience and protecting customer's privacy."


So, my advice - Use a prepaid card when making purchases online.  Credit card fraud has become extremely prevalent and it seems hackers are finding more and more ways to get all of our information.

So now that we've got all of that out of the way - Lets talk about the PLANNER!

As I said before, I love my planner.  I love Erin Condren products in general.  If you like bright colors and a playful vibe, you'll like what Erin Condren products have to offer.

The Life Planner features:

A choice between 12 or 18 month calendar

A choice between a vertical or horizontal weekly layout

Many different cover design options including adding your name, personal text, or pictures

Interchangeable covers

Note pages (both lined and unlined)

Snap in "Party Pops" bookmark

Double Sided pocket folder 

Color Layouts

Plastic Planner Pouch

Perpetual Calendar (for important dates each month)

Sticker Sheets

Personalized extras (gift tags, post cards, etc)

The Erin Condren Life Planner is definitely the planner option that comes with most extras.  The planner is packed with fun touches.  They also offer "Metallic Planners"  which feature foil covers and coils, and teacher planners.  EC also sells a ton of planner extras, paper products, and even clothing and accessories.




Inkwell Press - $54

Though I have not received an Inkwell liveWELL planner to review (they are sold out until their upcoming launch in September - I will have a separate review for Inkwell after they launch) I decided to put them in this main section of the post (instead of down below) because they are one of the most popular Erin Condren alternatives.  I researched Inkwell and my favorite reviews of the products come from Simply by Serendipity and Operation Skinny Jeans.  This popular alternative features more muted color palettes as well as;

A new smaller size option of 7"x9"

Luxe 140gsm paper

Yearly and Monthly Goal Setting Sheets

Note pages (47 total)

A choice between a flex or hard cover

Double Sided Pocket Folder

Plastic bookmark/ruler

Attached elastic closure

Monthly vision boards

Mylar coated tabs

Full Color Layouts

Inkwell also sells Meal Planners and Fitness Planners.




Plum Paper Planner - $31 - 35 ( DISCOUNT CODE BELOW)

Plum Paper Planner (or PPP) is right up there with Inkwell in being a popular EC alternative.  I would say Inkwell and PPP are the two most well known EC alternatives right now.  PPP is a little less expensive than EC but a great planner for the price. PPP offers both bright and muted color covers and name/text personalization. Other product features include;

4 Weekly Spread Options to choose from.

Option 1: Days broken down by “Morning, Afternoon, and Evening”
Option 2: Days broken down hourly in 30 minute increments
Option 3: Days broken up with just lines in each column
Option 4: Horizontal spread with weekly notes


12 months regular or family planner


Begins in any month you choose
 

 Size: 7.5" x 9"
 

12 Monthly Laminated Tabs

Clear Frost Plastic Cover

Personalized Name on Cover

Week, Month, and Year-at-a-glance pages

2 Notes Pages Per Month
 

 Contacts Page
 

 Holidays
 

2 Sided Pocket Folder

The only thing I don't like about the PPP is the Frost Plastic Cover.  Its beautiful, but I am accident prone and apparently, rough on my products.  Purses, beauty products, jewelry... they don't stand a chance against me. You need someone to knock over your drink at the table?  I'm your girl. Seriously.

So knowing this about myself, I know the PPP cover stands no chance with me.  It would just need to be out on the table once while I'm eating dinner and boom! That will be the time I knock over an entire plate of food on that beauty.

However, if you're not a product destroyer - this may be a great option for you.  Especially if you're looking for a less expensive (but very similar to EC) planner.

GET 10% Off using Promo Code DIARIES10   - Good through  09/08/2015

 


Limelife $40- $55

Now Limelife (Use this link to get $10 off your order!) is not as well known as Inkwell and PPP, but it is gaining traction fast.  The cover options are absolutely beautiful and it is the only planner option I've found that also offers Interchangeable Covers like EC.  (EC covers do fit Limelife, the pages will just peak through the EC Cover's clear plastic edges.)  Limelife Planners also feature;

Custom, pre-printed, mylar coated (laminated) tabs

Monthly pages that coordinate with the cover design

Starting month of your choice


50 notes pages (on 25 sheets) 


Special dates (holidays) page


Goals page (double-sided)


Accounts/passwords page (double-sided)


4 pages of contacts (on 2 sheets)


Custom cover


Heavy-duty aluminum spiral binding


10 mil laminated front and back cover for extra durability


Each page is printed on high-quality paper


Weekly layout option of your choice. (6 options available)


I REALLY love the Limelife Planner.  Its insides match the gorgeous cover and the layout is incredibly crisp and clean.  I also love this company for its amazing customer service and its owners' involvement (they are members of the We Love Limelife Facebook group and post updates and answer questions often.)

 As part of my "planner research" for this post, I joined many planner groups and forums.  I definitely felt the most involvement with the Limelife group.  The owners even posted in the group asking for the members' opinions on  products they were thinking of creating/offering.  There is an overall, genuine feeling of "these owners CARE about their customers" with Limelife. And that's definitely a priceless attribute.

Limelife also offers a Young Adult Planner for $40.  A great video review of this planner is located here.

One of my favorite Limelife products (that I just may end up purchasing, myself) is their Happy Holidays Planner.  This planner is awesome for those who feel they don't need to use a planner year round but could use a little help keeping things straight during the Holiday chaos.



Affordable Alternatives - $20 and under

Posy Paper Planner - $20

I found this little treasure on the wonderful world of Etsy. A more travel friendly size, this planner still provides a ton of writing room with note pages included.  The Posy Paper Planner seems like it would be Limelife and PPP's baby with its clean layout, frosted cover and customization. Posy Paper is also an eco friendly company. Using wind generated electricity, all of Posy's paper products are made from 100% post-consumer waste using soy-based inks and biodegradable vegetable-based protective sleeves
.
Features include;

Customizable Cover

Inspiration quotes each week

Sturdy Pocket Folder

Directory

Note Pages

Yearly Calendar View 


Bloom Planner - $7.95 - $13.95

OMG.  This cute little planner.  If you like cute, feminine designs... you'll fall in love with this one.  Bloom Daily Planners definitely gives you a whole lotta bang for your buck.  There are a ton of design option, color layouts, and inspiration quotes throughout. Travel friendly, this 5.5"x8.25" planner also features;

18 month Planner

Monthly Tabs


2 Page Monthly Spreads followed by Spacious Weekly Views 


Pocket on Back Inside Cover 


 

Plastic Spiral Binding Allows your Planner to Lay Flat on your Desk 

End of Month Reflection Questions Integrated into the Calendar 


 2 Inspirational Quotes and 1 Goals/To Do List on each Monthly View 


Shaded Weekends, Special Icons on Select Holidays 


Supplemental Pages Including: 

1 - Personal Info Page
1 - Yearly Goals Page
1 - Reasons for a Party List
2 - Address Book Pages
3 - Class Scheduling Pages
3 - Things To Do Lists
5 - Notes Pages
1 - 2015 in Review/2016 Resolutions Spread 

2015 & 2016 Yearly Views Printed on Front and Back Inside Covers


This planner is perfect for anyone in school or anyone interested in seeing if the whole Planner hobby is right for them. Bloom also makes equally cute notebooks.


Blue Sky $6.99 - $16.99

If you want options and affordability, Blue Sky is the perfect planner company for you. Three (yes, three!) different planner sizes are available with varying designs. I like how, like Limelife, the insides of these Day Designers coordinate with the cover. The 8.5 x 11 planner is definitely the one most comparable to EC - but at a fraction of the cost. These planners feel pretty durable - especially given their price. Features include:

Laminated tabs

Vertical or Horizontal weekly layout

Holiday Date Page

Note pages

Variety of goal/journal pages

Gratitude sections

Wire binding



Other Options I Haven't Yet Reviewed

momAgenda
Ban.do
Lilly Pulitzer
Happy Planner


So which planner will I be using in 2016? The Limelife will be my main planner with event details, decorations, stickers, etc. Blue Sky's tiny Day Designer will be my travel buddy that stays in my purse with important appointment times and dates. I'm hoping this little guy will keep me from double booking myself.

The Bloom will be spending the school year with my cousin; who is embarking on her busy, yet always unforgettable senior year of high school. I contemplated keeping The Bloom Daily Planner for my self (its just so darn cute!) but I realized my cousin would be able to use more sections of the planner (such as the class schedule portion) and it may help keep her on track once the inevitable senior-itis kicks in.

I like to keep the Posy Paper Planner on display in my China Cabinet. Its just such a classy personalized touch that has already become a conversation piece.

And, knowing me, I will play with and admire the other planners - most likely using them intermittently when the mood strikes!

There are many, many more options out there. And I intend to review more for you all! But until then, happy planning!



Pssst: Don't worry, guys. I have a post coming up for you. I know some of you like to stay organized with a planner as well (and us ladies have kind of taken over the planner market) so I am putting together a post just for the men with planner options for you all!



Some of these products were provided free of charge. The opinions expressed in this post are STILL 100% my own.