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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

2 Ingredient Cookies

There it was.  That overly ripe banana that I knew no one was going to touch.  "What am I going to do with you?" I didn't want to just throw it out.  And I wasn't in a smoothie mood.  So what did I do?  Search the internet, of course! I came across this idea from The Burlap Bag.  And I love it.


2 Ingredient (plus toppings) Cookies

Ingredients
2 Ripe Bananas
1 Cup of Oats
Toppings (chocolate chips, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, etc.)

(I used what I had in the house.  Maple and brown sugar oats and raisins)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
Mix (I used a fork to smash the bananas while mixing) bananas and oats in bowl until well mixed.
Add toppings and mix
Spoon batter onto GREASED or lined cookie sheet
Cook for 15 minutes
And you're done!