Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review - Vera Bradley Coloring Books (Round 2)

Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review. I only accept copies of books for review that look like something I would normally buy or check out at library.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Remember a couple of months ago I received two Vera Bradley coloring books to review?  Well since I'm a huge Vera Bradley fan and I loved the books, I was sent two more for review.  What I love about Vera Bradley doing coloring books is that they have tons of patterns to choose from and are able to group together into different books.  And they used not just the external patterns you see when the bags are being carried but the patterns used on the inside of the bags!  Here are the two books I received this time, "Seize the Day" and "Enjoy the Journey".

The inside of "Seize the Day" - this is my favorite of all the coloring books I've seen not only because it's got one of my favorite patterns on the cover (I have a tote in this pattern), but the patterns inside are more graphic than the other books.  Love!

Inside "Enjoy the Journey".

Again, I am super impressed by these books, the details and layouts are really nice. In addition to the four I've reviewed there are more books, see here.  I would totally recommend them if you are a Vera Bradley fan or if you know someone who is, they would be a great gift idea!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review - Greenblender Smoothie Box

I decided to try out GreenBlender a couple of months ago because it sounded like a great solution to our ongoing breakfast problem.  The endless issue of my 9 year old not ever wanting to eat in the mornings, complaining about every option.  She loves smoothies so I thought "bingo!" this sounded like a great, easy option.  GreenBlender is a subscription service that delivers 5 smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients to make 10 smoothies each week.

Here's what the box looked like when I opened it.  Really nicely packaged and all the ingredients were well labeled and super fresh!

They include straws too!

Here are all the ingredients we got for the week.

The dry ingredients too!

Here's the first one we tried all blended up.

Y'all, I wanted to love this so much, but sadly I did not.  The chopped up cashews and other additions that are "chunkier" when blended just made me gag.  I hate the texture.  I think this is for someone who is trying to be way healthier than we are.  I mean, we wanted to be healthier, but it was too much of a leap from our usual smoothies we made with frozen fruit, yogurt and juice.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Now this would be perfect for people who are totally on a clean diet and are looking for some new smoothie recipes and ideas.  I LOVE the idea and the packaging and ingredients were high quality so I would recommend trying it if you are into clean eating!

Meanwhile, the search continues for breakfast options other than cereal...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Review - Vera Bradley Coloring Books

Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review. I only accept copies of books for review that look like something I would normally buy or check out at library.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was super excited to be approached to review these books!  Not only am I a huge Vera Bradley fan, but honestly this is a logical fit for the brand.  They have a goldmine of patterns to choose from which are like familiar friends and you can either color them like they made them or color them your own way.  I received two books, "Paisley Patterns" and "Floral Patterns".  Aren't they pretty?

Now these aren't just coloring books, each has a great full color section in the beginning about color, supplies you might need, techniques you might want to use and a very handy gallery of patterns in their original colorways (for reference).  It's really well done and helpful.  It makes the book a little more special in my opinion.

 As you can see the pages are detailed and some include inspiring quotes.  In the very back are pretty gift cards and tags you can color then pop out to use.  A nice extra!

Overall, I was super impressed by these books, the details and layouts are really nice. These aren't the only ones they have, see more here.  I would totally recommend them if you are a Vera Bradley fan or if you know someone who is, they would be a great gift idea!  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review - "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See (#1 - 2017)

This takes place in nineteenth century China in a remote county.  The main character is a woman named Lily.  It's the story of her life.  When she is seven she is paired with another girl (Snow Flower) in another village, this will be a emotional match to last a lifetime.  It covers their friendship and their lives through Lily's eyes.  It's a great story, but let's be honest, it's depressing.  Life for women during that time in China was not good.  Food binding is described (awful), arranged marriages are negotiated (cringe) and the reiteration that girls/women aren't worth much is non-stop.  Hey, that was how it was.  But it was still depressing for me (especially Snow Flower's life).  Anyway, I love how Lisa See tells a story and this one is worth your time.

My other reviews of Lisa See books:

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - First of all I want to let you know that this book has a sequel.  I say this so that if you read it, you won't get to the end and be all like "Hey, wait.  Lisa don't leave me hanging like this!"  Because the end certainly sets things up nicely for a sequel.  That being said this is a sweeping novel about two sisters and their lives beginning in 1937 Shanghai and following them through some harrowing, gut wrenching, challenging times as they eventually make their way and establish themselves in Los Angeles finishing in 1957.  Not easy, breezy reading that's for sure, there's some deep stuff in here.  That being said I finished the book in less than a week.  I really enjoyed the historical perspective and I'm getting ready to dig into the sequel.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - The sequel to Shanghai Girls.  A sobering Mad Men.  When you read this, compare the it to the show Mad Men and you actually will shake your head at how completely insane that feels that they take place in the same period of time in history.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review - Hello Fresh

Though I do make and plan almost all our meals at home (we usually get takeout only once a week), sometimes I get in a rut and just want some new ideas as well as trying new ingredients that I might not use/think about.  That's where a meal delivery box comes in handy.  So I decided to try out Hello Fresh when a coupon crossed my path (see bottom of this post for a coupon code for you to use if interested).  The box arrives the cold stuff is on the bottom with cold packs and the rest of the ingredients are in individual boxes for each recipe along with recipe cards. I just put it all in the refrigerator.

Here's what was in my first box:
Italian Ciabatta Burgers with Sweet-and-Tangy Salad

A peek inside the box once opened.

Everything all spread out

The finished product!  This was soooo good, in fact I've made it again.

The next recipe was Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Potato and Zucchini Hash.  This one was pretty good, I'm not a huge pork tenderloin fan, but the hash was so good.

From another box a chicken, green bean and rice meal that was delicious!

If you are interested in trying out Hello Fresh for yourself, use this link and my code BZ7S52 to get $40 off your first box!  It's a great deal!

This post wasn't sponsored or anything, I just wanted to share my honest experience and impression.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review - Columbia SkinCare Probiotics Complex and Concentrate

Disclosure: I received these for review via Massive Sway Group. I only accept products for review that look like something I would normally buy or be interested in.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Seems like probiotics are everywhere right now.  What are probiotics?  Probiotics, also known as "good bacteria", found in yogurt and other indigestibles, have been keeping people healthier longer for years.  I jumped at the chance to review Columbia SkinCare's Probiotic Complex and Concentrate.  Why?  Because I take probiotics every day and that once-a-day pill has completely changed my gut/bloat/upset tummy.  And since I swear by them internally, I was curious about what they could do externally.  These are topical-specific probiotics, clinically proven effective and safe, these products enhance and fortify the skin's ability to do what it does naturally: renew and rejuvenate itself.  I've been using both morning and night for a month now.

The Probiotic Concentrate is the top and the Probitotic Complex is on the bottom.

First up the Probiotic Concentrate - $190:

This contains a unique blend of probiotcs, plant stem cells and peptides which intensify and enhance the skin's renewal process.  I applied a small amount to my skin and it is very light and absorbs quickly.

Followed by the Probiotic Complex - $165:

This is the world's first probiotic formulation created specifically for topical use.  It's formulation effectively enhances the most important biological feature in aging skin" it's ability to renew itself.  This cream is so silky and luxurious.  Like the Concentrate, it absorbs quickly and seems to leave sort of a semi-matte finish without feeling tight or uncomfortable.

One thing the company cautioned was that if you are using medications or treatments with retinoids there might be a slight interaction, usually a tiny blemish or pimple.  This is actually the effort of the probiotics to rid the cells of the impurities in the retinal products which often result in the drying of the skin.  I will say this happened to me after 2 days of use.  Nothing awful or major but a couple of breakouts.  They went away quickly.

Now for my thoughts after a month.  First of all there is not fragrance, but it does smell like probiotics.  If you've ever smelled one of the pills then you know what I'm talking about.  It's not unpleasant or bad, it's just not flowery, etc, it's very earthy I guess.  Not a big deal.  I honestly didn't have too many expectations, but I will say I have noticed a difference in the texture of my skin.  I didn't take pictures because honestly I'm not sure you could tell from them, but I really noticed how much better my skin looked overall.  Not plumper, not "no more wrinkles" but just overall better.  The texture was nicer, it looked very hydrated, I was pleasantly surprised to be honest.

Now these are a bit pricey, yes.  But they do seem to work and deliver, so (especially if you have issues with retinol products) these might be a good alternative.   

Here is a special offer from Columbia SkinCare just for my readers.  Purchase either probiotic product above and receive a FREE moisturizing cream, a $38 value.  Use code: ProbioticGift at checkout.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What I'm Loving Right Now - YouTube Channels

Do you watch any YouTube channels?  Is that only for teens and preteens (feels like it, right)?  Am I late to the game because I'm over 40?  So many questions.  Well, since we cut the cable cord and only do Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, I've discovered this whole new world of YouTube.  I became familiar with YouTube and the idea of content creation via my 8 year old who loves watching the people who open and review toys.  But I really had no idea about just how many people were creating content that would be interesting to me in any way.  And I had no idea about vlogs, I mean, I knew about them, but didn't think they would be interesting at all.  I was wrong, I'm addicted to them at the moment.  So here are the channels/people that I'm loving now.

Kristina Braly (formerly Pretty Shiny Sparkly) - she was my gateway YouTuber, she lead me down the rabbit hole and she doesn't even know it.  She's beauty, luxury, etc and I love her vlogs.

Lydia Elise Millen - I LOVE HER!  There I said it.  She's just so real and beautiful and lovely and sweet.  She's my #1 favorite right now, she covers beauty, luxury and her vlogs are so fun.  Her fiance is great too, love his channel as well.

The Gold Project - Nothing slick and chic here, just useful information about organizing, packing, planning and other "boring" stuff.  And honestly, the boring stuff is the stuff that can make your life easy or hard. So I'm always looking for ideas to make that stuff a lot easier.  Kristin is like a really good friend.  I totally have copied some of her photo organizing ideas.  And she's planning a gluten free series starting soon (her gluten free video is worth watching if interested).

How Jen Does It - So many good cleaning and meal tips on this channel.  She may have the cleanest house in the USA, seriously.  She's a wealth of information.  Her recipes and meal hauls/planning are great.

Allana Davison - She's adorable, funny and I love her makeup tutorials.  Follow her on Snapchat, she's hilarious, I mean THE best!

TJ's Ways - TJ is so darn real and I love that and I love her spirit.  Follow along with the KonMari method of decluttering her whole house.  No joke, she did it from top to bottom and talks through it.  She's so positive and inspiring in those videos, it's worth the journey.  She's slowed down posting a bit but her channel is worth keeping an eye on.

Iam CHOUQUETTE - Claire is a newish YouTuber and one of Lydia's friends.  She's all about luxury, beauty and just life stuff.  She's funny and honest.  I like how she's kind of scattered and rambles.

And last but not least, Nicole Guerriero - I mean I think everyone knows her beauty tutorials, etc.  But her vlogs are my favorite part of her channel. She's funny and I love her cats.

Do you follow any of these ladies?  Do you have any "must watch" YouTubers?  If so let me know, I'm always looking for more channels.  Have a great week!
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