Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sweet Salt Air - a book review

I’ve never done a true book review before, but when I received Sweet Salt Air (by Barbara Delinsky) from Chatterbox, it was one of the requirements of being a part of Chatterbox. Chatterbox which is linked to House Party, is pretty much a way for people to learn about new items. They send out items (in this case a book) based on applications (surveys) and if you receive the item they would like for you to review it on their site and/or on your blog and to share it on Social Media. #DelinskyChat

I’m always looking for new books, and hate paying full price for them, so I was very excited to get selected to receive the book (which sells for $18.98 on Amazon). Although, since I usually read books electronically on my Kindle or iPad it almost felt weird to be holding a hard cover book. I had to actually use a book mark to hold my place, so used to the Kindle just keeping track for me!

The summary from the author’s website says:

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in the Maine island house owned by Nicole’s family, but they have since grown apart. A successful travel writer, Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, lives in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian.

When Nicole returns to the island house to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte for both sentimental and practical reasons. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole would like her help interviewing locals for her book. Missing genuine connections in her life, Charlotte agrees.

Reuniting that June on Quinnipeague, they feel the same excitement they always did.  But ten years have changed them.  There are secrets, born of betrayal and fear, that could destroy their friendship for good.  And they aren’t alone on the island.  There are locals wary of betraying confidences, ill-timed visits from Nicole’s mother and step-daughter, and more food than any woman who loves island food could ever ask for.  Through it all, Nicole struggles to save her marriage, while Charlotte is drawn, night after night, to the far end of the island, where the herbs for which island food is renowned scent the ocean air.  Equal parts gourmet, homeopathic, and mystical, these herbs, so crucial to Nicole’s cookbook, are being safeguarded by a dangerous man and his dog.
As the days pass and secrets fall, the two women survive test after test.  But with the last one, a health crisis for Nicole’s husband, Charlotte has to decide whether to reveal a final secret that could either save his life – or destroy him.

It really took me a while to get into the book. Chatterbox asked for us to try to finish by June 4th and I thought there was no way this was going to happen. It took me at least getting one third into the book before I felt it really “got good”. However once I passed  what I thought was the “slow” beginning, I thought it got really good and even though it wasn’t at the “can’t put it down” level I love, I was definitely easily able to finish through it. It was a great ending (somewhat predictable, to an extent).

I don’t want to do a synopsis and spoil it for anyone who wants to read it but I think the part of the book that dragged was the beginning when there was  much detail about the island itself (in regards to the herbs and plants and how it would relate to the book that the ladies were writing). If I was into cooking and/or vegetation, I maybe would have enjoyed the beginning more, but it was completely outside of my interest.

In regards to the characters, I think the author did a great job of developing them and having them interact. I have some friends that I don’t talk to or see as often as I’d like, but when we do see each other, it’s like no time has passed. I feel like that is exactly how it was for Nicole and Charlotte. Granted, I’ve never gone 10 years with mostly only e-mail communications or what was described as a one-sided friendship, but for the reasons in the book, it made sense that their friendship drifted to those extremes. Nicole and Julian’s marriage and relationship was a huge part of the book. I didn’t like that Julian asked Nicole to hold on to such a secret for so many years. It’s one thing to ask your spouse to keep something a secret, but something as big as the secret as this was, in my opinion is was WRONG for him to not expect or want her to be able to talk about it with someone else (not necessarily the world, but maybe one trusted friend, although something like this, I would fight for my husband to tell his family). It was way too big of a burden to put on anyone, especially someone you love. Was I vague enough there to intrigue you to read what the secret was all about?

I really liked the character of Leo. I felt he was true to himself in so many ways and only when HE was ready, did he make the change needed for love. Although because I was expecting a happy ending, it was predictable that he’d eventually make the change and go after love, I just really liked how he didn’t jeopardize his character to do so.

I felt some of the other characters (Nicole’s Mom, Nicole’s Stepdaughter, some of the people interviewed for recipes that were mentioned frequently) weren’t really all that necessary to keep me engaged with the story line but they did fit in well I just didn’t draw enough interest in them to really “care”.  

Overall, I really enjoyed the book once I got into it. I would definitely recommend it to those who like plot twists and love stories. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything else by Barbara Delinsky, so I don’t know how this compares to her other stories but I’d definitely be interested in trying some out.

Disclosure: As stated above, I received this book complimentary in exchange for my review, no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Weekend Recap(s) - Enjoying the Florida Weather

Well looks like I’m sucking at blogging again, here is a quick update in pictures of our last week and a half/ two weekends!

I helped host my sister’s baby shower! She and Baby William were spoiled with love (and lots of presents!) I think she was really happy with how it turned out!

EM had her 18 month appointment and weighed 22 lb 10 oz and is 31.25 inches. She’s perfectly healthy and on track for everything developmentally.

We attempted to take EM's 18 month photos, but the photographer didn't like how they turned out so we're going to re-do them. She did however send me one that came out great!

EM continued with her swim lessons both weekends. She’s doing really well and only had one “bad” day so far where she cried (and it was super chilly out, so I don’t blame her!) Her one friend from day care is in her class, and the two girls are so cute high-fiving each other after each new skill they learn.

We’ve been spending a lot of time in pools the last two weekends and EM loves it! Gotta enjoy the Florida weather before the heat gets too much for this preggo lady!

We spent Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend at my parents to celebrate my mom’s birthday! All of EM’s cousins were there and despite a really bad hail storm, they enjoyed spending time together and my mom loved having all her grandkids over for the afternoon! Emily even made her Grandma a special present!

the hail that destroyed 10 panels of my parent's screen cage
EM creating Grandma's Birthday Present!

One of my best friends has a 3.5 month old, and we got to spend Monday with him! EM and Scottie (and AB too when she’s here) are going to spend a lot of time together and become the best of friends too!

We are on week 6 of G traveling all work-week. EM and I enjoy making silly videos and sending them to Daddy.  It hasn’t been too hard on me YET although I am not looking forward to how it’ll be with EM and a newborn or when I get REALLY pregnant, but we’ll play it by ear and see how things go.

Dateless in Dallas

Friday, May 23, 2014

Influenster #GoVoxBox Review

Disclosure: This complimentary box was received for review purposes. All opinions are my own and no compensation was received.

I received my second ever VoxBox a week or so ago. and it was rather large so I was excited to see what was in it! I have filled out several surveys for different VoxBoxes and hadn’t been selected to receive them, thought maybe I didn’t do enough with my first VoxBox, but turns out I just must not have been a good fit for those boxes because I was selected for this one! Sorry in advance for the crappy quality pictures, I was taking them at night with my iPhone and some of them just didn't come out too great. 

According to their website, “Influensteris a free-to-join community of trendsetters, social media masterminds, and educated consumers who live to give opinions of products and experiences. The Influenster site is a hub where members meet to learn about new products from our favorite brands as well as review the products they already use in their day-to-day lives! Influenster invites its most active members to participate in exclusive VoxBox programs where members receive complimentary products to test and review. In exchange, we ask our members to do what they already love to do: share their opinions with their friends & followers on social media!” So pretty much, you get a box of free stuff to check out and review! SCORE!

I received the Go VoxBox which was designed for my active lifestyle, and is described to fuel my health and wellness journey. The information card didn’t have all the items I received listed (which I felt was a little odd) but regardless, this is what I received:

PROFOOT Triad Orthotic ($4.87) – I have to wear orthotics in all my shoes due to my plantar fasciitis and whereas these ones aren’t specific to that cause (they DO make ones specific to PF) I did try them in my one pair of shoes and wore them to work and they were very comfortable. The information card listed them as $10.99 but their website directs you to Amazon where they are less than half the price so that is the price I used above. Very affordable!

PROFOOT Pedi-Rock ($6.97) – Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find this product on the PROFOOT website, maybe it’s new? I did find it on Amazon (of course, because everything is on Amazon!) also for cheaper than the information card. Where the heck did they get those prices? It’s not even like they sell them directly from the website, so that is bizaree to me. Anyways, back to the item, I’ve used pumice stones in the past, in fact I used to keep one in my shower and use it every day. This seems better than a typical pumice stone though because it’s soft and doesn’t seem like it would “break apart” like some of the pumice stones. It’s definitely going in my shower to be used to help keep my feet smooth. They get so beat up when I run (although, haven’t been doing that lately!)

Playtex Sport Fresh Balance Tampons ($5.49) – considering I’m pregnant, I have no need for these for quite a while, but they’ll go in my cabinet for when that time comes again. I’ve always been a fan of Playtex (although Kotex is my favorite brand) so I’m sure these are just as good as their other kinds.

Blue Diamond Fruit Flavored Almonds (blueberry) (~$1.01 for 1.5 oz sample) – I don’t know about fruit flavored almonds, they sound intriguing and I usually like trail mixes with dried fruit, so these might be a new favorite!

Muller Greek Corner Yogurt ($1.49) – Since they obviously couldn’t mail yogurt, they provided a coupon for a free cup. Now I just need to remember to buy it. I used to live on greek yogurt and Chobani was the brand I preferred, but I kind of over did it and got sick of it and haven’t eaten it really since. I’ll give this kind a shot and hopefully learn to love it again! It’s good for you too!

Aqua Spa Relax Bath Soak ($9.99) - I love baths and take them probably once or twice a month at least and love adding items like this to them. I will make it a point to take a bath very soon to try these out! And apparently this is foaming, which makes me excited too! Oh yea, and it’s supposed to help with signs of aging, so I suppose I should care about that too LOL

Next Step Shaker Cup ($5.99) + (3) Next Step Fit N Full Shakes (one packet of each: French Vanilla, Fresh Berries, Swiss Chocolate) ($1.34/each) - I’m a HUGE Shakeology fan (although haven’t been drinking it while I’m pregnant as my taste buds are out of whack) so it’s going to take a lot to compare to the taste of those, BUT I will give them a try once I’m not pregnant and things taste normal again. I do like the shaker cup (I always used a blender for my shakes) so if this blends nicely, I may have to use it instead!

Total Value:  ~$39.83 (would have been more if I used the prices on the info card, but I wanted to be more accurate, plus the Next Step items weren’t even listed)
Total Cost: FREE

It was very exciting to get picked to receive and review this box! All the items will get used and I'm really hoping those shakes are yummy!  and the fact that it was free is pretty freaking awesome!

Did you receive a VoxBox recently? What was in it? 

If you'd like to join Influenester, please let me know and I can send you an invite!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Citrus Lane May 2014 Review

We got our Citrus Lane box yesterday and it was a much bigger box than normal, which usually means it’s a good one!

For those of you that don't know, Citrus Lane  is a monthly subscription service where you get a box of goodies for your child that are geared towards their current age (and sometimes Mommy) each month delivered to your door. You never know what you are going to get, but overall I have not been disappointed. Plans start at $29/month but if you buy longer subscriptions you can get them as low as $19/month). Or currently (through 4/22/14) you can get them as low as $16.33 with their semi-annual sale discount!

Citrus Lane always includes a very nice information card with their boxes that lists the items and descriptions and some coupon codes! On the information card, they explained the items were to help get us in the spirit of summer, and with 90+ degree weather in FL, it’s already summer in my book!

This is what I got in my 18 Month Old, Baby Girl, May 2014 Box and the approximate retail value I found for each item from their specific website (or Amazon, since if you know me, I'm an Amazon Junkie and would most likely buy from there). Sometimes I have to do some math because the sizes aren’t quite the same, hence why they are approximate values.

Mayan Pyramid and Parthenon Sand Molds from Hape – I am so excited we got these because EM doesn’t have any sand toys yet and we’re heading to the beach on Friday. Plus she can use these on/with her water table and baby pool as well! ($7.70 and $5.63)

Hero from Goodbyn (in pink) – This is an awesome bento box for lunches and snacks. We usually eat out when we are out and about (and EM eats the school provided food at daycare so I don’t pack her a lunch) but this will come in handy when she’s older and/or when we go to the beach on Friday and/or if I ever decide to bring my lunch to work again (I swear I’m starting to once this baby is born). And it’s dishwasher safe, so that’s always a plus in my book. These aren’t available for sale in the US yet, but I see them being a huge hit! Since the only pricing I could find was in Australian dollars, this is completely estimated based on similar items by Goodbyn as the conversion from AUD to USD seemed a little high – Although I did see a few on eBay that were in the higher price range (~$12.99)

Chunky Wooden Puzzle from Melissa and Doug (in Sea Creatures) – EM loves puzzles. Unfortunately so do the dogs and of all her toys, they choose to chew her wooden puzzle pieces. Since we’ve experienced having to toss a puzzle or two, we now keep them in the play room (where the dogs are never left unattended) vs downstairs in the living room so the dogs will hopefully leave the pieces alone. This will nicely replace one of the recently tossed puzzles. ($9.99)

Fresh Feet Wipes for Kids from Jasmine Stevens (10 count) – I’m not sure why we need special wipes for feet, but I’m sure these will get used although can’t really see myself buying them when I always have regular wipes on hands that serve the same purpose and they are a heck of a lot cheaper! ($3.32)

Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Back to Nature   – These look yummy and are definitely coming to work to go in my snack drawer! (~$0.68)

Total Estimated Value of Box: ~$40.31 (not including shipping)
Total Cost of Box: $29.00 (free shipping) -- I only paid $10 though because of an awesome deal I found on Plum District

Overall Impression: LOVED this box! Everything in it is awesome (ok, maybe not the wipes) and you can’t beat the value even if I had paid full price! This is my last box at my discounted rate of $10, but my next box will start my annual subscription which I got during their semi-annual sale which brought my boxes down to $16.33 which is an awesome price as well!

If you are interested in signing up for Citrus Lane, use code “SAVEHALF” and you  will get 50% off your first box (new customers only) or current special for new and existing customer take 20% off any subscription planwith code “MEMORIALDAY20” (expires 5/27/14).

Remember, you can cancel at any time, so your first box would only be $19, not too shabby!

Did you get Citrus Lane this month? What'd you get and for how old of a child?

Disclosure: This post contains referral links!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 2014 Birchbox


My May Birchbox came last Friday! My friend mentioned last week that it seemed like it was taking a long time to for them to ship and so I checked my account and saw they gave me 100 Birchbox Points for “Sorry: Delayed Shipping” – so I guess that means they had shipping issues this month. If they sent an e-mail out about it, I totally missed it, and I’m usually good with my e-mail so I’m assuming they didn’t notify us about it. Regardless though, it only came a few days later than normal.  For those of you that don't now, Birchbox is a monthly subscription (cancel/pause any time) where you get a monthly box, delivered to your front door, of 4-6 high-end beauty and lifestyle samples from top brands. The best part, it's only $10/month! (and free shipping!)

Birchbox is always delivered in a nice (usually pink, but this month it was yelow) box and within the packaging; there is always a nice little box with all the goodies. The theme this month was "Rainy Days" and talked about embracing the gloomy rainy days as we wait for May flowers! Birchbox always includes a great information card which explains each item and the value for the full size (I post the value for the sample size received - which is sometimes a full size item). This month they also included an information card about sun skincare and a coupon for Kate Spade's store Saturday. Here is what I got this month:

CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 (~ $0.94 for 2 g sample) – Seems like sunscreens are popular products in beauty boxes this month, which makes sense since summer is coming! This one is supposed to be lightweight and non-greasy, I do wish they would have given a bigger sample of it though, this is maybe enough for ONE use for me!

Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner in Black (~ $12. for .03 oz sample) – I received the Urban Decay eyeliner in my Ipsy Bag last month, which I love, hope this one is equally as fabulous! I don’t wear eyeliner often, but when I do, I get a ton of compliments, so maybe I’ll start wearing it more.

Noya Lip Gloss (in Summertime Peach) (~ $8.00 for 1.5 mL sample)  – This vanilla scented gloss is supposed to moisturize and add shine without being gooey (which is my biggest complaint on some glosses and why I usually stick to chap sticks.

Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer  (~ $0.93 for .17 oz sample), Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Shampoo (~ $0.27 for .3 oz sample), and Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Conditioner (~ $0.33 for .3 oz sample) - I have never heard of a “pre-wash primer” for hair but I will be trying it out after my next coloring (which I am in desperate need of) - to go along with the Primer they sent Shampoo and Conditioner, which is nice so you can get a feel of how the 3 products interact together, however one use is not a good enough sample to really see how it’ll work long term and the sample size is so tiny that I'm not sure it'll even be enough for my whole head!

Smart Parts All –in-One Gummy Vitamins for Adults   - I already take a daily prenatal multi-vitamin and as much as gummies are fun (and probably tasty) I don’t really want to have to take 6 a day, no thanks! This was  added in as a Lifestyle Extra and according to Birchbox, Lifestyle Extras do not count towards the value of the box but estimated value is $0.33 for the 2 gummy sample. 

Total Estimated Value of Box: ~$22.47 (not including shipping or the lifestyle extra))
Total Cost of Box: $10.00 (Free Shipping)

Overall Impression: Meh. The sample were super tiny (other than the eyeliner), I would have rather gotten one less item and made the samples a little bigger. This wasn't my favorite box that's for sure, but the eyeliner value more than makes up for the price paid so it's still worth it.

If you are interested in signing up for Birchbox, use my referral link. If you review each product monthly you also get credit money in the Birchbox shop. If you review each product each month (assuming there are 5) that equals $5 so the box itself pretty much costs $5 which is a great deal!

My box was "Birchbox 42" - if you click here and then change the last number you can see the different variations of boxes that were sent out, looks like there were 47 different variations this month.

Which box did you get this month? Did you like it?

Disclosure: This post contains referral links! 

And Baby # 2 is.....

Well after the baby not cooperating (in terms of seeing gender) for most of the appointment, the ultra sound tech was able to finally get a look and with about 90% confidence, she believes our little one is a girl! I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a little disappointed, because I was, knowing we only want two children and wouldn’t be getting our boy had me a little bummed out (especially b/c I had convinced myself it was a boy). But, it didn’t take long for that disappointment to turn into pure joy, I went to the store and bought stuff for our gender reveal and her first outfit and was super excited to share the news. Everyone keeps asking if G was disappointed but he really wasn’t. As much as he wanted a boy, he has been saying from the beginning that he thought I was carrying a girl so he wasn’t expecting the tech to tell us anything differently. Hopefully one of the girls will end up being a tomboy so he can have his little sports star! (I was a huge tomboy, so I’m hoping myself one of them is as well!)

We didn’t want to do a big gender reveal party (we didn’t do a big one with EM either) but we did want to do something a little creative. So we invited just our parents and grandmothers over and had a pull-string piñata. We pulled names out of a hat and took turns pulling a string to see which one would be the one to open the piñata and spill the contents. I was worried that not everyone would get a chance (we didn’t know which string would release the goods) but everyone got at least one chance and my mom was the one that pulled the string that let it all go. Inside was pink confetti, “it’s a girl” mints, and ping pong balls we had made with our little one’s name on them (yes, we had them made with both our boy and girl names in advance since the reveal was only hours after we found out ourselves and no, we aren’t sharing our boy name). I also found “name” confetti at the party store with her name which I picked up last minute and added to the piñata.

This was the picture we posted on Facebook and sent in text messages to reveal the gender and the name.

Almost every female I know who has a sister, is super close with their sister and that makes me excited for AB and EM. I hope they are just as close as my sister and I are! And since I didn’t get rid of any of EM’s things, we have a TON of clothes for her. We really only need nursery furniture and bedding (which we would have needed regardless of gender) and a double stroller (but a friend is letting me borrow hers so that is already covered). We will need additional car seats once AB outgrows the carrier car seat since EM will still be in hers since they go up to like 60lbs, but that is many, many months away. Overall, we are VERY excited and can’t wait for her arrival in October!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ipsy "Fresh Picks" May 2014 Glam Bag Review

I looked at my ipsy account earleir this week to see what was going to be in my ipsy Glam Bag, and unlike last month, I was super excited for it to come! For those of you that don't know, ipsy is a monthly subscription service where or only $10/month (cancel at anytime!) you get a Glam Bag (make up bag) filled with 4-5 beauty products curated by Michelle Phan! You get ipsyPoints for reviewing your items (and for doing other things within the site) that can be used toward purchases of additional items. 

First things first, ipsy comes in a pretty envelope and inside is of course the Glam Bag stuffed with goodies.  The theme this month was "Fresh Picks". Their Glam Room for this month says "It's a month of crisp air, vibrant flowers, and fresh Glam Bag products! Getting your beauty to bloom all month long will be as easy as lying in the warm grass and basking in the sunshine."

 ipsy doesn't send out information cards (Birchbox does, which I definitely prefer). however, an information card isn't really necessary since all items can be found on their website and all have coupon codes for additional purchases if you want to buy some more. It looks like there were a possibility of 26 items (although multiple variations/shades of some items) and each subscriber got some combination of 5 of them depending on their preferences from their ipsy beauty quiz match. Now on to my goodies!

Eau Thermale Avène Thermal Spring Water for Sensitive Skin ($9.00 for 1.76 oz / 50 mL) - to be honest I had NO idea what this was for and the only items in the bag I wasn't really looking forward to. According to ipsyit says "Its unique composition is proven to soothe inflammation, itching, redness, general sensitivity and post-medical and aesthetic procedure irritation as it softens, protects and purifies the skin. Avène Thermal Spring Water is recommended by dermatologists worldwide. Spray onto the skin in a fine mist. May leave on for 2 to 3 minutes, and then gently pat dry. Ideal for use after cleansing, shaving, exercise, sun, to soothe diaper rash and set make-up to help keep it fresher looking longer." So there ya go, I guess it has lots of uses and this is a full size sample (well it comes in multiple sizes, this being one of them)

Pur~lisse pur~moist hydra balance moisturizer (~$16.18 for .5 oz / 15 mL sample) - I LOVE this stuff. I received it in a previous Glam Bag and was sad when it ran out. It's a nice, light moisturizer. The only thing that would make it better is it if had SPF in it (which they DO make one with SPF in it, it just wasn't what I received today). Oh yea, and if it was cheaper, at $55 for a full size bottle, I just can't do it, but I do LOVE it! 

Hang Ten Classic Sport Sunscreen in  SPF 50 (~$3.82 for 1 oz / 30 mL sample)  - I can always use sunscreen and this stuff appears to be made by Coola, which I've received samples of before and loved (although very expensive so I've never purchased it on my own). This is a MUCH more reasonably priced substitute. Although Hang Ten reminds me of a brand of clothing from my tween years, anyone else remember that? It even had the same "feet" symbol! and for the record, the word "tween" didn't exist when I was one either. 

Pacifica Mineral Eyeshadow Duo in Duo # 1 Celestial & Opal (~$3.92 for .07 oz sample) - I love these colors although I have so many similar shades in my drawer, they'll still get used eventually! 

Nailtini Straight Up Color Nail Lacquer in Bloody Mary ($13.00 for .5 oz / 15 mL ) - Out of the 4 colors ipsy sent out, this is by far the most "me" - I love reds and pinks (and to think I used to make fun of my mom for wearing reds and pinks when I was younger, sorry Mom!) I probably already have a color just like this  but will try out this one to see if it lasts longer! For those who care, this color is considered a "creme" with a glossy finish. This was a full size sample! 

Total Estimated Value: $45.92 (not including the bag itself or any shipping) 
Total Price Paid: $10 (free shipping)

Overall Impression: I say this almost every month, but I don’t know HOW they do it with the value! $45 vlaue for $10 and two full size items this month, score! and my FAVORITE moisturizer which is worth more than $10 itself, double score!

If you are interested in signing up for ipsy, use my referral link (and I thank you in advance for some ipsyPoints to use for future add on items!)

Did you get ipsy this month? Did you like it? What'd you get?

Disclosure: This post contains referral links!