December 29, 2013

Sinful Colors SinfulShine Polish is Amazing!

Sinful Colors introduced SinfulShine nail polish colors a while ago, but I only noticed them before Christmas. Even with a higher price, the SinfulShine colors are still way cheaper than most of their competitors. I was with my daughter at Walgreens, shopping for blush for me and a kid-friendly lipstick for her, when we saw the very enticing Sinful Colors display. I'm sure you aren't surprised to hear we went home with three new polish colors.

Penny picked a purple and a pink, which I'll talk about another time. Today, I really want to shout from the rooftops about the SinfulShine collection.

I bought VIP #1231, which is a lovely, rich pink that is very work-appropriate, feminine, and fun, but not super cutsie or immature. I quite like it, though I admit I normally wear reds for work and less traditional colors (black, green yellow, etc) for weekends and vacation.

It's not the shade, or the bottle, or the brush, that's awesome about SinfulShine. It's really, truly the staying power. For less than $3, I have a polish that doesn't look like crap after a couple of days. The photo above was taken 48 hours after applying the polish. In that time, I did 7 loads of laundry, cleaned 3 toilets, the kitchen sink and stove, baked 4 loaves of bread, and washed my hands a bunch of times. Any other polish that I've done at home would have been half worn off with that type of abuse, especially since I didn't use a base or top coat.

It was 8 days before I decided to take off the old polish and reapply, but I could have done some touchups instead and it would have looked fine. Seriously, 8 days!

Now, I'm not super picky about perfect nails, so I'm not saying they had a "just polished" look after 8 days, but unless you were staring at my hands, you wouldn't have noticed any chips or fading.

I've been telling my husband how I want to dump all my old polish and buy up every shade of SinfulShine. He's probably tired of hearing about nail polish now, hehe.

The real test will be on my daughter's nails. She can go to school with fresh polish and come home with almost none left. Working in the dirt does major damage to a fresh coat of nail color. I may have to get a SinfulShine purple shade to convince her to try "mommy's polish."

If you want to see more shades, there's a great post from Mommy Needs a Manicure Stat with photos of 12 of the 32 colors on someone else's nails.

Want to know more about Sinful Colors? Check out their Twitter feed and their Facebook page for the latest updates!

Related Posts:
Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection
You Wanted to Know: Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

December 20, 2013

Smart-Fab Review & Sample Roll Giveaway!

I was contacted recently by Smart-Fab representatives who offered to send me a sample pack for review and 3 sample rolls to offer as a giveaway to one lucky winner. This will be the first giveaway on this blog, so I'm super excited to kick things off!

First, I want to say that I hadn't heard of Smart-Fab before, so I checked out their website to better understand the product and how it's used before agreeing to do the review. Since a good friend of mine is a public school teacher and Smart-Fab looks perfect for classroom decoration, I decided this review would be best done as a team, with my friend, Andrea, trying it out too.

Smart-Fab is a non-woven fabric that is great for art projects and for classroom use. It can be easily cut, glued, and painted on, sewn, stitched, and stapled.

Andrea and I spent an evening playing with the Smart-Fab color swatch book, which let us see all 15 assorted colors and get a sense of the texture. We were both impressed how bold and bright the colors are (there are a few more subtle shades to pick from) and the unique, lightweight texture of Smart-Fab.

Smart-Fab offers 45-pack sheets in 2 sizes and 3 color variations: 15 assorted colors, black, and white. You can also buy it by the roll in 3 sizes and 15 colors. Rolls are great for bulletin board backgrounds, table covers, and large banners. The smaller sheets are perfect for smaller projects, like flowers, bugs, and backgrounds for the alphabet and numbers.

I downloaded a few project ideas from the Smart-Fab website and their Pinterest page and saw that Smart-Fab can be painted, drawn on, stapled, glued (use fabric glue), and taped. Below, you can see where I used a Sharpie to sketch the outline of a butterfly, and using paint dappers, with blue paint on a brown sheet of Smart-Fab. You can definitely draw and paint on this stuff, but be sure you have something underneath when using paint because it will seep through.

For the first project, I made a small butterfly with two shades of red for the wings and yellow for the body. I really appreciated how detailed the sample project ideas are. Definitely visit the Smart-Fab website if you are looking for creative ways to use this product!

Unlike paper, Smart-Fab was quite easy to sew. I'm quite good with a machine, but not the best at hand sewing, yet did just fine with my butterfly project.

You could easily make a bunch of cute flowers and butterflies and tack them to your classroom bulletin boards for seasonal decor, or plan a craft project with the kids to decorate their play area or bedroom!

You can see above, Andrea's having fun cutting Smart-Fab pieces to make a flower. She's probably not thrilled I posted this, but I wanted to show how vibrant the Smart-Fab colors are.

Check out this neat flower Andrea made! It wasn't difficult at all and reminds me of those paper flower parasols I used to make as a kid. With large rolls of Smart-Fab, you could easily make huge flowers, or use the smaller sheets to make cute little flowers to use as a boutonniere.

Smart-Fab gave me three sample rolls to give away to one lucky blog reader. Each roll is 24" x 10'. The winner will get dark blue, dark purple, and grass green.

This giveaway will run until January 6, 2014. Please feel free to spread the word about this giveaway, especially to anyone with an interest in crafting, art projects, and definitely teachers!

This giveaway is open to US residents over 18. A winner will be randomly chosen by Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the announcement email or a new winner will be announced. The giveaway prize is sponsored by Smart-Fab.

For more information about Smart-Fab, check out their Facebook page. They often have product giveaways!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC compliance: While I did receive product samples at no charge for review purposes, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. This event is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

December 12, 2013

Dr. Teal's Foaming Bath Review

When I am desperate for a relaxing evening, I run a hot bubble bath, light some candles, and turn on a scented wax warmer. It's been a while since I've bought bubble bath, so when I saw Dr. Teal's Foaming Bath in the store, I grabbed it. It was a good price at less than $6 and the bottle looked appealing.


Dr. Teal's promises to "transform an ordinary bath into a relaxing spa." After a 20 minute soak, I felt relaxed and calm and my skin was soft and gently scented. I love that a little goes a long way. Just a capful loaded my tub with long lasting foam.

Check out the Dr. Teal's website for deals and special offers on their products.

December 6, 2013

Claritin-D Update

About a month ago, I wrote about how helpful Claritin-D is for cold symptoms. Since then, I've even overheard my husband bragging about how it helped his cold and kept him going all day.

Today I came down with flu-like symptoms. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but I've got a fever, lots of aches and pains, a major headache, earache, and sinus pressure. I'm pretty sure without Claritin-D, I wouldn't have gotten through my workday today. When the Claritin-D wore off, it was clear I need a long night of sleep because I'm hurting bad.

We'll be keeping Claritin-D around for colds this season. It's good stuff and for me, works way better than Sudafed.

December 2, 2013

You Wanted to Know: Does Garnier Olia Contain Gluten?

I am not familiar with gluten allergies and sensitivities, but since there are people looking to find out if gluten is in a hair dye product, it must be fairly serious. People are asking if Garnier Olia is a gluten-free product.

The answer is yes. Olia doesn't contain gluten.

Just to be sure, I asked Garnier's customer service. Garnier (a part of L'Oreal) was very clear in saying there isn't gluten and that if ever there is an ingredient question, be sure to check the product label. If the product is very small, ingredients may be found on the in-store display. To ensure there is consistency and make life easier for customers, Garnier uses FDA-recognized industry standard ingredient names.

So there you have it. Olia is gluten-free.

December 1, 2013

Holiday Gift Ideas: Crafting and Sewing

With the holiday shopping season already in full swing, I thought I'd recommend a few books for your favorite sewing fan. I consider myself an intermediate sewer, able to make kids clothes and craft projects without a pattern, and adult clothing from altered commercial patterns. Before I buy a sewing book, I either browse the pages and projects at Barnes and Noble, or I'll borrow a book from the library and try out a project before committing to buying anything.

These are the books that made the cut and ended up in my collection:

Fabric Reference
More Fabric Savvy: A Quick Resource Guide to Selecting and Sewing Fabric by Sandra Betzina
I rely on this thorough resource all the time when selecting fabric for projects and making sure I'm using the right needle, foot, and stitch length. I can't say enough about how valuable this book has been. There are some obscure fabrics included, but overall, definitely a great reference book.

Beginner and Intermediate Sewing Projects
Stitch Savvy: 25 Skill-Building Projects to Take Your Sewing Technique to the Next Level by Deborah Moebes
I like this book for the project ideas, particularly the crafts. Be warned there are some downsides to Moebes' book (check out the Amazon reviews for info on that), but an experienced sewer can figure it all out and make some cute projects.

Projects for Your Fabric Stash
Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Projects Using Cottons, Knits, Voiles, Corduroy, Fleece, Flannel, Home Dec, Oilcloth, Wool, and Beyond by Hoskins and Yaker is my go-to book for sewing and crafting ideas. I've made so many projects from this book and every one has looked amazing and wowed people. I love using up my fabric stash for handmade gifts and such. This is my absolute favorite sewing book.

Home Decor
For the person who wants to make stuff for the home, like slipcovers and curtains, The Home-Sewn Home: 50 Step-by-Step Projects for Curtains, Shades, Pillows, Cushions, and More by Arbuthnott and Abbott is outstanding and thorough.

One of the best books on making cute, yet simple dresses is Built by Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide to Making a Girl's Best Frock by Wendy Mullin, Eviana Hartman, Beci Orpin and Dana Vacarelli. Definitely important to have experience making clothes from a pattern before trying this book since the authors don't really hand-hold. I'd say an intermediate sewer would enjoy it, but an advanced sewer might not find it useful.

Patterns and Clothing Design
For people who have more interest in the the technique and drafting side of sewing clothes, How to Design Your Own Clothes and Make Your Own Patterns by Claudia Ein is an older reference (1975) that explains quite a bit about drafting and altering patterns. The slopers are super old-school stylistically, but that's all fixable once you know the basics. I found my copy at a library book sale for a dollar and it's one of the more used books in my collection now.

Kids Clothing
Cute Clothes for Kids by Rob Merrett is a book I referred to quite a bit when my daughter was younger. I now rely on it for ideas when I'm making clothing gifts for friends' babies and toddlers. The clothes are fairly easy to make but look lovely. I'd say the results look homemade, but not cheap.

Fashion Drawing
My husband got me Fashion Drawing for Dummies a while back when I was struggling to sketch my ideas. I went to art school, but never got the hang of life drawing and didn't get an opportunity to take a fashion class. I learned quite a bit about proportion and drawing style from this book. My drawing ability isn't any better but I am more confident about my ideas when I put them to paper.

November 30, 2013

My Weekend Makeup Routine

I have a full-time job, consulting work, a four-year-old, a dog, two cats, run a small condo association, volunteer at school and with the local hospital, cook many of our meals from scratch, and somewhere in there, I sleep, eat, and relax. Sometimes, I look as tired as I feel. When I'm feeling really worn out, a touch of makeup can help me visualize myself more energized. If I look awake in the mirror, then I feel more awake.

My husband's a bit sick with a nasty cold, my daughter has been up at night with a cough, and I'm just tired. Last night, I got little sleep and at 9am, still had that "just woke up" look.

My remedy is what I call my "weekend makeup routine." For winter, I try to keep my weekend routine simple, while combatting the tired look.

Weekend Daytime Makeup Routine

1. About 30 minutes after moisturizing, I apply Revlon ColorStay Makeup (B) in Ivory around my eyes, the top part of my cheeks, and my nose. My sister introduced me to ColorStay foundation when she visited this summer and I still rely on it when I need full coverage.

2. Then I apply Aveda Inner Light Mineral Tinted Moisturizer (C) in Sweet Tea. I use this wherever I didn't apply ColorStay foundation and then blend them so I have lightness where needed around the eye area, but a more natural tone everywhere else.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again. I really enjoy putting on the Aveda tinted moisturizer. It feels soooo good on my skin! The broad-spectrum UV protection helps me feel more confident when I'm on the go.

3. I use a discontinued American Beauty rose powder blush (F) in Mocha Bloom that I got from the Look Good Feel Great program through the American Cancer Society. When I was going through chemo, it helped me look fresh and rosy even though I was really pale and sallow. It's still my favorite blush, though it's probably time to find a replacement before I can't find mine anymore.

When it's time to buy a new blush, I plan to buy American Beauty Blush Perfect Cheek Color in Decadent Pink. With 18 shades and a natural finish, there's bound to be one you love!

4. My weekend daytime look is relaxed, so I use eyeshadow to define my eyes rather than harsh eyeliner, and finish it with a coat of brown-black mascara.

Revlon CustomEyes Shadow & Liner (E) is serious stuff. You only need a little color to have a big, lasting impact. I use the Party Pops set, which doesn't appear to be a current palette. Revlon offers a similar set, Rich Temptations, which includes four eyeshadows and a liner. You can mix and match colors to create a subtle or more dramatic look. It's easy to go from day to night with CustomEyes!

For day, I prefer Boots No7 Exceptional Definition Mascara (G). The wand works brilliantly and my lashes look thick and defined.

5. To finish off the look, I use a light coat of E.L.F. Plumping Lip Glaze in Oasis #2901 and brush a little Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Goldpearl Plum 610 for a more rich appearance.

November 28, 2013

John Frieda Home Color

I had every intention of touching up my color with what I used last time, Clairol Natural Instincts. My hair had faded a bit and there was some root growth so I went to the store and darn it if I wasn't sucked into John Frieda's fancy hair color box.

I figured it wouldn't hurt to try John Frieda. It's pricey, but the John Frieda brand is reputable and I've had good experiences with a few of their products.

There were two similar dark browns on the shelf. One was dark chocolate and the other dark espresso. I'd have assumed espresso would be darker than chocolate based on name and the front of the box, but looking at the before and after images, the espresso appeared lighter. So I picked the dark chocolate brown (4BG), which seemed to be the warmer of the two.

John Frieda Precision Foam Hair Colour comes in a choice of 20 shades. The store only had a few, so I wasn't aware of the dark natural brown and deep brown-black shades. I may have chosen the natural brown if it was there.

Once home, I opened the box and checked out the contents. The bottle was different from others I'd used, so I took time to read the instructions.


First, I poured the developer into the applicator bottle. I noticed the smell wasn't so bad for a permanent color. No headaches!

I'm glad I read the instructions because John Frieda foam color is not meant to be shaken. Instead, I gently turned the bottle up and down five times. That's it. Easy!

I first attempted to pump the foam out of the bottle. When the pump wouldn't move, I tried twisting (it doesn't twist) and gave up and went back to the instructions. I had missed the really clear instruction to squeeze the bottle to dispense color foam. Totally not intuitive. Even knowing this, I forgot and tried pumping it a few times by instinct during the coloring process.

I had no idea if one bottle would be enough. Following instructions, I rubbed foam on the top part of the hair more than the ends, but I wondered if I'd have dry patches. Would it be enough product for my super thick hair?

It was enough! I didn't get full saturation until near the end of the bottle, but I did cover everything well. I mixed it in well, per instructions, and waited about 25 minutes before rinsing it out.

Rinsing was super easy. My hair didn't feel nasty. It didn't feel like it needed a deep conditioner actually. It was kind of amazing how normal my hair felt while rinsing. I used the supplied conditioner and let my hair dry. It was not too frizzy, not damaged, and I didn't have a lot of shedding while rinsing. Kind of nice for a permanent color. I'm pleased.

The color is very warm, with reddish highlights you can see in the sun. I was lamenting it wasn't a teeny bit darker, but my husband said if it was any darker, it'd look black. He likes it the way it is. It's definitely as the box says, dark chocolate brown. It's like a melted Hershey bar.

Here's a closeup of the after:

I do wish John Frieda hair color wasn't quite so expensive, but I do feel like I got more for my money in quality. My hair doesn't feel damaged and doesn't smell like chemicals. I'm going to see how long it lasts before fading before I decide to make the switch though.

It's been a month and my hair still looks awesome. It isn't nearly as red, but the brown hasn't faded at all. I actually quite like it and because it's so close to my natural color, I can't see any root growth! It's as if I have naturally perfect hair with no roots. Loving it!

Related Posts:

November 25, 2013

You Wanted to Know: Garnier Olia Shades

Perhaps you arrived when looking for information on Garnier Olia hair color shades. If so, I've made a handle list of all 24 shades below!

I've grouped them into blonde, brown, black, and red categories, but if you visit Garnier's website to see the swatches, you'll find the browns and blacks groups differently - light brown, and brown & black. I'm not sure why they separated the light browns and combined the remaining browns with the set of black shades. Perhaps their medium browns are very dark, or the light brown shades are only for naturally lighter hair? I just don't have an answer for that.

  • 9.5.1 - Lightest Cool Blonde
  • 9.3 - Light Golden Blonde
  • 9.0 - Light Blonde
  • 8.31 - Medium Golden Blonde
  • 8.13 - Champagne Blonde
  • 8.0 - Medium Blonde
  • 7.0 - Dark Blonde
  • 6.35 - Light Chestnut Brown
  • 6.3 - Light Golden Brown
  • 6.1 - Light Ash Brown
  • 6.0 - Light Brown
  • 5.3 - Medium Golden Brown
  • 5.0 - Medium Brown
  • 4.3 - Dark Golden Brown
  • 4.15 - Dark Soft Mahogany
  • 4.0 - Dark Brown
  • 3.0 - Darkest Brown
  • 2.0 - Soft Black
  • 1.0 - Black
  • 6.60 - Light Intense Auburn
  • 6.43 - Light Natural Auburn
  • 5.5 - Medium Mahogany
  • 4.60 - Dark Intense Auburn
  • 3.16 - Darkest Violet
Be sure to visit the Olia color shades page for more details.

November 24, 2013

Samantha's Favorite Home-Baked Bread

I bake bread a lot. This isn't a cooking blog, so you won't see many posts about baking. However, a friend asked for my recipe for a buttermilk white bread and it seemed like a good idea to just put it up here so she can see the pictures and not have to write down the recipe elsewhere.

So for Claire and for everyone who is interested, this is the recipe I'll be tweaking and tweaking until it's time to have my entry ready for the Olmsted County Fair. I'm not sure if it's our humidity, elevation, temperature, or the calibration of my oven, but this bread will come out different for everyone. Just adjust the flour amount and ratios, and total bake time, until you get a result you love.


  • 2 tablespoons of yeast (not the bread machine kind of yeast. I prefer buying a jar of yeast that I keep in the fridge, but you can just use three packets if you don't bake often.
  • 1/2 cup warm water - temp it to be between 87-108 degrees if you can. Do this enough and you'll just know it's right by feeling it with your hand.
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (or make some with regular milk and lemon juice)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt

You CAN use 8 cups all-purpose instead of choice to use three flours. This is just what has worked best in my kitchen. Cake flour is lighter and more delicate (lower in gluten) and bread flour is going to be more chewy because of the higher protein level. The mixture I use has given me just the right amount of rise, texture, and chew. Strong enough for a sandwich, but tender for a light snack.

The Process
1. Pour the water into your mixer bowl and put the yeast in. Lightly stir for just a moment and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

2. Add all remaining ingredients with the flour and salt last.

3. Put on your dough hook and run on lowest setting for a minute to help it mix up. You can use the beater hook for this step, but I prefer to clean just one hook after baking.

4. Step up the speed a notch and let the dough mix and knead for 10-15 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the pin in your mixer doesn't pop out and to be sure your mixer can handle this much heavy dough. A KitchenAid mixer can handle at least this and probably more, but other models may not have the motor strength.

5. Spray cooking spray in a big plastic or ceramic bowl (I sometimes use a paper towel and wipe olive oil around the bowl). Make a ball from the dough and put it in the bowl. Either roll the ball around the oil to coat, or brush oil lightly on the ball itself. Cover lightly and let sit in a warm place for an hour.

6. Punch down the dough (really work out all the gasses) and make two balls. Cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.

7. Take one ball and roll it into a nice long log. I don't spend a lot of effort here. Just roll as best you can with your hands and stretch it out. If you've ever made bagels, you can use a similar technique of thwaping the dough log around your hand to lengthen it.

8. Make a pan loaf. I make a signature swirl by curling each end of the log around itself like a very tight curly "s" shape. You can also do a stacked loaf with 3/4 of the ball shaped into a traditional pan loaf. Slice down the middle, brush with water and then add the remaining 1/4 of the dough either braided or rolled. This dough is easy to work with, so have fun. Just be sure to tuck loose ends and seal your seams.

I don't usually grease my pans, but you can if you want. I use heavier metal pans. Loaves tend to stick to glass more, but if you like a lighter crust, glass is a good choice.

9. Poke holes or make a small slice, brush with water, lightly cover and let rise again for 30-60 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a roasting pan on the bottom shelf and the other shelf stays in the middle of the oven. Set aside 10-14 ice cubes when it's time to bake.

11. Put your loaves in the oven on a baking sheet. Dump the ice in the roasting pan below them and close the oven door.

12. Bake. I bake for 40 minutes and check color. If needed, go another 10-15 minutes. More time means a thicker crust. Too little time means a doughy bread. Err on the side of overbaked.

13. Wait. Just really really wait. Put your finished loaves on a cooling rack (out of the pans) and wait at least an hour before slicing. Trust me.

That's it!

November 23, 2013

You Wanted to Know: Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

Once a month, I review my analytics to see what people are looking for when they come to my blog. Lately, the data has been fairly consistent, but I noticed a surge in people looking for info on the Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection.

I posted about the latest Sinful Colors collection recently, but there are other great writeups as well. Some reviewers have done an excellent job showing how the colors look with different basecoats. If you want to get the scoop on the Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 collection, be sure to check out these posts:

Samantha Reviews' Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection

Horrendous Color's Dupe Alert! Sinful Colors and OPI

Nouveau Cheap's Spotted: Sinful Colors Holiday 2013

Be Happy and Buy Polish's Sinful Colors Holiday Glitters

Cool Polish's Sinful Colors Holiday 2013 Collection Tinsel N'ice

Lacq Lustre's Sinful Colors Glitz & Glittered Collection

Also check out Nouveau Cheap's HOT deal alert: New shipment of Sinful Colors coming to Big Lots next week. Big Lots may have some excellent deals ($1 each!!) on a variety of Sinful Colors.

Happy polishing!

November 22, 2013

I Won a Bottle of Beautiful AM Moisturizer!

Recently, Two Moms, a Little Time, and a Keyboard hosted a giveaway for Trusted Health Products' Beautiful AM moisturizer and I was lucky enough to win a bottle!

It didn't take long for my little bottle to arrive, very cute with my name printed on the label.

I was definitely surprised at the tiny bottle at first, but then thought maybe it's just a sample size for the giveaway. After reading the instructions and trying it the first time, I realized it's exactly the right size. It's so concentrated, that you use a very tiny amount (a few drops). This little bottle lasts a very long time.

I'm really picky about skincare ingredients, so I looked at the label and found it's made of all botanical oils, including orange, lemon, olive, avocado, and almond. I'm familiar with almond and olive oil for skincare, but I had to do some research on the rest of the oils.

Avocado and olive oils have antioxident properties and are great for dry skin. Olive oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Almond oil is an emollient (good).

If you have sensitive skin, the orange and lemon oils in Beautiful AM might cause irritation. Orange oil is primarily a fragrance and lemon oil, while smelling great, can be problematic for sensitive skin. You might also want to be careful of sun exposure after using lemon oil on your skin. I don't know how much of each is in the bottle, so it's possible the citrus oil concentration is very low compared to the nourishing anti-oxident oils.

The good thing with this combination is the olive and almond oils kind of act as a "carrier oil" so that essentially balances out the others, which may not be good for skin when used in high concentration on their own. You may want to stay away from lemon oil containing skincare products while pregnant or nursing.

I have been using Beautiful AM for about a week, just a little bit on my cheeks mostly. So far, no breakouts or irritation and I'm taking a break from other daytime moisturizers while I try this one out. So far, so good!

My hands are my real problem in the winter, though. Not my face. I have severe dry skin that cracks and bleeds if left untreated. I'm testing out Beautiful AM on my right hand and using my usual moisturizer on my left hand to see if I notice a benefit from the oils in Beautiful AM.

It's hard to see in photos, but my knuckles and the space between my fingers is very red and flaking a bit.

If you want to try Beautiful AM yourself, you can try it for free (just pay $6.95 shipping & handling)! It's definitely worth a shot, especially since you're saving nearly $25 by getting your bottle for free.

November 19, 2013

Martha Stewart No-Iron Clothing Labels are a Dream Come True

More than a year ago, I came across Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery No-Iron Clothing Labels while shopping for office supplies at Staples. They were a bit pricey for one pack of labels, but I bought them anyway because I have a terrible time writing in my daughter's clothes and don't have any interest in hand sewing labels on everything.

The labels I primarily use are fairly small, which means I can fit them on a clothing tag or inside the hem of a shirt, under the tongue of shoes, or inside mittens quite easily. They're smooth, white plastic-feeling, but flexible rounded rectangles. My ink of choice is a black Sharpie, but you could get away with a ball-point pen.

To attach the label, you just smooth it on the fabric (or along the side of the sole of a shoe) and you're done. That's it. No ironing and no sewing!

Though I've never tried, the product instructions indicate they won't work on denim, so be sure to stick them to the tag inside jeans, not the denim itself.

I never paid attention to how long they'd last until looking more information up online for this post. Turns out, they are supposed to last about 20 washes, but so far I haven't had one fail and it's been a long time. Granted, my daughter grows into a new size every 9-12 months, but you can be sure I wash her clothes all the time. She's a preschooler and everything gets dirty.

Well worn but still legible!

The other day, I was grabbing more labels for winter gear and found a larger size that I plastered on my daughter's favorite penguin hat, hoping she'd be more likely to come home with it.

Unfortunately, while the labels work, it doesn't guarantee the clothes will actually come home with the right kid, lol. I've since picked up a new hat, but we'll keep it for family use only, not for school.

Even though my daughter's name is clearly inside her lunch box and embroidered on the front, I know that since the lunches are often stored sideways in the fridge, it makes sense to have her name and other information on the side of the lunch box. To make life easier for her teachers, I added one of the larger Martha Stewart labels on the side and now they can clearly see whose box is whose.

November 18, 2013

Mary Kay Skincare and the New Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush

Independent Mary Kay consultant, Kate Thiel, is today’s guest contributor, sharing product recommendations and a special promotion!

Like many consultants, Kate not only sells Mary Kay products, but also is a devoted MK user as well. Her personal skincare regimen, and one she feels is one of the best available, is a series of TimeWise products.

Kate Thiel's Mary Kay Skincare Regimen

  1. 3-in-1 Cleanser: Cleanse, exfoliate, and freshen in one step.
  2. Age-Fighting Moisturizer: Hydrates up to 10 hours, and accelerates the skin's natural renewal process.
  3. Day Solution Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 35: Help the collagen in your skin, giving it more support, like “control-top panty hose” for your face and essential sunscreen to fight the aging process.
  4. Night Solution: Vitamins and peptides for skin renewal.
  5. Volu-Firm Eye Renewal Cream or Firming Eye Cream: Fight fine lines and wrinkles, while improving skin firmness and brightening the eye area.
  6. Luminous-Wear Foundation: An important final step of your skincare routine each morning, foundation acts as a barrier against dirt, germs, and other nasty stuff while evening out skin tone.

Since your natural skin exfoliation process slows down in your 30s, you might find your skin appears dull and lifeless. Moisture is lost, leaving you with dry skin and a decrease in your skin’s natural protection barrier. In your 40s, skin damage becomes more visible. You’ll see more freckles and age spots, uneven skin, and increased trouble with dryness.

Kate Thiel’s Five Essential Skincare Steps
There are five essential daily skincare steps: cleansing, moisturizing, toning, exfoliating, and protecting. Mary Kay makes this easy by offering a selection of TimeWise and Repair products, all which have been tested together across product lines. This means you can mix and match based on your skin needs and preferences. By staying within one brand family, you can be more confident that your favorite products will work well together.

The Mary Kay TimeWise Miracle Set helps prevent skin from drooping and inhibits the formation of wrinkles.

Mary Kay TimeWise Miracle Set
The TimeWise Repair set will help improve your skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, while tightening skin.

Mary Kay TimeWise Repair Set
The Repair set is intended for women over 50, but many women prefer to use Repair products well before turning 50. Kate chooses to use the Repair Volu-Firm Eye Renewal Cream with the Miracle set because it feels smooth and refreshing.

Special Promotion for Blog Readers
Kate is so enthusiastic about Mary Kay’s new ultrasonic Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush, which you can use with a cleanser to help remove makeup and leave skin fresh and clean. Even women with sensitive skin will find the Skinvigorate Cleansing Brush a valuable part of their skincare routine. Kate notes that similar products retail for around $100, while the Mary Kay 2-speed brush will retail for $50.

For blog readers, Kate has offered anyone interested in her pre-sale price of just $40 if you order by November 24. This brush is great as a “me” splurge or order one as a holiday gift!

When buying from Mary Kay, you can trust that if you aren’t satisfied with their products, they offer a fantastic return policy - return or exchange anytime.

If you’d like to know more, or want to pre-order the new Skinvigorate brush for only $40, you can reach Kate directly by email, or by phone at 585-354-7774. You can also check out Kate's Mary Kay website for information about any of the products listed above.

Be sure to check out Kate's Facebook page for previews, deals, and Mary Kay cosmetic tips!

November 14, 2013

Pottery Barn Kids Lunch Bags: Cute, but Annoying

When my daughter transitioned to "big kid school" this fall, I bought her a personalized lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids. This was our first time having to send lunch to school, so I wanted her to enjoy carrying the bag and also have it be practical. She's just turning 4, so it was important that she be able to open the bag herself and carry it from the car to the lunch cart without assistance.

Pottery Barn Kids offers a slew of fabric patterns and four bag styles. Penny picked the MacKenzie Chocolate Zebra classic lunch bag, which is a fairly standard size and shape lunch box. We paid $7 to have her name embroidered on the bag, which I figured was worth the price to ensure her box isn't mixed up with another kid's lunch. I let Penny pick the font and thread color and ordered online.

pottery barn kids classic lunch bag
Pottery Barn Kids Classic Lunch Bag
Our classic lunch bag has now been used every weekday for nearly three months, but it looks more like a year old. It's still functional in that Penny can carry it in to school, open and close it herself, and feels confident and happy that she picked the style and design of her personalized bag. However there are some aspects to the bag I wish I'd have known before ordering.

If your child spills something, it's a pain to clean up, especially by the time the bag gets home from school and the food and guck has been sitting there, staining and mucking up the "prettiness"of the bag. Below, you can see near the bottom of the bag and on the side where something spilled, perhaps soup, and I haven't been able to get the stain out.

There are a lot of nooks and crannies for food to hide. If your kid is a bit messy or very young, you'll be cleaning out all sorts of little spaces, finding crumbs, liquids, and stuck on stuff that again, by the end of a school day, is practically glued in there. This is much more cleanable than the fabric outer shell since it's a plastic-like material, but it still has to be done regularly or you'll have a stinky lunch bag. 

You can see below how fabric interior trim is now stained. I can't get that out either.

A better look at that stained trim area:

I do like how the shiny grey area is fast to clean up. I can wipe that with a sponge, no problem. But this bag is not really suitable for little ones who are still learning to serve themselves and make lots of messes. Honestly, I don't mind the messes themselves, because really kids should be messy sometimes, but I don't like that I can't easily clean those messes and that the lunch bag looks WAY older than it actually is.

If you do choose this lunch bag, you'll be happy to know that the size and shape is standard enough that you don't have to order Pottery Barn Kids lunch inserts. I picked up some LunchBlox Kids Flat Lunch Box Food Containers from Toys R Us and they work super well (at least until my daughter forgets to close the lids after she's done eating). I run them through the dishwasher every night and they've held their shape and the lids still fit perfectly.

If you send lunch to school with your preschool or pre-k child, consider buying a really inexpensive bag (or two) that can be washed easily. Don't worry about pretty or fancy custom styles. It's not worth the cleanup hassle.

I do suggest this lunch bag for older children and teens. They're cute and fun and for kids who aren't spilling Spaghettios everywhere, they are a great personalizable choice.

2015 UPDATE: I've since caved and tossed this bag in the wash a couple times. So far, it's held up and does look a lot better after a good cleaning. Food continues to get stuck in the crevices, but we're going on more than a year and it still works.

November 13, 2013

BzzAgent Campaign: Claritin-D for the Cold Season

I'm kicking off a new BzzAgent campaign, trying Claritin-D for the cold season! Earlier in the year, my daughter tried Children's Claritin to help with seasonal allergies, but I've only intermittently tried Claritin as an adult. A quick search through our stash of household meds led to the discovery of an old box of Claritin RediTabs, but I couldn't tell you the last time I tried them.

The timing for this campaign is perfect since I came down with a terrible cold this morning. My nose hurts and is runny, I've got horrible post-nasal drip, which means my throat is something awful, I'm sneezing, and I feel like I'm underwater. I spent 3am-5am coughing and trying to sleep sitting up so I wouldn't choke on my nose goo. That's a pretty picture.

Part of my BzzAgent kit included a coupon for me to try Claritin-D, which I can get behind the pharmacy counter at my local Target or Walmart. Based on how I'm feeling, I'll be at the store first thing tomorrow. I've got a ton of work to do this week, so I need to feel better fast.

I've got a small stack of $3 off coupons to share with family and friends, so if you want one and I still have some, I'm happy to pop one in the mail so you can try Claritin-D too. My only request is that if you take a coupon, you let me know when you've tried it and how well it worked.

If you haven't tried Claritin-D before, here's some info:

You can buy 12- or 24-hour tablets and the boxes come in several sizes. So if you only need a few, that's okay, because there's a 5-count box available. If you're dealing with chronic allergies, the 30-count box may be a better choice.

You'll want to ask for Claritin-D at the pharmacy. It's not a prescription, but it's not available on the shelves. The rules are different in Mississippi and Oregon for some reason. I don't know if it's that you can't get Claritin-D, or perhaps that it's not behind the pharmacy counter.

Claritin-D is specifically for ages 12 and older. There's another product that's best for kids, but you should always ask your child's pediatrician before trying a new medication.

You don't need to have allergies to try Claritin. Claritin-D works for cold symptoms too!

If you want to know more, check out Claritin's Facebook page, which has helpful tips and info on their products. You can also visit the Claritin website to see all their products and get coupons.

It's the next day and I was so blah that my husband went out and got the Claritin for me. I took it around 2pm and within 30 minutes, thought I'd just fall asleep at my desk. I'm not sure if it's me being sick or the product being not quite as "non-drowsy" as I'd like, but I felt groggy for three hours. However, I feel a LOT better now. Still sick but not sleepy and not congested. Just a bit clogged in my ears, but not nose or eyes. I can live with that.

I can't take it again until 2am, so I may just wait until tomorrow night in case it's another groggy inducing experience.

It's three days later and umm.... WOW! This stuff really works. I learned it's not what makes me sleepy, instead it's really like having too much coffee. That means no taking it at night (I learned the hard way), but when I take Claritin-D, most of my cold symptoms go away and I feel amazing. I forgot to take it early this morning and felt like the usual cold-crud, but an hour after taking a dose, I was back to almost normal. There's no cure for the cold, but this is a real solution for the symptoms!

November 12, 2013

Making a Homemade Facial Scrub

I love exfoliating my skin. Since my skin is so dry, at the end of the week, I can really see the dullness of this layer of dead skin that makes me feel very blah. A good scrub leaves my skin renewed and fresh, giving me energy and more confidence. My favorite scrubs have always been when I'm at the salon having a professional facial. Since I only splurge on a facial once or twice a year, I've had to make do at home.

Usually I go with commercial scrubs and exfoliants, particularly from Olay and St. Ives, but every once and a while, I remember how easy it is to make a scrub at home from ingredients in my kitchen. Why I don't do this all the time, I do not know!

It's important to remember that everyone's skin is unique. What works for me or someone else may not work for your skin. I have very dry skin that really doesn't slough off without a good weekly scrub, and occasional hormonal acne, so my homemade scrub is designed to help with bacteria, scrub well, and rehydrate.

Samantha's Super Dry Skin Scrub
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • olive oil

First, mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of buttermilk until you have a texture like school paste (below).

Finish by adding enough olive oil to get a thick, scrub-like consistency (below). You can try other oils, like safflower, which is very calming.

Gently rub the scrub around the skin on your face. The sea salt can be quite rough, so be cafeful not to rub too hard. If your skin is very sensitive, you may want to skip the salt and run the sugar through a food processor before mixing the ingredients.

Be sure to rinse very well because while sea salt is great for scrubbing off that layer of dead skin, it can really be irritating. 

If you'd like to try other homemade scrubs, check out Icebee's 3 Best Facial Scrub Recipes for oily skin. Andrea from Homemade for Elle has a fabulous list of 10 Simple Exfoliating Face Scrubs, many that would be beneficial for those with very dry skin.

If you're not ready to make your own scrub, don't worry. There are two great, inexpensive scrubs I'd suggest:

Boots Expert Sensitive Gentle Smoothing Scrub would be great for any type of skin, but especially for those with oily skin. If you have dry skin like me, I'd recommend Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Scrub. Both of these products are less than $10, available either at your local store or online.