January 28, 2014

Ergonomic Pen Giveaway: UGLee Pen

EDIT:
We have a winner for the UGLee Pen giveaway! Congratulations to Michelle from California, and thank you to everyone who entered!


Remember how much writing you did in school? Even with everyone having iPads and laptops, you probably find yourself bringing a pen to office meetings or class and after a while, your hand hurts. I was an art history major, so you can imagine there was a LOT of writing going on. Even though I tried to use my laptop in grad school as much as possible, I still went through a ton of notebooks and sore hands.

Stanford educated physician, Dr. James Lee, developed an ergonomic pen to help people who have to write a lot (even those who don't do much writing may want to try it). If you suffer from carpal tunnel or arthritis, or have trouble holding a traditional pen, the unique soft grip of the UGLee Pen may make writing easier.


I received a set of pens to try, letting my husband use one and a good friend try another. If you're curious to see what it was like for me to try UGLee Pen, check out my UGLee Pen review video on YouTube.

Overall, I LOVE the ink flow and thickness. I'm very, very picky about that. However, I'm less inclined to want to use it for writing and drawing because I need to have a firm grip to write and draw detailed lines. The comfort grip is squishy, so I had a hard time making neat letters. That said, I do keep one in my purse and have used it quite a bit for writing shopping lists and jotting quick notes.


Want to learn more about UGLee Pen? Check out and Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter for the latest news.

THE GIVEAWAY

I have a set of three UGLee Pens to give away to one lucky blog reader!

This giveaway will run until February 11, 2014. Please feel free to spread the word about this giveaway, especially to anyone looking to try a new style of pen with an ergonomic grip!

The 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 UGLee Pen.

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 or Twitter. 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

January 22, 2014

Trying out the agile development guide, Professional Mentor

I have a real job and I spend a lot of time with developers and interaction designers, trying to make amazing web and mobile experiences for millions of people around the world. Yep, millions. I think it's hundreds of millions at this point. So I know web and product strategy, management, and analysis fairly well. I don't know much about agile though.

Several years ago, I took a workshop at my friend's user experience conference in Boston. I spent hours learning how to integrate user experience methods into an agile development cycle, and with all that focus, I still went home thinking agile and user experience methods just don't play nice together. They have different goals without the timeline to make true research happen, unless it's done before the project exists. It's not impossible. It's just very difficult.

Professional Mentor by Quick Focus, is a web experience offering a lot of documentation, videos, and process information, plus one-on-one mentorship opportunities with experienced professionals at various levels (including a CFO!)

I've made a video of my first time experience and put it on YouTube since it's fairly long. You'll get a chance to see what is inside the signed-in part of the site, some of the features, and a few of the challenges that could use some improvement.

I have to admit I did this video quickly so there are parts where I refer to Word docs that I'm fairly certain don't appear in the video. But otherwise, you should see what I see:

Checking out Professional Mentor for agile development on YouTube

The Professional Mentor site says they are a step-by-step guide on how to achieve desired personal or business benefit on time and to budget using an Agile approach. I'm not sure I'd agree with "step-by-step," but they do offer plenty of resources for understanding agile.

I think the template resources are very helpful, but that's given my distaste for the amount of documentation required by many product development methods. At first, I was annoyed they were Word docs, but I realize most people use Word and would be fine with that. A PDF may not be easy for most people to edit. The downside of a Word doc though, is it won't always look nice on everyone's computer. It didn't on mine because I'm a Mac person.

Some of the information was missing and I came across several 404 errors. That's kind of a big problem in my book. That shouldn't happen. If the site is ready and live and people are paying, everything needs to work.

The mentorship aspect is in the one-on-one messaging offered on the site. This is really the only aspect of the service that is true mentorship, so I wish it was given more focus and expanded to an ongoing mentorship relationship. The program is called "Professional Mentor." I expect mentorship to be the number one focus, not documentation and overviews.

If the focus was more on mentorship, this would be a very unique opportunity for people interested in agile to learn quite a bit. I would like the site to fix some of their missing pages and make sure all the resources are available. With that, it would be an excellent differentiator in the training market.

Curious about Professional Mentor by Quick Focus?
Visit the Quick Focus website for information on all their products and to sign up for Professional Mentor!

You can learn even more on the Quick Focus Facebook page, Google+, Twitter, and the Quick Focus blog.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

January 21, 2014

It's THAT Kind of Morning

Today is one of those days. I am fairly active at my daughter's school, and one of my volunteer roles is to pick up donated flowers from local shops and bring them to school, clean them up, make little bunches and give those to the younger kids' classrooms, leave a few bunches for teachers in the language and media center rooms, and make vased bouquets for the teacher's lounge, front lobby, reception desk, and anywhere else could use a pick-me-up.

It isn't difficult work, but there is a good deal of time involved first thing in the morning, usually a Monday. I try to leave before 8, drop the dog at his favorite spot (playcare at Completely Canines), head to a couple shops and be at school by 8:30, which is just about the time my husband is dropping my daughter off for school.

Today, I left nice and early, about 7:50 but nothing went my way. The roads were slick, so I took my time. A woman with an adorable pitt arrived just before me, so I needed to wait at playcare for a few minutes (dogs hang out in behavior-appropriate packs). I hit every red light, and both shops had larger than usual bunches to share. All this meant I didn't get to school until about 8:45 and while I absolutely love when we get roses, I found there were dozens of roses to trim up so the kids wouldn't prick their fingers on thorns.

I needed to be back in time to call into a 10am meeting, so I worked diligently to arrange and deliver the flowers and didn't linger too long in my daughter's classroom. I made it home by 9:45 only to find my 10am meeting was moved to 10:30. So I moved my 10:30 to the lunch hour and used the free 30 minutes to figure out what I wanted to accomplish today. I worked a lot over the weekend, so I'm more than caught up. Love that.

I have my sun lamp on to battle the grey, cold winter, my shade is open so I can look out the window behind my computer, and I'm using my new warm neck wrap!

While I was at the grocery store florist this morning, I saw this aromatherapy neck wrap with grape seed insert for less than $10 and had to have it. Just a minute in the microwave and I can enjoy the warm, soothing feeling of this cozy neck wrap. It also works well holding up my phone while I'm on a call. Bonus!

Anyhow, just wanted to share that I found this fabulous warm neck wrap that has a washable cover. It's one of those days that I really need it.

Check it out (sans makeup, looking tired):


January 20, 2014

Sinful Colors Pink Forever vs SinfulShine VIP

I decided to try the pink nail polish that Penny picked, Sinful Colors Pink Forever #313 to compare to SinfulShine VIP #1231.

Pink Forever is much more pale and lighter than VIP, but like VIP, looks best with two coats and takes about the same amount of time to dry. I found the SinfulShine to be thicker and more long-lasting. It only took 24 hours for my nails to look a little worn out and in need of a touch-up. However, I do like the lighter Pink Forever shade more. If I could have that in a SinfulShine formula, I'd be super happy.

Sinful Colors Pink Forever #313

SinfulShine VIP #1231

For the full scoop on SinfulShine, check out my December post on the VIP shade!

January 16, 2014

Book Review: Too Much Information by David Haskell

I was looking for new ways to find out about upcoming products and signed up for a service called Tomoson. The primary goal of Tomoson.com seems to be to match businesses with bloggers who enjoy reviewing products and while I don't necessarily want to go out and review free stuff all the time, I thought it would be interesting to check out the service.

My first match with Tomoson was a review of a book called Too Much Information by new author, David Haskell. I do secretly enjoy science-themed thrillers (I proclaim to love biographies) and sneak off and read my husband's Robin Cook books frequently, so a chance at a totally new novel by an emerging author sounded quite awesome.

David Haskell gave me a free copy of the Kindle version of his book, which I was able to read on my iPad with the free Kindle app. For an eBook, it was well-formatted and easy to work with. We have gone through three Nooks in our house and I don't find those very pleasant to read for too long. Reading on the iPad was just fine though.

Forgive me, but I'm a total novice when it comes to book reviews. I know there are some hardcore serious reviewers out there, but this is just me, doing my thing as best as I can.

Too Much Information centers on a mesh of homeland security concerns, airport screening procedures, big business, the (believable) craziness of corporate senior leadership, the woes of being thrown under the bus by your employer, and the challenges of our legal system. With all these plot points, there really is a lot happening in the story.

Conceptually, I love the idea of this book and the thought that went into Haskell's story. Without spoiling it for you, the reader is introduced to the idea of airport security going too far and the impact this has on the public, the employees, and the private sector companies involved in what is really a scandalous situation. I most held on to the stories of Rosa, a wronged airport employee and the group of attorneys representing her in court. It's hard not to empathize with a woman being essentially crapped on by her employer, and very believable that the justice system would favor the well-funded, and legal but sketchy tactics of the big corporation.

This is Haskell's first book and in a lot of ways, that newness shows in how the story flows and the characterization and tone. The downside of self-publishing is the author doesn't have the same opportunities as those with representation, which means the editing and proofreading isn't as tight as a professionally published book. While I definitely struggled with a few inconsistencies and admit my  past working in communications means I get bugged by grammar, capitalization, and spelling errors in professional written books, I strongly believe Haskell's first attempt at writing a novel isn't bad at all. Certainly better than any attempt I've made.

I don't know whether David Haskell plans for a second edition, but bringing in a fantastic copyeditor could turn a great concept into a truly great novel.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, however, the opinion above is my own.

January 15, 2014

Maybelline Color Show Nail Strips: Not a Fan

When I was in Walmart the other day, I grabbed Maybelline's Color Show nail strips. The fun, bold design caught my eye and I do love nail stickers.


My absolute favorite strips are by Kiss, "Cocktail," in the Classic Nail Dress collection. They stay on for seemingly forever, look fantastic, and aren't difficult to work with. I have a hard time getting used to textures like rhinestones and such, but the look is worth it. I've mostly used Cocktail on my toes, though, since I otherwise fidget by messing with the texture on my fingernails.

The other brand I like is Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Polish Strips. I used Pink Argyle several times (discontinued). The strips are super stretchy and easy to smooth out but don't last as long as the Kiss strips.

So, did I like Maybelline's attempt at nail strips?

Nope.


They look pretty cool, eh? Each set comes with 20 stickers, a nail file/buffer, and a plastic tool to help push the stickers into the sides of the nail.


Nail strips are one-size fits all, with a range of precut sizes that should fit most nails. With other brands, I've found either a perfect fit, or I've been able to stretch or trim easily so they go on easily, quickly, and look like a fancy salon manicure.

With Maybelline's version, they feel like thick rubbery plastic, almost like Colorforms. So basically, they don't smooth on the nail easily, are difficult to neatly trim, and definitely don't stretch. They look totally fake. 


On the nail above, I realized I had a size too small and found these strips will come right off. Great if I want them off, but that means they don't exactly stay on. No longevity, unfortunately.

I gave up on these and painted my nails, then wrote to Maybelline to share my experience. To their credit, they offered to compensate me and seemed to appreciate the feedback. While I may not buy their nail products in the future, they haven't lost me as a mascara customer.

In the meantime, I used a few stickers on my daughter's toe nails and my husband pointed out that several had fallen off within a few minutes of putting them on. With the Kiss and Sally Hansen strips, they've lasted on Penny's toes for a month.

Would I buy these again? No way. But I appreciate Maybelline's response to my feedback and am grateful there are other similarly priced nail stickers I can play around with from other brands.

January 14, 2014

Fabulous New Sneakers from Payless

I was at the mall this weekend when I realized I can't keep wearing my 10-year-old sneakers. There are cracks that let moisture in, I've worn out the soles, and they're looking a bit faded. I don't wear sneakers often, but when I do, I like them to be simple, flat, and fitted. I've got very small feet and wear skinny jeans, so I don't want a clunky shoe making me look like a clown.

Since January is usually somewhat tighter, budget-wise, I didn't want to spend a lot on a brand-name shoe and breezed in Payless while Penny and my husband were at the mall's play area.

It didn't take long to find a cute pair of grey sneakers with white and purple laces. These City Sneaks canvas shoes from Payless have a padded insole, but are very light and flexible. I'm able to slip them on and off without untying, making them perfect for taking the dog out in the morning.


They're also super cute with both my jeans and skirts and will probably look super in a dressy-casual summer dress.


I scored these awesome shoes for just $17.99. There were three colors at the store, but if you check out the Payless website, you'll find a choice of 8 colors, so there's bound to be a pair you love. I'm tempted to get a second pair in another color to match a cute dress my sister got me from Francesca's.

January 9, 2014

Girls' Trip to Sally Beauty Supply

My daughter has been watching a lot of Frozen promos on the Disney Roku channel and especially loves watching girls getting their hair done like Elsa and Anna, so I thought I'd take her to Sally and see if there was a cute braided headband like the ones we've seen in the promos.

We didn't exactly come home with what we went to Sally for, but we did come home with some fun girlie stuff.

Optimum Care Salon Collection Essential Nutrients for Dry Scalp


I've got terribly dry, itchy scalp but no dandruff. I've also got course, dense, thick hair and often rely on what are typically branded "ethnic hair" products. I picked up a discounted pack of Optimum Care Salon Collection Essential Nutrients for Dry Scalp. The box comes with four weekly treatments (can be used more frequently, if needed). Using it is so easy - just apply to the scalp with the hair damp or dry and work it in with fingers. I absolutely loved how nourishing it felt, like when I get conditioning treatments at the salon. Now, to see how well it works with that dry scalp problem! I'll report back after a month.

Sally Girl Mini Nail Polish


My daughter was drawn to the nail polish display and gratefully, the manager directed her to the Sally Girl mini polish collection, just 99 cents each! Penny picked "Crazy," #812053, which is a very bright, day-glo somewhat matte orange. In some light, like in the photo above, it's a bit shiny, but really it's not remotely glossy.

I'm not a big fan of the Sally Girl so far. I needed four coats to get smooth color and though it dries to the touch super fast, hours later, it chips and peels way too easy. My nails looked all nice in that photo, which was about 30 minutes after painting them. Now, they look like my preschooler painted them. I'll be taking off the polish and trying again tomorrow with a top coat.

Tomorrow is a big day for me and Penny. We're having a girls' day off since she is out of school, so we're headed to "the big mall" so she can ride some rides and visit American Girl, Disney, and Lego, have lunch at Rainforest Cafe, and make her first Build-a-Bear (she wants a dog). I can't wait!

January 8, 2014

Smart-Fab Giveaway is Over

I just wanted to post a note of thanks to everyone who entered the Smart-Fab craft fabric giveaway. The contest has ended and Rafflecopter selected a random winner from all the entries. I'm pleased to announce that a Minnesota teacher won three sample rolls that she'll be using in her classroom!

If you're still curious to try Smart-Fab, you can visit the Where to Buy section of the Smart-Fab website for a list of retailers (online and brick-and-mortar). There are so many uses for Smart-Fab from education to crafting, so definitely check it out!

January 1, 2014

Sinful Colors: Penny's Favorites

Penny wanted me to share her favorite shades of Sinful Colors. She generally picks purples, but recently selected both a purple and a pink.

The purple below doesn't look that purple in the photo, but it is. It's like a plum purple, really warm and rich, definitely dark. If you are looking for a fabulous date night purple, or lovely day look for winter, Sinful Colors Fig #961 is a great choice. The color is shiny but not glittery and goes on thick. Two coats is plenty.

Penny also really likes Pink Forever #313, which is a lovely pale pink, very feminine. You can find Fig and Pink Forever on Amazon or your local retailer.

If you are looking for fun, kid-friendly colors you can also wear (share with your daughter!), definitely look for these super affordable, pretty shades!