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Showing posts from August, 2014

I used to be a plugins kinda girl

We had a lot of Glade and Airwick plugin things around the house. When you have three pets, one of whom is a dog who spends his days frolicking with horses and goats, you gotta have something to mask the smell of manure and dog sweat. I got tired of how quickly they run out, failed attempts at home refills, and what seems like a chemically stink of the ones from dollar stores. I love the look of reed diffusers, but I didn't know if they really add scent to the room so until recently, I never thought to buy one.
When I helped my sister move into her first apartment, I got her a nice diffuser for her bathroom and was wowed by not only the pretty look, but the great, noticeable scent. So next trip to Target, I took my husband through the smelly stuff aisles and we picked diffusers for our bathrooms. 

We have a larger one in the master bath, but chose this cute mini one for the guest bath. My husband selected Bonfire Nights from Nature's Wick as a scent he was comfortable with an…

Painting with little kids

I'm a huge believer in art education, especially for young children. Art helps with critical thinking skills, focus, creativity, and helps with an emotional outlet before kids are able to effectively communicate verbally.
Kids don't need to paint in the lines or be neat and tidy. Messy is just fine. With Penny, we have times where we have shorter art activities with more focus to guide her fine motor skills (trying to get her to want to write letters and numbers vs type them on the iPad), but we also like to let loose. 
It's summer, so get outdoors with a big canvas or piece of cardboard. Grab some washable paint and cheap brushes and let your kids play with color. You can show them how certain colors work together and what happens when you mix them all together. Demonstrate what happens when you paint on wet color compared to when the first layer has dried. Just have fun with it!

Painting outside is a fabulous summertime activity because it's easy to hose off to keep…

For back-to-school, we picked an Igloo Creatures lunch cooler

During a quick trip to Menards, Penny noticed this adorable lunch box on a shelf in the Halloween decoration section. It was lonely, sitting there by itself, probably misplaced by a customer. So, of course we brought it home.

Now, seriously, we were looking to add another lunch box to the collection so I can rotate through and have a clean one on hand at all times. This wasn't quite my plan, thinking I would have preferred something bento, hard plastic, or machine washable. However, it was Igloo brand, which I trust for all things cooler-related, and easy to carry, appears durable, and while it may be a bit annoying to clean out the inside, Penny will love it and that matters most to me.


The outside is kind of a relief sculpture. It's not just a printed design. The size is good for a growing kid, meaning if it lasts, we should be able to provide a filling lunch for years to come, not just while she's in Pre-K.


Inside is roomy and can be cleaned with a wet cloth. The way Pe…

It's time for another awesome eSalon experience!

Last night, I was looking in the mirror at my hair and realized the color still looks pretty darn good. So I'm standing there thinking, well it can't have been that long since I colored because the overall color hasn't faded much, but when I logged in to eSalon's website to see when my next order ships, I was shocked that it's scheduled for early next week!

It has been almost 10 weeks, so I left the order as scheduled and added a bottle of color-safe shampoo and conditioner and the handy cape that eSalon sells, so instead of dying my shoulders, I can keep 'em clean.

If you want to know why I post about eSalon so frequently, or why I just love the brand, check out my May 2014 post about eSalon. I'm really proud to be a customer, and there are few companies that leave me with a good feeling: eSalon, The Honest Company, Target, ModCloth, and Craftsy.

I'm looking at that list and what they seem to have in common is a primarily web-based experience and being…

An inside look at my wish list: August 2014

My Amazon wish list has evolved over the summer. I got some books I've wanted and my daughter got some books and toys on her list. So what's on there now?

Even though I'm stepping away from plug-ins, I did absolutely love Glade's toasted marshmallow scent. It was the most real smelling, delicious one I've tried but alas, was a seasonal offering.


Note: I drafted this a few days before posting and in the meantime found one toasted marshmallow pack at Menards, so of course, I snatched it up and plugged them in at home. So far, a neighbor kid walked in and said, "wow, what's that yummy smell?" Win!

There's a cookbook I want, as if I don't have enough already. My daughter and I aren't big meat eaters but I struggle to come up with new vegetarian meal ideas. The Accidental Vegetarian: Delicious Food Without Meat looked like a good book to try.

We have lunch boxes but I'm trying bento style this year. Finding a box that won't leak and isn&…

Art Activities for Kids: Bean Mosaics

After a visit to family day at the Rochester Art Center, we got the idea to make mosaics with dried beans during the downtime while camping. It's pretty easy, loads of fun, and a good way to work on motor skills, creativity, color and contrast, and gluing skills.

While we definitely loved making mosaic art, what ended up being unexpectedly fun was simply putting together sets of colored beans.



I grabbed some craft paint (and a few colors from my collection of heavy body acrylics - I don't recommend that). We put some beans on a paper plate and I drizzled paint over them. Penny took a brush and used it to move the beans around until they were well coated.



We waited for the paint to get tacky and then I transferred the beans to another plate to dry. This just helps them stick less to the plate, but it would probably be okay to scrape them off after they dry on the first plate.


You could also work faster by putting the beans in a baggie and coating them in paint like using Shake …

How do I get my kid to take a shower?

Until recently, my daughter absolutely would not take a shower. We're nearing five years of just baths and it drives me a bit nutty. Baths are fine but they take a long time and aren't always the healthiest choice after she's added bubbles and colors and sits in shampooey water. We've cut back on the bubbles and don't use soap until the end of bath time, but how I longed to just say, "how about you take a quick shower?"

My husband explored some options since the biggest issue is that my daughter was scared of the steady stream of water spraying from what she perceives as very high over her head. He found this fishy shower head adaptor that makes it so the water comes down from a much lower spot on the wall without a permanent change to our shower. You do have to switch things up a bit (super quick) for grownup showers, but it's fairly easy to install and does the trick. She takes showers now!



We did find, like many other customers (see Amazon's re…

Alpaca products for your home

My friend and coworker, Brett, runs Pauley Alpaca Company in southeast Minnesota. I was familiar with the amazing yarns they sell, but until I went to their open house recently, I had no idea all the cool, unique alpaca products you can find.

At the open house, I bought a bar of soap that is covered in dyed alpaca fur. Not only does it smell lovely, but the soap isn't slick like a plain bar, doesn't seem to stick to the tub, and seems to be lasting longer, probably because it's not all melting into the tub water. It's quite clever and pretty to look at so makes for a great gift idea or for a guest bath.

Pauley Alpaca Company sells more than yarn and soap (soap was only available in the gift shop). They sell these neat dryer balls that help reduce static cling and wrinkling as a natural alternative to dryer sheets. They'll last for years, so you can buy a set of 6 for $30 and be done with sheets. Talk about saving money!

In our house, we focus on reducing waste and l…

Crafting with Creativebug

I'm an experienced sewer who mostly made kids clothes and crafts until six months ago when I started using Craftsy. I love the easy of picking a class and having permanent access, the ability to get answers from the instructor, and the depth and quality of each class I've taken. I know they're not all fabulous as I read reviews before picking a class, but so far, I've had amazing success at picking classes with so much information it's like I've been attending in person.

That should give you a sense of my expectations of an online crafting platform.

Creativebug invited me to review their crafting website, which offers a similar style as Craftsy, but with different enrollment models and more short-term workshops that remind me of quick lectures or Craftsy's free mini-classes.

The first class I picked was Homemade Apothecary. It was well-timed because I had a tub of shea butter and a desire to make some homemade products for my husband. We went to our co-op …

Art Activities for Kids: Watercolor Painting

I'm an artist and I want to encourage my daughter to embrace and enjoy art no matter her professional aspirations. She's still quite young at 4 years old, so art time has to be super fun, quick, cleanable (yet messy), and to entice her, it needs to relate to something I'm working on - using mommy's paint brushes or markers.

This week, we're working on watercolors. I have practically no experience with watercolor painting. In college, my classes focused on gouache and acrylic, and a bit of oil, but never traditional watercolor. After a quick web search, I found a tutorial on basic techniques and got a set of cheap paints to start with.

I had a pad of Strathmore student quality water color paper I've used for other projects, so I pulled off a couple pieces and put them each on a sheet of large fingerpaint paper. Fingerpaint paper is great for using as palette paper to mix colors and protects the table from any bleed through or small spills.

Penny usually paints r…

Fun with Shea Butter: Cleopatra's Choice 100% Organic African Shea Butter

Cleopatra's Choice sent me a free tub of pure shea butter to try and I do like it enough that I'd buy it myself when I run out. It's definitely been valuable in our house.


At first I had no idea what to do with this stuff, but I read some homemade skincare recipes online and ran kitchen experiments for a week. Now, I've made aftershave for my husband, body butter for me, face cream for friends, and even used it as is on my cuticles at night.

I love that you can melt it and use it for so many skincare needs or leave it alone and use it as it comes.
Shea butter has a lot of skincare nutrients like Vitamins A and E and works fast to help with dry, cracked skin. It's like a super powerful moisturizer that's often one ingredient in other lotions and creams. This is the pure thing, just shea butter, which means you know what you are putting on your skin and can skip all the added fragrances and irritants if you have sensitive skin.

It's a fairly affordable way t…

Enter to Win a Bottle of Azure Naturals Ultimate C Skin Repair Serum

I'm kicking off a giveaway for Azure Naturals! 
Want a chance to win one of three bottles of vitamin C serum? Keep reading to find out how to enter (bottom of post). Enter by August 14 at midnight for a chance to win!

I have been using a vitamin C serum for a few months, since I first had a chance to review a product through Tomoson. I honestly don't know if it does anything for my skin since I don't necessarily see any major changes, but I feel like I'm doing good things and helping my skin stay youthful and healthy as I approach 40.


Azure Naturals offered a bottle of their Ultimate C Skin Repair Serum for me to try and I made sure to give it a few weeks before reviewing. With these types of products, there isn't going to be a miracle cure, overnight magic, all-powerful change. It's more about preventing future issues, helping your skin age gracefully, and staying healthy. What I look for is whether my skin reacts, do I break out, is there a smell or residue, …

Using Australian Tea Tree Oil For Home and Skincare

My husband had a beard and mustache for a long time but decided it was time for a change, got himself a straight razor kit and shaved. The problem is his neck area is tough to shave. The hair grows in different directions and the skin in that area is super sensitive. He hasn't found anything that really helps and so he gets some redness, irritation, and acne when he shaves. One evening after shaving, he asked if there was anything I could make that would help. I like a good challenge!


I had a couple review products on hand, so I first grabbed Apothecary Extracts 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil and a few other things (I'll post about making the aftershave later this week) and whipped up a creamy and calming treatment that included several drops of tea tree oil to help prevent acne and reduce redness after shaving.


Thanks to the free recipe guide that came with the bottle of tea tree oil, I learned about all the ways that you can use it around the house. I'm not a huge believer in …