Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wherever the River Runs -- book review and GIVEAWAY

I have added a book to my list of favorites! I recently heard a lot about Wherever the River Runs: How a Forgotten people Renewed My Hope in the Gospel by several of my favorite bloggers, so when the opportunity came to get a chance to read and review it for free on behalf of FlyBy, I was ecstatic! And this book DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I loved it. LOVED IT! I found myself laughing out loud while reading it, crying while reading it, and underlining nearly every other page. This book spoke to me in a way that left me heartbroken when I was done. Heartbroken in the I-must-act way. I loved her message, her writing style and look forward to seeing the future impact on my life. Seriously. It's that good of a book!

The basic premise of the book is that Kelly goes to Brazil and spends time getting to know people who live in the jungle, realizes that some of the things she takes for granted are things they could only dream about and it makes her questions her problems. It's a book about making you take a look at some of our First World Problems and asks you to be open to what God might actually want you to be doing with your life. It might not be what you expect/what is expected!

Here are a few lines that stood out to me:
"Brazil is a little like Texas this way in that when you're within its border it has a habit of ceaselessly reminding you that this is so." --I literally laughed out loud at this one, because as a non-Texan living in Texas, I'm confronted with this exact reality every day!

"... that prickly discomfort you try to ignore as best you can." --This was both a laugh-out-loud situation and a gut-check!

"I suppose that we watch for what we long for, and we wait for what we believe in. And if the object of our belief and longing is our Savior, well, then our waiting and watching will never be in vain."--Amen!

And here's the best part for YOU: I have the opportunity to give you a free copy of this book! Simply leave a comment on this blog post and you'll be entered into a random drawing. The contest will close midnight on August 10th, so comment NOW!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

BzzAgent Kit: Let's Imagine Elmo

I recently received a free Let's Imagine Elmo from BzzAgent and the boys love it! It's a plush Elmo that comes with three different "hats" that you place on his head to change his character. Each version of Elmo plays a different interactive game with you. So, he'll have you playing a version of Simon Says with tickling his belly, bouncing him, and then squeezing his nose or he'll have you squeeze his nose over and over and count to 20 with you. The hats actually stick down into his eyes so Elmo knows which hat he is wearing and some of the games are more entertaining than others. G (22 months) had no problem taking the hats off, but putting them back in place is a bit of a firmer push than he can muster. The belly isn't very squishy, but I wouldn't expect it to be. A (46 months) has no problem following the games as they are supposed to be played.

My only two complaints about this toy are that he seems to not want to do anything unless he has a hat on. There's no "hat-less" setting. He just keeps telling you to put a hat on him. That seems strange. Also, maybe it's just the one we got, but his nose is nearly impossible to squeeze correctly. It's like his nose is broken and the part you're supposed to squeeze moves around inside the orange blob that is his nose. I keep saying "Elmo must have a deviated septum" to A. He doesn't think it's funny.

Anyways, I'd recommend it for your 3ish-year old and I have three $10 off coupons if you're interested!

They immediately wanted me to open him up.
Cowboy Elmo
Captain Elmo
Prince Elmo
Trying like the dickens to squeeze his nose.
showing the hole to receive the hats

Friday, July 25, 2014

Persecuted -- a book review and GIVEAWAY

I recently received a free copy of Persecuted by Robin Parrish from FlyBy and in turn am providing this blog review. (You too can get a free copy, just by leaving a comment on this post!)

It's a book about a guy name John Luther who gets caught up in a political battle about a congressional bill about religion and freedom for/from it. Depending on how you look at it. There's a big conspiracy and coverup resulting in FBI involvement, deaths, blood, and people framing other people. For a full description, please see the link above. I don't see it as much of a Christian/faith book as a political/murder thriller. There could be implications regarding Christians being persecuted for their faith, but I found it to be fairly far stretch and since it's a novel, I wouldn't test it against the Bible for accuracy or consider how it's painting my faith.

The book was ok. I'd give it 3/5 stars. The funny thing about this book is that's based on a movie! The cover even says "Based on a Daniel Lusko film." Maybe this is more common than I realize, but I've never heard of that before! And I think it makes for a situation where the movie is better than the book (though I've never seen the movie; I'm just guessing since most books are better than the movies that follow them! And I DO want to see the movie! Though not in the theater, just from the Redbox.). The story was interesting; it was a page-turning novel. I wanted to find out what was about to happen next and was totally lost in what was happening. However, the writing is a problem for me.

The whole thing was so cheesy, you could feel it dripping from the pages! Here's a sample: "A sharp pang made him wince, but John realized it wasn't his wound that ached. It was his soul." ! blech. Also, there's the situation of the guy's name. "John Luther." As in John Calvin + Martin Luther--two of the biggest names in Christian history and this guy is obviously named after them. Seth read an online review of Persecuted and made mention of this fact and I rolled my eyes it seemed so obvious. As in that-was-the-first-thing-I-thought-when-I-saw-his-name obvious.

But the story isn't exactly obvious. Some of it was, but there were parts that surprised me. In summary, if you're looking for a good, quick read, this would be good. Just be ready for some cheese and don't spend much time reading into what it says about Christian persecution. It's really a political thriller. In my opinion, anyways. Thanks for reading!

GIVEAWAY Time! Leave a comment on this post by midnight on August 6th and I'll do a random.org drawing for the winner. You'll get a free copy of the book mailed to your home!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification."

Friday, July 11, 2014

BzzAgent Kit: Cheerios Protien

I recently got to try Cheerios: protein for free from BzzAgent. It's a very good cereal with a strong cinnamon flavor. I don't care for nuts, so I haven't eaten it since I first tried it, but not because it wasn't good. :-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mascara Hunt 2014

I hope that putting "2014" in the title doesn't mean I will be doing this every year... Am I jinxing myself!? I honestly hope to never do it again. It's been costly, time-consuming, and disappointing!

The backstory is that I have been using the same Covergirl mascara for years. I recently tried a different one, because the green one seemed to not be as awesome as it used to be, but had found it was pretty clumpy and got to wondering if there wasn't some other brand with a more-magical product. I've never worn anything but Covergirl and wondered about other brands. I wasn't brand-loyal exactly, just brand-lazy. Also, I wear mascara every day. Some people can't leave the house without putting lipstick on. For me, it's curling my lashes and applying mascara. I don't wear any other makeup most days, just the mascara, so it's important to me that I'm perfectly happy with what I'm using. I use REDEFINE toner, put on my REDEFINE SPF, curl my lashes, apply mascara and I'm set for the day. Most days. I do spruce it up now and then. ;-)

In looking for a new mascara, I went to Facebook (as I usually do when I'm seeking input on something like this) and got a HUGE list of suggestions to try. I also did some internet searching and reading of reviews on places like Amazon.

First of all, I need to say that my search was limited by two main factors:
1) I only wear waterproof. I made the switch a few years ago because I've realized that I simply cry too darn much to keep up with regular, non-waterproof versions. There's no sense in putting it on if I know I'm going to cry that day and wash it off! It wasn't worth the hassle or the stress of worrying if I would look like a raccoon later in the day.

2) I don't want to pay more than $15 for mascara. I change them out often (which is healthy anyways) because I have sensitive eyes and wear contacts. I can't keep mascara around for months and months and our budget isn't set up for mascara to cost more than that.

The Process:
To start, I bought a brand-new curler (which I don't like as much as my old one, by the way) and took a picture of my eyelashes normal and curled. I wanted you to see the difference (and encourage you to curl your own if you don't already). I think that alone makes a big difference and I feel like I look more awake just doing that step! And it only takes a few seconds.

Then I used the mascaras. I took a picture first of the mascara and wand followed by my eyelashes so I'd remember which lashes belonged to which mascara.

Here are all the mascaras I tried (that's 13 total!):

Some of the mascaras only lasted one trial. I had meant to try each one for about a week, but several of them had side effects so strong that I ceased use the following day! Here are the pictures of each of my trials with the different mascaras. (The caption will tell you which one that is and take you to an Amazon.com page of that mascara.)

In no particular order:
L'Oreal Voluminous
Maybelline Great Lash
Revlon Grow Luscious
Maybelline Full and Soft
L'Oreal Double Extend
Neutrogena Healthy Volume
L'Oreal Shocking Extensions
Mary Kay Lash Love
Covergirl Clump Crusher
Covergirl LashBlastLength
Clinique High Impact
L'Oreal Double Extend tubes
Elizabeth Mott It's SO Big

The BIGGEST negative I experienced has everything to do with them being waterproof. Some of them were SO waterproof that soap and water did nothing and I literally had to scrape the mascara off my lashes with my fingernail. Not fun. Those are the ones that I only ended up using once because that's a complete deal-breaker for me. That obviously wouldn't apply if you decided to give the non-waterproof version a try! Some were super clumpy. Some left black smudges under my eyes. Some were a hassle to put on (the ones with the two ends, mostly). Some were a challenge to apply without getting it all over my eyelid as well as my eyelashes (I found that to be a function mostly of the bristle type). Some looked amazing on my lashes and I was SO excited about it. And then I tried to wash it off.

Considering all those factors--clumpiness, waterproof-ness without being too stuck on, ease of use, overall look, and price, my top choice blew the competition out of the water. BLEW them out of the water! My top choice does not fit within my $15 price limit, so it seems like it should be disqualified. However, I got a free sample, expecting it to just be one more mascara to try and then I was immediately in love! Drum roll please....

It's SO Big by Elizabeth Mott is the perfect mascara for me. It's not exactly waterproof, but I have cried dozens of times wearing this mascara, and wiping my eyes with tissues causes zero smudging. No black circles under my eyes. Nothing on the tissue. Literally. The tissue comes away with tears and no black marks! I have worked out (sweat!) and gone swimming in this mascara and have ZERO black marks under my eyes. And then when I wash my face, it comes right off! The way it makes my lashes look is exactly what I wanted too--enough to look awake and as though I have mascara on, but not like false lashes. And it certainly isn't clumpy.

I got the free sample (you should too!) and loved it from the first time I put it on. The full-size tube has an issue with the internal squeegee in my opinion, because I have to go back and forth several times to get enough product off whereas the sample size was just out once and the brush has the perfect amount of product on it. So after realizing this, I just go back and forth a few times to take excess product off so that my lashes aren't drowning. It is possible to go over your lashes several times as advertised. The more you go, the bigger the lashes. It's totally true! But I usually just go a few times and my lashes look amazing.

It pains me to say that my most-beloved choice is a mascara that is $20, but at least I got to try a sample for free so I knew what I was getting when I bought the full-size one. This mascara was everything I was looking for. And if $20 isn't in your budget, my second-favorite of all the ones I tried is the Covergirl Clump Crusher I started out with! And if you're going for non-waterproof, the Mary Kay one and the Shocking Extensions ones were my next favorites. They were just simply a bear to take off so they didn't make the cut for me. Good luck!
Real Size vs. Sample Size
UPDATE as of 6-3-14:
After y'all told me that the samples were on a Wait List, I contact the Elizabeth Mott company and I have some good news! While the samples won't be available any time soon (this is an extremely small start up company--8 people work there. EIGHT!), they did give me a coupon code for you to get 50% off your first purchase from their website. So, go here: http://www.elizabethmott.com/category/products/ and enter "WUFOO" to get 50% off your order. If anyone has problems with that code, please let me know and I'll contact them again. And if you do decide to order, be sure to tell them I sent you. They're expecting my readers. ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2014

IMPACT -- a nonreview

FlyBy gave me another book (IMPACT) to review this month, but I just simply haven't had a chance to get to it. I'm reading a book for our new small group, the book for book club this month has been a challenge to read, and with Easter and soccer and Bluebonnets, we've just simply eaten away our time this month. Not to mention hubby was out of town two weeks, G had a double ear infection and A now has pink eye. Ok, I'll stop. 

Anyways... All that to say that I didn't have a chance to get to this book. It sounds incredibly interesting though and I still hope to read it!

IMPACT: Great Leadership Changes Everything
For more than 25 years, organizational psychologist and management consultant Dr. Tim Irwin has worked with thousands of leaders in well-known global companies. He knows most leaders work for recognition and advancement and they want more challenge and responsibility. He’s also found this to be true: Most of us want to make a positive difference through our work and to have our lives count for something more than simply making a living. We want to make an impact.

About the author:
Dr. Tim Irwin, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Impact: Great Leadership Changes Everything, has been a confidante to thousands of global leaders. He is a favorite guest of Hugh Hewitt and is being featured on a number of Christian radio programs. Irwin sees one central issue anytime a leader “derails”—he believes they have a defect in their “core”, which Irwin says goes beyond the overused term “character”. His new book, Impact, addresses this and gives actionable ways leaders can protect themselves, and better serve their organizations—especially crucial for those of us who serve in ministry and are walking a Christian walk.

Stay Connected: 
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/drtimirwin #Impact

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Must-Have Marvin: a review and GIVEAWAY!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was selected to review a new children's book called Must-Have Marvin. Well, since that time, the book has come, we've read, and now I'm here to review (and offer a GIVEAWAY!).

The short answer of my review is that I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it.

"Must-Have Marvin" is the story of a kid named Marvin who is pretty much obsessed with having everything that's the latest and greatest. From a t-shirt to shoes to a new robot toy, if it's cool/new/hip, Marvin wants it! In the middle of the story, Marvin uses his own money (including "his secret reserves") to buy a "Super Galactic Robot"--his latest obsession. His dad agrees to take him to the store "after dinner, when your homework is done." Once he has the new toy, his relationships suffer and with the help of a wise neighbor, he soon realizes that things are no match for friendships. He has a change of heart and then saves the soccer team's trip from being cancelled, having put his friends on the team (and his relationship with them) before his new toy robot.

The things that stood out most to me about this book are:
-Marvin is black. (Or at least some version of dark skin. His brother and parents are as well.) One page showing the soccer team has kids that fall all along the color spectrum. But as much as attention was paid to skin color, I don't see anything in the way of different able-ness. One girl has glasses, but it appears that everyone is able to help plant a garden, play instruments, participate in the soccer team, etc. The diversity felt a little forced, to me, since it was only diversity in the skin color.

-Marvin buys the robot with his own money. There isn't a mention of his parents being unwilling or unable to buy it, he just digs through his money as soon as he has the idea of wanting the robot. I love the idea of him buying it with his own money, but found it odd somehow that it wasn't discussed.

-His dad takes him to buy the toy that very night after his homework was done. That also felt like bit of a moral plant without explicitly stating it and I guess I just prefer it being explicit?

-It's a bit hokey how he saves the soccer trip, but it's a children's book, so that's sorta to be expected.

-Marvin ends the book with "The only things I really HAVE to have are my FRIENDS." While I appreciate the message, as a Christ-follower, what I really want my children to need more than anything is a relationship with Christ. Friends are better than things, but Salvation through Christ trumps even the best of friendships.

-There are stars on each page, each either being perky/happy looking or looking sad. This is to help kids see whether Marvin is making a good decision or a bad one. For us, it was just fun for Austin to find all the stars and point to them.

So, again, I liked the book. I recommend the book. I definitely will be adding the other books in this series to my boys' wish lists (which is so far just THIS ONE), but just know that it tends toward predictability and doesn't have a faith component. It would be great if you have a kid who's having a problem with this.
It comes with a dust jacket with glitter!
Austin is pointing to a star.
Here's an example of a sad star.
GIVEAWAY time! Leaving a comment (with your name!) wins you one entry.
I'll be doing the random drawing on the 7th. The winner will be sent a brand-new copy of Must-Have Marvin.

UPDATE 4-7-14: Kristina wins the drawing! Thanks to everyone who entered. Stay tuned for my next giveaway.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Great Cookie Challenge

I recently tried a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe doesn't specify whether or not the butter should be salted or unsalted so I used unsalted which is what I usually use when baking. It doesn't have any additional salt in the recipe and given that I used unsalted butter, my husband thought that this combination left the cookies without enough salt taste. I asked the person who gave me the recipe and she said she simply uses whatever she has in the fridge so that wasn't any help. A quick, informal Facebook survey revealed that I was right about baking with unsalted butter so I decided that we needed a taste test challenge to determine if in fact more salt was desirable in that recipe.

I recently got an OXO cookie scoop and it made balling out the cookies SO much easier.
The cookies came out perfect in 10 minutes.
"A" was unsalted butter and "B" was salted butter.
(I didn't add any salt to the unsalted butter batch.)
I had my husband do a blind taste test and he immediately knew that "B" was the salted butter and thought they tasted a lot better. I then asked my in-laws and our dinner guests to choose their favorite and both chose "B" as well. All I had said was that one batch was made with salted butter and one was made with unsalted and they overwhelmingly liked "B". I admit that I like "B" better as well, but I can't identify why. It doesn't exactly taste saltier or even different really, just better. The texture also seems better with "B" even though I made them back to back with everything the same so I can't account for why that would be.
The baby likes both versions!

Here's the recipe:

"Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies"

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 4oz. sticks softened (salted) butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 4oz. package of Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
2 eggs
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix flour with baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and pudding mix in a large mixing bowl; beat with mixer until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and beat until mixed into batter. Gradually add the flour/baking soda mixture, mixing after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips. Batter will be stiff.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cookies set for 2-3 minutes and then place on wire rack to cool.

If you try it, be sure to tell me what you think of them!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

R+F Mini Facials GIVEAWAY!

Who wants a free mini facial? I have 5 to give out. The first 5 people to comment on this post get them!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Must-Have Marvin

I am thrilled to be partnering with FlyBy Promotions again for a book review and future giveaway. I just got word that I'd been selected, so I don't have the book reviewed yet, but here are the details:

About Must-Have Marvin!
The second title in the Shine Bright Kids series, Must-Have Marvin! teaches children that people are more important than things. Marvin loves new things—he especially loves finding the latest, greatest, most awesome new things! Soon Marvin finds himself focusing on a new robot that he wants, to the exclusion of his friends. He lets them down when they need his help and nearly loses their friendship. 
Through a chat with a wise neighbor and a second chance to help, Marvin learns the important life lesson that people are more important than things.

About Shine Bright Kids:
Choose Right. Shine Bright.
The Shine Bright Kids series provides children and their families with a framework to teach the importance of making good choices. The principles that will be explored include: using good judgment, taking responsibility, having a positive attitude, and demonstrating perseverance.

Written by Christy Ziglar
Illustrated by Luanne Marten
Available now!
Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages
ages 4 to 8 

Visit the official website:  http://www.idealsbooks.com 
Tag in your posts:  #ShareAMoment 

Author Bio
Christy Ziglar, financial planner, mother of twins and niece of legendary motivator and the world’s original optimist, Zig Ziglar, is bringing the same timeless wisdom and ageless advice to an entirely new, younger audience through her new Shine Bright Kids picture book series.

Illustrator Bio
Thanks to her first-grade teacher, who recognized her superior skills in drawing a robin, Luanne Marten has been drawing, painting, and sketching ever since. She is a great experimenter and has a fresh, whimsical approach that brings her characters to life.

It looks like a great book to read with my boys. If you want in on the GIVEAWAY which is coming soon, watch for my review post!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BzzAgent Kit: Neutragena

About the time I was selected for the bodywash BzzKit, I was also selected to review some Neutrogena foundation. As someone who hasn't worn liquid foundation in about 10 years because they're always clogging my skin, I was excited to try this one. Unfortunately, the color that I selected (via my computer monitor!) was WAY too dark. It was also extremely hard to wash off and I actually had to scrape it off my hand with a fingernail. That does not make me want to buy it! If you've tried it and like it, let me know what you think! I'd still love to have a liquid foundation that I can wear.

** This review was done as a part of my participation in campaigns with BzzAgent. I have gotten to try (for FREE!) all sorts of products. If you're interested in learning more, click HERE.**