Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vegetarian Quick & Easy - Under 15 Minutes by Jonathan Vine

As some of you know, my New Year's resolutions were few, but significant. I wanted to change my eating habits, improve my creative process, and learn something completely new to me. With changing my eating habits, I decided that a Vegetarian diet was the path I wanted to take. For about seven years during middle and high school, I didn't eat meat, much to my Momma's despair. Looking back, I understand her worry now. I didn't do it right. I lived on French Fries and refused to take supplements. This time around, I'm an adult, and I'm doing it right by making sure that I'm not falling into the "French Fry trap" and paying close attention to how I feel and how much protein I'm getting. Many people become overwhelmed when they consider the thought of restricting their diet SO much. If you think about it, meat is a huge part of the American diet. However, it doesn't HAVE to be hard, and that's what I discovered with Jonathan Vine's book, "Vegetarian Quick & Easy - Under 15 Minutes".

I didn't really know what to expect out of this Ebook, but I didn't expect it to be so inclusive. There really aren't any repeats of meals, and it points out common sense recipes that are often overlooked. Some of them are so simple that you wouldn't think they'd be that great, but they are! An example of this, that I found, was eggs with Avacado. I've never really eaten Avacado before, so I was pleasantly surprised when I decided to go to a random recipe and try it...NO MATTER WHAT.

I love that this book has tips on how to become a Vegetarian and make the transition easily. I also admired the fact that Mr. Vine considered that sometimes, busy moms don't always have the time to spend on extensive preparation (yes...there's sections for moms AND meals that are easy enough for kids to make!). There's even a section for romantic meals, which is great, since finding alternative dining out can be difficult for Vegetarians.

Overall, I'd say that this ebook is a fantastic resource for new and experienced Vegetarians alike, and I'm thrilled that I was selected to review it for free!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lalune Naturals Organic Lip Balm Review!

Fun fact: I have issues with dry skin. In the winter, it's AWFUL. Usually, lotions will take care of it for at least a couple of hours. I have found that body butter is the very best thing to stay relieved for long periods of time (12 hours or so). Even when I've taken care of my skin, there's still the problem of my lips. I'm very picky when it comes to my lip balms, and my countertop is to show for it. I've got at least ten lip balms/ChapStiks that I've used once and left because they were too greasy, too medicated, the scent was awful, or worst: they left a terrible taste in my mouth. Another issue I have is balms making my lips look maroon instead of pink. I'm not sure if it's the ingredients or an allergic reaction, but even clear ChapStik makes my lips look darker. I've used all natural lip balms before, but I don't have them anymore. In my world, that means that they were good. That being said, I decided to review a free package of Lalune Naturals' Organic Lip Balm.

When they arrived, I noticed first that the box that they were in was a rough brown cardboard box printed with a simple black label. I LOVE it, from a graphic design standpoint! The flavors, ingredients, brand, and USDA Organic Certification are all clearly marked on the box. When I opened the package, I was pleased to see that each balm scent was marked with a different color. This makes them easy to tell apart. Next, I smelled them. The scents are light and airy without being overwhelming. The undertone of the scent is very earthy and natural. It doesn't smell like chemicals and I LOVE that.

The final, and most difficult test was use. Remember, I'm picky. I decided to use Vanilla Bean first (other scents include Asian Pear, Peppermint, and Raspberry). The balm went on smoothly and easily without any pressure. At first, I felt like the balm was greasy but it VERY quickly began to absorb. As it absorbed, the dry, cracked skin on my lips softened up and now they feel AMAZING! There isn't really a taste to these balms, but the scent is great. It's noticeable, but barely.

 I think the best part is: my lips LOOK healthy! And that problem with having maroon lips that I mentioned before? Not a problem! My lips look plump, pink, and slightly shiny. It's FANTASTIC for use with dramatic eye makeup. I'm VERY satisfied with these balms! They're the BALM (bomb...get it?)!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cellulite Be Gone! Body Merry's Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream

I've always, always, ALWAYS had a body image issue. I think the problem is deep-rooted in the fact that I was overweight as a kid, and my classmates let me know it. From the time I was in Elementary school, I've struggled with my weight, my skin, my hair, EVERYTHING! And when I say "struggle", I don't mean that I couldn't keep it under control. I mean that no matter how "pretty" whatever aspect was, I still lacked the self-confidence it took to realize that IT DIDN'T MATTER what people were constantly thinking of me.

Flash forward to my first day of college. One of the events on campus was to be a splash party and I knew this a month or so in advance. I. Was. Horrified. I was 17 going into a campus of hundreds of kids my own age and older. To go to this party, I'd have to wear a swimsuit bottom (you KNOW it was the short type!). I immediately ran out to get cellulite cream, as my sister had made a comment about it as I was swimming that summer (thanks, Hailey!). I could NOT let that happen again! I picked up the Equate Cellulite Lotion (Wal-Mart brand) and began using it. It didn't take long for my thighs and arms to start bruising. Yes, BRUISING! I'm not sure what it was in the formula, but my doctor said that the bruising would go away, but I had to STOP using the cream. It had thinned out my skin and veins. On the plus side, nobody saw my cellulite because they were too busy wondering if I'd tell them about Fight Club.

When asked to review a free sample of Body Merry's Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream, I had instant flashbacks to the bruising caused by the other cream I'd tried. I decided that it was worth a shot (I'm over the self-consciousness of cellulite...but hey...it wouldn't hurt to get rid of it!). I decided at the first sign of bruising, I would stop use, and compare the ingredients between the two formulas. Luckily, I never bruised! There are a few other good things about the product, though. For one, it's doesn't stink or smell chemical-y. The formula glides on, doesn't make a mess, and absorbs quickly. Body Merry's products always supply a generous amount, and this cream is no different. A little goes a LONG way for me, so I know this tub will last a long while. The lid is easy to get on and off (don't you hate it when a lid is cheaply made and it skips the track??) and the label is professionally designed. It's very eye-catching!

I know that a product like this will have to work over time, so I will write an update at a later date. For now, though, my skin is left feeling soft and smooth and firm. I'm seeing a gradual difference, but the most I've seen is in my arms. They are much firmer. Overall, I have to say it's a winner! I mean, I didn't bruise and my skin! ;)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Easy as 1, 2, 3 Swing Dancing!

Learning a new hobby can be an intimidating adventure. There's so many questions about how to know if what you're doing is the proper technique. Without a physical example, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what to do. Dancing is no different! If anything, it's more frustrating! There's so much pressure to perform correctly and gracefully because it's a performance hobby. In most instructional videos, it feels as if the instructor expects you to be intermediate level instead of beginner. Fast instructions, speedy counts, using terms that you aren't familiar with, and awful camera angles all contribute to this frustration. When offered the opportunity to review a Dance Lesson Starter Kit DVD set in exchange for my opinion, I quickly agreed!

Many assume that the only way to achieve the level of learning desired is to pay hundreds of dollars for studio classes. Or even worse, they completely give up on their goals. As an educator, I can tell you that money doesn't equal quality. Some of the very best teachers that I know are far under paid while some of the most apathetic are the ones that are making the "big dollars". So even IF you ARE willing to shell out the money, there's no guarantee that you'll actually get a quality, productive instruction session.

That's where Dance Lessons Starter Kit comes in! You can learn FOUR different types of dance, all in your living room! The kit offers Salsa, Swing, Merengue, and Bachata. My personal favorite was the Swing, because I've always felt as if I was born in the wrong era!

I popped the DVD in, and was greeted by both a woman and man instructor. This was convenient, because it easily depicted the gender roles and the respective dance steps, which made it easy for me to learn with my husband. The instructors were somewhat too posed and staged for me. They were VERY mater-of-fact about the instructional process. It may have been the extremely clear, articulate, and descriptive way that they gave instructions. This was VERY effective in helping me understand, but it almost gave them a monotone voice, which was, at times, difficult to follow.

Their instruction, the camera angles, and the clarity of the video were fantastic. In fact, as far as the camera goes, almost all of the time you see two angles at once. There was never any question about what to do and when to do it. I really liked that the pace was slow enough to not only allow for easy learning, but to allow for finding the perfect stopping, rewinding length, and play points.

My only complaint is, like I mentioned, the "stiffness" of the instruction. The instructors were very dry. When they showed humor or emotion, it almost felt forced and cheesy. However, if you can handle that (I thought it was worth it!), then you've got a fantastic resource for learning a new hobby without spending big bucks!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Forskolin....What is THAT?

I'm always on the lookout for new things that I've never tried before. One of the reason I started product reviewing was to broaden my horizons in relation to products, brands, and different types of products (especially health and beauty). Needless to say, I was curious about Forskolin when I heard a friend talking about it. Within a few days, there was the option to receive a bottle free, for my honest opinion. Now, I'm not stranger to weight loss supplements, their side effects, and their effectiveness. I knew that this would either work extremely well and quickly, or it would work slowly. Depending upon body chemistry, diet, exercise, genetics, etc. you're looking at a wide margin of results for any given group of people.

I went into this with an open mind and (not negatively) low expectations. Forskolin comes from the Indian Coleus plant. Essentially, the plant extract helps hormones carry messages that they need to carry. This can be effective in weight loss. Many are turning to the extract as a way to manage their weight. My personal experience with Supreme Pure's version was positive, but not an event to write home about.

Now, I mentioned that it would either work immediately or slowly work. While I HOPED to be in the first category, I am, sadly, stuck in the second. BUT, that is not the fault of the product. I just have a different body type! What I did notice, that benefited me immensely, were a few things: the dosage isn't outrageous. I've taken natural supplements that called for taking 12 capsules a day. NO WAY! It gets to be a nasty feeling, swallowing pills! You don't have to worry about that here! Secondly, there was no foul odor with this supplement. Some, you just don't want to take because of the smell. The benefit that I most noticed from taking Forskolin was an increase in energy. So, if nothing else, the supplement gave me the energy to get up and do something! I found myself less tired and more ready for whatever the day brought. I was in a better mood because of this. On top of that, I think having more energy during the day caused me to sleep better at night (doing more is more exhausting!).

Although I did not witness weightloss results with this supplement, I know that it has helped my energy levels immensely. Supreme Pure's affordability makes it easy for everyone to try something new!

Have you tried and "hype" products? What were your results?

A Workout with An Elementary TOY?!...Not quite!

Hello, again, all!

Recently, I've slacked quite a bit on my gym-ing. This has led to pretty much...self loathing in the worst way possible. I'm also convinced that exercising wards off depression and anxiety. I am very prone/afflicted by anxiety, and I found that a good, hard run always made me feel better. In my search for finding a way to get a good workout at home, I was prompted to apply for a promotion that I might not have considered before: the Naturalico jump rope. In applying for this promotion, I knew I had nothing to lose. The jump rope would be in exchange for my honest opinion, so I decided to give it a shot.

Now, if you're like me, when you hear "jump rope", you think of a neon-colored hollow plastic tube attached to two mold-poured, neon colored, plastic handles of a different color. The plastic tube disappears into the handle, and most often, was tied in a knot on the inside of the handle (the handle was hollow as well). This meant that, if your knot came untied, your jump rope didn't work.

I honestly didn't know what to expect.

When the rope arrived, I immediately took it out of it's neat little storage bag (complete with a drawstring!) and examined it. The handles were nice and heavy, the "rope" part was thick and weighted-feeling. I also noticed that there were little metal contraptions at each end that allowed the handles to both slide to one end. Having this quality allows for the rope to be adjusted very easily. The metal contraptions allowed the rope to rotate smoothly and spin freely.

I couldn't wait to try it!

When I did, I was pleasantly surprised. The rope span and rotated much easier than I remember my Elementary jump ropes operating. The weight of the rope was nice in that it projected itself forward, allowing for minimal effort from the hands and arms. Given extra length, I was easily able to adjust the rope by trimming and tying it.

The design is very grown-up and professional looking. With a strictly black color scheme, the silver hardware really pops. The rope coils effortlessly for storage and actually compacts nicely for storage in minimal space.

If you're looking for a new workout partner, I highly suggest Naturalico's jump rope! I am currently in the middle of really putting it to the test, but I will soon have photos posted (before and after) and the number of weeks of use at each stage. I'm so excited to share! (Hint: I've lost 8 lbs!!).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Bit of a Look Into My Profession...CraftyCroc Liquid Chalk Markers Review

Hello, again, everyone! Being a product reviewer is fantastic for those on a budget, because often, you can get something that you normally wouldn't be able to buy in exchange for your honest opinion. This can serve you well when it comes to finding new solutions to your problems (example: pet odor cleaner), experiencing new conveniences (portable battery chargers, travel pillows, etc), and even in the gift giving season (essential oils, beard conditioners, and so on).

However, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compares to having to budget for a classroom. It's difficult. Typically, state frameworks say "do this, this, and this" and the school decides how much money you have to do that with. Let's consider my class sizes. They range anywhere from 10-25. For the purpose of this example, we'll say 20 students is average. Daily, I have a class of 5th and 6th graders that come once a week. That's a different class every day. That's ten classes of 20 kids. That, alone, is 200. 7th and 8th grade are a bit different. They come to art every day, but for nine weeks. I get a new group of each 7th and 8th grade four times a year. Take 15, and multiply it by 8 classes. That's 120. This gives us a rough estimate of 320 kids. The budget that my school gives me has to provide daily and weekly art for 320 kids. As a product reviewer AND teacher, when I see the opportunity for us to try something new and exciting, on as little cost as possible, I TACKLE IT!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dash Mate Makes Travel A WHOLE Lot Easier!

If you know of me personally, you know that my husband and I are on the road a lot for his band's gigs. The typical routine is to have one person hold the phone and navigate while the other person drives. This can be a bit bothersome, as one person has to hold it so that the driver can see. Additionally, the calibration in the phone will change direction at the slightest tilt. It's annoying to have to hold the phone a certain way, for any amount of time. It's also easy to lose the phone when not using it for GPS purposes. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but in our roadtrip condition, we are absolute slobs because we're essentially living in the car.

Needless to say, I jumped on the opportunity to review a product that would make our travels more convenient. CJ's Savings offered this promotion to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

I know, I know. My car needs a dusting.
To be honest, I expected to get a cheaply assembled, Chinese piece of crap (let's face it, most of these products are worth about $1 and break within a few uses). What I got, however, was a pleasant surprise. Upon opening the box, I pulled out a sturdy, thick piece of plastic. The phone holder itself slides to adjust to different positions for the phone and different sizes of phones. The clip on the back was my main concern, but it is actually made of very thick, durable plastic. I tested the Dash Mate with my phone and was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit. I have a cheap Straight Talk phone, so typically accessories don't work with it. The Dash Mate is extremely adaptable, and it worked perfectly! The final test was to see if it actually fit the air vent in my car. Turned one way, it was a little loose and slid around. HOWEVER, I quickly realized that it wasn't SUPPOSED to fit that way. Once I turned it the other direction, it stuck to my vent like Velcro. It doesn't rattle or slide around and it fits snugly. When you need to pull it out, it is easily removed. I'm very impressed with how well the Dash Mate works and the quality of the product overall! Highly recommended by this traveling blogger!

Want one?

Protect Your Jewelry with Active Rings!

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to review a product that I had never seen before. In exchange for my honest opinion, I was sent Active Rings. Active Rings are for those who lead an active lifestyle, and have wedding jewelry that risks being broken at the gym or during physical activity. However, my interest in the jewelry alternative was in being an artist and an art teacher. Many times, I have to take my rings off due to mess. If I don't, my rings get extremely dirty, and it's an extra step to have to clean them. 

Now, in my opinion, you shouldn't need a ring for honesty reasons. If I'm at the gym, and a guy approaches me, I TELL him I'm married, regardless of if my rings are on or not. I don't think that's the purpose of the product. I DO think that it helps to avoid awkward situations. If you're approached by someone who's interested in you and they don't see a ring, they may think it's ok to "make moves". Having the Active Rings band there, while not having the purpose of keeping you honest, helps you to avoid these awkward conversations with someone who may have their hopes up.

For me, I work in clay and ink mostly. My Active Rings serve as a memory tactic. I have an AWFUL memory, and looking down at my Active Ring while I'm cleaning up an art mess is a memory boost as to where I've put my real wedding set. Sculpey clay leaves a sticky residue while kiln-fired clay has a grit to it that will damage metal over time.

As a product, I think the idea is useful and innovative. The product itself is made of high quality rubber. I say "high quality" because I feel that it would be difficult to cut the rubber, even with scissors. The rubber is thick and the colors are very vibrant. They aren't dull and they're easily seen from a distance. As far as sizing goes, I wear a size 7.75 in rings. I was sent a size 7-8. The Active Ring fit my hand perfectly, but I was curious as to how it would fit on a finger about 3/4 of a size bigger, so I put it on my middle finger. The rubber stretched, but as you can see from the picture, it left an indention. I did try to stretch one of the rings, and I think with enough stretching, you could adjust the size permanently. When released from stretching, the band went back to it's size and shape. Sizing-wise, I think the measurements are accurate as to what it will fit. 

I would highly suggest this product to my gym and art loving friends! It's very useful, especially if you're as forgetful and messy as I am! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Travel Pillow Provides Quality without INFLATION of Price!

Recently, I was given a free travel pillow to test out. I was anxious to see what it was like for two reasons, the main one being that my husband and I are on the road a lot for his band gigs. More often than not, we're at least four hours away from each show, and at least one of us has gotten little to no sleep (he works overnights). We'd talked about getting a few pillows and blankets for the car, but hadn't acted on it. The second reason I was immediately curious about this pillow was because in the past, I've had travel pillows that IRKED my NERVES! You know the type...usually made of a silky material, filled with little Styrofoam beads, and U-shaped. ANNOYING. And GOD FORBID any sharp dog toenails get near it! Seeing that this travel pillow was different peaked my attention, and I decided to see what it was about!

My first impression upon opening the package was "THIS is a travel pillow?? It's not going to be big enough for anything!". It was SO compact that the bag literally fit in my hand. ONE hand. I undid the drawstring on the bag, and, with a little difficulty, pulled the pillow out. My first impression was that it is made of a tough plastic or rubber. Additionally, the outer shell feels like velvet. My concern was that this material would be HOT after continuous use. But, I decided to inflate it immediately (it's like a balloon) and check it out. 

A bit of air went into the pillow when I twisted the valve on the side (it is durable, high quality plastic, and I didn't feel that it would break easily). Being the size that it is, I didn't expect it to take much air to inflate it. However, it took less than I thought. It inflated easily and inflated to a firm, almost bow tie-like shape. The edges look well-secured, and the seam goes deep. There is an elastic band that goes across one side of the pillow, that is for securing it in place around a seat headrest. This feature is very convenient. By adjusting how much you inflate the pillow, you can change the firmness. All of these features make it easy to use and comfortable.

The only negative thing that I have to say is that the velvet-like exterior grabs dirt/lint VERY easily. However, a quick roll-over with a lint roller is an easy fix.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

An Emotional Journey: "The Moon Was My Witness" by Abraham Levy

One of my deep loves, from a very young age, is the Holocaust and the World Wars. Most consider this to be a morbid curiosity, however, I couldn't disagree more. From middle school, into high school, I would get very angry at my classmates for their apathy towards the subject. My fascination hasn't been towards death, but rather the capacity of any human or group of humans to be so cruel and uncaring. Honestly, I would easily call it downright psychopathic. That doesn't even begin to cover it! Additionally, the awe that I feel is for those who have survived the horrors and still manage to tell their stories and live their lives.

To recover from something like that is unfathomable to me because I don't know how I would pick up the pieces after so much loss. To be an adult and go through the series of events is one thing. To be a child, is a completely different thing. That is the story that you follow in "The Moon Was My Witness: The Jewish Boy Who Sabotaged the S.S. Commander's Motorcycle (Holocaust Memories)" by Abraham Levy.

 This book is important in so many ways. Not only will the words of Abraham live on forever, but memories are now frozen for the world examine and learn from and determine to never let happen again. It is said that if we do not learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. I completely agree. In reading this memoir, the emotions are real and haunting. The book leaves an impression that doesn't leave you. I found myself thinking about the words even when I didn't have the book in front of me.

 To be a child...to be torn between so many worlds, is painful to think about. Trying to hold on to childhood, while witnessing things that adults shouldn't...feeling guilty for your physical appearance because it is all that has saved you so many times...while others don't have that option to rely on...is all heartbreaking. For a child to experience all of this is just unimaginable.

 The book is very easy to read, and it feels as if you're being told a story in person. The words flow, and it goes by quickly. As sad and emotional as it is, you almost want to learn more of Abraham's experiences. At the same time, I was extremely satisfied with the read and I felt honored to have received the words into my heart. The book is a very emotional read and is a lot to take in, however, there are few books with as much importance as this.

I received this book as part of a promotion, and received it free for my honest opinion.