Life... Health... Reviews...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

School begins…

Part 2

About two weeks ago my two middle children went back to school and last weekend I took my oldest, 19-year-old Amber, back to her campus. Since this is her second year it was a little easier getting everything done as far as what she needed to take and have. Luckily, she had already bought most everything last year and just needed a few additional items. After we – her boyfriend and I – had her moved in, set up with groceries and the majority of things put away we left.

It was bittersweet to leave her, but it was way easier than last year when I smiled, waved and drove away… two minutes later I was bawling and couldn’t see the rode. :-)

Here’s a peek at Amber in her dorm room last year. It’s the slideshow I included with last year’s post.


Create Your Own

This year, can you believe, I forgot to take some pictures. So Amber was sweet enough – at her mother’s insistence – to take some pictures for me.

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100_3506Isn’t she the cutest?

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be telling you about my youngest daughter’s first day of head start… And the cycle continues. :-)

How was your children’s first day of school?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Memories of grandmother & her dinnerware

When I was a young girl in the early 70s both my mother and my father’s mother had beautiful china cabinets, which contained all sorts of memorabilia, crystal, formal dinnerware, champagne flutes, wine glasses and silverware sets. I remember getting my nose as close to the glass as I could to peer at the treasures within. My mother would normally admonish me for getting so close and remind me not to touch, and the only time I had a chance to see the items up close was during the holidays – when she used the fancy dinnerware and serveware sets. Afterward the items were placed in their places of honor and would only come out to be dusted, cleaned or to be used again.

At my grandmother’s house when I peered into her china cabinet there were times when she’d ask me what I was looking at. There were gravy boats and crystal salt and pepper shakers that always caught my attention. She’d tell me a story about how her grandmother had gotten the gravy boat, which was pale yellow with delicate flowers painted on it, or tell me which items were casual dinnerware and which were formal dinnerware.

From the time I was very small, my grandmother would talk to me as she prepared dinner or set the table so when I got old enough I started doing it without too much instruction. But, of course, there were still some things I didn’t know like the importance and meaning of the silverware sets that she used. My grandmother’s silverware was kept in the buffet table in a drawer that was lined with velvet to protect the silverware. She explained to me how each item was used and where it was placed on the table as well as if it should be used with formal dinnerware or casual dinnerware.

As I got older, I began setting formal place settings, folding cloth napkins and placing cutlery in the right places on my own. Even now, as an adult, I still think about those dinnerware sets and how special they are. I have some of them here waiting to be placed in my own “semi off limits” cabinet for my future grandchildren to marvel at and learn the stories behind each piece.

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‘Enter If You Dare!’ {book review}

What is it about the odd and unbelievable that draws humans to see more? I don’t have the answer, but I do know I can’t stop looking at and reading the new book from Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Enter If You Dare! My children and my BF can’t seem to put it down either, which is why it sits on a table in the living room so everyone can reach it went they’re ready for a little something shocking, intriguing or entertaining.

The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! new addition was released on August 10th and is the seventh in its multimillion bestselling series. This edition is an “all-new collection of the strangest stories and features from around the globe.” It includes mind-boggling facts, stories, interviews and features in a colorfully designed layout.

DSCF5108 One of my children’s favorite sections in the book is Body Oddity, which includes a true-to-size picture of 16-year-old Jyoti Amge who’s from Nagpur, India. She is one of the smallest teenagers in the world and stands 23.5 inches. My children were amazed when I held up the two-page foldout next to my 3-year-old daughter. My daughter, who’s about 27 pounds, is markedly bigger than Jyoti who weighs a little over 11 pounds.

It’s those amazing stories that keep us peeking in the book.

On my desk I have a tiny rubber band ball so imagine the kids’ surprise when they saw a picture of a rubber band ball that needed to be lifted by a crane to transport to the Ripley’s museum. Of course when I went to look in the book to give you more information about the rubber band ball I couldn’t find it. And that’s one of the fun and amazing things about the book: Each time you crack it open you’ll see something you hadn’t seen or read yet. So far, we’ve mostly been reading the entries that include pictures, but soon I will start reading the hundreds of other entries in each section.

ripley'sThis amazing book is guaranteed to be a source of entertainment – and education! – for myself and the children. My son is fascinated by anything having to do with animals, all of the children can’t resist finding out about everything concerning children and the littlest one just wants to know what everything is. (Small warning to parents: Some of the images I sensor from my middle daughter because she’s very sensitive and has dreams about things that scare her. So you may want to look at the book before you allow your children to then you’ll know what to avoid. Oh, there was some stuff I found yucky as well!)

Go ahead and get your own copy of Ripley's Believe It or Not! Enter If You Dare!

Disclosure: I received a copy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Enter If You Dare! to facilitate my review, but that in no way influenced my opinion – those are my own. No other compensation was received. Any links are to my Amazon affiliate account. More information can be found in my complete disclosure policy.

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Secure belongings with web slings

There has been a lot of individuals needing moving equipment lately. As I was riding down the street I live on I was surprised to see one of the residents who has lived in this neighborhood awhile with a moving truck in their driveway. The other day I saw someone trying to get heavy equipment secured with web slings and nylon straps. With so many people making such drastic changes lately, money issues and the economy are at the forefront of my mind.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

New friend, new face product… life is good! {product review}

As many of you know one of the benefits of having a blog is the friendships that are made with other bloggers. I love having friends across the United States and in different countries – it often feels like I get to visit and talk with them everyday. I didn’t know when I clicked over to the Mom Deal of the Day (around mid July) and discovered the deal was samples of Votre Vu French beauty products that I would also meet a new friend.

I contacted Arlene about getting samples and she sent me about five to test. When they arrived there was a nice letter explaining the products and offering a person-to-person to give me instruction on application. We chose to “talk” on Yahoo Instant Messenger (she’s in California and I’m in Georgia), and I’m so glad we did.

Arlene sent me the products for oily skin because my face is particularly oily during the summer months. She sent the cleansing gelee, tonic (Peau Equilibree Tonic for Oily Skin, serum (Peau Equilibree Serum Balance Pour le Visage) and moisturizer (Peau Equilibree Creme de 24/7). Note: Please forgive my lack of punctuation with the French words. And, as a bonus, I received a sample of Tarte d’Amande Luxe Hand Creme, which is actually one of the best hand creams I have ever tried. In addition to the luxurious feel of the cream it smelled heavenly. Note to self: Buy some!

What I thought of the products:DSCF5055

The first thing I noticed was how even the skin on my face looked. I looked and felt extremely refreshed after using the products in the order instructed. Truthfully, I was pretty amazed. As an admittedly skincare fanatic, I’ve tried many facial products and this is absolutely one of the best.  (The photo above is before and the one below is, of course, after. I’m not sure if you can tell the slight difference in how my face looks oiler in the first photo.)

The cleanser was gentle, the tonic – which is sprayed on – was refreshing and the moisturize was not overpowering. The only thing I didn’t like was the serum because it felt a little sticky at first. The second time I used it I made sure not to use as much and that seemed to alleviate the problem. However, as I’m reading over the IM notes I think I was supposed to rinse it off. Ut oh. LOL.

DSCF5114The best part about the products? When I perspired my face didn’t feel like it was leaking oil, which is how I normally feel with the products I’m currently using. So, obviously, I’m extremely please. Not so pleased that I’m out of samples though! LOL.

Just a little information about the products from my IM with Arlene:

She suggested the cleansing gelee because “the other cleansers are milk based but for oily skin you need the gelee as it has natural ingredients to calm, detoxify and stabilize as well as prevent breakouts and take care of … blemish causing issues.”

About the tonic: “This helps with shine and gives your skin that perfect ph-balance to be receptive to the next step. It has calendula, rose water and sage extracts so it smells wonderful. It also helps to tighten pores and there is no soap or alcohol.” (My two cents: It smells divine.)

About the moisturizer: “This is nice as it boasts high levels of vitamins E, A and B, grape seed and apricot kernel oils, rosemary and geranium oils and more. It is nice and light.” (My two cents: Love, love, love it.)

Let’s wrap this up:

In the process of learning about the products, Arlene and I chatted about our children, etc. It was a conversation that I really enjoyed. Not only did I get my skincare fix, but I think I made a new friend. :-)

If you’re interested in checking out the products for yourself, hop on over to the Votre Vu site. I think you’ll love how there are brief videos about the products. I’m off to stalk the site and see how much the luxe hand cream is (in the Duette that Arlene told me about) and to price the oil skin facial products.

Disclosure: I received Votre Vu French beauty treats to facilitate my review, but that in no way influenced my opinions – those are my own. No other compensation was received. Special thanks to Arlene and Mom Deal of the Day. More information can be found in my complete disclosure policy.

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Shopping for moving supplies

I’ve noticed in my blog hopping that quite a few people are moving. Some are moving due to military assignments and new jobs; some are ready for a change or need a change, others are moving for financial reasons whether downsizing or expanding. But there’s one thing that they all have in common. The need for moving supplies.

US Cargo Control has a huge selection of moving products including turnbuckles, moving blankets, ratchet traps and many additional items that are available at competitive prices. So whether you need a moving dolly or a tie down, you’ll find everything you need.

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PTA tattles and tells

Tonight was the first PTA meeting at my two middle children’s elementary school. I’ve been trying to prep myself to become as involved at the elementary school as I was at their head start so even though I didn’t feel like going I’m feeling quite accomplished for pushing through and going anyway.

The tattle: Imagine my dismay when I get there and see only about 20 or so parents. As a matter of fact, Andre was the only one that showed up from his class and I don’t think there was anyone from Amareah’s class (including her MIA teacher). It’s pretty disappointing for the first meeting of the school year. And, I hate to say it, if someone had said the children were going to perform the place would have been standing room only.

ATTENTION PARENTS: Don’t complain about the school if you aren’t going to participate.

The tell: I filled out my volunteer form and turned it in. I grabbed and filled out a PTA member application, which I’ll send to school tomorrow with the fee. And I’ll try not to complain about the rude mother who kept interrupting while I was asking the Girl Scouts rep some questions. She, for some reason, felt as if her questions (that she seemed to already have the answers to) were more important. 

So, there ya have it. My tattle tells. Now, if I was going to tell a tall tale I would have said these are my tattle tales! LOL… Ut oh, it appears as if this long day has gotten to my brain. I’m off to look at the PTA schedule and put some of the events on my calendar. I’m sure I’ll have more tells … and tales… soon.

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Finding free Wordpress themes

Have you been looking for wordpress templates ? Well, your search may be over. WPRex has a free gallery of templates for bloggers that are easy to download and that don’t require logging in. The site is well laid out and easy to use. In fact, I’ve been thinking about switching to a Wordpress platform and the templates here are making me seriously consider it.

What platform do you use and why?

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tasty treat & win (I love fruit baskets!)

With all the commotion of the past week, what with school starting for the two middle children and getting Amber back to college (and a bunch of other stuff), I’ve been forgetting losing track of what I’m supposed to be doing and posting.

One of the things I want to share with you is a very tasty win that was delivered on Wednesday last week. Well, first, let me tell you how I won it. I opened up my TweetDeck window one night and saw a tweet directing me to a conversation about 1800Baskets.com on Musings From My Minivan (you’re probably familiar with her as Miss Lori). Well, while Miss Lori was away having oodles of fun at BlogHer, she left her trusted readers to coming up with ideas for baskets for a chance to win one.

There were quite a few of us participating, but three of us stuck in until the end. And guess who won? All three of us did! LOL… That was really surprising and greatly appreciated. One lady won the APRES RAIN SPA Gift Basket (retail value $79.99) and someone else scored the BOUNTIFUL SWEETS GIFT BASKET (retail value $89.99). I wish I lived near them so I could enjoy some of their baskets as well – especially the one with the chocolate in it.

I received the BOUNTIFUL FRUIT AND GOURMET GIFT BASKET (retail value $89.99). What do I think about it? In a word: YUMMMMYYYY! I guess I should say what did I think about it ‘cause it’s basically all gone except for these final three pieces that are camped out in my fridge waiting to be devoured:

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Here’s a peek of what I saw when I opened the box:

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Do you see that Caramel Cashew Crunch and the licorice? Let me tell you that was the best tasting licorice I’ve ever had. I read on the site that this basket normally comes with chocolate-covered cherries and although I’m sure they would have been good, I’m so delighted to have tasted the licorice. Really!

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Other items were tasty pistachios, apples, pears, oranges, a pineapple and sparkling pear flavored cider.

DSCF5096 DSCF5099  DSCF5111Besides how tasty and fresh everything was, one of the best things about 1800Baskets is their gorgeous baskets, which can be reused for many things including re-gifting. …

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…  For now, I’ve found a new home for mine (I think that’s where I’m going to keep it) on top of one of the bookshelves in my office.

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The kinds of gifts that 1800Baskets.com carries are enjoyable and practical. I’m going to consider one of them the next time I need to purchase a gift.

Disclosure: This is not a review although it does include my opinions about the fabulous basket I won from 1800Baskets.com via Miss Lori TV. My win in no way influenced my opinion – those are my own. No other compensation was received. Any links are to the sites for your information. More information can be found in my complete disclosure policy.

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What weight loss sites do you trust?

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I often talk about my health challenges and my continued desire to lose more weight. I’m not one to follow strict or unusual diets… or any diet for that matter. I prefer to make lifestyle changes that I’m able to maintain over the course of – at minimum – a few years. That’s what I did to lose 10 pounds: I exercised fairly regularly, I counted calories and portions sizes and I reduced my fat intake.

Although that worked for me before for about three years, it doesn’t seem to be working now. I recently came across a new blog Fast Weight Loss Diet – How To Lose Weight, Quick Weight Loss Tips, which supposedly provides advice and information about all things relating to weight loss and dieting. I, however, will need to see it developed a little more with factual references and links to determine its legitimacy.

Nowadays, we have to be really careful when someone is touting good weight loss diets because oftentimes when the word "diet" is used it's speaking of restrictions and sacrifices. When you’re trying to lose weight wouldn’t you prefer to eat almost everything you want in moderation and maintain a healthy lifestyle? I know I would. So, tell me, have you found any weight loss sites that you trust?

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Use your gifts, follow your heart, share your experiences

A book review of Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt

When I picked up Silent Tears I didn’t expect to be drawn into Kay Bratt’s story because I am normally not a memoir reader. Normally, when – and if – I pick up a memoir I skim the cover and read a few pages here and there as the words or story captures me. I am rarely captured enough to finish it from cover to cover. This did not prove true with Kay’s memoir, Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage.

It is written in a way that makes me feel like I’m snooping in someone’s journal, but it speaks to me in a way that only a true account, heart-wrenchingly sad and selflessly good book can. For me, it’s more than a mere relaying of events that occurred, it is a message of how to use our gifts and the struggle to be true to that. It’s a story of how not to give up on what your heart – and spirit – are leading you to do. And it’s a story of sharing your experiences in the hopes of helping others to realize their gifts, follow their hearts to share their experiences, which will – in essence – change someone else’s life.

Here’s an excerpt from the book’s cover:

What started out as an adventure for Kay Bratt became an unforgettable and life-changing experience.

When her family relocated to rural China in 2003, Kay Bratt was thrust into a new world, one where boys were considered more valuable than girls and poverty and the one-child policy had created an epidemic of abandoned infants. As a volunteer at a local orphanage, Bratt witnessed conditions that were unfathomable to a middle-class mother of two from South Carolina.

Based on Bratt’s diary of her four years at the orphanage, Silent Tears offers a searing account of young lives rendered disposable. In the face of an implacable system, Bratt found ways to work within (and around) the rules to make a better future for the children, whom she came to love.

The love Kay feels for the Chinese children she helped care for leaps off of the page. The surprising conditions of the orphanage and how the children are treated is like a splash of cold reality because although I know (or have heard) such conditions exist; in my mind I was hoping that it would not be true in this day and age. It is for this reason that Silent Tears took me so long to finish. I often long to sit and read it until I’m through, but can sometimes only take a little bit at a time because of the images that flow through my mind because of the details Kay shares. It was also necessary to stop and absorb what Kay had written because I believe there is more than just an account of events here; it is a message.

Not everyone will have a chance to travel to a Third World country or experience the selflessness of a missions trip, but everyone can identify what their gifts are and utilize them to help others. As I near the end of Silent Tears, I hope the message, the accounts of the children’s suffering and the faith in which Kay stood her ground and kept on her mission don’t leave me. Should you decide to read this book be prepared to absorb the message and be moved by the story then let it stay with you so you – as I hope to do – can use your gifts, follow your heart and share your experiences.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Silent Tears to facilitate my review, but that in no way influenced my opinion – those are my own. No other compensation was received. Any links are to my Amazon affiliate account. More information can be found in my complete disclosure policy.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

School uniforms for the kids

This is the first year I’ve had two children (Andre and Amareah) needing school uniforms and I’ve found that providing and purchasing them isn’t necessarily cheaper than buying mainstream children’s clothing. With that in mind, I’m still interested in finding the best deals I can on school uniforms.

To stock up on school uniforms, I have to be a little creative and shop at different stores or stalk the sales. One of the places I’ve found that has an excellent sale on school uniforms is the Children’s Place. Not only do they have adorable regular children’s clothing, but they have a complete line of uniforms for boys and girls along with accessories I haven’t seen elsewhere.

I’m definitely going to shop while there is a Children’s Place sale going on because I have to save every cent I can. What about you? Is there a particular back-to-school items you’re saving money on?

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