Monday, December 14, 2015

So It's Been Awhile...

I have had a bit of an absence from my blog for the past few months,  Managing my injury and new job, along with 1 year old and other family demands was just crushing every part of me, from my spirit to my drive for success.  It was even more uncharted territory than I'd faced before, even in some very tough times.

Since I was unable to take care of myself and was dependent on my husband and friends for so much, I felt trapped and isolated, even though I was never alone.  Sound strange?  Yeah, I think it does too, but it really isn't that strange.  Imagine never having any freedom to do whatever you pleased, whenever you pleased.  No more meeting friends out for lunch.  No more stopping at Target on my way home from work to pick up a few groceries.  No ability to participate in happy hours or other clubs or meetings.  That's been my life.  The timing never worked for picking up my kiddo or my husband's schedule, so these things just couldn't happen, and my life turned straight to survival mode.  In short, it sucked.  I have been ready to get better for quite awhile now, but the pain was awful and my fracture was not healing.

However, over the past month, things have been getting better over the past couple of weeks, now that physical therapy has finally led to signs of physical improvement--I'm back to driving my car again and I can lift my daughter up, even if it's just for short periods of time or in certain positions.  My little girl has instantly warmed back up to me, too, which is the very best feeling of all.  While I'm not fully independent yet, as I still need Hubs to wash my hair, lift heavy things and do other types of tasks for me, progress is a wonderful feeling!

You'll be seeing more of me again, and I can't wait!

I hope everyone's holiday season is going fabulously!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Scotties & Blo Blow Dry Bar Event

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an event for local bloggers hosted and sponsored by Scotties tissues at Blo Blow Dry Bar.  While this review and event were sponsored by Scotties, my thoughts and opinions in this post are entirely my own.

Scotties facial tissues classic tissues that have been a staple in homes, offices, cars and purses for years. Soft and sturdy, they stand up to even the fiercest of cold or flu symptoms (I know because I've recently been hit with a cold and these came in quite handy!).  They're widely available, most notably at We are available locally at Walmart and online on  Scotties is an environmentally conscious brand that plants 3 trees for every tree it uses, resulting in the company planting over 944 million trees in the past 50 years.  To read more about Scotties, check out their website,

Scotties products are wonderful, and I was given several boxes of tissues to try.  Look at these beautiful boxes below... Gorgeous, right?  The designs are more visually interesting and exciting than standard graphic designs from other brands' tissue boxes

The event itself was lovely, and I learned so much about the Scotties brand's local outreach efforts with the Tampa Bay Human Society, which has helped place approximately 500 cats into loving forever homes over the past 3 years via sponsored adoptions.  Many of you may recognize that the Scotties mascot is a kitten, hence the support of the adoption of shelter cats. I love this charitable giving mission and its impact on my local community.  Animals are a particular soft spot of mine, especially since I have a rescue dog that I adopted from a Humane Society shelter many years ago.  It's great to see companies supporting the placement of shelter animals in loving, forever homes.

At this event, I received a complimentary blow-out and my stylist at Blo was phenomenal!  Since my husband had been washing my hair since early September, the thought of having someone else wash my hair was heavenly, and my stylist did not disappoint.  She really scrubbed my scalp and massaged it in the most relaxing of ways.  Afterward, I chose a mix between their standard blow-out look and their blow-out with a lot of body, so it was bouncy and fresh looking, and it looked gorgeous for three full days.  I spruced it up in between the days with a light spritz of dry shampoo, and it was back to it's gorgeous original state.  I was so impressed!  

Day 1, Front

Day 1, Profile

Day 2, looking just as great as Day 1

I was so impressed, in fact, that I've already been back for a another blow-out (on my own dime, of course) because I just had to have another!  

Many thanks to Scotties for the great learning experience about their products and charitable giving programs, as well as for the lovely blow-out at Blo Blow Dry Bar!  My hair  truly hadn't looked or felt this wonderful in months!

For additional information, check out the Scotties Facebook page at and Twitter account at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quick Update

Hi there!  It's been awhile, I know... I know.

Life has just been happening around here, guys.  For better and for worse, but I've tried to keep a smile on my face.  I will give you a few quick and dirty updates, and get into some specifics later this weekend when I have time to put up the lengthier posts.

*  I started a new job on August 31st!  I'm working with a former co-worker at his company any it's a great, challenging new job for me.  I'm no longer managing people, but it's a higher level job and will definitely help me in my career progression down the road.  The pay is also better and I will have opportunities to work from home a couple of days per week in the future, which will be AMAZING.  I can't wait for my training period to end and for that to get going.

* After my 4th day on the job, I tripped and fell one evening at home (on the dog's little stairs leading up to our loveseat, no less) and fractured my right wrist and fractured and dislocated my right shoulder!  I was in a shoulder immobilizer for a week (over Labor Day holiday weekend), then saw an orthopedic surgeon last week who confirmed that no surgery was necessary at this time but I'd have 3-4 more weeks of healing followed by 6-8 weeks of physical therapy ahead of me.  In the meantime, I have very limited use of my right arm, so I've had to get used to typing and mousing with only my left hand, and I'm not allowed to drive.  What a great way to start a new job--by being incredibly slow on a computer and relying on my husband and friends for rides to and from work every day!  (Sarcasm...of course.)  I also can't wash my own hair, need help getting dressed, and have to sleep in a La-Z-Boy recliner, which really stinks.  I'm a super independent person so this situation is really frustrating and upsetting.  You know what bums me out a lot?  Not being able to do my hair, skincare and makeup routines the way I like.  Sounds silly to my Hubby, but for other girls like me, I'm sure you can't understand the annoyance and pain involved in a situation like this.  For example, I can't use any hair product that isn't in a spray bottle or else I can't evenly spread it through my hair. Hmph.  Just forces me to try new products, I suppose, but that creature of habit in me isn't liking this arrangement very much!  I can't wait to get started on therapy and regain some use in my arm to resume normal activities again.

*  Avery turned 1 a few weeks ago and we held her 1st birthday party over Labor Day weekend!  Pictures to come...

*  I've had to put many plans for this Fall on hold because I just had an ER visit (thank you. trip-and-fall accident!) that will require me to pay my entire new deductible on my new health insurance NOW.  I've had to reconsider plans for redecorating our office, getting some new clothes for Hubs and I (he's dropping weight like crazy and I just need some new things for my new job), and other house/yard projects that we were really excited about.  That's just how life goes sometimes, but I can't let it get me down too much.  There will always be other times and ways for those things to happen.

*  I saw Ed Sheeran in concert last week and he was phenomenal!  I was so glad it was just him in concert and that he didn't have a full band with him--just like he's always performed.  I almost worried that he'd have a full band, with this being a huge headlining arena gig and all, but he did his thing up there solo and rocked it.  It was so much fun and even Hubs admitted the he's a really talented artist. (And that's saying something, because he's quite a music critic!)

So those are the highlights!  More to come in each area.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Amazing Highs and Lows

The past two weeks have been ones where life swung wildly from extreme to extreme, giving me some tremendous highs and some pretty big lows along the way.  It's just so... how life is for me at the moment.  Great stuff followed by some really crappy stuff.

Obviously, examples help here, right?

For the high points...

* My sweet baby girl turned 1 year old!!  I posted about it yesterday, but I still can't believe she's no longer a baby and now a toddler.  Every parent says, "Where has the time gone?!"  And I get it now, because it seems like only yesterday she was a tiny little baby I was bringing home from the hospital and snuggling with in the wee hours of the morning.  Seeing her grow up has been a true blessing.

* I accepted an amazing new job a few weeks back, and start on 8/31!  Until recently, I couldn't discuss it online because it wasn't fully known to everyone at my current job.  But since it's now "out there", I felt better about sharing with everyone here.  My new job is at a higher level and is more appropriate for me at this point in my career, with a significant pay increase and some flexibility to work from home in the future to boot.  The company is also in a completely different field where I'll be able to learn a lot of new things and stretch my base of knowledge, not only in my specific job area but in the world of business.  While I'll miss my current job tremendously, my new one is sure to be full of great challenges that will excite and motivate me!

* My new niece, Claire Michelle, was born this past week.  We share a middle name, which makes me such a proud auntie!  See our picture below... Isn't she cute?!?!  She looks similar to her big sister, but with a less pronounced chin and smaller mouth, hands and feet.  Oh, those adorable, teeny, tiny feet!!  Maybe Claire be the dainty one of the two, since my other niece is such a rough and tumble kid!  No matter what, I adore her.  She's one sweet, snuggly little girl.

* We are having some areas of our yard professionally re-landscaped and it's finally set up for this week!  I can't wait to see what our yard looks like when it's got proper bushes, mulch, rocks, and plants.  In the past, we've done some of this ourselves, but we just don't have the time or manpower for the amount of work that needs to be done quickly, and a professional can do it fast and without it breaking our bank.  We've had most of our trees trimmed recently, and that's made a huge difference, but now we're saving to have 5 trees removed completely.  3 of those are gigantic Washington palm trees planted by the prior owner of our house in the backyard, which are 30 feet tall now and will grow to be 60 feet tall in the non-so-distant future.  It's very difficult for them to be trimmed now, but at 60 feet, it will be impossible.  Anyone familiar with palms knows that when the wind blows, untrimmed dead palm fronds will fall and could seriously injure someone (including my darling child or one of her friends or relatives), and that's not a risk I'm willing to take.  We're cutting those suckers down once we have the money saved, and it's a priority for us.

* I had a very sick aunt who made it through a very tough surgery and it making a miraculous recovery.  It's honestly a miracle, and even the doctors are shocked.  I cannot say enough about this wonderful woman, and I'm glad she'll be on this Earth a little longer.

As for those pesky, frustrating lows...

* I was mistaken for my 9-months pregnant sister by her neighbor this week. The neighbor saw my husband and I loading Avery into our SUV and asked me if I was on the way to the hospital to have my baby.  I know I'm overweight, but... really???  She even knows my sister, brother-in-law and 2-year-old niece pretty well, and my sister and I don't even look that much alike (yes, we're twins, but fraternal).  Ugh.  Even though I've lost 30 lbs, that was like a stab in the heart.  This also happened with a different neighbor of my sister's not long ago.  I went to visit on a solo weekend trip about 6 weeks ago, and that neighbor asked me if I was ready to have my baby.  She clearly thought I was my sister.  I'd lost 22 lbs at that point and I was so mad.  Mad at myself, mad at her, just mad in general.  I told my sister and she told me that neighbor was an idiot.  My sister clearly has a HUGE baby belly and has outgrown all of the maternity clothes I'd given her while I was pregnant with Avery, yet this woman thought I was her, in my non pregnant, no-baby-belly state.  Again, humiliating, disheartening, disappointing... there aren't enough words in my vocabulary to express my feelings about this subject.  As I've stated before, I'm steadily working to lose weight in a healthy way, and I don't hate myself for my weight or how I look, and health is still my priority over looks.  But damn, those comments stung.

* I haven't had a fully-functional iPhone in over a month.  My initial iPhone was replaced under warranty in July after having a cracked screen and other issues. Within two weeks, the phone became unable to connect to my wireless carrier the majority of the time and kept asking me to re-activate the phone.  After experiencing some extraordinarily poor customer service in-store, I called the store's customer service line and was sent a new phone via 2-day UPS service.  However, the phone didn't arrive until 4 days later (nice 2-day service, UPS!), when I was out of town to meet my new niece.  So what did UPS do?  Rather than waiting 2 hours for me to come home and see the final notice, and come in to their center to pick up the package, they immediately returned it to the sender!  I was hopping mad.  Breathing fire.  Seeing red.  (Insert your own euphemism here.)  I was sent yet another phone, and this one doesn't recognize ANY sim card you put into it.  WTF.  After several aggravating hours on the phone with store managers, call center "supervisors" and others, I sent Hubs to the store to see what he could do.  I knew that if I had to talk to someone in person I might just go postal, and I didn't want to do that.  Apparently they have a 3-strikes rule with their warranty replacement phones, so they ordered me a 3rd replacement phone and the 3rd phone won't get here for at least a week.  Hubs got me a cheap $10 Android trac phone to hold me over until this mess gets sorted out, but it's been ridiculous.  Remember when no one had cell phones and we didn't feel lost without electronic devices, except maybe the TV remote control when it was stuck between the sofa cushions?  Ah, the good old days.

* A part of my car's anti-lock brake system is on the fritz and it almost caused a serious accident the other night.  Now, I'm paranoid about driving my car, and I find driving in heaving traffic very stressful.  I hope we can get this part fixed soon, but this is a very expensive fix.  Coming from a Car Family (most of my family works/has worked in the auto industry), we rarely keep cars past 3 years, and this is the first car I've had this long (5.5 years).  Now I see why I haven't--the thing has become a serious money pit.  While the lure of no car payment sounds awesome, spending thousands in the past 2 years fixing expensive issues just isn't my jam.

So that's it for recent highs and lows.  It's the epitome of life, right?  Sometimes life builds us up and kicks us down mere seconds apart from one instance to the other, but it's how we recover that makes us who we are.  I come from positive-thinking parents, so I'm taking a page from their playbook:  I'm focusing on what's been going great and and remembering that life always gets better.

I hope everyone has a great, positive week!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Avery Jane's 1st Birthday

Happy 1st birthday to my dear Avery Jane!  You were born a year ago and daddy and I's lives have been forever changed in the best of ways.  Now we couldn't imagine life without you, nor would we want to.

Your smile lights up any room, just as it lights up daddy and I's hearts.  Your sweet, loud giggles are infectious and your kisses make my heart skip a beat.   Your adorable noises, dramatic sobs just to get some extra snuggles and love affair with our family doggie only make daddy and I love you more.  

I can't believe you're walking all over the house, getting more and more curious by the day and learning so quickly.  You're totally infatuated with your book collection, and you're growing to love your stuffed animals much more than you did just a few months ago.  You're taking to eating big people food pretty well, but we have a ways to go still.  You and Bella have become co-conspirators, where you purposely drop half of your food to her on the floor rather than eating it yourself, and believing that if you "refuse" food by shoving it all off your tray onto the floor (to a hungry, patiently waiting miniature schnauzer, who will gobble up any food that falls her way), that we'll eventually give you something you like better.  Tsk, tsk.  Mom and dad found you out, but we love how cute and coy your game had become.  Nice try, doll face.  You have fully transitioned form formula to milk, but still won't take a sippy cup unless you want to spike it on the ground like a football.  You are, however, drinking lots of water out of your bottle, so I have no doubt that we'll get there eventually.

Daddy and I had a little birthday party for you on your birthday, just the three of us and our doggie, Bella.  The whole day, we sang you happy birthday, reminded you that you're no longer our baby but now our toddler, and did everything we could to make you smile.  Your big part is coming in 2 weeks, but this was just for you, me and daddy, and it was wonderful.  Here are some pictures from our little family birthday celebration...

You had such a wild and exhausting day with your pictures being taken and an epic meltdown during your cake-smashing pictures, but after a long nap, you had a great time having dinner and opening presents.  You even ate birthday cake for the first time--and you loved it!  See?  Birthday cake and frosting weren't so bad after all!  You just wanted it cut up in pieces so you could see that the frosting wasn't hiding something sinister, like brussels sprouts or quinoa.  We gave you three of your presents on your birthday, your first teddy bear and two books.  The teddy bear was a huge hit and you have hardly put it down since.

Also on your birthday, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Kelly, and your cousin Elise sang you Happy Birthday over the phone TWICE, and everyone wished they could have seen your face--you smiled so big and knew that it was a special day all your own.  Don't worry, they'll be here in 2 weeks for the bigger party!

Wishing you many, many more wonderful birthdays, happy times, and birthday memories to come, Avery!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Life and Stuff

Wow, it seems like it's been forever since I really sat down to give everyone some updates.  Ready... Set... Go!

*  As I've shared previously, I've been under a lot of stress in the past year.  It seems like Murphy's Law has been in full effect, and we can't seem to catch a break.  Between family illnesses, work stress, homeowner issues, rental property owner issues, parent issues, etc., it's just been a wild ride.  I've been working on several ways to get these things under control, but some of them I can't share just yet. (Yes, I know I said that a week or two ago.  Still the same.  Can't share right now.)  I will as soon as I can though!

*  Hubs and I went to see Dave Matthews Band last Wednesday night and it was PHENOMENAL!  We didn't see them last year because I was 8 months pregnant and fully miserable by that point.  There's no way I could have sat outside, sweating my buns off, and having to use the ladies room every 10 minutes.  Not to mention my slow waddling between the car and the venue in the huge parking lot, getting bumped into by dozens of drunk people, and potentially finding myself in a driving rainstorm wearing only a glorified trash bag.  No ma'am.  This year, though, it was a whole different story.  It rained earlier in the day, and was gorgeous during our tailgate.  (There was much rejoicing over the great weather!)  While it did get more humid as the evening went on, it stayed rain-free and we enjoyed a wonderful show.  I couldn't have been happier with how it all turned out!

*  I'm busy planning Avery's first birthday party.  I can't believe she's almost a year old already!  Where did my tiny little baby go?!?!  She was so small and cuddly, and now she is much bigger and can't sit still.  She's such a sweet girl though, and we're excited to get her birthday party invitations sent out soon.  By the way, I feel like I've lost my knack for party planning since it's been soooo long since I've hosted a gathering.  I need to get my groove back, and maybe this will help!

*  Oh yeah, Avery walked unassisted for the first time last weekend and by this weekend she's all over the house!!  YEAH, I KNOW.  Now we need to finish baby-proofing, stat.  She's already starting to open the lower cupboards in the kitchen and tip over the chairs in our breakfast nook,so time is of the essence!

*  I'm doing pretty well with my diet.  In three months, I've lost close to 30 lbs.  I still have a long way to go, but I believe in the pursuit of progress, not perfection (it's my personal mantra at this point!).  Hubs has lost over 50 lbs during the same period, but that's a guy for you.  Same diet, loses more weight.  Nonetheless, I'm incredibly proud of him.  He weighs less than when we got married and is looking quite foxy, if I must say so myself!

*  I've discovered that Weight Watchers makes excellent low-fat ice cream treats, my favorite being the Giant Fudge Bar.  Remember Pudding Pops back in the day?  They taste a lot like those, but without a creeper like Bill Cosby promoting them. Here's me in my WW bathrobe indulging in one of these delicious (3 point!) treats...

*  It's been raining like its Monsoon season here in Florida over the past 2 weeks, resulting in tons of flooding.  I seriously felt like I should have stayed home to build an ark yesterday, but I somehow got myself to work and only hydroplaned twice during my commute (Note to self:  Avoid standing water on bridges).

*  I'm so, so far behind on home projects.  I'm at the point where I'm ready to pay someone to clean up my landscaping, deep clean the inside of my house, wash and detail my car, and put air in my tires.  I know, that sounds ridiculous to some of you, but others know what I mean.  Being a working mom is tough, even when Hubs is a SAHD.  He even has limited time to do chores and things because she's such a handful, doesn't always nap well and has other things to do in his downtime, like put together my new gas grill, do laundry (gotta have clean clothes!) and tend to our geriatric schnauzer.  We're all busy and just getting by these days.

*  My newest niece is scheduled to be born on August 17, so I'm taking that week off work to spend with my family.  I pray that baby is born healthy and mama stays healthy as well.  Her middle name will be the same as my middle name, so I feel a connection already!

*  One of you (you know who you are) noted that you've seen a lack of photos in recent posts that are non-food related.  I had to laugh at that one, but I know you're right.  Part of this is because my usual surfaces for photographing items are indisposed right now... busy being used for other projects and things.  I also haven't been diligent about taking photos at events, as I've been trying to be more present and in-the-moment, rather than hiding behind my camera.  No matter, though, I'll be fixing this and I appreciate you pointing it out.

That's all for now!  Hope everyone has a great week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month at Del Frisco's Grille

Summers in Florida are H.O.T., ya'll.   And we need everything we can get to cool ourselves down, from a swim in a refreshing pool to a delicious ice cream treat.

Recently, my husband and I had a date night and visited a new Del Frisco's Grille location in Tampa to try out their Adult Milk Shakes.  I mean, July was National Ice Cream Month after all... How could I say no to ice cream in the peak of the summer heat in Florida?  That's right, it was just impossible, diet be damned.  Ice cream won.

When we sat down and reviewed the menu, I noticed that the cocktail, beer and wine menu took up one whole page and the food took up the entire back page.  50/50.  Equal measure.  With that, I knew I was going to love this place.

So, Hubs and I both had one starter cocktail to get things rolling.  I tried the VIP Martini, made with a delightful "Sweet Hawaiian Gold Pineapple-infused Svedka Clementine Vodka".  Delish and dangerous.  I could have had 3 more before knowing what I'd done to myself!  My husband opted for a beer. (He's a simple man with simple, but great, taste.)

Next, we had an appetizer--the Cheesesteak Eggrolls.  We were starving after a long day of me working and him running after our little one, so we devoured them before I could even grab a picture!  They were to die for though.  Seriously.

Following that, we both had The Grille Prime Cheeseburger and also split a side order of Truffled Mac & Cheese along with our Adult Milk Shakes.  Here are some photos for your undoubtedly hungry eyes...

The Spread -- Check out that adorable little ketchup bottle!

Amazing Truffled Mac & Cheese - The ruffled pasta was perfect!

The Adult Milk Shake

So the Adult Milk Shake was my primary reason for visiting but that Cheeseburger... oh my... I haven't had a cheeseburger in months and it was phenomenal.  Two medium-thickness patties with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and something called "Sloppy Sauce".  Whatever it was, it was yummy.

The Adult Milk Shake was everything my July ice cream fantasies were made of, with vanilla ice cream, creme de cacao, chocolate liqueur, and walnut liqueur.  A great, big, ol' boozy milk shake.  Yes, please!  It was creamy, had the perfect hit of chocolate flavor without being overly rich, and it was so, so refreshing on a hot summer day.

This was such a great dinner to end a crazy, hot day, and I had a great time celebrating National Ice Cream Month on a much-needed date night with my husband.

I recommend that you check out Del Frisco's Grille in Tampa as well, especially for their cocktail menu and Adult Milk Shake.  You can thank me later.  Also, follow Del Frisco's Grille Tampa on Twitter and Facebook to hear about upcoming promotions or menu items.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Avery is 11 Months Old!

My big girl is already 11 months old!  She's wearing 18 month clothes already (for length, since she's a tall one!) and her size 4.5 Wide shoes are getting small.  She's beginning to walk, transitioning to grown up foods, loves to dance, and mimics things we do like clapping or waving.  She's also totally in love with our dog, Bella, who is still a little bit skeptical of her unpredictable ways.

We've had a busy month, so here are a few highlights...

Standing to cruise, play and jump up and down

Transitioning to Grown Up Foods

First Eye Doctor Appointment

First 4th of July

Swimming at Grandma and Grandpa's New House

Monday, July 27, 2015

GlossyBox Review - June vs. July 2015

I realized the other day that I hadn't posted about my recent Glossyboxes, so today I'm going to change that.

Oddly, while thinking about why I hadn't posted about them, it struck me that I wasn't thrilled with either one.  Perhaps I was subconsciously choosing not to post about them because I wasn't overjoyed.  I don't particularly like sharing about things I don't like, but the point of sharing reviews is so people hear my real experiences--good, bad or indifferent. That's what helps me make choices about where I invest my money, so I figure that's how others do it too.  Every review is worthwhile.

So let's get the show on the road...

June's Box

Items included in this box...

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
Deluxe Sample - Value:  $14.50
As a mascara fanatic, this one is amazing.  I can't believe I haven't tried it until now!  It volumizes like a dream, has a brilliant hourglass-shaped brush with tons of bristles, and lengthens beautifully, but not as dramatically as some I've tried.  Overall, I'd give it an A.  I'll definitely be purchasing a full sized version once this sample is gone.

City Lips Collagen Peptide Lip Plumping Treatment - Clear
Full Sized - Value:  $40.00
I'm not a huge lip plumper fan, at least not since I had an incident with DuWop Lip Venom around 10 years ago when lip plumpers were the product du jour (think burning, red, swollen lips).  This product, however, was much less painful than the DuWop version, but I still got a pretty solid tingling sensation.  The plumping was pretty darn good, and I noticed it after 5-7 minutes.  Since this was the clear version, I tried this over lip stain and it looked great.  I'm still not sure if I love the tingly feeling on my lips, though.

Etre Belle Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel 
Full Size - Value:  $24.95
A nice cooling aloe gel is great in the summer, but this was nothing special for the price.  I like the less expensive aloe gels from the drugstore just as well, and a huge bottle costs me only $6, That's a pale-skinned, frequently sunburned Floridian for you, though.  I need my aloe in mass volume.  Nonetheless, it was a nice idea for a summer theme box.

Orly Nail Lacquer in Lola
Deluxe Sample - Value:  $4.00
A lovely, perfect pink for the summer!  I loved it on my toes this week, and the formula seems to be pretty chip resistant (says the girl who's hard on her feet).  I foresee using this until the bottle runs dry.

Aloe Source Vitamin C Antioxidant Creme
Deluxe Sample - Value:  $10.00
Others raved about this product, and I sure wish I got to try it, but mine was completely dried out by the time it was delivered to my home and I excitedly opened the tub.  Womp, womp... So, I didn't end up trying it, but Glossybox sent me another sample in its place and it was...

Beauty Blender Original Sponge
Full Size - Value:  $20.00
I cannot complain at all about getting a Beauty Blender sponge as a replacement!  I absolutely love this item, as I use it daily.  Big score!

Total Value of June Box:  $103.45

This was my best month yet in terms of value, and the products were pretty great.  I wish I'd gotten to try the Aloe Source creme, but the Beauty Blender sponge wasn't a shabby replacement.  I was very happy with this box overall.

July's Box

Hey Honey I Peel Good! Biomimetic Creamy Honey Peel Cream
Deluxe Sample - Value:  $29.50
This product exfoliates, hydrates, and leaves behind a natural, protective lipid barrier, so I was intrigued.  I was initially turned off by how tacky this product felt on my skin during my initial application, but the more I massaged it in, the less sticky it became.  The scent is very light, which was great, and not overly sweet like the honey in the name suggests.  It did leave my skin very soft, and I followed a friend's recommendation of rinsing it off, which helped a lot.

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
Deluxe Sample - Value:  $5.11
I had already tried this once after receiving it in a Target Beauty Box.  It was alright, as sleeping masks go.  It was soothing, softening and didn't clog up my pores.  I just wish this could have been a full size product, since I tend to use pretty thick layers of sleeping mask products when I use them.  I feel like I burn through these tiny pots in a flash, so a bigger pot would have been nice.

Kueshi Anticellulite Booster Lotion
Full Size - Value:  $22.60
Here's another product from the Spanish line that gave us a lovely toner a few months ago (it was a really great toner!).  However, this anticellulite product isn't going to be helpful for me--my cellulite is far past the point of no return.  I mean, a girl can dream that a tube of cream will erase that, but I'm too realistic for that.  However, this may make a good trade item with my pal Tracy, who loves to swap items with me.  

Face Stockholm Eye Pencil in White
Full Size - Value:  $17.00
Honestly, I wasn't feeling this white eye pencil.  I already have one from a number of years back that barely got used, and the idea of using a white eyeliner on my waterline just doesn't excite me.  Practically any other color would have been great, but white isn't my thing anymore.  This is another goody for the trade pile.

Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm in Peppermint
Full Size - Value:  $5.50
I actually really liked this lip balm.  It's go a great peppermint flavor and tingle that's not overpowering and a velvety-smooth formula that glides over my dry lips like a cool summer breeze.  This one's a keeper!  

Total Value of July Box:  $79.71

Overall, this box was a "meh" for me.  Some good, some not so good.  I guess they can't all hit on my sweet spots relating to products.  But seriously, how did I end up with the white eye pencil when everyone else got some other color???

Overall Thoughts

I didn't passionately adore either of these boxes, but each had a couple of items that were wonderful, and a few items that most certainly weren't.  Glossybox has one more month to impress me before I consider pulling the plug.  Just like with every subscription service, there are ups and downs from month to month, but you have to be blown away at some point to feel like moving forward with the sub is worth the investment.  Hopefully the August box is a stellar one!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cheers to Unpredictability!

So, July has been a month that hasn't exactly turned out like I planned.  Heck, the last year hasn't turned out like I planned, in many ways!  It's funny how life is, right?  The minute you make big plans, something comes along and changes them.

Things are going on in my life that I can't speak openly about yet.  Nope, baby #2 is NOT on the way, but there are some changes afoot and I need to wait for the right moment to share them with everyone.

Nonetheless, I'm going to be completing a bunch of posts soon and Beauty Month will spill over into August.  I'm sure most of you won't mind a bit!  I also need to do some catching up on me and my little family's life right now, as it's been a little while since I shared on that topic.

Right now, I'm busy dreaming of happy hour, the weekend and hugs from Hubs and my baby girl waiting for me at home.  As much as I love my job, my family is the biggest blessing in my life.

So here's to the end of a long workweek, family, friends and living life in the moment, crazy changes and all!!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

13 Ways to Revive Damaged Hair

My hair and I have had a long, tumultuous history, but we are currently working on good terms.  After many years of trials, tribulations and heartache over hair issues, I've learned a thing or two that has helped keep my hair healthy, soft and loved by hairstylists far and wide.

Going way back, I always saw my mom and the attention she gave to her looks: She'd blow dry, curl and hairspray the hell out of her hair every single day, even if she wasn't planning to leave the house, was headed to the hospital for surgery, planned to work in the yard all day, etc.  She applied makeup with the same steadfast reliability as well.  Never a day without being beautiful.  As for me, I haphazardly tried different hairstyles (it was the 80's and 90's, so spiral perms and teased hair were still in) and didn't find a good fit with any of that jazz.  My hair wasn't much of a fan of holding curl back then, and it really hasn't changed a lick.

In high school, my mom (a corporate accountant) became part-owner of an Aveda salon in my hometown as an investment, so I got all products at cost and 1/2 priced services. (Any girl would love that!)  Not surprisingly, I had my hair highlighted and dyed professionally from the time I turned 15 years old, and I used great quality products for a long time.  In college, my mom sold her stake in the salon when she moved across the state, so I was on my own, but still addicted to Aveda hair care and went to pricey Aveda salons near my college and in the town where my parents then lived.  That was around the time when I became more experimental with my hair color and it was often some combination of blonde, red or brown with different colors (or combinations of colors) of highlights.  At one point, I was so over-highlighted that my hair was virtually blonde.  People who know me now find this quite amusing.  (Apparently I don't strike anyone as a vivacious blonde type.)

Throughout those years, I heat-styled my hair regularly with my arsenal of hot rollers, curling irons, flat irons and blow dryers.  My hair was always beaten into submission by these tools, but ironically, they only made the condition of my hair worse.  I was also using styling products loaded with alcohol, which (again) ravaged my hair, and soon my mop of hair became increasingly frizzy, messy and brittle.  So much so, in fact, that my mom had a habit of reminding me how "wild" my hair was nearly every time I saw her.  (Thanks for the love, Mom!)  The combination of chemical treatments, an over-abundance of styling products and heat styling really tortured my tresses.

Sadly, I've found just about every way imaginable to damage my hair, short of lighting it on fire.
However I've learned my lessons by trial and error, and now I'm here to share them.  If you, too, are a member of the Damaged Hair Club, here are 13 things you can do to bring your hair back to shiny, bouncy, fabulous life.

1.  Just say NO to extensive heat styling.  This may sound unrealistic to some who can't function without their hair dryers or flat irons, but hear me out.  When you stop using crazy hot, drying heat on your strands, fresh, uncompromised hair grows in it's place, and this hair is usually more manageable and smooth.  If you can't live without heat styling every day, using a thermal protectant will improve the health of your hair dramatically.  I like Aveda Brilliant Damage Control, which protects against heat and adds loads of shine, as well as Chi 44 Iron Guard Heat Protectant spray.  Spray these products on damp hair, and heat style as usual.  When I hear that someone blows their hair dry, followed by flat-ironing it and finally curling it, following up with a healthy dose of alcohol-laced hairspray, then they wonder why their hair is a mess, I tell them it's no secret--Their hair is being tortured!  Healthy hair doesn't require you to use 3 heat styling tools every day to achieve a decent look.  Yes, some hair product and a bit of heat styling are the norm for most of us, but cutting back will help improve the health of your hair.

2.  Choose wisely when coloring your hair.  Coloring your hair frequently damages your hair, even if you use great products.  Hair dyes strip your hair of its lipid coating each time you use it, and those lipids are what keep your hair, soft, shiny and strong.  That's why frequent dying causes hair to become dry, brittle and prone to breakage, which also makes hair more resistant to holding curl or straightening from other heat styling tools.  It's a vicious cycle!  Fortunately, you have several ways of dealing with this.  First, you can dye your hair less frequently.  Second, only dye your roots rather than all hair every 2nd or 3rd visit to the salon.  Finally, you can just go au natural and stop dying it at all,  I chose to go au natural a number of years ago just to stop the madness.  To minimize the issues with my highlights growing out, I dyed my hair a color close to my natural shade so the highlights would be less noticeable as they grew out.  If you MUST color, consider scaling back on frequency or choosing more gentle products (i.e. semi-permanent or henna dyes).

3.  Protect hair from the sun.  I cannot stress this enough now that summer is here!  If you're going to be spending a length of time in direct sun, there are steps you can take to keep your hair healthy.  Wear hats, scarves or bandanas over your hair.  Use strengthening products, daily if you spend a lot of time in the sun.  Use a great UV and heat protectants for sun exposure (I like Fekkai's Soleil line).  If you wear your hair in a ponytail in direct sun for long stretches of time, the heat and sun will break down those protective lipids and could cause your hair to snap, especially right where your hair elastic sits.  Not cool.  (I speak from experience on this one.)

4.  Make pool chemicals your enemy.  I grew up spending my summers in the pool, and also swim whenever I have a chance now that I'm an adult.  I've found that my hair has often smelled like chlorine and broke easily after swimming, since I didn't wash the chemicals out until hours later in some cases.  The sound of my hair snapping has stuck with me to this day, and it's like nails on a chalkboard!  One very simple and cheap way of protecting your hair is to simply spray it with tap or spring water from a small spray bottle right before you get in the pool or hot tub.  And when I say "spray it", I mean hose it down, get it sopping wet so the fresh water absorbs into your hair before the pool water and their associated chemicals have a chance to do so.  It makes a HUGE difference, as the chemicals won't infiltrate your hair and break down the protective lipids.

5.  Beware of hard water!  Have you ever noticed your hair smelling like a copper penny?  I did when I was in college, and a friend of mine who was a hair stylist said, "Oh, that's because you have hard water and the minerals in that water can build-up on hair and damage it.  That's why your hair breaks easily."  Sally Beauty Supply had a great treatment by Ion (Effective Care treatment in a foil pouch) that I used a lot while living in the dorms, and it helped ensure that our un-softened water wasn't destroying my hair.  Soft water does help with some damage control from minerals.  Well water is the worst for your hair as it's typically full of minerals, as evidenced by sinks and tubs stained a lovely coppery, orange color.  Also, ask a blonde who has lived in a home with well water about what that does to his/her hair color.  No bueno.  City water is typically softened a bit already by the time if reaches your house, so that's helpful.  Water softeners are also helpful with either water type, but they use other additives to create softer water (i.e. salt) which can dry out your hair.  In either case, city or softened well water are your best bets to keep your hair healthy.

6.  Exercise caution with wet hair.  We've all heard not to brush wet hair, as it can cause breakage. (Again, with that hair snapping sound in my head... *shudders*) However, that cautionary statement was built off of old plastic bristle brushes, which were not exactly gentle on wet hair.  Wet hair stretches and will eventually break when brushed with the old style brushes, harsh pulling, etc.  With the invention of the Wet Brush, however, we needn't worry any longer.  These brushes are gentle on wet hair, and I haven't noticed any increase in breakage since I began using one a year ago.  If you're still scared of the brush, a wide-tooth comb works great on wet hair, too.  Wet brushes cost less than $10 and a good wide-tooth comb only costs a few dollars at Target or Sally's.  If you have troubled tresses, it can also be helpful to use a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner (I like It's A 10 Miracle Leave-In Product) before attempting to de-snarl your hair with one of these tools.

7.  Use good quality hair products.  I know, I know, you probably think I'm saying this because I've used many salon quality products in the past.  However, this is not the case.  After college when I was out on my own, I wasn't earning much money, so I purchased the cheapest hair products at Walmart.  We're talking White Rain shampoo and conditioner at a buck and change apiece.  While it was effective for my pocketbook, it only made my hair more brittle, dry and unmanageable.  I started using better products as my salary increased, and my hair's condition improved.  Products that are sulfate-free and have minimal or no alcohol are typically most gentle for troubled strands, but you really do get what you pay for with many hair products.  Right now, L'Oreal has the Ever line of sulfate-free products that I really enjoy, and the price points are great.

8.  Befriend hair oils.  A great way to smooth and soothe damaged hair is using hair oils, like those with argan oil.  I have oily hair, so I always thought hair oils would only make my head look like an oil slick.  Not the case!  I've used a number of hair oils, and find that they coat and protect my hair well while softening and adding tons of shine.  So far, I've liked Moroccanoil and Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil best, but John Frieda makes a very affordable and effective hair oil, too. Finding products that tame fly-aways and moisturize dry hair well without making my hair look greasy has been a big win.

9.  Hair elastic hell.  Hair elastics can be brutal on dry, damaged hair, and help seal the deal on any possible breakage that is looming on fragile strands.  Using coated, metal-free (AKA snag-free) hair elastics helps tremendously, as does using the newer ribbon-style knotted hair elastics.  The ribbon-style elastics claim not to leave a dent in your hair, but I have news:  They do!  However, they are made of softer, wider material than a traditional coated hair elastic, which disperses the pressure of the band over a wider section of your hair, meaning that the chance for breakage is dramatically reduced and the dent is less noticeable.  Yay!  Don't ever use uncoated elastics or plain rubber bands in your hair.  No matter how healthy your hair is, you're asking for trouble, and that trouble is called broken, messed up hair. Yuck.

10.  Maintain a regular haircut schedule.  Whether you get a full haircut or just a trim, getting haircuts regularly (every 6-8 weeks, depending on length and style) actually helps promote healthier hair. You're not only trimming off the frizziest parts of the hair and any split ends, but trimming those split ends off helps prevent individual hair strands from continuing to split up the strand, making hair an even frizzier mess.  This ensures that you also keep healthy hair from root to tip, and you'll notice a difference in how well it holds its hairstyle and it's manageability.

11.  Dry hair gently.  Aside from skipping or minimizing hair dryer use, don't over-do your post shower hair drying by rubbing a rough towel over your tresses too vigorously or for too long.  Simply squeeze excess water out of hair and wrap in a lightweight towel, such one made by Aquis, which absorbs water from the hair without the bulk or rough texture of a traditional towel.  In this method, there's no rubbing involved, and I've been doing it now for years.  I recently heard that others sometimes wrap their hair in an old t-shirt, but that only works well if your hair isn't long and if the t-shirt is thick and 100% cotton.

12.  Invest in good quality hair brushes.  Mark my words:  Crappy brushes will destroy your hair.  While someone may debate that they've been using the same dollar store brushes for years and their hair is "just fine", there's a reason why some hair brushes cost big bucks and people swear by them as their hair saviors (ahem, Mason Pearson).  Good quality brushes will have flexible tines to minimize breakage, and those tines are typically made of materials like nylon or boar hair.  Good brushes should last you for 10 or more years with regular cleaning and careful use--Yes, really!  I have an Aveda paddle brush that I've owned for 11 years and it's still in great condition.  Brushes with tines or bristles that fall out of the base, have bristle/tine tips that fall off exposing rough ends or have tines that break are usually signs of poor quality brushes.  However, money isn't always the sign of a good quality brush.  While I've found that good quality brushes typically cost a little more, the Wet Brush is fabulous AND inexpensive, with its flexible tines that keep your hair from breaking.

13.  Special treatments.  Just like your facial skin needs an occasional treatment, so does your hair.  There are two special treatments for my hair that I swear by.  The first is using a deep conditioner once per week.  There are many wonderful deep conditioners out there at various price points.  On the higher end, I like Redken Smooth Lock Butter Silk Rinse-Out Treatment and Macadamia Deep Repair Masque.  However, I find myself always going back to my favorite budget-friendly drugstore alternative, Aussie 3 Minute Miracle deep conditioner (any of the varieties will do).  The second treatment I love is to use a clarifying shampoo.  I use this periodically if I feel a build up of hair product and/or sweat.  Please note that this type of shampoo is only for occasional use and truly does strip all oils, build-up and gunk out of your strands.  Since it will get your hair squeaky clean, always follow up with a deep conditioner.  Treatment oils are popular now, and I've even seen hair exfoliators, like one sold by Oscar Blandi!  I can't wait to try that one.  I have a feeling that it's just a creamier version of a clarifying shampoo, though.  In general, treatments can be really helpful in revitalizing your hair, even if it's generally healthy.  It brings wonderful bounce and shine back to your hair, and who doesn't love that?

Some of you may have noticed that none of these involve natural remedies.  I'm not a fan of slathering olive oil, avocado or mayonnaise on my hair, and honestly, those I know who have tried such things never had anything good to say about them.

Overall, reversing hair damage can take time and care.  Knowing your hair type, scalp type and any issues will help you to choose the best possible options to care for your tresses.  Using scalp treatment products can also improve the health and appearance of your hair, as solving scalp/root issue, will ultimately lead to improved hair quality in new growth.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July is... Beauty Month!

Happy 1st of July!  We're now officially in the second half of 2015, meaning that a lot of great holidays and events are coming up!  

Anyway, one of the things I've been hoping to do for over a year is a month-long series of posts about to beauty--Things I like, things I don't, and things I want to do to achieve looks that make my heart sing. 

I've got several posts coming that are focused on hair care, skin care, makeup, my routines, and a review of skin care and makeup empties with my thoughts on those items.

I'll also be posting about a Q&A sesh when my product-loving pal, Tracy, and I had a deep, meaningful discussion about products, subscription boxes, and what it's like to be a beauty hoarder.   I really should learn to vlog because I think ya'll would have been highly entertained by watching our chat/debate!

Although I will have many posts about beauty, there will still be updates about my family, our mascot (Bella) and what we're up to these days.

I've always loved July, with memories of wonderful fireworks, vacations, outdoor concerts, sun tea and days by the pool.  I can't wait to see what this July brings!

What do you love about July?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Avery is 10 months old!

Baby Avery has now hit the ripe ol' age of 10 months, guys!  

My girl is growing faster than I ever dreamed.  I swear, she'll be asking me for gas money and lip gloss next week. Sheesh. I'd love to put the brakes on this whole growing up business.  She can stay a baby for a little longer!

Some new milestones this month are eating sold grown up foods like soft cooked vegetables, fruit (she loves bananas, but not peaches), macaroni and cheese, deli turkey, toast, cheerios, baby cereal and yogurt snacks.  She still drinks some formula and baby food purees, too.  We bought some baby yogurt to try out this week, as well as new fruits and veggies.

Avery is now moving non-stop.  She's a pro at cruising around the living room and took two steps consecutively yesterday without holding on to anything!  She's going to be walking/running any day now.  She zooms around the house in her walker and loves her huge playpen that daddy built in the dining room with a big baby fence system. 

She's showing more and more of her personality every day.  She babbles in the cutest way, squeals and screeches to find her voice and smiles at the sweetest moments.  I love the person she's becoming and can't wait for her to start talking.  If she's anything like me, the house will never be quiet again!

Here are a few pictures from her 10 month birthday...

Also, it's time for some new headbands.  I feel like this one has made more than one appearance in her pictures lately, so it's time for some new hair accessories!

So there you have it, our sweet, sassy bundle of joy.  Happy 10 months, Avery Jane!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Friendship Circle-Back

For quite awhile, I've struggled with maintaining friendships with friends who are horrible at the friendship basics:  Staying in touch, being available, being there during important times in my life, etc.  I ended up choosing to stop pursuing communication with those people because I FINALLY decided that one-sided weren't worth my time.

Miraculously, over the past year, several of these friends have come out of the woodwork and contacted me.  I won't lie--I was elated to hear from them, as I really did miss the friendship we once had.  However, it takes more than a brief message on Facebook or an email to bring someone back into my life.  I don't make them beg and plead for my friendship, but I don't let things pick up right where they left off either.

One of these friends, a former best friend from college, initiated contact shortly before Avery was born and sent me a box of gorgeous baby clothes for her.  It's been great communicating with her again, and she was very apologetic about her lack of communication over the years.  She blamed it on depression, bad relationships and a slew of other things.  I didn't care about the why, but I was glad that she reached out to me after over 5 years of radio silence.

Another friend contacted me because she is considering moving back to Florida, not far from where I live.  We talked about her job search, what has happened in her life over the past 6 years, and how she's planning to start over.  She was a good friend at a time when I really needed one, so it's great to know she still thinks of me in wonderful ways.

A third friend, who I assumed was long gone, send me a handwritten letter several months ago.  She explained how her life had changed in the past year and she knew she had been a horrible friend to me.  She acknowledged knowing about my baby and apologized for not being present when I had such a huge moment in my life.

What I learned from these situations was that people stopped being great friends with me when their own insecurities took over and their lives, frankly, fell to hell in their own handbaskets.  It had nothing to do with me.  In fact, they all thought enough of me to reach back out to reestablish our friendship after they started to get their shit together and move forward in life.

As a sensitive person, I'm so glad it wasn't about me!  I never knew if it was or not, but knowing for a fact that it was due to their own personal failures, unhappiness, disappointments, etc. validated my conjecture that people stop communicating sometimes when they feel like they can't contribute anything positive to a relationship.  They feel like it's better to go silent than to unload and admit their problems and shortcomings to a good friend.  It's not my style, personally, but I get it.

Nonetheless, this past year has been a year of amazing things.  My own life has changed a lot, but my relationships have seen change too.  Things are definitely not what they were a year and a half ago, but sometimes that's a good thing.

Just remember that while some friendships may go quietly into the night or enter and exit your life like a hurricane, there is often the possibility of the Circle-Back.  Don't count anyone out just yet.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

May 2015 GlossyBox

GlossyBox is another subscription I've kept up with since having my baby, mostly because I've enjoyed the products and I've been discovering new favorites beauty items I would have never known about otherwise.

GlossyBox costs $21 a month and contains primarily cosmetics, skincare and haircare products.  Also, many of the items are full-sized, and each box may contain a couple of deluxe samples.  I really appreciate getting larger sized items that I can use for longer, which is why I prefer this service over Birchbox.

I'll apologize in now for a lack of great pictures in this month's sub box postings.  My camera was having difficulty with lighting and the best photos were those that contained only the products in their original packages.  I'm going to have to work on improving my equipment very soon!

Here was the box I received in May...

 photo 3891C0B2-2A8C-4180-B5CC-57A04F52802C_zpscro0ntxm.jpg

Here is a breakdown of the box's contents...

  • Clearista Retexturizing Gel - $10
  • GlamGlow Powermud - $19
  • Teeez Head Over Heels Nail Lacquer in Clear - $14
  • Doucee Mineral Matt Lipstick in shade 907 (Mauve) - $20
  • Sebastian Stylbrid Multi-Benefit Hairspray - $5
Total value of this month's box:  $68

Overall, I liked the products in this box.  I've never met a GlamGlow product I didn't love, so that was a great addition, and the Sebastian hairspray was very nice, too.  It wasn't sticky, had a light hold and made my hair look healthy and shiny.  Not bad at all!  I haven't tried the Clearista or Teeez nail polish yet, but hopefully they work well.  The lipstick color is nearly the same as my natural lip color, and it's matte, so it was a bit dry and took 4 passes on each my upper and lower lips to be able to see the color on me.  However, once I applied a little bit of non-glossy lip balm over it, the color looked much better.  

That's it for this month's boxes.  I'm truly hoping that the June boxes blow me away!  I find that every third box usually wow's me, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

May 2015 Popsugar Must Have Box

Newsflash:  I still get a couple of subscription boxes.

Shocker, I know!

I always said I'd stop getting them after I had my baby, but much like the Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade,  I couldn't quit them.  At least not all of them.

One of my perennial favorites has been the Popsugar Must Have box.  It's a monthly subscription box that costs $39.95 per month (plus tax) and contains a variety of items from beauty, accessories, food/snacks, home and lifestyle items.  I always love opening each month's box to see what goodies will be packed inside.

Here were the lovely products in this month's box...

 photo 94BF0B2D-F080-4FFA-8CB0-04B61DCFF5D2_zpsvfmfxnk3.jpg

In this box, there was a good variety of items, some of which were were great for any time of year, while others were distinctly perfect for summer.

  • Sisters of Los Angeles Surf Sand Love Beach Towel - $40
  • Middle Kingdom Mini Plum Vase in Coral Red - $20
  • Kitsch Tri'd & True Y-Shaped Necklace - $32
  • Batiste Travel Sized Dry Shampoo in Cherry Scent $4
  • Sage & Row Bare Shave Cream - $17
  • Hammond's Candies Taffy in Banana - $1
Total value of this box:  $114

As you can see, the beach towel and shave cream were definitely Summer themed, but the rest of the items could have been in any month's box.  This box wasn't quite as well themed as most tend to be, but I enjoyed the items nonetheless.  I plan to gift the Kitsch necklace in the future since it's a very delicate necklace and I don't know if I would wear it often.  The bud vase is also beautiful and simple, but the coral red just doesn't match my house decor at all,so that may also be gifted in the future. 

I absolutely adored the beach towel!  As a Floridian, you can never, ever have to many beach towels or products with SPF.  I also LOVED the shave cream, but I'd have a hard time spending $17 on a tube that small in the future.  Additionally, I wish that they had made the Batiste dry shampoo full-sized rather than travel-sized.  The full-sized product wouldn't have cost much more and would have made the box feel more valuable, in my opinion.

While this was not my favorite Popsugar Must Have box ever, it did have some very nice items that I will enjoy using this summer.  Give the Popsugar Must Have box at try!  You really can't go wrong, and the products are always wonderful and surprising.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Avery is 9 Months Old

Avery is now 9 months old!  Hooray!

At her last appointment, she was 29.5" long and weighed 20 lbs, 4 oz.  That's apparently the 97th percentile for height (which explains why she wears 12-month pajamas) and 74th percentile for weight.  She's growing tall and strong, just like her daddy.  I just love our little stringbean!

This past month, Avery started pulling herself into a standing position, cruising along the furniture, and standing up on her own without holding on to anything. We finally went out and bought her a good pair of shoes of Stride Rite so she'd have good supportive shoes for learning to walk.  Much like her dad, she has big, wide feet.  She's also getting into everything these days, including the dog's food and water bowls!  She also loves to chase after our dog, Bella, and really loves it when Bella licks her (even though Bella likes to lick Avery right on/in her mouth--EW!).  They're like star-crossed lovers, Avery and Bella. I'm just thrilled that they like each other and that Bella removes herself from the baby's line of fire when she's not in the mood for having her fur tugged on or being chased by our munchkin.

Avery's also teething like crazy, even though only two teeth have popped through her gums to date.  I am sure that several will come in all at once, the way she's going.  We just call her our little drool monster because her chin and neck are always soaked with her saliva and she loves chewing on Sophie the Giraffe and her pacifier.

Avery is starting to eat solids, though some days with them are better than others.  She is mainly still eating bottles and pureed foods, but is learning to enjoy Cheerios, cheese, turkey lunch meat and bananas.  We found out that she hates the pureed foods that have chickpeas in them, since they were the only foods that have made her gag--twice!  This week, we're going to try various cooked veggies and toast to see how she does.  She's kind of a lazy lion about eating in general, so we're taking it slowly to see if we can have her start eating the foods that we eat.

Happy 9 Months to our princess!  Now it's time to start planning your first birthday party!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Our Kitchen Evolution

Quite awhile back, as in last Fall, you may remember our crazy saga with discovering a water leak in our dishwasher drain line that destroyed several of our kitchen cabinets beyond repair.  While we had dreamed of remodeling our kitchen since we bought the house back in the Fall of 2013, we put that off when we found out that I was pregnant.  Suddenly, we had many other expenses to worry about.  Nonetheless, when the water leak and the extent of its damage was uncovered just 2 weeks after our baby was born, life forced our hand to remodeling the kitchen sooner than expected.

The process with insurance adjusters, construction companies, and approvals took months.  We got the mold remediation and cleanup completed quickly, but replacing the cabinets took much, much longer.  Finally, the project began to move forward... in December.  That's three months after discovering the mess.  

After working with the adjuster and insurance company, we chose a construction company with experience in insurance jobs and a willingness to work with our budget for upgrades.  Many construction companies weren't--they wanted $25k+ for a kitchen remodel, which I couldn't guarantee.  The company we chose was great about that, though, and was fine with advising us on the price of each change to ensure that we were making the best choices within our financial constraints. 

For finishes, we chose Shaker-style cabinets in a dark espresso stain with simple crown molding and modern stainless steel cabinet handles.  We also chose a white granite with gray and brown tones, which worked well with a backsplash tile we found.  It all came together so well!  The backsplash wasn't exactly what I'd initially had in mind, but with warm and cool tones, it allows us a lot of future flexibility for changing our decor and color schemes.  It also adds more interest than plain white subway tiles.

Now, no kitchen remodel would be complete without Before and After pictures.  I've shared some of the Before shots here previously, but I'll humor myself and share them again because they were so bad...

Here is a historical timeline of our kitchen...

Phase 1 - The Sad Face Era

This is what the house looked like when we bought it.  I'm not sure which I hate more:  the bad faux finishing on the walls, the brown trim and doors, the fluorescent lights, or the spectacular clutter.

Phase 2 - Classing Up the Joint

We made a few changes... like fresh, light paint, new lighting, and stainless steel appliances. All entirely necessary.  There's also a pendant light over the kitchen sink, which you can't see well in these pictures.  After the kiddo was born, we also added a new sink granite and brushed nickel faucet, but I don't have any great pictures of those.

Phase 3 - Accessorizing Is Everything

We knocked ourselves out by adding hardware to the cabinets, which we planned to keep for awhile.  We also added cute rugs in our busiest areas, which matched the decor of the living room.

Phase 4 - Oh Happy Day!

Finally, in February and March, we arrived at our finished product.  It finally feels like our home.  The light countertops make the room feel so much lighter, even with the dark cabinets.  We feel like that made a huge difference in the feeling of this room.  We also swapped out some old outlets for new ones with USB ports for charging our devices on the island, and that's been so, so helpful!  We also traded out the old double-basin stainless sink for a single-basin metallic gray granite undermount sink, which is perfect for us.  It's one of the most complimented parts of our new kitchen, and it's fabulous for giving our kiddo a bath.  The kitchen's footprint, appliances and flooring remained the same to keep things cost effective.  We may eventually get a new window treatment over the sink, but for now, it's fine.

Those are a lot of changes in the past year and a half!  It's hard to believe, but living through each phase has made it feel like a darn eternity.  We're just so pleased with how it all turned out.

Have you remodeled a kitchen before?
Was it as stressful for you as the process was for us?

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

La Bella Vita

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