Thursday, July 31, 2014

Playmaker Playdate Thanks to Children's Claritin® - #ClaritinMomCrew

I can tell when Spring has arrived when I can hear my son before I can see him in the morning. The incessant sneezing, puffy, watery eyes and stuffy nose are a tell-tale sign that Spring, and all of it's pollination, is in full swing (because sometimes I canNOT tell by the weather here in NY). See, nobody else in this house suffers from allergies, so he is literally the allergenic wonder child. In the Winter we battle cold weather induced asthma, in the Spring and Summer we deal with "seasonal allergies". That is.... until we discovered the miracle that is Children's Claritin®. When my son takes his chewables, or liquid (depending much on his mood), he is symptom-free and ready to get outside and play with the neighborhood kids, which makes him one happy dude.

He is such an outdoor kid, and so are many of the other kids that live right around our house. It is great to have so many children for my kids to play with in such close proximity. I was thrilled when I was chosen to be a member of the #ClaritinMomCrew so I could share the good word on Children's Claritin®, and how much it has helped our son enjoy being a kid. We love to take advantage of the decent weather around here because we experience all four seasons, which equates to about 6 weeks of Summer and Fall (the 2 BEST seasons), 6 months of Winter, and 3 months of rain. That being said, we can't actually ENJOY it if our son is experiencing his allergy symptoms. We have loved using Children's Claritin® because it is a single dose (per 24 hours), and is NON-DROWSY. That is so important to us as well, because what good is a symptom-free child if they are sleeping, or needing to take medicine 4 times per day?

Insulated bag for me, 3 light-weight bags to share, magnetic lists, and $2 off coupons for Children's Claritin
I was sent this super-fun package of goodies to share with some of my mom friends who also know the struggles of childhood allergies (or know someone else who does). We spoke about the difficulties of managing symptoms and suffering, and I was happy to share my positive experiences with them (as well as the goodies). Now there are some more kids who can get out and PLAY in spite of their allergies this Spring/Summer, and hopefully, all the rest!

Disclosure: As a member of the Children's Claritin Mom Crew, I was sent the aforementioned products complimentary to use and share as I see fit. I was not monetarily compensated, and the opinions stated here are my own.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Experiencing the #GentlePower of Cetaphil

As a member of Crowdtap, there are many perks. One such perk is that we oftentimes get the opportunity to try products for free (with extras to share!). My most recent "Sample and Share" opportunity came from Cetaphil, and it has proven to be one of my favorites! Check out the goodies they sent:

As you can see, they sent an incredibly generous package, with enough to share with friends and family while spreading the word. What I love about these programs is that instead of telling people why they should buy certain products, the companies that partner with Crowdtap actually give their target audience the product, or samples, so that they can make their own decision based on their personal experience. Much more effective than shoving advertisements and claims down your throat, in my humble and honest opinion.

One of the full-size items that I received was the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths. Inside this package are 25 pre-moistened cloths to meet your facial cleansing and moisturizing needs. These are great for on-the-go, travel, or for me, those nights that you are feeling super lazy and don't want to turn on the faucet, wait for the water to get warm, lather up your face wash and scrub the day from your face. They are great at removing make-up, dirt and oil, thus purging your pores from those potential pore-clogging villains. I'm a huge fan of the pop-open top too; the ones that just have the sticker over the opening always dry out quickly once the sticker stops sticking. This item retails for $7.49 making it approximately $.30 per cloth - amazing deal if you ask me!

The second full-sized product is the Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with sunscreen (Broad Spectrum SPF 15). This is a light-weight, creamy face lotion that goes on smooth and hydrates all day. I love that it has the SPF built-in so it goes on in the morning, and I don't have to think about it again. Additionally, even though there is the provided sunscreen, this moisturizer is non-greasy. I have acne-prone skin, so I can attest to it's gentle, non-irritating qualities. This moisturizer retails for $12.49 for a hefty 4 fl oz size. I use a very small amount (not even 1 full pump!), so keep in mind that a little goes a long way!

Last but not least, I received a full-sized bottle of the Cetaphil Restoraderm Skin Restoring Body Wash. This wash is specifically designed to address the needs of those individuals who suffer from eczema. I do not, however, I have a 2 year old daughter who does. She has dry patches of skin all over her abdomen. Luckily, this wash is safe to use on babies as young as 3 months old, which attests to it's gentle power! The wash is very creamy and easy to lather. It is non-irritating, and seems to have helped her dry patches. This wash uses Advanced Filaggrin technology™. Filaggrin is a protein that protects the outer layer of skin and is said to be missing, or non-functioning in those who suffer from eczema, making their skin more vulnerable to, well...everything! This wash retails for $13.99 and comes in a 10 oz size. 

After using these three products for the past couple of weeks, I can honestly give them all 10 stars:

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If you have sensitive skin or are on the market for extremely gentle, but effective products, I would highly recommend the Cetaphil brand. Be sure to "like" them on Facebook to be in-the-know about new products and promotions (they have a $1 off coupon on there now!).

Disclosure: I received the products mentioned in this post for free in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are my own.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse with Ark Survival Gear's Heirloom Seeds

Obviously you can see that I am in desperate need for Fall to return so that my obsession with The Walking Dead can be fulfilled. For those not in-the-know, it is a TV show based on a comic book series that revolves around (surprise!) a zombie apocalypse. Anyway....since this show has aired, and because, apparently, people have an issue with deciphering the difference between television drama and reality, many people have started "preparing for the worst", to put it lightly. People have started building underground bunkers full of food and water to last them YEARS in the event of a worldwide devastation. Another thing to consider in the face of potential worldwide disaster, is being dependent on yourself to provide food. I was recently given the opportunity to review a pack of Survival Seeds from Ark Survival Gear. I must admit, however, that the gardener in me was more attracted to this than the zombie-apocalypse-believer.

All of the seeds come in their own little packets, tucked away in this nice zip-top pouch (So don't have seeds spilling all over the place, or hiding in random places around the house). Inside, I received 28 packets of a wide variety of heirloom seeds including: a variety of tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, herbs, peppers, broccoli, beans, squash, corn, peas, etc... It really is a great variety to grow a sustainable garden from!

The seeds themselves are claimed to be high-quality seeds which would allow you to plant a full crisis garden, are packaged for long-term storage, are open pollinated and non-GMO (HUGE plus for me!!!!). Additionally, with the purchase of these seeds, you get a free ebook download which contains information about planting your own survival garden, including: testing your soil (or figuring out what kind of soil you have), how/when to harvest your plants, how to collect seeds from your produce for the next season, and information on properly storing your goods. Even if you are not concerned about the crisis factor, this information is helpful. If you aren't much of the reading type, the seed packets themselves have all of the details for that particular plant right on them, making your green thumb (or lack thereof), greener. Ark Survival Gear also provides a FREE video course on their website to walk you through the steps of planting a successful garden! 

It is a little late in the season for me to be planting seeds, so I cannot personally attest to their success in germination and producing food, but not to worry, because they have a LIFETIME GUARANTEE!

Whether you are concerned about a worldwide devastation, are learning to garden, or just want superior quality seeds with a phenomenal variety to grow for yourself or your family, I would highly recommend you purchase a package of the Ark Survival Gear Survival Seeds.  I give them 10 stars:

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You can purchase your seeds here.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of Children's Book: Noah and the Mighty Ark by Rhonda Gowler Green, Illustrated by Margaret Spengler

*Zondervan provided me with a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes

I have been joyously bombarded with reviews lately so bear with me as I get organized and share with you some of the incredibly amazing products I have been given the opportunity to try.

The latest being the children's book: Noah and the Mighty Ark by Rhonda Gowler Green and Illustrated by Margaret Spengler. This, which should be obvious, is a children's book telling about the Bible story: Noah and the Ark. The author makes the story effortless for children to understand, and uses rhyming to make the words even more engaging. I love this because it also helps children who are learning to read, as they can pretty accurately guess which words come next if they are having issues being able to recognize them. I read this to my 2 year old, and I think this story would be appropriate for a multitude of ages, while also being a great first read for children learning to read.

I am so very drawn to Margaret Spengler's illustrations in this book (and the kids are too!), as they have a very soft focus, and are colorful. We had fun naming all of the animals and people throughout the story! Thankfully, this is a hardcover book which means it is sturdy enough to withstand Miss Throw-y Hands, aka my toddler. Additionally, the spiritual message was present without being overwhelming or confusing for the kids. I have a great appreciation for authors, such as Rhonda Gowler Green, who can take such a big idea and simplify it for children to be able to grasp it.

I highly recommend this book. In fact, I chose another one of these books to review later on, so keep your eyes peeled for another review. I give this book 10 stars:

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Disclosure: I received this book as part of my membership in the ZBlog Squad. The opinions stated are my own.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My First Birch Blogger Book Club Review Featuring The Vacationers by Emma Straub

If you are looking for a Summer read, look no further! As a member of the Birch Blogger Book Club, I received an advanced reader copy of The Vacationers by Emma Straub, and it was a phenomenal book. I am most drawn to mysteries or psychological thrillers when it comes to reading, and this is nothing of the sort. I was still excited to get my hands on it, because we all need a good book to throw in our beach bag, and hey, I like trying new things.

I love the narration in this novel, as Emma Straub seamlessly delivers the perspective of each character, without needing separate chapters for each person. Actually, the chapters are told by day. The story revolves around a family that takes a two week vacation to Mallorca around the 35th wedding anniversary of the parents, Franny and Jim and the recent high school graduation of their youngest, Sylvia. What unfolds is the quirky and honest reveal of their unique family dynamics. You quickly become attached to all of the characters, and find yourself reading forward to entertain yourself in their self-demise and personal drama. Even more engaging was that I found myself identifying certain characters with people I have met in my own life experiences-they are that thoroughly developed, and with seemingly little effort too.

One of my favorite things to do while reading is to write down lines that stick out to me. In The Vacationers, I found one that drew me in, was relevant to the story, but also held true in real life:

Families were nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone 
wanting only the best. Even the poor souls who had children in an attempt
to rescue a dying marriage were doing so out of a misguided hopefullness. 
~p.269, The Vacationers

This is the perfect Summer read, Beach read, Because-You-Feel-Like-Reading read. It was refreshing to read a book that didn't have me constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out whodunnit. That being said, it was equally as pleasurable to read. I highly recommend that all of you travelers, vacationers, staycationers or no-cationers (you can fantasize about vacation in Mallorca from the details of this book) find a way to get your paws on this book for your reading pleasure. And because I am so nice I will point you in the right direction here or here (you're welcome!).

I'm planning to read more of Emma Straub now that I got a taste, and I give The Vacationers 10 stars:

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Disclosure: I received this book complimentary for review purposes from Birchbox. If you are interested in becoming a #BirchBlogger, go here. If you are interested in getting yourself a subscription to Birchbox, and by golly you should (hello high end beauty samples delivered right to your mailbox every month), please use my referral link here. If you want to see a sample of what may come in your box, you can see my July Birchbox here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Silky, Smooth Hair with InstaNatural Argan Oil Hair Treatment & Elixir Serum

Hair is one of those things that can really make or break your day. If you are having an awesome hair day, you feel confident, beautiful, and hope that you run into every person in High School who ever looked at you funny. When you are having an awful hair day, you want to hide under a rock, and then you do run into every person you have ever met, in your entire life, including those mean girls from High School. Some people have flawlessly perfect hair, and by nature, we hate them are jealous of the lack of effort they have to put into looking beautiful. So, we search high and low for products that give us the flawless hair without massive amounts of effort, because quite frankly, ain't nobody got time for that! Luckily, brands like InstaNatural make naturally derived products that make the perfect hair day within reach.

The InstaNatural Luxurious Argan Oil Hair Treatment and Elixir is a leave-in conditioner and restorer, a heat and damage protectant, and it restores luminous shine and health back to your lifeless hair. Let me paint you a picture so you can see how desperately I needed this special potion: I love to have my hair colored and cut just as much as the next girl. It can get pretty expensive though, and it is always one of the first things on the "want" list to get the boot when it's time to "make cuts". Bottom line: hair cuts and colors are not essential to living and breathing (according to some people). Because of this very fact, if you want to make sure your unkempt 'do still looks pampered, you need to take care of it. I am also a frequent heat damager when it comes to my locks, meaning I use the blow dryer and the straightening iron on the regular. I have this super-weird hair that can't decide if it wants to be curly or be straight, so it does this ugly in-between type thing therefore making me work if I want my hair to curl, or work if I want my hair to be straight. The only thing it can do is be weird, and that isn't pretty. Therefore, I abuse my hair in pretty much every way possible, while also going only once or twice per year to actually do something healthy like get it cut! Even with all of that abuse, my hair holds up pretty well, and my hair stylist is consistently amazed at my hair's ability to take such stress. That being said, I do try to find products that reverse some of the damage I do to my poor tresses and the InstaNatural Argan Oil Hair Treatment and Elixir is part of my routine.

While this can be used as a protectant (added to your hair before styling) or a shine agent (added to dry hair to promote luminosity), I use it most as a leave-in conditioner once or twice per week. And it is a pretty versatile leave-in conditioner, as you can choose to leave it in for 10 minutes, a few hours, or overnight before shampooing. My hair soaks it right up when I apply it, but it does make my hair look very greasy. This is the main reason I do not use it after my hair is dried, and I won't use it overnight for the sake of protecting my pillowcase. I would have to tweak the amount that I used, and I don't have time for that (Please note that the bottle says to use a drop when using it as a protectant or shine agent-I assume that would need to be adjusted based on hair length). For now, I like the simplicity of waking up in the morning, lathering the InstaNatural Argan Oil Hair Treatment and Elixir all over my hair, completing my morning chores, and then washing it out when I shower. It leaves my hair feeling baby soft. I literally could not stop running my fingers through my hair the first few times that I used it. I was skeptical that it would leave my hair weighted down, greasy and unmanageable, but the opposite was true. Plus, it is so simple to use! There is a flawless pump top that makes dispensing the product easy-peasy and the product goes from hand to hair and you can forget about it (PLEASE remember not to leave your house looking like you could fry some potatoes with the amount of grease on your head though).

With my continued quest to find more natural product to use throughout my household, the InstaNatural Argan Oil Hair Treatment and Elixir fits the bill in that respect too. The only ingredients are: organic argan oil, organic sunflower oil, fractionated coconut oil, organic jojoba oil, panthenol (vitamin B5), olive oil, grape seed oil and shea butter. These are all ingredients that you could safely consume, so I feel good about letting them sit on my hair and scalp for awhile while they nourish my locks.

I highly recommend this treatment if you are looking for something to easily incorporate into your weekly routine to keep your hair up to par, and I give it 10 stars:

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If you are interested in purchasing some for yourself, run here. Additionally, be sure to follow InstaNatural on Facebook, Twitter and Google + to keep up with new products and promotions!

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with InsaNatural again, to try out their latest product to address my hair concerns. In terms of customer service, this company is second to none. All of their products carry a satisfaction guarantee, so you know rest assured that you have nothing to lose. Additionally, they check in on you to make sure that you are pleased with the product(s) and their performance. I love a company that recognizes the important role of customer satisfaction.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Baking with Grazia Silicone Muffin Pans

It is no secret that I love to cook and bake. I spend a lot of time making food that looks yummy, and tastes that way too. I think I began taking cooking more seriously when I had my son (almost 9 years ago!). One of the first things you learn when cooking and baking is that what you cook and bake in has a serious impact on how the food will taste. Folks, not all cookie pans, muffin pans cookware and bakeware are made the same. One of my biggest pet peeves when cooking, and baking especially, is burning the bottom or sides of something due to poor quality products. You will save yourself money in tossed, burnt baked goods if you spend the extra money to get the high quality stuff in the first place. Now, I will share with you my new favorite: The Grazia® Silicone 24 Cup MINI Muffin Pan. I received this for free in exchange for an honest review, and I can honestly say..... I LOVE it! 

According to the company:
Grazia® Silicone 24 Cup MINI Muffin Pan is a non-stick food grade silicone muffin cupcake baking pan that is extremely easy to clean, safe to use in the oven, microwave, dishwasher, or freezer. It is heat resistant for up to 450°F.

--FDA Approved

--High Quality Construction

--Manufactured in Socially Compliant Facility

 I made some cinnamon struesel muffins, since they are a favorite of the hubs. I decided I would use this to make some mini ones for the small hands in the house and grab-n-go purposes. Larger muffins take a little longer to disappear around here because they require a plate, a napkin, or something more than a hand and a mouth. This muffin pan makes the perfect, bite-sized snack. Here is a side-view close-up:

If you look closely, you can see that there is a sheer covering of oil all over the pan. After I washed it the first time, I read that it was recommended to use a thin layer of oil to coat it (and to do this every so often as upkeep). Upon baking, I also sprayed it with cooking spray. I think I was trying to overprotect it because I hate having to throw stuff away if it gets burnt. That may or may not also be the reason I did not fill every cup.

The Grazia® Silicone 24 Cup MINI Muffin Pan ended up working so well. My muffins (and this was the first time I was making this kind of muffin), came out perfect! They were sooooo moist, and the outside was not even browned - it cooked so evenly. Plus, I will mention this again, these made the perfect sized mini muffins. They are great for putting in the cookie jar, and grabbing a few as you walk by. Additionally, I love that the silicone material does not get burning hot. Immediately after they came out of the oven, I grabbed the pan to move it, and it was warm, but not scorching hot. The muffins were super easy to pop right out of the cups once I allowed them to cool down briefly. On top of that, clean-up was a breeze! I literally could have gotten away with simply rinsing the pan and placing it in the drying rack. For bigger, messier things, you can just throw it in the dishwasher, but I doubt that you will need to because nothing sticks! You can literally wipe it clean! No sticking, no burning, no added expense of liners - What is not to love here?

I highly recommend the Grazia® Silicone 24 Cup MINI Muffin Pan based on my personal experience with it. They definitely get 10 stars from this baking Momma:

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Run here to grab your own and make mini muffins, cupcakes, pastries - whatever you want!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.