Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Holiday Memories with Puppy and Hubby!

I'm tired.  As I think about my "Suzanne Saturday" post, I am finding that I don't have the energy for many words.  So, I'm going to share some of my Christmas memories with all of you through pictures.  Enjoy!

Christmas in Evanston, IL - north Chicagoland.  Barley puppy has to wear boots because the salt on the sidewalks burns the pads on his puppy-feet.  He really hated those boots.  But he loved helping to open his own Christmas present boxes that year!  Our tiny Christmas tree found its home in the (nonworking) fireplace with a gorgeous tree skirt my Wanda (stepmom) made me a few years ago!  I loved the way that little tree could light up the room!

Hubby and I traveled to Albany, NY in December 2011.  We had a Christmas celebration in NYC with my Dad and my Wanda.  We had the most fantastic day - went to the Empire State Building, saw the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, and drank great coffee!  After a long day of sight-seeing in the city, we collapsed while waiting for a table at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square!

Christmas in El Cerrito 2012!  We finally got a "real" size tree!  Hand-me-down Christmas decorations arrived, and we decorated our tiny Bay apartment in style!  We hosted a chocolate and wine party with friends.  We enjoyed a quiet day just the two of us and Barley-puppy that year.

Last Christmas, my mom & "baby" (half-)brother joined us in CA to celebrate!  So, of course, I took them across the Bay for the famous Street Car ride!  It was wonderful having them in our home for the first time for Christmas.  The trip was filled with good food, catching up, and lots of mom & daughter shopping!

Participate in the Comments!
What is one of your favorite holiday/ winter memories?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Amazing Creams by InstaNatural

I have become a huge fan of InstaNatural; their facial toner, serum and eye gel are amazing!  So, when InstaNatural offered me the opportunity to review their Age-Defying Moisturizer, Cellulite Cream and Stretch Mark & Scar Cream, I couldn't wait to get my hands on them!

 InstaNatural's Youth Express Age-Defying Moisturizer Face & Body Hydrating Treatment is a soft, smooth lotion.  I definitely recommend using this product as the final stage of your evening skincare routine.  This moisturizer is designed to complement their toner, serum, and eye gel.

My recommendation for this Moisturizer:
First, Vitamin C Toner cleanses & tightens pores.
Second, Hyaluronic Acid Serum moisturizes.
Third, Youth Express Eye Gel restores eye area.
Finally, Age-Defying Moisturizer seals in moisture & fights signs of aging.

The bottle's dispenser provides the perfect dollop of creamy moisturizer for a single use.  The product itself is thick, but not stiff so it applies very easily to the skin.  After application, my skin feels softer and looks notice ably firmer.  In my current routine, I look for products that will help prevent the formation of fine lines. I love that this skin cream has no artificial fragrance!  My only critique is that the orange and yellow color scheme makes it difficult to read some of the information on the bottle.

InstaNatural's Youth Express Anti-Aging Facial Moisturizer Cream (affiliate link) is $20 on Amazon for 3.4 oz.

InstaNatural's Premium Enrichment Cellulite Cream for Flawless Tone and Texture is like a power tool in a bottle.  This amazingly thick Cellulite Cream contains caffeine, retinol, cocoa butter and shea butter.  Caffeine and retinol smooth out skin tone and texture to reduce appearance of cellulite as well as tight skin and boost the production of collagen.  Cocoa butter and shea butter leave your skin feeling silky smooth and well moisturized.  This is a wonderfully heavy-duty moisturizer.

I definitely recommend twice daily application in order to achieve the best effects.  InstaNatural's Cellulite Cream (affiliate link) is $21.50 on Amazon for 5 oz. 

InstaNatural's Powerful & Nourishing Stretch Mark & Scar Cream for Prevention and Reduction is impressive!  After two applications I have already noticed improvement in my few, but annoying recent stretch marks.  

This lovely cream contains 15% Vitamin C, Cocoa Butter, Rosehip Oil, Mango Butter, Grape Seed Oil, and Evening Primrose Oil.  These ingredients work together to restore the skin's elasticity to diminish the appearance of stretch marks and scars.  In addition to improving skin's appearance, these ingredients also improve the skin's health by moisturizing, smoothing, and restoring skin tone and texture.  All of this without leaving your skin feeling greasy!

InstaNatural's Powerful & Nourishing Stretch Mark & Scar Cream (affiliate link) is $21.50 on Amazon for 5 oz.

Participate in Comments!
Have you ever struggled with cellulite, stretch marks, or scars?  Have you treated them with creams?  What products are you using or have had success using in the past?  What products failed?  Do you think you'd try these products?  If so, which one(s)?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Tomoson and made possible by Foxbrim.  Products were provided in exchange for my time in assessing their quality and writing an honest review about them. All product information is gleaned from the manufacturer's product description.  All opinions are my own based on my experiences with the product.  All photos are my own.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Laughing Scholar's Fabulously Frugal Gift Guide!

Alright, ladies & gents, it's that time of year again!  Is your budget stretching thinner than your gift list?  Are you just running out of ideas?  Here are some of my favorite internet finds that just might be what you're looking for to give to someone special while not breaking the bank!

All photos are linked to product pages for convenience!

From one of my new favorite sites:

Earrings with Swarovski Crystal Elements and 14K Gold Accents $15/ pair

LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Stereo Headset $45 / Brown 100% Cotton Fedora $5

I love Tanga!  They offer some truly wonderful products at steep discounts.  I've purchased a computer and a photography lightbox for myself.  I've also purchased a leather bracelet, fedora (pictured), and other items for my husband.   Everything is remarkably good quality, and Tanga has amazing customer service!

I think these jewelry items (or others that are on the site) have great value for their price, which should please even the pickiest gift-giver and receiver.  :-)  Ensure that your phone-addicted loved one is safe while driving by gifting this beautiful & practical hands-free set.  Finally, if you know someone who's dying for a Fedora, this hat is extremely good quality for the price.  My husband loves his.

If you are a Birchbox Member & you want to rack some points while getting some good gifts, I'd highly recommend these options:

 Benefit They're Real Push-Up Liner $24/ Caudalie Winter Duo $12

Billy Jealousy Beard Envy Kit $25/ Quirky Wrapster (Set of 2) $7

I greatly enjoy racking up my Birchbox points while getting lovely items for friends.  I highly recommend the Winter Duo for friends in snow-country.  I wish I had had that in my purse while living in Chicago!  Benefit's Liner is a great splurge for that fashionista in your life.  I purchased the Beard Envy kit for a friend of mine, and he loves it!  Finally, my hubby was thrilled to find out that one of my BB orders came with one of these as a surprise for him; no more tangled headphone cords!

I wish you all the best of luck in your holiday shopping!  May the deals be plentiful, your budget delightfully long-lasting, and your gift list just right!

If you haven't signed up for Birchbox, and want to, I'd love it if you'd be willing to use my referral link! (Referrals make my world go round, and help me continue making posts!)

Participate in Comments!
Who are you giving to this holiday season?  Are you done with, in the midst of, or not yet begun your shopping?  How do you figure out what to give that one difficult-to-shop-for loved one? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bye Bye Puffy Eyes!

InstaNatural has an amazing Youth Express Eye Gel that impressed me greatly.  So, when InstaNatural extended the opportunity for me to review their Youth Express Eye Serum, I knew it would be good.  What I did realize is how good it really is!

This 1 oz. chestnut-colored glass bottle contains a startling orange serum that is magic!

No.  Really.


I am gifted with black circles under my eyes.  When I was little my parents were thankful my teachers knew them so well, because my dark under-eye circles would come close to stretching all the way over my nose.  No joke.  If I don't drink enough water my eyes puff up.  If the weather changes, my eyes puff up.  If I don't sleep long enough, too long, well enough or too well, my eyes puff up.  I think you get the picture. :-)

This eye serum should be labeled Perfect Morning Eyes.  It contains your expected Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, and Caffeine.  But then they mix in Kojic Acid, Astaxanthin, Plant Stem Cells, and PASSIONFLOWER! I'm guessing its the passionflower that gives the serum its vibrant color.

The serum is a perfect consistency so its easy to doll out a few drops on your fingertips and apply to your eye area.  The vibrant orange color fades into my fair skin quite readily.  I actually kind of like the color, because it helps me ensure that I achieve even coverage.  I also know my skin is absorbing it!  The passionflower gives this serum a delicate flowery scent that is quite lovely.

This serum soothes any skin left unhappy from removing eye makeup at night.  Then, in the morning, it clears any lingering puffiness around my eye area.  I am very happy with this product, and I readily recommend it to my fellow puffy-eyed, dark ringed lovelies out there.

InstaNatural's Youth Express Eye Serum (affiliate link) is $25  on Amazon for a 1 oz. bottle, which seems quite reasonable to me.  (I've paid as much as $16 for .5 oz of eye firming cream, and it didn't perform nearly this well!)

Verdict: Yay!

Participate in the Comments!

What skincare products for your eye-area do you swear by? 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Tomoson and made possible by InstaNatural.  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.  All product information is gleaned from manufacturer.  All photos and opinions are my own.

Monday, December 8, 2014

SwaagBox December: Let's Try this Again

So, after the huge disappointment that was the October Swaagbox, I was excited to see pictures of their much improved November box.  So, I tried out their $5 again (using a new email address), so I could experience this improvement myself!

Here's my very first Unboxing Video!

So, here are all the goodies that came in my December Swaagbox.  For $5, I am swimming in value.  For $14, I'd still feel pretty happy.  For you ladies who want a bit of everything, this is definitely the way to go!

For $14, this box includes:
1 pack of pads/ tampons of your choice
3 makeup items - lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner
1 pair of earrings
4 fun size candy bars
Of course, selection will vary from month to month.

I really like these earrings!  They're seriously fun!  The beads are varied, there is decorative metal scrollwork on them, and they are quite sturdy pieces.  They seem to be well constructed; I expect these to be in my collection for a few years.

Compared with the Hard Candy Eyeshadow, Eyeliner, and Maybelline nail polishes, this makeup set is much more refined.  (Note: I selected Classic Style).  They are nicely pigmented and seem to be a very nice quality.

Overall impression, Swaagbox has certainly stepped up their game!  Again, if you're looking for a good quality monthly 'ladies' box, I'm happy to recommend that you consider this box.  Since I am not continuing my subscription, this link is not a referral. :-)

InstaNatural's Wonderful Skincare Line!

I am seriously all about good skincare products.  So the opportunity to review these lovely gems from InstaNatural resulted in a mega-happy dance in my apartment!

When considering investing my money (and skin) into skincare products, I start with some basic research on the company.  InstaNatural began as a small local business in Florida specializing in safe, effective, and affordable skincare that is all natural and organic.  Their products do not contain alcohol, sulfates or parabens.  Finally, they ensure 100% satisfaction with a risk-free money-back guarantee!

Now, to the goodies!  I am incredibly impressed with the quality of these products, and I am especially admirable of their value.

Ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, Jojoba Oil, Amino Acid Complex, Peptide Complex and Plant Stem Cells work to reduce puffiness and dark circles around eyes, reduce appearance of wrinkles, as well as improve skintone. 

This eye gel dispenses with a simple pump, my favorite!  The product is clear and has a nice, thick consistency.  It feels so rich, cool, and soothing to the entire eye area!  After application, I could feel a slight tightening in the eye area, so I knew it was working right away.  I've been struggling with puffy eyes in the mornings lately, and this eye gel significantly reduced my morning eye puffiness!

At $19.99 for 1.7 fl oz, InstaNatural's Eye Gel (affiliate link) is a great deal!  
Verdict: Yay!

This toner dispenses as a refreshing mist.  Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals and relieves UV damage to the skin.  Witch Hazel purifies the skin's surface, and tightens pores without drying skin.  

The subtext on the front of this bottle reads, "Renews, Hydrates, Restores," and this toner definitely delivers!  This is not your 1990s Sea Breeze!  This toner consistently removes all final little traces of makeup.  The mister dispenses the product at a comfortable pressure, and the toner itself has a pleasantly clean scent.  I really enjoy using this at night; its a delightful way to feel refreshed after a long day.  I've never had very large pores, but I've noticed some tightening over the past 10 days of using the product.

At $17.49 InstaNatural's Vitamin C Toner (affiliate link) might feel a bit expensive, but if you're looking to invest in a new toner, I'd definitely recommend this one!

Verdict: Yay!

Hyaluronic Acid, Green Tea, Vitamin C, and Jojoba Oil provides hydration as well as encourage moisture retention within facial skin.  This added moisture reduces signs of aging, strengthens skin, and eliminates dry, flaky skin.  

If you're anything like me, you've been wondering about the craze over Hyaluronic Acid.  Shea over at Mishmashmusings has a helpful blog post about this, which you can read here.

This wonderfully thick, clear serum is easy to dispense from the dropper onto your fingertips for application.  I think the product feels indulgent every time I apply it!  Consistent use for the past 10 days has made the skin on my face and neck feel smoother and more moisturized.  I usually struggle with dry patches on my nose; those have completely disappeared.  This serum is a heavy-lifting moisturizer without any added oil or heaviness.

At $16.45, I would definitely offer that InstaNatural's Hyaluronic Acid Serum (affiliate link) is worth the investment; even this broke graduate student would make this splurge!

Verdict: Yay!

InstaNatural offers an excellent skincare line at affordable prices!  Plus, they offer 15% off of your first order through their website, which is always a plus.  I'm very happy to recommend them!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Brandbacker and made possible by InstaNatural.  Products were provided in exchange for my time in assessing their quality and writing an honest review about them. All product information is gleaned from the manufacturer's product description.  All opinions are my own based on my experiences with the product.  All photos are my own. 

What skin struggles are you facing right now?  What products have you used to try to address it?  Are they working?  Do any of these products look like they might help you?