Saturday, February 7, 2015

What I'm Thankful for This Week

This week I've become keenly aware of the amazing people in my life, and I wanted to publicly say how awesome they are.

My Hubby.  Seriously, this month we'll have been in each other's lives for 10 years.  He grounds me.  He is one of my biggest cheerleaders.  He's also one of my toughest critics (in a really good way).  He is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met.  I mean, he moved all the way to CA with me so that I could pursue this Ph.D.  He's supported me in every imaginable way during this process.  I am so lucky, blessed, fortunate to have him as my partner in life.

 My Dog.  The Barley Dog is probably the saving grace of the past 7 years of my life.  He helped pull Hubby through major mental health issues early in our marriage.  He cuddled me through all the ups and downs.  He knows when I'm stressed, angry, sad, tired, and somehow he knows how to remind me to take care of myself.  He nurses us when we're sick.  He keeps track of all our friends and family - his "fan club," and he loves them all.


My crazy friends.  These are my gaming buddies.  Two of them are family (one of the two the passionate lip syncer on the right).We knew them in Chicago, and they have basically adopted Barley-Dog as their nephew.  One of them, the flailing magnificat there on the left, is my sanity-PhD buddy.  We came into the same program, just the two of us, and we've managed to survive this long.  Then there's the other two wonderful guys who keep us all on our toes with their personalities and stories.


This week we invited significant others to join us for food and gaming.  I was thrilled that Hubby came, enjoyed himself, and was wonderfully social!  I was totally blown away by our host's willingness to do an onion-free menu in celebration of his presence.  (Hubby has such an aversion to them, they might as well be an allergy.)  I had a blast spending time with the S.O. of one my gaming friends, too.  All in all, it was the perfect night of friends, food, and fun!

So, this week, I'm thankful for these people in my life, particularly these crazy people hanging out with me in the East Bay of CA!

Who are you thankful for this week?  Why?

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Dead Sea is in my Bathtub!

I am a huge fan of bath salts, and baths involving salts.

I first learned of their magical qualities the first summer I was a full time reading teacher.  I had to haul all of my materials for 2-3 classes to various sites all over Atlanta Metro in the dead heat of a southern summer.  After 10 hour days of being on my feet, instructing (read: listening to myself teach), navigating 1 class of 1st & 2nd graders, followed by 4th & 5th graders, and ending the day with grumpy 9th-12th graders, left me exhausted, sore, and headache-y.

That's when my now-husband introduced me to Epsom Salt Baths.  I seriously wondered how it had taken 22 years for someone to introduce me to these magical little crystals.

From then on, I've been hooked on bath salts!

So, when Adovia invited me to use and review their 100% Dead Sea Salts, I was overjoyed!

Product Description:

- Dead Sea Salts have a much higher concentration than Epsom Salt!

- This sea salt is finely ground for faster dissolving

- It arrives in a resealable bag for easy storage

- It is formulated with over 26 essential minerals the body needs for natural soothing and relaxation!
- Provides relief from Psoriasis, Eczema, and Arthritis Symptoms

- Provides relief from aches and pains when used as a bath soak.  Plus, naturally rejuvenates, exfoliates and softens your skin while soothing your body!

- Contains no additives, no added colors, no scents.

How I Use Adovia 100% Dead Sea Bath Salts

I enjoy particularly hot baths.  So, I put 4 generous tablespoons of Bath Salts into a tub of very hot water along with several drops of essential oils.  I soaked while listening to Tina Fey read Bossy Pants for about 30 minutes.

After my long bath, I felt extremely calm and refreshed.  My muscles felt significantly relaxed.  I've noticed for the past few days that my skin feels more moisturized and softer.

I love the resealable bag! The bag is made of rather sturdy plastic.  I do wish that the bath salts had come with suggested amounts to use for baths, foot soaks, etc.  Since I know these bath salts are more concentrated, I think that guidelines would have been helpful.  

I'm definitely impressed with these bath salts!  You can find them on Adovia's website or Amazon for $2.25/lb.

Verdict: Yay!!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by and made possible by Adovia.  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. 

DIY Friday: Relax & Recharge!

So, at the end of a long week, how do you recharge, relax, and unwind?

Its so easy to forget to take care of ourselves.  Our lives are incredibly busy, and filled with stresses.  We have to learn to take time to stop and rest.  And, no, I don't mean sleep.

I mean rest.

I took this off the coast of Kawaii in 2010; its the point that is farthest away from any mainland in the entire world.  So, it felt very much like escaping the entire world!

We need time to tune out the rest of the world, and retreat into a time and space that belongs only to us . . . even if its only for a little while.  Its in those moments when we can rest, recharge, and take the opportunity to just breathe.

In appreciation of the calming effects of the ocean, and the health benefits of sea salt, I will share my tips for relaxation that are filled with connections to the Dead Sea!

My DIY Relax & Recharge Friday Night Recipe:

1. Favorite AudioBook: I'm currently listening to Bossy Pants by Tina Fey.  (Audio, because Paper + Me + Water = Trouble). Nothing better for the tired woman than listening to Tina Fey!

2. Bath Salts: You can use plain Epsom Salts.  I used 100% Dead Sea Bath Salts from Adovia (I felt so fancy!).  Salts help soften skin, exfoliate, and relax tired muscles!

3. Essential Oils: I used several drops of Peppermint and Sweet Orange Essential Oils.  Peppermint Oil is supposed to help relax tight muscles, boost energy, and improve mental focus.  Sweet Orange Oil is supposed to alleviate depression & anxiety, relieve inflammation and muscle spasms.  I just wanted to try something new and thought they smelled good!

4. Pampering Moment: Apply a facial mask, shave your legs, play in the bubbles, anything!  I decided to apply a Dead Sea Mud Mask from InstaNaturals.

5. Set the Mood: Before drawing my nice hot bath, I made sure that my bedroom was tidied up, my new robe was laid out for when I was finished, and I lit a candle.  Its the little things that help you feel like its your moment to escape!

What is your favorite way to relax and recharge at the end of a long week?  What other DIY tips would you like to read?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January's Free Scores and How You Can Get Freebies, Too!

I love scoring freebies, and I want you to know how I do it so that you can get great products for free too!


Through Hip2Save, I have gotten many magazine subscriptions for free!

Skin Care & Beauty Items!


I received free samples of L'Oreal Hair Care, Stetson Claliber, plus a really cool sticker & bracelet about ending fear of not having my phone through!


Keeping my eyes peeled on Facebook, I found free samples for GlamGlow and Philosophy!  I even found a deal for a free rollerball of Harvey Prince fragrance; I only paid S&H!  (I did add the shampoo & conditioner for $1/each, though!)

I am totally stoked, because I scored these two freebies by being accepted into Secrets #clearlybetter challenge!  This is an opportunity extended to bloggers!  Yay!  I got noticed!

Remember those free magazines I mentioned earlier?  Well, some of them stash amazing samples + coupons inside!  Triple score!

Never underestimate the power of the Giveaway, my friends!  These little bad boys both came from giveaways!  One was from a blog that hosted a giveaway by Not Your Mother's.  The other was from Allure's December Giveaway (yes, those prizes can take forever to arrive; I didn't even know I had won anything until this arrived!)


I scored this really cool box of individual packs of honey crystals from Abe's Market Try For $2!

I've snagged my second freebie from Swaagable! Totally excited to get a free Runa Tea!

I hope you've enjoyed this month's free score post!  How do you hunt down deals and freebies?  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Confession: I might be obsessed with Hyaluronic Acid Serums

   My current collection of Hyaluronic Acid Serums . . . 


I have a confession.  I am a little obsessed with Hyaluronic Acid Serums.  Since I started beauty blogging and reviewing products, I've tested seven different bottles of Hyaluronic Acid Serums from seven different companies.

Here's what I love about Hyaluronic Acid Serums:

1. They don't smell bad.  I have yet to come across one that smells bad, weird, odd, or in any way unpleasant.

2. They are lightweight moisturizers that layer very well under facial creams/ lotions or makeup.

3. While hyaluronic acid is most often used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, I've noticed that using it also brightens my complexion and makes my skin feel smoother.

4. Hyaluronic Acid is a substance that occurs naturally in our bodies; it is found in young skin and joints.  While application cannot replace what we lose over time, I have certainly seen benefits when used as part of a skincare routine.

5.  Finally, it just feels good on my skin!

So, I'm out scoping out the territory to find the one(s) I like best.  Of the ones pictured above, my favorites are definitely Body Merry's Hyaluronic Dew Serum and Adeline's Hyaluronic Acid Serum!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Birchbox Meghan Markle Prize Pack!

How many times have we seen those amazing giveaways on Instagram?  How many times have we wondered who the prize winner was, and what they thought of the prize pack after they used the products?  

Well, I'm going to share my experience as an Instagram winner of a really cool prize! I was completely stunned when Birchbox notified me on Instagram that I had won their Meghan Markle Giveaway last fall!

I waited what felt like an eternity, and then, one day, my box arrived!
A lovely hand-written note was at the top of the pile of goodies.  So sweet! :-)

I'm totally loving the rest of these luxurious goodies, and I can't wait to tell you about them!

Now, one item is not pictured individually is L'Oreal's Keratase Masque Chroma Rich - Treatment.  I immediately boxed that up and sent it to my beloved stepmom.  She was totally impressed with how this treatment revived her stressed out hair! 

This Beauty Elixir by Caudalie by the "exilir of youth" used by Queen Isabelle of Hungary.  The light and rejuvenating scents of orange blossom, rose, mint and rosemary surround you with an aura of ultimate luxury.  Meanwhile your skin feels refreshed and cleansed with just a few spritzes of this amazing elixir.  I love the weight of the glass bottle and its delicate floral motif!  Seriously, this product makes me feel like royalty!

I really do love this primer by Laura Mercier.  It is light, highly moisturizing, and helps my makeup last all day!

Eve Lom's Cleanser is a thick, luxurious cream that arrives with its own matching muslin cloth.  I am truly amazed at how effective this single cleanser is at removing all of my makeup; mascara, eye shadow, foundation, everything melts away.  It makes my skin feel like a million bucks!

These fun plastic wine glasses from Govino are ready to go anywhere, anytime!  I love the little notch for my thumb!  Its such a lovely little touch!

Last, but certainly not least, The Essential by Kusmi Tea!  Oh my goodness, if you have a tea-lover, or just a tea-enjoyer, in your life, this would make such a sweet splurge-y gift!  I am totally impressed with the aromatic deep flavors, the delicate woven tea bags, and the fact that you can brew at least two cups of tea with one bag!

All of these lovely items are available at!  For more information about giving yourself the gift of 5 marvelous samples, plus a wonderful reward point system for purchasing full sized items, check out their available subscription (affiliate link)!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Versatile Blog Award!

I am thrilled that a blogger I deeply respect and admire nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

The Versatile Blogger Award Guidelines:

When you consider nominating a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, consider the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page. Or, of course, the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them.  Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.

Given these guidelines, I feel very honored to be recognized by a fellow blogger, and especially such a well-established blogger, for this award.

Joely, of FashionBeyond40, nominated me for this amazing award!  Thank you!  I really enjoy the variety of high quality content Joely posts regularly.  One of my favorite types is her "happiness is . . . " posts; they're always different, but I always learn something about her life.

Now, in acceptance of this marvelous award, I will share 7 things about myself, and nominate 15 other bloggers for this prestigious award!

So, 7 things about me!

1. I've never had a cavity, but I had a root canal at 20.

2. I've loved makeup since childhood; I would watch my mother getting ready in the morning at her makeup table and marvel at all the beautiful colors of eye shadow!

3. I'm 5'8, but I wear the same jeans/ pants inseam as my husband who is 6'2.

4. I am obsessed with turquoise.

5. I have an unhealthy addiction to purple eye shadow!

6. I never made sweet tea for myself and kept it around religiously until I moved out of the south.

7. I was 23 when I enjoyed my first peanut butter & jelly sandwich; it was peanut butter & strawberry.

Now, for the 15 blogs I nominate!

1. Bridgette Ramos, I nominate you for your fantastic attitude, beautiful style, and wonderful blog appearance!

2. Elle Sees, I nominate you for your grace and charm that fill every post; your approach to beauty blogging helps every technique, tool, and product feel accessible!

3. Best Beauty for My Buck, I nominate you because your product review sheet is amazing, and I know you'll always have a tip that my wallet will appreciate!

4. Intrice Blog, I nominate you for your overall sweet attitude, your support of my blog in its early stages, and for your wonderful approaches to writing product reviews!

5. A Fresh Start On A Budget, I nominate you for your wonderful tips about budgeting, staying motivated, time management, and link up parties!

6. Mish Mash Musings, I nominate you for being one of the coolest ladies in the subscription box review game!  I love your candor and silliness!

7. Our Twenties, I nominate you for your beautiful writing about life, fashion, beauty, and always showing off your smile!

8. Glamour And Giggles, I nominate you for your glamorous and fun approach to beauty and reviews!

9. Megan Joy, I nominate you for your effortless approach to all things beauty! I've learned so much from you!

10. This Teacher Wears Makeup, I nominate you for your unique approach to beauty and product reviews!

11. Brendy Beauty, I nominate you for your lovely reviews, feminine aura of your blog, and your sweet photos!

12. Manly Man Lee, I nominate you for your honest reflections, and humorous candor! 

13. Andie Conn, I nominate you for the amazing space you create for those of us who suffer with depression!

14. The Smoking Thurible, as one of the rare theological blogs I read, I nominate you for willingness to share your sermons beyond the pulpit in the blog-o-sphere!

15. The Inspired and Inspiring, I nominate you for your willingness to be open and vulnerable about your journey!

 I hope that all of you amazing bloggers are able to pass along the favor to other wonderful blogs!

I hope that all of my readers have found a new and exciting blog (or two!) to read and follow!