Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Two weeks = Smooth Feet, Thanks Eucerin!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was teased as a child for having dry skin. When I shared some of my story with Eucerin, they were kind enough to send me some of their product for free. I knew I didn't just want this to be one more review that people saw and then forgot about. I wanted to show everyone how truly well Eucerin products work.

I took pictures of my heels two weeks ago. They were cracked, dry, and pretty hard to look at. Definitely not the kind of feet that you want to play footsie with or show off in summer sandals. In the package I had received from Eucerin, there was a bottle of Intensive Repair Extra-Enriched Foot Creme. I decided to use this and their Daily+Strength Skin Fortifying Body Creme on my feet to see if I could really get great feet in two weeks. I picked two weeks because this is the length of time advertised on their Intensive Repair creme for seeing results.

I didn't get great feet in two weeks. I got gorgeous feet in two weeks! And during week two, my feet became so silky smooth that I couldn't believe how easy it was for me to get rid of the problem! I'd had calloused heels for as long as I could remember... and they had only gotten worse as I grew older. I had used foot files and lotion many times to try and make my feet look smooth and pretty. I'd had massages and paraffin waxes and foot baths. Nothing worked to make the problem go away. It all just made my callouses seem softer for a short time.

The Eucerin made my feet like new though. The creams healed my skin, made the cracks completely disappear, and made my feet so soft and smooth that it feels like I've got butter in my socks!

The only things I did to make my feet look this way was to apply the Intensive Repair lotion to my feet at night before putting my socks on. Then I quickly ran a small file over my callous in the mornings, no more than a minute for both feet combined. I put the Daily Strength cream on after I took my showers. It smells so good and absorbs into my skin without feeling greasy.

Here were the results.

I went from this...

              .... to this!

What a difference! I couldn't believe it. My feet actually felt so smooth by Day 4 that my husband asked me to start working on his as well. Now we both have soft feet and I am thrilled!

Now I'm heading out to buy a brand new pair of sandals. How else am I supposed to show off these awesome feet?

So what do you all think, did that Eucerin work great or what?!?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Advice From Busybodies

China Buffet on UrbanspoonThis afternoon my husband and I went to one of our favorite local Chinese buffets. I've written before about eating there, and it has been a comfort-zone for our family for a long time. Today however, I was put on edge, annoyed, and find myself wondering if I will ever go back there again. I probably won't.

Why has my attitude changed so suddenly? Was it a bad review? Bad food? Bad atmosphere? No, it was none of those things. It was a nosy waitress that became a busybody and then some.

My daughter is a little over four months old now. Since she's been about three months old she's been doing little sit-ups in her bouncy seats, and she can sit unassisted now. My son couldn't do that until he was seven months, but she is just a ball of chubby baby with muscles underneath. We quickly found out that she absolutely hates laying on her back for more than a few minutes, and she prefers to sit up as often as possible. Being in her car-seat causes endless screaming, especially when we are at a restaurant and she has to sit there strapped in and going nowhere. Because she screams so much in her car-seat, I've started sticking her in a high chair when we go out to dinner. I always wrap her mini-comforter around her for stability and cushioning, and we've had wonderfully peaceful meals ever since.

So today when the waitress approached us for our drink orders, I was putting the baby into the high chair (as usual) when the woman asked how old the baby was. I smiled, thinking she was just making polite conversation and responded with my little one's age.

"Oh!" the waitress said, "She's too little for a high chair."

I shot my husband a confused expression, my mouth open to speak but no words coming out. What do you say to someone when they have a random opinion like that? Before I could say something to the effect of, "Oh, we do this all the time, the blanket makes her more than stable, she can sit up by herself already... etc, etc...", she actually reached across me and unbuckled my baby. What could I do but pick my poor child up as the woman took the high chair and began to leave?

To make her astoundingly rude actions even worse, she continued to "advise" me on how to take care of my own child. "You have to wait until she is at least six month," she told me, "Babies can't sit on her own until six month. After six month, then high chair is okay."

My mouth was hanging open, speechless, but I assure you that there were hundreds of retorts running through my brain. I thought of horribly rude comebacks ranging anywhere from... well I can't even write it here because it is all just too mean of me to write, and I'm sure it would come back to bite me in the butt later. I was furious, and that is an understatement. I was too angry to eat, and I couldn't have anyways, considering that I had to hold our darling daughter for the rest of the meal. The only other option was to stick her back in the car-seat and let her screech for an hour, which is obviously not something I was going to do. I would like to point out that my daughter was sitting on my lap, unassisted, because she can sit up on her own. Too bad my mother-knowledge counts for zero against the wise, wise wisdom of a random stranger who has never met my child.

I told my husband that he had better take care of the check himself so that I didn't do something stupid in my anger. I had an idea to write a big fat ZERO in for the tip, along with a note to the effect of "I'm sure you don't need a tip since you make good money at your parenting-expert job". But again, as relieving as it may have been at the time, I've never shorted anyone on tip before, and I prefer to make my complaints after I have calmed down. Somehow though, this incident angers me far more than any other disgruntling restaurant experience I've had, and my annoyance at it is lingering.

What could they even do to make amends for being offended by random advice though? This is one of those things that can't be "made right" by a manager giving me a free meal or apologizing for the service. This goes into that dangerous I-am-mom-protector-of-my-own territory. It makes me wonder if the young woman even has children - most mothers are strongly aware of the no-no's of handing out offending advice to other mothers. This goes even beyond that. This is the first time I've ever seen anyone go so far as to touch someone's child and force the advice on them. How dare she? I am still just so furious about it.

So what do I do? What would some of you have done in this same situation? Is there any cure for insert-foot-in-mouth advice-givers?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Energize Your Own Adventure (Expired) Giveaway!

Ever been on an "away-from-home" kind of day and you suddenly realize that your electronics are dead? Your cell-phone, your tablet, your e-reader... it's always something. And it's always when you need it the most. I can't begin to count how many times I've reached for my phone when the battery was completely drained, only to remember that it had shut off at least an hour ago.

When I was younger my grandparents used to take me to visit our friends, The Robinson Family, in Kentucky every year. And every year I would find myself far from our campsite with the battery on whatever I happened to be holding about to go dead. With the Adventure Kit that was featured in this giveaway, you can charge smaller USB devices without traveling back to a car or a house to plug something in. That means you don't waste your time with coming & going, and you don't have to wait around at the plug-in station. How cool is that? And solar power is eco-friendly, one of the best kinds of friendly that there is!

This giveaway may have ended, but that doesn't mean that you can't check out the awesome product review and possibly purchase one for your next camping trip.

And if you're looking for more giveaways to enter, make sure to check out the giveaways tab at the top of the page, or click here to go straight there! Good luck!

Happy Earth Day everybody!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Craft Time - Make a Spring Wreath with your kids!

This weekend as I was cleaning the house, I came across some old picnic supplies. The paper plates had been stuffed in a bag and then forgotten. They were a bit dusty so I had to consign them to crafting duty. I rummaged around until I found what I needed, and the end result was pretty darn cute. Best of all, if you complete the craft with the optional finish, this makes a fantastic Mother's Day gift for grandma.

This is a craft you can make with younger children because of how easy it is, but I would say that this is an appropriate activity for children all the way to ten years of age. 

What you need:
  • Paper bag (old scrap paper will work as well, but it won't be as sturdy)
  • Paper plate
  • Craft paint in spring colors (or washable finger paint for the littler ones!)
  • A black marker
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ribbon
Optional finish materials are a magnet with sticky backing (you can find at a crafting store) and a recent photograph.

First you want to cut the paper bag into three separate sections. This is especially important if you have little ones doing this craft since they tend to not have a sense of drawing-within-the-lines.

Lay out each portion of the paper bag and have your child paint one of them with green for leaves, and the other two with flowery colors. Smaller children like mine may not paint the entire bag due to artistic reasons (haha), but I left it as my son painted it since I want this to be a project that he made. To my mom-vision it appears imperfectly perfect.

When the paint has dried, draw flowers and leaves on the bags. Older children will enjoy drawing their own designs, but the younger ones may need some help. I had my toddler draw a few all by himself on the bags after he watched me make the designs. His are on the bottom of each bag. It's the best drawing he's done yet!

Cut the leaves and flowers out and place them into piles. Cut a circle into the center of the paper plate. To cut a circle in the center, poke a hole through the middle of the paper plate with the scissors and use that as a point to cut from.

Now let your kiddos glue to their heart's content. My son turned out to be very choosy in where he was putting his leaves. I swirled a bunch of glue on the plate and let him stick as much on as he could before I helped him to glue the top pieces in place.

When you are done, poke a hole in the top of the plate and string the ribbon through it. This is a cute item to hang in the house, but if you want to make it into a gift it's easy! Skip the ribbon and glue a photo to the back of the paper plate so that your child's face is showing through the center. Attach a magnet kit (cheaply available at craft stores) to the top of the back of the plate. Tadaa! A gift that grandma or aunties or whoever else will adore. Not only does it look quite cheerful, but it will have your adorable offspring's smiling face shining back at them. So how cute is that?!?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Energize Your Own Adventure (Expired Blogger Opp)

The Energize Your Own Adventure Blogger Opp is no longer taking applicants, but don't go just yet! You might have missed out on this opp, but that doesn't mean that you need to miss out on the next one! Make sure to check out the page I have up just for bloggers, featuring giveaway link-ups, review opportunities, and group giveaway opportunities. This page can save you a lot of time since you don't have to browse around different sites to see what's going on! Click here to go straight to the page!

Many of the giveaways I participate in come from the M.O.O.N. group. If you are a blogger and would like more information about joining, please visit their Facebook page through the link above!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Summer Adventure Event (Expired Blogger Opp)

Sorry guys! The Summer Adventure Blogger Opp has already closed for sign-ups. But don't go just yet! We have lots of interesting blogger opps just waiting for bloggers like you to sign up for! Make sure to check out the page at the top of the site, just for bloggers! You can check out review opportunities, link up your giveaway, and browse the collection of current blogger opps we've posted! Click here to go straight to the page!

Sign-ups for this blogger opp have ended.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Success For Your Blog

Recently I have received inquiries as to how I am able to run and promote my blog so well without spending my own money. To be honest, my blog is a newer one, but I have seen a lot of small successes already, and each one is reason for a mini-celebration in my eyes. So for those who have been curious, I will do my best to impart my (limited) wisdom to you.

First of all, I just need to say that I first and foremost attribute my success to God. I've been flying by the seat of my pants my entire life, and He's always taken care of me. When I decided to do this I told Him I needed His help and that I would give it all to Him, and I do. Doors have opened for me that I never thought would open, and I've learned something new and helpful each day. It's been amazing so far. So there's that.

Now. To start up my blog, I actually did invest some of my own money. You need to do giveaways to attract people to your site, and come up with interesting themes, reviews, DIY, etc., to keep those people.

But that doesn't mean that you need to spend your own money forever. Look at other blogs, really read through them. Ask them for tips, view their sidebars. Most of them are full of little snippets of information and buttons that will take you to where you want to go. Where do you want to go? You want to go to the websites that give you things to review for free of course. That means you have content for your blog, but you are no longer spending your own money. Don't get me wrong, someone needs to review the stuff that we all buy everyday (toilet paper, canned goods, candy bars), and if you are buying those things at the store anyways and want to review them, that's fine. But when you have a company (or companies) backing you up, they provide you with resources in addition to that free stuff. They provide Twitter parties, coupons, Facebook information, samples, and all sorts of other neat things that you just wouldn't have on your own. Plus the fact that you are a part of something bigger than yourself will give you additional exposure. At the end of this post I'll give links and information on two of my favorite review sites.

Next, network network network. And don't "fake" network. When you visit someone's blog in a blog hop, be thoughtful. Don't make comments that aren't true. When I blog hop, I only comment and ask for a return visit if I can make a genuine statement about one of their posts and I truly like their content. If I don't like the content, or it just isn't my thing, I don't comment. Yes, they get a free visit from me, and I don't get one from them, but that doesn't matter. The question you should ask yourself is "Is networking with this person going to benefit my blog and/or my business in the long run?". If the answer is no, move along. You will only waste your time and gain a reputation as someone who is only interested in others for the sake of self-promotion.

Spread out your social networking and sign up for all of them that you can find. Yes, really sign up for everything that you can find. I'm not saying that you need to be on the computer 24/7, but there could be someone out there that is looking for a blog like yours, but they aren't finding you on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps they will find you on Instagram or Pinterest or LinkedIn or one of the hundred or so other networks that are out there now. An easy way to go about things is to make sure that you try and post to your medias when there is something real changing on your blog, you have a true deal to share, or you got some sort of opportunity that must be shared with the world. Don't mindlessly social network. Spamming "Earn money, click the link" in Twitter ten times in five minutes is going to earn you unfollows. Don't be the spammer-blogger. Nobody likes that. If you really want to share what is going on with people, spread your tweets or your posts out so that they can be viewed by a different crowd every half hour or so, and try not to tweet or post more than once per minute.

And most definitely know your Klout score, your Alexa rating and your Page Rank, and exactly what those things are.

Out of all of these, Klout is my favorite. Not only does it rate your performance across certain social medias and give you an overall score, but it allows you to see what big-time social networks you may be missing out on. In addition to that, Klout will send you awesome perks from time to time. You can use them for reviews on your blog or to grow your business depending on what they are. So far I've received three perks, one for business cards, one for marinades, and one mystery perk that I haven't received in the mail yet.

Alexa ranking is a bit trickier. It gives you a ranking based off the likelihood of someone in the world finding your blog on the internet at any given time. It shows you the current number of sites linking in to you, as well as providing stats on things like: How long does the typical viewer stay on your site?, What percentage of people view more than one page?, and Where are most of your inbound views coming from?

Google's Page Rank is my least favorite of these, not only because of how sporadically and/or infrequently they update it, but also because it isn't necessarily a good measure of how well received your blog is. Google Page Rank operates off of the idea that if you have a good blog or page, people will link to your site. Now, this may be true in some cases. But then you have to take into account that the Page Rank of the people linking to you also affects your score. If you have a hundred sites linking to you, but they all have a Rank of zero, your rank isn't going to skyrocket. It might even stay at zero. I wouldn't worry too much about your Google Page Rank, but you still need to keep an eye on it since some of the more highly-prized blogger sponsor sites won't take you on unless you have a good Page Rank. It isn't a die-hard necessity, but some websites do still rely on it to tell them how good a blog is.

The above three paragraphs are a huge part of why you need to network. Networking doesn't just get page views, it gets people to really interact with your blog. That makes your Klout score go up, your rating on Alexa go down, and will slowly (but surely) increase your Google Page Rank.

Hopefully this will help some of you out there who are struggling to really get your blog to take off. I wish I could say more on web design and/or structuring your blog, but I'll admit that I'm stuck in the mud with that one myself. I'm not programmer-savvy, and I don't want to be. I'll probably learn bits and pieces as I go, but for now I'm more than happy to ask others for help when I need it.

Now before I end this post, I'll let you all know about two sites that I have found to be very good resources for my blog.

The first is Smiley360. This site gives you missions based off of their mission pre-surveys, how well you've done in missions past, and how well-fitted you are to their current mission. Do not answer the pre-surveys with what you think they want to hear just so that you can get free product.  If you get accepted to one of these missions and the product doesn't apply to you, it's not going to benefit your site or the company represented in the mission and it won't make your advice look valuable. Plus, you won't have fun on the mission since you aren't really being benefited by it, and your opinion won't sound genuine. On the other hand, if you make sure to always answer honestly, be yourself, and really give it your all, you will see a lot of mission offers. And because they will be offers that apply to you, that will show through in your opinion and you will gain rep as a positive influence. I joined on 2/21/13, and I've already completed two missions and have three that are currently active. I get coupons to give to my readers, special information to hand out or blog about and free product to try. It's pretty awesome, I can't say enough how much I love this site. Hands down, it's my favorite right now for product review. And even if you haven't been given a mission you can earn smiles. And the more smiles, the higher your chances of getting a mission. You can earn them just by providing an honest review of products that you use everyday on their Smiley360 Connect page. Pretty cool right? You can join up by clicking here.

The second site that I love is Influenster. They are full of Twitter parties, interesting reviews, special tasks and social status. You can even put your Influenster score on your page as a button. Mine is over at the right. I've been a member for just around two months now, and I'm going to be receiving my first VoxBox! VoxBoxes are Influenster's way of saying "Hey, we noticed you. We know you have some social standing and give a good opinion, here's a box of goodies to review."  Do a good job and you'll have more VoxBoxes down the line. You can bring your Influenster score up at any time by reviewing the products they have up on their page, but unlike Smiley360, they have a more limited product data-base to review. If you are going to try to do a lot of reviews on Influenster, I suggest scanning the available products for things that you would normally buy, and then putting that specific brand or type on your grocery list for the next time you go out. You can put the review up on your blog and on Influenster and take care of two tasks at once.

As always with everything that you review, be honest with your readers. Make sure they know that you got the product for free. Be creative in your reviews, don't sound like a commercial. If you are reviewing cheese, don't just tell your readers that the cheese was good, DO something with the cheese for goodness' sake! Make a quiche, show how to create fancy cheese art, make up a recipe or compare it to another brand of cheese and take it out and about to see which kind people like more. I cannot stress this enough, be creative!!!

So there you have it. These things aren't secrets, but they might be time-consuming and require effort. This stuff didn't come overnight to me, so don't worry if you have a few discouragements along the way. I had to be patient, I had to work at it, I had to try my best. As long as you do that, you'll be alright.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Skin-care for severe allergies

When my brother Riley was just a year old, he ate a cookie that changed his life forever.

Unbeknownst to our family, Riley was severely allergic to nuts, and the walnut-filled cookie he had eaten produced a chain-reaction that wouldn't come to a halt for months. When you are hit hard with a severe allergy, your immune system is lowered and weakened, which increases the chance that you will develop another allergy. This is especially true with children since they naturally have under-developed immune systems.

Because my brother ate nuts, he became allergic to all of the major food allergies like wheat, milk, eggs, and soy - plus more unusual ones like oats and dust. (Yes, he is allergic to dust!) In the end, his allergen list had about 40 items on it. As you can imagine, this put incredible strain on my mom's ability to feed Riley, and she had to keep a complicated food journal for him. If she fed him the same thing within 30 days of the last time he'd eaten it, he risked becoming allergic to it!

We eventually got the allergies under control, and with a lot of help from the Riley Hospital for Children, he even got to have all of his allergen foods back, with the exception of those pesky tree-nuts. It took years, but he did it. Unfortunately, during this entire time his poor little skin would get so scratchy and patched that he looked like he'd received minor burns all over his legs and arms. I can still remember the sound of him scratching in the night when he was just a toddler, and then my mother gently telling him to stop. The poor little guy.

We tried tons of lotions on him, but he had either scratched so much that his skin was broken and the lotion stung him, or it seemed to do nothing more than moisten his skin a little. Then he'd be back to scratching again.

One of the doctors finally gave my mom a prescription for what we saw as a miracle-cream. It was just Eucerin with cortizone mixed into it, but we didn't realize that Eucerin was available over the counter at the time. My mom was amazed at how well it made my brother's skin heal back up and she began to use it sparingly on my dry skin as well. I remember thinking that I'd like to take a bath in the stuff and just soak for a while.

My mom eventually discovered that Eucerin was available over-the-counter, and we started buying it in a bulk pack. She still got the medicated Eucerin for my brother of course, but all of us kids (even the ones with perfectly fine skin) began to receive large slathers of cream rubbed into our hands or feet whenever my mother decided we were looking a little dry. Back then, I thought it was embarrassing to be tugged aside so that she could rub cream into my hands, but when I think back now, I miss my mom (she's a thousand miles away!) and I think how lovingly she always looked out for me.

If you are an allergy sufferer and have skin breaking out in patches, I highly recommend that you seek the opinion of a dermatologist to find out what is causing your allergies if you haven't already. After that, keeping your skin clear is as simple as practicing everyday care:

Get your skin wet (bath or a shower) at least once a day. This will put some of the moisture back in. Make sure you don't get the water too hot since it will dry you out more than cold water will. Pat yourself completely dry and then rub a thick cream-type lotion all over into your skin. I like to use the Eucerin because it seals in the moisture incredibly well. Finally, make sure to avoid unnecessary skin risks, like getting too much sun, using chemical cleaners with your bare hands, or repeatedly washing dishes by hand. If you have to go outside, keep your skin moist with an SPF lotion, and if you wash dishes or clean with chemicals, make sure to wear gloves or ask someone else to help you.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Get Chef Boyardee for 38 cents for a limited time!

Have you heard of the new smartphone app called Ibotta? This free to download app sends money to your PayPal account just for buying certain brands at the grocery store. When you combine this with the fact that the benefits stack with coupons, you can save some serious money.

This week as I was browsing through my Ibotta selections, I noticed that there was Chef Boyardee Beefaroni on the list of foods that can be purchased. The picture on the app was the single-serve microwavable variety, but guess what? If you read the fine print, it states that you can buy any variety and size of Beefaroni. So I went for the regular can which was just 88 cents at Walmart! Since I got 50 cents back to my PayPal account after uploading my receipt to Ibotta, I snagged the can for just 38 cents.

To my delight, one of my refreshed offers was another Chef Boyardee offer! This time it was for the spaghetti, and once more it was showing the picture of the single-serve microwave variety, but the details state that I can buy any variety or size of the spaghetti. With two servings in a can, that's lunch for 20 cents a person.

How do you get the Ibotta app? You simply download it to your smartphone, and for each person you invite you'll receive money back into your Ibotta account after they use the app for the first time!

I started using the Ibotta app about a month ago, and I've already received over $25 back into my PayPal account. I actually have an additional $5.75 sitting in the app that I don't want to transfer into my PayPal just yet because I want to get the achievement for transferring $10 all at once. That's right. This app has achievements, and some of them earn you extra money! For instance, take the April Showers achievement that I got on Friday. I got 50 cents extra just for buying four items that were Ibotta offers during the month of April. That unlocked another achievement for buying five more items before the end of April, and that one is worth 75 cents. Are you kidding me? I'm getting money for achievements? It's a dream come true, someone has finally created a shopping-game, and I'm getting paid to play it. I don't think things get much better than that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Re-Use that half-eaten apple!

At around $2.00 per pound, apples seem like a pretty good bargain. That is, until you consider the fact that an apple weighs around half a pound. That means that each apple you buy is around a dollar. I grew up in a place where you can buy a whole bushel of apples for around $15 (which makes them about 15 cents each), and I cringe every time I see one of my son's half-eaten apples laying around. To him, it's just a snack he didn't want. To me, it's money that I'm throwing away.

A simple answer to this would of course be to put the apples out of his reach. But we're trying to keep fruits and vegetables available to him at any time of day for him to snack on. That way, he feels like he has some choice about what he eats, and as he grows his snacking habits will trend toward healthier foods. We rarely buy chips, crackers, cookies or other typical snack foods, and his idea of a treat is a cup of flavored yogurt!

Since I don't want to take the apples away, I have to make peace with the fact that he may only eat half the apple. Thankfully, I have discovered a few things I can do with his half-eaten apples so that they at least don't go to waste.

This week I remembered a pine-cone bird feeder I had made as a young girl with my mom's help. I decided to apply the same technique to the apple. To make this project, you'll need a screwdriver, an apple (half-eaten works best since it holds the peanut butter & seeds in place), a washer or nut, a piece of yarn, peanut butter, and birdseed.

First, take the apple and use the screwdriver to drive a hole through the center from top to bottom.

Next, thread the yarn through the apple.

Take the yarn that comes out of the bottom of the apple and tie it around the nut or washer. Make sure it's knotted well.

If you've tied it properly, the apple should hang nicely, and the washer/nut will keep the yarn from pulling back through the apple.

Dry the apple well and then use peanut butter to coat the apple. It doesn't have to be perfect, you won't see the peanut butter when you're done and you just need enough to make the seeds stick.

Plunge the peanut-butter coated apple into the bird seed, making sure to cover all the sides. I like to have my son help me with this part. He loves to feed the birds, and this is a nice activity for children to help out with. It helps them to become environmentally-conscious and is a great way to get them out of the house or away from the TV.

When you're finished, the apple-bird-feeder should look something like this:

                                                                                 Source: Uploaded by user via Alicia on Pinterest

Hang it in a place where you or your children can see it easily. It may take the birds a little while to come to it if you've never put food out for them before, but be patient and they will find it eventually. You'll be amazed at how fast they swoop down on the next one you put out! This is a great time to take the kids outside for some fresh air and sunshine while you wait for the birds to find the feeder. Just make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the "bird-feeder" at first, or your feathered friends may stay well away until you've gone back inside.

                                                                               Source: Uploaded by user via Alicia on Pinterest

So there you have it. A bird feeder made out of an apple. It may not save me any money at the grocery store, but it definitely makes me feel less wasteful!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

That's when I realized my "friend" wasn't a friend at all...

When I was younger, I had a lot of self-esteem issues. I was nervous and shy at school, and frequently did or said things that sounded strange. I was never certain if I was doing what was normal, and that only added to my nervousness. And even when I thought I had things right, I was a whole year younger than my classmates (something most of them never knew) and was consistently a year behind in my social skills.

To make matters worse, I was born with eczema. When I was little my mom would always lovingly tell me that I was her alligator-baby, and I didn't think that there was anything wrong with the rough patches of skin on my hands, feet, knees or elbows. Mom would always tell me, "Oh, some people are just born that way." And they are. Just not in droves like I was innocently believing.

In sixth grade, all of the elementary schools merged into one huge middle school, and I thought that this would bring new opportunities for me. I figured I could either become a somebody, or blend in as a nobody. It didn't take me long to make new friends, and it really didn't take me long to find out what caliber they were. I'm sure they are all lovely people now, but some of those "friends" quickly abandoned me over one ignorant comment.

As I was hanging out with a group of these new kids, a girl I had never met before popped by and was introduced to me. She was someone that my "new friends" had gone to elementary school with, and she was already good friends with all of them. As she was leaving, I heard her half-whisper to one of the other girls, "Wow did you see her hands? She needs lotion or something." They giggled and I pretended not to hear, certain that my cheeks were red as a flame.

The next day one of the girls from my "new" group came up and asked me if what I had was contagious. I didn't understand what she was talking about at first, and by the time she got through to me, it was clear that hanging out with her wasn't going to happen anymore. Apparently having rough skin and needing a lot of lotion can disqualify you for "friend" status in middle school. My mom gave me the usual "With friends like that, who needs enemies?" routine when I got home and tearfully told her what happened, but it didn't help. (Has that ever helped?) I was a trooper though and went back to school pretending that nothing had happened.

I eventually made new friends, but I was so afraid about my skin now that I began to introduce myself to the other kids saying, "Hi, I'm Alicia, and I have really dry skin, but don't worry, it's not contagious, I just need a lot of lotion. It's no big deal though." Luckily, my new group of friends were real friends, and not so easily scared off. One of them finally even took me aside (love you Jessica!) and told me, "Stop telling people about your dry skin. It's weird to say that and no one cares." I thought she was just telling me that because she was being nice, but as I've gotten older I've realized it was because she was beyond the "coolness" of middle school and could see the bigger picture.

She was right. It is no big deal. And the problem that I used to over-exaggerate to myself seems like hardly anything now. I look at my hands sometimes and wonder how I ever thought of them as scary, scaley-looking things that no one would want to touch. Either I've grown new hands or my child's-mind imagined them far worse because of the teasing.

However, the fact remains that my skin is on the dry side, and as a grown woman, I wanted to do something about it. I tried a lot of different lotions throughout my lifetime (and I mean a lot), but most of them have always seemed either too greasy to absorb into my skin, or so watery that they don't stay in my skin very long. I finally found Eucerin cream, and to my delight it worked wonderfully. I have been using it ever since and can't even begin to imagine what I would do without it.

Lately though, I have been slacking off on using it regularly. I just got over being pregnant (for what seemed like five years), and I couldn't really bend down very easily to take care of my feet.

Long story short? My feet are a dry, callousy mess and I hate it! Living in Florida like I do, the last thing I want is feet that look horrible in open shoes. I want smooth, pretty feet like every other woman does, and even without dry skin that can be hard to accomplish. I have tried and tried to get my feet to be smoother - I've tried files and buffs, creams, massages and even paraffin wax at the spa! Nothing has worked. I still have heels that scratch along the inside of my bed covers at night and it drives me crazy!

So I'm experimenting on myself for the next 14 days: I'll be using Eucerin's Intensive Repair Extra-Enriched Foot Creme along with Eucerin's Daily+Strength Skin Fortifying Body Creme to see if I can't get my feet smoother than they've ever been!
Day One, no treatment yet!

To show just how seriously awesome Eucerin is, I'm going to be taking pictures along the way so everyone can see the progress. Check out my horrible heel in the picture at the right. Pretty scary, huh? I think so too. Hopefully by the end of two weeks I'll be able to kiss that picture good-bye and reward myself with some brand new sandals.

The giveaway below has expired, but that doesn't mean that you can't still win something! Check out our Giveaways page for all current giveaways!
(Giveaway Expired) And as a reward to my readers, one of you will win a Eucerin prize pack worth over $50. When I wrote to the good people over at Eucerin and told them the story of my dry skin, they were kind enough to send me a wonderful assortment of their product for free, and I'm delighted to be able to put some up in this giveaway! (Giveaway Expired)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Giveaway Results!

This Mood Magnet giveaway is over, but that doesn't mean that you don't have a shot at winning a great prize! Check out our Giveaways page for all current giveaways, many are low-entry, and the next winner could be you!


Congratulations to Barbara Montag for winning our Mood Magnet & Walmart Giftcard Giveaway!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Campbell's Go Soup Review & Coupon

Recently I was given the chance to review Campbell's new Go Soup for free from Smiley360. They sent me my free sample of Campbell's Go Soup along with a disguise kit to make a funny photo and ten awesome coupons to distribute. Although I was given these things for free, I just want to let you know that this opinion is my own (as always). For more info on my disclosure policy, please click here!
Me and my fake 'stache courtesy of Smiley360!

Now on to the good stuff! I was pretty excited when I received the chance to participate in this product review. I'm always looking for something new to do or to try, and when I get the opportunity to voice my opinion I jump on it!

Interestingly enough, the week before I received this offer, I had actually been browsing around in the soup aisle and spotted the Campbell's Go Soup bags. I even purchased one at the time, but it mysteriously disappeared into the pantry somewhere. (Or perhaps it disappeared into someone's stomach without my knowledge...)

I enlisted my family to help me out on this project, and we all got a taste. The soup we got to try was the Spicy Chorizo & Pulled Chicken with Black Beans. I was expecting that it would be a decent soup, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted a lot like something that I would have spent a couple of hours making myself! The soup was full of veggies & meat, and the broth was just right (which for me means not too thin & not under-seasoned). We garnished it with sour cream and shredded cheese and it was awesome.

As for the prep, I thankfully didn't have to spend the two hours making it (I'm assuming someone at Campbell's did that part for me, thanks!), and it only took two minutes to heat up in the microwave. Instead of pouring the soup into a dish to heat it, you simply tear the side of the pouch, pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then pour it into a bowl when you're finished. And if you don't have a bowl, I imagine you can always just eat it out of the bag. That's what I would do if I was on the run!

I'm hoping to take a couple of these with me to BloggyCon'13, they seem like they'd be great as a quick lunch between seminars. Plus I like to snack in the middle of the night, and who wants to go out at 1 am just for something to munch on?

So, delicious, easy, and fast. The only other thing I could ask of Campbell's? I'd love to see a label on their product that states that they don't use GMO's in their food. To me, true quality means that a company is willing to pay a few cents more for fruits or veggies that weren't genetically-modified and that don't produce their own pesticides.

Interested in putting your own opinion out there and getting to do fun product reviews? Join me on Smiley360! Click here to go straight to their website!

And don't forget to print out a coupon good for $1 off your next purchase of Campbell's Go Soup! You can snag yours by following this link.

When you've done that, don't forget to check out the other giveaways we have going by clicking on our Giveaways page!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Weird Cornstarch Uses: Experiment #1 - Marshmallow Unsticker

I recently purchased a book with supposed uses for all sorts of common household products. The book in itself is pretty fascinating, but I have to say that some of the claims it makes seem a little far-fetched at times.

Yesterday as I was making one of my favorite snacks using marshmallows, I went to measure out two cups of the marshmallows and they came out in a huge glop. I ended up with sticky hands and a gross mush of marshmallows lumped in a measuring cup. Oddly enough, I happened to remember reading something about unsticking marshmallows with cornstarch, and I thought it would be fun to try out today.

As I write this, I'm reminded of the comedian who talks about infomercials making up problems people don't have, and I laugh because a lot of the "tips" in the book seem to be for things that never happen, or aren't that big of a deal. ("Tired of marshmallows sticking to your fingers? Hair ruined because you touched it with marshmallow-y hands? Fear not! Cornstarch is to the rescue!") Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book I purchased was an "As Seen On TV" item, thus my skepticism at some of the "amazing" tips.

So here is the video, the incredible cornstarch experiment. Try it out for yourselves if and when you have such a problem, and let me know how it turned out for you!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I thought I had everything planned exactly...

When I was pregnant with my first child, I really did think that I had planned for every possible happening and had a birth plan available for each and every possible circumstance. But then life happened, and all my planning went out the window.

I had originally intended that I would go to the hospital (in labor of course) and have my baby as drug-free as possible. As a matter of fact, I had wanted to go to a birthing center at the very beginning, but I didn't like the rudeness of some of the workers there and decided there was no way I could deal with them during my important journey. My doctor was fine with the drug-free approach, and everything seemed pretty normal. I had birthing plans for all sorts of scenarios: One for in case I just couldn't take the pain and asked for immediate pain relief, one for if I couldn't take the pain and it was too late for an epidural, one for if I had to go into surgery for some reason, one for if my water broke and there was meconium... they went on and on. It was quite the digest of crazy-new-mom plans. Unfortunately, God has a sense of humor and sent me one that I didn't see coming.

I never went into labor.

That's right. Never happened. However, my water did decide to break as I was sitting up in bed one morning. I was frantic to get to the hospital, not just because of the fact that I was unsure if it was unsafe for the baby, but because my mom had told me the baby would probably come within a half hour if my water had broken. I was expecting ferocious labor pains to kick in at any minute.

They didn't.
So happy to hold my first baby!

I spent fourteen hours at the hospital while confused nurses and doctors kicked my pitocin drip up to higher than usual, telling me that I should be feeling the contractions that they were seeing on the screen. I couldn't feel any of it.

Finally the doctor told me that I could wait around some more and see if my labor would kick in, but the longer the baby stayed in there, the riskier it was for him. The only other option was the dreaded c-section. I had never, ever wanted a c-section. It was far down on my list of possibilities for having my baby. And yet there it was. I could either have the c-section or risk harming my little buddy. I chose the c-section.

A few hours later, as I was holding my beautiful son, I contented myself with the thought that lots of women have c-sections and go on to have perfectly normal births. I made myself a promise that the next one would be a natural birth if at all possible.

"Whaddya mean I'm getting a sister?!?"
Fast forward two and half years, and I was nearly in the same predicament. I had carefully planned for my daughter's birth: I was going to use a birthing center, no drugs, and labor in a whirlpool to ease the pains. Again, I got sent a curve ball. About half-way through my pregnancy a woman hit the side of our car in an accident, and the resulting pains to my pelvic, hip and back area left me in a lot of pain. There were even a few days my husband had to help me to the toilet (so embarrassing). I actually had a nurse practitioner at the health department laugh at me when I asked about birthing options.

"You're getting a c-section, that's your option," she glibly told me, "You don't have the range of motion for anything else. You can barely walk, how would you push?" I realized at the time she was right, even though I didn't want to hear it. I found myself a good doctor who was skilled at c-sections and resigned myself to the surgery. And even then I got a surprise. I found out the day before I went in for the surgery that this particular hospital keeps the baby in the nursery for a minimum of an hour right after you have the baby.

Lovin' our skin-to-skin time.
I went crazy. I fumed, crying to my husband and getting mad at the doctors. I swore up and down that I would write letters and complaints a million times over as to what a terrible hospital they were. How dare they take my baby away from me at such a crucial moment?

I stayed up late into the night, printing off material from brochures and books on the internet, tidbits of information I thought my archaic hospital must not know. I might have even yelled at a few optimistic friends on Facebook. (Sorry guys <3)

"No pictures of the starlet today please."
But after I got to the hospital and demanded (yes I demanded) to see the director of nursing... she completely disarmed me by agreeing with me. I was surprised. I had expected a fight, not an empathetic ear! She told me that she had recently had her baby at the hospital too, and couldn't believe that they still practiced like that.

"Everyone knows these days that it's important to develop skin-to-skin contact at the very beginning!" she told me.

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, I had been about to tell her that in my mini-rant. I quietly hid my book-o'-knowledge that I had printed up and asked her if there was anything that could be done.

"Well," she told me, "I'm in the process of changing the way that works. But because it still has to be approved by the board, I can't go around it yet and forego the hour in the nursery. What I can do though, is let you hold your baby for a while before they take you to a recovery room."

It wasn't what I had hoped for, but it was better than not seeing my little girl at all!

My baby girl was born about half an hour later, and I got to hold her for nearly thirty minutes before they took her to the nursery. And of course my husband was allowed to go with her. I insisted to him that I would be fine on my own and charged him with watching our new baby's every move. I didn't want her out of our sight. She was ours, after all.

The time passed, even though it seemed agonizing at the time (it still makes me feel heartsick to think about), and our little sweetie didn't seem to mind. She was more than happy to nurse as soon as she got back, and even opened one eye to take a peep at me. 'Don't worry, mom,' she seemed to say, 'I know what I'm doing here.'

Lil' guy is so happy to be a big brother!
At this point, I've decided that there are no plans when you have a baby. It just happens how it happens, and there is no amount of planning you can do that will cover every occasion. Am I sad that I didn't get to experience the physical side of delivering a baby? Disappointed that I may never know what it's like to shout, "It's time!" to my husband? Of course I am. I think about it a lot. But then I remember how surprising life can be, and I think that maybe my chance hasn't passed just yet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Fun Fridge Magnets

Recently I was given an opportunity to review new products from FunFridgeMagnets. I was given a Pregnancy Mood Magnets set and a New Mom Mood Magnets set. Although I was given these items, never fear dear readers, my opinions are always honest and my own! For more information on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled 'Let me disclose to you'.

Now on to the good stuff! I was excited to receive these in the mail because as many of you know, I recently had another baby, and my husband and I have been in need of a little stress-relief.

These magnets are a newer product out in the world of parental-bliss, but that doesn't mean that they are any less handy. The mats stick well to the fridge, however we did find out that they will rip if your two-year-old uses one as a  Dora the Explorer map, so put them up high if you've got small kids in the house :)

I might as well let you all know that (being only human) my husband and I have been fighting a lot lately. The addition of a new baby was more than a little stressful on our household. We've had to deal with colic, potty-training, finances, moving and learning to do everything with twice the amount of child. It's been a learning experience at the very least, an anxiety-filled trial at it's very worst. When we got these, the first thing I did was slap them up on the fridge.

To be perfectly honest though, I was "slapping" them up there because my darling husband had recently taken his mom's side in a private argument that he and I were having about raising our children. Although I didn't get quite all my frustration out with my physical abuse of the poor magnet sheets when I attached them to our fridge, I came back in later to notice that my husband had moved the new mom cursor to show that I was feeling hysterical. I leaned around the corner to give him a sarcastic "very funny" look, and suddenly we weren't fighting anymore.

He and I started using them back and forth, him putting the frame where he thought I was and then me quickly rebuffing him by putting it somewhere else. One evening after a particularly trying day, I came to the fridge to see that my husband had moved the frame to the picture stating "beautiful". (At the time I was wearing sweatpants, one of his old t-shirts, no make-up and hadn't showered since the day before.) That sweet gesture was worth a lot to me, and made me smile for days after.

Things I'd like to see change with the Mood Magnet sets? It would be nice if they were a little thicker, to avoid accidental tearing like the one that my little guy was playing with. And it would really be great if they were available in stores. Right now they can only be purchased through the website, but I hope that someday they will be available to snag in stores like Target or Babies R Us since they would make great additions to baby shower baskets! I think this is one of the coolest gifts you can get for less than $10.

Also, I would love to see some more variety. Right now they have a New Mom Mood Magnet set, a New Dad Mood Magnet set, and a Pregnancy Mood Magnet set. I'd be excited to see a Newlyweds Mood Magnet set or maybe a Pet-Lover's Mood Magnet set. They do have new sets in the works of course: "Parent Moods" and "Kid Moods" came out in spring of 2013, but they weren't quite finished at the time of my review. For more information on Fun Fridge Magnets' line of products, please visit their Facebook page at this link!

(The giveaway that was associated with this post has expired, please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Congratulations to Barbara M., who was our winner.)