Thursday, July 31, 2014

TBT - On the Jacket Potato

I've been to England three times, and I'm going back this summer. I enjoyed the food I ate there. But for some reason, everyone else I talk to acts like all the English serve you at mealtime is rocks.

And here's what I say to those people: DID YOU TRY THE JACKET POTATO???

Okay, I don't have a picture of a jacket potato. The last time I was in England was 10 years ago, and that was WAY before anyone was taking pictures of EVERYTHING they ate. I did manage to capture a few shots of traditional English food during my study abroad time in England, which you can see on the scrapbook page above: English breakfast, cheese toastie (grilled cheese - c'mon, who doesn't like grilled cheese?), Yorkshire pudding, Indian food (that was the first time I'd ever eaten Indian food!).

And there were the delicious chocolate Yorkie bars! (And the time I tried to open a door and ripped off the handle TOTALLY BY ACCIDENT as seen in the pictures above!) And the Aero bar! So good!

But the jacket potato - oh my. It's basically a baked potato. Both halves of the potato. But instead of topping it with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and chives, you get chicken tikka or coronation chicken as the filling. The potato halves basically "jacket" the filling. And it is delicious!

You couldn't get jacket potatoes in the regular campus cafeteria where I studied abroad, so you had to make a special trip to this other campus restaurant during lunch hours to see if they had chicken tikka or coronation chicken jacket potatoes. Sometimes they didn't! Sometimes they only had chicken and mayonnaise jacket potatoes, which was fine, too, but NOT as good.

Seriously, if you haven't had a jacket potato, YOU MUST HAVE ONE. Go to England RIGHT NOW. Find a place that serves jacket potatoes and eat. You won't be disappointed.

Other foods I enjoyed while abroad: pasties, fish and chips wrapped in paper, kebabs, lamb, bangers and mash. Really, people. It's not hard to find good food in England.

The above scrapbook page doesn't have any food in it, but I saw it while flipping through my study abroad scrapbook and just had to share it, mainly because of the picture of Jenni and me in the bottom right-hand corner. Ah, the time we got "lost" on a bus in Ireland. That's a whole other blog post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gluten-Free & Allergen Free Expo in New Jersey

The Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo takes place at New Jersey's Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus on September 6 and 7, 2014, and I will be attending as an official Expo blogger!

I've been to different expos before but never one that was specifically gluten-free. And I wanted to go to this last year, but it didn't work out with my schedule, so I'm really excited to attend the Expo and meet the rest of the official blogger team.

This expo is the premier gluten and allergen free event in the U.S. It's the place to find and taste specialty products, learn new cooking and baking techniques, and meet others with similar dietary needs, including Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.

The Expo actually takes place in several cities throughout the year, so if you're not near New Jersey, visit for the complete list of Expo locations and dates. You can also purchase Expo tickets from the website. With the Expo ticket, you get entry into the more-than-150-booth vendor fair, coupons at vendor booths, samples from the vendors, discounted products available for purchase, classes related to living gluten- and allergen-free, a reusable bag to carry your goodies, and the chance to meet your favorite vendors, authors, and bloggers (like me!).

If you buy online in advance, the ticket price for the Secaucus Expo is discounted at $16.82 for an adult one-day pass and $4.16 for a kid (ages 3-10) one-day pass. Full-price tickets ($20/adult, $5/children) will be available at the door, but only if tickets don't sell out in advance. So buy your ticket now! You can buy your tickets and get all the details about the NJ Expo at the Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo website.

OR you can enter my giveaway to try and win one of FOUR Expo tickets! That's right! As an official blogger, I'm able to give away four tickets to the September 6 and 7 Expo at the Secaucus, NJ Meadowlands Exhibition Center. Just enter via the Rafflecopter below! Hopefully, I'll see you at the Expo!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Authors I Own the Most Books From

I own a lot of books, but I never really thought about how many books I owned from specific authors. This week's Top Ten Tuesday challenged me to take a good hard look at my book collection, and here is what I got:

1. Shakespeare (38) - I still have my Complete Works of Shakespeare textbook from freshman year of college.

2. Bret Easton Ellis (6) - I went through a HUGE Bret Easton Ellis phase in college.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien (4) - All three Lord of the Rings books plus The Hobbit.

4. Jennifer Weiner (4) - And one of the books is an autographed copy!!

5. Rick Riordan (3) - I was really getting into the Percy Jackson & the Olympians books, but I guess I didn't buy the last two. I can't find them on our bookshelves.

6. Helen Hollick (3) - I really loved her King Arthur trilogy.

7. Nick Hornby (3) - I just want everyone to know that I read High Fidelity BEFORE it became a movie.

8. Chuck Palahniuk (2) - I thought I owned Survivor, but I could only find Fight Club and Lullaby. Why the heck did I buy Lullaby?

9. Douglas Coupland (2) - Both books were purchased in England. I read a lot of books in England.

10. James Joyce (2) - And these (Dubliners and The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are the only two books worth reading and that anybody CAN read. Darn, Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - July 28

It's the last week in July! The summer is almost over, you guys! And then I'll be breaking out the fall pumpkin recipes and getting ready to make holiday treats as gifts! So crazy!

In the meantime, this is what we're eating RIGHT NOW this week.

Sunday: cheesy ground beef and rice casserole

Monday: hot dogs and fries

Tuesday: sloppy joes and chips

Wednesday: tacos

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: on our own

Saturday: on our own

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Save Time and Money

Have you heard of Dollar Shave Club? It's a monthly subscription service that sends you razors and other shaving products. It looks like it's geared toward men, but women can also use Dollar Shave Club products. (The 4X razor is recommended for women.) I've never used Dollar Shave Club (I'm still very loyal to my Venus razor), but it's been getting a lot of buzz.

Dollar Shave Club isn't just about shaving, though. It's also about "shaving" you time and money, two things I happen to know a little something about. So how do I "shave" time and money?

Get Organized
My weekends are usually very busy with running errands and attempting to have a social life, so when I'm out at Target or the grocery store, I don't have time to wander the aisles looking for what I need. Not only do I make store-specific lists, but I also use the free Grocery IQ app to organize those lists. Grocery IQ, which I've written about in the past, organizes the items on your list by grocery store aisle or area, so there's no backtracking from dairy all the way to produce on the other side of the store where you started.

Grocery IQ app
Grocery IQ also gives you access to coupons, if available, for the things on your list via

Get Coupons
Which leads me into how I "shave" money. Yes, I use It's easy, I find a lot of coupons for things I need now or will need in a few weeks. I also clip coupons from the weekend paper.

Get Rewarded
I'm not an extreme couponer, though, and I've never gotten an item for free using a coupon. If I don't want to pay for something (like our entryway table from Walmart), then I'll redeem credit card reward points for store gift cards. If you have a program like this with your credit card, don't ignore it! We've actually gotten discounted hotel rooms by redeeming our points, and we've been using our points to help get discounted tickets for attractions on our upcoming London/Paris trip.

52-week challenge jar
Another way I get gift cards is through survey programs, such as eRewards and MyPoints. MyPoints has a better gift card selection, but it's easier to quickly redeem eRewards "currency", I think. Both services are free to use, and you just take surveys online. You get full points for completing the full survey, but if you don't qualify for the full survey, you still get partial credit for your time.

Get Deals
I also like to shop daily deals sites, such as Zulily, which I've written in depth about here. Where else can you find a KitchenAid stand mixer for under $200?

Get Saving
Another great way to "shave" money is by doing the 52-week challenge, which you can read more about here. Save a little each week, and you'll have $1,378 by the end of the 52 weeks.

These are just a few ways to "shave" time and money. I'd love to hear how you guys do both, so leave your tips in the comments!

I was not compensated by Dollar Shave Club in any way for this post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TBT - Lord of the Rings Fandom

Just hanging out with a LOTR poster in Florida
Does anyone else remember Sean Bean's bum?

If that phrase means anything to you, then you were probably one of the hundreds of fangirls that I used to chat with in an online Lord of the Rings fan community. Hello again! I was (still am?) mrsfrodob.

When Lord of the Rings first came out, I had no idea what it was. I'd never read the books or heard of the books. I just remember seeing a Burger King commercial for collectible cups, and there was a movie clip in the commercial of guys walking atop a mountain.

Looked boring to me.

But then I found out that Elijah Wood was in the movie, and, well, I had sort of a crush on Elijah Wood. One New Year's Eve when all our other friends were partying with boys, my friend Teresa and I stayed up watching The Faculty. And then we watched it again the next morning. ("Showdown!")

So, of course, I was going to see a movie that starred my current celeb crush. So that's what Teresa and I did. Nine times. And then four more times when the movie left regular theaters and came to our local $1 theater.

This was my door freshman year. Lots of LOTR stuff.
That's right. We were a little obsessed, and it was more than just Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom (who I never liked, fyi), Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd. Okay, yes, they were all hot, but the story!! It was just so magical and adventurous and funny and sad. We just became consumed with all things Lord of the Rings, including buying and reading (and re-reading) the books.

My freshman year of college, I had a roommate who was never in our room and a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule that saw me done with classes by 11:30 a.m., while my friends continued on to their next class. So I had a lot of free time to myself. I joined an online Lord of the Rings fan community to chat with other people about the books, the movies, and yes, the hot actors. Which is where Sean Bean's bum came from.

I wish I could remember the name of the website, so I could look it up and see if it's still there, if all of our silly community threads are still somewhere out there in cyberspace. I never met any of those people in person, but we always talked about how cool it would be to converge on a hotel and have a big fangirl conference. The international fans shared information about the actors that us American fans didn't know about. One girl even made DVDs with some of Billy Boyd's international appearances and movies on it and sent them to some of us.

Sophomore year desk area - complete w/ free LOTR poster!
I loved being a part of that community, but by sophomore year, I had full-time roommates/friends and a larger class load. I still hung my Lord of the Rings movie poster (received for free from a Toys "R" Us store that no longer needed it) on the wall. Teresa and I still got excited about the final movie being released, and I still thought Elijah Wood was hot. But my participation in the online community wane
d, and I suspect everyone else's did, too.

Maybe we were all just getting a little too old and consumed with life to be as giddy as we once were.

But I recently saw an ad for a new TNT show starring Sean Bean, and the first thing that popped into my head was "Sean Bean's bum!"

It made me smile, and I wished I still knew someone who would also smile at that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NewerTech NuGuard KX Phone Case - Review

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the NuGuard KXs screen protector. I also got to test out the NuGuard KX Phone Case!

The picture below shows my old iPhone case (in pink) next to the KX case (red and black). Can you see a difference? Uh, YEAH.

The KX case offers extreme protection for your phone. It's sort of padded on the inside, but it's hard and sort of textured on the outside. It uses X-Orbing gel technology to absorb and evenly distribute kinetic energy. I can attest to this because I did accidentally drop my phone on our hardwood floors, and everything was a-okay!

The case may look bigger than my old one, but it's actually not very bulky and it's super lightweight. I also like that it doesn't just cover the sides, but it also comes up over the top edges of the phone for a snug and secure fit.

The case also covers the power and volume buttons, but it doesn't prohibit you from using them. I actually think it's easier to press the buttons through this case!

It's also easy to remove your phone from the case, if you need to, which is something I can NOT say about my old phone case. That thing was such a pain. I'm so glad to have my phone protected in the KX case. Every time I look at my phone now, I think it looks brand new!

This is available for the iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S. It's also available in a variety of colors, so you still get some customization! You can find out more information on the phone case at the NewerTech website.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Characters I'd Want With Me on a Deserted Island

I'm rejoining the Top 10 Tuesday meme with this week's list: the top 10 characters I'd want with me on a deserted island. This is a good one! Here's what I got:

1. Jean Valjean - Les Miserables
He seems like a smart guy who is able to think fast, and that's the kind of resourcefulness one would need on a deserted island, especially if that person is played by Liam Neeson.

2. Edmond Dantes - The Count of Monte Cristo
I figure, if he can break out of jail, surely he can get us off the island!

3. Tina Fey - Bossypants
Okay, so not a fictional character, but she's still in a book! And we'd need some comic relief on that island.

4. Mr. Darcy - Pride and Prejudice
I'm assuming my husband won't be on this island, right?

5. Frodo Baggins (or Merry or Pippin) - Lord of the Rings
If represented by Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, or Billy Boyd. Again, my husband isn't here, right?

6. Bridget Jones - Bridget Jones' Diary
She'd probably flip out at first, but I think she'd calm down and help us all make the most of our desert island status.

7. Miss Marple - multiple Agatha Christie novels
This woman can solve anything! I bet she could solve our way off the island!

8. Rob Fleming - High Fidelity
He's kind of a jerk, but he'll probably have some good music for us to listen to.

9. Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games
If there are native animals on the island, Katniss can hunt and kill them so we can eat.

10. Skeeter Phelan - The Help
She can keep notes on what happens on the island and turn them into a book after we are all rescued!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - July 21

Sometimes, I get a little bit of meal plan block, so I asked my husband for input this week. Here's what we got:

Sunday - egg scrambler with feta cheese and apple chicken sausage

Monday - chicken tenders and fries

Tuesday - chicken caesar salad (with strawberries, for my husband)

Wednesday - hamburgers and fries

Thursday - omelets and home fries

Friday - on our own

Saturday - pasta

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Third Rule of Ten - Book Review

image credit
The Third Rule of Ten is the third book in a series that follows Tenzing "Ten" Norbu, a former Buddhist monk turned detective. But you don't have to have read the previous two books in order to follow along with the third. However, after reading this, you'll probably want to go back and read the first two if they are anything like this one!

In this book, Ten takes on a missing persons case for an old friend's old friend. The client is a female politician whose illegal immigrant maid has gone missing. As Ten begins to search for the maid, whose illegal status makes her hard to find, he gets mixed up in something really dangerous involving drugs, organ donation, murder, and gangs. Who is involved? And how is it all connected?

I really don't know how the co-authors of this series are able to come up with new mysteries to solve in each book! I really liked this story because it kept me guessing. The book had lots of twists and turns with danger lurking at every page turn. But it also had some soul. There's a personal struggle for Ten who is dealing with the recent death of his dad, trying to figure out if he still wants to be with his girlfriend, and letting his vegetarian status lapse.

If you're looking for a fast-paced detective thriller to read this summer, then definitely pick up The Third Rule of Ten.

The Third Rule of Ten is published by Hay House and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT - The Times I Met BBMak

I've got some more OLD OLD scrapbook pages to share today. These are from 2000 and my second scrapbook album. As you can see, I was still basically just putting pictures on white backgrounds and adding some writing and stickers here and there. I barely used any scrapbook paper!

So what are these pictures of? Well, back in the day there was this pop band called BBMak: Ste, Christian, and Mark. And they were HOT, so, of course, we loved them.

And then we met them. Twice.

The first time was at a radio station concert. After BBMak performed, they signed autographs. On the band's CD cover, Ste wore a shirt that said "Rub my tummy for good luck." So, naturally, when I met him, I asked him if I could rub his tummy.

If you look at the scrapbook page above, the second picture in the sort-of lefthand column shows Ste as he is preparing to stand up and let me rub his tummy. Through his shirt, though! He didn't strip down for me.

And then that same summer BBMak came back to St. Louis on a special Disney tour with Hoku, and they signed autographs. AGAIN! The concert was free, so we went and stood in line to meet them. AGAIN.

We think they recognized us, but honestly, who really knows? We just went with it. We were such fangirls.

If you don't remember BBMak, watch this video and let it all come back! (Back here, baby!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Boden Clothing Review

A few weeks ago, I was invited as a plus-one to attend the unveiling of British clothing company Boden's fall 2014 line. I had heard of Boden before and visited its website but never purchased or worn any Boden clothing, though what I had seen on the website was very tempting. (Some of it was just out of my price range.)

Checking out the fall line only made me wish it was all in my closet (and that our London/Paris trip was happening sooner). Here are a few of the highlights that stood out to me:

story of my tired life

shiny shoes!

pretty colors!

gorgeous work/formal wear

with a cuppa in Boden telephone-printed
Peter Pan collar blouse
I was also given a gift card as a "thank you" for attending, so I promptly went home and ordered some Boden for the very first time! The online ordering process was very easy and very British! I loved getting an email that instead of saying "your order has shipped" said "your Boden parcel is on its way!" And instead of saying, "Don't throw away your gift card until you receive your order", Boden says "Could you please retain your redeemed gift vouchers until receiving your goods?" They're so polite!

I also got to experience the Boden exchange process because the pair of pants I ordered was too small (the downfall of ordering without being able to try things on), and THAT process was pretty easy, too. The company uses a SmartLabel that you stick onto the reusable package, seal up the package with your items and return/exchange slip inside, and stick it in your mailbox. If you're asking for a refund, the cost of shipping will be taken from your refund. If you're asking for an exchange, it's just an even exchange. I didn't pay anything extra for shipping.

Okay, so what did I get after the exchange had been made? Well, I shopped in the sale section, and I have to say, Boden has good sales! I ended up with a cute Peter Pan collar blouse with old-fashioned telephones printed on it, a striped and polka-dotted 3/4 sleeve shirt in yellow and grey, and a pair of crop pants that I like to think of as "holiday pants" because they're black and shiny gold. (Although, I have worn them to work in the middle of summer, too.)

If you're looking for some cute, sometimes quirky, but always good-quality clothing, I would definitely recommend Boden. Just keep in mind, it's online ordering, which can be difficult for some. Like I said, the returns and exchange process is very simple if you get something that doesn't fit or you just don't like. So try 'em out!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Our House

I happened to come across the His and Hers blog a few weeks ago, and something on the "house" page of the blog really stood out to me.
"In Progress" is a nice way of saying "This House Looks Nothing Like I Hope It Will In 5 Years 10 Years Well, Never Mind."
This page has before and after photos of things the homeowners have done. One before photo has a weird painted mural on it - JUST LIKE IN OUR WEIRD ROOM! And one photo is an old-fashioned staircase with Christmas garland on it and some ugly wallpaper border in the background. The after photo is the same staircase with the garland removed. That's all they've done with that room so far!

It feels so much like our "progress" with our house. We've been living here since 2010, a little over four years, and so far this is what we've done:

new shower
1. remove wallpaper in the master bedroom, paint the master bedroom walls, get real bedroom furniture (courtesy of my parents)
2. remove wallpaper border from master bathroom, paint master bathroom (never AGAIN), replace master shower stall (only because it was leaking water into the basement)
3. remove wallpaper from second bedroom, paint second bedroom walls, continually reorganize and figure out how to organize the second bedroom into a working scraproom
4. paint the dining room/living room, get a new dining room table set (courtesy of my parents)
5. remove wallpaper in the entryway, paint entryway, purchase nice entryway furniture and decor

Things we still need to do:
1. replace ugly stained teal carpet in second bedroom
2. paint third bedroom downstairs and turn it into a functioning guest bedroom
3. fix the tub in the second bathroom
4. remove the ugly floral wallpaper in the second bathroom and paint the second bathroom (HIRING SOMEONE)
5. install ceiling fans and overhead lighting in several upstairs rooms (That's right. There's no overhead lighting in the majority of rooms in this house. Who builds a house without overhead lighting??? Dang 1970s contractors and their cocaine habits.)
6. fix broken garage door
7. tear out everything in the downstairs bathroom because it's just gross
8. buy functional furniture for the family room so we can actually have people over with space to hang out in front of the big-screen TV
9. do SOMETHING with the galley kitchen downstairs
10. do SOMETHING with the "weird room" downstairs
11. get curtains for the windows in the dining room
12. paint hallway/stairs (total safety hazard that I don't want to undertake) and hang pictures for our travel wall
13. replace bisque toilet and bisque countertop in master bathroom to match the white shower stall
14. redo the kitchen (This will only happen when we win the lottery, so ...)

guest room?
We knew going in that making the house OUR house would be a work in progress, but sometimes it's distressing. We know people who moved into their houses after us and had the whole thing remodeled in just one year. We just don't have the time, money, and DIY knowledge (or other people's DIY knowledge) that they did.

Someday everything will be shiny and new (or shinier and newer). Will our house ever be fully matured? I don't know. But the more pressing issue right now is how to keep the bionic crickets out of our house.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - July 13

For some reason, I keep thinking we're already at the end of July, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Here's what we're eating in only this second full week of July.

Sunday: black bean and sausage stew

Monday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Tuesday: chicken alfredo

Wednesday: egg scrambler with feta and apple chicken sausage

Thursday: chicken tenders and fries

Friday: out

Saturday: out

Friday, July 11, 2014

Just a Bunch of Scrapbook Pages

I've been getting a lot of scrapbooking done lately, and in turn, using up lots of stuff in my stash. I like using stuff because it makes more space in my scraproom. Not that I want to fill the scraproom with even more stuff. I actually just need to use stuff so that I can more easily organize what's left! 

So here's some of what I've created recently. "The Cutest Kid in the World Turns 1" is a smorgasbord of product. I don't even know most of the manufacturers on this page, but you're not even looking at the product. You're looking at the picture of that cute kid. This is my friend Teresa's little boy, and he literally is the cutest child ever. I'm sorry to all my other friends with kids, but.... 

Next up are the two layouts I made for the pictures from our tour at the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Factory in St. Louis. For "Like Wonka", I was able to get five pictures on one page! FIVE! I'm just glad that it was so easy to crop these pictures.

"Fun & Chocolate" has pictures that I didn't show you on this blog before. These are pictures of my parents and me wearing the really cool hats that we had to wear in order to go on the tour. Then we got to pretend like we were mixing chocolate in the bowl.

And "Mike and the Lady" was the easiest layout I made because it came this way! All I had to do was add the picture and the sticker letters. Thanks, Basic Grey! It was such a surprise to find this in my stash.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TBT - Being 15

Aside from showcasing my VERY early attempts at scrapbooking, I'm also sharing a story with you for this week's Throwback Thursday.

My 15th birthday party was a surprise that I almost didn't attend. It was summer (so technically it was a party for my half birthday), and I just wasn't feeling up to going over to someone's house and hanging out. I thought about canceling.

But my mom, who in hindsight was clearly in on the surprise, convinced me to just go. "You'll have a good time once you get there," she said.

And boy did I.

We ate a huge sub sandwich and an M&M casserole (a mixture of every flavor of M&Ms). We scrounged through my friend's old dress-up trunk and put on fabulous outfits made up of old dance recital costumes and my friend's mom's old dresses. We layered our eyelids in bright blue eyeshadow and wrote the names of our favorite boy band members on our arms in red lipstick. (It was all about Brian Littrell from BSB and J from Five for me.) Then, we staged a photo shoot of ourselves in these crazy get-ups.

To top it off, later that night we decided to do a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, still wearing our costumes. We went to a few houses asking for random things. We basically just made it up as we went along: red candles, napkins, rubber bands.

When it became clear to us that a group of five giggling girls dressed like dance class rejects walking around unchaperoned at 10:00 at night was probably freaking out some people, we headed back to my friend's house where her mom promptly scolded us for leaving the house without telling her.

And we did it all without drugs, alcohol, or boys.

I tell you that because through all of my YA novel reading (and movie watching and TV show watching) I have yet to see an accurate representation of my experience as a teenage girl. Why is there always underage drinking and drug use in these novels? Even the outcast girls are always a little bit pretty and having sex with all their male love interests.

I get that movies, TV, and books are a form of escapism, where the girl always gets the guy. But sometimes I just want something REAL. And I don't want teenage girls who read these books to think that these stories and characters are real. I don't want them to think that boyfriends are the be-all end-all or that you have to go to "popular kid" parties to have a good time.

Get creative. Use your imaginations. Listen to the Spice Girls (and if you don't know who they are, ask your mom.) Just be yourself and if other people look at you funny, like that time at sophomore homecoming when we Vogue'd using negative space on the dance floor next to a group of juniors and seniors who clearly didn't think we were as talented as we did, then just smile and keep on Voguing.

Those other people don't know what they're missing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NewerTech NuGuard KXs - Review

If you have a protective screen on your smartphone, does it look something like this?

That's pretty gross, right? Our smartphones carry so much bacteria, and that's not even including the phones that some of you bring with you into the bathroom. 

So when I was sent a NuGuard KXs protective phone screen to review, I was really excited to get rid of my yucky screen and try something new, something that claims to keep dust and dirt away from the screen with no image distortion, yellowing or hazing over time.

When I placed this new three-layer screen on my iPhone 4, it was like having a whole new phone!

Seriously, the screen was so bright and clear! I didn't even realize how terrible and dirty my old protective screen was until taking it off and putting on this new one. The white phone looked white again!

Another problem I was having with my old protective screen was bubbling and curling up on the edges, particularly where the protective case met the edge of the screen. Not sure if you can really see it in the photo below. It was pretty minor, but it was enough to bother me every time I looked at it.

Well, you're not going to have that problem with the NuGuard KXs. That's because the adhesion layer of this three-layer screen provides a bubble-free look with no sticky residue if removed or repositioned. It also leaves a small gap around the edges of the screen to prevent the screen protector from curling or peeling when used with a protective case.

Imagine that! So so pretty! And even after weeks of use, it still looks clean. The edges aren't discolored, nor are they peeling up.

And, of course, the screen protector protects your screen from scratches and impact while not affecting the touchscreen capacity. This is thanks to its x-orbing technology. I'm not going to take a hammer to my iPhone, but the people at NewerTech did it with their phones, so you can watch just how much protection your phone is going to get in this video:

The NewerTech NuGuard KXs is available for the iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5/5c/5S, iPad Mini, iPad Air, and iPad 4/3/2. You can also get it for the Galaxy S4. Prices start at $14.99, and you can see the full range of KXs products and other NuGuard products at NewerTech's website.

I received a free NuGuard KXs to test out and review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Earthquake - YA Book Review

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Earthquake is the sequel to Aprilynne Pike's Earthbound. If you haven't read Earthbound, you might want to skip this review to avoid any unintentional spoilers. (Just an FYI.)

When we last left Earthbound goddess Tavia, she was running from an evil faction of Earthbounds and trying to get her eternal lover in this life, Logan, to remember all of his past lives so the two of them can resurge and have full access to their powers. And oh yeah, there's a virus killing off the entire planet.

So that's where we start in Earthquake, the sequel. As Tavia is trying to get Logan to remember who he really is, but instead just coming off as a stalker, the two of them are kidnapped by the Reduciata, the evil Earthbounds. And then they are kidnapped by the Curatoria, the lesser evil Earthbounds. Both groups want Tavia for similar reasons - they think she's the key to solving the virus problem - though the groups want to use Tavia in different ways. Problem is, no one, including Tavia, knows HOW she is the key.

There are some new characters in the book and old friends, and Tavia doesn't know who she can trust. And even though she's a goddess, there's a part of her that is still human, which makes following her heart very difficult. As she begins to discover her secret, she's even more confused about what it all means.

It had been a year since I read the first book in the series, and I really felt like Tavia while reading this sequel - things started coming back to me the more I read and I was remembering so much of the first book's plot! I did have some trouble understanding the whole virus/vaccine thing, and there were a few passages that I had to re-read. But I think I ended up with the gist of it.

The book is recommended for ages 12 and up, and there is some graphic medical speak. If you were a fan of Earthbound, then you'll definitely want to continue reading to find out what happens next. Now I have to wait until the third book comes out to find out how it all ends!!

Earthquake is published by Razorbill and hits book shelves TODAY. I received a free advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - July 7

It's July! Hope everyone had a
nice 4th of July weekend!
It's only the beginning of July, but already it feels like the end of July to me. If only it was the end of July, then I'd be that much closer to vacation!!!

But alas, this is just the first full week of July. We've still got some good stuff to look forward to this week: my mom's birthday, a WNBA basketball game, getting my hair cut, book club...

And here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: cheesy sausage and potatoes

Monday: chicken, bacon, cheese, and ranch salad

Tuesday: grilled swordfish, rice, and green beans

Wednesday: pancakes and eggs

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: out

Saturday: steak tacos with corn salsa (based on this recipe from Rachael Ray - I think I might make my own corn tortillas, though)

Friday, July 4, 2014

11 Summer Travel Essentials

Happy Fourth of July! It's Friday! It's summer! You're probably getting ready for your summer vacation, right? Before you zip up the suitcase, make sure you've got some of these handy travel must-haves in your bag!

GOVulc Strand Sneaker - Skechers ($49.95)
If you (like me) are going on a vacation where you'll probably be doing some walking, then you'll want to wear comfortable walking shoes. Normally, I don't mind wearing athletic shoes when we're on vacation, but this year, our vacation is taking us across the pond and I don't really want to look like a tourist (especially in Paris). Because no shoe store had the boat shoe Keds I wanted with the comfy insole and regular Keds are (to me) like walking on cardboard, I went for these Skechers that look like regular Keds but have GOga Mat Technology and an Ortholite-cushioned insole. Very comfy and cute!

Venus Snap Razor with Embrace - Gillette ($12.99)
If you're not already using a Venus Embrace razor, then I just don't know what is wrong with you. It's seriously the BEST women's razor I've ever tried. But taking razors with you when you travel can be kind of awkward. I've actually cut my finger on a razor blade that didn't have a cover and was just hanging out in my toiletries bag. Not good. But I don't have to worry about that anymore with the Venus Snap. This little razor may be a mini size, but it's still got five blades, it fits any Venus cartridge for easy refills, and it comes with a handy travel case! Sometimes Proctor & Gample has coupons for this razor. (That's how I got mine.) So check out or your Sunday circular.

SmallHands/TwoHands - Felix ($14.99/$24.99)
If you're traveling by plane, you might be taking your phone or tablet with you to watch movies during the flight. Bring along Felix's SmallHands (pictured) or TwoHands, super cute and portable smart device stands. SmallHands holds iPhones, iPods, and most other smart phones, while TwoHands is for iPads and other tablets. You can also use these once you're at your destination if you plan on Skyping with a loved one back home. I just love the little hands on these, and they come in a variety of colors, so you can pick your favorite!

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm & Coppertone Sport AccuSpray ($2.99/$9.99) - Coppertone
Whether your destination is the beach or a city, sunscreen any time you're outside is a MUST! I'm loving the new Coppertone Sport line of SPF products, including the sunscreen lip balm (don't forget your lips!) and the AccuSpray, which is an easier-to-spray sunscreen to help reduce waste and mess. You can also use the spray on your hairline to help prevent sunburn on your head if wearing a hat just isn't the fashion look for you. (Hat hair - ugh!) Coppertone also makes travel-size products so you can stash them in your carry-on!

Yankee Candle Travel Tin Air Freshener - Yankee Candle ($5.99)
This is probably something that you didn't even think you'd need, but it could come in handy. You can use it at home, but what about when you get into a stuffy-smelling hotel room? Just whip out the Yankee Candle Travel Tin Air Freshener, slide it open, and enjoy the scent! This air freshener neutralizes odors and freshens the air in small spaces, so it's also great for bathrooms, lockers, kitchens, and campers. Yankee Candle makes these in a lot of different styles and scents, so pick the one you like best!

Six Piece Day-to-Night Set - EcoTools ($16.99)
To make sure you look your best on the go, check out this set that includes five super soft makeup brushes in a metallic bronze clutch. I love the bamboo handles and the two-tone chocolate bristles. Plus, the clutch is nice enough to carry out on its own. If you're looking for something a little more compact, check out EcoTools' Mini Essentials Set ($5.99) that comes with three mini brushes, each with a bamboo handle and chocolate two-tone bristles.

TripIt/TripIt Pro - Concur (free/$49 per year)
The last few vacations I've taken have involved lugging around a travel binder with our itinerary, tickets, passes, reservations, etc. But all that can go away with TripIt! This is especially ideal if you're a frequent traveler, but it can also be useful for family vacationers. You forward your confirmation emails and this all-in-one travel organizing app automatically creates a master itinerary for every trip so you can access all travel plans in one place on your iOS and Android phone/tablet, Google Glass, Blackberry, and Windows phone. The app itself is free, but if you want even more features, such as real-time alerts for delays, cancellations, and gate changes, reward point and mileage program tracking, and seat upgrade availability, then you'll want TripIt Pro for $49/year.

Clipper Flat Iron Case - Lug ($17)
For the ladies who always want to look their best, even when on vacation, don't leave home without the Clipper Flat Iron Case. It makes traveling with your flat iron easier because it keeps the cord under wraps. And if you have to do your hair and then quickly pack up and get out the door, this case will make sure your still-hot flat iron won't burn up everything in your suitcase. It's available in a variety of colors, too.

Carousel Mini Cross-Body Bad - Lug ($53)
You probably have a lot of stuff that you want to take with you while you're out sightseeing, but you don't want to wear a backpack or carry a heavy purse on one shoulder. Check out this mini cross-body bag that is 9.25 inches wide, six inches tall, and two inches in diameter. It has a soft-lined accessory pocket and three zip compartments. The adjustable shoulder strap can be removed so you can strap the bag onto your belt like a fanny pack (if you feel so inclined). It comes in a lot of pretty colors, too.

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Moon Handbooks - Avalon Travel ($16.99-$21.99)
No matter where you're going this summer, be it domestic or international, there's a Moon Handbook for you. This year, these travel guides are getting a new cover design, so if you're familiar with Moon, don't be surprised by the change in look. It's still the same great guide with seasoned advice, honest recommendations, and trip planning suggestions from authors who really know the places they're writing about. For something a little lighter in your suitcase, try Moon Spotlights. For hikers, bikers, campers, and outdoor lovers, try Moon Outdoors. And if you plan on moving to your vacation spot because you just love it so much, check out the Moon Living Abroad series.

Pistachio Chewy Bites - Setton Farms ($5.99/6-pack or $14.99/16-pack)
It's always important to have snacks on hand while traveling just in case you get hungry before it's time to eat or there aren't any restaurants near you. And if you're gluten-free, then it becomes even more important to always have snacks with you. The super delicious and healthy Pistachio Chewy Bites are a gluten- and dairy-free snack made from pistachios, dried cranberries, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, sunflower oil, natural cranberry flavor, and sea salt. They're a good source of fiber, and because they come individually wrapped, they are easy to take with you on the go!