Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty [Birchbox Book Club September Pick]

Big Little Liars is a myriad of drama wrapped in a neat yet suspenseful suburban bow.

I had a little trouble getting into the book originally, but Big Little Liars is definitely a novel that once you get into, you won't want to put down. Liane Moriarty weaves a tale of three woman who although being very different, are tied together in a very intricate way.

The book bounces back and forth between the viewpoint of three characters: Madeline, Celeste, and Jane. Madeline is a part-time housewife, part-time marketing director, and mother of three - one from a previous marriage. Celeste is a former lawyer turned trophy wife and mother of twins. And, Jane, is a young, single mother who recently moved to the peninsula. As the story unfolds, readers discover that these woman have some interesting commonalities that lead to securing a bond between them that will outlast adultery, scandal, and even murder.

What I really enjoyed most was the interjection of pieces of interviews with the periphery characters strewn through the text. The entire novel you know that someone is going to die, and the small insights you get along the way lead you to speculate. It wasn't until just before that part of the book that I actually figured it out. It was almost like a mind game attached to the reading.

Big Little Liars is set in Australia, so for those "foreign" readers like myself, there will probably be a few awkward moments where you might need to use context clues to figure out the meaning of less familiar words. Other than that, the book is a fairly quick read despite being over 400 pages long.

You can pick up a copy of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty here or on the Birchbox site. The book is rumored to be coming to the big screen in 2017 starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

Thank you very much to Birchbox for very generously providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes. (And, no, they did not compensate me in any other way for this lovely review).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" by Mindy Kaling [Birchbox Book Club August Pick]

For the purposes of this review, I'll admit, before reading this book I had no idea who Mindy Kaling was. Even when it came to name recognition, all I could muster up was that it was in someway connected to the term 'project' or 'experiment, and fell into the category of reality television (or so I assumed), information which as a general rule went directly to a lonely corner. That might not have been the wisest decision for someone who doubles as a TV critic (check out my reviews on WeGotThisCovered, but a) no one was paying me to watch/review her show, b) I have a strong distaste for reality shows, and c) I've never seen an episode of The Office (although it resonates with most of my generation) so her name and image were like a foreign language that I never had the please of  encountering before.

After reading "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" penned by Mindy Kaling (who I now know is a writer from the highly acclaimed American version of The Office), I wish I had gotten on the bandwagon before it was actually a thing.

Kaling's book falls into the trendy memoir category. Oh, you haven't written one yet? Don't worry, there's still time. It's been a popular genre for a while now, but even after devouring a few dozen (some of my favorites having come from the only Purdue alumni I personally endorse, Jen Lancaster - GO IU!), I still enjoy a witty writer's take on life as long as it doesn't scream 'desperate for attention.' As a seasoned writer at this point, Kaling shares both her ups and downs in Hollywood, along with her rise to fame (err, fame-adjacent status?). Her anecdotes are mostly amusing, although there are a couple chapters that will probably only appeal to a niche group of readers - e.g. her favorite comedy moments. Now if she had listed her top ten teen drama moments, or scenes in action movies, or Twilight reference on network television, I would have been irrevocably hooked (Twilight reference intended).  

[side note: I once wrote a riveting paper in grad school correlating the Disney channel and Twilight based on an unprecedented number of references spread throughout their programming] 

Overall, I really enjoyed most of the chapters. I especially liked reading her take on growing up as an awkward minority on the East Coast. It had some personal appeal since I was the awkward white/Jewish girl growing up in inner-city Detroit that couldn't match but hoped desperately to blend in - which I managed to do better than my siblings, so #winning. But, there were also a lot of other things in Kaling's book that didn't hit me on a personal level (pretty much anything that didn't fall into the aforementioned categories, or relate to Los Angeles) and I still found wildly amusing in a very 'looking in from the outside' type of way.

In no particular order, here are some things that I learned from "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" that I continue to find entertaining:
  • Gift bags at red carpet events that contain glitz, glamour, and galore (or anything actually worth having are a myth.
  • Steve Carell does NOT engage in idle gossip.
  • Someone will notice if you buy cupcakes four days in a row from the same designer cupcake boutique - and probably judge you.
  • Never judge a cover girl by the dress she's wearing on the cover - she might be sporting a swatch of canvas on the other side.
  • Most people it seems end up successful in Hollywood by some sort of uncanny luck.
  • Kirsten Dunst often plays the "ethereal weirdo" in romantic comedies.
  • Comedy writers are big on lists.
  • Mindy Kaling takes her selfies seriously.

You can pick up a copy of "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)" by Mindy Kaling here or on the Birchbox site.

Thank you very much to Birchbox for introducing me to Mindy Kaling, and very generously providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes. (And, no, they did not compensate me in any other way for this lovely review).

Stay tuned for my review of "Little Big Lies," the Birchbox Book Club September pick, which just arrived on my doorstep yesterday. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Easy Canvas Prints - Giveaway!

A couple days ago, you may remember reading my post reviewing Easy Canvas Prints - a really 'easy' option for ordering prints for your home or office. They have a lot of different choices, and are constantly offering ways to save money on their products while still getting a quality item. It's a great option for decorating - you don't have to worry about it breaking - or for giving as a gift.

I've had a great experience working with the company and am happy to share with you the chance to do the same. A Fine Mess is running its very first giveaway, a chance to win a free 8 x 10 canvas. (Easy Canvas Prints will take care of prize fulfillment and shipping.) 

You can enter using the rafflecopter form below -- the giveaway is open to anyone in the US/Canada until September 29, 2013. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 13, 2013

Easy Canvas Prints Review

I'm back! I didn't do any blogging while I was in California for the summer (sorry!), but I did get an invitation to review a product from during my time off. I was really excited because I've been meaning to try them out, and they actually contacted me after I entered a contest on another blog to win a free print. (I'd love to share that blog with you, but honestly, I can't remember which one it was..)

The ordering process was very simple. Sometimes when ordering pictures, I feel that sites make it completely too involved. I want options, but I don't want to be overwhelmed. In this situation, it was just a few steps. 'Easy' definitely was the right word choice. After you order, they give you several options for sharing to earn a free print or money off a future order. I like that there are perks for utilizing your social media influence.

I chose a high-quality photo to blow up because I was worried that anything less might come out pixelated. Since like I mentioned before, I had just got back from Los Angeles and was still in a California state of mind. I wanted to choose a picture that reminded me of someone Cali-related. I picked a photo of my good friend, Producer Jessica 'Imoto' Harney and I from the 2012 Atlanta Film Fest. No, it wasn't a west coast photograph - but we did just spend a good chunk of our summer together in LA, so it was the right sentiment. Plus, it was a great red carpet pic of us, and it was metaphorically gathering dust on my hard drive.

Anyways, I ordered my 16 x 20 print on Sunday of a holiday weekend, it shipped that Tuesday, and arrived on Friday. That seems like a pretty quick turnaround to me. I expected at least a few more days tacked on to the end of that time frame.

The box it came in was the right size, so there was no room for it to jiggle, or wobble, or any unfriendly term associated with getting damaged. It came in just a thin plastic wrap instead of any bubble wrap, which concerned me slightly because things in the mail have been known to not always be handled in the most gentle of waya. This didn't seem to be an issue though, since the picture came in perfect condition. I was really happy with how it turned out, and unless you look really closely you can't see anything wrong with the image - and even at closer look, it just looks slightly distorted, which probably wouldn't be the case if I had gotten a smaller size (btw - I didn't choose the size).

For now, the canvas is living in the box while I house hunt. I stuck it on a wall to take the above photo, and can't wait to have a spot to display it. I can easily say that I would order from again.

Disclosure: I received a canvas print in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: POPSUGAR Must Have Box (May)

The PopSugar Must Have box has been kind of a hit or miss thing for me since I first signed up. Some months are absolutely great, while other months are clearly mediocre. The May box was definitely a hit in my book.
With the weather finally warming up (today was supposed to be 88 degrees in Chicago-land, what?), and everything went along with the theme of summer and having fun. I was really excited about the selection of items - especially the lunch bag and floppy hat (minus the super-flop).

I love the idea of PopSugar branded items. I wish they would do more with customized products like this. For the sake of variety, not everything can be a momento to PopSugar, but at least one personalized item per box even would go a long way for me. I think the brand is fun and flirty, and I definitely don't mind toting something with their logo along with me.

Speaking of, this month's branded item was the lunch tote - which is something that I am definitely toting around with me already (excuse the poor use of punning). It's simple and lightweight, and the perfect size for me to fill with my breakfast and lunch before I head off to work for the day. At least I'm convinced that's what it is supposed to be used for - there wasn't a description listed, so I'll count this as a bonus item.

Besides that gem, my box was filled with these lovely items (prices are what I found online):
  • beautyblender Set - $23.95
  • The Modern Cocktail Modern Margarita Set - $8.29
  • Questions I Ask When I want to Talk About Myself: 50 Topics to Share with Friends by Mindi Kaling - $13.45
  • Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint -$7
  • Charm & Chain Gift Card - $30
  • Way Better Snacks - $1
  • Kooringal – Giselle Mid Brim Hat - $27.99
Total - $111.68

Final Thoughts:
Since the box only costs $35, I definitely got my money's worth. Although, I've already tried the chips and they were a bit too spicy for my taste, so I'm going the write that off as a small loss. Other than that, I was thrilled with the things that came this month. I've always wanted a floppy-type hat, and the grey color is pretty perfect. The Margarita mixes will be thoroughly enjoyed ::crosses fingers:: also. I can't wait to have fun with the rest of the items!

Check out the items and descriptions below:

What did you think of the May PopSugar Must Have box?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Coco Rocha Fancy Box (April)

I was absolutely thrilled with the debut of the Coco Rocha Fancy box. It had a great selection of items and lots of them. So imagine my surprise when I opened up box number 2 and it only had 3 things in it. That's right 3. If you received a box yourself, you may be a bit confused by this. It turns out that one of the items had been left out - but not the info card for it.

I have a love/hate relationship with Fancy. I love their stuff, but hate their customer service. It took 72 hours and several attempts to even hear back from cs about this issue. I wanted to wait for the replacement (er, original) item to arrive before I reviewed the box, but I'm not sure it's actually going to come, so after almost 2 weeks - I decided just to go ahead.

Like I said, the first Fancy box curated by Coco Rocha was phenomenal. This of course set a standard for the level of merchandise to expect. I almost wonder if it's better to go the other route and start of super weak like the first two P!nk boxes before putting out an exceptional one like the third one (I am kicking myself for cancelling now).

The items in this month's box weren't bad, but I was definitely expecting more.

One of the first things I noticed was that the greeting card was a repeat from the January Fancy box - so now I have two sitting around. I think that as a rule of thumb, Fancy should have a policy against picking items that have already been included in other boxes. There are definitely enough other merchandise options out there that this doesn't need to happen. There was nothing so special about this card that it was worth including again.

The creature cup was my favorite item. I got the octopus one and it is super fun. I probably wouldn't have bought it on my own, but it will surely get a lot of use. On top of that, it's a conversational piece. I can't wait to serve someone a beverage in it and see what their reaction is.

I never received the heels door holder and honestly besides being upset that I was missing an item, wasn't too bent out of shape. I don't have any doors that need help staying open. I'm not sure where or when I would have an opportunity to use it.

The biggest score in this box price-wise is the watch. Mine came in a shade of teal, but I would have preferred the pink. I already have a blue watch that came in my PopSugar Must Have box earlier this year and the pink would have been a nice option. The color is still really nice. In person though, the rhinestones look kind of cheap. I know the watch retails for a significant amount of money, but I would never pay that much for it.

Item Breakdown:
  • All Purpose Greeting Card - $15
  • Creature Cups - $15
  • Heels Door Holder - $17
  • TKO Watch - $135
Total - $182 ($165 without the door holder)

The value of this month's box was almost double last months.

Overall, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with this month's box. The missing item was an oversight that I couldn't ultimately overlook and I decided to cancel. If this was the first time I'd had an issue with Fancy I might have been more obliged to continue. However, third time's a charm - I didn't think twice about it. Also, Fancy had just announced the Jennifer Love Hewitt and I'd rather check that out.

What did you think of the second attempt from Coco Rocha with her Fancy box? Were you equally disappointed or did this box do great things for you? Let me know!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review: Birchbox (May)

After last month's Women's Health magazine collaboration, Birchbox had it's work cut out for them. Although I always get really excited to open my box when it arrives, this month's curated goodies were a bit lackluster.

Like always, the box was filled with four items and a bonus gift. Unfortunately, none of the selections stood out to me. I've had such good luck with this subscription that a) this was bound to happen eventually, and b) this will do very little to sway me toward cancelling.

This month's theme was 'Beauty Diaries' and it focused on choosing products that matched your Birchbox profile. I haven't updated mine in a while, so that could be why I didn't end up with more of a customized selection. It was easy enough to go on and fix, so hopefully next time will be even better.

Check out this month's sneak peek video below before you see what came in my May Birchbox:

This month I got:

My Reactions:
  • Beauty Protector - I straighten my hair at least once a week, so I'm always looking for something to protect it from the heat - there's nothing attractive about fried hair. I'm not crazy about it doubling as leave-in conditioner though. Sometimes I find that adding extra conditioner to my already conditioned hair makes it appear oily.
  • COOLA - With summer coming a product that has SPF in it is very practical. However, I feel like every box I get comes with some sort of moisturizer/lotion and they are starting to pile up. I like this it's organic, and the smell is nice too.
  • Joie - I am a big fan of perfume and this one screams summer. It's a little on the heavy side but has a great floral scent.
  • Sumita - This was my favorite item in the box. My one 'can't leave home without' product is definitely eyeliner. I love how easy it is to put on in the morning and how it makes my eyes look. I used to use black for both day and night, but I recently started wearing a chocolate brown during the day - it has a warming effect on my look. I'm actually pretty excited to test out this item.

**The bonus item this month or 'Birchbox Finds' was 'the new Acroball PureWhite hybrid ink pen' by Pilot. It came with a coupon for $1 off a pack, but honestly I have more pens then I'll ever be able to use up already. It came in a fun teal color and I'm sure I'll use it, but I wish it had the Birchbox logo on it.

I'm already looking forward to seeing what's in my June box. I'm leaving for a summer adventure in Los Angeles mid-month so hopefully it arrives before my trip, otherwise it's going to get buried in 2 months worth of mail and packages. If you don't see a review for it - you'll know why.

What did you think of this month's Birchbox? Was there anything you would have liked to see instead?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Fancy Box (April)

Two month's ago I tried to cancel my P!nk Fancy box after a lackluster first experience with the celeb curated box and since then things have only went down hill. I have been in a frenzy over the horrible experience with customer service over the last several weeks, and between the frustration and the lack of resolution, I almost forgot that I had a box on the way. Fortunately, this box was pretty snazzy and completely made me overlook what seems to be the ongoing issues they are clearly having keeping up with the growing demand for their service/product - at least for the moment.

This month's box contained some great products. I'm especially thrilled with the Bento box. I've always wanted one, and even though it wasn't exactly like the ones I had shopped around for in the past, it's definitely something that I will be using. I like to bring my lunch to work in an effort to save money - even though it doesn't always work out - and I've run into the problem of finding the right way to transport it several times. This item in particular is one of the best things I've seen come with the box. Usually I feel like several of the items are more gimmick than practical, however this box contained way more of the latter. It makes me feel a lot better about shelling out the money each month if the items are at least partially useful.

Another one of the items that will be really useful is the iPod armband. I spend a considerable amount of time at the gym - or as my schedule allows - and I've always wanted one of these. I bought one on Ebay once, and it wasn't the right size for my iPod touch, so I ended up donating it and never re-invested. Also, the USB hub, since I seem to have an endless supply of chords waiting for their turn to be plugged in.

Besides that, the Fancy box came with a stick-on LED light that you can use on your keys when it's
dark. I have a light right next to my doorway, so I don't know how helpful it would be for me personally, but I am looking to buy a house which might not be so nicely equipped. Plus, the box included two bottles of nail polish customized just for Fancy. Again, I don't know how much I need more nail polish since I have enough to last for pretty much ever, but I am a fan of it. And, I like that it was custom made for Fancy, and especially that the company doesn't test on animals.

All in all, I think it was a great haul. There was a nice mix of useful, practical products with items that were just for fun - and some that fit in both categories. My only complaint is that I paid the $39 for the box, instead of the $30 that I was locked in at because of a customer service mistake that they can't seem to correct. Even so, it was surely worth the extra money (that they keep saying I will be getting a refund for). Also, I liked that the box was green this month instead of the usual white!

Item Breakdown:

Black + Blum Bento Box - $23
Merkury Innovations Motion - $25
Thumb-Lite Stick-On LED - $15
Contort Flexible USB Hub - $25
Rainbow Honey Fancy Nail Lacquer - ?

Total - at least $88 (there was no price listed for the nail polish - best guess, between $15 and $20 for the 2 shades)

What did you think of April's Fancy box (which almost came in April)?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Birchbox (April)

I've had a monthly subscription to Birchbox since last November and this is the first box I've received that was a collaboration - and I loved it!  Birchbox partnered with Women's Health magazine to curate this month's selections. In addition to the items and extra, they also gave subscribers a free 1-year subscription to the magazine, which is a $10 value in itself.

I am an avid Women's Health reader so that added a huge value to the box, which only costs $10 to start with. The retail cost of the products range, and since they come in sample sizes, it's hard to pinpoint exactly the price of each month's contents. Even so, I always feel like I'm getting my money's worth - and this month even more so.

Check out this month's sneak peek video below before you see what came in my April Birchbox:

This month I got:

My Reactions:

  • (MALIN+GOETZ) - The moisturizer comes in a cute little container and with the end of cold weather in sight, makes a great seasonal parting gift for my hands.
  • Nexxus - I've never tried anything like this product before, so I'm pretty excited to see how it works.
  • Ruby Wing - At first I didn't notice the nail polish changing color in the sun, but that was probably because I wasn't paying attention. The original color I received is a fun, bright pink, and in the sun it turns a rich shade of purple. This is my favorite item in this month's box for sure.
  • Supergoop - I feel like the eye cream is an overdone staple. I gave it to a friend when I was showing her the box. I'm sure it would have been great to use, but my collection of eye cream samples is already extensive and I never seem to use them up fast enough.
  • Hail Merry - The macaroons were a great touch. I love how Birchbox includes small snacks in their boxes. I received this box right before I went out of town and it was a great addition to my carry-on. They were also quite tasty.
I was pretty happy with the contents of this month's box, and the Women's Health subscription was definitely the icing on the cake.

Do you subscribe to Birchbox or any related monthly boxes? Let me know!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: POPSUGAR Must Have Box (April)

I jumped on the POPSUGAR Must Have bandwagon back in late 2012 and with the exception of the special edition luxury box released over the holidays, have been pretty satisfied so far. I can usually trust that the items in each box will be at least somewhat useful, if not enjoyable. The themes so far in 2013 have made sense and the boxes included enough of a selection to make it worth my continued interest - and money.

April's box did none of those things.

Upon opening the April POPSUGAR Must Have box I was immediately disappointed by the curated selection. The theme of the box was 'embracing Spring' which is appropriate, but the items were severely lacking - especially in comparison to last month's haul.

The major draw was meant to be the POPSUGAR embossed garment bag (or The Green Garmento Four-In-One Reusable Dry-Cleaning Bag) which was complimented by a few smaller items - Alter Eco Dark Quinoa Chocolate bar, a sample of Kai Perfume Oil, Shashi New Nugget Bracelet, and Tatcha Petal Fresh Evening Aburatorigami Beauty Papers. Unfortunately, the garment bag was the only thing that I even liked.

Enough with the chocolate already! I understand quinoa is "in" right now, but I think every box I have received so far has included some version of chocolate - and I don't even like chocolate very much. The sample of perfume oil smelled nice, but I could have lived without it. Same goes for the beauty papers. And, the bracelet appeared to be cheap - at least in my opinion.

Which takes me back to the garment bag. It's a great size and appears to be very durable. I should get plenty of use out of it, and frankly I have a winter coat from EXPRESS that I recently ordered that came without one and needs to be bagged for the summer months, so this worked out perfectly. The only thing that bothered me about it is that it seems like POPSUGAR was trying to pass it off as more than it is. It's a garment bag, pure and simple. I appreciate the suggestions about what else I might use it for, but it's major purpose is to hang in my closet.

Final Thoughts:

One bad month for the POPSUGAR Must Have box isn't enough to convince me to cancel my subscription, but a couple more like this and I will definitely be reconsidering. Overall the box lacked in value and contents. Although the garment bag is useful, it was the only item I even remotely appreciated in the box which is regularly filled with many more enjoyable options. This box gave me a couple items to pass along, but not much else.

Check out the items and descriptions below:

 What did you think of the April POPSUGAR Must Have box?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Coco Rocha Fancy Box (March)

After the tragedy that was the February P!nk box, and the overlap between the regular box and Ashton Kutcher's, I was a bit hesitant to try out another curated Fancy box. Even so, I signed up to receive the Coco Rocha box on nothing more than a whim and pure curiousity.

I was delighted to see that she (or someone in her camp) interacted with subscribers on via the comment section, plus the advertisements were certainly adorable. The site was also offering another $25 off promo code, which even if I only really liked a couple of the items still made it a worthwhile enough incentive.

Except I didn't like a couple of the items.

I L-O-V-E-D them all!

My box came in the mail at the end of last week and I was pleasantly surprised since I had been notified that it would be a few days late and had not yet received my shipping confirmation. This seems to happen a lot. I've had several issues with customer service already. Canceling the P!nk box tuned out to be a nightmare - they accidentally canceled my regular box and they're still working on reinstating it at the $30/month price. It's been 2+ weeks already, so clearly I missed out on the March box - and, I'm not happy about it either.

Anyways, at first I was concerned because the box felt a little light. Immediately, I had a flashback to the disappointment I felt when I opened my P!nk box the previous month. Luckily, besides the Fancy name attached to both, the two boxes had nothing more in common.

Although there are only 6 cards, there were actually 7 items. I received 2 different shades of China Glaze nail polish. One was the highlighter orange color pictured, and the other was a basic medium/dark grey.

The box was lighter because the items weren't substantial in size, but there was definitely enough to support the cost.

I can clearly see that Fancy has taken some customer input into their decision making. The items appeared to have been more carefully chosen then previously curated boxes. Also, one of the things that bothered me most about the P!nk box was that I didn't feel like they were things she would have actually chosen. There was no rationale behind the items, they just appeared the be random choices. In this box, every item card came complete with a brief statement from Coco. I thought it really added that something extra I was looking for all along.

For what I consider to an introduction to subscribers on what they can expect in future Coco Rocha boxes, I think it was an excellent showing. Clearly the theme of her boxes is fashion and I adored all her choices. I have already used several of the products and can't wait to give the rest a try.

The highlighter orange nail polish is perfect for a pop of color on a night out and definitely the right shade for the upcoming summer season. I wasn't sure at first about the color, but having spent the last few days in it, I'm sold. Along the same lines, the spike chain bracelet adds an 'edgy vibe' to any look.

Whereas the hand cream - which works great - gets you primed for summer, the first two items take you through it. And, the grey nail polish is versatile enough to go with any season.

I was already a fan of the China Glaze brand, so this was something I immediately enjoyed seeing in the box.

All the other items definitely set the tone for her collection. Obviously the Christian Dior book quite literally tells you the theme, and also makes a great coffee table addition. I'm in the process of hopefully buying a house after I get back from my summer in Los Angeles, so it's something I will be able to display soon enough ::crosses fingers::

Item Breakdown:
  • Cool Jewels Ice Cube Tray - $15
  • Opaque Over The Knee Socks - $15
  • Nail Polish By China Glaze - $15
  • The Little Dictionary Of Fashion - $20
  • L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream - $17
  • Spike Chain Bracelet - $15
Total - $97

I was really happy with the Coco Rocha Fancy box overall. All of the items were things that appealed to me and that I can get use out of. The spike chain bracelet and the nail polish were definitely my favorite though. I can't wait to see what comes next month! The box was just really fun and fashionable, and very me. Also, I was so ecstatic that I tweeted and left a comment on the product page, and she responded to both - she even mentioned that she saw my tweet on her later comment. I thought it was all very personable.

Keep up the good work, Coco!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Pure Madness Chocolate

Just like a lot of other people, I have cravings for chocolate - so I like to know what my options are.

This month I got to try out a new chocolate brand, Pure Chocolate Madness. The company just launched on February 28, 2013 and they are bringing their passion for chocolate to you with several options for enjoying this guilty pleasure.

My BzzKit included:
  • 9 pc. Truffle Collection ($27)
  • Solid Chocolate Bar - Espresso ($8.50)

First Impressions:

When I opened up the package containing my Pure Madness Chocolate, the first thing I noticed was the packaging. The black, white, and pink are a great combination and makes the product look very sophisticated. Since I'm often drawn to products based on the packaging, I immediately thought this was a good sign.

In addition to the usual BzzGuide that accompanies every shipment from BzzAgent, there was also a full comprehensive catalog from Pure Madness that broke down all the prices and product/flavor options. I think that's a great way to introduce people to your company and was curious enough to check out the website before my tasting.

I decided that for the next 10 days, I would try one piece of chocolate. Keep reading after the jump to see what I thought!

In One Word:

Day #1: Classic - smooth

Day #2: Sea Salt Caramel - surprising

Day #3: Rum Raisin - creamy

Day #4: Chili Lime - bitter

Day #5: Dark Classic - expected

Day #6: Raspberry - divine

Day #7: Vanilla - creamy

Day #8: Espresso - eh

Day #9: Green Apple - thick

Day #10: Espresso (Chocolate Bar) - ok

Final Thoughts:

Out of all of the chocolate truffles the only one that I distinctly didn't care for was the chili lime flavor. Not only did it have a bitter taste, but the center was sour and not in a sour patch kids kind of way. Although the dark classic had a very expected taste, it was overwhelmingly one of my favorites.

I received this product from BzzAgent for free. My opinions are my own. For more information on Campaigns like this one, please visit

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Neutrogena Cosmetics

I am not a morning person.

If there is one detail about me that you remember, it should probably be that.

That being said, I am always looking for products that make my morning routine as quick and painless as possible. This is my third time being part of a Neutrogena campaign for BzzAgent - the first time around I fell in love with their cosmetics, especially the eye liner, and the second time my hands got a second life with the Norwegian formula hand lotion.

Once again I got the chance to try out some Neutrogena cosmetics and I was super psyched for the opportunity. This time my BzzKit included:

  • Neutrogena® MoistureSmooth Color Sticks for sheer, shiny color that continuously conditions lips
  • Neutrogena® Healthy Lengths Mascara for 100% longer looking lashes
  • Neutrogena® Crease Proof Eye Shadows for 12-hour wear that instantly revives and brightens eyes (2 Shades)

My Ractions:
I love eye shadow but throughout the day it tends to fall and irritate my contact lenses. The crease proof eye shadow not only lasts all through work - so at least 8 hours - but it also doesn't clump and is extremely easy to apply. The whole process takes under a minute from start to perfect. I usually just have to blend it at the edges with my finger for a flawless look.

The MoistureSmooth lip color is really fun. I got a nice light pink shade and it's also really easy to put on. The color doesn't stay all day, but it usually lasts longer than my first cup of coffee which is nice. Plus, the re-apply takes like no time.

Unfortunately, the mascara doesn't really stand out to me. It works great, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing about it that differentiates it from about a thousand other mascara formulas out there - or the dozens that I've personally tried. Although, ff you're in the market for a decent brand of mascara, the Neutrogena one is definitely worth adding to your collection.

I received this product from BzzAgent for free. My opinions are my own. For more information on Campaigns like this one, please visit

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Playtex Secrets Bra (Style #4823)

March 17, 2013

I just received my BzzKit with my Playtex Secrets bra yesterday, and I'm pretty excited to try it out. I haven't done a lot of product testing that actually involved wearing something so when I got this opportunity, I jumped right on it. (Or, I guess clicked right on it, since the invitation had to be accepted by clicking a button..)

My first thoughts when I tried it on was that it might be too much bra for me. I may have big boobs, but I'm super petite and have a small-ish frame, so I usually prefer something that has a little less coverage so I don't feel like I'm drowning in undergarments.  Also, the "comfort strap" style that might be pined over by someone of an older generation doesn't fit very well with my 27 year-old style. I definitely wouldn't be able to wear this in the summer with a strappy dress or quite a few of my tank tops. On the other hand, 10 months out of the year I'm a teacher and that still leaves plenty of wardrobe options where the Playtex Secrets bra would be an extremely functional option.

The bra is in the balconette style which is something new to me. I can't wait to see how it wears.

10 days later..

Now that I've had a chance to wear it a few times I can see both the pros and cons of the bra.

Pros: The bra provided excellent coverage. There is no room for spillover and everything pretty much stays right where it's supposed to. The wider back creates a smoothing effect and makes tops/dresses lay flat without any of the usual bra lines. This bra is extremely supportive and eliminates the need for layering in many cases.

Cons: The bra seems to hold in heat. This may be a result of the material or just because there is a lot of it. Either way, it doesn't seem like it would be a productive option for warmer weather. The coverage is a bit excessive for petite women. Also, even though it's part of the sexy fit collection, it's not very attractive and colors seem to be limited.

Conclusion: The Playtex Secrets bra is extremely functional but not altogether practical for all year use. I was happy with the coverage but I stand by my first impression that it might be too much bra for me. It was a bit overwhelming and sweat provoking. I won't be getting rid of it anytime soon because I loved how smooth it made my back, but it's definitely a daytime bra because there's nothing particular cute or sexy about it.

I received this product from BzzAgent for free. My opinions are my own. For more information on Campaigns like this one, please visit

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Birchbox (March)

The thing I love most about Birchbox, besides the price tag, is that it lets me try out products before I buy them. Essentially the monthly box gives you a small selection of beauty products in larger than normal sample sizes. It's a great way to preview new products before you decide to splurge on the full-size option.

For only $10 a month you get usually between 4-5 items curated by the Birchbox team. This is my fourth month getting the box and I still think it's fully worth it. Before the box ships I get an e-mail with a link to a sneak peek video that gives me some idea of what to expect. There's usually one or two things that they talk about that don't end of in my box and I like being able to guess which items will turn up when my box finally arrives. The sneak peak gives me a pretty good idea of some of the bigger items I'll get, but there's always a few surprises which I like.

Below is the sneak peak for the March box:

This month I got:


My Reactions:
  • Madwell for Birchbox - I was pretty excited about the emery board because besides being adorably floral patterned, I was in desperate need of a new one. I am constantly changing my nail polish color and reshaping my nails, so this will definitely come in handy.
  • Make - The Make products both came in a very cute re-closeable bag which is a great place to store them until I try them out. It's a great way to isolate them from the make-up that I use on a regular basis and serves a reminder that they're there - the other option being that they get lost in the endless supply of make-up that I've seemed to accumulate.
  • Whish - Even though the shaving cream is completely practical, I don't tend to use it. I shave mostly in the shower and just rely on the water and body wash. I'll use it, don't get me wrong, but that's where my relationship with the brand will probably end.
  • Oscar Blandi - I love thickening products. I feel like the longer my hair gets, the thinner it feels. The Oscar Blandi hair lift will be used up in no time! Also, it's definitely a product that I'm looking for, so it might be one of the things I end up buying afterwards.
Another month of great scores with Birchbox. I can't wait to see what comes in April!

Do you subscribe to Birchbox or any related monthly boxes? Let me know!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Pink Fancy Box (February)

As I mentioned in my last Fancy Box review, I broke down and ordered one of the A+ Fancy Boxes curated by Pink. It seemed like a no brainer when I saw a $25 off promo code on my favorite subscription box review site - My Subscription Addiction.

No, it's not because I'm ├╝ber cheap (hold all the Jew jokes) - I was hesitant before because I had already seen the overlap between the regular Fancy Box and the Ashton Kutcher curated box. Considering the stuff inside the boxes, although fun and sometimes useful, are altogether unnecessary bonuses - I didn't really want to pay for the same thing twice.

I had a good feeling and was dying (in a very non-literal sense obviously) to see how Pink'd out it was. Unfortunately, the box was a complete disappointment. Instead of the 5-6 items that I had come to expect, there were only 4 things in this box. This might have been fine, except that a) the box cost $9 more than my regular Fancy Box, and b) they were not that interesting or particularly useful.

Since I was home with what my assistant called the flu (I just called it a severe cold), the shirt was the most practical item in the box. It was really soft and fit perfectly. However, my t-shirt drawer is already overflowing and since I only wear them to bed or gym, has limited use. Also, the Ace bottle opener looked pretty cool - except I absolutely did not need another bottle opener. Now, if it was a corkscrew (like the fun parrot shaped one that came in my March PopSugar Must Have box) that would have been another story. 
When I first saw the cards (saw not read), I thought the third item was daisy-covered nylons which seemed like something I might wear given the right outfit - but, sadly no. Instead I found a set of crayons dubbed "body art paint." Although I tend to write important things on my hands from time to time, I don't usually doodle on myself. And then there was the "Atlas of Remote Islands," which frankly I just don't understand how that was even an option.
On top of the tangible items, there was also a "gift code" for $20 to use at It's a nice gesture, but I already checked and almost everything will cost you additional money once you add shipping and handling.
Nothing in this box was particularly interesting to me and they definitely didn't scream "Pink picked me special for you!" For the 21 dollars and change I paid, I can't complain too much - especially because I spent all 3 "flu" inflicted days enjoying the comfort of the vintage-soft shirt - but I did immediately cancel my subscription for the Pink Fancy Box. Better luck with Coco Rocha!
Item Breakdown:
  • Beautiful Tee - $24
  • Ace Bottle Opener - $20
  • Body Art Paint - $20
  • Atlas Of Remote Islands - $30
Total - $94
The value is great, too bad the products weren't something that appealed to me more.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beautiful Creatures: How Did The Movie Stand Up To The Book; Or, Why The Film Should Be Renamed 'Beautiful Disaster'

How did the movie Beautiful Creatures stand up to the book? To simply say 'it didn't' would be an injustice to fans of the series.

Within the first five minutes of the film I considered both walking out and/or asking in a very unfriendly way for a refund. As the characters that I had been introduced to in the novels were reintroduced to me on the screen, I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the basis of the movie. It quickly became clear to me that the screenwriter had not read the same source material that I had, and to say that he took creative liberties would be like saying Hurricane Katrina was just a minor disturbance in the NOLA night life.

I'm sure, or at least I'd like to believe so, that I'm in good company when I say that I sat there mildly horrified and extremely confused as what unfolded on screen bastardized the world created by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I left the theater fairly certain that I had read the wrong book. Either that, or I was intoxicated, because clearly what I had just seen was not the Beautiful Creatures that I had read. A thought that occurred only seconds before remembering that I had already promised a co-worker that I would come back and see the movie with her, assuring her earlier that day with: "I definitely will want to see this one more than once."

From the Southern accents that were overdone to a point where they became almost comedic to the combining/elimination of key characters to the complete disregard for the original story, I can only be sure that the movie was loosely based on some parts of the book series - and then placed somewhat out of order.

Without completely over analyzing for you a movie that missed the mark by several large continents at the very least, let me run down a few of the elements that were missing or ignored and ultimately led to this enormous fail - starting with Ethan making his own eggs.

  • Where was Marian? Or, more appropriately where was the real Amma? The most obvious error in judgement was combining the characters of Amma and Marian. In the book, Amma is a seer. She is also Ethan's housekeeper/nanny/maternal figure. As the series goes on, Amma takes on an added importance that cannot be duplicated or combined with that of another character. She is the catalyst for a series of events that transforms the entire story. Equally important, but in an altogether different way, is the guidance that Ethan gets from Marian. Marian is his deceased mother's best friend and colleague. She uses her unique knowledge as a Keeper to guide Ethan with his Caster-related dilemmas. Both of these characters are essential in the three remaining books - Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption.

  • Macon has a heart - and then the movie crushed it. Yes, if you read the book you already know that Lena's uncle, Macon Ravenwood's one true love was Ethan's mother, Lila Evers. However, this is a book two revelation that comes as part of a bigger storyline - a revelation which has now been stripped of its proper placement and butchered without so much as adding anything to the movie itself.

  • Why reinvent the wheel? Not only were the big things too much to keep intact, apparently so were the details. Lena's necklace is supposed to be a chunky eye-sore that she never took off. Caster eyes are always green. Macon is an incubus - not a caster - who can't go out in the daylight and uses his dog, Boo Radley, to keep tabs on things. Larkin is really a dark caster. Ridley has long blonde hair with pink streaks and sucks on lollipops all day long. Ethan's father is a shut in. Uncle Abner loves 'Wild Turkey' whiskey and lemon meringue pie. Any of this ringing a bell? Well, if you didn't read the book it wouldn't since none of it made the cut. Some of these details could have easily been included without any extra work.

After now seeing the movie not once, but twice, I have very few positive thoughts to offer. Besides the aforementioned problems with the content, the film itself was disjointed, overacted, poorly cast and just plain, unforgivingly bad. The only thing that it unquestionably has going for it is that it looks good visually. The Director of Photography should be commended for the stellar shots and I'm sure there's a location scout or two that deserve a high five. Unfortunately, audiences will forgive a film that is shot poorly in exchange for a compelling story, not the other way around. The story literally felt as if someone had read the back cover and decided to write a screenplay about it. I'm not sure exactly where the disconnect took place, but if this was supposed to be based on the novel of the same name, 'Beautiful Disaster' would have been a more appropriate title.

I hope that someone, somewhere learns from this mistake and decides in a couple of years to start back at the drawing board. This book was written for cinematic release and required very few changes to have been a success, and if done the right way absolutely could be one in the future. Take heed, fans of book series will swarm behind the finished product if it even feels like you tried to give them what they want.

For more in the way of an official review of the film, check out Jonathan Lack's (Denver Post Columnist) via We Got This Covered. My favorite quote from his review is "For the record, Beautiful Creatures only gets a full star because it is the lowest our review system will allow me to assign. "

*Update: Furthermore, there was no kelting, sixteen moons song, crossword puzzles, or red hots..

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Fancy Box (February)

One of the nice things about being young, single, and fully employed is a somewhat disposable income. I've recently become addicted to monthly subscription boxes and one of my favorites is the Fancy Box.

When I first signed up there was only one box available and you could customize it by choosing from several categories to fill it with (Men's, Women's, Kids, Pets, Home, Gadgets, Media, Sports & Outdoors, Workspace). I chose women's, home, gadgets, and media. However, if workspace had been a choice at the beginning, I would have added that too.
The Fancy now offers some more creative options for its' boxes including a gourmet food box and what they call A+ boxes, which basically means it's been curated by a celebrity. The growing list of celebs include Ashton Kutcher, Pink, and Coco Rocha.

This is my third month getting the regular Fancy Box - but I did cave and order the Pink one which should come later this month (?) - and it is my favorite one so far!  

The box is basically filled with stuff that I would never buy because it's all sold at completely inflated prices, but for $30 a box (I think prices have went up since I originally signed up, due to popularity) I am loving the value. Each box comes with $80+ of fun products. Even if there's one thing that might not fit my personality, it's always a fun "just because" gift to give someone.

Everything in this box is something that I can use, and even a couple that I had a legit need for. The chord organizer is perfect for my messy desk and with the impending snow storm blowing into the Chicago-area as I type, I'm sure the scarf will come in handy. Plus, and this might sound odd, I don't own an ice cube tray.

I priced the items in my February Fancy Box and came up with ---

Hot Chocolate on a Stick by Popbar - $3
Cold Fish Ice Cube Tray by Gama-Go - $15
Homemade Cookie Stamper - $15
iHM63 Speaker by iHome - $25
Cordies - $15
Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf - $16

-- bringing the grand total to a whopping $89.

Check out Fancy Box and let me know what you think!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Things That Bother Me, A Single Faux Pas

There's a laundry list of things involving a restroom that bother me, and none of those things occurred today. What did happen involved common bathroom courtesy.

During my lunch hour, I ventured down to the office. The office is situated across from the rather spacious cafeteria which was designed with the popular open-concept in mind. In order to get to the office, you must walk by the watchful eyes of the hoards of pre-teens who are suffering from a constant state of hormonal witchery. This has been known to cause them to beckon passersby with their often awkward, and always unwelcome, comments.

"That dress is soooo cuute!" - I know, that's why I put it on this morning.

"What's wrong with your hair?" - Why thank you for noticing. I'm trying this new thing where I don't brush it in the morning. 

However, today I made it all the way to the office unnoticed. I finished everything I needed to do there - discipline problems, bus issues, etc. - and made it to my last stop, the restroom, without anything putting a damper in my substantially giddy step (especially for a Monday).

And then, common courtesy left the building.

I can understand if there was just one staff restroom and I had been hogging it for a considerable amount of time. Considerable meaning anything longer than the casual 3.5 minutes which allows for some mirror action on the way out. But, my visit today was short and sweet, and annoyingly interrupted.

About a minute and thirty seconds into my stay, just as I hit the nozzle on the faucet and acquired the necessary suds, there was a knock at the door. I wasn't expecting anyone, obviously considering a) this is a place of work so the mile high club isn't particularly high on my list of bathroom goals, and b) as noted, there's another bathroom a mere 4 feet to the left. Naturally, I don't feel compelled to rush or answer for that matter. I dry my hands, take a quick look in the mirror, and head out.

Standing there outside door is a young substitute, or possibly an aide, since I've seen her more than a time or two before. Just standing there. She announces, "that was me knocking at the door."

No Shit, Sherlock. (or sh*t, for the more sensitive reader)

My first reaction is to look to my right and check to see if somehow I'd missed the line which had obviously formed in my 2 minute absence from the corridor and clogged up both bathrooms, but I couldn't find one anywhere. After a suspicious glance her way, I shook my head slightly and walked back into the hallway.

Do social graces no longer exist? And, in case you were wondering, if there's anywhere I don't want to be bothered - it's in the John (which I just taught my students the other day, means restroom).

Thank you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Mild But Albeit Innocent Obsession With Kurt Sutter (#SOA)

Until a couple weeks ago the only thing I knew about Sons of Anarchy was that the attractive fellow from Green Street Hooligans played a badass biker and that Peggy Bundy was involved in some capacity.

After devouring season 1, patiently waiting every Tuesday/Friday for the red Netflix envelope to arrive (yes, I do have it down to a schedule), I've found that even though I can jokingly tweet remarks about my newest fictional crush Jax, played by Charlie Hunnam - I really came out of this season with a newfound appreciation for one man, Kurt Sutter.

Note: "Jax's babies" - I don't know Hunnam, so that would just be weird to say..

In case you don't know who Mr. Sutter is, fret not, neither did I until I was captivated by a cameo from encarcarated Sons of Anarchy member Otto Delaney in 'Better Half' (season 1, episode 10) - which would make my acquintance going on 5 days now.

As mayhem unfolded in Charming and ATF went at SOA from a new angle, the suave gentleman restrained in a 10x10 (best guess) room was the most memorable part of the episode.

It didn't take long before I was googling (what an offbeat verb, I wonder if there's a plan to add it to the dictionary?) to find out more information about this man - the actor, not the character.

Kurt Sutter.

Come to find out, Sutter is more than just an actor that was the lucky result of a casting call. He is the creative genius behind the series. Which leads me to my mild but albeit innocent obsession with Kurt Sutter.

With my limited work in film to spawn my curiousity of his artful process, he is definitely on my list of people in the industry I'd like to sit down with for a few hours, shoot the shit (or sh*t for the more sensitive reader), and pick his brain to the full extent that my stream of consciousness will allow.

I can't imagine what it takes to make something like a simple idea come to be a show that is now rocking its way up the Nielsen rankings in its fifth season on FX.

While most people, understandably, are focused on the actors who are in your face every week carrying the show in one sense - have you ever wondered what's happening to get them there? I love television, but I have a deep appreciation for the day-to-day behind the scenes actions. While Hunnam is delivering that perfect line, I wonder who wrote it? Who chose the music to go with the last epic scene in the season one finale in the cemetary? And, who was responsible for the final shot of him standing at his father's grave that tracked back from a close-up to a wide with the min-flags perfectly lined up (flags no doubt being the result of a fantastic art department)?

And, who's behind it all?

Thumbs up, Kurt Sutter, bravo!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Assistant Woes And Other Related Theories

I think my assistant would poison me if she had a chance.

No, scratch that, I have convinced myself that she would without a doubt lace my coffee with arsenic given the opportunity.

I am so convinced of this fact that I have contemplated leaving a signed note in my desk to that effect. It would read something like the following:

If you're reading this, I am surely in some sort of tragic distress and have been rushed to a nearby medical facility through the use of emergency vehicle as my organs slowly and painfully shut down. I can't be certain of course, but I have a strong inkling that my assistant is to blame. Please follow-up on this crucial clue to solving the heinous crime that has quite clearly been perpetrated resulting in your being authorized access to my desk where this letter is casually stored front and center in the top middle drawer. And, I don't mean follow-up in the same sense as when people write "SEE I.D" on the signature line of their credit cards, I mean it with all sincerity and just as much eagerness. For further proof just ask the co-workers whom seem most likely to have been privy to my well developed theories on the matter, which let's be honest, is just about all the ones I talk to.
P.S. Don't be fooled by her sweet as pie demeanor either! CSI has surely taught you the truth.
I have began taking precautions as my paranoia, which clearly comes from my inner-city upbringing (Detroit, What?!), has skyrocketed right past rational thought at this point. And, in case you were wondering, "this point" is just before I indulge in an adult beverage, after which time my writing becomes stale and I truly believe everyone loves me (well, maybe the latter comes after a few drinks). Although I have no fear that a student would go through my desk and find my log o' misbehavior, I have decided that my assistant might, and have thus started to lock my desk and computer upon leaving the room. Also, considering the pad of paper I use to take the notes on is front and center in the top middle drawer for easy access (much like my imaginary note), I may want to begin thinking about alternative hiding places - and while I'm doing that, I might want to look into locking the cabinet where I actually keep my coffee supplies.

Naturally my father has been caught in the onslaught as every day after school I sit at my desk and dial him up. My guess is that he started to consider changing his personal extension to avoid what is rapidly becoming a tradition sometime around last Tuesday, give or take a day. Of course, I only call to tell him how my day went - and share my misery while ultimately blaming him for my undue stress, and then at the end of the week, e-mail demanding a new purse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: UNREAL™ Candy

I'm not sure what it is, but there's a part of me that is always hesitant about the idea of new candy. Perhaps it's the nature of the business. There are so many candy brands that I have become accustomed to seeing on the shelf that the noticeable addition of a new competitor catches me off-guard. Even the sudden scribbles you now see on the classic 'Mike & Ike' boxes throws me off-guard.
I definitely have my chocolate loyalty - even though I'm not a huge chocolate fan - so when it came to trying UNREAL™ candy, I was skeptical to say the least.
This trendy chocolate asserts itself as 'unjunked," using that at the center of its' extensive new ad campaign as it tries to break into a market that is already very much monopolized by some of the larger and better known brands.
The biggest concern I've heard from other adults about cosuming sweets, chocolate in particular, come from the idea of gaining weight. Words like "calories," "fat," and "unhealthy" seem to be synonymous with indulging at this point, which makes a healthier alternative all the more appealing.
The packaging proudly boasts its contents' nutrition facts on the back in a bold and colorful fashion. To further make their point, the company website offers a candy by candy comparision for each of its products who all mirror an existing chocolate creation.
What does that mean?
I mentioned before that UNREAL™ candy is a healthier alternative, but an alternative for what exactly? Not just chocolate treats in general, but an alternative for some of your favorites - for some of the classics. Right now, the five options are:
  • Unreal 54 - Candy Coated Chocolates with Peanuts
  • Unreal 41 - Candy Coated Chocolates 
  • Unreal 8 - Chocolate Carmel Peanut Nougut
  • Unreal 5 - Chocolate Carmel Nougut
  • Unreal 77 - Peanut Butter Cups
Sound a bit familiar? That's because they are basically: Peanut M&M's, Plain M&M's, Snickers, Milky Way, and Reese's Cups.

When I first realized this when I went to redeem my free coupon at CVS (compliments of BzzAgent), I thought it was genius!

So how do they compare?

After trying three out of the five (54, 8, 77), I can honestly say they're not bad. Even though you can instantly tell the difference - a blind taste test of the product side by side with the original would be no contest for a seasoned candy eater. However, if you were looking to make a healthier choice I would completely recommend  the UNREAL™ option. The difference in taste would, I assume, become unnoticable at some point if you made the switch (like the time I switched from mayonaisse to vegenaise, a mayo alternative made completely of vegetables - after a few weeks I stopped noticing any difference).

Out of the ones I tried, my favorite was the peanut butter cups. I thought they tasted the closest to what I was used to, maybe a little sweeter even.

The packaging is also a plus. The bright colors stand out against a black background and make the entire package pop when placed on the shelf next to other options. It's not only a smart marketing move, but will give you something to smile about.

Disclosure: I received a coupon for a FREE Unreal Candy and several Buy One Get One Free coupons as part of a BzzAgent Campaign. I will not be compensated for this review. All opinions expressed above are my own.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Coffee, Teaching, And Assorted Complaints: Not In That Order

It's not exactly a secret that being a teacher isn't the easiest job in America. Even though it seems like most of the country is oblivious to that fact, it's not a secret. That being said, the first week of every school year possesses its fill of challenges. And, being a new teacher adds volumes to each bump in the road. Now, even though technically it's not my first ride in this particular rodeo - this is actually the sixth year, in a row, that I've been forced to succumb to the sound of my alarm clock at what I consider to be an ungodly time somewhere between 'zero dark thirty' and noon (which seems to me like a much more appropriate hour to stumble out of bed) - [see exhibit A]. Well, "forced" may be a bit overkill considering that most days I really enjoy my job.

Today was not one of those days.

Despite what I consider to be sufficient experience molding the minds of young America, I am now in a new position and legally certified to instruct a whole new demographic of students - which makes me disappointingly considered a "new teacher." Now take the average complications that arise for any new teacher, or teacher in general, and multiply it by the fact that my chosen concentration involves more than one grade which presents its own set of scheduling issues, and that my students are second language learners and may or may not speak any English. The latter being the least of my worries since I happen to be highly qualified in the English subject area - or at least I have a couple pieces of paper that say so.

It seems a bit outlandish of me not to note that there are a ridiculous number of teachers working in poor conditions with limited resources who have it far worse, and on my best day in the classroom outshine, outdo, and out spell me. But, since this is about me, please just keep that in mind while classifying my complaints in the 'fairly trivial' category.

I'm the type of person that suffers from fits of stress over a random, nonsensical array of issues. Things like packing and making phone calls to persons unknown send me into inconsolable stress comas - paralyzed by irrational fear [see: A Suitcase Full of Anxiety]. Yet, I managed to make it through my entire Masters' program vaguely resembling a cucumber - unscathed with the exception of finally being hit with the 'Freshman 15' (only like 7 years late..). Bearing that in mind, I am suddenly convinced that being even slightly unorganized, unprepared, or unknowing will ultimately cause an irreversible developmental road block in my students' academic careers - the start of a downward spiral that will end somewhere in a shallow ditch, or worse, with the phrase "do you want fries with that?"

Since the first couple weeks of school are always touch and go, I know that I will suffer deeply for at least the next 8 days while I complete this once a year transition from leisure summer beachcomber to employed life changer. And, who likes to suffer alone? This is particularly unfortunate for my father, who happens to be my bosses' bosses' boss, and who I feel a strong need to share my catastrophic thought process with.

I think the titles of two of the e-mail strings we shared today say it all:

Worst Week Ever
Code Stress Level Tangerine

**Please note that there is no exclamation point added to the end of either of these subject lines - clearly these word groupings are emphatic enough without going overboard. I may have a flare for the dramatic, but even I know where to draw the line..

Usually my codes simply involve a color, but I thought it was important to expand given the circumstances. 

The first line of inquiry dealt with my amazing assistant being promoted and my concerns over who would replace her which transitioned into a philosophical debate over various teaching styles that I, of course, translated into meaning that the world was going to end. This resulted in the second thread that began with me ordering the immediate purchase of a purse from Bloomingdale's to combat the rising 'fight or flight' hormones brought on by stress overload. 

I feel bad for my father sometimes. He is acutely aware of my mood tendencies; when I am mad, I clean, and when I am sad, I shop - and when I am broke and/or stressed, he is obligated to shop for me. It's an agreement he may be unaware he made, but I strongly believe he signed it in blood the moment I popped, blue no less, from my mother. It goes something like, "until my daughter, Lindsay Faith, is swept off her feet by the man of her dreams I am responsible for the following," and that list extends in the same fashion as a cartoon declaration that unravels until it rolls across the room. 

My first instinct is always to go for new shoes, but since the sea foam round-toe pumps I repinned on Pinterest were sold out, I opted for the bag. 

My stress did subside at one point during the day when the attractive fellow from new teacher orientation replied to my e-mail titled:

Code Aquamarine

Case in point.

I realize that much of my stress is coming from technical issues that I have no control over, yet I simply cannot shake this ominous wave of anxiety. Although, I must admit, this could all just be my body chemically reacting to the comeback that caffeine is making in my system after a three month hiatus. Who really knows.


Exhibit A: In order to combat drowsiness due to my untimely departure from my over-priced and simply heavenly mattress, I have now purchased a coffee maker specifically for my classroom so I can hit the snooze button one more time each and every morning in its' honor.