Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Costume SuperCenter!

I love playing dress-up, even though I'm a far cry from a kid these days! I think Halloween is one of the most fun holidays ever. Not only do you get to pretend to be someone else for a night, but you get to gorge on candy while you do it! I can't think of much better.

I was lucky to be contacted by a representative from a company called Costume Super Center and they offered to send me a costume to review for this blog! I'm very excited to be able to offer my opinion.

I checked out their website Costume Discounters and took a look at all the variety. I was totally blown away by how many kinds of costumes they had! I was somehow expecting more for kids, but I was happy to see so many for adults. They had pets and kids and mens and womans Halloween costumes to choose from. What I loved best was the costumes they had by decade era-- 50s, 60s, 70s, etc. I was laughing out loud as I scrolled through the 60s costumes on their website. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one for me: The First Lady costume. You must check it out.

Thrilled, I told the rep that I wanted the First Lady. I mean, who doesn't want to be Jackie O for Halloween? So I was so excited when the UPS man came by today with a package for me. It came in a large plastic bag. This is what it looked like once I opened it:

So according to the insert, it seems that they offer free exchanges for products and sizes! I have to say I was impressed by that, as it seems most companies these days make you pay for returns or don't take them at all. Anyway, the actual costume was packaged in plastic too and looked like this:

You can see how cute it is, and why I picked this one! Bright pink, with a hat, jacket, and skirt. The optional accessories-wig, pearls, gloves-seem like they would be easy enough to find. I probably have some old fake pearls around here somewhere, and white gloves too.

The costume was nicely folded inside the plastic sleeve and was easy to take out. It was made of 100% polyester, which smelled a little bit too polyester-y for me. I checked and it said it could be hand washed, though, which I would probably do before I wore it out of the house. Just to get rid of the fresh-clothes smell.

I went ahead and tried it on. Here I am, dressed as the first lady:

As you can see, the jacket fit perfectly, though the skirt was pretty snug. I think I would try to let out the skirt a little bit at home before I wore it out. Otherwise I thought it was adorable. I can totally picture myself faux-waving with that cupped-hand beauty queen wave as I walked into a Halloween party dressed like this. How fun!

Overall I would say that the costume was as expected and in spite of the tight fit of the skirt, it was a success. (Anyway, the skirt's tightness has more to do with the size of my butt than the size of the skirt!) According to the invoice, the costume is priced at 13.65, which I'd say is a great deal for a full-on, ready-to go real costume. And there's no reason you couldn't keep it and wear it for more than one year.

Final word: pros were it's cheap, cute, and pretty convincing for a Halloween costume. cons were it sort of smelled like polyester, and the size was a bit small. But since the company offers free exchanges, I have the option to send it back and get another size anyway! This would only be a con, then, if I had ordered last-minute and didn't have time to wait for a replacement to arrive. So the moral is-- go buy your costumes from the Costume Super Center early!

I'd love to hear your comments about the outfit. What is your favorite Halloween costume? Do you like the sexy costumes or traditional witchy costumes? Do you make your own or buy them online?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SurvivorSurvivor by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book. I read it in about 3 days, and there were time it was hard to put down. I felt so-so at times, like I wasn't sure if he was trying to be shocking and cool or if he was being earnest at times. Hard to say. But it was a compelling story, and not just because of the fact that it was written in 1999 pre- nine- eleven stuff. So back when apocalypse and terror were still sort of abstract and pseudo-punk. It was a good read though. I feel silly because I had seen Fight Club like a zillion times but never read the book or anything else he ever wrote. I have friends who have read all his books and I was always that person in the back just nodding as if I knew what I was talking about. So this was my 1st Chuck P book and I thought yet, it was a good book. I am curious enough to read another, which I just checked out from the library. I guess knowing me, a serial non-finisher of books, it says something that I even finished this book. And I have not read fiction in a long time, either. So we will see. I will report back if I like the other book by him too.

View all my reviews

book review

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday LifePeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trying to get more present, so this was next to me at breakfast for about a week. A quick read, unfortunately, though I tried to read slowly. A good reminder of all I am supposed to be doing and am usually not doing. If I was in a better place, the book could be transformative. Right now it was just so-so. My own fault. I am not ready to be present yet.

View all my reviews
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday LifePeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trying to get more present, so this was next to me at breakfast for about a week. A quick read, unfortunately, though I tried to read slowly. A good reminder of all I am supposed to be doing and am usually not doing. If I was in a better place, the book could be transformative. Right now it was just so-so. My own fault. I am not ready to be present yet.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 15, 2011

Not the best deal ever.

Leave it to my sweetie to burst my bubble. Turns out the beautiful shirt was priced in Indian rupees, not U.S. Dollars. So it would have cost like the equivalent of 18 bucks. Still. That's awesome. I have a cool shirt from India and it still only cost 5 bucks.

Still I am a little disappointed somehow. I will get over it.

The best deal ever?

I have to share with you my most recent trip to Goodwill. I think I may have saved more on one item than I ever have in my entire career of Goodwill shopping. This is truly epic.

So, here is this gorgeous tunic. It is made of silk.

It caught my eye in the racks not only because it's silk, and it's gorgeous, but also because it had a red tag. This week, all red tags at Goodwill are half-price, so I had been scanning the aisles on the lookout for red tags, of course.

Here is a nice shirt for half off. Guess how much it costs?

So already this is a good thing: a nice shirt, made of silk (bonus!) and with a red tag. I take it out to look at it and realize it still has the original store tag attached. So it's also brand new! Score again! I'm off to the dressing room.

Dressing room was a win. It fits me perfectly. Just loose enough in all the right places. And silk-- well, I love silk on my skin. And I can't usually afford to buy silk new.

So I'm heading up to the cash register and take another look at the tag to read the care instructions. Usually silk says "dry clean only" which sucks. I sometimes hand wash it anyway, and if it makes the silk less silky, well, I only spent a few bucks on it anyway.

Yes, so I'm waiting in line at the checkout and I look down at the tag and something doesn't look right. I mean, I think my brain stopped working for a second. And I thought "no, that can't be right." So I looked again. Yes, the original tag was attached. And that tag also had the original price. How much do you think this sweet shirt cost new? $20? $40? Even $65?

Brace yourself:

Let's look at that again. The picture is kind of fuzzy. My camera doesn't take close-ups very well.

OK, first of all, WHAT? Who pays that much money for a shirt? I think my first used car cost that much! And second, I'm thinking, WHAT? I'm getting this $800 shirt for five dollars? The tax alone on the regular price would have been more than that.

I made it through the checkout without anyone running past me, grabbing the shirt, and running off with it, though I did sort of feel like all of I sudden I found something valuable or I had done something wrong.

But it wasn't wrong. No. It was very, very right.

The goddesses of thrift have shined their light upon me today.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wii game: The Malgrave Incident

Thanks to Paul O'Reilly a.k.a. @theTechDad on twitter, I recently received a new Wii game called The Malgrave Incident. I had not heard of the game before, but I checked online and it had pretty good reviews from cnet.com. According to the Nintendo website:

"Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident brings the intrigue and sleuthing of Big Fish Games' Mystery Case Files series to the Wii system for the first time. The game transports players to the enigmatic Malgrave Island, where they must hunt for hidden objects and solve puzzles to collect a magically powerful dust scattered across the island. Anyone can delve quickly and easily into the game's rich seek-and-solve action, using the Wii Remote controller to examine multi-layered hidden-object scenes, locate cleverly concealed items and obtain inventory items that will help to overcome brain-teasing obstacles. Multiplayer features allow players to team up and crack the case together or face off in a competitive hunt for hidden objects. (Additional controllers are required for multiplayer features and are sold separately.) No matter who's playing, it'll take sharp eyes and a keen mind to get to the bottom of Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident."

You can see a lot about the game including screenshots on its website here.

Now I should say that up until now our Wii game experience has been pretty limited. We have the Wii Sports and Fit games, Super Mario 3 and Super Mario Galaxy, and a couple of the old Zeldas. Oh, and some silly tennis zombie game.

When we got The Malgrave Incident I wasn't sure what to expect. At first I was skeptical. There are a bunch of different game options and it took some time for me to navigate my way around the different games. But once we tried the game we were hooked. It is an interesting mixture of Zelda-style puzzles and adventure crossed with Where's Waldo object-finding games. And some of them are really hard! At first I thought it was a kid's game until we got to the puzzles. And man, they make you think! So far there's no fighting or violence which is good, so I would say it's fine for kids to play. But the level of skill and language used is more advanced. Not that there's explicit language, just that they use sort of long big words sometimes.

We are still working on winning the game which is also a good thing. It's no fun to play a game that's too easy. But my sweetie was up until midnight last night playing, which shows that it is addictive!

Thank you Tech Dad for letting us try out this game! We won it through a twitter party which was the first time I've won anything through a twitter party. It gave me hope that maybe it won't be the last!

Monday, July 11, 2011

10 reasons why I want to visit Virginia Beach!

Yes, it's summer, and that means family vacations and romantic getaways to the beach. I can't think of a better family vacation--or more romantic surprise--than spending a long weekend (or more!) by the roaring ocean, cool saltwater breezes, boardwalk nightlife, saltwater taffy, and mid-day dips in the sun-warmed ocean water.

There are a lot of great places to visit if you want to go to the beach. But some have more to offer than others. The reason why Virginia Beach hits the top of my best-places-to-visit list is because of all the amazing attractions they have in addition to the wonderful, clean ocean waters.

So without further ado, here are my 10 reasons why I want to visit Virginia Beach:

1. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

Just listen to some of these exhibits you'll find at the Virginia Aquarium: Coastal desert and Mediterranean Sea! Malaysian Peat Swamp! Indonesian Volcanic Island! You can see their amazing loggerhead turtles and spotted eagle rays! Did you know that loggerhead turtles can live as long as 67 years? Amazing! You can visit their website here.

2. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse.
Nothing is as classic as a scene of the ocean with a lighthouse. Just the sight of one makes me think of old novels and tales of fishermen. This lighthouse has 191 steps to the top, so you'll get a workout to help you fit into that bikini you brought to the beach! Did you know that this lighthouse was the first official lighthouse authorized by the U.S. Congress? It dates all the way back to 1791! Wow! You can learn more about the lighthouse through Preservation Virginia's website here.

3. The Jamestown Colonist's First Landing Site.
Now this is something you really can't get anywhere else: part of history of the first English settlement in the new world! And right on the north side of Virginia Beach, at Cape Henry, there is a memorial to commemorate this amazing event. What a great way to teach some history to the kids! There is a state park there that also offers camping, boating, hiking, and lots of other activities~ You can visit the park website http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/fir.shtml.

4. Yoga on the Beach

I don't know about you, but sometimes vacations can stress me out when they are supposed to make me relax. This is a great idea: yoga on the beach! Virginia Beach's first ever yoga studio on the ocean offers drop-in classes for only $15! You should check out their website here. Can you imagine how awesome yoga on the beach must be?

5. Symphony by the Sea.
Speaking of doing cool and unusual things by the water, check this out! The Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Tidewater Winds offer concerts multiple times throughout the summer right on the ocean at Neptune's Park! You can get a little culture and never even leave the coast! Check them out here.

6. The Boardwalk.
This is not your ordinary boardwalk. The Virginia Beach boardwalk was called one of America's favorite boardwalks by the Discovery Channel. And I'm pretty sure they would know. The boardwalk dates back to 1888! So you can enjoy your ice cream and watch the rollerbladers pass you by while taking in some history too! Check out more here.

7. The Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.
If music and yoga on the beach aren't enough for you, check out the amazing acts booked at Virginia Beach's Sandler Center! The offerings range from Fiddler on the Roof to ABBA! In Concert to the Moscow Ballet-- whoa! Plus they have a free summer concert series on Wednesdays. Can't beat that cost! Check out the lineup here.

8. Ocean Breeze Waterpark.
Yes, it's about 2 miles south of Virginia Beach, but it still counts. When you've had enough of saltwater, try out the waterpark at Ocean Breeze for more fun! With 16 waterslides, a HUGE wave pool, and a water playground, nobody has any reason to be bored! Check out their reasonable ticket prices here.

9. Mahi Mah's Restaurant

Fresh seafood and sushi, local bands on the patio, cocktails with names like "Going Coco Nuts" and "Cape Fizz"--sounds like date night to me! This is the place the locals love, and they don't want you to know about it! You should check out their menu online here.

10. The Shops at Hilltop.
Last but not least--- shopping! The shops at Hilltop are THE spot for one-of-a-kind gifts and boutique finds that will make you wish you packed another suitcase! With over 120 shops, restaurants, and services, you will find anything you need (and some things you just really, really WANT) at the Shops at Hilltop. They have been voted "best of the beach" for 15 years in a row! How can you go wrong? Read more about all their cool stores here.

Whew! That's a lot of reasons to go to Virginia Beach! And I still haven't even mentioned Mount Trashmore (what?!?!?) or the Virginia Beach Farmer's Market or the adorable Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast. I could go on, but you get the idea. Who's got the sunblock?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Virginia Beach Tourism blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here. http://visitvirginiabeach.socialmoms.com/about

things I like about me

I am loving the #BeEnough campaign going on right now on twitter and through ciao mom's blog.
She wrote a great post about how we are too often down on ourselves and don't take credit for all the things that we are skilled at and the good work we do. So seeing as how I could use a confidence boost, I'm taking a stab at a few things I like about me:

1. I am smart.
2. I am well-educated. (which is not the same as smart. see how smart I am?)
3. I care a lot for my friends. (which is why I don't have too many-- it's tiring)
4. I take care of my cats. All 3 which were rescued, and that's a good thing.
5. I am a decent cook. And I really know how to appreciate a good meal.
6. I can build a mean campfire even if it's drizzling.
7. I am a good, safe driver.
8. I think my feet aren't as ugly as some other people's feet.
9. I have a good sense of humor.
10. I vote in every election.

There's a few. Take a look at some of the other great posts back on CiaoMom's page.


Affordable Artisanal Soaps!

Shout out to Shila at Affordable Artisanal Soaps! I won her Father's Day giveaway and got an awesome whipped cream shaving soap and shaving brush. The men in the house are coy about it, but they are loving it. The soap smells SO good. I mean really. really. good.

You should check out Shila's soaps at her website, or follow her on https://www.facebook.com/AffordableArtisanalSoaps.

Sorel Rain Boots

As I wrote earlier in this blog, we recently moved and the place we live now is known for being pretty rainy. Everyone has been saying how I am going to need really good rain gear. To be honest I don't even know what really good raingear is. I mean, I have an umbrella, though I am notorious for losing umbrellas by leaving them behind wherever I go. In any case, I entered to win some Tivoli Rain Boots by Sorel from Fashion Pulse Daily. Julia, the editor over there, emailed me to let me know that I actually won a pair! This is what you call serendipity.

Here is a kind of crappy photo of the boots:

I chose black but they also come in red, yellow, and blue. I figured black would match more clothes, and I'm still not quite flashy enough to pull off bright colored shoes sometimes. You need to be in a certain mood to do that. But I digress. The boots came and they are awesome! I can see what people mean by "real" rain gear now. They have good tread on the bottom and some cute polka dot pattern on the inside of the boot. Really nice. They even came with an extra pair of shoelaces-- in polka dots! I almost wish it would rain so I could try them out! (ok, not really.)

34 degrees crispbread- yum!

I love the blog by Jen over at Sugar Pop Ribbons. She's always hosting new cool contests and reviews for products I wouldn't have known about otherwise. I was super lucky last month and won a contest she sponsored with 34 degrees for their crackers! They call them "crispbreads" but they are really super thin crackers.

I got a package of EACH of their yummy flavors! Here they are all stacked up in my (otherwise empty) cupboard:

Aren't they pretty?

I haven't tried all the flavors yet but so far I am in love with the whole grain and rosemary. I would highly recommend them to any cracker lover.

Prem Soaps!

I smell so good right now. If blogger had a scratch-and-sniff option, I would use it. I got two new Prem Soaps in the mail today, along with a massage oil candle and lip balm from Prem Soaps. Lucky me, I won the soaps from sweet Sally Owen over at In My Opinion blog.

Since my skin is usually oily and generally unhappy, I requested two of the soaps with tea tree oil. I know tea tree oil is helpful since it has antiseptic and antimicrobial qualities to it. Which is what I need. I just used the tea tree and chamomile soap in the shower and was so happy with how clean and smooth my skin felt. I was reassured knowing that the soaps are all vegan, organic, and made in a kitchen in Brooklyn, New York. Their packaging is recycled paper and reusable mason jars. Bars of soap run $8 which is reasonable. You should totally check them out.

The soaps are unwrapped and in my bathroom already (lol) but here is a pic of the cute lip balm tin and candle.

I swear all my lip balms when I was a kid were in little tins like this that slide to the side! What happened to these tins? They are making me all nostalgic.

Thank you to Prem Soaps and In My Opinion blog for the contest!

JR Watkins Naturals

So the other week I was playing retweet contests on twitter like I do when I'm bored. (BTW you should follow me @creep4ward if you don't already.) I submitted a tip for the J.R. Watkins Naturals feed. They ask for tips from their followers about how they use their quality extracts. I added a tip about how when I am congested, I'll put some drops of their peppermint extract on a warm, wet washcloth and drape it over my face. The peppermint smell and humid air helps me breathe again! Well, they liked the tip and I won their weekly contest for extract tips!

What came in the mail was a full size bottle of the J.R. Watkins almond extract!

According to their website, http://www.jrwatkins.com/jrwatkins/index.cfm, the company started way back in 1868 (wow!) and they say on their website:

"J.R. Watkins Natural Apothecary line of personal care contains only natural, environmentally friendly ingredients from renewable resources, avoiding chemicals like parabens, sulfates, phthalates and more and, is one of very few lines to be certified by the Natural Products Association."

They also make a bunch of kinds of soaps and personal care products.

I'm still trying to figure out what to make first with my almond extract. I have some apricots in the fridge and thought maybe an apricot-almond cake would work. I'll go search the internet for a recipe this afternoon.

Sweet! (literally!)

New blog design!

I have a new blog design! Did you notice? This one seems more sophisticated somehow. Let me know what you think!

Excited about book win!

I was lucky enough to win a Sweeps4Bloggers contest for a cool book called Art Without Compromise. It's even autographed by the author, Wendy Richmond! I just got the email that I won this morning, but I have to say I'm excited to read this book. When I was younger I used to be much more artistic-- painting, drawing, writing, collage, etc., but in the past few years I have become less and less playful in that way. I was thinking lately that I wished I could get some of that back, the playfulness that you need to be creative and artistic. We just moved into a new apartment and need something to put on our walls, but can't afford "real" art so I was thinking about maybe trying to make my own. DIY is all the rage, right? But I am not tapped into that part of myself very well.

I am hoping this book will help.

The description says:

"Art Without Compromise* will inspire artists to change the way they think about their creative landscapes, from personal goals to cultural influences to technological realities. Author Wendy Richmond helps artists to look closely at what they see every day, both in their own art-making and in the world around them. Readers will learn to develop an uncompromising commitment to finding and protecting their own unique process for making their strongest art."

It looks like you can buy the book from Allworth Press but once I get it and try it out I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thoughts on July 4th

So today is the 5th of July and everyone was out celebrating the founding of our country yesterday by hanging out with friends, grilling lots of meat, and watching things explode into sparks in the air. While we went outside and watched the show for a while, I got a little tired of all the loud noises, and I was worried about my cat. I guess it's normal for pets to be scared by loud sounds, but our cat was huddled under the bed for hours and would not come out, not even to eat. I felt really bad. We finally closed the windows even though it was super hot and tried to muffle the sound by turning on a fan.

Plus while we were outside we saw a little dog running free by the side of the road, and my heart sank not knowing if it was lost or had escaped and worried it would be hit. We watched as she turned into a residential area and I can only hope she was heading home.

So today I took a few minutes and looked up some web sites that talk about how to deal with pets on the 4th. Here are some that I found. If you have this issue too then you might find these useful.