Week In Review (September 8 – September 14, 2014)

My Week In Review (otherwise known as WIR) posts are just that: a review of my past week.  I post an update here every Tuesday sharing some tidbits of my previous week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram.  Here’s the buzz from my week:

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Usually, it is still very much summer in Chicago in September, complete with cicadas, humidity, and soaring temperatures.  This past week, however, has been downright chilly.  It seems that fall is making an entrance early this year.  I don’t mind the drop in temperature so much, because it means longer walks with my pup, Winnie, cozy sweatshirts, and the return of my fondness for hot beverages.  I made a green tea latte for the first time in months using my beloved Bialetti Hot Chocolate Maker.  I use this almost everyday in the cooler months for the perfect, frothy hot chocolate, or tea lattes (possible dedicated post on this machine and what I make in it if there’s interest).

In other news, another new friend made its way into my home last week.  I’ve shared my fondness for Jellycat plushies before, as I have quite a few now, which are mostly gifts from my DH, Don.  Lately, my Bashful Bunny collection has been growing.  I believe I’m up to seven (!) with the latest being Honey Boney, pictured above on the left of the bunny photo in the middle.  They’re multiplying like rabbits (har har)! ;)  Yes, I’m 31 and collect plushies.  Loud and proud!

Another acquisition from the past week is a brand new tripod.  I’ve used and loved my Manfrotto 60″ Compact Action Tripod for the past year, which is small, lightweight, and easy to tote around the house or even travel with.  It is definitely not sturdy enough to support an extension arm for overhead shots, though, which is something I’ve really wanted for my videos for awhile now.  I went for the Manfrotto 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod since it is quite sturdy and has an extending column built right in for 90º overhead shots.  This will come in very handy for my upcoming planner review and comparison series on OLJ.  For the head mount I purchased a Manfrotto 804RC2 Basic Pan Tilt Head, which works well and gives me a lot of options.  So far, so good!  I’m considering investing in a second DSLR for multiple angle video shots.  It would also come in very handy for photographing in the middle of filming, which I actually do quite often and can be frustrating having to move around the camera in the middle of filming.  Logistics!  I’m thinking of doing a gear post where I share what equipment I use to make my videos and blog posts if there is interest in that, as well.  Let me know what you think!

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Last week held two very important anniversaries that are close to my heart, one happy and one sad.  The sad one is shared by so many others as 9/11 is a date few (if any) would be able to forget in this country.  I talked a bit about my 9/11 experience in a Tea & Talk video on MHWL last year, if you’re interested in hearing my story.  I feel like it’s one of those events that people remember exactly what they were doing when it happened, much like my parents talk about the Kennedy assassination.  I know it is a tough day for so many for so many reasons and I like to think that while it is an absolute terrible thing to have happened, there is a kind of power and connection in a collective sadness.  We can forget that we’re not as autonomous as we think we are in this world and that we are all indelibly linked to one another.  Coming together over a shared experience, be it big or small, happy or sad, illuminates this connection.  Knowing that we are not so very different or separate from one another can bring about compassion, which leads to more sharing of peace and kindness and less hate and scapegoating.  Terribly tragic things happen every second of every day in this world, but sharing joy, love, and hope with others can help us feel less isolated and lead to more understanding, collective healing, and kindness.  While my heart aches for that terrible day, I find hope in the strength of the human spirit that surrounds that terrible tragedy.  I hope it helps in some way to prevent future tragedies and instead encourage camaraderie and togetherness.

I tend to get a bit sad around this anniversary in spite of my hope and like to dedicate some quiet down time to reflect.  I’ve never been terribly good at seated mediations, as I get rather fidgety and uncomfortable, which distracts from the purpose.  Instead, I prefer walking meditations, especially during long walks on cool mornings with Winnie.  There’s something so peaceful about spending time with my dog, as well.  I call her my angel and I mean it quite literally, because she brings me peace, hope, and the kind of unconditional love that only an unburdened messenger of God can give.

I pray for peace every day, but send extra special prayers to all who hurt and have been touched by 9/11.

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The other important anniversary of mid-September is our wedding anniversary.  This is quite the opposite sort of experience, and a very happy one at that!  In fact, Don and I planned our wedding on this date specifically to help create some more positive memories of an otherwise extremely painful time of year.  On September 10, we celebrated nine years of marriage.  Nine years!  It’s hard to believe we’re almost at a decade.  It feels like no time at all and all of the time in the world at the same time, which feels just right.  I posted a #TBT photo from our honeymoon in Maui.  Many people mentioned we look the same, but I can see our youth.  We’re just babies!  So much has happened since our wedding day and while most of it has been awesome, beautiful, and extremely happy, there have been some rough patches and tough times as well.  I believe getting through the hard times together is critical to the strength of our bond and I am grateful for every bump in the road because we have navigated them together and become all the more close for them.

Even though I told Don that our weekend getaway to Kohler was more than enough of a celebration, he insisted on making a fuss on the actual day and prepared quite the feast for us.  For starters, he made homemade blinis served with caviar (schmancy!), followed by steamed lobster with green beans, and ending with a delightful white chocolate mousse just like the one he made for Valentine’s Day in 2013.  Yum!  He also presented me with another gorgeous bouquet and two very extravagant gifts.  That man can’t be stopped!  I’m not complaining, btw. ;)  I gave him a mix tape (yes, people still do that) and a Human Touch® Perfect Chair® Zero Gravity Recliner to hopefully help with his back issues and provide him a thinking/reading spot in his home office.  Everyone was quite pleased with their presents!  Most of all, however, we are both so blessed to have each other to love.  We are also blessed to have our furbaby, which makes our little family of three feel so much bigger and better.  I was a littler surprised at how offended some people were by my posting a photo of our Saturday morning snuggle session.  Let me assure you, this was a 100% innocent cuddlefest.  Don doesn’t wear t-shirts to sleep in and I am wearing a nightgown covered completely by Winnie.  Who knew that bare shoulders were so indecent, lol!  I simply wanted to share the love.  I apologize if it seemed like TMI.

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Don and I had a very chill kind of weekend spent enjoying some home comforts together.  It’s so nice to stay in and enjoy our nest between travels!  I had the case of the “mehs” (otherwise known as the “blahs”) on Saturday and turned to some of my tried and true fixes to help pull me out of that mood, including yoga, a good book, tub and tea time, a sunset walk with my pup, and plenty of snuggle time with my hubby.   I am so grateful for the opportunity to make space for these personal pursuits, which did, indeed, lift my spirits.  I woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated on Sunday morning and ready to take on the day!  And the mall, which I generally avoid at all costs on the weekend, but I needed to run a few pre-travel errands, so I braved the crowds and was quite successful (I am thinking of sharing an Italy prep haul?  Interesting or no?).  I spent the remainder of the day doing some packing prep.  While I am pretty efficient at packing in general for both Don and myself, there is one aspect that is more time consuming.  I actually try on most of the clothes I want to bring on any given trip before packing.  I learned this tip from my Mom who has done the same for years.  I know it might seem a bit much to some, but for me, it saves a whole lot of time and trouble when I am actually on holiday having outfits I know fit me well and go together nicely.  I never really have to think about what to wear while on vacation as I’ve generally already sorted it out.  Now that I have done this and have most all of my things pulled, packing will be a cinch.  It doesn’t take me long to prep for Don and our toiletries are always sorted and ready to go.

If you’d like to see more from my weekend, check out my vlog:

Everyone has a “meh” day every once in awhile.  I’d love to hear what your go-to fixes are when you’re in the need of a pick-me-up.  Feel free to share in the comments!  I hope you’re all having a wonderfully non-meh day :)

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* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Jen Checks In: Keeping It Real (September 2014)

Hi there!  You might have noticed I haven’t posted on OLJ for a couple of weeks now.  This hiatus was not intentional.  I still don’t have any organization-related content to share this week so I thought instead I would take the time to check in with you.  If you’re interested in hearing where I’ve been, what’s going on with OLJ, my plans for the rest of the year, and my feelings about my online sharing, please check out my video:

Big hugs and thank you’s for your patience and support along the way as I navigate this online world and my place in it.  Much love to you all!

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* All opinions are genuinely my own. *

PopSugar Must Have Special Edition Fall Box (2014)

I love my PopSugar Must Have Box (which is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items), but I especially enjoy the seasonal special edition boxes they release.  These tend to sell out quickly so I jumped on the chance to get the fall box as soon as I saw the launch email.  The special edition boxes typically cost $100 a pop (as compared to the usual $39.95 each for the regular subscription) and include a nice variety of products centered around the special theme.

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Popsugar’s fall box theme is designed to help you “transition into Autumn in style.”  There are six “chic accessories and multifunctional essentials” in this box including beauty items, personal accessories, and a sweet treat.

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What’s in my Fall box?

Marchesa Voyage for Shopstyle Printed Scarf – ShopStyle (the mother company of PopSugar) has teamed up with Marchesa for an exclusive line.  This gorgeous scarf is light and airy and perfect for layering this fall as we transition into cooler weather.  Suggested Retail Price – $140

Capsule Perfums Byway Eau de Parfum – This boutique fragrance is described as a “captivating balance of innocence and temptation” and a “sure crowd-pleaser for vanilla lovers.”  It includes notes of crystal spun sugar, virgin roses, lilac-laced cotton candy, twilight jasmine, amber-hued petals, golden patchouli, amaranth wood, and vamp essence.  It has a pleasantly warm, slightly sweet, slightly musky scent.  Suggested Retail Price – $38

Sugarpova Chic Gummy Candy – I had no idea that tennis champion Maria Sharapova has a candy line, but now I do and it’s delicious knowledge!  These are the most fashionable gummies I’ve ever seen, with sunglasses, purses, and shoes for shapes.  Suggested Retail Price – $5.99

Make Silk Cream Lipstick in Radicchio – A gorgeous, silky, cruelty-free, paraben-free, hypoallergenic lipstick in a fun and different (for me anyway) fall shade?  Yes, please!  I love how a percentage of Make’s sales are donated to the We See Beauty Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the cooperative movement. Suggested Retail Price – $25

Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser – I’ve been on a skincare kick lately, testing out different brands and trying to find a new lineup that suits my acne-prone skin.  I am excited to try out this cleanser, which is formulated with strawberry oil, “a natural exfoliator known for delivering luminous, clean, and healthy skin.” Suggested Retail Price – $32

Joie Zorina Knit Hat – This beautiful cable knit hat is made from a wool/cashmere blend, making it super soft.  I love the neutral cream color for a great fall to winter transitional accessory.  Suggested Retail Price – $98

Check out my coordinating video for a closer look at each product and to see my reactions as I open this special edition box:

I picked up an additional Fall Box as a special gift for one of you!  The PopSugar Must Have Fall Giveaway will run until Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the the PopSugar Must Have Special Edition Fall Box which includes all of the items I shared in this post.  Please note that I will not be able to ship the prize to the winner until early October due to travel.

You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   I’ll announce the  winner on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I will be back soon to share a look at my August and September boxes!  Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box.  Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

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* Post contains affiliate and referral links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Fall 2014 FCS Soap Box

I’m a bit late on my subscription box posts due to our month long stay in Utah for August, so I will be playing catch up with those over the next couple of weeks.  I was very excited to come home to lots of fun packages to open, including one of my all time favorite subscriptions, the FCS Soap Box.  If you’re not familiar, FCS stands for Fortune Cookie Soap, which is a husband and wife run handmade soap and body products company.  The FCS Soap Box is a quarterly subscription service that includes sample sizes of upcoming seasonal releases and it is Fun, Fun, Fun!  If you love trying new and unique bath and body products then this box is for you!

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The Fall 2014 FCS Soap is described as a “wicked mashup of an old classic and a current Broadway hit.”  In other words, it’s The Wizard of Oz meets Wicked.  What a fun concept for a bath and body product line!

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What’s in the Fall 2014 box?

✻ “There’s No Place Like Home” Fortune Cookie Soap – I love their signature product, a soap shaped like a fortune cookie complete with a fortune inside.  This one smells like cinnamon, apples, and spices, which is the perfect combination for fall.  I love how it is red and sparkly just like Dorothy’s ruby slippers!

✻ “Roy G. Biv” OCD Hand Sanitizer – Described as a “full spectrum of bright citrus notes and florals against a cool fall background,” this scent reminds me of clean dishes for some reason.  I really enjoy the scent of dish soap, so that works for me!  The OCD Hand Sanitizer is my favorite formula, hands down (and sanitized!).

✻ “No Good Deed” Whipped Cream – An amazing fall scent combination that reminds me of pumpkin waffles complete with maple syrup and whipped cream.  The FCS whipped cream is one of my favorite formulas on the market.

✻ “Swankified” Walnut Facial Scrub – FCS has been working on expanding their skincare line.  This new daily facial scrub smells like banana bread!  I can’t wait to see how it works on my skin.

✻ “Miss Popular” Bubble Bath Powder – I love bubble baths and this powder version is a different variety than I usually use.  It has a beautiful, subtle floral scent.

✻ “Hair Flip” Hair Oil – Another new product from FCS, they claim that one to two drops of this hair oil is “all you need for ultimate shine without greasy residue.”  My baby fine hair will surely be the test of that!  The combination of hazelnut and vanilla smells heavenly and light in the hair.

✻ “Flying Monkeys” Personal Air Freshener – Yes!  I fist pumped when I saw this in the box.  Personal Space is my all time favorite air freshener, and I always keep one stocked in our powder room at home as well as with out toiletries when we travel.  Man and woman sharing a bathroom for a week?  Let’s be honest, air freshener is not just polite, but necessary.  After reading the fruity description of the scent, I expected something much sweeter upon spraying it for the first time, but the scent is actually very subtle and fresh smelling.  Perfect!

✻ “The Shiz” Perfume Oil – I love the warm, musky scent of this perfume, which is just in time for fall.  It’s in the cutest glass bottle I’ve ever seen and is the perfect size to test out while traveling!

Check out my coordinating video for closeups of each product and to see my reactions as I open the summer box:

Since FCS so kindly sent me this PR box, I have decided to give away the one I receive in my paid subscription to one of you.  The Fall 2014 FCS Soap Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win a new Fall 2014 FCS Soap Box like the one I shared in this post.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   I’ll announce the  winner on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I can’t wait to try out all of these goodies and am planning on bringing most of them on my next trip.  I’ll be back with a look at my next FCS Soap Box in three months.  In the meantime, I recommend checking out the Fortune Cookie Soap website to peruse all of their fun products.  Receive $5 off your first $30+ FCS purchase by clicking here!

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* The products mentioned are part of the FCS Soap Box quarterly subscription program, for which I pay for my own membership.  The box I am sharing in this post and video is a PR box, which FCS sent to me for consideration.  The box I am giving away is the one from my paid subscription.   Post contains a referral link.  This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Trip Recap: The American Club, Kohler

Don & I drove up to Wisconsin to stay at The American Club in Kohler in celebration of our 9th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  We’ve been to this spa and golf resort many times over the years, which is an easy two hour drive from our home in the Chicagoland area.  It offers many delights that appeal to both of us: challenging golf courses, a beautiful spa, lovely accommodations, delicious food, and amazing service.

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We drove up Friday afternoon just in time to check in at The Carriage House, which is a smaller building adjacent to the main resort that also houses the famous Kohler Waters Spa.  We stayed in an Immersion Suite, which includes a gorgeous bathtub right in the center of the room!  We enjoy staying at The Carriage House, because it offers direct and complimentary access to the spa as well as three mini meal services a day, including continental breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening hors d’oeuvres.  The decor is an updated classic look with modern features and, of course, beautiful Kohler fixtures.  The tubs and showers are amazing!

We’ve always received impeccable service at The American Club, and this most recent trip was no exception.  We were greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful staff.  Everyone we encountered knew we were celebrating our anniversary and congratulated us on it.  Additionally, the hotel gifted us with champagne and a hand written note in our room upon our arrival, as well as a lovely gesture at turn down with swan towel art, another note, and a rose.  Little touches like these make a big difference in the quality of our stay in my opinion.  Their attention to detail and attentiveness is greatly appreciated.

After settling in and unpacking, we headed over to the main building for dinner at The Wisconsin Room.  They host a seafood buffet every Friday evening that we have enjoyed in years past.  It’s a lovely spread featuring fresh seafood, delicious salads and appetizer-like tastes, and a full array of hot selections.  I thought the desserts were particularly excellent this time around.  The pastry chef makes amazing macarons!

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On Saturday morning we headed over to Blackwolf Run for a round at the River course.  This Pete Dye course offers unique challenges and gorgeous views as it winds around the Sheboygan River.  We were paired with another young couple and thoroughly enjoyed commiserating and laughing about the fast greens kicking our butts!  After our round we enjoyed a delicious meal at the clubhouse restaurant.  We highly recommend both the House Smoked Barbecue Pork and Dill and Citrus Walleye sandwiches!  The fries are particularly tasty, as well.

After lunch, we indulged in a very relaxing afternoon at the spa.  We had a wonderful couples massage and spent time enjoying all of the water amenities together.  That evening we headed back over to the main building for dinner at The Immigrant Restaurant, which is the fanciest restaurant on property.  The food was amazing!  I thoroughly enjoyed the pork tenderloin and Don raved about the rack of lamb.  My favorite part, however, was dessert.  We shared the dark chocolate mousse, which was excellent!

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We spent a leisurely Sunday morning doing our own things.  Don slept in while I walked around.  I popped into The Greenhouse, a quaint coffee and ice cream shop that is actually an antique solarium from Chorley, Lancashire in northern England, that was reassembled in The American Club Fountain Courtyard.  I enjoyed their special of the day, a caramel apple pie latte (decaf for me), while I walked around the courtyard garden and surrounding property.  I then popped back over to the spa for the Rockin’ Moroccan Pedicure, which was an absolute delight!  I perused the beautiful and creative bathroom and kitchen models at The Kohler Design Center while my toes dried.  I don’t know why it’s so fun to see these design concepts, but what can I say, my heart flutters for bathroom fixtures, particularly bathtubs!

For the last meal of our stay, we headed back to the Wisconsin Room for Sunday brunch, which is a buffet style spread, which offers nice variety and highlights local specialties like the 5-Year Aged Cheddar and local caught fish.  It was the perfect end to our wonderful weekend getaway.

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Check out my travel vlog from our trip if you’re interested in seeing more:

I hope you enjoyed this peek into our trip to the The American Club.  I highly recommend it as a wonderful weekend getaway destination spot!

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* This is not a sponsored post.  I am not affiliated with any of the resorts or businesses mentioned.  My husband and I paid for our travel expenses. *

The Beauty Buzz: August 2014

Hi beauties and Happy September!  We spent all of August at the family vacation home in Utah where I tend to wear lighter makeup and go through quite a few moisturizing products like lotions and lip balm thanks to the dry mountain air.  I’m excited to share my favorite beauty products from the past month with you.

Makeup

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It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Silk HD Anti-Aging Mirco-Powder – I’ve been a big fan of the Tarte Amazonian Clay Smooth Operator Finishing Powder for awhile now to help keep oil at bay during the warm summer months.  I bought a few things by It Cosmetics recently, because I wanted to try out more of the brand (possible brand focus/spotlight type posts coming soon!) and thought I would give their finishing powder a try.  It works just as well and I love it!

✻ It Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Jumbo Powder Brush – It Cosmetics started rolling out a brush line available at Ulta and I picked up a couple to test out and see how they compare to my favorite Sigma brushes.  I really enjoyed using this extra large powder brush last month.  It’s super soft, dense, and fluffy.

✻ It Cosmetics CC+ Radiance Ombre Bronzer – Can you see a theme with my favorites so far?  It’s a bit It Cosmetics heavy, but that’s because I truly love these new items I’ve tried from them.  This bronzer is absolutely gorgeous!  I was afraid it would be too shimmery but it’s actually quite natural with a lovely glow.

✻ Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in Peach Satin – I keep some beauty products out at the Utah house, including a couple of these blushes.  Every time I use them I am blown away by how beautiful and natural they look on the skin.  I like to use a stippling brush like the Sigma F50 to apply for a natural glow.

✻ Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush in Achiote – As much as I love the glowy finish of the Dream Bouncy blush, sometimes I like to tone it down a bit by applying a matte blush over it.  This gorgeous coral pink beauty by Tarte pairs beautifully with it or looks great on its own.  I’ve been a big fan of this formula for years!

✻ bareMinerals 5-in-1 BB A Cream Shadow in Blushing Pink – I was so intrigued by the sample of this cream shadow I received in my last Ipsy bag that I decided to take the plunge and buy a couple in more nude tones.  I don’t know how to properly describe just how amazing this product is.  It feels like silk on your eyelids and blends to a gorgeous matte finish that keeps my shadow from creasing all day.

✻ Maybelline The Expert Wear Palette in The Nudes – I shared this palette on my Instagram about a month ago when I picked it up.  Many people asked about my opinion of it since there seems to be mixed feelings in the beauty community.  I said I would share it in my favorites if I loved it, and here it is!  I think it’s a wonderful palette for $10 with a nice range of matte and shimmery neutral shades.  The payoff is not the same as what you would get in something like the Urban Decay Naked palettes, but I find it suits my taste for light makeup well.

✻ Maybelline Volum’ Express The Mega Plush Waterproof Mascara in Brown Black – This is an oldie but goodie for me and one of my favorite summertime mascaras.  I get a very light finish with it, which is what I prefer for my overall makeup look in the summer.  I keep coming back to it, because it never lets me down.

✻ Tarte EmpasEYES Inner Rim Brightener – I have fallen in love with this inner rim brightener all over again!  After using the Nars Larger Than Life Eyeliner in Rue Bonaparte for many months, I can honestly say that I prefer the Tarte version.  I feel like it is creamier and has better staying power, although the overall effect is very similar.

✻ Burt’s Bees Lip Crayon in Carolina Coast – I decided to buy some of the newer Burt’s Bees lip items to try out and fell in love with this gorgeous light pink lip crayon.  It has amazing staying power!

✻ Burt’s Bees Lip Shine in Blush – I’ve fallen head over heel’s for this lip shine.  It’s so easy to pop on anywhere and the color is the perfect MLBB (My Lips But Better) shade for me.

Bath & Body

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✻ EOS Lip Balm in Coconut Milk – I was so excited to see the new coconut milk variety from one of my all time favorite lip balm lines!  It’s absolutely delightful and the perfect scent for summer.

✻ Nivea Kiss of Mint & Minerals – I keep the EOS lip balm up in my Loftice (office in a loft) on my desk and this one by Nivea down on the main level on the bureau so that I can have lip balms at the ready regardless of where I am in our room at the Utah house.  This is a nice, moisturizing variety with a minty scent that kept my lips healthy all month long.

✻ Pacifica Body Butter in Malibu Lemon Blossom – I really love the bath & body line from Pacifica and enjoy their shower gels and body butters that I leave out at the house.  I actually finished up this body butter in the lovely Malibu Lemon Blossom scent last month.  The formula is very rich and emollient which is perfect since my skin tends to get drier whenever we are out in Utah.

✻ Weleda Skin Food – I’ve been hearing about this brand quite a bit recently, so I decided to pick up a small tube of the Skin Food, which is designed for especially dry areas.  I used it as a foot cream with great success and have already repurchased it to help take care of my feet during our upcoming trip to Italy.

✻ First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – This is a wonderful year round lotion that I like to use especially when I want something simple and effective for my hands, particularly at night.  It helps combat dry hands and cuticles well.

✻ Pacifica Super Hydrating Hand Cream in Malibu Lemon Blossom – Malibu Lemon Blossom again, but this time in a hand cream!  This is a beautiful hand cream and the perfect “goldilocks” type formula (not too thin, not too thick) with a lovely light floral scent.

✻ Bath & Body Works Hard Working Hand & Body Cream in Meyer Lemon – I know what you’re thinking – another hand cream?  And the answer is yes. :)  I do love hand cream!  I picked this up at BBW earlier in the month because I love lemon scents and this one is on the money.  Plus, it’s a nice, slightly more thick formula that sinks into the skin well.

✻ Pure Fiji Sugar Scrub in Coconut Milk & Honey – I am forever grateful to the wonderful viewer who sent me a tub of this amazing scrub several years ago, because without that thoughtful and generous gift, I might never have known about this product.  It is my number one favorite scrub, hands down.  It is so effective at both exfoliating and moisturizing and the scents are absolutely amazing.  They’re a bit on the pricy side, so I don’t buy it every time I run out (and the Tree Hut scrubs are a nice, less expensive alternative), but I always enjoy them thoroughly when I have one.

I share more about my August beauty favorites in my coordinating video:

It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share some of my favorite products from the past month with two of you. The August Beauty Buzz Giveaway will run until Friday, September 12, 2014 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter. There will be TWO winners! Each winner will receive a Maybelline The Nudes Palette, Pacifica Malibu Lemon Blossom Hand Cream, EOS Coconut Milk Lip Balm, and Burt’s Bees Lip Shine:

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 You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways). I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I would love to know what beauty products you’ve been loving recently if you care to share!

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* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Miscellaneous Monthlies: August 2014

September is here and it’s time to kick off the beginning of a new month with my monthly favorites mini series on TBBB, starting with my Miscellaneous Monthlies where I share some of my favorite things from the past month with you.  Since we spent the entire month of August at the family vacation home in Utah, most of the things you’ll see in this post are either items I leave out there or things I acquired during our stay.

Clothes & Accessories

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✻ Lucky Brand Golden State Crop (no longer available) – I’ve talked about these crop jeans during previous stays at the Utah house.  I bought these from the Lucky Brand outlet several years ago and haven’t seen the same model since.  They are wonderfully comfortable with a bit of a rustic feel thanks to some distressing.  I lived in them all month long!

Billabong Between the Lines Sweater – My parents spent a long weekend with us at the house earlier on in the month and my Mom bought me this beautiful sweater as a thank you gift when we were out shopping in Park City.  I love the gorgeous blue color, super soft feel, and comfy fit so much I brought it home with me and hope to order another one in a lighter color.

Cloud Necklace – I have had my eye out for a cloud necklace for awhile now and stumbled upon this beauty during an Etsy browse.  It’s exactly what I had in mind!  I love the old adage “Every cloud has a silver lining” and this silver outline of the cloud suits me perfectly!

Silverware Bracelet – I had a chance to go to Swiss Days, a local annual crafts fair, over the last weekend we were in Utah, and couldn’t pass up this beautiful bracelet.  It’s made from antique sterling silverware handles that have been cut and bent into shape to form a bangle style bracelet.  The purple crystal in the center really brings the design together.  It is unique and lovely!

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✻ Fossil Marlow Flap Crossbody (no longer available) – I like leaving a couple of bags out at the Utah house so I don’t have to bring a purse when I come for a visit.  I purchased this bag on sale last year at Macy’s and look forward to carrying it every time I come back to Utah.  I put up a Bag Buzz post last year sharing a closer look at the bag and my thoughts on it, which you can see here if you’re interested.

✻ Sherpani Milli Shoulder Bag – I’ve used and loved this bag as my dog walking bag out in Utah for a few years now.  It is lightweight but offers lots of pockets and places to store things.  They no longer offer it in this color, but the overall design looks similar.

✻ Erin Condren Party Pops iPhone Case – As you probably already know, I am a huge Erin Condren fan, particularly of all of the fun, whimsical, and cheery designs.  I really love this customizable phone case in one of my favorite designs, Party Pops.  Not only is it too cute to boot, it offers great protection with a built in compression cushion on the interior of the case.  I dropped my phone many times on the hard tile floors at the house and this case did its job and protected my phone perfectly.

Receive $10 off your first purchase at ErinCondren.com by clicking here!

Home Goods

TBBB_09-03-2014_03✻ Caldrea Candle in Orange Blossom – I purchased a couple of candles in my latest Target Haul for use as relaxation.  I also burned them while I was doing my daily yoga practice.  I love the soft floral scent of this one by Caldrea.  I’m not sure if they’re discontinuing the line because it seems like this scent is no longer available and the rest are on clearance, but I do recommend it and would definitely purchase more if I saw them back in stock.

✻ Mason Jar Pomelo Lime Candle – I seem to have a love/hate relationship with lime scented candles where I love how they smell in the store but then I find them too sickeningly sweet when I get them home and burn them.  This one, however, passed the test and smells the same lit and unlit.  Yay!  It also pairs beautifully with the Caldrea candle.

Multi-Media

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The Lego Movie – We didn’t watch any TV shows over the past month, but did see a few movies, including this cute flick.  I found it a bit silly, but it had some funny moments.  Everything is awesome!

Chicago – One of my favorite musical movies of all time, I was so happy to snatch this up at Target for 8 bucks!  The cast is amazing!  I especially love Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in it.

Bossypants by Tina Fey – I finally finished this audiobook after taking a month off of listening to it.  One of my favorite things to do this August was to listen to books on tape while I knit.  I loved this laugh-out-loud book narrated by Tina Fey herself.

✻ Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres – I guess it’s clear that I am drawn to female comedian autobiographies narrated by the author’s themselves when it comes to audiobooks.  I really like Ellen’s uplifting, can-do attitude combined with her funny anecdotes and words of encouragement.

Special Offer!  Get your first three months at Audible.com for $7.49/month by clicking here.

Yes! by Jason Mraz – I’ve been a big fan of Jason Mraz’s music for the past year and was so excited to see he had a new album this summer.  I find his music both soothing and uplifiting.  I especially like the song “3 Things,” which I listen to (and sing along to) whenever I could use a little pick-me-up.

Golden by Lady Antebellum – I’ve only gotten into country music in the past five years or so, but definitely count this band as one of my top picks in the genre.  They sing so pretty!  Plus, the songs are catchy and easy to belt along to in the car.  I’m particularly fond of the song “Get To Me” from this album.  I hear they have another album coming out this fall.  Can’t wait!

SacconeJolys – This fun family of ten (2 adults + 2 kiddos + 6 dogs) is one of my favorite vlog-style channels to watch on YouTube.  I especially have been enjoying their videos from their trip to Sorrento, Italy, since we’re going to Venice and Lake Como later this month.  They’re a sweet family with a knack for keeping it real and positive in their videos.

Tasty Treats

OJ_TBBB_09-03-2014_05✻ Dark Chocolate Truffles – I am a chocaholic, through and through!  While I’ve always preferred milk chocolate, I’ve been trying to develop a palette for dark chocolate lately as I’ve heard it retains more of the health benefits of cacao than the sweeter varieties.  I’ve been really into small daily indulgences of a truffle or two, alternating between Black Truffles by Alter Eco and Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles.  They’re both absolutely delicious, decadent, and delightful!

✻ Pineapple – Every summer I go gaga over pineapple.  It’s so refreshing in the warmer months!  This antioxidant rich food also totes many health benefits.  You can read more about them here if you’re interested.  It’s a wonderful substitution for dessert, especially when served chilled on a warm summer evening.

If you’d like to hear more about my thoughts about my August favorites, check out this video:

I would love to know what some of your August favorites were so if you care to share, please do! I hope you’re having a wonderful day, wherever you are! :o)

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* Post contains affiliate and referral links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Week In Review (August 25 – August 31, 2014)

My Week In Review (otherwise known as WIR) posts are just that: a review of my past week.  I post an update here every Tuesday sharing some tidbits of my previous week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram.  Here’s the buzz from my week:

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I spent our last week at the family vacation home in Utah savoring some of my most favorite things to do.  With a reduced posting schedule (I should be back on track for fall soon!), I took advantage of my free time with lots of yoga, walks enjoying the mountain air, knitting on the front porch, and of course, time spent with loved ones enjoying laughter and conversation over good food.  While it’s still technically summer for a few more weeks until the autumnal equinox on September 22, the last week in August always feels like the last week of summer, especially when for the past few years it is traditionally the end of our summer stay in Utah.  Plus, the weather in the mountains is quickly turning to fall, as I mentioned in last week’s WIR.  You wouldn’t believe how quickly those mountains are turning a burnt orange color with the leaves changing!

For a reason that is a bit difficult to explain because the origins are unclear, even to us, the women in the Ross side of the family refer to each other as “Melissa” even though no one is actually named that.  It’s a pet name we all have for one another.  Every summer we have a Melissa Day where we go to Deer Valley and ride the chair lift up the mountain and stop for lunch at Silver Lake Lodge.  It was so much cooler this year than it has been in years past, but we still had a good time and managed to laugh about it when we got stuck in a very chilly rainstorm up on the chair lift.  It’s traditions like these that make for beautiful memories.

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It wouldn’t be a WIR post without talking about food!  You know we like to eat in this family, especially when we are all together.  I was so happy to be able to spend some time with my friend Kristina (an amazing graphic design artist and paper crafter you can find on YouTube and at her website), who lives in Utah.  Kristina made an amazing fresh salsa for dinner with the family.  I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful friend in my life!

In other food news, Don’s new mega smoker and possibly most favorite thing ever arrived mid-last week and we all enjoyed the delicious smoked meats he made with it for the last half of the week.  Just look at that smile…that’s one happy guy!  It is the MMS-48 from Myron Mixon Smokers, which is a vertical water smoker, if you’re curious.  It’s a special gift that Don’s Dad, Keith (or Poopsie, if you watch our vlogs ;) ) purchased as, in his words, a gift for himself since it comes with an operator (aka Don).  It arrived on Tuesday and between then and when we left on Sunday, Don smoked ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket.  It was definitely a meat heavy week for us as the Ross household and we were thrilled to be able to share Don’s tasty BBQ with our local friends.

Don and I also went out for a date one night to Edge Steakhouse, a restaurant neither of us had been to before up at the Canyons Resort in Park City.  We were not expecting such large portions and ordered quite a bit to get a well-rounded sense of the restaurant.  The pace was set by the massive popovers in lieu of bread (seriously the size of my face), starters that could easily feed two to three people, followed by juicy steaks and sides that we enjoyed as leftovers for the next several days.  We had a wonderful time and highly recommend it, but plan on keeping the portion size in mind next time we go.

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Hooray for Swiss Days!  I first had the delightful experience of visiting this huge crafts fair last summer and was super excited to be in town for another visit this summer.  Once again, I was blown away by the amazing creativity and gorgeous handiwork on display!  My mother-in-law, Suzanne, and I arrived bright and early on Friday morning with a quick pitstop at our favorite coffee place, Filler Up Coffee Station.  We walked around the entire fair, warm beverages in hand, oohing and ahhing over everything.  We both bought a few things.  I picked up a gorgeous wind chime from Up-Cycled Antiques made from an antique creamer and sterling silver spoons.  How cool it that!  I also bought a gorgeous bangle style bracelet made from antique silver flatware from Zions C.I.  Lastly, I purchased a couple of therapeutic flaxseed paks by Homewerks by Deb.  You can use these for heat therapy by microwaving them or cold therapy by placing them in the freezer.  I use these warmed up quite a bit since I have a tendency to get cold (they’re great to lay over your feet even!) and they’re super effectove for me during that time of the month.  I like that these have a mint scent as opposed to the usual lavender one.  I bought one to leave out at the Utah house and one to take home with me.  Deb doesn’t have a website but she does list an email address on her business card, so you can contact her there if you’re interested.  We had a wonderful time at the fair and I hope to be able to go back again next year.

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We threw one last party on Friday night to bid farewell to our local friends with Don’s amazing BBQ.  We spent all of Saturday packing up the house and getting ready to go and flew home on Sunday.  Leaving Utah is always sad, but coming home is always nice so there is a balance there.  I miss the mountains so much already and hope we can return soon.

If you’d like to see more from my weekend, check out my vlog:

I think of Utah as my *heart home,” a place where I feel very content and more at peace than anywhere else.  I feel so blessed to be able to spend so much time there.  Of course, Chicago holds a special place in my heart as well, and I love living so close to my family.  Is there anywhere that you think of as your heart home?  It could be where you live, someplace that you visit, or even just a small special spot.  I would love to hear about it if you care to share.  I hope that wherever you are, your heart feels at home.  Take good care…

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This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

My Dental Hygiene Routine (2014)

Although it’s a bit of an odd topic for me to post about, I’ve received so many requests over the years to share my dental hygiene routine I decided it was about time I did!  I actually have a quite thorough routine as I am particularly protective of my teeth and vigilant about my oral health.  I’ve always been a keen brusher and flosser, but sadly my teeth need extra TLC as I have issues with soft enamel which makes the protective coating of my teeth far less effective naturally.  I was a bit of an overly aggressive brusher as a child and this combined with my soft enamel led to some pretty severe gum receding.  Over the past decade I have honed my routine to properly address these specific issues based on advice from my dentist.  In addition to this, I have had bonding work done (which basically creates fake enamel) at my gum line on most of my molars to protect that sensitive area and I see my dentist every three to four months to keep a close eye on my gum line.   I am happy to report that my efforts have really paid off and I have been able to maintain a healthy set of chompers with two thumbs up from my dentist on each visit.

In this post I break down my dental hygiene routine into night and day.  This is what I do to maintain my oral health based on the advice of my dentist.  You should always talk to your dentist before changing up your routine to make sure you are doing what is best to suit your needs.

Night Routine

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I dedicate more time to my dental routine at night for a thorough cleaning process.  I know this may seem like an awful lot of steps, but it really only take about five minutes total.  To me, that is time well spent to keep my mouth healthy!

Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Deep Clean Dental Floss – I start off by flossing.  I prefer this floss because it is fine enough to fit between my teeth which sit very close together without hurting my gums.  I always rinse with water after flossing.

DenTek Easy Brush Interdental Cleaners Extra-Tight Spaces – I follow up regular flossing with these little brushes which I use just on my top and lower front five or six teeth as I have a tendency to form plaque there regardless of how much flossing I do.  These little brushes keep plaque at bay longer between dentist visits.

Plax – Next, I swish with this plaque loosening rinse to further aid in my battle against plaque build-up.

Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 4000 Rechargeable Toothbrush – I love my electric toothbrush!  I use mine with sensitive brush heads for a gentle yet effective cleaning.  I like how it times the two minute recommended cleaning time for you with 30-second allotments per quadrant of your mouth.

Nature’s Gate Natural Toothpaste – I prefer using this fluoride free toothpaste.  While this is the only part of my routine that is not recommended by my dentist, it definitely gets the job done as I receive great reports from each dentist visit.  I always rinse and gargle with water after brushing.

Waterpik Water Flosser – The last step of my nighttime routine is to use my Waterpik to flush out any remaining particles stuck in my teeth.  You’d be surprised at what still remains even after doing all of the previous steps!

Listerine Total Care Zero – I like to dilute about three parts water with one part of this alcohol free mouth rinse in my Waterpik.  The combination leaves my mouth feeling clean and fresh!

Morning Routine

OJ_TBBB_08-26-2014_02My morning routine is more condensed with only three steps:

✻ I floss with Glide and then rinse with water.

✻ I brush my teeth but this time for only one minute instead of two.

✻ I follow up with a quick swish of Listerine Whitening Vibrant mouthwash.  This is the only whitening product I use on my teeth as they are quite sensitive.  I find that using this daily keeps my smile looking white enough to meet my standards.

As you can see, I follow a fairly thorough routine to keep my teeth in tip top shape. To me, it is time well spent and I can definitely see results.  The way I see it, you only get one set of teeth so it’s important to take care of them! :D

If you’d like to hear more about my routine and my thoughts on each product used, check out my coordinating video:

I’d love to hear about your dental hygiene routine if you’d care to share!

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* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Week In Review (August 18 – August 24, 2014)

My Week In Review (otherwise known as WIR) posts are just that: a review of my past week.  I post an update here every Tuesday sharing some tidbits of my previous week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram.  Here’s the buzz from my week:

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What have we been up to at the Ross Family vacation home in Utah over the past week?  Mostly eating good food and watching baby TV.  If you’re not sure what that means, it’s basically another way of saying how entertained we are by little Gracie’s antics.  She toddles around like a pro now and is curious about everything!  It’s fascinating to watch her absorb the world around her.  One of Grace’s favorite things is music.  She’s a big fan of Mary Poppins and watches a song or two from the movie before naptime.  You should see how she waves her arms around to “Step In Time!”  :)

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The weather definitely cooled off especially with some big storms last week.  It’s so beautiful to watch weather like that roll in from the surrounding mountains out here.  You can see why they call it the “Big Sky!”  As much as the humans in this house love seeing the storms roll in, our canine friends are not quite as amused.  My dog, Winnie, is not a huge fan of rainy morning walks, even though she’s cute as a button in her RC Pets Poncho.  Poor Yoda, my sister-in-law’s dog, is terrified of storms and will shake, pant, and frantically pace between hiding spots until they pass.  Luckily, these pups are well cared for during stormy weather!

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A few other tidbits from the week:

✻ Winnie’s favorite toy, which we’ve dubbed “Turkey Friend,” underwent major surgery up in the Loftice.   Luckily, he made a full and swift recovery and was back to being tossed about in no time.

✻ Don bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers with colors that perfectly compliment this transitionary season as summer wanes and fall is on the horizon.

✻ I picked up a few little goodies at Bath & Body Works when I popped in the other day to make a list for a big fall candle haul I hope to place next time I have a good coupon and there’s also a two-for-one kind of sale (I like smelling the candles in person before ordering online).  I just couldn’t resist this sweet mini mason jar candles!  The scent combinations from the new Artisan Market line are so interesting.

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We celebrated my father-in-law, Keith’s birthday with a bang this past weekend with a fun and food packed BBQ!  Suzanne laid out the most glorious snack spread you’ve ever seen.  Don smoked a prime rib roast to perfection.  I baked a coconut cake from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, as requested by the guest of honor.  We invited our local friends over and spent much of the evening outside enjoying the cooler weather on the porch by the fire.  I’m sorry I don’t have any photos of Don’s fabulous meat to share here, but you can see footage of it in this week’s vlog if you’re interested.  A good time was had by all!

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On Sunday we returned to Deer Valley for brunch at Stein Eriksen Lodge again this time with the whole Ross clan.  It never fails to impress us!  They’ve definitely picked up on the approach of autumn, which tends to come a bit earlier up in the mountains.  I couldn’t believe all of the changing leaves I noticed on our drive up!  Season transitions like this really showcase the amazing beauty of nature.  I am so happy I am here to see fall begin probably a good month or more before we’ll get any tell tale signs in the midwest.

If you’d like to see more from my weekend, check out my vlog:

I wonder if you are noticing any seasonal transitions cropping up wherever you are.  I’d love to hear about them if you care to share!  I hope you enjoy the remainder of summer while it is here with good fun and good food shared with loved ones.

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* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

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