5 Minute Makeup Challenge

I was tagged by Kristina from Pretty Shiny Sparkly to do the 5 Minute Makeup Challenge.  Challenge accepted!

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I have to be honest, I really didn’t think I’d get much farther than my foundation and was pleasantly surprised by my results, which were pretty complete, albeit rushed.  If you’d like to see my attempt, watch this:

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

Products:

This was a really fun challenge and I’d love to see your version if you care to share.  Leave a link to your video in the comments so I can check it out!

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* The Sigma brushes used in the video were sent to me for consideration.  All other items shown were purchased by me. All opinions are my own. *

Week In Review | February 16 – February 22, 2015

Happy Tuesday!  I wanted to share some tidbits from my life last week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed with you.  Here’s the buzz:

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Ok campers, rise and shine! And don’t forget your booties, because it’s cold out there today.  It’s cold out there everyday.  What is is, Miami Beach?

Name that movie!  I’ll give you a clue: it’s something I like to watch every February, specifically on February 2.  If you guessed GroundHog Day you’re right!  That quote runs through my head every morning when I step outside for a walk with my dog, Winnie.  I actually quite like winter (until about mid-March to be honest, and then I start pining for spring).  Something about the cold air feels fresher.  I love bundling up in my cozy coat, earmuffs, mittens, and a scarf and watching my pup delight in the snow (winter is her favorite season by far).  Sometimes the coldest days just happen to be the sunniest, and even though the UV index is pretty low, it feels really good to get a little sun on the three square inches of skin I leave exposed when outside this time of year.  I love starting off my day with some fresh air and quality time with Winnie.

As much as I enjoy these winter walks, I tend to spend a lot more time indoors during this time of year and most of my workouts are indoor as well.  I much prefer running outside, but this time of year I personally find it safer to stick to the equipment in my home gym.  I was super excited to receive a FitBit in the Popsugar Must Have + Target box I shared last week.  If you’re not familiar, a FitBit is a wireless activity and sleep tracker that you wear on your wrist.  It syncs up through Bluetooth to your mobile device or via your computer with a USB “sync dongle” so you can see your steps, activity level, sleep quality, and more all in one place.  I’ve been wearing mine for just about a week now and I absolutely love it!  The FitBit app is easy to use and so accessible right on my phone.  I can keep up with my activity level goals easily and feel extra motivated for my indoor workouts.

The other exciting thing that arrived in the mail is my official silver YouTube play button.  This is an award YouTube gives when a channel surpasses 100,000 subscribers.  It’s hard for me to believe that I reached that milestone.  Thanks to each and every one of you that is a subscriber to my channel!  I appreciate your support and enthusiasm for what I do so, so much.

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It wouldn’t be a Week In Review post without food pics.  My Instagram feed is flooded with them!  What can I say?  I like to eat and good food is always share-worthy in my books.  Don & I brought back our old Sushi Monday tradition these past couple of weeks.  We took a long break from that after getting a bit tired of sushi (trust me, it can happen).  It’s fun to enjoy it again!  Sometimes, especially during winter, we like to snuggle up in front of a show or movie and eat a one-bowl kind of meal.  Don’s been into making brown rice bowls using leftovers lately (we’ve been watching the fourth season of Game of Thrones this month.  It’s so good!).  I’ve also started switching up my breakfast choices.  I have a tendency to eat the same thing for months at a time and lately I’ve felt like introducing a bit more variety.  One of my favorite recent options is scrambled eggs with salsa and avocado toast.  Yum!  Food is life, so why not share the joy?

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Speaking of sharing good food, we spent the weekend down in St. Louis visiting my brother’s family.  My brother is an excellent home cook and, just like my husband Don, he enjoys preparing scrumptious meals for his family.  We ate so well!  One of my favorite dishes he made over the weekend was his salmon two ways, featuring a grilled and a home smoked salmon.  We ate the leftover smoked salmon the next day for lunch on bagels with cream cheese.  It was out of sight!  I vlogged our weekend in St. Louis, if you’re interested in seeing more:

That sums up some of the highlights from my week.  I’d love to hear from you about your week if you care to share!
Take good care…

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

20 Minute Pick-Up | Organized Cleaning Strategy | Dealing With a Big Mess

While I’m usually pretty good about staying on top of picking up around the house every day and keeping the counters and floors clear of piles, I tend to neglect my home office in this regard.  I think this is because it isn’t a common space in the house, so I don’t feel as if I need to prioritize its tidiness, since it only affects me.  The truth is, however, that is does affect me negatively when my office is a mess.

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Somewhere between the mad rush of the holiday season, then dashing off to Utah for a month, and jumping full swing back into posting since my return home in late January, my office turned into a jumbled mess.  A cluttered work space equals a cluttered mind and I could feel it gnawing at me every day, but I reasoned that it wasn’t as important as keeping up with the rest of the house and working on my posts to make the time to tidy.  To be honest, it had gotten so bad it felt like an overwhelming task, which is why I put it off for so long.

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Finally one day last week I couldn’t take it any more.  I want my office to be a calming space where I can think clearly and be productive.  Having stuff everywhere prevents that.  I decided to allot a few hours to straightening up, but twenty minutes in, I realized it wasn’t going to happen.  There was too much to sort and it felt really overwhelming.  I gathered most everything up into small piles and let it be.  While it looked a bit tidier than before, I knew I really needed to clear all of the piles away so I could breathe easy in my creative space once again.

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I decided to approach the mess like I do big organizational projects by breaking it down into more manageable pieces.  I decided to give my tried and true 20 minute pick-up system a go.  I knew there was no way I could put everything back in its place in just 20 minutes, but I figured I could at least sort things into bins in a way that would make it easier to put them away.  This way, I could get the almost instantaneous reward of clean desktops without devoting so much time to it.

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

I used four of my Like-It Plastic Laundry Baskets to corral my office mess and categorize what needed to be put away.  This was a relatively quick task that I figured would make sorting and stowing each basket’s contents easier down the road.  I designated one basket for prizes to mail, one for future prizes, one for work-related items, and the other for personal items.  I also pulled out two of my favorite Reisenthel Carry Bags, which are basically soft-sided collapsible baskets, to sort any items that didn’t belong in my office.  I put items to go downstairs in one and things to store in my bedroom in the other.  All in all, this process only took about twelve minutes to complete and I used the remaining eight minutes to put my out of office items in their proper homes.  I pushed the four Like-It baskets up against my window seat so they were still in sight but out of the way.  Every day I spent 20 minutes putting away the contents of one bin at a time until by the end of the week each basket was empty and everything in my office was in its rightful place.

I noticed that the Reisenthel Carry Bags are quite pricey and a bit difficult to find now except for on Amazon.  The JanetBasket gets great reviews and is a similar style and size.  I haven’t tried one of these out personally, so I cannot attest to the quality, but it is a fraction of the price of the Reisenthel for a similar concept.  I’d be happy to purchase a JanetBasket and post a comparison review if there’s interest. 

You can watch my 20 Minute Pick-Up strategy in action in this video:

As I mention in the video, I unearthed a few treasures in my office pick-up and thought I’d run a giveaway to give these goodies a new home.  The Office Treasures Giveaway will run until Friday, February 27, 2015 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 Popsugar Must Have Special Edition Holiday Box For Him, one person will win beauty items from Sigma’s Ethereal Radiance Collection, and one person will win a selection of beauty goodies from Julep.  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).  When you enter you will be able to pick what prize you would like in the event that you win.  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 am delighted to report that my office is as tidy as ever!  This way of breaking down a big mess into smaller segments in an organized fashion really streamlined the process and made it much more manageable.  Spreading it out over the course of the week also helped.  20 minutes seems pretty manageable compared to a few hours!  Having everything sorted into major categories made it a breeze to put things away.

I hope you enjoyed this look at my organize cleaning strategy.  I’d love to know what kinds of cleaning/picking up methods you use if you care to share.

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* The Julep gift set and Sigma items I am giving away were sent to me for consideration.  I purchased the Popsugar box myself.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Subscription Box Round-Up | February 2015

I love receiving subscriptions delivered to my doorstep every month filled with fun products, ranging from beauty and lifestyle to food and crafting items.  It’s a great way to be introduced to new things I might not otherwise try.

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My current subscriptions include Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have.  I also subscribe to the Fortune Cookie Soap Box, which is a quarterly subscription with a delivery once every three months.  I’m excited to share the Spring Box in this post.  Read on to see what came in each box this month:

Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

Julep Maven

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It’s no secret that I love nail polish.  I’ve been a Julep Maven subscriber for a couple of years now and I always look forward to my monthly box from them.  The Julep polish formula is one of my all time favorites.  The Maven Box costs $24.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription.  They ship to the United States and Canada only.  I love that you can select between several different offerings each month or even skip a month if you’re not feeling it.

I received the It Girl version of the Afterglow for February collection which includes three wintry polishes and a bonus Valentine’s Day gift.  The three polishes in my box are Becky, an “oil slick duochrome” packed with glitter and a silk finish, Colton, a super dark eggplant crème, and Carla, a light rose crème.  All three polishes are subdued and classic wintry shades.  The box also came with a holographic glitter top coat, Hartleigh, as a special Valentine’s Day gift.  White and holographic mini glitters suspended in a clear base with sweet red heart pieces seems like a pretty Valentine appropriate polish to me!

Each Maven box comes with a quote.  This month’s quote is: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

If you’d like to learn more about the Julep Maven program, I recommend checking out their website.  Join now and use code WINNER to receive a four-piece gift free!

Eco Emi Beauty

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The Eco Emi Beauty Box includes four to five deluxe or full sized natural and cruelty-free products ranging from bath and body to beauty and cosmetics.  It costs $22 per month for US customers, which includes shipping.  The box is available internationally for $34 a month.

The February box theme is “It’s All About Love” and comes with five full size products, including four beauty products and one bath item.  The Chocolate Soap by Jersey Shore Cosmetics smells heavenly if you’re a chocolate lover like me!  It contains anti-aging oils with an exfoliating side to keep skin smooth.  The Dancin’ Goat lip duo includes a lip scrub and balm in the refreshing Mambo Mint scent.  I absolutely loved the Java Jive “Bye Bye Cellulite” Scrub Eco Emi included from this company in the October box, so I am especially looking forward to trying more products from Dancin’ Goat.  As a fine-haired lady, I’m always on the lookout for products that can help add volume to my hair without weight, but so many have toxic ingredients with strong smells.  I can’t wait to test the Neuma neuVolume Blow Out Mist included in this box, which uses only “renewable, beneficial plant-based ingredients” without all of those nasty preservatives that so many hair products can have.  I hope it works!  Lastly, the bright and sunny nail polish by 1143 H20 in You Are My Sunshine can sure cheer up these gloomy February days!  I haven’t tried many water-based polishes before and am always interested in testing out brands like this that are new to me.

KnitCrate

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I absolutely love KnitCrate, which is a monthly (or bi-monthly if that seems like a bit too much yarn coming at you) subscription service geared towards knitters.  There are eight different subscription options, which you can see here if you’re interested.  The prices range from $23 to $75 a month depending on which kit you choose and where in the world you live (they do ship internationally).  I subscribe to the Beginner’s KnitCrate, which includes a pattern suitable to that level, enough yarn to complete that project, a couple of bonus items (ranging from soothing to sweet to fun), and promo codes for knitting related products.  It’s basically the most awesome care package a knitter could ever dream of!

The yarn included this month is one hank of Lima DK by Ewetopia Fiber, which is 100% alpaca.  I am in love with this super soft fiber in the gorgeous purple/burgundy Dames Rocket colorway.  There is one pattern included this month, which is the Vera Poncho by Kathryn Ashley-Wright.  It looks beautiful!  The fun extra is a a French Curve Closure by Jul Designs, which uses screw mechanisms to make it “moveable and removable” in knit items.  I think this would be great addition to an open-stye cardigan or on a shawl.   The soothing extra is a tin of Bag Balm, which is animal and people safe to aid in chapped skin and minor abrasions, perfect timing for these sub-zero wind chills we’ve been experiencing in Chicago lately.  As always, KnitCrate subscribers receive promo codes each month.  This month includes discounts on certain patterns by Tamara Goff, and yarn from Lydia Yarn as well as Ewetopia Fiber.  There’s also a coupon to save on the Sexy Knitter’s Tool Kit (I adore mine!).

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I also subscribe to the 5 Mini Add-Ons package available through KnitCrate.  Each month I  receive five 30-yard mini hanks in hand painted/indie dyed yarns.  It’s a nice way to try out a variety of  hand-dyed yarns from different providers.  I use the mini hanks I receive through this subscription for my Beekeeper’s Quilt.  This month’s selections includes five spring shades from Lydia Yarn.  This hand-dyed sock yarn is a 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon blend that is super soft in rich colors.  I love all of the variety I get with this subscription for my ongoing quilt project!

If you’re interested in purchasing the Beekeeper’s Quilt Kit or other items from KnitCrate you can receive 10% off your first KnitCrate purchase (not including monthly or bi monthly subscriptions) by clicking here!

FCS Soap Box

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I absolutely love opening my quarterly 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!

The theme for the Spring box is Wonderland, which is inspired by Alice in Wonderland.  What fun!  I love the clever names FCS comes up with for each product.  The FCS whipped cream is one of my favorite lotion formulas.  “It’s Only A Dream” is a soft floral scent.  The “Off With Their Heads” bath bomb is so pretty with dried rose petals pressed into it.  It’s a lovely combination of citrus and floral scents.  A little vial of perfume oil is a nice touch for spring.  The “Eat Me” sweet scent of yellow cake with vanilla frosting is surprisingly subtle.  I’m excited to try out the “Twisted Tea Party” bath tea that is a green tea base accented with sweet herbs.  The OCD hand sanitizer in this box in “We’re All Mad Here” has a soft but fresh scent combination of mint, cedarwood, and leafy green notes.  The “Futterwacken” Body Wash has a bright citrus and floral scent.  Interestingly, FCS included incense cones in the spring box, which is a fun thing to try.  These come in the “Who Are You?” scent (I’m assuming this is inspired by the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland).  They smell fruity, with a mixture of ripe, lime, vanilla orchid, and cane sugar notes.  Each box always includes a fortune cookie soap, their namesake product.  The “Almost Alice” scent of snap peas and pears combined with sweet pea flowers, freesia, and ripe berries makes for a bright, springy effect.  All in all, it’s a very playful theme with soft and subtle but bright scents that awaken the senses for spring.

I am fortunate that FCS sends me a PR box in addition to my paid subscription, so I have a spring box to give away to one of you!  The FCS Spring Soap Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, February 25, 2015 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 an FCS Spring Soap Box like the one I showed 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 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.

Popsugar Must Have OJ_TBBB_02-18-2015_05 This subscription is so much fun!  PopSugar Must Have is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items for $39.95 per month (this includes shipping and is available in the US only).  The February box theme is inspired by “One Love, Hearts & Arrows, Red Hot, Devine Desserts, and Pampering.”  As usual, there is a nice variety of items in this box ranging from beauty to leisure.

The goodies they included this month are all very Valentine appropriate.  The gorgeous rosy blush in True Love by Tarte is the perfect pop of color to match chilly cheeks.  I’ve been a fan of their Amazonian Clay 12-Hour blushes for years now and am happy to add this one to my collection!  The sparkly red polish in Romanticism Ruby by Finger Paints is a very festive Valentine shade as well.  I sure do love trying out new polishes!  In keeping with the Valentine theme, Popsugar included a sweet Mini Arrow Pendant Necklace from Baublebar.  It’s darling!  The lip product junkie in me was super excited to see the Wild Cherry Lip Balm by Figs & Rouge, which I’ve heard about but haven’t had occasion to try yet.  It’s super moisturizing with a delightful tart cherry scent.  I’m planning on saving the sweet Acme Party Box Company Bamboo Heart Cutting Board & Cheese Knife as a hostess gift that would pair nicely with gourmet cheese for a dinner party.  I will, however, be keeping the U.S. Apothecary Rose Water Bubble Bath for myself.  What a lovely rose scent!  I really like the glass bottle and vintage-inspired label presentation.  Popsugar usually includes a food item, more often than not a tasty treat.  The Ravishing Rocky Road Bar by Chuao Chocolatier looks absolutely amazing with salted, caramelized almonds and huge marshmallow pieces.  Yum!  PopSugar delivered another smashing box, as per usual!

Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box. Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

I like to order the special limited edition boxes that PopSugar offers from time to time.  I share a look at the Target collaboration box in this video:

I picked up an additional Popsugar Must Have + Target box as a special gift for one of you!  The PopSugar Must Have Target Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, February 25, 2015 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 PopSugar Must Have + Target box like the one I showed in the video.  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 hope you enjoyed seeing what I received with my subscriptions this month.  I’d love to know if you receive any monthly subscriptions, too!

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* Fortune Cookie Soap very kindly sent me the FCS Spring Soap Box I share in this post for consideration.  The box I am giving away is from my paid subscription.  All other products mentioned are part of the Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have monthly subscription programs, for which I pay for my own memberships.  I purchased both the Popsugar + Target boxes I share in the video and the one I am giving away.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Week In Review | February 9 – February 15, 2015

Happy Monday!  I wanted to share some tidbits from my life last week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed with you.  Here’s the buzz:

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If I had to sum up my past week in three words, they would be: focus, make, and love.  All of these words apply so well to the circumstances and people that are at the forefront of my daily experience right now.  They are powerful words to reflect an exciting time of change in my life.  Things are shifting and it’s not always easy and it’s not always what I hope or expect, but that’s all part of the ride and I am loving it.  There’s something so invigorating about change, especially when it’s not in my comfort zone, that makes me feel alive.  I wouldn’t want live in a constant state of adrenaline and nervous excitement, but every once in awhile it’s good to rev up the engines.  There’s a lot of recalibrating going on in my public and private life and they are choices I’ve had the great fortune to make myself rather than be forced to make.  I recognize that this is a blessing and I am doing my best to stay present throughout it all even while my mind is racing a mile a minute with all of the possibilities.

All of that time spent focusing on recalibration can make a girl hungry!  I’m discovering more and more just how much my brain needs fuel like my body.  Lately I’ve been really into citrus, since it’s in season.  I had the great pleasure of trying Sumo Citrus, a tangerine-orange hybrid, last week.  Holy cow, how sweet!  I’ve been kicking myself all week for only buying two.  You can bet I’ll be coming home with a sack full next time I go to the store.  I find it’s important to make sure I have enough protein in my diet, as I tend to automatically reach for fruits and veggies first.  To me, there’s nothing like a juicy burger with all of my favorite fixings when I’m really hungry.  When I posted the photo in the collage above, I received a lot of comments and concerns about its doneness (or lack thereof).  I’ve eaten medium-rare burgers my entire life without issue, although I do recognize there is a greater risk for bacteria in doing so.  Please know that Don and I take extra care with the meats that we purchase.

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The end of my week was all about LOVE and taking time to show my loved ones how much I care.  Every year I like to give little tokens of affection.  I usually send flowers or small gifts to those who live far away.  This year I decided to make a simple yet tasty treat for my family members who live close by.  Inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest, I made Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats.  As you can see, they were well received by my niece, Grace.  I know that Valentine’s Day is a pretty commercial holiday, but I really enjoy the opportunity/excuse to show my loved ones I care with little gifts like this.

I also thought it’d be fun to share the Valentine’s Day love with an Instagram/Twitter giveaway.  There’s still time to enter!  You can find details on how here.  Please note that this giveaway ends at 6 PM tonight.

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Don and I like to celebrate Valentine’s Day with each other in a bit of a grander fashion.  We decided to stop exchanging gifts a few years ago since it seemed like too much with our birthdays falling just a couple of weeks before the day of love (although, if you watch the video you’ll see that Don decided to break that agreement this year, not that I’m complaining ;) ).  Instead, we find other ways to celebrate our love for one another.  This year, we decided to go on a day-ate (daytime date), that included a Chicago donut crawl and catching the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  We had quite the adventure!  I actually vlogged our day together if you’re interested in seeing how we spent Valentine’s Day:

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We woke up to frigid wind chill temperatures on Sunday morning, but that didn’t deter me and Winnie from taking our morning constitutional.  We just bundled up and enjoyed the fresh air.  I took my Mom to see the Joffrey Ballet‘s winter program, Unique Voices.  I’ve loved going to the ballet ever since I was a little girl.  It’s a special tradition that my Mom and I still share.  When I returned home I was greeted by Don making homemade pasta for the first time using the pasta maker I bought him for his birthday.  Words cannot describe how scrumptious it was with his homemade bolognese sauce.  My weekend was filled with love and joy!  I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the week than to be surrounded by people and things (and pups) that I love.

That sums up the highlights from my week.  I’d love to hear from you about your week if you care to share!
Take good care…

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

Pinspired | Valentine’s Day Sweets | Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats

Valentine’s Day sneaks up on me every year and I usually find myself a bit unprepared.  I like to show my affection for my loved ones by sending flowers or little tokens in the mail or baking treats and making homemade cards.  This year I thought I’d try making chocolate dipped rice krispie treats.  They’re pretty easy to make in a pinch and are best eaten right away anyway so I thought I would give it a whirl!

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I was inspired by a gorgeous Pinterest photo from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.   I didn’t actually follow her recipe to make these treats, but instead used my own slight variations on Kellogg’s Original Treats recipe.  I just winged the chocolate dipping part.  It was fun to play and experiment in this way!  While they’re certainly not perfect, I am actually very pleased with the way they turned out.  I learned a few things along the way, including the very important lesson not to let chocolate dipped items set on a wire rack.  Despite this snafu, the end result is a very cute and tasty treat!  I popped each one into a clear cellophane bag and tied with curling ribbon for a festive presentation.  I plan on delivering these to my loved ones today.

** Please be advised that the original Rice Krispies & Cocoa Krispies cereals are not gluten-free.  You need to purchase specifically marked Gluten-Free cereals to make gluten-free treats. **

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I thought it would be fun to film my experiment.  If you’d like to see the process of how I made these treats, check out this video:

I think this concept of taking inspiration from Pinterest and testing out fun DIY crafts and treats is really fun and I’d love to make it into a series if there’s interest.  Let me know what you think!  I already have my eye on a couple of fun projects to try out.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebrating the people you love!

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PS – I’m running a fun Valentine’s Day weekend giveaway on Instagram and Twitter right now.  It’s super easy to enter!  :)

* Recipe adapted from Kellog.  Inspiration from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

The Bag Buzz: Cuyana Tote & Conference Bag Contents

I spoke about how much I enjoyed using my new Cuyana Leather Tote as my conference bag when I attended Alt Summit last month in my recent favorites post.  Here is the promised detailed look at this beauty as well as what I carried in it during the conference.

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I spent quite a bit of time considering this purchase.  It all started about a year ago when I first noticed photos on Instagram of the Whipping Post Tote that some of the #PlannerEnthusiasts I follow own and love (apparently this tote has been on trend, at least in the Planner community, for a little while now).  I actually already own a similarly sized tote by Louis Vuitton (a Neverfull MM in the Damier Ebène pattern I’ve had for about five years now) that I use on a regular basis, so I wasn’t in any hurry to buy another bag.  I knew I wanted to add another tote to my collection eventually, particularly something a bit less “flashy” and easy to travel with that would work well in a variety of situations across all seasons.

All image sources that are not originally my own photos are from the links provided below.  Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

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I narrowed it down to four choices of totes that offered all of the features I was in the market for, including beautiful leather and simple construction in a medium size.  I knew that a zip top closure wasn’t that important for me for the functionality of this bag (although I do prefer a secure closure in my everyday handbags), but I was hoping for at least an interior zip pocket.  I also didn’t want to pay over $200 for the bag.  I considered it a bonus feature if I could have it personalized with a monogram.

The Madewell Transport Tote includes an interior zip pocket, but has a more rustic feel than I was going for.  The J. Crew Downing Tote is a gorgeous classic (and typical J. Crew preppy style) design, but no zip pocket, although it does include a detachable wristlet.  It’s a bit more narrow in width though and I felt it was stiffer than I’d like.  Both can be monogrammed.  The ever popular Whipping Post Vintage Tote is gorgeous, albeit with a bit more rustic look like the Madewell option.  It also has no zip pocket, although it does have a built in slip pocket.  As far as I can tell there are no customization options offered for it.  It also seems to always be out of stock or backordered.  I’d love to see this bag in person someday, since I was able to make a better informed decision about the other two after seeing them in shops.  I relied heavily on online reviews before making my decision.  I like to do my research before I buy something special.

OJ_TBBB_02-10-2015_11Ultimately, I decided to spring for the Cuyana Leather Tote.  I cannot say enough good things about this bag.  To me, it’s an A+ all around.  Handcrafted from buttery soft Argentine and Italian leathers, this bag is super soft to the touch and moves well with the body.  It’s the perfect tote size to me as well, fitting into that “just right” or Goldilocks category, measuring 13″ high x  18″ wide x 5″ deep (this is the official measurement listed on Cuyana’s website, but I found it held much more than 5″ deep worth).  The strap has a comfortable 9″ drop that makes it easy to carry on your shoulder even when it’s stuffed to the brim without gaping open by hanging too low.

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The simple construction of the bag helps to keep it lightweight, since there aren’t a lot of built in bells and whistles.  There is one small zip and slip pocket on the inside of the bag, which is great for stowing keys or other small valuables.  My iPhone fits perfectly inside the little slip pocket for easy access.

I love how the classic design blends well with any outfit.  After much debate (and a little help from my Facebook friends) I decided to go with the caramel shade.  I am so happy I did (and thank you if you weighed in on that decision)!  I paired it well with all of my daytime conference wear at Alt and it would have gone nicely with most of my evening outfits, too, although I chose to carry a purse to those instead.  I already have plans to take it to some other conferences I hope to attend this year and know it will now be a staple of my regular wardrobe.

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In addition to describing the details of the bag, I wanted to share how I packed it for my first conference, since I felt like what I brought really worked for me.  Plus, it’s always fun to share these types of “What’s In My Bag” posts.  I know I am not alone in my enjoyment of seeing what other people carry in their bags for different purposes.  As you can see, typical me, I went a bit pouch crazy, but with this roomy open style tote that really was the only way to keep all of my on-the-go conference necessities organized and easily accessible.  My cases filled out the bottom third or so of the bag, which left plenty of room to toss any swag or other things I picked up during the day on top.

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Here’s what I carried in my conference bag (you can see more detailed photos of the contents below):

1. Poly Zip Letter Size Pouch – I wanted a place to put any loose papers I might pick up throughout the day.  Of course, I opted for this cute panda one (it’s from Staples but I can’t find it on their website anywhere sadly).

2. Pen Case – I used a small pencil case from the Orla Kiely for Target collection (my favorite, as you’ll see) not only for extra pens, but also a folded reusable shopping tote (just in case of really big swag ;) ), a backup battery for my iPhone (essential as a blogger at one of these things), a backup camera battery (not pictured but equally essential), and mints (I just discovered the Bach Rescue Remedies Pastilles and really like them).

3. Walking Pharmacy – This is the case I keep my daily on-the-go necessities in.  I pulled it right out of my purse and left the contents as is for my conference bag.  If you’d like to see what I keep in my Walking Pharmacy, I go into detail in this post (although I have downsized a bit since then, so maybe it’s time for an update).  I now use the Orla Kiely small cosmetic cube for this purpose.

4. Vlogging Camera – I vlogged my Alt Summit experience, so naturally I needed my camera at the ready.  I like to keep my Sony RX1003 in a lightly padded case from 1154 Lill Studio (sadly this shop is no longer open) with a little Mickey lens cleaning cloth attached that I bought at Disney World years ago.

5. Business Cards – Yet another Orla Kiely case from Target!  This medium sized pouch actually comes in a set of three (that isn’t currently available online).  I am able to fit just about one hundred of my business cards in this little case, all stacked neatly for easy retrieval.  Let me know if you’re interested in a post about my business card design and what printers I used.  I couldn’t be happier with them!

6. Notebook & Pen – I brought this small spiral notebook, which I picked up at Walmart for a couple of dollars.  I prefer to use spiral notebooks when I take notes so I can easily write on both sides of the page.  I tucked a retractable pen onto the side so I could easily grab the whole setup and start jotting away at a moment’s notice.  It’s important to remember, however, to put a lid on your pen or click it back closed or risk getting marks on the interior of your bag like I foolishly did.  Lesson learned!

7. Business Card File – I found a coupon file on clearance at Staples for less than a dollar (much like this one from The Container Store) to use as an on-the-go business card filing system.  I made labels breaking down each day by time/event and sorted the cards I received into the according slots to help me remember the people I met.  I also crafted a small folder with my favorite full adhesive sticky notes by Post-It which I used to take a few notes about the people I met and then stuck it to their business cards.  I struggle with names sometimes, especially when meeting a whole bunch of people at once, and any clues I can give myself  to remember helps immensely.

8. Wallet – I opted to carry around my wallet with me, although I think in a larger conference setting I would probably leave it in the hotel room safe and just carry around my ID and some cash if necessary.  This wallet is from Mulberry, but it’s sadly no longer available.

9. Phone – This is self-explanatory, really, but having my phone with me was very important to keep up with social media and look pertinent people and websites up throughout the conference.  I actually noticed quite a few people with my same beloved phone case while I was there, which is the Rifle Paper Co. Clear Rosa iPhone Case in case you’re wondering.  It’s no wonder, since it’s so pretty!

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You can see the contents of some of my pouches better in these photos.

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Having my little on-the-go business card file made it easier for me to better remember the many lovely women I met.

OJ_TBBB_02-10-2015_06I mentioned earlier that I chose not to carry my tote around during the evening events (although I wish I had brought it to a couple of them), and instead used my regular purse (actually this one that lives out at the Utah house if you’re curious).  I basically kept my everyday purse contents the same for these evening events, with the exception of adding in one of the small Orla Kiely pouches that comes in a set of three filled with about forty of my business cards.  I also carried a business card snap pouch I picked up at The Container Store to slip other people’s cards into since I couldn’t carry around my larger business card file with me.  This helped me keep everything together and in its place.


The Cuyana tote’s gorgeously soft leather and no frills construction lends itself to a bit of a floppy nature.  While this makes it super easy to fold up flat and pack, it also leaves the bag without any internal support.  One of my pet peeves with tote bags in particular is when they sag a lot on the bottom.  I just don’t like the look personally.  It’s also not good for the leather if you’re carrying a lot of heavy things.  I decided to construct a simple removable and reinforced base for my Cuyana tote from a few basic supplies.

OJ_TBBB_02-10-2015_08You will need:

・One plastic mat (see note*)
・Ruler
・Pen
・Scissors
・Glue

* I picked up a pack of inexpensive flexible plastic cutting mats from Walmart (plastic placemats work well, too).  I use these to protect my table and desk when I’m crafting, particularly if I’m gluing something, and when I’m painting my nails to avoid any hard to fix accidents.

Instructions:

✻ Lay the tote out on a flat, clean surface, folding the base up so it is exposed.  Measure the base and take note of its depth.

✻ Line up the mat with the base and make a mark for the width.  Using your ruler, create a line guide where to cut based on these two measurements.

✻ Once cut, round off the edges with scissors to take away any sharp edges that might damage the interior of the tote.

✻ Use the already cut portion and trace out a second piece.  There should be enough space on one mat to cut out two pieces.

✻ Use a thin layer of glue to attach the two pieces together and allow to dry completely.

Now you have a removable and reinforced base for your tote!  It’s easy to pack flat along with the tote in its dust bag for protection during travel.

I show the tote and my conference bag contents in more detail in this video:

It’s giveaway time!  I wanted to share the Orla Kiely for Target love with you.  The Orla Kiely Pouch Giveaway will run until Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TWO winners will receive one of the Orla Kiely for Target 3-Piece Set Pouches pictured below:

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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 hope you enjoyed this look at my new tote.  I’d love to know what some of your top picks to pack in your conference/work bag are, 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. *

Week In Review (February 1 – February 8, 2015)

My Week In Review posts are just that: a review of my past week.  I can’t believe my last one was all the way back in November!  I hope to post an update here again every Monday sharing some tidbits of my previous week as well as an accompanying photo recap with selections from my Instagram feed.  Here’s the buzz from my week:

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While I traditionally recap from Monday through Sunday, I wanted to include a few of my photos from last Sunday, otherwise known as my husband, Don’s birthday.  And Super Bowl Sunday.  And blizzard Sunday for my fellow Chicagoans.  We spent most of the day trying to keep our driveway clear for our crazy friends who decided to travel from not-so-near distances in the not-so-safe weather despite our protests to spend the evening with us in celebration of Don’s special day and football fun.  Luckily, they all made it to our house and then back home safely, although I still feel worried just thinking about it!  I had offered to put out a spread for Don’s celebration, but he insisted he wanted to make his amazing homemade chicken nachos.  We didn’t put up a fight!  Did I mention Don’s nachos are AMAZING?  While Don no longer films cook nooks for YouTube, perhaps we can figure out a way to share his recipes here in the future.  This one would definitely be top on my list to share!

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Looking back over my Instagram feed last week, I now realize I went a few days without posting, which is kind of unusual for me.  You may have seen my post here last week about Recent & Upcoming Changes, in which I talk about combining my YouTube channels back into one channel (or two, depending on what I decide to do with my vlogging and the future of MyHousewifeLife) and embarking on a “rebranding” journey (as they call it in the biz).  This, as I am finding out, is not so simple as deciding on a new name, buying the domain, and transferring all of my past content onto it.  I am super excited about this new path I’m taking, but it’s also a bit of a nail biter trying to change up my look when I’m already at least somewhat established as Organized Jen.  I talk more specifically about my reasons for change in this video if you’re interested in hearing more.

I’ve decided to go the whole hog and hire a company that specializes in this sort of thing and can help me bring my vision of a new site and look to fruition, since I don’t have the design and web development know-how to undertake such an overhaul.  While this will ultimately save me the time of doing all of the detail work myself, I’m beginning to see it’s actually going to monopolize quite a bit of my time and attention over the next six months (and yes, that is how long it takes. I know, I was surprised, too).  I spent more time on the phone last week than I have in the last five years altogether and I haven’t even officially hired anyone yet!  (Phone calls stress me out.  Am I the only one who really dislikes talking on the phone?  I always feel really awkward on the phone for some reason.)  I know this is all part of the journey and it’s super important to me that I am fully immersed in it so I know I have put my all into it.  Already I feel more confident talking on the phone after just one week, so that’s a bonus!  That may seem like a silly thing to celebrate, but it’s actually meaningful to me that this experience is already broadening my horizons and teaching me new things about myself just at the very beginning.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details of this every week.  I’m just especially excited right now since it is the very beginning of this journey for me!  I will do an in-depth process post when all is said and done (six months from now?) if there is interest.

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In short, I basically spent the bulk of my time last week brainstorming with people (like you guys! Thanks for your input on my video).  I am delighted by the openness to share and enthusiasm about my branding facelift I have encountered in the past week alone.  It warms my heart when people are not only willing but genuinely excited to share.  That’s one of my biggest joys in life and I get so giddy when I see it in others as well!

I wrapped up a busy week with a relaxing weekend spent with loved ones.  On Friday we joined Don’s family for a belated birthday celebration at our favorite local sushi place, Blu Fish.  We hadn’t seen everyone since our return from Utah late last month and it was so nice to be reunited again!  Don and I went downtown Saturday night for dinner at Sixteen, our current favorite Chicago restaurant located at the Trump Hotel.   We’ve gone to Sixteen once every quarter over the past year or so to enjoy their innovative and fresh seasonal menus.  The winter menu is a stunner!  It focuses on blending old culinary techniques with newer trends.

We happened to stumble across a Wonut stand in our travels over the weekend and decided to pick one up to try as a special treat on Sunday morning.  If you’re unfamiliar, a wonut is a cross between a waffle and a donut.  I’m a big donut lover but not a huge waffle fan, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  To me, it tasted like a traditional waffle, but one that was deep fried, glazed, and garnished.  It was pretty tasty, but a good ol’ donut still reigns king in my books!

That sums up the highlights from my week.  I’d love to hear from you about your week if you care to share!
Take good care…

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

January 2015 Favorites

Love is in the air…. It must be February!  Before cupid notches his bow, I’d like to share some of my favorite things from the past month with you, ranging from clothing, accessories, and beauty items to multi-media picks and food.

All image sources that are not originally my own photos are from the links provided below.  Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate links and I do receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links.  I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!

Clothes & Accessories

OJ_TBBB_02-05-2015_01✻ PajamaGram Hoodie-Footie – The Winter Whimsy hoodie-footie was one of my most favorites Christmas presents I received from my husband.  I basically wore it every night for watching movies or tv with the family last month.  In fact, I loved it so much, Don bought me the bunny version for my birthday.  These one piece PJs are warm and cozy – perfect for chilly winter evenings snuggled by the fire!

✻ Waffled Cashmere Cowlneck Sweater – I bought this gorgeous sweater on major discount from Anthropologie earlier in the month and couldn’t be more pleased with my find.  It’s my current favorite top!  The cashmere is warm, but the lightly waffled knit allows it to breath making for one very comfortable sweater.  Sadly, I think it was on such extreme sale because they stopped carrying it. *Update – it’s back in stock in green and at a reduced price!*

✻ Henri Bendel Jetsetter Mini Convertible Backpack – I’m still carrying and absolutely in love with this bag!  I know I owe a Bag Buzz post on it and I will be sure to post one soon.  It’s the perfect backpack purse for me!

✻ Cuyana Leather Tote – This beauty is the newest addition to my bag collection.  I used it at the conference I attended last month called Alt Summit.  Not only is it gorgeous, it’s extremely useful, too!  I will have a post and video up very soon showcasing this bag and how I packed it for the conference.

Beauty

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✻ Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette – This was a favorite of mine back in July of last year and I’ve rotated through my palettes to it once again (I tend to primarily use one palette at a time for a few weeks before switching out to another).  I love the beautiful range of neutrals with lovely color pops to chose from.  The shadows are pigmented, blend well, and stay put.  Plus, the palette smells like chocolate (Luckily, I can only really smell it in the pan, because I think it might be kind of odd for my eyeballs to smell like chocolate all day, but I guess there are worse things!).  I always seem to have good luck with Too Faced products.

✻ Covergirl Full Lash Bloom Mascara – I picked this up on a whim at the drugstore earlier last month having never heard of it before (usually I like to read or watch reviews on beauty products before I buy them).  I generally like Covergirl mascaras, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  I’ve really enjoyed this mascara even though it is a wetter formula, which isn’t usually my cup of tea.  I must admit that sometimes I find it too clumpy but most of the time it sits beautifully on the lashes and gives them a naturally full look.

 ✻ Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien – I received this beauty sample as a birthday gift for being a Sephora VIB member.  It’s a beautiful rose pink lip crayon with a hint of shimmer.  I like that it has good lasting power and feels moisturizing at the same time.  I will definitely be buying the full size when this sample runs out!

✻ Revlon Nail Enamel in Sultry – As a lover of nail polish, I usually don’t go so long without painting my nails, but for some reason I really haven’t been all that into it for the past couple of months.  I did pick up this gorgeous purple/blue shimmer earlier last month and enjoyed wearing it for awhile.  The formula is opaque after just one coat and it wears well.

Home Goods

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✻ Paddywax Candle in Lavendar Thyme – I was introduced to the Paddywax brand when I received one of their candles in my August Popsugar Must Have Box.  I picked up this pretty little candle while shopping at Whole Foods earlier in the month and burned it during my daily yoga practice all month along.  Not only is it beautiful to look at, the scent is divine!  The floral herbal blend is very soothing.  This little candle packs a powerful punch with a not so little throw.  I’m hoping to pick up some of the other scents in the future.

I thought it might be fun to start expanding what kind of products I share in these favorites, particularly in the home goods category.  Please let me know what you think!

✻ Mrs. Meyers Countertop Spray –  I have used and loved Mrs. Meyers products in my home for years.  One of my very favorites is this spray, which I use multiple times daily to keep my kitchen counters tidy.  The lemon verbena scent is my favorite!

✻ Casabella Premium Waterstop Gloves – I find kitchen gloves essential all year round for cleaning up and washing dishes, but especially important during the winter season when my hands are very dry and sensitive.  I know I’ve shared my love for these gloves before, as they are the best kitchen gloves I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried quite a few in the past.  They’re a bit more expensive than some, but they last for a very long time (mine usually last somewhere between 4-6 months before I tear a hole in a finger).  I love that you can buy them in specific sizes.  I had difficulty finding them in stock online anywhere in searching for a link to share.  I’ve always purchased mine in store at The Container Store.

Multi-Media

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✻ Rooms by Lauren Oliver – I didn’t read quite as much as I had hoped to, once again, but that was primarily because I spent most of my evenings curled up watching movies with the family in our Utah house last month.  I did manage to read this new book from Lauren Oliver, who is more well known for her popular series of adult fiction novels called Delirium.  I enjoyed the central plot line about a fractured family repairing their bond, but found the first half of the book a bit hard to get into.  All’s well that ends well, though, and I’m glad I stuck with it, because I enjoyed the second half much more.  It was an easy and fast read and I’d recommend it, although it wouldn’t be my first pick.

✻ Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – I’m back to audiobooks!  I spent some time knitting last month and I love listening to audiobooks while I do.  I’m still on my female writer/comedian kick, and this book fits right in!  I really enjoyed Lena Dunham’s stories and musings, although I did find her voice a bit flat and tedious to listen to at times.  I highly recommend the book if you’re in the mood for some quirky stories.

Special Offer! Try a 30-Day free trail at Audible.com here.

✻ PTX Vol 2 – Pentatonix – I’m still on a major Pentatonix kick!  My enjoyment of their holiday album last month inspired me to purchase their three other albums.  My favorite is the Volume 2 collection, with two my of favorites songs of theirs: Run To You and Daft Punk.  It’s amazing to think that it’s just five people using their voices to make such beautiful, rich music!

Pirates of the Caribbean Movies – As I mentioned, we spent the bulk of the month at the house in Utah with the family.  Instead of watching tv shows, we mostly watched movies together after dinner.  My favorites that we watched were the four Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  I love Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow! #APiratesLifeForMe

✻ Nikki Phillippi – My favorite YouTuber of the month is Nikki.  I love her #HowToBeHappyJanuary series.  Nikki is energetic, optimistic, and full of vim and vigor!  She’s also not afraid to broach sensitive issues in her videos and I applaud her for her bravery, especially in what can be a very harsh arena.  Please check out her channel and show her some love if you feel so inclined!

Tasty Treats

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✻ Talenti Gelato Pops – It wouldn’t be a proper favorites post without sharing my favorite indulgent treat of the month.  I love ice cream, but it doesn’t love me back, so I’m always on the lookout for a great ice cream pop that will deliver a tasty experience in a small(ish) contained package.  These gelato pops are to die for!  I haven’t tried all of the flavors yet, but so far my two most favorite are Sea Salt Caramel and Mediterranean Mint.  And to think that rich gelato coated in decadent chocolate is only 200 calories a pop?  Sold!  I find mine at Whole Foods.  If anyone knows what other stores they sell them at, please share in the comments.  All ice cream pop lovers need to try these stat! ;)

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

It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share the awesomeness that is the Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette with you.  The January 2015 Favorites Giveaway will run until Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TWO winners will receive a Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette.  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 some of your January favorites were if you care to share.  I hope the new year is off to a great start for you!

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

Recent & Upcoming Changes

Hello friends!  If you follow me on YouTube at OrganizedLikeJen, you might have already seen my recent check in video.  In it, I share about the rebranding journey I have just embarked on, which includes reorganizing my YouTube presence.  I’ve wanted to go back to having just one channel for awhile and it seems like the perfect time to do so now since I am working on overhauling the look of my blog and my personal branding over the next few months.

I recommend watching the video if you’d like a more detailed explanation:

I’d like to emphasize that I plan to continue posting regularly both here and on YouTube and that although the look and name of my YouTube channel and blog might change, my content and commitment to sharing will not.  I am excited about this journey and will check in from time to time to keep you posted on the progress.  It might be awhile before you see a total blog facelift, but I will be certain to share the details of my journey once we get to the new Organized Jen (or Organized Jen 2.0 if you will ;) ).

I have so appreciated your support, patience, and encouragement as my online presence and experience evolves.  I can’t wait to share more on this journey with you!

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