You Ought to be in Pictures

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I absolutely LOVE being a blogger!! I love sharing my experiences and my new finds. With that, my camera is always in use!! Ok, the camera on my phone!

While the camera function is pretty good, I try to maximize whatever lighting and set up of the products I receive. Until now….

I recently purchased a mini studio. It’s a portable photo studio by LiteBox. It’s the 24″x 24″ studio kit

All the parts fit into its carry case for easy mobility and storage.

No need for special tools!

It comes with two LED light bars.

The studio is almost complete once you put its “tent” on, making it look like a cube.

The flaps you see is the top of the cube, where the light connection goes through

The outlet also has the brightness control

Now that everything is set up and connected, you can use the other opening to take your photos.

The zippered flap gives a wider opening for photographing items. Like a true photo studio, it comes with four different background colors; along with a diffuser screen that comes with hooks to attach on to the bars.

There is also a small tripod and phone “holder” if needed.

How good do the photos come out? Here’s a before and after…

Amazing!!!

It makes me feel like I’m taking my blog to the next level!

Where did I get mine? Right here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BIFEC86

 

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Spa When You Want To

Ahhh….spa…. yes, sometimes it seems like a pipe dream!! Why? Because there are days that you feel you hit the ground running the moment you open your eyes.

Is there anything out there that can give a little of that fresh from the spa feeling in a short amount of time?

Well yes, yes there is. It so happens I received a gift set. The box contains a great array of products from the Rituals USA brand.

Love the “oh ah” moment when you see the box. I choose the Ritual of Ayurveda. It’s a nice balance of sweet almond oil and Indian rose. I’m very sensitive to scents because of my allergies, this one isn’t overwhelming.

Time to try it…. it’s creamy and “solid”, once you gently rub it on your skin you feel the softness. The scent lightly in the air.

The shower gel and foaming shower have found a home in my shower.

My set also included an oil that can be used on your body and hair as well. This is like the “sprinkles on a sundae “! Using all of the products can give you a sense of relaxation. The cherry on the sundae is the matching candle.

You don’t have to get the Rituals of Ayurveda, there are many more to suit your mood or need.

The sets make a great gift. When you unwrap to see a beautiful box and smell what’s inside- the recipient will feel loved!! Take a look over at :

http://www.rituals.com

I was very lucky with my set, and would like to give Rituals USA and Tryazon for the complimentary set. Really glad that a Holiday catalogue was also included, the “list” is being checked off!!

Want to have fun trying new products? Check out Tryazon at

http://www.tryazon.com

Many treats watch out for the tricks

Halloween is practically here!! Costumes are at the ready and the kids are anticipating what goodies they’ll be getting!!

As parents we do our part to maintain a healthy balance of allowing sweet treats and not throwing off the healthy routine they are in.

In doing so we read labels, as we shop for candies to give out we read what’s in them.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that some include palm oil. Now, palm oil isn’t the same as back in the day, or the same with each product. But, if the palm oil is sustainable Malaysian Palm oil then you know it’s all good. But how will you know?

With the permission from the The publishes of the Malaysia Palm Oil Council newsletters I would love to share with you their article that guides you and lists which candies contain sustainable Malaysia Palm Oil:

Green Halloween: organic treats and tricks
for an environmentally friendly Halloween

By Carolina King

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It is so much fun to see the little ones dressed as their favorite characters. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love candy?

Growing up, I was never allowed to have too much candy. Now that I’m a mom, I understand why my parents were so strict with candy. In fact, I am also pretty strict with candy but thankfully there are so many better options now that my kids can have a green Halloween with better-for-you candy and not even realize that we’re doing things a little differently.

What you need to know about candy

There are two things that concern me about Halloween: the amount of crappy candy my kids get and all those individually wrapped treats. Let’s face it, all that wrapping creates lots of waste that our planet doesn’t need.

Thankfully, the candy industry is gradually yielding to pressure from environmentalists and has started doing the right thing. For example, you can now buy candy in bulk, minimizing the use of packaging and wrapping.

You no longer need to be concerned about palm oil, a common candy ingredient, if it comes from Malaysia. A while back I did an investigative report on palm oil after hearing so much conflicted information. I’m happy to report that palm oil coming from Malaysia follows strict environmental practices, they’re even a huge contributor to wildlife conservation and it’s not bad for you.

Even companies like Nestle and Mars have switched to using Malaysian palm oil due to the pressure of their consumers. Which goes to show you how much power we all have when we chose with our dollars!

While candy may never qualify as “healthy” and should always be consumed in moderation, Halloween is a good opportunity to teach your own kids how to understand food labels and help them understand which ingredients to look for as well as which to avoid.

Since my kids are still really young, we haven’t started reading labels but they know how to find the USDA Organic label on the snacks and treats we buy. They know if it doesn’t have that label, we can’t get it and they don’t even put up a fight.

This works for us because I constantly explain to my children why we do things they way we do, because even at their young age they can understand that some things like candy can only be eaten in moderation and that we want to avoid foods that have been sprayed with chemicals pesticides (hence why they look for the USDA Organic label). We also talk a lot about the environment: about not polluting our planet, explaining that a lot of the trash ends up in the ocean and we don’t want to hurt the sea life, and that we have to take care of our planet.

You’ll be surprised at how much children understand when you explain them the why!

Planet-friendly Treats and Tricks

Halloween doesn’t mean we have to eat conventional candy. Now you can find lots of organic, non-GMO options, and even vegan and gluten-free ones.

Here are 10 Halloween candy options from food manufacturers that are trying to do the right thing:

  1. Unreal Candy: All of its chocolate is certified by Fair Trade USA and they even use natural ingredients such as beetroot, carrot and red cabbage juices to color the candy coatings.  

  2. CLIF ZKIDS Bars/Brownies and/or Organic Fruit Ropes: These are USDA Certified Organic, and contain no artificial flavors or synthetic preservatives. My kids are not big fans of the bars but they love the fruit ropes.

  3. YumEarth Lollipops: I like these because they are USDA Certified Organic and they have a wide variety of candy, not just lollipops.

  4. Endangered Species Bug Bites: Although these are not organic, they are made with ethically traded cacao and gluten-free. Plus, a percentage of the profits is donated to support conservation efforts.

  5. GoOrganic Fruit Chews: These are Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA Certified Organic. The chews are made with Fair Trade-Certified sugar, and the bulk candy comes in home-compostable, cellophane bags.

  6. Glee Gum Pops: If you’re looking for a better version of the lollipop with gum inside, then you’ll have try these. They are Non-GMO Project Verified, and one of the few North American gums still made with chicle, a tree sap harvested sustainably. The company partners with a nonprofit group to plant trees, revitalizing degraded lands.  

  7. Surf Sweets Fruity Bears: Available in Halloween treat packs of 20, they are USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. They are also free of the 10 most-common allergens. Wholesome, which makes these bears, also sells lots of other types of candies and gummies!

  8. Dagoba Assorted Gems: In addition to being USDA Certified Organic, these chocolates are made with cacao from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

  9. Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups: These are made with organic, fair trade chocolate and locally sourced ingredients. The company donates part of its proceeds to worldwide hunger relief and poverty relief.

  10. Nib Mor Chocolate: This company’s products are organic and non-GMO. They have hot chocolate packets as well as the bite-sized treats.

I know what you’re thinking, “My neighbors give out the crappy candy…” but that doesn’t mean your child has to eat it. There are two ways around this:

  • Celebrate Halloween with the Switch Witch. The Switch Witch comes on Halloween night and takes all the candy that you’ve left out for her. In exchange, she leaves you a toy. Download a free template letter for the Switch Witch here.

  • Talk to your children about the candy and simply be honest. Explain that the candy they give out on Halloween is not made with the best ingredients and that you will switch out their Halloween candy for their organic candies of choice.

Of course, you don’t always have to give candy or sweet treats. They also offer some great non- candy ideas:

Non-candy treats

If you’re giving out treats this year, remember that there are lots of kids who have allergies and who can’t always eat the candy we give out. The best thing to do is to have a bucket of candy and a bucket of non-candy treats.

This is what we do in our home and we let children choose from which bucket they want a treat. Click here  for lots of ideas on non-candy treats.

Fun ways to green up your Halloween party

Your favorite haunted holiday is scary enough without considering the large volume of waste created by Halloween celebrations. This year add a new dimension to your Halloween fun by making it more earth-friendly. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Send party invitations online: Evites save paper and are available with super cute graphics. Plus, they make it easy to keep track of your guest list.

  • Use natural or recycled decorations: Mother Earth provides us with pumpkins and colorful fall leaves to get us started. Get the kids involved by making creepy crafts and setting up your food display in a creepy way. Also, check second-hand stores for upcycled bargains on someone else’s discarded decorations.

  • Serve those pumpkin seeds: Once you’ve carved the pumpkin, rinse and roast the seeds. They are a rich source of zinc, a nutrient that supports a healthy immune system and is important to your senses of taste and smell.

  • Use biodegradable plates and napkins: You can find biodegradable and compostable plates and napkins, and even biodegradable cutlery. Check out these options.

  • Hold a pre-party costume swap: In addition to exchanging entire costumes with friends, neighbors and family, you may want to mix and match various costume components to come up with entirely new and creative ideas.

  • Announce that you’ll be holding a contest for the most imaginative eco-friendly costume: You might be surprised by the imaginative costumes people make using recycled toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes and other items found around the house. Encourage your friends to come up with their own Halloween costumes. Jump online for inspiration!

  • Use LED and solar-powered lights: These look really beautiful at night and since they’re solar powered, you’ll save on electricity usage. Plus, they’re great to use all year round.

  • Entertain the kids with traditional games: Games like bobbing for apples and Pin the Broom on the Witch are still fun!  

By switching the focus of Halloween to one that is a back-to-basics, spine-chilling good time, you’ll save a little money as well as reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill.

Talk about informative! Thank you to Carolina King for all the research. Personally I like to keep a copy of the list of candies that include the “better” palm oil.

I know you’re thinking “but I already bought my candy!!”. It’s ok, this is great for future reference.

Wishing everyone a great Halloween- Happy “Trick or Treating”!!

Stay safe!

More outdoor Fall fun

The crisp Fall air is a great change from the sweltering heat of summer. And there’s so much to do!! Hayrides, corn mazes, and don’t forget Trick or Treating!!

But what if you just need to slow it down and kick back. But not too far back- gotta have some fun too!!

Then take your table games outdoors!! Have you tried Top Trumps?

With various themes and it’s own case, you can find a set that fits you and you can take anywhere! It’s a game of who’s “stats” are higher. Winner takes all, because if you have everyone’s cards – you win!!!

How about a portable word game that quick and fun! And guess what? It’s not a condensed scrabble set. It’s Lexicon Go!

This a word forming game, the twist is you can build on your opponents’ word. For example the word is “butter” and “fly” for “butterfly” and you’ve scored more points, blocking off the other players.

Both games are a bunch of fun! Bonus is that kids can play too. With Top Trumps kids can learn their number values. And with Lexicon Go it can help with their spelling and vocabulary.

Go to: http://www.toptrumps.us ; to get your games!!

P.S. I received mine through a great program at http://www.tryazon.com!!!!

Just for Us

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It goes without saying, we women live busy lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disqualifying the worth of the male population. All I’m saying is that women, may you be single, married (with or without children), single mom, or caregiver and every thing in between and or combined- everyday is hectic!

Sometimes it’s to the point that you need “me time” but have to put it on the back burner. Even the simple task of shaving your legs is done on the fly.

If you’ve ever used a guys shaver, you’ve probably gone through the adjustments of the weight and it’s rigid shape.

Shaver for women? They don’t always hold up the way you’d like them to. I believe I have found one that can live up to our expectations.

First things I noticed, it’s lighter! It’s not electric, it’s battery operated. So no cord means more portability!

We have curves! Yes, on our legs too!! The contoured shape makes it easier to handle over our curves and give us the shave we are looking for. Remember we’re shaving our legs not burly beards!!!

When all is said and done- it comes with its own cleaning brush!!

Love Amazon- and the great finds they have!!

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🎵Memories are Made of This🎶🎵

What comes to mind if I ask you to picture tables set with classic Italian food, smooth (adult) drinks, the finest cigars, and a little “ol’ blue eyes” in the background? No, it’s not an old picture of the Rat Pack. It’s actually an evening event at Maggiano’s Richmond- their Cigar and Pasta dinner event!!

When you arrive, the tables are all set- a la fresco around the lovely fountain.

Now, we don’t just jump into a bowl of pasta. The menu for this evening has been set just right.

So let us begin with a little antipasto to kick it off.

Feeling parched? Love to support local fare? Then Belle Isle Premium Moonshine it is! A Virginia born craft spirit, that also offers flavor infused variations. Handmade from 100% organic corn, we learn that they are quadruple charcoal filtered and are distilled to a lower of proof than vodka but higher than whiskey. Which is probably what gives it its smooth enjoyable finish, truly not the moonshine from the past.

The flavors are well balanced and true. Belle Isle offers recipes on their websites, too.

It is a cigar event too….. our local cigar retailer Havana Connections has us covered! Each attendee received two cigars. Not just any off a shelf- but a cigar from two of the most widely known and established cigar makers; Romeo y Juliet’s and H. Uppman

With all the elements in place, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy!

In true Maggiano’s fashion, they know how to feed family!

Don’t forget to leave some space for dessert!

What an evening!! Yes, “memories are made of this”!!

Great friends, family, fun, and food!Maggiano’s is the place to be!!

Contact your local Maggiano’s, sign up for their email newsletters (www.maggianos.com) for updates on great events like this one!!

“Family” that cooks together, learns together

Have you ever noticed that when you have a gathering at your house we all wind up in the kitchen talking and laughing…. my husband and I have always dreamt of building a home that would be built around the kitchen!

Maybe it’s because making food brings about many special family moments. Cooking in particular…

Maggiano’s is one establishment that knows about family and special moments. Starting with the fabulous food, to the special service you receive every time you go.

And , of course, you’ve seen my previous articles regarding their Kids Cooking Classes.

Where Chef Marcelo takes the Junior chefs from salad to dessert!! The kids love it!! They learn a life skill, get a feeling of independence and accomplishment.

The parents get treated to breakfast, and afterward everyone gets lunch!! Makes for a great day!

But wait!!! The Maggiano’s in my area have now also begun Adult Cooking Classes!! Can’t let the kids have all the fun! Learn more about the dishes you love. These classes begin with a very adult treat, a cocktail. For our first one it was a classic Mojito taught to us by our local GM Dean-

From there it was fresh made pasta and Alfredo sauce from scratch!

The evening is topped off with a fantastic dinner, and goodie bag to boot!

This is an event you’ll want to be a part of. So contact your local Maggiano’s and ask about their classes. Make it a date night, or maybe a night out with the girls. You’ll be making memories…..