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Our #DisneySide Celebration + Jack's 11th Birthday Party

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On Sunday, we finally had our DisneySide Celebration @ Home. The party was sponsored by Disney Parks and MommyParties, and I was given LOTS of great products to use to help us celebrate Jack turning 11.  From the American Tourister spinner luggage I carried all the party supplies around in, to the Mickey-themed cutters I shaped the meats and cheeses above with, and lots more, we had a great, great party package and a really fun time. Here's more:

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Our nephew, Harry, arrived with his dad and sister from Missouri on Saturday, just in time to celebrate with us. (All pictures shown here were taken by Harry's dad, Rob's brother Mike.)

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We had Mickey Mouse Clubhouse-themed plates, napkins, cups and stuff, given to me as part of the package, and I snagged a few more matching items from Amazon.com - like the Guest of Honor ribbon Jack's sporting on his Mickey shirt (which I got on clearance from Disney's shopping website).

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Sophia and Elizabeth checked out the Grand Room at our neighborhood's clubhouse, decorated by Yours Truly for the party. I didn't realize until nearly the last minute that the furniture wasn't included in the room rental, but I had a (very ugly) card table and chairs that stepped in to help. I was given another, much nicer table from someone on Freecycle, and I managed to talk the clubhouse manager into letting me borrow one set of table and chairs, too. It sufficed.

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We were given Crayola fabric markers and Hanes t-shirts for the party guests to decorate, so that was the first thing we did. Here are Chloë and Elizabeth (Harry's big sister) doing theirs. It wasn't a huge hit of an activity, like I kinda expected it to be, but they seemed to have a little fun with it. My girls, always the artists, enjoyed it the most.

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I got the labels for the water bottles, Hershey bars, and the door sign and banner, from a lovely lady on Listia who designed them to match the party's theme for me. She sent me the invitations and thank-you notes, too. I just had to print everything myself without doing any of the 'real' work, which was nice for once!

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Jack, who seriously needs a haircut, was eager for the party to start. Did he care about the t-shirts, the games, the prizes, or the food? NO! He just wanted to get into his presents. Oy vey. Even at eleven, he's still like a little kid.

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I kept the cupcakes super simple, even though I love to bake and make cakes, because my anxiety level was high. Disney and MommyParties gave me the cupcake wrappers, and I grabbed the stand and Mickey picks off of Amazon. We always leave one blue for Robby, Jack's twin...

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The balloons, also provided by Disney and brought to Party City for heliumating, were a huge hit. You just never know what's going to be the big thing. Next time, I'm just getting a bunch of balloons and letting the kids go berserk, I swear!

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Harry and Elizabeth were smart to decorate their balloons, so they would know which one belonged to them. Is this child not totes adorbs?!

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Jake, my friend Marc and Jenna's four-year-old son, was also on hand to help us party. 

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Addison, Jake's twin sister, was there as well. She's my cutie little cuddly-pie! Love her!

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I adore this shot Mike took of Harry jumping after his balloon!! 

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Jack scored BIG-time when it came to presents. He received LEGO after LEGO set, a couple of nanoblock sets, and one more big pressie from Mom & Dad.

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Addi sat on my lap and kept me company during the gift unwrapping. She's such a love.

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The big gift, you ask? Jack's RC Plane, for which he's been asking since he was at least eight, maybe younger. Was he happy with it?

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What do you think?!

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Sophia and Elizabeth have become fast friends in the short time they've been together this visit.

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After Jack opened all of his gifts, I brought out the Mickey piñata. Everyone laughed when they realized it wasn't the whack-with-a-stick kind but rather a pull-string one. What, do harm to Mickey?! As IF!

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All the kids gathered 'round to pull Mickey's strings. Jake and Addi had to take a second turn...but still no candy came. What the?!

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Finally, the kids beat the crap out of Mickey (hey, it was a good idea in theory), and the candy fell. Elizabeth was right there to swoop it all up, too. Haha!

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Jack, feeling aggressive from all his latent gift-wanting energy, decided to do more damage to Mickey while the candy waited.

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After the piñata excitement, it was time for the kids to pose on the Mickey background for photo ops. Mike did a fabulous job, I have to say, with capturing the spirit of each child.

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Harry and that balloon, man... like BFFs!

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Chloë, for once, was the least poseable child for Photo Ops. Usually she is the first one to strike a pose!

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Sophia, of course, doing her Sophie best.

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A little of that goes a long way, so we paused to sing Happy Birthday to Jack, who impatiently did not wait to make a wish and finish the song before he blew out the candles!

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Jake was all about getting that blue cupcake! You'll be able to tell later - he did! Hee.

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Elizabeth, back at the wall for her shot with Mickey Mouse, is the spitting image of her mother.

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Jack and Harry stepped back up to join Eliz, and the three of these cousins had themselves a few giggles together. Fun times!

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Exit Elizabeth, enter Chloë. You can see these kids are related, can'tcha?

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The series with Jake and Addison was super funny. I wish I could show you all the pictures, but loading time would be immense!

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Our friends Erica and Kevin came with their daughter Kira, who is just about Jack's age - maybe a hair older. Yeah, she turned 11 in November.

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And... apparently, Kira and Jack our our latest couple. Jackira?

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I don't know what Marc and I were talking about so seriously with Jake, but I was glad to spend time with each of them!

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Erica, Chloë and Sophia, along with Elizabeth who stepped out of the picture, had some fun playing games with the prizes I gave out.

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At the end of the day, it was a pretty great party, and I think everyone had a fun time. Right, Harry?

Thanks, Disney and MommyParties!!

Fin.

 


Product Review: Lancome #DreamTone Customized Skin Tone Correcting Serum #bareselfie

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At the very beginning of November, I received a free full-size bottle of Lancome DreamTone Customized Skin Tone Correcting Serum from Lancome and SheSpeaks, in order to use and review it here on Ye Olde-Fashoned Blahg.

Here's my face at the start of November, before trying the DreamTone:

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Ignore my hair; I was fresh out of the shower! As you can see, though, I have had some red blotchiness, especially around my nose and on my forehead - and I have tons of freckles that are harder to see. I was really interested in seeing what would happen to those after using the DreamTone for a month. I used to hate my freckles, but now I don't mind them so much unless I've been outside in the sun a lot. When I am, they all darken and connect together, leaving me looking dirty in my opinion. Hate that!

I used it nearly every day, as long as I had a bath or shower, each time I dried my face and before I put on any moisturizer. In my monthlong trial, the only other thing I ever used on my face was JAFRA Royal Jelly milk balm to moisturize, so that my results would completely pertain to the DreamTone.

So, how did it work?

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Here I am, four weeks after starting the DreamTone. As I think you can tell, my freckles were not touched by the DreamTone, and I'm happy with that. The redness, though, seems to be gone! I love that. It also seems to have helped with the bit of darkness under my eyes, too. I have plenty of DreamTone left, so I'm going to continue using it to keep up with these results!

Someone even told me I looked way young in the last picture. What do you think? I'm interested in your opinion, too.

Full Disclosure: I received a free full-size bottle of DreamTone Customized Skin Tone Correcting Serum in exchange for my opinions and this blog post. I have not received any other compensation. All opinions expressed this post are, as always, completely my own.


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Product Review: Calorease #MomsMeet

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Recently, I was asked by Moms Meet to review Calorease, a weight management aid.

I'll be honest. I was both leery and skeptical at first. I didn't think it would work, and/or I might be living in the bathroom for the 10 days I was supposed to try it, so I put it in an out-of-the-way cabinet and left it there for a while.

Then I found myself unable to zip up my favorite jeans. Uh-oh!

I pulled out the Calorease and read it over, then decided to go ahead and take it. I lost four pounds in the first day and a half and was able to zip up my jeans the next day. I'm still taking it, and my weight loss is ongoing! Woot! (Although, I will say, I did live in the bathroom that first 24 hours. Be warned.)


From the manufacturer:

Calorease is one of the easiest ways to make your weight management program more effective. Unlike many other diet aids, it is completely stimulant-free and therefore heart-healthy. It has been shown to bind and eliminate up to 9 times its weight in dietary fat, reducing up to 500 calories a day from the fat in foods. It is naturally sourced, and has been researched in studies and clinical trials. As part of a reduced calorie diet—and with a regular exercise program—Calorease is the edge you need to help you meet your goals.


JUST THE FACTS:

• It’s easy to use Calorease. Simply take two tablets with a fat-containing meal three times a day. But stay consistent for the best results.

• If taken as recommended, results can be seen in about 2-3 weeks. Keep in mind that Calorease is not a license to overeat, nor is it a magic bullet for quick weight loss.

• There is no program or special diet involved with taking Calorease. A reasonable, balanced and nutritious fat-containing diet is recommended. Click here for sample meal plans.

• Calorease does not contain gluten, lactose, yeast, wheat, sugar, salt, egg, soy, dairy, artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives. It is naturally sourced from grain and is suitable for vegans.

• A convenient blister pouch provides 1 serving (2 tablets) so it’s easy to take on the go. A 90-tablet pack of Calorease retails for $29.99.

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DID YOU KNOW?

It’s understood that fiber can bind with dietary fat and prevent fat from being digested. But since most fibers bind fat at a 1:1 ratio, you would have to consume unrealistic amounts of ordinary fiber to gain any benefit—until now. The unique, patented fiber in Calorease (FBCx) binds up to 9 times its weight in dietary fat, reducing up to 15,000 calories per month from a normal diet.

LEARN MORE:

Click here to watch a video to see how Calorease works. Visit Calorease.com to learn more, and also connect with Calorease online at:

 www.facebook.com/calorease "Like" them!

 www.twitter.com/calorease "Follow" them!

 www.pinterest.com/calorease "Follow them!

 gplus.to/calorease You know what to do!

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Would you like to get 50% off your order? Click here and enter the code 4MOMS - you'll pay just $14.99 for a 90-tablet pack!

Let me know if you try it out, m'kay?

Full DisclosureI received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC. or the manufacturer of the product.

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CLOSED: #Giveaway: Old El Paso Frozen Entrees For Two #MyBlogSpark

This giveaway is now CLOSED!

The winner, selected by the Random Number Generator, is #6:

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Thomas M., who wrote, "I want to try the Chicken Quesadillas and I would get rice with the gift card."

Email me your address, Thomas! Congrats - and thanks to everyone who entered!

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I received this fun surprise in the mail today from MyBlogSpark: A cool chips-and-dip melamine plate, a coupon for a FREE package of Old El Paso Frozen Entrées For Two, and a $10 Visa gift card to round out our meal.

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Stay tuned for deets on how you can win this SAME package for yourself! (USA entrants only, please.)

 

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There are lots of fresh new flavors of Old El Paso Frozen Entrées For Two, including Chicken Quesadillas & Enchiladas, Steak Fajitas, Shredded Beef Burritos, and more! You can check them out here.

 

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Hubs and I have been talking about letting our newly 12-year-old daughter, Chloë, "babysit" her younger brother and sister for short periods of time to see how things go, so this package provided the perfect opportunity to start: We hopped on the motorcycle and zipped around the corner to Publix to get our Old El Paso dinner fixin's, leaving her in charge. (We were gone all of 20 minutes, tops, and everything was fine. Relax, Grandma!) ;)

Since I don't eat beef, we settled on these Chicken Enchiladas, and also:

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...these Chicken Quesadillas. All of the entrées at my Publix were priced at $7.99, which is what my coupon allowed, so that was serendipitous, huh?

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Since we were having a Mexican night and were provided with the gift card, we picked up some yummy Tostitos chips and dips to go in our new platter, too. 

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While the enchiladas and quesadillas were cooking, I served the chips in the platter with the salsa, queso, and some guacamole and sour cream. Jack could not wait to dive in! Can you believe my non-cheese lover ate the entire jar of queso?!

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The Chicken Enchiladas were ready first. They looked okay, but I confess, they did not smell particularly wonderful to me. Rob went ahead and helped himself, while I held back temporarily.

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Rob LOVES Mexican food, so he was the first to taste-test the new Old El Paso Frozen Entrées For Two Chicken Enchiladas. And? Well? Well....?!!

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He liked it, he really liked it! I decided to go in for a bite, and... well, I didn't care for the Enchiladas so much. I think it was the smell of them that was off-putting, honestly, but I just had the one bite.

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The quesadillas were ready next. Chloë, who also did not like the enchiladas, decided to go for this one.

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She went in for the bite and... gave me thumbs-down on the quesadilla. Hmm. I let it cool a while longer (and let my tummy settle from all the chips on which we'd pigged out earlier) before trying it myself. And guess what? I LOVED IT! The Chicken Quesadillas were much better than I expected after eating the Chicken Enchiladas and being disappointed.

I'm interested in trying the Chicken Burritos and seeing what else Old El Paso comes out with for this line of frozen entrées, but at a $7.99 price point, I'll wait until a coupon comes out. (If you're a Publix shopper, make sure to download the $1.50 digital coupon for Old El Paso, too!)

Be sure and check out Old El Paso on Facebook here, too!

*~*~*~*~*~* GIVEAWAY TIME!!! *~*~*~*~*~*

If you're interested in winning your own Mexican Tile Chip & Dip platter, FREE Old El Paso Frozen Entrées For Two (up to $7.99) product coupon, and $10 Visa card, please leave a comment on this post telling me what entrée(s) you are most interested in trying and what you'd get with the gift card to round out your meal. (Remember, packages are not able to be sent outside the USA, sorry.)

That's it!

I'll pick a winner at random at midnight EST on Friday, October 25th, so get your comment in. One entry per person, please.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Information and the prize pack were provided to me by General Mills, through MyBlogSpark. All opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own.

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Be sure and enter this giveaway sponsored by Green Giant, too!


Werther’s Original® Baking Bash MommyParty! #WerthersCaramel

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I was SO excited to be chosen by MommyParties and Werther's Original for a Baking Bash featuring their new Baking Caramels recently. Imagine how thrilling it was to get this box in the mail, full of Werther's Original Baking Caramels to use at the bash, with plenty more to share with my guests. Woot!

My party was supposed to be this past Sunday, only... no one could make it. Big, huge bummer. I had planned baking, fun and games (and even cleaned up my house in preparation, which is momentous in iteself), but my invitees were unable to join me.

So yesterday (Tuesday), Team Odette had the Werther's Original Baking Bash all on our own. I have some Freecycle ladies coming today, and they have been forewarned that they WILL be taking home some caramels and caramel-baked goodness, so I'm still sharing, right?!

Come along, now, and see what this is all about. Here we go!

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Of course, all of the recipes I baked up at our Bash started with the Werther's Original Baking Caramels. These rich and creamy Caramels are great for baking and making delicious caramel apples (hello, first thing you think of in Autumn, right?). Made with real butter and fresh cream, they are perfect for melting and incorporating into your favorite recipes. Did I mention they taste great all on their own, if you can't help but pop one - or, um, three - into your mouth during your unwrapping frenzy?

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Of course, the first recipe I had to try was Caramel Apples. You know, Caramel (and Candy) apples are an October staple in this country, but I don't think I've ever made homemade ones for my family. So I was excited to make these for our continuing Halloween/Autumn parade of treats, and you know the kids were chomping at the bit to try them, too! The recipe, here, calls for scrubbing your apples with some dish soap and drying before starting to melt the caramel, so I did exactly that. Rob always teases me for not following recipes and going off on my own tangential trail - sometimes with great results, sometimes disastrously - but this time, I followed it to a 't.'

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The recipe even called for melting the caramels in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and, voilà, I did that, too! The bag of Caramels itself brags about how easy to unwrap they are, and it's no lie. I had a 20-second timed unwrapping contest with my kids and video-taped the whole thing, but my iPhone ate the videos before I could save them to my camera.

(Okay, I deleted them by accident. iPhone is not at fault here. I lied.)

In the 20 seconds, Sophia managed to unwrap 4½ Caramels! Chloë came in second with three, and Jack did 2½. I coached, cajoled and coaxed them along in that time, and the videos were pretty funny, so I'm bummed not to have them to share with you! Just imagine me being hilarious and the kids being their usual amusing selves, and you're In Like Flynn.

By the way, the recipe, printed on the bag, also calls for adding a tbsp (or two, if ya want) of milk or heavy cream (your preference) to the caramels during the melting phase. Don't be a dummy like me and neglect to read that part. I made the recipe twice, and guess what? It works so much better when you follow the dang directions.

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Because of my milk omission, and I think because of the shape and size of the 2-cup glass measuring cup, it was a little hard for me to coat my apples completely and thoroughly. I did use a spoon, as suggested, but when I later repeated the recipe in a regular FiestaWare cereal bowl, it worked much better. So, my vote is for shallow and wide, rather than tall and narrow, m'kay?

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Sophia was the first taker on a Caramel Apple. She bit into it and deemed it delicious, BUT, full disclosure here, it was too hard to bite into the caramel. We had put them in the fridge to harden the caramel and, well, that worked at little too well. We're having issues with our refrigerator being too cold (or not cold enough, when we attempt to turn it down), so maybe that's the problem. When I put the formerly-chilled apples in the built-in microwave over the constantly-on oven after that, the caramel softened for later eaters to be able to eat it. For Sophie, though, we had to cut up the apple in order for it to be eaten. Still quite tasty, but not quite the same.

End Result: Delicious, Semi-Easy, and Repeatable!

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Next up was Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate. You can find the recipe here.

Now, this recipe should have been simple, but the recipe forgot to tell me when to add the majority of the chocolate to the saucepot (before adding caramels, by the way), and also, I completely messed it up. It was a comedy of errors:

First of all, there was that omission, and I called my MommyParties contact, Amy, for clarification. Second, it calls for instant coffee, and I had no instant. So like a dummy (and not for the first time in my life), I subbed coffee grounds. Ha! DUH! I forgot that it wouldn't dissolve. Rob solved that problem by running the milk/coffee/sugar combo through his French press after it boiled. Mah Hero! And finally, for whatever reason I can't quite explain, I made a cup of coffee with a K-cup in my Keurig and dumped the whole cup into my post-boiled mixture for more coffee flavor. Even though the recipe only called for 2 tsp of instant... so yeah. It was more Mocha, Less Chocolate, you know?

But that's okay, because Rob liked it so well, he drank two cups! Jack had a cup, too.The girls tried it, as did I, but we weren't big fans of the bitter chocolate I used for garnish. And it was too coffee-ish for the ladies. (Jack loves coffee; go figure.)

End Result: Pretty Good, Kind of Hard for ME, Possibly Repeatable.

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Third on the list was this Caramel Apple Tart. The recipe is here. Oh, my word, y'all. THIS was delicious. Absolutely, completely, totally delicious. It was easy to make, rich and flavorful, and I just can't say enough about it. You have to make this one, you guys!

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Chloë was first to try the Caramel Apple Tart. Sorta. I tasted the mixture after scooping it out of the skillet and just knew it would be a winner. What did Chlo think?

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She loved it. She asked me to make it again. Soon. And I will. Because yum. Every one of us agreed with her, too.

End Result: Insanely Delicious, Easy, MUST Repeat!

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I saw this recipe for Almond Drizzle Apples and knew I had to try it. My apples didn't turn out anywhere near as pretty as the ones in the recipe, and I had a dickens of a time splotting chocolate drizzle all over them, but the end result was superb. If I could have the sugar, I would absolutely have eaten an entire apple, but I had to refrain. More for the rest of Team Odette!

End Result: Delicious, Hard for ME, Probably Repeatable

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Next on my agenda was this Candy Apple Cheesecake. I probably would sub a regular, 8" pie crust instead of a 9" one next time, but I wouldn't change any other thing. It was simple to make, and I followed the directions and chilled it thoroughly before serving much later in the evening.

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By the time I served this at night, Chloë and I were the only ones left with any kind of appetite, so we dug in. Another "OMG" moment, like the tart. Y'all totes need to stock up on Werther's Baking Caramels and a bunch of apples, because you need to make these recipes. No joke!

End Result: Super Delicious, Very Easy, Must Repeat!

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I love a good popcorn cluster, so I knew these Caramel Popcorn Clusters would be on my list. I can't eat much of it anymore, but the bottom line is, if you like this sort of snack, it's a must. So good; I wish I could eat more!

End Result: Delicious, Easy, Repeatable

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Eating peanut brittle was on Chloë's Bucket List, so I had to make some of this Caramel Peanut Brittle when I saw the recipe online. It came together quickly and simply. My only suggestion to you would be that when you're spreading it out on a cookie sheet for hardening, spray a metal spoon with cooking spray and flatten it with that. Oh, and stick it in the freezer for five minutes for fast hardening before breaking. I did both of those things, and it worked well.

End Result: Crazy Delicious, Very Easy, Repeatable!

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The bottom line is, we had a fabulous time discovering all that can be done with these versatile Baking Caramels, and I still plan to make more recipes later this week, like this Caramel Apple Silk Pie, and this Caramel Spiced Bread, and these Caramel Sticky Buns (probably without the cherries, but we'll see). 

For MORE mouthwatering caramel recipes, baking tutorials, special offers, and even giveaways and sweepstakes, you'll want to join me and sign up here for an awesome Werther's Caramel Community. Let me know if you do - I'm there, too! The community is full of ideas, including amazing recipes submitted by readers and users like you and me, so check it out.

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I hope you've had a good time reading this post. You can go snag a coupon by joining here, so let me know if you try out any of these delicious Baking Caramels treats. I'd love to know how you fared compared to us!

Full Disclosure: I received free Werther's Original products in order to host the Werther's Original sponsored MommyParty. The opinions expressed here are, as always, completely my own.

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Product Review: Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum

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Hey, guys. Here I am again. I know! Three posts before dawn. I'm on a roll.

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I'm back with another product review: this time, it's for Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum.

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Way back in April, Fysiko sent me a full-size tube of their Eyelash Growth Serum for review here on the blahg. I was to use the product for a full 16 weeks and then post my review here on Smellyann Strikes Again.

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You may remember, I posted a halfway-point set of photos. Four months is a long time, so I wanted to check in after two months. You can read about that and see the photos here.

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This was my "BEFORE" picture, taken at the end of April 2013. I had computer issues at the time, so I apologize for the poor-ish quality of the picture. You can see the length of my lashes pretty well, though, and that's what counts.

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But look now! This is my "AFTER" picture, taken at the end of August.

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(Because of Rob's brain tumor drama, it's taken me this long to get the post up; sorry!)

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Look how thick and lush my eyelashes are, compared to the stubby little ones back in April! No photoshop, no editing, no nothing. Just my bare face and a camera.

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Wow, what a messy job of mascara I did that morning! I had to put some on to show you, though, because the newer growth from the Fysiko serum was blond, and you can't really see it on the "AFTER" photo above this one. My lashes are super long now!

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Remember that commercial, long ago, where the girl complains because her lashes are always hitting her glasses when she blinks? That's me now! Except I'm not complaining, because it took 16 weeks of daily (sometimes twice!) Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum to achieve that phenomenon.

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This is also my "AFTER" morning, but it doesn't really tell you much by itself, since I took no "BEFORE" photo with my eyes open. But look here:

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I used a basic, regular ol' Bobbi Brown mascara with no claims to lengthen and thicken for these two shots. I just wanted to show you the new length and fullness of my eyelashes, and I had to darken the little blond tips with mascara to prove it to you.

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Is that crazy or what? Honestly, folks, I'm really impressed. I truly didn't think I would notice any appreciable difference, and yet here the proof is in the pictures to show you that it works.

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You can find Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum here, with purchasing information here. Let me know if you end up grabbing some for your own blinky-winkies! (I'm a dork. I know.)

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Fin.

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Full Disclosure: Fysiko provided me with a full-size product for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions in this review are, as always, my own. I'm just a happy consumer!


Bzz, Bzz: Kashi Hummus Crisps #GotItFree #ProductReview

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OMGarsh, y'all. I am a bad BzzAgent and a bad blogger.
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Why? you're asking. (Go ahead, ask. I don't mind!)
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Because, you guys! I received a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Kashi Hummus Crisps the other day, and I never took a single picture.
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I know! I slapped my own hand!
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Here's what happened: Rob was in the hospital again two weeks ago for the first of two Neuro-ICU visits in a row for Ye Olde Lovely Braine Tumore. (heh) (I know it's not funny. Give me a break, will ya? Humor helps.)
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The doorbell rang as I was packing up for the hour-long commute up to the hospital from home.
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I grabbed the box, opened it, saw snacks and probably thought to myself, "Ooh, yummy!" and stashed the bag in my hospital gear. Off I went.
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At the hospital an hour later, I was grabbing my teddy bear, my bag, my big ol' keg of the drink du jour, and spotted that bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. I was starving by that point - you don't tend to eat a whole lot when you're visiting the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, you know what I mean? - and ripped open the bag.
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Oh, my goodness, y'all. They were good!! I munched all the way from my van in the parking garage, up to the hospital, during the ride in the elevator, and down the hall to Rob's room. I even struck up a conversation about them in the elevator and handed out a coupon (Want one? Let me know in the comments)!
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I think they were all gone by the time I reached Rob's room on the 5th floor, but I can't remember. He can't either, so he must not have gotten one. Because I PIGGED OUT and ate them all.
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They were air-popped crisps, with a crunchy texture, and I loved that. But more importantly, the taste! I believe I have made it known in this blahg before how I feel about hummus (YUMMUS!), and Kashi did not disappoint. I can't wait to try the other two flavors, Caramelized Onion and Tomato, Basil & Feta. Do those not sound amazing? To me, they do!
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This picture makes me laugh. You'd think I'd realize the words would be reversed, but no. Anyway, that's all I have to show for my delicious bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. Gone-in-a-flash is what they should have been called, if you ask me!
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Of course, Kashi doesn't disappoint when it comes to nutrition, either. The crisps are made with whole grains and real chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), so you know you're getting plenty of fiber and protein in this snack. Both are high on my list of dietary priorities, so I'll be munching more - soon!
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What else?
  • At least 3g fiber
  • At least 3g protein
  • At least 5g of whole grains
  • No partially hydrogenated oils
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No artificial anything! 
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In the final analysis, I have to say, I honestly prefer these Kashi Hummus Crisps to, say, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. They have all of the delicious flavor with none of the guilt. I feel good about eating them!
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Fin.
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Full Disclosure: Kashi and BzzAgent provided a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Hummus Crisps to me for review and sharing, but all opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own. I received coupons, too, but not for free product. You can rest assured you'll always get my honest feedback!

Aloha Friday: Avast, Me Hearties!

Aloha Friday Blog Hop on @PamelaMKramer

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Link up with A Renaissance Woman if you're questioning the rest of us today!
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So, today was pretty good for Team Odette, all things considered. Rob and Sophie went to go see the movie Planes at a nearby theater, making them the last of our family to see it, and all five of us for FREE!
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(As an aside, I'm glad we didn't pay anything for any of us to see it, because Planes is no Cars, y'know what I'm sayin'?)
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When they returned, we packed up and visited a local park that I'd spotted during an outing by myself the week before, which I knew the kids would enjoy. (They did.)
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After that, we came home and were reminded by my friend Tabitha that it was "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" and that Krispy Kreme was giving a free dozen donuts to anyone who went in dressed like a pirate. A quick 15 minutes later, we were back in the car and headed for our local shop. I thought we'd score ONE box, but to my surprise, they gave a dozen glazed donuts to each of my three kiddos! Sweet! (Literally.)
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We gave two of the doughnuts to the gate guard of our neighborhood, as she was opening the gate for us to get back home. I mean, we had three dozen, after all!
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Not so fun for Pepper, but hilariously for the rest of us, Chloë came out of her room complaining that Sophia had put purple lipstick on him. Rob immediately burst out laughing, while I was trying to go all scoldy-Mama on Soap, which caused the rest of us to giggle, too. Look at that poor puss!
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Ultimately, I decided to let the kids open a box that just arrived for them from Green Kid Crafts for me to review. I got it free, just paying shipping, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much that it wasn't a full kit and was just a "sample," though I did expect it to be the full kit. And the quality of the materials were kind of lame, IMNSHO. Oh, well. They enjoyed making the tam drum and really got along swell together in the process. If I had to buy the kit for full price, though, I'll be honest - it's Kiwi Crate over Green Kids Crafts, hands down!
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All that being said, my question for you guys this week is:
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What was the best day of this week for you, and how did you spend it?
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Leave me a link to your blog so I can answer your question, too.
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(I finally found where all my blahg comments were going with my new Yahoo! email filter, so I'll actually be following up on those tonight!)
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Fin.
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P.S. A number of you inquired about my anti-Semitic calendar post from last week. It's a Pillsbury calendar for 2013, but lo and behold, I just got a new World Wildlife Fund calendar in the mail for 2014. Of course, I immediately checked September & October - and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are there, where they should be! Woot! (I didn't spot Ramadan, though...)

Old El Paso & My Blog Spark Provided Dinner Tonight! #giveaway #contest

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

The winner selected by random is:

Random
#6:  Kelly D. who said, "I love Chinese food the most." 

Congratulations, Kelly! I'll be emailing you for information.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this fun giveaway!

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I always love it when packages come in the mail - especially ones I'm not expecting! Today, I woke up to find a huge box waiting for me. It was my forgotten goodies from My Blog Spark: an Old El Paso Farmer's Market Kit! How fun.  Here's what I got:

  • An insulated market bag, which I cannot wait to put to good use,
  • An avocado keeper,
  • A chopper and bowl set, 
  • Old El Paso Fajita Dinner Kit, and
  • Taco Seasoning

I got together the fixin's for the rest of the dinner (ground turkey for me, ground beef for everyone else, bell peppers, chili peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream) and started cooking up a storm tonight. Everyone was eager to try out the goodies.

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I used the taco seasoning in both the gound beef (½ packet) and

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also in the ground turkey. It was really flavorful - not too spicy or overpowering; just right.

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I spent a good five minutes with the chopper unsuccessfully, before switching to my Ninja food processor and getting the onions, pepper and tomato minced in a matter of 30 seconds, but I was rushed and probably doing it wrong. I could tell it was very sharp, so I'll give it another go next time. I did love that I could color-code the containers for what they, well, contained! Onions in the white, peppers in the green, tomatoes in the red and... cheddar cheese in the purple?! Hey, they're complementary colors, so it works.

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In about 20 minutes, I had dinner on the table and everyone gathered 'round the table. Between the fixin's, my festive table runner, and the Fiesta Ware, it was a colorful spread, no? We said grace and then everyone fixed her own plate.

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Here's mine. I skipped out on the chilis - I don't do spicy, people! I piled everything high on top of my fajita and dug in. Oh, my goodness! Fresh, tasty, and nutritious to boot. What a great dinner! Even the kids raved about it. Honest! My younger daughter, Sophia, said, "Dinner was really good tonight, Mom!" to which the oldest, Chloë, replied, "No, it wasn't good - it was great! The best dinner ever!" (She's my 'best ever' everything kid.) 

High compliments to Old El Paso 'cause we tend to eat, like, every single day.

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Would you like to win your own Old El Paso Farmer's Market Kit? Cool beans! ;)

Just leave a comment on this post with your favorite ethnic food by Friday night. On Saturday morning, the Random Number Generator and I will pick a winner from the commentors. That's it! Now GO!

Fin.

Full disclosure: My Blog Spark provided me with the dinner kit mentioned herein, but I was not otherwise compensated. Like always, my opinions are honest and completely my own. Amen. 


What Do Olive Oil & Sunscreen Have In Common? Read To Find Out!

What's up, party people?!

I've had lots of product reviews to do lately, and I thought I'd take a second and combine them into one, longer post so you can see what I've had a chance to try out lately. Forgive me for all the shameless plugs, but I can promise you one thing: if I didn't like the free goodies I was given, I wouldn't post about them here. In fact, more than once I have decidedly NOT liked the product and told the company so and been asked not to review it. (Subsequently, one of those companies changed their formula and has been all over the blahgosphere, Twitter, Pinterest, and more with their new campaign. I'm keeping mum as to who it is, though, so don't ask me!)

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I reviewed a new eyelash serum by Fysiko just a little bit ago, and I'm plugging them again here because I'm still amazed that this stuff actually works. I nearly forgot I had hair there!

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Yeah, those are my gnarly shoes and even gnarlier feet, trying out Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles for the first time. Oh, my gosh. Since I first posted about them, I have been wearing the heck out of these shoes! Have you guys tried these? If so, you've totally been holding out on me. I've switched from flip-flops as my go-to shoes for summer to these, just so I can have comfy feet as we're out and about. Like, really.

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I was sent a bottle of Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil from BzzAgent the other day, and I've been waiting for a dinner to make with it. I took some cut of beef or another (I have no clue; I don't eat it, so it's all dead cow to me, sorry!) out of the freezer and decided to marinate it with a little of this EVOO, some salt and pepper, and a little seasoning in our new Dutch oven to try it out. I even put some EVOO in the water to boil the corn, and Rob stopped me before I put the olive oil in the spuds instead of milk, too. Hee! Well, it was kind of dumb to "waste" my first Filippo meal on people other than myself, since I couldn't test out the meat, but it was apparently quite delishamus. The corn was really tasty; I can tell you that much! Next time, it'll be pasta, though...

 

What do you like to use olive oil for? I need suggestions, because if it were up to me, I'd even sweets with it. (Can you do that? I'm all ears.)

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And finally, I got my Summer 2013 kit as one of the Coppertone Water MOMS bloggers! Woohoo! It's full of sunscreen for the babes and us parents alike, and I even got a beach towel. We went to the park today and, despite the rain, we applied some Coppertone - a different one for each kids' needs, even - to each person. Guess what? No sunburns. Chloë got one the other day, so we must be extra careful.

*** I have coupons ***

for everything pictured here, so you can try them, too. Okay, not for the olive oil, and if I did, I'd totally horde that away from you guys, because I love that stuff. I kid, I kid... kinda. Anyway, just ask if you want some, and I'll pop them in the mail to you.  Please leave comments below even if you don't want coupons, because I really need to tell my sponsors what you think!

Fin.

Full Disclosure: I was sent all of the items pictured here (well, except for the gross feet, with which I was born, and the corn, which I bought at Target) for free to try out, in exchange for my completely honest reviews. I received no other compensation or threat of violence in exchange for my positivity.  Thanks to BzzAgent for the Dr. Scholls and Filippo Berio products, Fysiko and Sverve for the eyelash serum, and Coppertone and MomSelect for the sunscreen and towel!


Product Review: Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum

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I'm about halfway through a 16-week product review for Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum and thought I'd share a few pictures of my progress so far. Sixteen weeks is a long time, so I was wondering if that last two months would really make a difference and wanted to document the changes thus far.

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This is my before picture, from the beginning of April. Short, stubby lashes. Pardon the polka-dotty face; sun brings out the freckles in a big way!

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Here's my after picture, from yesterday - you can see growth! At least to me, they definitely look longer - and that's without mascara. I put a little bit on a while ago, and this is with mascara:

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Oh, my gosh! I have lashes again! I have long admired the kids' and Rob's long eyelashes, but now I have some, too! Woohoo! They look longer in the bottom photo because the tips are blonde, so they need coating to show.  I was actually pretty skeptical when I was engaged in this campaign, and now I'm shocked it really works. 

I haven't put any on the bottom lashes because I never put mascara there anyway. Now I'm wondering if I should, but I don't want spider eyes. Thoughts on this and these before/after photos?

Fin.


Bzz, Bzz: Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles #imabzzagent

I just received a new Bzz kit from Bzzagent, containing a free pair of Dr. Scholls Massaging Gel Insoles for me to try. Woot! I couldn't wait; I get fallen arches, and those hurt, man. I've been wanting to try these for an age.

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So the pair I received was for women's size 6-10, which is good since I take a 5½ shoe.  Don't they just look juicy and cushy? I couldn't wait to try them out!

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I wear these shoes all. the. time, and as you can see, they are getting pretty worn out. The soles used to be really comfortable, but they're ratty now, and I thought they were a good candidate for my new Massaging Gel insoles. I eagerly tore open the package of Dr. Scholl's, which package claims it "doubles the comfort in your shoe."

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As you can see, I just had to cut away a bit of the massaging gel insole to fit inside my shoe. There are cutting guidelines on the bottom of the sole, which made this a really simple process.

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Et voila! Perfect fit, and I only had to retrim the first sole once, after I figured out how to fit it into my shoe just so.

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Okay, I know I have ugly, hideous feet (believe me, I've been told), but try to look beyond all that. I was ready to slip these babies on my barking dogs!

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First one foot,...

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... and then the other. Okay, it didn't feel that different, but I hadn't taken a step yet. I admit, it wasn't love at first step. Or second. But then I really started walking.

I walked around the house. Ahhh. It felt good. Really, really good.

And I drove. And walked, and drove, and walked some more.

You guys, I was loving my new insoles. Super comfortable, so cushy... it was like walking on squishy, little pillows. No lie. I am absolutely in the market for more of these babies. You've so gotta try them!

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Of course, I have coupons. Holler at me if you'd like one. And let me know if you've already tried these. What did you think? Awesome, right?!

I think I've said enough. You get the point. Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles ROCK!

Fin.


Happify

For a few months now, I've been on a website called Happify. The founders contacted me through my blog, asking me to help them start the site, and I've been there since just about the beginning. It's wonderful.

On the site, you learn how add more happiness to your life.

Sounds simple, right?

But there's a science behind it. Really! It's a skill you can control, and like exercise, the more activities you do to build this skill, the happier you can become.

Happify uses a scientific framework, STAGE, to help you master the five essential happiness skills. STAGE stands for:

S - Savor

T - Thank

A - Aspire

G - Give

E - Empathize

and each skill has specific activities designed to help you learn to improve your happiness level.

Honestly, I love this site, and it works. Every two weeks, the site prompts you take a happiness test to see how you're doing on the spectrum, and I've noticed a marked increase in my score since starting on Happify. Sure, I go up and down like everybody else, but overall I think the skills and activities have helped me achieve a more positive outlook and a mindfulness about being happy that I might not have reached alone.

So join me on Happify if you think this would help you. You can find me here, so be sure and "follow" me, and I'll follow you back. Oh, that's another thing. You can click and comment on each others' activities (or keep yours private) to help cheer each other on! I think that's a fabulous asset, as we don't normally give ourselves those much-needed pats on the back. (At least I don't.)

Disclosure: I'm a member of Happify, but I have received nothing in exchange for this post. I have received no compensation or incentive; I just love this website and want to share with you! Oh - I did get a t-shirt, but that was just because I asked.☺

Fin.


Website Review: Vimbly.com

www.vimbly.com
Do you live in New York City, or are you planning on visiting there soon? If so, you should definitely check out Vimbly.
What is Vimbly, you ask?
Simply put, it's like your personal online concierge to find whatever you could possibly want to do in the Big Apple. And after you make your plans, you can use Vimbly to book it, buy tickets, etc. too. Pretty great, right?
What interests you? What do you want to do? For what can you search?
Vimbly offers over 3,000 things to do in NYC in these categories and more:
  • Mother's Day
  • Adrenaline
  • Creative
  • Food Adventure
  • Cooking
  • Dance for Beginners
  • Martial Arts
  • Live Shows
  • Editors' Picks

Aside from choosing the category, you can also search for things to do by zip code or general area of New York, day of the week, price range, and start time. You can also submit your email address to get alerts for new activities that will interest you. Pretty great, if you ask me - Hey Vimbly, how's about setting us up with a page for Miami, 'kay? Thanks. 'Preciate it.

So, future visitors and current travelers to New York City, are you going to check out Vimbly? Let me know! I'd love to hear how you plan to use the site.

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Disclosure: Vimbly compensated me for writing this post. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are completely my own.

Fin.


Product Review: Cottonelle Clean Care Routine

Recently, Cottonelle and Crowdtap asked me to review and share the Cottonelle Clean Care Routine, which includes both the toilet paper and wipes, in ye olde fashioned restroom.
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 That long-ago commercial where one woman says to another, "Sometimes I just don't feel fresh," came to mind when I received this opportunity. You know? Sometimes when you use the restroom and you feel like you need to hop right in the shower afterward? The Cottonelle Clean Care Routine helps with that!
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In my package, I received a big ol' package of Cottonelle toilet paper to keep, and two four-packs to give away to friends.
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I was also given a box of Cottonelle Flushable Moist Wipes to keep, and two more to share with the same peeps who received the toilet paper. Three of us were to test the Clean Care Routine. I don't know about you, but I don't often approach my friends and ask them to try out new bathroom hygiene products and then discuss it with me, but hey, it was funny. I'm always up for funny.
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As for the toilet paper, it was strong and thick and did the trick. (Hey, I'm a poet...!) The toilet paper never ripped when I used it, which is important. I mean, have you ever been wiping after a particularly messy, um, trip to the bathroom, and your finger went right through the paper? Yuck. I hate that. But that, my friends, was never an issue when I used the Cottonelle TP. WIN. 
Plus, it was soft. See that puppy? He looks comfortable for a reason. I don't know about you, but there are certain brands of toilet paper I will NEVER buy, no matter how big the coupon and how good the sale, because my ladybits do not need to be rubbed with sand paper. You know what I'm talking about. Talk about CHAFING. Owie. Again, not an issue with Cottonelle. I'm a fan for life.
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As for the wipes? Hello. SCORE. From now on, I plan to never be without them. No more need to jump into the shower after a particularly messy, uh... I'll leave the rest of that sentence to your imagination. Occasionally, I needed two wipes, but most of the time, one Cottonelle wipe did the trick to make me feel fresh and super-clean. They were soft and NEVER ripped. { The pop-up tub was pretty great, too, so I had no problems with getting one wipe at a time during that critical moment. }
From now on, the Cottonelle Clean Care Routine is my go-to choice for keeping fresh after using the restroom. Which reminds me, I'm out of wipes right now. ::whimper::
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Not a member of Crowdtap yet? Make sure you sign up, because not only is it fun and interesting, but the site connects you with top brands for great sampling, sharing, and yes, partying opportunities. And did I mention, it's fun??
Full Disclosure: Cottonelle and Crowdtap provided me with the products for this review, but I received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are, as always, my own.

Missions Links From Smiley360

In the spirit of sharing, I have a few things to tell you guys about, from my current Smiley360 missions. (Smile.ly is kinda like BzzAgent, for those who know it.)

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First, there's the Orajel survey. Take the survey for a chance to win a $200 gift card. I know I could use that! Woohoo!

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Next up is Children's Mucinex, of which I received a sample in the mail to use for when my kids got sick. Only, they never got sick, so the movers packed it up in our shipment of household goods. Of course, right away, my kids got sick, and I don't have it! What's a mom to do? Well, like you, I can use this coupon here to get more. I hope it works!

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Finally, we have Campbell's Slow Kettle style soups. I was given a sample (and have since bought more), coupons, and even a warm and fuzzy pair of socks to wear! Fun. If you'd like to try it, there is a $1-off printable coupon here. Let me know what flavor(s) you try, if you do! SO delish.

That's it for now, folks! Try, and tell me how you liked these!

Fin.


Party Time With PinyPon & Nenuco!

Disclaimer: I was provided with products from MommyParties, PinyPon and Nenuco to review, distribute to my party guests, and some for my kids to keep. No monetary exchange took place. As always, all opinions in this post are mine alone.

Pinypon

A week ago, we had an awesome party at our house with some friends to learn about PinyPon products! Have you ever heard of PinyPon? No? We hadn't either, but now we are huge fans!

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Here are my kids waiting for their friends with all the fun PinyPon figures we were given. So colorful and cute!

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Note: only my childrens' faces are shown in the pictures; the rest of the parents declined to let their kids' images be posted on the blahg.

When the rest of the kids showed up, I distributed the PinyPon figures to them (saving a few for friends who couldn't make the shindig, since we were given so many), and let them go at it! 

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Even Jack, the only boy there, enjoyed his PinyPon! So, it's not just for girls, peeps! I thought he'd just stay inside and play with his LEGOs, but he stayed and played the entire time!

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We were also given this supah-dupah cool PinyPon Caravan for extra fun, plus another to give away to one excited little girl! The folks at PinyPon really thought of everything with this toy, because it can be played with and modified in so many different ways. Even I have played with it when no one else was around - hee!

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Of course, because it has wheels, Jack was especially interested in the caravan. Of course!

I interviewed my kiddos after the PinyPon portion of the party to see what they thought of their new toys, and this is what Sophia, Chloë & Jack had to say (sorry about the lack of video editing, but it won't let me upload the edited versions, grrr):

 

My battery cut off or something there, so ... not the greatest blahg vlahg, but it'll do, Pig.

Make sure you check out Pinypon.com for more product and where-to-buy information, lots of coupons, games, and videos. Also, PinyPon can be found on Facebook and Twitter, so check them out there as well!

{Note: If you were part of the party and I forgot to send you the link to enter for great prizes, send me a nudge for it! You could win a $100 gift card to Toys 'R Us! ;) }

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In addition to all the PinyPon fun, Mommyparties sent us two baby dolls from Nenuco: one to keep and one to give away to yet another ecstatic little girly!

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Sophia has been wanting a baby doll of her own for ages now, so she was completely delighted to have this Nenuco doll for playing with her sister and her doll!

Check out more Nenuco products here! You can also check the site for where-to-buy information, as well as games, special promotions, and more!

Please also be sure to visit Nenuco on Facebook and Twitter.


Thanks so much to PinyPon, Nenuco, and MommyParties for letting us host this wonderful party!

Fin.


Bzz, Bzz: SMARTFOOD Selects Snacks Product Review

I'm back again with yet another awesome campaign product from BzzAgent! This time, it's the munchies, namely, SMARTFOOD Selects all natural snacks. I received three products in my BzzKit to try:

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The first was a small bag of Feta Herb Hummus Popped Chips. I (reluctantly, I might add) shared some with Hubs, and we both agreed they were delicious. He was mighty surprised to like them, since he is not a ginormous hummus fan, like I am. The bag was gone far too quickly! The chips were fresh, crispy and full flavor. I have been on the lookout for them ever since - especially since SMARTFOOD snacks are on sale at Rite Aid right now. My store down the road doesn't carry their products yet - wahhh! - but I've requested them!

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(Sorry for the blurry picture, oops!)

The second bag out of the box was opened immediately after we finished the first. I meant to share these Garlic Tomato Basil Hummus Chips with Rob, too, but unfortunately for him, he left the room for a few minutes, and I wolfed them down before he could get a single one. Too bad for him; I know he would have loved these, too. Delish!!

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Finally, we received this big bag of Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn. I will say that Rob didn't like this as much, saying, "The only sweet popcorn should be caramel corn," but boo to him, because the kids and I snacked on this and loved it so much, I've since used the coupon provided in my kit - together with a Rite Aid store coupon in their Flu Shot booklet - at a different Rite Aid I happened to stop in and find this at, happily, (no popped chips there, either. Bummer.) to buy two more bags! We're almost done with those, too, so quickly have we gobbled these down.

So have you tried these delicious, all-natural snacks made with smart combinations of real herbs and spices yet? If so, what did you try and what did you think? If not, what are you waiting for?! Get yourself a bag or three and let me know what you like - or not - in the comments below.

The bottom line for Team Odette: YUM, bring on more SMARTFOOD Selects!!

Fin.


Bzz, Bzz: Glade Expressions Product Review

 Have you tried the (fairly new) line of Glade Expressions products yet? Well, as a BzzAgent, I have been given the opportunity to try them out and get the word out about what I think of them. I bought them in all four scents I found available (more on that in a sec) a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn't until last night that I finally got a chance to start trying them out.

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I love, love, love apple-scented anything, so the first product I decided to open was the Glade Expressions Oil Diffuser Starter Kit in Fuju Apple & Cardamom Spice. It was a pretty simple set-up, with the holder and diffuser card included in the package, and the only thing that needed to be done was inserting the card into the holder:

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The only problem we encountered was that the directions said you were supposed to press the diffuser card into the holder until it clicked, which neither Rob nor I were able to accomplish. No click. So it's just resting in there, unclicked, but it's still quite effective that way! The apple-scented oil was immediately wicked up and started filling our home with the most wonderful scent! Even our four litterboxes, always stinky, were no match for this little guy. And the design blends right into the décor, too, which in our house is minimal at the moment - but still! ;)

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I didn't want competing scents going on, of course, so I opened the Fragrance Mist in the same scent next. It's so easy. You just squeeze the top and it sprays a mist in your chosen fragrance out into the house. I don't really need to use it much with the diffuser in play, but I do squeeze it anyway, every once in a while, for a little scent boost when I want to smell it even more! Seriously, these smell GREAT.

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I'll probably try the Pineapple & Mangosteen next, since I love fruity scents, and then there on the left, you can see what the Fragrance Mist refill looks like, in Cotton & Italian Mandarin scent. That sounds good, too, doesn't it?!

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The final scent currently available is Lavender & Juniper Berry, which I plan on trying last.  I can't wait to see if they all smell as delicious as the apple & cardamom one, not to mention work as well. Being a fan of Glade products, I feel confident they will perform to my expectations!

So let me now if you've tried these, or plan to try them anytime soon. If you're nearby to me, I might even gift you with a set of your own - just ask! ☺

The bottom line? I love these new Glade Expressions products!

Fin.


Neon Tiki Tribe Party!

Disclosure: In exchange for this review, I was provided with a party kit including the materials shown herein, by MommyParties and Neon Tiki Tribe. No monetary exchange took place. As always, all opinions are my own.

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I'll explain that in a minute. But first, what's a party without some snacks? We started off with pizza bites:

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Yes, the glasses were part of our kit. Everyone had fun wearing them!

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We selected from purple, green, and gold glasses. It was like Mardi Gras in here!

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Rob and I wore the t-shirts, since they were adult-sized, and it was just us for the party as everyone else called out with the latest bug to go 'round. We look adorable, I know. ;)

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Now for the Neon Tiki Tribe, whose members include, from Left to Right: Mowah, the strongest; Tia, the smartest; Zeke, the leader; and, Dar, the fastest. Each of the four of us (Sophia was also out sick!) picked a character to be for the remainder of the party.

So. What IS the Neon Tiki Tribe? Tiki stands for Thoughtful, Intelligent, Kind Individual. It's a series of children's stories about issues relevant to kids with a moral involved in each story. Right now, there are three books available, and we received one for everybody, along with character posters:

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The good guys, Neon Tiki Tribe members, battle the Evil Ku Tiki Tribe in each of the stories, so in addition to having a moral issue to discuss at the end of the story, good triumphs over bad each time. We received posters showing the bad guys, too:

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First, we read Tiki Beach Battle! to introduce ourselves to the characters and the special powers each one gains when they put on their sunglasses. What's also cool about the books is that they use a Dyslexic-friendly font as well, since Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 kids. Pretty thoughtful!

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We stopped to discuss the moral of the story over our shrimp cocktail. Hey, it went along with the beach theme of the story, so why not?

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The kids clamoured for more, so we read Dog Rescue Mission! second, again taking turns. After that, I interviewed Rob and the kids about the characters, their powers, and the themes of the stories. We had fun seeing who could come up with the right answers the fastest!

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Lastly, Chloë - our bookworm - read Bullies: Playground Push-Around to the rest of us by herself, while we followed along in our own books. We discussed the stories some more and related them to our own lives. After that, we called it a day!

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If this sounds like something you could use in your own lives, schools, or other kid-related groups, head on over here to the Neon Tiki Tribe Store to see what books merchandise are available.

Enter Promo Code: Tiki300 to get 25% off your order!

Thanks to Neon Tiki Tribe and MommyParties for this fun and educational party experience for us. And yeah, I'm totally going to wear my glasses when I go out to the store tomorrow. Hee!

Fin.


Bzz, Bzzzzz: UNREAL™ candy UNJUNKED™

Disclaimer: I received a coupon for a free package of UNREAL™ candy, along with several Buy-One-Get-One pass-along coupons in exchange for sharing my thoughts on the product with anyone I felt like, so here I am. No monetary exchange has taken place. All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

If a picture says a thousand words,... well, okay, this one actually DOES say a few, but they kind of make you sit up and take notice, right? I mean, CANDY? With nothing artificial and no corn syrup or hydrogenated oils? Either I've gotta be joking, or it must taste, well, like crap, right?

WRONG.

Check out their website, where you can learn all sort of interesting information about UNREAL™ candy unjunked™, like, well, I'll let you read their story and the FAQ, if you want (you should!), but we all know what you're most interested in finding out, don't we?

HOW DOES IT TASTE?!!

Dudes. Let me take you through each of the five varieties of unjunked candy currently on the market, and let you decide:

#1: UNREAL8™ Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bar UNJUNKED™

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(Oh. I should say that I totally used two of those BOGO coupons so I could buy all five varieties, which worked out perfectly for us, a family of five, to each try one kind.)

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We let Daddy go first, because it was his birthday week. Here he is Vanna White-ing his selection of candy #1.  We all watched with anticipation as he opened the wrapper, took a bite, chewed, and ... gosh, he ate some, ya dig it? So what did he think of it?

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Woohoo! He likes it, he really likes it! Which, you may not realize, is actually saying a lot, since he's kind of a food snob and tends toward a rather sophisticated palate. Score one big one for UNJUNKED™!

#2: UNREAL77™ Peanut Butter Cups UNJUNKED™

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Now comes the real test, folks. I mean, who hasn't had a billion peanut butter cups already, and has an opinion formed about how they should taste?

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As the oldest kid, we let Chloë go second, and of course she went straight for the PB cups. She's her mother's girl, after all. She dove in much faster than her father, thank goodness. (He likes to keep us in suspense.)

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She didn't even finish her first bite before flashing me the two-thumbs-up signal. I'd say that's a pretty good argument for extreme deliciosity.

#3: UNREAL41™ Candy Coated Chocolates UNJUNKED™

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I know what these are. You know what these are. Everybody loves the "real deal," so how does this version stack up?

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Don't ask me why Jack got bypassed and Sophia, our youngest, got to go next. I'm sure there was a good reason, but heaven help me if I can remember now what it was! ANYway, she chose the, uh, candy-coated chocolates, being quite the fan of the "regular" sort, so what did she think of these?

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Two more thumbs up. UNJUNKED™ is three for three! Not too shabby, eh? And people, we like to eat, okay? If something was yucky, I'd tell ya. So far, though, not yuck. Yum.

#4: UNREAL54™ Candy Coated Chocolates With Peanuts UNJUNKED™

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Second verse, same as the first (because "fourth verse, same as the third" just doesn't quite have the same ring to it), except with peanuts this time. We all know and love this guy, too. 'Least I do. But it still wasn't my turn.

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Jack got to pick the peanut, um-um-um's ;) and he took the task seriously. Very. See:

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What the heck?! Two more very enthusiastic thumbs up? What is going on here? Mind you, I'm sitting behind the camera the whole time, patiently (cough) waiting for my turn, expecting at least one of these dern things to, well, suck! But thumbs were popping up all over the place, and I was quite the surprised one!

So now me, at last. Guys, I am a chocolate FIEND. An aficionado. A huge lovah, if you will. So what did I think of...

#5: UNREAL5™ Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bar UNJUNKED™

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Darn. Nougat. I got stuck with the nougat one. I'll say I generally don't like nougat, because I don't know what the heck nougat is. Do you? I mean, c'mon, really, you can't find nougat in anything but certain candy bars that I don't like. So I was totes expecting to be the lone hold-out on the candy-train of love we had goin' on here.

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At least I looked kinda cute holding my (ick) nougat (ick) bar. Time for a taste. My answer to the camera finally pointed my way?

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SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! I pulled a Chloë and shot those thumbs up before I even finished chewing and swallowing my first bite! For real, this stuff is GOOD.

So, I have a confession to make: I didn't share ANY of the pass-along BOGO coupons. No, I sure didn't. I went back to the store and used 'em a couple days later, and we had some more UNREAL™ candy. PIGS, we were. ARE, because if I had more of those coupons, I'd use those, too.

So, to recap this rather lengthy post about better-for-you treats, here's what there is:

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... and here's what the five members of Team Odette thought of them:

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So what about you? Have you UNJUNKED™ your candy yet? Will you try UNREAL™ candy now that I've told you how freakin' good it is? If you do, let me know, and which ones, 'cause I'm nosy like that. No, really, I want to know if you like it, too, or if we're a bunch of weird healthy-candy-lovin' mutants. 'Kay?

Thanks to BzzAgent and UNREAL™ candy for the yummy yum yums!

Fin.


Product Review & Party: Bobble Bots Moshi Monsters

Disclaimer: We were provided with a huge party pack from MommyParties and Bobble Bots in order to have a giveaway party with our friends and write this review. No monetary compensation took place. All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

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A long, long time ago (like, six months ago, no lie), we were sent this really awesome party pack from the sponsors mentioned above, but because of circumstances beyond our control, we weren't able to have the party until my birthday cook-out this past weekend. Better late than never, right?! And LOOK at everything we received: Four playsets worth $19.99 each (the Bizarre Bazaar Store, Gross-ery Store, Ice Scream Store, and Yukea Store), two Starter Sets worth $9.99 each (I'm not sure which two, honestly!), TEN individual Moshlings worth $5.99 each, and three spare packages of batteries for the Moshlings, which we didn't actually need AT the party and divvied up amongst the four families in attendance. WOW!! What a great pack.

(And yes, the awesomeness of said pack made me feel guilty for taking SO long to have the party! But I digress...)

Moshlings

Before long, our guests arrived, and it was time to start the Moshi Monster Bobble Bots battle for global domination!!! Er, um, I mean, split the kiddos into two teams and let them quite literally "go to town," setting up their designated Monstro Cities and be the first team to get all their Moshlings to go into both Stores. It was quite a scramble for victory, amidst cries of, "I need help opening this!" and "I want this one! I want that one!" Yup, we let 'em duke it out, just like that.

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(Click collage to embiggerate.)

There was a great deal of running around, clamoring for parental attention to small pieces and parts that needed help being separated from their packaging, but it was fun times for all involved. NO TEARS, thankfully, as every family ended up getting a piece of the party to take home for later. But first, who won?!

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Team A got their Monstro City set up and their Moshlings vibrating and bopping around from store to store, claiming victory about 20 minutes or so into the game. But wait! ...

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.... At the same second, Team B declared their own victory over Moshi-land! Well, it was a good thing the prizes were the playthings themselves and dinner was ready at that moment, because I had to declare it a tie. And what kid likes a tie? None I've met. Hee. NO TEARS, people, that's the important thing to remember. They really, really liked the Moshi Monsters party, I say in my best Sally-Field-wins-an-Oscar voice!

But guess what else?! That's not the end! Oh, nooo...

MoshiWorld

There's a whole Moshi World online, here, where the Moshlings can be "adopted" and played with in educational games and activities, much like Webkinz World, for those of you familiar with that site. And, of course, it's FREE!

Here's what a couple of the parents had to say about Bobble Bots:

Saritah: "Moshi Monsters Bobble Bots were a lot of fun. The kiddos really enjoyed reconfiguring the setup with the litle decorations and having their moshlings run all over them. We had never heard of them before, but now my kids are all talking about who is going to collect more moshlings!"

Gotcha: "My three year old loves his Moshi Monster Bots.  We created an online account and he enjoyed choosing his monster and setting up its home. The games so far are too hard for him, but it gives us time to spend together and he enjoys tickling his monster. He has played nicely at the table with his Battle Bots Gross-ery store many times over the last couple days and is really enthralled with them. As expected the batteries have already started to fail from the heavy use, so we are grateful for the spares! 

"I did look for more Battle Bots at the store but only found collectible figurines of the Moshis which he did not seem as interested in, he likes the vibrating/running around aspect of the Battle Bots."

Alodeuri: "The kids enjoyed the Moshi Bots, they are a tad noisy and the small pieces have to be monitored because of the baby, but they did enjoy them. They mostly just focused on the little bots and not the town part. They have been playing with them."

As for me and mine, we haven't had a chance to set them up either in person or online yet, because we homeschool and have been busy with that (though all three of the other families do as well, so go, you guys!), but we definitely will! I'll be looking for more Moshlings in store and/or online as well, because I know they really enjoyed playing with them at our party!

Moshlings and their playsets can be found at Target, Toys 'R Us, online, and other fun retailers, so let me know if you check 'em out and what fun you've had, too!

Thanks, MommyParties & Bobble Bots for the fun Moshi Monsters party!! We're sorry it took us so long - forgive us?

Fin.


Product Review: "What's In The Bible DVD"

I was selected for participation in this review and given the What's in the bible DVD as a member of The Homeschool Lounge Review Team. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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A little while back, we were given this DVD: Volume 1: In The Beginning / Genesis from the "What's in the Bible" series to review. It's taken us a while to watch the DVD because our machine broke, and then the laptop wouldn't read the disk properly. Argh! We finally had a chance to view the 60-minute DVD Monday night, after I figured out how to get it to play in the afore-mentioned laptop. At last!!

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You may or may not be able to read that top-right corner, but it tells us that this series is from Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales®, of which we are huge fans! Indeed, I recognized several voices from VT, so it was a little bit of familiarity embedded in something novel for us.

All three kids sat transfixed throughout the hour-long, two-part DVD, and they erupted into giggles many times in that time. Volume 1 covers the structure and purpose of "the world's most important book," along with who wrote it. Covered topics include Adam & Eve and Noah and the Great Flood, amongst others. A bonus short section,"Quacky's Questions," answers "What is kindness?" My children watched the entire DVD, and then we discussed it.

Jack, my 9-year-old son, was exhausted by the time it was over, so he (as is typical for him) claimed not to have enjoyed it or learned anything from it (though I know he did both) and went straight to bed when it was over. Well! That left the girls.

Sophia, seven, told me she learned that it's important to always try to be good and obey her mom and dad, and God, and not be bad. She learned what sins were, and she learned about Noah and the flood. She said she was glad that God promised not to flood the entire Earth again, and she also learned that God separated people and gave them different languages to speak so there would be less sinning in the world. (Hey, I'm just telling you what my baby said; take what you will from it.)

When asked if she learned anything additional, Chloë, 11, told me that she learned that the Bible is the most important book in the world. We've talked previously - earlier in the same day, even - about respecting The Good Book and not losing or mistreating it (or any other books, but especially this one), so it didn't surprise me that she had this to say.

Both of my daughters said they loved the DVD and thought it was really funny, especially when the characters spoke in silly voices. They were surprised to learn that we get to keep the DVD instead of "renting it back," as they say, and also that it was given to me for us to review. Chloë said, "I thought you bought it for us as a fun surprise! Can we get more of them?"

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Indeed,  I think it's possible this will make a great set for Christmas, and I know they - and the like-minded amongst you out there - will be thrilled to receive it!

If you visit the site, you'll see there are some great **free** resources and activities to go along with the series, including coloring pages, Bible flashcards, a Study Guide, and more!  Let me know if you end up getting the set or any parts of it, and what you think, too!

Thanks to The Homeschool Lounge review team and the series for providing us with this excellent jumping-off point for discussing all things Biblical!

Fin.


Product Review & Party Time: Hearts For Hearts Girls®!

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Recently, we had a girls' party in the park, with six girls from three families, ranging in age from one to eleven. We were there to have fun with Hearts For Hearts Girls® dolls, of which we'd been given two from the brand and from MommyParties!

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The great thing about Hearts For Hearts dolls is that for every one purchased, a donation for needy girls in other countries is made! The dolls are all representative of different countries, so in addition to the fun of playing with some really awesome, well-made dolls, collecting them results in the ability to have a great cultural lesson between parents and children!

Dell USA

The first doll we were given was Dell, representing the USA. Like all Hearts For Hearts Girls®, Dell stands 14" high and has a poseable, smooth vinyl body, and high-quality rooted hair for hours of doll play. Her eyes are a deep teal-blue, and her
gleaming hair is a true brunette brown. A sprinkle of freckles crosses her nose
and cheeks. Dell comes dressed in a summery floral top of corals and pinks, and frayed jean cut-offs of real denim.

Also, like all the HFHG dolls, Dell comes with plenty of accessories, including:

  • Camouflage baseball cap
  • Suede choker with enamel-like butterfly pendant
  • Bright bangle bracelets
  • Silvery flower dangle earrings
  • Slip-on polka-dot distressed tennis shoes
  • Doll-sized hair comb with hair elastic
  • Girl-sized H4HG power bracelet
  • Beautiful mini storybook about Dell’s life

Pretty cool, huh?

Consuelo Mexico

The second doll we were given was Consuelo, representing Mexico. Her hair is a waist-length fall of shining black and her eyes are deep brown with copper highlights. Consuelo comes dressed in a ruffled, lace-trimmed turquoise skirt and a
lime-green blouse with lively floral embroidery on the collar. Her accessories include:

  • Silvery hoop earrings strung with bright beads
  • Color-coordinated bangle bracelets
  • Festive hot pink flower head band.
  • Bright pink shoes with silky ribbon ties
  • Doll-sized hair comb with hair elastic
  • Girl-sized H4HG power bracelet
  • Beautiful mini storybook about Consuelo’s life

The dolls are completely collectible, and every girl there couldn't wait to get their hands on them! We were technically supposed to give one away and keep one for ourselves, but my girls and I decided that each of the other two families, also each with two girls (an older child and a 1-year-old), should get to pick a doll. To be fair, I had them try to guess my secret number, and the one who came closest without going over got to choose first:

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That honor went to Team RB, who chose Consuelo from Mexico. They opened her right up and checked her out. Later, their mama told me, "The doll is wonderful, easy to play with, dress and undress. The girls have been doing her hair, and she even fits clothing from another brand of dolls! We loved reading about her culture and even discussing how she is different and similar to us ... lots of questions about Mexico and Mexican heritage, even got to discuss my own mother being part-Mexican :)smile"

Sounds like a win!

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That left the USA's Dell for Team SB. Miss G also opened her doll up right away and began exploring all the goodness that was contained within the box. (For my girls and everyone else who wanted one, we were given a whole bunch of extra HFHG bracelets to wear, and they loved that!) Miss G's mommy later told me, "G loves her doll! She slept with it the first night! The next day we did her hair together. G likes her cute clothes and the fact that she moves so easily."

Sounds like another winner - fantastic!

I'm so pleased that the dolls were such a huge success, and I'd love to hear if you get one, too. I know both of my girls are hoping to get one for Christmas, and I think they shall. I can't wait to go pick out which one for each of them!

**I can offer you the following code for $5 off your purchase, too: H4HAUG12, good through October 2012. Please let me know which one you choose, if you do!**

 And remember, in addition to the fun your girls can have with their Hearts For Hearts Girls® in real life and online, as well as games and activities on the site, each one sold does a good deed for a needy girl in other countries. And I think that's great - so check 'em out!

Disclaimer: MommyParties.com and Hearts4HeartsGirls.com provided me with two dolls to keep and/or give away. No other compensation, monetary or otherwise, took place. As always, all opinions are and alway will be my own.

Fin.


GIVEAWAY & Product Review: Creativity For Kids Craft Kits

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, MamaP of Fostering Love. Enjoy your prizes, MamaP & Kids!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Creativity For Kids and bsmmedia.com, in which we were given three craft kits to use for this review. No monetary exchange has taken place. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

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Wow! Like I've said, sometimes this blahgging thing has its perks, and this time we really enjoyed that. We received three kits from Creativity for Kids in the mail to review:

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(1) the Deluxe Glitter Art Kit (MSRP: $29.99);

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(2) the Mossy Meadows Gnome Garden kit (MSRP: $29.99); and,

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(3) the Tile Art Necklaces kit (MSRP: $15.99)!

The first kit we broke into, per the kids' request, was the Deluxe Glitter Art kit. At first, it being on the 'girly' side, Jack had no interest and stayed in his room watching plane crash videos on YouTube on the laptop. So the girls and I dug in with the first of three separate activities within the kit:

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(click on photos to embiggerate)

Sophia, Chloë and I each made our own trinket boxes. Everything was included in the kit that we needed, from glue to glitter and rhinestones to the boxes themselves, so there was never any need for me to get up and go get something that we didn't have. Well, except plenty of newspaper, since we were working on Chloë's bed!

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I thought all the boxes were lovely, but since my girls declared mine "the best," here's my finished product! I used lots and lots of glitter, glitter pens, and glue to make my box, and here it is, over a week later, still intact after plenty of drying time. Isn't it so cute?! I gave it to Chloë, but now I'm wishing I'd have kept it as a memento of the fun time we had crafting together.

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Having wandered in and discovered that, hey, this is actually pretty fun, Jack sat down and joined us for the second activity in the kit: decorating pre-glittered gift tags, which will be super fun to use for birthday and holiday presents! The only problem we ran into with this activity was keeping our four cats off our drying table! They kept hopping up and smushing our glitter glue. (We eventually got smart and kicked them out with the door shut, but that took an embarrassingly long time to figure out.)

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Our finished tags: the kit came with 12, so we each got to decorate three. Pretty cool, huh? (There are ribbons to tie them to packages and what-not, but at this point they were still in the drying phase.)

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The third activity in this first kit saw us making eight glittered and bejeweled cards, which came with envelopes. What fun it'll be for the kids to send out their thank you notes and other correspondence on note cards they decorated themselves!

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Our finished cards - two for each of the four of us to make.

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The kit comes with a detailed instruction sheet, as well as project ideas, so you'll never be at a loss for what to do with this Deluxe Glitter Art set!

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The second kit, the Mossy Meadows Gnome Garden, has been the most anticipated project by the kids, especially Jack, since it's less girly than the other kits. Like all the Creativity for Kids kits, at least in my imagination, it comes with thorough instructions and wildly colorful depictions of what to do with it. The back of the box is cute, too, showing all the contents and even telling a little background of what's being made.

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I insisted this kit be worked on outdoors, but unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated, and we haven't had a dry day in weeks to complete it. (Apologies to those suffering with a drought!) This is what I found when I first opened the box and pulled out the pieces: Lots of "stuff" to explore here!

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Look at all this cool project material! The kids are absolutely chomping at the bit to get into it, and truth be told, so am I, because it looks so cute and fun. There are little ladybugs and wee gnomes and everything! Rain, rain, go away...

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Finally, after several days, we gave up and got into the last kit, the tile necklaces. Just like the others, everything necessary came with the kit so that we had every last thing we needed to make our necklaces from start to finish. Even scissors and glue were included! I think that's really smart, because busy moms like me are often willing to do crafts with the kids, but we're pressed for time and often don't "want to get into it," when it comes to searching for and procuring all the necessary materials for a given project. Creativity For Kids is awesome, because it solves that problem - at a wide variety of price points for every budget.

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As you can probably tell from all the pictures in this collage, this project was a bit more involved. Some parts were a little troublesome for the kids, each of whom was able to decorate three tiles, though the project technically only comes with ALL the materials for eight necklaces. I merely sat by at the ready with my handy-dandy camera and a helping hand where needed. It took several hours to finish - well, more if you count drying time - because it's geared for ages 8+, and it really means it, darn it! There were quite a lot of steps, but they enjoyed making the necklaces every step of the way.

How much did Jack like making these projects??

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Yes, this was literally his answer to my asking that - no staging required! They had SO MUCH FUN.

Oh, you wanna see the finished necklaces? Okay, of course:

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One of Sophie's findings came unglued while she was threading the cord, so it's re-drying now. She's keeping all of hers, natch. She is seven, after all.

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Chloë was going to give two of hers away, but she's capricious like her mama and keeps flipper-flopping about that decision! The third needs a finding and cord still, too.

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Jack's decided to give his three away for presents, and to help with that endeavor, the kit even came with three cute little gift packets! He's all excited now, to give his presents to some very nice ladies we know. :)

So now that I've told you how awesome Creativity for Kids can be, how would you like a giveaway, hmm? Oh you would, would you? Well, one lucky reader of this blog is going to win not one, but TWO kits from Creativity for Kids!!! YAY! The winner will receive the Deluxe Glitter Art kit:

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...along with yet another awesome kit that I didn't review:

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the Beach Buddies Shell Crafts Mini Kit (MSRP: $5.99), which, I have to admit, makes me jealous, as a marine biologist! Ooh, pick me, pick me!

Contest Rules:

- The winner will be chosen from the Random Number Generator at 11:59 PM EST on September 1, 2012.

- ONE entry per person, please.

- To enter, you MUST leave a comment on THIS post telling me which Creativity for Kids kit intrigues you the most, who you will use it with or give it to... and your favorite colour.

- You may refer friends via Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc., but there is still a limit of ONE entry per person.

Any questions? Let's begin! Good luck!!!

Fin.