Birchbox in the house!

There were some really great boxes this month. Mine was just okay. I’m not complaining though; I’ve had some good months recently. I didn’t pick any of the samples this month and just rolled the dice.
Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm ($4.46)
I wear Dr. Jart+ BB cream almost every day, so I’m always happy to see a sample in a box. I highly recommend Dr. Jart – all of the BB creams seem to just be great. And so much more than tinted moisturizer. This sample is tiny though. I’ve gotten larger samples from other boxes.

Mally Beauty High-Shine Liquid Lipstick Pens ($20)
This is a really awesome, full-size sample. This is the kind of thing people love to get in beauty boxes. I’m absolutely burnt-out on lip products though, so I’m not really interested. This will probably go up for trade or, if no one wants to trade, into my daughter’s stocking this Christmas.

dr. brandt® pores no more vacuum cleaner ($11.25)
I’m very interested in trying this one. You might see a feature Saturday review about this product.

Balance Me Wonder Eye Cream ($17.73)
I just opened a new eye cream at home, so I’ll have to save this one for a bit before trying. A good edition for my stash though and you just have to love those high-value samples.

Harvey Prince Petaly Noir ($0)
You should know by now that perfume samples are not my favorite. I can easily get them for free at many stores (seriously, Sephora will give you a sample of anything on their shelves); I don’t need them in beauty boxes. I don’t like the smell of this one either.

Total value: $53.44
Total cost: $10

Coupon Alert: Use coupon code BENEFITPACK when you sign up and get two bonus Benefit samples with your first box.

And as always, if you want to sign up for your own Birchbox please be a dear and use my referral link.

My Birchbox came in a larger box this month and I didn’t have any clue why until I opened it up. Turns out I splurged this month and purchased the add-on Lorean Hope mini-cuff. Very cute. Smaller than I expected though. I was afraid it wouldn’t look right on my plus-size wrist, but it is nice. I’m not disappointed.

Quirks and Confessions

If you catch me standing around at work or at an event, 99% of the time I will have my hands on my hips. I wish I could say I look casual or even authoritative. But no, I’m full on Peter Pan. Feet spread apart, palms out, goofy look on my face. If I cross my arms, it gets even worse.

I rarely shave my legs anymore. Hair removal irritates my keratosis pilaris and I would rather be hairy than irritated. This has not stopped me from wearing dresses almost every day though.

I have a freckle on my foot that I hate so much I remove it from photographs if it can be seen. This doesn’t make any sense as I am covered in freckles. I have no desire to remove any others, but this one little mark just has to go.

When we moved to this city and I went to the DMV to get an updated license, the worker asked if I still weighed [x]. Turns out my weight hadn’t been updated since I got it at the age of sixteen (and I lied then). Knowing that I clearly no long weighed anywhere near that number and she could plainly see that too, I broke out in uninhibited laughter. Then I lied about how much I weigh now. Just a little.

If you see me walking around with my headphones on there is a 99.99% chance my phone is in my bra. It is just so convenient.

The Official Pumpkin Taste Test

Number 3 on my FALL challenge, “eat something that really shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored,” has taken on a life of its own and grown into a pumpkin taste test. I sacrificed my afternoon yesterday, gathered up a few participants, and tasted all sorts of products trying to capitalize on America’s love of fall and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice.

Things you should know:
I don’t like pumpkin all that much. Take that into account when trusting my opinions.
My daughter is allergic to tree nuts, so any product containing that other fall favorite – pecans – was immediately excluded. [Although one product with almonds did sneak past my radar. Obviously, she didn't eat that one.]
My local grocery store didn’t have some of the weirdest pumpkin-flavored products on my list. Where is a Trader Joe’s when you need one!?

Let’s get started.

Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies, New Pumpkin Spice Flavored
Does it actually contain pumpkin? No
Pretty good. You taste more of the spices than any actual pumpkin (which makes sense since its pumpkin spice flavored). The tasters were torn on whether or not these were as good as classic Milano cookies.

Pepperidge Farm Swirl Bread, Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes, 2% or less.
Very good. The pumpkin taste is mild – it is spread throughout the bread in little bits. This would be great toasted with cinnamon and sugar or as French toast. The crust is a little dry and the cinnamon lines throughout the bread feel a little hard.

Kashi PopTart
Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes, pumpkin seeds.
Good granola, but you don’t really get a lot of pumpkin. I wouldn’t really count this as a fall product. It just tastes natural.

Pop-Tarts Limited Edition Frosted Pumpkin Pie
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes, 2% of less.
Lots of pumpkin taste, very pumpkin-spicy. Overall, this one just tastes like a poptart.

Jell-o Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Snack
Does it actually contain pumpkin? No
The cheesecake taste was very strong, so much so that any pumpkin flavor was overshadowed. Three of the five tasters put their spoons down without finishing a small bite.

Faces Chips
Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes
These cookies look like Sackboy from Little Big Planet. Good. The cookies were consumed in their entirety. I even thought they tasted pretty good.

Garden of Eatin’ Pumpkin Chips
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes
It looks like a pumpkin spice Dorito. Tasted like a regular tortilla chip severely lacking in salt, although the tasters agreed you tasted more pumpkin as you ate more. The general opinion was they would be good in a salsa.
One brave taster dipped his chip into the cheesecake pudding snack. His only comment, “Well, it has flavor.”

Ice Cream Bakery
Turkey Hill Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes
Overall, we thought this was really good. There was less agreement over whether or not we would eat a whole bowl or go to the store to get it specifically. The little bits of graham crackers really upped the flavor.

Palmer’s Candies Pumpkin Pie Pretzels
Does it actually contain pumpkin? No
These smell very strong and are very spiced. This actually works with the salt on the pretzels – this was actually the taste we expected from the chips.

Two-Bite Pumpkin Tarts
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes
This is sweet crust with a little bit of icing on top. The filling has very little flavor, even when trying to isolate and eat just it. This is the least pumpkiny thing we tasted today.

Welch’s Limited Edition Sparkling Pumpkin Spice Flavored Juice Cocktail
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Yes, pumpkin juice.
This smells very strong of pumpkin, but doesn’t have the taste to pack it up. Opinions were mixed between the tasters ranging from a great big no to a yum.

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat
Does it actually contain pumpkin? Sort-of, brewed with ripe pumpkins
Tastes like beer with spicy aftertaste. It’s fine.

Kroger Pumpkin Egg Nog
Does it actually contain pumpkin? No
Only slightly spiced. Good egg nog. Very cinnamony, but doesn’t make you think pumpkin.

Ice Chips
Ice Chips Candy, Pumpkin Spice
Does it actually contain pumpkin? No
Weird. No. Not good.

Saturday Review: Pedigree Stackerz


Do my dogs like them? Yes.
Do my dogs like every snack? Yes.
Do my dogs eat trash if they can get their paws on it? Yes.

I don’t think the taste test is really the best way to review.

These treats were just fine for the dogs. I liked that they came in easily separable pieces – like a big meat candy bar. My dogs are two different sizes and buying something easily portionable could eliminate the need to buy two different packages of snacks.


Overall, good.

FYI: I received a package of Stackersz free from Influenster for review purposes. Opinions are my own.


FALL Challange Update

Time to see what I’ve accomplished on Stephanie’s Freakin’ Awesome Legendary List (FALL) challenge.

2) Drink a pumpkin spice latte DONE!
Will I lose PSL street cred if I admit never trying one of these? Anyway. . . so, I had my first pumpkin spice latte a couple of weeks ago. It felt odd breaking from my usual venti, no whip, nonfat, white chocolate mocha, but I persevered. In order to experience the drink at its best, I ordered it as-is. No substitutions or deletions.

First drink – Yum. This is pretty good.
Third drink – Yeah, I can see why people like this.
Eighth drink – That aftertaste is weird.
Tenth drink – Yeah, no. Ew.
Empty cup – I need to get rid of this taste. Anyone have gum?

I did not like the pumpkin spice latte. To be fair, I’m not a big pumpkin fan. It tasted good to me initially, very spicy-chai, but that didn’t last long. Also, it was kind of orange. Apparently, I don’t like my coffee to be orange tinted. I will not be ordering that again.

3) Eat something that really shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored COMING SOON!
This one has grown into a full-on pumpkin product taste-testing event. I have a group getting together on Sunday – we will try all of the weird products so you don’t have to. Look for a post about our results on the 20th.

5) Create a centerpiece with gourds COMING SOON!
I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do for my gourd centerpiece, but it will contain these miniature donut pumpkins.

8) Buy candy corn, but probably don’t eat it DONE!
It was purchased and – as expected – I only ate one piece. It did look pretty nice sitting out on the table though. I completely forgot to take a photo; you will just have to trust me on this one.

15) Create a fall-themed wreath COMING SOON!
I did a short poll on facebook asking readers to choose their favorite wreath out of four possible choices. I’m planning to have this done by the end of the month (to go up when the Halloween decorations come down).

Big Bang Birthday

We had a family birthday party for the little man on Sunday. Since his favorite television show in the whole wide world is The Big Bang Theory, we decided to use that for a theme. We do family parties for the kids about an hour away for home where the majority of the family lives; any decorations we plan have to be portable or easily created with supplies we can fit in the car. Sometimes this is a challenge.

This year, we kept the decorations low-key and depended on helium-filled balloons to create the party atmosphere. Mom Tip #1 – If you need to make a room “party-ready” on the cheap, get a bunch of latex balloons and let them float all over the ceiling. Instant party.

We were pretty pleased with the results.

The food table. Arguably, the most important part of a party. Do you see the tiny posable Sheldon?



Close-up of the cupcakes. We simply printed out some science-related vector art, taped them to toothpicks, and. . . personalized cupcakes! We also cut corners on the cupcakes this year. I highly suggest Sam’s for tasty, cheap, cupcakes if you need a quick fix.

Mom Tip #2: Fancy cakes are fun and taste delicious, but when it comes right down to it no one is going to be disappointed with tasty store-bought. 




For the rest of the treats, we use some of our favorite things from the show. These also served as take-aways in place of goodie bags.

First up, Meemaw’s Moon Pies because Sheldon’s Meemaw calls him her Moon Pie. These were the double-decker variety.



Next, Sheldon’s Red Vines. Okay, so those are clearly Twizzlers. Sam’s didn’t have a big package of Red Vines and to avoid making another stop we compromised. Sheldon’s quote about Red Vines vs. Twizzlers is actually “They have Twizzlers instead of Red Vines. No amount of lumbar support can compensate for that.” We adopted this quote instead, “Excuse me, in what universe are Slurpies Icees?”



Howard’s Fruit Loops after his astronaut nickname. If our party was lunch-based, I would have substituted Howard’s Mom’s Brisket.


Raj was a little bit harder. We ended up going with a can’t talk to girls unless he is drunk thing and got bottled root beer. People didn’t immediately make the connection, but they loved the root beer.


Penny Blossoms! Another stretch here – I hoped to find flower cookies that might resemble Penny’s hair accessory business, but went with the flower-reminiscent toys instead.


Leonard might not get the more interesting station, but it just as important.


Last but not least, the whole gang ready for their photo op.


Something Different Saturday Review: Museum-Go-Round

TripAdvisor released their 2014 for best U.S. museums a few weeks ago. There is nothing I love to do more than visit a good museum. Let’s tackle the list and compare notes. Have you been to any of these? What did you like? Hate? Would you recommend it?

I will say I already have a complaint with the list; it lumps all different kinds of museums together when they could stand on their own as individual categories (art, history, etc.)
The list! In reverse order because it is more dramatic that way.

25. The Henry Ford (Dearborn, Michigan)
I’ve never been to the Henry Ford, but it has been a secret dream of mine to work there someday. Guess I should visit first.

24. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Dayton, Ohio)
Heard great things about this one, but never seen it for myself. Actually – insert gasp here – I’ve never been to Ohio at all.

23. National World War I Museum (Kansas City, Missouri)
OMG. I love this museum. Anytime anyone mentions Kansas City or military history, I take the opportunity to sing the praises of this World War I Museum. I even have two converts who visited on my recommendation and fell in love too. It was informative, engaging, and great for a wide age range.

22. Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Another I haven’t seen. My parents went however, and found it very moving.

21. Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, Arizona)
Never even heard of it. Anyone been?

20. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas)
Always great to see a local place on the list! If you remember from a few months ago, we finally made it to Crystal Bridges for the first time earlier this year and it did not disappoint. Plus, free! Read about my trip here.

19. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, Illinois)
Another one already on my to-visit list.

18. Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts)
Never been and it probably wouldn’t be on my to-do list. What does it have to offer that the other art museums on this list don’t?

17. The Ringling (Sarasota, Florida)
Never heard of this one either. I looked it up – the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Yes, that Ringling family. Yes, it does include a circus museum. And a 56-room palace, and gardens, and a historic theater, and an education center. I really sounds like something I would enjoy, so it will be added to the to-visit list too.

16. Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, Illinois)
Love, love, love this museum. Really. It is excellent for kids and adults. The first time the husband and I went, we didn’t even have a kid with us. It was still just that good. Take your family to this museum.

15. Ground Zero Museum Workshop (New York City)
I haven’t been to NYC post 9/11, so I certainly haven’t seen this. But . . . hmm, I’m really not sure what I think. From what I can read online, this is a for-profit museum set up by a photographer. It is not the official 9/11 Museum (the one that has had all the controversy recently over items being sold in the gift shop).

14. United State National Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington DC)
I can still remember the way I felt walking through this museum. I’ve only been once – fifteen years ago – so you can imagine the impact it had on me. So incredibly moving.

13. Smithsonian Museum of National History (Washington DC)
A classic! Fun, but super busy if you try to go anytime there are tourists in town (read: anytime).

12. National Naval Aviation Museum (Pensacola, Florida)
Never been. I’ve always kind of thought once you’ve seen one historic airplane, you’ve seen them all. Maybe this museum would change my mind? I doubt I’ll ever find out.

11. Frick Collection (New York City)
I didn’t think I had heard of this one, but a quick visit to the website made me realize I did know it. It house European art in a gorgeous historic home.

10. Newseum (Washington DC)
Sadly, I have never been to this one either. It was on my hope-to-do-list for my recent DC trip, but I just never made it. Maybe next time!

9. Arizona-Sorona Desert Museum (Tucson, Arizona)
Another one that is foreign to me. The website says it is a “zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium.” Sounds pretty neat.

8. Chihuly Gardens and Glass (Seattle, Washington)
I have never been to this one. I’m a big Chihuly fan though, so I’m sure I would enjoy myself.

7. USS Midway Museum (San Diego, California)
Nope, never been. Revealing fact about me though – I used to work for a submarine museum and have a soft spot for the Navy.

6. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington DC)
Another classic. It wasn’t my favorite to visit, but it still excellent.

5. National Gallery of Art (Washington DC)
Yes! One of my favorite art galleries.

4. The National World War II Museum (New Orleans, Louisiana)
This one is great for kids all the way up to WWII veterans. Some of it could use some updating, but the recent additions are spectacular. It is a full-day’s activity, for sure.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
Hmmm . . . how have I never been to this one? It just seems like someplace I would have visited.

2. The Getty Center (Los Angeles, California)
A great place, but it doesn’t beat out the National Gallery in my mind.

1. Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
Another of my favorite art galleries, up there with the Louvre and Picasso Museum in Paris.

Do you agree with #1? If not, what is your top choice?
I’ve only been to the Art Institute once, but I loved it. I can’t say it would be my #1 though. Picking from this list, my top choices would probably be the National World War I Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the National Gallery of Art, and the U.S. National Holocaust Memorial Museum. I would have a very hard time choosing a favorite from those four.

Is there something you can’t believe isn’t on the list?

Friday Favorites: Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served? is one of my go-to shows; one of the shows I put on the television when I’m just looking to zone out for a bit, need a good laugh, or want some background noise.

I’m happy to watch any episode, but I do have a few favorites that I consider classics. [I borrowed the episode descriptions from Wikipedia. Too lazy to write my own, I guess.]

1. “The Erotic Dreams of Mrs. Slocombe”
Mrs. Slocombe is becoming increasingly fond of Mr. Humphries, and showers him with presents. The obsession soon drives her to alcoholism, and it is decided that to cure her Mr. Humphries must show her attention when they attend the ballet.

2. “The Clock”
As Mr. Grainger celebrates his 65th birthday, all the staff wonders whether he’ll get the traditional cuckoo clock that means he is being retired. In the evening, the staff and Mrs. Grainger have dinner and Mr. Rumbold tells Captain Peacock that Grainger is being given the cuckoo clock. However, Young Mr. Grace makes a late appearance, gives the clock to himself, and gives Mr. Grainger another five years.

3. “The Apartment”
Mrs. Slocombe is rendered temporarily homeless after squatters invade her new flat. After her co-workers fail to provide accommodation, Young Mr. Grace allows her to move into the store’s Furniture Fitting Department. Mrs. Slocombe turns the floor into a cozy home-from-home, but her space is soon invaded when a transport strike forces her co-workers to move in.

4. “A Change is as Good as a Rest”
The floor staff is summoned to the Board Room, and while they wait for Mr. Rumbold and Young Mr. Grace they look in the file on the table that says they are all to be replaced. In protest they decide to resign and Mr. Grainger does so first. However, they are then told that all the staff is merely changing departments for a week. Mr. Grainger asks for his job back, but Mr. Humphries and Mr. Lucas have already been promoted, so he is made Junior Assistant. Later, the staff is moved to the Toy Department for the week and Mr. Rumbold tries to get Mr. Grainger his old job back.

5. “Strong Stuff this Insurance”
The staff gets the opportunity to participate in a lucrative group insurance scheme that will land them all sizable pensions upon retirement. Unfortunately, they must first pass through a physical examination. In an effort to shape up without spending too much money, Mr. Humphries enlists his former ballet instructor. After their physicals, they retreat to Young Mr. Grace’s office to learn the results, and what they hear shocks them.




The little man is turning five today!

We are preparing for a Big Bang Theory party this weekend.

Today, we sent goodie bags full of useless plastic toys for the kids in his class. Sorry parents!

Funds are tight, so we are making cupcakes instead of buying the awesome cake I had envisioned. I’m all about low-stress parties, so I usually prefer to outsource whenever possible.

I still need to create my party shopping list.

There may be a big cardboard cutout of The Big Bang Theory cast waiting to be unboxed.

Random Thoughts About Family

You should know by now that I’m not a “pinterest mom.” In our house, we are messy, unorganized, loud, terrors with hot glue guns, and live completely without monograms. We eat non-photographable dinners and rarely do anything Instagram-worthy. Our socks rarely match and we spend too much time on the couch. Still, from far distances I am most-obviously a “mom.” It may surprise you to discover this was not a place I ever pictured myself being.

When I was younger I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have children. It seemed like something I would probably just do one day, but when I imagined my future life children were not in the fantasy. A husband sometimes, but no kids. Looking back now, I realize my love of travel was actually an unacknowledged desire to avoid settling anywhere (something that still causes tension in my marriage today – sorry husband!). In fact, I never really gave family much thought until the pregnancy test came back positive.

Considering where I am now, I’m not sure I would have ever made the conscious decision to have kids. [Can you have two kids and still not be sure you want kids?] Don’t get me wrong, we did make the very deliberate decision to grow our family and adopt the little man (and might even do it again someday), but if the daughter hadn’t come along unexpectedly, I’m not sure I’d be the suburban mom.

Adjustment period aside, when the daughter was born I was perfectly happy being the mother of an only. There is a certain age where your “first child” becomes your “only child.” I’m not quite sure where that line is, but I’m sure we crossed it with the daughter. I grew up only and took away a lot of good things from the experience, so more kids were never an assumption for me. In fact, I didn’t make up my mind about having another child until watching my mother and her siblings after the death of my grandfather.

When the little man came along the daughter was seven. I was surprised how much more child-focused our life was after becoming a family of four. For some reason, the adult activities we always included the daughter in no longer made sense with two kids. An interesting phenomenon – I wonder if other people have experienced the same? Or maybe we were just too lazy to continue the same kind of activities with two kids in tow? Truth be told, I kind of miss our only-child household; it was easier to be something more than “just mom and dad” then.

On the other hand, being a family of four is pretty awesome. Is it possible to be feeling all of the different things about kids at one time? I’m not sure if I ever wanted them. I miss only having one. I love having two. I might want more. See, all the things.


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