My Family Builders – Blocks for the Rest of Us

I suppose this is sort-of a product review and should really be posted on Saturday, but I just really wanted to show you guys these awesome new toys. Last year, I supported a Kickstarter for My Family Builders and the toy finally arrived on my door step last week.

So, what is My Family Builders?

It is a magnetic block set that allows you to “build” members of your family. Have an African-American dad and an Asian mom? No problem. What about two dads? Sure. Live with mom and grandma? Got you covered. Three pale white people and one adorable black little man? Absolutely. [That’s us, by the way.]
My Family Builders
The set comes with 48 blocks (16 adults heads, 16 kids heads, 4 big bodies, 4 small bodies, 4 big legs, 4 small legs) and a set of large cards with suggested games celebrating diversity. I’ve enjoyed the blocks too much to have opened the cards yet, so I can’t comment on that.

These blocks are fun. You can build almost anyone. Humorously – to me at least – the only “missing” block in the set is my husband’s head. Yep, there isn’t a block that accurately represents our white male head of household. The blocks all have hair and my husband is lacking in that area.

I really can’t believe it took until 2016 to get something like this available to the masses. Their website describes it as “a unique toy that celebrates diversity” and I couldn’t agree more. Go ahead and visit that website if you want to learn more or see the toys in action.

Don’t worry, if you come over I promise to let you play with them too.

Review: ActionCameraKit GoPro Accessories Bundle Kit

Special Monday night blog post because I was thrown off by the long weekend and forgot to schedule this yesterday. Today I’m reviewing the ActionCameraKit GoPro Accessories Bundle Kit. List price $78.99, currently on sale for 50%.
Action Camera Kit - 1
*The camera is not included in this kit. I included it in the photos for scale/context.

I received this product for free for review purposes, but – as usual – all opinions are my own. The daughter got a GoPro for Christmas a couple of years ago and it is a really fun product, but you do need to invest in some accessories if you really want to get the most out of it. Some quick scrolling on Amazon shows that buying a kit like this is more affordable than buying individual bits.

Let’s start with a bit of the product description from ActionCameraKit:

Are You Fed Up With The Mess Of Your GoPro Accessories? Can’t remember what you have and what you don’t, want to go for a bike ride or for a SCUBA dive and take some underwater shots? Now it’s the time for the all in one kit, where you find all the accessories that you need to create the ultimate footage of your greatest moments.

Why Choose the ActionCameraKit GoPro Accessories case?
It’s a Monday morning and you’re taking your motorcycle for a ride, you love the ride and the adrenaline spreads throughout your body, it’s amazing! You want to tell your friends about this amazing feeling but you can’t find the words.

How about trying a product that will capture the moment while you just enjoy the ride?
In the GoPro accessories All-in-one Kit by ActionCameraKit you will have the perfect Helmet Mount that will hold your camera steady in its place so you can enjoy your ride. In the kit you will find up to 30 additional accessories for your action camera for multiple purposes of use. You can take it for a dive with the floating grip, take photos with the chest strap or take funny selfie pictures, it’s all there waiting for you.

Action Camera Kit - 2
Action Camera Kit - 3
And now my thoughts:

First impression? Love the case. If you are going to have this many accessories, you definitely need the case to keep it all organized in one place. Also, it comes with a free 8GB memory card. Woot! Always nice to have an extra one around.

The accessories appear to be good quality, but not amazing. What do I mean by that? This is a great inexpensive starter kit for the casual GoPro user. I can’t say I’d feel 100% confident strapping the helmet mount on and going all Evel Knievel though.

My only complaint? The kit only has one universal mount, a part that attaches to the suction cup mount, selfie stick, and tripod and is only about four inches long. If are clumsy and lose it or break it, you would lose the use of three parts.

Did you think I was going to let this post go by without showing you at least one of my test videos? I attempted to film my drive into work in the morning including dropping the daughter off at school and making my occasionally run to Starbucks. Unfortunately, user error led to the suction mount falling off of my window in the driveway (I never can get a suction cup to work right the first time). Since we were already running late at that point, the camera stayed in my purse until I had time to fix it in the drive thru.

So, here is my drive to work from the Starbuck’s drive thru. Taking the long way so you have more to look at.

Birchbox – 2015 Review

I decided to spend a little time examining my Birchbox subscription to make sure I was getting value for my money before renewing for next year. I felt like I was getting a good deal, but I like mail a lot so my opinion may have been a little skewed.
Being the nerd that I am, I made a chart.
Birchbox 2015 Recap

*Used $10 in points to get the second box available that month.
**Free box due to the yearly subscription discount.

FYI: Every 100 points is equal to $10 to spend in the Birchbox shop. I make a point to only spend my points on items I need regularly or gifts. In 2015, I earned $60 in points.

As it goes, I feel pretty good about that. Even if you subtract the extra $100 from October, I’m pleased with the value for my money. I do either use all of the products, pass them on to my daughter, or swap them for something I will use – in other words, nothing is going to waste. I don’t remember the last time I had to go out and buy myself mascara or pick up moisturizer for my daughter. [All that being said. . . I’ve decided not to renew next year. I have plenty of the kind of products Birchbox sends.]

Overall I ended up with:

Makeup Products and Accessories – 19 items
Skincare – 16 items
Hair Care and Accessories – 10 items
Bath – 8 items
Body/Hand Lotions – 4 items
Perfume – 3 Items

My favorite product this year was Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer (from my October box). A little boring, yes, but I use Smashbox primer every day and it is a little pricey. Getting a sample is really helpful.

And my favorite new-to-me product this year was Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray (from my July box). So good. I have a short pixie cut making texturing spray heaven in a can. I’ve already used all of this and traded for a second bottle.

I dislike the perfume samples, but three isn’t really that bad. Aside from the perfume, the most useless sample I received was St. Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion (from my August box). Not bad really and a good size sample, but something that I am never going to use. Never ever. Unfortunately, no one else wanted it either so it is just sitting in my drawer taking up space.

The sample I disliked the most was Prescriptives False Eyelashes Plush Mascara (from my October box). Bad stuff. I tossed it after two uses.

Review: RawSpiceBar Monthly Spice Box

When RawSpiceBar contacted me and offered up a free month of their spice blend subscription service, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. My husband – the cook in our family – adores fresh spices, interesting spices, and tasty spice blends.

So, what exactly is RawSpiceBar? Short answer is – a monthly subscription box filled with three spice blends. I’ll take the long answer straight from their website: Receive 3 hand-picked, small batch, freshly ground spice blends with each monthly box. Each monthly spice box contains 1-2 ounces of spice blends, creating three dishes for serving 4-6 plus kitchen-tested recipe ideas. RawSpiceBar partners with award winning chefs, bloggers & sources old family recipes to bring you unique spice blends from the highest quality spices around the world, with an unprecedented focus on quality and flavor.
Raw Spice Bar
November’s selection was Ethiopian-themed. Here is what we received:

Berbere – “Arguably the most famous spice blend of Ethiopian cuisine, berbere is smoky, spicy and complex. This spice mix is traditionally used in nearly all Ethiopian dishes but particularly shines in stews and on meats and poultry. Also try as a rub on roast chicken, roast vegetables or stir into oil and vinegar as a dip.”

Mimtita – “This bright orange, crazy hot spice blend is perhaps Ethiopia’s second most famous spice mix. African birds eye chili peppers, cardamom, black peppercorns and other spices add a spicy hot kick to meat stews, lentils or grilled meats. Also great for using in place of hot sauce or Siracha as a powdered dip or condiment.”

Pumpkin Pie Spice – “This fall inspired spice blend is unlike all those other traditional blends- with freshly ground cinnamon, allspice and star anise as the star ingredients. Sprinkle over squash and roast, stir into yogurt or ice cream or brew into your morning coffee or add to cookies, breads, cakes, pies or other baked goods.”

I love that they include recipes for your spices – and not just any recipes, recipes using ingredients you can find in any regular grocery store and cooking equipment you actually have at home. I love all different kinds of cuisine, but sometimes it can be really hard to make those favorite dishes at home without investing an unreasonable of time and/or money.

We didn’t end up using any of the recipes this time around, but added them to our collection for future inspiration. And having the recipes there for reference helped us decide how we wanted to use the spices with ingredients we already had on hand or regularly purchase.

We ended up using the Pumpkin Pie Spice on baked sweet potatoes and on roasted butternut squash. The result was mixed on the sweet potatoes – my husband thought it was too sweet, but my daughter loved it – but favorable on the butternut squash.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Then we used the Berbere to make Doro Wat. This was a totally new experience for me; we don’t have any Ethiopian restaurants in town (that I know of) and I couldn’t think of a time I had ever tried it before. Honestly, all I could have told you about the cuisine was that I think it is pretty spicy. I was very happy to remedy this situation with a classic Ethiopian chicken dish.
Doro Wat
We haven’t tried the Mimtita yet, but plan to break it out once our sore throats are gone and we feel like we can handle the spice.

Frankly, I think this subscription is pretty awesome. It opens up a whole new food world for the very small price of only $6 a month. Personally, I wouldn’t just walk into a store and pick up Berbere because I would assume I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it and that it would just go to waste. Plus, I’d be wary of investing money in a full bottle of a spice I’ve never even tasted.

But with RawSpiceBar, I got to dip my spice toe into the river of Ethopian cuisine without hesitation. [Gee, I really need to work on my metaphors. Spice toe?] This would be a great for anyone who wants to spice up their cooking (ha! get it) without a lot of shopping and hassle. Also a delicious gift for the foodies in your life.

Saturday Review: aLLreLi Multiple Port USB Charger

aLLreLiIf you are a household with a lot of electronic devices, this kind of charger is a must-have.

Let’s start with the official information from aLLreLi:

With the Multiple Port USB Charger, you can charge up to six devices at one time in more than 150 countries around the globe. The charger features dual-voltage technology and comes with four plug adapters, making it possible to use it in the US, the UK, Australia, the EU and in many other places without any additional plug adapter or voltage adapter. The travel charger fits easily into luggage to make it simple to take with you anywhere in the world.

The Intelligent Charger uses smart IC technology to sense the type of device that is placed in each of its six ports. Once the device is identified, the travel charger automatically adjusts the flow of current to recharge the battery at the fastest possible speed while ensuring safety. Universally designed, the travel wall charger can be used to recharge:

  • iPhone 4S, 5S, 6, 6 Plus & 6S
  • iPad Air & Mini
  • iPod Shuffle & Touch
  • Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, S5, S6 & S6 Edge
  • Samsung Note 3, 4 & 5
  • HTC ONE M8 & M9
  • Google Nexus 5X, 6P, 7 & 10
  • Other Android tablets & smartphones
  • BlackBerry phones
  • Windows phones
  • GPS devices
  • E-readers
  • Digital cameras and camcorders
  • Handheld video games
  • Many other USB devices

Equipped with overheat, overcharge and short circuit protection, the aLLreLi International Charger provides the absolute best charging results while ensuring complete safety.

And now some Playfullytacky household specifics:

This is out second charger like this, one lives in our office-area for the adult’s devices and this specific aLLreLi charger is in my daughter’s room for her iphone, ipad, Nook, and heated plush slippers. She has been using it for two weeks with no problems. I love that she can charge all of those devices and still have two ports left in case she has friends over or needs to charge a random fun device. All of the devices we have plugged into it appear to be charging at normal speed or a bit faster.
aLLreLi Collage
A charger like this is really useful when traveling, as a group of people can charge their devices using only one electrical outlet. We take one with us when on vacation – especially if we are traveling with other family members – so there aren’t any problems trying to find places to plug everything in.

The aLLreLi adds an extra bit of usefulness by including interchangeable plugs for international travel – love it! [Okay no, we don’t have any international trips planned. But still. . . I’m sure that is a really cool feature if you do.]

Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for a review on and All opinions are my own.

Saturday Sponsored Post and Review: Michael Todd 3x 35 Vitamin C Complex Plus Retinol Rejuvenating Serum

Whew. The title of this blog post is a mouthful.

This is a sponsored post and I’m going to put this disclaimer at the top instead of the bottom because I really want to explain why I decided to try this out. I’ve tried several samples of Michael Todd products, but they were all small. Too small to make an informed decision. I jumped at the chance to test this serum. In fact, I wanted to try it so bad that I did not accept payment for this post, just the product. So in short. . . I received this product in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
MT Collage
Let’s start with the official information from the Michael Todd product page:

World’s most effective versions of stabilized vitamin C and Retinol work together in this highly concentrated treatment gel to correct uneven skin tone and texture while stimulating collagen production. Potent treatment complex with special non-oxidizing actives for the most effective rejuvenating serum to smooth fine lines, correct dark spots and improve skin’s texture.

Key Ingredients:
Contains 5 of the most effective and stabilized versions of vitamin C available to correct uneven skin tone.
1. 3-0- Ethyl Ascorbic Acid
2. Ascorbyl Glucoside
3. Sodium Ascorbate
4. Textrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
5. Ascorbic Acid

Contains stabilized concentrated versions of vitamin A to optimize product performance
1. Retinol
2. Retinyl Propionate

Apply to freshly cleansed skin morning and night. Allow for absorption before applying moisturizer and SPF. Use daily for optimum results.

Full Ingredients:
Water, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, 3-o-ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Sodium Ascorbate, Retinol, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Lactobacillus/radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia Nut Oil, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Niacinamide, Ascorbic Acid, Retinyl Propionate, Acrylates/c10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide

And now for my thoughts:

You guys already know I am a huge fan of serums. It is a 100% essential part of my daily skincare routine and my skin has improved dramatically since I added that particular type of product (and switched to a Korean-based routine. . . I credit both equally with my skin success).

I’ve been using this serum twice a day (usually) for three weeks now. I haven’t seen any additional improvement, but my skin as maintained its shine, smoothness, and elasticity. As a regular serum user, I didn’t expect new results so I’m happy with this.

I found the product to have a slight alcohol-like smell at first pump, but this dissipated as soon as I started putting it on my face. There was no lasting smell (I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my face products to be scented. . . especially those that are layered with other products).

It went on smooth and soaked in quickly. Overall, a good serum!

And it is a good price at $37 for 40ml. I think this is a good product to try if you are looking to up your skincare routine from typical drugstore products.

Saturday Review: Oak Leaf K-Cup Carousel

Oakleaf1I was recently able to revamp my coffee/tea area with the Oak Leaf Coffee Storage Carousel for K-Cup Pods. This particular model can hold 35 k-cups, rotates like your standard carousel, and comes with a three-year replacement guarantee.

My first impression? This thing is sturdy. When we first our out Keurig several years ago, I considered getting a carousel-style holder but found them to be wobbly and flimsy. I was surprised at the weight of the Oak Leaf version when I pulled it out the box. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t heavy by any means, but it feels better constructed than some of the lightweight chrome kitchen and organization products.

So, let me show you what I was working with. The coffee area of our kitchen takes up on entire corner of our very small counter. It is reserved for coffee, my daughter’s growing tea obsession, alcohol, and a few random other drink-related products.
For a while I’ve been storing our k-cups in this basket made of newspaper. It is a great basket, but not optimum storage for this setup. It doesn’t hold very much, but is somehow still so packed that we kind of have to dig through it to find what we want and often make a big mess trying to find something special. It gets worse when I’m trying to make a cup for myself – we buy decaf and regular coffee of the same brand and this leads to a lot of picking one up, reading it, putting it back in, picking one up . . . etc. Not a huge deal, but a hassle that could improved.

And here is what we ended up with after I added the Oak Leaf carousel.
So nice! It is a small change, but it makes a big impact. The carousel tidies up the space and makes it easier to find the k-cup we are looking for. Plus! It holds a lot more than my basket. You can see from the photos that my basket was reaching its maximum storage level. I transferred all of those to the Oak Leaf carousel and still have half of it open for more. Since we’ve reached November, I’m going to buy some seasonal flavors to fill that thing up!

Oakleaf6My overall impression? I wasn’t sure if I would like the carousel setup, but I’m really happy with it. The Oak Leaf carousel is sturdy, streamlined, and practical. Recommended!

Now I just need to figure out a better option for all that tea. . .

Disclaimer: I received this product free for review purposes. All opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Click here to see more Saturday review posts.

Saturday Review: Pagoda Pork Egg Rolls

I was recently able to try a package of Pagoda snacks for free through BzzAgent in conjunction with Kroger. The tacky husband picked out the Pork Egg Rolls and we enjoyed them earlier this week. While the egg rolls were free, all opinions are my own.

The good: These things were crispy and delicious. If I hadn’t seen the box, I would not think they were from the frozen food section. Very tasty.

This egg roll is ready for its closeup.
This egg roll is ready for its closeup.

The okay: The sauce that came with it was just okay. It kind of overpowered the egg rolls, so we stopped using it after a taste or two. Also, I wish these came in a package larger than 4. Six just seems better; I like having plenty.

The bad: What I’m about to mention may not bother you, but it ventured all the way into the “bad” territory for me and will probably stop be from purchasing Pagoda snacks on any kind of regular basis. Each of the four egg rolls was individually packaged. Great if you are just looking to heat up one for a snack, but a lot of useless trash if you are planning to use them as appetizers or with dinner. And here is the biggie – these things took twenty minutes to cook in the over. Twenty minutes! Who wants to spend twenty minutes on a snack? Can you imagine pulling one of these egg rolls out as a snack and waiting twenty minutes to enjoy it. Hmmm. . . I was just really disappointed in that.

So much trash for four little egg rolls.
So much trash for four little egg rolls.

The verdict: So tasty, but impractical.

Saturday Review: Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium

Black Opium
I recently received a small bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium perfume free from Influenster for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

I’m pretty picky about fragrances. I usually prefer deeper, mostly musky scents – these really work on me, where as more fruity and flowery scents tend to go a little bit bitter. First opening the bottle, Black Opium had an appealing scent, but I was unsure how it would work on me.

First impression: Black Opium is strong and deep. I like that is comes off a little woodsy, but I’m unsure about the long-term wear-ability.

Later impression: The vanilla really starts to come out after a bit and I like it. Since I usually gravitate to musky scents, I miss out on the more sweet flavors. I like that this combines the two.

End of the day: This smell spectacular on me. A win.

Verdict: I really like this. I’ll use the rest of this sample bottle, for sure, and I might add it to my list of possible future purchases. I also enjoy the sparkly bottle.

Special Tacky Husband Saturday Review: the Apple Watch

Hello everybody. I’ve been struggling to review the Apple Watch for a few weeks now. I want to get straight to the important part. I can’t recommend this device to anyone . . .yet.
apple-watch-logo-main1_1For some background, I have been an Apple fan boy since I first saw OS X in 2001. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of using most of Apple’s products including MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, iPhone and iPad. When Apple announced the Apple Watch, I was pretty excited. Like Apple does best, they made me want one. I wasn’t sure how I’d use it, but I wanted one anyway.

The watch was released and there was some confusion. You see, the Apple Watch comes in three flavors – Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. Each model has two sizes available, 38mm and 42mm, and each model is made of a different metal and has multiple different band options. In their default configurations alone there are 38 separate models. 38! Prices range from $349 (for the stainless steel 38mm with the Sport band) all the way up to $17,000 for the 14-Karat Gold 38mm with red leather band. (Seriously though? WTF?)

Since there are so many options, Apple offers a concierge service – a dedicated Apple employee to help you try on watches in different combinations of watch body and band. The Apple Store carries some models and the rest have to be ordered and shipped to you. Something to note: bands for the Apple watch are universal. You can buy an Apple Watch Sport with a rubbery sport band and get a leather band later. There are also third-party bands all over the internet and even adapters that let the watch work with traditional watch bands.

Let me level with you guys. There are too many options and anything more than the Apple Watch Sport isn’t worth it. The guts of the watches are identical for each model. The $399 Apple Watch Sport is going to perform just as well as the $17,000 gold model. There is NO difference in the product on your wrist.

Apple1I’ve had the 42mm Apple Watch Sport in Space Gray for a few weeks now. My overall opinion? I’m testing an unfinished Apple product! Where’s Apple Watch OS 2.0 . . .?

The Apple Watch is an extension of your phone. The watch notifies you of everything your phone can; SMS/iMessage, Email, Calendar, Weather and more. You can accept phone calls on your wrist. You can control the music on your phone while it’s in your pocket. It can play (limited) games. It’s also fitness tracker (including heart rate monitor). It works with Apple Pay, so you can buy a coffee or whatever with your watch . . . but all that said; why do I feel like I’m testing an unfinished product?

You see, the Apple Watch is running Watch OS 1.0. It relies on Bluetooth to send information between your phone and the watch. This means that if I want to load the weather or track the shipping on a package using my favorite app, I have to wait on the app to load. Spinning circles are the most common sight on the watch when using it for more than glancing at notifications. Not just that; once the apps load, they’re slow and choppy. This is because Bluetooth isn’t fast. It lags and painfully so.

So. Here’s my list of Pros and Cons on this device:


Haptic Engine
Haptic is the fancy word for vibrations – similar to vibrate on your phone but more precise. The watch can vibrate but it can also simulate a tap on your wrist. This is a really cool feature. When I get an email, the watch taps me a couple times on the wrist to let me know. Every couple hours, I get a tap to remind me that I’ve been sitting too long and to stand up and move around. Best of all, I can be notified silently so I’m not disturbing anyone nearby.

Each app that’s installed has it’s own interface and typically include a smaller app called a “glance.” Think of it like a widget. It can deliver information from an app at a glance. When I want to change the song on my phone, I swipe from the bottom of the screen and open the glances for Music and pick my song. It’s meant to save time. It’s at least faster than opening an app (I guess).

Heart Rate Monitor
The Apple Watch has a heart rate monitor built in. On top of the regular fitness things you’d expect, there are sensors on the bottom that read your heart rate. You don’t see this in Fitbit or Nike Flex or any other fitness tracker that I’m aware of.


Information Overload!
Double edged sword here. The Apple Watch is meant to notify you of events happening on your phone. By default, most every app has notifications. You know that game that buzzes at you because you haven’t played it in a while? Now imagine that on your wrist. Dinging. Tapping. All of that. Every IM = TAP. Every e-mail (even spam!) = TAP. You can control which apps notify you and which don’t. Remember to do that!

Is it an App? Notification? Glance?
There are too many options here. Notifications? Swipe from the top. Apps? Press the crown button on the side. Glances? Swipe from the bottom. Which is which? What’s the difference between this glance and the full app? Why don’t I just pull my phone out of my pocket?

I live in the south. It’s hot outside right now. The watch is a rubber band around my wrist with a piece of glass smooshed against my skin (for the heart rate monitor). When you get hot and start sweating, it starts to get uncomfortable. This may be better with a new band but I don’t have one to test it with.

Battery Life
I haven’t had a bad time with the battery life. But I barely use the thing at this point. Others have complained about it, so I’m mentioning it here. You will need to charge this daily. Recharge time is quick though, so put it on the charger while you’re taking a shower or getting ready in the morning and it’ll be ready to go when you are.
Overall, the Apple Watch is a strong first-generation product. It’s got a lot of potential but I feel like it’s a beta test. In fact, Apple Watch OS 2.0 has already been announced and is being tested. It brings with it a bunch of new features, most importantly NATIVE apps, meaning apps can run on the watch itself without the phone. Honestly though, this should have been in the initial release. Once the new software rolls out, I may revisit this review. We’ll see.

Bottom line: wait for the next one. Battery will be better, I’m sure, and the software sure as hell will be.