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review

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.


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 Playfullytacky.com and Amazon.com. 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

Directions:
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: 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.

Birchbox, October 2015

This month I have two boxes to share with you. For my regular monthly box, I selected the Game Face curated option. Then I used $10 worth of points to order Power Pose, the other curated option. Both of these boxes contain products from brands that have supported breast cancer awareness in some way or another.
Birchbox Game Face

Game Face Box
Prescriptives False Eyelashes Plush Mascara ($5.90)
Adding this on to the stash. I haven’t tried it yet, so I don’t have anything specific to say.
Origins Checks And Balances Frothy Face Wash ($4.40)
I’ve already tried this. It smells great and seems to be pretty gentle. I love a good frothy face wash, but avoid them as them tend to dry me out. This might be a good option for me moving forward.
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($9)
I wear Smashbox primer every single day (well, assuming I bother to put makeup on). I love the stuff. I usually wear the green, but I love having these small tubes around. They are great for travel and great to extend the times between purchases.
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ ($3.09)
Eh, nice to have, but nothing to write home about (or blog about).
Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme Global Anti-Aging Crème ($8.50)
I don’t think I’ve purchased a moisturizer outside of sample boxes all year. Love getting these.

Total Cost: $10
Total Value: $30.89

Birchbox Power Pose

Power Pose Box
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Synchronized Complex II ($18.20)
Clinique Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm – Mega Melon ($8.50)
Pretty color. I have too many lip products, so I’ll probably put this one in the daughter’s stocking. Or I’ll put it up for swap.
Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief ($5.46)
Darphin Stimulskin Plus Multi-Corrective Divine Cream ($29.50)

So. . . the full size version of this is apparently $295 for 1.7 ounces. I highly doubt it is worth that much. I’ve tried enough skin products – high-end and otherwise – to know that there is very little to make a $300 skin cream worth it. That being said, I’ll use every drop of this. Not going to snub a high-end sample too much or I might not get one again.
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($9)
Tube #2, no complaints here!

Total Cost: $15 or $10 for subscribers, paid for with points = $0
Total Value: $70.66

Both Boxes, Cost: $10
Both Boxes, Value: $101.55

Holy samples, Batman! I’ve got a lot to sort through this month. I’m absolutely glad to have used points to purchase the Power Pose box. Yes, I ended up with three Clinique products, two Estee Lauder products, and two identical Smashbox products, but all are high-quality samples I’m happy to have in my stash.

As always, if you want to sign up for your own Birchbox please be a dear and use my referral link. Use the coupon code SUBSCRIBENOW50 to get an extra 50 points ($5) to spend in the shop.

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.

Birchbox, September 2015

It is that time again! Let’s see what arrived on my doorstep this month.
Birchbox September 2015
Acure Organics Facial Cleansing Gel Superfruit + CGF ($2.50)
I’m always happy to have extra cleansers to put in my stash. I don’t think I’ve purchased one outside of beauty boxes in at least a year. I’m not in love with the way this smells, but it isn’t bad.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil ($2.99)
So. . this is tiny. I really can’t imagine doing my brows more than one of two times before it just feels too tiny to use. Any shorter and I’m bound to end up poking myself in the eye. I already have a brow pencil I absolutely love and don’t expect this one to replace it. The color looks okay though, so I’ll keep it to toss in a travel bag or my emergency purse bag.

trèStiQue Correct & Cover Concealer Crayon ($2.08)
I actually don’t own any concealer, so I was happy to see this in the box. It goes on smooth and is the perfect sample size. I’m a little iffy about the color on me, but plan to experiment.

NER:D Skincare Super Hydrating Mask ($18.67)
Love, love, love sheet masks. I have at least 50 – don’t judge! – and this one will fit in just fine.

RUSK Hair Care Elixir Mist ($11.20)
I’m very unsure about this one; I’ve never used a product like this that hasn’t left my hair looking greasy. I’ll probably pass it on to my daughter or put it up for trade.

Total Cost: $10
Total Value: $37.44

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

Birchbox, August 2015

Aug2015


Multi-purpose Crayon from LAQA & Co. Charm School Kit ($6.70)
Benefit Air Patrol BB Cream Eyelid Primer ($10.85)
RUSK Volumizing Mousse ($3.40)
St. Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion ($6.25)
Scalisi Skincare Anti-Aging Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($7.65)

And I ended up with an extra, sort of.

I picked R+Co DEATH VALLEY Dry Shampoo ($7.35) when the sample choice came around and my selection was verified. Then when I checked my box spoilers online (couldn’t wait!) I noticed that it wasn’t included. I have been in desperate need of dry shampoo for a couple of weeks, but refused to by any since I knew I had some coming. So I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t listed. When the box actually arrived on my doorstep however, the regular Birchbox was in an even larger box with my sample. I don’t get to review it for points, but looks like Birchbox noticed and fixed their mistake automatically.

Total cost: $10
Total value: $34.85 + $7.35 = $42.20

This is a great box for me. I needed the dry shampoo, always need mousse to add to my collection, love high-end skincare products, enjoy Benefit, and will even try the tan lotion. The lip crayon is a miss, but my daughter will appreciate it for sure. Overall? Winning.

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