Monday, March 31, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Starlight Wraps

51 comments:



I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review one of Starlight Wraps beautiful wrap bracelets - I love handcrafted jewelry, and this Colorado-based crafter really puts a lot of attention into designs that evoke various celestial themes. Her daughters and nieces help her select just the right name to match the look of the wrap to a particular Astronomical or Meteorological theme. I also see a good bit of attention being paid to the mythological sources of some of these names. I am fascinated to know that the piece is designed before it is given a name, because each of the names fit so perfectly with the wrap it goes with!

Rexanne, the designer and owner of Starlight Wraps is actually rather new to beading, which just further suggests to me that there is some inspiration at work here. Beading began as hobby she picked up to keep busy during off-season time periods at her Estes Park, CO boutique Windsong Fashion.  In an odd turn of meteorological fate, she found herself with plenty of time and motivation to develop her beading skills, when a severe flood in September 2013 blocked access to her boutique for a period of several months!  It turned out that her wrap designs were enormously popular and led to this second business operating in tandem with Windsong Fashion.

In asking about desires for the future of Starlight Wraps, Rexanne mentioned how much she'd like to be able to offer collections of wraps as bridal party gifts - an idea I find just tremendously appealing, especially if they could be done as custom designs in the wedding's colors and theme.  Should anyone be interested, I suggest getting in contact with her about that - my communications with her have been very helpful and thorough, and I believe she'd be happy to work with someone seeking a custom order of several wraps for special occasions.


It was very hard to choose which wrap I wanted, but Athena just kept drawing my eye - it is long enough to wrap five times, and is a series of silver textured beads and turquoise beads, all contained within a pair of silken cords.

I put it on the moment it arrived and quickly realized two very wonderful things about this bracelet - first, it actually lets me wear a snug cuff on my small wrists.  As much as I love bracelets, they often are too large to wear comfortably.  Secondly, the large sparkly button that connects it makes it easy for me to put this on and take it off by myself, and yet it keeps it securely on.

A couple days later, my daughter, who has metal sensitivity issues, helped me realize a third wonderful thing - while this particular wrap has metal beads, many of Starlight Wraps' designs do not. These are very fashionable jewelry items that can be worn by people who may have given up on jewelry due to allergies!

As you can see, it is quite a statement piece and I cannot wait until warmer weather let's me dress to show it off properly.  Meanwhile, I have worn it for several days, quickly removing it for showers and washing dishes, but otherwise leaving it on while sleeping or working, and I find it quite comfortable.  It doesn't get in the way or start to feel binding at all, which is quite a feat - I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and sometimes I can't stand to have things constricting me, but this stayed comfortable even through a very creaky weekend.


Athena is going to become a signature piece of jewelry for me - or one of them, because I can already see a couple more designs I may just have to have.

Luckily for my wallet, on Facebook, Starlight Wraps offers frequent giveaways and discounts, the better to fill my jewelry box with. Additionally, luckily for yours, she's also agreed to let us offer a giveaway and a very generous discount to our readers.

Before I show off what you can win, I wanted to offer one last reason why you really want to own a Starlight Wrap - Rexanne donates 10% of Starlight Wrap's net profit to a variety of children's charities that aid children around the world.  It's such a pleasure for me to support small businesses that give back.

For our Reviews, Chews & How-Tos readers, Starlight Wraps is offering a 40% discount code off the entire order - when you make your purchase use the code:
 STARLIGHT40 



Meanwhile, Starlight Wraps has agreed to let us sponsor a giveaway of the stunning Aurora wrap, a $49.00 value, composed of pink iridescent square beads and certain to help its wearer 'Always Sparkle', day or night.  I had a very hard time when I was making my initial selection choosing between this and Athena!

This Giveaway is open World Wide and will end at11:55 PM EDT on Monday, April 14th.  I wish you all the very best of luck!


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Giveaway: 3 Purple Monkeys Flat Case

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Several weeks ago, we reviewed 3 Purple Monkeys handcrafted cases, repurposed from baby wipe boxes. I shared how I am using mine as keepsake boxes from my wedding last year.

She's been on a bit of a hiatus for a little while, and just recently announced the reason for this - she's expecting a baby in the Fall!

As a celebration of that, 3 Purple Monkeys has agreed to do a giveaway with us  - she's selected several of her flat cases in a variety of patterns and styles, and will allow the winner of this giveaway to select which one they'd like.



The five choices are (clockwise from the back): 1) Tie Dye, 2) Pink Flowered, 3) Blue Under the Sea with Center Flip Top, 4) Pirate Treasure, or 5) Pink Zebra with Center Flip Top.



I think these would all make lovely purse or diaper bag tuck ins to carry baby wipes or any small items that you don't want crushed.  

This giveaway will be running until midnight, Monday April 7th.  It's open to entries world wide, so good luck, and I hope you'll check out 3 Purple Monkeys!
 
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Springtime Birds Nest Candies

19 comments:

Yesterday, Michael and I spent the afternoon and evening with a group of friends, celebrating Ostara and the start of spring.  Normally, for potlucks, I try very hard to make a healthy dish to take, but several people had that covered and I decided to make an old family favorite treat - Springtime Birds Nest Candies.  I've done these many different ways, and I'll share a few variations with you later in this entry, but this is how I did it this year. I made two varieties - one with butterscotch chips and one with dark chocolate chips.

The ingredients are simple - chow mein noodles (or some other sort of crunchy item that will create nest shapes), butterscotch or chocolate chips, and Cadbury mini eggs (or jelly beans), as well as some peanut butter, which didn't make it into this photo.

 The first step is to melt the chips and peanut butter together- this can be done in the microwave, but I prefer to set up a double boiler on the stove, because it will have to be stirred regularly.

I used a bowl big enough to contain the melted chips and peanut butter as well as the chow mein noodles once they get stirred in.  I put the bowl inside my metal colander and suspended it over boiling water in a large stock pot.

It took about 20 minutes, with occasional stirring, for the chips and peanut butter to completely melt.

Once that happened, I lifted the colander and bowl, and set it on a plate away from the heat, and added 2 cans of chow mein noodles, mixing thoroughly to coat.

I find that it helps to add the second can a bit at a time - it's better if they are coated as thinly as possible, so once you think you've added as much as you can, add the rest!

Once they were coated, I used two spoons to lift a small amount and laid them on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper (waxed works fine, too).

Put a little indent in the center, and place a Cadbury Mini Egg into it.  If you're using something smaller, like mini jelly beans, you can add two or three, to create a birds nest effect.  These are ridiculously rich, though, so I kept it to only one egg!

I tucked the tray into the refrigerator to chill.  It doesn't take long - a half hour will do it, although longer is fine!

I made two batches - each batch made about 24 nests.  These keep well in the refrigerator, and can be put into cellophane bags as lovely tuck ins for an Easter Basket.  Enjoy!


Springtime Birds Nest Candies
makes 24 2 1/2" nests

1 bag butterscotch or chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 cans chow mein noodles
48 Cadbury mini eggs

Melt chips and peanut butter over a double boiler until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and mix in chow mein noodles, blending to coat thoroughly.

Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper.  Top each nest with a candy egg. Put in refrigerator to chill.

Variations:

Coating:  can use candy coating instead of chips, or try coconut oil and cocoa (keep in the refrigerator!)
Crunch: try Rice Krispies, instant oats or coconut flakes.
Eggs: Jelly Bellies, Dried cranberries or blueberries

Happy Spring!



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Thursday, March 20, 2014

14 Ways to Celebrate Spring Equinox 2014

13 comments:
AT LAST!  According to the Farmer's Almanac,Spring arrived with the Vernal Equinox at 12:57 EDT today, and while there may still be snow on the ground in several parts of the country, and perhaps more to come, the Universe has spoken - it is SPRING.

Can you tell I'm excited to see the end of this never-ending Winter?  I know I'm not the only one, although it sometimes feels like it - many of my friends are total snowbunnies, cheering every new weather report of impending snowstorms, and several of our writers here at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos live in the Mohave Desert and haven't really experienced any winter at all.

But for me - I am a happy woman!  I love to acknowledge this day - not only for it's promise of milder weather and the ability to throw open my windows soon, nor for the sudden burst of crocuses blossoming like crazy in my yard.  The Spring Equinox is one of two times a year (the other is at the Autumn Equinox in September), when our day and night hours are the same length apart and the same in the Northern Hemisphere as they are in the Southern Hemisphere.

So this is a time for us to restore balance in our lives, and it makes a great time to do a reset of things that have gone a bit awry.  One of many reasons why Spring Cleaning is so popular.

Ostara - 1884 by Johannes Gehrts
Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts.
In ancient times - and among pagans today - many of the symbols that have been adopted by Easter are actually Equinox symbols.  Rabbits (hares) are ancient fertility symbols, as are eggs.  The association of blooming flowers with spring is a no brainer, as are seedlings.  The word Easter is, itself, associated with Ostara (in German) or Eostre (in Anglo-Saxon England), a goddess associated with Spring rather than the Judeo-Christian Passover.  The languages of people who did not ever worship Ostara all use a word still rooted in Passover or Pasche.

With all that in mind, I like when  there is a bit of distance between the first day of Spring and Easter, as there is this year - we can start celebrating with the bunnies and eggs and flowers now, and for those inclined to treat Easter or Passover more religiously, it can be celebrated apart from the Eostre customs.

I've seen so many lovely ideas for bringing in the Spring around the Internet, that I decided to share just a few of them in a 1st Day of Spring round up.  Try one, or all of them, and enjoy the turning of the year!


http://www.theidearoom.net/2011/05/styrofoam-3-dimensional-spring-sign.html

1.  Make a 3-Dimensional Spring Sign - The Idea Room
Isn't this adorable?  Follow the link to get a clear tutorial using items easily found at the craft store.  I think it would make a perfect focal point for any other Spring decorations, and I just love the greenery.




2. Make a Simple Spring Wreath - Confessions of a Serial DIYer

I really like the natural appeal and crisp light colors of this wreath - the tutorial is easy to follow and there are lots of ways to reinterpret this to make it your own (as much as I love the look of those little green apples, I think I might like finding some robins egg blue accents).




3. Make a Floral Bunny Wreath - The Chirping Moms.
This one has a whole different feel than the previous one - but I like it just as much!  Especially here in DC, where we are having a delayed Cherry Blossom season, I love seeing this decked out in delicate pink blossoms.




4. Paint some Wooden Speckled Robins Eggs - Just a Little Creativity.
Speaking of robins eggs!  These are painted, and then spatter painted, and the directions include a bit of advice about how to avoid making a mess while doing it.  These are definitely on my list of must-dos!





5. Make some Egg Shell Candles - About a Mom.
I can't even describe how cheerful I find that sunny yellow candle peeping out from these egg shells.  A few of these would make a delightful centerpiece.




6. Plant some seeds in Egg Shell Starters - Frugal Little Bungalow
This is just the right time to plant a few seeds, and egg shells make a delightful (and biodegradable) container for them.  The minerals in egg shells are even good for the soil!




7. Make a Flower Crown - Mommy Like Whoa.
I made several of these last year and am just about ready to make a few more - nothing gets you into the spirit of the season like a flowered crown and a dance around your backyard (or kitchen).




8. Dream big!  Make a Backyard Sun Dial! - Mom Foodie
I love this idea so much!  It would be such a great project to do together with children, but also just a gorgeous way to set off a backyard garden.  And it's not even difficult to do!




9. Enjoy a delicious bowl of Caramelized Carrot Soup - Our Family World.
Carrots and ginger and a bit of curry goodness - sounds marvelous to me!  Appearing on our dinner table soon, guaranteed.




10. Make some Stenciled Garden Markers - Earning & Saving with Sarah Fuller
It may still be too cold to bring plants outdoors, but while we're waiting for the weather to catch up, we can plan our gardens and make a few markers in preparation.




11. Make some Baby Chick Deviled Eggs - CincyShopper.com
These are almost too cute to eat!  Almost, I say because I'll be eating many. I think I might make deviled eggs this way from now on because they are SO CUTE!




12. Make a Hanging Flower Chandelier - The Sweetest Occasion
For those fortunate enough to have some blooms ready to bring in, here's a stunning and unique way to display them!  For those of us still making do with early crocuses, here's something to save for a little later in the season.




13. Wear a Ribbon Wrapped Carrot Hairclip - Huckleberry Love.
I love this tutorial, not only for the ridiculously cute carrot themed hair accessories, but because it gives very good clear instructions on one of life's biggest mysteries - how to get that wonderful curly effect in ribbons. (Ok, it was a mystery to me - but now I'm in the know with everyone else!)




14. Make some Bunny Butt Cookies! - Hungry Happenings
Last, but not least, some more adorable food!  These are actually called Chocolate Bunny Silhouettes, but come on. Bunny Butts!  These are actually throwing me into a state of crisis, because I'd already planned out a potluck offering for a Spring gathering I'm attending this weekend, and now I'm strongly considering making Bunny Butts instead!


Consider that a cliffhanger....  and HAPPY SPRING!!

You can find these and other springtime ideas on our Pinterest page on our Stuff We Love @RCH: Spring




Featured at Flour Me With Love
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Litter One Subscription Litter Box Kit

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     Being a kitty mommy, there is one thing in my house that is the absolute most hated thing to clean-  The litterbox. Changing it is dusty and smelly, or at least it was.  Then along came Litter One, and now I can even get the Mr. to change it without complaint.

     Litter One is an all natural, completely recyclable, litterbox kit.  They are proud to offer 100% biodegradable, 100% American made litterbox kits.  The kit includes a sturdy cardboard litterbox with a false floor, a cardboard litter scoop, biodegradable waste bags, and pine pellet litter.  Each kit is designed to last 4-6 weeks.  They offer subscriptions for $24.99/kit (free shipping) when you order two or more.  You have the option of having them delivered to your door every 2, 4, 6, or 8 weeks, depending on your needs.  

     When I got my kit on my doorstep, the Mr. and I had to investigate.  It comes all packed neatly in a box, which, when unfolded, becomes the litterbox.  Upon opening it, we could immediately smell the pine, which was pleasant and not overpowering (probably because it's actually pine dust pressed into pellets vs "pine" fragrance).  The pellets look like the ones we used to heat our house in WI (though those are hardwood).  Setting up the box the first time was a little confusing, even with the directions, but the second time, six weeks later, it was a breeze. 

     I'll admit, I had my doubts about the odor control of an all natural litter.  We had tried using a corn based litter before in an attempt to be more green, and the smell was so bad that we quickly changed back to our Tidy Cats. Happily, I will tell you that I was very much mistaken in my doubt.  Not only did it control the odor, but even my super sensitive nose couldn't smell ANYTHING unless I practically had my face in the litterbox.  

     There are a few tricks to this, as with every litterbox.  The most important one is to make sure you shake the box vigorously every day.  If you don't, the urine pellets (which have turned into piles of damp sawdust) won't fall through the false floor, and you can end up with damp cardboard.  The scoop is just as likely to pick up pellets as it is to pick up poo, and it ends up just being easier to use the included waste bags to pick it up.  Speaking of poo, the pellets do an amazing job of drying them out quickly, which cuts down on the gagging scent of cat poo.  

    Changing the box out is just about the easiest thing ever.  Simply place the scoop in with the pellets, close the box, and take it out to your recycling bin.  I no longer have to beg and bribe the Mr to clean it out for me! 

     Overall, I really liked this litterbox.  It's easy to clean, has ZERO smell (neither cat nor fragrance), is green, and I don't have to worry about changing it out, because the Mr. does it with no complaint!

My cat, Angel

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: Two Words Period

23 comments:


Two Words Period. It doesn't get much simpler than that. A minimalistic approach at breaking the ice in a conversation or inserting humor into a situation. Richard Reutter founded Two Words Period in early 2013 with the following mission statement:

Two Words Period was created with the idea that humor can make an impact and have purpose through creativity rather than crudeness. Although prop humor may seem a thing of the past, quickly sliding a card across the table to someone with the brief and specific message seems to instantly gain the attention and often laughter of the recipient regardless of age. The idea was to create something that was simple in concept but heavy in impact.


A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of receiving a packet of cards from Richard. In it were a selection of high quality cards with simple sayings that could be used in a myriad of situations. I was excited to put them to use!


The first card I chose to implement said simply,

NAILED IT.

I had recently bought an eclectic gift for a friend that was an unusual combination of pop culture references. It was the perfect embodiment of the strange and twisted humor this person has.

I placed the card in with the gift because in terms of finding the perfect gift, I felt I'd "nailed it!"




The next card I used said

THANK YOU.

I placed it in with our tip at dinner one night after a particularly pleasant server had attended us.


A couple of the cards I felt were good reminders to keep throughout the day. I placed one on my fridge that said,

EAT CAKE.

... to remind me that its important to enjoy the sweet things in life.

Another said,

JUST RELAX.

I have that one pinned up on my vanity mirror. I need to constantly remind myself of this as I tend to over think.


There are several other cards in the packet that I am looking forward to having the opportunity to use. My favorite in the whole pack said, "NICE PARKING." I thought for sure that would be the first one I'd use. There are so many people who seem to think that the lines in a parking lot are merely a suggestion. I just knew there would be someone taking up 3 spots just asking for me to leave this card! Sadly, I've not had the chance to use it yet. People seem to have good parking karma at that moment.

The variety pack that I received can be purchased on their website for $10.95. There were a dozen cards in my variety pack. Apart from the ones previously mentioned, I also have

FOLLOW ME.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

NOBODY CARES. 
(probably my next favorite after Nice Parking) 

ICE BREAKER.

CALL ME.

and 
NICE LIFE. 

My cards came in a handy envelope that keeps them protected. I keep it in my purse so I have them at the ready when opportunity strikes.

There are several other cards available as well as tee shirts. Eventually Richard hopes to add a customize option so you can create your own Two Words. If that were an option right now, I would order cards that say, "YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL." or "HEY HANDSOME." I think leaving that card where it might come as a surprise to someone would be a great ice breaker.



Please make sure to enter our Giveaway for a variety packet of cards from Two Words Period! This contest is open to US only.

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Two Words Period Website.
Two Words Period on Facebook.



I received no monetary compensation for this review, however I was provided with the product for free for purposes of review.  All opinions are my own. Click here see our full disclosure policy.

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~ Contesting MondayGot Giveaways?, Link Your Giveaways, Monday Giveaway Link Up, Monday Giveaway Linky, Monday Madness Giveaway Linky, Monday Madness Giveaways, Monday Morning Giveaways, Oh I Want One Monday, Plenty of Sweeps, Weekly Giveaway Linky, Winning Rocks Giveaway Linky.
~ Apron Full of Giveaways, Bless Their Little Giveaways, Giveaway Linky By Country, Got Giveaways?, Handmade Tuesdays, Link Up Your Giveaways, List and Enter Giveaways, Simple Sojourns Tuesday Giveaway Linky, Terrific Tuesday, Treasure Hunt Tuesday, Tuesday Giveaway Link-UpTuesday Giveaway Linky, WIN at the Weekly, Why Buy It?.
~ Cast Party Wednesday, Cha-Ching Queen Blog Giveaway Link Up, Giveaways in Blogland, Happy WINsday Giveaway Linky, Moms Win on Wednesday, Pretty Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Want It? Win It!, Wednesday Wealth, Wednesday Whatsits, What's It Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Win It Wednesday, Win It Wednesday Giveaway Linky, Winning Wednesdays.
~ Give It Away Thursday, Giveaway Directory Thursday, Giveaway Linky Love, Giveaways Galore, It's a Party!, Lilac's Linky, Thursday Favorite Things, Thursday Giveaway Link Up, Thursday Tell All, Thursday Treasures, Thursday's Giveaway Linky.
~ Anything Goes, Blog Giveaway Round Up, Freebie Friday Giveaways, Freedom Fridays, Friday Fun Sweeps, Friday Giveaway Linky, Frugality is Free Friday, Hen's Friday, Linky For All Giveaways, Round 'Em Up Friday, Sarah's Friday Giveaway Link-Up, Sonya's Weekend Giveaway Linky, TGIF Fun Friday.
~ Giveaway GAB, Giveaway Parade, Linky For Your Giveaways Saturday, Saturday Giveaway Parade, Super Saturday Link Up, Sweeping Saturday, Sweepstakes Saturday.
~ Family Friendly Giveaway Linky, Funday Sunday Giveaway Linky, Real Moms Real Views, Sunday Linky Edition, Sunday Stroll Giveaway Linky.