Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Soundwave Art Pendant


Something that we try to hold onto for as long as we can.

I was given the chance to review a piece of jewelry that will enable you to walk around with a special memory, keeping it alive forever.

Now as you can see, I have a tattoo of Roman numeral over my heart (My 1st born's birthday).  I love it, and I wanted something equally meaningful and lasting that that represent my love for my husband, but not in permanent ink on my body.

Now before you say it ,yes, that could very much be my wedding ring, but we were not able to get it personalized. And he wanted to do something for me that came from how he felt after being married to me for 3 years.

This gave him a chance to say how he felt and forever imprint these words next to my heart where he belongs. And did I mention no TATTOO!!

Soundwave Art gave us a chance to express this using their amazing technology and creating a sound wave of his voice which they printed on a necklace. He was even able to personalize it on the back, which is says 4ever Mrs. Davis

On the front is the sound wave art that can never be taken from me.  I LOVE IT!

When you go to their website to make a purchase, they have this specially designed software that allows you to set up your soundwave and place your entire order online. This software gives you a chance to have your loved one or yourself make a personalized message and to hear it back to make sure you love it.

For their pendants, we were given a 10 seconds timeframe, and that surprisingly was more the enough, and he didn't even have to say his message fast to fit in there:

Adrenne, you are my light, my world, an amazing mother and my best friend. I love you...

*I know tears, he is so sweet!!*

Even with that, there was some time left but we decided that was perfect. Its makes me think of all of our great times together, when we became more then friends and parents together. Its a statement for me from my husband that keep our memories together fresh on my mind.

Once we submitted the order, it took about 7 to 10 business days for it to arrive - pretty fast for a customized product!

The week it arrived was a tough one for me - my husband (who is in the military) was currently in the field. Basically, he away from home for two weeks with only a so-so phone connection to call home. Around the first week of these periods, I am really sad and thinking about how much I miss him, but in the mail on the second day was this necklace.

My day immediately turned around, and I thought of his message to me and it made me smile. I wear it all the time now because even when he is here or at work and I need a little happy thought, I can touch my necklace and think of our times together.  To me that makes this completely worth it!

On the quality of the necklace, my personally opinion is the chain it self is really tiny. I was holding a baby and fearing for my life that it would break.

The pendant itself has a little weight, which I like - I don't have to worry about the wind slinging it everywhere, but I do worry that the chain itself might be too dainty for it.

The loop on the back is also on the smaller side, if you do not have nails to place to open it you will have some errors, but my husband was able to do it after a few tries.

On the plus side, I didn't have those moments of it turning on its own showing the back of the pendant, a problem I frequently have with my other necklaces.. I love the length of the necklace as well - it wasn't too long to where it gets hidden by my cleavag,e and wasn't too short to where I felt like any moment I would choke.

Overall I love this message behind it, the memories it will always remind me of and the way it goes with anything that I wear. Though I am fearful to have this amazing necklace in the path of toddlers or playing sports, it is a great piece to own.

While I chose the vertical pendant in white gold, they also have some amazing rings and other size and angle pendants, as well as customized wall art (Jackie reviewed that service about a year and a half ago).

The custom pendants range in price from $149 to $179 in Sterling silver with a sterling silver chain.  For additional cost, they can also be purchased in either 14K Gold or 14K White Gold.

Soundwave Art is letting us host a giveaway for one of their Sterling Silver Custom Pendants and Chain, in the design of the winner's choice!  Read on to see how you can enter to get one of your own.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 10-15-15. 

The winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winner(s) have responded and confirm, their first name will be posted on our Giveaways page. 

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review/Giveaway: My Life Balanced 120 Days Challenge V.02


If you've been following along for the last few months, you'll know I've been working through Vanessa Hartmann's My Life Balanced: 120 Day Challenge, and sharing my progress here.  I've come to the end of my initial 120 Days Challenge, but this wonderful workbook is designed to be used in an ongoing way, to help the user discover new goals for themselves, and to keep focused and mindful as they proceed.

Back in May, I began my journey, and shared my initial impressions and explained the basic set up of the book.  Each day (undated) provides food for thought in four areas: Mind (journal or meditation keywords), Meal (tips, affirmations or suggested activities to do in the area of how you eat), Move (tips, affirmations or suggested activities to do in the area of movement), and Mantra (an affirmation or statement to help keep you on track).

When I began, I knew certain aspects of this would be challenging for me, as changing habits always are.  In my first progress report, I explained how I was focusing on that - changing my routine and taking things slowly.  I even incorporated a Tarot reading (an already established habit for me) into the new habits, and it helped me understand a bit more about what it was I was doing and how to go about it.  Even after only three weeks I was beginning to learn more about myself and how the My Life Balanced Program could help me make the changes I wanted to make - not to be different, but to be more in tune with my own priorities.

My next update was all about the challenges - a few disruptions to my routine was feeling as if it was derailing my progress, but I also realized that handing challenging disruptions is one of the key lessons to success in establishing healthy life changes!  Anyone working through this program is eventually going to uncover their own derailers, and the beauty of the 120 Days Challenge is that so many aspects of it involve small actions and opportunities for mindfulness. They don't really take a lot of time and I found that when you allow them to have a place, they can change the way you see those times - not as interruptions to life, but life itself.

Since then, I have found if I can do nothing else, take a few moments to do the included breathing suggestions, and spend the time focusing on the Mind keyword.  Just that helps to put whatever else is going on into perspective.

Meditation was the focus of my next progress report - I truly found this aspect to be the most meaningful and useful aspect of the My Life Balanced: 120 Days Challenge.  The breathing exercises are easy enough for anyone to do, and really do make all the rest easier, too.  Several suggestions for incorporating yoga are sprinkled throughout - for these, you'll want to use outside resources to show you specifics about yoga postures and movement (throughout this series, outside reading/video viewing/etc. will be necessary - you're building your own program, not following a script).  In my progress report, I included two forms of meditation I've found useful: walking meditations and a visualization exercise.  I also explained the importance of Vanessa's focus on 'body scans' - paying attention to what your body is desiring and needing, so that you can provide it.

My next updated focused on food - eating to live well, whatever that means to the user.  Before I began, I was concerned that Vanessa's personal choice to live as a vegetarian would make this part largely irrelevant to my own eating goals but in fact, it was never an issue at all.  She includes a number of excellent food tips and tidbits of information (which, again, often sent me out onto the Internet to explore further), many of which I have incorporated and some I've chosen not to, or put off for later consideration.  I shared a few of the things I learned in this update, and by this point I was realizing fully how different this experience will be for each user.  Vanessa never tells you what to do - she gives you the tools and encouragement for you to develop your own challenge according to your own goals and needs.

Finally, my last progress report was on the subject of Movement - this has always been a complex challenge for me and continues to be one, and it is also the biggest reason why I will be returning to this workbook again and again.  Here again, I learned a few things about myself that will help me strive to do what is best for me in this area, in a way that is very different from past 'exercise regimens that always left me feeling like an inadequate failure before I'd even began.

The My Life Balanced: 120 Days Challenge workbook never tries to make you feel inadequate or lazy or not tough enough to be fit.  It sticks to small changes, lots of encouragement, and reminders that your body isn't something to hate or be in an adversarial relationship with.  For anyone who's ever struggled with body image and negative self-talk, you NEED this.  I have come across a lot of programs over the years, but I have never seen something so consistently sending the message that you're supposed to like your body, pay attention to what it's saying, and that taking care of it should be a gentle and joyful expression of loving yourself, not punishment for not being perfect.

As you can see, that is the message from the very first day, and it's repeated throughout the entire book (and it takes a lot of repetition of these ideas if you've bought into our culture's more usual shaming method of 'self improvement'):

I do encourage you to read over my past updates to get into more details about the workbook itself and will end my review only with this:

This workbook is incredibly versatile - I can't actually think of any category of person who wouldn't benefit from it, whether you are, like me, struggling with disability or already in good shape and seeking fine tuning. If you've never thought about personal wellness goals beyond a vague 'I oughta do something about that', or already have a deep understanding of what your goals are, the My Life Balanced workbook can help you.

The last few pages of the workbook are a special bonus - because it is meant to be used in an ongoing way, you can get through it 3 times a year, adding up to 360 days - so there are 5 extra pages at the end to get you through the entire year, offering extra guidance on the benefits of healthier living, handling the negativity of comparing yourself and your progress to others, the basic components of weight loss, how to listen to your body, and a list of recommended books (including cookbooks).

The one single negative I experienced was the size of the book - my copy is large and floppy - it doesn't travel well and I found myself often wanting to access it while away from home (it's such a great thing to peek into while you're stuck waiting somewhere).  A few weeks ago, Vanessa set to work on a revised version, editing and updating her text and - best part - making it smaller so that it can be tucked into a purse or bag.  This smaller edition, along with a small notepad turns the program into a powerful tool for busy people on the go!

What a difference size makes!
I love the the new version is bound at the top - this also allows for the biggest thing I wished was possible - you could open that to the current day and prop it on a desk or counter (where ever you can see it often), and have frequent reminders of what your focus for the day is.  Huzzah!

The newly revised My Life Balanced: 120 Days Challenge workbook can be purchased from Vanessa's website for $36.00, shipping included.  She also offers a couple of other guidebooks (including a 21 Day Minimalism challenge), as well as local and long distance life coaching.

If you'd like to explore more of what Vanessa does, please check out her several posts here at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos.  You can also follow her on Facebook, check out many of her workout and advice videos on YouTube, and she's even started a healthy food blog to support her My Life Balanced program.

When you check out her My Life Balanced website, make sure you sign up on the front page to receive a 10 day sampler of the 120 Days Life Style Change Manual!

Finally, I'm very excited that she's offered to give a copy of the revised My Life Balanced: 120 Days Challenge workbook to one of our US readers!  Read on to see how you can enter (and you want to enter this one, I promise!).

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 10-14-15. 

The winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winner(s) have responded and confirm, their first name will be posted on our Giveaways page. 

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #36

Welcome!  We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

Here's what we've all been doing over the last week:

 We hope you'll check these out if you haven't already!


And now our favorite part - the FEATURES!  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

(Roasted Corn & Shrimp Salad with Southwest Spicy Ranch Dressing) // A Life Well Red 

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Review: Dapper Box Subscription for Men


Clothes make the man, but it’s the fine touches that make the clothes work. Any man can wear a suit, but to look truly put-together, pay attention to the details.

Dapper Box is for men who want to dress well. It is a monthly subscription box that brings you ties, socks, cologne and other detail items to upscale your suit or dress casual wear. The items are worth up to $96, according to the company. 

For this review, Dapper Box sent me the Frozen Tundra box, their current one at the time. It included a pair of socks, a tie, Frozen Tundra aftershave, metal collar stays and a pocket circle.

In summary, I can say that the quality of all of the items was good.

However, whether Dapper Box is right for you depends on two things: Your style aesthetic, and your size.

Size? It’s true that accessories such as boutonnieres, pocket circles and cologne are not size-dependent. Socks and ties, however, are. If you are big or tall (I am both) you might not be able to wear them.

For me, the socks were too small for my size 13 feet, and the tie was too short for my six-foot height. (My wife, however, can and will use both. Hubba.)

It took her about two seconds to claim these socks for her own.

Sense of style is another consideration. The socks in the Frozen Tundra box are colorful and dotted. They are cute, maybe, but they are not what I would call “dapper.” Even if they had fit, they are not socks I could wear in any kind of a business setting. Other past boxes as shown on their website featured argyle and more dots. The argyles I would wear, but I would also like to see some more conservative patterns — greys, blacks and navy blues.

This is, however, purely a matter of personal taste. The socks are well-made and durable, so if you have smaller feet and like the colorful patterns, you’ll enjoy getting a new pair every month.

The tie is also very nice, and in this case, quite attractive. It is pure silk and would probably cost more than the entire box if purchased in a men’s wear department or store. 

However, it is not a tall size and is too short on me. Someone three or four inches shorter would look very nice with it.

Also, the tie was folded up in the box, creating some visible rumples. Ideally, ties packed for travel or shipping should be rolled.  This is a small adjustment I hope they make, to ensure that their subscribers receive everything in good shape.

The Dapper Box website has no options for alternate sizes, so again, men with big feet and/or above-average height may find the monthly collections only partly useful at this time.

Even at that, I will be happily using the remaining items in the box I received.

The pocket circle puzzled me at first, as I had never seen one and the box does not include any kind of explanatory material (most boxes I’ve received have a card that at least identifies the makers of the products collected). However, I was able to figure it out and found a couple of different methods of folding it online. Here is a simple one, while this one is more elaborate.

Once figured out, the accessory added a nice touch to the overall look, with a fringe of blue that matches the tie. It’s these details that can bring an outfit together. I like having a simple way to upscale my suit without it being fussy.

The aftershave is made by Stirling, which describes the scent as a “blend of nine essential oils and menthol meant to recreate the scent and feel of earth in winter.” The menthol is very noticeable, and it has a nice mild sting of witch hazel on freshly shaved skin.

The collar stays are a functional accessory rather than a visual one, used to keep a shirt collar’s shape in place. Most dress shirts come with plastic stays; these metal ones are less flexible, keep the shape more rigidly secure.  Any man that wears collared shirts needs to keep a few of these on hand.

For men who like the aesthetics of the Dapper Box selections and are of the right size to wear them, it is a great deal. You can subscribe month by month for $29 per month; for three months at $27 per month; six months for $25 per month; or a full year for $23 per month.

Dapper Box also offers custom ties and accessories in large quantities for companies, fraternities or other organizations.

If you'd like to try Dapper Box for yourself, they are generously offering $10 off your first month's box - use the code "RCH" to take advantage of this great bargain! 
Good until Dec. 31st - wouldn't these make a great holiday gift?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review/Giveaway: The Natural Dentist Kids


As a mother of a growing four year old, I was excited to try some different options of toothpaste for my son. The toothpaste we were using was basically brought home because it had the current cartoon character he loved at the moment on it. I wasn't really thinking what it does for his teeth or breath. But something had to give - all I knew was my son was brushing his teeth 1 to 2 times a day and waking up with the most horrid breath. (Sorry, son, if you read this when you are older, but it's true.)

All The Natural Dentist products are made with safe and effective plant-based products - no harsh chemicals, artificial flavors or dyes, and no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). One variety is even flouride-free.

I was sent 3 different kinds of their toothpaste to try: Cavity Zapper Fluoride Gel Toothpaste in Groovy Grape and Berry Blast, and Plaque Zapper Fluoride-Free Groovy Grape Flavor.

Since I was given some time, I decided on a week per toothpaste to see how my son liked them and to see if that made a difference. 

Each of these has a cool feature I really like - if you or your child squeeze too much of the toothpaste, just let go and the bottle will suck the rest back in. Great way to make sure don't use too much or waste any!

The first type we tried was the Cavity Zapper Groovy Grape, this one was a fluoride gel toothpaste.

On the bottle its states: 
Helps Prevent Cavities
Strengthens Tooth Enamel
Cleans Away Plaque and Stains
Freshens Breath

For this first week of brushing, I did not let him explore and try it on his own since it does have fluoride, which should not be swallowed. After the first time, he didn't seem to care to much about the flavor and it was just another toothpaste for him to brush with.

But I did notice that if he was to drink milk or orange juice he did not complain about the after taste even if he just brushed his teeth, as he normally would have to wait an hour or two so not to have that weird taste.

Also I tried this one, and the flavor was ok - honestly, it reminded me of that purple medicine as a child your mother had to chase you to take. It even smells like it. As far as freshening our breath we definitely left all the smells that would make a ghost turn pale in the sink, so that was a check.

I will say the more we used this toothpaste the more we got used to the flavor, and our breath wasn't minty as we are used to. yet it wasn't the same old toothpaste that lasts maybe 4 hours, then you would need a mint. I also notice on day 4 we were able to see a difference in my teeth with staining from coffee so that was a huge plus for me. 

Next up, I wanted to take a break from the Groovy Grape so we tried the Cavity Zapper Berry Blast, which is also a fluoride toothpaste. I can't place the smell of this one, but boy did we LOVE THE TASTE! This one I had to keep making my son stop swallowing it, and if you have this problem for sure follow the directions and only use a pea sized amount.

For this bottle it states:
Cleans Teeth and Gums
Removes Tartar
Freshens Breath

This week was awesome - I know for a fact my son brushed his teeth 2 or more times a day, due to how much he loved the taste, and I loved the extra brushing time and even was excited to take him to the dentist after all this extra work. 

And to my pleasure, when he went, he had no cavities and no stains. Now, for a child that has a fruit roll up almost everyday this was a shocker! The dentist actually didn't even give him the sample toothpaste at the end - just told him to keep using what he is using. Now I'm sure you guys could picture the oh yeah I'm the best mom smile I had on my face. WINNING!

Here is what I noticed with the Berry Blast - he wanted to brush more, he loved the taste, so did I. And he was getting good reviews from his dentist. What more out of a toothpaste do you want?

Finally, the last one was the Plaque Zapper Fluoride-Free Groovy Grape. (During this week I kept using the Berry Blast...ssshhh don't tell my son.)

He was not too pleased with the taste again, but he did enjoy the freedom to brush around in his own mouth for once.

This bottle states:
Cleans Teeth and Gums
Safe if swallowed
Low-Foam Formula

As far as the freshening his breath, it was a little disappointing because within a few hours he would have to brush again. Maybe it's just my son, but he has passed the stage of not needing that extra kick in a toothpaste. But it did create less foam and his teeth did stay white.

This toothpaste sadly did not make it for the whole week before he started begging for the berry blast again. 

So for me and my family the Berry Blast will be a repeat buy.
I do make my son use the Fluoride-Free at night time, and the Cavity Zapper Berry Blast in the morning (and if needed afternoon), because I do want him to practice more on his own before I'm ready to trust that he won't eat the toothpaste. And that system is still seeming to work for us, so if you are a parent that wants the freedom of Fluoride-Free, I strongly recommend using that at night for practice and the Berry Blast during the day for its flavor and cavity fighting properties.

And remember you still floss every day!

The Natural Dentist Kids will be giving away a collection of sample-sized products to one of our readers in the US. This set will include some of each of their toothpastes, their Cavity Zapper Kids Mouth Rinse, and also a toothbrush.  Read on to see how to enter!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 10-8-15. 

The winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winner(s) have responded and confirm, their first name will be posted on our Giveaways page. 

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to Prepare Fresh Mussels


Ever have that seafood craving but not the budget to spend the crazy amount for it?

Where I am currently located, a bag of crab legs would be 17.99 with only 3 to 4 clusters and a few broken legs. To feed 3 people that love seafood just as much as I do, that could easily bring my total for one item 53.97 plus tax/surcharge.

Luckily for us, we were able to find some fresh mussels for cheap :)

Now trust me, mussels can taste very bad if not properly handled or cooked, so if you want to skip this whole process and move on to adding favor, buy the frozen already cooked bigger size mussels. We normally do that, but this time, the store was out, so we went for the fresh mussels - they aren't really that much harder!

What you will need:

Mussels about 2 to 3 lbs (1 lb per person)
Butter (Great excuse to use my homemade butter)
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt or Garlic Powder
Medium Onion
3 Tablespoons Dried Parsley Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Seasoning Salt
1/2 Tablespoon Old Bay
4 cups Water*

Preparing the pot:

Cut up one medium size yellow onion. With the heat on mid-high, place your cut onions in a stock pot, sweating them down for 2 minutes before adding the 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add the remaining ingredients, except the mussels, to the pot.

*NOTE: These are smaller mussels that I am working with. If you have the larger, frozen mussels you would do 2 cups of water due to the liquid inside the mussels. Also, you would double the garlic salt and Old Bay if you are using the frozen mussels.

Bring the pot to a boil.

While the pot is coming to a boil, you need to thoroughly rinse the mussels to get rid of any sand.

Wash/Rinse the mussels about 5 times.

DO NOT LEAVE SOAKING IN WATER - This will kill them.  At this point, they are still alive*

This is open to opinion, but I have found that two test need to happen before you place the live mussels in the pot:

1st - any mussels that have their mouth open (the shell) and when you tap it, it does not close: those go in the trash.

2nd - (I have used this method several times and it seems to work without failure)
Place the mussels in water and the ones that float to the top place in the pot. The ones that do not are normally dead.

Place the mussels into boiling water and let cooked, covered, for 8 minutes.Then stir, and you should see some of the shells opening at this point. Give it 2 more minutes to cook completely.

This is optional:
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter for dipping.

Serve immediately!

If you don't plan to serve now, you can drain juices and freeze for up to 3 months