Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Target's Signature Soy Candles

I recently earned a $10 Target gift card using the Shopkick app. I heard about Target's Signature Soy Candles from Marlena and wanted to give them a try.

They come in two sizes: small which is a really cute accent size and large which is a standard jar candle size. The large is $10 and the small is $5. The large candle is the better buy, when you compare the price per ounce.

I liked the Marshmallow Pop and Sea Salt & Caramel Corn scents best. I purchased the Sea Salt & Caramel Corn large candle. It smells like caramel popcorn on the boardwalk. Instant summer memories! The wax is made of soy and looks similar to Bath & Body Works Candles. I don't eat foods containing soy, so I was a little hesitant burning a soy based candle.

The Signature Soy candles give off a great throw, just like B&BW's candles. The large Signature Soy candle has two wicks, but B&BW has three. It burned a little less evenly than B&BW candles, but better than Yankee Candles which only have one wick. Target's are a steal compared to Yankee Candles! The scent is much more powerful, you're getting two wicks, much more even burn, no soot build up and half the price. 

Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle have a larger selection of scents than Target's, but if I ever need a candle and don't have time for a trip to the mall, Target's Signature Soy will be my go-to.

Has anyone tried the Signature Soy candles? What is your favorite scent?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Indoor Snow

Snow days! There have been a few already this year. I found this super easy snow activity on Pinterest called "Painting Snow."
Just fill up cookie sheets with snow and let kids paint the snow. It's the best of both worlds! Kids get to play in snow and parents can stay warm. 
Clean up is a breeze. Simply rinse the cookie sheets in the sink. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Anastasia of Beverly Hills Contour Kit Review

After hearing and seeing so many reviews on Instagram and YouTube, I took the $40 plunge and purchased the Anastasia of Beverly Hills Contour Kit at Sephora. I was also considering the Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette.

What sold me on Anastasia's kit was that it is refillable. I can purchase refills of the shades I use the most, making it a better long term investment. Anastasia also carries two versions of the kit: light to medium and medium to tan. I went with the light kit. 

I don't even know where to begin with this review because I'm so excited! It is that good. This kit is a makeup staple. It's not just for contouring. You have your contour shades, banana powder to set under eye concealer, eyeshadow highlight and cheek highlight shades all in one kit. 

This kit is extremely pigmented. Go easy with picking up color on a contour brush. A tiny bit goes a long way. The light kit runs fairly dark too, so I would only recommend the medium to tan kit for those with colored skin.

How do I use it? Sand (top left) is perfect for an under eyebrow highlight. Vanilla (center top) works like a banana powder. You apply it under the eyes to set concealer and foundation. Banana (top right) is a light pinkish cheek highlighter. Java (bottom left) and Havana (bottom right) are too dark for me currently. They might work for summer contouring. Fawn (bottom middle) is probably my favorite shade in the whole kit. I use it to contour and it's gorgeous! It's not a typical bronzer type of color. More like a deep ash that gives you this rich contour and dimension.

Would I buy it again? Absolutely! In fact, I have no idea how I have been applying makeup without it. Rather than carrying single pots and makeup palettes around to get shades for under brow/cheek highlight, contouring and banana powder, I have it all in one small kit. The quality and coloring of each shade is exactly what I was looking for.

Have you tried the Anastasia of Beverly Hills Contour Kit or the Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette? I'd love to hear your opinion! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge

We went to Great Wolf Lodge over Valentine's weekend. It's a ski/waterpark resort in the Pocono Mountains. Many friends, neighbors and family members have visited, so we were interested in trying it out.
We arrived right around 1pm which is the earliest we could access the indoor water area. We packed plenty of snacks, water, drinks, breakfast/lunch foods to save on the cost of eating out. There is a fairly large fridge and microwave (we don't use microwaves) in the rooms.
They provide two sizes of lifejackets in the waterpark area, but we had already brought our own. There is a wide age range of water slides for young children, teens, adults and groups. The waterpark is very warm at 84 degrees. It does have a strong chlorine smell when you first enter.
There's several restaurants and stores about six minutes away, if you want to eat outside of the resort or need to pick something up. We ate at the resort's buffet one night on Valentine's Day. I heard tons of complaints about the price of the buffet beforehand. My opinion is that the food is very good, there's a well rounded selection (especially for kids) and it's very good quality. It is costly. That is to be expected with any buffet, particularly one inside of a resort. Can you eat every meal there? I wouldn't recommend that considering the cost, but it is worth trying at least once.
Bingo (free), glow in the dark mini-golf ($6), mini-bowling ($5), puppet show (free) and story-time (free) were a few of the activities we tried and enjoyed.
They give free wolf ears when you check-in which was a nice touch. 
Has anyone tried Great Wolf Lodge? What was your experience like? Any tips for future trips?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Health Update

It's been one year since my diagnosis with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, so I wanted to give an update. I was feeling great with treatment through the spring, summer and fall of last year. However, right before the start of winter, I began getting symptoms back again (dry hands, night sweats, heart palpitations). I called my endocrinologist and he ordered blood work and sure enough my TSH was elevated again. Thankfully, my T4 was doing well at a high normal level. I've read online that the cold of winter can cause symptom flare ups. I'm feeling good now on a slightly increased dose of medication and I'm hoping my dose will be decreased once it warms up.

The good news is that my yearly routine blood work (which I hope everyone reading has done), came back great! My cholesterol went down significantly. It was on the high normal range last year before I was diagnosed which really concerned me. I eat very healthy, I'm not obese and get a fair amount exercise. I knew it was the disease that elevated it. It seems the medication had a positive effect on bringing it back to the low normal range. I wanted to mention this because many thyroid forums scare people into thinking that medication causes tons of negative side effects. That has not been the case for me. 

I'm using many natural remedies alongside of medication too. I had my Vitamin D levels tested since research indicates that people with HT have low levels. Sure enough, mine was low. I'm now taking this supplement and hoping my levels increase with it, along with more sun exposure. I have noticed much more energy since I began supplementing. I shared additional supplements/natural remedies in this post.

I found two great resource pages on Facebook that post up-to-date research articles: Hypothyroid Mom and The National Academy of Hypothyroidism. Just a word of caution that when checking out these thyroid pages you will find the majority of people commenting are negative. They constantly complain about their symptoms, complain about their doctors and insist medication doesn't work. I don't read the comments. Having this disease and taking medication has not ruined my life! Don't let them ruin your's or make you paranoid.

I visit the endocrinologist next week and I'm hoping to find a naturopathic doctor for an evaluation/food allergy testing. I'll update this post next week after my visit!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

5 Best YouTube Channels

I'm a YouTube junkie and I've been enjoying the online community on there for years. I've learned so much, particularly about makeup, hair and photography. I decided to share my top favorites for tutorials and inspiration.

1. Jackyn Hill (Makeup tutorials)

2. Ana Brandt (Photography tutorials)


3. Makeup Geek (Makeup reviews)


4. Luxy Hair (Hair tutorials) 


5. GoPro (Video inspiration) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Making Progress

We started off the New Year hitting our goals hard last month. I wanted to share a few iPhone photos of our progress. First up, the kitchen improvements! 

We selected tumbled marble for our tile backsplash. There were many choices out there, but we wanted to stick to something traditional that wouldn't date the kitchen. I originally wanted white subway tile, but our cabinets are very dark and we felt white would be a bit of a stark contrast. Our granite has lots of cream so a cream based tile seemed complementary. 
We purchased tile from Lowe's originally. However, after shopping around we found a larger tile with better coloring for a $1 less per square foot at Avalon Tile

Just a note that there was no backsplash installed in our kitchen because our home was a "quick delivery." Here it is during the install process: 
Installation took two days because the tile needed to fully adhere to the wall before grouting. 
We also installed a cordless roman shade from Pottery Barn on the window over the sink.
We need to install knobs and pulls on the cabinets next. We'd like basic round stainless steel or brushed nickel knobs for the cabinets. I'm not sure what direction we will go for the drawers yet.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Oil Pulling

I decided to give oil pulling a try. I have been using coconut oil to remove makeup and clean makeup brushes for quite some time and wanted to explore other ways to use it. It's also a huge fad right now and I wanted to see what the rage is all about.

What is oil pulling? 
Using oil to remove toxins from your mouth and to whiten your teeth. 

How do you do it?
Take a small amount of coconut oil (about a spoonful) and swish between your teeth in the morning for 20 minutes. You don't have to swish vigorously. Spit out in a trash can, not the sink as the oil can harden and block drains.  

Is it effective?
Obviously, it does not replace brushing your teeth, whitening tooth paste and flossing. It's not as effective as using whitening strips or professional teeth whitening. 

Given all of that, I did notice a difference in the whiteness of my teeth by day two. Not a drastic difference, but a noticeable difference which was surprising.

There's online articles that list extensive health benefits from oil pulling, but research doesn't support many of those claims. I say it's worth a try to see how much it does or doesn't do for you. 

Will I continue oil pulling and do I recommend it? 
I think it's a great supplement to routine dental and whitening teeth care. White teeth are important to me. The number one tip I give before photo sessions is whitening teeth. 

You can only use Crest White Strips or professional whitening systems every six months to one year (I personally think no more than once a year because of how harsh they are to enamel). This is a good natural way to whiten teeth between using professional methods. I also think it moisturized and improved my gums. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cleaning/Reusing Old Candle Jars

Today I'm going to share how Bath and Body Works or Yankee candle jars can be reused!

Step 1: Get an old candle that can no longer be lit
Step 2: Pour boiling water into the jar and wait for all wax to melt and rise to the top of the jar 
Step 3: Peel off the candle label
Step 4: After the wax cools, remove the harden wax with a disposable knife and remove wicks 
Step 6: Clean jar throughly with soap and water and place it in the dishwasher for a second cleaning
The jars are perfect for storing supplies, makeup or filling for decoration!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Christmas 2014

It felt like the Christmas season went by so quickly this year. I think because this was the first year we had school events on top of commitments to family and friends.

We hosted Andrew's birthday party, ran holiday mini-sessions, I was the second shooter for a last minute wedding, enjoyed a neighborhood cocktail party, coordinated two holiday parties for Christopher's classroom, visited Santa for a Chik-fil-a event, went to a local farm to select a tree, wrote letters to Santa and drove around local towns to look at lights. 



I was looking forward to Christopher's winter break, so that we could go to Longwood Gardens and bake cookies. Unfortunately, I caught a stomach bug the day before Christmas Eve and those plans never happened. I am grateful I was better by the next day, so that we could attend Mass with my family and exchange presents with my parents. 

We got home earlier on Christmas Eve so that the kids could sprinkle reindeer food outside, read a Christmas story, and put out cookies and milk for Santa. 

I had all these grand photo and videos ideas for Christmas morning. You can imagine my disappointment when we woke up that day and it was extremely overcast. My camera functions very well in low light. There was no light. We thought maybe we could wait a few hours and it would clear up, but according to the forecast on our phones that wasn't expected till 3pm. 
I was left with no choice, but to use flash. I avoid flash like the plague. I joked with Chris I should hashtag all the photos #photographerschristmasnightmare



The kids each got 2-3 toys and a special present from the Elf on the Shelf (purchased by Gran).
I made a fancy breaksfast at home and then we headed to visit Chris' mom's for Christmas dinner.