New Year, New Baby, and a New Review

 

First of all, I’ve had a BIG change in the last year.  We welcomed our son, our first child, into our lives.  Pregnancy was surprisingly hectic.  Or not that surprising considering you’re in a rush to get everything ready in 9 months!  Granted, after the baby is here, you do realize you may not have needed to get EVERYTHING done that you thought you did.  As long as they’ve got a place to sleep, food, and stuff to change their diapers – you’re pretty well set.

Of course, I’d also argue that some things that may not seem like necessities can become one for the sake of your own sanity alone.  Like our swing that I put the baby in last night while I slept in the recliner since he’s going through a growth spurt and was quite fussy until 2 a.m.  Or the bottle warmer, which many friends told me was gimmicky and not needed but when you have a SCREAMING baby telling you “I’m hungry NOW, not in 10 minutes, NOW”  (or that’s what I imagine he’s thinking), a bottle warmer that heats up his bottle in 4 minutes, seems very necessary.

Anyway, now that I’m getting into some semblance of a schedule I’m also trying to find out how to occupy my time and stimulate my mind during maternity leave.  And I thought, “Hey, remember how you started a blog and like to write?”

So here goes, let’s see if 2017’s New Year’s Resolutions stick this time 😉

Having discussed my recent life changes, now I’ll tackle a review.

So I recently received a VoxBox complimentary from Influenster, the Twinkle VoxBox.  Lots of great brands in this one, some I’m more familiar with than others.

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First up we’ve got Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Dry Shampoo.  I already use this, so frankly I was pretty excited to get a free small bottle in this box.  Now I’ve got one for on the go.  And admittedly… I’ve used this an embarrassing amount since becoming a mom.  I do NOT know where my day goes (okay, a portion is obviously going into this while baby is napping when I could be napping myself or hopping in the shower, but I digress).  And with the changes my body is still going through postpartum I’ve actually noticed my hair is more greasy than normal.  I don’t wash my hair that often (I still shower, just don’t wash my hair) – maybe every 3 days?  Before Baby (B.B. if you will) this was a non-issue.  Now, though, I’m noticing I need a dry shampoo pick-me-up in between washings.  The product is great.  To use, I section off my hair and spray along the part holding the can several inches away from my head.  It isn’t overly powdery so I don’t feel like I’m leaving a trail of flour behind me.  Let it sit after you’ve applied in all the spots you needed and then you can kind of finger-fluff your hair.  Let’s hope that makes sense.  If you don’t brush or pat or fluff your hair it can leave your strands looking a little white.  But it absorbs the grease/oils and lets my hair live to see another day.  This product is a win in my opinion and I recommend it.

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Next, Oreo Thins.  These are next because this is definitely the first thing I did when I opened the box… ate them.  I didn’t even wait to take a picture.  I kept the wrapper to prove they were in there but, they were delicious and I don’t even care that I couldn’t wait.  I’m not sure I understand the point of them.  If it’s to make them “healthier” I’d think people would just eat more but I could be wrong.  That being said, I did like them.  They tasted the same as regular Oreos but just weren’t as much of a mouthful. I think I liked the size of them a little better actually.

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Third item: Hills Bros. Hot Cocoa K-cups.  I no longer have a Keurig and I got my mail after I returned home from holiday travels so I couldn’t even use them at my parent’s house.  Upon just looking at the box (which I really like the way these are packaged), I first noticed that they are gluten-free.  While I don’t have any sort of gluten sensitivity, I have many family and friends that do or have Celiac’s so this is something I like to make note of when I’m trying new products.  Next there are two samples, a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate.  My personal feeling is that you can’t go wrong with chocolate.  The only possible exception is white chocolate, but as I learned in Hershey, PA, that isn’t actually chocolate.  I like that they have both options included, some people have very strong feelings about dark versus milk.  They also included coupons one for online shopping and one for in-store. I did end up tasting these, by peeling open the K-cups and just dumping the contents into a mug with hot water.  My husband tried the milk chocolate and I had the dark chocolate (but I got at least a sip of both).  My husband’s critique of the milk chocolate is as follows:

“It’s rich.  It’s not chalky. Good flavor.”

He’s not always the most descriptive.  But I do agree with him.  It tastes creamy.  You know there are some chocolates that just taste like knock-offs? They’re subpar and just not at all satisfying.  This is NOT that.  The dark chocolate is the same way.  But you can tell its dark chocolate, it’s not as sweet, but rich.  One thing I like about dark chocolate is that it’s more satisfying.  I can savor one piece of dark chocolate and then stop.  Sometimes when I have milk chocolate I can’t stop.  Think of M’n’M’s, have you EVER had just one?!  Something that I got to see that most other users probably didn’t was the consistency.  It was grittier than I thought it would be and at first, I wondered… am I really not supposed to do it this way?  But all of the mix dissolved right away and I don’t think it messed with the taste of the product at all.

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The next item was something I had never used before but am definitely interested in: Reynolds Slow Cooker liners.  I perused Pinterest for ideas on how to use them and what to make.  One example Reynolds Kitchen’s had was to use TWO slow cooker bags to make two dips in one crock pot.  I don’t know about you, but I thought that was genius.  You can possibly need one dip in a huge slow cooker.  This saves you from have to use more dishes and saves space in your party set up!  I also looked up some soup recipes to try out using the liners.  The package has four liners in it.  I plan to test my first one out on tomorrow’s dinner and use a recipe from Pinterest!  I’ll be posting an update.

**Update** So I tested out the slow cooker liner tonight.  Four came in the box which is great because I’ve got some other slow cooker recipes lined up that I want to try.  Because I was anxious to try them and the weather outside is frightful I didn’t try a new recipe tonight but I did make cheesy chicken tortilla soup (except, no chicken… because lazy). I had all the ingredients on hand so it was just extremely convenient.  I liked the product – part of me has a hard time with using something like that when it isn’t recyclable.  So I know it isn’t something that I’ll use very often, but sometimes things like dips and soups get so caked on to my crock pot these would certainly be a time-saver!  Since they are one-size it was kind of weird to stir my soup in what felt like a bag.  But they worked like a charm.  There was some condensation inside the pot but I felt like a quick wipe-down will suffice for clean-up.  I’d recommend them to friends for sure, especially to use when you’ve got a party or have multiple slow cookers going at once.  They’re so big and bulky to wash and after a party you don’t want to have to spend your time scrubbing away burnt-on, built-up food from pots.  I let it cool, like the directions suggest, and just lifted it out and threw it out.  Clean up done.**

The fifth item included was a travel-size bottle of Axe white Label body wash, “night” scent.  I’m not much a fan of many men’s items such as Axe for multiple reasons.  I think the smell is excessive.  I don’t like being able to smell someone before I even see them.  And the other reason is their commercials.  They may be appealing to their “target market” but how many men do the grocery shopping?  If I have to pick up body wash for my husband, I’m not going to gravitate toward a brand that gives me the creeps.  Their commercials always make me roll my eyes.  Regardless I tossed the bottle to my husband and told him to try it out.  I gave it a sniff test in the bottle and it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, I just like more natural smelling fragrances.  After testing it out he mentioned he would have preferred a top that snapped off instead of twisting off.  I thought that was a valid point, I’m always more likely to drop lids that completely detach.  The scent wasn’t bad, like I said it isn’t something I’m particularly drawn to, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as I had thought it would be.  I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone unless they were looking specifically for a product like this.  I will note that my husband seemed to like the scent.

Next up: CoverGirl So Lashy Blast PRO Mascara.  The package intrigued me right away as the wand was not IN the tube… whattttt?  Let’s investigate.  Yep, they’re two separate items, temporarily at least.  The wand is certainly unique.  It looked a bit frightening.  What do you think?

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Because of the wand and the way it was packaged, I actually took a minute to read the box and noticed application directions.

  1. First, apply with the brush side.
  2. Next, Rotate & apply with ball tip.

Here (below) is my before and after with JUST the mascara on.  I’m a new mom, a full face of make-up is only going to be warranted by me having to leave my house… and even then, that’s pushing it.

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So, yes, I can definitely see the difference.  I’m still kind of torn on how I feel about the ball tip though.  I felt like it made my lashes clumpier.  Overall I liked the coverage, color, and the length it gave my lashes.  It certainly made this mom zombie look more awake.  I probably should have applied it to both eyes though… maybe on my next trip to the bathroom.

The big-ticket item in this box was a full size bottle of Aquation Daily Moisturizing Lotion.  I’m not sure if it’s my body bouncing back from pregnancy or the winter air or the heat in my house or a combination but my skin is SO dry.  I look like my face has dandruff guys and that’s not a look I cherish.  This bottle specifically mentioned beating dry winter skin so I’m giving it a whirl.  I’ve been using it a few days in a row now and I’m fairly pleased with the results.  I’m not sure it is working any better than other moisturizer I’ve tried but I’ve consistently applied it and seen some results.

The pros:

  • it’s for all skin types – so since I’m dry skin and my husband is combination dry/oily we can still use the same product. That’s nice for my wallet and my counter space.
  • Dermatologist recommended – always, always, always nice to see this on the label. I have a tendency to trust doctors.
  • Directions say to apply liberally – and for some reason I love that, it’s like they know my face is a mess.
  • lightweight – I pump into my hands, rub my hands together and just smother my face and neck in it. And I don’t feel wet (for long at least) or greasy.
  • For face and body – so when I have too much on my face and neck area I can just rub it into my arms!
  • Made in the USA – more of a pro for some people than for others, but a fun tidbit to find on the bottle nonetheless.

The cons:

  • Scent – there is just something about the scent that I don’t love. It’s not even that it smells particularly bad, it just doesn’t smell good.  I’d rather it have no scent at all.

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The last item in the Twinkle voxbox was a coupon for a free container of Country Crock Buttery Spread but the fun kicker here is that because my mail was being held and I was out of town, the coupon expired 12/31/16 and I didn’t open my box until 2017.  So no free tub of buttery spread for me!  However, the Influenster team sent out an email with Country Crock’s customer service phone line so I’m going to give them a ring and see if they can send me a new coupon!  I’ll update this later.

This was one of my favorite voxboxes.  I love when they have a good variety of products and brands in a voxbox – keeps it fun!  While I did get these items for free, all of my opinions are my own.

Are you an influenster yet?  If not, comment below and I’ll send you a link!  If yes, what has been your favorite voxbox or product you’ve received complimentary?

#ItsYourThing Voxbox

So once upon a time in college I tried these chocolate shake things in a thick aluminum can and I loved them.  It tasted like a treat!  It was definitely one of my grocery staples, the SlimFast Chocolate meal replacement shakes.  And then for some reason when I graduated college I completely forgot about them. I’m going to attribute that to the fact that I moved back in with Mom and Dad and during at least the first few months I wasn’t the person grocery shopping.  In fact, I didn’t really think about those shakes again until I got my favorite little email alert from Influenster telling me I had been selected for a VoxBox.  The #ItsYourThing VoxBox with SlimFast.

I got really excited, I was naturally hesitant as well, the whole “get rich slim quick” scheme is always tempting, but generally just a money drain.  Had I liked those shakes, heck yes, they were delicious.  Did they serve as a true meal replacement? Um, no.  More like a drink during my meal or occasionally a snack during the day.  And then the other thought, are these any good for me?  I hadn’t seen anything about SlimFast in a while; we don’t have cable, we’re a Netflix family so commercial-viewing is few and far between.  What had they been up to, making these delicious sounding treats like Cinnamon Bun Drizzled Crisps and Sour Cream and Onion Chips and a Sea Salt Chocolate Almond bar?  They had been in the kitchen whipping up some delicious treats that is for sure.

So here is where I admit that I kind of just dove right in to my voxbox and ate half of the snacks before I remembered to take an unboxing picture.  The hunger was real I guess.

I did think about these snacks and how best to use them.  See they give you four and there is a SlimFast equation to the SlimFast diet.  2-1-3.  Replace 2 meals a day with ready-to-drink meal replacement shake, smoothie, or meal replacement bar.  Be sure to have 1 500-calorie meal per day.  Have 3 100-calorie snacks throughout the day (you pick, sweet or salty).  So here was my thing.  Yes, I’d love to lose weight.  But realistically I’m not going to drink two of my meals a day, and I’m certainly not going to maintain that forever.  I NEED substance.  I’d rather eat a pound of celery than only have shakes as two entire meals.  So basically I said to myself, okay, this can work for me, but I’m going to tweak it, and I’m certainly not going to hold SlimFast accountable if I don’t see results using my hijacked method.

With this in mind I decided I needed to just try out the snacks when they sounded good and then I’d be able to buy more if I liked them.  The day after I tore into my voxbox I packed the Cinnamon Bun Drizzled Crisps.

First of all, I could not believe just how many crisps were in the bag… for ONLY 100 calories?  Honestly I snacked on it for a significant amount of time and not only did it stave off hunger, they were delicious, light, they were filling and satisfying.  My first reaction was definitely that I’d be interested in buying these as a snack as part of my daily diet.

I had my next snack the following day, the sour cream and onion chips.  Again I was delighted with the quantity of the chips in that snack bag.  How many times have we opened a snack size bag of chips and found we’ve paid for 85% air?  It was not like that with this snack.  They were a different texture than a regular potato chip, but one that I found I liked better.  The chips also were not greasy like a typical potato chip, the seasoning was flavorful. And once more, they satisfied my hunger and cravings.

I considered myself lucky because this box came with FOUR snacks.  So the third snack I tried was the meal replacement bar.  Wow, this was decadent, filling, and just absolutely the perfect mix of sweet and salty.  The flavor was Dark Chocolate Sea Salt.  It was packed with protein (10 grams), almonds, peanuts, chocolate sea salt?  That’s a combination made just for me.  It helped give me a little energy during my noon meeting and definitely aided in curbing my hunger when the meeting ran well into my usual lunch hour.

My final snack was the meal replacement shake (Vanilla Cream flavor) which I tried out for breakfast this morning.  It didn’t nearly match my love of the original SlimFast Chocolate shakes, but I’m more about chocolate than vanilla.  It did have a bit of an artificial sweetener taste which wasn’t entirely pleasant.  I had a bowl of rice krispies with my shake.  I have to have something of substance on my stomach in the morning or I’ll get ill.  About 2.5 hours in I was already a bit hungry again, but 3-3.5 I NEEDED to eat something else.  Of all the snacks I received this was easily most disappointing, especially when compared to the success of the other three snacks I tasted tested.

Based on taste and hunger-curbing.  I whole-heartedly recommend the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt meal replacement bar (and look forward to trying the Caramel Almond Sea Salt flavor I scoped out on slimfast.com), the Cinnamon Bun Drizzled Crisps, and the Sour Cream and Onion Baked Crisps.

Now, based on whether or not these products are the best food to eat, I’m on the fence.  I really like to consume products that I know and understand all of the ingredients and I can’t say that I can easily do that with the SlimFast products.  I scoped out Fooducate and couldn’t find a rating for 3 of the snacks, but the meal replacement shakes mostly graded at a D, which isn’t encouraging. A comparable product to the cinnamon bun crisps was graded a C+, slightly better and about on par with other processed food products.

I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.  These views and opinions are entirely my own.

c.Booth by Freeman Beauty

That feeling you get when you receive an email from Influenster letting you know you’re in?  Yep, it’s a great one.  The freebie, full-sized products are generally a win in themselves because you get to try a new product you may not have had the opportunity to try otherwise.  But it’s even better when you get to try a great beauty product like c.Booth by Freeman Beauty.

For this voxbox I got mailed a coupon for a FREE full-sized c.Booth product.  I zipped over to my local Ulta Beauty.  I made my way to the c.Booth section and gleefully decided which would be my item.  Would a body wash be best?  Or maybe a scrub?  A body butter?

I couldn’t decide so since Ulta was having a great sale I grabbed two products and went on my way.  I got the Walnut Shell body scrub and Honey Almond firming lotion.  I got the Walnut Shell scrub as my free product, but I may as well review both.

I’m drawn to c.Booth’s packaging.  Honestly, even the typography of the name is aesthetically pleasing. The bottles are simple and informative and I like that it isn’t gaudy.

The scent of the scrub alone would make it a win.  I almost want to eat it (don’t worry, I refrain) but it’s mouthwatering-good.  The texture of the scrub is also a win because it isn’t too harsh.  It exfoliates without irritating my sensitive skin, always a relief in the winter when my skin lacks moisture.  A little bit of this product goes a long way and I’ve still got a ton left.  I try to use it before I shave my legs so that I’m getting rid of any dead skin cells as a good prep.  I was also once told by a cosmetologist friend that in order to moisturize your dry skin you need to get rid of the dead skin first (aka exfoliate BEFORE gooping on moisturizer).  Maybe this is common knowledge but I felt like a light bulb turned on when I was told this.

“Ooooooh that’s why my dry skin always stays so scaly and dry-looking!”

Duh, I guess.

My second product, which I purchased because I was just too tempted, was the Almond Honey Firming Lotion.  Another plus for the packaging as the labeling and bottle was in the same fashion; however, this bottle had a pump dispenser.  The pump dispenser is excellent.  I use this product primarily after I shower and it’s so nice to not have to battle with a slippery, wet bottle to get my body moisturized!

Believe me, this product smells just as good as the Walnut Shell body scrub.  It’s not too thick of a product and on the other hand, not too runny.  The consistency is just right, that perfect happy medium.  It applies smooth and covers a lot of area.  I haven’t noticed much effect in regards to firming BUT I know that a major contributor would be that I don’t use it consistently as you should for a firming product.  I do know I loved both my c.Booth products and wouldn’t turn my nose at acquiring more. Plus, with the prices at Ulta, it didn’t break the bank.

I was extremely happy with these products and will be trying more in the future.  As a reminder, I received the Walnut Shell body scrub free from Influenster for testing purposes, but the review is entirely my own opinion.

 

 

#CurelSkincare promises Itch-Defense products just in time for Winter

Growing up, I lived in the snow-belt.  It seemed like every winter brought record-breaking snowfall.  In fact, when I went to college and people complained about the 2 inches of snow on the ground, I was confused. I hadn’t had a snow day ever… I think I had more days off due to fake bomb threats.  So you can imagine my skin begged for moisture all winter long.  Then I grew up… and I moved to another snowy area.  I can’t escape winter but there is so much I do love about winter.  Think sledding, hot cocoa, cuddling under blankets, reading books in front of a fireplace (okay, I don’t have a fireplace, but I like to pretend).  Alas, I already have dry skin so winter does wreck further havoc on it.

Here comes the time when I get a lovely little email “Check your mailbox.”  I’m excited every time because it really does seem that Influenster sends the best products for testing.  They do a great job selecting recipients as well, the right products seem to come at just the right time.  Fall comes and with it Influenster tells me I get to test out Curel’s new Itch-Defense line!

In my VoxBox I received a full-size bottle of Curel’s Itch-Defense Instant Soothing Moisturizing Spray and a small sample of Itch-Defense Body Wash.  I avoid any product reveals until I receive my VoxBoxes because I get so excited to crack them open and be surprised.

You can check out my “unboxing” here.  First time trying it out I wanted to really put it to the test.  Let’s see how this product can handle my dry skin… after shaving. I’m sure there is an explanation behind why after you’re rained on with water in the shower your skin has less moisture, but I prefer to assume it’s just a mean trick.  Another side-effect from some beauty regimen women are encouraged to follow.  Rest assured friends, I only shave when it’s a necessity.  So for this experiment I went above the call of duty and shaved my legs.  The itch was basically instant.  I patted myself dry and grabbed my Instant soothing Moisturizing Spray to give it a whirl.

Tip #1  Do both legs with the spray… THEN massage it in.  On my first use I did one leg, rubbed the lotion in, and attempted the other.  Only problem is it’s kind of hard to hold a can with lotion on your palms.

The product was easy to use, to direct, and to hold.  It sprayed on in a good layer, not too thick, not too thin, and not too greasy.  I felt a cool relief when I sprayed it.  After rubbing it in the itch/burn was still present but it was gone within minutes.

Second use I made sure to grab my Itch-Defense Body Wash to use in the shower.  I didn’t notice a significant difference between using it and not using it, but I did like the body wash.  It was creamy, had a pleasant, light scent, and lathered up nicely.

So far, my experience with Curel’s Itch-Defense product line has been positive.  I’m excited to see how it holds up against the extreme dry skin of winter.  While I did receive this product for free, my review and opinions are entirely my own.  I would recommend this product.  After a quick search to investigate price I feel it’s a good value for the cost and worth the purchase.  It’s dermatologist-recommended and was accepted as by the National Eczema Association – both of these attributes speak volumes for me.

Happy Fall everyone!  Take care of your skin!

#UltimateStraight by L’Oreal Paris… Straight hair that lasts?

Not many things make me happier than an email from Influenster telling me I’m in!  I’m always game to try out new products, especially when they come to me free.  This time I’m participating in the L’Oreal Paris Ultimate Straight campaign.

Got my VoxBox in Saturday’s mail and eagerly broke into it.

My Influenster Haul

My Influenster Haul

Look at all the goodies and some to share (or use while traveling if you want to be savvy.

But lately I’ve been trying to be more chemical-free so the first thing I did was check out the ingredients.  The Smooth Intense ULtimate Straight Straightening Shampoo contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate.. I’d been hearing that we should look for sulfate-free shampoos?  Some claim that that ingredient can be linked to cancer, but others simply allude to the damaging and unhelpful hair affects the ingredient contain.  So I’m already hesitant here.

Upon first glance I was excited with the full-size products and like the color scheme.  Very sleek – like the hair style they’re promoting, no?  One thing I didn’t like was the flip-flop of the shampoo and conditioner.  Let me explain that one.  I want my product in the shower to sit so that I can read the label, but I want the product inside to rest so that it settles at the bottom.  That way when you’re nearing the end of the bottle the product is easier to get out, you don’t have to do some weird percussion routine to get it out.  At least I can be satisfied with the fact that the bottles themselves are exactly the same and I’ll just have an upside down bottle in my shower.

#petpeeves am I right?

#petpeeves am I right?

I’m probably most excited about the Straight Perfecting Balm.  I rarely use product when styling – basically just a heat protector… sometimes.  But at my last blow-out a balm seemed to help with texture and volume, so I was looking forward to recapturing the look myself… at least attempting.

Celebrity endorsements are always interesting – I’m not sure a celebrity has really ever convinced me to try a product.  With hair care product endorsements its apparent they have a hair stylist so I try to ignore them.  I do like Eva Longoria though and it brings me back to netflix-binging on Desperate Housewives – happy times for all.

DAYS LATER

Okay, the first try.  Let me walk you through it.  We’d gone on a bike ride around 11 miles.  Let me tell you a secret, there are times when a shower sounds like a huge relief and then there are times when you’re so tired you honestly don’t even want to lift your legs over the lip of the tub to get in there.  Frankly, this was one of those times.  In fact the floor of our living room was particularly inviting.

But not only did I know I had to shower.. because, gross.. but also, I wanted to try out my new freebies!

The bottles have an order:

1.  The straightening Shampoo  2.  Straight Boosting Pre-Conditioner (leave in for 1 minute and, without rinsing, move to) 3.  Straightening Conditioner (leave in to 1-3 minutes before rinsing out).  Towel dry and then put a dime sized amount of 4. Straight Perfecting Balm in the palm of your hand and massage in from root to tip.  Then, blow dry.

is this what they mean by dime-size?

is this what they mean by dime-size?

I don’t generally blow dry my hair, I know you can really damage your hair by using too much heat with blow dryers or straighteners or curling irons.  But I wanted to get the full affect.  I also, was too lazy to use low heat and carefully give myself a blow out. So I used medium heat and just had at it.  I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much.  I don’t use many products outside of the shower and I’ve used straightening serum before without seeing an impact.

Excuse the bedtime selfie; hair right after blowdrying

Excuse the bedtime selfie; hair right after blow-drying

Wow, I was blown away.  This is what my hair looked like after blow-drying, NO use of a flat iron.  I have generally pretty straight hair, but it doesn’t air-dry smooth and has random waves and normally with a quick blow dry I’ve got a hot mess on my hands.  But my hair was smooth and sleek!  So then, I slept on it.  The products say they last 2 days, I felt one night’s sleep would be a good first test.  I didn’t wake up with any crazy kinks or have crunchy or gooey hair from the Straight Perfecting Balm.  Plus, it looked pretty decent.  Decent enough that I brushed my hair and went out the door, no ponytail to hide the craziness and no time straightening.  I could get used to this.

With a ponytail in an out of may hair and no straightener I'm happy with the look

With a ponytail in an out of may hair and no straightener I’m happy with the look

Using my straightener I’m sure would make even better.  Check back for an updated pic after 48 hours  that I’ll put right here:

Overall, after my first use I’m pretty impressed. L’Oreal obviously recommends that you get the best results when using all the products in conjuncture with each other.  But I’m still excited to see how some things work on their own, like the balm. My hair feels smooth, I actually can’t stop running my fingers through it.  The scent of all the products was really pleasing, it wasn’t too overwhelming or too artificial smelling.  The only thing that really makes me nervous is that SLS in the shampoo.  Time for me to do some more reading I think!  Other than that, I’d recommend the line!

I’ll update as I go along on my Ultimate Straight journey too.

#BehindTheGlow with #Neutrogena’s Hyrdro Boost and Influenster #Contest

This winter has been cold.  For everyone, I know, even Florida had snow and I’m not sure that’s normal.  Okay, just kidding, I know that’s not normal.  When I was in college some students from Florida nearly peed their pants when they saw snow for the first time.  Then they got over it.  They got over it real quick.

The thing is, I don’t mind the winter, and I really don’t mind the snow but my body has decided to do this weird thing and change with age?  I never used to have dry skin.  Then when I was blowing out 23 candles on my birthday cake, bam! dry skin.  Maybe not exactly that.  I never understood why people complained about age, especially my peers. I’m 25.  I still feel like a child walking around in adult’s clothing.  I don’t feel old.  I feel I know myself more, I feel I don’t need to impress other people.  So when I don’t want to go out and party hardy at the bar on a Saturday night, or a Wednesday, it’s not because I’m old and married, it’s because I don’t want to.  It’s because going out and getting tanked and being flirty and just wanting to danceeeee are things I did when I was insecure… and single.  The headaches, the hangovers, the second-hand smoke, and stank of the bar are nothing I miss. The extra weight?  Don’t miss that either.  The things that have changed that make me realize I am aging.  These things would be involuntary changes about my body and organs – like what foods I can and can’t eat, psorasis on my scalp, and absolutely zero moisture located on my face.

I’ve actually been battling this for a little while now and every skin care salesperson I spoke with preached moisturizer and hydration.  I just recently learned the preliminary act to that has to be toner and exfoliation.  Apparently, when you have dead, dry skin hanging out on your face, you can’t just keep applying creamy goop and expect it to disappear.  First, you have to remove it.  Okay, so now I get it and am exfoliating and toning my skin.  Now that I’m getting that under control, it’s time to take care of the moisture!

This is where influenster and Neutrogena came to my rescue.

Low and behold: #BehindTheGlow Influenster VoxBox.

You can check out my “unboxing” on my youtube with this little right…. HERE 🙂  Although, I don’t know if it’s that exciting to hear my voice for 10 seconds and watch my hands remove a product from a box, some people may really enjoy that sort of thing (I did just read that the highest paid youtuber of 2014 is a woman who just opens toys).

As with any influenster VoxBox (can you say freebies?) I was excited.  What I love is that you don’t have any monetary obligation to go buy a product – you are given the products for testing purposes and to hold up your end of the bargain do some honest reviewing.  I’ve honestly mainly received products I’ve ended up loving from Influenster from Colgate SlimSoft to Sargento Cheese slices to Rimmel make-up I’ve been given the opportunity to really try out some great products that I may not have otherwise done.  I’m pretty much in love with the Sephora pop-up (in JCPenny’s) by my parents.  The employees there are top notch, talented, and give me honest feedback and helpful tips.  This is where I learned about exfoliating.  However, at my local Sephora I’m more likely to come in, tell them about looking for a great moisturizer take a sample, use it once or twice, and forget about it.  When I learned I’d be receiving Hydro Boost I was naturally excited (the answer to my dry-skin praryers) but also was hesitant.  I’m not going to lie – regiments are really difficult for me.  I don’t know why but I never got in to a skin care routine when I was younger and that has stayed with me.  I’m definitely doing better (I know it’ll gross you out that I don’t wash my face daily) but I wanted to give this product a fair trial and was worried I wouldn’t commit to it.

This is the plan I came up with:

  1. Try immediately upon arrival – go wash my face and try this baby out!  Results: I was impressed.  This was not your typical serum or goopy moisturizer.  I understand the name Hydro Boost.  It was refreshing and cooling and did NOT leave my skin sticky or stiff!  I was shocked – that was unexpected.  My impressed and pleased feelings after this attempt have helped me stay motivated to continue using it.
  1. Continue to use as much as possible for 3 weeks; always make sure to apply after you wash your face! – This has still be a decent effort on my end.  I haven’t used it every day but I have used it at least 2 times a week since it arrived.  I continue to be surprised (why after so many uses though, I don’t know) at the texture and application.  I haven’t noticed much difference in the dryness of my face but this leads me to step 3.
  1. Choose one week and use it nightly for a 7-day streak.  Welcome to that week ladies and gentlemen.  Tonight I’ll begin my experimentation to see what kind of lasting affects a product, specifically Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost, can have with routine use.  Wish me luck!
    1. A week is in the books.  Overall I wish I would have seen better results.  I was very specifically in search of a product that would help alleviate dry skin.  I was wishfully hoping to see it help even-out my skin tone as well.  Neither of these things happened.  The actual application of the product feels amazing though and I will continue to use it.  Perhaps using this in conjunction with other Neutrogena products would better aide in eliminating the dry skin?  As I said, the feeling of the product is amazing though.  Even without the spectacular results I was hoping for, I really enjoy this product.  The scent is clean and soothing and the texture is refreshing.  No stickiness or excessive tightness.  In all fairness to the product, my dry skin has become quite excessive and I’m not sure this is typically used for “extreme” cases.  I also wonder if my sensitive skin is immune to moisture?  Okay, that might not be realistic, but it’s beginning to feel that way.

OVERALL:

I’d still give this product 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to friends and family.  Any way you look at it you are still hydrating and moisturizing your face with this product.  I obviously loved the product.  And the good news is, if I start seeing improvements, I can update you all here – maybe I’ll see that 4 turn into a 5!

#Neutrogena #BehindtheGlow #Influenster #contest

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

#RefreshWithResource

After some more consideration I decided I’d like to blog once more about my recent Influenster VoxBox  – the Moda VoxBox.

When I receive that notification email that lets me know a new VoxBox is coming my way, it makes my day brighter.  Because 1. free stuff and 2. I honeslty like to test and review products and give recommendations to my friends and families.  It lets me test out some products I might not have otherwise and determine whether or not I should commit to a purchase.  I feel I’ve been very fortunate with my influenster freebies so far.

I’m not sure if Influenster does any sort of pre-testing with the products they send or if they just send out what companies contact them for but so far I’ve been impressed with the quality.  I’ve gotten edible items a few times now: Sargento Ultra Thin provolone cheese slices, Pure Leaf iced tea, and most recently Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa & Resource Water and have been satisfied and pleased with all of these.

But let me delve a little into Resource.  Like Pure Leaf tea they have an awesome outlook and initiative for social responsibility.  When I received Pure Leaf tea they were doing a campaign to encourage attendance at local farmer’s markets – supporting green living, organic, and local community is always a plus in my book.  While Resource Water doesn’t have as large a committment to local economy, they have a huge committment to ecology!

So let’s start with the bottle.  First of all, it was almost 24 oz.  most water bottles are only 16.9 oz.  So this provided more water but wasn’t some huge jug that was awkward to carry around.  It had a relatively slim width that I could easily grip.  Some people may find my highlighting this strange but really, if you’re running and carrying a water bottle, you don’t want to have to use both hands, carry a bag or come up with some contraption to strap it to yourself, so it’s relevent.  (I should be honest though, I did not drink this wihle running, I just thought about how convenient it would be).  Another positive aspect worth talking about is that the bottle is 100% recyclable.  Are you aware that most water bottles you get are not?  The cap and the papery/plastic wrapper are not recyclable materials.  Resource fixed that though, no worries, just chuck the entire thing in your recycling bin without a further thought.  Their bottles are also made from 50% recycled materials.  That is awesome!  Keep the cycle going, friends.

Second, you can opt to have it delivered to your home!  Pro: You get 50% off. Con: it’s only 50% off the first order. Pro: Groceries are mailed right to your door! Con: They may not be delivering in your area yet.  Pro: Depending on the company it ships through, you could potentially find some promos to save on shipping.  Con: There is the opposite end of that spectrum where you can really get shafted by shipping costs.  Personally, this didn’t seem like a likely option for me.  My husband and I both work and I don’t want my plastic water bottles cooking on my porch all day. Not to mention that I’d really rather not pay $20+ to have a case of water stolen off my porch.  However, for some people this is a viable and helpful option; it’s certainly nice to be given many alternatives by a company.

Third: Taste.  Some water is better than other water.  I mean that is pretty obvious when you compare toilet water to the water in your sink. But on a more in-depth level it’s also true!  There are some bottled water that just leaves you with a funky taste.  I was extremely refreshed with Resource though!  It was thirst-quenching.  It’s water so that is ALWAYS a healthier option.  It had a really crisp, clean taste.

Finally I’ll explain how I stayed refreshed with resource.  Here is my backstory: I work a full-time and a part-time job.  I worked both on Black Friday.  I wasn’t really upset about that because black friday deals just mainly stress me out.  I will pay $2 more for a product to not get trampled to death.  However, it made for a long day, and then I had to accompany my mom Christmas shopping the next morning.  When I got home Friday night at 12:30ish I was pretty exhausted.  I felt hungry and a little dehydrated but I was too tired to even think  of making any food or getting a drink and just crawled bleary-eyed into bed.  The next morning, bright and early hubby and I were up getting the house cleaned up a bit and prepping for my dad and he to do insulation in the attic.  My parents arrived and we all got right to work, off to Home Depot for the insulation hoopla and then to part ways as the women shopped and then men worked on the house.

By the time we got home that night, probably around 10, my feet ached, along with my head, and I was beat.  We had some wine with dinner, which didn’t help with the headache OR my rehydration!  So tired and yet,  I knew I wasn’t going to sleep with a pounding head ache.  I went off in search of some medicine, opened the fridge to get a drink to take them with and it was like my refridgerator sang like a chorus of angels… Ahhhhhhhhhhh!  Because there was my Resource water, chilled and waiting in the fridge for me.

I will give that I was extremely thirsty, but that water was so delicious, quenching, AND refreshing!  My headache subsided with the help of some handy-dandy acetometaphine and the lovely 23+ oz of clear, fresh water and I fell into a deep peaceful slumber with a smile on my face.
So, no I wasn’t doing anything really awesome like hang-gliding or rock climbing, but I was thirsty and tired nonetheless and I #refreshedwithresource like the best of them! I’d recommend giving Resource a try at least once!

I received these products for free from Influenster for testing/review purposes; the opinions here are all my own.

I would definitely suggest at least giving it a try once!

Starting Back Up with #ModaVoxBox

I’m back.  It’s been too long, hasn’t it?  I need a creative outlet again!  I figured I’d start back up with a review.

I recently received a VoxBox from Influenster; #ModaVoxBox.  It was welcomed with open arms.

Contents?

  • Puffs SoftPack
  • Jergen’s Ultra-Healing Moisturizer (3 oz)
  • Rimmel London – Moisture Renew Lipstick (Color 630)
  • Rimmel London – Moisture Renew Lip Liner (Clear)
  • Rimmel London – Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara (Black)
  • Resource – Natural Spring Water (23.7 oz.)
  • Clairol – HairFood Moisture Hair Mask (6.3 oz)
  • Swiss Miss – Simply Cocoa (Single-serve pack)

This was clearly a plentiful box.  So let me break it down.

I already am a Puffs fan, they are my favorite facial tissue.  They are soft and never scratch your nose up, when you’re sick, the Puffs PLUS Lotion are a lifesaver.  So I was confident the quality of the product and more pleased with the new packaging.  You might think that the material would easily stretch out or rip but it’s very durable.  You can throw it in a purse, gym bag, diaper bag, and not worry that keys are going to rip it to shreds.  Plus it fits better than some bulky box.  I actual liked them so much that I stockpiled.  Giant Eagle had a sale on them not too long ago and I got three 3-packs.  I’ve got one in each car, one in the bathroom, and one in my gym bag!

Puffs SoftPack gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Jergen’s Ultra-Healing lotion was unique because it asked influensters to partake in a weeklong challenge.  I’m actually not very good at routine so I was worried I’d have a hard time with seven straight days, but I kept this product in my purse (It’s only 3 ounces so it’s pretty small) and whenever I thought about it or my hands felt especially dry I was able to grab it and apply.  I was intrigued by the texture; it was thin and almost runny.  I’ve used other brands of lotion before with the same texture that don’t absorb and leave a greasy residue so I wasn’t confident that I would enjoy this hand lotion or find results.  I’m glad I stuck it out and tried it out anyway!  DO NOT judge this lotion by it’s texture.  I definitely felt it worked and saw results in one week (check out other testimonials by searching for the hastag: #1WeekToGorgeous).  I’ve kept it in my purse and am still using it fairly regularly.

Jergen’s Ultra-Healing Lotion gets 5 out of 5 stars.

I was especially excited to pull out THREE make-up products from a brand I’d never tried before no less. Rimmel London’s Moisture Renew Lipstick (color 630), Moisture Renew Lip Liner (Clear color), and Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara (Black color).  I’ve tried drug-store make-up before and have been completely disappointed.  ANY foundation I’ve tried from such brands do not match my skin tone and just leave me with wasted dollars.  Normally if I buy a mascara or lipstick from a drug-store make-up selection it’s in a hurry and honestly the cheapest one I can find.  I’ve never even truly looked through Rimmel London’s selection before.  So, now I have a lipstick, a lip liner (a product I never use), and mascara.  Okay, I can work with this.

First of all a lot of people praise the use of lip liner and I’ve heard of using it in place of lipstick.  I was glad that I got a clear color so I could ease into the water.  First I used it regularly, outlined my lips and then applied the Moisture Renew lipstick.  I was pleased with it, I don’t normally have a problem with lipstick bleeding or anything so I wasn’t really for or against it.  The next time I used it I used it as a lip primer and covered my lips before applying the lipstick.  I liked this method a bit better, it didn’t noticeably enhance the color, but I felt like it lasted longer.  Now, regarding the lipstick, I love a nude lip.  It’s so simple and elegant, classy.  I liked the color, the texture was certainly moisturizing and smooth, and has a pleasant smell.  I’m not sure if that is something that most people notice or care about, but I don’t want any funky smelling lipstick under my nose all day long so it was a plus for me.

Mascara; if I wear nothing else I can put on mascara and chapstick and feel refreshed.  There is something about mascara that will brighten your whole look.  Eyes are my favorite feature on myself and others.  I love seeing different designs and techniques used to highlight and emphasize your eye color.  Needless to say I had no hesitation about the mascara.  The most unique feature was the wand itself, it was curved.  I’ve heard that the design of the wand can make a large impact on the application and end result.  I’m not entirely sure what the curved wand does, but I felt like it separated and lengthened my lashes.

Rimmel London – Moisture Renew Lipstick (Color 630) gets 5 out of 5 stars
Rimmel London – Moisture Renew Lip Liner (Clear) gets 4 out of 5 stars
Rimmel London – Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara (Black) gets 4 out of 5 stars

Next up, Clairol’s HairFood Moisture Hair Mask.  I’m all about hair health!  I do dye my hair; I get entirely too bored with my hair to not do that, but I try not to blow-dry, curl, or straighten too much.  I know that excessive heat (especially) without proper hair care and really damage your hair! I’d like my hair to be healthy and strong for a long time.  I actually don’t wash my hair everyday because I know that it can strip the hair of the natural oils it needs and I regularly use conditioner, but not too much and mostly on the ends.  So I’ve used hair masks in the past as well.  HairFood held up against the competitors, it definitely left my hair softer and shinier than my typical shampoo and conditioner.  Has a pleasant scent and a nice texture, thick and creamy.  I am giving it 4 stars because I didn’t feel like it especially exceeded its competition.

HairFood Moisture Hair Mask gets 4 out of 5 stars 

Did anyone go Black Friday Shopping?  I had the lucky advantage of working both my jobs on that crazy day.  I wasn’t upset that I had to work instead of shop – Black Friday is overrated people!  I was still able to get in some quality shopping with my mom the following day without nearly as much insanity.  I was still exhausted after hours of shopping and needless to say when I came home to an empty fridge I did not want to cook and I didn’t want to go back out to the store.  Luckily, my husband quickly assented to having pizza delivered.. now we just had to figure out drinks.  We had milk in the fridge and about three beers someone had left at the house.  I know a lot of people like pizza and beer, but that wasn’t going to cut it.  I’m only going to choose beer if its a fruit-infused one.  Then I remembered I had received a bottle of Resource Natural Spring Water in my Moda VoxBox!  That sounded so refreshing to my parched mouth.  I even had it in the fridge waiting.

Maybe it was my thirst being quenched, maybe it was my desire for it to taste extraordinary, whatever it was, it was good.  I guarantee I will not have the right words to describe this beverage.  It was fresh and crisp; it didn’t seem to have any plastic-y flavor that some plastic bottles do.  Plus, the company itself is pretty cool (check out the site HERE).  All the material on the bottle is completely recyclable, and its made from 50% recycled material.  It has electrolytes and is 100% spring water.  Plus you can have it delivered right to your door – talk about convenience.  The quality of this water was great but you also have to consider the cost.  Unfortunately, my town isn’t on the map yet for delivery and neither was my hometown so I had to use a zip code of a larger city.  My search for Columbus, Ohio produced a cost of $.75/bottle that’s 17.99 a case; however, there was an additional discount offered for an auto delivery making it as low as $8.99/case.  That’s quite the savings – alas, it’s only the 50% offer was only for the first case.  Plus, you’ll pay for shipping and tax.  To me, the delivery isn’t worth it.

As much as I liked the taste of the water, I also, like many of my peers, have student loans that don’t allow me to indulge in luxury home water deliveries.  That being said, it’s unlikely I’ll be making a future purchase of a case, let alone a single bottle of water.

I went back and forth between 3 and 4 stars for this product.  The taste and social responsibility of the company is something I am drawn to.  The price for it though, is too much.  Ultimately, the goodwill of the company won me over.

Resource Natural Spring Water gets 4 out of 5 stars 

My final product: Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa.  I will freely admit I have an overwhelming love of chocolate.  Honestly, it can be in any form.  For an anniversary trip, my husband and I actually went to Hershey, PA and it was heaven.  Knowing that, you can understand how this product may have indeed been my favorite item in the box.  I tried to savor it and not immediately rip it open.  After a few cold days, I had held off as long as I could.  It was DELICIOUS.  There is nothing that quite sets the holiday mood for me like a warm cup of cocoa, my favorite movie playing, and decorating the tree.  But okay, I was too tired that night to decorate the tree and instead took my warm cocoa and cuddled up on the couch to watch Modern Family.  Good news is that I was also provided with a coupon for a future purchase of a box of Simply Cocoa so I can set the scene for my perfect holiday treat.  Swiss Miss is pretty much the standard brand of cocoa and this new product is even creamier and richer than the traditional.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be purchasing a box in the near, near future.

Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa gets 5 out of 5 stars

Thank you Influenster and all the companies that I was able to sample their products.  Just to recap, I received all of these products for testing/review purposes complimentary and I loved every minute of it.

the pages keep turning anyway

It’s hard to accept that we’re moving on.  I can’t believe its June.  It’s been three months since my grandpa passed away.  It’s hard to believe still that he’s gone, it’s harder to believe that we get through everyday and start accepting that he is no longer here.  The moments when I want him there for something hurt the most.  When I got my wedding video and there wasn’t one single shot of him in it (even though he was alive and happy) my heart fell.  I feel regret for not making him a bigger part of that day.  My sister danced with him at her wedding.  Why didn’t I?  Why didn’t I do that one simple thing that would’ve meant so much to both of us and guaranteed him a spotlight in my video?  I don’t kick myself over not being home anymore.  As much as I wanted to and as much as I wish I could have seen him more or at least one more time where he was more himself, I know that my grandfather loved me so much.  He loved my sense of humor and sarcasm.  He loved that I wasn’t afraid to tease him (mostly).  He loved my husband.  And he was proud of me.  I never doubt that but I miss him a lot.

I never thought that my children wouldn’t meet my grandparents, their great-grand parents.  I knew my great-grandmother until I was in 11th grade.  She was a special person to me, so many of my childhood memories revolve around her and her trailer.  Now my children will never know the kind of people any of my grandparents were.  They will hear stories and they will hear memories, but they won’t know what it’s like when my grandpa would try to trick my sister and sneak a wink at me.  They won’t know what it’s like to make him laugh – so satisfying.  They won’t know what a sweet, amazing person my grandma was.  How she never had a bad thing to say about anyone and how all throughout a battle with cancer she persevered and stayed strong.  She tried harder to know her friends and her family.  They won’t know my paternal grandma and how I learned to love to bake from her.  How she made me wear a  when baking.  They won’t know that she loved to cuddle her grandchildren and have them sit on her lap.  They won’t know the feeling of her saying “grandma loves you” after you talked with her on the phone.  They won’t know my paternal grandfather, who I barely had a chance to really know when he died when I was in 4th grade.  A man who was so much like my father– loving his wife and his family more than anything, constantly laughing, always smiling.

It kills me that they’ll never feel like they know them, they’ll only know of them.

It’s been hard to write in this blog since I scroll down and see all my grief in bold typeface across a glowing screen.  But I want to.  It’s cathartic, and it’s one step closer to writing something people might actually read and enjoy.

I felt I had to express where I had been, where my head and heart had been before I could continue on.


Now this is a completely different idea stream, but another way I’m continuing– I’m persevering just like my grandparents I admire so much.  And if we are honest, isn’t this how we all can think from time to time, leaping from one train off thought to another, like a hobo traveling cross-country?

Alex & I just ordered the 21-day fix from Beachbody and a friend from college.  We’re starting in her challenge on June 23rd and I cannot wait.  I’ve been so wanting to do something that holds me more accountable because while Alex & I are supportive we are also content with giving in to each others good, bad ideas.  Like walking to get doughnuts.  Or just watching TV tonight because we are tired.

The workouts are only 30 minutes, the meal plan will help teach us portion control, and the support group and coaching will keep us more accountable!  I want to be fit — I have no viable excuse, not even a pet that takes up time or money.  And really, I want to wear a bikini confidently for the first time in… ever.  I am so excited, we both are to start this together and to support each other and lean on the group and our coach, to really commit to being the healthiest versions of ourselves.

Of course, I contemplated walking to Giant Eagle this morning to get a doughnut (and to be honest, I still am waffling over this).  Maybe I can convince myself to make some healthy muffins instead?

Macaroni Musings

I’ve been regaining normalcy in my life once again.   Last weekend Alex and I went to dinner with our friend Joey and decided to try Macaroni Grill.  We had a gift card for this chain including Chili’s, On The Border, and Maggiano’s and figured we would finally try it out.

First Impression

I was glad I had taken a little effort to look nice this evening, outfit, make-up, and even jewelry.  To most people this probably sounds like the normal routine, but since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve found it harder and harder to dress up and put effort into my appearance, after all, most of the time I spend the day in three rooms of my house, cleaning, watching netflix marathons, and reading.  As we walked inside, we left the dreary pretend-Spring weather behind.  The colors were warm and inviting with faux-stone walls and high ceilings.  A beautiful atmosphere to eat Italian cuisine; however, as our night went on, I noticed some aspects that seemed to clash.

Observations:

1.  Tables.  When we were brought to our table Joey tried to give the crayons residing on our table back to the hostess, naturally assuming that they were left from a child and a children’s menu.  She just awkwardly non-responded and walked back.  Strange, we thought, until we realized the cloth tablecloth was covered with paper.  Very roadhouse-esque decor, I half expected our server to bring us a bucket of peanuts that we could eat and then litter the floor with.  Don’t worry she didn’t, but she did write her name on our table.  Useful as a reminder for our server’s name, pointless otherwise.

2.  Wine.  Joey, just back from another trip to Rome, hadn’t quite adjusted back to American Culture.  We perused the wine list but most of the glasses didn’t seem worth it, we thought we’d share a bottle.  Now the cheapest bottle on their wine list was $24 and it was a sweet wine.  The problem here is that while I will pretty much drink a wide variety of dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines, Joey only has a taste for dry.  I sample the house Chardonnay which was good, but I didn’t have the desire to order it and Joey picked the house Chianti for the table.  The bottle was $30, but luckily it was a better deal than most.  The Chianti came in a 1.5 L bottle as compared to the typical 750 ML bottles.  One thing that I was disappointed in was that while we were trying to decide on a wine, the server never indicated the OTHER wine selection that had $20 bottles.  The inconsistency of this was that the $20 bottles were on a completely separate “specials”  menu that featured appetizers, I expected all the wines to be in one location, but I’ll know better for the future.  She had a sample the wine, and poured it into… water glasses?  I thought that perhaps this was just what they do for samples or it was the only glass handy (although we were seated by what looked like a beverage station island).  We sampled it and she said she would get us new glasses.  But she brought over three new water glasses.  I’ll admit, I don’t think the taste of the wine was affected by the glass, after all, wine is wine; however, I did suddenly feel like I was 21 again, drinking boxed wine out of cups in college over a cheaply made dinner.  Joey, again winding down from his Roman Holiday, was more confused by this than I and we soon noticed other tables had wine glasses, which made it all the more strange.  However, the wine was delicious and a good deal considering.

3.  Food.  The bread and dipping oil is provided throughout the meal.  I don’t like balsamic vinegar so I didn’t taste the dipping oil, but was informed that it was good.  The bread was brushed with olive oil and garlic or parmesan, and was addicting.  The guys picked an appetizer, macaroni bites, but I try to steer clear of deep-fried so I didn’t indulge.  However, they looked delicious.  They certainly had more of an appeal than Sheetz brand and didn’t look as greasy.  Also, they were served with a cheese dipping sauce that smelled heavenly.  Even though they left one on the plate, I was able to resist, probably due in large part, to the anticipation of my meal: chicken caprese.  Wow this meal was perfect for me.  The chicken was tender and grilled, not charcoal-blackened or tough, the pasta was lightly tossed in a red sauce that made it light and very fresh-tasting.  There were also baby tomatoes and fresh mozzarella mixed in.  I was thoroughly satisfied and impressed.  Joey ordered the lasagna which he was happy with, but didn’t sing its praising, and Alex was pleased with the Italian sausage he ordered.  In retrospect, I should have taken pictures, the italian sausage dish was unlike any I’d seen before, but, like I said, he found it tasty and flavorful.   The server boxed my meal for me and gave us another loaf of bread to take home.  Joey was the only person who ordered desert: two chocolate chip cannolis.  He had wanted to try the pistachio (which I would have eagerly tasted as well, since I’ve never had pistachio cannoli!) but they were out.  The pastry shell wasn’t good, in my opinion, I could only taste the grease, the filling was creamy and delicious.

4.  Entertainment.  I was quickly taken by surprise when during our conversation, my sentence was cut off by an opera singer, belting it out about five feet behind me.  The three of us were startled and slightly uncomfortable.  The rest of the patrons quieted, I’m sure they all felt too that they needed to out of respect for the woman.  She had a lovely voice even if I’m not an opera fan; however, I just found it uncomfortable and disruptive.  Alex and I went out to dinner with a friend to hear about his trip to Rome and we had to battle for the spotlight at our own table because of the surprise entertainment.  Luckily, the singer didn’t serenade our table as we watched her do another.  I surely would have been embarrassed and awkward.  Plus, do you tip her?

5. Education.  Another surprise was the bathroom soundtrack.  Instead of the expected Italian instrumental track list, bathroom patrons were taught how to speak Italian.  Unfortunately I picked the wrong time to use the facilities and only learned some market-place lingo such as tomato and salad, which sound too close to the English pronunciation for me to impress anyone with.

Grade – B

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my meal, the wine,  and the service.  I was uncomfortable with the odd opera serenades, didn’t enjoy drinking my wine out of a water glass, or the children-friendly tablecloth.  But I’ll certainly be back to the Macaroni Grill tasting more enjoyable dishes.