Memorial Day & Kings Hawaiian

Every year my entire family gathers together for a picnic over the Memorial Day weekend but this year they changed the date and sadly there was no picnic. It threw off our entire weekend because it’s the start of our summer camping season… we were able to turn it around though!

A new campground was found pretty easily and we set out with my husbands grandparents for a fun weekend together in a place called Turkeyville. Our summer camping season could begin and I was looking forward to getting away and enjoying our time together.

This year instead of the family fish fry we roasted hot dogs over an open fire, homemade potato salad (my husbands favorite), and all the other picnic favorites like s’mores. I have to say that it was just as fun and there is nothing better than a hot dog roasted over an open fire. Well, nothing better than eating that hot dog on a Kings Hawaiian bun because these buns are amazing! Super soft, sweet, and someone was a genius when they came up with the idea to split these buns right down the middle instead of the side! Not a single bun broke or crumbled.

memorial day

I have to say that after giving these a try that we won’t be switching back to regular buns any time soon. Seriously… these are amazing.

enjoying Kings Hawaiian

Hmmm… maybe you can’t tell by her expression but she really loved them. She just didn’t want me to take her picture while she was eating I think… oops. She’ll probably like it less that I’m sharing it with all of you too.

King’s Hawaiian® wants to know how you bring people together.  Reply below for a chance to win a $200 gift card!  Sweepstakes Rules.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kings Hawaiian. The opinions and text are all mine.

Imperfect Pairings – A Book Review

I just finished another novel! That makes almost 10 this year so far… a pretty darn good accomplishment if you ask me! The latest was called Imperfect Pairings by Jackie Townsend.

Touted as a romance novel based on the write up it quickly grabbed my attention and I thought that I’d love it.

imperfect pairings

 

 

 

In “Imperfect Pairings” a woman’s love for an Italian leaves her confronting this question. He’s Jack in America, but he’s Giovanni in Italy; understanding him means understanding his culture, his language. It means losing the foundations of her identity to become entangled in the deep-rooted vines of his family’s troubled past when she’d vowed to remain disentangled. Her career and autonomy had always come first, and she fell in love thinking she could control it, not give in to it. Is she losing herself? Or is she finally giving in to the woman she’d been all along.

 

 

 

 

Was it a romance? Eh… sort of. It was one of those books that I start reading and think that it’s just to slow to keep on reading but I read and then as I get further into it I’m pulled in because I want to know more.

Jamie and Jack, the main characters, are both very intelligent and driven people who put a lot of effort into their jobs. It’s their jobs that brought them together in a secret relationship until they get married to help Jack stay in the country. Of course they’re in love with one another but it’s an odd relationship to say the least. It’s not a relationship that I would want for myself as it seems to cold… contrived. It lacked the deep love & warmth that relationships have.

With multiple trips to Italy Jamie quickly learns that Jack or Giovanni isn’t the man that she thought he really was. She quickly learns that there is more to him… his life… and his family… and wine. Which becomes center to the book and their lives.

It wasn’t until the end of the book that the two of them actually started acting more like a couple than two who were together for mere convenience. It was then that I actually started to really like the characters and wanted to know what happened with them…. and then the book ended. Yes, ended.

Overall, I thought that it was a pretty good book and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something to pass the time.

I received this advance copy of this book through Net Galley in return for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Looking Luminous with Pond’s

Finding a bit of time all to myself is a challenge with a husband, four kids, and full time job. Of course it’s the same for just about every mom out there, right? We spend so much of our time taking care of the kids, the house, and everything around us that we sometimes forget or just don’t have leftover time for ourselves.

Every couple of weeks I take a bit of time just for me. How? I go and get my nails done during my lunch hour. I know it’s not much but it’s an hour with out kids, work, or anything else and I can just relax and chat with other adults. Even better than that is when I get a few hours and I get a pedicure, facial, and my nails done!

That kind of day happens so rarely but they’re amazing! I’ve only had a facial once and let me tell you… it was pure heaven and I can’t wait until I am able to get back in for one. For about $60 I had an hour of massage (head & feet), facial scrubs, masks, and moisturizers all in a dimly lit room complete with a heated bed & lovely scented candles. It was definitely something that I could get used to.

When I left my skin looked incredible and between the pedicure and massage my legs and feet were feeling pampered.

One of the questions I left with, besides when would I be able to get back and do it again, was how could I keep my skin looking that good?

I’ve tried so many different face washes, creams, masks, lotions, and potions. My goal… look great all the time and refuse to look old. I haven’t found the perfect solution yet but what I have found is that Pond’s Luminous line is pretty good at getting me close to my goals.

Ponds Cream Ponds Exfoliating
Every night before bed I use the Luminous Clean Exfoliating cleaner followed by my regular eye cream and night cream. When I wake and shower in the morning I use the Luminous Clean Cream cleaner followed by the Luminous Moisture Day Lotion.

What I’ve noticed… my skin looks smoother, I’ve had fewer breakouts, and it’s less oily. That last one alone… well, that is amazing because my skin has always been oily and less than half way through the day my face looks like an oil slick.

Honestly, I feel that this new routine that I have with the Pond’s Luminous line is really helping! Of course it doesn’t compare to a day at the salon getting a facial.

Ponds Logo

What do you do to feel luminous?

How do you find a bit of time to yourself? 

Do you have a beauty routine that you’ve found to be just about perfect?

~~~

Share a picture of how you look luminous on the Pond’s Facebook page for a chance to win a $500 gift card to Walmart, the new Pond’s Luminous Moisture, and the entire line of Pond’s Luminous Clean Cleaners.

I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. By posting, I am eligible for incentive. I received product to facilitate my post, but all opinions stated are my own.

Beyond the Pasta ~ A book review

I love cookbooks even if they’re just for show because there is something about the beautiful photography, the way the author talks about the dishes, and of course the recipes themselves. I’ll be honest… I have a few cookbooks that I have never made anything from. One of them I like to just look at because it has awesome pics and really the recipes are rather difficult!

The most recent one that I read though wasn’t just a cookbook. Beyond the Pasta was a memoir of sorts that follows the time that author, Mark Leslie, spent living with the Stefani family in Italy. It was there that he learned to cook & speak in the Italian way as well as become immersed in the day to day lives of the family he came to love as his own.

Beyond-the-Pasta

This paragraph from the book really stood out and captured the way of life he described throughout the book and how it really differs drastically from daily life here in the U.S.

Italians could become rushed as we are and no longer take moments to enjoy una passeggiata, un gelato or una siesta. La dolce vita celebrates the fact that life is not only about a paycheck, or bing able to get a hamburger and fries at 2:00am, or having to work throughout the night restocking grocery store shelves or going to the all-night gym. Life is about savoring the sunset, taking a rejuvenating nap in the middle of the day, pausing to appreciate the beauty of a rose on the side of the road, having your children’s laughter fill your soul – letting those moments inspire your life.

The book is broken up into chapters, one for each day that he is in Italy, and at the end of each chapter there is a recipe that Mark made with nonna. Each recipe is exactly the way that they made it for one of their meals and is a simple family dish. There are so many that I can’t wait to try out but I think that one of the first ones I want to try are the Sicilian Rice Balls… if they turn out I’ll share it with you!

I loved reading this book for so many reasons. I felt like I was able to experience life with an Italian family right along side Mark and become immersed with their lives. I fell in love with the way their meals were prepared, served, and how things are so incredibly different than they are here in America.

There is a lot of attention to detail, time with family, quality of the food being prepared, and there never seems to be rushing around. It’s almost like being in a different time where the focus was on the family and being together. Not that we don’t value that here in America but we are always in a rush and have so much to do that I don’t think we slow down to really enjoy life.

I was almost sad to see Mark’s time with the Stefani family end because that meant the book too would end. One day I will visit Italy and visit all the places he mentioned and then those where my family is from.

Beyond the Pasta ended up being so much more than I had thought it would be and a lot better than I had expected!

I received a copy of Beyond the Pasta through Net Galley for review. And as always all of the thoughts and opinions are all my own.

A #SentimentalJourney with Emmy Rossum

Have you ever wondered if maybe you were born into the wrong era or if you lived another life in the past? I have many times over even to the point of looking more into past lives.

One of the things that often leads me to believe this is music. Not just any music though, old music from the 30’s and 40’s. Music that is sung with beautiful voices that haven’t been editing to sound “better”, music that feels like it’s sung deep from within the soul, music that has meaning and little to no meaning at the same time, and music that you can let your kids listen to without worry.

Music like this is not heard that often anymore unless you have XM radio or something and listen to the retro stations (I’ll admit that I do). But once in a while an artist comes along and can take you back in time with a few simple songs and one of them is Emmy Rossum.

I first heard of her when I saw the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera. Even then she was incredible but her new album, Sentimental Journey, is amazing. Emmy brings her stellar voice to songs popularized by some of the most beloved artists of the last century and each song represents a month in the year.

Emmy Rossum Album Cover

Each song needed to either lyrically or emotionally reflect the corresponding month,” Emmy explained. “Some songs were obvious fits, like Summer Wind for June, and Pretty Paper for December. Others songs were less literal fits. I chose Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out) for September because, to me, the plaintive melody and lyric emotionally reflect the cold weather creeping in and the sense of melancholy we can get in the fall months.

Emmy Rossum

I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to this album… in the car, at home, at work… I love it. Absolutely love it.

Emmy Rossum’s new album is available now on iTunes and Amazon.

Not sure what you think yet ? Take look at her video.

I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own…. I really do love this album.

My week with a Kia Optima

Recently, I had the opportunity to drive a Kia Optima Hybrid for a week and I have to say that I loved that car! It was so easy and smooth to drive that when I got back into my truck it felt like I was driving a loud tank even though it’s quite!

Now, I do have to say that there is only one real downside to this car and it’s what would keep me from buying one. It’s to small for a family of 6.

I have 4 kids and one of them is still in a car seat and that means when all 6 of us go out together there isn’t enough room for all of us. The only other option is to shove one of the kids in the trunk but I don’t think it’s all that safe. Now, for a family of 4 or even 5 this car would be perfect for them.

The bells and whistles on this car were awesome! Let me share a few of my favorites with you;

Back up camera – This made it so unbelievably easy to back up and not hit things. Not that I normally hit things when I back up but with this you could see a lot more than by using mirrors alone.
Panoramic moonroof – This was just beyond cool! Honestly… I’m not sure that there are words to explain it.
Bluetooth capabilities – Okay, I’ll be honest. The geek in me totally came out when I found out that I could sync my phone to the car. It was one of the first things that I did and then started making phone calls just to see how it worked. The result… perfect! I think that this has to be one of the best features and cut down on the amount of time that I hand my hands on the phone.
Sound system – I like music and always have it on when I’m in the car. But the Infinity speaker system that is in the car made everything sound so much better. Smooth & crystal clear.

Kia Optima Hybrid

I’m pretty sure that my husband was jealous… he is a car type person and for a week the car that I was driving was superior to his! I enjoyed it to say the least.

So, hybrid…. you’re thinking did you have to plug it in or what? Nope! With incredible gas milage like 34mpg city and 39mpg highway I used very little gas (estimated annual fuel cost is $1550) and the engine cuts off automatically when the car stops and the electrical load is low, which saves on gas and reduces emissions. Because of this the electric motor will kick in at just about any speed, the gas engine saves fuel by expending less energy and emits fewer pollutants through the exhaust.

Whenever the brakes are applied the Regenerative Braking System charges the battery and because of this the car is virtually silent. It’s like the car isn’t even running and I loved showing that to a few of my co-workers when we were out to lunch.

I also loved that I could start the car without actually putting the key into the ignition and turning it. Who ever came up with the idea of smart keys and push button ignition was a genius! Of course, there were a few times that I wasn’t paying attention and got in the car and forgot to push the button but by the end of the week I had it down!

If you’re looking for a few more stats on the Kia Optima take a look at these.

Safety Awards & Features
NHTSA 5 Star Crash Safety Rating
2012 IIHAS Top Safety Pick
US EPA “Smart Way” Certification Mark
Electronic Stability control and ABS
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Duel front advanced airbags
Duel front seat mounted side airbags
1st and 2nd row side curtain airbags
Storage
Truck with pass-through

Made in the USA! 
Set the Guinness World Record for the lowest consumption by a gasoline car traveling through all 48 contiguous US states while getting nearly 65mpg over 8,000 miles
Official Automotive Partner for the NBA
The Optima is made at Kia’s manufacturing facility that is located in West Point, GA and supports 1,200 direct jobs and 7,500 other regional jobs.
The Kia facility is 2.2 million square feet on 2,200 acres and is capable of producing 300,000 vehicles annually.
The Kia Optima that I test drove includes the Hybrid Convenience Package ($700) and the Premium Technology Package ($5,350).

Premium Technology Package includes:
Navigation system with Back-up Camera & Sirius Traffic
Infinity Audio System
Panoramic Sunroof
Power Folding Outside Mirrors
Auto-dimming Rear View Mirror w/ Homelink and Compass
17″ Tires with Alloy Wheels
HID Headlights with Auto Leveling
Leather Seat Trim
Driver’s Seat memory
Heated and Cooled Front Seats
Heated Outboard Rear Seats
Heated Steering Wheel
Power Front Passenger’s Seat

Total Cost for the model I drove is $32,500.

Is this a car that I’d recommend? Yes, most definitely! Between the features, gas mileage, and the fact that it’s made in the U.S. I would suggest it to anyone that is looking for a new car. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that my ex in-laws (yes, we’re still close) are looking into getting one!

I received a one-week test drive of the Kia Optima Hybrid for this review. All opinions are 100% mine.

The Monster

We all have one…

It can live anywhere in your house…

It can follow you from room to room…

Sometimes it can follow you when you leave the house…

Terrifying.
Troublesome.
Ugly.
Huge.

It is exactly what all of our nightmares are made of and then some.

It’s name? Yes, it has a name and it is one that we have all heard since we were little children. We cringe when we hear it and it can bring the bravest mom to tears and cause her to hide in fear.

The Monster is called Laundry.

It multiplies in rooms all over the house. In bathroom, bedrooms, hallways, and once in awhile (if you have a toddler like me) the kitchen and living room.

I swear that it multiplies faster than bunnies.

But I have found a way to battle the Monster and win. Yes! There is a solution (actually there is more than one but buying new clothes each week is expensive).

Really, there are a couple solutions.

1. Make the kids do the laundry.
2. Hire a maid.
3. Find a fun laundry soap.

Did that last one throw you off? Well, I did find a laundry soap that’s kinda fun and it’s healthy! Yes, healthy. Ology by Walgreens is a healthy laundry soap and by that I mean it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals.

Walgreens has an entire new line of healthy products for the entire family such as; baby and personal care products, as well as household cleaners. They even have light bulbs and paper products that are 100 percent tree-free and made from readily renewable resources. To make it even better they’re very affordable, cool, huh?

Ology_productOkay, so maybe there isn’t a laundry detergent or anything really that can ever get rid of the Monster, but at least it will keep it at bay for a while, right?

Next time you’re in Walgreens take a look at the new Ology product line and see what you think!

Also… I’m pretty sure that we have kids to do laundry.

I was provided with some of the Ology products to try out, but all the thoughts, opinions, and piles of laundry are 100% mine.

The Holiday Wish List

It’s that time of the year again… time to ask the kids to make their holiday wish lists. The teens procrastinate and finally throw something together last minute… the toddler wants everything that he can set his little hands on, and then there’s the tween. She will make the never ending list complete with notes all over the page.

Last year Lauren’s list was written on lined paper but it was all over the place and was difficult to discern what she was talking about in some cases. Mostly because she couldn’t remember the name of the thing she wanted and just wrote a paragraph to describe it. Needless to say she had to re-write it for us.

This year is a whole new story though because I found the most awesome website! Giftbirdy.com is the answer to my prayers! Lauren is able to login, search for all the things that she could possibly want, and then add them to her own wish list.

GiftBirdy

So why was Gift Birdy created? I’ll let the founders tell you in their own words.

We created Giftbirdy in response to constant queries from our (very sweet) parents as to what they might gift their grandchildren for birthdays and holidays. At the same time, we were receiving emailed lists of desired gifts from our kids. Throw in years of battling frenzied crowds, no parking signs and depleted brick-and-mortar stores, seeing well-intended gifts unwrapped then never used and an enduring struggle to get kids to write thank-you notes, and the opportunity for a better way became obvious.  We hope that Giftbirdy will be a helpful and enriching tool that makes your lives easier and more fun.

Aside from there are a lot of other great features.

Like it’s free! Who doesn’t like free services especially when they help us out when it comes to figuring out gifts!

It’s safe, secure, and has no advertising. As a parent it’s important to know that any account that my child uses is safe and Gift Birdy is working with Truste to assure they are COPPA compliant.

So what does Lauren think about it? She loves it! She was easily able to figure out how to use it, play games, and share her list with me and her grandparents with little to no directions from me. That’s a win!

Gift Birdy is charitable too!

Giftbirdy Giveback, a program that encourages compassion and philanthropy by encouraging children to add a small donation to a children’s charity to their gift list. And to set a good example, Giftbirdy has pledged to donate a percentage of profits to a variety of deserving non-profit organizations that work tirelessly on behalf of children.

I highly recommend checking out Gift Birdy and if you’re still not sure check out their intro video that highlights some of the awesome features they have.

This is a sponsored post from One2One Network and Gift Birdy. All opinions stated are my own.

Alphabet Photography {Review}

Alphabet-Photography-Logo

My kids have been bugging me forever to get some artwork on the walls in our house and while I agreed that we needed something I just couldn’t decide on what. I wanted something unique, something special, and most importantly something that would go with the furniture no matter what it looked like.

Well, the problem was solved with Alphabet Photography!

Nat & the Alphabet Photography artwork

Awesome… isn’t it? I love it.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide what I wanted it to say and with different last names in our house picking just one of them wasn’t going to work. I finally decided on word. A word that described what we are no matter what.

Family. That’s what we are. Family.

With the hard part done all I had to do was figure out what images would make my new piece of art perfect. There were so many options to choose from and depending on your style there was something for everyone…. even photos in color.

Alphabet Photography Heart

Family held together with hearts! Oh… look at that picture… do you see the signature there? That is the artists signature, Jennifer Blakeley!

Family - Alphabet Photography

I tried forever to get a picture of it on the wall but it was either to dark, the flash was leaving a flare on the glass, or you could see my reflection in it. I finally took it off of the wall and propped it up on a chair and took about 5 more before I got one that was half way decent!

I can’t wait to get our family pictures back and start decorating around my awesome new artwork!

Alphabet Photography has some great options for holiday gifts and some fun gifts that are under $40! My favorite ones are the framed art that says ‘Dream’ and ‘Love’. I think that I’ll be adding a couple more to add to my wish list so I can finally decorate the basement that’s been finished for four years now!

The perfect customized gift that includes photographs from all over the world, this is the original Alphabet Photography. Celebrity owners include: Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, Tyra Banks, Ryan Seacrest, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, John Schneider, Nelly Furtado, and many more!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Alphabet Photography. The opinions and text are all mine.

Diary of a Submissive ~ A book review

Diary of a Submissive has been called a real “Fifty Shades of Grey”…. a true story of Sophie Morgan (not her real name of course) and her journey through sexual exploration and into a relationship with her very own “Christian Grey”.

diary-of-a-submissive

It was interesting to hear the story from a real person, from someone who is just like the person sitting next to you on the bus, or even on the playground bench watching their kids play with yours. Sophie comes from a completely normal family like most of us, she wasn’t abused. She didn’t have a hard life growing up, her parents are still happily married and she’s still on very good terms with them. So what would cause someone to want to be dominated and forced to do some humiliating and sometimes painful just for pleasure in the end.

I’ve read a similar book series written by Anne Rice and while reading that I couldn’t believe that people would actually do that. I knew that people did odd/strange things but the book was fiction, right? It wasn’t until Diary of a Submissive that I realized it was real… there are people out there who really enjoy this type of lifestyle.

I will say that this book is open, honest, and detailed enough to cause you to blush if you’re not used to reading books of this nature. Sophie goes into great detail about her experiences, what she likes, what she has done, and how she felt the entire time while doing it… definitely graphic at times and possibly not for everyone.

If you are interested in following Sophie Morgan check her out on Twitter and you can also join the conversation over at BlogHer.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.