Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Traditions-- What Are Yours?

I just read an email on food related New Year's Eve traditions and I got to thinking about all the ones my own family has and the ones we have been introduced to in years past. Growing up everything had to be spotless in the house, we all would be dressed in new clothes and there had to be plenty of everything-- especially food-- in order to ensure that we had a year of plenty. 

Mom always made sure that there was a dish served that each one of us loved and just being with my family, celebrating, was everything I needed.  I have not spent a single New Years Eve away from my family, and I want it to always be that way.  To me, like all the other traditions, being with my family is my way of hoping that I will have them near me in the year to come.

So, what are your New Years Eve traditions?  Any weird ones out there?

The year we rang the New Year in while in Rome, we were served lentils and pork because it was a tradition. I read somewhere that the lentils resemble coins, so having them served is a way to guarantee fortune. And pork is a thing because pigs root in a forward motion while chickens scratch backwards, cows stand still and lobster also moves in reverse-- all bad things for the future.  

In Spain it is a tradition to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each month of the year.  You want to bite into sweet grapes because bitter ones foretell a bitter month.....YIKES!

A Dairy Allergy I Told You So

I was about six before anyone figured out that it was a dairy allergy that had me writhing with pain all the time. My mom made it easy for me and it never was all that hard to live with, once we knew the problem, and I never felt like I was missing out.  

When I was 16/17 or so, I started sampling little tastes of dairy-- a dollop of sour cream here, some butter on my pancakes, even a scoop of ice cream-- and I got bolder when it appeared that I was no longer allergic. I loved it and the knowledge that dairy allergies seem to disappear as you get older kept me happy.  

It didn't last long though, because after a couple years of dairy consumption my allergy reared its ugly head and came back to bite me in the arse.....HARD. I have experienced just about every reaction you can have, but it seems that gastrointestinal pain is my specialty. 

I have found ways to cope, learned to "time" allergic reactions and tried in vain to give it up, but butter is a wonderful thing, lol. I really should avoid it all together, because it is a health issue and not something I should mess with in the way I have in the past few years.  With each episode taking more out of me, lasting longer, and leaving me feeling like crap I have really become more restrictive over the past six months or so. 

Still, no matter how many times I retreat to my room to roll around in pain, lock myself in the bathroom or try in vain to make myself sleep it off, I don't think anyone here understands how painful and uncomfortable it can be. 

Almost two years ago now, Missy all of a sudden developed an allergy to dairy. It still is really weird, but she started having these really bad cases of hives and facial swelling and after doing the whole diet elimination routine it turned out to be dairy.  Now that she does not have a whole lot of dairy in her diet, when she does have some she will just develop a rash of hives on her face or neck and she goes on and on about it, laying out on the couch and crying to herself while holding a hot or cold compress. 

I've told her so many times, when she laments that I don't know what it is like, that I do know what it is like and that I would prefer hives over the GI reaction any day.  We've been doing this back and forth for two years now, Missy insisting that my tummy pain can't hurt more than her hives, lol. 

Well, as you can imagine, Christmas was full of dairy-- cheese balls and creme pies and egg nog and butter on everything-- and while I cherry picked through the meal, Missy fully indulged.  And she kept it up. A couple days ago she developed a weird tummy ache that had her on the couch all day, it subsided, but then yesterday morning (after a full day of dairy treats) she woke me up in the early morning because she had been dealing with intense cramping and bloating for hours and could not take it anymore. 

I went through the whole, what hurts, where does it hurt, what are you feeling, do you need to throw up.  And the more she described her pain the more familiar it sounded, until I was finishing up her sentences for her and describing the exact pain she was feeling.  That child moaned and cried and kept me up all night while I worried about it being something else, but being almost one hundred percent sure it was because of dairy.  

Even though I told her it would not help, she insisted on taking OTC pain medication and tummy tamers, and I turned out to be right because it did abso nothing for her.  Once the worst of it was over I got my "I told you so moment" when she looked at me and asked if it was always like that for me.  I reminded her that she didn't even have the pleasure of taking up residence in the bathroom.

So it seems that Missy is not as lucky with dairy as she thought and according to our doctor less than 4% of the adult population has or will develop a dairy allergy. Lucky us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Need Ideas for Chinese New Year Themed Party

The twins and I went shopping today for supplies for our Chinese New Year themed party this weekend, but we did not have a lot of success.  We know what we are doing food wise, but I need help with the decorating.  This party is just for the family, but I like to have things looking festive anyway to put us in the mood. 

So we went to the dollar store and the party store to buy some Chinese lanterns, but we didn't find any :/  This past summer I saw tons of lanterns and I kept telling myself I should buy some, but neglected to. 

Luckily, I found this really neat folding paper lantern tutorial here, so the twins and I will be making some of our own tomorrow.  Now I just need to come up with more ideas for decorating. Have any?

When I told the twins that we were going to go with a Chinese New Year theme they were hesitant at first, but only because they thought that this meant that we would not be celebrating the Chinese New Year in Chicago like we do every year.  No worries though, because I love any excuse to take them to the city for some fun!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Look at the Writing on the Wall With Vinyl Decals

I love giving gifts that are personalized and add to the home.  On the last vacation the twins and I took we collected small mementos from the beach and along the way to create a shadowbox with pictures to give to our parents. It was a hit and the girls like looking at it from time to time because of all the memories it holds. 

Recently we painted the girls walls and are in the middle of decorating their rooms, which can get expensive. The girls have expressed the desire to add artwork to the walls, but knowing how finicky about liking things from one month to the next, I have been hesitant. Then I saw the creative ideas to look at the writing on the wall, using vinyl decals that can be added and removed, personalized and added to and I knew this was the perfect option for a couple of teen girls.

The beauty of this idea, is there is very little chance to mess it up, and it looks great.  I am always so timid and worrisome when it comes to doing anything that is going to be permanent because I am sure I am going to mess it up.  

Using vinyl decals is super easy though, and they do not have to be applied directly to the walls, but can be used to create more permanent art that you hang or placed on different pieces of furniture.  There are so many options to choose from and so many different decals to try. 

Deals at Love Letterings, an online store that specializes in creating vinyl decals that are from the heart and is one shop that the girls and I have looked through, include everything from BOGO deals to Free shipping.  I think with the two girls and how flippant they are about preferences, I will go with the BOGO and find two that I think they would love to have on their own walls after Christmas. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

SWAGG-- The Best Gift You Ever Gave!

SWAGG is a free mobile app (download here) that lets you shop smarter using your mobile phone. Buy, send or swap SWAGG GIFTS and organize your old school plastic gift cards.

For every download of the app between now and Dec. 31, 2010, SWAGG will donate $1 to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) , up to $125,000.

Clever Girls Collective and SWAGG are sending a pair of movie fans to the Sundance Film Festival! Download the SWAGG app and then visit the Ultimate SWAGG Getaway Sweepstakes site to enter to win a trip for two to the Sundance Film Festival. Entry deadline is January 3, 2011, 11:59pm, PST.

The Best Gift You Ever Gave?
Anyone else have one of those moments when they realize, or they see a child realize, that the best gifts are not always the most expensive, the flashiest or the coolest?  Sometimes the best gifts you can give are those that are worth more than any amount of money. 

When I first learned that Santa got a little help, I spent a couple years wondering how my parents could stand not getting any of the credit. It makes me laugh when I think back on it, but it's true.  I had very young siblings so I could not say anything either, and it frustrated me, lol. 

Anyway, before I knew the Christmas deal, I made an annual request for a very specific doll. Year after year, it never came, and even when I was already older I kept adding it to my list because I felt that I had already invested so many years hoping for it (mind of a 10 yr old folks) that now I really deserved it.

I guess I should add here that my mom is the world's biggest procrastinator and even though I showed her the catalog many times, she waited till the last minute and then went to the toy store to try and find it. Back then, American Girl was catalog only, so it never happened.

When I was 13/14 I started babysitting, and after adding the Felicity doll to my own Christmas list out of pure stubbornness, I decided that I was going to save up all my money and put one under the tree for myself.  I was only half motivated until I helped my baby sister write a Christmas list of her own.  After reading every AG book to her for months (I'm pretty sure I taught her how to read using them) she scribbled "Samantha doll" on her Christmas list to Santa.

I did as planned and went to the post office, bought a money order, filled out the shipping info and sent off a few months worth of babysitting money (the dolls cost the same now, but back then I only made a couple bucks an hour). A couple days before Christmas the doll finally arrived at the door, and I had to peek before hiding it in my room.

On Christmas morning my sister opened her very own Samantha doll that Santa brought her, and the look on her face was worth it.  Sure I knew giving was better than receiving, but giving without needing any recognition felt even better and it was a lesson that I never forgot, and finally understood.   
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Learn more about the coolest new app that revolutionizes the whole shopping, gifting, and gift card-organizing experience and Download the SWAGG app to your iPhone or Droid. 

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Centrum's Search for America's Most Amazingly Energized Woman

Know any amazingly energized women who deserve some recognition for all they do?  If there are any mothers out there that are anything like mine, then they fit right into this category and you can enter them, or yourself in a contest Centrum is hosting.


What:  Centrum's "America's Most Amazingly Energized Woman" Contest is accepting nominations through January 3, 2011 at LoveFeelingHealthy.com.


Who: Centrum and Molly Shannon are hosting the event, but anyone can enter any woman in their life that they feel is America's Most Amazingly Energized Woman. Think of the women in your life that love the life they lead and loves those around them to the fullest during the holidays and every day of the year.



How: Go to LoveFeelingHealthy.com and nominate someone. Your submission has to be 300 words or less and must be received no later than January 3, 2010. Submissions will be judged by a panel of judges and then the public will vote for the best.  

Prize: The winner of the contest wins

          Grand Prize$3,000 XPERIENCE DAYS Gift Certificate
          Four Runner Ups- $400 EXPERIENCE DAYS Gift Certificate  

Sweepstakes Rules & Regulations Here.
*I am a member of One2One Network and this post is part of a member project where I am eligible to win prizing.  I make no claims about Centrum as a product or it's effectiveness.*

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Brownie With A Little Help From Wilton

The other day I got an awesome brownie decorating kit from Wilton and the twins and I have had a lot of fun using all the different tools.  Included in the kit was the Wilton Brownie Fun book, Bite Size Brownie Square Baking Tray, ZigZag Brownie Wedge Cutter, Mini Combo Cutter, Icing Kit, and other items like cocoa powder for the baking!


Now that we have had the chance to use and experiment with each of the tools a couple times, the twins feel comfortable enough using them on their own.  We found that the bite size tray is our favorite, but it does need to be super sprayed down with cooking spray and they don't necessarily pop out, but you will have to practically invert each square to get brownie out.  This is true for both fudge and cake type recipes. 


We made a Christmas tree and bite size Christmas presents, covered with icing, for a party, and then my brother made another one for a baking contest his scout troop was holding.  I neglected to take a picture of the ones the twins made, so they posed with the one that their brother entered his contest with.  

Can you believe he won first prize with the brownie tree!!  I think he won an apron and some cooking tools, and the twins were super excited and came home talking about selling Christmas trees, lol! 

All in all, we are really enjoying our new toys from Wilton and the girls have been through the brownie book several times and made plans to try some of the ideas in there, as well as some of their own.  

I do need to thank Wilton and A Little Bite of Life for our new toys!

Merry Christmas!
 

GiveBack: Set Up Your Own Charitable Foundation!

Ever thought that there has to be a better way to give, an easier way?  I did too, and then I was introduced to GiveBack, this awesome website that was set up to allow you to create your own foundation.  


Remember Oprah's Big Give?  I loved that show! So I was excited to find out that this whole idea was the result of winner, Stephen Paletta's, own experiences setting up his own foundation. 

From the site:


In 2010, Stephen launched the Give Back Foundation, a 501(c)3 public charity created to help people give back. The Give Back Foundation was established to allow any person to join GiveBack and set up their personal foundation account. The funds that accumulate in that account are part of the Give Back Foundation. Each member has the ability to direct the funds from their account to any charity in good standing with the United States Internal Revenue Service.

So, how does it work? 
Well, to start you head over to GiveBack.org and open an account, no credit card or starting money required, just set up your account in your name, which will serve as your foundation.  You get $5 in your foundation account automatically when you set up your foundation. 

From here you can earn cash back from online purchases, which will go directly into your foundation fund.  Use your credit card to fund your account directly. Or, participate in sponsor funded opps to donate money to your foundation!

Once you have money in your foundation, you can decide who to donate it to, as long as it is one of the charities in good standing with the IRS.  

It's so easy!  And when tax time comes, GiveBack makes it easy on you too.  



It really is a very easy way to start giving yourselves, and seeing as how excited the twins were to just apply for some of the sponsor opps to try and win money to give away, it is a great teaching tool for children. 

Let me know if you set up a foundation of your own, or if you need any help doing so.  Right now Steve Nash and Serena Williams are giving members a chance to earn $1000 for their foundation!

*One2One Networked shared this site with me and no compensation was given for writing this post.  All opinions shared are my own and only formed after trying out the service provided by GiveBack for myself.*

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fun Christmas Videos 2010-- Hanukkah Too!

I love getting to see all the creative and fun Christmas videos that come out every year and after watching this one on the news this morning, I figured I would post it here in case you haven't seen it yet. 

The Belfast Giants are a hockey team in the UK and they put together this funny vid to promote their home teams. Wish the Blackhawks were as fun.




And I am sure everyone has seen the Hanukkah video the Maccabeats put together.



I saw this one and even though there is a huge "band" it seems like they can do it with just the one guy on the floor.
 


Anyone else have any fun Christmas videos that they caught this year?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Best Blueberry & Strawberry Muffin Recipe Around

Breakfast muffins are a favorite of mine, especially blueberry.   Because of the surplus fruit we have in the freezers still, we have been experimenting with breads, muffins and pies over the past few weeks.  Banana, strawberry, apple, pumpkin, raspberry and blueberry muffins and bread have all been made. 

With all the recipe experimenting we found one recipe that worked best-- super fluffy muffins-- and tweaked it just a little to make the best blueberry muffin around, because of a not so secret ingredient.  


To Die For Blueberry Muffins
Recipe from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Our tweeked list includes another 1/2 cup blueberries and 1/2 mashed strawberries and their juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries (and strawberries-- this was one of our tweeks). Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
  3. To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done. 
The additional blueberries ensure that you get berry with every bite-- something we like but felt the initial recipe needed more of.  Also, we liked the sweetness the strawberry muffins we tried had, and was slightly lacking in just blueberry muffins, plus the strawberries and juice made the muffins moist!  
Anyone have a muffin recipe we have to try?  Always looking for new tastes and twists to old faves! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Pearls of Patience



Hello - I'm thrilled to announce the 2nd Annual 12 Pearls of Christmas! We've lined up several authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning today (Monday the 13th) through Christmas day as Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling,  Rachel Hauck, Tricia Goyer, Maureen Lang, and more share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

We are also providing this series as free content for your own blogs (as 12 html posts) - if you'd like to share the 12 Pearls of Christmas with your blog readers email (amy@litfusegroup.com) and she'll send you the content.

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post or any of the following 12 Pearls of Christmas posts (on any of the participating posts) to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS! You may enter once a day. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Pearls of Patience


As I write by the light of my Christmas tree on a late winter’s night, I reflect upon the poignancy and purpose of this season.  The tiny white lights look like strands of pearls draped gracefully (perhaps haphazardly is a more honest description) across the evergreen boughs.  Tomorrow I will hang the ornaments and at last place the angel atop the tree

Angels carry a special meaning this Christmas.  My brother, Randy passed away on December 2nd from a heart attack at age 53.  He was feeding a stray cat on his side porch.  Randy was always like St. Francis of Asissi – animals would find him, sensing a kind soul.  And my brother was a gentle and patient soul.  He loved to fish.  He tried to teach me, but I immediately lost interest when I realized worms were involved. And I could never sit still on the banks of a river and just wait.  However, Randy could do that.  He could wait, and waiting is a true gift.  He put into practice the Scriptures.  “Wait upon the Lord.”  “Be still and know that He is God.”  Patience doesn’t have to be passive.  Wait is still an action verb.  Part of the waiting process for fishing is seeking.  Elaine (Randy’s wife of 31 years) told me that Randy said he could see the fish deep beneath the waters.  He actively waited for the right time to catch them.

During Randy’s last fishing trip on earth – just a week before his death, he felt an urgency to take a picture of the clouds with his cell phone.  When he returned home, he showed the picture to Elaine.  They realized that a face of an angel was looking at Randy from the sky – perhaps waiting for God’s timing to bring Randy home to heaven.  In my heart I like to think that this “angel in the sky” was part of the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds over two thousand years ago.  A Christmas Angel.

The Christmas Angels brought tidings of great joy that Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born.  And because of that incredible gift from God that these angels announced, we all have the promise of eternity. Let us actively wait for His return by sharing our faith, offering hope and acting with love in everything we do.

May each of you be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the purposeful promises of the Season: Faith, hope and love. And may the 12 Pearls of Christmas be a blessing to you, too.
 ~~~

About Margaret: Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. After earning a master's degree in international business from the University of South Carolina, Margaret moved to New York City to work at a large bank where she met David. Charity and community involvement are very important to Margaret. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. 

For more information please visit www.pearlgirls.info. Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts and her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.

~~~


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Did She Know?


Here's a sneak peak post of the 12 Pearls of Christmas series that I'll be hosting at my blog for the next few weeks! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.  

AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

~~~

Did She Know?

Mary, did you know . . . that your baby boy is Heaven’s perfect Lamb?  And the sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM

I am in the middle of a revival of my used-to-be-annual project of a Christmas card sketch.  For several years, with a few years missed, I have done a sketch of some image of Mary the Mother of Jesus, something that came to my mind without complete awareness of why that particular picture was needing to be put to paper.  It was originally a simple pencil sketch that, once completed, I would have printed out into a set of cards that would go out to all my friends and family.  

Along with the sketch, however, I have always had a verse that came to mind to signify the meaning of the drawing in my mind.  And so I have had images such as “Be it unto me according to your word,” as well as a more enigmatic one that went with “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me . . .”  But each one was important for that year of my life.  And so I would spend the necessary costs in order to produce and mail in relatively large scales, for my general penny-pinching tendencies.

This year I did not expect to produce a card.  The fact of my life lately as a boarding school librarian/teacher in Zambia, Africa, has made such projects feel rather far-removed from the realm of possibility. And yet, I have had an image in my head for several months now.  I started to put it to paper, and I abandoned it for a bit, figuring it was a bit frivolous with all the practical work I had to do.  But then I picked it up again, and it is now nearing the stage of completion, hopefully to be completed with printing and mailing once I arrive in the U.S. for a holiday visit with family.

What I realized is that, frivolous though it may seem, it is actually quite important.  For women [especially Western women of faith], the holidays carry with them great amounts of expectation and stresses.  So much so that we often get swallowed up with the hectic pace and forget to soak in the meaning.  

What is important for each of us, I believe, is to “pick and choose.”  We must resist the pressure to do what doesn’t bring meaning for us.  And we must cling to those traditions and activities that promote an aura of true, Christ-centered celebration for ourselves and for our loved ones.

So this year, Lord willing, I will be sending out my cards—and enjoying every bit of it; and in case you wondered, Mary did you know . . .?  will be the theme

 ~~~

 
About Anna:  Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers.  Since her family’s move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling
throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . .
France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. 

Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and card-production.  You can find her online at http://annajouj.wordpress.com

~~~


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. One entry per person, per day. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

USL's Pick of the Best Lip Balms

I use lip balm year round, but in the winter I go through tubes like there is no tomorrow.  I find that it is better to use liberally when my lips are looking good in order to keep them from becoming chapped and dried out.  Still, chapped lips do happen, and when they do, there are a couple brands of lip balm that I depend on to bring my lips back to life.  

Here are my picks for the best lip balms!

Number 5: eos Organic Lip Balm

eos Organic Lip Balm Multipack - 4 Flavors
Love, love, love the packaging for the eos brand of lip balm-- and the fact that they are organic.  However, my first sphere buy was the Sweet Mint (light mint colored sphere in the picture) and I thought the mint scent was too strong and the tingling sensation even stronger.  

I gave the brand another try when the fruity scents came out and loved them enough to go back and try some of the earlier scents too-- lemon drop and honeydew.  But, while they are fun to have, and give, the cool packaging that attracted me does not make them practical to carry around. 

Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, $4

Number 4: Carmex Moisture Plus

Prior to last month, I had never owned nor tried Carmex, though I was familiar with the yellow tubes and jars.  Vitamin E and Aloe are my go to moisturizers, so when I saw both on the list of ingredients for this new tube, I had to try it.  Of the three new tubes, I prefer the sheer pink tint because it gives me just the slightest hint of color without making it look like I put something on.  

For every day its great, the Aloe and Vit E do work to keep lips soft.  Added bonus is that the tubes of balm are SPF 15! Smell is a big factor for me, as you will see, and while the chemical smell was not as strong with the Moisture Plus tubes, it was still there.

You can buy Carmex Moisture Plus at Walgreens or on Amazon, $3.00

Number 3:  Burt's Bees Pomegranate Lip Balm 

Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil 
I have been using Burt's Bees products for a long time, almost for as long as I have been alive (about 20 years) and when hardly anyone carried them, so obviously I am a huge fan.  Of all the tubes of Burt's Bees lip balms I have tried, the Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil does the best job of keeping my lips healthy.  It looks great too, because it has a subtle red tint.

So why third?  Well, its the scent again.  Kinda smells medicated, like Vapo Rub for your slips-- only an entirely different scent than Vapo Rub, but you get what I'm saying. That said, I still keep tubes tucked around and apply liberally.  
You can buy Burt's Bees just about anywhere or Amazon, $3.


Number 2: Nivea A Kiss Of Flavor in Passion Fruit 

Nivea's Kiss of Flavor in Passion Fruit is my favorite brand and scent of lip balm to wear.  If it were edible, I would eat it!  I actually fell in love with Nivea lip balms when I was living in Madrid and I mourned the end of the tubes I brought home with me, until I found these on the shelf a couple years later.  I've tried all of the scents Nivea carries and nothing compares to the Passion Fruit.

Jojoba and Castor seed oil keep lips moisturized and there is a nice punch of color with a smooth fruit scent that make this lip balm fun to wear.  My only gripe, no sun protection, so I double balm when I go outside because this is too good to pass on entirely. 

You can buy Nivea Kiss of Flavor at Walgreens, CVS or on Amazon, $4.00.


Number 1: Avon Basics Care Deeply with Aloe Lip Balm


This little tube from Avon is my number one, all you really need, fixes even the worst lips in the world, lip balm.  I swear by this stuff and buy it in bulk.  No matter how much you lather it on, your lips will soak it right up. Bonus: no scent!

I have been on a boat in the middle of the ocean for weeks and returned with cracked, burned and seriously chapped lips (not the best time to forget a tube), been out in the freezing cold and ended up with seriously wind burned lips and NOTHING healed my lips like Avon's Care Deeply with Aloe Lip Balm. 

Not just that, but after seeing how well it worked on my lips, and being out of Aloe and Vit E once, I used it on my skin.  It's like a little miracle stick. 

You can buy Avon's Lip Balm with Aloe on Avon.com or directly from a rep. online!  My friend Michelle has an online store, here, and has a shopping special-- Free Shipping with online orders over $30. 

Do you have a favorite that you think I should try?  Want to try one of my favorites listed here?  Leave me a comment and I will randomly draw (on 10/15) someone to receive one of my favorites!  *Leave an email so that I can contact you. I hate having to redraw because the winner leaves me no way to contact them*

Friday, December 10, 2010

Modnique Weekend Blowout Sale!

Just in time for Christmas is Modnique's Weekend Blowout Sale, full of gorgeous jewelry and accessories, as well as apparel.  The sale starts in less than fourteen hours and I am expecting some really great deals because Modnique boutique prices are normally 40-75% off. 

If you can't wait till tomorrow to start shopping, there is already a great jewelry sale going on, for gold pieces.  Some of the gemstone necklaces, earrings and bracelets are as much as 87% off!

Here's a little peek at what is on sale now, but if you want something it is only open for another two days and most of the time they just have the one piece so grab it ASAP!







Modnique is an invitation only shopping site, so if you do not already have an account you can use this invite!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Special NBC Community Stop-Motion Animation Episode Tonight

Fan of NBC's Community?  Stop-Animation? Christmas?  Well, if you are a fan of all or any three, you are in for a huge treat tonight!

I just had the chance to preview the special Holiday episode and loved it. It totally reminded me of all my favorite Christmas claymation movies that I used to watch when I was little.  The best part, it was super funny and did not stray at all from the Community storyline.  

Community's Holiday episode airs tonight,  Dec. 9 at 8p EST/7p CST. From NBC's website:
"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (TV-PG)
The meaning of Christmas is lost and Abed's intense fixation on the holiday concerns the group in this special stop-motion animation episode. 



Not familiar with Community?

Community stars Joel McHale (The Soup), Alison Brie (Mad Men), John Oliver (The Daily Show), Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Donald Glover (30 Rock), Ken Jeong (The Hangover) and Chevy Chase.  Joel McHale's character, Jeff, was a successful lawyer who returns to school when it is discovered he is practicing without any legit degree. Jeff leads a group of community college misfits through hilarious lessons in life.

Can't wait!  Will you be watching?

My Disclosure: I did not receive any financial compensation for this post.  All opinions are my own.  I was given a sneak peek viewing opportunity from One2One Network and the chance to win a gift card.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Upcoming CSN Stores Review!

If you still have Christmas shopping to do, CSN is the perfect place to get that done without ever having to leave home.  A one stop shop where you really can find just about anything you need for home and family.  Everything from laptop bags to tv tables to waffle makers.   

CSN Stores is giving me the chance to review one of their products and their service!  With over 200+ online stores, CSN is easily the Happiest Place on the Internet. 

Here are just some of the items I am considering for a review.  

Nuance Wine Cooler

Omni Mount TV Tables

Elements Shower Head


I think the hardest part is deciding what I want when there are so many options.  It's hard work, yes, but somebody has to do it.  Stay tuned to see how my CSN shopping experience goes and a product review!

Sponsored Post: Cheap Ca​r Insura​nce Sacr​amento​

Good car insurance is hard to find, especially car insurance that you can afford and still offers you the best coverage possible.  Living in Sacramento and looking for car insurance?

I checked out Cheap-AutoInsurance.com today and was impressed with the sites ability to help users find cheap car insurance Sacramento

Zip code generated results list the cheapest and most comprehensive coverage from both nationwide and local insurance companies.  I like that prices are not just given, but useful comparisons that take into account everything from price, customer satisfaction, agent ratings, required coverage and deductibles.  

More than just a place to find quotes, Cheap-AutoInsurance.com offers a lot of car insurance tips, safe driving information and California law info.  Common sense information for saving money on auto coverage before you even begin looking for an agent, or buy the car is given.  Then there are the insider tips to help you shave dollars off your quote or questions to ask your agent that might garner discounts.   

An entire section is dedicated to California's low cost auto insurance program and how it can help you safe money on insurance so that you can legally drive.  It also specifies who is qualified and how to find out more about the program.  

In all honesty, this is really about convenience.  Anyone who has had to shop for insurance knows how long it takes to cold call agents to get quotes, and then to go over all the intricacies of everything a contract can possibly cover.  All of this can be done in just a few minutes on one site, with one click, and the information that is presented will give you a good idea of where you want to go from there.  

*This was a sponsored post that I was provided monetary compensation to write and share with my readers.  All opinions included are my own and were not swayed in any way by the sponsor.* 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best Gift Card Deals This Christmas

I am not a big gift card giver during the Holidays, because I always see something or know of something that my friends and family would love.  However, with all the really great gift card deals that companies have around this time, I have no problem buying a few to take advantage of the perks.  

Most of the gift cards I buy, I spend on Christmas gifts, or to buy gifts later because I usually only grab those deals at places that I personally shop already. 


Borders


Head over to Borders.com and spend $50, either 2 $25 GCs or 1 $50 GC, in gift card purchases online and receive a $10 Borders Bonus Coupon that can be used in stores.  This coupon does come with a time constraint on it though, so only use this deal if you will use the coupon before it expires. 

DSW
I don't need any bribes to buy shoes, but when they are there you can bet I will be there to take advantage of them! Like the Borders deal though, you need to use the reward by a certain date which might be an issue for some, but a convenient excuse to go shoe shopping again for the rest of us!  At DSW, spend $50 on a GC and get a $10 bonus GC.

Steak 'N Shake
Buy $20 in gift cards and get a $5 bonus GC! This is a great Christmas stocking stuffer deal for teens, or a great way to save some dough for a fun dinner out with the kids. 

Kohl's
Between now and Christmas Kohl's has several shopping weekends where you can get a $5 GC to use when you spend $50 in purchases.  Multiple GCs can be earned for every fifty dollars you spend so shopping for Christmas Pjs, outfits and shoes for yourself or the family can earn you some money back!
CVS
For every $25 in GCs you buy at CVS you get a $5 printout redeemable at CVS! There is always something you can get at the drugstore, so you might as well grab a few cards to purchase items with in the future and snag some extra cash to help the budget.  

These are just a few of the gift card deals that are available right now for Christmas, so keep your eyes open.  I have or will be taking advantage of all of these this Holiday and because of the deal there is no shopping guilt attached :)
FJT8U2W4JA8K

Friday, December 3, 2010

Norah Jones, Featuring Review

I finally got the chance to check out Norah Jones' new album, Featuring, and I really liked what I heard.  Personally, I love collaborations, but I do not like them when artists feel they have to do them to keep up with everyone else or to save their albums.  

I did not get that feeling with this album at all, even though it was entirely made up of collabs, instead I saw it for the brilliant musical collaboration that it is.  Everyone that loves something, harbors dream projects and ideas that they would love to be able to put together.  And that is exactly what Norah Jones went out and did, and I envy her-- but loved that she was able to pull it off and create the album!

The tracks on the album are:
1. Love Me – The Little Willies 
2. Virginia Moon – The Foo Fighters featuring Norah Jones
3. Turn Them – Sean Bones featuring Norah Jones
4. Baby It's Cold Outside – Willie Nelson featuring Norah Jones
5. Bull Rider – Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson
6. Ruler Of My Heart – Dirty Dozen Brass Band featuring Norah Jones
7. The Best Part – El Madmo 
8. Take Off Your Cool – OutKast featuring Norah Jones
9. Life Is Better – Q-Tip featuring Norah Jones 
10. Soon The New Day – Talib Kweli featuring Norah Jones
11. Little Lou, Prophet Jack, Ugly John – Belle & Sebastian featuring Norah Jones
12. Here We Go Again – Ray Charles featuring Norah Jones
13. Loretta – Norah Jones featuring Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
14. Dear John – Ryan Adams featuring Norah Jones
15. Creepin' In – Norah Jones featuring Dolly Parton
16. Court & Spark – Herbie Hancock featuring Norah Jones
17. More Than This – Charlie Hunter featuring Norah Jones
18. Blue Bayou – Norah Jones featuring M. Ward


Right now you can even hear the songs featured on the album by clicking on the collaborations listed on the widget below! 


Visit NorahJones.com for news, tour info and new music.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Dresses Under $59 on Swirl

Anyone looking for a hot little number this holiday season can afford to buy a handful over on Swirl.  Right now the Dress It Up Sale has dresses listed from Maloom, MLH and Wilster, all for under $59-- that's over 50% on most!

But hurry because they are selling out fast!





Also on Swirl today from Dogeared


If you are not already a member of Swirl and need an invite to join, you can do so here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

USL's Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop!



Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop

I have been waiting for this Holiday Gift Hop to begin for months now!  Every blog that is participating is giving away gift cards or certificates, and there are thousands of dollars to be won here people.  


Here on Unus Sed Leona you can win:


One of six Gift Certificates to Silver Jewelry Club (Int)

Each gift certificate can be redeemed for one piece of jewelry, shipping included.

and
One of three Amazon GCs worth $50, $25, & $10 (US & Can)!



To Enter:
I have created a Google form to make it easier to enter-- cuts down on the page load time without hundreds of comments.  Please complete your mandatory and any extra entries before filling out the form.

Mandatory Entry:
Follow Unus Sed Leona on Google using Google Friend Connect.  Click the follow button in the widget on my sidebar, directly under my About Me.  You must leave a name and valid email so I can contact you.  That's it!

Extra Entries:
If you want the chance to put in some extra entries the following entries are open to you!

Head over to Silver Jewelry Club & let me know what piece of jewelry you would buy.
Friend Me or Like USL on Facebook (1 Entry Each)
Follow Chitownchica on Twitter 
Sign Up for My Newsletter
Have fun hopping!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old Orchard Cranberry Naturals Review and Giveaway

In my family, both my immediate and extended, healthy kidneys are gold.  So, we drink a lot of cranberry juice around here.  

Last week, Old Orchard sent me their new line of Cranberry Naturals to try out and review, both Cranberry Raspberry and Classic Cranberry.  
Before I even got the bottles out of the box, everyone was trying to stake their claim on the one they wanted, lol.  Now, in all honesty, I am not a big juice drinker and I have a set of the healthy kidneys, but I do prefer cranberry juice to other juices and since it is always around I do drink it a lot. 

I handed the Classic Cranberry over to the "we drink cranberry juice for our health" side of the fam, and kept the Cranberry Raspberry for the "we drink it because we like it" side of the fam. 

Because of higher than average cranberry consumption, my family is very familiar with Old Orchard, and prefer its juice over other brands.  But, their new Naturals line has some interesting stuff I want to mention.  

From the Old Orchard site:

All-natural, reduced-calorie cranberry juice cocktails, sweetened with a blend of sugar and Truvia™ - No HFCS. No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Naturally sweet!

The No High Fructose Corn Syrup bit is something I love about Old Orchard because it is hard to find brands and products that you still like, but help you keep that out of your system.  

In addition to the two flavors we tried, there is also:

Cranberry Apple
Cranberry Blueberry
Cranberry Grape
Cranberry Pomegranate
Classic Cranberry
Cranberry Raspberry

So how did we like it?

Everyone loved the taste, of both!  Even though there is Truvia in the juice, I could not taste the difference at all-- and I always notice those subtle differences.  

What surprised me was that I actually preferred the Classic Cranberry over the Cranberry Raspberry.  Remember what I said about not being a big juice drinker?  Well that is because I do not like how sweet most juices are.  I usually water everything down by half and then drink it.  

The Cranberry Raspberry was not super sweet, but the berry flavor was definitely there and I needed to water it down slightly.  The classic was fine straight and I will most likely continue to buy this flavor over the others in the future-- though the pomegranate variety has me interested. 

And now for a giveaway!

As part of my Cranberry Naturals package, Old Orchard sent me a couple coupons for 64 ounce bottles of any flavor Cranberry Naturals juice.  One of my readers will win both coupons! 

To Enter:
First, if you are not already a follower of Unus Sed Leona, please follow using Google Friend Connect on the sidebar. This step is required.  Then leave me a comment letting me know you want to win along with an email address, so I can contact the winner. 

Some Extra Entries:
Friend or Like my blog on Facebook (1 entry for either)
Follow me on Twitter

This contest runs till 12/5/10. Once the winner is drawn and notified you have 48 hours to contact me with an address.  I will be sending the free coupons to the winner, not Old Orchard.  

*This product was provided to me free for review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions are my own.*