Category Archives: Products I Love

Discover Your Inner Child With Coloring Books

Discover Your Inner Child

My husband paused on his way to the refrigerator when he saw me sitting on the stool hunched over a book with a look of concentration on my face.

The mere fact that I was engrossed in a book would not have sparked his curiosity, because I am always with a book. In the kitchen while I’m cooking, by the bathroom sink when I’m blow drying my hair, in the car for when I get stuck in traffic. God forbid I shouldn’t have something to read.

But this time the book was oversized and flat with a lot of white space and I was drawing in it.

“A … coloring book?” he asked.

“Sshh, I’m almost done,” I murmured without looking up, magenta colored pencil in midair. My husband fell silent.

He watched. I colored. The only sound was the soft scritch scratching of the pencil as I oh-so-carefully filled in the design.  Then I held the book aloft so I could scrutinize my work from all angles.

“What exactly do you do with it when you’re done?” my husband asked.

I thought for a second. “You start another one,” I said.

Adult coloring books have been A Thing, you probably know, for a couple of years, and their popularity continues to grow. There have been articles written about them in The New York Times, CNN, The New Yorker, and more.

Ten Speed Press offered me a copy of The Time Garden: A Magical Journey and Coloring Book by Korean artist Daria Song and I was eager to try it out. The book tells the story of a young girl transported into a fantasy world within an ancient cuckoo clock and her journey back home. The designs are intricate, whimsical, and simply charming. It took me hours to complete just one page because of all the detail. Here are two samples. See what I mean?

Adults have embraced coloring books as a way to relax, to de-stress and unwind. And I get it now. When I color, focused only on the tiny spaces my pencils will fill, my mind is freed and calm. A break from the incessant over stimulation of social media, a coloring session is meditative and restorative, much like yoga is for the body.

The demand for adult coloring books has occasionally exceeded supply. I know this because my local bookstore completely ran out and is restocking for the holiday season, which I am glad about, because these make terrific gifts. I just bought one for my best friend.

I may be late to the adult coloring book game, but I’m addicted now. Would you like to see my work? You would? Really? Well, OK, if you insist.

Here is one I completed.

Discover Your Inner Child With Coloring Books

And here is another still in progress.

Discover Your Inner Child with Coloring Books

Don’t look too closely. I still can’t stay completely inside the lines. But I know that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is the color of green to choose next. Should it be chartreuse, spring green or olive?

The nice folks at Ten Speed Press are letting me give away a copy of The Time Garden to one of my readers. Leave a comment and I will choose a winner randomly. US addresses only, please.

I received a copy of The Time Garden from Ten Speed Press for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

During a visit to my childhood home last weekend, my mother, daughter and I rummaged through my old bedroom closet looking for potential hand-me-downs, and discovered a mysterious cedar box with a clasp on it.

I looked quizzically at my mother. “I forgot about this,” she said softly, lifting the lid.

Our eyes opened wide at the veritable treasure that lay before us: decades-old cookbooks and index cards with family recipes. Newspaper clippings of weddings and funerals. Birthday and anniversary cards. Dozens of Hints from Heloise columns yellowed with age. And cards sent by my grandfather to my grandmother, written in his perfect penmanship, the words of love so sweet and tender.

With delight, we sat down on the floor and read them aloud. Three generations of sentimental women fell silent as we imagined this young couple besotted with one another, almost a century ago.

“They were so in love,” I murmured.

My mother nodded, her eyes glistening.

My 20-something daughter sighed. “Letter writing is a lost art,” she said.

She is so right.

But lucky for all of us romantics — including my grandfather — Hallmark cards have been around since 1910, helping us express often indescribable feelings to the ones we love.

Hallmark cards are woven into my family history.

We are all senders, and we love to receive them. Want to know how much?

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI have saved them all. This is just a smattering.

When the occasion calls for it, I know that a Hallmark card will help me say it better, conveying just the right emotions to the people I love.

To inspire us with the art of love letter writing, Hallmark has created a special #PutYourHearttoPaper campaign on its website.Take a look at the site and I dare you to come away dry-eyed after watching several couples express their love and appreciation for each other.

Hallmark sent me a sample of its new line of Valentine’s Day cards. The designs are just gorgeous.

Hallmark Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI love Hallmark cards, which give me the words that are in my heart but sometimes hard to articulate. And when it comes to love, Hallmark has its finger on the pulse. Did you know Hallmark was the first company to recognize Valentine’s Day?

Thank you, Hallmark, for spreading the love and allowing me to do the same. I will give one lucky reader the same Valentine’s Day pack that I received. Just leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly in enough time to mail these cards to your loved ones.

I have several shoe boxes filled with cards I have received over the years, stacked in a closet in my room. I don’t look at them very often, but on days when I am feeling nostalgic, I make myself a cup of tea and take a peek. It is almost like looking at old photos.

Maybe someday my children and grandchildren will find these boxes of memories and sit on the floor entranced, reading words of love from long ago.

This is a sponsored post. I received greeting cards from Hallmark in exchange for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I do.

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When We Became Three

I love, love, love buying baby gifts. Love!

But sometimes I just can’t find the right gift. Oh, there’s always a little outfit or an age-appropriate toy, but everyone gives those. I try to put some thought into buying a gift that will be special and unique. Just like the bouncing new baby boy or girl.

When We Became Three

Also, something that will last. Those 3 month-size outfits last what, about a week or two? And a toy? They outgrow them fast, too.

So lucky for me, and lucky for you, I have discovered the perfect baby gift. A baby book unlike any baby book you have seen, I bet.

When We Became Three

When We Became Three: A Memory Book for the Modern Family,” written by author Jill Caryl Weiner,  was so much fun for me to page through. First of all,  you can just tell how adorable it is from this cover. Right?

When We Became Three

It’s equally adorable inside.

The baby books we had were not like this.

Here’s what I remember about the baby books I had for my kids: nothing. Why?  They were boring (the books, not my kids). I lost interest. To look at our three unfinished books now you might wonder if we ended up giving the kids back. And by the way, do I even know where these books are at this point? Maybe in a box in the attic?

If we had had “When We Became Three” to record the milestones of these precious years we would know exactly where our copies were, because we would have them close by. Like on our book shelf, because we would want to look at them whenever we felt like reminiscing about life with our babies, which is frequently.  I almost wish (almost) we could go back in time and experience new parenthood again, just to be able to chronicle every movement (bowel or otherwise) in this charming book.

Also, I think our kids would get a kick out of the quirky, embarrassing or amusing details of their babyhood that we have forgotten over time. And what came before.

Before new parenthood, there was pregnancy.

And even pre-pregnancy. The book starts out with “How We Became Two” for Mommy and Daddy to record how they met and fell in love. Here’s an example.

When We Became ThreeAnd this.

When We Became ThreeAnd then, on baby’s birthday …

When We Became ThreeSooo cute!

It’s so much more than just height and weight.

There are checklists and free space and prompts that will allow you to be creative. This makes filling in the blanks truly enjoyable. Don’t I wish I had recorded some of the firsts — first bath, first baby sounds, the first foods each baby liked — that we could have preserved in this book to cherish forever? Because no matter how convinced you are that you will remember all of it? You won’t.

Here’s a section that made me laugh.

HABITS WE PICKED UP

  • We started calling each other Mommy and Daddy instead of by our names.
  • Mommy started cutting up Daddy’s food in little pieces.
  • Your things began outnumbering our things and took over every room.
  • We can’t go out with friends without talking about you.

Weiner, a journalist whose articles on parenthood have been published in New York Magazine and The New York Times, among others, is a mom herself. A mom with a great sense of humor which, as all moms and dads know, is the only way to survive parenthood. In “When We Became Three” she successfully identifies the many moments that need to be preserved for posterity. Trust me, new parents, you will be very glad she did.

This book will be a keepsake that will only increase in sentimental value as the babies grow and become adults. I can tell you that happens in a blink of any eye.

I can’t think of a better way to hold on to those tender memories.

I’m not a grandmother yet. But I hope I will be someday. And I know the first gift I’ll be buying, very happily, for the parents-to-be.

 

I received a complimentary copy of “When We Became Three” for an honest review.
Opinions are mine only.

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Best Photo Apps for the Photo-Challenged

I have always been an admirer of awesome photos. But when it came to actually shooting them myself, I would freeze. Cameras intimidated me. Even digital photography seemed beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t see through that little peephole. I couldn’t hold the camera steady.

I left the photo taking to others.

But then there came photo apps.

With the ubiquitous camera feature on smartphones, everyone can be a photographer. Photos are easier to take, and with the availability of cool photo apps on my iPhone, even I can make ho-hum photos spring to life.

Want to impress your friends and family? Try out one or more of these apps on your photos. Most of them are free.

Camera+

I use Camera+ instead of Camera as my default. Why? I can preview my photos and do a little editing if desired, then save them to my camera roll. Or I can keep them in Camera+ purgatory until I decide their fate later. Often the “clarity” option will do a quick and easy edit that serves my purpose, especially if I am in a rush.

Snapseed

This is my go-to app for the next round of editing. Beyond the basic editing features, there are effects such as grunge, HDR and drama that makes the photo look more nuanced and unique.

Over

When I think some text or funky artwork would add a cool dimension to my photos, this is the app I use. Over gives you many fonts and art for free, but there are also deluxe versions that you can purchase for a nominal fee.

photo apps for the phot-challengedphoto apps for the photo-challenged

Tangent

Although not appropriate for every photo, the effects on this app produce stunningly artistic designs. Tangent also features patterns and shapes that can be used as one or more overlays on your photos. You can truly flex your artistic muscles with this one.

garden enhanced

Lenslight

With optical effects such as stars and rays of light in all colors of the spectrum, this app can put a finishing touch on a photo that gives it just the right pizazz. I love using the bokeh effect – an aesthetic blur – that can be very captivating.

Photofunia

How would your photo would look like framed on the wall of the Louvre? On the cover of Esquire? Or on a billboard in Times Square? Just upload it into one of the templates, and bam!

That's actually my son in the painting.

That’s actually my son in the painting.

Photosketch

Want to use a pencil-drawn version of your photo? This app will transform it with one easy click. It also can do a reverse color effect which can be quite impressive-looking.

Aviary

Along with the basic editing tools, this app includes stickers, like hats and mustaches, that can be slapped on a photo for a whole new look. My favorite feature is “splash” that allows you to drop in a burst of color on a black and white photo.

photo apps for the photo challenged

Cinemagram

Similar to Vine, this app will create an animated meme out of a 2-3 second video that you upload. You see these all the time on Google+.

 Instashapes

Crop your photos into a variety of shapes with this app. I like the effect of a photo peeking out from behind a cutout.

Pixlar Express

This app really has it all, and then some. The basic and advanced editing tools, yes, but so much more. Overlays, effects, borders. Amazing.

photo apps for the photo-challenged

Collect

Not an editing app per se, but a scrapbooking tool that lets you organize photos. For example, I curated my photo-a-day submissions into a monthly calendar.

Whether it’s for personal enjoyment or business applications, these photo apps can take your photos from awful to awesome.

Do you have any photo apps to recommend?

 

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I Mostly Hate Glasses

glasses

I hold Dorothy Parker at least partially responsible for my issues with glasses.

You remember Ms. Parker, right? Writer, critic, a fixture of the 1920s literary society and member of the famed Algonquin Round Table. A woman ahead of her time: bawdy and brilliant, caustic and charismatic, the life of the party. I always thought she was the cat’s meow. The bee’s knees.

She was quoted frequently for her witticisms, like these:

“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

But then there was this.

“Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.”

Well. When I got wind of this bon mot as an adolescent, I was not amused. It only cemented the insecurity I already felt about my looks. For in addition to everything else I perceived as a flaw, I had poor vision.

And when you were an adolescent girl in the 60s, at least if you were me, you obsessed about your looks and pretty much hated them and wondered if a man (someday) would want to make a pass at you.

I took this bon mot to heart.

My first pair of glasses–a shade of bubble gum pink with pointy tips—appeared in my life when I was about 11. They practically screamed doofus.

As my vision grew worse, the lenses got thicker and the frames uglier, and I was so unhappy with the way I looked that I tossed the glasses in my purse and endured the pitfalls and yes, pratfalls, of  life in a blurry world.

I admit it. I was vain.

That was then. Now? Although I still don’t love glasses, I have to admit they have attained extreme coolness.

With famous actresses sporting them with panache—with evening dresses! On the red carpet!—glasses, and the women who wear them, are fashionable, trendy and attractive.

Now that I am a woman in midlife, I need a little help with my close range vision, even while wearing contacts. Readers, they’re called, those cute little inexpensive glasses that perch right on your nose and make reading a whole lot clearer. They’re fun and cool. The ones I’m wearing in these photos are from www.readers.com and I love wearing them. When?

With these fun frames, my relationship with glasses has improved tremendously. I think I look kind of adorable in them. My husband thinks so, too.

So there, Dorothy Parker.

Disclosure: I received three pairs of glasses plus compensation from www.readers.com. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Whoops in the Woods: Let’s Talk Bums

Disclosure: I am writing for and being compensated by Cottonelle for this blog post.

I’ve had great fun being a brand ambassador for Cottonelle’s Let’s Talk Bums campaign. Not only have I helped to spread the word about a worthy product, but my bathroom humor has reached a new high, or low, depending on how you look at such things.

cottonelle clean routine lets talk bunsAs my ambassadorship comes to an end, I want to share a story that until now has been kept under wraps, and for good reason. A story that, I swear on a stack of Cottonelle Toilet Tissue Rolls, is 100% true.

When I was a kid I spent several summers at an overnight camp in the Catskills. Camp High Point was where I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, memorize Color War songs and gulp glasses of bug juice.

My favorite part of camp, though, was horseback riding. Putting on my riding gear and running downhorses the big hill to the stables filled me with joy. Sometimes I would have a lesson in the corral; other times I went on group trail rides through the leafy foothills.

One day I learned that I was one of several campers who had qualified for an overnight ride. That meant that we would saddle up mid-afternoon, head out on the trails and set up camp when we reached our destination a few miles away. For a wrangler wannabe like me, this was a dream come true.

graham cracker smores In a single line we walked our horses along a quiet country road, their hooves clop clopping and tails swishing, and came to a rocky path on the right that led us up the mountain to a clearing where we set up camp. The counselors cooked burgers over a fire and later we roasted marshmallows and sang camp songs under a sliver of moonlight.

When it was time to roll out our sleeping bags for the night, I looked around, hoping to see, like an oasis in a desert, a public restroom. In this wilderness? Not a chance. Into the woods I would go, flashlight in hand.

I left the cozy warmth of the dying embers, stepping gingerly over fallen tree branches to a spot I deemed bathroom-worthy. I kicked off my boots and stripped down to get ‘er done.

The weak beam of light from my flashlight flickered once or twice and then extinguished, as did any hope of making this task quick and easy. Darkness enveloped me with cold arms. I heard the hoot of an owl and shivered.

Done. Jeans are back on. Boots are … where did I toss my boots? I felt helpless as I blindly patted the ground around me.

Ah, there they are. I put one on and reached for the second one. As my foot slipped in, I encountered a soft resistance, a mushiness, and then … I gasped in horror.

I did. It was.

Mortified, holding the reeking boot at arm’s length, I stumbled back to the campsite where my distress was greeted first with disbelief and then whoops of laughter. My face was aflame with embarrassment as everyone howled.

This dreadful deed ultimately earned me an invitation to the camp’s exclusive and coveted Nut Club, whose members had also committed equally embarrassing experiences and probably could tell their stories all these years later, too.

If Cottonelle’s  Flushable Wipes had been around back then, this story might have had a happier ending.

And now that I’ve bared all, take a look at Cherry Healey’s video about cleaning your bumpers. And don’t forget to join us on Facebook and on Twitter with #LetsTalkBums.

http://youtu.be/5QOTyLsBypI

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The Poop on the New Fall TV Season

Disclosure: I am writing for and being compensated by Cottonelle for this blog post.

Ah, the delightful feeling of a spanking clean bum.

That’s what I have learned as a brand ambassador for Cottonelle’s #LetsTalkBums campaign. Using Cottonelle Toilet Paper followed by Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths gives your tushie a one-two punch of freshness that fills you with serenity. Your very own zen in the bathroom. You should try it.

poop about the new fall TV season

Call me Madam Ambassador.

I take my role as a Cottonelle brand ambassador very seriously. Cottonelle has been on my mind as well as my tush. But in between thoughts of Cottonelle I’ve also been focused on the new fall TV season which debuts this week. As my thoughts migrated from Cottonelle to TV and back, it all started to get a bit jumbled up. Which got me thinking. What if I could tweak these TV show titles juuusst a tad to come up with something a little more edgy, now that my sense of humor is in the toilet?

So. Consider these.

America’s Got No Talent. Contenders vie to produce the most impressive bathroom sounds in front of a live audience. Co-starring: Mel BM

American (M)Idol. Contestants test their skill as they sing and experience stomach cramps simultaneously. Who will get through the song, and who will make a mad dash for the bathroom and face certain elimination? Guest star: Loo Ann Rimes

The Apprent-ass. Real estate magnate and hair-challenged businessman Donald (T)Rump  shows contenders how to be an ass in the boardroom.

Breaking Wind. In a stomach-churning episode, Heisenberg and Pinkman cook up something revolting. Better call Saul or make sure that diner booth is near a bathroom.

Downton Crappy. Something smells foul in the servants’ quarters. Mrs. Hughes is displeased. Carson raises his eyebrows. Daisy giggles.

Game of Porcelain Thrones. Incest. Betrayals. Beheadings.  The confusing saga of the Stark clan may best be pondered while sitting on the can.

Grey’s Lower Anatomy. Is it a flu bug, or irritable bowel? The GI docs at Grey Sloane Memorial discuss a bout of diarrhea to the strains of an indie rock song. Guest star: Norbert Leo Butz

English: Watching a comedic television show he...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keeping up with the Krapdashians. Kim, Kourtney and Khloe lock Kris in the bathroom to keep her out of their business. While doing her business, Kris muses over her abbreviated career as a talk show host.

Mad Menopause. The middle-aged secretaries of Sterling Cooper & Partners gather in the restroom to complain about hot flashes and insomnia. Guest star: Potty Duke

Poops and Recreation. Leslie persuades City Council to install pet-o-potties for Pawnee’s first Four Footed Friends Festival. Guest star: Estool Parsons  

Can you think of any I missed?

The fine folks at Cottonelle provided this awesome video. Follow Cherry Healey as she crosses the pond and surprises airport travelers with Cottonelle wipes. BOOM!

Join us in the conversation over at Facebook or on Twitter at #LetsTalkBums.

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Flush Those Cares Away: I’m Talking About Bums

This is a sponsored post written by me for Cottonelle.

I’m all about potty talk today.

OK, I’ll come clean. My mission is to come to the defense of the lowly, sometimes scorned, often unappreciated, rarely funny fanny.

Bums get no respect. Think about the pejorative references to our behinds, such as being the butt of a joke, or butt ugly. Or this.

donkey face

Personally, I don’t give my bum much more than a how-de-do on a typical day.

But as a newly appointed brand ambassador for Cottonelle, I realize my posterior deserves a little more panache, and so does yours. Who wouldn’t want to feel better about their bottoms? Shall we all try a little tenderness with our tushies?

With the Cottonelle Clean Routine, it is easy to pamper your derriere with just one additional step in your normal routine. Use Cottonelle Toilet Paper as usual, followed with a gentle swipe of a moist Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloth, and you will feel ass-toundingly clean. You will be tempted to skip joyfully through a field of daisies while singing of your newly found cleanliness.

Now, you might be thinking, wipes? Really? Like the ones we used when our babies had poopy diapers? No, these wipes are definitely for us grown-ups who want to look and feel and smell our best. And that’s no sh*t.

Cottonelle wants you to join in the conversation. Come learn more about the Cottonelle Clean Routine on Facebook.  You can join on Twitter with the hashtag #letstalkbums.

And for a giggle, watch Cherry Healey talking about Cottonelle’s new campaign. Take a look:

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