Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-A-Palooza: Nacho Cheddar Seasoning

It was bound to happen, ladies and gentlemen: our first dissenting opinion.

As I mentioned in my introduction to popcorn and why the Hell we eat so much of it, I prefer sweeter, more complex flavors to my popcorn seasonings, while Richard prefers savory seasonings with a bite and a kick to 'em. This is not to say I don't love spicy food - I can put away a bowl of salsa and some chicken wings - but I don't always love food that's complicated, sometimes I prefer just a daub of flavor, right where it packs a punch.

We were torn between Nacho Cheddar and Jalapeno Cheddar, and ended up with Richard putting both behind his back and me selecting a hand, which led us to Nacho Cheddar. I was skeptical because there is a seasoning we've tried before - Bacon Cheddar - that comes much lauded by my boyfriend, whereas I don't like it. To me, it's way too heavy-handed and can be a little overpowering, but he can't get enough of the stuff. Considering this was kin to that, I was a little hesitant.

My fears were not unfounded, but didn't need to run as deeply, either. The Nacho Cheddar seasoning is rich, to be sure. It tastes like cheddar cheese curds with that little devil-may-care "this is bad for you" aftertaste (except it's not, at 2 calories a cap-full) that you get from movie theater nacho cheese, without having to eat nasty ... movie theater nacho cheese. It's flavorful and you can identify what it is from the get-go (the problem I have with Bacon Cheddar is that it doesn't taste like bacon and cheddar, it tastes like chemicals and cheese, blech).

That said, Rich went on to enthusiastically coat the popcorn with it, and about 3/4 of the way through the bucket, I had to stop. We are usually in sync with when we need more butter or seasoning, but this time, he wanted way more than I did. To me, this was a subtle seasoning, but to him, it's a "layer it on it's so good oh god" seasoning - which is great! It's just not for me, and that's okay. I'll definitely eat it, I might just have to ask him to lay off one corner of the popcorn bucket and be a little lighter-handed with it, haha.

Overall, this is a good one and we'll probably repeat purchase it. I am interested in seeing how it sizes up to its Jalapeno Cheddar brother, when we get around to eating it. (perhaps tomorrow night?)

Taste: 9.5/10 from Richard, 8/10 from me
Practicality: 10/10 across the board
Total: 8.75

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-a-palooza: Garlic Parmesan Seasoning

We love garlic. A lot. "A lot," a lot. If a recipe calls for 3 cloves, we're more apt to put in 6. To my knowledge, there has never been a time where the phrase "too much garlic" has come out of either myself or Richard's mouth. I don't think it ever will, either.

So it seemed natural that the garlic parmesan seasoning would be next on our proverbial "hit list," so to speak. We popped a bucket of popcorn and sat down with our butter spray and the little salt shaker, apprehensive after our previous fight with that spicy temptress, Buffalo Wing, but fairly confident that our much-beloved garlic could not fail us.

And, to our delight, we were right! This one packs a flavor punch without having to use too much seasoning. You can taste the garlic and the parmesan in equal amounts, and it's flavorful without being heavy, you can still tell there's popcorn underneath there and not Styrofoam packing peanuts. We were impressed, and put away the bucket without much discussion because it honestly didn't really merit any: this was an amazing product. It's not found locally here (that I've seen, and I've tried Publix, Kroger, Wal-Mart and Food Lion), much to my dismay, because I can tell this one is a repeat. I don't think it quite holds up to our beloved ranch, but it's so close you can feel its breath on the back of your neck.

The only complaint we have, and it doesn't even really qualify as a complaint, is that it could stand to be a little more garlicky. But we can always try some garlic powder with it, and honestly I'm glad it doesn't totally bowl you over - much more would be murder on your breath! While it hasn't dethroned our favorite, it's crept up right beside it, and I can't wait until we've tried all of these flavors so we can get back around to this guy! He's welcome in the Tupperware-cum-popcorn-seasoning cabinet any day.

Taste: 9/10
Practicality: 10/10
Overall: 9.5/10

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-a-palooza: Popcorn Spritzer & Buffalo Wing Seasoning

Overwhelmed with indecision with regards to which seasoning to try first, we did what any sane couple would do: made the six flavors we were given into a pyramid and took turns alternating between each other, removing them as options one by one. In the end, we were left with buffalo wing. To ensure that we got the optimal buffalo wing experience, we decided to pair it with an aerosol can from the company labeled Popcorn Spritzer.

Popcorn Spritzer
The Good: It's pretty nutritionally bereft. If you'd like your popcorn to have a butter flavor but not be full of calories, this is an option on the market that isn't too shabby.

The Bad: Just about everything else. It seems we both had this opinion, unfortunately. It came out in a cloud of aerosol spray and I caught a whiff of a particular chemical smell that I couldn't seem to shake. Undaunted, we sprayed it directly onto our popcorn and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, "the best" wasn't very good, as neither of us could really detect a butter flavor. There is a possibility that maybe we just didn't apply it right, or used too little, so I wouldn't discount it right out.

Overall: On the store shelves, this stuff costs just as much as a spray bottle of butter like we use, and if I'm paying $3 for fake butter, I'd like for it to look and taste like the real thing.

Taste: 0/10
Practicality: 0/10
Total: 0/10

Buffalo Wing Seasoning
The Good: We both love a good spicy treat, so it's really no surprise that we gravitated toward this one. When perusing the online list of flavors offered, both Richard and I agreed that we'd really like to give Buffalo Wing a try. And I'm glad we did! It packs a punch and really made my eyes water, I ended up admitting defeat about halfway through the bucket as I just couldn't take the spicy with the amount we'd applied to the popcorn, but Richard made it 90% of the way before he had to throw in the towel. We did try to add a little ranch to it to make it a bit less spicy, which helped. If you love the taste of buffalo wing sauce but don't want any of that pesky chicken in the way, this is the way to go. I imagine it would be really good in a spicy chicken dish, or to liven up some types of baked chicken.

The Bad: I read some Amazon reviews prior to trying this one, and a lot of them came to a general consensus: this is a really good flavor, if you don't mind breathing it. Jessica, the amazing Kernel Seasons PR rep, gave us a pointer when she mailed it out: she said that the buffalo wing and jalapeno cheddar are thin and powdery flavorings derived directly from their spicy brethren, so be careful when you inhale. I, not listening to reason, did what any reasonable person would do upon taking the seal off a new food item: I sniffed it and began to immediately cough and sputter. When we put it on the popcorn, I had to stay a good distance away. It was great in my mouth, but here's the key: as long as I didn't inhale while eating it.

Overall: It tasted great and I'd highly recommend it to anyone, but only if you're okay with not inhaling while eating it. (inhaling caused both of us to cough a bit, sneeze, generally have a humorous reaction. But we don't always look for comedy in our food!)

Taste: 8/10
Practicality: 4/10
Total: 6/10

Popcorn And Me: A Primer

I love popcorn. "Love" might not actually be strong enough, since what I feel is less of a love and more of an all-encompassing, all-consuming swooning desire to be eating popcorn at most times in my life. Watching a movie? Popcorn. Watching TV? Popcorn. Too lazy to cook dinner? Popcorn. It always, always wins.

I was blessed enough to have a boyfriend who is if not equal to me in popcorn passion than beyond it. Richard loves popcorn with a fervor I initially thought only viable by just myself, but fortunately for me, this is not the case. It is true love when you can both just Kirby-inhale a large bucket of popcorn while watching television and feel that true bliss of contentedness wash over you like a wave crashing onto the shore. Where there is popcorn in either of our apartments, there is love, my friends.

We love popcorn so much for varying reasons, but presumably this is mostly because of two things: 1) it's cheap, 2) it's healthy. It's not exactly a health food, no, but you can eat massive piles of the stuff (when it's done right!) and barely put a dent in your caloric intake for the day. This, of course, assumes a few things: you air-pop your popcorn and you don't use real butter on the stuff.

I have a trusty Rival-branded popcorn popper that I've had since maybe a year and a half ago. I liked it enough that when a friend absconded with my first one inadvertently upon moving (which is okay because I "own" about 5 of her DVDs), I just bought another one. It was worth it. We combine this air popper with bottle upon bottle of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!-branded spray, which is almost nothing nutritionally but still tastes just like you melted a stick of butter and slathered it on.

Here is where it gets interesting, sports fans.

Back when I first got my air popper, my good friend-former-next-door-neighbor and I were knee-deep in marathoning Supernatural. We would douse the popcorn in butter spray and Kernel Seasons white cheddar seasoning, and go to town on a giant plastic bowl of the stuff. Flavoring popcorn anything but "salt and butter" was a novelty for me, and I loved the idea. Later, we learned that they made a (now defunct) standalone jalapeno flavoring, which we paired with the white cheddar to make a delicious (and now sadly unrepeatable) spicy white cheddar topping.

When Rich and I began to eat popcorn together, once we'd moved and both lived in the same town, he brought home a shaker of Kernel Seasons ranch seasoning. I was a mite skeptical at first, but I tried it and was 110% blown away with how delicious it was. I could not get enough of the stuff. Since then, we've tried Kettle Corn (meh), Bacon Cheddar (he loves it more than I do) and Caramel (I like it more than he does), but our local stores just lack a variety of flavorings.

Emboldened by a taste for new and exciting flavors that our Georgia town is not privy to, I emailed the Kernel Seasons customer service line, hoping that perhaps someone could point me in the right direction or give me a coupon or perhaps a sample-sized shaker of seasoning. The amazing Jessica with the Kernel Seasons company said that she would mail us some flavors to try on our own, not to worry. A week later, this was sitting on my boyfriend's front step:

*fans self*
We were expecting maybe a coupon and a shaker of seasoning, but we were blown away with the sheer volume and amazing giving spirit that the Kernel Seasons company has for its customer base. Not only do they not mind sharing their wealth, but they went above and beyond anything we could have ever hoped for! I still can't quite believe that we have all of this just sitting in Rich's cupboard, waiting to peruse at our leisure when we pick something to watch most nights.

This is all to say that the following days will encompass a good number of reviews, each focusing on a different flavor of popcorn seasoning and our thoughts. I have different tastes than Richard does (he likes things spicier and I prefer sweeter seasonings), so you'll definitely get a variety of opinion on what matters most: taste.

So thank you, Kernel Seasons, and thank you, reader at home, for dealing with a deluge of popcorn-related entries in the coming days. Remember, stay flavorful! :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bout of Books 8.0: Days 4-7

I wanted to read a whole bunch, and ended up reading a decent amount without any actual, real concerted effort!

And it all works out anyway!
A lot of people go into Bout of Books with the expectation to read 4, 5, maybe even 10 books that week! And they might, they just might. But me? I went into Bout of Books with the pure intention to simply read more. Point blank. Simple, honest, and pure: read more.

I think that I accomplished this goal, with a pretty nice margin, as well. I could have read more, but I enjoyed the time I spent reading, and allowed myself to get lost in a book rather than counting pages and fretting about if I'd make a self-imposed quota.
I had one minor goal I'd set for myself: so minor, I didn't even mention it on this blog. That goal? Read 300 pages over the course of the week.

How many pages did I read? 296.

At first, I was really mad. Really mad! "Why couldn't you have just finished that chapter?" my inner perfectionist shrieked, fury hot and flaming on her face, her hair a frazzled mess tangled into a bun and held together with a pen cap. "You could have read 321 pages if you had just finished that chapter!"

I placated her by reminding her that the laundromat dryer had gone off, then I'd packed my clothes up, gone home, put sheets on the bed and clothes in the closet. Unloaded the dishwasher, fed the cat. Taken a shower. Curled up with the computer and gone to bed around 1 in the morning, choosing instead to watch the most recent episode of the blood-curdling Breaking Bad instead of reading.

So no, I didn't finish that chapter. But I enjoyed myself, and I do not count watching the most recent episode of one of the few television shows you religiously follow to be "idle" or "wasted" time. 2 hours spent surfing Reddit? Maybe a waste. But an hour of being actively engaged in television? Never, when it's just that one hour.

That said, I spent seven days and read a close-but-no-cigar 296 pages from two different books, which averages out to a bit more than 42 pages a day, which is pretty good! It's true: it's not the highest number in this contest. Truth be told, it might be one of the lowest. But to me, those numbers look pretty good considering my normal pages-per-week total probably hovers around 20. Not per day, all together.

Bout of Books has reminded me of how important a book is to your mental health, your stamina. As someone with a background in libraries, I don't know how I forgot, but I'm glad I've remembered. I hope to continue reading this passionately for a long time to come, and I look forward to Bout of Books 9.0 in January: I know I'll be there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bout of Books 8: Days 2 & 3

Well, sports fans, I didn't exactly knock it out of the park the past two days like I did on day one. In fact, I've only read about 50 pages in the past two days combined. I think we both knew that would end up being the case, but I consider it a little victory in and of itself!

Confused? Allow me to explain.

On a typical night, before I am ready to go to bed, I'll lay under the covers with my laptop, lights out, and peruse the Internet for a couple of hours. This leads me from my sane 11 pm bedtime to upwards of 1 or 2 in the morning, due to things like Reddit and YouTube sucking up my free time. However, I challenged myself this week: read instead of using the Internet.

It's hard to get used to reading in bed. I used to do it as a child: I have memories of hanging my library bag on a bedpost and selecting a book reverently each night, returning it to its family before I turned off the light. But I got older, grew a chest, and found it harder to lay comfortably. I was not to be deterred, though!

I started Tuesday morning on page 3 of In the Woods, and I went to bed last night on page 59. I have to give myself a little additional credit, as well: Ms. French has created a magnificent, rich universe and her narrators speak wonderfully. However, this makes it a good bit harder to follow than, say, Vampire Academy, where the narrator says such gems as: "Juliet had it easy: she never had to kill Romeo." Compare that to, say, this excerpt from In the Woods: "Its silence is a pointillist conspiracy of a million tiny noises - rustles, flurries, nameless truncated shrieks," a good bit more challenging!

Tuesday night, I drowsily tucked 2 chapters under my belt, and Wednesday, another 1. I fell asleep by midnight both nights - usually closer to 11:30, and fell asleep much easier than I usually do. It gave me some food for thought, and I really enjoy imagining this story unfolding behind my eyelids, which might contribute to it.

So no, this isn't a max-page-number victory, but I never entered this contest looking for that. I came to increase my amount of reading, to gain awareness about the fact that I could be reading instead of spending hours online. And for that, I'm pretty proud of myself! I hope to carry this tradition long past Bout of Books 8: hopefully it will still be the case when Bout of Books 9 rolls around!

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0:
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 332/332 - 100%
2. Finish In the Woods - 59/429 - 13%
3. Begin The Red Pyramid

Page Totals:
Day 1: 156
Grand Total: 156

Day 2: 29
Grand Total: 185

Day 3: 26
Grand Total: 211

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bout of Books 8: Day 1 & a Book Review

Hello, dear readers! I am proud to report that on day one of Bout of Books 8, I actually completed a book!

Granted, I came into this with it half-completed, but I still read over 150 pages yesterday. Since my goal is not to read strenuously, but rather just read more than usual, I still played my requisite 15-20 minutes of Animal Crossing: New Leaf because I am not a rock, and my villagers needed me. However, after that, the boyfriend and I reheated leftovers and sat down to watch the WWE Summer Slam. (yes, I enjoy wrestling and watching it with my boyfriend. Never thought I'd be 'that guy,' but I love it, so who cares?)

I tend to half-watch wrestling, or any TV that's super-long. Usually, I've got a game on my 3DS going, but last night I decided to switch tactics and just read. I read through the 3 hour special with sporadic bits of watching TV, obviously. By the end of the night, the Summer Slam was over, Daniel Bryan was throned and then dethroned, and I had finished Vampire Academy.

What did I think of it? Well. I actually put the second book, Frostbite, on hold at the library. It was at least that good. It wasn't "all of my friends need to rush out and read this immediately" good, but it was interesting and I actually did not see the plot twist coming - in a lot of YA, they hit you over the head with the plot twists and so you can see them by standing on your front lawn and squinting. Vampire Academy did a good job of making me not know about the central conflict's resolution, but it also made me not care. I was extremely apathetic about the main character the entire way through.

The MC, Rose, is a goddess. Not literally, but she might as well be: she's gorgeous, and she knows it. There's the trope of a character who is gorgeous but doesn't know it - Katniss Everdeen, Tris from Divergent - the trope of the character who is average but inexplicably sexy regardless - Bella Swan, for instance - but then there's this character who is hot, knows it, and hates it. If there is one thing I can't stand, it's an arrogant pretty girl.

Rose is pretty snarky. She's cynical, she's a fighter, she's not gonna take anything lying down like Bella might. But she harps on her own good looks constantly. Boys in her class are always fawning over her, tripping over their own feet to get her to like them, and she just thinks about this in this absurdly boring way. Top that off with the icing on the cake that she isn't too smart. For instance, a friend speaks of primary and secondary sources, and she has no idea what that is, despite being 16 or 17 years old. She only pays attention in one class in school, she just doesn't have need for "book learnin'' because she's pretty.

I looked it up: this is "movie" Rose.
If you don't look at Rose's willful objectification - she uses her looks to get boys to do things for her more than once in the span of 300-odd pages and thinks it's awesome - the book is pretty decent. A mystery, characters that do undergo some development, though admittedly the males save for about two are pretty one-faceted (that facet being "Rose is hot"). There's a pretty graphic "let's take our clothes off" scene that never actually gets anywhere, but squicked me out. Not because I am a prude or I don't like that sort of thing, but because I know the target age group for these books is 13-15, and I don't think I'd want my 13 year old reading that. (I'm 24, I know. But bear with me). I can just envision a lot of high school girls wishing they looked like Rose, and with the film coming out soon, I can only imagine this getting worse.

Overall? I give it a 3 out of 5. It was incandescently mediocre, a forgettable YA read with some interesting plot twists. It would have a 4 were it not for Rose's sex appeal. Sorry that I'm not sorry, Rose.

As far as Bout of Books 8 goes? Well, here I am in day two! I will be spending the night by myself, and I see some bathtub reading in my future. Next on the agenda is In the Woods, which is lengthy and verbose and I highly doubt it will be finished before Sunday night. If for some reason it is, however, I'll add my third book to the list: Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid, because I've read both the Percy Jackson oeuvre and what's been written of the Heroes of Olympus oeuvre, and all that remains is the Kane Chronicles. (I adore Riordan's writing, and I will say why in another entry!)

So, a TL;DR: Finished my first book already! Didn't totally hate it, on to book two!

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0:
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 332/332 - 100%
2. Finish In the Woods - 3/429 - 0%
3. Begin The Red Pyramid

Page Totals:
Day 1: 156
Grand Total: 156

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bout of Books: Introduction Part 2

Hello again, everyone! I'm back now that it's the dawn of Bout of Books, and I wanted to try to solidify my goals for this endeavor just a bit more firmly before I started off. That way, you'll know exactly where I stand, and I'll know where you stand! Plus, I am a huge book voyeur and figured that if I want to know what you're reading, you should be able to see what I'm reading!

I am currently a bit over half way through Vampire Academy.

I know, I know ...
Wait, don't walk away! Let me explain! I have my Masters degree in School Library Media, which means I spent a lot of time while getting that degree reading YA literature. I love young adult books, and I especially love getting to ones that are awesome before someone else does and they become famous. I was lucky enough to read The Hunger Games and Gone Girl before they turned into hit films, and so when I heard Vampire Academy was going to be a movie, I figured I had to give it a go. (this is not to say, of course, that every book that is also a movie is great - looking at you, Divergent, and let's not even get started on Twilight and its ilk).

I love books that don't require too much thinking, that are fun and light and interesting. Am I loving Vampire Academy? No, but it's got a few twists that are keeping me entertained, and I like to balance out my heavier reading with some lighter stuff. Sometimes after a hard work day, I don't want to contemplate Nietzsche, I just want to find out who kissed that guy and why and how she's going to get revenge. So the first thing on the agenda is Vampire Academy.

Next, I'm going to begin reading In the Woods, by Tana French. I drank in Gone Girl like it was a liquid, some sort of smoothie I could just gulp down and then crave more. So when someone drew a parallel between that masterful work and this other mystery called In the Woods, I had to request it from the library.

I've never been a huge fan of the Mary Higgins Clark-style writing, the serialized sort also present in One for the Money and the other Stephanie Plum novels, but a good standalone novel that has interesting depth is exactly what I get a hankering for. Tana French's book has thousands of good reviews, and since I try to alternate between a young adult book and an adult book, this will be next.

That's it. I have a two-book goal for Bout of Books 8 - not because I'm an underachiever, but simply because my goal is to read more, not read anxiously. I don't want to panic about whether or not I've fit my quota in, I just want to read instead of mindlessly playing Candy Crush Saga, read instead of paging through my Reddit feed one more time. No more, no less.

So the abbreviated version of my rant, here?

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 178/332 - 54%
2. Begin In the Woods

What about you? I'll try to dig through the list as best I can, but please leave a link to your blog in the comments below! I'd love some Bout of Books friends!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bout of Books 8!

Hey everyone! I've been amiss at writing for a lot of excuses I could lob at you, but honestly it just boils down to this: I've been too lazy to write blog entries. And isn't that always the case?

I heard about something on YouTube, though, that I would really like to use to create change here. After blogging A-Z I thought it would be easy to keep up momentum, but when is it ever? So let's see what I can do in August to make up for the dearth of posts May-July!

Bout of Books

I will be participating in the 8th edition of the Bout of Books read-a-thon! To put it simply:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
 A lot of people seem to use Bout of Books as an excuse to piledrive through a large stack of books in the "to read" pile. And while I think that's a good idea, I just don't have it in me to do that. I read books to savor them, to appreciate them, and the notion of speeding through it makes me a bit sad. So my Bout of Books will be a bit different:

I will be reading. Full stop. Why are you saying that, Patricia!? you might ask. Well, it's because I don't. Plain and simple. If I have an hour of spare time, I'm liable to be on the Internet or playing with my 3DS. On a lunch break, I sit at my desk and read. I simply don't pick up the book I have on hand any more. My goal for Bout of Books is to actually read. To not turn to screen time if I get bored, but to actually do something that enriches my brain. To go outside and eat lunch at a picnic table, read a book, get some sunlight.

So, that's my goal! Simple at its core, but actually pretty difficult! If you'd like to see what I'll be reading, stay tuned! I'll know closer to the 19th what my starting book will be.

Anybody want to join me on this quest? It doesn't have to be able reading a ton of books, it's about effort!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Snapea Crisps

A while ago, I reviewed Green Giant Multigrain Chips. And while I liked them pretty well, they were a little too sweet for me. While I'm trying to watch what I eat, I also am simultaneously denying myself my favorite snack food: the potato chip. Thusly, I am on a quest for the perfect faux-chip. For it to be an effective potato chip substitute, the food in question has to have a kick, like my beloved salt-and-black-pepper chips. It has to be crunchy, and it has to taste good. (We all remember those horrendous Ruffles made with Oleo from the 90s, now don't we?)

Enter the Snapea Crisp.

Oh my goodness, the Calbee company must be chock full of angels who descended from heaven specifically to invent the Snapea Crisp. Why do I think these are so great? Let me count the ways.

  • These are 70% whole pea, with 30% of other stuff added to them. If you look in the ingredients, the first thing you will find is "green peas," the top ingredient isn't something beginning with "Monosodium." If that isn't reassuring, I don't know what is. 
  • They taste delicious. The black pepper is my favorite, and thusly the only one I've tried so far, but it tastes better to me than my aforementioned salt-and-black-pepper chips. The kick is punchier and they aren't all oily or icky like most potato chips are. I can eat them at my desk with no negative benefit, because they aren't going to get oils all over my keyboard.
  • The nutrition info is pretty awesome. You can eat 20 of them - each one is the size of a pea pod - and it's only 120 calories, 85 sodium (impressive for a chip-esque snack). They have 6 grams of fat, and 3 grams of fiber - your typical chip has just 1.
Are these the end-all be-all of snack foods? Absolutely not. But I can get this bag for $1.50 at my local Wal-Mart and it lasts me a couple of days. (There are 3 servings in the bag. Nobody ever eats a serving size of potato chips. Nobody). I can spend $3 and get a week's worth of non-greasy, delightfully-seasoned and delicious snacks, which is less than a Graze box (which I am canceling, but that's for later) and less than 2 vending machine snacks.

Give them a try. It can't hurt you for the price of less than your morning coffee, and these things are really tasty. As in, if I don't clamp the bag and physically move it away I will inhale them all like Kirby. Trust me on this one, and go get some of these beautiful green delights.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kroger Upside Down Cake

Upon seeing this BzzCampaign first announced, I had mentioned to my friend Jessica that I would love to get into it and that this would therefore mean I wouldn't get into it. I don't have lofty ambitions: I didn't want the "brew your own beer" station BzzCampaign, just a cake!

So imagine my delight a couple of days later when I got the "congratulations on your new campaign!" email. I was ecstatic! And this is where the disappointment began, ladies and gentlemen.

It took me several weeks to find the cakes at my local Kroger. We have two, but one is considerably less nice than the other and it never did get them in. The one by my house is very nice, though, and I scoured it every single grocery trip, trying to find these delectable-looking treats. One evening, I found them! At last. But my confusion began: they were sitting on a table, and I had somehow garnered the impression that these were refrigerated/chilled cakes? I shrugged, picked it up, and plunked it in my cart. A couple of days later, my boyfriend and I decided to give it a go.

It looks innocuous enough, right? Seems to be what's on the banner I posted above, and is lower than the $12 price point I read about online. (it was complementary due to BzzAgent's campaign, and $9.99 is still more than I can afford for most cakes, but good to know). We opened up the packaging and took a look at the instructions: you simply put it on a cookie sheet and baked it for a little while, then flipped it over, popped it out and voila! 

This is the finished product:

If you scroll up and look at the packaging, you'll notice a slight discrepancy here. I'm not saying every food has to look 100% like its packaging, but this just looks sloppy and frankly unappetizing. We were undeterred though and cut it into eighths, each taking a slice. I took no reaction photos, but I am pretty sure our faces said it all.

This was awful. As in, "we had eight pieces and threw away the other six" awful. I couldn't place it, but my boyfriend thoughtfully pointed it out to me: "It tastes like a shelf-stable cake, like a snack cake." And he was right. It tasted like prepackaged dark chocolate slathered on a thick, too-sweet cake. Now, I love chocolate and if it's got chocolate in it I can usually be convinced to like it. I even went back later and swiped a tiny sliver of one of the remaining six pieces, but no. It was still gross. And what felt even worse was the fact that they were going to make people pay $10 for it.

I think that if these cakes were made fresh and served chilled, it would be a vast improvement. But a shelf-stable cake has to be made with shelf-stable ingredients, and unfortunately those just do not lend themselves to excellent-tasting cake. I usually love everything Kroger has to offer, and so this post has saddened me because I hated having to write it, but I am hopeful that the next campaign I get in will bring back the fresh-tasting food I know and love. Thanks for the opportunity, Kroger, and better luck next time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Waxy Dachshund

I have been sitting on this review for a few days, now. Every time I would sit down to write it, I would think, "I should just burn this candle a little bit longer, so my review will be more authentic!" And then I'd curl up with A Feast for Crows, a dim light and my candle and forget about Blogger until a night or two later, when the process would repeat itself.

Now, my newly-beloved candle is 3/4 gone and I am just so full of sadness that I have been moved to write this review so that you might understand and purchase one for yourself.

The Waxy Dachshund is an Etsy shop run by the beautiful and amazing Megan, who drew her shop name from her two adorable Dachshund pets. As those of us who are pet lovers know, we would never slap our babies' image on anything unless we knew it was flawless, or as much so as possible: and Megan's craft is no exception.

I am in love with her candle packaging, firstly. The container the candle is in is very solid and lovely, and I am going to find a way to harness it for some sort of storage when I am totally done burning my candle. The name of the company is on a clear label affixed to the side, but you can never tell by glancing - it looks like it's just part of the glass, which I love. Megan's packaging has a very neat, crisp feel to it.

Now let's get down to brass tacks: the smell. I am an aficionado for all things that smell like cupcakes, however vaguely. So when I saw that Megan had invented a lime cupcake candle, I reacted much like this:

I can't promise this is the last time I'll use DanRad to express my emotions.
Megan thoughtfully and wonderfully poured, packaged and shipped me one soon after I contacted her, and I waited a painstaking few days until I was at home for an extended period of time and could fully burn and appreciate this candle for longer than a brief hour or two: and what a good idea that was.

A lot of candles take a decent amount of time to begin to melt, or they melt okay but they don't start to release fragrance for an annoyingly long time. This is pleasantly not the case with The Waxy Dachshund - after burning Megan's candle for just a few minutes, I began to smell a tasty vanilla cupcake laced with lime zest and it has taken all I have ever since then to not try to drink the liquid wax that is pooling around the wick as we speak.

Her candles burn around 50-60 hours and come in a variety of pleasant colors and shades, all with mouth-watering and daydream-inducing flavors, like Vanilla Hazelnut Mocha, Sweet Orange & Chili Pepper and Cotton Candy. And at $10 a pop, you're not breaking the bank on a candle that you know is not mass-produced, but is in fact made with love and hand-poured with affection and a dose of doggy delight by Megan herself in her Chicago abode.

Speaking as someone who loves candles but hates to spend a lot of money on ones with potentially mediocre throw (here's lookin' at you, Yankee Candle ...), I am so pleased to say that Megan's craft has brought me nothing but joy, and I am planning a multiple-candle purchase as soon as my wallet stops wincing from May's bills.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two Old Goats Co Cat Treats

My cat thinks that everything I get in the mail is for him. This is admittedly occasionally the case, but nine times out of ten, it's for me: I frequent free sample web sites and also get a monthly Birchbox. This time, however, it was for Pixel, and he practically jumped out of his skin trying to get into the packaging!

Sharon over at Two Old Goats Co, an Etsy shop, makes a whole lot of stuff that I could spend way too much money on! One of them, though, is cat treats. I spoke with her and she was sweet enough to not only make some just for me, but make me a sampler pack so my cat could investigate them all, including a new flavor she wanted to try out!

They came ensconced in bubble wrap and bearing my little guy's name, which I thought was a very sweet touch. I think he smelled that the package seemed to be for him, and he followed me around at my heels while I got out of my work clothes, mewling at me pitifully to get me to open this delightful box. I opened the box up, set it on the counter, and reached for my camera to take some cursory product photos. He was standing on the floor and when I picked up the first packet and opened it, the smell must have wafted down, and he looked up at me with this face:

Starry-eyed cat surprise, ladies and gentlemen!
Needless to say, Sharon's box of goodies was a hit, not just with Pixel, but with me! She included a sample of her hand lotion which I had been considering buying along with the sample pack but decided against - it's like she telepathically knew I was looking for some new lotion! (Bath & Body Works isn't doing it for me, but more on that later!)

What is awesome about Sharon's cat treats is that, unlike almost any treat you'll ever find at a store or  anywhere else, really, these are homemade cat treats, straight from her kitchen. Not only that, but she packs a one-two punch of clearly labeling every ingredient in them. They look like homemade goodies because that's what they are. They're not in clever little fish shapes or made to smell like the ocean, but what they do offer is so much better: a quality ingredient list made with things you can pronounce, no preservatives, and a delicious taste my cat literally cannot get enough of. 

He finished them and licked his paws clean. He has never done that!
I was, admittedly, worried at first that these treats wouldn't keep, but they've been in both my pantry and fridge and Pixel will eat them from anywhere with no trouble at all. I will not hesitate to buy from Susan again, and I hope that you might give Two Old Goats Co a try yourself! I promise you and your feline friend will be anything but disappointed. :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Z-Ya!

I am in awe that I managed to complete this blogging challenge. I thought for sure that I would start it, do maybe four or five days, and then sort of fizzle out with the rest of the crowd that decides to quit - consciously or otherwise-  a week in. It's easy for the first couple of days, but after awhile, it sure gets hard! This said, I can see why other people are addicted to this annual challenge, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to give it a try next year.

The annual reflection post is one where you're meant to write about what you've done that surprises you, but frankly, the whole thing surprised me! When I started this blog as a review blog, I never dreamed I'd ever catch the eye of one subscriber, let alone the 50+ I have now. I figured that nobody would want to read the rants and raves of a twenty-four year old who is pretty poor and trying to decide on the best garbage bags to buy. But surprisingly, you did! And you still continue to! Without your support, I couldn't be where I am today, and I'm continually amazed by the wonderful comments and feedback I receive on a daily basis.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to switch things up a bit. I'll write a few times a week, but not daily - I don't think I could handle that! I will have a day of the week set aside exclusively for Mr. Pixel and products concerning him, and perhaps a food review day. I will also establish a rating system you can refer to that will be consistent and thorough. Mostly, though, this will just be a repository for the things I use in my day-to-day, American consumerist experience. They won't all be helpful or useful, and they won't all be interesting, but they will be genuinely tested by a real-life woman, and that's something!

Please don't hesitate to talk to me if you have a small business. If you sell soap, cat treats, deodorant, books, tea, candles ... whatever it is, I'll review it and pay for it, too! Just let me know what I can do for you - mutual views from both your fans and mine will work wonders. :) Constructive feedback would be great, too.

When I hit 100 followers, I plan on doing a giveaway! When I get closer to that number, I'll post the contest - hopefully people entering the contest will boost followers even more.

I am nowhere near the end of my blogging journey, is what I am trying to say at the close of the day. So this isn't a goodbye, but merely a z-ya later!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Yankee Candle

Come here, I've got a secret for you. Lean in closely because I'm only gonna say this once, people are listening:

Yankee Candle is overrated.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in before I continue. Are we squared away now? Great.

This is not to say that I don't like Yankee Candle. As a matter of fact, I love the stuff and think they put out a consistently good product that will smell great from first burn to last snuff for the most part, but none of this excuses the price gouging! Yes, I said price gouging. Some people might argue that a candle is an investment because you get hours of burn time out of them and they bring such happiness. And yes, while that might be true, at the same time there is a price ceiling - in my eyes, anyway - where after you spend $X, the quality of the candle no longer improves.

Take a $1.50 Wal-Mart candle and compare it to a $15 Bath & Body Works candle, and compare that to a $27 Yankee Candle. There is probably a giant jump in quality from the Wal-Mart candle to the B&BW one, if only because the scents tend to dwindle and die in a Wal-Mart candle and their tarts seem to have a plasticky scent behind them that I can't ever seem to get rid of. Between the B&BW and the Yankee Candle, though, there might in fact be a negligible quality difference, if any at all.

But Patricia! you cry. Sometimes Yankee Candle sells them 2/$27 and then they are worth it! Maybe. Bath & Body Works sells their large jars 2/$20 sometimes, and a lot of people find that the B&BW/Slatkin candles work better, smell better and burn cleaner. Then again, there are also people out there who find Wal-Mart branded candles and tarts charming and quaint and would not mind spending $5 on a candle from there because they are in it for the vague atmospheric scent, not the layers.

I'm a self-ascribed candle snob, and spend a lot of my time trying to locate the loveliest candles I can. Because of this, while I do admittedly spend $10 every now and then on wax tarts from Yankee Candle (until B&BW makes tarts, not sure what will happen then!), I by and large purchase my candles from third parties. I'll review a third party candle often because of this, and I think it really helps to showcase candles that are unique and different, so expect more candle reviews to come out of the woodwork in the coming days!

For now, though, I will admit to owning various Yankee Candle products. Some, I'm satisfied with - you can't ever beat a good $1 tart sale. Others, though, I am deeply disappointed by. (their car scents never seem to last no matter what I do, and I refuse to leave them in the plastic bag dangling from my rearview as the packaging seems to suggest - too weird for me!).

Overall, if you can find them at a deep sale, Yankee Candle makes some good candles. However, so do many other people at much cheaper prices, and those are something you can't shake a wick at.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Dr. Scholl's Odor-X Odor Fighting Spray Powder

For both your benefit and my own, I will keep this one clean, simple, cut and dry: I have sweaty feet. And whether or not you admit it, chances are you do, too.

I work in a job that requires me to dress "business casual." In the summer months, this can often translate to sandals or some other sort of strappy shoe that lets your feet hang out like they've got nothing to hide. The other months of the year, though, present a bit of a problem when it comes to footwear. My two favorite pairs of work-appropriate shoes are the same exact shoe - one brown pair, one black pair. They are both ballet flats from Wal-Mart that were $9.99 and are wonderful, sweet little flats that get the job done with no frills. I adore them. The only problem? By their very nature, they make your feet sweaty.

A lot of the time I can kick my shoes off under my desk at work and do what needs to be done without any shoes on, but I have to slip them back on to run down the hall to answer a question, or go to the restroom, and eventually by the time 5 pm rolls around, I can just sort of tell that they're tired and sweaty. It's getting to be the summer here in good old Georgia, and while it might not be the most ladylike subject for me to discuss with you guys right now, the fact of life is that it is time to find something to beat foot odor!

Enter everyone's favorite faux-orthopedist, Dr. Scholl. He's back and better than ever with this latest-and-greatest, a spray that claims to eliminate odors in their tracks. Simply hold it away from your feet in the morning, the can boasts, and spray to your heart's content on your feet and between your toes. Let it dry, slip on your shoes, and that's that. No foot odor!

"I don't believe it," is what I probably said out loud while standing in the aisle at the Walgreens. But the name brand was on sale for less than the store brand - a rarity! - so I bit the bullet and paid my $5 and change for this little yellow miracle-in-a-can spray bottle.

Turns out it wasn't a bad idea at all. If the Dr. Scholl's company knows one thing, it's feet, and they know it well. While it might seem like a steep price to pay, this little guy really does pack a punch, and it packs it well. I've used it a lot of work days when wearing flats, and I can definitely tell that my feet aren't sweating as much as they normally do when they are clad in the confining ballet flats, if at all.

If you have problems with foot odor and don't know what to do about it, and the idea of having a pad full of foot sweat tucked into the bottom of your shoe disgusts you as much as it did me, give this spray option a try! What have you got to lose, anyway? Foot odor you already had? ;)

Friday, April 26, 2013

A to Z Challenge: (GNC) Women's Ultra Mega Energy & Metabolism Vitamins

I am not usually a vitamin or supplement blogger, and you won't often find me purporting the use - or maligning it, for that matter - of any particular supplement or pill on this section of the Internet. But, I needed a product that began with W to review, and I am well-versed in this particular product, having taken it daily for the past six months or so, so I'll let this one go. :)

I'll just get right out there and address one issue straight off the bat: I believe some vitamins do work, but the key word here is some. Studies have shown that there are a lot of vitamins and supplements out there that are as effective as a sugar pill, aka, not at all. Others, though, are much more worthy of admiration and consumption. I would like to think that this particular pill falls into the latter category.

There has been a quest happening on my side of the mountain for years: find the perfect once-daily supplement for me. I am overweight, lack the energy I need to perform tasks when I don't sleep well, and am in the bulk of people who don't get every nutrient we need from our diets. (A lot of people don't in today's society - it's just difficult to get all your IUs of all your necessary vitamins without going out and eating one specific food just for its nutritional benefits). So it's not anything that makes me weird: I'm simply in the majority of Americans that are overweight, slow on their feet and lacking in all the vitamins a vegetarian or vegan might get.

I've tried One A Day brand vitamins, and they just didn't work the way I would have liked for them to have worked. I wandered into a GNC one day last October in a search for something to help suppress my appetite, and the saleslady sold me on this multivitamin. I was already taking a chewable, gummy multivitamin, but they talked me out of that and got me here. Just try it, they implored, I promise you'll see what we mean! So I purchased two bottles - buy one get one half off at the time - and schlepped my 180 days of nutritional goodness home with me.

It has been 7 months since, and I can honestly say that while I don't remember to take a vitamin every day, I do take one most mornings, and I can definitely tell when I don't. I begin to feel myself flagging around the 2:30 pm mark normally, but if I take my vitamin on time, that feeling doesn't come. Similarly, if I take this alongside breakfast, I don't get snacky/hungry before my lunch time. If I don't take a pill, though, I get snacky around 10:30 or 11, which is bad news for me! I've started keeping my bottle in my desk drawer at work so I know that at least five days out of each six, I'm getting the nutrition I so desperately need.

Are all vitamins great? Nope, not at all. Will this one work for you? Maybe, maybe not. I will give it my seal of approval, though, as it seems to work great for me. Give it a try if you have a chance to go by yoru local GNC: you might be surprised what it can do for you, too!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Village Naturals Bath Shoppe Ultra Moisture Milk Bath & Body Wash in Mango Mandarin (phew!)

I was frustrated last night as I was sitting in my bathtub, reading a book and sipping on some water, because I just could not think of anything for V. I've come so close but yet I couldn't think of anything I owned or could possibly review that began with V, and after the disappointment of U I couldn't let anyone down with a lackluster V! I sighed and lowered myself further into the water and then legitimately came into eye contact with my V product: right under my nose the whole time.

Unfortunately, the ending to this story is not entirely happy. While I was staring right at my new bottle of Village Naturals Bath Shoppe Ultra Moisture Milk Bath & Body Wash in Mango Mandarin (how is that for a mouthful?!), I was thinking about how much it felt like something was wrong with the product.

I'll do the good parts, first, lest you think I am focusing on the bad. This stuff smells heavenly. If you poured the essence of a mandarin orange together with the rich flesh of a mango, you'd get something that smells almost half as good as this bubble bath. It also creates an abundant lather that lasts the entirety of your bath. The texture of the product is great, too: this is a milk bath, meaning it's rich and thick, creamy and indulgent. It can apparently also double as a body wash, but I've never tried that myself, and I definitely wouldn't for reasons I'll get into in a bit. It's a large bottle - 25 fluid ounces - and costs only $3.99, so it's most certainly a good amount of product for what you are paying for. Unfortunately, it's not all good.

I have sensitive skin, but it's not that sensitive. Some products I just can't tolerate, but those are mostly facial issues I have. I do tend to get very dry feet and hands, but the rest of my body is pretty normal-to-oily. I don't know if it's my skin chemistry or what, but I haven't ever experienced the feeling some people say they get from, for instance, a bar of glycerin soap: this tightness in your pores. I had never understood what was meant by that until I poured some of this into my bath last night.

Wherever the lather settled over my skin, a fragrant and gorgeous net of it seeped into me and left me with this tight, unnatural feeling around the area. My thighs and legs, because of this, felt very awkward when I got out of the tub and dried off, and I could tell something just didn't feel right. For an "ultra moisturizing" body wash/bubble bath, I fail to see how it meets this criteria based on the simple fact that five minutes after pouring it into my bathwater, I felt my skin dry up worse than a mirage oasis once you reach the horizon.

I have never tried anything else by Village Naturals, so I don't know if this is just a misfortune in this particular bottle, all of their bubble baths, or simply an issue with the Village Naturals line in general. What I do know is that I'll likely be giving this a miss in the future, much to my chagrin.

Do you have a moisturizing bubble bath that you love? Write about it in the comments, I am always on the lookout for wonderful new bath products!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Underwear

This is less of a product review, and more of just a general pattern/occurrence I have noticed over my wide and varied years of wearing underwear on this earth: never buy expensive underwear, it's never as good as the stuff you can get from Walmart.

Don't get me wrong. I have some wonderful panties that I love and adore that have come from places that sell clothing that suits my body type - Lane Bryant, most notably - and when I have the money to spend, I'll feel like looking a bit more fancy than usual and wear a pair of those. What's nice about these boutique brands is that they're usually lacier, fancier, frillier, the whole package. This is what gets store-brand, generic underwear the boot: it's not fancy, it's not pretty, it's just panties, etc.

This was my initial line of thinking, a few years ago. Why wear panties from Walmart when I can buy some from Lane Bryant?

Back up for a minute, and realize this first of all: you can get 5 pairs of panties from Lane Bryant for $25, or 5 pairs made by Fruit of the Loom at Walmart for $13. That's half the price for the same number of panties, or double the underwear for the same price paid at a boutique.

Here's the other thing: it lasts longer. I've had pairs of Walmart underwear that have generally lasted variable years before finally getting thrown away, and even then it's just because I've changed size or the elastic has gone out. Boutique panties, on the other hand, seem to get torn up a lot easier from what I have experienced. The lace tears or there's elastic around the inner thigh portion that frays or rips, and you're left with a lacy pair of panties riddled with holes after owning them for two months.

I do own a good portion of "fancy" underwear, and you can never beat a nice undergarment selection on a day where your self-confidence is of the utmost importance! But by and large, I'll get more bang for my buck and longevity from cheaper, more sustainable underwear. Thanks, Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, for making a product I have no qualms about going back to, time and time again.

(I am well aware that this entry is not up to par. Between my headache and general illness, combined with the fact that it's hard to think of anything starting with U, I had to get something down on paper, but could not think of a thing. Rest assured that the remaining 5 days of this challenge will be up to snuff, though I might have to get uncommonly creative: nobody ever thinks about V-Z, do they?!)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Two Timing Tart

I love candles. Before I got a handle on it, it was not uncommon to see a candle on just about every flat surface in my apartment! There are still candles scattered everywhere, and when I go on a cleaning spree I light four. (one in the living room, one on the kitchen counter, one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom!). I have my favorites, and ones I have hated to burn down, but there is always one brand that I keep coming back to time and time again because of how perfectly wonderful everything about it is.

Two Timing Tart is a candle company run by my newfound friend Becky, who doesn't just make candles! She also makes my life miserable by making products that are too good scent beads, wax tart melts, and bath beads. I initially found Two Timing Tart through a friend who shares a love of BPAL perfumes (my review on those here), and who was excited to receive some wax tarts. I was curious and placed an order for a clamshell case or two of the tarts, just to see what they were like. This was over a year ago, and the rest is history. I have bought candles from other places, and I do occasionally pick up a Bath & Body Works candle here or a Yankee Candles wax tart there, but by and large if it is in my apartment and it smells good, Becky made it.

Initially, my order was made to soothe myself after a nasty breakup with my ex fiance. Becky, upon hearing the details about why my address would soon change, made me a custom candle - unsolicited! - named (sorry, mom) "Douchecanoe." It smelled like a creamy fruit puree and every time I burned it I thought about how stupid my ex was, and I smiled. It was - still is - one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. Keep in mind that at this point, Becky was still a total stranger to me!

She has continued this tradition by sneaking surprises into each and every package I have ever bought from her. If I want my living room to smell like a chocolate cake lightly sprayed with ocean water, I can get on Facebook and IM Becky, and she will have made the perfect candle an hour later and given it a snappy name to boot. I don't know how she works her magic, but she does, and I love her for it.

Her candles and tarts are made out of no artificial dyes and have cotton wicks, so they burn clean and long. They used to come in glass mason jars, but Becky has since changed her labels and containers over to these neat aluminum tins. Unfortunately I haven't had the funds recently to buy any, so I've had to use stock photos of the newer line of goods. They come well-packaged and always with a little somethin'-somethin' you didn't expect tucked away in the back of the box somewhere to make your day that much brighter.

To give you a sampling of what Becky has to offer, the first thing you need to know is that she has an unhealthy obsession with Shemar Moore. There are a fistful of scents based on Shemar Moore in her shop, and they all smell delicious. Shemar Moore in a Tux, for instance, smells like angel food cake and champagne, while Shemar Moore on the Beach smells like a good-smelling man who rolled around in the surf and sand and then made his way into your arms. She has a catalog of general scents as well, including 42 - a blend of grasses and flowers that smells just like the most perfect spring day - Hedonistic Self-Indulgence - chocolate caramels of the highest quality! - and Satin Sheets - the most delectable blend of coconut and sandalwood.

Becky's work is thorough and love is poured into each candle or tart she creates. Rest assured that her candles are made to order, and that there is no such thing as a "rushed order" - your quality will come in spades when you order a candle from this one. Do yourself a favor and give Two Timing Tart a try - it's an addiction you can't kick, but at least this one doesn't go to your thighs!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Simple Revitalizing Eye Roll-On

I don't sleep well. This is a common problem that seems to stretch not just through me, but my family. Not a deep or heavy sleeper without the help of outside circumstances, and it's never as restful as I'd like it to be. I average 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and it has gotten to the point now where it just feels so natural to me that it's hard to remember what 8 hours feels like. While I might find it easy to get by, though, it is pretty noticeable to the outside world that I don't sleep well: I have awful under-eye bags!

I wear glasses, and so while my eyes might be covered up somewhat, if you get close enough you'll see the scaly, dark skin underneath. I am a fervent lover of Birchbox as of late, so when I discovered that this month's box would contain a full size roller of the Simple brand's eye roll-on, I was ecstatic! Something that might help fake refreshment? I'm so there!

The bottle is simple enough. It's about as long as your middle finger, and boasts a tiny metal roller-ball at the end of the tube, beneath the cap. The label boasts what is so cool about Simple's product line: it contains 1 vital vitamin, 2 skin-loving nutrients, and 0 perfumes or dyes! The Simple line is as natural as it can get considering it's a cosmetic, and I appreciate that because anything I am going to be plastering on my face - especially so close to my sensitive eyes - has got to be at least semi-good for me!

I popped the tube into my fridge at the suggestion of Birchbox, and after getting dressed, brushing my teeth and feeding the cat, I unscrewed the lid and rolled it under my eyes, gently. It felt cold and soothing to my tired eyes, and I immediately felt a bit more awake, just through that action alone. The puffiness that typically accompanies a sleepless night was reduced, as well. I could still tell in the mirror later that I didn't sleep well - as is patently obvious most days! - but how much the under-eye circles stand out had changed entirely. They were much less prominent than normal, and if you were looking at me but not at me, you probably wouldn't even notice I had under-eye circles going on in the first place that morning.

What this product does not do, of course, is take away the pigmentation under-eye bags leave behind. Because it's just a roll-on of a colorless gel, it's really not expected to, either. I still have to apply concealer and B.B. cream to the area, just like I do with any other product I use, but it feels less like "painting off my under-eye bags" and more like "touching up underneath my eyes," which I massively prefer.

If you sleep as well as I do, I'm sorry. Maybe give a product like this a try and see if maybe, one day, you're the only one who notices you don't sleep well? You might very well be surprised, indeed!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Ruby Wing, Part 1

This month's Birchbox, for those of you who might not know, had the chance of containing a mini polish of this line I have been lusting after recently called Ruby Wing. Produced by the Color Club brand, what makes Ruby Wing awesome is that the polishes change color in direct sunlight! How nifty is that?

Honestly I had just discovered them and was fanning myself over indecision about committing to a bottle when I mentioned the polish to my friend Jessica over at Scary, Simple, Smitten. She replied by asking if I had known that I might get one in my April Birchbox. No, I did not know! Holy crap! So with great joy and trepidation I waited for my Birchbox to arrive. And arrive it did, with a teeny little bottle of Ruby Wing's Peony in its tissue paper folds.

I wanted for my manicure to chip - which it finally did, 2 days later - and applied my Ruby Wing, so excited to try it out. "Elated" would describe my mood before, but after ... "disappointed" might not be a strong enough word to cover it.

In theory, Ruby Wing is awesome. At least, this particular shade is. But in practice? Something just did not add up right with my bottle.

I could not apply polish very well up to a year ago. But over the past year, I've been perfecting my nail polish application process and very rarely have to even do touch ups. Half the time, I can just take a shower and what gets on my skin will just wash right off. But what I am disappointed about re: Ruby Wing is the fact that what you see on the left is a base coat, five coats of polish, and a top coat.

Typically, I use two coats of polish. Three if it's really sheer or a jelly or a metallic/foil that needs good brushstrokes. I kept adding layers on top of this, hoping it would straighten itself up. Unfortunately, all it did was make my hands look like a five year old painted my nails. It ran all over my cuticles and just looks appallingly bad.

I don't know if my bottle was a bad one, either, but the color looks like a sundried salmon, not the baby pink it seemed to be in the photos I saw of the color online. I went out in the sun, and while it was a sunny day, I couldn't really notice a difference in the shade after 15 minutes. If there was one, it was imperceptible. I am not always a big fan of pinks, and this shade was just not doing my pale skin any favors. I rushed home that night and removed it as soon as I could.

I was devastated because this was something I'd been wanting for a good month at this point, just about. I figured, "What the hell?" and emailed Ruby Wing, letting them know that I was wondering if I had gotten a bad bottle - reviews online are generally excellent! - and if there was anything I could do. The good folks at Ruby Wing straightaway asked for my phone number, and we had a detailed 5 minute conversation about what exactly seemed wrong with my bottle. They apologized profusely, said the formula or batch must have been off, and mailed me - that day! - a full-size bottle of my choice from their most recent collection.

While the bottle I had gotten might not have been the best, the customer service shown by the folks at Ruby Wing was phenomenal  I really look forward to coming back here with a good review on the new, green, polish I will soon be receiving!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A to Z Challenge: Questions

In breaking from tradition, today I am going to be recapping some questions sent in by my readers at this post over here! These will slowly make their way to the blog's "about me" post, where they'll form an FAQ for newcomers to the site. :) There were a lot of questions and I can't answer them all, so if I didn't do yours, it's not you! I just had to select the most variety possible. :)

Q: Why did you get into blogging?
A: There have been a lot of times where I've been googling a product review, and realized that either there wasn't one, or it just wasn't very thorough. I love to look at product reviews, especially of things I already have. There is something inexplicably satisfying about being able to go, "Oh, these people love this lip balm - I have this lip balm!", you know? I wanted a web site that was a repository not just for the traditional makeup reviews, but things for my cat, books, movies, the whole nine yards. If you're a twenty-something girl like me, or  even if you're fifty-something and a guy, hopefully something I write about will pique your interest!

Q: How old were you when you first discovered your love for books?
A: I don't know exact numbers, but I remember going to the library with my grandmother and filling this absolutely huge bag with books. I'd hand-select them each and then take them back to her house and line them up along the baseboards in the living room, like sentinels in line to do battle. Carefully, I'd choose one and read it before putting it back with its comrades. Curling up in her big flowered chair and reading like an adult always made me feel so good - at night I'd creep to the floor by my bedroom door and read by the soft white light of my nightlight, holding my breath each time the floorboards in the hallway creaked, afraid someone would open my door and find out my secret. Books have always been a source of comfort and a playmate for me - I can't remember life before them, and there will never be a life without them!

Q: What hobbies do you have other than reading?
A: I do admittedly spend a lot of my spare time on the Internet - it's where I get my news, communicate with friends who are no longer geographically near me, and find time to laugh. Of course, I also spend a lot of time play with my cat or hanging out with my boyfriend. He and I love to watch TV, play board games and just laugh together, he's a lot of fun. I also enjoy music and while I am not an avid couponer, I do coupon. I'm thinking of starting up a coupon-centric day of the week over here, when April is over and I'm done with the A to Z challenge!

Q: If you were on a desert island and could only bring three books with you, what would you bring?
A: I am going to tie this in with my being asked what my favorite books of all-time are! And this is a horribly difficult decision, because it would be like abandoning my papery children! Matilda would definitely have to come - my aunt Sarah gave her to me in a paperback when I was six or so and I have carried her with me in my heart ever since. I will also carry a fondness for Oliver Twist with me forever - it was the first "classic" book I ever read, and I grew up on the 1960s movie musical. Something about that book resonates with me, its pages feel like a warm, broken-in glove I'm slipping on after a long, hot summer. Lastly I guess I would cheat and say whatever I was reading at the time - I hate leaving books unread!

Q: What are some of your favorite beauty and skincare brands?
A: I am a fan of Garnier's B.B. cream, but as for everything else, I'm really still getting to "know" makeup! I am a big fan of Revlon lip butters, for instance, but I don't quite feel qualified enough to really give this the well thought-out answer it deserves. I enjoy makeup and am trying to get more comfortable with wearing it on a daily basis, but I do try!