Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Fab Finds

Between work, preschool, music class, trips to Costco, the Please Touch Museum, and physical therapy (for both of us - don't ask) this week has flown by. Now it's time for Friday Finds!

Kristin's picks:

Formula X The System

I've had two different friends rave about this nail system and how it kept your manicure chip-free for more than a week, so I decided to treat myself. For $32 you get a 'nail cleaner,' basecoat, topcoat, and color of your choice (they have LOADS so it was hard to choose - I got a bright plum). I was slightly skeptical going into it, but painted my nails last Thursday night and went about my day. The polishes went on easily and I liked the color, but by Saturday I saw some minor chips. To be fair, I did some scrubbing in the bathrooms with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser because we had people over that night, but I wouldn't say I was doing hardcore cleaning. My nails looked a little better than they usually do after a week, but not $32 better. What's weird is they seem to be growing out from the bottom, almost like when someone gets a gel mani, which is a little hard to tell in the picture. Here's what my nails looked like the day after one week:

In the end I wish I'd bought the mini system (which was about half the price) to try and see if I liked it, but the mini kits are pre-packaged meaning you can't choose your own color. I'll try again and see what happens...apparently you can use the system with a different brand of polish, so I'm wondering if that will make a difference.

Caramel Apple Sangria 

My cousin shared the recipe for this on Facebook and it looked amazing, so I decided to try it out for the party I had last weekend. This sangria was definitely a hit and a huge F-yeah! To make it, you just need to pour a bottle of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio), a bottle of sparkling apple cider, and 1/4 cup of caramel syrup (it was in the coffee aisle) in a pitcher, and then chop up a few apples and drop them in. The apples we bought were massive, so I actually only cut up one, even though the recipe called for four. Cheers!

Yes, that's a Blair Waldorf wine charm.

Lori's picks:

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice K-Cups
If you've been in Trader Joe's recently you'd think you were in The Pumpkin Store, not Trader Joe's. They make everything from pumpkin Cheerios to pumpkin crackers. It's great if you love pumpkin but I think they've gone a tad overboard. One pumpkin thing I do look forward to every fall is pumpkin coffee. When I saw TJ's had Pumpkin Spice K-Cups I had to get them. My husband and I had a cup this morning and gave them a collective F-Yeah. My only complaint is that I wish they came with more in the box than 12.

Trader Joe's Alstroemerias
I love having fresh flowers at home, but it's a rarity because I usually forget. I was at my cousin's house a few weeks ago and saw a vase with the most beautiful flowers that were so perfect that I had to ask her if they were real. She then told me they were alstroemerias from Trader Joe's, last 2 weeks, and are only $3.99. As I walked into Trader Joe's yesterday I made a mental note to make sure to grab a bouquet.  I'll let you know how long they last, but for now they look beautiful and make me happy and it looks like I know how to arrange flowers (which couldn't be further from the truth).

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday's Fab Finds

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day! Now that the unofficial end of summer has come and gone, we're trying to get back into our usual routine - so you'll be seeing more frequent posts from us (F-yeah!) It's always sad when beach days and flip flops become a thing of the past, but with today being 9/11, we're focusing on the positive - it's time to hug your families a little tighter today.

As usual, these are some of our favorites for the week:

Kristin's picks:

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi 

This is another winner in the TJ's frozen foods section. Just throw them in a pan with 2 TBSP of water and heat them for a few minutes...voila! Even my picky kid, who ate approximately half a bite of dinner the night before, devoured these. F yeah! The portion size isn't huge, and there's really only enough for only two adults if you're using it as a side, which is kind of a bummer if you have a larger family. Fortunately toddler portions are so small that we were able to split it three ways and serve it with chicken breasts.

Lilly Pulitzer Agenda

Something about September makes me want to go out and buy tons of school supplies (even if I don't need to use them). The next best thing is a planner. Lilly releases theirs every August, and I've always found this to be annoying because they run from August - December the following year, so you have to go and buy one when your old one still has months left. I just found out today they're releasing 12-month planners starting with January 2016 - F yeah! The only annoying thing is the 12-month ones aren't spiral bound like the regular agendas ... not sure why they're changing the design/format. I'm wondering if it will be annoying to use since it probably won't lay flat, but I'll have to investigate when this one runs out in December. And as of now, they only come in two colors instead of a bunch like the Aug-Dec agendas.

Lori's picks:

Homewood Suites

If you have a child, travel with people who have children, or just want some extra room to spread out when you're traveling, check out Homewood Suites if you haven't stayed in one yet. A few weeks ago I traveled with my parents (hubby was traveling for work) to visit Thomas Land (stay tuned for a post about this in the near future!) and we stayed in a Homewood Suites. This chain is geared towards people who are staying somewhere long-term for business but they are the perfect solution for families. We got a 2 bedroom suite and it was perfect. Each bedroom had their own full bathroom and was separated by a spacious living room/kitchen. It even had a fireplace. There was a pool that my son loved and a fairly extensive breakfast buffet that is included in your stay. I loved it so much that I booked another stay next week when we go to Hershey Park.

Shutterfly's 16 Square Collage Photo Frame

I'm as obsessed with Instagram as I am with having pictures around my house. Sometimes these obsessions don't see eye to eye when I'm too f-ing lazy to print pictures out, go to a store to buy a frame, arrange them in the frame, and then actually hang the frame on the wall. Shutterfly has this magical power to connect your Instagram account so you can pick and choose pictures from there and put them on just about any product they sell. I wanted to pick out some of my favorite Instagrams and this collage frame is perfect. I was a little worried that the frames would look weird if my original Instagram had one (or didn't) but the finished product turned out great and doesn't look weird that the pictures have different filters on them. I love looking at it whenever I pass it. And the best part was I did it right on my computer and Shutterfly did all the work. Shutterfly participates in Ebates (only 1% but better than nothing!) so if you're not a member sign up here. Shutterfly usually has coupons and even has free items so like them on Facebook and/or google for a coupon code before you order. Coupon codes and Ebates can be combined.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fab Fiction: Summer 2015

These past two months have been crazy, crazy, crazy. With my first novel now out and the weeks of planning for my release date and launch party behind me, I feel like I'm finally coming up for air. Somehow I managed to get around to some reading in between all of the book launch madness, and I'm excited to share five of my favorite books from this summer:

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams. I'm a big fan of Beatriz Williams, especially her first book, Overseas, so I was excited to pick this one up. It follows Tiny, the wife of an up-and-coming politician, seemingly living a perfect life. But you find out Tiny's hiding a huge secret  - and so is her husband - and his powerful Boston family will stop at nothing to keep their pristine image. Imagine getting an inside glimpse into the Kennedy family in the 60s. The sequel, which follows Tiny's sister, Pepper, comes out this fall. 

Lady Be Good by Meredith Duran. I met Meredith at the RWA conference and happened to be last in line at her signing, so she ran out of books. We got to talking and she was nice enough to mail me the novel she was signing (Fool Me Twice) along with an extra one, which was this book. I flew through it and can't wait to read the follow-up, Luck Be a Lady. I'm really into unusual heroines, and the heroine in this one is a former thief, which adds an interesting element. If you like Regency romances, you need to read this! 

The Milliner's Secret by Natalie Meg Evans. If you can't tell, I was on a historical fiction kick lately! This book was on my TBR list for a while, and since I got to know Natalie a bit on social media recently, I was really looking forward to The Milliner's Secret. I LOVED this book. It's billed as an "epic and heart-wrenching love story set in wartime Paris" and I don't think I could describe it any better. I didn't know much about the German occupation of Paris during WWII, but the author includes enough information to let you know what's going on without it getting to be historical facts overload. This story will break your heart and make you want to buy a really fantastic hat at the same time. 

Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond. I received an advance reader copy of this book, and to be honest, I thought a book about a grieving mother who sets out to save a homeless woman and her baby would be depressing. Typically, it's not a topic I'd choose to read about, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. This book manages to be both heartbreaking and inspiring as the main character sets out to change her life after her infant dies. There are some topics that are hard to handle well in fiction, and I thought Diamond did a great job at painting an honest picture of a woman dealing with loss as she tries to save her marriage and herself.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. To break up the more serious reads, I listened to this one on Audible, and oh my God, it was HILARIOUS. I highly suggest you all buy this book immediately. It's about a fashion magazine editor who returns to work from sick leave only to find her former assistant has taken over ... and made the magazine into an app. The UK title is "Techbitch" which I think is way better suited (you'll see after you read it). Very The Devil Wears Prada, but in reverse.

What were your favorite books of the summer?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday's Fab Finds

We're still in summer mode/book launch mode over here, so excuse the lack of posts lately! With only two weekends left before the unofficial end of summer, we're trying to cram in as much fun as we can before schedules change and preschool starts. Sigh!

Some things we've been loving lately:

Kristin's picks: 

Tee Public Princess Shirt

Mean Girls is one of my favorite movies ever, and who doesn't like to wear pink on Wed? We're headed to Disney World in a few months, and when I saw this shirt I *had* to get it. I definitely know what I'll be wearing that Wednesday!

Covergirl Bombshell Volume Mascara

I'm a fan of Younique mascara, but mine was getting dried out (and honestly, I should have replaced it a couple of months ago). Trying to be thrifty, I picked this up with a 20% off coupon at BBB, so it ended up being around $6. I can't say it works as well as Younique, but it does have a little "bolder" of a look than a normal mascara. I've only used it twice so far, so the verdict is still out, but it's fine for everyday. I'll be re-ordering my Younique for nights out, etc.

Pick Your Own Flowers

I found a farm near us that has pick your own flowers, and I never even know this was an option - then again, I'm not really a farm-going person, either. It was something like $1.75 for 7 flowers, so I grabbed 14. Well, I really intended to actually pick them, but my kid was acting like a maniac and wanted nothing to do with the actual picking part, so we cheated and bought some of the pre-cut stems. Definitely will be going back to try and do it properly again though. Lori recently went to a different farm and got a bunch, too! Check for a farm close to you if you're looking for a toddler activity (or cheap flowers).

Lori's Picks:

Archer Farms Bloody Mary Pickles

There are few things I love more than a bloody mary and a pickle so when I saw bloody mary pickles in Target I just had to get them. I felt like they could go either way but I'm happy to report they get two thumbs up. They have a nice kick and zing to them and are just delicious. If you are a fan of brine, pick these up on your next visit to Target.

La Croix Curate Sparkling Water

If you know me, I'm a seltzer addict. Every once in a while I'll give my sodastream a break and get some flavored seltzer. I recently tried a few flavors in the La Croix Curate (I have no idea what this means except that the cans are tall and thin as opposed to your regular can shape and have more exotic flavors) line and I love them. The Pineapple Strawberry, Cantaloupe Grapefruit, and Kiwi Watermelon are all keepers and would be great with a shot of vodka. You can find them at Target. Clearly this is where I do the majority of my shopping. Free wifi and the youtube app work wonders when you need to get stuff done with a toddler.

Grown up coloring books

I've been wanting to get a grown up coloring book and this week I finally got around to going to a Barnes and Noble (although I saw today that Target carries them too) to buy one. I can't wait to watch <insert trashy reality show> while coloring in my grown up coloring book.

Have a great weekend! We'll be back next week with a Thredup review (spoiler alert: it's not pretty)
Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday's Fab Finds: Saturday edition

Okay, we're a day late, but it was a crazy week so hopefully you can forgive us :)

We have to admit, we're loving summer but at the same time, kind of over it...but even if you love fall, you'll have to admit bales of hay and candy corn in stores is slightly overkill for mid-August. What the F, Michaels and Wegmans? Anyway, we digress. We're in a foodie mood this week, especially since Kristin's kitchen is being renovated (more on that later) so we're sharing some of our latest obsessions. On to the fab finds! 

Lori's picks:

Friendly's Rockin' Poppin' Cotton Candy Ice Cream

Nothing lights a fire under my ass quite like the words "limited edition." When I was roaming around the aisles of the grocery store earlier this week, this packaging jumped out at me and I had to buy it. What if this was my only chance to get it!? It's fun, delicious, and tastes just like cotton candy. I used it to bribe Kristin's son to let me cut his hair so even if it wasn't all those things, it was completely worth it for the bribe factor alone. The "poppin'" part of the ice cream isn't like pop rocks as one may assume, but more like crunchy rice krispie pieces. Random but welcomed.

Dole Salad Kits

I don't care if you work outside the home, stay at home, or eat bonbons for a living. You need to eat lunch and planning what to eat is a pain in the butt. Enter the Dole Salad Kit collection (found here). I discovered these a while ago and buy them regularly for my husband and sometimes for myself.

Yes each bag has several servings in it but it's just so easy to throw in a bowl and eat the whole thing that you should just go for it. Who wants to store soggy salad anyway? They're usually on sale at Shoprite, which is where we go for most of our groceries, every other week or so so it's easy to stock up for 2 weeks at a time. Their regular price is about $4 each which if you buy lunch is still a steal but why pay full price when you can plan ahead and get them for about $2 each? My husband keeps a bowl at work and in the mornings he just takes a bag from the fridge. On occasion I'll give him some shrimp or chicken to add in but he is just as happy without an added protein. If he happens to go out or has a lunch meeting, it's easy to just keep it in the fridge at work for the next day.

These salad kits have taken the guess work out of what to eat for lunch everyday. As much as I love ordering salads out, it drives me nuts when they charge you upwards of $10 for a salad. It's f-ing lettuce! My husband's favorites are any of the Caesar options and I love the Southwest kit. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

Kristin's picks: 

Wegman's Chocolate Covered Banana Chips

Run, don't walk to your nearest Wegmans and get yourself some of these suckers! I grabbed these on a whim one day since they were sitting on a display in the checkout line, and it was the best impulse buy ever. Imagine a chocolate-covered raisin, but replace raisin with a banana chip. You need to ration these because you could easily finish the box in one night if you're not careful!

Graze box

I used to get Naturebox snack deliveries, and I thought it was too pricey for what you received. When I heard about Graze, which is a similar service with healthy snacks, I thought I'd try it out. I feel like a lot of people don't know about Graze, probably because it's British (what? me being obsessed with something British?) but it's been great so far! It's definitely less expensive than Naturebox, and they send individually-packaged snacks, which is perfect if you're always on the go. 

You don't get to choose your snacks, which is the only downside, but you can list your dietary preferences/restrictions like no nuts, gluten free, nothing spicy, etc. There's 106 different snacks available and you can go through their website and rate snacks in terms of whether you think you'd like them or indicate you don't want certain snacks. And after you receive a box, you get an email asking you to rate your snacks, so if you didn't like something they won't send it again. You can choose from different sizes as well - I get the 4 snack variety box which costs $6 and it's delivered every 2 weeks. You'll get everything from granola to dried fruit to flapjacks (like a granola bar), popcorn and lots more. These snacks are great to throw in your purse or diaper bag and at least you know they're nutritionally balanced! 

You can sign up for Graze here

The snacks actually come in little sealed plastic boxes, not just randomly dumped in the box!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday's Fab Finds

We don't know about you, but this summer is flying by (and crazy busy)! This is the first week in a while both of us have been here to do Friday Finds, so here we go:

Lori's picks:

Anthropologie's return policy and sale
Like most people I love Anthropologie but don't really love their prices. That said, I only buy things on sale from there. If you see something you like don't hesitate to buy it because Anthropologie's return policy is super generous. I've heard that they accept anything back but I actually got to see it in action recently. I bought a shirt that I actually wore but then realized that the lines on it didn't line up and it would drive me nuts and I would never wear it again. If you're wondering, it was this shirt. I went back and asked if I could return it and fully disclosed I wore it and washed and dried it already. The cashier said no problem and fully refunded the price I paid. Customer service will get you far with me and for that I will continue to be a loyal customer.

Olivia Garden Ceramic and Ion Thermal Brush
I needed a larger round brush and picked this one up at Ulta and have been using it a lot. It really smooths out my hair and dries it quickly. Another thing I love about shopping at Ulta is that they almost always have coupons (even though there are a ton of restrictions on what you can use them on) and you can just flash them a picture of it on your phone. This brush isn't restricted from the coupon. F-yeah!

Trader Joe's Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
It's been a while since I perused the frozen aisle at TJ's so when I saw this the other day, I perked up. It was new (to me) and I'm always up for trying something new that I don't have to cook myself. After a quick glance at the nutritional info, I threw it in my cart. I asked the cashier if it was new and if she tried it. Since she didn't eat meat she hadn't, but had heard good things about it. I left confident in my choice. Like most Trader Joe's products, this one was no exception and had a few different packets with elaborate heating instructions. True to Lori form, I said F the directions and just threw everything in a skillet and heated it up. In the bag there was a sealed packet of vegetables (green beans and edamame) and a sealed packet of sauce. They wanted you to microwave the veggies, then put the sauce in a bowl of hot water to defrost and then saute the chicken in a pan. Why Trader Joe's why!?!??! Anyway ignore the directions and throw everything on the stovetop and heat up for a little while and serve. I had this for lunch the other day with a friend and we were both astonished how delicious and easy to make it was. For around $5 this is a must-have frozen staple. Try it and let me know what you think!

Kristin's picks:

Nan's Glam Turquoise Stud Earrings
I was looking for a simple silver and turquoise stud last summer and found these on Etsy. I hadn't even looked at the name of the shop, so imagine my surprise when they arrived in the mail and the seller was called "Nan's Glam." In my novel, the main character is a jewelry designer and she calls her grandmother Nan. I figured it was meant to be so I contacted Nan, who is so sweet, about doing a giveaway to celebrate my book launch. She was kind of enough to send a pair of the studs for my contest (you can enter here!) If you're looking for a go-with-everything earring and like supporting independent designers, these are really cute and affordable, too - $15.

Julia Quinn historical romances
I know I'm behind with posting Fab Fiction for July, but with my book launch this month I just haven't had the time. I promise I'll post an update eventually! On that note, I wanted to share a book I recently loved by a new-to-me author, Julia Quinn. Now I'm somewhat ashamed I'd never heard of Julia Quinn before since I've been a member of the romance writing community for a while now. At the conference I went to at the end of July, we received two of her books (and an adorable little notebook!) when she spoke at the breakfast session. I started "To Sir Phillip, With Love" at the beach last week and was hooked right away! If you love Jane Austen, you'll definitely love Julia Quinn. I realized after the fact this was actually #5 in a series, but each book is about a different family member so they definitely stand on their own. I'll go back and buy the first one and read them in the proper order because I'm OCD like that, though!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How to Fix a Bad Spray Tan

If you know me or have ever seen a picture, you know that I'm pale as pale can be. After thirty-some years I'm used to it, but it still sometimes gets annoying, like during bathing suit season when you feel like a ghost in our tan-obsessed country. Anyway, last summer I got my first spray tan before we went to Disney in May and I loved it! At first it was a little darker than I'd hoped, but it faded to a nice color after a few days. I got a spray tan again last July before going on a girls weekend and the results were great, so I figured I'd do it again this summer.

I went to a salon that does an organic airbrush tan, where a woman sprays you with the gun versus getting into a scary contraption that will probably make you Ross Gellar orange. No problems either time other than, like I said, it being a little too dark the first couple of days.

And then last month, this happened:

It's hard to do it justice in pictures, and I didn't even get good ones of my feet and legs, but trust me friends, it wasn't F'ing pretty.

My hands and feet had huge white spots where the technician had missed, and the tops of my feet and toes just looked dirty. On top of that, my legs were super blotchy. F that!!!! Needless to say I was calling the salon and asking them to fix it ASAP (they were really nice about it and gave me a credit for a future treatment although I don't know I'll be going back). Luckily my face, arms and torso looked even and turned out great, but I was REALLY tan. Way more tan than I should have been since I asked for it to be super light. And even though I went back for a touch up, it didn't help as much as I expected ... basically, I had to wear maxi dresses for a bunch of days in a row to cover up the hot mess on the bottom half.

During this fiasco I learned quite a few lessons about fixing a spray tan, so I'll share them with you and hope you never have to use them:

Grab some St. Tropez
I got a sample of One Night Only, a "wash off, no-commitment bronzing gel," in the sun safety kit at Sephora a couple of years ago and still had the bottle, so I thought maybe it would even out the bad spots. Turns out it worked great, but if you're trying to look lighter/remove, it's not necessarily the best solution. I like this because it's really light and easy to blend in, but make sure to wash your hands ASAP because it will look like you have chocolate all over them otherwise. I took the plunge and bought the full-sized tube and have been using it all summer. It's great for your face because that's the first part of the spray tan that fades. Even if your tan isn't botched, you're going to have to put some bronzer on to make your face match your body after a few days.

Rubbing alcohol is your friend
I never knew this was even a way to get self tanner off, but when I was at the dermatologist for my annual skin check, I mentioned that the splotches on my arms were because of the tan, and she said she sees it all the time and uses rubbing alcohol because sometimes it's hard to see if a spot is something wrong or else just tanner. I ran home and soaked a cotton pad and started rubbing and the tan started to come right off! Granted, if it's just some streaks, they'll come off easily, but if you're talking like an entire leg, that's going to take some time and pressure. I've found that alcohol worked best when it was a small spot, and especially after it had been over a week and was starting to rub off anyway.

Lemon juice and baking soda are hit or miss
This is another tip I found on the Internet and it *kind of* worked, but not as well as I hoped. Just squeeze some juice from a lemon into a few spoonfuls of baking soda and mix it up to make a paste, then rub it on the areas you want to remove. I did see a slight difference, but not much. You can also use lemon juice on its own, which is supposed to work because of the acidity.

Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
This is the most important tip, even if you're using other methods to remove the tan. The more you exfoliate, the more layers of skin you're removing. Keep in mind to get an even spray tan in the first place, you absolutely need to exfoliate the night before (NOT the day of, it will leave residue on your skin). And if you want to keep your tan preserved, definitely stay away from exfoliating. But if you end up in the same boat as me and need to get rid of a bad tan fast, I recommend Alba Botanica Sea Salt Body Scrub since it's made from all-natural ingredients and also has a nice grit to it, so it really does the job.

Any tips that I missed? Have you ever had a spray tan disaster? Share away!