Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: POM Wonderful

In the interest of full disclosure, POM Wonderful sent me a case of eight mini bottles of pomegranate juice. I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I know that there are certain juices that tend to be better for you than others. Pomegranate juice is one of those. Each eight ounce bottle of the POM Wonderful has tons of antioxidants and other nutrients that we don't often get enough of in this day and age.

POM Wonderful's juice is made with no added sugars, preservatives (keep it in the fridge!), colors, or filler juices. That always makes me feel good, although looking at the nutritional info, the natural sugar occuring in the juice is at a higher level than I like to ingest -- which explains the high calorie count per bottle. This isn't a diet drink, but it's awfuly good!

I am impressed by the care they take in making the juice. We're very careful about the foods we put into our bodies in our house, and we pretty much avoid fake foods wherever we can. We aren't completely organic or even close, but POM grows their own fruit, picks it by hand, and squeezes it in their own presses. That makes me feel much better about drinking it.

I tried the POM Juice first by itself. It's a powerful taste that makes your lips pucker a little bit - truly no added sugar. I actually liked it that way though. The wee ones weren't quite so sure, although Little Miss seemed to like it more as she drank a bit more of it. My mom, on the other hand, never finished her drink. It was just too bitter and tart for her. I happily helped her.

Then I got creative.

I realized that the POM Juice would make for a great mixer. I had a party at my house recently, and I saved a couple bottles of my POM Juice to make Tall Redheads. Tell me the name alone doesn't make it worth the drink?

The Tall Redhead is Pom Juice, vodka, and 7Up. (It's a 3/3/8 ratio, if I remember right.) This drink was the hit of the night. Everyone loved it, and I think we had quite a few converts to pomegranate juice.

Ironically, one other friend brought something other than wine to drink. Her mixed drink also involved POM Juice. Ironic, no? It just goes to show you how popular it's getting now. She had a champagne cocktail that was also out of this world. Drop a sugar cube into the bottom of a champagne glass, add champagne, then top with the POM Juice and a scoop of pomegranate seeds.

When I was looking for my cocktail recipe, I was expecting that I would find mostly drink recipes for POM Juice. I was wrong. On the POM website, there is an entire section of recipes devoted to pomegranate juice and other products they make.

Does pomegranate syrup intrigue you? How about POM gelato? A POM buerre for your poached fish? I unfortunately finished off my eight bottles of POM Juice before I realized the wealth of opportunities out there.

Granted, this is probably not a juice that I will buy every day. However, the next time I'm having a fun or fancy party, I'm absolutely making more POM cocktails. And I might have to go check out a few more of those recipes!

Yum! And the best news? It's easy to find. I checked out the various grocery stores by me, and they all carried it. Even Costco had POM Juice. Give it a try!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: e.l.f. Cosmetics

Disclosure: e.l.f. Cosmetics and SheSpeaks sent me 289 pieces of makeup for my makeup party with my friends that also included goodie bags with brushes and the like for those in attendance. The makeup was split amongst those of us attending the party. I received no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.

I've heard about e.l.f. cosmetics for awhile, and I'm sure you've seen the emails floating around with false rumors that the $1 makeup line is about to be bought by Nordstrom and the prices then will go sky-high. I've tried e.l.f. a few times before I had the opportunity for this party. The first experience I had with them was ordering online, and I liked it but not so much that I needed to seek it out when I ran low. The local stores had what I was used to using, and that was just easier. While at BlogHer's conference this year, I attended a suite party hosted by e.l.f., which is where I learned how much things have changed.

e.l.f. doesn't just have their $1 line anymore. They now offer a studio line and a mineral line, both of which compare favorably to brands you're more familiar with at much lower prices. Better yet, e.l.f. is now carried in all Target stores, although my local Target only has the $1 line. When you order online, you have every product they offer, and there's always a special going on.

Needless to say, it didn't take much to talk me into having a party with some friends to try out the makeup. I didn't really get how much makeup 289 pieces is until I actally received the box with the makeup and started setting it all out.

With that much makeup, we had a lot of fun testing it out. Everyone started out sans makeup so we could have a clean palette to work with. Fortunately, I had plenty of beverages so that the embarrassment of being seen without our makeup was soon mitigated.

I was surprised that I found quite a few things that I liked from the selection. Before we started, there was a video we watched to ensure we (sort of) knew what we were doing, and we all learned some new tips and tricks.

I now wear undereye concealer, and the one I discovered is a pencil with a built in sharpener that has a brush on the other end of the concealer. It's so nifty! For $3, you can bet you won't see me walking around with circles under my eyes again.

Their shadow sticks were also some of my favorites (also $3!), although I struggle sometimes to get even application of the shadow. I have the same issue with liquid eyeliner. We tried their liners, and for the most part we liked them, although we discovered that we really need to shake them well before using or they were dry and somewhat flaky. Shaking made a big difference though.

Many of the ladies found that they really liked the all-over cover sticks, which they used in place of foundation. This was part of the $1 line, and they seemed to work well. Others used the mineral foundation. For $5, I'll definitely be using this one instead of the one I currently buy on sale for five times that amount. I was the lucky person to keep the kabuki brush that came with the makeup, and I have to say that I love it. It works well and isn't shedding bristles at all.

I had a hard time finding a blush that I liked, as did one of my friends. We both have a skin tone that tends to turn makeup orange on our faces, which was a struggle. I finally realized that one of the bronzers was perfect, and I've been using this as my blush since. A few of the women used the studio line of bronzers ($3) and are new converts to using a bronzer on a regular basis.

There were a few products that we didn't love as much as others though. The mascaras were a bit dry, and they seemed to clump somewhat. I went back to using my old mascara after the party. We also received some products that we weren't quite sure how to use, and the packages didn't give us much help, such as the shimmering facial whip. We finally figured out that it is a gel like version of shimmer powder, but we all prefer the traditional powder.

My only other complaint about the makeup is that the labeling of the products could be improved. Many of them don't list the color on them (e.g., the concealers, several shadow sticks), which makes it difficult to purchase the correct color on a return trip, unless your memory is better than mine. That's something that is easily fixed, though.

All in all, there are definitely some new converts to the e.l.f. line, myself included. I'm looking forward to my makeup running out and having to buy more -- and that's unusual for me.
Check out some of our before and after photos:

Several of the colors we ended up wearing were ones we would never have dreamed of trying if we were going to the store and buying more expensive makeup. We had lots to play with though, and we were surprised by what really worked well for us. And for $1 or $3 or $5, it's worth a try to see what you like that perhaps you haven't used before.

You can receive free shipping on any order over $25 from e.l.f. by using the code "MUAH" when checking out.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Giveaway: $200 LOFT Gift Card

This is a compensated review
by BlogHer and Loft.

I received a $200 LOFT gift card in exchange for participating in this event, but all comments and opinions expressed are purely my own and not influenced by this.

Most women love shopping, and I’m generally one of them. Except that now that I’m a mom with two kids, I don’t quite have the time or patience for shopping the way I used to. This is only partly due to the fact that I apparently lost my fashion sense when I gave birth, so I have a hard time finding clothes I like that look good on me.

Enter the LOFT (formerly Ann Taylor LOFT). I’ve always been a fan of theirs and have fond memories of trips to the LOFT in Michigan City to go shopping with friends after I graduated college, although I haven’t spent as much time there lately as I now think I should have.

The LOFT invited me to a holiday event at their store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, and I jumped at the chance to have a stylist dress me. We had a 45 minute style challenge (and I was a challenge!). We had to put together three perfect holiday looks: the perfect party outfit, an office to party outfit, ad a casual holiday look.

Poor Helen (my dedicated stylist – I love saying that!). I told her that I was game for everything, but I warned her that I also might veto things, as many things that are fashion forward tend to accentuate features I’d rather avoid. Let’s just say that the whole belting a sweater trend is going to pass me right on by.

With a photographer in tow, Helen and I started touring the store. The music was loud and pumping, as they were having a shopping event that afternoon (visit to find one near you), and I was a little overwhelmed at first. Helen obviously knew the store well, and ohhh those colors and clothes!

We decided to work on the holiday casual outfit first. Helen pointed out a few sweaters that she thought might be a good fit (ha, ha?) for me and left me to peruse the tops and pick out a pair of jeans. We decided that the boot cut was probably the jean I wanted, and then Helen said something to me that made my day. It was probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Don’t bother trying the curvy jeans. You are not curvy. You have really nice legs, and you don’t need the curvy ones.

I almost cried when she said that. I grabbed a pair of jeans that looked good – feeling like a celebrity with my paparazzi snapping trillions of photos of me. However, I decided to let Helen chose my top. She pulled out a great midnight blue silk sleeveless blouse to go under a fun beige sweater that had all sorts of cool, drape-y layers to it. While I liked the sweater, I had no idea what to put under it, and I would never have even tried the blue blouse. She also picked out a truly funky matching necklace to finish it off, and we headed into the dressing room.

The jeans were amazing. In fact, I bought a pair of them because they fit so well. Usually when I buy jeans, they fit in the waist and the thighs and everything, but there is some excess material under my rear that isn’t the most flattering. These were perfect. Yay! One sixth of an outfit was complete.

Apparently my thinking face is crabby. I certainly hope that Helen knows that I wasn’t unhappy with any of this. This is an outfit that I tried on first that I had to think about.

The sweater unfortunately did not work for me, but we loved the blouse. We kept working and pulling out other options (Helen was very patient with my vetoes – I may not know what I like, but I’m still picky) of things that were really quite cool but just not quite perfect for me. Then we had the brilliant idea of switching out the blouse for a different color so we could do a black sweater over it.

Ta da! Fuscia blouse with matching necklace and the black sweater to fun casual finish it off. You know I liked it when the whole outfit came home with me. And none of it was on sale (ok, except that during the shopping event, the whole store was 30% off!). One down, and I was a happy camper.

(Have I mentioned that I hate pictures of me? Especially when I’m having bad hair days. And they aren’t candid photos? I make a horrid model!)

The second outfit was the office to party look. This one went pretty quickly, as we found a cool suit that I would never have chosen for myself. It’s a cut that I’m going to have to remember, as it was surprisingly flattering. This was one of the best parts about this event. The whole outfit I would never have chosen – I don’t wear suits that often anymore, I would never have picked up that print for myself, and the cut of the jacket would have meant that it would have stayed on the rack. Yet, check it out – it totally works.

Our last outfit was the truly fun one. I got to dress up in my perfect party outfit. Again, Helen chose a skirt and top that I would never have picked up for myself – that skirt was so much shorter than what I usually wear! – but they were great together. I definitely needed something to put on top of the blouse, but LOFT had several good choices. We finally narrowed it down, and sadly my day of glory with people who dress me was over.

I wandered back out into the store sans my personal photographer, and I looked around at some of the clothes that I’d missed before. They really had some great stuff, and I was able to quickly fill my arms. Now that I wasn’t being whisked through the store, it wasn’t so intimidating or overwhelming. I came home with a very large bag (which I’m sure was part of the reason they invited me!), and I’m wearing one of my brand new sweaters right now. My mom even commented on how much she loved it, and she never notices what I’m wearing.

The people in the store were so nice. Everyone from the store manager to the associates working the floor were as friendly as can be – even when they didn’t know I was there for something “special.”

The event was so much fun, and I’d forgotten how much I love the LOFT. I didn’t even get to see the whole store, but I’ll have to visit the store closest to me soon to do a closer look. I wasn’t the only one who benefitted from the LOFT’s generosity, and you can, too. There were fourteen other bloggers around the country who also enjoyed this special event, and we’re all giving away $200 gift cards to the LOFT– that’s fifteen chances to win a $200 gift card! special offers page

Want to win one here? Make sure you follow the rules, and I’ll be drawing a random winner on December 25.

Even if you don’t win the gift card, you still win. Go to the LOFT for this exclusive 20% Off Coupon for your in-store purchases (valid through 12/31/09).

This contest is open until December 25 at 9pm CST. I must have a valid way to reach you, so leave me your email address in your comment or be sure your profile has your email address visible. No duplicate comments will count. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and older. Winners will be selected via and must respond within 48 hours of being notified by me or I will select a new winner.

Mandatory Entry: You must vote for your favorite of the three outfits I was dressed in: holiday casual, perfect party, or office to party and tell me why you liked it best. If you don't do this one, no entries will count.

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry):

Earn one additional entry for Tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
1) Earn one additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link to your post in the comments.
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly!

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giveaway: Movie Moment Prize Pack

Disclosure: I received a coupon for a free box of General Mills cereal and four movie passes in exchange for this review, but the opinions presented are solely my own.

I love going to the movies, although I've done so far less regularly since the wee ones were born. In fact, the last time I was at the movies on a regular basis was on Mister Man's due date when I saw Finding Nemo.

That's partly due to time and the cost of finding a babysitter, but also I lack the motivation to some degree. Having two small children puts a damper on any sort of social life, as I'm sure many of you know.

General Mills recognized this, and started up a new promotion called the General Mills e-movie cash. You can receive a free movie ticket when you purchase two specially marked packages of General Mills´ Cereals. After purchasing two cereals, visit to enter the code found inside each box of cereal and print your free movie certificate.

Participating brands include select sizes of: Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Trix, and Reese´s Peanut Butter Puffs.

The Movie Cash certificate is valid for any showing of any movie at participating theaters -- and there are a lot of them, anywhere from Cinemark Theaters to Regal Cinemas and more. To fit the list of all the eligible theaters, I think the font is in six point type!

Now that's motivation to go see a movie. So we did, since there are four of us and I received four movie passes. This was Mister Man's second movie ever, and Little Miss's first. Amazingly, they both sat still for the whole movie. They thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I'm saving this as a reward for good behavior in the future.

When we got to the theater, we had no problems with the coupons for the tickets, which was a little bit of a worry for me. Fortunately, the cashier took them and figured them out immediately, so there was no hassle at all.

And really, with children around, who doesn't go out and buy cereal on a regular basis? You don't want to know how many cereals we have at my house -- and I even make my own from scratch!

You have until June 30, 2010 to enter your codes into the website, and the certificates are valid for 60 days from the date you print them. Win-win, no?

Go, buy some cereal (especially the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was one of my favorites growing up).

Or you can win your own Movie Moment prize package here that includes four free e-movie certificates (each valid for one admission up to $12) and a coupon for a free box of any one General Mills cereal courtesy of General Mills via MyBlogSpark.

You have until December 14 at 8pm CST to enter. I must have a valid way to reach you, so leave me your email address in your comment or be sure your profile has your email address visible. No duplicate comments will count. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and older. Winners will be selected via and must respond within 24 hours of being notified by me or I will select a new winner.

Mandatory Entry: Tell me the first movie you remember ever seeing and what you remember of it or the first movie you took your child to see and how it went. This must appear in the comments below or none of your entries will count.

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry):
1) Earn one additional entry for Tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link to your post in the comments.
3) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog.
4) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly!.

Good luck!

Giveaway: $200 Visa Gift Card

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Sprint

I received $75 in compensation in exchange for sharing my (I hope) funny story about a holiday road trip.

Want to win a $200 Visa Gift Card? Read on for my story, and share yours for a chance to win. Plus, seven other bloggers and BlogHer are giving away additional $200 Gift Cards. Visit the special offers page - you've got 9 chances to win a $200 Visa Gift Card!


Everyone always wants to go home for the holidays, especially the recent college grads who like to pretend their independent and above it all but really just want some home cooking and laundry and comfort.

The first Christmas after I graduated college, I was living in Chicago in an apartment by myself. My family was in Minnesota, and I was thrilled to be flying home. Me being the cheap me that I am, I flew out of Midway because it saved me a good $30 on the ticket.

I took the orange line out to Midway and waited for my flight to take off. Silly Chicagoans, they canceled my flight due to the heavy snow falling. And they canceled the rest of the flights heading out of Chicago to Minnesota that day, too. Since it was Christmas Eve (it’s cheaper to fly then, ya know), I sort of needed to get home.

When I asked what I could do, the lovely gate attendants offered to book me on a flight out of O’Hare – the other airport in Chicago – as they hadn’t canceled flights. I’d have to get there on my own, and the flight left in three hours, but it was doable.

I hopped in a cab and was on my way to my second airport of the day. Taking the el back to the city and then out to O’Hare was cutting it a little close for my flight. Of course, since it was snowing heavily, traffic wasn’t exactly moving.

Almost two hours into the drive, I realized I wasn’t going to make that flight no matter what I did. We were still on the highway and not exactly close to O’Hare. It was about then that I looked at the cabbie’s meter.

It was at $78. And this cab didn’t take cash. And I’m not one to carry a ton of cash on me (I’m still not, in case you’re thinking about mugging me someday). I quickly opened my purse and fished out my wallet to discover that I had exactly $80 on me.


I quickly asked the cabbie to drop me off at the closest bus station, which fortunately was at the next exit. He took all my money, and he wasn’t nice about it either.

By this point, I was starting to get a little panicky. Everything that could go wrong was, and all I wanted to do was just make it home. This being back in the age of the dinosaurs before everyone had cell phones, so I picked up a payphone and called my parents collect.

After reassuring them that I was alive, I decided that I’d play the brave, strong woman. I told me parents that I wouldn’t be able to make it home for Christmas this year. Instead, I’d head down to Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Chicago to go to Christmas Eve midnight mass by myself. It would all be ok.

I hung up the phone and pulled my fare card out of my wallet – I could at least afford to take the el back to my apartment! – and started the journey back to my apartment, spinning tales in my head about how sad the situation was and how tragic a figure I made. I cried silently to myself as I walked through my door.

It was about then that I realized I didn’t know where Holy Family was, and walking there (since I had no cash, remember) for midnight mass was probably not going to happen. I wish I could remember what I ate for dinner that night, as I’m sure it only adds to my comic tragedy. I have to assume it was something like macaroni and cheese. From a box. This was in the days before I really knew how to cook well.

Around 2 in the morning, my parents called. They had driven down from Minnesota to pick me up. They picked up my suitcase that was still packed, and we all climbed into my parents’ car to drive home in time to celebrate Christmas morning at my parents house. Or at least what I remember of it.

But hey – every story has to have a happy ending, right? Fortunately, I learned all the appropriate lessons from that trip, and knock on wood, I’ve managed to avoid so many woes trying to get home ever since then.

So what’s your funniest holiday road trip story? Share your story in the comments below, and you can win a $200 Visa Gift Card.

This contest is open until December 31. I must have a valid way to reach you, so leave me your email address in your comment or be sure your profile has your email address visible. No duplicate comments will count. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and older. Winners will be selected via and must respond within 48 hours of being notified by me or I will select a new winner.

Please see the official rules here: Official rules

Mandatory Entry: You must leave me your best holiday road trip story in the comments below or none of your entries will count - or you may leave a link to your post on your own blog in the comments below.

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry):
1) Earn one additional entry for Tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link to your post in the comments.
3) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog.
4) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly!

Good luck – and I can’t wait to read those road trip stories!