Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giveaway: Spinbrush MyWay!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent a Spinbrush MyWay! toothbrush from Arm & Hammer. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Toothbrushing is a big deal in my house. We have the dichotomy of teeth between my husband and I. I (knock on wood, crossing my fingers and my eyes) have never had a cavity, and his mouth is filled with crowns and fillings and all sorts of stuff. I know that teeth are somewhat genetic, but I'm determined to do everything I can to ensure that the wee ones follow my path in life and don't have to go through the yuckiness of my husband's teeth.

To that end, we do a lot of tooth brushing here, and so far (as of July 23!), the dentist says so far so good. While the wee ones are still too young to brush their teeth by themselves, my husband and I try to stress the importance of brushing and make it both effective and fun.

The battery-operated Spinbrush MyWay! I was sent by Arm & Hammer to try out definitely fits the bill there. The brush has a round part that spins at the tip of the brush with more bristles that are stationary, so we can get a great brush, and Little Miss's efforts are making a difference, too.

The brush is more than your typical battery brush, though. Your child is able to decorate it in one of six themes created by sticker sheets included with the brush - letters (purple and pink), animals (puppies, bunnies, ladybugs), fun phrases (girls rule, XOXOXO, glam girl), peace and love (rainbows, flowers, peace signs), rock star, and princess.

Shockingly, Little Miss chose the princess stickers (with the alphabet ones used to spell out her name on the brush - just in case anyone in our house was confused about who it belongs to!). She was thrilled to be able to decorate her own brush, and that was a great twenty minute activity.

My only disappointment with the stickers is that they weren't so easy to get. Little Miss started doing it by herself while I was working on dinner, and she accidentally peeled off the entire sheet of alphabet letters. Which she promptly laid on my kitchen table. And then she asked for help because she couldn't get the letters she needed. I spent the rest of the time Little Miss was decorating her Spinbrush scraping the very sticky stickers off my kitchen table. I also had to pull off each of the letter stickers for Little Miss and many of the smaller princess ones. It would have been nice had the stickers been easier for younger children to do independently (as she sooooo wanted to do).

I will say that I'm quite impressed with the way that the waterproof stickers have remained in place. Once they were stuck on the brush, they have remained firmly in place. It's quite the cute brush, I think!

The jewel on the brush is the on/off button. It's rather large, but I like the way you can turn it on and have it stay on. We've used other brushes where you have to constantly press the button to keep it operating. On the downside, Little Miss panicked tonight when she was finishing up her brushing while I put Mister Man into bed and she couldn't get the brush to turn off. It was a little too awkward for her to do alone.

Nonetheless, Little Miss loves her new toothbrush. She is very proud of the fact that she can not just "practice" brushing her teeth, but actually help out in keeping her teeth clean. More proof for me? Her teeth were cleaner when we went to the dentist than Mister Man's were.

I do wish that there was a boy version of this. Mister Man is kind of crushed that he doesn't have a battery-operated toothbrush like Little Miss does. He'd love a dinosaur one or trucks or space, etc. Hopefully that is something that will be in development.

The toothbrushes are sold online for $9.99 plus $2.99 shipping and handling (and online they come with a matching cup and stand). You can also purchase them in stores for $6.99. Or you could win a Spinbrush MyWay! of your very own right here!

So what do you have to do?

First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!

This contest is open until Saturday August 7 at 7pm 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: Tell me, when you were growing up, what flavor did you always choose for your polishing at the dentist grow up? Or what flavor do you wish they had?

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):

1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Friend Connect.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.

Good luck!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting Better for BlogHer: Week 2

In the interest of full disclosure, I am being provided with 42 Healthy Choice meals, a counseling session at BlogHer, and am being compensated. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

See my first post in this series here.

I am one week into my Better for BlogHer challenge from Healthy Choice. As I mentioned last week, I am replacing one meal a day with a Healthy Choice meal and doing my best to follow Tara Gidus’s tips (and yes, I’ll be sharing some today).

So what do I think so far? I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised. There are three different types of meals for me to choose from, Café Steamers, Complete Meals, and Select Entrees. I’ve been doing my best to try a different flavor each day so that I can see what I like and don’t like. So far, it’s mostly been in the like category.

I will admit that I definitely prefer the Café Steamers to the Complete Meals (I haven't tried the others yet). The complete meals come with veggies on the side and a dessert, and while this is a great idea for dinner, I actually find that I don’t need these. Both types of meals are in the 300 calorie range, but the serving size is large enough that I can eat one and not feel hungry twenty minutes later.

The Café Steamers taste fresher to me, which I love. They also have quite a few Mediterranean and Asian inspired options, which I love. I’d rather have a spicy meal with lots of flavor like that than the more traditional meat and potatoes type entrees that the Complete Meals offer (barbeque chicken, chicken parmigiana, fajita steak, spicy shrimp diavolo, etc. The Complete Meals taste fine, although the desserts are a little sweeter than what I make at home, but I just prefer the Café Steamers; it’s a me thing.

To give you a rundown of my thoughts of each meal, I’ve had:

Chicken Margherita: I liked it. It had a little more sauce than I needed, and I’d probably pour a little out before putting the main food into the sauce, but it had great flavor. I do wish that the Café Steamers had their chicken chunks more into bite-sized pieces than the larger chunks they do, but that might also end up drying out the chicken. It’s definitely not a deal breaker.

Roasted Sesame Chicken: I actually really liked this one - or at least the sesame chicken part. I loved the crunch of the sesame seeds and the taste of the sesame sauce with the brown rice. The mixed veggies with this were ok, but they were more steamed than I would make them at home (I like my foods pretty al dente). The gingersnap peach dessert was a little sweet for me and very gingery flavored. It was ok, but definitely not my favorite part of the meal.

General Tso’s Chicken (not my spelling choice): This was another Café Steamer, and while it wasn’t exactly like the food I’d get from a great Chinese restaurant (for one thing, it wasn’t fried!), it had some really nice flavor and spice to it. It wasn’t super spicy – and I probably would have been ok with more heat to it, but I know I’m probably in the minority when you look at mainsteam America – but I really enjoyed this one.

Sweet & Spicy Orange Zest Chicken: I continued with my theme of Asian-inspired Café Steamer options with this one. Again, it wasn’t the fried chicken from a Chinese restaurant, but I really liked it. The chicken chunks are nice pieces of chicken (one of my main complaints from certain Chinese restaurants!), and the sauce has a great citrus flavor that I enjoyed. I accidentally bought a second one of this flavor, but I’m not bothered by that in the least! I also appreciate how they have a variety of vegetables mixed into each of these entrees, which makes them healthier and helps to ensure that I’m getting my daily dose of vitamin V (vegetable).

Sweet & Tangy Barbeque Chicken: This was another of the Complete Meals. It had chicken chunks that were really moist bathed in a decent barbeque sauce. The side for this one was corn niblets – my favorite – and it also came with an apple crisp XXXX. I actually left a bit of the dessert behind for two reasons. First, I didn’t need it because I’d gotten enough food with the rest of the meal, and second, it really was too sweet and syrupy for my tastes. When I make an apple crisp, I tend to make almost all apples with just a little syrup being created. But again – that’s the way I cook and eat, and I know I’m in the minority when it comes to not preferring very sweet desserts.

Balsamic Garlic Chicken: I went back to the Café Steamers, with a Mediterranean inspired choice. The balsamic garlic sauce for this was really good, and it actually wasn't too heavy or too much for me, which I'd worried about a bit. The pasta wasn't the al dente I make, but it was still a good fit. Interstingly, the chicken bites here were much more bite sized, which I appreciated. I liked the variety of veggies in this one from the spinach to garlic to red peppers.

Chicken Pad Thai: Ok, so I took this one out of the microwave and I was confused. It smelled like chicken curry, not pad thai (and I love pad thai - yes, I make my own). I had my husband smell it without telling him what I was thinking, and he told me it smelled like yellow curry chicken. Aside from my disagreement with the labeling (and granted, closer examination of the box showed that it was "chicken pad thai with a light curry sauce" - ummm curry = Indian and pad thai = thai. Once I adjusted my thinking to curry, it was really good. This one, I enjoyed - lots of great crunchy vegetables, and a decent curry. I was looking forward to pad thai though, so it would be great to have a "real" one someday.

I'm excited to keep trying new choices. Unfortunately my local grocery store isn't the best - not only do they sell the entrees for more than the recommended cost per the Healthy Choice website, but their selection leaves a ton to be desired. Tomorrow I am headed out to a different store to see if I can find some of the other options I'm intrigued by: grilled whiskey steak, roasted beef merlot, chicken teryaki, fire roasted tomato chicken, marinara manicotti formaggio, etc.

I have to say that these meals have been perfect. Somehow, I thought that being a stay-at-home mom would give me more time. It hasn't. I am home less now than I was when I was working. The quick meals like this - filling, well-rounded, and yummy - are perfect for when I'm running in and out of the house. I've eaten one in the eight minutes I had between dropping Mister Man off from Tae Kwon Do and running to my softball and between the gym workout and getting Little Miss to gymnastics.

And the benefits? I don't know if it's the meals I'm eating (with more protein and fiber than I usually do, I think) or just coincidence, but running this week has been awesome. My 28 minute run on Monday? I felt so good I kept going and ran for 35 minutes. My 30 minute run on Wednesday? I did 31 minutes, and only because I was pressed for time (yeah, that whole gymanstics thing!). I've finally gotten through my barrier of running longer distances, and I'm so excited.

And the scale at the gym (granted, it's a different scale because my regular gym is closed for remodeling, but same model at two other locations)? I've actually finally lost some weight. It isn't a ton, but I was at 156.4 today - another pound and a half, and I'll find out what I weigh without the two wet towels, toiletries, and heart rate monitor. Whoo hoo!

I have some tips to share with you, too, as promised. Tara Gidus is the nutritionist working with Healthy Choice, and I received some healthy eating tips that I'm trying to take to heart. I'll share some this week and the rest over the coming weeks.

Don't make excuses. According to a recent survey, being too busy is an obstacle to eating healthy, with nearly one out of three people having too many social events (30%) or not having time to prepare healthy meals or snacks (29%). Uhhh yeah. I fall into that category. I do great for awhile, but then I go the excuses route and go for the quick and easy - and not so healthy! This is a good reminder that I'm accountable and need to stay that way.

S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Food is meant to be enjoyed, so slow down and taste every bite. Take sips of water and put your fork down throughout the meal to remind yourself to slow down. This is another one I need to focus on - uhhh did you see above where I talked about the 8 minutes I was in the house to cook and eat a meal? When I have time to sit down for a meal, I am pretty good at this one. I enjoy food, and I'm a slow eater. But too often I'm running around and fueling without focusing on the food. Huge difference.

Track your spending. Not dollars, but calories. People who keep a record of what they eat lose twice as much weight as people who don't. I can so vouch for this one! I used SparkPeople a couple years ago and was so healthy and fit and actually lost weight. I tracked everything I ate. And that also meant that when I was at Costco walking past the samples, I thought hard about whether or not I wanted to write that down later - or figure out how to write it down! All those little things that "don't count" really add up during the day. I need to go back to the nice folks at SparkPeople - and yes, it's free!

Get enough sleep! Not having enough sleep can throw off your hormone balance and contribute to gaining weight. Ummm yeah. It's now 11:27. And I'm not off to bed yet. I really need to work on this one. I used to set a lights out time of 10pm where I would go up to bed to unwind by then at the latest. I've gotten away from that lately, especially this summer. I need to ensure I'm getting enough sleep again.

On that note, I'm headed to bed. Wish me luck in this next week - I can't wait to see what foods I try and how I progress on this journey to Get Better For BlogHer!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Giveaway: JumpStart Get Moving Family Fitness For Wii

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of the Wii game for review purposes. I did not receive any compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

We have come late to the gaming world as a family. With Mister Man’s physical challenges, as well as his tendency to hyper-focus on certain activities – fun traits of autism! – we significantly limit television, computer and video game time. It makes it easier for him to then do the things he needs to do like playing outside and practicing riding his bike when he has free time.

As he’s gotten older, however, we have realized that for social reasons (yep, another of his challenges) it’s important for him to know what video games are and how to use them so that he can be a part of those conversations with his friends and know what to do when he has playdates where video games are involved.

Knowing that the Wii does have many games that focus more on physical movements and activities, that was our natural choice. When we recently received a copy of JumpStart’s Get Moving Family Fitness game, we were thrilled. The wee ones have been playing JumpStart on the computer for almost the last year, and we love how family friendly and educational it is. Our hope was that the Family Fitness game would take those same traits and include motor activity.

the box

We weren’t disappointed.

The Family Fitness game for Wii involves fifteen different sports challenges to ensure there's at least something for everyone. The cool behind the scenes thing to me is that it was developed in conjunction with Brooke Burke from Dancing with the Stars and a kinesiology experts.

One of the things I really loved about it was that it started conversations with the wee ones about what it means to be fit and why fitness is important not just for me (they see me run and go to the gym on a regular basis) but for the whole family. We’ve talked about the effects of exercise and why being active is important – and why finding a physical activity they love so that they enjoy being active really makes a difference.

It has also allowed me another venue to talk about eating well and how good nutrition makes a difference in our physical fitness level. Throughout the game, Brooke Burke provides nutrition tips and little factoids that help reinforce the overall message of beign healthy. While we tend to eat fairly healthfully anyway, I love natural opportunity that allow me to reinforce this with the wee ones so that as they grow older, it’s them making the right choices and not something that they feel like I’m forcing on them so that they feel deprived and crave all the unhealthy foods they shouldn’t be eating.

So what did they think of the Wii Family Fitness game from JumpStart? They loved it. It started out being a little hard for them, as they still aren’t experts with the Wii (that whole limited video game thing), but as they continued to play it, they “got” it without me having to help them and explain the next steps every time. I also liked the fact that Brooke demonstrated what you had to do before each activity and that I was able to set the difficulty level for them (easy, medium, and hard). There were a couple games that we tended to skip though - like volleyball - because getting the right movements at the right time were hard for all of us, and it was a little too frustrating, especially for Mister Man.

Just like the JumpStart computer game we love, you create your own avatar or Jumpee and customize it to look well... almost however you want. There are all sorts of different looks you can go for customizing your face, clothes, hair, etc. The wee ones have a blast figuring out how to out-bizarre each other with their Jumpees.

The wee ones were always disappointed when I told them that their time was up, but that also means that this game is a great new incentive for me to ensure that they maintain good behavior. They are earning minutes by having good days, and the positive reinforcement of the system seems to be working really well.

We’ve also played with a few of their friends when we’ve had playdates, and everyone is fascinated since this is a new game that they haven’t seen before. We had some competitive moments, and it was hilarious trying to watch them best each other at dodgeball. This is a great game to play with playdates since up to two children can play at the same time - and anyone else makes for a great cheering section.

Our favorite activity is the flying race because ummm, you're flying. And it really made Mister Man think he was Anakin, plus you could fly through all sorts of different locales. Did I forget to mention that you can choose where each game will be based from Egypt to Atlantis to a farm! How cool is that?

Flying Race

Well, at least that’s the wee ones’ favorite game. I actually prefer the step aerobics because I can burn a ton of calories and have fun - and no one knows that I just fell off my Wii Fit board - again (this is the only activity that requires a Wii Fit).

Step Aerobics

Sound good? I thought so, too. The game has been officially released, so you can go buy it yourself. But one of you will be lucky enough to win your own copy of the Wii Get Moving Family Fitness game from JumpStart.

The game is rated E for Everyone with Comic Mischief. You can buy it at any major retailer or Amazon for a suggested $29.99. Or you could be the lucky one to win your own copy of Jumpstart Get Moving Family Fitness right here!

So what do you have to do?

First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!

This contest is open until Thursday August 5 at 7pm 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: Tell me, what are your favorite healthy habits?

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):

1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Friend Connect.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Giveaway: BusyBodyBooks

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent a BusyBodyBook for my review. I did not receive any compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am an organization freak. Lists and details make me happy. Needless to say, calendars are my friend. I remember being in college and having my beautiful calendar - ahhh the days of being responsible only for myself - organized with each color representing a different type of obligation outlining my commitments' timeframes. It was a thing of beauty, and I always knew where I was supposed to be when.

These days, I have not only my schedule but my husband's and the wee ones' to worry about, too. And my calendar isn't nearly so neat. I have a traditional calendar with boxes for each day and random things written on it by random people in random places. I may have an evening event for me on the top and a morning obligation for the wee ones on the bottom. And we always run out of room.

Enter BusyBodyBook.

They have created the ultimate family organization schedule - although admittedly, I would have loved this in college, too. For each day, there are five columns that you can use for different people in the family to better organize what's going on.

I am no longer trying to figure out who a particular entry applies to, and running out of room is a thing of the past. Note that to the left of each weekly calendar, there is space for notes and a to do list. Have I mentioned how much I love to do lists?

Needless to say, I immediately started entering everything that I know for 2011 into the calendar. And interestingly, I actually have quite a bit to add already! I will say that I was slightly disappointed upon opening my BusyBodyBook to find that it contained the calendar year of 2011 because the cover states that it is 2011 Academic Year. So until the calendar turns to December 27, I will still be trying to remember my 2010 commitments in my head. Once we hit 2011, however, my BusyBodyBook will be going with me everywhere!

I love that it's 7x10 inches, which means that it fits perfectly into my purse. Since I have PTO and babysitting co-op meetings that generally require a calendar, I love that I won't have to cart my huge wall calendar with me anymore. It also is spiral bound, which menas that whether it's January or November, I will be able to fully open it easily. The protective hard plastic cover means that living in my purse won't destroy it by January 5th.

In addition to your typical calendar functions - although can I really call the innovative columns typical? - the BusyBodyBook offers a number of other super useful features. There is a little pocket in the front and back, perfect for holding receipts and other miscellaneous papers I seem to carry everywhere. It has a monthly quick glance where I can write down my big picture appointments and plans for 2012 - no more scribbling on the bottom of the December month and hoping that I can read my tiny chickenscratch once I get the next year's calendar.

I am also a prolific note-taker, and there are five pages front and back with room for notes. I love how this is done in three grids (room for one set of notes across the top, one wider down one side and a narrower one down the other). I rarely require a full page for notes, and this is a great way to separate out various topics without wasting paper.

And the to do lists.... there are seven pages of perforated to do lists, with four per page, so that I can keep track of what I'm supposed to do. And when I'm done? They simply tear out and disappear. Or if I'm assigning the to do list to someone else? They now have it, and it isn't an ugly ripped off little piece of paper.

With the thought of the perforated to dos comes one of my disappointments with the BusyBodyBook. When I have weekly calendars, I really like to be able to easily flip to the current time of year by having the top corners perforated to tear off. The BusybodyBook doesn't have this, although I can just cut it off myself. Since they've already gone to the expense of perforating some pages, it would have been nice to continue this theme. While there is a bookmark at the back of the book that you can pull out and reattach to mark your place, I've already found that once it detached, it doesn't stay in the book again very well. It's fallen out three or four times, and I know I will quickly lose it.

Needless to say, I'm pretty thrilled with my BusyBodyBook, small nits aside. I love that the book has a sense of humor - from calling the whitespace to the left of a week "To Doodles" to including what I should be thinking about at that time (e.g., putting away my holiday decorations, wishing Canada a happy Independence Day, making brunch reservations for Grandparents' Day).

For me, it's a perfect size with the five columns - one extra for the "random" obligations that always pop up. Those with larger families aren't out of luck though, and you don't necessarily have to share space like you do everywhere else! The wall calendar has seven columns on the grid.

Are you excited yet? You can win your very own 2011 BusyBodyBook just like mine.

So what do you have to do?

First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!

This contest is open until Tuesday August 3 at 7pm 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: What is your best organization secret?

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):

1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Friend Connect.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.

Good luck!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kung Zhu Party

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent a Kung Zhu Party Pack to host a party with the wee ones and their friends. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I'd heard of Zhu Zhu pets before we had our party, but we'd never played with them. When my giant box o' goodies arrived, I was amazed by all the hamsters and their accessories. This went way beyond the stuff toys we had when I was growing up.

Today, I spent two hours (yes, two - it was worse than Christmas!) putting together the various tracks and battle arena accessories. It wasn't super hard, but it was time consuming to figure it all out and make all the pieces fit correctly.

Fortunately, the directions were relatively straightforward, although someone might want to do some proof-reading and quality checking. I noticed a few typos from the "l" missing when discussing "flags" and a statement that the connectors should "be fulling put in." I'm guessing a native English speaker didn't write them. And somewhat disappointingly, one of the training grounds was mispackaged. When I opened Training Ground Bravo, the inside was a duplicate of Training Ground Alpha that I had already assembled.

I was a little nervous about the actual party - 9 boys and two girls in my house to play was a lot of energy. Fortunately, everyone showed up pretty much on time, so we were able to get moving.

Everyone picked out which Kung Zhu - and amazingly, there were zero arguments. I think they were so excited to have one to play with - and they didn't fully get that they were keeping their goodies - that they were happy no matter what. With eight different hamsters and eleven provided, we had some duplicates and luckily no issues amongst the children.

Once we divided into teams - The Ninja Warriors and The Strike Force - we started our first activity. They created paper airplanes with designs based on the symbols of their teams, and each child made the plane look like the individual hamster, too. It was a blast to see what they created.

Once we finished up, we headed outside to fly the planes before the thunderstorms arrived. While I remember only the basic paper airplane shape, some of the kids actually created some pretty good planes that flew a decent distance.

They spent a good ten minutes running around seeing how far they sould make them go and whether or not they could get them to land in a tree or on a car. I'll have to remember this as a diversion again!

Once we got back inside, we prepared our hamsters, which was an undertaking in itself. They aren't the simple little creature we were expecting. Each one came with a surfboard looking thing that "powers it up" for battle. More than one child left it in the packaging that had to be dug through later!

The hamsters also have a little disc that we've yet to figure out, but we'll get there. The armor was fortunately very intuitive, and the kids all figured that out on their own. Once they were "dressed," they started buzzing them all over.

Since the hamsters are motorized, they are pretty easy to operate. Pressing a button on the back stars them up, pressing the symbol further down makes them go backwards, and pressing their noses makes them talk - sorta cute.

It was a bit of chaos as we started out. Everyone was going everywhere, but they were fine with it. I was amazed how every single child was enraptured by the hamsters.

Once they had a little more time to play around, we were able to sort of start doing some battles.  The kids "trained" their hamsters in the training ground and powered them up for battle.  Once in the battle arena (the circle in the center), the battles weren't too official, but they had a blast, and eventually we figured out how to have a real battle: power them up, send them in, and the first one knocked over loses.

One of the things I thought was pretty cool was that all the kids were into this.  The girls liked the Kung Zhu, and so did the boys.  We had kids who were a young four all the way up to nine, and every one of them played with them the whole time.

I was a little concerned that once all the friends left, the wee ones would quickly tire of the Kung Zhu. Mmm not so much. The wee ones did "real" battles following the rules for the rest of the day. When it was time for dinner, we had to pry them away. When Little Miss went to gymnastics, Mister Man sat playing with it by himself, creating battles between the two hamsters until I sent him to bed. And after each battle, I received an official update of what had happened. In my mind, that's a winner.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Feld Entertainment Sends Me To BlogHer

In the interest of full disclosure, Feld Entertainment providing a partial sponsorship for my BlogHer '10 conference with a stipend. All opinions expressed are my own.

I worked with Feld Entertainment several times in the past year. They produce the Disney on Ice shows, Disney Live, as well as Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Feld Motor Sports (e.g., Monster Truck Jam and others). They change up the shows every year to keep it fresh, and all the shows I've seen so far have been great.

This year promises no different.

Disney Live is presenting the Rockin' Road Show and Mickey's Magic Show. Mickey's Magic Show will be coming to the Rosemont Theater at the end of October. While Mickey's Rockin' Road Show doesn't come to Chicago, it will be in Milwaukee among lots and lots of other cities.

Disney on Ice this year features Toy Story 3, as well as Princess Wishes, Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey, and Princess Classics. Princess Classics is coming to Chicago's United Center September 8-12, and we can't wait! Toy Story 3 comes to both Allstate and the UC in January/February, and I know we're going to have to get tickets for that, too.

Ringling Brothers is a circus classic, and the wee ones are fascinated with it. The Funundrum Tour arrives in Chicago in its traditional November timeslot, playing again at both the Allstate Arena and the United Center.

Monster Jam will also arrive at Allstate in February - just after Disney on Ice's Toy Story 3 leaves - for a fun (and loud!) weekend. The shows are action packed, and I know the crowd really gets into them.

So why should you care? Well, keep an eye peeled here because I will be hosting giveaways to the Chicago shows! I can't wait!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Oops - shame on me! Tara pointed out to me today that I neglected to list the winners for the past few giveaways I've had. My apologies for this - rest assured that winners have been contacted and have received their prizes (or at the very least, they're on their way!).

e.l.f. giveaway was won by Mrs4444!

Angie's Kettle Corn was won by:
Cheryl F - the Lucky Ladybug
Eunice (not Eunice B - sorry!)
Kristen (Kristen_yeh)
Deb K
Sherry @ Lamp Unto My Feet
Emily Robinson

THE Emporer's New Clothes was won by Megryansmom!

And speaking of THE Emporer's New Clothes, I was sent a $5 discount code for my readers yesterday that I am so excited to share with you. It is such a fun show, and great for all ages - not too long and so colorful and creative. It's a neat twist on the classic story. So if you are interested in heading down to Navy Pier to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, mention the promo code MOM when you order online or call the box office for tickets (312 595 5600) - as always, subject to availability and not valid on previously purchased tickets.

Keep looking - I have more giveaways to post in the coming week!

Friday, July 16, 2010

77kids Doing Good

In the interest of full disclosure, I will receive a stipend from 77kids for participating in this project. All items mentioned in this post have been distributed to deserving people, as described.

I was recently invited by 77kids to participate in their 77kids Do Good Day on July 14. The idea was to have a pay it forward type of event in eleven cities with seven bloggers each - the 77 symmetry! Chicago ended up having more than seven, but it was great!

77kids is a new brand from American Eagle (well, new to brick and mortar; they've had an online presence since 2008) that features clothing for children up to size 14. The new stores are designed to be fun with all sorts of entertainment for kids while parents shop, in addition to prizes for kids to choose.

My favorite part though is the focus on how kids can make a difference that is part of the display within the stores - inspiring stories of kids doing good in small ways that make a big difference when added up.

And how better to celebrate the opening of their seven brick and mortar stores (Danbury Fair, Mall of America, Cherry Hill Mall, Carousel Center, Crabtree Valley, and TBD) that by having their down Do Good Day.

Each team of bloggers brainstormed to come up with an idea of how they could do good with the $200 the team was provided. Our team headed to the Ronald McDonald houses in Chicago (half to Children's and the other half to UofC) to cook and bake for the residents of the houses.

I loved that our children were involved in this, too. We all brought our kids to help out, and baking for someone else was so up the wee ones' alley. They should it was the coolest thing ever that their special foods would go to someone who didn't have it otherwise.

The Ronald McDonald Houses are near and dear to Mister Man's heart, too. He has a good friend from kindergarten whose younger brother has leukemia and has been in and out of the hospital more times than they can count. He's still undergoing chemo to fight it, and his family has stayed in Ronald McDonald houses in the past (where residents are asked to pay only $10 per night). He loves that he was helping families just like his friends, and I love that it was something that truly meant something to him.

Lunch and baking supplies didn't take up our full $200 allotment, so we also bought items off the Ronald McDonald House wish list. They need all the basics from aluminum foil to pillows to new toys and games for their residents. We were able to help provide many of these items, but more is always needed.

Each family also received a box (ours didn't arrive, but we've been assured it will soon - in the meantime we shared with the other families) that included goodie bags filled with discounts and other items to pass out to people, as well as 77 $1 bills with little pieces of paper to attach that describe how you can easily do good for free.

This was the wee ones' favorite part. We were given a big stack of the dollars to pass out since another family wasn't going to be able to do so. After we finished up at the Ronald McDonald House, we had lunch, and the giving began.

At first, Mister Man would shyly shove a dollar with the sheet of paper explanation towards someone, without really explaining what he was doing or why. Once he got going, he got really good at explaining that he was part of the Do Good Day, and this was one of the ways he was doing good. By sharing a dollar with someone, he was showing how easily a small thing can make someone's day and do good.

People's reactions were interesting. Many people didn't want to take money from this sweet little six year old. Once we explained that it wasn't "our" money we were giving away and that it was for a project to show what good can be done so easily, people were more willing to accept it. Many still wanted only to take the paper explaining the event and give him back the dollar, but we never let them.

Many people really had their eyes opened. They loved this idea and pledged to pass it along and do their own good with the dollar - or sometimes with their own means. Regardless of what they said they'd do, the smiles on their faces were enough of a reward for us.

I loved this event, and next year, the wee ones and I will have to find another way to Do Good. It was so easy, and I think they really learned a lot. Having something that they could relate to was key, and I'm pretty sure this is going to stick with them.

Better for BlogHer

In the interest of full disclosure, I am being provided with 42 Healthy Choice meals, a counseling session at BlogHer, and am being compensated. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

I have been lucky enough to be chosen as one of the Healthy Choice Gets You Better For BlogHer bloggers. So what does this mean? It means that I am working to get my act together over the next six weeks to be more fit and healthy.

Healthy Choice has sent me forty-two coupons for Healthy Choice meals for me to use, replacing one existing meal with my choice of Healthy Choice meals every day for the next six weeks (granted, I will be taking a break from this while actually at BlogHer. While at BlogHer, I will have a one on one nutritional counseling session with Tara Gidus.

I have to admit that, selfishly, I am really excited for this. Like many women, I would love to be able to wear whatever I wanted - and not have people cringe as I walk by. I'm not quite there yet, although I know it's possible - I may not ever be comfortable in a bikini, but I can at least be lean and healthy!

Two years ago, a friend of mine got married, and I was the maid of honor. She had us wear satin dresses, and fortunately I learned about this well in advance. I spent the next five months working really hard to lose weight in a healthy way, and I did.

I actually weighed less than I did in high school - while still healthy - and I was in great shape. At my lowest point ever (it's possible that this was an aberration and I didn't *really* weigh myself properly), I weight 138.6 pounds. For someone who is almost 5'9" and not small boned, I couldn't hope for any more. While I would be "nice" to weigh less, I don't think it would be healthy for me. A more realistic goal would be to get to 140 pounds and maintain that.

And I was at 142 pounds for a good long while, and that was really comfortable for me. Now? Not so much. I have shirts in my closet that I was able to wear for that summer, but the next year? Let's just say that I'm really not comfortable with any extra flab hanging out that could otherwise be hidden.

That's not to say that I just gave up and went unhealthy. I am a fairly healthy eater and cook from scratch for the most part - which is why I put up recipes every week on my regular blog - and I exercise. I do a dance class on the weekends when I'm not carting the wee ones around, as well as yoga, and I'm back to running on a regular basis. In fact, I'm thisclose to completing the C25K program and running my first 5K, which means I'm running pretty strenuously three times a week.

So what's happened to my weight? It's creeped up, bit by bit. When I was down at the 142, I was so close to actually being a size six - a size I completely skipped growing up. And I've gotten really close to needing to revamp my wardrobe completely.

Right now, I actually don't fully weigh myself. I play games with myself in that I weigh myself after working out at the gym, after having taken my shower, while I'm still wet, with two towels one, and my heart rate monitor still strapped on. I know it isn't an accurate weight, but it at least allows to to know how the trend is running.

So where does all that put me? Yesterday, it was 157.2.

That is so frustrating to me because I eat well, I drink my water, I work out, and yet I am not seeing the results I would expect. When my heart rate monitor is telling me that I'm burning 700 or so calories three times a week while running and instead I gain a pound, it almost makes me want to give up. At least when I don't work out, I don't gain weight!

This is where Healthy Choice comes in. Tara has provided several tips that I'll be sharing over the next several weeks that I plan to take to heart. Starting today, I am also switching out one meal a day with a Healthy Choice meal. I'm going to continue running - and once the wee ones are back in school, I'll be using some of that "free time" to get to the gym even more often to vary my routine. And lastly, I am going to go back to a free website I used when I lost that weight before to track what I'm eating and what I'm burning to ensure I'm being honest with myself.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the results will be, and I hope you join me in my journey! Once I have my "fully-loaded" weight below 155 - just over two pounds from now - I plan to figure out what my real weight is, sans wet towels and wet hair and toiletries and heart rate monitor. Wouldn't that be sweet if they weighed 15 pounds? I'm not that much of a dreamer to believe it's even a third of that, fortunately.

The fun thing with the Healthy Choice challenge? Transitioning the one meal a day has a ton of benefits for me.

I like to eat a variety of foods, but I'm also somewhat picky. Healthy Choice has so many options that I could eat a different meal for ninety days straight. While my grocery store doesn't carry all ninety of the options, I have plenty to choose from. I selected my first two today - Chicken Margarita and Sesame Chicken.

The first is one of the cafe steamers and what I ate for lunch today, and the second is a more "traditional" frozen meal that I will have tomorrow for dinner. I am not typically a prepackaged meals person, and if it weren't Healthy Choice meals that are ... healthier, I wouldn't be doing this. I love that my meal had 17 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. While the 560mg of sodium is more than I usually eat in a meal (and I can tell right now!), even eating this, I probably won't break 1500mg for the day.

The meal feels like a complete meal to me. The sauce tasted great, although I could actually have used a little less of it. Next time I get this one, I'll probably pour out a little of the sauce after cooking it. For 300 calories, I'm feeling pretty good. I had a handful of blueberries to round it out, and I felt like I ate a complete meal.

While it was cooking, I could smell the roasted garlic heating up (ummm yum - whole cloves of garlic!) which really whet my appetite. The only part I wasn't thrilled with was the spaghetti. I like my spaghetti long and very al dente. While this wasn't completely overcooked and mushy, it was cooked more than I prefer. It was also in pretty small pieces, maybe five inches in length - but neither of those would keep me from eating it again.

My only other "complaint" is that the containers aren't recyclable. With the cafe steamers, there is a steamer basket and the bowl that I have to throw away - which I wouldn't were I making this myself. I'm going to feel guilty with the amount of trash I'm creating over the next six weeks, but fingers crossed Healthy Choice will be able to find a recyclable plastic to use at some point!

Wish me luck as I begin my journey with Healthy Choice. I'll be checking in every week or so, and I can't wait to see the results. My biggest goal is to banish the lines that appear in my face when I smile, and putting on those t-shirts gathering dust in my closet would be a wonderful added bonus!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Near East Home Party

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a Near East Party Kit including free Near East product which I distributed to party guests, and I received a set for myself, as well. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am always looking for an excuse to have fun with my friends, and often we let too much time go by between our girls' nights. Luckily for me, Near East sent me a party kit that gave me a great excuse to have friends over to hang out.

I have to admit that I haven't had the Near East cous cous before, although a few of my friends had. I love cous cous, but I just never think to make it at home. And since I make so much from scratch, buying a flavored cous cous didn't even cross my mind.

My mind has been altered. This stuff was actually really good.

But first, the party!

Seven of my friends were able to join me for the fun, and we made it a pot luck event. Knowing that we had the Parmesan flavor of the cous cous, we decided to have an Italian themed night. Good call, even though we did end up with three different types of tomato and mozzarella appetizers - and somehow no bread. It was all great.

Some of my friends prepared their foods ahead of time (or stopped at the bakery before my house!), while we made others together during the party. It was so much fun to cook with friends, and we ended up one rockin' dinner party.

Once we decided to really start our eating, we moved into my dining room where we pretty much devoured the appetizers - and a couple bottles of wine. We weren't expecting the entree course - sauteed spinach, the cous cous dish, and a chicken and vegetable side dish - to be super filling.

Boy were we wrong. The Parmesan cous cous turned into an absolutely fantastic dish. One friend had three helpings - it was truly that good - and somewhat unexpectedly so. It wasn't processed tasting at all, which is what I had expected.

We made a chicken cous cous that used the spice packet that came with the product, sauteed chicken and garlic, tomatoes, and feta. W.O.W. I am pretty sure that we will all be making that one again - and the recipe is right on the back of the box. Shhhh don't tell anyone that we left out the broccoli!

Our whole dinner was great - and we ate in the true Italian style. We cooked together, we ate the meal late, and we ate slowly, savoring each bite. The variety of flavors we made actually worked really well together without being too heavy a meal, something I'm sensitive to in summer!

It was almost 11pm before we finally broke it up - and that's the true sign of a good party on a weeknight! Everyone who made it wants to know when I'm hosting my next one, and a couple people who had to cancel at the last minute are awfully jealous after hearing about it.

The best news for me is that a pot luck means that I had less mess than normal to clean up, and the cous cous was a one pot dish - score!

When it was time for everyone to leave, I handed out the goody bags, and the box of cous cous they took home put a smile on everyone's face.

With Near East having introduced several new flavors, there's an opportunity for you, too! They have a Near East Around the World in 5 Sweepstakes where you can enter for a chance to win prizes including a 7-day Mediterranean Culinary Adventure Cruise (sorry, that one's mine!). You can enter until August 31, 2010 here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Outlast Party

In the interest of full disclosure, MomSelect sent me a Mommy Party pack that included supplies for the party to give to the ten friends who attended. I received no compensation of any kind.

We love playdates around here, although we don't always do them as often as we'd like - that whole being busy with life thing! When we get small children together, however, it's amazing the germs they spread around. It's hard enough to stay healthy - for me and for them - without all the sneezing coughing little buddies of theirs trying to spread whatever icks they have.

Outlast has a solution to try to keep those germs at bay. Outlast is a liquid hand sanitizer that lasts up to six hours. Most hand sanitizers work for only two minutes. So if my wee ones doesn't get a chance to wash their hands when I'm not with them, I know they're still not picking up any more germs.

We had a playdate in the park - and you can only imagine all the germs from the unwashed equipment that gets used constantly by child after child. Mister Man and Little Miss had a blast hanging out with their friends, and the mommies enjoyed a chance to chat and learn some more about Outlast.

The kit also included Baloon-A-Choo, which was a balloon that demonstrated how germs spread whenever someone sneezes. I think this was the hit of the party. I had to finally beg off from doing it again because I was getting lightheaded. I placed glitter into the balloon, then blew it up and let it go. The glitter went everywhere - just like germs do when we sneeze.

I explained it to the kids, and I think they got it. Then the balloon went flying, and they were absolutely fascinated. Watching them chase after the balloon and try to figure out where the glitter landed cracked me up.

I blew up this balloon over and over, and they never tired of it. They loved seeing the impact of sneezing. And the moms ... well, we were sort of grossed out, to be honest. Let's just say that those samples of Outlast were all used before we ate our snack!

I unfortunately didn't take as many pictures as I'd planned. We were having so much fun that I was too busy to take out my camera half the time!

I did finally remember to take my camera out again when we were working on the sticker activity. This was a great wind down thing to do for the kids once they grew tired o running around and playing in the heat.

The sticker sheet was a neat little activity that had a laboratory that the kids could decorate with scientists, lab equipment, computers, and all sorts of other stuff. Needless to say, they rather enjoyed it!

We had a great playdate with this wonderful excuse to get together with Outlast's Mommy Party. We had no idea how quickly most hand sanitizers disappear and stop working. I'm pretty sure there are a few moms who will be using a different sort of protection going forward when soap and water aren't available.

Want to learn more about Outlast? Check it out here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Giveaway: BOB Books

In the interest of full disclosure, Scholastic sent me sets two through five of the Bob Books for me to review. I received no compensation, and all opinions are my own.

I first found the Bob books by Bobby Lynn Maslen over two years ago. When I discovered that Mister Man had started to teach himself to read (yeah, I'm a great mom - a doctor he's never met before figures out he knows how to read and I have no idea) and was interested in improving his skills. I went to the library to ask for suggestions on what to use to help him learn to read more, and the Bob books were their suggestion.

He was immediately hooked on reading (and still is, for that matter), and he loved that he could read the first book himself. Once he figured out how to sound out words and then slide them together, we were good to go. The first book only required that he be able to know the sounds for M, A, T, and S - and yes, you can actually write a book with those few letters!

These aren't the Dick and Jane books I grew up with - longer words, extremely repetitive, and no story. Instead, the Bob books build each book with new sounds (usually 2-4 new sounds per book) with the stories growing more complex and longer as the child continues in the series. By the beginning of set 2, you're reading about a family that goes to the beach for the day.

With Mister Man, he read at least one book every day before bedtime, and we zoomed through all five sets in just over a month, and he's never looked back. The day he finished the last one, he got to go to the library to get his own card.

I've been telling everyone I know about Bob Books since then, and I know quite a few people in my area who have used them. In fact, Little Miss's preschool has ordered them for this fall to start using for the older preschoolers who show an interest.

Earlier this year, Little Miss expressed interest in reading, too. She - of course - is jealous that Mister Man can do it and she can't. While I absolutely do not believe in pushing any child to read or in drilling them, she knew her letter sounds and wanted to read, too.

We went to the library to get the Bob books for her. And most of them were checked out. Yikes! We put set one on hold and within a couple weeks, she was able to start her trek. She isn't nearly as adept at academics as Mister Man is - and we know that. But she's really reading!

Scholastic luckily sent me the remainder of the Bob books, since the end of the school year through the first few months of the new school year is dicey at our library now. Everyone has those books checked out!

Little Miss still uses her sounding slide to figure out many of the words, but it's amazing the progress she's made. When she wants to read them (and she doesn't always!), she'll read two or three of them at a time. Because they really build on each other with repeating sight words and sounds, I can see the difference when she reads books several days in a row versus when she takes a break from the Bob books and just has me read other books to her.

She's making great progress and is now onto much more - relatively - complex books. The books continue to be relatively short to avoid frustrating her or losing her attention, so she feels a real accomplishment every time she reads "The End" on the last page.

Pretty soon, we'll be taking Little Miss to the library to get her own card, and again, I'm giving the Bob books the majority of the credit (Little Miss gets the rest!).

And one of you will receive the My First Bob Books Alphabet for your pre-reader. Again, this is a series divided into twelve short books that introduce the letters of the alphabet and their sounds to build phonemic awareness.

So what do you have to do?

First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!

This contest is open until Tuesday July 20 at 7pm 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: What was your favorite book to read as a child?

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):

1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Friend Connect.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.

Good luck!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Neutrogena Ultrasheer Liquid Sunblock

Neutrogena recently sent me two bottles of their new Ultrasheer Liquid Sunblock. When I received the little bottles from Neutrogena, I was somewhat excited for a few reasons. First, I was recently told that I should use the same line for all my face cleansing and moisturizing, and I already use Neutrogena cleanser. Second, the sunblock is UVA/UVB 70.

I tend to spend a lot of time outdoors in the warmer weather chasing after the wee ones and just enjoying the short period of decent weather Chicago provides. I always have on sunglasses, and I've noticed that they tend to reflect the sun, leaving my nose and the tops of my cheeks somewhat unattractively red even thought I do wear sunscreen.

My hope was that I wouldn't have this issue with the Neutrogena Ultrasheer Liquid Sunblock, and that using the same brand as my cleanser would provide a more seamless look for me, too.

My other issue with my regular moisturizer (and it's not cheap - it's one of the $30 fancy ones) is that while it feels like it absorbs into my skin when I put it on, it shines through my makeup shortly after I've completed my daily routine. It's somewhat frustrating.

I've only been using the Ultrasheer Liquid Sunblock for a few days now, but I'm really liking it. It does absorb quickly, and I'm able to use it as both a moisturizer and sunblock - saving me a step is appreciated! And after my makeup is applied, I have that matte look I'm looking for. Phew!

And as much time as I've spent outside, I have not so much as gotten pink, and that includes walking two miles in the middle of the day outdoors. I have also tested it in the pool, and even the reflected water and sunglasses reflection hasn't caused me to turn into Rudolph.

I also like the fact that the bottles are fairly small. They fit in my purse, which means I can reapply when I know I'll be out and about for an extended period. You can never be too careful!

Whenever you use the sunblock, you need to shake it. This was hard for me to remember the first few times, but it makes sense - you don't want all the sunblock concentrating in one part of the lotion and then not being protected! It has a little weight inside so that you can hear it moving as you shake it and helping it mix up.

I will admit to having fairly sensitive skin. I can't use all products for that reason, and I was a little worried about the Ultrasheer liquid sunblock for that reason. I've found that if I put it on immediately after a shower, my skin will tingle a little, but it doesn't turn red or break out at all. If I wait until my pores have closed more, I don't have this issue at all.

So far, so good. I will continue using this product, and I'll provide another look at it soon!

And if you want to try it, too, you can get a $2 coupon here.

Would you like to review UltraSheer®, too? Then click here and tell them I sent you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free for review purposes from Tidal Labs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Giveaway: e.l.f. Products

In the interest of full disclosure, I received the below products to review for e.l.f. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

e.l.f. has again provided me with some of their brand new products and colors to try out, and one of you will get to try them, too!

This time, I received the Studio eyebrow kit in ash, the mineral lip stain in daring, the Studio blush in Gottta Glow, and the brightening eye color in rocker.

The eyebrow kit is a new type of product for me. I usually don't do anything with my eyebrows other than try to make sure they are going in the direction they're supposed to. The eyebrow kit is a neat idea - one that really allows me to highlight them without being obvious that I have makeup on my eyebrows. The ash isn't too dark, which was my original fear, and the compact has a tiny mirror in it so you can see what you're applying. Not bad for $3!

The mineral lip gloss wasn't my favorite product. The colors I chose this go around were more stark, and I was hoping to have a lip color that would be somewhat dramatic for nights on the town. While the color looks super bright in the swatch and the tube, it doesn't actually provide much color on. Then again - it's a lip gloss not lipstick. It's meant to be more subtle, and I will say that it gives me a great shine. I was expecting more color from the gloss, however.  In general, I'll probably stay away from this product going forward, but that's my style. It did stay on nicely for a long period of time, which is one of my critical tests!

I was also pleased with the rocker eye brightening shadows. This quartet of colors includes a white, a tan, a purple and a dark silver - see what I mean about being more dramatic? I've worn it a few nights when I've gone out with some of my girlfriends, and it's great. This is one of the $1 products, amazingly, and the shadows stayed on nicely without fading to invisibility or caking in my creases.

The blush in gotta glow is meant to be used in addition to the blush you normally wear and instead helps you to, well, glow (ummm thus its name?). This is another evening product for me, but it's a lot of fun, and I applied it not just to my cheeks but down to my collarbone, too. It was subtle so no one stares at you wondering what you just did, but it adds some nice fun, too! As part of the Studio collection, it is also $3.

Now the fun for you. One of you will also win the collection I received in the colors of your choice: a Studio blush, a Studio eyebrow kit, an eye brightening kit, and a Mineral lip stain. So what do you have to do?

First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!

This contest is open until Thursday July 15 at 7pm 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: What color lip stain or eye brightener would you choose from the e.l.f. site?

Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):

1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Follower.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.

Good luck!