Tuesday, May 22, 2012

L'Occitane Angelica Instant Hydration Mask Video Review

So I know I'm not alone where I get shortchanged in the morning.  Sleep takes precedence over my "beauty routine" (yes, for me it truly deserves to be in quotes), and the wee ones definitely take precedence.  So what's a girl to do?

Me, I find a product that makes a huge difference without making a huge time commitment.  The L'Occitane Angelica Instant Hydration Mask is a new product that takes just three minutes.  And this isn't three minutes every day, just two or three times a week.  When do I find the time to use it?  Well, you'll have to watch the video to find out!

This is a great first clip, isn't it?  Oh how brave am I for sharing this one.  I mentioned no makeup, right?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a sample of the L'Occitane Angelica Instant Hydration Mask for review purposes.  I will also receive additional product for participating in this campaign.  That said, all opinions remain my own.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kids Live Well: Shaking Up Menus

If you know anything about me at all, you know I'm a huge fan of whole foods and cooking from scratch and being mindful of the things we put into our bodies.  Knowing that I can't always be at home cooking every meal the way I might want, we very definitely make compromises.  Eating out is generally a huge compromise, especially when you start to look at kids' meals.  If it isn't corn dogs, it's chicken nuggets that don't resemble any chicken I know or fries or macaroni and cheese.  While many restaurants in the past few years have started to make some changes and now offer more fruits on the side and milk instead of pop, it's still a challenge.

When I heard about the Kids LiveWell program and was invited to the National Restaurant Association to learn more about the program, I jumped at the chance.  And after wandering the show for just a day, let me tell you I could have moved in there and died happy.  I am thrilled that the National Restaurant Association is listening to consumers - yes, we do have a voice! - and helping to take action to make positive changes.  The program certifies menu items that meet certain nutritional standards from containing fewer than 600 calories for an entree with two or more servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and/or low fat dairy, among other requirements.

As a parent, I cheer this on.  As it is, when we go to a restaurant, the wee ones know how to read a menu and tend to make more healthful choices - sometimes with my guidance - but to know that there are significantly more options available and that restaurants are making a true effort to better meet the nutritional needs of children, well that brings a smile to my face.  I know what restaurants I will make an effort to patronize, and they're the 96 restaurants across the country that are currently participating in the program.

I love that the program doesn't simply focus on the big chains.  The program is open to any restaurant from a mom and pop place to the big guys - many of whom are already participating.  Any restaurant can sign up and have their menu items validated to ensure they meet the criteria, and I applaud this openness.  The program launched last July with just 19 members from Burger King to Chili's to Outback to Chevy's Fresh Mex.  More and more restaurants have since joined, and at the National Restaurant Association show, there were two more big names joining the club.

Kraft Foods is now a part of the Kids LiveWell program with their foodservice items, meaning that restaurants can now purchase select foodservice items and have those items count towards a Kids LiveWell program.  While I would much rather see every restaurant make all food from scratch, I know this isn't possible, and this is a great step towards making restaurant food a little bit healthier. 

Chick-fil-A also signed on with new kids meal options, and I'm especially excited about this because Chick-fil-A is just now coming to the Chicago area.  In fact, there's a new restaurant being built about ten minutes from me, and I love to see the progress they're making as I drive by it all the time.  Knowing that they offer grilled nuggets (with actual recognizable chicken) and "Buddy Fruits" which are pure blended fruit applesauces.  Both items are also gluten free, something I love that Chick-fil-A recognizes as a need.  Can you tell I'm excited about this?

With so many restaurants large and small participating, it can be hard to figure out where to eat that has a Kids LiveWell program.  At the National Restaurant Show, they also debuted a new smart phone app for both iPhones and Android devices that allows you to search for participating restaurants close to your current location or where you know you will be later.  Once you find a restaurant that sounds interesting, you can look to see what participating choices are available and the nutritional information for them.  I would love to see the app also include the allergen information for the big four at least, but this is at least a good start.  When you're looking for somewhere to eat while at home, there is the Healthy Dining Finder website where you can search for healthy options not just for kids' meals but for all healthier options on the menu.  I love the transparency that the restaurant industry is introducing, and I hope that this is a trend that continues.

This isn't a fast change, and as monumental as the changes have to be, it can't be an overnight fix.  Restaurants are taking steps, however, and I applaud this as a mom and a foodie.  I look forward to seeing what the next years will bring, and I know I'm voting with my pocketbook.  How about you?  What do you look for when you dine out?

In the interest of full disclosure, I was compensated for participating in the Kids LiveWell program; however, all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hearts of Haiti: My Own Mom Story

This Mother's Day, I'm working with Clever Girls in support of Macy's Heart of Haiti to shine a light on the "trade, not aid" program, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans struggling to rebuild their lives and support their families after the 2010 earthquake.

My mom is a special lady.  She's the oldest of five children, and life wasn't always easy for her or them when she was growing up.  While they never had any money - my grandfather worked two or more jobs at all times, in addition to my grandmother's job - what they did have was a lot of fun and time spent together.

While we are lucky enough when I was a child to have more money than my mom did growing up, the lesson that time spent together is worth more than anything else was passed to my by her example, and she continues to do that yet today.  I am constantly stopped by my friends at the wee ones' schools who have seen her interacting with the wee ones or talked to her, and every one of those friends sings the same refrain.  "Your mom has got to be the sweetest woman alive.  She is always so positive and she is just too sweet for words."

It's a lot for me to live up to, but it's absolutely true.  While my mom can turn Momma Bear for the wee ones when she feels it's necessary, she would give the shirt of her back to help anyone, and she never has anything but time and energy for the wee ones.  Even now, the wee ones are reluctant to talk about taking a vacation without my parents because they so often come with us.

When we had Mister Man's half birthday last month, for the first time my mom wasn't able to join us for the celebration.  He was crushed, and it was only through my quick thinking that we were still able to have a celebration after I invited another family to join us.  He wasn't full satisfied by that, however, so we "re-celebrated" his birthday later that week when both my parents were able to join us.  As he sat on my mom's lap to blow out his candles, he look at me and smiled.  "Mom, now I'm officially eight and a half.  I can't have a birthday that counts without Grandma being here with me."

And that sums up my mom completely.  She is so ingrained as a part of our lives that there isn't a milestone we can enjoy without her.  She is what makes our family complete.  As a way of showing her how much we all love her, I was lucky enough to be able to give her a Hearts of Haiti Goddess necklace, a one of a kind necklace handmade by master artisans in Haiti from raw materials such as recycled oil drums, wrought iron, papier-mache, and stone.

So what is Hearts of Haiti?  It's a "Trade, Not Aid" initiative in concert with Macy's (where the items are sold) launched by by artist and social entrepreneur Willa Shalit, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and Macy's.  Hearts of Haiti employs 750 artists in Haiti, who in turn provide financial benefits to an estimated 8,500 people in the country.  The Hearts of Haiti collection features more than 40 items from quilts to ceramics to jewelry to paintings to metalwork.  Each piece is individually crafted and unique for that reason.  They are all made almost entirely from recycled materials and can be purchased at Macys.com.

Thank you to Macy's Heart of Haiti for sponsoring my participation in this “Share Your Heart" promotion. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.  I received two Hearts of Haiti necklaces, but was not compensated for writing this post.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Yikes - I just realized that I haven't posted the winners to my last two giveaways. That's what spring gala season will do (why yes, yes, I am on that committee. Again.) - my apologies for the delay.

The Toy Dozer was won by Jen at Big Binder Blog.

The Hallmark greeting cards were won by Samantha from the Peanuts Gang.

Congrats to both ladies!