Monday, August 25, 2008

My Friend Cindy

Since all things kitchen are new to me I really enjoy bringing a little fun into the un-known with me. I would like to introduce you to a little lady I like to call Cindy, also known as a "Vigar Scrub Brush by Brite"

I always thought that scrub brushes were a little un-necessary; that was until I moved out and  realized that dishes really do need to be scrubbed before being put into the dishwasher.   
Go figure.
This little lady has a cute little face and a scrub brush for hair, and I thought I had wiry hair.

Here she is in her holder that sits by our sink:
From the side:

She didn't want you to see this, but she did some nude modeling before she struck it big:
Here she is in action:
Before I received this sassy little scrub brush as a gift I was using some run of the mill, palm held scrubbers. With the other scrubbers I had to re-scrub stuck on food before putting it in the dishwasher. With this girly scrubber I am able to get stubborn food off in one swipe.  It might be because she has a sturdy handle or because she has really thick bristles atop her head; or maybe it's the perfect combination of both. Either way this scrubber has accomplished the task of being both cute and functional.

The scrubber can be purchased at Sur La Table. It isn't on their website but I have seen it in their stores. And since it was a gift I am not completely sure on the price but I am confident in saying it was under twenty dollars.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HerRoom Underwear

One of the many things given to me during BlogHer was a coupon for free pair of underwear from Her Room (Lingerie We Buy For Ourselves). I picked up these boyshort briefs in black. The undies didn't take long to get to me and I instantly tore open the package-I love free stuff. What I didn't love was the excess of packaging; the underwear were wrapped in layers of tissue paper which was a nice touch but pretty wasteful. Also included in the package were different pamphlets and various papers which I wasn't too keen on-let's conserve people! I kept looking through the packaging for the rest of my underwear...they were microscopic.

I just started laughing uncontrollably, there was no way these Barbie sized "cookie covers" were going to cover one cheek of my back side. I decided to give the ole college try anyway. But when they were snug around my calves-well that is when I really lost it.
But I soldiered on and the underwear magically stretched over my derriere and no, there will not be any pictures of that step in the process. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did the underwear fit but they were incredibly comfortable! 
As I wore the underwear I noticed that I forgot I was wearing them, they fit like a second skin.I have what I call a "hungry butt", which means that my butt likes swallow whatever fabric is in the vicinity (tmi?) which results in very uncomfortable wedgies. Luckily, these undies stay put regardless of my butt's appetite. They surprisingly cover all the essentials and they...erm, "breath" in all the right areas.
While I was wearing these undies I exclaimed to Jon, "I want to buy a lot more of these!" And he said, "And that's why they sent you a free pair."

Totally recommend this pair of underwear for that "barely there" feeling.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Women And Money

I discovered Suze Orman by way of her tv show. I never know exactly when it comes on but if I see it, my remote will stop dead in it's tracks. If you are not familiar with Suze, she is the guru of money management, the czar of saving money, the president of punctual payments-she is one smart lady when it comes with financial advice.

Up until recently I was not very comfortable with all matters surrounding money, if someone would mention a 401 (k) my eyes would glaze over, the difference between good debt and bad debt would make my stomach churn, and trying to understand what  a FICO score meant made my head hurt. I was not money savvy and I didn't really care. (red flag!)

When I stumbled upon Suze's show I realized that I owed it to myself to be educated about my own money-after all it is my money! Even though I had her support, I was still scared to demystify the task that is figuring out my finances. Luckily, her advice takes a blame free approach; meaning that she let's our past money mistakes or naivete be a way to learn and become stronger in our future.

The book Women and Money discusses head on how women are making more money than they ever have in history and yet they know just as much about their personal finances as they did say, 50 years ago! Suze also discusses her personal mistakes with her own money as well as mistakes her friends have made. This part of the book not only soothes the readers anxiety but also shows the reader that they don't have to stay in the dark about money.

Suze includes the "5 month save yourself plan" which acts as a very encouraging and non threatening outline to getting your finances on track. At the beginning of the "save yourself" chapters, Suze discusses the stepping stones to financial security and get this, you feel like you can actually do it! None of the things she asks you to do feel as though they are out of line, un-attainable or far fetched because she gives you easy step by step instructions. 

To me, the idea of this book seemed like it is throwing a lot of information at you and boy howdy is that overwhelming-but here's the catch it isn't! The more I read of this book, the more I felt empowered and educated. 

And here is the best part, Suze gave away this book on Oprah's website because she doesn't want women to spend more money. The book has since been taken down from the site but I still have it saved on my desk top, that means if you want a copy all you have to do is e-mail me at and I will send it to you.

I do not hesitate in recommending this book-it is a very valuable resource for women of all age!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sensibly Sassy Does Travel Tips

This past weekend was the first weekend in which I was able to sleep in my own bed in three weeks! Thanks to all the "jet setting" I have been doing I was able to compile a little list of travel hints that have helped me stay sane while traveling. Hope they help!

Pack Light, Pack Bright:
I know, I know you might think I am smoking crack with the whole "pack light" tip. But hear me out. Even the most idyllic vacations can be dampened by excessive packing.  When I was on dance team we would have intensive dress rehearsals so we knew exactly what to pack once we were on the road or air. We would have to have each detail set in stone, from the size of our false eyelashes to the laces on our shoes. Now you don't have to be so intense but I suggest you do a "mental dress rehearsal" at the very least. I think that packing "options" is where many people (mainly women) go wrong. These "options" may seem as thought they are helpful, but are hardly ever used. And if you decide what you are wearing before you leave you will have much more room in your suitcase for things like new clothes!  (Another way to save room: Roll your clothes instead of folding them; it not only saves room but it prevents wrinkles!)

Pack Bright:
Packing bright is helpful for those moments when you are standing at the baggage carousel looking at the fifty millionth black suitcase, wondering if it is yours or not. Having colorful luggage also prevents bag theft. Believe it or not there are creepy people that troll airports snatching luggage. This task will prove harder when your luggage is one of a kind.

Dress For The Weather You Are Going To:

(Excuse my nobby knees) 
Luckily, I had this idea before leaving for Arizona. When Jon and I left for Arizona it was a cool 65 degrees out (or somewhere around there) but in Arizona it was a blistering 101 degrees. Planning ahead I wore a dress on the plane and brought a sweater just in case it got chilly on the plane. Once we landed in Arizona I was able to stash the sweater in my bag and not have to sweat through jeans and a t-shirt. It may sound so simple but believe me, it will help.
Also, take a hint from my picture above, nowadays they make you take your shoes off, do yourself a favor and don't wear complicated shoes. 

Choose Water:

I know I know, the tiny alcohol bottles are tempting to calm your nerves or "enhance" your flight but choosing water will truly start your  vacation out the right way. Dehydration is a pretty common issue for travelers. Between checking your bags, finding your gate, and boarding the plane there is very little time for hydration. Do yourself a favor and make sure you arrive at your destination well hydrated. Dehydration can lead to headaches, drowsiness, nausea, now I don't think that is any way to start a vacation.

Make Sure To Keep Your Medication In Your Carry On:
This is an often overlooked detail while traveling but so so so  important. For obvious reasons, if your luggage gets lost that could mean you are without some very important medications for a couple days...big uh oh. Even if your bags get there safely, the temperature underneath the plane can get ridiculously hot, causing the potency of some medications to lessen or become inactive. Yikes!

Learn Your ABC'S ASAP!
Another good habit for international flying is to learn your abc's. Deep Vein Thrombosis  (clotting of the veins in the legs) may occur when passengers are cramped and do not move their legs enough on long flights. Other than getting up to use the restroom you can trace the letters of the alphabet with your feet to keep the blood circulating. The risk is rare but I did witness a case of this on one of my Contiki trips and I cannot express how uncomfortable and painful it was for this traveler.

Oily? Use A Toilet Seat Cover:
Full Disclosure: I get really oily when I travel; maybe it's the close quarters or the recycled air but I always come off the plane looking like I am a heavily greased pan. My secret is that I go into the airport bathroom and pat down my face with the rougher side of the toilet seat cover. They are made from similar material as those face blotting pads you carry in your purse. I know it might seem gross, but when you are in a jam they work perfectly.

Free Samples Are Your Friends:
I have always been a proponent of taking the small lotions and shampoos from hotels. Some people think it is taboo and almost like stealing. But think of it this way, if they can use it again once it is used then it is stealing. But once the shampoo is opened they can't reuse it right? Stock up on these little samples because they are really helpful and portable when you are staying somewhere in which samples are not readily available (camping, staying with friends). Also many hotels are getting swanky and using really nice name brands for their free samples (Ex: I have snagged Bulgari products, Neutrogena to name a few).

Get In On The Act:
I know it can be second nature to stay behind the camera when you are seeing the sights, but make sure to get in front of the camera with the landmarks. Anyone can have this picture:

But getting in on the action not only proves you were there, but it makes for a very sentimental souvenir.
Do you have any travel tips to add?

The Virgin's Lover

In The Company of the Courtesan follows the story of  Fiametta Bianchini (the courtesan) and her dwarf companion named Bucino (her pint sized pimp). The story unfolds in Venice of 1572.  Fiametta and Bucino have just escaped from a very turbulent Rome (where Fiametta is savagely beaten) and are forced to start their lives over.  Bucino enlists a blind healer named La Draga to help Fiametta regain her beauty. Before long Fiametta is back to her regular tricks (pun intended) and life is back to normal for the courtesan and her pimp.

I would love to give you more details but I don't want to spoil it and well, the details left to tell aren't all that interesting. Characters are made to look incredibly important and then they are suddenly out of the story-without explanation-imagine how frustrating that was. The book ended with a very large un-answered question but not in the way that makes you intrigued, but in the way that makes you horribly confused.

The odd thing is that I really liked the two main characters. I wanted to know more about Fiametta and Bucino but was distracted by the revolving door of lesser characters. Overall I was pretty disappointed by this novel. Sarah Dunant is a wonderful historian and a great writer and it seems as though there were a few errors in editing with this novel. If you are interested in Sarah Dunant I highly suggest her novel, The Birth of Venus.

Fragonard's Perfumery

I have a confession: I am obsessed with perfumes. I have a collection of about 9 different bottles and some other body sprays. I just love smelling good and associating a scent with fond memories.

As luck would have it the two times I visited France, the tour group stopped at a great perfumery called Fragonard. Fragonard is perched high atop charming little cliffs and overlooks the sea. Honestly, you could just sit me in their parking lot and I would be a happy camper for life! But once you go into the perfumery it gets way better! Below I have reviewed the products that I have purchased from the lovely little French perfumery.

These are six little tubs (similar to a tub of chap stick) of solid perfumes. They are waxy and go smoothly onto the skin. They fit in the size of you palm-small enough to slip into a purse or even a pocket! Each of the scents are classic and soo yummy smelling that I have been tempted to taste them. (okay not really...okay maybe a little bit). These would make great gifts for the ladies in your life. They are also a great way to sample the full size spray perfumes in the same scent.

Speaking of the full size scents: On the website you can get the scents come in either glass or aluminum bottles. I have the vanilla (which is absolutely amazing!) in a glass bottle. The negative part about the glass bottles is that the scent will change over time due to exposure to light. They warned me at the perfumery that the aluminum bottles will preserve the scent for far longer. So learn from my mistake, buy aluminum.

VRAI Anti-Wrinkle Face Cream $38: I bought this face cream to use after washing my face in the morning. It has SPF 15 (?) and is lightly scented and not in an obnoxious way. I remember when I ran out of it I scrapped as much as I could out of the tub it came in. It made my sensitive skin feel much softer and smoother.

Essential Care Face Cream $30: Jon actually bought this when he and I went to Fragonard together. Again, it is lightly scented with a hint of almond. Jon loved this product so much that he would often say "I am so glad I bought this!" This face cream is from their product line that uses natural extracts. The rest of the products in this line are realistically priced from $11-$14.

Concierto $34:

The first time I visited Fragonard's the tour guide said "If anyone is buying something for a male in their life, BUY CONCIERTO" I was skeptical and Jon is very particular about the colognes he uses. But when I smelled it I was drooling. I hate when men take a good cologne and douse themselves in it so you can't focus on how good it smells but on a way to find fresh air! Concierto is a subtle smell that even if you wanted to douse yourself in it you couldn't. Therefore all you smell is pure goodness. I know it is hard to buy cologne/perfume without smelling it first, but take my word for it, you will not be disappointed!

Lash Blast Mascara

My biggest beauty hurdle has always been my eyelashes. They are thick plentiful, dark...and stick straight. I have tried many an eye lash curler which will temporarily curl my lashes (meaning they won't stay curled long enough for me to finish applying the rest of my makeup). 

I figured that if an eyelash curler couldn't do the job than it must be the mascara. I tried thegreen/pink mascara tube that everyone uses. I wasn't impressed by the all. Mainly because it caused my eyes to swell shut for three days! I looked like Quasimoto! After that traumatic experience I was a little gun shy of mascara for a while.

When I decided to give mascara another try I chose Lash Exact. I liked it because it was hypo-allergenic (which means no swollen eyes), it didn't clump and it was safe for contact lensewearers like myself. However, it did not help my eyelashes stay curled. But I stayed with it anyway, more out of habit than anything else.

But then I saw the commercial for Lash Blast mascara with Drew Barrymore. I figured, "I like Drew Barrymore why the heck not?!"

So I picked up the bright orange tube at my local Target, made sure it was safe for my sensitive eyes and brought it home.
I tried it the next morning and I will be honest I was not expecting much. My eyelashes are THICK and do not bend for anyone. But to my surprise I applied the mascara and curled them and they stayed for longer than five minutes...they stayed curled all day! I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to review it right away for you guys. But I waited just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. So for the past week I made sure the results were consistent. I am pleased to tell you that Lash Blast mascara gets my Sensibly Sassy Seal of Approval. Totally worth your money!

Sigg Water Bottles

As we all know, Green is the new black. I saw an advertisement for "eco-friendly car paint" right after I saw a commercial for a green version of cleaning product. Yesiree, our country has finally caught on-our earth needs our help, and we can do so by making better choices. I am not going to lie though, sometimes it makes me nervous because I feel as though going green has become just another American fad. I hope I am wrong but I don't want people to forget that making good choices for our earth is something that never goes out of style (there you have it, I have just met my cheesiness quota for today).

But lets face it folks, plastic is a huge problem these days. For instance, did you hear about theGreat Pacific Garbage Patch? Guess what it is made of ? Plastic, mainly plastic bottles. Here is where my product review comes in.

Erin introduced me to the Sigg water bottle when I realized that my plastic Nalgene bottle was sloughing off plastic into my water. As soon as I received her endorsement I headed to Whole Foods and picked up my very own Sigg.
I have this one:

I love my Sigg for so many reasons. Mainly because it prevents the use of pesky plastic water bottles. I also love how it keeps my water cold, holds not too much/not too little amounts of water. The size that I got was somewhere around $20-some say this is expensive but I don't think so because it is re-usable. And don't worry if you want a Sigg you don't have to get one like mine, they have plenty other sizes and colors to choose from.

The only thing that I don't like about my Sigg is that if you leave the top on it for, say overnight, and there happens to be water in it, well it will end up smelling like a swamp the next morning. They are also a little tricky to clean because you can't put them in the dishwasher. But if you put some warm soapy water in it it will smell right as rain.

I really do recommend Sigg water bottles over any other water bottles out there, trust me I have tried them all!


Now you may be a little confused about my choice to include a movie review with my book review.  Well I hadn't anticipated including a review for "Click" in the same post as my review for a book like "Wherever You Go There You Are" but after watching the movie last night I felt compelled. Let me explain:
*Spoiler Alert* Stop reading here if you don't want to know what happens.
Click is about a middle age man, Michael Newman, (Adam Sandler) who never seems to have enough hours in the day to spend time with his family, finish his work, or take care of his health. That is until he happens upon the ultimate universal remote. 

This remote allows him to skip through the mundane moments in life and get ahead in business. At first this is just what Michael needs. But soon the remote begins to save his "preferences" and act on instinct. This means fast forwarding through family dinners, disagreements with his wife and in his place is a man that appears to be non-responsive to those around him.

Even though the universal remote helps Michael earn more money at work and not have to deal with the occasional cold, he is missing out and quickly realizes that no amount of money can make up for these lost moments. His life is fast forwarded to his final moments in which he comes to terms with the idea that the moments he manipulated for personal gain are the moments that taught him the most and made his life worthwhile. Luckily, Michael awakes to realize that it was all just a nightmare and he sets out to change his life and cherish his life, as is.

Jon and I sat on the couch for a few moments after the movie ended because we the movie we had just watched was drastically different from the one we had set out to watch. But we both really liked it,  in fact we were both a little wowed. While the movie was not the slapstick comedy that Jon and I had anticipated, it did a wonderful job at shaking the viewer awake and reminding us that this moment is all we have and we should appreciate it without pre-tense or agenda. This moment is who we and those we love, are right now. If you have ever watched a child grow you realize how time keeps on truckin' with or without our consent. 

Wherever You Go There You Are

I was introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn when I took a stress management class two quarters ago. We read his book, Full Catastrophe Living (FCL) for the class. 
FCL was more of a manual and a lifestyle plan for living mindfully and different steps to take in order to do so. After taking the class I was lucky enough to see Jon Kabat-Zinn speak at my school. He had me mesmerized for the entire hour and a half. I sat there slack jawed as he said things like, "When you were born your parents saw you as perfect and you still are that perfect being, the only thing that has changed is your view of yourself". (I know right?)
Needless to say I walked out of his talk with a grin on my face and an urge to live even more mindfully; that is what lead me to Wherever You Go There You Are (WYGTYA).
I love this book for so many reasons. Where Kabat-Zinn's first book gave me an outline for living mindfully, WYGTYA, helped explain the rest. For example, where his first book showed the reader how to meditate, the second book not only fine tuned my meditation practice but also helped me incorporate a calmer, and less judgemental way of looking at myself, others and situations-outside of meditation. Kabat-Zinn does his best to make a mindful way of life seem attainable by all readers.
 One of my favorite parts of the book were his everyday suggestions for living mindfully. An example of one of these tips is to look at the way in which you meet obstacles with harshness instead of curiosity. This was a big lesson for me because I had somewhere along the line become accustomed to meeting adversity with anger. As Kabat-Zinn explains, obstacles are not always negative, it is often the way in which we look at them that makes them a source of difficulty in our lives.
I am a little sheepish of my review of this book because there is so much more endorsement that I could give this book but I feel like experience is the best way to really appreciate the nuances that this book holds. If you have ever wanted to give living mindfully/meditation a shot this is the perfect book to help you get into the mindfulness groove.
I felt that Click really embodied the message of Jon Kabat-Zinn's book "Wherever You Go There You Are", in a powerful and albeit unconventional way.

Copper Moon Apothacary

My mom bought me this amazing soap from our local farmer's market.  The woman that makes the soap was incredibly friendly and she told us that her Italian grandpa used to say that women were like a mysterious fig...I am not really sure what that means (and neither did she) but it sure is one great smelling soap!
I used it in the shower tonight and my skin is so soft and smells "mysteriously" sweet. It lathered really well and it was gentle enough to shave my legs with. I can't wait to go back to the farmer's market and try some other scents from the Copper Moon Apothecary.
My mom and I finished off the day with lunch at Pasta Pomadoro and browsed the local pet 

The Geography of Bliss

I picked up "The Geography of Bliss" on a whim. The tag line "One grump's search for the happiest places in the world" had me hooked-tag line=mission accomplished. I love traveling and I figured that this book would be good insight into where I would fit in best because I am a generally happy person.

Even though the book is was written by a self proclaimed grump I really enjoyed how each place was highlighted for their strengths and done quite well I might add. There wasn't one place that was visited that the silver lining didn't become apparent. Speaking of places visited, it was quite a list that included: The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and America. As you can see happiness is found in some very unique places.

Another thing I loved about this book was that it included many studies that support how humans find happiness and how bad we are at really knowing what happiness looks like to us. For example, did you know that the more choice we have regarding mundane things the less likely we are to be happy? Being a psych student this really floated my ferry. I am not sure how the non-psych reader would take all this information but my best guess is that the way in which it is slipped into each chapter isn't all that annoying and actually pretty interesting. Weiner (hehe) wrote the book in a really easy to read way, almost as though he is having a conversation with the reader.

Overall I recommend this book to kick off your summer reading for those of you that want a little more meat than a chick lit and a little less cerebral straining that some of the classics may give you.

The Ped Egg

As you may or may not know, I really enjoy "As Seen On TV" products. They are usually pretty cheesy and don't always work right but there is always that chance that you may find one infomercial product that actually does what it says.

Well folks I have found one that works...behold the Ped Egg!

The Back story:
I was sitting at home and I saw this advertisement on tv. Naturally I was intrigued. It is common knowledge that dancers have pretty nasty feet-I am no exception. Whenever I go get pedicures they never sand down my heels enough. (Ew that last sentence grossed me out-sorry about that).

So back to the Ped Egg.

I exercised some restraint and did not order the Ped Egg (gasp). But then as fate would have it, Erin bought the Ped Egg and raved about it. I then decided that I must have one! Erin offered to buy one for me because they had them at the Rite Aid by her work.

A couple weeks later Erin and I met up in the Whole Foods parking lot and I said "You got the stuff?" Erin nodded and handed me the Ped Egg in a plastic Rite Aid bag. It felt like we were doing something scandalous, but then I tossed the Ped Egg in my car and we went into Whole Foods and had some lunch-so much for walking on the wild side.

So anyway....(it's hard for me to focus this morning).
You know when you get into bed and your feet are rough and scaly and they scrape on your sheets? Just me? Well if you have the same problem the Ped Egg solves it! My feet have never been so soft! And what's even better is that I can do it whenever I want and not have to pay for a pedicure.
I would have posted before and after pictures but I didn't want you guys to get grossed out.

My only negative comment about the Ped Egg is that you might want to do it alone because it will absolutely gross the bystander out. I sat down and started to use the Ped Egg and I thought that Jon was going to barf on the carpet; "oh that is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen! Please stop it you are literally grating your feet like cheese!"
So spare your loved ones and use this foot grater by yourself.

Update: No, it does not hurt to use.
Aaaand the Ped Egg can be yours for the low price of $9.99!!

Do you have a Ped Egg?
Have you ever bought an infomercial product?

I Love Everybody And Other Atrocious Lies

Laughing out loud (LOL-for the cool kids) is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I try to hang out with people that induce side splitting laughter, I watch tv that makes me chuckle but I have never met a book that made me laugh out loud.

That is until now.

The book of short stories, "I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies)" not only fed my appetite for a well written book but it also made me guffaw in agreement-many times.

Laurie Notaro is probably the funniest writer I have everencountered. Being a (part time) loudmouth girl myself, I can appreciate her frustration at some everydayoccurrences, such as people that walk in the middle of grocery store isles at the pace of snails. However my loudmouth moments are usually awkward . Luckily for Laurie and her readers, her loudmouth moments result in overwhelming hilarity.

I recommend this book for everyone that enjoys laughing (that should be all of you no?). Really, truly, do yourself a favor and pick this book up.

Blik Decals

Our apartment had a huge bare wall that was too big for a picture to be hung and for quite a while Jon and I had been wondering what we could put there. He found some wall decals on a website for a company called BLIK
They have many fun styles and seemed really easy to apply and were fairly inexpensive-score! So we placed our order and about a month later we received our decals. Even though we were pretty peeved that the decals took forever to arrive we were still really excited to put them up on our wall.

We thought the responsible thing to do would be to draw a diagram of where we wanted the decals to go. The top drawing is mine; we obviously have different visions of what we wanted.

I decided that since Jon had found these amazing decals we should go with his "vision". (He's so darn cute I can hardly stand it sometimes)The first one took a little bit of time but once we got started we were on a roll.
The handy decals can be compared to a large fake tattoo. Once on the wall they look as though they have been hand painted!And when you are ready to take them off they peel off just as easy as they were put on!
And then viola!!!

Bridget Jone's Diary

My friend Erin suggested that I read Bridget Jones's Diary for my spring break book-being as though I am one of the last people on the planet that has not read it.

Overall I was pretty darn pleased with the book. I was a little hesitant to read the book since I have seen the movie already; I usually like to do it the other way around.

The only thing I can complain about is that at the onset of the book I was distracted by the thought :"Who has this much time to write in a diary". I got over this hurdle by equating her diary to a blog and then suddenly it all made so much sense.

It was a really quick and easy read yet quite enjoyable. Reading the book can give you more insight to the characters in the movie, with a mother like Bridget's it is easy to see why she turned out so neurotic. Also, the book ends quite differently which was a nice little surprise!

Three Cups Of Tea

Finally a good book! Lately I have been striking out when it came to my reading material. Nothing has stimulated my grey (gray) matter in quite some time. That was all changed when I picked up Three Cups of Tea from the best seller shelf (I am a sucker for the best seller section of the book store).Three Cups of Tea is the story of a man named Greg Mortenson. Greg went to Pakistan with the mission of climbing a mountain, K2, in his late sister's honor. Greg did not make it to the top of K2 and barely made it off the mountain with his life. He was nursed back to health in Pakistan as his ego and his body mended. Touched by the relentless kindness of the people, Greg wanted to make a difference in the lives of those that took such good care of him. He noticed that even though the people of this particular part of Pakistan lived primitively, they didn't need much because they had each other. Upon further inspection he did notice that the children of the village would meet on a particular patch of dirt and write their time tables in the dirt with a stick. These children did not have a teacher, a school house, or even school supplies but they showed up everyday because they wanted to learn.
Inspired by the children Greg promised to build them a school house. This was a very bold promise for a man that had nothing but a mere storage shed to return to in the United States. Greg's dedication to the children of this village resulted in a five room school house with supplies for the children to begin/continue their education. This was just the beginning of what unfolds to be an incredibly inspiring and fascinating story.

To date Greg has built over 50 schools in various parts of the world. He has come in contact with rebel groups that are against little girls going to school, are not accepting of help from Americans and various other issues. But no matter how high the odds stacked against Greg he always persevered and kept the well being of the children in the forefront of his mind.

I am really just skimming the surface of this book. I am failing to mention the romance, intrigue, danger and many other themes that run in and out of Mortenson's journeys. This is a really easy and quick read and I found myself not wanting to put it down many times. If you are needing a reminder of how resilient children are or how pure the human spirit can really be, this is the book for you.

If you can't tell already I absolutely recommend it!

The Virgin's Lover

If you are pretty sure that I have had this book under the "currently reading" section of the sidebar for nearly three months-you would be correct. I think the combination of having the worst cold in my personal history, moving, and starting school all at once had something to do with the excessive time I took in finishing this book.

The novel begins in the first days of Queen Elizabeth's reign. At the time she is a virginal, optimistic and naive new queen; that is until she meets Robert Dudley, a debonair man of the court. Robert catches the new Queen's eye and the attraction is instantaneous. Elizabeth sees Robert as a strapping, attractive young man and while Robert was equally attracted, he saw Elizabeth as an opportunity to enhance his family's tarnished name.

But there is one catch: Robert is married.

The scandal doesn't stop there but I will because I don't want to ruin the story for you.

Regardless of the book's fascinating plot, it is a very slow story. I would have to say that the plot didn't pick up until somewhere around the 200th page. Once you hit 200 the story picks up and then after a hundred pages it slows down again for about fifty pages and then really picks it up for the last fifty...yes, that is right four hundred pages.

I recommend this book if you are patient or if you love Gregory's writing style. If you have never read a Philippa Gregory book I strongly recommend "The Other Boleyn Girl" before this book.

Robert Le Heros Personal Planners

I have been looking for the perfect daily planner for some time now and my search is over! This daily planner is designed by Robert Le Heros, made by Quo Vadis.
I was first attracted to this planner because of the pretty exterior. Most planners look a "little too business" for my style. I want the function of a strictly business planner but I didn't want it to look boring. The exterior is soft and "leathery" but as far as I know it is not made of leather. I love the silhouettes of the delicate flowers as well as the lady bug detail in the bottom lefthand corner. There is a bright orange elastic strap to make sure the planner stays shut which is handy because I throw the planner in my purse and back pack quite frequently.

The inside of the planner has seven days split between a two page spread. Each day is divided up by the hour which at first I thought it would be a little too detail oriented but now I love being able to assign a time to the various things I have to do throughout the week.

If you are looking for a planner that is both Sensible and Sassy ;) I highly recommend this planner!
Do you have a product or book you would like me to review? If so let me know

Preserve Toothbrushes

I am always looking for new ways to make earth friendly choices. Preserve products were introduced to me by my friend Carrie when she bought me a Preserve toothbrush a couple years ago as a topper on a gift she gave me. I have been so satisfied with the Preserve toothbrush that I have been using them ever since.

The Preserve products are made out of recycled yogurt cups. They are also fun products because of the looks that people give you when you exclaim "I have a recycled toothbrush!" The toothbrushes have a nice little arch so that you can reach all of your pearly whites with ease and they come in boxes with holes so that it can that can double as a travel case.

I have also used the Preserve razors as well. I do not recommend the razors as highly as the toothbrushes because they aren't as friendly to the user. Thr razors are not infused with aloe nor do they have a fancy handle like most razors do these days. If you are new to shaving your legs, or you are often caught shaving your legs in a hurry, the Preserve razors have the potential to slice you up. I speak from experience. Very painful experience.

If you want to pick up your own tooth brush or razors, you can pick them up at either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.
I do enjoy the earth friendly aspect of the Preserve company and I am eager to try out the plates, utensils etc.

Do you have a product, book, movie etc. you would like me to review? If so send me an

The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

I thought I would get into the season and review a book of love letters. My friend Carrie gave this book to me because she knows that I am a hopeless sap when it comes to all things romantic.

I love this book because it shows a variety of love letters throughout history and from multiple sources. For example, there is a love letter from Mozart to his wife Constanze, President Regan to his wife Nancy, and even a fan letter to Elvis Presley from a young admirer. Each love letter is prefaced with a historical background of the writer and receivers of the love letters. If you are a history dork like myself, you will appreciate the historical background because it give you a fuller picture of the life and times of the lesser known lovers.

You have to admit it, romance (in the grand scheme of things) isn't what it used to be. I personally think that technology might have nudged out the old practice of writing doting love letters. Nowadays, you can "shoot an e-mail" to the one you adore whenever you feel; back then people would be separated by long distances for months at a time-therefore the letter had to really drive home the point of how much you love your spouse. Infact, the only downside I can forsee is that you might be tempted to look at your significant other with a sidways glance that says,"why don't you write sonnets to me like American General, George Custer?"

Official Book Review Scale

There have been a lot of questions regarding how exactly I rate the books I read. Here is the "official" rating scale I use for each book review:

The watermelon is the ultimate rating that a book can receive. Books that receive a watermelon rating have characters that practically step off of the page and a plot that keeps you guessing. Watermelon rated books also have the power to change the reader in some way after reading them, there is a part of the story that stays with them long after the book is finished.

Peaches step up the ratings a notch. Peaches are known for their juicy nature. Books that are rated as peaches are informative with a fairly strong plot and mostly believable characters. But there is still something fairly predictable about the peach.

An apple rating is a very respectable rating. This is obviously one step up from the relaxed rating of a raspberry. A book that gets an apple rating is more complex than it's previous ratings and in a sense has more to offer. Even though the apple rating is considered "middle of the road", in no way does that mean the book is mediocre. An apple rating is respectable because the book manages to contain substance and the ever so illusive "juice" I refer to.

A raspberry rating is appropriate for light reading, such as "chick lit". These books have enough zest to keep the reader interested but aren't the juiciest book you have ever read. Raspberry rated books are enjoyable and quickly finished because of their lack of complexity-but again, still enjoyable reads.

The nut is the lowest rating that a book can receive on my rating scale. Keep in mind that all ratings are based on juiciness. A rating of a nut basically means that the book was boring and dry. However, nuts, like boring books, do supply some amount of sustenance. Reading a boring book is better than reading no book at all in my opinion. So even though a rating of a nut indicates that the book was far from a page turner, it still has some inherent value by being a book to begin with.

Anthropolgie Mugs

Jon's mom gave us these charming cups for Christmas. Oddly enough, a week earlier Jon and I became enamored with these exact mugs at Anthropologie. In the store we admired how simple the designs were and yet the actual construction of the mug was so chic (I love me some chicness). When we unwrapped these mugs we were so excited to add these to our future cabinets (we had not yet moved). After boxes were packed and unpacked, these cups finally found their spot in our kitchen.

Not only do they look darling (and uhh, "masculine" for Jon's), they work really well too! When I asked Jon how his mug conducted heat and he told me that he drinks his coffee too fast to notice. But I can attest that my tea cup conducts heat very well. I have microwaved water in the cup and the handle was not hot to the touch when I went to take it out and it kept my tea warm. Another nice feature of both cups is that they are much bigger than usual coffee/tea cups but still maintain the style of the daintier cups. The coffee cup and the tea cup are also dishwasher safe. I definitely recommend both the coffee mug and the tea cup for a gift for someone else or for yourself. Here are some more "head shots" of each of the mugs.

Stone Bath Mat

Jon and I saw this bath mat on the CB2 website. The mat is made of rocks "from the rivers of China" (a.k.a. from the Home Depot of Iowa) and on the website it is shown in a bathroom. I assumed that it would have some absorbent properties (like an absorbent pad below the rocks) due to the fact that it was, like I said, in a bathroom on the website.
Said mat:

When it arrived it was heavier than I expected...waaaay heavier. Also, when I opened the box there was a picture of the mat being used outside and no mention of it being an indoor product (but remember, that's how it was advertised)But I loved the way it looked in our bathroom, see:

Everyone worried it would be uncomfortable but truthfully it wasn't that bad, it felt like getting out of the shower and into a river. But it did not absorb-at all. After a few days of soaking our bathroom floor, Jon and I made the hard decision that the bath mat must go back.

The customer service rep was very accommodating to us. We should get a full refund-in 1 to 2 months. I am still a little apprehensive about sending it back because it looks so very chic in the bathroom. But I guess form is supposed to follow function for a reason. I don't recommend this product for indoor use and I highly suggest that CB2 doesn't either.

The Emperor's Children

This book was voted Best Book of the Year by Publisher's Weekly, so naturally I was intrigued.

The Emperor's Children was difficult to get into though. The characters were interesting from the very beginning, however, the amount of run on sentences drove me nuts! It seemed as though every other sentence was never ending and it truly distracted me. At one point I stopped reading the book for content, but instead I read it on a hunt for run-ons.

Run on sentences aside, the characters were easy to get to know because they seemed very raw and real; comparable to people you might actually meet. I found the characters charming at first. I also felt that the character development was very similar to the writing style of J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey). These characters were flawed and complex. But as the novel went on the interest in their imperfections waned and they became slightly annoying. I began thinking to myself, "Everyone has issues, make a choice, grow from it!" But I guess that it is not that simple. And I guess that is a sign of good writing, because the author created characters so real that they actually annoyed me. So kudos there I guess

The book ended without a clear cut ending which leads me to believe that there is more in store for these characters in another book. Overall, the book kept my interest while simultaneouslyannoying me.

Nars Blushes

I have a great product for today's Monday Review, powder blushes by NARS. I discovered these blushes while on vacation with my friend, Serina. Whenever I am on vacation/getting ready to go with friends, I ask them to do my make-up because I have the skills of an 8 year old when it comes to make-up. I mean I don't look like a disaster, but I am not as innovative as they are with a make up brush. So anyway back to the blushes.
The two blushes pictured below are Orgasm (left) (the name alone will make you blush) and Exhibit A (right).
Orgasm is a color that will work on anyone! I have seen this blush on fair skinned people, dark skinned people like myself, and many different hair colors and it looks amazing on everyone. Orgasm gives your cheek the "oh my gosh he's so cute and he's looking at me" blush. There are also a subtle gold sheen that brings out your inner goddess/sun worshiper. And I cannot stress it enough, this color looks amazing on all skin types!!

Exhibit A is a color that was recommended to me because I have somewhat darker skin. I am super conscious of the amount of sun that touches my face-I don't want to look like a leather bag by the time I hit my 30's. Anyway, even though I am the lighter side of dark, this blush is amazing. I had trouble finding a color similar to this one in powder form. Most blushes were in that solid stick, which usually ended up looking streaky or freakishly dark. But Exhibit A is a great color because it gives your skin the look of wind stung cheeks or that rosy glow that a workout would give you. Now I'm not sure but I think this color might be a little overwhelming for lighter skin tones.

The sleek and sophisticated packaging is a plus as well. No matter how dirty your makeup drawer/bag is (I know mine is), NARS products seem to class up the joint quite a bit. I am so pleased with NARS made blushes that I don't anticipate using any others for a while.I highly suggest these as gifts for the girl that has everything. I find that blush is highly over looked, but can make such a difference when the right one is selected. The only glitch is that at $25 each, they are somewhat expensive-but in my opinion, so very worth it. If you aren't in sticker shock click here to check out NARS and their collection of beautiful blushes.

Photo Credit: My Dad, he suggested the scenery to show off these lovely blushes-do I have the best Dad or what? Thanks Dad!

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Into The Wild

As you might remember from my movie review of Into the Wild, I loved the movie. There were so many themes from the movie that stayed with me for days after seeing it. But as with most books made into movies, the movie was a mere surface scratch compared to the information contained in the book.

Jon Krakauer did an amazing job at compiling the fascinating story of Chris McCandless. Krakauer showed a very sane and human side to a young man that people were quick to call reckless, insane or just plain ignorant. Yes, having the idea to live in the wild of Alaska does set you apart from most, but as Krakauer's defends, by no means does that make you insane. To be quite honest, I couldn't help but take my psych background for a spin and look for a little pathology influencing this young man. It is one thing to be sick of societies norms, such as McCandless was, but it is an entirely different thing to cut off society completely. So yes, I too thought that Chris was "not all there" for making the decision that he did, which eventually cost him his life. However, after reading the book I am not so quick to judge.

Here is a quote from Krakauer about how he can identify with McCandless's urge to live a different life:
"It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something bad enough, it is your God-given right to have it."

The great thing that Krakauer helped me understand is that some people need to have the sort of life that challenges them daily. For some people it is not enough to live the American dream. In order to find meaning and worth in life, some find it essential to tango on the edge of life and death; each time they defeat death they feel more alive. Krakauer supports this hypothesis by giving numerous examples of people that defied social norms and went into the wild. Sometimes the stories are examples of being ill prepared and sometimes they inspired me to think about how I would like to live my own life a little differently. Granted, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that I would not want to live in those extreme situations but I would like to slow down, listen a little more carefully, enjoy things I already have as they are at this moment instead of worrying about what I want. Even though Chris did take a journey that cost him his life, he lived with a vigor that very few people reach, he had a dream and he lived it.

"Unlike most of us, he was he sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs" -Quote from a woman that spoke with Chris as he was en route to Alaska.

Even though he did follow his dream, he left a lot of people heart broken when he passed away. Namely, his family was obviously distraught at the loss of Chris; but the book points out that they were not the only ones to be affected by his death. Before reaching Alaska, Chris traveled all across the United States, meeting people and sharing his story with all he met. Krakauer interviews many of the people that shared a moment in time with Chris and all seemed to be profoundly touched by his presence. My take from the book is that each person that Chris met along the way benefited from this young boy's dream; however, I also think that at the end of his life these people taught Chris just how important human relationships are.