Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite Lifestyle Items & People of 2015

New products and healthier ingredients was the plan for 2015.  I watched YouTube videos, read blogs, reviewed products, hunted down hashtags on Instagram and more!  It was a blast and below are some of the products, company, people and sites that I enjoyed and learned from the most!  The link to the company, product or person is in each title so check them out if you haven't yet!

Hair & Body Oil (Mahalo Vacation Glow)
Pure luxury
Make-up Brand (tied)

*These two brands are amazing!  My skin, eyes, neck, etc. does not react adversely when I wear these (hello sensitive skin!), they are gorgeous, last all day and get tons of compliments!!

Nail Makeup~ Nailhur
From everyday to fancy or special occasions...there is a nail and it will be glamorous.  I adore!

Face Scrub~ Argan-Republic
love love love love love this product.  It makes my face smoother than anything I have ever tried!

Face Lotion (Derma e)
Wake up to hydrated and plump soft skin..yes please!

Body Lotion (KvossNYC)
My skin on my arms, elbows and other problem areas soaks this in and I have seen amazing results!

YouTube~ Going to have to share three with y'all!!  All three upload frequently, are engaging and funny and I just enjoy the videos!

Youtuber~ Beauty~ Nicole Guerriero

Blog~ Organic Bunny
Recommendations, information, discount codes and more.  This blog is one of the best resources I have found for trying to live a healthier life with my beauty, skin care and house hold needs!

Gluten Free Product/Company (more than one)~ These three brands have made my year.  Between snacks, mixes, covering more than one allergy/sensitivity, etc.  I have been able to travel, work and live with less stress about my digestive health and issues.

Cleaning Products (Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day)
Loved the household cleaners specifically! Bluebell scent is amazing

Essential Oils~ Doterra
Digestzen, Peppermint, Lavender, etc. are so good!

Book Subscription Service (it's a tie..sorry!!)

So that is it my friends!  I could have gone into favorite SnapChat, IG, shop, website, etc., but pheww no thanks! What were some of your favorites this year?  Please share so I can try them out!

Until my next y'all!!

*Pictures were from the company/person website or via a google search.

Raw Spice Bar

Navajo, Persian, Jamaican, Memphis, Istanbul, Malaysian, Baltimore, Norwegian and more!  These are all geographical regions or areas that subscribers have experienced spices and recipes via the Raw Spice Bar monthly subscription. A month or so ago I was contacted by Raw Spice Bar to see if I was interested in reviewing their subscription service and product.  After checking out their website, seeing the gorgeous pictures and past monthly spices I was sold!  I was thrilled to receive their gracious offer and excited to try out some new spices!

I am a newbie home cook, but I love trying out new recipes, products and finding ways to learn more about different types of foods and cooking styles.  I received the spices for November and it was an Ethiopian theme!

The who , what , and more of Raw Spice Bar
They are a subscription service company that partners with different chefs each month that have expertise in different areas (Region & geography).  Once a month you receive an envelope/kit that contains 3 "freshly ground flavor kits" that all center around a theme.  The kits are about 1-2 ounces (total) of ground spice.   Their FAQ shows that spices are ground a few days before shipping. Also, you will receive recipes to cook 3 "global dishes".  This package will further contain background information on the spices and the region.  Occasionally you will also receive surprises such as "bonus spices, toasting tips, discounts and other fun stuff."

You can order a monthly subscription, a six month subscription or a one year subscription.  Monthly is $6 a month, six month is $36 and yearly is $66 (so one month free).  Shipping is free for those in the USA.  You can find their website here.
My Thoughts?
I was impressed with the presentation, the fresh smell, the quality of the marketing and packaging.  Once I read about all the spices and planned which night I was going to do my themed dinner, I used their recipes to make my grocery list and got to work!  When I opened the spices I could not believe how fragrant they were!  The recipes provided gave a meal, an appetizer/snack and a dessert.  I also went on created the side dish of mashed butternut squash that was recommended.  It was very easy to find all the recommended ingredients at my local grocer (Harris Teeter) and to follow the instructions.

My family and I had a blast trying out these recipes and could not stop marveling over how fresh and strong the spices were in the envelopes.  I had never used any of these spices or cooked any of these meals so I was excited to try something new, see how it worked for my taste-buds and enjoy something fun with my family.

The roasted vegetables with spice were so good and such a different take from how I usually roast my vegetables.  I tend to veer away from spices and this package did not allow for that!  My whole family was surprised by the heat, but quickly kept coming back for more of the vegetables.  The main dish of the spicy key wat was good, but extremely spicy! I loved the instructions and cooking suggestions because that meat was incredibly tender and the dish was so fragrant.  I loved the way it made the kitchen smell.  I paired this with the recommended butternut squash mash and it was divine!

For me the star of the show and spices was the Pumpkin Spiced Dabo Kolo which used the Unpumpkin Spice Blend.  If I could make my whole house smell like this blend I would be extremely happy.  It was so fresh and the epitome of fall.  This honey and ricotta snack/dessert/dish was heaven.  It was extremely easy to make and the taste was perfect.

As mentioned above, my family and I had a great evening trying out these spices and enjoyed creating dishes where we were able to learn more about other areas of the world.  The packaging is sweet and easy to follow and I think the pricing is affordable.  To me, this would be a great family night, date night, gift to friends and family, or just fun way to expand one's horizons and feel like you are getting a treat each month!

Thank you Raw Spice Bar for contacting me and letting me try your fantastic spices!

If y'all try it out please let me know what dishes you created!

Until my next y'all!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2015

This was my first full year of doing book reviews and product reviews.  I have been lucky to find some amazing stories, great stories, good stories and more! As the year ends I wanted to go back and reflect on some stories that have stayed with me even weeks or months after finishing them.  So since I enjoyed them so much I also wanted to share them with all my literary friends that might find this post!

ummm so can I put 4 books from one author on here?!?!??! Call me a rebel, but I am! many good ones!!  Some friends asked me if I had a favorite..and I don't..but if I had to choose it would be a tie between
Hold On 
(SOOOOOO amazing) 
(I still can't get over this book..mind blown).

Until my next post...I love y'all!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone, Book Review

General Information
Genre~ Fiction, Mystery
Publisher~ Red Hook Books
Published~October 20, 2015

Book Summary (Per NetGalley)
The odds of Dahlia successfully navigating adulthood are 3,720 to 1. But never tell her the odds.

Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. Unemployed broke, and on her last bowl of ramen, she's not living her best life. But that's all about to change.

Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she's offered a job. A job that she's woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).

Turns out unfortunate decisions abound, and she's just the girl to deal with them.

My Thoughts
A murder mystery where I kept forgetting there was a murder? The situations Dahlia finds herself in remind me of Stephanie Plum.  I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it.  I thought the ending was fantastic and I did not see the murderer coming.  In fact, for a second I had to check who the character was because I thought it was someone else.  

The reason I did not love the book is that parts of it drug along to where I put the book down just to take a break. The story line was good, the characters well developed, just there was something that made this not be a non-stop read for me.  Perhaps it was me putting the book down, but several times I had to back track to figure out where I missed something.  There was also a lot of talk about the gaming component which was hard for me to stay engaged in as I am not a gamer, though I must say the world does sound addictive. I also wish there was more done or provided about the dentist hygienist because I did not see that conversation taking place...well done on that twist..well done!

I most enjoyed her route to friendships (the final scene was lovely), her relationship with Nathan and the detective (hilarious) and her inner dialogue(who doesn't talk to themselves that way?!?!).  I found my self smiling a lot and laughing out loud at quite a few scenes.  I wish there were pictures for some of the characters and explanations of outfits because they sound fantastically horrible from the descriptions and Dahlia's reaction.  I hope there is more with Dahlia and gang because I want to learn more about the roommate, the detective and see how her relationship goes!  This seems like a very eccentric group that many people could enjoy.

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer~ I received this book in exchange for an honest opinion.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Until my next y'all!!

The Offering by Desirée Bombenon, Book Review

General Information
Genre~ Mystery, Thriller
Publisher~Live Oak Book Company
Published~August 28th 2012 

Book Summary (Per Goodreads)
Jake and Amanda Bannon had planned to unplug in Oahu for a much-needed vacation, but the mai tais will have to wait. They have a kidnapping to solve. Jake's got a winning smile and a head for business strategy. His wife, Amanda, has a quick wit and a knack for sensing things before they happen. The Bannons may look like the perfect picture of a power couple, but when Jake and Amanda hang up their smart phones for a week of R & R in Hawaii, they never expect to get caught in the adventure of their lives. As the couple clinks glasses on a breezy lanai overlooking the Pacific, terror is brewing on the Big Island. High in the steep jungle mountains, the Bannons' friends from back home have crossed paths with a fate worse than they could ever have imagined. Depressed since her parents' divorce, teen Taylor Wright connects online with a fellow brooding soul, Carlos, and agrees to arrange a meeting with him during her family's Hawaiian vacation. Now Taylor, along with her mother and stepfather, has vanished. When Jake and Amanda receive an alarming call from Taylor's father, they're on the case. From shootouts to death-defying vertical climbs, the Bannons embark on a rescue mission to find Taylor and reveal the dark motives of Carlos and his voodoo cult. 

My Thoughts
I am in love with this book and the two main  Why? well let me tell you! First, how gorgeous is this book cover.  It makes me think of a tattoo or dark incredibly apropos for this story!  Second, I think the hashtag #relationshipgoals was made for Amanda and Jake.  They are fantastic.  Seriously, if there is a way to be them or know people like them ..I want to sign up for it! Third, this story has a goodness does it have a twist...that I did not see coming at all.  I was blind-sided and I love it! Fourth, the writing by DB is so intricate and well developed.  I followed the story very easily and was engaged, rooting for certain characters, falling in love with other characters, thinking I want to go to Hawaii and more from cover to cover of this story. Fifth, and final reason for this book, I felt like I was transported to this story.  I did not feel like I was reading a book and had to turn the page, but that I was on an adventure and rushing to save this family.  The emotions, the dialogue and  outcome were utterly fantastic.  When I finished the story I immediately went to see what else DB had available and I was thrilled to see that not only does she have another novel, but that it is another adventure with Amanda and Jake!

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer~ I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Until my next y'all!!

Wasted (Whiskey Nights #1), by Suzannah Daniels...on SALE (99 cents to be exact!)

******SALE ALERT******


Title: WASTED, Whiskey Nights #1
Author: Suzannah Daniels
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance

It all started with sex on the beach…the drink, not…you know.

As a bartender, Mason Cambridge often charmed beautiful women who ordered up cocktails on his shift. It was part of his job after all, and he needed the tips—badly.

When Lexi Swafford plopped her pretty little tail down on the bar stool, Mason offered her a drink. He had no idea that he would soon be working with her or that he’d be letting her room with him until her new apartment was ready.

In fact, once Lexi Swafford landed in Creekview, Tennessee, life as Mason Cambridge knew it would cease to exist…because after a night of drinking away the agony of his loneliness, one touch from her would change everything.

No cliffhanger.

Happy ending.

Welcome to Creekview.

WASTED is the first book in the WHISKEY NIGHTS series. Since each book focuses on a different couple, they can be read as stand-alones, but many readers may prefer to read them in order for maximum enjoyment.

Wasted #1
Ignited #2
Deceived #3
Betrayed #4 (available for pre-order)

Buy WASTED now!

Read more about the Whiskey Nights Series:

*You can review another of Suzannah Daniels amazing it made my monthly and maybe just maybe is on my yearly favs that will be posted tomorrow!!

Until my next y'all!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy, Book Review

General Information
Genre~ Fantasy, Adventure, YA
Publisher~ Two Lions
Published~ August 18, 2015

Book Summary (Per Goodreads)
Ronan Truelove barely survived his first encounter with his father and the Bend Sinister. Now, he’s determined to become one of the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect thirty-six pure souls crucial to the world’s survival.

Eager to prove he’s got what it takes, Ronan is sent on his first mission with his friends Greta and Sammy to visit a weird-sounding school and take a series of tests called the Glass Gauntlet. Paper and pencils and nerdy scholarship—where’s the life-or-death challenge in that?

But the Glass Gauntlet is actually something much more dangerous: head-to-head competitions against ruthless opponents. Nothing and no one are what they seem. Who can he trust, and who will kill him? Ronan has to figure it out fast because his enemies are multiplying, and soon he will have to pass the ultimate test: facing his father again and standing up to those who threaten not only him and his friends but also the world.

My Thoughts
The twists in this book...yowza...

I enjoyed the first book in this series, but I loved this book!  Now that I had a better understanding of the world at play, the characters, the dynamics, etc. I was able to fully focus on the adventures and try to figure out who or what was going to appear next.  Was I successful in my guesses, nope..but that is what I loved!!  The surprise guest (hopefully a reoccurring character now) blew me away.  I mean talk about a 180 in my opinions and emotions!

This book seemed more descriptive to me which I enjoyed.  I could picture this house, the maze, the dogs and this soul type device. Then there is the gauntlet..I think that was the neatest, but trickiest thing to visualize.  Is it like Michael Jackson's glove? A glimmer like in Twilight (which I thought was disappointing compared to the book description), understated due to its power like Lord of the Rings? or would a movie be able to really capture this idea of a glass glove that can do all it describes in the book.  

I am not a big fan of cliff hangers and so far I am loving how this series addresses all issues covered in the book, but still sets me up to know there will be another book.  This is also done in a way that hints at what the next book will be about (at least in my mind..we shall see when book three comes out!!)  Yes, I will most certainly continue on this series and I would recommend this series to those who enjoy adventure, children or YA literature, mystery and more.

*According to an answer in Goodreads, book three, which has a "provisional" title of " The ______Bridge", is expected in summer of next year.*  Fingers crossed because I am ready to read more about Ronan, Greta, Jack and others (Especially Jack! love him and his sarcasm/wit).

Important Links
*Review to book one in this series can be found here.

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer~ I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Until my next ya'll!!

Christmas in Snow Valley by Cami Checketts et al., Book Review

General Information
Genre~ Romance, Clean
Publisher~ Birch River Publishing
Published~November 3rd 2014 

My Thoughts
I know normally I leave my thoughts under the book description, but as this description is super long to inform y'all about each book I thought I would put my thoughts on top!!  Simply put, I want to visit/stay/learn more about Snow Valley!!  These stories, characters and couples are so fun.  I read and reviewed Summer in Snow Valley earlier this year and that started my appreciation for this community and anthology, but I enjoyed this set even more!  Each story stands out to me and has crept back into my mind as I reflected on these authors and the relationship they shared.

I would recommend each of these stories, in fact I have  already recommended two that also were published as a stand alone story.  You can find one review here and the other review I posted last year here.  I did have a few favorites though.  I thought An Unexpected Kiss and Full Court Devotion were excellent.  While reading An Unexpected Kiss I kept giggling and smiling.  It was so well written and fun with the banter between the characters, how they fell in love, the devotion to the town was tremendous and more.  Full Court Devotion is a favorite because I loved the play on Christmas, Christianity, love, the idea that all things happen for a reason and the final scene..loved it!  Similar to Summer each author wrote their own story, but the town and its focus on Christmas remain the same.  As well, each author make sure to use the same towns people, couple and town layout which shows that they are all working together. I hope to see another anthology in Snow Valley or even more stand alone stories!

Book Summary (Per Goodreads)
Christmas in Snow Valley is packed with six wonderful Christmas novellas sure to bring romance into your holiday season.

Snow Valley, Montana, is a small community with the tradition of doing Christmas big. Festivities begin with tree lighting in the town square the day after Thanksgiving and continue until the culminating romantic Christmas Ball. From the Polar Express to a Winter Carnival, there’s something for every wonder-filled child—and every couple who’s in love—or about to be.

An Unexpected Kiss by Amazon Top Seller Cindy Roland Anderson
Lucy Phillips doesn’t want to spend her Christmas vacation dodging her ex-boyfriend, so when he turns up at the airport to give her a ride home, Lucy panics and asks a complete stranger to kiss her. Although the kiss is incredible, Lucy never expects to see the guy again. Is it bad luck or destiny when Lucy comes down with a sore throat and the new doctor in Snow Valley is none other than the guy she kissed at the airport?

Feels Like Love by Jeanette Lewis
Christmas in Snow Valley is the perfect way for April Winston to introduce her city slicker fiancé, Scott Mecham, to life on a farm. If only Wade Hadley, hometown boy and high school sweetheart, will cooperate! But Wade has no intention of letting April go without a fight. This Christmas, Wade is determined to overcome their painful past and show April that she already has what she’s been seeking all along.

Full Court Devotion by Amazon Top Seller Cami Checketts

Kazlyn is too busy with her schooling and future plans to enjoy life, let alone fall in love with a man who has heartbreak written all over him. Tyrese Hamilton, a college basketball star and major heartthrob, is intrigued when Kazlyn doesn't pursue him or even seem interested. Ty's career is in jeopardy, and he needs a miracle and Kazlyn to save him.

The Christmas Eve Kiss by Taylor Hart
Molly O’Hare gets the utterly ridiculous prediction that she will kiss her true love on Christmas Eve. But when she returns to Snow Valley and comes face to face with Kevin Snow, suddenly the kiss thing seems…a lot less ridiculous. Too bad the reason she left still has the power to make her deny her real feelings. Now Molly is left with a choice—forget the home town and the boy that she never quit loving or let Christmas work out a miracle all on its own.

Risking it all for Love by Award-Winning author, Kimberley Montpetit
Succumbing to family pressure, Jessica Mason reluctantly comes home for Christmas. Ever since her high school boyfriend's death from a car accident three years earlier, Jessica and religion have not been compatible. So, when she visits Michael’s grave, she's surprised to meet the handsome James Douglas, Pastor John’s nephew, who’s studying for the ministry. James can not only dish back Jessica’s finely-tuned sarcasm but understands grief all too well, turning Jessica’s world upside down. Is she ready to take another risk on love?

Blue Christmas by Lucy McConnell:
As head of Snow Valley hospital's fundraising effort, Paisley Hackett barely has time to organize the craft show, cookie decorating party, and the annual Christmas Ball. What she doesn't have time for is falling in love with Clay Jett, the incredibly handsome bass player who sweeps into town. She's been burned by a tourist romance before and, with everything going on, Paisley will have to work overtime to protect her heart from Clay and his swoon-worthy ballads. 

Important Links

Links to Purchase Book

Disclaimer~ I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Until my next y'all