Friday, December 27, 2013

Montagne Jeunesse Clay Spas--Home Spa/Relaxation!

Let me take you through what my typical home spa/"relaxation" night typically looks like. I get off from work around 9 p.m., and as you may already know, I turn into a pumpkin shortly afterwards (we're talking maybe 5, 10 minutes if I'm lucky). It's a pretty big deal that I even get into my pajamas, let alone if I actually wash my face or remove my nail polish (repaint them? HA!) before sinking into a much needed sleep in a cocoon of covers. So work nights are more the less ruled out if I want to partake in some sort of home pampering. Weekends, though, are free game. I tend to do absolutely nothing on my weekends since this past semester ended (with the exception of reading...and only doing what chores Hubby pesters me to). With all of the brain power and downright hard work that went into studying for my finals, I'm due for some major relaxation...perhaps even overdue. But that's beside the point.

I love to take bubble baths--as in if our water bill wasn't affected by filling up our garden tub on a daily basis, I most certainly would. I also love facial masques. More accurately, I have an addiction to facial masks of any and every kind. I typically judge which of my collection to use based upon what the weather is like (humid, dry) and what my face has been up to lately (sweating, out in the wind, breaking out, dry, oily, etc.) And I have a masque for no kidding each of those individual elements, and in addition, there is a fabulous database of DIY masques online that I reference frequently if I feel like my face is in need of a pick-me-up. ANYWAY, getting my hair out of the way is always a must--slopping masques on is rarely a clean affair. I typically wind up with bits and pieces getting crusted in my hair, surfacing even days later after I've showered multiple times. If I could eliminate one element of my pamper night to save myself an unnecessary headache (and some time and sticky, gooey fingers!), this would be it. If only there were a way to make this step simpler...cleaner...and more efficient...

The facial masque fairies have granted my wish! I was recently given a Montagne Jeunesse Clay-Infused Masque to try for testing purposes (courtesy of Influenster), and I was shocked at what I found when I ripped into the package of (what I thought to be) clay mush!

Okay, okay, let's back up a few steps and get into Montagne Jeunesse masks themselves prior getting specific with this one in particular.



 See that up there? Vegetarian standard and no animal testing! Start keeping tab of the points MJ wracks up with our breakdown (that will be 2).

Next, take a peek at the ingredients. See anything you can't pronounce? See any wonky chemicals that probably shouldn't be in a beauty product, let alone one you're putting directly on your face? I sure don't. Another win point for MJ!

Lastly, clay-infused. What does this mean? That I'm not just buying a package of mud that will make its way underneath my fingernails, into my hair, and into other body crevices that are completely mind boggling? Um, yeah, pretty much! Take a look!



This is what was inside of my package. No goo mushing out at me as soon as I opened the package, and no mess! I was so pleasantly surprised!

Things keep getting better too--look at how easy this is to apply...Warning:  Brace yourself for what appears to be a swamp monster below. You have been warned.
 


Trying to look cute in a facial masque quite obviously is not happening for me here. A for effort though, right!? :)


 And after leaving it on for approximately 20-25 minutes (I may or may not have fallen asleep while breathing in the relaxing Dead Sea Mud aromas...take me back to that place!), this is what things looked like after removing the masque:



 
After washing my face with warm water and patting dry, there was a bit of a curve ball thrown my way with these masques:  I didn't need to moisturize. I always need to moisturize after using masques of any kind--even "moisturizing" ones! So I started to make dinner and a couple of hours later, I still didn't feel that uncomfortable tight, dried out feeling that I've come to know all too well between all of the different face washes and masques I've used. I was one happy girl. And my face was softer than a baby's behind! Love these masques!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Perfect Christmas Tale and a Word From Its Author, Alan Salisbury


I am very excited to introduce you all to a fantastically heartwarming Christmas tale about the journey of Ranger the reindeer, younger brother to our old-time buddy Rudloph, learning to believe in himself and aspiring to achieve his dream of flying among Santa's reindeer. Ranger's story is one that will become a hit with your family (all ages included!) and is sure to become an instant Christmas classic in your home with it's beautiful depictions by award-winning artist Roberta Baird and wonderfully worded pages by author Alan Salisbury. What's even more great is Mr. Salisbury, retired Commanding Officer in the US Army, has dedicated all profits of from The Legend of Ranger, the Reindeer Who Couldn't Fly to the Antonia J. Giallourakis Endowed Fund in Art Therapy for Children with Cancer, erected to help children with cancer cope with and survive their bouts with cancer through innovative art therapy programs.

Without further ado, a word from Alan Salisbury on his inspiration for and journey through penning The Legend of Ranger:



OK, so here I am a 70+ year-old man guest posting on a “mommy blog.”  Crazy?  Some may think so.  Maybe even more would think so if I added that Im a retired Army General who served 30 years in the Army.  And a computer engineer by education background.  What could I possibly have to say of interest to 20-something-and-up moms?


Maybe more than you would think. Of all the titles I have held through my career (and Ive had a few), the one I treasured most was “Daddy.”  And more recently, “Gramps” is giving “Daddy” a run for its money.  My wife and I raised two fantastic daughters and both are now mommies in their own right, juggling career and family. My grandchildren range from 2 to 10 years old, with three boys and one girl. (Guess which one is boss?) What goes around comes around and these days I, once again, find myself reading bed time stories to sleepy grandkids.  Still a joy.


My mother dabbled in poetry and wrote some WWII-era songs.  My own writing has been professional, with many magazine articles, professional papers and such over the years.  One book (you dont want to hear the title) to my credit, a computer design reference book.  And I have dabbled in song writing myself, having “majored” in glee club as a West Point cadet, and several years ago co-founded the 50-voice West Point Alumni Glee Club in the Washington, DC area where we now reside.  Three songs so far for the WPAGC, including “Eat, Drink and Beat Navy,” my personal favorite.


About four years ago, the idea of writing a book for children began percolating in my head, and resurrecting itself each holiday season. Finally, around Christmas of 2011, I convinced myself to put pen to paper (actually fingers to keyboard) and draft a story around a germ of an idea that I had been developing. It stalled out for a while because I felt the plot was weak. As often happens to me, some of my best thinking occurs while jogging or walking (more of the latter lately) and the muse visited me one day mid-walk with the crisis that my story needed to come to fruition.


It was only during the actual process of writing the story that I realized that I was weaving some important messages for children (of all ages) into it.  They come from my own life experience and from many leadership situations I experienced during my career. Before most young moms of today were born, the Army had the best possible recruiting slogan, designed to attract the best and the brightest: “Be All You Can Be.” Those five words encapsulate a philosophy that every individual would do well to internalize. If I were writing a college application essay, I cant think of a better topic to explore.


My new book, “The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldnt Fly,” is a Christmas story set in the North Pole region, but  it could just as well be set at any time of year and in any place.  It has been described by reviewers as a heartwarming and inspirational story, as it follows young Ranger through his quest to learn the secret of flying and join the Christmas Eve team. I also wrote a companion song titled “Dream and Believe.” The message of the book and song are succinctly stated in the concluding line of the song, “You can accomplish whatever you dream, if you just believe in yourself.” My purpose in writing the book and the song has been to teach children to think big, to set objectives and goals for themselves, and then to believe in their own hearts that, if they work hard, they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to.


Many Colonels and Generals (OK, Admirals too…) from the military have written books about management and leadership and left their constructive mark in the professional world.  I applaud them for that. I chose to target children instead.  Why children?  


For many years I served on the board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education that was established as a living memorial to the seven Challenger astronauts who perished in January of 1986 when their space shuttle mission exploded on launch. This was to have been the “education mission,” carrying the first citizen astronaut, elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe into space, from where she would beam lessons (and inspiration) to children on earth.  Christa summed up her own philosophy this way:  “I touch the future; I teach.” She recognized that children are the future, and the direction that future will take depends on where our children will take it. 


Christa McAuliffe exemplified the Armys motto of Be All You Can Be” through her own career, and set an example that all children would do well to emulate.  It starts with dreaming and working to realize those dreams, and developing the self-confidence to believe in yourself and make your dreams come true. What better lesson can we impart to our own children? And I am convinced that we cannot start too early in a childs life to begin to shape their self-perception and ambition.  For one thing, it is easier to “bend the twig that will grow into the tree” when it is young and impressionable. For another, we need to equip our children early in life with the skills they will need to survive and thrive in the real world.


Before we know it, our toddlers and preschoolers will be off to school for many hours a day where they are out of the protective envelope that Mom and Dad would like to wrap around them. They will quickly become exposed to one of the most powerful influences in their lives: peer pressure. Some kids will be the “leaders” and many more will be the “followers.” The best defense against our children being misled by misguided peers is for our children to themselves be leaders who have the self-confidence to say, “no, thats wrong, we should do this instead.” The lesson that Rangers adventure teaches is a good place to start.

The Ranger book is 50 pages in length and takes about a half hour for an adult to read out loud for the younger children. Thats quality family time during the Christmas season. But its divided into 8 chapters, so it can also be spread out over several evenings as a bed-time story. Early readers ready for chapter books can get through it on their own.


“The Legend of Ranger” is available from the publishers web site (thelegendofranger.com), from Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, or from my web site at opusonestudios.com. The “Dream and Believe” song (performed by Nashvilles Mary Allen) is track 1 of a CD by the same title available on iTunes. Track 2 of that CD is a complete audio book reading of the book with wonderful character voices by the reader, Barbara Quesada. [Full disclosure:  Barbara is also my daughter, a professional photographer and voice-over artist at thevoiceofbarbara.com.] The full suite of Ranger products includes ebooks in all formats and an 8” loveable plush toy Ranger, in addition to the book and CD. All are available from the Opus One web site.


Opus One Studios is my creative outlet with the unique feature that 100% of the profits it generates go to selected charities.  Our tag line is “Creative products supporting worthy causes.” In the case of Ranger, the worthy cause is the childrens art therapy program in the Cancer Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.


Mr. Salisbury was kind enough to provide me with a copy of The Legend of Ranger as well as the CD of the single Dream and Believe (Ranger's Song) along with the complete Audio Book of the story to giveaway to one of my lucky readers. To enter, simply check out the widget below. Good luck everyone, and thank you to Mr. Salisbury for sharing his beautiful story with us!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Life of a MilSO Student


Today after sinking what is now coming to hours into school things, I felt inspired to make a post about all of the time that goes into being a student (particularly a military spouse student) completely separate from taking notes and test taking and cramming our brains full of information. School is exhausting! The entire process! I remember first enrolling in college fresh out of high school and having my dad to walk me through every step of the way--Financial Aid, books, registration, dealing with the schools--it all seemed so much more simple back then!

Now I'm finding that investing large chunks of time into getting things taken care of and ready to go for school is taking up tons of time! Hopefully what I am able to share can help at least one person shave some seconds off of their administrative school time. We spend enough time studying as it is--we need every other valuable second to do something not school related for our sanity's sake!

Registering for classes. Registering can be a real headache, but it depends on your school. If your school is like mine (and I hope for your sake that it is), you are able to register for classes online. Your school should notify you in some way, shape, or form when class registration will open (exact open/closing dates), and oftentimes schools will let students who have more completed credits under their belts register earlier than those who do not. For example, this fall I had 6 (ish) credits, so I was able to choose my classes a day before those with no credits, giving me a greater likelihood of securing a seat in classes of my choosing. Tip #1:  Write these dates down on your calendar and set a reminder! I can't even begin to explain how frustrating it is to not make it into a class and have to wait an entire semester until you can take it.

Paying for classes. This is where the migraine starts to take the stage. Schools are sticklers about their money--can you blame them, though? If you have qualified for Financial Aid or intend to use a scholarship, you want to make sure that all of your bases are completely covered. Tip #2:  Call your Financial Aid office and inquire as to whether you need to fill out a tuition deferment form; this is essentially a document that informs the school that you are paying, but your money may come in late since it is coming from another entity in the form of scholarships/loans/grants/etc. This is extremely important, especially if you are using any military related funds! My first semester I had no idea about the tuition deferment form, and thus I was dropped from my classes for "not paying" since MyCAA had not actually cut the school a check to cover my classes by the date when fees were due. It was a nightmare, and I had to spend hours playing phone tag with the Financial Aid office to try to get everything straightened out. Just save yourself the trouble, and invest 5 minutes of your time into completing this form. You'll be thankful you did!

Just as with registration dates, I find it extremely helpful to write down the specific dates when fees are due by. The thing about these dates, though, is that you will be dropped from your class, meaning you are no longer going to be taking that class the upcoming semester and your seat is now up for grabs, if you do not pay your fees on time! Tip #3:  Check, double check, and triple check that your fees have been paid! My school has an option available online to view and pay fees, which I frequently use. Most of the times, Financial Aid and scholarships will not cover all of the fees involved with classes--for example, distance learning fees for online classes, lab fees, etc. Thus, it is extremely important that you keep on top of what you personally owe the school. I pay my fees as soon as they are calculated and displayed online. I set a reminder in my phone 3 days prior to their due date and on the due date and verify that my fees are still shown as paid in full on each of those days. It may sound a bit excessive, but like I've already said, being dropped and having to beg and sob your way back into a class is not a fun (or quick) ordeal, nor are you guaranteed any results from it!

Book vouchers. Some institutions allow full-time students to get a voucher to cover their books, but they must be purchased from the college book store. Weird, I know. What I've found to be the best bet for books is to rent them (thank you, thank you to the person who told me about Chegg!) unless it is for a class that you have a particular interest in and want to hang onto the book from (like me with my revered A&P book...I don't even let Hubby touch it!) Financial Aid "leftovers" are mailed out a couple of weeks into classes, so hopefully your books aren't too awfully expensive and you have enough of a FA reimbursement to cover them! 

Transcripts. Tip #4:  Always, always, always be sure that you know what scholarships require you to submit a transcript after you've completed your courses to A) Prove that you did in fact make it through B) Didn't drop out C) Passed as a lot of FA and scholarships will require you to pay funds back if one or more of the above are not true. You want to do this in a timely matter--I typically send them off as soon as unofficial transcripts are posted online. Make sure to verify whether the funding institution wants an official or if an unofficial transcript will suffice. Unofficial transcripts can be sent via .PDF or a Word document whereas an official transcript will be submitted either electronically or by mail from your college directly to the funding institution. With being a transient student this past semester with A&P, I had to go through the process of requesting transcripts to be sent to my home school, and after playing phone tag for a couple of days with the Student Records Department, I decided I would do an investigation on the school's student portal online. Come to find out, I was able to print an unofficial transcript and request official transcripts (electronic or hard copies) to be sent to wherever--schools or scholarship offices. This was a huge time saver, just make sure that you've got the correct address or electronic institution ID!

At the end of the day, you probably will feel like you've taken on a part-time job with all of the things that have to be done and squared away for your classes, but hopefully these pointers can help to steer you in the right direction and away from potential time-sucking pot holes!

What's been the most beneficial thing that you've learned throughout your college career? Did you learn it from a friend or the hard way?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Influenster's Violet VoxBox!



A few weeks back I was selected to receive a box packed full of beauty (and other) goodies from Influenster. Now, if you haven't heard of Influenster, Google it (and comment below if you'd like an invitation--I have 4 left to send out!), but in short, it's a program where you qualify based upon your niches (i.e. beauty, cats, traveling, foodie, etc.) for boxes of products to try out and review. It's kind of a win-win situation for everyone, right?

Although I have already dug into most of the products, I wanted to post my first impressions of them with some more in depth reviews on a few of them later on.  Here's my loot:






In case you can't quite make everything out, here's what we've got:

Montagne Jeunesse Masque (Dead Sea Mud Spa)
Goody Athletique (Adjustable!) Headband
Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Dry Shampoo
Sally Hansen Triple Shine in Pixie Slicks
&
SoyJoy Dark Chocolate Cherry


To avoid getting too ADD here, I'm just going to go through the products one by one with my first impressions. I have to admit that mostly all of them have been good thus far!

Montagne Masque:  I LOVE FACIAL MASKS! The fact that these aren't tested on animals and are actually affordable is very appealing to me! Additionally, this isn't just a blob of clay in a package--it's a clay infused fabric masque, so 100% less messy than traditional DIY and drugstore masques. First impression: LOVE!

Goody Athletique Headband:  THIS HAS VELCRO! Elastic bands constantly roll off my head, so I'm having to readjust them far too often; if I don't, my head ends up looking extremely awkward. The Velcro is a sure sign for a perfectly customized fit, less time spent adjusting, and more time spent getting your sweat on! First impression:  Super cute!

Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Dry Shampoo:  I have thin hair and not a whole lot of it...I seriously put my hair through the wringer far too often, especially when it comes to heat drying/straightening. A dry shampoo is something that's always caught my eye--I love the idea of being able to revive my hair the day after I've straightened it without having to invest all of the time it takes into recreating that look. I typically just use flour as a dry shampoo (primal, but gets the job done!), so I am SO STOKED to try out a legitimate dry shampoo product! Plus NYM is a well-known company! First impression:  Excited!

Sally Hansen Triple Shine:  Of course, this was the first product that I used from my VoxBox. I am such a polish junky! To me, nail polish is typically just nail polish, but what did perk my interest about TripleShine was the idea that I may not ever need to use a top coat again...and that would be almost unreal! I love having painted nails, but hate when they chip and hate actually having to invest a big chunk of time into painting/dry time. First impression: Interest perked!

Lastly, SoyJoy:  I love SoyJoy, so this really isn't a fair first impression per se... I haven't, however, ever tried this flavor. I typically stick with Strawberry and Pomegranate, so this is quite a leap for me. First impression:  Hesitant and skeptical...not a huge cherry fan :-S

I will keep you posted on my final verdicts of the above! I absolutely love trying out new beauty products!

I RECEIVED THESE PRODUCTS COMPLIMENTARY FROM INFLUENSTER FOR TESTING PURPOSES. ALL OF THE OPINIONS ABOVE ARE MY OWN.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer...

Is singing loud for all to hear! Right? Elf is such a wonderful movie--I think it became an instant tradition for our family, and ever since, we just aren't completely in the Christmas spirit unless we've watched Elf at least once per Christmas season. Along with the classic claymation movies and Home Alone, of course! And my personal favorite, Eloise at Christmastime--that little girl is too funny!


Some other things that have been traditions in our family are baking--namely Chex farty party mix (sooo good!), sugar cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and Hershey peanut butter Kiss cookies (my personal favorite). All of these things help to get me in the Christmas mindset--the music, the foods and smells, the movies because it's what I've done for many, many Christmases past. Well, this year I've sort of welcomed in a new tradition. While it isn't completely tangible, it's something that I am certainly going to make a point to recreate every year. This Christmas, I sat in my office at my desk with just a cup of coffee, not even facing my computer. I thought about everything I was thankful for, especially during Christmas. Our home--the fact that we have heat and (unfortunately I have to say this) air conditioning, that we have a bed to sleep in, food in our fridge and pantry, and fresh water at our disposal. My cats--cue crazy cat lady side of me now! The fact that we can afford to go out to eat every so often for date night--things didn't used to be that way not too awfully long ago. My husband--the fact that he does his best to love and support me every day. The fact that I have him home for Christmas. Even in my teeny tiny network of real-life military spouses, we have a friend whose husband isn't able to come home for Christmas...and she's pregnant with their first child. While fortunately she has her parents within a few-minute drive, I just can't imagine. I am thankful beyond words for her and all of the others out there like her who are sacrificing so much for our freedom, even when it isn't convenient (when is it ever?) and even though I'm certain she would gladly trade in her Christmas for even just a minute with her husband.

It's so terribly easy to skip over some major things when we are counting our blessings--especially the things that others may be longing for this Christmas season and would do anything for, meanwhile we are taking them for granted.

I was sent an e-mail from Dropcam to a blog post they put up a containing several Christmas surprise homecoming videos last week, and I wanted to share it with you all. Brace yourself for tears of joy--maybe go get a tissue box of tissues quick, and just let it consume you. I'm not sure that my Christmas celebrating could have started off on the right foot without watching these videos. I am so, so thankful, and those who may be celebrating with the void of a loved one unable to be in their presence this year, you are in my prayers and thoughts, and I am thankful beyond words for you this Christmas season.

The Six Most Heartwarming Holiday Soldier Homecomings Caught on Video, Dropcam


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