Sunday, September 28, 2014

Juniper Tree Naturals - Etsy Review

I am really loving hearing about people getting in to essential oils.  My mom worked at a homeopathic doctor's office for a few years, and at the time, it really opened our eyes to traditional medicine.  We became more aware of the medicines and food we put in our bodies.  We always tried to look for an alternative option.

I'm not saying I'm a saint, that I don't pop excedrin, and that I don't eat ice cream!  We all put a lot of junk in to our bodies. But any step we can take to try to curb that, I'm all for it.  I'm not quite ready to take the dive in to essential oils, but I'm trying to make a little bit of progress in making better choices.

One smaller way to start is on the outside.  I am very lucky to team up with Laura from Juniper Tree Naturals to share some information and a review on her products.  Juniper Tree's products are all made without synthetic or harsh ingredients.  She notes that your skin is your largest organ and that we should take care of it!  Why slather on chemicals when you can nourish your skin with natural products?

Juniper Tree's Etsy Shop offers everything from soap to lotion to lip balm.  These products are all made with essential oils and natural products to nourish your body and help heal your mind.

They graciously sent me the Calm Soap and the Peppermint Body Lotion to review for you.  And I have to say, I was not disappointed!

The Peppermint Body Lotion smells fantastic and gives your skin a slight tingle when it's applied.  It smooths on easily and feels great when it soaks in.  It gives you a bit of a sheen right away, but soaks in quickly and leaves your skin feeling soft.  I have been using it as a hand lotion right before I go to bed.  The tingles and smells help me to fall asleep quickly and comfortably.  Love it!

I have also read that peppermint can help with headaches and migraines.  Sadly, I know how those feel.  I think next time, I'll try to apply some of this lotion on my temples and see if it helps.  I try to stay away from headache medicine, even though I suffer from them often.  Maybe this will be my new fix?!

My other treat was the "Calm" soap.  This is lavender with ylang ylang. Lavender is well known as a calming scent {hence, the name}.  I have this in our master bathroom and even Mike uses it!  I'm not normally a big bar soap user, but is it nice to have a little change in our life!

It takes a use or two to get it going in to a good lather.  After that, you are good to go!  It smells so great and makes your hands feel fresh and soft.  This soap also has seeds on the top, which helps to slough your hands and create a more robust lather.  This was Mike's favorite part.

I think we may have to incorporate bars in to our routine.  I think it would be fantastic to have a fun new scent in your guest bathroom when people come over.  Handcrafted soap, from small batches, what a treat!

Both of these products will not last long in our house, because we are using them up quickly!  We are very happy with them.  These product are a simple change that you can make to do better for yourself and your families.  They are handmade from natural products, and are extremely affordable.  Juniper Tree's products would be an excellent gift for a new mom, sister, roommate, coworker, anyone!

Luckily for us, we can get a free small sugar skin scrub!  

Use the code FREEFALL at checkout of any purchase 35$ or more.  {Order the small scrub along with your purchase and at checkout enter the code and it will take off the price of the small scrub!}  Start your holiday shopping early and support an artisan specializing in taking care of your bodies. 

 Please feel free to comment with your own reviews of her products!

**Though I received these products for free, all opinions are my own.  Photography by Juniper Tree Naturals**

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Fall" for Target

I had to stop at Target two nights ago to pick up a prescription.  Of course, I couldn't help but meander through the Dollar Spot.  Normally, I don't find many things that are too intriguing in there, but WOW!  Their current fall décor there is so CUTE!  I didn't even have to go to the fall section, and I quickly spent about $20, just in the dollar section.  (To be fair, some items were three dollars.)

By quickly, I mean that Mike was simultaneously running another errand and I had to go back to pick him up.  Hence, why I resorted to the Dollar Spot and not the clearance section :)  I would easily say I spent less than five minutes perusing and came away with some absolutely adorable items that I can't wait to put out!  I will likely put up a fall décor post later, but this is what I found.  Those ramekins were only $3!  They are cream colored and I am obsessed. 

Oh, and I ended up not getting my prescription because apparently they close at 7:00.  SO, I have to go back this weekend...*evil giggle*  Therefore, I might be able to do a bit more shopping for the season! 

We just came back from Minnesota, and fall is definitely in full swing there.  The cool breeze, bitter evenings, the smell of bonfires.  LOVE.  I was a little bummed when we came back to Austin, because the leaves don't really change here, and you don't get that crisp smell in the air.  I was yearning for FALL...REAL fall. 

Thus, I decided that I would decorate for fall in October, even though it didn't feel like it.  Mike informed me that October is NEXT WEEK!!  How the heck did that happen?! 

So, this weekend, I will be cleaning up the house in preparation for getting festively fall.  Even though it is supposed to be back in the 90s next week.  Woof.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Minnesota Madness

Last week, we made our first trip home after seven months of living in Texas.  That is a long time when you think about it!  I figured out that it was the longest time I've gone without seeing my family or friends, including all of college and a semester abroad.  You think that would be easier at age 25...NOPE! 

I managed to not shed a tear, but my poor mama had a few waiting for us when we arrived...At three in the morning.  After a four hour delay.  Yeah...that was fun.  We then had a 90 minute drive to my parent's house.  We got home around 5 in the morning, so "late" that my dad had already taken off for work.  We could smell his coffee pot when we walked in.  And promptly crashed into our beds.  (Thanks, Mom, for waiting patiently and driving us!)

On Friday, we pushed our breakfast plans to lunch plans in order to get some sleep.  My mom and I picked up Grandma for lunch and ran in to a few old friends while enjoying food at the "new" Parkview Grille.  It's on Main Street by Central Park and it's worth a stop if you want some good food that's not fast food.  My brother stopped by for quick hugs and then we made a quick trip to my dad's work to get more hugs before Mike and I headed BACK to the Twin Cities area to spend some time with friends. 

Our first stop was Mike's previous job.  We enjoyed a few drinks while catching up with everyone and having a few good laughs.  After that, we went on our way to my favorite brewery in town, Indeed Brewing.  We were there for this brewery's grand opening, and it still holds my top spot!  A few more friends met us here, and we enjoyed empanadas, beers, and lots of laughter and stories.  We reminisced about weddings, school, and got caught up on everyone's jobs and love lives.  I have amazing friends that can be serious and silly at the same time, and I love it!

That evening, we hit up three more breweries (all new to us-the brewery scene in Minneapolis is insane) and ended the night with an amazing gift from our hosts for the evening, Sam and Bridgette.  We once again crashed hard into sleep and woke up early to catch breakfast at The Buttered Tin.  This was a super cute place with good coffee and delicious breakfast.  We had a short wait but it was an absolutely gorgeous morning, so we enjoyed the fresh air and chatted in the sun.  Is there really anything better than sipping coffee in the sun, outside, with a great couple?

After breakfast, I got to spend time with my bestie, Miss Ashley, and Mike spent time with his business partner Dustin.  We reconvened at Ashley's house, quickly changed in to our wedding attire, and set off on another hour long drive to the lovely ceremony for Nicole and Ben.  We arrived with three minutes to spare, typical!  Their wedding was gorgeously set in the groom's parent's back yard.  With the sun shining, and a musician playing, I got to watch another one of my sorority sisters tie the knot.  I'm always fine until I hug them, and then they always make me all teary! 

The night continued with a fantastic bar, scrumptious food, a bonfire with treats, and more chatting with friends.  We checked out around 10:30 and embarked on yet ANOTHER hour long drive to my parents house.  When we arrived home, my mom was given strict instructions by me not to disturb us in the morning.  WOW, we needed some SLEEP!  And sleep we did...each of us waking up in the same position where we hit the bed. 

Sunday was filled with family.  I have a big family and absolutely love the obnoxious gatherings, meaningful stories, and genuine attitudes we all share.  First, we had breakfast and snuck off to have some pictures taken (post on those soon), and by the time we arrived home after a DQ treat, family was already waiting for us at our house.  We got more hugs, started to imbibe, and took it all in as more and more family came to show love.  The evening was great, we enjoyed another bonfire, and ended the night each snuggled with a kitten in what I now know is my favorite parent's back yard. 

Monday was our last day.  Each of my parents took the day off, and we finally had some time to just relax!  We had French toast from real French bread (the best thing ever!) and later enjoyed lunch on the front deck.  The sun was shining, the kittens were playing, and we had an amazing time talking and catching up.  We always have a fun time with my parents, it is awesome how nicely we all get along.  Sometimes, I'm certain my mom would trade me for my husband!  I know that's not true, but it is really amazing to me how perfectly Mike fits in, and it makes me love him even more because I know my family loves him as well.

Tuesday was full of travel, and after a long day, we returned to our house with Church's Chicken in hand around 9:00 pm.  We were happy to see our little Lola, and sleep in our own bed.  It's hard when "home" now feels like it's in two different places!  We are happy here in Austin, but after being home, I know my heart is more fulfilled in Minnesota. 

Thank you to everyone who made time for us during our visit!  We had an amazing time seeing friends and family and can't wait to return (hopefully before next July, which is our current plan).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memory Book

Last Christmas, my coworker gave me a few small gifts.  She always saved up little things throughout the year so she wouldn't have to do all her Christmas shopping at once (SMART!).  One thing I received this past year was a small notebook.  It is really colorful, but I wondered what I would use it for.  I put it in the small drawer on our coffee table. 

It made it through the move.  And then, I knew it had a purpose!

A Memory Book!  I totally made it up...but the small pages are perfect for jotting down all the fun little things we were experiencing.  I just put the date and whatever memorable thing we did that day.  I think so far there are probably 10-15 pages filled out. 

Since it is small and lives in our coffee table, we are easily reminded to write things down.  It doesn't take long, it was free, and it's cute!  I think this will be a super fun thing to look at many years from now. 

I would highly suggest treating yourself to a cute little notebook and writing down some memories.  It's not as intense as a journal or serious as a blog.  Anyone can do this!  Let me know what you try! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Coffee Concentrate - Amazing New Discovery!

Yesterday, I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home.  Little Lola was all out of vegetables!

Of course, I strayed from my list a little bit and picked up a few extra things.  I did pretty dang good, though. 

My two brag-worthy finds?

A six-pack a Klondike Bars (Reese's) for about 13 CENTS.  I believe they were $1.63 and had a $1.50 coupon right on the door for me to use.  SCORE!  Dang end-cap bargains.  I don't know that I've ever had a Klondike Bar...but when Mike asked what I got him, I said "What Would You Dooooo?"  And he goes, "You got me a Kit-Kat Bar?" 

Nope.  Try again. 

Now...on to the reason you're here.  COFFEE!! 

Whenever I open one of the small refrigerators at work, the bottom shelf is taken up by a 33 ounce bottle of this:

I got to try some of it at an ice cream social a few months ago.  It was the mocha flavor poured over dairy-free ice cream made with coconut milk - NadaMoo, if you're interested.  The coffee was good, but was combined and melted with the ice cream, so we didn't get the full effect. 

Yesterday, there was a small end-cap cooler filled with smaller versions of the above concentrate.  There were also ready-to-drink glass bottles as well (similar looking to those Starbucks drinks in glass bottles). 
After reading the concentrate labels, I discovered I could get 4 servings of DELICIOUS coffee for less than six bucks with the concentrate.  And all I had to do?  ADD WATER. 

Are you kidding me?  How is this not a phenomenon?!  I just taught you how I was making my own iced coffee at home.  Now as of yesterday, I've stepped in to a whole new realm. 

This morning I put together the most delicious coffee ever in about one minute just before stepping out the door. 

In your to-go mug add:
  • Ice
  • 1/2 Cup Concentrate (I purchased the Vanilla)
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • Splash of creamer/milk (SPLASH ONLY!  This coffee is delectable on its own, but Mike's sis left some creamer at our house, so I suppose I'll attempt to use it up) 
  • Shake
  • ENJOY!
You can also drink this hot, but as mentioned in my last post, I'm digging iced coffee right now.  THIS COFFEE IS DELICIOUS.  It tastes ridiculously fresh.  The hint of vanilla in my mug is so light and refreshing.

This is a local company started by two neighbors in 2010.  I can certainly attest to the fact that they have done it right and done it well!! 

From their website: "We custom roast every ounce of Chameleon Cold-Brew for more than 16 hours using only 100% organic, Fair Trade, hand-selected Central and South American Arabica beans and purified Texas Hill Country spring water."

Well done, gentlemen.  They are absolutely hitting the nail on the head.  I am going to sing their praises to anyone who will listen.  My hubby can be sort of a coffee snob and I have no doubt that he will have his mind blown this morning - I texted him the recipe when I got to work.  Just took another swig...SO GOOD!  I am currently enjoying my mug at the front desk, no telling what clients will hear my amazing review! 

Oh, and don't forget to check out their recipes and website

Monday, September 8, 2014

Can You: Wear Wedding Colors When You're Not in the Wedding Party?

When planning to attend weddings, I know I always get the bug to go shopping for a new dress.  It's the perfect excuse, right?  I'm not a person who shops colors by the season or the trend, I just look for something I like.  At a discount, of course!

I have a wedding coming up and stifled the urge to shop for a new dress.  So now I'm bound to shopping my closet for what I'm going to wear.  AND I'll obviously have to pick out what Mike will wear as well.  I currently have a dress in mind for its length and coverage...but it is in the same color palette as the wedding party. 


Hubby was once "scolded" for wearing a dress shirt in the same theme as the wedding party.  I guess the thought never really crossed my mind?  So now I'm paranoid.  Of course, you don't always know the palette of a wedding before you attend, but if you happen to...should you avoid those colors?

The Knot:  Says there is no definite rule on this, but to ask the bride if you feel comfortable.  Commenters had mixed responses saying either it's no big deal or that it would upset them.

Wedding Bee:  Commenters on the board here seemed to have no problem with guest wearing the same color.

What do you think?  Please let me know what to wear!

BONUS:  Do you coordinate outfits with your significant other for more formal events??

:::UPDATE:::  I ended up wearing the dress that coordinated colors.  I didn't blend in too much because of the bridesmaid's jewelry and shawls.  It made for great pictures as well!  My tip:  if you are going to coordinate, make sure that your dress isn't too formal.  If you actually look like you're trying to be a bridesmaid, that might upset some people.  I think it's a good idea to keep the bride in mind.  If you think it will bother her, don't do it!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Easy Iced Coffee at Home!

I absolutely love iced coffee.  I love iced lattes.  I occasionally will even spring for a mocha of some sort.  But I'm getting really sick of not even being able to taste the COFFEE in my drinks.  Even if they're skinny, I still always finish annoyed with not feeling like I got my coffee fix.

Seeing as it has been 90+ to 100+ over the last several weeks, I finally dove in to making my own iced coffees at home.  It is super easy and delicious!

Here is the quickie recipe I've been using lately...

  1. Brew Coffee, Add:
  2. Almond Milk (1 Tbsp)
  3. MCT Oil (1 tsp)
  4. Tastefully Simple Caramel Creme Latte Mix (1 Tbsp)
  5. Ice
  6. Blend/Shake
  7. ENJOY!
This is the recipe I've used the last few times.  The amounts I estimated for you.  Truthfully, I just splash things in there :)  You could VERY easily substitute things in and out.  I used the Caramel Creme Mix because it was in the pantry and I needed to use it up.  

FYI - I used our single cup blender, which is powerful, convenient and easy to clean.  Hypothetically, you could use a blender bottle to shake this up as well.  

Suggestions to spruce up/mix up your coffee:
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut Milk
  • Grass Fed Butter
  • Agave
  • Creamer
  • Sugar
  • Cacao
  • Vanilla
This is a super simple recipe I modify each time depending on what I'm feeling.  It is quick, simple, and tastes great!  You could save a ton of money at your local establishment and whip up one of these a few mornings a week.  Let me know what you think!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why It Pays to Complain

You know what I hate?  When people don't do their jobs correctly.  Or when products don't work the way they're supposed to.  When you don't get what you paid for.  Or when you have to pay secret fees for things you never knew about. 

This gist of this is that I don't like spending money that I don't need to.  And I will speak up to make sure that doesn't happen.  My motto has always been "It never hurts to ask!".  This can serve you anywhere from getting a discount on shoes to getting a babysitter for a night out.  You just have to ask people.  The worst that can happen is that someone says "no", and you're back right where you started. 

I tend to be pretty outspoken in my life and I feel like it has served me pretty well over the years.  Yes, it can sure get me in trouble some times, but generally, when I have asked for something, it has turned out well.

The most common form of this, that I'm sure you can all relate to, is haggling with your cable provider to give you a discount or extra channels, or you'll LEAVE them.  More often than not, IT WORKS!  Right?  So why not take that approach to more things in your life.
  • When we moved in to our townhome in Minnesota, they wanted a $500 pet deposit for our little bunny, Lola.  Since she is a harmless, caged, litter box trained baby girl, we asked if they would waive that ridiculous amount.  And they did.
  • I recently purchased a bike.  You can read more in detail at that link.  This bike was brand new, with a few scratches.  Most people would have walked out of the store paying full price...NOT ME!  I asked for a discount, and when I was offered 10% off, I haggled and got 15%. 
  • If you see clothes (even if they are already on clearance) with stains/markings/crooked zippers, ask for a discount!  Usually the employees can give 10-15 percent off for such things.  Might as well save a few bucks!
  • When it comes to food and beauty products, many have a money back guarantee.  Use their websites or phone lines to let them know if you are unhappy.  Usually they will send you coupons/vouchers to try something else.  We recently complained about our Timothy Grass for Lola being so cruddy she wouldn't even eat it.  They sent us a coupon for five pounds of free food...that's a lot for a bunny!
  • As mentioned above, phone and cable companies will usually give you some perks or discounts if you say you will leave the company (after a few months, of course). 
  • A few months ago, we found a cat we wanted to adopt.  After our landlord stated we would pay a non-refundable deposit, an additional deposit, AND pet rent.  I said heeeck no.  We asked if he would consider only one of those because she's just a little bunny and we are great tenants.  After stopping by our house and realizing such, he said we could get a cat.  (We decided not to at that time, but point proven!)
  • Ask for a raise!  Provided you are a good employee and in good standing, it is okay to ask for a raise at an appropriate time.  Have information supporting your request and be prepared to pitch yourself.  The worst they can say is no, but at least you tried!
At least you tried.  In most situations, you don't have anything to lose by asking.  Companies always want to know what they are doing well and what they are doing wrong.  It's our job to speak up and let them know.  And of course, get a little benefit out of it for ourselves ;)  I have never had a negative outcome from complaining or speaking up.  Use customer service to you advantage and get the best for your money!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why I'm Glad I Grew Up With Two Older Brothers

I am the baby girl with two brothers, five and nine years older than me.  BABY girl.  We grew up in the country.  My whole childhood was spent running around our property trying to keep up with the boys. Anything I could do to not be left out, I did it.  That included not learning how to ride a bike until a really late age, because it was faster for me to run along beside them.  (I wish I could still run like that!)

It included hobbies of farming our carpeting with miniature machinery, working on bikes in the back yard, and playing army with our tree house and wooden guns made from 2x4's.  I was also consistently disappointed when my attempts to pee like a boy never worked out (my poor mother).

I was a tomboy for a long time and always tried to be like my brothers.  I stole their CD's, their clothes, asked for presents so I would fit in better with them.  I played drums because they played drums.  I also tagged along with them as much as I could.  I took their pictures at prom, got dragged along to movies, and even celebrated New Year's Eve with my brother while he was in high school.

Along the way, I got to spend a lot of time with their friends.  Which brings me to the point of my post::


You're thinking, "Oh, she learned so much from her big brothers!"  Which, yes, I did.  But here I'm specifically talking about what I learned from the women in their lives.  My brothers and I have always been long term relationship people.  Meaning I had many years to learn from the women they dated while I was younger.  Since then, these women have gone to college, gotten married, had children, fulfilled dreams, and inspired me along the way.

Nowadays, we are blessed with the wonderful Facebook, which allows me to keep in touch with these fantastic women.  Not only do I love seeing them succeed with families and jobs, but they still continually encourage and uplift me.

One of them may not know that she had a huge part in the direction of my life.  I followed her to college, joined the sorority she was an alumna of, and followed her advice about a guy (at 10 pm at her office), which led me to a new relationship with my amazing husband.  Several others inspire me daily with their confidence as working mothers with beautiful children.  I cannot wait to follow in their footsteps some day.

Growing up with two big brothers was hard at times.  I definitely got left behind a lot, and never really fit in.  I couldn't pee standing up, what did you expect?!  But thanks to their amazing female friends, I gained several role models over the years that genuinely make me feel loved.

Thank you to those women who have been a positive influence in my life for the last twenty years!  And thank you to my brothers for having fantastic friends over the years.  

PS:  Do You Think Any of Us Look Alike?