Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: Daddy, What's a Liberal?

Photo cred: Amazon
Have you ever had your child ask you a question that stopped you in your tracks?  Maybe where babies come from or some other topic you'd prefer not to address at the time?  My book review today is on an e-book for children - "Daddy, What's A Liberal?" - written and illustrated by Mark A. Zanni, Sr.

Zanni based this book on an actual event that occurred with his young son, Anthony, when his son posed a question before bedtime - "Daddy, what's a liberal?"  In this book, Zanni explains to Anthony the simple differences between liberals and conservatives by using the story of the ant and the grasshopper.

Illustrated by Nazareno Allesandro (Zanni's pen name for illustrator), the pages come alive with the explanation that helped his son know the difference between the right and the left.  Not often do you find a children's book written and illustrated by the same person.  

You may be a conservative who fears that question will haunt you one night as you put your child to bed, like Zanni, and would benefit from this great resource.  Currently available in e-reader format, be sure to check it out on Amazon and download a copy to have for that awkward moment when you need it.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bell√°Pierre Cosmetics Banana Setting Powder Review

Photo Cred:  ipsy.com
In my July ipsy Glam Bag, one of my samples was the BellaPierre Cosmetics Banana Setting Powder.  It came in a small pot with the little salt shaker holes in the lid and is quite a decent size of product for a sample.  I believe this 4 gram size is what is sold as a full size.

I don't normally use a setting powder, or keep it in my makeup repertoire. But when I receive a sample to try I'm always happy to use it.  The thought of a "banana" setting powder may seem odd.  It's not made from bananas, but the tint is a banana shade.  Yellow is a great color to hide redness and color correct in areas where concealer or contouring don't do the trick.  In fact, this setting powder is good to hide those under eye circles that can sometimes be tricky when using a cream-based concealer.  

The only other BellaPierre product I've owned was a sample lipstick (also full size) that I loved.  Even though I really do love this brand, I'm questioning myself now why I haven't tried any of their other products, which may have to be resolved soon.  Their products are mineral-based so you are putting good ingredients on your skin to conjure up a glow.

Though a setting powder, it can double as your concealer, or in addition to your concealer.  Products that have dual roles always get me.  It's a great bang for your makeup buck.  

I'd rate this a 5 out of 5 stars.  Full-size sample, dual purpose product, and a shade that can work wonders on your skin.  If you're looking for a powder that may be an answer to covering up redness or even in place of your foundation on these sweltering hot days, check out BellaPierre's Banana Setting Powder.     

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Movie Review: Eddie the Eagle

When you need an uplift, a good underdog story always does the trick.  Eddie the Eagle, starring, Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, tells the real-life story of British ski-jumper, Michael Edward Edwards.  Eddie grew up always wanting to compete in the Olympics and the opening scene has him timing how long he can hold his breath under water.  His parents - specifically his Dad - try to dissuade him from such nonsense as pursuing a career at the Olympics, but this resilient fella won't stop dreaming.

As Great Britain has no ski-jumping team, Eddie's efforts are ironically all uphill.  He finds himself at 22 years of age doing what he should have been doing at 6 in order to compete as an Olympian.  As he is practicing to compete, he providentially meets Bronson Peary, a former US Olympic ski-jumper that was kicked off the team due to his behavior and alcohol usage.  After much cajoling, Eddie convinces Bronson to coach him to qualify for the Olympics.  No spoilers here, but Bronson did agree to coach him and you'll have to watch the rest of the movie to see what happens.

I wasn't sure when I watched this movie if this was a true story, and it was.  It was nice not to know the details going in so I could enjoy the story as it unfolded.  In this year of the Olympics (albeit summer not winter), it's refreshing to watch a positive story about a young man who never gave up on his dream.  The movie won't make you think too hard but will make you flap like an eagle - which you'll need to watch the movie to understand that.  Hugh Jackman does a good job, but I think this role is somewhat of a no-brainer for him.  Not much effort needed to portray the role and probably easy money for Mr. Jackman.  From my research of the real Eddie the Eagle, Taron Egerton did an excellent job in transforming himself physically into this character, including mannerisms.  He definitely did an amazing job in this role.

I give this movie 3.5 stars.  Good story and though somewhat predictable, that's excused knowing this was a true story.  Uplifting tale in a time when we all could use a little good news.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: Enchanted Islands

Last month I joined Book of the Month Club because I'm somewhat obsessed with subscription services and because BOOKS!  My first selection was Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, and I have to say, if my first book is an indication of each month's experiences, I'm sold.

Enchanted Islands tells a fictional story based on the real-life experiences of Frances Conway.  This woman lived on the Galapagos Islands prior to World War II with her husband, Ainslie, and was thought to have served as a spy for our US government.  Frances left memoirs about her life, on which Amend relied upon to craft this excellent telling of Frances' life story.

The book begins at a nursing home for Jewish people where Frances and her lifelong friend, Rosalie now live.  From there, Frances flashes back and retells her life from childhood - when she first met Rosalie - until we circle back to the time where this book began.  Though some may read the synopsis of the book and expect the book's focus to be on the love story of Frances and Ainslie, it's truly about the life of Frances and her friendship with Rosalie.  Amend could have made this story drag on when you think of the years she spanned, but her writing style was flowing and I couldn't wait to pick up the book and read it to pick up where the adventurous story left off.

I enjoy stories set in the World War II era as my parents were married during that time and my Dad also served in the military as did Ainslie.  Seeing the differences of that time from today, and the ironic similarities is something I enjoy reading about.  I love a book when a character is compelling and Frances was just that.  I loved her, felt sorry for her and admired her.  Honestly, since she was a real person, I would loved to have had a conversation with her.  

I give this book 5 stars.  Great character development, interesting and engaging plot, and wonderful writing style.  Definitely a winner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rice Cooker Review

I subscribe to a multitude of YouTube Channels.  Some of my favorites are families who vlog on a daily basis.  Go figure since I'm single and have no children that I love to watch the lives of parents raising children, planning meals, and dealing with the ups and downs of life with a large family.  One of the families I love - J House Vlogs - shows a lot of the recipes the Mom, Kendra, makes.  She is an avid user of her crock pot...and rice cooker.  When I saw her utilize her rice cooker, I thought "where have those been all my life?"  I polled my Facebook audience for recommendations for a good rice cooker and my friend, Liz, recommended this gem: Prep Solutions by Progressive Rice Cooker, 4 Piece Set - 6 Cup Capacity.  I ordered it and thought I'd try it out.

The set comes with a cooker bucket and steaming lid, an insert that sits inside the lid of the bucket while cooking, a beaker for measuring rice and water, and a rice spoon....or spaddle as I like to call it.  (Rice in the picture, not included).

The instruction book includes a step-by-step process on cooking your rice and, seriously, a trained monkey can do this.  You measure out the appropriate amount of rice in the beaker and pour it in the bucket.  You add salt - as much as you'd like - and then the amount of water in the beaker the instructions call for based on how much rice you want to cook.  For my first use, I cooked about 2 1/2 cups of rice.  

I make my own concoction that I love which is simply rice (or quinoa, which I'll test in this cooker in the future), black beans and grilled chicken.  Mix it all up and eat!  It's one of my staples for dinner.  

I usually would either boil the rice in a pan - which would sometimes stick and have an unpleasant result - or use the Minute Rice bags.  Though rice is rice, I never could perfect the goodness that I get when I dine out, at places like PF Changs.  I measured out my ingredients, snapped on the lid and set the microwave for 15 minutes - the time allotted in the instruction book for the amount of rice I was making.  In the meantime, I cooked my black beans and grilled my chicken so they'd be ready when the rice finished.  

The rice came out beautifully!  It had the consistency of authentic steamed rice.  I was in love! 

If you enjoy rice and don't have a large family to feed, or want a small appliance that won't take up much space, I highly recommend this rice cooker.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

BirchBox April 2016 Review

Spring Awakening was this month's theme for Birchbox's April selections.  The samples came in a lovely Rifle Paper Co. box with an assortment of spring plants adorning the pattern.  

The first products I'll review are two that are from the same brand and related - Beaver Repair Rescue Shampoo and Conditioner.  First off, the brand name needs some overhauling.  Not the most appealing name for a beauty product.  The shampoo was surprisingly non-fragrant and light, which I liked.  Conversely, the conditioner was more thick in consistency and very fragrant.  I wasn't offended by the fragrance, just expected that to be from the shampoo and not the conditioner.  Neither left my hair feeling heavy and weighted, so that is a positive.  The sample sizes were really good for a hair care product when usually foil packages are sent.  I'll use the sample, but doubtful this will be a full-size purchase later.  I'd give these products a B. 

The next product was Acure Organics Pore Minimizing Facial Scrub.  I recently purchased a brightening scrub from the Acure Organics line that I like....very mud like in texture, but it did a good job.  This product is made with red clay, which is obvious in the look and smell.  The first time I used it, I liked it, but when I used it the second time, I could barely get it to squeeze out of the tube.  I poked through the hole to see if it was clogged, but it seemed clear.  I finally got some to come out after much lamenting.  If the next time I use it I get the same result, I may just have to toss it.  I give this product a B for effectiveness, but a C for packaging.

The next product was Penthaligon's Levantium Eau de Toilette.  Now that's a mouthful!  I love getting fragrance samples but of all the fragrance samples I've received from my various beauty subscriptions only one has been something I actually would have purchased (if the price point wasn't the cost of a small country.)  This fragrance was not my favorite and it was hard to discern what the exact problem was with the smell.  I found that if it lingered for a while on my clothing or body, I grew to like it more.  Translation: it needed time to settle and prime to make it ok.  It never became appealing, nor worth the exorbitant price to purchase.  I give this product a C.  

The final product in the box was Au Naturale Cosmetics Trio Set.  As you can see in the picture, it included a lipstick, blush and shadow.  Though the picture doesn't translate the size well, this sample is teeny.  The width of each of those pots is smaller than my pinky finger.  Application is near impossible and the colors aren't the best.  I love a fuchsia pink for lipstick, but this shade isn't great, and goes on very dry.  The blush is an odd peach hue and not really a shade I'd typically use.  The shadow might work better as a primer because once you apply it, you can't really see it.  Add to that the teeny tiny flip sample is tough to open.  This is my least favorite product in the box and I give it a D.

With BirchBox, you can pay for add-on items to come along with your editor-selected samples.  This month, I chose a Laura Geller set.  It included facial primer, concealer, blush and a makeup brush.  I have to say I enjoyed these four products more than anything I received in my actual Birchbox.  The primer consistency is thin and somewhat silicone, but very good on smoothing for foundation application.  The concealer takes very little (emphasis on VERY) to do the job which means this little tube may last me forever.  The blush is the absolute perfect color and the little compact it comes in includes a cute half mirror.  The brush isn't bad, but not the best brush I've ever used.  For travel purposes, though, this brush could be very multi-functional.  I give this bonus set an A. 

Overall, I'd grade this month's Birchbox a B.  The Laura Geller add on I purchased brought that grade up.  If you would like to start your own monthly subscription, click here to get started! 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Movie Review: Hello, My Name is Doris

Sally Field has been a favorite of mine since her role in Steel Magnolias, one of my all-time favorite films.  This movie, Hello, My Name is Doris, is a somewhat unknown film amidst the Batman vs Superman hoopla going on right now.  But, the movie is quite endearing.

The story begins at the funeral of Doris' Mom.  An elderly woman who had an affinity for her cat, and Doris is quite shaken at the loss of her Mom after what appears to be years of caring for her.  We discover early on that Doris lived with her Mom and cared for her in a home full of stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Her brother and his wife urge Doris to clean out the house, sell it, and move to the city.  She currently lives on Staten Island in the home where she was raised.  You could tell Doris was offended by this suggestion.

To say Doris was quirky would be an understatement.  The movie unveils a very unique character that worked in data entry at an apparel magazine.  One day after going with her friend, Roz (played by the iconic Tyne Daly), to hear a motivational speaker, she decides to set her sights on a younger (very much younger) man in her office, John.  They had initially bumped into each other in the elevator, and Doris, who filled her life with romance novels while riding the ferry to work, had dreams of she and John together forever.

So began Doris' quest for love.  Roz' granddaughter, Vivian, helps Doris get "hip" and teaches her how to navigate this new world of dating and put herself out there so John would see her.  As you can imagine, a 60-year-old woman listening to electric rock and dressing in neon was pretty hilarious.

Doris' efforts did grab the attention of John and a friendship ensued.  Through this friendship, Doris shares her story, giving us more light into how she got to where she is in life.  Doris' Dad up and left one day leaving her Mom to raise their children.  Though Doris had never been married, she had been in love.  She once was engaged to a man who eventually moved away and thus ended their engagement.  Doris felt compelled to care for her Mom, as is revealed in one of the most moving scenes in the movie.

Although this movie may not be Oscar worthy, Sally Field's portrayal of Doris was amazing.  I could identify with her (in some ways, not in the Level 10 crazy that comes out in the movie) as an older never married woman who still dreams about falling in love one day.  This is great story of moving on and living life to the fullest, and in some ways, taking chances.  I don't want to provide any spoilers...you'll need to watch the movie for yourself.  I would give this movie a 4 out of 5 stars.