Thursday, February 28, 2013

Graze box #2

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Received my second Graze box on Monday, as there was a delay in my order because of a payment issue. All settled now and there shouldn't be any further problems. I'm really enjoying these boxes as I love getting surprises in the mail, and it's even good for me!

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In this box, I received:
  • toffee apples - this is granny smith apple slices with a sticky toffee sauce. Didn't care for this one as I didn't like the texture of the apples and the toffee was too sweet. Put this on my "trash" list so they don't send it again. Bummed, because I had high hopes for this one!
  • tropical daiquiri - this was the first one we tried, as we both really enjoyed the dried fruit in the last box. It's pineapple pieces, lime-infused raisins, and green mango. The lime from the raisins sort of overpowered the other fruit and was a little too strong. Debating on whether or not I want to receive this one again. 
  • apple and cinnamon flapjacks - this is described as rustic rolled oat flapjack with apple and cinnamon. I always thought a flapjack was a pancake, but apparently it can also mean an oat biscuit. There were three little bars in the package, that sort of looked like granola bars. I expected them to be dry and hard, so was surprised when they turned out to be soft and chewy! Love these!
  • bonnie wee oatbakes - red onion marmalade with cheese & chive oatbakes. Not sure if it was the oatbakes or the marmalade, but something didn't agree with me and this one went straight to trash! Ugh!
This box was a disappointment for me, as I wound up trashing 3 of the 4 snacks. Hope my next box is better!

If anyone wants to give them a try, you can get your first box free by using my invitation code HL6RJNYD at graze.com. They will ask for a credit card, but if you don't like your first box, you can always cancel.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adventures in Dining - The Eggs Up Grill


We've started going out for Sunday breakfast and trying new places, so how could we resist a place claiming to specialize in eggs? There are 5 locations in the area, but we were lazy and went to the one just up the road.

The parking lot was pretty full, which is always a good sign! Happy that we didn't have to wait and the hostess sat us right away at a booth. I like booths better than tables, as I feel too exposed at a table. Weird, but true.


The silverware was wrapped up in a paper napkin, stuffed in a little paper wrapper. Extra napkins were on a dispenser on the wall. Can't say I've ever seen a napkin dispenser on the wall before.


DH ordered his usual:  eggs over medium, home fries, bacon, and wheat toast. Said the eggs were good and the bacon was crispy, but he didn't really care for the potatoes as they were too chunky. I tried some and he was right, as they tasted more like dinner potatoes than home fries. Still good though. The toast was toast. Not dry, but nothing special.


My breakfast was a disappointment. Decided to try cinnamon raisin french toast as I've never had that before. It was good, but as you can see from the picture, there wasn't much too it. First time I've ever ordered french toast and not received a side. I ate half of DH's toast as I was still hungry.

Overall, this was just an okay breakfast. It was the most expensive place we've tried so far, but still affordable. Can't see us going back though, as we have better options closer to home.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My First Little Black Bag Experience!

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Little Black Bag  is a subscription service with a twist:  after you place your order, you can trade items with other buyers. And I soon found out that trading is half the fun!

To start, you sign up and take a quiz to determine your style. From what I could find out online, opinions are divided over whether or not the quiz results actually mean anything. I was happy with what I received in my bag, so guess the quiz is valid. Others seem to think the contents are random, so I'd recommend not sweating the answers and just do it for fun.

After you complete the quiz, you have your choice of a $29.95 or $49.95 bag. What you are offered depends on which bag you choose. I went for the $29.95 option, as I've never bought one of these before and didn't really want to spend that much. They also give you the option of signing up for only one month at $39.95, but that's a little silly as they let you cancel at any time, so save the $10 and sign up for the cheaper subscription!

Now the fun starts! Browse through all of the options offered to pick the one item you can choose for your bag. There are all kinds of posts and videos online with trading tips, but I didn't research that until later and just picked a pair of earrings that I really liked:

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Punch - Multi Chain Bead Drop earrings
Aren't these cute? They're by Punch, who I've never heard of before, but figured I'd take a chance. I got lucky and they turned out to be a "hot" item, but I didn't know that at the time.

After you pick your one item, you add it to your cart and go to the check out screen. The LBB stylists add 1-3 items to your cart that they think you'll like, but you don't find out what they are until you actually commit to the bag. There are lots of strategies for this section on how to guess what's in the bag, but I didn't learn about those until later. Duh!

I was hesitant about committing, so decided to think about it and left the screen. I didn't realize until I went back that rather than exiting, I got a pop-up box offering me an extra item if I bought the bag. Way to twist my arm LBB! Well played.

Once I added my credit card and completed my order, I found the below three items in my bag:

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'Zad - Feather necklace
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All The Rage - Bangle Set

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Vosges Haut-Chocolate - Peppermint Candy Cane bar

The necklace and bangles are both nice, and who doesn't love chocolate? Pleased with my bag, I decided to see what would happen next. 

Once you buy your bag, you automatically receive trade offers for your items that other buyers have already submitted. You don't know who has what item, so people offer trades based on the item alone. You can accept the offer or pass. It's like a fun swap meet where you don't know who made the offer or how many others received it, as once it's accepted the offer is off the table for everyone else. My advice is to take that great offer before it disappears!

I passed on all of the initial offers, as they were either ridiculously low (a candy bar for my earrings???) or for something I wasn't interested in. Browsing through the gallery, I started making my own offers. I had heard that the more offers the better, but stuck to items I liked rather than trying to strategically increase my bag's value. When an offer is accepted, you get a large pop up screen showing you the trade and your bag automatically updates. 

I traded my leaf necklace for the below Kenneth Jay Lane earrings. Thought the black stones were really pretty.

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Kenneth Jay Lane - Drop Disk earrings

A few hours later, received a notice that my bangle offer was accepted for the below bracelet. I'm not a big fan of gold jewelry, so thought this bracelet was more my style.

Rain - Three Row Beaded bracelet

Happy with my trades, I still had two days of trading left, so decided to see if I could get anything else and made several other offers. Around this time, I started looking for LBB tips and tricks and saw the below earrings on a girl's unboxing video. I immediately fell in love! Was very happy that my offer for the beaded bracelet and chocolate bar was accepted! It's earrings with the evil eye! Love it!

By Philippe - Protective Eye Hoop earrings

Pleased with my items, I still had over a day left before my bag closed. Several people had advised to leave your bag open as long as possible in case you get an amazing trade offer, so decided to take their advice and see what came my way. Since I ordered the cheaper bag, I only get a 3 day window for trading. I believe that the expensive bag gets 7 days, but I'm not positive. 

I did receive several more offers for each of my earrings, but I wasn't willing to let them go for anything other than true love, so passed.

Things I learned:


  • Either stay glued to your computer during the entire trading window or choose to get an email for every trade (and keep checking your phone!). I missed out on a few amazing trades when I was away from my laptop.
  • Open a box at night instead of morning, as more people are online and you'll get more trade offers. Also, LBB is not kidding that you'll only get X amount of time. My box closed at the exact time I opened it, 3 days later!
  • Scroll through the newsfeed to research recent trades. This will help you know if an item is hot or a dud.
  • Expensive doesn't always mean better, as I was offered a really ugly bracelet that the newsfeed showed people were practically giving away!
  • Chat - some people love it, but I didn't find it very helpful. Seemed too cliquish to me, my questions were rarely answered, and during busy sessions it scrolled by too fast. Not very user friendly IMO.
  • Do a Google search for LBB tips & tricks, as there are several incredibly helpful videos out there!

My Final bag:


Punch Multi Chain Bead Drop earrings. Value =  $36
Kenneth Jay Lane Drop Disk earrings. Value =  $30
By Philippe Protective Eye Hoop earrings. Value = $45

Total value of bag = $111

All in all, it was a fun experience and I was happy with the results. Only $29.95 (+ $4.95 shipping) for three pairs of earrings! That's less than $12 per earring, which is more than reasonable. Can't wait to receive them and see what they look like in real life!

Looking forward to seeing what they have for next month! If nothing grabs my interest, I have the option of skipping the month.

If you're interested in trying Little Black Bag, please consider clicking on one of my links. I'll get an extra item in my next bag for every referral, which is a nice way to spread the word. And if you're already a member, I'd love to see what you got in your latest bag!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Adventures in Dining - New York Diner

Due to all of the NY and NJ transplants in the area, we have high hopes for any restaurant labeled a diner!


This is a small place, with booths around the outside and tables filling every possible space. Felt a little cramped to me, but DH thought it was cozy. Typical diner furniture, and the employees looked like they were from NY but I didn't ask. So far, so good!


DH ordered eggs over medium with bacon, home fries, and whole wheat toast. Said the eggs were cooked correctly, the bacon was crispy, and the home fries were good.

I ordered challah french toast with bacon. Crispy bacon, and the french toast was really thick! Presentation wasn't as nice as other restaurants, but still a good, filling meal.

While a little more expensive than other breakfast places, still a good value with good-sized portions. It's not that far away, and we're already looking forward to trying it out for lunch. Think we've found our new hang-out!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Our first winter storm!

Every channel had winter storm warnings running across the screen all night last night. Was the lead story on every news channel, and they said that everyone should stay off the roads unless it was an emergency! If this had been a weekday, they would have closed all the schools.


Really?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Birth of a Home (12)


Have unpacked our CDs. Pulling our favorites to put in the living room and will put the rest upstairs.

Seem to be working at cross-purposes again. I am trying to pull together at least one room, while DH seems determined to empty every single box, whether we have room for the contents or not! I'd like a completed room so I don't feel like I'm living in chaos, but every time I clear off a surface, he fills it back up!


Sad but true, this is the only "finished" room in the house. *L*


But all is well, as I found the Barnsie Brothers!

I know that we will survive the Great Unpacking of 2013...it's just hard.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Julep - Cupid's Mystery Box & Intro Box Reviews

Having recently discovered the fascinating world of subscription boxes, I knew I had to try Julep the minute I heard they specialized in nail polish! I'm a sucker for nail polish and can't resist trying fun new shades!

Julep asks you to take a short quiz when you first visit their website so they can best determine your style. I took it twice as I couldn't decide which colors I liked best. Think I'm a mix between Classic With A Twist and Boho Glam. 

Soon after I placed my first order, I received an email about a special mystery box for February. Couldn't resist that offer, so ordered that one as well! As fate (and the post office) would have it, I received both boxes on the same day. It was like Christmas!

Cupid's Mystery Box


Julep Cupid's Mystery Box
The white mystery box was the biggest, so that's the one I opened first! According to the label, I received mystery box #5.


I like that the polishes were wrapped in bubble wrap and nestled on a bed of shredded paper to help protect them. And the red was a nice touch for Valentines Day!


Sadly, I didn't receive one of the big boxes or any jewelry or gift cards. Did receive four polishes, the special holographic polish, and a lip gloss:

Evangeline - holographic polish in a pretty copper color
Charlotte - a smoky violet creme (Boho Glam)
Rose - watermelon red creme (Classic With A Twist)
Emma - seashell pink shimmer (American Beauty)
Maya - a peachy pink shimmer (Classic With A Twist)
Camellia lip gloss - a shimmering pink

All in all, a pretty good value for $19.99! I'm not sure if I'll like Emma as it looks pretty red in the bottle and I'm not big on reds, but I'll wait to see what it looks like on my nails. Funny how that's the only color not in my preferred styles! Not a big fan of the lip gloss either as I don't care for pink shimmering lips, but it might be fun to wear this summer. Pleased overall with my first mystery box!

Classic With A Twist Intro Box


Classic With A Twist intro box

My intro box came in a black box with black shredded paper. Not as pretty as the mystery box, but seemed to have a refined elegance in its simplicity.

welcome & info cards

Unlike the mystery box that didn't have any cards, this one had two: a welcome note from the founder with Maven tips on the back, and a card introducing the Classic With A Twist style. To be honest, I couldn't remember which intro box I had ordered as I took the quiz twice, so this was a nice surprise. 


The polish was wrapped in pretty pink paper with a black bow. Nice touch! They were wrapped in bubble wrap and cushioned in shredded paper, just like the other box. I also received a lip balm with SPF 15 sunscreen.

Barbara - a magenta glitter
Meryl - a neutral gray creme
Essential cuticle oil, which is supposed to strengthen nails and cuticles
Daylight defense lip balm - has a subtle vanilla mint flavor

 Really like the gray, but have some trepidations about the glittery magenta. I like the color, but the last glitter polish I used didn't want to come off my nails. Will give it a try and hope for the best!

Am very happy with both of my boxes and glad that I gave Julep a chance! If anyone is interested in trying Julep, here's an invitation link (my referral code is 8240540). I used coupon code MAVENINTRO to get my intro box for a penny! With shipping it came to only $4, which is a great deal!

Looking forward to trying out all the great new colors!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Birth of a New House (11)

The unpacking is not progressing as quickly as DH would like, as I don't want to just throw things in cabinets and closets and then have to move them later.


I'll be happy when the porto-potty is finally removed! I was joking with someone that I couldn't wait for our indoor plumbing to be connected and they thought I was serious! :o


DH was determined to rearrange the garage until at least one car could fit. Mission accomplished! Guess who got to park their car on the driveway? Hint - wasn't him!


Found these at Costco and am putting them on everything! Between the hardwood floors and the kitchen countertops, I'm paranoid we're going to ruin them. Wonder if they make these for dogs?


Tired of waiting for me to find homes for everything, DH has started unpacking boxes and stacking them everywhere. I don't mind the shelves as it's almost like shopping, but I sorta need to be able to do laundry!


At least he's making neat stacks as he moves things back and forth in the garage...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Graze - My first subscription box!

Received my first subscription box on Saturday! From graze.com, the box contains four healthy, nutritious snacks. I like that you can choose between a nibble box (all options) or a light box (low calorie snacks). At only $5 per week, with the first and fifth weeks free, this seems like a great deal!

It took a little over a week to arrive, so I have some concerns about their delivery system because this is supposed to be a weekly service. Although they did send me an email on Thursday that some deliveries were taking longer than expected so please be patient. It's a new service, so guess they're still working out the kinks.


It came in a cardboard box and was smaller than expected, but the snacks were a good size for single servings. There was a personalized card included with my name, saying hello and welcoming me to the club. The back of the card had nutritional info for the snacks, all between 77-183 calories. I had decided on the nibble box as I didn't want to limit any of my choices and wasn't as concerned about calories.


While I had given my preferences when ordering, I wasn't sure what exactly I'd be receiving so was excited to open the box! I love surprises!

In this box, I received:

  • honeycomb crunch - really enjoyed this one! It's a mix of milk chocolate coated honeycombs, raisins, and almonds. Never had honeycomb before, and the chocolate made it even better! Marked this one as a "love" and would like to receive it again!
  • tropical sundae - this one was our favorite, with dried mango, pineapple, and banana! There was only one piece of mango, but plenty of pineapple and bananas. Rather than the usual dried banana chips, these are called banana coins and they're much moister than dried chips. Love this one and will request again!
  • pomodoro rustichella - this one was our least favorite, with cheese croutons, tomato, basil and oregano almonds, and mini tomato breadsticks. The breadsticks and croutons were just okay, but didn't really care for the almonds. Going to "trash" this one so they don't send it to me again.
  • natural vanilla seeds - this was a mix of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds with vanilla coating. Liked the taste, but some of the seeds were so small that we both wound up spilling some. Think this one would be easier to eat with a spoon.

While these are labeled as single servings, there was enough for us to share each snack. A healthy alternative to the usual chips or pretzels, I think I'll let my subscription continue for a few more boxes before making a final decision. I've new to the world of subscription boxes, but love the idea of receiving a surprise in the mail every week! And at only $5 a week, it's an affordable treat!

If anyone wants to give them a try, you can get your first box free by using my invitation code HL6RJNYD at graze.com. They will ask for a credit card, but if you don't like your first box, you can always cancel. It's a win-win!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Adventures in Dining - P.F. Chang's


Received gift cards to P.F. Chang's, so decided to stop by for lunch today. They sat us at a booth for six, so had plenty of room! Kind of hard to read the menu as it was so dark inside. Not sure why some restaurants don't want you to read the menu or see what you're eating. Not the darkest restaurant we've ever been to, but definitely in the top ten!

Started with an appetizer of spring rolls, but forgot to take a picture. We really liked both the rolls and the dipping sauce!


Lunch came with either a soup or salad. We both chose the mixed green salad. I liked the lime vinaigrette that came with it, but DH used plain vinegar. Pleased with the size of the salad, and the taste wasn't bad either. Mostly lettuce, but a nice mix.


I ordered sweet & sour chicken with fried rice. The peppers were cut too large for my taste, but the chicken was tender and the sauce wasn't too overpowering. Really liked the fried rice, especially with the pot sticker sauce the server mixed for us.


DH ordered the crispy honey chicken with fried rice. The chicken had a little kick of flavor, but it wasn't too much and the meat was tender. There were sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes on the side.

We both cleared our plates and really enjoyed our lunch! It was a little more expensive than our usual Chinese meals, but we liked it enough that we'll probably visit again. 

Beach Sunrise

Got up before dawn on Tuesday so we could see the sunrise on the beach. Thought we had missed it, but got there just in time!




predawn
 


here comes the sun...



found a starfish on the beach!


sun, sun, sun, here it comes...


sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

and I say....it's all right


my favorite shot!


the beach followed us home!


*Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison was playing through my head all morning!