Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mortal Friends - A Novel

It's summertime and the perfect time for a juicy read.

And thanks to Harper Collins Publishers, I had the opportunity to dive right into one.

Mortal Friends: A Novel
, by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

Bitchy society women, men in power with their brains in their pants ... politics, serial killer on the loose, a few plot twists that weren't completely predictable plus the fact that the protagonist/narrator is a woman my age ... what more could one want? Well, humour, and there was a bit of that too.

Reven Lynch, our storyteller, is an antique shop owner/decorator, who shows us the workings of the inner circle of the chi-chi Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington. Although she is not a top-tier socialite, her best friend, Violet Bolton, wife of the president of the bank, happens to be. So there are a lot of parties, and we get a glimpse into what dinner conversation might be like at these gatherings. ( It is in these scenes that the author really shines, as she has quite a knack for describing how awkward these moments could be in real life, and also injects the conversations and the situations with some pretty funny lines.)

To keep things even more interesting, there happens to be a serial killer who they call the Beltway Basher, who is committing vicious murders in the neighbourhood park where the ladies frequent for their walks and jogs. Violet also has a most interesting hobby, a fascination with all things murder. Yes, she is quite different.

There are other main characters that round out the story. There's the new woman in town, a character you just love to hate, who is throwing her millions around. Then the philosophical detective who keeps just showing up at Reven's shop. He convinces Reven to become an ally to help him solve the mystery of the serial killer. And finally just to keep things interesting, Reven gets involved with a bad boy in the scene, who is potentially a suspect in the murders. Dating for a single woman in her 40's? I thought this was a refreshing and welcome storyline written very neatly into the whole plot.

I'll be quite honest that it took me a little while to get into the book. However, once I got past the ninth chapter (and it helped that the chapters were short, making it possible for this mom/chauffeur to slip them in between pit stops), I couldn't really put it down.

There were a plethora of characters that weren't central to the plot that I could have lived without; that being said, they didn't interfere overall. I just knew where I could skim without losing critical information.

So my rating on this book? Well it kept my interest, it moved at a quick enough pace, and I finished it in a matter of days. I was entertained.

A solid thumbs up, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair - Party, Pretty Party

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Launch Event. Make sure you check out the roundup to find out what the other lucky BlogHer reviewers had to say about their evening at the Estée Lauder Night Repair Event at Macy’s

BlogHer '09 in Chicago - WHOO-HOO!!!

And what better way to start the festivities off than with a party at Macy's Chicago hosted by Estée Lauder, who launched their New Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex on July 23, 2009.

Yes, the very product that I have had the pleasure of using for the last several weeks, and which has now truly become a part of my regular nighttime skin regimen. At this point, I have noticed a visible improvement in my skin, and I am starting to believe people when they tell me that I look younger than my years (and thank you to those who do, you have no idea how amazing that makes me feel).

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was whisked off by luxury bus, along with several lovely bloggers, to experience first hand "America's Night to Repair" which included the Ultimate Skincare Giveaway, on Thursday July 23rd. I looked forward to some girlie time at the cosmetic counter.

The product display was impressive, and we were given a lovely welcome by the staff. Evelyn Briley introduced the bloggers to Estée Lauder's mission and Theresa Selvaggio spoke a little on the life of Mrs. Estée Lauder. After Evelyn continued on to the DNA aspects of Advanced Night Repair, I became ever more fascinated as we were told about the incredible story of Estée Lauder, the founder of her namesake company. She was a pioneer in the cosmetic field, not only for the products and her marketing prowess (I had no idea that she was the first in the industry to start product sampling), but also for the very fact that she was a woman.

Estée Lauder, a woman, a mother, an innovator and a real force to be reckoned with. The breadth and the quality of the products, the continual improvements and the longevity of the brand which never ceases to become tired... these are all qualities that are reflective of Estée Lauder herself. How abundantly clear this was to us as we learned more about her, and of her life's work.

After the wonderful inspirational talk, (which served to pump me up as we acknowledged that as strong modern women we can do pretty much anything we set our minds to), we were treated to a few minutes of "me" time with the make-up stylists.

This was the super fun part. Having my face done professionally is something that I've only experienced once in my life, and that was before my wedding. Not even on my actual wedding day, as the makeup artist I found back then who was perfect...was already booked.

So here I was almost 16 years later, all giddy again to have my face beautified. And on a "bachelorette" weekend, even. Better late than never again, I say.

My stylist was the lovely Mary, who reminded me of Elizabeth Banks. What a beauty, she didn't know who Elizabeth Banks was, but I think she looks quite a bit like her, don't you?

And the best part? As she prettied me up with some perfect match foundation, did the lovely work on my eyes (great trick, blend in a dark eyeliner with cover-up and presto-chango, you've got a durable eyeshadow base that DOES NOT CREASE!), lipstick and mascara... when she told me I looked beautiful, I felt it.

I was recharged, and ready to take on the world. Or at least, the gazillion BlogHer cocktail parties that were to follow shortly thereafter.

Thank you Estée Lauder, for the opportunity to try this great product, for the lovely swag (makeup galore, as in eyeshadow and lipstick and mascara, oh my…) and finally for making "America's Night to Remember", an unforgettable evening.

I really hope that some of you were there or at other Estée Lauder counters to experience the launch first hand. If you were, I bet you're enjoying the trial size of the Advanced Night Repair.

Let me know what you think of the product and if you like it as much as I do. And if you haven't yet given it a try, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair.

I’ve always loved fashion, makeup and girlie things. It’s been tough at times, having been introduced to the ugly side of puberty at the tender age of ten when I discovered my first blackhead. I have always had challenging skin of the very oily variety and spent a lot of time treating acne with pharmaceuticals, and trying to mask a bad complexion with makeup.

But in recent years, with the advent of the fourth decade – ugh- of my life, it has finally hit me. Welcome, ‘mature’ skin. I can no longer rely on the over abundance of slick to carry me into this next decade. My pores are more prominent, and ‘freckles’ ( NOT age spots let’s be clear) are sprinkling here and there. Droop, sag and dry patches...sounds lovely, I know. My skin only looks tight if I’m sporting the Ben Stiller “Zoolander” pose.

Until I turned 40, I didn’t use moisturiser regularly. And heaven knows I’ve forgotten sunscreen for me even after they kids have been sprayed into human blobs of the stuff. Can you say environmental damage? I need help.

Enter BlogHer and Estée Lauder, and the timely opportunity to try the new Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex.

(retail price: $47.50 USD)

The Estée Lauder team of scientists have come up with this revolutionary night serum to help repair the skin’s appearance from past damage, and protect it for the future; a sort of “insurance” for younger, healthier looking skin. The synchronized repair comes from the development of Chronolux™ Technology that supports the natural synchronization of skin’s repair processes so skin repairs itself at the right time.

I was excited to try it, as “repair” is an appealing concept for me nowadays.

The Advanced Night Repair serum comes in a lovely dark brown bottle, reminiscent of those found in old apothecaries. And with an easy to use dropper that squeezes out just the right amount of product, there’s really not much thinking required. I like that.

After cleansing my face per usual in the evening, I squeeze one drop at a time, spreading it across my face and neck. It takes me about four to five drops to do the whole area. The serum has an egg yolk consistency, but it doesn’t feel messy as it is absorbed very easily into the skin. While there’s no fragrance, you get a hint of something gently clinical. Then I apply my regular moisturiser for the night, and I’m all set. Under twenty seconds, my friends. It’s very easy to make this part of a nightly ritual.

I’ve used Advanced Night Repair for about two weeks now. I’ll admit that any changes are not yet overtly noticeable. This isn’t to say that it won’t continue to improve. But when I wake up, my skin does feel a little more refreshed, moisturised and my face is not as tired-looking. My makeup seems to go on easier as well, so my skintone may indeed be evening up.

The serum is non-acnegenic and the best part: the repair action happens at night, while you’re asleep. Talk about multi-tasking at its finest!

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic where skincare is concerned, likely because of my experiences with so many different treatments. But I also know that when something feels good on my skin, and I wake up to a more supple, happy visage, well, who cares how it works?

Do you switch things up with your evening skincare regimen? Would this be something you might use to fight the good fight?

For more information on Advanced Night Repair check out the official site.

And be sure to read what other reviewers in the round-up had to say as well.

[In the USA, Estée Lauder invites you to AMERICA'S NIGHT TO REPAIR. On Thursday, July 23, 5-9PM, visit any Estée Lauder Counter and get a free 10-day supply of New Advanced Night Repair, no purchase necessary (while supplies last). ]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Little Piece of Happy - Trident campaign

So have any of you caught those cute little Trident commercials on the TV lately?

Here are a couple of my favourites...

I'd sure be happy too if a little piece of Trident would be able to take me to the moon.

I guess that's what it's all about though, isn't it? Remembering that there are little moments of happy even in these tough times.

A clever campaign that likens back to good old fashioned values. You can get more about a little piece of happy at this site.

Very cute. I think I'll just have to pick up a little piece of happy for myself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Maybelline! New York Pulse Perfection Vibrating Mascara

I’ll admit it. I married my husband because of his long, curly, luscious lashes. If I couldn’t have them, well at least one day my kids might. I’m mostly kidding, but as destiny would have it, I’m the only one in the household without a decent pair of eyelashes.

So you’ve got this woman who’s been blessed with spindly eyelashes resembling stubby spider legs that have been flat-ironed … and she’s given the opportunity to try out a new mascara. Can you say jump, and how high?

I had the pleasure of trying out this new product through Chickadvisor.com. We’re talking about the Maybelline: New York Pulse Perfection Vibrating Mascara. Yes, VIBRATING!

I don’t wear mascara on a daily basis, usually keeping it for special occasions. This stems from my contact lens wearing days, when I found most mascaras irritating. But now that I wear my glasses most of the time, and I’ve been told that my eyes are my best feature, it’s probably should wear mascara for more definition. I’ve tried several in the past; and heck, I even own a battery operated eye-lash curling iron.

Back to this ingenious product. There’s a little tab where you hold the wand that once depressed, sends the wand vibrating. Putting it at the base of my lashes, and not moving it along too quickly to the tips, I did notice it clumped a bit. Likely because I was moving it too slowly. So I picked up the pace a bit, and was pleasantly surprised at how it lengthened and did make the lashes thicker, curling them at the end a bit as well.

The trick is not to apply too many coats, as the vibrating action surrounds your whole lash. But also don’t go too slowly as this causes clumps. The instructions on the packaging are quite good. It is really quite simple to use, and I especially noticed the difference on my lower lashes, where I find it most difficult to apply to begin with. They were easily handled by this product. And although it wasn't waterproof, it was quite long-lasting. For that reason, it took a little more makeup remover to take off at the end of the day.

So overall I did like this mascara. The vibrating wand may seem a bit gimmicky, but it does appear to work on building up the lash. I would likely buy it again and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others to try.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Refreshing Febreze Staycation

You know that distinctive smell of brand new car, or the aroma of good quality leather as you snag a much coveted new handbag? The olfactory sense can be treated to such signals of goodness.

I wish that you could somehow capture l'eau de "brand new house". Next to fresh paint, and the sneeze free sensation after you've had the air ducts cleaned, our homes have always been a fairly neutral odor zone. I tend to like it that way. That sure has changed though.

Since I've become a parent, I've been introduced to a multitude of new odours. Most of the identifiable kind. You know, poops, gas, spit ups ... the baby to toddler variety. I never even ventured into the Air Freshener or Fabric Freshener product territory until I became a Mom.

Take it from me, though, as the kids get older and get into more activities such as soccer, hockey, general mudplay... more interesting smells start to invade the house. It also doesn't help that as the parents we progressively stink more, like a good cheese, as we age. I'm sure there's a study out there that has proven such a fact.

When we moved into this house we were in fairly neutral territory as the boy was but a babe, and noxious fumes were manageable with the occasional use of Febreze fabric spray or spritz of freshener in the laundry and family rooms. But over the last five years, with the arrival of another baby and the other aforementioned factors, we've been treated to the occasional "unidentified smell" that lurked somewhere in the hall closet or main foyer area. We'd spray, and it would be good for a little while. But it kept coming back in various forms, and we'd sniff here, there, everywhere, not able to locate the source. It was frustrating.

So when I was contacted by Febreze to review their "New Destinations" Collection, I was pretty pumped.

The new line of products comes with lovely names to match the aromas that now permeate throughout my home, taking me to exotic places such as Moroccan Bazaar, Brazilian Carnaval, and Hawaiian Aloha. The lines include the Febreze Air Effects sprays, matching candles and my favourite, the Febreze NOTICEables warmer, with refills. This baby keeps the fragrance going for 30 days.

My first floor now carries the subtle fresh fragrance of island breezes and faraway exotic scents. Florals, spice, ginger ... all in the most refreshing but not totally "in your face" manner. Much improved over memories of stinky socks, rain-soaked boots and "the mystery odour of the month".

Leaving the stink for lands afar, without leaving the comfort of my own home.

A very good thing indeed.

And the packaging is so very pretty too...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Neighbourhood Joe

In the mediocrity that is my life, sometimes it takes just the littlest thing to get me cranked up.

One stop shopping is almost mandatory for me these days, just because, well, because. With the school pickups and programs, the less stops I have to make the better. So there's Costco for bulk items and business stuff.

And for the last few years now, the local neighbourhood Loblaws has offered the Goodlife Gym complete with childminding, to go along with the groceries.

But that's not all... they've recently added the Joe Fresh line of clothing for women, men and kids. I almost passed out with excitement. Oh, but it gets better... Joe now has a line of MAKE-UP!!! Squee-and-a-half!

So a recent Monday ago, I was doing my grocery run and had about 5 minutes to spare to look at the Joe Fresh line of cosmetics. With prices between $4 and $14, it was no surprise that the shelves were already mostly bare. Decisions, decisions.

I lined the back of my hand with all the different colours of lipstick available, but had to rush out to be on time for kindergarten pickup. And thankfully had time for beauty consultations with the other pickup Moms milling about before the kids tumbled out with their backpacks.

Which colours did I choose?

Berry and Watermelon.

Perfectly spring.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dusting 360 Swiffer style

The husband was quite surprised to see movement in the study window this past weekend. Excited almost. Not that I don't go in the study often, I'm in there everyday. I'm just not at the window. I have been avoiding the study ever since winter finally broke, even though it is at the top of my spring cleaning to-do list.

You see, I avoid because I do not clean.

Well, let me rephrase that. I do not like to clean. But I will do it, especially if I can see the stuff I'm cleaning up. Solid evidence that my efforts make a difference.

Like the mould in my shower, that even my blurry-eyed vision can no longer ignore? I will take no prisoners armed with bleach and toothbrush in hand. Battle it with great satisfaction because once it's gone, I can see it's gone.

But on that particular day in my office, I was cleaning with this...

Kind PR folks who somehow know that my house is a dust mine, sent it to me. I was excited (yes, me excited to clean, seriously) to try it, as it was so lightweight that my kids were almost fighting each other to use it on the blinds. And by the way, why do I have so many blinds in this house?

It was so easy to put together: take it out, fluff it, attach to the handle and voila!

Dust away.

It picked up dirt, dust, and according to the label, allergens of all sorts.

I used it on the blinds, on the computer, on the television, shelves, and the 360 aspect was particularly excellent on the stair bannister and steps. Geez, we've also got a lot of wood areas in this place. The awkward hard to get places were a breeze to clean out.

But the best part?

Ew. It works really well. You can see it.

The only thing that isn't great about this concept is that this "ew" used part isn't recyclable. You have to throw it in the garbage. And in this household, where we're trying to be more recycling conscious, it pains me a bit.

Here's hoping that the Swiffer folks come out with a recyclable version, because THAT would make this a PERFECT product.

Especially for those who don't clean.

And for Germanic clean freak partners, like mine.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And the winner takes it all ...

Okay, must admit, I watched "Mamma Mia" the movie on DVD this weekend, and that song is sticking. As is Pierce Brosnan's horrible singing, for that matter.

Thanks for all your entries, the winner of the Mama Mio Smoothie Spa kit is

comment #5: Cid!!

(and for those of you who noticed, yes I had 7 comments but one of them was doofus me responding to Kami's question, so I took myself out of the running, of course.. d-oh!)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

And you can be a Mama Mio too

So what do Jessica Alba, Milla Jovovich and Christina Aguilera and a host of other celebrities have in common with little ole moi?

Why, they're super moms and they've tried Mama Mio products.

Developed by three moms in the UK, who also happen to be be experts in the beauty field, the focus of the line is skincare for moms. We all know that the skin goes through so many changes, especially through pregnancy, but also beyond. The product is also made with safety of ingredients in mind.

I would have loved if these products were available when I was pregnant with both my kids, the number one reason being the ingredients and the scent. The one thing that I shied away from while pregnant and nursing was anything that was too fragrant, and then certainly because I was holding my babies so close to me, anything that I was "wearing" they would ultimately be wearing too. But no matter, I'm still a "supermama", and I think any woman would appreciate this product, being mother or not. Smart ladies though, this is a niche that has obviously met a need in the market, because mamas are now not just about their babies anymore. We are making time for ourselves (even if only micro-milliseconds).

I was lucky enough to try a few of their products, and I'll share my thoughts with you here:

1/ Moisturising Shower Cream: This goes on so nicely, with a lovely calming scent. It feels like you're hydrating, but not as if you're slathering yourself with cream. Once it rinses off, that's it. Very clean sensation, and you can also use it in your bath.

2/ O-Mega Body Oil - The one not so great thing I inherited from my Dad's side of the family are my scaly-dry limbs. This body oil goes on without an oily feel. This was probably my favourite of all the items I tried.

3/ Supersmooth Body Buff - this is a very fine scrub that can be used to exfoliate. To be honest, I didn't use this product much as it's an extra step in an already rapid-fire shower timeframe, but I can see how it would be extra help to get rid of the "dead" skin cells. Lovely in combination with the body oil.

4/ Wonder-Full Balm - and how wonderful is this? I used it on my lips, cuticles, heels for instant comfort and instant relief. It comes in lipgloss type packaging that you could even carry around in your purse - not just limited to bath/shower time.

5/ Tummy Rub - now this is actually meant to help prevent stretch marks during and after pregnancy, so it's a little late for me. Mind you, despite the huge girth I developed while pregnant, I didn't have so many marks on my tummy, more on my thighs. I tried this anyway as it was the first product in the line. It would have been nice to have this around years ago. Lucky mommas have access to it now. Even if stretch marks aren't a problem, it's a nice oil that feels very luxurious. Love that tummy.

So, the good news is that the kind folks at the PR company have provided me with a giveaway package! You don't even have to be a supermama, it's just nice to treat your skin.

All you need to do is comment here between now and Sunday March 29 (because of March break, I'll keep this giveaway open for a couple of weeks), and you'll be entered to win the Smoothie (Spa at home) kit which includes:

1/ The shower cream
2/ The Supersmooth body buff
3/ O-Mega Body Oil
and as an added bonus, the Wonder-Full Balm.

(Giveaway is available to Canadian residents only.)

I'll pull the name (or more likely go high-tech with the random generator), and announce the winner on Monday March 30 (after March Break). Good luck!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Product Review Policies

I love stuff and I love to talk about it. Those are the main rules.

But to make things easier for everyone, I thought I would put some sort of structure in place. Blame it on all my years of being in a regulated field. Some things are very obvious, but for the sake of transparency and so that I remember myself, I'll also cover those here.

So here we go, everything you wanted to know if you would like me to try your product and blog about it:

1. The PR folks/ product supplier/manufacturer agrees to provide products for review, without cost, once I agree to try the product. These will be sent to me without me incurring shipping costs.

2. I am pretty much open to reviewing any product that would interest me, my family and my readers. Just so you know however, I will review the product and cover both the great things and not so great things about it. I will not slam any products, and I would not tell readers not to buy the product, but I feel it important to give my fair and honest opinion.

If I don't like a product, I will say as much. However, I will let you know beforehand. I also reserve the right not to review a product and will also let you know. In this case, it wouldn't be my standard process to return the product. If you have some screaming need to have it back, however, I would arrange it as long as you cover the shipping costs associated with the return.

3. I try to review products within a couple of weeks of receipt of the product. If you have a defined timeline please let me know and I will be sure to try to accomodate. You can check back with me on the status and I would be happy to share the links to the review as well.

4. I don't charge for product reviews, but I am always up front if I have received the product for review. The only costs incurred by the PR company, product supplier or manufacturer are those related to the product inventory and shipping and duty charges, if applicable.

If the occasion arises where I am paid to post, this will also be made clear in that particular post.

5. If the review can be supplemented with a giveaway or a discount, this is always a nice bonus for my readers and of course will spread more good news about the product. In this case, please detail whether the product is available to Canada, Canada and the US or worldwide. Obviously, the wider the availability, the wider the reach.

For any such giveaways, I will use a random generator to draw the winner's names. I will act as a conduit by providing the name and address of the winner(s) to the PR company, supplier or manufacturer. The product and the shipping costs associated with sending the product to the winner are the responsibility of the PR company, product supplier or manufacturer.

That pretty much covers it, but of course any changes to the above are at the discretion of me. Because it's my blog and I'll change it if I want to.

That being said, I'm sure I'll love your product and will give it a fair and honest review.

After all, what are Librans known for if not balance?